This concept actually came up in an AU fic that I thought had been lost forever when my previous computer got stolen but I just now found a copy of in my sent file when it occurred to me to look. I still am not going to finish or publish that fic in the forseeable future since I have no idea how to get them out of the bind they're currently in, but it occurred to me that no one had done this (that I knew of), and it really needed to be done.

Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of the Abyss.

I highly recommend reading the Ion Gaiden one-chapter manga scanlation. Whoa was Original!Ion psycho. Supposedly, there were seven Ion replicas made. One was killed by the Fon master, one became Sync, and obviously one was chosen. One leaves four. Given the Order, I'm betting at least two were tested to destruction and/or put down before the final choosing, leaving two rejects to be thrown into the volcano 'to encourage the others.'

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Since the commandant had given the feral girl to the equally-feral Fon Master as some kind of twisted gift years ago, it had been apparent that the two of them fit together somehow. One a mad child raised by ligers after the Scored doom of her people, the other a mad child raised by the Order and constantly reading his doom in the Score.

Once Ion managed to teach, or train, Arietta to ape polite civilization the similarities had been even more apparent, savagery hidden behind childish looks (they were both older than they appeared) and cloaked in formal robes and ornate dresses.

Not that the Fon Master had needed Arietta to be his attack dog. No, when some of the Order officials tried to kill him before he did anything more to disrupt the Score…

They must have been as mad as he was, to think that the Fon Master, sick or not, would be an easier target than the commandant.

Arietta had smelled the blood later and scolded him for not letting her help, but then it had been over too quickly for anyone to be helped.

The Fon Master had given explicit orders to everyone involved with this project that Arietta was not to know. Not about the replicas and especially not that he was dying. It was the closest to human compassion or consideration he had likely ever come. He'd been fiercely protective of her, the one person who didn't see him as the Fon Master (due to her ignorance), and even when her beasts had savaged some luckless tourists who had dared try to pet them he'd kept them from being put down, instead patting Arietta on the head and telling her he'd get it sorted out.

Just like she was patting them on the heads now.

Well, a liger had adopted her, so perhaps it wasn't so strange she had maternal instincts towards people, even fake people, as well as animals. "Don't worry, baby Ions, no one's going to hurt you any more." She even gave one of the two her stuffed animal as they blinked, as bemused as the one the commandant had claimed for the Oracle Knights.

The one chosen to replace the Fon Master just smiled the same smile his Original had worn. They'd chosen him because, unlike the others, he had been able to figure out how to copy facial expressions as well as being the most stable.

Replicas were just disposable tools, without real emotions or personalities of their own. They'd thought the smile was just imitation, a mask for blankness and nothingness in the same way as the literal mask the commandant had procured for his.

No one had thought that even the chosen replica would be a little too perfect. A little too like the original.

"Did anybody really think that we couldn't smell the difference? My Ion was sick, really sick, and I was having to keep my family from eating him. And the baby Ions are different kinds of sick. There are twins in liger litters too, you know." She shook her fingers at the knights and researchers, who would have run if they hadn't seen what had happened to the two who attempted it. "I wanted my Ion's body, and you threw it away?" Into the volcano. "Like you were going to throw away some of Ion's babies?"

The ligers' growls intensified, sharing her anger.

"You kept hurting Ion by making him read the stupid Score, and now he's dead. You're not going to make the baby Ions suffer like that, okay?"

Van Grants sighed, sounding mature even though he was only a decade older than her. "Arietta…"

A nearly-mature liger queen roared in his face. "Not even you, commandant! Ion liked you, but you're just like the rest!" She stamped her foot. "Ion's babies are my babies too, and anyone who hurts them is going to answer to me!"

That should have sounded ridiculous coming from a Daathic Lolita. It didn't. The bodies of the Oracle Knights who had obeyed Mohs' orders to stop her, the scorers and researchers who had tried to run, and the recently-elected Grand Maestro (Ion had killed his predecessor) testified to what that threat meant.

Trying to hide their fear of the beasts (but they could smell it, couldn't they), everyone looked to the commandant, the only one here with some chance of defeating them and getting anyone out of here alive. Arietta had little tact or talent for keeping secrets. If she weren't put down along with the spare replicas, soon all of Daath would know of the Fon Master's death and the lengths to which the Order had gone for lack of a heir.

One of the two rejects clutched the toy, looking out from behind it as though it was a shield from the strange and cruel world, while the other, with the fearlessness of those simultaneously already doomed to die and too young to know any better inched toward a larger Queen (Van recognized Arietta's mother: she must have gone for backup), only to be held down and licked. A reflexive little cry of surprise escaped the replica, who wiggled slightly for a bit before his body recognized the sensation as tickling and giggles started to escape.

The one he'd dubbed Sync looked at him for orders as the others desperately begged for help with their eyes, and the commandant's smile, somehow simultaneously wicked and paternal grew until finally he threw his head back and laughed.

The others quailed and Arietta smiled happily, knowing she'd gotten her way.

"Of course, Arietta, of course." His large hand patted her on the head the way she had the replicas. "Don't be too cross with Ion: he only wanted you to be happy. I should have known you wouldn't need to be protected like that. However, I'm afraid that some people don't think that replicas have a right to exist." His eyes looked around the room, meeting those of Mohs' supporters. Arietta followed his gaze. "I trust you'll be more than able to take care of them?"

"Of course, commandant. My mommy and I will take very good care of them." Ion's friend, and Ion's babies, wouldn't have to worry about a thing.

"Well, I'll leave you to it then." Van motioned his own people out of the room but gestured for Sync to stay. "Just remember what Ion told you about eating raw meat."

No one was able to really believe this was happening until the door clanged shut behind him.

The lastborn Ion's smile was stayed just as serene and innocent as his original's as the screaming started.

And quickly ended.