A/N: This was actually inspired by Theme 16 - Questioning from the 100 Themes list. I wrote this last year while studying for my Biology papers (hence the abundance of Biology terms and jargon ^^;)
Anyhow, my Biology-saturated brain managed to concoct a somewhat plausible (to me, at least) theory of degradation. The 'I'm a SOLDIER, not a scientist' line was inspired by Leonard 'Bones' McCoy's similar trademark line in Star Trek (I'm a doctor, not a _____) *evil laugh*
This was betaed by TheFinalHikari, thank youuuu! *glomps Hikari*
And my first ever oneshot with Genesis as the main character!
Anyways, to all readers, enjoy and please leave a review! I'd love to know what you think of it!
"Impossible…" Hollander muttered, peering through the lens of the microscope for the umpteenth time.
Genesis, who was sitting on a nearby examination table, rolled his eyes as his wing flicked in annoyance. The movement made his injured shoulder throb painfully and he bit his lip. Glancing at it, he realized the bandages wrapped tightly over the slash were soaked with blood.
"Hollander," he said, "the dressings need changing again."
Hollander grabbed a bandage impatiently and began unwinding the bloody cloth from Genesis's shoulder with a distracted air.
The room was, like much of Hollander's lab, cold and filled whoever had the displeasure of entering with a sense of foreboding. The various computers and shelves full of tools and equipment were organized enough, but the poor lighting caused shadows to be thrown around every object. They lurked in every corner, only increasing the negative aura in the room.
"Why is it taking so long to heal?" Genesis asked, almost breaking his neck as he tried to peer over his shoulder at Hollander's deftly working hands.
"Stop fidgeting!" Hollander snapped.
Genesis scowled, but obediently kept still as the last strip of cloth came off the wound.
Hollander was silent for a moment before Genesis heard him exhale deeply.
The scientist began winding the clean bandages over his shoulder, but did not answer.
"Hollander, what's wrong?" Genesis was starting to feel concerned now. His wing tensed unconsciously and he flexed it distractedly.
Hollander finished knotting the bandage without a word. He scuttled to a nearby computer and, hunching over the keyboard, began to type furiously.
Genesis was losing his patience fast. Easing himself off the table, he strode over to Hollander and grabbed him roughly by the shoulder, pulling him away from the screen.
Hollander's face was livid. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" he demanded.
"I want answers," Genesis said coldly. "Why is my injury refusing to heal?"
"That's exactly what I'm trying to find out here!" Hollander shot back, trying to push Genesis's hand off his shoulder. "I only know that the fibrin mesh is not forming properly and both mitosis and cytokinesis of the cells within the vicinity of the wound have either slowed down or stopped completely–"
"Hollander," Genesis interrupted, raising his hand, "Plain English please. I'm a SOLDIER, not a scientist."
Hollander drew an aggravated breath. Then, he began to speak very slowly as though addressing a six-year old. "It means that the blood is not clotting and the wound is not healing."
"And why," Genesis asked just as slowly, trying to keep a leash on his temper, "is that happening?"
"That's the problem, I don't–" Hollander broke off, squinting at the winged man. The scientist's brows knitted as he beckoned to Genesis, who grudgingly obliged, stepping closer as his feathers rustled quietly. He glared at the scientist coldly, wanting nothing more to have his answers and be gone from that wretched place.
"You're too tall!" Hollander complained. "Bend down!"
"Why?" Genesis's eyes narrowed. He was getting tired of being bossed around.
Hollander clicked his tongue in irritation. "I want to see your hair," he said shortly.
"My hair?" Genesis ran his fingers worriedly through his silky auburn locks. "What's wrong with it?"
"Just bend down!" Hollander snapped.
Genesis's fist clenched, but he inclined his head slightly, allowing Hollander to examine his tresses.
Hollander did not move for a whole minute. Genesis waited, though the time that passed felt more like a small eternity to him. Then, as quick as a flash, Hollander drew a short pair of scissors from a pocket in his coat and neatly snipped off a lock before Genesis could protest.
"Did you have to do that without my permission?" Genesis asked dryly, not expecting an answer.
Hollander did not supply one.
Genesis exhaled slowly. Calm… keep calm… He scrutinized his reflection in a darkened window, trying to see the spot where his hair had been cut.
Hollander jarred the SOLDIER from his thoughts when he suddenly said, "It's just as I feared."
Genesis shot him an enquiring look. Hollander was holding the auburn lock of hair up to the light with a grave expression.
"What is it?" Genesis asked with some trepidation.
Hollander turned to him. "It's degradation."
"Degradation?" Genesis frowned as his wing twitched in confusion.
"See for yourself." Hollander pushed the lock of hair into Genesis's hand.
Genesis examined them. They looked fine except… the tips of a few strands had turned grey.
"That's what happens when the cells of the body stop growing and replacing the dead cells," Hollander said heavily. "The existing cells die… and continue to die without being replaced with newer, healthier cells."
