Professor Hojo vs. Education

-

It started, as with a lot bad ideas, with too much alcohol and too little common sense. That was Hojo's opinion of the whole mess. These flaws were not on his part. Despite his, what he deemed, slender figure (other people might call it skeletal, scrawny, or leave articulation behind altogether in favor of retching sounds), Hojo could hold his liquor. And the notion that he did not possess common sense was an insult to his superior intellect. Hojo had common sense in spades. The trouble was he also possessed a great deal of uncommon sense.

But that's neither here nor there because it was all President ShinRa's fault. His large girth was no shield against the effects of the copious amounts of alcohol he had imbibed while schmoozing his way through the company's year end gala. By the end of the evening, when the horrid idea would begin to take root regardless of all the metaphorical pesticide Hojo would fling its way, the President was barely able to keep upright. Whatever clutches of logic that floated around in his brain had long been washed away in a flood of gin and tonic. So when he wobbled over towards Hojo, who was in the process of checking his watch to see if he'd put in enough time at this tacky soiree to ensure he'd still get his bonus for the year, Hojo expected nothing but stupidity to come out of the fat man's mouth.

Most of the time, Hojo loved being right. There was, however, such a thing a being too right. Hojo learned this when the President began yammering.

"So good to see you out of the lab, Hojo! Always working so hard… or is that hardly working?"

Hojo deeply wished there was a clause in the law that allowed for the murder of people who uttered that phrase. At bare minimum, some form of torture should be permitted.

Steeling himself with all the social niceties he had ever learned (which weren't many as most of the people he dealt with either worked under him - and thus lived in fear of him - or were in some state of being dissected), Hojo forced out a chuckle. The President was drunk; he did not know what he said. The President was filthy rich; Hojo could put up with it as long as his signature kept appearing on Hojo's paychecks.

"I really should get back down to the lab sometime and check on your progress."

Hojo knew the President was completely plastered now. The last time he'd paid a visit to the lab, he'd nearly died in the 'accidental' release of a toxic substance. Hojo never had uncovered any solid evidence that pinned the deed on Sephiroth, but every time a techie in the lab mentioned it, the boy's lips would curl into a smile.

Hojo did not want a repeat of that incident. He probably wouldn't get one either as Sephiroth, recently turned eight, had learned enough since then to make sure the next 'accident' would be even more spectacular.

"Oh, don't take any time out of your busy schedule to worry about me, sir. I can send you some reports summarizing my progress if that's what you wish." The sheer effort of forcing that amount of civility and suck-upedness into his voice made Hojo wish he had some of whatever it was that the President was having.

But President ShinRa was never much of a sharer. His lot in life was to take and to hoard and to hire thugs who ensured nobody ever had a problem with that (or if they did, they never had it for very long). After sucking down every last drop of liquid in his cup, the President let out a sigh. "You know me, Hojo. I like to see what I'm paying for. This is one of my biggest projects. I want control over what goes on."

Every cell in Hojo's body raged in offense. Had they been able to speak they would have been screaming, "Not your project! Mine! Mine! Mine!" (One might expect the cells belonging to a scientist as gifted as Hojo to be a smidgen more articulate, but if one believed it was actually possible for the cells in a person's body to talk, he or she would be delusional fruit ball anyway.)

And speaking of delusional fruit balls, the President continued with his insane plans. "I want to see more than what's on the reports. Maybe a demonstration of the specimen's abilities?"

We could test how hard he can punch a very large and stupid man. That wouldn't do though. One punch wouldn't last nearly long enough for Hojo to get the proper enjoyment from it. Maybe if he set up a video camera…

That was more like it. Lost in his reverie, Hojo nodded along.

Unfortunately, he gave one nod too many. Somewhere in his blather, President ShinRa slipped in a decision to drop by the lab tomorrow. Hojo was mid-nod before he realized what horror was awaiting him.

"Actually, sir, tomorrow's going to be very busy-" Hojo began.

