"kimi wa boku no risou wo sonomama jitsugen suru
yosougai no tenkai wo matsu no sa
nanimo kamo ataeru kara
kokoro kogasu namida mo hitsuyousa
nanimo kamo yotei sareteiru kedo...
mitegoran, daremo ga onaji egao de te wo futtekureru yo
koko ga minna de negatta fukouhei no nai UTOPIA...
mitegoran, daremo ga onaji namida wo nagashitekureru yo
koko ga arehodo negatta fukouhei no nai UTOPIA"
~ "Genome Control" by Pierrot
~24 years in the past...
So the chorus sings at the advent of a new chapter.
Heralding in cherubic voices the ushering in of the final stage to this sorrowful saga.
Awaiting the grand entrance of the saviour who will redeem them all.
Bleep... bleep... bleeep...
And the audience stirs with riotous applause.
"At last, I awaken."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A ghost of a smile reflected in a cold glass pane. Delight, wonder and satisfaction danced in an old man's weathered gaze as he bent over a little cocoon of mirrors and steel, airy aspirations of a grandiose scheme flitting through his head. It was as if all of his dreams and ambitions, ceaselessly spun and unwound and rewoven into a myriad of designs, had finally settled into their ordained pattern, and were at last incarnated within the tiny, fleshy form struggling beneath the glass. Incarnated, ready to come to life.
"So it begins, little one," he whispered into the stagnant air, leaning closer to the viewing window. His warm breath misted over the glass, just briefly veiling his view of the creature within. "A perfect vessel... the ark who will carry all the hopes and dreams of this world into the future..."
A tiny fist reached tentatively into the air within the cocoon and slowly splayed each chubby finger, as if to clear away a shell of invisible silk impeding its movement. The hand then swayed slowly to and fro, followed by the other, until with fingers spread both hands were naively waving around like sea anemones, exploring that intimately frigid environment. A gurgle, a coo, a sigh; a head inclined forward and legs kicked leisurely at the still air. More reaching, more stretching, a sigh soft as silk, and at last, two tiny eyes blinked open.
Gleaming azure, pools of radiance, soft and unfocused, they searched unblinking the interior of the glass cocoon. First they examined walls, then fingertips, then toes, then windows. Windows, frozen and impenetrable. And so those gleaming pools of azure focused the light glimmering within them to tiny points, stared expressionless up at the faintly blurry figure beyond the glass, and froze as well.
A barely perceptible shiver ran down the old man's spine as that frozen glance caught his eyes. Impossible... He shook his head nervously, as if to shake off the inexplicable hold that gaze had upon him, but his eyes were ever drawn down into those frozen pools of blue. ...What was it? That glint, that focus, that sharp familiarity... Recognition, perhaps? Impossible!... A spark of silent omniscience... ...Impossible!!!... The old man blinked, yet still that solemn gaze rested upon him, never flinching. ...Impossible, I say!!!...
"...No... just my imagination... you are my creation, little one. You will serve our purpose, and deliver us all from the fate which looms on the horizon..." The forced fervour of his words dissipated with the mist on the cold glass, and he stepped away from the cocoon, turning now to a vast glass window which stood as the only barrier between the shadowy quiet of the laboratory and a still lake beyond. The unmoving water diffused a gentle bluish glow, this subtle light gripping his mind with temporary disconcert.
"Such gentle light, so..." He lowered his gaze, and azure pools flashed behind his eyelids. "...painful." His expression contorted slightly, and as if he suddenly found the glimmering waters repugnant, he turned away from the window and rested his eyes upon the calming shadows of the laboratory.
"You, come over here," he called quietly into the darkness, his voice briefly reverberating against the steel walls. The echo carried, sifting through the gradients of light, to a dark corner of the room where stood a silent figure in an indistinct grey shift. Head bent, the figure stepped forth from her shadows into the penumbra, preferring this grayish, indefinite region where light and dark faded into one another to the mind-fuddling clarity of the iridescent lake. In the faint light, her short blonde locks attained a colourless pallor. Even her eyelashes shone pale, fluttering as her gaze wavered upon the matte finish of the stone beneath her feet. Eyes lowered, she casually tracked the shadow of her swaying brown tail as it ran across the floor, awaiting her order.
"The vessel has been born," the old man announced, his suddenly tight voice betraying a note of almost prophetic enthusiasm. "Take him from the incubator and prepare him for the observation module. He is to receive premium levels of intravenus nutrition and hormone injection for a period of three months, after which he will be released into my care."
The blonde youth raised her head and blinked a few times, a vaguely questioning expression in her grey eyes. "Three months? Will that be long enough for him to fully develop into a suitable Genome?"
"During the formation process I inputted accelerated development into his genetic code," the old man replied, a slight sneer to his tone. "By my calculations, he will be a fully grown vessel within the three month period, after which his physical development is coded to halt until he has been given a proper soul. I will then raise him for a minimum of five formative years to teach him the required knowledge, in order to prepare him for sublimation."
"Teach him?" The girl tilted her head slightly to the left, as if this particular byte of information was incomprehensible to her. "Will any learnt knowledge not be rendered obsolete upon his sublimation with a soul? His memory and skill capacity should be directly inherited from the soul's own memory trace."
"Ah, my dear, so naive." A slight smirk tugged at those wrinkled old lips, as if his mouth could not decide whether to laugh or grimace. The old man stepped over to the glass cocoon once more and glanced down at the pale creature lying within. It continued it's exploratory gestures from before, only now they seemed more articulated, and were apparently more absorbing, as those azure pools focused now only on the delicate interplay between his fingers and his toes. The happy medium of a thin smile won out upon the wrinkled lips, and they creased with satisfaction. "Can you not see it already? He is special... he will need all the training he can get if he is to become as great as I aspire him to be."
The blonde youth glanced down through the glass pane and stiffened slightly. Her interest seemed to have broken the fledgling's intense scrutiny of his appendages, and once again the glittering depths of blue pierced through the viewing window to freeze upon her gaze. She flinched. "It... it is a male?"
The old man barely restrained an amused snicker. "Of course, can't you tell? Even at this stage, the genitalia are fully recognizable."
The girl would have blushed if she had the capacity for such emotion, but instead she simply seemed slightly confused. "No, it's simply... the facial structure is so finely molded. Almost feminine. Did you perhaps make an error, or a misjudgment, in the genetic sequencing?"
The old man's eyes flared briefly, turning their restrained fury upon the unaffected youth. He chewed his lip thoughtfully, debating whether to rebuke her or to discipline her via more aggressive means, but he thought better of it and turned away from her openly ignorant gaze.
"...Such 'feminine' features were entirely deliberate, I assure you," he muttered more to himself than in explanation to her. "They are likely to become even more pronounced as he develops more fully." He followed with a derisive snort, and his tone developed a sharper edge. "But what you mistakenly call 'feminine' is in reality, what is called 'beauty.' The fine bone structure, the flawless skin, the feline tilt of the eyes, the opalescent sheen of the lips - these elements indicate the delicacy, precision, and care I took in his creation. Together they constitute beauty - but that is a concept that I can't expect a soulless puppet like you to appreciate." He narrowed his eyes at her, attempting to scry whether the ignorant girl was absorbing his words, but her face glowed blankly in the half-light, as he expected. He huffed, shook his head, and turned with an irritated air towards the stairs.