"Why is it happening?" Genesis asked urgently. "Can't you stop it?"
"I suspect it may be due to the mako infusion which you received upon attaining the rank of SOLDIER which you hold now–"
"But," Genesis said, thinking quickly, "why didn't it affect the other SOLDIERs in the same way? And I had it a very long time ago; why are the effects surfacing only now?"
"I suspect that as soon as you received the injection, both mitosis and cytokinesis – cell division," he added, seeing Genesis's bewildered expression, "they must have started slowing down very gradually. But now, with an open wound," he motioned towards Genesis's shoulder, "they have slowed down a lot more quickly, hastening the degradation process." He stopped, looking strangely at Genesis. "As to your first question… you never were like the other SOLDIERs, Genesis Rhapsodos."
A terrible chill gripped Genesis's heart. "What d'you mean?" He took an involuntary step back, his wing drawing close to him.
Hollander laughed. "You ask so many questions of me, yet did you ever ask yourself why you have a wing?"
The object of discussion twitched, betraying its owner's discomfort. His heartbeat was accelerating and his breathing grew quick and shallow. However, it wasn't merely from the ill effects of moving around too much with his injury; it was far more than that. "You – you and Hojo told me that it was a common… a – a side effect that happens sometimes… Y-you said it wasn't unheard of! That it happened before!"
"And yet you've seen no one else with a wing besides yourself, yes? Now why is that? Did you actually accept such a simple explanation for a demon's wing?"
Genesis shot a glance at his feathery limb. "Exactly what are you trying to say, Hollander?" He met the scientist's eyes, trying to hide his rising fear as he unconsciously clenched his fists. "What are you not telling me?"
"Indeed, I'm surprised you haven't guessed it yourself," Hollander drawled with a heartless, sadistic smirk.
"No more games, Hollander!" Genesis growled. "Tell me what's wrong with me!"
Hollander's smirk widened into a grin. It made him look like a madman; the effect was only worsened by the dark shadows the light cast around his features. "You are not human, Genesis Rhapsodos."
Genesis's heart stopped at those words. He felt as though the floor had been yanked from under his feet. It was like plummeting downward, far away from the hellish reality, but no such release was presented for him. He found himself holding his breath as the heavy silence stretched on interminably, though only a few seconds had passed.
Hollander continued mercilessly. "In fact, you never were human to begin with. Your birth was a result of Project G."
Genesis's legs gave way. He fell to his knees, sapphire eyes wide and unseeing with horror. His mind reeled with a thousand thoughts which he could not even begin to sort out; he was just too numb with shock. His hands trembled slightly and the faint sensation of light-headedness overtook him. The room was beginning to spin, though Hollander's words pierced his frozen mind like the blade of a sword.
"Unfortunately, you're a failure," Hollander said carelessly, "so you were cast aside in favour of a better test subject: Angeal Hewley."
Genesis stared at the floor dismally, letting out the breath he'd been holding. "An—Angeal?" he whispered his best friend's name hollowly, as though it belonged to someone else. "He's… involved in this too?"
"He was the successful candidate and therefore, far superior to you, of course." Hollander turned back to the computer and resumed typing, clearly indifferent to the fact that he had brought the young SOLDIER's world crumbling down around his ears with no more than a few sentences. Though he could not see the man's expression, Genesis was sure he was still smirking to himself.
"B-but Angeal is… not degrading…" Genesis stammered quietly. "He's injured and heals... perfectly every time..."
"Of course he isn't." Hollander said as though it was a foolish question of an uneducated child. He did not bother to turn and face Genesis as he resumed his explanation. "He's the successful one, the pride of Project G. You're the failure." He shrugged casually. "But either way, you're both just monsters."
Genesis recoiled at the word as though it was a physical blow. "No… it—it can't be true!" His voice shook and cracked as his wing drew around him instinctively. "You—you're lying! I am a man! A—a human being!" A tear escaped from his glowing mako eyes and rolled down his cheek, splattering on glossy black feathers and disappearing.
Hollander sighed impatiently, losing interest in dealing with the SOLDIER whose existence he had just thoughtlessly condemned. "Deny it all you want; it won't change what you are. Now, enough with your questioning; I need to concentrate. I have work to do and you monsters are nothing but a headache to me."
More unwanted tears were streaming down Genesis's face as he remained on his knees, immobilized. He took a deep, shaky breath, slowly getting to his feet. Pain lanced through his shoulder and he cried out, his physical agony only making his emotional torment worse. The throbbing pain caused him to stagger slightly.
The words resonated in his head, the first coherent thought to take form. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and leaned against the cold metal door for support. It didn't open; he knew it was locked. His breathing would not regulate. His dizziness worsened as his mind, once again, began to spin.
I am… a monster… a creature damned from the time I drew my first breath… I've been living a lie… all my life… Goddess, help me… I'm not even human, he thought, covering his face with both hands in anguish. How could I possibly even pray? The Goddess… is worshipped by humans… She wouldn't bother listening to the cries of a… a monster.