Stay With Me Prologue
By Lucrecia Marionette
He wasn't sure how long he'd been staring at the wall for. Ten, twenty minutes? Perhaps even thirty he reasoned numbly.
It wasn't an interesting piece of wall. No picture adorned its clinical white surface. There wasn't so much as a scuff mark or a smudge where perhaps some unwitting scientist had brushed past in a hurry. That simply wasn't possible here. In this room nothing moved quickly. Everything was perfect. Everything was designed and scrutinised so that it was physically impossible for it to travel beyond a certain speed. That was unless it had been permitted to do so, or some law had been invented beforehand excusing its haste.
Here, in his domain, a drip from a tap was measured to the nearest millionth of a second. The sound of each coldly ringing footstep was acknowledged to the tiniest possible decibel. It was a calculating, impassionate environment where the only human sounds were soft murmurs. or the occasional screams of tortured agony.
But, it was his domain. Here he was master. Here no comments could be made concerning his 'insane' ideas which were in truth decades ahead of their time. He knew that. He knew that all it would take was funding and a little time before his genius was realised.
Perhaps not. Not a little time; a lot of time. Twenty-eight years to be precise, but no one was willing to wait that long aside from himself.
In his labs where time was not an issue, it didn't matter whether he was forced to wait a year or a thousand. Twenty-eight years; a score and eight measly years was nothing compared to the benefits which could be reaped at the end. The potential for his ideas was far beyond 'earth-shattering'. They could shape the course of the very universe itself. But would they listen to him? Would they even lower themselves to hear what he had to say?
Of course not.
To them he was the obscure scientist with questionable sanity and more than questionable theories. It was the ultimate humiliation to have his ideas thrown dismissively from the presence of the Shinra Heads, but still he persevered. That incident had been just over a year ago, but since then their thirst had been reinstated. Their greed and desire for the gifts that he had to give were more than enough for them to turn around and reconsider their hasty decisions.
The very gluttony and feverish desire which drove every human soul on the surface of this planet. The chance to control, be better than and generally rule over your fellow organisms was too appealing for some to push away. And himself? No, he didn't want that. He was beyond such petty and primal emotions.
The want (no, need) to be recognised and acknowledged was his master. It was a powerful one too. People had suffered for it; he had paid its extortionate prices. So much more expensive than Mako energy, a villa in Costa del Sol or any of the equipment which hummed idly around him.
Without much visible interest, he lifted his gaze from the wall and turned his eyes to the room which surrounded him. Computer screens set upon and into vast bodies of buzzing equipment bordered the room. Their metallic grey surfaces seemed so much duller despite their steeliness in amongst the cold, bright lighting set into the ceiling and the pale blue floor tiles. Every surface shone exaggeratedly, but it was not with beauty. Perhaps not to the normal eye at least, but to his own it was a sight which rivalled and surpassed any pathetic attempt nature had to offer. There was something enchanting about the soft and incessant lullaby of the machinery. The tight angular surfaces and the harsh gleam of light from the over-polished laboratory floor and the computer screens were comforting in their perfection. There were no black marks where someone had scraped a foot across the ice-like floor. Not so much as a damp patch where plagueish mould had seeped in through a poorly insulated corner of the room to infest the clinical atmosphere. Not even Mother Nature could dare to spoil this, the most perfect of man's achievements.
And yet still in all it's cluttered confusion and disordered chaos, the Universe had given him the most wonderful thing he thought possible. It had given him a chance. It had handed him the opportunity to prove himself and his work on a silver-platter. He would be heard. He would be praised and worshipped for his aptitude and intellect. Finally the world would know his name, and perhaps, he thought with an over-inflated sense of egotism, fear it.
A smirk tweaked at the corner of his thin lips and he allowed it to turn the pale features upwards in a moment of self-acclamation. By the gods, he deserved that didn't he?
But now all he had to do was wait. What more was there to do?
