Okay this is my fic for the KBL reversebang that was organized on livejournal!
I worked with the amazing Alibody (over on tumblr, go check her out!) to create this fic. Her art is spectacular and she is just a wonderful person; I enjoyed every moment of working with her!
Also, thank you so somuch to my beta, Sandra, she was a huge help and really efficient! Love love for youu! :D
Rated T for violence, minor sexual abuse and minor character death
I hope you enjoy!
One fidgets uncomfortably under the white glare of the overhead lights. The room is empty apart from himself and the multitude of wires and tubes trailing from his bare body. As always it's cold and the pristine, stainless steel floor sends shivers running up and down his hairless legs. He sees himself in the reflection of the huge glass pane in front of him, it's one-way so they can see him but One can't see them. His reflection is pale as usual; too pale he's been told over and over, but they're working on that, changing pigments and proteins to form every shade imaginable. He flushes at the unbroken view of his own body, moving his hand as he has done a thousand times before to cover himself only to be jolted back by the familiar pulse of the electric shock that burns him. He's surprised he hasn't learned his lesson by now; they want to see.
One's least favourite day, without a doubt, is Inspection Day, but then, what is there to like about being marched into a stark white, freezing cold room, completely naked, and then having someone tell you every tiny thing that is wrong with your body? Well, could he really call it his body? It didn't feel like his body.
"Prototype One" A robotic voice announces from a lone speaker placed just under the glass. Prototype One, that's One's full name and he hates it. Kurt he thinks, my name is Kurt. He isn't sure why they bothered giving him that name at all –they never use it – but it's a real, human name and it's all he has to remind himself that he is, in fact, human. After all, everything else about his existence is anything but human; Kurt feels like a machine, created by these scientists to serve one purpose: to be nothing less than perfect in every single way.
"Please turn to your left," the voice instructs and Kurt does so, keen to avoid another shock. He stands there in silence for a few moments until the voice instructs him to turn yet again so that his back is facing the glass. He tenses as he can feel the countless number eyes of behind the glass scrutinizing over every last inch of his body. Vulnerability plagues him every time he enters this room.
Eventually he's facing the front again and the worst is yet to come. After the visual examination comes the list.
"Thank you Prototype One," the metallic voice says before listing each and every flaw the examiners found on Kurt's body.
Nose too wide
Those are the points he hears week in week out, they haven't yet altered the genes to 'fix' them yet but nonetheless they make the effort to point them out with each examination. Then there are the things that change with each inspection:
He can't help if he has spots. They can though, and development into the reduction of acne is currently taking place.
Eyebrows too thick
Kurt sighs. That means more body hair reduction. They'd already altered that gene before; it was one of the first things they changed when he had hit puberty and now he was forever unable to grow hair on his legs or underarms or anywhere else that wasn't his head, his body simply didn't have the means to do so.
The list goes on and on and Kurt feels each comment like a physical strike. He has one job in life one job and he can't even do that right.
"Thank you Prototype One. Please exit via the door on your right." The wires release themselves from Kurt and retreat to the small box located next to the speaker before he moves to leave, passing Two on his way out.
"Prototype Two," he hears the voice announce before the door slides shut, locking automatically.
Kurt takes the grey robe hung beside an identical one on an adjacent hook in the conjoining chamber, flinging it over his shoulders and fastening the front though he doesn't see why he should bother, he's only going to take it off again shortly. He exits through another automatic door, leaving Two to his inspection.
Kurt finds himself, predictably, in the painfully plain waiting room. Three and Four sit on the pale green sofa, waiting for inspection, except their names aren't Three and Four their names are Jay and Grace. The only people who refer to them by numbers are the scientists who run the Dalton Research Laboratory and Jay, number Three. Kurt's fairly certain he's never heard Jay utter anything other than their numbers on the rare occasions she talks to them.
Still, Kurt offers an encouraging smile to both girls. Grace, sitting with both hands clasped between her knees, returns it with her own delicate smile, though it looks more like a grimace, while Jay only glares at him coldly. Kurt never did like Jay anyway. Kurt is then hastily ushered out by a white Lab Coat. That's all they are to him, Lab Coats with different hair styles. The Lab Coat – this one with a shaved head – leads him through the familiar hallway as he does every week after the visual inspection. Kurt knows what's coming, it's difficult not to. He follows, trailing slightly behind as he brushes a finger against the shiny steel walls of the building. Everything is so clean and he feels a small sense of satisfaction at the fingerprints he leaves behind on the surface, blemishing its flawless sheen.
