Disclaimer: Final Fantasy and every last thing associated with it do not belong to me.
Miller, Carter and Taggart, three of the technicians assigned to the lab sat in the corner of the break room at their usual table. The three men were lounging, waiting for their shifts to start. They quietly swilled cup after cup of black coffee, each lost in his own thoughts.
Miller, a tall, confidant man with a shock of brown hair, straightened up suddenly. Carter and Taggart followed his eyes, and saw their unofficial leader watching as a young research scientist named Jenkins took a seat at a table in the opposite corner.
Jenkins was shiny new, having come from Midgar only last week. He was tall and lanky with vague blue eyes and spare features. He was known around the lab as particularly intelligent and conscientious - a rising star of the research department, whatever that meant. Jenkins would have been popular with the ladies due to his earnest demeanor and sweet manners, but he was painfully shy and avoided human contact when he could.
Miller pegged him as an easy target for pranks almost on sight, and spent a fair amount of time finding ways to make the younger man uncomfortable. Carter and Taggart, classic followers, were always there to help make Jenkins life a misery and laugh with Miller afterwards. Miller had to have someone to toy with and better Jenkins then them.
The three of them watched as Jenkins settled himself down in his chair, sandy head moving in rhythm to whatever was coming out of his headphones. Was that polka?
Jenkins seemed oblivious to his audience. He reached into the tattered messenger bag he always seemed to have with him and produced… yarn? Were those knitting needles?
Carter's mouth dropped open, Taggart looked confused, and Miller just grinned. This was too perfect.
"Hey, Taggy," Miller said, never taking his eyes off Jenkins. The other man was counting the loops on the needle, blissfully unaware of the plan hatching in his archenemy's mind. "Wasn't the professor looking for new ways to test the F.L.D.C.s?"
F.L.D.C stood for freaky little demon clones. It was a Miller original.
Taggart made an affirmative noise but did not bother to glance away from Jenkins. The man was knitting. In public. Taggart slowly shook his head.
Miller's smug tone penetrated after a moment and Taggart turned to look at him. Recognizing the look on his friend's face, Taggart swung his gaze back to Jenkins. The poor bastard was never going to see it coming.
Jenkins was going over some figures in his office, minding his own business, when he received a message saying that Professor Hojo wanted to speak with him right away. When Jenkins arrived in the head researcher's office, he found the gangly scientist going over, wait, was that one of his knitting patterns?
"Hmm… more complicated then I thought…" Hojo muttered to himself.
Jenkins cleared his throat and was ignored.
He tried again after a couple of minutes, wondering how something that had been in the bag that rarely left his side had ended up on the desk of his superior.
Hojo looked up smiling, causing Jenkins to gulp nervously. Hojo's smile always meant that something nasty was on the horizon.
"I've been reviewing your suggestion, Jenkins," the man behind the desk drawled. His voice always seemed to hover one step above a hiss. Jenkins kept waiting for a forked tongue to poke out from between those thin lips.
"Sir?" Good one, Jenks, he told himself. That single word was neither a confirmation nor a denial, and acted as a subtle goad for more information.
Hojo smiled as if he knew that his subordinate had no idea what was going on. "Your suggestion that the clones learn to knit. I like it. Can you teach them to crochet as well?" At Jenkins slow nod the older man released a satisfied grunt. "Good. You'll start tomorrow after lunch."
"Sir?" The word came out choked this time. Jenkins was sure that all the blood draining out of his face was finding a home in the pit of his stomach; he felt both dizzy and nauseous. He hadn't volunteered for anything. Why him?
Understanding hit him. Miller. The man was a bully and seemed to delight in causing him pain. Miller could have very easily sent a message to Hojo, pretending to be Jenkins.
He watched as Hojo stood and walked around the desk, the knitting pattern clutched in one bony hand.
"I said, I like your idea, Jenkins." This was said slowly and condescendingly, with more then a hint of warning. Hojo had expected a better reaction than the one he was getting, and he did not suffer fools lightly. "I'm intrigued by the medium and see great potential for study therein."
There was an ominous pause as superior came to a halt not a foot in front of subordinate. Jenkins had a good foot of height on Hojo but anyone looking at the two would have no doubt as to the one in power.
"Are you… unable to teach the subjects? Or just unwilling?" The implied did you waste my time? was crystal clear.
Jenkins would later congratulate himself on resisting the urge to shudder. "I'll need some supplies sir!" he squeaked. It was as close to a protest as he could manage really; he was already more or less resigned himself to his fate. There was no way to get out of this without ruining his career.
Hojo's narrow smile reappeared, a fact that made Jenkins feel no better, even though the danger had ostensibly passed. "It will be taken care of. I will expect you to meet me outside testing room five at one p.m. tomorrow."
With the knitting pattern still in hand Hojo went back behind his desk. Jenkins, sensing that he was dismissed, stumbled out into the hallway. What the hell had just happened?
The next day Jenkins found himself sitting at a table in testing room five. In front of him were three pairs of knitting needles, three crochet hooks and several skeins of quality yarn in various primary colors. There were also a small number of pattern books with instructions ranging from beginner to projects that Jenkins could not even fully understand.
Across the table, far too close for his comfort, sat Loz, Yazoo and Kadaj. Jenkins eyed each of the clones warily. He had never been this close to them when they were unrestrained, and he was more then aware of the fact that even Kadaj could take him in a fight. Hojo had assured him that they would behave, but the fact that the professor was tending to a Loz sized bite mark while he said it made Jenkins feel less then secure.