After barely a second, his rare moment of happiness quickly soured and crumpled into a frown. Despite his earlier revelations of the insignificance of time, it certainly was irritating to be kept on tender-hooks. His plans, his schemes and designs had been timed to the nearest fraction of a second. Nature though, in its interfering way had given him his chance at succeeding, but was waving it before his face as a cruel child would wave greens before a starving chocobo. There was no set time for his 'gift'. No one could turn around and tell him the precise second in the future when he could finally stand tall with the object of his desire and flaunt it shamelessly. He hated that more than anything else because it made him feel physically sick to depend upon something so out of his control.
In a moment of anger, he clenched his fist and thumped the table he had been leaning upon. It wasn't fair to be kept like this damnit! He wanted to control nature, not be controlled by it.
But, he mused as he rubbed his now sore hand; he had been life's marionette since the second he had been conceived so what were a few more hours? Yes. he had been its puppet for far too long. Any longer, and in frustration he would have tangled himself up in the cruel strings and drowned in self-loathing and pity.
He'd seen that once before. In one of his moments of boredom he had watched a documentary on television where dolphins had become ensnared in fishing nets. They were so desperate to escape that they had literally writhed themselves to death. He remembered the way that the thin wire refused to break no matter how hard they thrashed and it had sliced them to pieces. As they fought to evade the pain, they only served to magnify it.
Eventually, he recalled with a grim, humourless smile, they had used up their remaining energy and drowned in the fluid which had once been their home. If only they had waited. If only they had ceased their pitiful struggling then they would have died without the slicing agony of the wire and the panicked will to escape as their last thoughts.
Could dolphins even think?
He sighed. What did it matter? Perhaps, later on in life he could find out for himself. True it was a step down from his usual line of Human Evolution, but if he truly was to become renowned and famed in all scientific circles then why not have a Marine-Biology title under his belt too?
Still, maybe after watching that documentary he had learnt something. Maybe, deep down it had become the force behind his actions. The human race was like those ill-fated porpoises, controlled and mastered by the strings of life. Some attempted to fight whilst the majority were simply resigned to their fate and willing to drown quietly and peacefully. He snorted contemptuously. He wasn't like them! He'd be insulted to even be compared to such weak-minded individuals!
No, he was a fighter. He was one of the dolphins who fought with their last damned breath in order to escape. But no! By the gods he would not die! He would be the first, and possibly the last to snap those bloody wires and break free into a better world! The other dolphins would gather and beg him to tell them exactly how he had triumphed over the seemingly inevitable fate of the suffocating net. But he would not tell them. It would probably blow their pathetic brains to even attempt to comprehend his secrets.
In the passion of his thoughts, Dr Hojo had leapt up from his slumped stance and begun to pace with a vicious fury across the lab floor. He would be remembered. He would not die because his achievements and his glory would go on for millions of years to come. He would slice the strings of death and be forever known in his genius.
And now life had presented him with the means to do so. As it was bitter and cruel, the one thing which provided him with existence had bestowed upon him a gift. It was his legacy and means to immortality. Just as his own body would eventually die and rot, returned to the planet to fuel the next incompetent buffoon to succumb to the fishing net, one privileged being would bear the enormity of the wonders he had to show the universe.
It didn't even have a name yet; not like that mattered. God's didn't need names did they? And this infant, this human child who was the creation of the chaotic universe would be honed to perfection by himself, the tool of science.
The theory of relativity, quantum physics, Newton's laws and many others took the time to explain the world; they were all pitiful.
Hojo couldn't help but allow another smile to grace his impassionate features. Screw them all and their suffocating lives. Fuck all the scientists who believed in succumbing to and obeying nature. He was the only one who would dare to take the next logical step.
He'd take out his scalpel, bathed in iodine to maintain sterility of course, and he'd slice through the fishing wire and step calmly through the other side. True, he wasn't about to take the indescribable gifts he had to offer himself and so he would never know what it was like to fly at the dizzying heights of godhood. He himself would be immortalised in words and scientific worship. But the very fact that his name would be credited for such an incredible accomplishment was wondrous enough. It was enough to make his mouth water in anticipation.