None of you puppets could ever understand my ambition... The old man clenched his fists as he stared into the darkness, his eyes glazed over with visions of the future. I've given him the face of an Angel, the ethereal beauty that transcends any petty barrier of gender or sexuality... He raised his eyes to the ceiling, and again the flash of brilliant azure pools lit up his memory. Despite the chill that ran down his spine at the image, he struggled to twist his lips into a smile. He is the ultimate creation... my ultimate creation... The twisted smile broadened, and a sort of madness seized his mind. A dully throbbing, creeping, bluish madness. ...and I will give him the most powerful soul in all of existence...
The faint shuffling sound broke the solemn silence as the girl shifted her feet and turned to face the old man. Her tail swished softly through the stagnant air. "...Master Garland? Have you any other instructions?"
The twisted smile disappeared and his fists clenched even tighter, his eyes following suit, as he strenuously tilted his head slightly in her direction. "Just... do as I told you. Prepare him for the observation module, and commence intravenus and hormone treatment immediately. I'll come and check on him every now and then, but in the meantime, you will be held responsible for him." He paused long enough to direct a stare cold and sharp as a splinter of ice at the youth, just for emphasis. "I have every confidence that you'll take good care of him. But if I should discover that you've failed my expectations, in any small way... there will be dire consequences." The twisted smile returned to his lips, only now it formed without any conscious effort of his own, no doubt due to the spark of malice that now revealed itself in his grey eyes. He nodded curtly in satisfaction as the girl's back went rigid in response to his barely veiled threat, and turned his head forward once more towards the stairs.
He will restore us all... he will redeem us. Terra shall never die. He kept the twisted smile upon his face as he ascended the steps, unaware of the fact that the tiny, wriggling creature still had not resumed its infantile exploration. It lay completely still, its head turned towards the frosty window, gaze fixed upon the dark figure of the old man as he receded into the shadows. It was as if it could see the aura of his pride and ambition welling up around him, those lofty aspirations hovering about his head...
...and it almost seemed that that small creature was willing a gentle, bluish doubt, a doubt that the old man was so violently struggling to deny, to creep ever deeper into his soul.
* * * * * * * * * *
The young girl descended quietly into the shadowy laboratory, clipboard in hand, once again looking over the observation report she had recorded the previous day. Subject developing rapidly, as predicted. Bone structure and muscle tissue have already matured to pre-adolescent status, heart rate stable. Mental signals processing at superhuman rate. She blinked at her own reports, the reality of the observations conflicting with her logically-trained mind. He certainly was an exceptional specimen, and hardly needed the additional vitamin and hormone injections to promote his growth. It did seem improbable to her that such excessive development could not have some sort of logical consequence, but it was not her place to question the Master's plans. I'm sure Master Garland knows precisely what he's doing. He truly seems to have outdone himself with this specimen.
She placed her clipboard down on a desk and walked over to the glowing green tubes situated by the far wall, carefully diverting her gaze from the vast window with its confounding bluish radiance. Only the center module was occupied, as Master Garland had insisted that all attention was to be focused upon his one specimen. She approached this one now, her steps slowing to a hesitant stop before the fluorescent emerald sheen of the cold glass.
He was sleeping now. He always seemed to be sleeping when she came down to check on him. Of course, his mental response readings seemed to prove otherwise, but she dismissed this as merely another of his amazing qualities.
She knelt down beside a small monitor, situated on the floor beside the tube. It displayed in tiny, glowing green script what his current statistics were, in order for her to gauge his progress for the day and whether or not she should adjust any of his intravenous levels. "Heart rate... normal. Reflex rate... normal. Mental response rate..." Her quiet voice trailed off as she stared at the numbers blinking at her on the monitor. Above normal?... These readings were quite aberrant. Even if he had been awake, these readings were significantly higher than were appropriate for a Genome, even one as exceptional as he. This was particularly strange considering he had, as of yet, received little mental stimulation beyond the necessary electric impulses required to keep his brain active.
The girl stood up and examined the controls for the intravenous feeder attached to the side of the module. She stared blankly. All the levels were set to the usual degrees. There should not have been such high mental activity. It just didn't compute.
With more intense curiosity than she had ever felt since her awakening, the girl stood back and examined the floating specimen fully for the first time. From head to toe, his pale skin was pearly and flawless beneath the net of intravenous tubes and wired sensors splayed off of nearly every bare inch. Not a single bluish vein discoloured its creamy complexion, and in spite of those intrusive contraptions, not a single wrinkle or crease upset its surface. There was little muscle definition anywhere, given that the specimen had not experienced any real physical exercise as of yet, and in fact, the waist was slim and smooth as a female's. However, just a short glance lower of course, and that likeness was completely defied. That area was as perfectly formed as the rest of his - definitely his - body, which did not completely escape the girl's notice. For the first time, a slight warmth rose to her cheeks, and she pinched herself in surprise. "Involuntary hormonal reflex," she muttered to herself, shaking her head and averting her gaze to the floor. The gentle bluish radiance from the window seemed to have crept across the floor to lend its sheen to the stones beneath her feet, blurring the edge of her shadow. "Probably just another mind-numbing side effect of that blue glow..."
The girl felt a sudden prickling in her spine, as if something in the room had suddenly stirred, and she looked up again at the luminous tube. The specimen still floated there as always, silent, eyes closed, tubes and wires draped motionless over him, as though he had never moved. She stepped closer, almost unconsciously leaning forward with her fingertips lightly resting against the glass, and examined his serene, expressionless face. Every contour, from the porcelain eyes to the sculpted nose to the blushed lips, was so finely formed that it was as if he had been carved from marble, the way the Old Civilization had once done with its Renaissance relics all those years ago. The most distinctive element, however, was the lustrous silver hair that framed his face, pale and shimmering like his skin. He was quite unlike the other generic blonde Genomes. In fact, his defining tail could barely even be distinguished among the array of tubes and wires, and even that was coloured with silvery grey fur. He was nothing like the rest of them. Was this then the beauty Garland had referred to? The beauty that transcended humanity? The beauty of an angel?...
The girl stared at the sleeping face and whispered in a small voice, "Is that what you are?... An angel?..."
Suddenly, the pale eyelids flew open and those crystalline azure eyes were staring straight at her, freezing her in her spot the way they had when first she glimpsed him in the steel cocoon. To her further shock and bewilderment, the specimen began then to lean forward, the wiry webbing which kept him suspended sending light pulses back to the monitor and causing it to emit quiet, random beeps. His gaze upon her was much more determined, more purposeful than it had been all those months ago, and he did not stop advancing until his nose grazed the glass, barely an inch away from the bewildered girl on the other side.
