Title: Made of Steel
Summary: Before Shion and KOS-MOS, before Rubedo and MOMO, there was Ziggy. This is the story of Ziggurat 8 before the events of Xenosaga.
Notes: I finally gave in and now I'm writing a Xenosaga fanfiction. Yay. Naturally, I'll be alternating chapters between No Reason and this story. Either way, I'm going to be very, very, very, very ,very busy. Enjoy, friends of Square!
Disclaimer: If bottle caps were gaming corporations, I'd probably own Xenosaga. But I don't. So there.
Personnel evacuation confirmed. Safety warning procedure is currently zero. Reestablishing connection to Analysis Core 00-08-01.
It had been so long since the world existed that he was aware of nothing at first. All he could see was black. Yet he knew there was something there, as if he had simply woken from a dreamless sleep to find himself in a soundless, sightless void. No pain existed here. Only blurs of darker shadows amidst the screen of nothingness.
Response feedback is functioning at ninety percent efficiency. Interference detected. Response now limited to primary Analysis Core systems.
This was a dream. He was not asleep, not conscious, but dreaming. He remembered everything, and more. Now came a flood of memories, thoughts, activity in his mind that infected every sense he possessed. He could still see nothing, hear nothing, but somehow there were directives in his mind that were never there before. Part of his mind, where the void existed, was a complete arrangement of artificial nerves. There was some feeling, very little, but his perception was still blank. Withheld from him.
Administrative override command confirmed. Stations 3F and 5F have been purged of anomaly data. Subject 00-08-01 responding at one hundred percent efficiency.
Now there was light. Sensations, from the cool metal he lay upon. He was suddenly aware that he was not standing or sitting, but reclined in a chair that felt very remotely familiar. He felt his eyes open, although whether he had chosen to open them or keep them shut seemed like a decision he had made a long time ago. Mixed messages floated to the surface of his thoughts.
Data analysis complete. Analysis Core is now being collapsed. Disintegration complete. All systems clear. Subject life signs normal. Safety warning level canceled at termination of Core connection. Entrance cleared.
His vision was still muddy, but operable. After a few moments of focusing on the bright ceiling, he closed his eyes again. Faintly, it seemed, he heard the sound of light footsteps. They were like sonic charges detonating inside his ears, but the misuse of control of his face prevented him from showing any sign of discomfort.
The footsteps gave way to a sharp, yet professionally gentle voice. "Subject 00-08-01, Jan Sauer. Can you respond?"
It was female voice, none too harsh in the way he had expected. If this were a hospital of any kind, the doctor would only understandably treat him like a felon. Being the kind of patient he was, why would she not?
And yet there was nothing he could do about his placement in her care. He opened his eyes again. The face of the young woman loomed before him. It was a fuzzy interpretation of her unmistakably stern expression. Green eyes, brown hair, and a blue uniform with no emblem. She was not a "doctor".
"Can you respond?" she asked again, placidly.
He moved his jaw. It felt heavy somehow, but he could use it to form a response. "Yes."
"Voice functionality confirmed. Proceeding to physical and mental maneuverability examination" said the woman loudly. Then, her expression softening by the barest fraction, she stepped forward. "Please state your name and occupation."
The command put him off for a second's hesitation. "Jan Sauer. I am captain of the 1875th Special Operations Command detachment of the Federation Police Bureau."
"Memory implants also operational," the woman stated, with some distraction. "Subject 08 is showing no signs of obstruction of memory input parameters."
"Where am I?" he inquired after a brief silence.
The woman seemed surprised by the question. Her unveiled expression lasted less than a second, before she averted her eyes to the module in her hands. "You are at the Initiation Collective Stations of Ziggurat Industries. You, Subject 08, are a upgraded combat model of our latest cyborg design."
That put stillness to many of his questions. It also drove a cold spike into his chest, in which he could not hide at all. His shock, however, was something the woman appeared to be accustomed to. She looked up from the screen of the module with a merciless stare.
