A/N: Sweet mother of God, here I go again: Crazy in literature format. You must all think I've bloody lost it. Well, let me tell you, I lost it a long time ago. Very long time ago. Sixth-grade long time ago. To put that in perspective, I'm a freshman in high school now.
So here I go again, giving you another thing to wait for. I really am glad for all of the patience that I get from my readers, and actually, as soon as I finish this, I'm going to update "A Year", "Chimera", "Iudicium," "Vampire," "Downfall," and perhaps then write some drabbles. Also, this is a modern tale; it takes place in our time period. And it involves genetic disorders/testing.
Disclaimer: I don't own D. Gray-man, just the plot. Katsura Hoshino takes all credit.
Chapter 1—Welcome to Umbre Corporation
August 17, 1993
As Doctor Marian Cross entered the stainless-steel-and-marble hallway of Umbre Corporation, an electronic voice spoke around him: "Welcome to Umbre Corporation. Please be aware of any and all safety measures put in place. For the welfare of our research, please refrain from disturbing any scientists or doctors at work…"
Just what I need to start the week off, the same-old same-old pre-recorded message, Cross thought to himself. It's the same deal every day.
Just as he situated himself in his seat before the elaborate PC setup, he was interrupted by a scientist higher on the work hierarchy entering the office and tossing a paper down onto the desk. "Cross, the boss wants to see you. Says he's got some government officials here to talk to you." The scientist then left, coffee in hand, and Cross rubbed his head and wondered why in the hell the government would want to speak with him. He then got up, and navigated the traffic in the hallway—mail-room interns, doctors, scientists, some men in suits, and a few visiting college students—to reach his supervisor's office.
Head Supervisor Komui was not an impressive-looking man. He was Chinese, with purply-black hair and dark eyes, usually covered by his prescription lenses. He always wore white and a matching beret, and he was incredibly short—he stood a mere five-foot-two, and was easily towered by Cross's lofty six feet.
"Doctor Cross! There you are. There are some men here from the CIA—they keep requesting to speak to you, and won't even look at me. They're sort of freaking me out. Anyways, they say it's urgent, so I sugg—"
"Supervisor, I understand you feel like talking, but it's eight in the morning, I've got some work to do, and I really am not in a good mood for talking today. Please… just shut up."
The supervisor shut up at Cross's request. "Now then. Those officials? What did they want?"
Komui shook his head and grabbed Cross's arm. "This way," he instructed. Cross rolled his eyes, but allowed himself to be dragged. The smaller man was surprisingly strong, besides—Cross didn't think he could escape Komui's grasp even if he tried.
There were two important-looking men standing in Komui's office. One was bald; the other had short black hair. They both didn't look up as Komui dragged Cross in; they simply slid a single paper across the table. "We need you to sign this contract of confidentiality; this is delicate information we're going to share with you. Should you not comply with the terms on the contract, we will be forced to take action and eliminate you to prevent you from threatening national security." Cross arched an eyebrow, picked up the paper, and began reading from the top. Komui tried to peer at the paper over his elbow, and Cross simply held it a bit higher.
The agent on the left pulled a pen from his pocket; Cross shook his head and retrieved his own from his lab coat. He signed the paper at the bottom and handed it back to the men, now with confusion in his eerily red eyes.
"Now then. As you know, Umbre Corporation is in close competition with another genetic corporation, Nova Corporation, to complete the Human Genome Project. Recently, however, on a CIA-based inspection of the Nova facility, we discovered their test subjects—they were using genetically modified human DNA to test. This DNA was monitored closely, as well as the four test subjects that they used—human test subjects. As you know, the testing of genetics and like sciences is forbidden on humans and is reinforced to the farthest extent of the law, not only for ethical reasons, but for the sake of the society in which the government protects. As a result of this revelation, Nova Corporation has been shut down and their four test subjects taken into custody."
Cross simply stared blankly. "What does this have to do with me, exactly? And just how does it threaten national security?"
"We're getting to that. If other countries knew that we had corporations running genetic tests on humans, their beliefs of the ethical system may lead to conflict. These test subjects were all in critical physical condition when taken in. Nova was working on discovering the genetic mutations that caused hundreds of different genetic disorders; they were testing them on these subjects. While they have all been stabilized, they are in need of immediate genetic fingerprinting, identification, and gene therapy to attempt to help them to recover and grow into normally functioning human beings."
"Wait. They're not grown yet?"
"Yes; according to our physicians, they're all under the age of one year."
"Jesus. Why would Nova try something like this?"
