This fic was inspired by Joss's new show Dollhouse, and then snowballed into a crazy Dollhouse/Buffy/Nightwatch/X-men/Watchmen/lots of other things with a very gratuitous Megaman reference thrown in. All standard pairings apply- will be Sora/Riku, Axel/Roxas, Demyx/Zexion, and Cloud/Leon, and whoever else strikes my fancy. Enjoy!
The small German boy snarled as a taser jabbed into his back. He spoke no English, so his holders were forced to communicate with him in the universal language of violence. Hey kid, they were saying. Time to go. Dust fell from his filthy prison-issue jumpsuit. He eyed the guards warily. Six of them- too many to take on by himself. His hands and ankles chafed in chains.
He was ushered out of his cell, and through a series of identical hallways. The low-watt institutional lighting made the skin on his hands look translucent. The group arrived at a high-security door, and one guard punched in a code and submitted to an eye scan. Two more electronic doors and an elevator later and he found himself standing in what appeared to be some sort of technological center. Monitors blinked and flashed all around him. The floor was composed of open grating that exposed an elaborate series of glowing tubing and wires that combined with the monitors to provide the only lighting for the room. He wondered if that was really practical, or if his captors were just going for a James Bond feel. Or possibly ran out of budget for flooring. The spy in him itched for the chance to find out what information this room was protecting.
Two guards grabbed his elbows, and announced themselves. He heard his name.
"Sir. Here is Rock."
"Very good. Hook him up." Rock didn't understand the words, and struggled when the guards pushed him towards the massive computer. He was shoved forcefully into a small alcove. An intimidating piece of equipment hovered over his head, beeping and clicking as a technician tapped something into a nearby terminal. The guards strapped him in, effectively trapping him inside the dangerous-looking piece of machinery.
"Rock Mann." The assumed leader of the bunch stood in front of him and addressed him by full name. He sized the man up. The technicians all wore lab coats, but this man was dressed to kill. Based on the cut of the suit, he clearly had money. Rock was impressed, in spite of himself.
"I'm sorry." Those two words he understood, and he glared. "I'm sorry, but it's been decided by people bigger than either of us that you are simply too dangerous to exist." Rock's eyes narrowed. He wished with all of his being that his instructors had bothered to teach him English. But no, they'd said. Their excuse was that it would be too easy to question him, but that was bullshit. They just didn't want Rock to have access to the information he was stealing. Better to stay as mute as possible. He was only a glorified delivery boy. No need for analytical abilities.
The tech at the terminal triumphantly punched the last few buttons. The huge device above Rock's head whirred into action, sounding for all the world like an airplane preparing to take off. The wind whipped his shaggy blonde hair around, blocking his eyesight and almost deafening him.
The boy cried out as a blinding light erupted from the machine and shot into him, splitting him in two. The pain was unbearable, but at the same time strangely far away. He was split again, and again, and again, smaller and smaller, farther and farther away, until finally his pieces were so light that he was lifted upward, and sucked into the computer. The room fell silent.
After a few brief moments, the main terminal leaped into activity. A young girl's face appeared on the largest monitor, smiling out at them.
"Hello, DIZ Team. I have received a new member. Input specifications now."
The technicians all clapped appreciatively, thrilled at their success. The man in the suit nodded to his staff. "You know what to do. Re-make him American, like usual. Easier that way." The head tech walked over to the main control center and began a flurry of typing, a series of motions she'd clearly been through before.
"Input received. Nobody Number 13. Code-name: Roxas."
Hello, class. We have a new student today. His name is Roxas. Welcome Roxas.
Every day, right when he woke up, Sora Strife broke open his computer and checked the World News. He skimmed the headlines, not liking what he saw. Famous professor releases work on Old New York… boring. World President to give speech… boring. Ooo, a hurricane? Damn, appears to be result of natural causes. He groaned and closed his laptop. It seemed like there hadn't been a real terrorist attack in months- where did they all go?
"Hey, Sora. Quit your morbid death-obsession and come eat breakfast." The only person who knew of Sora's habit was his brother-cum-roommate, Cloud.