"You'll make time," the President finished. He wasn't so drunk that he couldn't remember whose name appeared on all those 'Property of' stickers. He could swim through an entire pool of alcohol and never forget a single gil that he owned.

"Tomorrow then," he said and it most definitely wasn't a question.

"Tomorrow then," Hojo answered and the gesture he made with his finger after the President turned away from him was most definitely not a wave goodbye.

0-0-0-0

Noon rolled around and there was no sign of the President. That wasn't to say Hojo was a happy man. Sephiroth had immediately picked up in the change of routine and adapted accordingly. He sat across from Hojo now, wondering what opportunities awaited him. He didn't even bother to disguise the mischievous 'I'm totally plotting against you, you know' gleam in his eyes.

"Don't even think of trying to reproduce that little incident from the last time ShinRa was here," Hojo warned him.

Sephiroth shrugged. He had no idea what Hojo was talking about. He was a perfectly well-behaved lab rat who would never do anything to harm the nice man who owned the lab he lived in or the even nicer man who ran it.

Besides, Hojo had ditched the padlock on the hazardous materials cabinet in favor of a keypad and Sephiroth doubted even Hojo was dumb enough to write the combination down where it could be readily found.

Then again, it never hurt to check.

He wouldn't get the opportunity today. Ten minutes late (fashionably late if you're the person dragging his feet, annoyingly late if you're the person tapping your foot impatiently waiting), the President arrived in his usual style. That is he came waddling in with a Turk on each of his broad sides. The Turks took a long surveillance look through the lab. They didn't bother being surreptitious. Turks wanted you to know they were watching you.

It took Hojo a great deal of reserve to not flash the Turks the same gesture he'd given President ShinRa yesterday. He refrained not out of respect for the company's glorified goon squad but out of the knowledge that if Sephiroth saw this gesture, he could count on the boy mimicking it every time he turned his back.

And every time he was facing Sephiroth too if he were to be realistic.

So Hojo's hands stayed firmly in place on his desk while he pictured doing much more offensive things to the Turks. It was the thought that counts anyway.

Hojo stood up as the President entered his office. He motioned for Sephiroth to do the same so naturally the boy chose that moment to take an acute interest in his shoelaces.

President ShinRa extended a hand to mark the beginning of the niceties that neither man gave a rat's ass about. "Good to see you, Hojo."

"Always a pleasure," Hojo responded.

Sephiroth emitted a quiet sound best described at 'pfft'.

He should have kept silent. The niceties shifted course and were directed at him. "How are you today, Sephiroth?" the President asked. He didn't particularly care what the answer to the question was, he just wanted the boy to know that nobody 'pfft'ed at him and got away with it.

Perhaps Sephiroth answered the question, if one assumed telepathic communication was possible. Of course, his ever fascinating shoelaces would have been the only recipient of the message. President ShinRa didn't merit so much as a glare in his book.

The President however was of a different opinion. Money made the world go round and since most of the money out there was his, most of the world was his too. Ipso facto, he was the world. Being the world (and the author here will refrain from making the obvious joke of being the size of the world as well), he demanded attention in the same spirit as a baby with a loaded diaper demands attention (though not in the same manner because this is a classy story that uses fancy phrases like ipso facto).

"I asked you how you are today, Sephiroth."

"He's fine," Hojo supplied. He saw no point in fighting out this battle of wills. He'd give even odds on the boy and that was for an off day. Hojo had fought enough of these same types of battles to know the only way to win was anesthesia and lots of it.

"He doesn't talk much, does he?" the President concluded. A lost battle can be a victory if you spin it right.

"No, he's the quiet type." That the quiet type was often a subtype the 'go crazy and blow shit up' type went unsaid. Really though, what was the worst that could happen? Sephiroth would barbeque a quaint mountain town then call upon a big freaking rock to go all smashie on the Planet?

"You know," President ShinRa sighed ominously. "I've been thinking about that suggestion I gave you on my last visit – the one about having him interact with children his own age."