The CIA agent on the right spoke this time. "You know how companies can act. They want the fame, and the fortune, and the name of being the company who discovered the entire human genome. They want to be the ones who cured Huntington's, cancer, PKU, hemophilia… you name it. They were willing to try anything. They went so far as to break the law, and now they've got no right to any of it. We have transferred the research and results of various tests to the property of Umbre Corporation, and your team and colleagues are to resume their daily business of pulling apart the genetic code. You, on the other hand, are going to be taking charge of one of the four Nova subjects. Komui will be taking another; as will Doctors Bookman and Tiedoll. Bookman and Tiedoll have already been briefed on the situation; they're on their way to the CIA headquarters. I suggest you both join them; they're going to be waiting for you before anything can happen. Your job is to ensure that whichever Nova subject you are given custody of lives properly in the facility housing center, and receives proper care in terms of gene therapy and social contact. We expect you will be able to handle this task, Doctor Cross?"
Cross stared for a moment before nodding. "Yes, I believe so. Thank you, Agents…?"
"Crawford and Beuxarton. And honestly, do keep this conversation a secret. Act as if it never happened." (A/N: It's Bo-are-ton. I felt the need to spell it fancy-like)
The single block between the CIA headquarters and the enormous Umbre Facilty was as busy as the fifteenth story where Cross's office was located. It took Cross a full half hour to make it from one parking lot to the other; Bookman and Tiedoll were waiting impatiently when Cross and Komui exited the silver Mazda. "About damn time," Bookman grumbled. Out of all of them, Bookman was the oldest, and was smaller even than Komui. He also strongly believed that as a senior member of Umbre, he deserved to be the head supervisor, rather than the twenty-eight-year-old college prodigy that was Komui Lee.
The CIA building was plain and filled with even more important-looking people. Everyone wore some sort of solid black suit, dark shades, and expensive looking shoes. Cross looked down at his own white lab coat and brown loafers, and felt like the giant elephant in the middle of the room. A few other agents looked up, muttered something to each other, and directed the four scientists into a dimly lit room. Inside, there were several other agents and a total of five physicians. I think I've had enough CIA for a long while, was all Cross could think.
The one physician who wasn't doing anything looked up. "Ah, about time. I am Doctor Renner (A/N: Yes, the guy from "A Year"), and I'm the head physician here. I've heard a lot about all of your reputations as geneticists. I honestly do hope that you can all help save the lives of these children."
Cross frowned. "Where exactly are the Nova experiments?"
"Ah… they're all over here. My team has been keeping an eye on them; they've been stabilized, but they're young, and therefore could relapse very quickly, with lethal results. I believe they've all got at least one severe genetic problem, and possibly more. I, of course, am no expert, though. On the offhand, these children will require special treatment for a majority of their childhood, possibly through their teenage years, and there is a chance through adulthood. I was brought to believe that they would be taken care of by you four and housed in the Umbre Facility, yes?"
"Yes, that is what we were told. It would help if we could see them," Tiedoll said quickly. Cross shot him a sideways glare.
Renner seemed slightly taken aback by Tiedoll's sharp tone, but shrugged it off and replied with, "Follow me."
Further in the room, where the four other physicians were, there were four of the smallest children Cross had ever seen. The agents from earlier in the day hadn't been kidding; they couldn't have been more than a year old. One had bright red hair, and seemed to be lacking an eye. Two were of Asian descent; one was a girl, and shared the similar sharp features and tinted black hair of Komui. The other was simply possessing stark black hair. The fourth was by far the smallest; there was a partially healed cut over one side of his face, and his hair was silver-white.
Komui sidled up beside Cross. "Jeez. Cross, y'notice anything obvious about them yet?" Tiedoll and Bookman both looked up at Komui's comment; before they both leaned down to examine the babies before them as well.
"The boy with the cut and the white hair is most likely albino. That's all I can tell, though."
Renner appeared behind them again. "You can all take your pick of which you're assigned to," he said brightly. This guy… he's too bubbly, Cross thought to himself.
Bookman's eyes fell on the redheaded boy. "I will take charge of this one," he said, pointing to clarify his choice. Renner nodded, and wrote something on his clipboard.
Tiedoll made his choice next. "The Asian boy will be mine," he stated in his blunt manner.
Komui looked at Cross questioningly. "You first, or me?" Cross simply shrugged in an 'I don't care' manner, and Komui straightened. "I'll take the girl," he said. This left Cross with the white-haired boy.
"I believe it's obvious who will belong to me," Cross said to Renner. Renner nodded, and continued writing on his clipboard.
Renner finished writing something, tapped the board with his pen, and dropped both the pen and the clipboard onto a nearby table. "Very well, they will be brought to Umbre Facility for you later this afternoon. Until then, continue with your daily schedules."
Tap, tap, tap. Cross's pen kept resounding off of the glass surface of his desk. He was impatient, and his eyes were sore from staring at line after line of G's, A's, T's, and C's.
It'd been three hours since his morning meeting and sudden new job. Definitely not a normal Monday, and indeed, it was not.
There was a knock on the door. Cross looked up into Bookman's wrinkled face. "They're here, in the living facility. You ready?" the old man said quickly. Cross nodded and gladly closed the folder in front of him.