"Coming, bro," Sora said quickly. He stretched out his wings as much as he could and fluttered down to the floor. His "bedroom" was more of a closet, so Cloud had gone out and bought him a loft bed to give him more floor space. Now that Sora was 18, he was free to go as he pleased, but he stuck with his brother because he had nowhere else to go. People like him weren't exactly welcomed in everyday society.
You see, Sora was a prime example of what normal people had dubbed Others. Humans born with abilities above and beyond the normal range. Despite being full brothers, Cloud was a human of the standard variety, but Sora was not so lucky. Over time he had grown a pair of massive feathered wings, which were now so big they couldn't even be hidden. Sure, he could fly, but what was the use when half the city of New York would just as soon shoot you down as look at you?
He crunched his wings and squeezed through the door, immediately arriving in the tiny kitchen. Cloud shoved a paper plate at him, laden with a basic cheese omelet. The two boys didn't have a dishwasher, so they'd given up on real dishes. The apartment was so small that their "table" was a standing-room-only piece of wood that folded down from the wall and blocked the main hallway. After their parents' death, Cloud and Sora had made a decent sum of money on the sale of their family home, but since finding steady work was difficult in New York City and quite impossible in Sora's case, they cut every cost possible to stretch what they had. Sora squished an especially bold cockroach with his toes.
"So. Any attacks?" Cloud asked conversationally. It had taken a long time, but he had finally accepted that his brother was going to be one of those kids, like the people who spend all of their time reading up on serial killers.
"Nope. Still none." Sora scraped cockroach bits off of his feet. While most Others stuck close to the ground and tried not to be noticed, over the past few years, a series of powerful Others with very strange abilities had begun to stage their own violent publicity stunts, in some cases even getting hired by regional governments. These attacks were what fascinated Sora. He had always struggled to hide his abnormality- he couldn't imagine using his powers to go out and kill people en masse.
"No news of your boyfriend?" Cloud teased. Sora blushed. His brother was referring to Sora's favorite terrorist, Démé Desmarais of former France. Démé's power over water had caused droughts on every continent and sewer breakdowns in every major city. When he'd attacked New York City, Cloud and Sora's bathroom hadn't worked for more than two weeks, and Sora had been so excited he didn't even care. He would wait in line to poop at the grocery store in exchange for Démé in New York, any day. Unfortunately, Démé Desmarais had been inactive for several months. Sora hoped he wasn't dead, or worse, caught. Though he figured that if such a famous terrorist had been caught, it would have been all over the World News. So, for him if no one else, no news was good news.
"I'm going to the church today- you're welcome to come with if you want. Leon might need help." Sora perked up immediately. Cloud's best friend Leon's church home was almost the only place Sora was allowed to go outside of this dingy apartment.
"Yessss! Let me just get dressed." Sora shoved the last of his omelet into his mouth and rushed back to his room. All of his shirts were standard pack-of-3 tank-tops with large sections of the back cut out for wing comfort, so he just picked a color and pulled it over his head, then swapped out his sweat pants for jeans. He ran back out and crashed right into Cloud, who was brandishing a thick belt, and some rope for back-up.
"Can't I just fly there?" Sora whined.
"No, because people would try to kill you," Cloud muttered, more to himself than Sora. Sora felt a pang of guilt. Having such an obvious Other in the house had to have been difficult, but Cloud never complained. Sora had gotten through most of school by securing his wings around his midsection, wearing baggy clothes, and eventually by telling everyone he had a back brace, but after his 17th birthday the growth of both his body and his wings had accelerated, and they were now simply too big for that to work. The twin white wonders arched high over his head, and swept down past his knees.
Sora obediently folded his wings over his shoulders, as tightly as he could. He couldn't move his arms this way, so hopefully he wouldn't need to. Cloud belted the offending appendages in place. When the belt buckle began to creak with strain, he grabbed the rope and tightened it around him several more times. Satisfied with his handiwork, he then wrapped a loose cloak around Sora's body.
"Cloud, it's summer."
"No one ever went crazy and shot someone inappropriately dressed."
"I know, I know! But can't we at least try to find me a mumu or something? This is made out of wool," he groused. Sweat messed up his feathers.