"What... what is he doing?" she uttered, a mounting sense of panic rising in her throat. "Why is he... so close..." Her mind was telling her to break away and call for Master Garland, but those eyes... Those startlingly clear azure eyes refused to let her go. Her mind whirred mechanically, attempting to assess the situation with trained logic to find a solution to her incapacity for motion. It couldn't be some sort of bio-magnetic field that was drawing her to him, nor could it be some sort of mind control... could it? It was just those eyes, the intensity of those eyes that gripped her, making her mind go misty, and inciting a dull, aching, stinging sensation to grow within her...
Suddenly, his intense expression turned malicious and the specimen began violently banging his fists upon the glass. With such underdeveloped muscle strength, she did not expect him to achieve much by the action, but all the same, she found herself now also gripped by a subtle fear. What if he can break through? What if the glass doesn't hold out? What will he do to me?...
The banging grew louder and more forceful, and the girl resumed enough control of her limbs to slowly back away. The glass was thick, reinforced with a steel frame, it was impossible to break through with bare force. Impossible... Yet, to her horror, tiny spidering cracks were beginning to spread through the glass from the spot upon which his fist was battering, and a tiny malevolent smile was creeping across his delicate lips. Impossible... It doesn't make sense... At this rate, it won't be long now, before it breaks... She squeezed her eyes shut, and the last things she heard were the sickening sound of splintering, then shattering glass, and then the rush of water, and then her own choked gasps as slippery pale fingers closed tightly around her slim neck.
It's getting... so dark... in here... Impossible...
"But at least you won't have to see that awful blue light anymore."
And she took her last breath.
* * * * * * * * * *
Garland rushed down the stairs at the sound of breaking glass, but he arrived on the scene much too late. All that he saw when he reached the laboratory was a sea of shattered glass and transparent liquid, and in the center of it, his fully grown child.
He sat there, pale, shivering, naked and vulnerable, cradling the body of the Genome assistant in his arms. Tubes and wires trailed off of him onto the flooded floor like broken puppet strings, but he barely seemed to notice them. His face was calm yet expressionless as he gazed upon Garland, as if he had been kneeling there awaiting his arrival the entire time.
Garland stared down at the boy for a few moments, then shook his head and exhaled wearily as he overcame the initial shock. "If all you wanted was to get my attention, there are better ways to do it, little one." He sighed and removed his sprawling obsidian cape, then walked over and wrapped it around the boy's pale shoulders. The boy then let the dead Genome slip out of his arms to the floor and gracefully rose to his feet, instinctively pulling the cape closer around his shoulders. "Come now, it's about time you got out of here, anyway."
And so Garland slowly led the shivering boy towards the staircase, halting briefly as the boy paused on the steps just long enough to whisper, "I've been waiting... Father."
Garland gazed at the boy in mute shock. The clarity, the articulation, the almost musical resonance in his voice as he spoke those remarkable words... Perhaps... he knows, after all... But the boy did not even lift his silvery head, merely waiting in silence with shoulders slumped for the old man to lead him. And so, with one last mystified gaze, he gave the boy a gentle push to urge him forward and they both continued up the stairs, leaving the dead Genome alone upon the damp floor. Her contorted features were softly illuminated by the bluish light emanating from the window.
The awakening of a new angel... Is this what he is to become?...
* * * * * * * * * *
The streets of Bran Bal were filled as Garland led his new protege away from the laboratory. It was the first time the new Genome had been seen outside the lab, though some of the younger Genomes had made numerous attempts in the past to sneak into the facility to see him. It was an odd sight though, particularly for the boy, so newly emerged from his chrystalis.
"They're all staring at me," he said quietly, gazing around at all the turquoise eyes that were fixated upon him. "Why?"
Garland chuckled, patting the boy's shoulder reassuringly. "They've never seen anything like you before. They're fascinated."
"Fascinated..." The boy's soft voice dropped, and he halted, lowering his face to the ground. He seemed to be listening to the shuffling throng of Genomes that had gathered round him, now beginning to press towards him with intense curiosity. They were whispering barely audible things that should have been impossible for him to distinguish, but his superhuman faculty of hearing seemed to defy that impossibility, as so many aspects of him did.
"Master Garland's masterpiece..."
"...he's so pale..."
"...his hair is silver, even his tail..."
"...and his eyes... are so blue..."
"...he frightens me."
That silvery head snapped up, and everyone froze. Frightens...? Heedless of the semi-anxious stares directed at him, the boy slowly approached the Genome before him, a male who appeared physically to be years younger. The young one, fearing to meet that terrible blue gaze, tensely turned his head about in an appeal for help from his comrades, but they only backed away. Rather than putting themselves at risk, they seemed to have reached a silent consensus to leave the boy at the mercy of this strange, silver-haired menace.
"...Tell me." Those sparkling blue eyes wavered slightly as they peered down at the young Genome. "Why do I frighten you?"
"...Because..." The young one spoke haltingly and his eyes began darting around, from ground to sky to hands to feet, anywhere but directly into those pools of azure. Even a stray glance in that direction managed to pierce his juvenile consciousness with another sliver of disquieting anxiety, as if the primitive circuitry within his immature brain reacted unhappily to the weight of that gaze. "Just, well... you look so... different from the rest of us. So... so different."
"Different?..." The boy raised his piercing eyes from the young Genome before him to the rest of the crowd. They stood motionless en masse, a sea of yellow heads and unblinking blue eyes, but there seemed to be a web of nervous anticipation woven about them that stretched out from the boy's lithe, agile fingertips. He narrowed his steady gaze, eyeing and examining every single one and yet all of them at the same time, since they were really all the same person, the same consciousness. Which was really no one and nothing.
"I am different... from all of you?" He looked down at his palm, slowly turning it over to examine the pearly surface of the back of his hand. The crowd of genomes seemed to twitch suddenly at the action, as if the slight movement of his hand had actually shifted the intricate, invisible web of anxiety woven round them. A stray lock of his silver hair then slipped down his shoulder, like a sheaf of silken threads, and he absently lifted up his other hand and twined his fingers through the silver tresses as though he had only just realized that they were his own. The genomes still stood rapt, trapped. A small smile began to form on his face. "...Different..."
Something stirred in the crowd then, completely unexpectedly. A few Genomes in closest proximity to the pale boy began to wriggle out of the paralysis of his invisible web and were slowly extending their fingertips towards him. Their eyes widened, and their lips began to move, and before the boy realized what was happening, the whole crowd had overcome his magical web and were surrounding him, touching his face, his hair, his tail, even the cloak, black as shadow, that was draped around his shoulders. Whispers rippled through the masse like waves in an ocean of echoes, quietly severing the taut threads of fear and tension that had formerly kept them in check.
"Look how tall he is too..."
"His skin... like an infant's right after birth."
"But look... his eyes... so blue..."
"...it's the light of Gaia."
At this comment, the whispers erupted into a chorus of murmurs through the crowd, the Genomes' voices rising and ebbing as they pushed even more violently towards the boy. Though once seen as a figure of intimidating authority, at the notion of his connection to Gaia, he had become to them a holy relic, a living statue that might somehow perform miracles if only they could graze their fingers across his skin. They had heard tell of this one, the one with the eyes of Gaia. The one who would be born with thought, speech, strength, and acute awareness of the planet dying around them. The one who would infuse their planet with life once again. He was to be their saviour.