It was seldom that Hojo and Sephiroth ever agreed on anything, but at this one moment, all the stars aligned just so and both felt a tinge of dread.

It was, albeit, for different reasons.

Hojo didn't want to do it. He didn't want the general population even so much as breathing on his precious specimen. Those common children, with all their common minds and bodies going about their common little activities…He might as well give Sephiroth a lobotomy if the President wanted to expose the boy to such pathetic mediocrity.

Sephiroth had no such qualms. He only knew that Hojo had them and that meant the crazy scientist would get his lab coat all in a bunch if he didn't get his way. And there was no cheering up a cranky Hojo. Show him one of those scenic photos with the positive messages written out beneath it and you'd walking around uncomfortably with a photo inserted in a place of the human body no photo was meant to go for the rest of the day. Granted, that was the same reaction most sane people would have towards cutesy can-do spirit being shoved in their faces, but those people wouldn't inspire the hapless go-getter to create new photos of storm clouds and cesspools with the message that 'Misery' was the true force multiplier.

President ShinRa might not seem the type, but he did in fact have one of those style photos hanging up in his office. It was a picture of him and the caption beneath read 'Because I Said So'. It was both an inspiration and a modus operandi.

And it meant only one person in Hojo's office had the final say. The President served it up with a smile, "I think it's the way to go. We'll enroll him the ShinRa Academy starting at the beginning of next week."

"But, sir…"

"I'll have my secretary make all the arrangements."

"But, sir…"

"I'll send her down to let you know what you need to do."

"But, sir…"

"Good, I'm glad we're all in agreement."

Hojo conceded defeat and gave no objection. By 'all in agreement', the President meant 'I agree with myself so screw what you think'.

It was time for Sephiroth to go to school.

0-0-0-0

Per her usual efficiency, the President's secretary had everything in place the next day. Because his placement at the school was to judge his social interactions, not his intellect, Sephiroth was now the new kid in Miss Clara's Level Three class with other eight-year olds. The secretary slid a picture of said class from the ShinRa Academy's newsletter across Hojo's desk so he could get a look at the little idiots.

It did not give Hojo hope that two of the boys in the picture were picking their noses and half of the class couldn't focus long enough to keep looking at camera while the picture was taken. It is such a long stretch between saying cheese and the cameraman clicking a button.

"As you can see, he'll have to wear a uniform," the secretary explained in a monotone. Being the President's secretary was a high paying position with full benefits but the rather pesky determent of sucking your soul out until you cared about nothing and the world was but gray and ash. "Normally, new students go in for a fitting, but I made them understand this will be an exception. They'll have someone deliver it tomorrow so there will be time to make any necessary adjustments before he starts."

The woman produced an identification badge from her briefcase. Hojo's name and the same photo from his ShinRa ID that made him look like he was choking on his own tongue were on it. He'd tried to get that photo replaced once but the requirements to do so involved going down to the Personnel Office and standing in a line of a hundred or so people that moved approximately one inch per hour so he'd decided to live with it.

The Secretary tossed the badge to him. "You'll need to wear that while you're observing the class. If you require any additional badges, I will need notification before the end of office hours tonight."

Anyone additional? As much as he hated this project, if there was data on Sephiroth to be collected, Hojo was going to be the one doing the collecting. He had flirted with the idea of sending an associate into the Lion Cub's Den but had quickly concluded he was the only person who could be trusted to thoroughly and accurately gauge Sephiroth's reactions. The boy was so terse in both words and deeds only Hojo's keen and familiar eye could discern what small cues Sephiroth did give. You see, they had that special kind of bond that could only be developed by spending many years together as a mad scientist and an unwilling specimen plotting bloody revenge.

And then there was that father and son thingie too but that was nowhere near as sentimental.

