"Hey, kid!"

The sudden voice startled Ienzo, making him stumble forward slightly before regaining his balance. Before he could turn to look who it was, a firm arm was abruptly around his shoulders in a mock-friendly gesture. The boy glanced up, slightly unnerved to see the grinning, scarred face of Braig staring down at him. Ienzo stopped walking, but offered no greeting to his superior.

Braig raised a quizzical eyebrow at the boy, waiting for him to say anything. But, like he had thought, the child said nothing but only gave the man a nearly emotionless look.

"Y'know, kid, it's always good to greet people," the guard criticized, adding in a sageful, slow nod to enhance this wisdom. "Like a 'Hello Braig, how are you doin'' or even 'Hi there Braig, you're looking exceptionally awesome today.'"

Ienzo, in reply, just slightly raised his only visible eyebrow. He thought Braig was sort of weird. Why did you need to greet people?

"Anywho, I need to ask a little favor of you, little dude," Braig continued, apparently getting to his initial reason for finding the little kid. Ienzo blinked. What could Braig possibly ask him for?

"Well, y'know how we've been workin' on the heart and all that?" Braig asked, his eyes trained directly on Ienzo. The boy nodded silently and the guard grinned. "Me and Xehanort have been thinkin' that maybe we should get some larger space to experiment more. Y'know, like an entire lab. Wouldn't that be awesome?"

Ienzo stared and tilted his head somewhat in a wondering manner. A lab for their experiments? They already had a lab… It wasn't large, but it suited its purpose well enough. Why would Braig and Xehanort want another larger one?

"Why?" Ienzo asked simply, his voice sounding soft from its lack of use. Braig smirked in response to the boy's question, straightening up and looking away.

"Ah, hell, Ienzo, our experiments are doin' okay right now, but you and I both know that they're getting bigger and better, and that means we're gonna' need more space to do 'em," Braig explained. He turned his attention back to the boy and his smirk lessened into a grin. "Wouldn't it be great to find all the mysteries of the heart for everyone to know?"

Well, yes… that would be pretty great, Ienzo thought to himself. But he still didn't understand why Braig was telling him all this. What favor did he need that had to do with the lab?

"What do you need me for?" Ienzo asked curiously.

Braig's grin grew. "See kid, I don't think me askin' Ansem for the lab would do any good. Same with Xehanort, even."

The boy let the first emotion flicker across his face at the mention of Xehanort. Ever since that man had arrived here, Ienzo hadn't trusted him. Something about him – was it his manner, his aura? He wasn't sure, exactly. But something seemed off with the amnesiac man, but he couldn't tell Master Ansem. His adoptive father had taken Xehanort in and eagerly helped him recuperate, so telling him that this new student of his might be bad just because Ienzo had a nagging feeling about it wouldn't end well. At least Ienzo thought it wouldn't, and he couldn't bear to think of Ansem saying he was only imagining things.

But still… why did Braig and Xehanort find it somehow necessary to whisper together when in a room, or stop speaking abruptly when Ienzo saw them talking to one another? They seemed too ominously suspicious.

Sometimes, even Braig made Ienzo more nervous than Xehanort did. Ever since his remaining eye had turned that odd yellow color, he emitted a dark feeling to him that the ten year old didn't like.

"So we were thinking, you know, since you and Ansem were so close," Braig continued, interrupting Ienzo's thoughtful reverie, "that you could ask for the underground lab."

The boy was suddenly confused. Did he say "underground" lab?

"Under.. underground?" Ienzo repeated, giving Braig a both questioning and lost look.

The guard nodded. "Yeah. Underground. Never know if an experiment might get outta' hand!" Braig laughed, finding it funny. Ienzo's eyes widened. What did he mean by that?

What experiment might get out of hand so badly that it had to be underground?

Ienzo might have only been a little ten year old, but he was far from stupid.

"I don't want to ask," the boy said firmly, rolling back his shoulders somewhat to look bigger (as if that could help – the kid was achingly small).

Braig's grin slowly dissipated into an irritated scowl, his brows bunching together as he stared the boy down. Ienzo tried to look back at him in an attempt to be brave, but the longer the older guard stared at him silently, the more anxious the ten year old became, and he sheepishly looked away after a moment, letting his eyes drift to stare at the floor.

