Shattered Feathers Chapter 9

By Tsarmina

My earliest years are like the Mist this planet was once plagued—unclear and impossible to grasp in a fist. I have brief recollections of Garland, as well as a female Genome I was entrusted to—a nameless face. Nothing is distinct in my mind, though. It all blurs together, snatches of memory that seem random and, at times, inconsistent.

I was “born” on the planet Terra. I realize this sounds quite improbable to anyone who hears it, but it is fact. I claim no birth, I claim no parents. I am merely the product of tweaked genes in an incubator. I could claim Garland as my father, if I so wished to… But I care not to. He was a harsh man who distantly watched me before molding me into what he wanted. He called it “teaching,” but he used me like clay, forcing me into his Angel of Death.

One of my earliest memories is of a time when Garland truly was showing interest in me. I must have been three or four years of age, but that could be incorrect. At any rate, it was before Zidane was “born”—before he replaced me in Garland’s favor, as well as dreams. It’s hard to believe that I still harbor ill will for that…

I had been sitting up a tree—as close to a tree as Terra was able to have. I’ll tell you now, Terra seems like a wasteland to me in comparison to Gaia… But I enjoyed it enough while still naive to the existence of this world. My tail was wrapped tightly around a branch behind me to aid in keeping my balance.

Below me, Genomes wandered mindlessly past. They were soulless, strange people. Think of Zidane—they were all like him in terms of appearance. Golden, short hair and a golden tail. They all looked as if they were mass produced from an assembly line like those of Lindblum. They were Garland’s wind-up toys, never really anything more. Granted, he did hold grand plans for them…but between Zidane and myself, those plans were crushed.

Garland surprised me that day. He walked among the Genomes, the black of his garb seeming to leech away the sparkling light of Terra—the crystallized light, so unreal after witnessing the light of Gaia. The Genomes parted before him, none taking much notice of their creator—just another object to skirt around. He stopped his slow pace directly under me, tilting his head to look into my eyes.

I stared at him as he stared back at me. A strange smile twitched across his features—something between a smirk and a grin. I dared not move, feeling pierced by those dark eyes of his.

“What are you doing up there?” Garland asked mildly, crossing his arms over his chest in a slow, easy motion.

I merely stared at him, chewing on my thumbnail—the answer was quite obvious to me and I saw no real reason to reply. I must have appeared dim-witted, for the look of contempt that washed across his features was that he gave the other Genomes. I dropped my hand, leaning forward a little. I tightened my tail around its branch.

“Come down from there, boy,” Garland commanded.

“Kuja,” I replied, my young voice as stiff with indignation as is possible in a child. I was nettled by his indifference to me.

“Ah. Kuja, then. Come down here,” he relented. A genuine smile made an appearance across his features.

Nimble as an acrobat, I jumped down from my perch. I landed in a crouch, a few feet away from Garland. I straightened, suddenly feeling dwarfed by him. I was surprised when he crouched down next to me, still taller…but not by much.

“I want to ask you something, Kuja. Will you answer me truthfully?” Garland asked. He continued when I bobbed my head in reply. “Good. Are you…happy here?”

The question struck me as strange at the time. Now, though, I see the significance of it: the soulless Genomes that Garland had created had no comprehension of the meaning of “happiness.” They had no comprehension of any emotions, to get right to the core of truth. I was his first real attempt (or at least successful attempt—I know not, to this day, how much he experimented before he produced me. There is evidence of some experiments—I could name an example or two—but those are rather few) at a creation with a soul.

I frowned at him. “I guess…” I murmured diffidently.

“Oh? That is a rather reluctant answer. Why wouldn’t you be happy?” Garland asked, feigning surprise. He never was good at conveying emotions he didn’t really feel. He had a face unable to lie, something I used against him in later years.

“It’s boring here,” I replied with the bluntness of youth. “Everyone’s stupid.”

Garland’s eyebrows shot up and he laughed. “I see I’ve done well by you. Surely your guardian isn’t stupid?”

I shrugged. “She makes me take baths,” I pointed out. The sheer criminal act of this was horrifying to me. “And do other things I don’t want to do.”

“Well… How would you feel about joining me in my laboratory from now on? You could watch me, and perhaps help me,” Garland proposed.

Obviously, I had passed whatever test he had set for me. In creating me, he was aiming for a creation superior to that of the Genomes he had created before: something with real intelligence and personality. I think it’s safe to assume that, from the beginning, he planned on using me as a tool. I would be like the other Genomes in some respects—a mere toy for him to play with. But, I was a superior toy. I didn’t merely run how he wanted me to. But then, I did little of what he wanted from me… I’ve always been a more obstinate individual than not.

“Really?” I asked, amazed at the offer.

“Really,” he affirmed, a half-smile twitching at his lips. Shrewd calculations were most likely coursing frantically through his head. He stood up from his position next to me, once again towering above. “Come on, then. I have work to do. I can’t waste my entire day chattering like this.”

I nodded dumbly, once again chewing on my thumbnail. I followed him like a dutiful puppy as he led the way to his laboratory, which I had rarely visited before then.


Final Fantasy 9 Fanfic