Aniko sighed and slumped down in her chair, idly glancing at the bank of monitors that took up most of the nurse's station she was assigned to. Being transferred to Dr. Hojo's research facility had seemed like a wonderful opportunity, a chance to distinguish herself in the eyes of Shinra's medical division and participate in exciting new breakthroughs… the reality was anything but. Long nights sent sitting in a bright, empty hallway, watching Hojo's various test subjects sleep on the monitors, attempting to piece together the experiments they were a part of from the cryptic reports left scattered around… she was even locked out of all but the most basic of the main computer's functions.

Returning her gaze to the monitors, she frowned. The first bank showed nothing but empty rooms, sterilely awaiting their next occupants. The second contained views of caged animals: mice, dogs, monkeys, and a few more exotic creatures she was hard-pressed to put names to. A mouse ran frantically on its exercise wheel, but otherwise there was no movement other than the soft rise and fall of slumbering sides.

The third bank was the most intriguing. Completely empty until a few days ago, one of the rooms now contained a young teenaged girl. Aniko once again scrutinized her carefully, wondering what her purpose here might be… and where she might have come from. Pretty enough, with a soft fall of brown hair obscuring blue eyes, she was nonetheless rather skinny and scruffy, although she seemed to take pains with her hygiene. None of Aniko's information made any reference to the girl; she had simply appeared one day, designated as project 63. Aniko had yet to see her rise from her bed, although she often lay awake at night, staring blankly at the ceiling.

Frustrated by her lack of knowledge, she turned to retrieve her magazine from the drawer at her elbow--and gasped at the apparition that had materialized beside the station.

The slender figure easily topped six feet; swathed in black, a long fall of silken white hair hung lankly, disappearing out of sight below his waist. Baleful green eyes were fixed intently on the monitors behind her; at her gasp, his fierce gaze shifted to her. Expressionless, he laid a plastic card on the counter and slid it towards her. "My authorization," he said, his voice a harsh whisper, incongruous with his angelic appearance.

Nervously, Aniko glanced around the hall as she slid the card into the computer's reader. She should have heard the automatic doors sliding open and closed, should have heard his footsteps echoing down the long hallway. Yet he stood before her, seeming almost to have materialized… the machine beeped.


Oh my God, him! No wonder he had been able to approach so silently… this was the famous warrior, his decorations and exploits unmatched, the one the newswires hinted was being groomed to lead the upcoming assault on Wutai; the one who never allowed interviews, or any public attention.

But what was he doing here?

His gaze had shifted back to the monitors. "Number… sixty three," he rasped. "I am to escort to another location."

The girl. Of course; why else the unusual visitor? "I'm sorry, sir," she said nervously, reluctant to meet his eyes, "but I'm not trained or authorized to handle subj--err, patients--"

"Then it is fortunate that I am," he interrupted. "See that I am not disturbed."

"Yes, sir," she answered quickly, removing his ID card from the reader and sliding it back to him. Without another word he spun on his heel and strode silently to the doors separating them from the subject area. The doors hissed open after he swiped his card, and shut seconds after he passed through them.

They had certainly been audible that time.