"You don't want to ask?" Braig repeated, and suddenly his grip around the boy's shoulders became slightly tighter. Ienzo stiffened. And then, much to the boy's surprise, the guard laughed, and Ienzo glanced back up at him from the corner of his visible eye.

"Ienzo, think about it, little dude. With this lab, we could help everyone in Radiant Garden. Y'know how Ansem said that there's a threat of darkness everywhere? We could totally eradicate it, and everyone you love would be safe and sound. And hey, if you helped, think of how proud Ansem would be of you. It's for the greater good, kiddo."

Ienzo swallowed quietly, but still did not turn his attention to Braig. In silence he mulled over to himself of what Braig was saying – yes, Master Ansem had said that darkness was creeping in from all sides on their beloved world, and that the experiments they were doing now would hopefully help kill the threat. But what Braig was saying, it wouldn't be enough to help… and the ten year old didn't want that. And Master Ansem would be proud of him for helping, wouldn't he? The 'greater good' sounded like a big deal, and Ienzo desperately wanted to help instead of standing at the sidelines, but what the guard had said before, about experiments getting out of hand, continued the bother the boy.

"But… you said that the experiments might get dangerous," Ienzo said, carefully choosing his words. "So why would we do them at all? I don't want anyone to get hurt…"

Braig comradely patted the boy's shoulders and laughed lowly, nodding in response to Ienzo's concerns. "Aw, hey, kid, no one'll get hurt. Sure, the experiments might be a little dangerous, but if it's for the good of Radiant Garden, then hey, it's for the best, right?"

The ten year old finally looked back up at Braig as he tried to decide whether asking Ansem for the underground lab was for the best. Braig said it would help Radiant Garden.

So yes, he supposed having a laboratory would be for the "greater good," as the guard had put it…

And in that respect, it'd be a good thing to ask Master Ansem. It'd help people with their research.

Right?

"Well… okay," Ienzo said, finally deciding that having a larger laboratory could really help them out with their experimentation. And science could be pretty dangerous, but if it was in best interest of their world, then it wouldn't be so bad to put up with.

"You mean you'll do it?" Braig asked, his grin becoming as wide as ever. Ienzo nodded. "Nice choice, little dude! That lab's gonna' help us all." The guard's arm finally left the boy's shoulders. "Now go ahead and ask him now – don't want to wait with a big favor like that."

"Okay," Ienzo replied simply. Braig gave him a thumbs up and walked back the way he came, and the boy watched him leave.

Ienzo turned on his heel and started walking to Master Ansem's study. As he walked, the boy really couldn't help but agree that yes, a new larger laboratory would really help them with their experiments, which would then help Radiant Garden from darkness. His enthusiasm grew, but the apathetic look on his face did not betray any sign of the feeling. He was finally going to help.


"Yo, Master!"

Xehanort stopped walking, bracing himself in irritation for that all-too-familiar smack of the shoulder. When Braig's hand landed, the head scientist barely flinched, though shot the guard a miffed look which the other ultimately ignored.

"So, I got good news," Braig started, and Xehanort raised a thin brow.

"Oh?" The scientist said, sounding curious.

Braig grinned like a shark. "Uh huh. The kid's gonna' ask Ansem to build the lab. Our plans are finally starting. Pretty damn good work on my part, right?"

Xehanort smirked, apparently pleased with the news. After months of planning it was beginning to take hold. "What did you tell him?"

The guard's grin transformed into a clever smirk. "Told him it was for the best – y'know, all that sappy stuff about saving this world. He totally bought it."

The head scientist nodded. "Good. Let us hope, then, that Master Ansem will listen to him."

The guard laughed. "Dude, Ansem loves that kid. He'll do whatever he wants."

Xehanort smiled in response. "Good, then. And the other apprentices? What have you told them?"

Braig shrugged vaguely, looking away and staring down the hall in a bored fashion. "Just told 'em we were going to research darkness more – Even totally jumped on board the minute I said 'more research.'" The guard smirked in amusement. "Dude's a total sucker for that kinda' stuff. Dilan and Aeleus were a bit more wary, since I guess Ansem basically tabooed the world 'darkness,' but hey, they agreed to help out. They looked pretty damn curious."

Xehanort smirked. "Well done, Braig."

"Well hey, dude. I try."


A/N: Well, this is my first fanfiction on here. 'C: This was only a one shot, but I really hope to be.. I dunno, motivated to write more!