That's why twenty-eight years was nothing. That's why ten thousand, two hundred and twenty-seven days were little more than a second in his own eyes. It would be worth the wait. He knew it. He felt it right down to his core and with the realisation, shivers of pleasure ran up and down his spine; butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
His moment of elation was shattered all too soon however as footsteps, clicking loudly and clipply on the tiled floor came into the small room. Hojo lifted his head and peered intently, with undisguised eagerness on his features. A fragile looking woman entered, her Wutaneese background more than apparent on her slanted eyes and delicate frame. He too was from that most traditional town but had broken free and now stood exempt from its restricting rituals and 'codes of honour', scorning the ways which had kept the townspeople 'stuck in a rut' for the past few centuries. She however embraced her hometown, much to his annoyance and was proud of her heritage, ashamed of him for not doing the same.
Her dark brown hair was pulled back loosely into a plait which reached down to her waist. A pair of light brown and once lively and joyous eyes set into unnaturally pale skin stared back at him wearily over a pair of half-moon spectacles. Her lips were pressed tightly together, a bloodless white from the pressure of the expression making her seem so much more sickly.
An ID badge hung from one of the pockets of her buttoned lab-coat with a photo showing her to be a smiling, and beautifully happy young woman. Now Dr Mai Ling stood a shadow of what she had once been.
"The baby has been safely delivered, Dr Hojo," she said weakly. Dark smudges ringed her eyes and amplified her frail appearance. She herself had given birth only a few days before, but duty had tied her to this laboratory, much against her will. Still, Hojo had a persuasive way which had attracted her to his ideas and ways of thinking no matter how insane they seemed since their first meeting many years before.
She swallowed forcefully in his presence and felt an unconscious chill grasp at her heart. Over the past few months he had become so much more obsessed with this Project of his, dragging along herself and fellow scientists through sickness, evil and the lowest levels of depravity. It was more than a passing interest; it had become his only reason to live. A fact which saddened her beyond almost any other at that moment in time.
The smirk he had worn when she had originally entered broadened alarmingly into a maniacal grin. His dark, dark eyes lit up with a sick inner joy and he strode up to her, grabbing her shoulders roughly and forcing her to look up at him. Dr Hojo was certainly not a short man; he stood at six-feet tall with a frame which did not match his height. Like her, he also had an oddly fragile appearance but if he willed it, he could change from a weak looking zombie to someone so full of energy and life it was startling. She had seen the change come over him many times before, but now it seemed so much more frightening that she found herself taking a feeble step away from him. He didn't even seem to notice her reaction and he shook her enthusiastically, his hands still gripping her shoulders tightly like the claws of a murderous bird of prey.
"S, Safely? You said safely didn't you??" he said ecstatically with a disturbing fervour.
She only managed a nod, opening her mouth to give him the exact details of the procedure before he thrust her to one side and walked briskly out of the doors she had entered through.
Dr Ling fell painfully onto one of the machines, gasping as her elbow cracked against one of the screens. Slowly, a tear ran from the corner of her right eye and she didn't bother to wipe it away.
That had hurt, so much.
In her weakened state she was surprised that her arm hadn't even been broken. Hojo knew how ill she had been. Why couldn't he be more careful? But, why should he care? She was just another co-worker after all.
No, now she was even less than that. Especially with the arrival of his legacy. Why should she or any of the other scientists matter now that he had what he wanted?
But somehow, that still didn't make it right. .
Corridor after corridor and lab after lab passed in a blur as Hojo strode quickly through the maze of passageways to his target. Several times he was forced to pause, unable to breathe due to the crazed laughter which kept on bursting forth from his mouth.
He couldn't believe how elated he was! Finally, the child had arrived. It's mother. . Who even cared about its mother?? She was dead now, he had to admit that wondering if the child would survive had prevented him from sleeping.
But here it was! "Safely delivered"!!