Jenkins took a deep breath and studied his students for a moment.
They studied him right back. He had the disturbing feeling he was being sized up as a threat and found wanting. That uncomfortable suspicion was confirmed when the three of them smiled at him after exchanging amused looks.
Right. If he didn't distract them by actually teaching them something, he would no doubt end up in three separate parts. He hadn't yet seen the clones fight, but he'd heard about it.
Two hours later, Jenkins had relaxed a great deal. He almost felt like a teacher in a regular school with regular, if pale, students. All three boys were excellent learners; they paid rapt attention, and picked things up almost immediately.
It was one thing to watch them react to a puzzle from fifty feet away, separated from them by a pane of glass; up close, it was amazing. They helped each other handle problems, often without saying a word. One could almost believe they were telepathic at times.
Loz, the bulky twelve year old, seemed to be the most proficient with simple stitches. In the last hour he had made the entire back of an adult sized sweater in garter stitch and was powering though the left front section.
Yazoo moved much slower, but his handiwork was tremendously delicate - he was working with the smallest set of needles and producing a lace pattern the likes of which Jenkins had never seen. The eleven year old seemed to be creating it from some internal schematic.
Seven year old Kadaj lacked the patience for knitting and was currently crocheting his third hat of the afternoon.
Jenkins had started a little project for himself, a crocheted scarf for his mother. The four of them worked in what could be called a companionable silence. Jenkins found himself stealing glances at his pupils occasionally - it would be a stretch to say they seemed normal, but they seemed so close...
The sound of the door opening startled him, and he threw a glance at the boys. They looked up, completely relaxed, and remained seated, focusing on their work. Jenkins had been sitting with his back to the door; he now turned in his chair to see who had entered the room.
He was surprised to see a pair of guards. They gestured for him to rise and move toward them.
Had he done something wrong? Had the boys? They had been perfectly well behaved. He wouldn't mind dealing with them in person again...
Despite his misgivings he followed protocol, standing up slowly and walking to the door, still holding his project, his face twisted in confusion. The guards motioned for him to continue on through the door. Jenkins exited and looked at the man who waited on the other side in the observation bay.
Professor Hojo returned his look with a tight smile and closed the door. "Confused, are you? Well, it's to be expected. They can be charming enough when they like. All four of them."
With that cryptic comment Hojo turned back to the observation window. After a moment Jenkins went to stand beside him, afraid to confirm who the fourth silver haired creature was. The guards were approaching the table where the children sat. One of them was speaking. The boys looked unconcerned, calm.
Then, moving with remarkable speed, the clones attacked. Loz used a firm kick to send the table flying into their legs, knocking both adults down. Yazoo leapt over the table, straddled the older man's chest and calmly and repeatedly jabbed him in the jugular with the knitting needles in his hand. The craft implements were made of a soft plastic, designed to be ineffective as weaponry so Yazoo compensated for that by choosing an area unprotected by clothing or bones. The needles still weren't enough to cause the damage he was going for but the pressure he was using was enough to make it hard for the man beneath him to breathe.
The guard grabbed Yazoo by his hair and yanked, trying to dislodge him. Loz came around the table and stomped on the guard's arm until Jenkins was sure he heard the bone snap. Yazoo's hair was released right afterwards as the guard's face twisted in pain.
Kadaj had launched himself at the second guard and was screaming, clawing and biting at him. His victim was protecting his face with his left hand and fumbling for something in his pocket with his right… Now the guard was bringing up his right arm… Now Loz and Yazoo were tensing to move over to Kadaj…
Suddenly Kadaj gave a pained cry and slumped forward, and then lay still.
Loz continued to move forward for a moment but Yazoo stopped him. Jenkins pressed his face to glass and studied the guard's right hand. The bloodied man held a small black object the likes of which Jenkins had not seen before.
"A hand held stunning device that we developed for just this sort of situation," Hojo's voice cut through the ensuing silence. "It's small, but holds quite a charge, and can be used more then once during the same confrontation. They're new and, apparently, worth the money."
The second guard was on his feet now, still holding Kadaj's limp body, with the stunner trained on the boy's midsection. Loz and Yazoo were watching the taller man's every move, waiting for an opening.
The guard Loz and Yazoo had attacked slowly gained his feet and backed up as well, his face set in a grimace. His arm was definitely broken. He put his uninjured hand in his pocket and drew out another stunner.
The man holding Kadaj opened the door and stepped out backwards. The second guard stepped through as well, still facing the clones, and quickly shut the door.
Loz let out a sob and Yazoo moved to comfort him, glaring at the observation window.
Hojo chuckled. "Nothing brings them to heel like a threat to the youngest," he said softly. "Quite useful that. All of them are obsessed with family."
Jenkins said nothing. He followed the guards out of the observation room and into the hallway.
The next day, Jenkins put in for a transfer back to Midgar. Hojo's lips quirked when he read the request, and he decided not only to grant it, but to expedite it. There was no place for pity or doubt here.
Jenkins was gone within the week.
A/N: For the purposes of the narrative I decided to describe Kadaj, Yazoo and Loz as clones but I'm aware of the fact that they are shinentai. I'll no doubt make use of that fact in another story, fear not.
Thank you for reading and please review!