A Secret Conflict Prelude 4

Yet Another Pawn in the Game

By Hyper Angel

The loud hum, and grinding the elevator's gears seemed distant to Malise as he stood side by side to Kaolin in the tight space. His carefree facade slipped away with the steady humming, replaced by and increasing feeling of dread and remorse. The seconds slowly passed in what seemed like a eternity.

He could still feel the rookie's hot breaths upon him, not noticing he had leaned back against the back wall while waiting. It was odd how some things seemed of no importance to him while other, trivial things stuck in his mind nonetheless.

He placed a hand over his left eye hesitantly, letting his fingers trace over the deep scar across the flesh. A thousand different thoughts ran through his mind in those short moments, likewise was the barrage of emotions upon him.

Three years had gone by already, and here he was, still jumping at the chance to serve even the most trite assignment. He had worked so hard these past few years, hoping all the hard work and devotion could drown out his own pain and sorrow. As if somehow, that could make up for what he had done then.

He had always wondered what had happened to that group, whether they were alive or dead, and just what had happened to them back then. Seeing Ashan locked with the metal chamber was no solace to him. He had failed miserably, and was all he'd ever be, just a failure of leader, with no more honor left in him to lose.

"Goddammit, breathe with your mouth shut, idiot." He finally snapped, he could hear the precise moment Kaolin had closed his mouth, and the heavy gulp that followed it. He knew it was cruel to treat the kid so badly, yet he found that time and again he kept acting brash and rude. And for what? He asked himself. To prove just how miserable I am? He gritted his teeth in aggravation with the notion.

"Uh, Malise?" A soft voice cut through his self berating thoughts

"…Sir?" Kaolin murmured shakily.

Malise spun around almost violently, "What?!"

The rookie cringed backwards, pushing himself back against the metal wall as though he wished nothing more than to be sink back even further than it would allow. He pointed a finger meekly, his hand shaking so badly that it seemed it would snap clean off. "W-we're….we're here."

Malise sighed, slapping his forehead softly as he turned his back on the frightened soldier. "Right, right….Sorry." He whispered, his pride not allowing him to utter the simple words any louder. Kaolin climbed up to his feet reluctantly, Malise knew the rookie thought he was insane, his mood swings changing as quickly as the weather. Tightening his grip on the cold metal of the materia case, Malise slid the heavy gate open and trudged out into the open area of the lab. The smell that met him was far from comforting.

The lab was how it always was, the smell of mako hung thick even though the use of it had been banned only months before. The hum of the fluorescent lights droned on in a steady rhythm, a few flickering on and off from time to time. The floors were a cold, sterile metal, made to clean easily from whatever might fall upon them. Whether harsh chemicals, or fresh blood from the unfortunate experiment subjects. The thought once again sent chills down Malise' s spine.

He could hear Kaolin's slow and hesitant footsteps from behind him. The rookie was acting like more than a nervous wreck than usual for the moment.

And as Malise walked on, the very idea that he could show a moment of vulnerability to the naïve soldier further increased his foul mood. Just what had he done back there to be so weak? The answer was simple enough, but he refused to accept it. Fine, delude yourself further. A voice hissed to him angrily within his mind. His own conscious telling him to get a grip and toughen up, act like a decent soldier at least.

Malise stopped abruptly as Lanai rushed out from a side chamber adjoining the main room. Her steps were rushed and her poise was rigid and tense, not at all as she had been before. She was definitely miffed about something, it was easy to see from the harsh look on her face. Just how long had they taken? This could be a problem if they had taken too long before, especially if she were to grow suspicious of them.

Kaolin stumbled over to join him softly after Lanai entered, the two reaching Malise at nearly the same exact moment. Lanai, looking as if she were ready to murder someone there on the spot; and Kaolin as if he were going to faint from the stress upon him. Suppressing a grin, he held the metal case up to the vexed scientist, though the exchange was interrupted suddenly.

Lanai craned her head around nervously to the source of the distraction, her dark eyes widening slightly with surprise. At least it helped to explain her on-edge mood at the time being. A man strode in, the wrinkled lab coat he wore proclaiming he was scientist. Though Malise held a distinct feeling he knew this person from sometime before. The limp strands of his graying brown hair hung about his face in displaced angles, though he still smoothed it back with his hand to no avail. He grinned wryly as he caught sight of the two soldiers, and Lanai in turn, shifted back a little.

"Oh, hello there." He called to them cheerfully. "You must be the two Lanai hired, am I right?" A small grin tugged at the corner of his mouth at the words. Kaolin moved forward briskly, then only a few feet away from the newcomer. "And you would be--?" He asked simply. Malise felt the overwhelming urge to knock the kid around for even thinking of being so impudent. He held back nonetheless, in no mood to put on such a show as a first impression.

"Me?" The male scientist laughed. "Didn't Ms. Lanai tell you before? I'm Professor Devian Sasake, the one in charge of this project."

The words, no the name itself, nearly sent Malise reeling backwards in both horror and surprise.


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