"I'm taking you outside, aren't I?" Cloud snapped. He was much more irritable than usual. Sora panged again. His brother didn't have to do any of this for him- he could have just as easily left him to flee to the country and live off of bunnies with the other hawks.
"Aw, squirt, I'm sorry… You know I don't mean it… It's just, Leon said he had a job for me," he sighed. Sora nodded in understanding.
"Well, let's go, then."
Sora's hatred of the wool cloak intensified the moment he stepped outside. The lower east side neighborhood where he and Cloud lived was too poor to afford foliage, so protection from the brutal sun was practically nonexistent. A couple dead trees, pathetic casualties from the war, provided meager shade to abandoned pets. High above Sora's head, the city's Atmosphere Purification Devices floated among the clouds, processing the oxygen that would support the citizens of New York City. Unfortunately, the APDs were never enough. Besides New York's high birthrate, thousands of people from the barren countryside flooded into the city every day. Who had known before the war that oxygen would become such a precious commodity? The sky was a sickly yellow color, the air tasted like fire, and Sora was feeling a bit suffocated.
Cloud deftly steered them through the crowds in the streets, accommodating for his terrible sense of direction. No one drove cars anymore- no need- so the entire street was packed with people. Tired workers clothed in brown and grey, heads down, always in a hurry to nowhere special. Despite his funky cloak-in-summer, Sora blended in perfectly. Cloud cut a direct path across Union Square, heading north, his little brother dragged along behind him, overwhelmed as usual by the sights and smells outside of the tiny apartment. The heat was beginning to drag him down, and his breath came shorter and shorter.
"Cloud," he gasped. "Water." He was sweating so hard, the liquid was dripping and pooling at his feet. Cloud grumbled a curse at the oversight, and pulled him over to a street vendor to buy a bottle. $11.50. While he was digging through his pockets for the bills, Sora stood on a subway grate, letting the hot breeze dry his ankles and listening to the rumbling train. He'd heard that people used to actually ride them. These days, the subways were only used to transport goods and materials. Staying underground long enough to actually ride across town could be a death sentence. Cloud finished paying, and fed him the water as one might a dog- holding the bottle while Sora sucked on it thirstily. The man at the bodega eyed them suspiciously.
"Somethin' happen to your arms, kid?" Sora jumped, spilling precious water all over his face and neck. Cloud scowled.
"Mind your own business. C'mon, So." Cloud tugged him roughly. A little too roughly. Sora stumbled on the sidewalk, causing the cloak to swirl up, revealing the very tips of a small bunch of porcelain white feathers. A tiny movement, but more than enough. The bodega man gasped, and slammed down his grate, fumbling for some kind of weapon. The loud movements caught the attention of several passers-by.
"Get away from my store," the man warned harshly, brandishing a rolled-up magazine from behind the metal mesh. When the two boys didn't react, his voice raised to a shout. "FREAK! Get away from these people!" Sora could hear the gasps and feel the eyes on his back as he and his brother fled. Hot tears mixed with the water already marring his face.
"Ignore them, Sora," Cloud said desperately. Yeah. Easy for you to say. A panhandler threw garbage at him and shouted obscenities as they passed.
At a run, it took them five more minutes to reach Leon's church, desperate for air. The beautiful old building had been bombed during the war, leaving a huge hole in one half of the ceiling, but other than that, it was in pristine condition. Ivy covered the walls, a shocking punch of green in the colorless city. No one had ever bothered to demolish the church, and no one knew who owned it, so Leon had just moved in. The tiny sign next to the door was almost impossible to find unless you were looking for it- S. Leonhart. Private Detective. Cloud let himself in without knocking.
"Leon!" he yelled, instinctively remaining in the tiny patch of light caused by the hole in the ceiling. Sora fidgeted uncomfortably in his ropes. The sweat and the wool were making his entire body itch unbearably. His hands twitched.