"What... what are you doing... Stop... stay away..." The boy began to panic at the invasion of his space, with so many curious hands and faces pushing toward him. He was sickened by the sight of their lifeless eyes and their whispering lips, and the fact that the fear and anxiety he had once inspired in them was no more. There were so many of them encroaching upon him, reaching out and crying for him, that he felt he might drown in a sea of blonde and turquoise. He squeezed his eyes shut with revulsion and pressed backwards, trying to force his way out of the encircling throng, but they were all grasping at his hair, his face, his cape so fervently that he was virtually tangled up in their arms. The power had shifted. He had now become their prey, tangled up in the mechanical threads of their passionless adoration.
"...Stop it... stop it, let me go..." The boy turned towards Garland, his eyes twitching with uncertainty for the first time since his awakening. He did not like this adoration, this feeling of suffocation. It made him feel ever more isolated, not in a comforting way as he had felt in the steel coccoon back in the laboratory, but in a cold, alien way that crept across his pearly skin with the force of hundreds of anxious little fingers. Garland, who had been standing well away the entire time, was now observing this odd spectacle with his arms folded across his chest and an unidentifiable gleam in his eyes.
"Father... Father... h-help me... get them away..." A barely perceptible twinge spasmed across Garland's face for just an instant, but he hesitated before responding.
"They are your brothers and sisters, my boy. Your family. You should welcome the fact that they are so engrossed with you."
"They're suffocating me." the boy spat through clenched teeth. He wrenched free his arm from a few grasping Genomes nearby, reached out towards the stoic man before him, and fixed him with the full intensity of his azure eyes. His voice, though softer when he spoke again, nevertheless belied a darker undertone that may have been coloured with anger, or resentment, or perhaps something more fragile - fear. "Father... I'm asking you, please. Help."
Garland stared at the boy for a few moments, his eyebrows furrowed and forehead creased. He's to be our Saviour... and yet, he can't stand such adoration, such fascination... he can't even stand to be around us...
The situation was not improving, as the fervent Genomes were still pressing in upon the boy. He was growing more and more agitated, struggling more aggressively now to push them away. His eyes began to flash, an unhealthy sign that he was being pushed to his extreme, though the Genomes seemed not to notice. Garland, on the other hand, knew that there would be dire consequences if he didn't intervene soon, but the scientist within him firmly advocated a morbid desire to see what the newborn would do. He could simply consider it a test of the boy's latent abilities, without the benefit of proper training. The incident with the Genome lab assistant had been just a taste of what the boy could do; he wanted to see more. An angel should not need to be taught how to be an angel, after all.
"This is supposed to be your vocation, my boy. If you can't even handle the attention of a simple crowd of Genomes, then perhaps you aren't meant for the great destiny I've had in store for you, after all."
The boy paused, staring severely at the old man who now turned his back to him, and was walking away. "Father, wait... what do you mean by... great destiny?"
But Garland did not stop. He continued walking away, merely tossing one last admonition over his shoulder. "Come to Pandemonium if you're still interested. You'll know the way. Your destiny awaits you there."
"My... destiny." The boy with silver hair focused his azure eyes upon the dark figure who suddenly seemed to phase out of existence, not leaving a single trace or echo in his wake. "I will... fulfill my destiny." He did not even turn his head, did not even blink as he hurled the helpless, moaning Genomes out of his path. Did not even flinch at the sound of breaking bones as he effortlessly shoved away the remainders of the approaching crowd with a simple sweep of his arm. Did not even care as the groans and cries rose around him, the helpless, harmless Genomes strewn haphazardly across the ground like the broken dolls that they were. A sea of puppets to him, and no more. He was not like them.
"...My destiny... awaits me..." He straightened the obsidian cloak around his shoulders, ran his fingers lightly through his luxurious silver hair, and with the light of Gaia in his eyes and a tiny smile on his lips, he headed off towards Pandemonium.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"...So you made it. I trust that those Genomes were really no trouble for you after all?" The old man's thin lips creased into a smile as he stifled a snicker. "Well then, welcome to your new home."
The boy with the silver hair said nothing, gazing around at the menacing scarlet surroundings. The old man shifted uncomfortably at his silence, but still remained generally unperturbed.
"...Well? Aren't you happy?" he asked, approaching the boy. He grasped his shoulders warmly and noticed how taut his muscles were beneath his attempted embrace, but still he maintained his smile. "I'll make you great, my boy. You'll be the saviour of Terra, you'll be remembered for ages..."
The boy still said nothing. The old man sighed, a look of weariness shadowing his eyes for just a moment, and let go of his shoulders with a nod. "I know, it's too much for you to understand so soon. But in time, you'll come to accept it all. Now come, follow me. We'll get you cleaned up and into some more comfortable clothes, and then we'll start your training." And so he turned to go.
The old man stopped, and for some reason hesitated before turning around. What... am I afraid of? But he shook off the feeling of uncertainty, and tilted his head slightly to answer. "...Yes?"
The boy did not move, but spoke quietly. "...Give me a name."
"A name?" the old man chuckled at that, though there was something in the way the boy said it, demanded it, that wasn't particularly humourous. "Why, you can pick any name that you want - Saviour, Redeemer, Angel even-"
"Give me a name, Father."
An unsettling anxiety began to form in the pit of the old man's stomach. A name? He had never really thought of a name. Names didn't exist in Terra anymore, except for his own. Why was a name so important to him? "Why... why do you need me to give you a name? I never gave names to any of the other Genomes, why should I-"
"I'm not like them, Father."
The old man tried to resist the chill that prickled down his spine at the sound of the boy's voice, shaking it away with a shrug of his shoulders. "That's right, my boy, of course. You're a special one. But you're still a Genome-"
"I'm. Not. Like. Them."
He turned around in alarm and realized that the boy was now standing just inches away from him. The obsidian cape was drawn close around his shoulders, but it could not hide the intravenous tubes that still trailed down and pooled at his feet, or the wires attached by sensors to his forehead that now twined through the strands of his lustrous hair. Nor could it hide the sharp pinpoints of light in his azure eyes, which seemed now to be piercing straight through the old man's anxious gaze and into his withered soul. There was an immense latent power lurking beneath that veil of shadow, if he only knew how to use it... "B-but... you are-"
The boy's hands shot out from beneath the cloak and clamped down hard upon the old man's shoulders, not far above his own thanks to the negligible difference in their height. "Father. Give me a name."
Silence, for interminable moments. The old man stood still, willing himself not to show how deeply troubling the boy's sudden urgency truly was to him. Not to mention how painful his grip was upon his weakening shoulders. He's beginning to realize his power now. But it is still too soon. He must be taught his place, before he turns that power in the wrong direction... The old man steeled himself and narrowed his eyes, and with considerable effort, wrenched himself free of the boy's grasp. He turned his back on him once again, as it was the only way for him to escape the even more paralyzing clutch of his glittering azure gaze.
"You were made to be great boy, but you are still a creation. My creation. Do not forget that, and do not ever raise either hand or voice against me again. Everything I make... I can also destroy."
