A Secret Conflict Prelude 3

Science Isn't Pretty

By Hyper Angel

The number one cause of all my delays with new parts: Writer's block.

I really should plan these out better beforehand, eh? The harder I try the blander it gets…. -Hyper


"I want you two to go down and see if you can find one of the materia cases downstairs…." Lanai had ordered them just minutes before, she had quickly waved them into the freight elevator to the lower level of the lab before either of the soldiers could ask why. Kaolin knew she only wished to get them out of her way while she plotted what bizarre experiments she could perform of the dead president Rufus. He shudded at the very idea of what she might have planned.

Malise sauntered on ahead of him and through the storage area causally. No matter how odd or maniacal Lanai acted towards them, it never seemed to phase the seasoned commander. At sometimes, Kaolin silently wished he could have the same cool composure of his superior, minus the bad attitude of course. He chuckled and continued his slow pace behind the commander, who in turn, muttered something under his breath in annoyance.

The 67th floor didn't hold many interesting sights in Kaolin's opinion. Besides the small storage and holding area for the lab above, there was only a small group of prison cells formerly used by the Shinra corp. Since Reeve had taken over they were never used, and thus the cells had been left to slowly fall into disrepair in the reformation.

Finding the box Lanai had asked for was easy enough. It was a light weight metal case, a thin layer of dust had gather on it from time. Kaolin picked it up, careful not to jostle whatever its contents may be. Blowing the dust from it, he notice a small sloppily hand written label was attached to it. He examined the writing indicating what was held within.

Master Level Materia:

Recovery Types

(handle with care)

Taking quick glances to the labels that each of the other storage crates the cramped holding room contained, Kaolin didn't see anything that out of the ordinary. A few lab supplies here and there, some marked with strange abbreviations. He looked over the labels with a quiet fascination, trying to figure out what some of the abbreviations meant.

"Hey kid, get over here already and check this out." Malise called out to him in annoyance.

Kaolin quickly clambered away from the boxes and joined his commander by the large metal tank near the room's main entrance. Malise stared at the slightly fogged up window that was position in the tank's center. A code was engraved on a plaque just below the window:

Experimental Project 260a

{Mako exposure moderate to high}

Subject name

Morayne, Ashan--S 3rd Class--

"Weird." Kaolin remarked, turning to Malise for his usual snide 'don't act so surprised' remark. Malise instead said nothing, he simply continued to stare at the tank, a look of sheer disbelief on his face. "I'll be damned…" He muttered to no one in particular. "So, she's actually continuing all this on… and with…with them…."

Kaolin look at him blankly, it was the first time he had ever seen Malise lose his cool over anything. And whatever his commander had meant by the words escaped them. Though Malise realized Kaolin's confusion before he could speak a work. "Don't worry about it, kid. You don't need to know about this."

He turned from the young rookie quite roughly, his long blond hair swiping the side of Kaolin's face as he did so. Kaolin followed stubbornly, there was no way he was going to let Malise give him that once again. He ran after the commander, catching up ahead of him at the elevator.

"What do you mean I don't need to know?" Kaolin asked him sternly.

"Listen, you wouldn't understand, just drop it." Malise spun around as he had before, doubling back towards the room's other exit. Kaolin followed adamantly just the same.

"No way," He retorted angrily. "Something about that tank really shook you up. And don't try and deny it 'cause I saw how you looked, too."

Malise turned, standing face to face with Kaolin. He glared at the young soldier with a look of growing contempt. "This is none of your !@#$%&* business, rook. So just forget about it. This isn't your concern, and it's gonna stay that way." With that, he pushed Kaolin away, using such force that the young man was sent tumbling backward into a stack of crates nearby. The breath knocked out of him, Kaolin decided it was best to leave Malise to his own troubled thoughts. He gave no attempt to intervene when the Commander stormed out of the room in a huff.


Kaolin was left alone in the lower lab's chamber, not to mention being sprawled out across several splintered wooden crates. He groaned and put his hand to his head meekly, stroking his pounding head in a futile attempt to stop the dull pain. Malise really had a way of getting his point across when agitated. Kaolin stood up, brushing the dust from his clothes as he did so. He glanced up, his gaze catching the chamber in the corner across from him.

"Don't see what the big deal is anyway…" He muttered, taking a step closer to it. A dim light was emanating from the glass window in the center of it's sealed door. The glass was fogged from what appeared to be a cold frost. Blowing his breath to his hand to warm it, Kaolin rubbed a circle clear in the window.