"Cloud, please, you need to-!" He was cut off abruptly by the appearance of Leon, a well-built young man the same age as his brother, skulking out of a back room and shying away from even the limited light. You see, Leon was a vampire. A condition that would plague him for life, not that he didn't go to extensive lengths to hide it. The S stood for Squall, picked out by his vampire mother during the war. Leon had abandoned his given name as soon as she died, deriding it as "too vampy." Cloud had pointed out that his own name was less-than-conventional and it didn't bother anyone, and Leon snapped back that since he was human, he could afford to be uncautious. Cloud hadn't spoken for a long while after that.
"Hey, guys." Leon leaned against the wall in the back, the darkest part of the large room. Cloud grinned, stepped into the dark, and gave his friend a huge hug. Leon looked a little embarrassed, but happy. There was something going on there, but right now, Sora was in too much distress to think about what it was. Cloud didn't notice.
"Hey, Leon. Hope we didn't get here at a bad time?"
"No- I was just, uh, eating." Leon scratched the back of his head, embarrassed. Sora couldn't take it anymore. The heat and the itch had been crawling from his toes to his head, and the sensations finally became unbearable. He cried out and collapsed, body going into spasms, lurching into a full-on anxiety attack. Birds weren't meant to be tied up and left in the dark! The sky seemed so far away, barely visible through the hole.
"Shit, Sora- God, I'm sorry, squirt, I completely forgot!" Cloud frantically pulled off the cloak and unsnapped the belt, while Leon ran to grab a knife and chopped through the rope. Sora's wings unfurled with enough force to send both of them sprawling, and he frantically began scratching. The air inside the old church whipped into a tornado of dandruff and downy white feathers. He thrashed around like a dog after a bath, ridding himself of every last flake of irritated skin while Cloud and Leon watched in awe. No one could help but be awed by Sora. Even without his wings, he seemed to produce light itself. A true angel. When he finished grooming himself, he collapsed onto the floor, resting on his knees, exhausted, ruffled feathers slowly righting themselves. The two friends glanced at each other, an unspoken message transferred between them.
"Sora… I don't really know how to say this…"
"Cloud wants you to live here," Leon said bluntly. Cloud shot him a glare, Leon shrugged, and Sora looked up at his brother in shock.
"Listen, squirt. I… I love you more than anything." Cloud's voice dropped to a whisper. "You're all I've got in this world, and you know that. Which is why I can't keep you trapped in that tiny apartment anymore. I'm sorry you found out this way, but I can save more money for both of us if I have roommates, and, well, with you around, roommates aren't really an option." Sora's eyes filled with hurt. Cloud hurriedly backtracked. "No, no, not like that! It's just. Sora, the money situation is bad. Really bad. I've tried everything I could think of, and I can't afford to hide you anymore. And, Leon and I've talked about it and he says you can live here and work with him. Finally have your own job, something to do, you know? And, he knows people. People like you. You shouldn't have to be alone all the time, stuck with your stupid big brother." Cloud's voice was painfully sad. Leon turned away, giving them both space. "I'll still come visit all the time- it's not like I'm leaving the city. And I'll still send you money. As much as I possibly can." Sora was completely silent. Cloud gave Leon a pleading look, asking him to say something.
"Hey, kid, it's not so bad here. Like he said, I need an assistant, and you can meet some Others. And look, you even have your own door," he joked, pointing upwards. For the first time, Sora brought his eyes up to meet his brother's.
"I don't have a choice, do I?" he asked quietly. Cloud sighed.
"No, Sora, you really don't. You can't live with me anymore. We can't afford it. That's… well, that's pretty much it." Sora was unbelievably hurt. If money was such a huge problem, why hadn't Cloud spoken to him about it before? He wasn't a kid, a helpless little orphan needing to be taken care of anymore. They could've figured something out together. But instead, he was being unceremoniously dumped on his brother's best friend, with barely an explanation.
"Fine. But don't expect me to be happy about it." He flashed an apologetic glance at Leon. "No offense, Leon." The dark man smiled at the gesture.
"Make yourself at home. You can decide where you want to sleep. The bathroom and kitchen's upstairs in the back where the priest's apartment used to be, but watch out for all the frozen blood." He went off to finish his lunch. An uncomfortable silence settled between the two brothers.
"You gonna bring my stuff someday?" Sora asked softly.