Another bout of insane laughter sucked the air from his lungs and he bent double, leaning with one hand against a wall to catch his breath. It was here! His moment was within his grasp with all its beauty! He could almost taste the deliciousness of the praise he was to receive upon his lips. He felt as though he could reach out and shake the latest President of ShinRa by the hand, a big fat grin on his face around a big fat cigar. He could smell that smoke in his nostrils, and what the hell? Maybe he'd have a cigar himself! He'd never smoked before, but why not now? Who was going to try and stop him?
Sucking in lungfuls of air, he pushed off from the wall and sprinted the rest of the way to his destination. It was only several metres down the corridor from where he stood, but he felt as though he flew every single step. His feet were not even touching the ground any more. The air he was inhaling was no long air. This was dream; a wonderful, gorgeous dream. It was the event he had fantasised about his entire life and now it was happening! Doctor Hojo would take his reward and he would parade it before the people who had even hinted at the possibility of his sanity crumbling. They would all regret their comments. Every one of those snivelling, weasels who called themselves scientists would bow at his feet and be clambering over themselves to touch the hem of him lab coat. He giggled to himself. No, maybe he wouldn't be revered quite as extremely as he'd like to envision, but it would sill be a monumental event.
He pushed open the silent double doors to the sterile laboratory in which the baby would be and entered with gusto, the doors banging loudly on the walls. An echo reverberated around the room like a gunshot and the five, weary looking scientists who milled around monitors and medieval looking equipment in stainless-steel jerked in alarm and turned to face him with startled expressions. Hojo had not removed the mad grin from his face since his previous bouts of laughter and as they looked up at him in shock and realised that he was not wielding a firearm, they found themselves wondering if they were actually any safer.
A twitching, nervous looking male scientist who appeared to be more like one of his experiments than an experimenter shuffled over to Hojo. His knuckles were white through tension, one of his hands grasping a biro and the other clutching a clipboard. With a trembling hand, he slowly held out the brown board towards his superior.
"Th. th, the. d, d. de, t. tai. detai-" he stuttered hesitantly and Hojo snatched the information off him rudely, thrusting roughly him to one side.
"The details," he muttered under his breath as he passed the jittery man, not even affording him a solitary, arrogant glance to acknowledge his existence. The four remaining scientists stood either side of Hojo respectfully providing a path to the imposing man's source of interest. A lonely looking, burnished steel table stood in the very centre of the room; a good three metres away from any of the gadget laden walls. In the dead centre of the platform they lay a single, newborn, it's skin a snowy white against the steely background.
As Hojo came barely a metre from the object of his desire, his steps which had previously seemed so full of joyousness and rapture became heavy and plodding. It was a moment he had been dreaming about his entire life, but to touch the fragile looking infant sprawled out on the hard and obviously cold apparatus would be like daring to attempt physical godhood himself. Just as waves of elation ran through his veins, he found an unjustified fear burn at the back of his mind.
"What have I done.?" he whispered to himself in a breath so light, that even in the utterly still and silent room the others would not have heard. "This isn't right. . I've played God and tried to create another even greater than myself. What could justify such an act.? A being which could control the very universe itself. . Have I made a gun just to shoot myself with it? This will come back to haunt me. and if not, then it will destroy those who dare to exist after me. ."
His voice eventually faded into nothingness, and as he shook his head to disperse the panicked musings he was momentarily taken aback to find himself standing next to the table. He could have sworn that only a brief second ago he had been at least a metre away from it.
His mind and body now seemed completely oblivious to one another now; only his eyes remained, observing and taking in the alternate pairs of the being known as Dr Lee Hojo. They empathised with the guilt and fear stricken ramblings of the brain and almost screamed out in terror as uncontrollable arms stretched down towards the tiny baby.
Hojo slipped his hands around the waist of the child who simply stared up at him silently with unblinking eyes. Shallow, tiny breaths caused its chest to rise and fall with quiet sighs and every now and then it would twitch an arm or leg experimentally. Hojo was more than well aware than babies should not even be able to focus their eyes until they were at least five weeks old. The very fact that he was being observed with a frighteningly intelligent rationality by a baby barely an hour old was sign enough that his experiments has worked. Almost all of the people he had worked with in his life had lacked such an obvious intellect.