"You know the drill, One," the Lab Coat says standing by yet another automated door. Kurt undoes the grey robe, handing it to the Lab Coat who then presses a code into a keypad on the wall. The door opens immediately and Kurt steps through shortly before it slides shut silently. He waits; it is difficult to tell whether he's moving or not, the elevator makes no noise whatsoever and the only indication that he's moved at all is when the door opens once more to reveal a new room with several more Lab Coats to greet him. Two of them, one with short blond hair and a red head with a ponytail grab a bare arm on either side and guide him to the examination table, the cold examination table.
The room is much less empty than the visual inspection room, besides the Lab Coats themselves, the room consists of numerous shelves containing strange devices that Kurt isn't sure he wants to find out the purpose for. Needles of all shapes and sizes, bottles filled with strangely coloured liquids and four neatly lined up syringes all inhabit the room despite them never actually being used.
"Prototype one," the last Lab Coat, a mature, grey-haired man announces as he reads from his clipboard. "Are you ready for your weekly physical examination?" Kurt remains silent as he perches himself upon the icy metal. It's not as if he could say anything to change what was about to happen. The visual examination was bad enough but the physical was nothing more than a violation of his body. He doesn't much like the feeling of being probed by people though he prefers it by far to being probed by a machine. They register his oxygen level, blood sugar level, blood pressure, heart rate and so on, the female Lab Coats writing numbers down as they are read out from the monitor Kurt is hooked up to.
"Open your mouth," the grey-haired Lab Coat instructs and Kurt obliges as a thermometer is placed under his tongue.
"Have you been feeling feverish?" Kurt shakes his head, no. "Coughing or sneezing fits?"
No. The answer is always no.
"Nausea or dizziness?"
Another shake of the head.
"Anything at all you think we might need to know?" the Lab Coat is patient and somewhat gentle with his questioning as he removes the thermometer but it's not enough to bring Kurt to like him.
"No," he answers with finality.
More tubes and wires are attached to his body, collecting data for every imaginable variable. A blood sample is taken, the piercing needle still causing Kurt to flinch despite the hundreds of times they have done this before. He sees the thick red liquid seeping into the small vial, his own blood, though really it never belonged to him in the first place.
When it seems the Lab Coats have finished probing him, they gather at the desk on the other side of the room, Kurt sitting stiffly on the metal table, legs hanging obsoletely. They gather their notes arranging and compare thoughts as they do every week. Kurt catches snippets of their conversation; Skin feels dry, hair too thin, fingernails are brittle, more flaws, more imperfections. They never comment on the good things, only on what needs improving.
The grey haired Lab Coat hands Kurt a fresh robe, signifying the end of the physical examination as he is directed towards the next room. The door slides shut behind him as they begin preparing for Two's arrival. In the next room, only one Lab Coat is awaiting him, a dark haired man with an unfriendly face but a kind voice. The room is very much like the previous one, medical equipment lines the shelves and the same four syringes sit in a perfect line amongst the clutter of instruments.
"Prototype One, have a seat." Kurt does so, glad that his examination is almost over for the week and forever thankful that he's allowed to remain clothed for the remainder. Several moments pass in silence as the Lab Coat scribbles notes down on his clipboard. Kurt has no idea what he could possibly have so much to write about.
"Okay," he eventually begins, "if you could cover one eye and read aloud each row of letters on the chart." Kurt reads the letters with ease as he does every week. The Lab Coat is pleased; the genes for perfect eyesight are likely to be popular when they are ready to go on sale.
They do some small exercises, a memory game, problem solving, the Lab Coat even has Kurt juggle three small balls to test his hand eye coordination as he constantly scrawls down notes.
"Thank you, One. I think we're finished for this week," the Lab Coat concluded and Kurt moves to the elevator, waiting patiently for him to punch in the pass code. On his way down (he was fairly sure it was down at least) Kurt quickly runs his mind through everything he had learned the past week; the written examination was last.
The same shaved headed Lab Coat from before meets him when the elevator doors slide open and he is lead once again through another impossibly shiny hallway.
They reach the final room, the same white walls, the same cold floor; he wished he could be allowed to wear shoes for the rest of the day at least. A lone desk and chair is placed in the centre of the room, metal and cold like everything else with a test paper and a pen placed neatly on top. Kurt takes a seat facing the mirror-like glass where he knows there are people watching him from behind as he waits. He can't start yet, he needs to be connected. Several seconds of silence pass before things begin to move. Thick metal wires emerge from the black box below the glass, they snake towards him writhing and almost alive as Kurt clenches his teeth. They slither up his legs, several attaching themselves there and others moving further upwards. Some bond to his arms and he watches with morbid curiosity as the head of one breaks off into hundreds of miniscule fibres, no thicker than a strand of hair, and embed themselves in his skin. He feels nothing more than a slight tingle vibrating through his body but no pain. Most of the wires climb higher, reaching his head as they begin to penetrate. There is the central point for the examination; brain activity. He waits for them to bond, scrunching his eyes tight as the tingling reaches his head and tapping his fingers nervously against the cool, metal desk.