"Yeah. I, uh… we wouldn't have been able to bring both of you at once," Cloud said miserably. Fine by Sora. Let the asshole suffer. This trip to Leon's, that had seemed to exciting just an hour ago, had gone sour much more quickly than usual.
"Please just go." Cloud opened his mouth as if to apologize, thought better of it, and left in a hurry. Sora looked around at the church's dusty interior. This was his home now, so, better get used to it. With a sigh of resignation, he flew up to the rafters, and started searching for a place to set up a mattress.
That same night, in the same city, a few miles away, Riku Hikaru was sneaking off of a freighter. He pulled the hood of his jacket further over his head. No need to let anyone know what he was, just yet. Probably he'd already broken about sixty World Nation laws- his kind was pretty universally prohibited from crossing city lines, let alone continental ones. But with some careful timing, he'd managed to stowaway all the way to the former United States. He supposed that meant the hardest part was over.
As soon as he was a safe distance from the docks, he reached into his pockets and pulled out a lighter and a box of cigarettes. Too risky to light up on the ship- if anyone had found him, he would have had to kill them. Thank God it hadn't come to that. He leaned against a dumpster and took a long drag on the cigarette, instantly calming his nerves. He'd dipped into his dad's secret stash of Lucky Strikes for this, but it was completely worth it.
"Hey. Hey, you." Riku sniffed deeply. Adult human male, overweight. Unwashed. Armed. "Pretty boy. Nice clothes you got there. Should you really be down here this late at night?" Riku chose to ignore the threat implicit in the last sentence.
"Go away," he said dismissively, flicking some ash off the end of his cigarette.
"Oh-ho-ho. Feisty." Riku heard the man pull out his knife. "Howsabout you just give me all the money you have, and I let you go, ok, kiddo?"
"I don't have any money," he answered honestly. He hadn't had any money in Japan, either. Money didn't really have a place in Riku's life.
"How'd you get those nice clothes, then?" The man was close enough now that Riku could see the knife gleaming through the darkness. "Even I can tell those cost a pretty penny."
"Please go away," Riku muttered. This guy was irritating him enough that he was going to have to smoke another cigarette. He'd been in New York for less than twenty minutes, and he was already behind schedule. Besides, they didn't even make Lucky Strikes anymore. These cigarettes were a precious commodity. Riku's temper was quickly getting the better of him.
"Oh-ho! And what exactly are you going to do to me if I don't, pretty boy?" Riku reached up and pushed back his hood. The smell of fear flooded his nostrils. The man shrieked and ran away as fast as his portly body would carry him. Well, that solves that problem. He replaced his hood, and pulled out another cigarette.
You're in this city somewhere, and I'm going to find you.
Early the next day, Kairi Smith nursed a bottle, leaning over her work terminal. Sure, she was drinking earlier than usual today. But hey, she was a master programmer. People always program better when tanked, right?
"Kairi. You should not be drinking so early in the day," a familiar voice admonished. A smile broke out on Kairi's face.
"Oh, Naminé. You're always worried about me."
"I have to be." Naminé's face appeared on a monitor near where Kairi was sitting. The blonde girl's expression was blank. Of course it was. She was a computer program.
"Wow, Nam, you sure know how to make a girl feel special," Kairi giggled as she tucked her empty beer bottle into her purse. She was the best technician on the DIZ Team, but even that may be overlooked if she were caught boozing at work. Her job was immensely frustrating, and the lab's crappy floor lighting made it look like a bar- she really just couldn't help it. She had asked about getting some real lights, but apparently the goal was to keep the flow of electricity to the room as low as they possibly could, considering the sophistication of the equipment. Top-secret lab and all that. Which brought Kairi back to the top-secret job she was supposed to be doing.
"Naminé. How is Number 13? Is his re-programming still solid?"
"Yes. He is acclimating to the TTA well. The program is on schedule."
"And Number 12? Any problems?" Nobody Number 12, code-name Larxene, was in actuality Chilean thunder goddess Lola Guerra. Kairi had been vehemently opposed to uploading someone who could manipulate electricity into a computer program, but unfortunately, she had been overridden. Her boss in so many words had told her she'd either make it work or lose her job. And Kairi couldn't afford to lose her job. She had thought that creating the Naminé system would guarantee her employment for life, but apparently not. God knows what the head of the DIZ Team was looking for in his employees.