"Under the circumstances, the S.O.C.E. has legal claims over your existence here. After termination, your body was donated to science, and recycled. Your name is now part of the Industry's distribution – Ziggurat 8. Your serial code is 00-08-01, as your cyborg implements are from the eighth version of our researcher's publications. Jan Sauer is deceased. Do you understand?"
"No," he growled, unable to control the rage that so suddenly took him over. He surged forward, but remained captive of the chair that held him. The circular room echoed with the sound of an alarm, a series of red warning lights flashing behind the panes of glass that separated them from the surrounding control rooms. "What have you done to me? Why was I brought here?"
"Subject 08, restrain yourself!" the woman cried, having leapt back at his abrupt lunge. Her voice was timid. "Any act of aggression on yourself or towards Ziggurat personnel will result in auto deconstruction of your memory implants and they will dispose of you." Her gaze hardened as she spoke the last few words.
There was no spite in the way she warned him. In fact, the way she voiced the warning was more akin to concern than a threat. Gradually, he allowed himself to relax. He did not relent his cold stare.
The woman inhaled deeply and sighed. After a few moments, the warning lights flickered out. They continued to exchange intent gazes for quite some time before she lowered the module to her side and placed a hand on her hip.
"My name is Rebecca Evans," she told him. Her steely, professional air was gone. "Most people call me Becky, but to you, a cyborg, I'm Dr. Evans. Off duty, I'm Lieutenant Evans. It's my job to complete the analysis of new industrial designs, particularly in the cyborg department."
He chose to say nothing. She did not seem to mind.
"I'm pleased to meet you, Ziggurat 8. I hope this doesn't seem too sudden, but I have to ask you a favor. I'd like to keep my job, as staggering as it already is under the pressure of Realian hostile takeover. So I need you to stand up, so I can complete the diagnostic."
Ziggurat 8. Jan Sauer was deceased. He understood now, that it was not a dream. He had escaped reality only to be thrown back into its scorching light by a heartless corporation. A…cyborg.
Ziggurat directed his eyes downward. So that was why the feeling had not fully returned to most of his body. And science had clearly not been ignorant of him. His body, as it was now, was more metal components than his former flesh. As Evans information claimed, his left leg was little more than cyborganic implements, and part of his left arm shared that fate. His eyes fixated on the mechanical hand.
"Those restraints are precautionary only," said Dr. Evans matter-of-factly. She strode briskly to the panel attached to the chair and intently accessed the lock on the restraints. They unclamped. "Most of the people who wake up finding themselves in this chair…" Suddenly, she sighed and placed a hand over her eyes. "Damn, I'm not supposed to say that. It's against the law to even refer to cyborg specimens as people. Maybe Vector is right, creating all those Realians…"
After glancing at her, Ziggurat attempted to lift his altered arm. It moved with the command. Almost transfixed, he placed the still fleshly hand against the back of the other. Cold, hard metal resisted the touch. It was bewildering.
"Feel free to stand when you're ready," Dr. Evans told him lightly. "I'm sure it takes some getting used to."
He leaned forward, only then realizing that the functions of his spine were limited to midway throughout his back. The joints of his hips, left knee and ankle were all of metal cyborganic parts. That in itself was awkward, for it took several moments of consideration to determine how to operate both artificial and organic leg at the same time. He managed somehow, eventually, by moving his left leg to one side and using the other to stand.
It was a peculiar feeling. He felt off-balanced, yet not enough to topple over completely. He made the mistake of attempting a step, and very nearly lost his footing. Evans saw him stumble and looked up from the screen.
"Don't worry about the first few steps," she encouraged. "Try using your own leg first, then take the second step with…um, your other one."
It was sound advice, and he took it. The cyborganic leg seemed willing to obey his commands. He took a few steps, turned very slowly, and walked back. This success, however, did nothing at all to sate the fact that he no longer belonged to himself.
