Disclaimer: Characters and locations belong to Namco Bandai. As much as I wish they belonged to me...they don't and that makes me sad. So until the day I come up with a way to get Namco to give them to me, I can only play around with them in my story.
Spoilers: Up to the first visit to Belkend. Also spoilers up to Chapter 25 of Reflections
This is a one shot based on the AU scenario in Reflections. It's the first of a few one shots that are meant to provide a bit of extra insight into some aspects of the story which I won't have the chance to cover in the main plot.
The last traces of sunlight vanished from the horizon as the researcher pointlessly gazed out the window of the Baticul manor. Curse the man! Spinoza slammed his fist on the table. He eyed the door behind him, but no, there would be no escaping with those cursed guards standing just outside. This was entirely Van's fault.
It had all been so perfect when Van had first explained his plans to him. At the time, he had just recently truly delved into the potential that fomicry held, and the chance to work on creating a living replica had been far too great an opportunity to pass up. The challenge of creating a perfect isofon had consumed him unlike any other work he had ever done and seeing the results before his very eyes had completely overshadowed any experience he'd ever had in what was quickly becoming his many years of life.
But then Van had vanished into oblivion, dropped him like the now useless tool that he had become, leaving him nothing but tainted memories and stern warnings as to what his fate would be if he ever so much as uttered a word as to what had gone on. Thinking of it that way, it brought him a great deal of satisfaction to realize that the man's plans had gone awry. But things now were far from what he'd envisioned when he had agreed to assist the treacherous bastard.
Van's plans had indeed gone wrong, the original had unexpectedly returned home, and now, not a month later, he had found the White Knights on his doorstep. While he hadn't yet been told the reason for his sudden seizure, it couldn't be anything else. He didn't doubt they were aware of the role he had played in recent events, after all, there was very little the Kimlascan nobility couldn't find out when they put their minds to it.
The door behind him opened and Spinoza turned his chair around to face the four people that entered. First came two of the guards and behind them, two people who could only be the Duke and Lady, if only by their brilliant red hair.
"Why don't you just go tuck Luke in or something?" Duke Fabre attempted to persuade his wife.
"It's alright dear, Guy is handling it for the time being, and this is important." Susanne replied determinately which only earned her a frustrated sigh from her husband. She certainly picked the most impossible times to be stubborn.
The two White Knights each procured a chair for their patrons, allowing Duke Fabre to take a seat directly in front of Spinoza and Susanne to sit behind him, but offset enough that she could watch what Spinoza could only assume would be an inquisition.
"Spinoza," The Duke began in a very grave tone.
"Yes sir?" He replied, his fear putting more respect into his tone than he would have liked.
"I'm sure you are aware of the gravity of the situation you've found yourself in."
"What situation might that be?" Spinoza inquired, pretending to play dumb.
"I think you're more than aware of the situation of which I speak. You currently face charges of performing illegal research: fomicry on living beings, on my son, no less." The Duke's voice rose and Spinoza shrunk back in his chair. "On top of that, you face charges of being involved in the abduction of a member of the royal family. However, your offences don't stop there. From what I'm told, fomicry experiments severely endanger the subject, almost to the point of death. So depending on how the case is presented, you could face a third charge for an attempt on the life of a member of the royal family. Regardless of the last charge, if you somehow manage to make it out alive, you will still never see the light of day again."
Spinoza's fists were clenched in his lap. Curse Van for abandoning him like this! This was all his fault! Now he was about to be robbed of the little freedom and joys he had left, if he didn't lose his very life! This was probably all part of his plan! Get Spinoza caught and then no one would think to question him. No one would think to look any further; they thought they had the culprit. Damn him to hell!
"But…" Spinoza looked up at the Duke's words. But?
"We currently have a dilemma, something that perhaps you can help us with. If you're willing to cooperate, perhaps we could reach an agreement on the matter." Duke Fabre paused for a moment to garner the researcher's full attention, "You see, we need someone to see to our sons' health and well being." Duke Fabre finished, obviously still unused to referring to his newest child.
