Fate of Frailty
By Karen Hart
Disclaimer: In no way do I own any part of the Xenosaga series. I write these fanfictions for love of the game, and make no money off of them.
Soft. It was her first thought, as her mind began the ascent into consciousness. Sore, was the next. She cracked her eyes open, knowing before she did that this was most definitely not her little cubbyhole of a room. The bed was too soft. The constant, overwhelming sense of dread was no longer present, either, though it was replaced by something almost as daunting. And, it felt bigger, somehow.
She was right on the third count, she realized, once her eyes had adjusted to the light. It was bigger than the room she'd shared with her sister… Her sister! Blue eyes darted around frantically, vision finally landing on a slender, lavender-haired figure. So she was here, too. She fell back, relieved. Her sister had always been the one true constant in her life.
Where are we…? The question rang in her young mind like an alarm, as she tried to think back to the last time that she'd been conscious.
It'd been during what she termed First Shot, just after Second Meal. There'd been the familiar pinprick against her arm, pharmaceuticals flooding her blood stream, when someone had burst into the room, furious. She had not looked at who it was, though she realized the voice was male. There was something about how "they" had found out about them, and that they'd face prison if they didn't do something.
"We knew this was going to happen—all right, get everything hidden away. We've all run this drill before, we should be able to pull this off. We'll need to either move or destroy the test subjects. Can't have them found; they'd make better evidence against us than the actual drugs. –What are you doing standing there? Move!" The "doctor" who'd been holding her still (an unnecessary action, given that she'd been too weak and obedient to try to escape) abruptly released his grip, and began dismantling equipment, reassembling them in such a way that they could no longer be properly identified. They had, after all, planned for this day. The doctor looked up again, at the unmoving tech. "Out! Disguise whatever you can, hide or destroy what you can't. And take her with you!" The tech did as he was told.
It'd gone on like that for the next few hours, people rushing back and force, machinery and equipment hidden or disguised, but never outright destroyed. She herself had been dragged from room to room, more exertion than she'd ever experience at that point in her short life, while people hurriedly discussed the fate of "Subject 145". Termination, they had all agreed, the subject almost too weak to handle any more tests. Disposal would've occurred soon, anyway.
It'd take several years before she fully understood what'd happened next. One moment she was on the termination bench, the next, there were shouts and she was forgotten. There were people in strange uniforms with guns, people shouting orders. What was "criminal abuse"?
She shook her head. There was nothing after that. She must've fallen asleep at that point.
That still doesn't tell me where we are…
She shrank back against the bed.
"How are they?" Lieutenant General Helmer asked quietly, gesturing with brown eyes at the partially closed door beside them.
The nurse looked at him with a worried expression, lips pursed. "The older one seems to be fairly healthy, but the blonde…she's malnourished, suffering from chemical shock, she's got bruises everywhere—and she's so weak. I swear, some of the stuff we have to do most kids protest quite vocally, but I don't think she even has the strength to cry. What could possess anyone to do this to a child?" The question was hissed bitterly, arms crossing against the woman's chest.
"Money," was Helmer's terse reply.
"Sir?" was the nurse's appalled response, though she knew that he was correct. Money was one of those few things that could make a person lose their humanity, and turn them into cruel, heartless monsters.
"Are either of them fit for visitors, yet?" Helmer changed the subject.
"I'd say the older one is, but they're both asleep. Why?"
"Well, we've got enough evidence to put everyone who was part of that whole sordid operation to jail for a good long while, but it's these two girls' testimony that'll be the real clincher. Unfortunately, it's going to involve some more tests, and you can about guess how well that'd go over."
"I see…" She did. "Well, wait until tomorrow afternoon. This isn't the type of thing you should spring on someone in the middle of the night, after all."
"I'll talk to her," a third voice piped up. The owner of the voice was a young red-haired boy who'd seemed utterly absorbed in the book he'd been reading, and the nurse had managed to forget about his presence. "I know you won't try to put any pressure on them or anything like that, but you're both an adult and an authority figure. You'd be pretty daunting to a couple of little girls. I'll talk to 'em." He returned to his book.
It seemed like a entirely different room, with light and sound pouring in through the window. Her sister was up, too, trying to convince herself to eat a bit of the meal that'd been given her, but it was fairly bland fare. A knock sounded on the door. She turned her head, expression quizzical.
There was a strange boy in the doorway. "Can I come in?" She nodded, and he entered the room, finally perching on the edge of her bed. "Name's Rubedo," he said, by way of introduction.
"I'm Shelley, she's Mary," the older girl replied, cutting off her younger sibling.
"Nice meeting you." Rubedo smiled, though the expression was not returned. He let out a small sigh, and continued, explaining the situation to them.
"So," Shelley replied slowly, after she'd thought over everything that he'd told them, "you need to do some more tests to figure out what they did to us specifically, and that'll put the company out of business forever? And none of the techs and doctors will ever be able to…?" Rubedo nodded, somewhat impressed at the maturity of this little girl, albeit sadly. "And if things don't work out."
"They will!" he assured her fervently. "There isn't a jury in the Federation that'd let them get away with…! Huh?"
The blonde—Mary—had moved up beside him, and taken hold of his right arm. "Where are your marks?" she asked, placing her own bruised limb next to his.
Rubedo smiled. "I don't have any. Listen, those tests. All we really need is a couple of blood tests, and you'll have to speak in court for a bit, explain what's happened to you."
"Why us?" Shelley asked. She was a sharp one.
"Because even though it's callous to say it like this, you're two little girls who've been horribly abused, and if there's anything people can't stand, it's little girls who've been abused."
Shelley looked at him, confused. "Abused…?"
The red-haired boy shot upwards, gesturing wildly. "Yeah! I mean, look at you two. You're bruised, I swear you're thin as wire, you've had drugs pumped into you…you know, abused!"
"That's not…normal?" Mary asked, confused. It was all she'd known.
"No!" The word exploded from Rubedo's lips, propelled by shock. A thought occurred to him. "Listen…"
"Yes?" both girls responded in perfect unison.
"After all the legal stuff happens, you'll need to go somewhere, right? Like back to your family, right?" They stared at him blankly. "Well, it might take a while, so why don't you stay with Gaignun and me for a while?"
"Gaignun?" Mary, this time.
"My brother. You can't live in the hospital, and you really shouldn't end up in an adoption house or something…" He trailed off. Had he been right to offer?
"There won't be any shots, there?" Again, it was Mary who asked.
"No, there won't."
"And me and Shelley won't be separated?"
They were silent for a while, Shelley and Mary seemingly in some sort of silent communication. Then Mary spoke up.
"…We'll do it." She leaned against him, as if just coming to the decision was exhausting. He found he didn't mind all that much.
It would turn out to be one of the best decisions they'd ever made.