"No problems. She is contained."
"Good. Can you print out today's stats for me?"
"One moment please." Kairi leaned back in her chair and rolled over to the enormous machine that was really just a glorified printer. The chair creaked, and she almost fell. Mental note number two- new chairs. Chairs didn't use electricity, so he couldn't complain.
The printer was painfully slow. Minutes dragged by and it had barely gotten through the basics. Nobody 1, Zaim Abbas. Code-name Xemnas. Place of Origin Morocco. Age 34. Ability Energy?. Kairi smiled a little bit at the question mark. Years of captivity and testing, and they still had no idea what his powers were.
Numbers flashed as the printer sped up, spewing out all manner of information on Xemnas's physical condition, numbers from heart rate to white blood cell count. Kairi took some idle notes in her book, but already knew what the records were going to say. Xemnas's body was perfect. The problem was his mind. The first five subjects had been trapped inside the system for so long, with near total lack of unpredictable stimuli, that they had become stagnant, barely human at all. Zaim Abbas had ceased to exist, and Xemnas had become part of the machine that contained him. The computer moved right along to Nobody 2, Botan Shimizu. Code-name Xigbar. Place of Origin Japan. Age 41. Ability Teleportation, Lycanthropy. Fixing the computer to contain a full-grown werewolf had apparently been a complete nightmare- it had been done before Kairi joined the team. Nobody 3, Ai Wen Sha. Code-name Xaldin. Place of Origin China. Age 39. Ability Wind. Kairi had always thought the code-names were kind of silly. Whoever had done the first three had apparently thought it hilarious to have all of them begin with an X, and the X had become a tradition. Nowadays Kairi let Naminé come up with the names. She seemed to enjoy doing it, and being a glorified prison guard had to come with some sort of perk.
"Nobodies 1 through 5 remain unchanged," Naminé chimed in. The printer was finishing up with Number 4, Ivars Vanags, Code-name Vexen, Place of Origin Latvia, Age 45, Ability Ice.
"They always do," Kairi muttered. She couldn't tell whether Naminé was trying to be helpful, or trying to be conversational. The girl was more than just a computer program, but it was difficult to know just how much more. The final member of TTA Phase 1, Nobody 5, Lawrence Baker, Code-name Lexaeus, Place of Origin Canada, Age 44, Ability Earth, bled out of the printer. All of them had been in the system for more than a decade- they had been gleaned from the places hardest hit during the war. Unfortunately, they had all outlived their usefulness, which led the DIZ Team to pursue the younger, more dynamicbunch that comprised TTA Phase 2.
"All right, Nam. Hit me." Naminé nodded, and the computer whirred into action. Nobody 6, Zeke McLane, Code-name Zexion, Place of Origin Former United States, Age 20, Ability Psychic. Zexion, a powerful illusionist, had been the last Nobody uploaded before Kairi joined the DIZ Team, and the herald of Phase 2. The main differences? For one, the Phase 2 subjects were uploaded younger, as they had also developed their abilities at a much younger age. Also, since Phase 2 had begun after the establishment of the World Nation, all of the place names were marked as "former." Otherwise, the two Phases were exactly the same. Zexion was the only home-grown subject, mostly so the people in charge of the project could cover their asses- if the pattern of disappearances was noticed and all of the Nobodies came from war-torn, impoverished countries, the former United States would be the immediate suspect.
Nobody 7, Michael Adey, Code-name Saïx, Place of Origin Former Australia, Age 22, Ability Moon?. Kairi smiled again at the question mark. Saïx had extremely enhanced physical abilities that seemed to wax and wane with the phases of the moon. Somewhat like lycanthropy, without the actual physical transformation. No one knew what caused it, as was the case with the rest of the Nobodies. Saïx had been the first name that Naminé had chosen as head of the TTA. She hadn't been familiar enough with naming systems to notice that the code-names were usually based off of the subjects' original names, and confessed that she thought Saïx was pretty sounding.
