Characters: Hojo, Zack
Warnings: More medical violence a la Hojo, now with manipulative action.
Loyalty. It’s something Hojo doesn’t understand. Some sense of selflessness makes sense when the herd instinct of mankind is taken into consideration, but when pushed to the limit the human psyche tends to become erratic. Nonsensical, really, in its attempt to twist reality into something that a stressed mind can comprehend. Stockholm syndrome is a well-documented phenomenon, for instance.
For all of the so-called rationality that most believe sets humans apart from other animals, it’s remarkably simple to reduce a well-functioning member of society to something considered…broken. Most often this is achieved through convincing a subject to cross some unnamed moral boundary, to force him into thinking that he himself is at fault for his predicament and not his extraordinary circumstances. Then the anger and hatred turn inwards until the will to live is destroyed by either guilt or apathy.
Specimen C failed to produce any satisfactory result in the Sephiroth Project, and Specimen Z’s previous SOLDIER treatments provided some form of immunity against the effects of the Jenova cells. The latter is an interesting note to keep in mind for the future, but overall Hojo is rather displeased with the lack of results. Without results, he has no way to proceed with his plans, and C’s loss of cognizance due to mako poisoning appears irreversible.
Specimen C is lying on his back on the lab floor, staring unblinkingly up at the brightly lit ceiling. He’s naked, wearing no discernible expression or restraints. Occasionally a limb twitches in response to some stimulus, most likely nerve damage or simply uncontrolled neuroceptor response. Hojo isn’t particularly concerned in strict factor control anymore since his two specimens proved less valuable than he anticipated, so he ignores the spasmodic muscle contractions as he works. He’s using a hemo-toxin that slows bleeding, enabling him to open up the rib cage without mass hemorrhaging killing off the specimen or ruining his more expensive tools.
When everything is in place, he straightens up with a slight wince—he’s getting on in his years, a fact that now more than ever is pressing him to find those elusive results—and walks over to the mako control panel. Specimen Z no longer fights to break the glass when C is removed from his container, only watches with the same sort of look Hojo normally sees in his more long-term experiments.
That look…pleases him.
The mako drains slowly out of the tube as it opens. Too weak from being suspended weightlessly for so long, Z lies in a graceless heap and retches out a thin stream of mako. The scientist sits on his heels so that he’s face-to-face with the specimen.
“Why do you concern yourself more with the other subject rather than yourself?”
Z continues to stare at him. Hojo might think he was as senseless as C if not for the spark of hatred in mako-violet eyes. Hatred is an emotion that Hojo can understand very well, and he finds himself smiling thinly.
“Specimen C is nearly brain-dead, you know.”
That broken look only deepens as Z’s eyes flicker back to the boy. Hojo holds out an electric bone-saw, handle-first, to the former SOLDIER. Z naturally flinches but Hojo is patient, and is rewarded with a distrustful, cunning stare. He doesn’t need a clinical understanding of psychology to know that Z is weighing the odds of overpowering the scientist versus the muscle atrophy eating away at his limbs.
“I need his heart. I want you to take it out.”
“Fuck you,” Z snarls, coughing until his lips are flecked with mako. He absently licks the droplets away.
“Humans are very fond of freedom,” Hojo begins almost randomly. “Do anything you want to them, it isn’t until you take away the possibility of choice that they truly begin to rebel. I’m giving you a choice now, and you would be well-advised to take it under consideration.”
“I’m not putting that gods-damned fucking thing anywhere near Cloud—“
“If you won’t do it, then I will.”
The specimen grits his teeth until the sinew stands out along his jawline, and Hojo could swear that the shine of those purple eyes isn’t entirely due to mako. Frustration, then, as well as anger. Perhaps awareness of his helplessness.
“If you won’t do it,” Hojo says as he stands back up and returns to his table of tools, “then I will. I received a shipment from Midgar yesterday with new supplies, including an improved scalpel design. The previous ones tended to rust after prolonged use, but these have been tempered. If nothing else it will reduce the number of infections that C is prone to developing.”
“Stop it,” Z croaks.
“Pity, really,” Hojo continues in a steady monotone, sounding as though he were dictating his experiment notes to a recorder. He sets down the electric bone-saw and picks up another saw, a primitive one that looks like something from a woodsman’s toolbox. He kneels over the boy. “He seemed to show so much promise. Perhaps he might serve some sort of purpose for the mongrel guards that ShinRa insists on having here, I understand that the human libido becomes aggravated when denied for extended periods of time.”
“Don’t you fucking dare,” Z hisses, managing to lever himself onto his elbows and shift himself forward a few inches. Hojo cants him a sidelong look, pausing, with a hand over the Y-shaped scar following the line of C’s clavicles and sternum.
“You have a choice. I would certainly understand if you came to your senses and dropped your loyalty to an inevitably failed cause.”
Z’s eyes have gone nearly purple from mako poisoning, Hojo idly notes. Several long minutes pass, and then the scientist mentally shrugs and readjusts the long steel pins keeping C’s skin from flopping back over into place over his sternum. C’s eyelids flutter slightly in response. The handheld bone-saw is pressed against the lowest rib and Hojo braces himself for the first cut, but he finally hears the threadlike voice he’s been expecting.
“Stop,” Z croaks, “just…stop, you bastard. I’ll do it, gods damn me but I’ll do it, you motherfucking bastard.”
Specimen Z drags himself over to C. Faint recognition sparks in C”s eyes, not enough to warrant more than a slurred, “Zaaa…” Z forces himself upright with impressive will. Takes the electric saw from Hojo. Is crying freely as he guides the tool through each individual rib as fast as the rotating blade will allow him. Much faster than the handheld saw, of course, but agonizing nonetheless when no anesthesia has been applied.
Hojo still smiles.
Blood spatters Z’s face and naked body. C’s eyes have widened, are confused and distant and wavering between reality and whatever mental world the weak child has created. Z continues crying even after he cuts the last rib and is able to lift the front of the chest plate up to drop it on the floor with a solid thump. He nearly breaks down at the sight of the quickly contracting lungs, a strange veined blue-white, and the heart beating so impossibly fast with the thickening hemo-toxin and what Hojo supposes must be pain and emotion. At least, as much emotion as a nearly brain-dead specimen is capable of.
“Cloud I’m so fucking sorry, oh gods, what am I doing Cloud—“
“His heart, Specimen Z, if you please. Otherwise I’ll be forced to terminate him permanently.”
A shaking hand still covered with a thin layer of mako pauses over the fluttering heart. The organ is about the size of a fist, surrounded by a blanket of fat and veins; the largest arteries are as thick as a finger, the heart itself red and purple and wet. Z makes an odd sound in the back of his throat, and Hojo is witness to the last piece of something in those eyes shattering.
“Thank you, Specimen Z. You may stop now, I’ve seen all I needed to.”