He waited silently for a few moments, allowing the statement to sink in before once again walking away into the depths of his castle. He was only vaguely aware of the malice that trailed at his heels as the pale-haired boy followed in his wake, his fists clenched beneath the dark cloak.
...if he only knew how to use it...
* * * * * * * * * *
He was dreaming. It was a place, somewhere in another world, outside of time; another reality, the memory of which was eroded by the winds of progress and buried beneath the sands of forgetfulness. Yet somewhere, locked in some secret, cold cocoon, the memories survived, crystallized in some peculiar metamorphic substance. They rose like ghosts in the night to haunt his vulnerable mind, beckoning him forward to some unseen goal that felt so familiar, yet still one that he did not recognize.
It was always the same. A beautiful crystal hung in the abyss of darkness that surrounded him, emanating a light warm and inviting. He would reach out to touch it, and suddenly a tiny crack would splinter across its surface. He would panic suddenly, as light began to bleed from that tiny crack, as though those precious memories were escaping; but it was only one single stream that seeped out, spilling into his outstretched hands.
Then the visions would come. A man with dark hair and a pale face, and eyes that could see in a tiny organic cell the future of a world. A woman strapped to a table with her face in shadow, trying to conjure the memory of a man in a blue suit as her silent tears coursed down her cheek in the pain of labour. Test tubes, vials of strange incandescent liquids, hypodermic syringes filled with glowing green liquid and excreting their contents into intravenous tubes. And then, the ghastly beautiful face of a woman that was not a woman, suspended by wires and fed with fear in a starkly beautiful glass cocoon.
There was the sensation of pain, and then exhilaration; a magnificent sword slicing effortlessly through flesh and metal as if they were one and the same. Immense pride, confidence, certainty, and a feeling of self-worth... And then the debilitation of fear as pages were flipped through, books hurled around a room in a whirlwind of fury and confusion. Alien words, alien doubts, alien fears of an alien past.
And then there was fire. Searing, purifying, fueled by hate and a dark will for destruction. No one could tame that inner inferno, no one could quench it. It ravaged people, cities, history... hearts, passions, hopes, prayers... until it erupted in an all-encompassing fire of righteous white fury, and then suddenly... extinguished. All that was left was vulnerability, emptiness, and the futility of a naked sword. With what seemed like a hundred strokes of vengeful fate, the last vestiges of pride fell away in tatters, and the silence of oblivion closed in.
All that remained was the memory of those searing mako eyes.
...And then he would wake to the scarlet shadows of his room, where daylight and warmth could never reach him, and all those memories sublimed into a single word. That single word, translated into the tongue of his Terran ancestors, then sang with the prophetic echoes of cherubic voices, and at last he knew his name.
"I am... Kuja."
* * * * * * * * * *
Garland sat in his study, staring gravely into the shadows with lines of trepidation creasing his forehead. He had spent the past 8 years training, teaching, and watching the silver-haired boy grow into a man. He had made incredible progress, particularly in the magical arts, which he preferred over brute physical aggression. He had grown ever more intelligent, eloquent, almost poetic even after exhausting the tomes of history and literature in Garland's expansive library. He had even given himself a name, supposedly from some prophetic dream.
"Kuja..." Garland whispered, leaning back in his padded chair. "You've become so much with so little training, in so little time... and before I've even given you a soul. And yet..." He glanced down at the sheaf of reports lying upon his desk. Three more Genomes had fallen victim to Kuja's latest experiments in magic this week. That, added to one other dead and two injured the week before during his lightning magic practice, was amounting to more dead Genomes than Garland could spare. Now that the ambitious young man was attempting to master the ultimate spell of destruction, it would likely cost even more Genome lives. Of course, it wasn't as if they had souls yet, but it took precious time, resources and energy to create those vessels. Facilitating Kuja's training was quickly becoming quite an expensive endeavour, and one that Garland was not quite sure was necessary. Something needed to be done, and soon, he knew.
There was a quiet rap at the door, breaking the old man out of his anxious reverie. He coughed briefly and spoke gruffly, "Come in."
A blank-faced Genome quietly stepped in and bowed his head reverently, but not before Garland managed a glimpse of the dark, purpling bruise at his temple. "Sorry to disturb you, Master Garland, but I would like to speak to you about the young Master Kuja, if I may."
Garland grimaced and released a long sigh, then gathered the reports on his desk and placed them in a drawer. He then motioned for the Genome to stand before him and sat back in his chair, folding his arms. "Yes, what is it?"
"Lately, the young Master has been growing increasingly restless," the Genome continued, head still slightly lowered. "His magic training has grown more reckless, now that he is attempting to master the Ultima spell. He tests his powers everywhere he goes, injuring many Genomes who happen to be nearby in the process. We are fortunate that the Ark construction is nearly complete, but in this final critical stage, his recklessness may become quite a costly disturbance."
Garland frowned. The construction of the Ark had begun two years ago and was proceeding quite successfully, but it demanded a great deal of resources, including manpower. If Kuja continued this behaviour however, there might not be enough manpower left in Bran Bal for the project to be completed. "I see. I will speak to him about the matter. But remember, his training is strictly under my jurisdiction; no matter what the consequences of his actions, you are not to impede his progress in any manner. Is that understood?" The Genome nodded silently. "Very well then, you are dismissed."
Garland watched the blonde youth shuffle out of the room, and noticed that he was also nursing a slight limp. He was probably another of Kuja's latest victims, barely fortunate enough to escape death. Garland sighed. He wished for Kuja's training to continue, but considering the risk in learning such a potent spell, he wasn't sure if it was feasible for Kuja's training to continue. At least... not in Bran Bal.
A plan began to form in Garland's mind, causing a grin to slowly spread across his withered lips. Perhaps it was now time to harness young Kuja's destructive tendencies while still sparing his interests in Bran Bal, as well as finally putting into action his grand scheme. The old man stood up and walked across the glowing glass floor of his study to a shelf across the room. On its top shelf stood a large diorama, within which floated two glass globes; one glowed a hostile scarlet, the other a gentle blue. They spun slowly and hovered in close proximity, and every now and then, a few stray sparks flew between them.
"Yes... he has trained in Bran Bal long enough. It is time for the true test, and the true beginning of Terra's reanimation. I will give him the powerful soul he deserves... and then no one will be able to keep Terra from it's great destiny."
* * * * * * * * * *
"Where are we going, Father?"
Garland was leading Kuja through the winding scarlet corridors of Pandemonium, to a destination he had not yet disclosed. "No need to be apprehensive my boy. There's something I want to show you."
Kuja rolled his eyes and shook his head, allowing his lustrous silver hair to cascade down his back. "Aren't I a bit old for surprises? I really must get back to my training..."
"Oh, but I think you'll like this surprise," Garland replied, barely able to hide his excitement. "I've been waiting to show you for some time now. I thought perhaps it might be too early, but I think... I think now the time is just right. After seeing your vast progress since you awoke from your coccoon, I believe you deserve to see now what is to come."
"What is to come?" Kuja furrowed his delicate eyebrows as he followed Garland down another corridor, and then paused as the old man halted at a single, unmarked door. "Whatever do you mean?..."