"Let's go," he said. Bookman smirked and led the way to Umbre's extensive living facilities. That part of the building was underground, hiding under the fifteen aboveground stories that were visible to the average person.
Down this far beneath the Earth, the air was heavily filtered and the lights were very bright. There were windows that showed off a false view of a fake city, and the walkways were partially carpeted, and partially made of tile. Hundreds of doors lined the wide hallways, and over half of Umbre's faculty and staff lived within the very building. Cross was the only one in the group of four who did not live within the building.
He instantly was able to spot Renner. The man's sense of importance made him stick out like a sore thumb amongst those with lab coats and scrubs on. The blond doctor gave him a broad smile and a cheery hello. Still too bubbly. I don't like this guy, Cross thought
"Doctor Cross!" the man said warmly. Cross's eye twitched. He was never a 'warm' person.
"Yes… that's me…" Cross said between his teeth. This guy really got on his nerves.
"Come, come, this way! Nova Subject 04 is waiting."
Okay. That doesn't sit right. Someone shouldn't be named as "Subject."
Name… name… think of a name…
"Call him Allen," Cross said in response. Wait. What? Where did that come from?
Renner nodded. "Allen, then. Allen is awaiting. Don't fail him, Cross." With that, he clapped Cross on the back and walked down the hallway, to where Tiedoll was standing.
Cross opened the door of the room. The room beyond the door was somewhat lab-like. There were computers scattered over several desks, and there was a stainless steel lab table in the middle. There was a partition, and beyond that lay what looked like an ordinary bedroom.
One of the physicians from earlier stood with Nova Subject 04—now Allen—in his arms. He looked up, confirmed it was Cross, and gently, but quickly, handed the infant to the towering doctor before hurrying away.
Cross gawked at the door for a sparse moment before he turned his attention to the infant in his arms. The boy was still asleep.
Cross ran a hand over the soft white skin of his face. Definitely albinism. I'm wondering where he got that cut, though.
Cross set the boy down on the too-large steel table. He withdrew a syringe from a marked drawer. Slowly, he took a small sample of blood, sealing the wound left behind with a bandage. He then mixed half of the sample with the nearby detergent and withdrew the genetic material left behind by spooling it on a sample rod. The other half was to be set aside for the gel electrophoresis. He then placed the sample under a microscope and began to sort out the chromosomes.
The giemsa that he usually used to stain the chromosomes was absent from the small lab. He settled for simply staring long and hard at the various lines that filled his vision.
He set the microscope to send the results to the photo printer in his office. He then returned to Allen, still in a catatonic state on the table. He wasn't at all sure what he had to do; he'd never been good with kids in the first place.
I guess I'll figure it out later, he thought. He set the kid down on the bed—which looked utterly ridiculous, really—and made sure the lab was shut down properly before exiting.
-Time Lapse: Six years. Present date: October 9, 1999-
"Allen! Time to get up!" There was an incessant knocking at the door. Allen cracked an eye and stared through the glass partition at the door to his room.
"Al-len! You in there?" Now that Allen recognized. It was Lavi, one of the other kids who lived in Umbre.
The small, pale boy padded over to the door. The tiles beneath his feet were cold, and made his toes want to curl inwards. He pulled on the shiny doorknob, frowning when it stuck, and gave it a sharp twist to the right.
The door swung open, efficiently hitting him in the nose. A bit of blood dribbled out of his nostrils. Allen glared with his pale eyes at the bouncing redhead in front of him.
"Lavi! Cross isn't even here yet! Why are you here?"
The boy shrugged. "I was bored, and the panda-doc was taking forever to get here."
Allen quickly grabbed the bridge of his nose. "Dude, your nose is bleeding," Lavi warned.
Allen gave him a sharp glare before digging his hand into a nearby cabinet. He pulled out a tissue, which was promptly stuffed into the bleeding orifice. Lavi chuckled a bit.
"What! It's not so funny when you could die from a nosebleed!"
Oh, yeah. On top of being albino, Allen had hemophilia. These were the results of meticulous genetic fingerprinting on Cross's part.
Lavi, on the other hand, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and was colourblind in his one good eye. The other two children—Kanda and Lenalee—had their own share of problems. Kanda had muscular dystrophy; he never got around much out of his room. Lenalee, on the other hand, had shown signs of carrying Huntington's, and was closely monitored.
Each of the children had always wondered where they came from. Allen somehow knew it was not, by any means, the 'normal procedure'; Cross wouldn't ever say anything but 'it's complicated,' and Tiedoll never really showed his face. Lenalee was usually with Komui up on the fifteenth story of the building, and that left Bookman, who never really spoke to Allen.
This, obviously, left too much to mystery to trouble themselves over it.
A/N: Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we're done! Chapter one! Seven pages! Hours of research! And it's not even that good!
Egads. I'm tired.