He bent down slowly, peering into the window with an uncertain caution. The sight that met his eyes was incredible.

A creature, almost human in appearance, was strapped inside tightly. It's closed eyes were clearly large and grotesque in their size. Its nose and mouth were pulled outward into a thin muzzle obviously filled with sharp fangs from its appearance. Its skin seemed normal enough. If not discolored with shimmering scales lining it's face and humanoid chest in an eerie accent. Translucent wings, almost resembling an insect's, extended limply from its back. They fluttered and tense from time to time; which each movement a prismatic reflection shone upon them. Yet oddest still were gill-like slits in its neck, opening in closing in a shuddering rhythm of breathing.

"So it's actually alive." Kaolin mused aloud.

"Of course it's alive." A familiar voice sighed. "If he wasn't alive then there wouldn't be any reason for them to keep him here. Hell, they're probably just waiting for him to die as it is."

Malise emerged from around the corner once more, a solemn look was on his face. Very slowly, he walked to the metal tank. It seemed as if the mere sight of the chamber pained him. "He has a name, I hope you know…" He said, touching a hand to the window of the creature's prison.

He lowered his head against the cold metal and closed his eyes tightly. Kaolin heard the low sound of Malise grinding his teeth in anxiety. Kaolin moved closer to his commander, touching a shaky hand to his shoulder in an effort to comfort him somehow.

"T-this is all my fault, Kaolin." Malise groaned, still not looking up. Kaolin nearly withdrew his hand in surprise, it was the first time Malise had ever addressed him by name before. It must have been really serious for him to let down his normal tough appearance he assumed. Kaolin took a reluctant step closer to his troubled companion not sure if offering sympathy was the way to go with someone like Malise.

"Why though…." Kaolin had begun to say, though the words just didn't seem right. "Er, I mean…well, uh-"

"Because," Malise replied softly before the soldier could finish. "He was one of my men."

Kaolin pulled away sharply no sooner had the words left Malise's mouth. The mere thought that the creature within in the tank could possibly be human shocked and terrified him beyond belief. How? How could a human being, a person, become such a thing? It was unreal.

Malise's sullen looks were slowly replaced by his usual mocking sneer as he noticed young Kaolin's confusion. He grinned slightly at him and turned away from the tank, taking a seat on a nearby crate. Though Kaolin could tell he was forcing the whole act that nothing had bothered him.

"It's so hard to explain…" the commander muttered. "It was my failure that caused all this." He slid his fingers along the cold, smooth glass of the window and his eyes gained a gleam that appeared more distraught than ever.

"I…I…I'm sure that's not true." Kaolin stammered, tugging on Malise's uniform sleeve. He only jerked away roughly in return.

"You're the last person to tell me that, rook." He hissed.

"I'm sorry, I was just tryin' to-"

"Save your sentimental crap for someone who cares." It seemed Malise's mood dwindled somewhere between saddened and enraged, whichever it was Kaolin couldn't tell.

"Well, what is all this about?" He sighed, kicking a nearby crate out of frustration.

Malise laughed softly. "I might I'll tell you."

Kaolin rolled his eyes, cursing himself for thinking he could get anything out of the commander. "Agh, of course."

"Heh, in the mean time." Malise said in a singsong tone. Kaolin grimaced, Malise had a damned odd way of dealing with his own pain. Of course he just had to act like a loon in a serious situation.

"Let's go see what Lanai has in store for I dearly departed president." He yanked the carton of materia shards out of Kaolin's hand and trotted forward.

"Hey!" Kaolin called out, glancing back to the tank. "What about-"

Malise spun around quickly, his eyes darted back and forth in a split second. "Tonight." He replied tersely. He quickly spun back around and to the elevator at the far corner of the room.

"Huh?" Kaolin muttered in bewilderment. Malise sighed and pulled the grate back from the elevator shaft passage. "Just wait till then." He whispered quickly. A wry grin crossed his face in the seconds that followed. "Till then, leave me the hell alone with all this."

"Of course…" Kaolin quickly followed him into the small steel elevator car. "But promise you'll give me a straight answer then?"

Malise pressed the button marked 'up' and slid back against the car's back wall. "Maaaybe." He laughed. This was insane, it seemed the more uncomfortable Malise got, the more stupid and trivial he acted. It was a pathetic attempt to veer away from the subject at hand, the least he could do was just not be so idiotic. That... Kaolin thought. Or he's just a friggin' psycho.

Kaolin rolled his eyes once more as the elevator slowly lurched upward.


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