Garland didn't respond, but simply pushed the door open and led Kuja inside. And he revelled in Kuja's expression as he took in his surroundings.
The room was immense. The floor, the vast dome ceiling, the walls, they were all sparkling crystal, faintly shimmering in a rainbow of colours. Beyond those shimmering walls it looked like a great turquoise ocean was eddying and ebbing around them, the swirl of the currents seeming to trail away with fairy dust. At the very center of the room was a single glass tube, stretching from the floor to the dome ceiling, and around it were situated various screens and computer terminals with faintly glowing buttons and lights. The tube was empty, but emanated a strange turquoise light, which was not simply reflected from the walls, but somehow seemed to be projected from within.
"What... what is this?" Kuja asked, his eyes still wide with awe as he stared around the room.
"This, my boy, is the Soul Chamber," Garland replied, his voice teeming with pride and yet, still held a note of awe as well. He strode across the floor to one of the crystalline walls and touched it's surface faintly. At the point at which his finger met crystal, a swirl of the sparkling turquoise current began to focus like a tiny tsunami, and then it dissipated back into the general flow of the ocean when he took his finger away. "This chamber is connected to the spirit flow of Terra's souls. The shimmer that you see is the effervescence of those souls; the current is the circling of their energies as they lie sleeping." His eyebrows furrowed faintly then, as he stared up at the crystal dome above. "The glow grows fainter and the current slower, however, the longer they remain dormant. Terra's souls have been sleeping for much too long now, and their energy begins to wane and dissipate into the entropy of the universe. And with their shine, so goes their memories, and the history of this planet."
"And I suppose you want to wake them all up again?" Kuja asked, folding his arms and giving Garland a critical eye. "All these sleeping souls?"
"Yes, exactly!" Garland erupted suddenly, whirling around with a frightening light in his eyes. "These are your ancestors, the geniuses of Terra, the people who built this planet with their bare hands and made it magnificent! Their skill, their knowledge, their power goes to waste in this metamorphic pool, which grows ever more stagnant with every passing day. We must revive them before they are lost, but we cannot do so without proper vessels."
"Vessels... the Genomes, you mean?" Kuja asked, cocking his head. "Those simpering blonde puppets? They're supposed to inherit the genius of Terra?" He snorted. "If you're going to waste all those souls anyway, then you might as well just let them rot. They'd do no good festering away in those little blonde simpletons."
Garland chuckled, a tad nervously, and clapped Kuja on the shoulder. "Kuja, Kuja my boy, you give them so little credit. They must be simple, undifferentiated, in order for them to successfully fuse with these souls. It is like... say you had a story that had already been told, and you knew every detail of it, every character, setting, plot twist, beginning, middle, and end. But you need to write it down somewhere, before you forget it all. Would you write it all down on the pages of another book, where another story is being told? Of course not, the words would all mix together and the story wouldn't make sense. Wouldn't you rather write the story on blank pages, that have never been used?"
"I'd rather not write the story at all," Kuja snorted, giving Garland a dry expression. "The story is finished already, and we already know how it ends. There's no point in telling it again." He grinned then, seeing the appalled expression on Garland's face in response to his comment. "I would rather write a new story, with new characters, a new setting, a new plot... a new hero."
Garland stared at the young man with the silver hair for a long time. He had not fully realized how wilful, independent, individualistic Kuja had become all these years. He did not want to share in the great glorious destiny of Terra; he wanted a destiny of his own. Old, familiar doubts resurged and began once again to grip Garland's weary mind, but he refused to listen. He had spent too long, too much energy on this young man. He would play a part in the grand scheme, whether or not he realized it yet. You are a child of Terra, boy, no matter how much you will deny it. And so you too are tied to its destiny, for better... or for worse.
Garland turned away and strode over to the capsule at the center of the room, turning on one of the monitors on the console beside it. "And I suppose you would be that hero, wouldn't you Kuja?" he said in a forcefully nonchalant voice. "But one way or another, that would not be possible for you in your present state. You are still not fully developed yourself; you have not realized your full potential. And that is because you are still empty, just like the rest of your Genome brothers and sisters."
"Empty???" burst out Kuja, enraged. He nearly flew across the room to where Garland stood, and violently pulled him around by the shoulder so he could face him. "You call me empty??? In comparison to those guileless idiots??? I, who have mastered the magical arts in so little time, I who have nearly even mastered the Ultima spell, and could bring down this entire rotting planet if I so wished-"
"That's enough!!!" Garland shouted, thrusting Kuja's clenched fist off of his shoulder, though not without some pain and effort. "Even now you fail to understand the reason for your creation. You are merely a vessel, just like any of the other Genomes. You were created to carry the dreams and fates of the Terran civilization, to redeem this dying planet. You were made for no other purpose, you exist for no other purpose. Never forget that!!!" He observed the boy through his rage, standing a few steps away. There was still an indignant look in his eyes, but he had finally fallen silent at the rebuke. Garland shook his head. "Your ambition calls you too far, too early, my boy. You do have your own unique destiny, Kuja, but you must be patient and wait for it to play out as it will. In the meantime, you must prepare yourself to be suitable to receive your own soul - a great, powerful soul, the most powerful soul in the history of Terra. His skills, talents, and intellect will then meld with yours, and then your true power will emerge. Only then will you be strong enough to fulfill your destiny."
"Didn't you just say that the vessels must be blank in order to successfully fuse with a soul?" Kuja spat, his tone stubborn. "I'm hardly a blank slate. How do you expect me to fuse with the most powerful soul in Terra's history? That's assuming that I'd be willing to, in the first place."
Garland exhaled a weary breath. "Have you not heard anything I've just said Kuja? You cannot come into your own power without a soul. That means that all the magic you think you have mastered, in reality, you have not. You cannot until you have a soul. And that is why you cannot master Ultima. However, once I infuse you with this great, powerful soul, you will have the magic of Ultima and more at your disposal. But, as you say, you are not a completely blank slate, like your brothers and sisters. That is how I made you. But as such, I made you in such a way that you mirror the persona of the soul which you will inherit, so, as long as you are willing, the fusion should be successful."
"Should be? So there's still a margin of error?" Kuja asked, his voice growing quiet, and wavering just slightly. "Power or not, if something goes wrong... what will happen to me?"
Garland was silent for a long time before he answered, staring into Kuja's glittering azure eyes as if debating something over and over in his own mind. When finally he responded, his words came slowly, hesitantly. "I will be honest with you, Kuja. I truly don't know what will happen. You are the first Genome I have created with the capacity for such skill and intellect, the first I have trained to such an extent, the first to have such a developed mind and identity. You are right, you're not like the others... so I'm not completely sure what will happen if the fusion procedure goes awry. I could compute endless possibilities for you, but they would all be no more than empty possibilities... The only way to know for sure would be to try it."
"Fine. Assuming that the procedure works then, what will happen to me?" Kuja's voice was now shaking quite noticeably, and for some reason, he refused to meet Garland's gaze. Was he actually... afraid? But of what?... "Will everything I know, everything I've learned, everything I understand, everything I remember... will it all just disappear?" His voice grew angry then, and he glared up at Garland, his fists clenched and trembling. "Will I just become an echo of a ghost who lived before? A vessel? An empty puppet ?"
