A/N: I must warn you; this is going to be very different from my usual style. It's slightly AU, for one thing, but never fear, Connie and Col will be the main characters. It'll be quite dystopian and a little bit dark as well, developing from how one discovery can completely overturn society. This chapter's purposely very vague, but fear not, it should make more sense as the story progresses, and it'll be the only one in present tense :) Written for Project Pull.

Prologue- Discovery

"We've found it," he breathes incredulously. With careful fingers, he removes the slide from the clips holding it in place on the microscope stage, gingerly pressing a gloved finger over the cover slip.

"Be careful," she hisses tersely. It is imperative that no harm comes to this miniscule, seemingly unassuming sample. Many other elements of the room are, in appearance, far more interesting to look at than the TEM microscope and glass slide currently holding the attention of the two scientists.

A fluorescently green liquid bubbles through a tank on the shelf, and lends a quiet, steady rhythm to the room's noise levels as it slowly empties its contents into the conical flask below it. A violet flame trapped inside a bell jar lets out intermittent belches of sparks, as if to ensure that it is not forgotten about. One of the cupboard doors is slightly ajar, revealing an abundance of white plastic bottles and containers, each marked with a different warning, arranged in endless rows.

However, these seem relatively innocuous in comparison to the shadowy glass jars on the shelf below, the contents of which range from commonplace to grotesque. Even the most innocent of samples, a spool of fine, silken unicorn hair, is transformed by the silhouettes cast upon it into woven cobwebs which retained its victims long after their demise.

The lights flicker momentarily, before resuming their task again. Every element of the room remains constant, and has remained constant, for the past four years. The reason behind the almost jealous privacy that prevailed over their hideaway was that such experiments as the ones that they carried out remained contraband while the subjects of their studies were not in the public domain. Due to this, they were compelled to remain in complete secrecy until their research was complete.

She reaches out with a latex-covered palm, and he slides the sample gently onto her hand. She reaches the other hand up to her face unconsciously, to ensure that she is fully protected, before quickly scraping the contents of the slide with a sterilized spatula into a Petri dish half-filled with gelatinous, transparent agar, and sealing the dish immediately. He holds out a plastic bag, and she lowers her hand through the opening, and only lets go of the dish when it settles in one of the bag's corners. She lets out a sigh of relief that she had not been aware of holding in, and the corners of his eyes finally crease upwards in evidence of a smile that his mask obscures.

"We've done it," he whispers, stunned, then pulls her into a hug. "We've done it!" he repeats joyfully, spinning her around the room. She pulls out from under his grasp and gives him a playful slap on the arm.

"Come on, genius. Time to clean up," she laughs as he begins to waltz around- badly- with the Petri dish held aloft in his hand "Whatever happened to maintaining a sterile environment?" she teases as she peels off her gloves. She disposes of them immediately, dropping them into a furnace in the corner of the laboratory, and her mask and the light plastic apron follow suit. Once the precious sample is safely stored in the correct conditions, he repeats her actions before they both leave the room, closing the door securely behind them.

The dimly lit, carpeted hallway is worlds away from the pristine, glowingly white laboratory they have just left. His enthusiasm is uncurbed by the change in environment, and he continues to enthuse over the project they have left behind. Unable to keep still, he paces up and down the corridor. In his single-mindedness, he comes very close to being felled by a forgotten potted plant whose leaves trail limply from the waterless soil. Undeterred, he carries on.

"Can you believe it?" he asks, shaking his head in disbelief. It is a gesture that is echoed only partially by his tone; it does not take long for the idea to seize hold of him completely. It seems that there are no other possible outcomes than the success that they had craved since they first undertook the project. "Can you believe that we were the ones to do it- what this will mean for the world?" His eyes gleam with thoughts of the possibilities. "This could be one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time!"

"We don't know yet," she cautions gently. "The most important step is to get verification. We can't trust it just on the basis of one good result." She pauses, searching for the right words to use. The art of criticism has never come easily to her, despite her highly logical nature. "We still haven't received permission to publish the results either. We have to consider the impact that it would make on the Society if we proclaimed it openly- it would destroy everything that they've worked for. Is it really worth it? We've done it, we've proved that there's a link there. Isn't that enough?" Her words fail to deflate his balloon of euphoria, and he shakes his head stubbornly.

"You can't think of it like that," he reprimands her. "That's selfish. It's gone through every test so far- there's no room for a margin of error. Isn't it better to sacrifice the ideals of few for the good of many?"

She opens her mouth to interrupt him. He anticipates it, but does not pause to let her speak, instead raises his own tone of voice to enforce his certainty of mind. "It would be a crime to keep this knowledge to ourselves, when so much could be done with it. Honestly, there's nothing to worry about."

Nonetheless, worry is evident in her eyes. "Trust me?" he asks pleadingly. It's a dirty trick- there's only one way in which she can respond, considering all they have been through together. She delays the words as long as possible, but eventually, she has no choice but to relent.

"Yes," she replies softly. "Yes, I trust you."