The skin of the infant was oddly cold, but he placed that to the fact that it had been lying upon the icy metal table since it had been cleaned up from its undoubtedly messy birth. Ignoring whatever terrifying thoughts had cried out in his head before, he lifted it up from its metal bed and held it level with his eyes.
There wasn't a sound from the other five scientists occupying the room and even if there had been he would not have heard it. His tumultuous ideas had faded into oblivion as a torrent of some unidentifiable emotion gushed through his soul. Again he wanted to burst out into laughter, but somehow those oddly cold and intelligent eyes kept him in check.
The door to the laboratory opened silently behind him, and like a weak shadow Dr Mai Ling stepped in and watched Hojo tearfully, a remorseful emotion bubbling up from her heart. She bit her bottom lip to remain undetected and pressed her back against a computer panel in order to prevent her legs from collapsing beneath her. Soundlessly, she observed the peculiar ritual and waited.
"My son." Hojo murmured and the baby blinked imperturbably back at him as if to state its utter lack of interest in the situation. Hojo found a frown marring his otherwise benevolent expression. The child's visage however did not even twitch and it seemed to find an odd amusement in his father's discomfort.
The actual frame of the baby was oddly slender. Most babies tended to be reasonably rotund around the legs and waist he recalled idly. There was something not quite right about him, Hojo thought to himself as he scrutinised the object in his hands with squinted eyes behind thin glasses pushed up high on his nose. Was it the overly inquisitive and yet all knowing eyes which were slightly slanted to a lesser degree than his father's showing his non-Wutaneese heritage.? Or perhaps it was the shock of unnaturally coloured hair, which, in itself, seemed peculiarly long?
His arms beginning to ache, he lay the baby back down onto the table and tentatively reached out once more to touch it. His hand extended up and with surprising gentleness smoothed down the soft locks atop the infant's head. He allowed a few strands to drape through his fingers before he finally stepped back; a chill once more running up his spine with an unprompted sense of dread. He found himself suddenly reluctant to even gaze upon the fragile form. He did look fragile; that was what it was. Most babies were robust and healthily chubby, but this thing. his son. was so different in so many indescribable ways that it would have driven him mad to even occupy the same room as him any more. Again a frown furrowed Hojo's brow and he stepped back quickly from the steel table.
Without glancing back, he gave a dismissive wave of his hand and any previous signs of tenderness or reverence dissipated from his face. It was, after all a lump of flesh no matter how valuable and one which needed to be dealt with.
The five male scientists who had stood silently behind him moved forward and lifted the infant from his bed and took him through to a room Hojo had passed on his wild flight to the lab. There it would undoubtedly be hooked up and wired to countless monitors and wicked, inhuman devices until he was 'complete' in the scientist's ever-critical eyes.
He gazed after the bizarre group for a few minutes before turning back to the table and resting upon it idly, his mind milling through the vast amounts of information presented to him.
Most babies examined their surroundings with a mild curiosity as though all they wished to do was lie on their back all day with a bottle when they wanted it and a sleep when they needed it. That baby. his son however had given off such a powerful aura of understanding and knowledge that he found himself believing for a fraction of a second that it was more intelligent than any of them put together.
He gave a snort and smiled to himself lightly at his humble wonderings. He was the one who had thought all of this through. It was his genius which had led to the fruits of a lifetime's work. No one could take that away from him; no one.
Still, perhaps his mind was playing tricks on him; it wouldn't be the first time after all.
He began to turn, too consumed in his musings to yet notice the presence of Dr Ling in the room.
Despite all his weak comforts however, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the memory of the delicate child from his mind.
His hair. and his eyes. . .How strange. .
I've never seen hair or eye colour like that before. . They aren't natural. but then again, I suppose I should have expected something like this. .
Go To Chapter 1
Return To FF7 Fanfic