Kuja was dangerously hysterical now, and sparks of energy were beginning to fly from him. His entire frame was trembling, his fists clenched so tightly his knuckles were white, and his eyes, his deadly azure eyes, were beginning to glow. "I refuse to just disappear! I don't need some old, stagnant soul to take over my mind, my life! I don't want it, I don't need it - and I don't need you!!!"
Fear began to well in the pit of Garland's stomach; this was not how he expected things to happen. He had expected Kuja to be more than enthusiastic to finally have his own soul, to begin his special destiny... but he was so adverse to the thought of being assimilated into the people of Terra... his very own people. I can't allow this to happen... all these years, all the trouble and effort I've put into creating him... For it all to go awry, just because he's too much of an individual? I'll be damned if I let that happen!
An angry red aura began to rise up around Garland, and just as Kuja looked ready to strike him, he lashed out with a massive bolt of scarlet lightning. The force struck the pale young man, surrounding him in a net of crackling red energy. I'm sorry to have to do this, Kuja... but if you aren't going to accept your fate willingly, I have no choice but to force it upon you. Garland raised his hand, and the motion caused Kuja to rise up into the air, and then float over towards the tube. Garland could tell that his silver-haired protege was struggling with incredible force to overcome the hold of his magic, but it hadn't been a lie when he told him that his powers were not fully developed without a soul. And so Kuja's elder held him in thrall, and as a door suddenly phased open in the glass tube, he directed Kuja's prone form inside, and closed the door behind him. Finally released from the hold of Garland's magic, Kuja began thrashing and banging violently against the sides of the tube, but this was not as weak as the observation capsule that had nourished him in those early months. This tube was reinforced by a power greater than steel, greater than magic even; flowing within that seemingly empty tube was the power that propelled the energies of the spirit flow, the very power of life itself, which Garland was now channelling up from the core of the planet. It would hold Kuja in check and prepare him for fusion.
Garland approached one of the consoles, flicked a few switches and typed dexterously into a keyboard. Suddenly, the monitor before him was flooded with arcane symbols. He sifted through them, and with a click of a button, a single sequence of symbols emerged from the multitudes and glowed bright at the center of the screen. "Initiating sequence," he whispered.
As if provoked by the faint words, several bars of turquoise light suddenly shot up through the glass tube, surrounding Kuja's body and drawing him up into the pulsing air. The force of the surging light stole the breath from his lungs and the light from his eyes, and so he floated there, unconscious, those maddening azure eyes subdued for the time being, and his limbs hanging limply in mid-air. He hung, immobile, with a blank, half-lidded gaze haunting his smooth features, and seemed, for the only moment in his entire life, to be the ready and waiting puppet that Garland had truly created him to be.
Garland looked up at Kuja, absolutely vulnerable for the first, and perhaps the only, time. Something about the sight made him wince deep within, in spite of Kuja's wilfulness, in spite of his resistance to destiny - but there was no time for hesitation. It had already started, and it had to be allowed to run its due course. He breathed a deep sigh, and pushed a tiny, flickering red button on the console. "...Commencing fusion."
A bright light, brighter and somehow more pure than the turquoise beams, began to shine at the top of the tube where it met the dome ceiling. The light pulsed, and then suddenly hundreds and hundreds of tiny white filaments of light were filtering down into the tube. At first they simply converged around Kuja's prone form in an immense, shining web of white light, filling up the entire tube with their gossamer fibers. But then, in the timespan of an eyeblink, they all at once coalesced and penetrated into every exposed pore of Kuja's skin, seeming to fill his veins with their arcane energy until they glowed through his flesh with their radiance. The glow grew brighter and brighter as the radiant beams coursed through his flesh and filled every chasm, every pore, until it seemed that his delicate body could hold no more. And yet still the beams streamed down from the top of the chamber, seeking entry into this exceptional vessel, as if the beams themselves held a will of their own... But something was wrong. Kuja's body began to tremble, as if it were struggling to resist the assimilation of all these snaking fibers of light. The glow began to waver, and soon tiny flashing streams began to ooze out from his body, like slivers of blood, only they were not blood, but pure light. Kuja's body seemed to be attempting to purge itself of the invading energy, but it was not to be so easily denied. The more Kuja struggled, the more twisting filaments descended from the roof, which then formed massive tentacles to twine around his limbs in order to keep him immobile as their smaller tributaries burrowed into his flesh. The entire process, which at first had seemed beautiful and triumphant, now took upon it a ghastly hue. It was as if a giant, monstrous parasite was trying to consume Kuja's slim, flawless body before Garland's eyes, and it grew ever hungrier and more determined the more Kuja struggled against it. This monstrous drama, playing out in the flickering isolation of the tube, made Garland question for just a fleeting moment whether he had made a mistake... And then suddenly, Kuja's body convulsed, and a huge bright flash surged through the tube, bursting with bright white beams. The entire chamber was filled with crippling radiance, knocking Garland to his knees and forcing him to shield his eyes as he watched. This could not be right... why was the force of the fusion so potent? This had never happened before...
As if on cue, a string of random beeps began emitting from the computer console. Garland whipped his gaze back up to the monitor, and his eyes widened.
"...ERROR... ERROR... FUSION INCOMPLETE... SEQUENCE ABORTED... ERROR... ERROR..." Garland stared down, and his entire being was gripped with the deepest dread he had ever felt in his entire life.
Oh gods... what have I done?...
* * * * * * * * * *
The single searing thought was the only thing that flickered through Kuja's mind. His body was gripped in a turquoise haze, and his eyes could not see anything but sparse pulses of light, growing brighter and more rapid with every passing moment. But his mind was clear, focused to a point of deadly sapphire. He betrayed me. He doesn't actually care about me. I am nothing more... nothing more than his tool, for him to wield in triumph as he redeems this wretched planet.
The haze began to break then, as something, he could not tell what, but something immense and shapeless and fathomlessly cold began to drift down and surround him. Though he could not see, he could faintly feel, as if through a veil, multitudes of chill threads. They were like minute rivers of ice, brushing against his skin and through his hair, twisting around his arms and his ankles. Something vast, and collecting all around him, and then suddenly piercing and pricking biting and stinging and flooding his body with a frozen vapour, mingling with his warm blood and stealing all the warmth from it. It was filling him, seizing him, stealing his warmth and his blood and then his whole body, and suddenly trying to pierce into his mind. And it was then that he realized it was not truly an it, but a he.
No... this is my mind... this is my body... you don't belong in here, get out!!!
But He kept coming, enveloping him and consuming him, reducing him, until he felt like his very essence, his existence, was being driven back further and further into himself, until there was nowhere else to go. He was trapped, trapped within his own mind.
...this is... this is mine!!!
But he could not hold his fortress any longer. A wave of white light assaulted his mind, breaking that point of sapphire that held his being as one. The walls surrounding him were completely obliterated, and suddenly he was alone, cold and trembling, in utter darkness.