Nobody 8, Alexei Gorodetsky, Code-name Axel, Place of Origin Former Russia, Age 19, Ability Fire and Nobody 9, Démé Desmarais, Code-name Demyx, Place of Origin Former France, Age 19, Ability Water were next. Since no normal human on Earth was powerful enough to go up against Alexei Gorodetsky, the DIZ Team had contracted rival terrorist Démé Desmarais to capture him. After Alexei was brought to New York, the team had double-crossed Démé, and stolen both of them at once. The look on Démé's face as he was being uploaded into the system haunted Kairi's nightmares. Get a grip, she thought to herself. Démé Desmarais is dead. You killed him. Unsurprisingly, the thought didn't make her feel any better. She checked through their standard unusual temperature readings, Axel's too high and Demyx's too low, and pressed on.
Nobody 10, Lucas Owen, Code-name Luxord, Place of Origin Former India, Age 24, Ability Psychic. Luxord had limited telekinesis, but his main strength was his ability to read the future. Unfortunately, he seemed unable to see while inside the TTA. He'd been inside the system for five months now and hadn't been able to predict so much as what he was going to be served for breakfast. Kairi made a quick note in her notebook.
Nobody 11, Marcos Garcia, Code-name Marluxia, Place of Origin Former Panama, Age 23, Ability Plants. Yes, Marluxia could speak to plants, an ability that was much more dangerous than it sounded. The eccentric Panamanian was one of Kairi's favorite Nobodies. In life, he'd dyed his hair pink as a symbol of his ability to kill you with flowers. Plus, he was damn hot. But Kairi would never admit that to anyone (except Naminé, who completely agreed with her.) The second-to-last Nobody, Nobody 12, Lola Guerra, Code-name Larxene, Place of Origin Former Chile, Age 20, Ability Electric, had the strongest readings, obviously, because she was a being who manipulated electricity trapped against her will and knowledge inside an environment made completely of electric pulses. Kairi frowned at the spikes in the numbers, but if Naminé said that Larxene was contained, then Larxene was contained. She jotted everything down in her book, and prepared herself for the very last Other.
Nobody 13, Rock Mann, Code-name Roxas, Place of Origin Former Germany, Age 18, Ability ?. This time, Kairi truly was stumped as to what the ability was. His enhanced physical abilities clearly marked him as an Other, and his record as a spy and assassin marked him as a dangerous one at that, but as far as anyone knew, he'd shown no signs of having a distinct Other ability beyond the basics. All of his victims were found dead with no marks on their bodies. Oh well. A couple weeks of non-stop testing and surveillance, and they'd figure out whatever secrets Roxas was hiding.
Kairi bundled up the print outs and stuck them in a folder for filing. The head of the DIZ Team was a firm believer in paper trails. She finished up her notes and packed up her things. Same routine, every day. Watching over a group of people who technically didn't exist. No names or memories. No living family. Her fists clenched, knuckles white. Naminé smiled at her.
"It was nice to see you, Kairi. I will go check on the subjects now."
"Naminé…" her voice hitched a bit. "Naminé, it is nice in there, right? No one… is hurting them?"
"It is very nice, Kairi. Do not worry."
Roxas smiled faintly as the other students said their hellos. He was a new student at Twilight Town Academy, a highly selective private military school for gifted pupils. He had the entire pamphlet memorized.
The teacher was an older woman, with long blonde hair tucked up in a low bun. She smiled at Roxas and gestured toward an empty seat off to the side. He slid in, softly greeting the student next to him. His class-neighbor also had long blonde hair, but the top of his was swept up into an elaborate two-tiered fauxhawk.
"Hi! Roxas, right? My name's Demyx," he said with a smile.
"God. Don't freak out the new guy already." Sitting in front of them was an exotic-looking boy with sleek, deep blue hair, pulled back into a loose ponytail. He didn't turn around when he spoke. Roxas opened his mouth to defend his new acquaintance, but Demyx had already shrunk into himself and was intently focused on some nothing-in-particular in his book. Weird.