"I'm no doctor, if that's what you're implying." Spinoza replied bitterly.
"No," Susanne interjected, "rest assured there are many skilled physicians that attend to the royal family. Our request is of a different nature."
"Yes," Duke Fabre confirmed, "the doctors here are more than capable; but you see, they don't know the first thing about fomicry."
Spinoza finally realized what they were getting at. They needed someone familiar with fomicry to help care for the replica they had adopted as their second son. But why him? Certainly there were other researchers out there more qualified than he was. Dr. Balfour was a master of fomicry and also boasted a degree in medicine so why…
"Here's our proposal." Duke Fabre interrupted Spinoza's thoughts. "You will act in the capacity of our sons' doctor alongside one of the doctors up at the castle. You will be responsible for ensuring neither of them suffers any ill effects from the experiments they were put through as well as any phenomena that their regular doctor cannot explain. In exchange your past offences will be overlooked on the condition that they do not occur again. You will be permitted to do any research to this end, so long as you do not attempt to create any living replicas. Your progress in this research is expected to be reported in full, and rest assured, we will be checking to ensure its completeness and accuracy."
"Of course, you'll be fairly compensated for your services." Susanne added.
Spinoza looked at the two of them in awe. Were they seriously offering him what he thought they were? He was off the hook? And not just that, but he was allowed to continue his research free from fear of prosecution, and receive monetary support? It was too good to be true! But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it really was. This wasn't all it seemed on the outside, in fact, this was just another form of imprisonment. He was to be a slave to the royal family, doing the research they vitally needed, that he knew didn't exist.
But it wasn't really like he had an option. At least this way, not only could he continue his research, but he had a successful human replica as his test subject. He would get the chance to not only prove but establish countless theories on the nature of replication! Perhaps such opportunity was worth having the royal family breathing down his neck. It was certainly better than the alternative.
"Would you like more time to consider it?" Susanne inquired, breaking the silence. Her soft smile made Spinoza feel uncomfortable.
"No, I'll accept your proposal." Spinoza managed.
"Thank you!" Susanne stood up. "Thank you for taking care of our boys." She repeated with a deep bow.
"Susanne." Duke Fabre stated disapprovingly as he too stood up.
"My apologies, I'll go see if Guy needs any help." She offered as she allowed herself to be ushered from the room.
"Go fetch Ramdas." Duke Fabre ordered one of the guards who immediately left to fetch the butler. Duke Fabre rubbed his temples. "I'm certain this doesn't need to be said, but you're aware of what the consequences will be if you don't hold up your end of this agreement."
"Yes sir." Spinoza replied.
"Good. Ah there you are Ramdas," the Duke greeted the butler as he entered, "Show our guest to one of the guest rooms, and arrange an escort for him to the castle's medical wing in the morning."
"Yes sir." Ramdas replied.
"It's getting late. Susanne will bring the boys over to introduce them tomorrow. You will also have a chance to speak with their attending physician and get her thoughts on their condition."
"Thank you, sir." Spinoza answered quietly.
"Yes, well, if you perform to the best of your abilities then there will be no reason for any hard feelings between us. Good night." The Duke stated as he left out the door, opposite the one through which Ramdas was ushering the researcher.
Spinoza impatiently tapped his fingers on the table as he awaited the arrival of his newest 'patients'. He had arrived early, expecting to speak with the other doctor, but had received a message that she had other issues to attend to and wouldn't be able to speak with him until later in the afternoon, so that essentially left him to wait. Wait and think.
All things considered, things hadn't turned out too bad. Though if you had asked him yesterday, what he thought he'd be doing this morning, sitting in a room waiting to play doctor for a noble and his replica was probably the last thing on his list. But he wouldn't complain, he was still breathing after all. He just had to put in his time, make sure nothing was wrong and he'd be free for about 6 months until they were due for a check up.
The medical wing was completely silent, and Spinoza couldn't recall the last time he had been quite so bored. His mind had already covered the new directions in which he could take his research, several times in fact, and it seemed even he could tire of that topic if given enough time to dwell on it.