Through with her end of the deal, the secretary left the lab as briskly as she'd given her presentation. Hojo glanced over the documents. There was a lesson plan among tucked among them. For the first task of his first day, Sephiroth would be undertaking the phenomenally hard task of crafting a topographical (i.e. lumpy) map of the Planet from a mixture of flour, water and food dye.

Cleary the biggest challenge was going to be staying awake.

0-0-0-0

Because big, world controlling corporations like to breed conformity into the masses as early as possible, no student could set foot in the ShinRa Academy without a uniform. The school's came in dark blue with white strips around a collar that bore a somewhat alarming resemblance to a naval uniform. Sephiroth supposed the military theme fit what with he'd been able to glean of ShinRa's general ambitions; he just wished the things weren't so damned itchy.

He could do without them being cute too. The scientists that inhabited the lab usually gave him a wide berth but something about a uniform clad young Sephiroth, his shoulder length silver hair drawn neatly back into a ponytail, had switched his aura from repel to attract. The females anyway. They came over without any hesitancy to tell him how handsome he looked. One patted him on the head. He heard another mention something about a camera…

For the first time in his life, Sephiroth actually wished Hojo would hurry up and get to the lab so they could leave.

Of course, after he got what he wished for, Sephiroth moved on to wishing that the train that they were taking to the Academy would derail, tragically killing the Head of ShinRa's science division and leaving him magically unscathed.

Unfortunately a gift of the President's was to be able to make sure the trains ran on time and only on the train tracks. He and Hojo arrived at the school without incident and no way for an incident to be manufactured with the raw materials Sephiroth had at hand.

They were greeted by the school's principle, who ushered them into her office so she could go over the basics.

"What a handsome little man you are!" she said as she motioned for Sephiroth to take a seat. He took an instant dislike of her.

Hojo wasn't feeling any friendlier. Before he could be lectured on how an elementary school functioned, he established ground rules of his own. "Sephiroth is to be treated as a regular student, none of this 'let's introduce the new kid' nonsense. I am to be treated as an observer. I'm neither a helper nor a babysitter and if this 'Miss Clara' thinks I'm there to help her, she can think again."

"Yes, of course. We here at the ShinRa Academy wouldn't dream of exploiting you that way," the principal replied politely. The Academy played host to many sons and daughters of wealthy, self-entitled ShinRa employees. She could wrangle a jerk with the best of them. "And I certainly wouldn't want Sephiroth to feel uncomfortable on his first day."

That settled, the principal escorted them to Miss Clara's class. They arrived after the mornings announcements and all eyes quickly turned to them. Reactions were split fifty-fifty between wondering what was up with the new kid's hair and calculating how far away they should stay from the creepy man in the white coat behind him. The general consensus was the hair looked neat and far – very, very far.

Hojo shuffled to a table at the back of the room while the principal showed Sephiroth to an empty desk.

The boy to on his left leaned over and whispered, "Man, your father sure is weird."

From birth, Sephiroth had been the epitome of physical health. He'd never had so much as a case of the sniffles let alone feel so suddenly weak and sickly, he almost fainted. But then nobody had ever suggested Hojo was his father before. Fighting off waves of nausea, he informed his classmate through clenched teeth, "He is not my father. He's just some crazy man that won't leave me alone."

"Oh, we watched a video like that last week. We're supposed to tell our teacher or our mom or dad and they call the police and the police come and they put handcuffs on the bad man and take him away. It was cool. It had puppets."

Sephiroth glanced back at Hojo. The scientist was already taking notes. "Tell me more about this video," he asked of his new friend.

From his vantage point, it looked to Hojo as if Sephiroth was defying all expectations and jumping right into socialization.

On second thought, Hojo didn't find all that surprising. After all, he had bred Sephiroth to be adept at every task that was handed to him. Speaking to a child wasn't exactly rocket science (although everyone knew the study of biology was the one true sign of a genius).

While Sephiroth scrawled down the number 1-800-BAD-TOUCH (surely people whose only interest was to help children wouldn't mind a 'creative' use of their services if it were for the greater good) in his brand new ShinRa Academy notebook, Miss Clara walked down the aisles of her classroom distributing squares of cardboard and bags of clumpy homemade dough.