"All right," said Evans. "Everything seems to be in order. Now, the last stage of the diagnostic-"
Her voice was cut off by the hiss of the door opening at the opposite end of the room. Three men stepped out of a small elevator and crossed towards Ziggurat and the stunned woman. Two of the men were clearly soldiers, while the third was one of authority, an older gentleman in a crimson uniform. There was no humour, no humility behind those eyes. Not even a glance was spared towards Ziggurat as he approached Dr. Evans.
"G-Good day, Minister," she finally choked out. She then regained her composure in the blink of an eye. "What brings you to the ICS?"
"Is this the new combat model, doctor?" inquired the minister with military curiosity. "I was informed by the Commander of this department that it was expected to be completed one week ago."
The minister was perfectly groomed, lean and well dressed. Every impression he threw off with both tone and body language demanded respect of authority, not charisma. Ziggurat blanked his face while he studied the man of prestige, not daring to outwardly give evidence of his distaste. Instead, he remained silent and unresponsive to the older man's passive aggressive stature.
"Yes, sir," Dr. Evans replied hesitantly. Her eyes flickered, as if she had decided at the last moment to not glance in his direction. "The launch of the Analysis Core was contaminated by a data anomaly and all three sub-stations had to be shut down and repaired. This is Ziggurat 8, series 00-08-01."
The minister tilted his head towards Ziggurat, frowning. "Doesn't say much, does it?"
"Minister Baroway, with all due respect-" Evans began, "-although the Ziggurat series Cyborgs are lawful property of the S.O.C.E, they were once people. Ziggurat 8 was human, and still is in part."
"I'm well aware of that, Dr. Evans," said Baroway snidely. "But as a military man, the way I see it, when a man dies he loses his humanity. Add a few trinkets and flashing lights, and he's just a machine that looks like a man. Now, I'm told you have a diagnostic for me?"
"In progress," said Evan haltingly. "We were almost severed again by the anomaly in F Station, so we were set back slightly."
"Progress?" Baroway echoed doubtingly. "If you ask me, the cyborg looks operational enough. You're a week overdue, doctor."
It was a strange feeling that occurred to him. Although he felt as if repeatedly being called a tool was an offense, it didn't truly anger him. He was a cyborg, with no connection to his former life at all. In fact, it would have caused more strife had this minister chosen to accept his past humanity. Because Ziggurat did not.
"I can't simply turn him over to you now, Minister," Dr. Evans insisted, brushing her hair behind her shoulders. "If the anomaly happens to be an infection in the database, his advanced nervous system could fail at any time. Any irreparable damage must be prevented to preserve resources, if not his life."
Clearly, Baroway had no argument to that. Naïve as he seemed to be about the operations of the facility, he was no idiot to the state of Federation law. Ziggurat assumed him to be a patron to the industry, however impatient a man he was.
"Very well," said the minister. "How much longer will this diagnostic take?"
"Since he's the first model of the Ziggurat 8 series," said the doctor faintly, "the entire observational diagnostic will take over a month. But the initial error testing just takes a few minutes, if you're willing to wait."
"After this initial testing," said Baroway. "It will be ready to be transferred to military operations?"
"Assuming there are no errors, yes," said Evans. "I'll also be transferring temporarily to instruct the maintenance crew on procedures for the new model. The eighth series is a great deal unlike the others."
"Yes, I see," said the minister, coughing. "Don't mind me, Dr. Evans. Continue your...analysis, please."
Ziggurat watched indifferently as the minister beckoned to his consorts and moved patiently to one side of the room. Evans cleared her throat to draw his attention. She mouthed an apology without actually saying anything, but seemed relieved when he nodded in return. He had not spoken a word since his outburst, but he decided that some level of communication had to be established.
"Well, I'm going to connect the system directly to your signature remote, Ziggurat 8," Evans said with a forced casualness. "In order to restore activity in the brain, part of the...um, the frontal lobe had to be...reconstructed. You will feel something of a small prick..."
He remained still as she attached the device to the base of his skull. Other than the brief shock through his spine and the promised 'small prick', nothing seemed to change at any degree.
"Since I've already documented functionality of your cyborganic parts, we just need to tune certain things for...performance results. Like distribution of weight, authorized activation of your interior weapons, among other odd jobs."
