Characters: Hojo (and Cloud)
Warnings: graphic medical gore and Hojo's brand of disinterested sadism.
The human body is fascinating. Hojo always thought so, ever since he was little and watched his mother waste away from disease. She’d turned pale, lost weight, threw up food and bile and eventually blood until she died already looking like a skeleton.
The human body is a study of carefully balanced scales. Too much of one thing will throw the entire system off like a wrench caught in the gears; the slightest mistake in genetic production might force the mutation of a single cancerous cell. A single cell with the power to destroy the entire organism.
Specimen C is rather like that cell, small and insignificant, yet he was the one to kill Sephiroth. Kill a god. The concept itself is so utterly ridiculous that it makes a strange sort of sense, although nothing that Hojo has done thus far has given him any explanation on why. The boy is of western continental descent and has the characteristically small physiology of mountain-dwelling Homo sapiens. Utterly unremarkable.
The lights are harsh against the nude body strapped down to the steel table. The leather restraints had to be customized because they were originally made for specimens larger than C’s underwhelming frame, but now they are fitting snugly against the boy’s bony wrists and ankles. They keep C from disturbing Hojo’s hand as he presses a scalpel against the highest point beneath a clavicle, but they don’t stop the thin whimpering.
Hojo doesn’t need to ignore the sound; for him, it doesn’t exist, as meaningless a sound as radio-static. He’s more concerned with the way C’s skin depresses slightly under the scalpel, then parts with a sudden release of tension. It takes a few seconds for the broken blood vessels to react, and when they do the area flushes a little as a thin line of blood wells up in the incision.
If he left the blade in place the wound would be unlikely to bleed at all, but that isn’t his current purpose. Instead he slowly draws the scalpel down the hard line of the clavicle to the hollow where the two bones meet. He repeats the same slow, precise motions on the other side, producing a wide ‘V’ trailing from the ball of C’s shoulders to the top of his sternum.
Blood is beginning to flow continuously. Hojo picks up a piece of gauze and irritably wipes it away.
Specimen C is crying now.
It’s taken years of practice to develop a fine understanding of how a sharp point interacts with the epidermis. Cutting skin is surprisingly difficult, but too much force will destroy the tissue beneath—it took several botched vivisections to instinctively be able to judge that one. With the blood cleaned up as best as possible before it clots, Hojo puts the scalpel at the downward point of the ‘V’ and begins drawing a straight line down C’s torso. There is little bleeding over the sternum, but it gets heavier as he passes between the abdominal muscles towards the naval. At the naval itself he has to cut around it in a half-moon; the leftover connection of mother to fetus remains relatively intact beneath the skin, making it difficult to halve with any sort of precision.
The blade stops just above the pubic bone in the dip between protruding hips. It had been a bit of a bother to have the lab assistants shave the hair from the specimen’s head, underarms, and groin, but leaving it would have interfered with Hojo’s work and encouraged poor hygiene. The red line trailing from C’s chest to a few centimeters above his genitalia is therefore clean and unhindered.
Hojo returns to the junction of the three lines, just below the hollow of the throat, and slips the blade beneath a corner of the skin. Only seven thin layers, but enough to allow him to gently begin pulling it up without breaking or ripping as it separated from the fascia. When he gets a sufficient amount lifted up, he carefully grips the skin with a pair of sterilized forceps and gently pulls with one hand; the other guides the scalpel in separating the skin from the near-opaque white layer of protective fascia.
Specimen C is screaming. Hojo contemplates a local anesthetic, but he’s fallen from grace since the incident with Sephiroth and his funding is now limited. Best to save supplies for absolute necessities.
When the blood becomes too profuse, he uses a small suction hose to keep his work-surface clean. He gets the skin peeled back like an unbuttoned shirt, exposing the layer of connective tissue that keeps organs and muscles from falling out of place, and through the milky color Hojo can see twitching muscle. The scientist knows the structure of Sephiroth’s body as well as he knows his knives and this boy, this child doesn’t even begin to compare.
Finally he slices very carefully into the fascia, making it bend and then split like a sheet of elastic and exposing the living, pulsing organs underneath. They shine wetly, bleached of some of their color by the stark fluorescent lights suspended directly above. Hojo can clearly count C’s pulse. He peels the skin and muscle back so that the inner workings of the human torso are exposed—pink-tinted ribs expand erratically with the boy’s gasping breath, organs and muscle flexing and fluttering out of sync with a racing pulse and high influx of hormones induced from intense nociceptor stimulation.
Fascinating, Hojo has to admit: the internalization of outside factors to produce a second outward reaction, as though the body is catching a ray of light and inversely reflecting it.
The screams have finally stopped. Specimen C has his head turned in the direction of the two large mako tubes, one of which contains the sluggishly struggling Specimen Z, with his eyes slightly glazed and lips parted. The thick viscosity of the mako slows Z’s movements, making his attempts to break the glass little more than quiet thumps that interrupt the sterility of the lab.
Hojo contemplates opening up the ribcage, but his lack of revelation thus far is discouraging. He hasn’t found a physiological mutation in the boy to explain what should have been utterly impossible for anyone but the most talented of SOLDIERs, and one of his assistants had in fact recovered C’s military records and found that he’d failed the test. Nor are the DNA tests complete, so until they’re finished and analyzed he has no genetic information to work with.
Two things had caught Hojo’s attention in C’s file, however: the psychological profile and the mako tests. The boy is, apparently, suffering from some kind of social avoidant disorder, and his reaction to preliminary mako injections was unusually sensitive.
The scientist taps the scalpel against the boy’s exposed sternum as he muses on what to do. It’s possible that the interaction of even that miniscule amount of injected mako was enough to widen the psychological cracks of the boy’s mind—it isn’t unknown for the occasional SOLDIER to have a sudden and permanent psychotic break, although the few cases are certainly kept under strict secrecy.
As the specimen continues staring in the direction of the other one, Hojo carries a glass container from a specially created cupboard and sets it on the edge of the table that C is strapped onto. He opens it cautiously and fills a syringe, then holds the needle over the tangled mass of organs occupying the lower abdomen that are unprotected by roofs of bone. Depressing the plunger, pure mako spills into the soft tissue. It glows in eerie contrast against the dark shadows of blood and flesh, but the effect doesn’t last long before Specimen C starts thrashing in his restraints. The boy’s back arches off the gleaming steel tabletop and his renewed screams are louder than before, echoing off the walls as the leather bindings tear at his skin and become soaked in blood.
The mako appears to sink into the organs almost immediately like water into a sponge. Fascinating—this is the first time that Hojo has had the resources to empirically test some of the theories concerning mako, but the momentary success is ruined when C begins coughing up a mixture of blood, mako, and dark clumps of tissue. It’s a grotesque sight. Hojo has always despaired over the precision of science and its tools versus the wild variability of his subjects, when even the most basic of bodily functions become uncontrolled.
He sighs when C finally loses complete consciousness and he is able to fold the muscle and skin back over into place. Irritation makes him leave the lab without Healing or sewing the boy back together—let the assistants deal with such a frustrating specimen. He needs to return to his notes and make some amendments.