"Time to make maps!" she declared cheerfully. Her class smiled along with her. Who didn't love grabbing a big hunk of dough and smooshing into blobs that vaguely resembled the continents of the Planet? You'd have to be an ill-tempered, egotistical, jerk ass man of science to not find such a thing the funnest thing ever!

"I made sure to bring an extra one for our guest!" Miss Clara chirped at Hojo. She held out the cardboard and dough for him to take. She held them for thirty seconds, then started waving the cardboard up and down on the thought that maybe Hojo had missed a perky forty year old woman standing in right in front of him and the motion might help him realize his mistake.

All it did was fan Hojo a bit, enough to set the two straggly lengths of hair that hung over his glasses fluttering.

It was a good thing that dough was made of edible materials because Miss Clara was two seconds away from having it shoved down her throat.

Sensing the impending danger, Miss Clara backed away. "Here," she said when she passed Sephiroth's desk. "Since this is your first day, I'll let you have the extra."

Sephiroth regarded the second blob in the same manner as the first. That is, he poked it with a pencil while wondering what the hell was the point. There was already a big map hanging at the front of the room. Making smaller, highly inaccurate maps was a waste of time. He gave the dough another poke and settled back in his chair to watch the other children to see if any of them found this as idiotic as he did.

Subject seems unwilling to participate in class activities. This is likely due to the menial nature of the work assigned to him…

The boy next to Sephiroth rolled his dough into long tube. "Look, I've got a mustache!" the boy said as he held the tube under his nose.

and the poor intellect of his classmates.

"Julian, that goes on your map, not your face," Miss Clara admonished. The boy's actions had the side effect of getting her to notice Sephiroth hadn't placed a single piece of dough-land.

"What's the matter, sweetie? Do you want some help with your map?" she asked.

Sephiroth's 'no thank you' didn't stop her from coming over anyway. She leaned over his shoulder and grabbed a clump of dough. "It's like this…"

The cloying nature of his teacher must also be a contributing factor. Mentally, Hojo sarcastically marveled why such a great catch remained single at her age.

Miss Clara laid her now flat clump down. "There you go."

Sephiroth didn't need to look at the map. "That isn't accurate."

The students turned as one towards Miss Clara and Sephiroth. Sassing the teacher – this was going to be good.

"That's not the point, sweetie. We're just trying to get general picture."

"You're teaching your students to be imprecise."

Hojo didn't write any comments on this exchange. He was otherwise occupied in trying to identify this strange feeling that was welling up in the part of his psyche left empty by his soul curling up into the fetal position and crying itself into oblivion. It felt like…test results that came back supporting his hypothesis. It felt like…getting the funding he needed, especially when the extra gil coming to him meant ol' Lard Ass Palmer was getting less.

It felt like…the fulfillment a father would feel upon seeing his son disrespect a stupid woman by giving the same snarky answer he would give.

Nah, that wasn't it.

"Uh, no," Miss Clara stammered. "That's not my intent."

"But it is the result regardless. Good intent does not alter causality."

Huh, maybe it was after all.

Hojo's spiritual awakening would have to wait. Miss Clara had encountered problem children before. They didn't usually have an eerily calm and professional demeanor and the vocabulary to match, but she'd deal with Sephiroth the way she dealt with the others.

She turned to the back of the room out of an utterly mistaken idea that Hojo would be inclined to help her. "Professor, could I have a word with you?"

"Is there a problem?" he asked. He couldn't see any.

There were certain things a teacher wasn't supposed to say about her students on the basis that they needed positive reinforcement; they should be encouraged instead of discouraged. Plus, the parents here were known to have lawyers on speed dial lest any diabolical teacher do the tiniest thing to besmirch their precious little snowflake's school records.