"You have one hour. Please answer every question. Good luck," another metallic voice announces from the speaker. Kurt shivers slightly, adjusting himself to the new attachments before picking up the provided pen and getting to work. Throughout the week they are given lessons, mostly in mathematics but also history, languages, essay writing and a brief amount of literature; the books they are permitted to read are limited. They are not however taught science; science is forbidden. Every Sunday, on inspection day they are given an exam to test their ability to learn and retain knowledge. Mostly the test covers things they have learned recently but sometimes a question is thrown in from something they covered months or even years ago.
A clock is projected onto the wall to his left and Kurt begins. The written examination is the least mortifying part of inspection day. He's still being watched but at least he can be clothed and he usually scores fairly high on the test, giving him one thing at the very least to feel good about himself for.
Just like his physical appearance, it is essential that Kurt also has a perfect mind. The genes that developed his brain will sell for a lot once they are perfected and in order for that to happen, the Lab Coats need to register just how efficient his brain already is.
Kurt is a Mod, also recognised as a Genetically Engineered and Modified Life Form. He is human to an extent, he has human cells, human DNA, human genes, but his entire existence was built piece by piece by scientists. Every gene in his body was constructed individually, the polynucleotides were constructed from organic bases formed in laboratories and the genome painstakingly sequenced over years of development.
The purpose of Kurt and the three other Mods is to be completely and utterly perfect in every way possible. Each gene was constructed with specific traits in mind, desirable traits with the intention of being sold to the public once the development is complete. Every tiny fraction of Kurt that could be improved in the slightest is pinpointed and amended. There are easy fixes, his hair colour that has been darkened, eye pigments that have been altered and the body hair that he is no longer able to grow. Other, larger, visible flaws are recorded and the specific gene for that aspect is located in a DNA sample and changed, ready for implantation in the next generation of Mods while at the same time measures are taken place to alter the same aspects on the existing Mods, usually through surgical means.
People crave perfection and many of the simpler genes are already available. Parents-to-be buy the traits they want their children to be born with, traits that have been grown on the four Mods over years of development. The process comes at a price, currently ranging between $1,000 to $15,000, though they predict, once the advance genes for brain activity and vital organs have been perfected, those prices will reach well above $250,000.
Kurt finishes the last question, smiling at what he's fairly certain is the correct answer and glancing towards the projection of a clock; still fifteen minutes left of his assigned hour, he always finishes early. He revises his answers one last time before waiting out the remainder of the hour, his fingers once again tapping absently on the desk.
A high-pitched screech echoes around the room when the hour is up. The clock fades away and the wires begin to disentangle themselves from him as the door slides open, releasing him from the white room. No voices, nothing to announce that he is finished because it is never finished, he will come back at the end of next week and do the same thing all over again.
At the door, the white Lab Coat is waiting for him to take him back to the recreation room. One good thing about inspection day is that they are given the rest of the day to themselves, a break from the constant experiments and education they are put through.
Kurt is the first to arrive back, the others all still taking the written examination. He quickly changes out of the generic robe and into the slightly-less-generic-than-regular clothing that has been laid out for him beside the door before taking his place on the soft white sofa, picking up where he left off in the book he was reading. It's a difficult story to follow as he doesn't understand much - or anything really - about the world outside the laboratory and relies on his imagination to provide an image for most things. Creatures that he's only ever heard the name of take various different shapes and sizes in his mind and Kurt wonders if he's even close to what they really look like.
It isn't long before the familiar sliding of the automatic doors interrupts Kurt from his book as Two moodily storms into the rec room, snatching his own pile of clothes and ripping off the white robe. Kurt rolls his eyes at the other boy; it's not like they've never seen each other naked but a little courtesy isn't too much to ask.
"Welcome back, Sebastian," Kurt says, falsely optimistic as he returns to his book.
"I can't stand it, I just. Can't. Stand it," Sebastian fumes, clenching his fist as he breathes a shaky huff. He takes a seat next to Kurt, resting his elbows on his knees while clawing at his hair in frustration. Kurt puts down his book as he gives Sebastian an annoyed look. It would be easier to sympathize with Sebastian if he didn't give the same affected spiel every week. "My front teeth are too big, I'm too tall, too thin, what do they want from me? Last week I was too chubby and the week before that they said I was too short," he says helplessly
"It can't be for much longer," Kurt says comfortingly, though it's more for himself than Sebastian. "Soon they'll be ready to start the cloning, then they'll have a new generation to work with, one that's closer to what they want than we are and they won't have any use for us. Maybe they'll let us go," Kurt says matter-of-factly though Sebastian only scoffs.