His voice seemed to echo through the abyss that surrounded him, ever fainter as it resounded. ...this is mine...
"...Yours? It will never be yours. Nothing will ever be yours. Your doom is just to be the puppet in a greater scheme."
Kuja whirled in the darkness, trying to pinpoint the source of the strange voice. It was Him, the intruder who had possessed his body; but he seemed familiar. He had heard this voice before.
"It is the same fate that endlessly repeats itself. You're simply the next heir to that same doom."
Kuja shook his head, or imagined it was so, since in his mind he had no corporeal form, and his actual body was still immobile among the interwoven threads of ice. "I will make my own destiny. This life is mine."
"It is not... you are just a puppet."
"NO!!!!!!" The force of Kuja's outburst sent endless echoes bouncing off through the shadows. They did not stop, but continued to reverberate, as though there was nothing there to impede them, only empty shadows. But Kuja knew he was not alone.
"I... am not a puppet. I'm not like them. I have a mind of my own, a..."
"...What, a soul?" The voice laughed, a harsh metallic sound like the clashing of swords. It was hard and cruel, and held no mirth. "Why do you think I'm here? I am the soul you are to inherit. It is my legacy that you must renew, and fulfill once again."
Something moved in the darkness then, a fleeting form like a movement at the corner of the eye. "It will begin with immense pride, confidence, certainty, and a feeling of self-worth..." Kuja flinched. He had heard this before. "You will feel powerful, as though you are truly in charge of your destiny, as if you truly have a purpose of your own." There was another movement in the darkness, and Kuja almost fancied he caught a slight glimmer, of long, flowing silver hair. "A purpose, a higher purpose, so you will believe... so they will tell you to believe. But it is only for their ends." The figure paused, and a wavering image flickered like flame before him, illuminating just a small region of the abyss. "You will realize in the end what you truly are. You will see through their lies, see how they have deceived you in order to use you. But no more." The image of flame blazed all of a sudden, but at its center stood a dark figure, a being of complete shadow, so that whatever light the licking flames threw upon it, it merely absorbed into the inky blackness at its core. "Fire, searing, purifying, fueled by hate and a dark will for destruction. You will seize your own power. No one can tame that inner inferno, no one can quench it." The flames blazed once more, larger and brighter than before, and then suddenly went out, and all that remained was cold darkness once again. "But destruction cannot itself bring creation. Death cannot itself beget life. You will try to find meaning in the ruins and tatters of your past, but it will elude you. Because you cannot change what you are. And you cannot fill emptiness with shadows and ghosts."
There was silence for a long while, but then a faint light began to grow at the center of the abyss, growing larger, but not much brighter, and took the form of a tall, well built man, with long flowing silver hair and green eyes that seemed to have lost their fire in some age long ago. "Destruction is your only instinct. You have no other purpose. Your role is to be the enemy, the great adversary, whom the heroes will strive against to win renown, and to give meaning to their own lives. Through your torment they will learn endurance and strength. Through your chaos they will implement order. Through your destruction they will bring about new life. Through your defeat, they will win their victory." The tall man reached out a pale, slender arm, and laid a hand upon Kuja's shoulder, and with the action it seemed that whatever light held the man in existence, it began to seep out through his fingertips and pass into Kuja. "I have played my role already. I pass it on to you, to fulfill this new chapter to the same story... preserved through time, it is doomed to always repeat. You will be no different from me, in the end. You will find only, in the end, that you are alone."
"N-no..." Kuja stuttered, attempting to break away. But it seemed that with the touch of the tall man, their two minds had melded; his mind, preserved from a time long past, emptied its memories into his, and suddenly the abyss began to fill with the haunting images of Kuja's dream - the fire, the woman who was not a woman, the hurtling meteor, and the blonde one with the sword of judgment and mako eyes. "...It... it won't be the same... I won't just mindlessly repeat the past. I want to live!!! I want a soul of my own!!!"
And with great force, Kuja thrust the tall man's hand away, and at once the man and the hazy images he conjured with him began to fade. When he spoke again, it was as if his voice came from far, far away, as if once it disappeared, it would never be heard again by the living, the dreaming, or the dead. "The legacy has already passed to you Kuja. The soul is yours, and all the power of destruction that comes with it. But that power is brief, only potent enough to last until your role has been played. Is it - are you - strong enough to put an end to this story at last?..."
The tall man at last faded from view, with one last shimmer of silver hair, and green eyes, eyes that held no light, but an infinite loneliness. The sight of those eyes would stay with Kuja, haunt his dreams forever after; the dark, faceless, nameless isolation in their depths frightened him to his core. He decided it then: he would never become that man, he would never allow that loneliness, that emptiness to consume him. He would not reduce himself to a puppet in this story; he would make sure the story would never repeat again.
"I will use this power. I am strong enough."
The shadows began to lift, and Kuja could feel the chill beginning to recede from his mind and body. The invader had gone, leaving only a pulsing core of white light in his wake. This, Kuja stretched out his mind-hand and pulled down, down into the deepest depths of his being.
"I will use it, and I will end this story."
And with a great thrust of all the force of his being, he struck the core of light, causing it to burst and shatter into a million pieces, which spread throughout his body and melted into his psyche. The glittering azure light returned, focusing his mind to a single point, and he opened his eyes.
He at last had his soul.
Author's Note: i wrote this a long, long time ago. maybe 2 years ago, sometime after i finished ff9. so if there are inconsistencies with the plot... well, you have to forgive me, because it's been too long since i played the game for me to remember all the details. sure, a lot of ppl can't stand the game... maybe square's effort at recapturing the nostalgia of old school FF fans was a little too contrived. now that i'm playing ff:origins, i'm only just noticing how many more references they made that i hadn't observed before... guh. ah well, i still liked the game, and i immediately loved kuja. a poetic villain! and pretty too ^^; i loved him, and i think it's too easy just to write him off as a crazy bastard. this little fic was inspired by my desire to explore why he ended up the way he did, although i'm leaving a little freedom at the end to continue with a sequel because i'd initially also wanted to explain how zidane fits into all of it.
eheh, did everyone pick up my quite blatant crossover references? ^^; i'll keep the identity of the 'most powerful soul in existence' anonymous - although i think i was obvious enough that there will be very few ppl who didn't pick it up =)p just part of my little fangirl theorizing of kuja's inspiration, don't act like no one else has drawn the connection =)p i personally like kuja better, he was much more fallible and thus much easier to empathize with, particularly at the end of the game. and damnit, he spouts poetry! shakespearean - or, should i say 'lord avon' =)p - poetry, how could you not love him? ^^;
the japanese lyrics above are from the song 'genome control' - obviously the inspiration for the title =)p - by the jrock band pierrot. how i love them =) copyright to them of course, only quoted for relevance to the fic. don't ask me for a translation of them because i horribly suck at translating japanese, but the gist of it, that i understand at least, fits quite well into the theme and tone of the fic. i think you can prolly find an accurate translation online somewhere. don't ask me where, but there's gotta be one floating around =)p
as mentioned at the beginning, c+c appreciated. i don't write much anymore, so i think my literary creativity is getting kinda rusty...