Miss Clara wasn't the type to go around calling small children oddballs anyway. "It's appears Sephiroth isn't enjoying the lesson. I thought you might have a suggestion…"

"You want me to do your job for you?"

"Of course not, I just thought since you seem to know him..."

"Aren't you supposedly trained to deal with all types of children?"

"Well, I…" Miss Clara also wasn't the type to go around calling guests in her classroom arrogant, greasy little scumbags either. Out loud, at any rate. Miss Clara's inner Not-So-Nice Girl, however, was flexing her vocal chords on phrases containing that insult and others of much more vibrant language.

To her credit, Miss Clara kept a face of chipper resolve, enough so that Hojo found it easier to tell her what to do than to keep looking at the dingbat's toothy smile. "Just tell him to duplicate the map exactly. That might provide a challenge for a few minutes."

Sephiroth wound up taken the full forty-five minutes the rest of the class had been allotted. His map though turned out a wee bit different.

Miss Clara had the children bring all their maps to the front to show off. There were twenty displays of misshapen clumps that approximated the topography of the Planet in the way a can of processed meat product approximated a filet mignon.

Then there was Sephiroth's map.

The dough had been manipulated by the hands of a master, each bend of the coastline, every ridge of the mountains wrought in exquisite doughy detail. He'd even rubbed the lead of his pencil into the dough to recreate the black blotch that Midgar was upon the landscape. As he'd run out of dough working on his masterpiece of the main continent, the rest of the Planet looked pretty sparse but nobody cared.

"That's awesome," his neighbor, Julian, cooed. The other children chimed in their agreement.

Hojo scribbled furiously in his notebook. An hour into the school day and Sephiroth's superior abilities already had his classmates regarding him in awe. It was an amazing development for several reasons:

One, it proved his experiment kicked all kinds of ass, even dough map ass.

Two, Sephiroth didn't need to work on any social skills. He'd simply wow all the commoners and call it day. Which led to…

Three, Hojo didn't have to spend another day rotting his brain here!

He would put in his time for the rest of the day just to give the appearance of giving a damn. It didn't mean he would actually pay any attention to what was going on. He pulled out a folder and read over the data on a hybridization (a.k.a. 'I'm gonna squish me some different shit together and see what comes out!') project he'd recently started.

He just gotten to the section showing how the test subjects were living an itty bit longer and less painfully now when Miss Clara once again inflicted her presence upon him.

It was time for recess. Everybody - pale, creepy scientists included - was to go outside for some fun in the sun.

"I don't think so," Hojo snarled.

To his regret, the class took this as a challenge. There was a hue and cry of 'Come on, mister!' and 'Don't you want to play with us?'.

Sephiroth stood amongst the beggars in utter bafflement. No one in his right mind should ever turn down the chance to be Hojo-free. Why did these children want Hojo to participate in this 'dodge ball' game that had been announced? He didn't know what 'dodge ball' was but surely it could only be improved by Hojo's absence.

Hojo was fully aware of what dodge ball was, despite all of his attempts to repress those memories from his elementary school days. He, unfortunately (or fortunately - perspective is a nifty, shifty thing), had been so engrossed in his test results, he hadn't heard Miss Clara declare the blood sport as part of the itinerary. He was operating under the delusion that it was easier to give in to the brats and move his reading outside than to stay here and let their whining give him a migraine.

Once outside, that opinion changed. He saw the children form a circle. Miss Clara dragged out a large bag containing the bouncy weapons of mass destruction. There were four in all - round, red and rubbery implements of humiliation and painful bruising. Hojo was taken years into the past, with shadows of his old schoolmates looming over him, their voices a chorus of threats, taunting him.

Always taunting him.

"Are you all right, Professor?" Miss Clara asked. Without waiting for his answer, she began tossing the balls over to the children so that they might arm themselves.

Hojo staggered backwards away from the cruel She-Beast and towards the curb. The best way to dodge a ball was to be nowhere remotely close to where it was being hurled.