"Class. Attention, please." The woman's voice washed over them like butter, almost artificial in its evenness. "We will continue with History of the World Nation. Open your books to page 879." Roxas did as he was told, assuming the book on his desk was meant to be his, and blinked in surprise. The title of the chapter was The Rise of the Others. He'd come in at a good time, then. He glanced around the room, sizing up the other seven students, all of whom he knew to also be Others- that's what 'gifted pupils' meant. He wondered what their powers were.
"The race of Others has been around for as long as the race of humans, if not longer," the teacher began, reading directly from the text. "For example, the shamans and healers of human legend were Others." She looked up. "Our race, however, is shrouded in mystery and distrust. What exactly is an 'Other'?" She turned back to the book. The words weren't anything that Roxas didn't already know, but he was enthralled. "An Other is someone with the ability to interact with and manipulate the magical world. A human born with a sixth sense, an extra layer of perception, which allows her or him access to powers beyond the scope of normal human possibility." The boy called Demyx was nodding along, mesmerized. "Sometimes Otherhood can be obtained by humans, such as with the life-altering conditions of vampirism and lycanthropy. But typically, it is a power one is born with. Why certain powers manifest in certain individuals is still unknown. Personality and ability seem to be connected, but it is a question of chicken and egg." She smiled at a red-haired boy, seated in the back. "Can the fiery redhead manipulate fire because he's a fiery redhead? Or did his personality become fiery because he can manipulate fire?" A couple students seemed to find this terribly profound, and began jotting down notes.
"As you all know, you are attending this Academy free of charge in exchange for allowing us to observe your abilities and research this question. Together, we will find an answer." The students beamed. "All of you are here in part because you were born during the third World War. The nuclear and biological fallout from combat is believed to have contributed in some way to the upsurge in Others being born in the past twenty years, and the rise of Otherhood in the public consciousness." The class shifted uncomfortably. "Do not worry, students. No one can touch you here. You are free to be yourselves, and use your powers at will. In fact, it is encouraged." Roxas felt as if a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. Here, he was safe. Not like out there.
Roxas held on to every word with rapt attention all the way until the class ended. The eight students filed neatly out of the room, and towards what Roxas knew to be the cafeteria. All of the students ate together in a small kitchen, and slept together in the same dormitory. It was dinner time, and he found himself being served vegetable soup and rice. Demyx, the boy who was nice to him, called him over to sit on one side of the table along with the allegedly fiery red-head, and a quiet boy with dark blue, almost purple hair.
"This is Roxas," Demyx said, again with a smile.
"Hi Roxas. I'm Zexion."
"Hi Zexion. Hi Axel." The four boys quietly began eating dinner. The soup tasted good. Roxas glanced down at the other four students, on the other side of the table. The boy with the long blue hair, the one who had snapped at Demyx, was there, as well as the only female student. The other two were two boys with medium-toned skin, one with platinum blonde hair and goatee, and one with hot pink hair pulled up in a high ponytail. Roxas's curiosity got the better of him.
"Do you have powers too?" His three dining companions looked at him strangely.
"I can set things on fire with my brain," Axel offered, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm psychic," Zexion said, pointing to his forehead.
"I control water," Demyx finished. "What do you do? Wait, no! Don't tell us. We'll find out at your first combat practice." Axel and Zexion nodded in agreement. Roxas smiled. This place was nice.
After dinner, all eight pupils filed quietly into a spacious work-out room, where another blonde woman was waiting. Roxas was asked to do a series of weight-lifting exercises, with the coach taking careful notes, and then he ran on a treadmill at a steady pace for one hour, also noted. The group moved into a communal shower, changed into uniform pajamas, then moved into a small bedroom with four sets of bunk beds. Roxas was on a top bunk, above Axel. The air around the fiery Other was noticeably warmer than normal, making his bed very snug. Yes, he was going to like it here. He curled up in his bed, and fell asleep with a smile on his face.
Hope you like! To be clear, I chose to use the term 'Others' because I was trying to stick to terminology used in Kingdom Hearts, not because this is supposed to be a Nightwatch crossover. But I did toss in a little easter egg for all y'all Sergei Lukyanenko fans. Reviews, good or bad, make me feel good about myself. Hint. ;)