"You really think they'll just let us go?" he asks condescendingly. Kurt shrugs.
"What else do we have to hope for?" he asks rhetorically, eyes distant as he tries not to imagine the unthinkable.
"You're right, maybe they'll let us go," Sebastian says though Kurt knows he's only trying to patronise him. "How was your inspection?"
"Same as always," Kurt says sighing, "I think I did well on the written exam though."
"Yeah we'll see about that."
"Please, like you'll ever come close to beating my 94 from last month," Kurt sneers.
Competing is all they have to keep them going. With nothing else to occupy them with other than learning, it has become a weekly tradition between Sebastian and Kurt to outdo each other on the written exam.
Sebastian stands, making his way to the chess table beside the sofa. He picks up the white King and throws it to Kurt who catches it effortlessly.
"Game?" Kurt smiles despite himself, abandoning the book to join Sebastian at the table.
They play three games, Kurt winning two of them, before Jay storms in.
"Bad day, Scalpelface?" Sebastian asks nonchalantly as he moves his knight.
"Shut up, Two," she fumes as she stands before the mirror, poking and prodding at her own face. "They still don't like my lips," she mutters angrily. Out of the four of them, Jay has had the most alterations done by surgery though you wouldn't be able to tell from looking at her. Everything looks natural, as it should be, but the face staring coldly through the mirror is the not the face Kurt remembers from even just a year ago. He does feel sorry for her but he knows there's no use in showing his sympathy, she'd only throw it back in his face. Fortunately, he doesn't have to put up with her much as Inspection Day is the only day he and Sebastian are with the girls for any length of time. During the week their daily schedules don't match up for longer than five minutes and they're only forced together for a brief amount of time in the evening. The girl snatches up her pile of clothes and storms to the changing room; she doesn't come out again.
"Checkmate," Kurt says in a bored voice as Grace finally returns, looking gloomy but without the furiousness that Sebastian and Jay had entered with. She takes her clothes and goes to the changing room without a word, returning not long after, still looking glum.
"You okay?" Kurt asks and she nods in reply as he stands, allowing her to take his place as Sebastian arranges the table for a new game. Kurt returns to his book, grinning to himself every time Grace beats Sebastian at chess. He envies their bond; they are both the creation of Professor Jameson and their genotype has a lot of similarities. Anyone who didn't know would probably assume they were related from looking at them and especially so from the way Sebastian cares for her. She's the only person Kurt has ever seen him act anything less than aggressive towards so he's glad for that. They all need something, Kurt has his books; Sebastian has Grace.
The time passes quickly and soon the huge black screen that decorates the otherwise empty walls of the rec room comes to life, Kurt, Sebastian and Grace all drop what they were doing to pay attention. First the date is shown in thick white letters against the dark screen before their individual alteration schedules for the week are shown. Kurt is first and he's relieved to see they won't be operating on him this week but he's still scheduled for somatic cell gene therapy on Wednesday. Sebastian is next and, like him, he only has gene therapy to deal with for the week. Jay's number three fills the screen but she still hasn't returned from the changing room, understandable when he sees the two operations she's scheduled for as well as gene therapy. Lastly, a number four replaces Jay's busy schedule, but nothing follows, no therapy, no operations, nothing. Grace is close to what the Lab Coats are trying to achieve - not perfect, but close. They've already taken note of everything they want different and her second generation clone is already being developed. This would be a good thing except Kurt knows she gets a lot of hassle from Jay for it, Jay who is probably the furthest from perfect out of all of them. That, and there's the small matter of what exactly will happen once her second generation is created. They might let her go.
They might not.
Grace is pretty; she would have to be. She has a petite quality to her and Kurt has always admired how soft her hair is but he can't see how she's any more 'perfect' than Jay. But then again, Kurt doesn't exactly think of girls in that way.
The four numbers are on the screen again and to the right of each one is their percentage score on the written exam. Kurt scans through the short list, he scored an 89, beating Sebastian by 2 percent, Jay has an 83 and Grace…
"A ninety nine?" Sebastian exclaims, "How do you even do that?" he asks, clapping her on the back, she smiles tentatively and despite Sebastian's attempt at lightening the mood with his congratulations, the air is thick. No one knows what will happen if she ever gets a full score. Which, sooner or later, she inevitably will; the wires are there for a reason and if one of them intentionally puts the wrong answer, they know about it and the electric shocks delivered through wires connected to their brains are enough to ensure it never happens again.
Sooner or later, Grace will be perfect.