Sephiroth watched Hojo, his mood improved by the obvious discomfort the scientist was displaying. Things only got better when Julian, bless his heart, began explaining the rules of dodge ball and Sephiroth saw golden opportunities stretch out before him.

Miss Clara had the students count off in groups of four. "Okay, Ones, it's your turn to go into the circle!" she cried and the targets dutifully walked to their doom. Sephiroth, a three, began calculating where one of the children would have to be standing in order to make 'the accident' look good.

"TWEET!" Miss Clara's whistle shrieked and the epic battle between hunter and prey was set into motion.

Hojo tried to ignore the terrible 'game' unfolding before him, but he kept catching bits of movement over the rims of his glasses. Children yelling and running around like tiny barbarians, growing more and more vicious as the number of 'ones' left in the center of the circle dwindled.

At last, there was a lone survivor. He had room to move, true, but he also had nothing but enemies ringed around him. Breaking some natural law of the universe, Hojo experienced a second bout of actual human emotion and felt pity for the boy.

It was fleeting feeling. A stray ball rolled toward Sephiroth who scoped it up in one elegant gesture then held it to his chest to assess the situation. Hojo was back at his notes again, speculating what would happen next. Sephiroth was aware of his own strength, knew what it could do. Would he hold back and go easy on his target? Or would he do as he always had been trained to do and use the utmost of his abilities?

He was obviously gauging the proper response. Sephiroth passed on shot after shot, unable or unwilling to act. Hojo thought he would never throw the damn ball until the last 'One' standing was forced over to the left end of the circle by a furious bombardment from other children not experiencing any 'to throw or not to throw' dilemmas.

Sephiroth clutched the ball in his left hand and his arm arched back. Hojo marveled at the grace of the movement. He had a clear view of it. The circle had thinned where the dodger had moved, leaving open space between his spot on the curb and Sephiroth in the circle, looking directly at Hojo.

This can't be good.

Sephiroth's left arm shot forward. From what Hojo knew of calculating trajectories, he estimated the ball would impact at a point precisely between his eyes. Hojo stood, intent on getting the hell out of dodge ball.

But it was too late. There was a blur and a rush of air.

"Oh, shi-" Hojo started, but never finished. There was an impact of such epic proportions that in an alternate universe, in a time known as the Sixties, the creators of television show detailing the exploits of a man who fought for justice by donning the guise of a bat felt a tingle along their spines and were compelled to coin the word 'Ka-pow!'.

And with that, all of Hojo's world became very red, very rubbery and excruciatingly painful.

The broken pieces of his glasses flew from his head. His legs buckled beneath him.

As he hit the pavement, the students of Miss Clara's Level Three class proclaimed in unison, "COOL!"

0-0-0-0

He had a concussion. He didn't learn this right away. It took Hojo a day to regain consciousness. It was a few more hours after that until he was able to comprehend anything beyond a warm but deep appreciation of painkillers.

The President visited him the next morning. He told Hojo that Sephiroth was safely back in the lab. He didn't think it was a good idea for the boy to go to school unsupervised.

Not that having supervision had worked out all that great for the supervisor.

Hojo didn't argue with President ShinRa. By keeping silent, he could let the fat man convince himself to drop the plan he'd come up with. Hojo liked getting what he wanted without having to actually do anything. Of course, taking a rubber ball hurled with superhuman strength to the head was a pretty steep price to pay, but the steady supply of intravenous drugs he was getting provided a nice discount.

And when he got out of here, Sephiroth was going to be the one paying up. He hadn't tested the boy's ability to heal in a while. Perhaps there was a new test in order, something involving bouncy projectiles shot off at high velocity…

If not, there were always a bunch of needles and Mako lying around the lab.


Author's Note: Dodge ball sucks. Making 3D maps out of dough rules. That is all.

Oh, and this too: I've always been fascinated by the 'relationship' between Hojo and Sephiroth and love any examinations of a possible father and son dynamic therein. Somehow, that led to this piece of oddballery.

I have no other excuses.