Ziggurat risked another look at his mechanized arm. Along with several other S.O.C.E. procedures, the integrated device had planted information about the weapon he was 'designed' to use. Clearly this new body of his had functions that went beyond simple training. He was a 'model' for combat.
"Ziggurat 8," said Evans. "Are your cybernetic implements functioning?"
So, the interrogation had begun. Ziggurat glanced the doctor's way. "Yes."
"Your serial number from date of production is 00-08-01. Can you confirm this?"
"Please state the basis of your operation, and your objective outside the line of duty."
Information. It came in a torrent of brief messages, all alien and discomforting to his mind. For a moment, it overwhelmed him. Before he could attempt at answering the interrogative, an automatic response took its place. He spoke it in such a way that he immediately understood just how his will of free speech had been completely restricted. The words felt like raw ice as he recited.
"My objective is the defense of the Ziggurat facilities. When I have no issued directive, I will serve personnel and public citizens under S.O.C.E. jurisdiction. My primary functions are those in order of combat. I am equipment of Ziggurat Industries Military affiliation."
Dr. Evans was silent for some time after that. She studied the panel she stood at and considered it with no expression. "And...what are the consequences of failing this objective?"
Automatic. "Disengagement from the industry and recycling."
Evans' eyes fell as she completed the diagnostic on the screen. For what seemed like an hour, the circular room was deathly silent. Then the doctor moved away from her station to detach the device from his neural system.
"That just about covers it," she said hoarsely. As if embarrassed by her sudden loss of voice, she coughed. "I've admitted control of his weapons as well as most, but not complete access to free speech. I understand you feelings about cyborgs, Minister, but I've never allowed a single model to leave this room with less priority than one of your soldiers."
"Naturally," said the older man smoothly. He strode forward, entering the immediate are inside the semi-circle of operating panels. "I would prefer that this fine technology be put to proper use. We are not, after all, living in the dark ages."
"Of course, sir," Evans agreed hesitantly. "Thank you for waiting like that. I'm sorry the process was overdue, but..."
"Not at all, doctor." Baroway held up a hand to silence her. "I'm afraid I must leave now, however. It is my task to escort the new model to its new facility. You have done rather well."
Dr. Evans opened her mouth to reply, but she decided against her choice of words. With the formality and grace of someone much higher in rank, she folded her hands in front of her, nodding. "Thank you, Minister. Since I will be stationed in the military detachment for the next week, perhaps we will see more of each other."
"I look forward to it," the minister promised, his voice laced with false enthusiasm. "Corporals, you will escort the cyborg, while I arrange an audience with the Administrator," he commanded of the soldiers.
"Wait," Ziggurat stated firmly. Several pairs of startled eyes snapped towards him. He ignored them all except for one, focusing his gaze on Dr. Evans. "Why me?"
She stared back in utter bewilderment, as if the two words had slapped her across the face. Her mouth hung open slightly as she stuttered, "I…I don't…I mean, I'm not supposed-"
"That is confidential information, cyborg," Baroway put firmly. "What matters is the fact that you're now S.O.C.E. property. It is a fact you will deal with, or face the consequences. Is that clear?"
The cyborg looked straight at him, but said nothing.
"Respond, Ziggurat 8," the minister growled.
Ziggurat replied calmly. "Yes, Minister."
"That's more like it." Baroway gestured to his corporals, who immediately took a position on either side of the cyborg. "Take him to the Reference Bay. Best he gets acquainted with the others, as he'll be seeing a lot of them in the future."
One of the corporals reached for Ziggurat's right arm, but stopped when the cyborg glared at him. Instead, the soldier jerked his head towards the door and turned towards it. Ziggurat followed, paying a great deal of attention to the placement of his steps.
"Ziggurat," Evans said abruptly. He turned around. "Good luck."
"Thank you," he replied somberly. The corporal in front of him cleared his throat. Ziggurat all but ignored him as he stepped past and through the door.
And into an entirely different world.