Before he'd even realized it, he found himself vaguely wondering what the replica's name was. He recalled that the original was named Luke, but he hadn't been around when the replica had been named, if it had been given one at all. He wondered how Luke would react to him. That alone could cause a ruckus; he had been involved in the boy's replication after all. But then again he hadn't really been involved with the boy himself, he had been the one to develop the theory, and handle the problem solving along the way, so the chances were pretty good he wouldn't be remembered by the ten-year old. Wait! Spinoza shook off his train of thought. Why did he care?
Why was he even chosen for this anyway? Was it because he had been involved in creating the replica? That made sense, looking at it that way, he was the most logical person to look after it and its original. Perhaps that's why other, more qualified, researchers had been turned down; or perhaps he was just the only one they could bully into it.
A soft knock at the door drew Spinoza away from his thoughts. "Come in."
The door opened and in walked Susanne. She smiled at him and dismissed her escort. After a moment, she glanced at the open door, put her hand on her hips and walked right back out. From where he was sitting, the door itself blocked Spinoza's view of whatever was going on in the hallway outside, but a moment later, Susanne re-entered, this time ushering a pair of red-headed boys in ahead of her.
Spinoza stared for a moment. There they were… the world's only perfect isofons. They stood the exact same height and were wearing identical outfits except for the inverse of the colours. They both had the same long red hair that fell the same length down their backs and Spinoza couldn't help but be in awe at what he had helped Van create.
It took Spinoza a moment to distinguish them, but he managed to identify which one was the replica. His hair was just a touch more golden, but that was barely obvious. What had given it away was how the replica was almost in tears, clinging to the other's sleeve. His mental capacity had grown, but it was still nowhere near what it should be for a ten-year old.
"Hello again," Susanne smiled. "I apologize for the delay; we had some troubles getting these two out of the house." She said with a pointed look in Luke's direction. "This is Luke," she said indicating the boy on the left and the one Spinoza had identified as the replica, "and this is Asch," she finished indicating the boy on the right.
Wait...the other one was Luke? He had been sure Luke was the original. Spinoza looked at them both confusedly as Susanne took a seat in a nearby chair.
"I'm Asch," The boy on the right repeated noticing the man's confusion, "This is Luke, he's the replica."
Luke, who was still clinging to Asch's sleeve, looked directly at his sibling. "E…pi..ca?"
"That's right, you're the replica." Asch repeated and Luke smiled.
That was interesting. So it was the original that had changed his name. Spinoza found himself curious as to the story behind that particular development. No! No he wasn't! He didn't care! Spinoza tried to convince himself, but that was, in fact, the only one he was fooling. He approached the boys, and Luke ducked behind Asch, peeking out from behind his original's crimson hair every few moments to see if the scary doctor was still there.
It was truly astounding to see the changes in the replica –no– the changes in Luke over the past month. Spinoza still remembered when he had first seen the results of his work. The replica had just stood there, a soulless, emotionless body without the ability to think or act, a complete blank slate. But what stood before him now wasn't an object or just the product of an experiment, it was a boy. A living person who smiled and cried, who laughed and loved just like anyone else did. Spinoza couldn't help but smile as he watched Asch coerce Luke out from behind him.
Spinoza walked up to them and crouched down so he could be on eye level with the boys. Luke clung tightly to Asch but didn't retreat behind him this time.
"Hi there." Spinoza said gently as he placed a comforting hand on Luke's head. Some of Luke's tension relaxed, though he still didn't dare let go of Asch, but he looked Spinoza straight in the eye. Those emerald eyes that had once been empty, blankly staring out at an unknown world, were now so full of emotion and light. In that moment Spinoza decided. He wanted to see them grow up, both of them. Not for the sake of his research or his theories, but for the sake of seeing the people that they would become. To that end, he would do whatever he could for them, regardless of the consequences that may come.
"My name is Spinoza." He said to the boy before him and Luke smiled.
"…and I'm going to be your doctor."