Disclaimer: I do not own Shadow Hearts.


PROJECT M.A.L.I.C.E.

Chapter One: A Mysterious Text

Before the year 2100, in an effort to gain first place as the most advanced country in the world, China began experimenting with animals to develop a new line of intelligent species. These animals were genetically altered, bred, and engineered in secret laboratories to grow mechanical supplements in their bodies. The project, along with its subjects, was called M.A.L.I.C.E.: Mechanical Artificial Lifeforms Intended for the Control of Earth.

Otherwise known as: monsters.

Autumn 2113.

Fragments of neon light from a broken sign dimmed over Yuri Hyuga sitting in the corner of a bar. His posture was hunched over the counter as he sipped the bubbling glass of beer in his hand. With his brown hair and tan jacket, the twenty four year old easily blended in with the dull décor of the building. He settled the glass down when the bartender slipped a receipt over the table.

The old Chinese man tapped a finger impatiently over the bill. "You paying?"

"Relax, I got money this time," Yuri replied, fishing the wallet out of his jacket. Coins tinkled over the countertop and the bartender muttered numbers under his breath as he counted carefully.

"And last time?"

"Err, no," Yuri said, remembering the dine-and-dash from a week ago. His shoes had stunk of piss that whole day when he slipped over the toilet in an attempt to crawl out the bathroom window.

The bartender scoffed. His register dinged as he dropped the coins inside the machine. "Stop getting drunk when you can't pay for your drinks and get a job already. You're worse than a homeless bum."

"Easier said than done. All you old geezers say you can't take high school dropouts, but we both know the real reason."

The adam's apple of his throat bobbed up and down as Yuri took another gulp of beer. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at the dribble gleaming on his skin. His olive skin—a color that stood out like a sore thumb among the shades of yellow and beige in China—was often met with odd stares wherever he traveled. His Japanese blood, mixed with Russian, had given him a unique set of features that spurned him from unfavorable peers.

Well, not like that mattered. Being tied to one place didn't suit Yuri. He was the kind of person who followed the whim of every moment—and, in more cases than one, there was always a certain source that told him to go somewhere…

Yuri stirred over the table as noises of the television blared in his ears. A customer told the bartender to turn the volume higher. The old man dialed the button on the remote, and the other customers in the room leaned in to watch.

They didn't need to hear the reporter to understand what was going on. The same pictures that had been broadcasted on televisions and websites for the past month appeared on the screen again: a bloody scene behind a computer laboratory where a famous geneticist, Morris Elliot, had been killed. Yellow police tape surrounded the area, and forensics workers dug through the soil while placing mangled body parts inside plastic bags. The murder had taken place in France, yet it made international news. People still couldn't stop talking about it—probably because whoever had savaged the scientist was yet to be found, just like his daughter.

"Goddamn, I bet ya it was one of those things from Malice," one of the drunkards said. "They've been wanderin' 'round everywhere in the country, and now they've crept over to England."

"Those things scare the shit outta me," his friend replied. "You're driving home with me tonight, buddy. It's not safe out there with those monsters."

The corners of Yuri's lips twisted downwards. He folded his wallet back in his pocket and left the bar.

With hands shoved in his jacket, Yuri crossed the street and listened to the engine of cars zooming past him in the middle of the night. With the Malice project being developed over the past several years, an outburst of creatures had roamed around the crevices of China, causing citizens to stick closely to the safety of their cars and avoid going out at night. Yuri didn't care for such precautions, though.

The wind howled in his ears as Yuri turned to the next corner. Traffic lights faded away as he walked deeper inside an alleyway. A shadow hovered several feet in front of him, but after hearing its light footsteps, he recognized the figure to be an elderly lady. She awkwardly glanced over to her side, eyes trailing over to Yuri, before ducking her head forward and pacing faster with her cane. Her back stiffened as he approached closer.

Yuri was about to walk past the woman until she pulled out her cane to strike. He jumped back and missed the stick. She nearly stumbled, then widened her eyes when fixing her sight upon him.

"Oh, my, I'm very sorry," she said. "I thought—I thought you might be—"

"Don't worry," Yuri replied. His chapped lips cracked into a grin. "I'm not a monster."

The old woman apologized again and they left by separate paths.

With keys jangling in his hand, Yuri fumbled with the doorknob before entering the small apartment. He kicked off his boots over the stained carpet and threw his jacket to the unmade sheets of his bed. Flipping the lights in the bathroom, he stared at his reflection in the dirty mirror hanging over the sink.

He didn't look too bad. He had a rough face and eyes that could be mistaken to be threatening, and his cheeks were slightly ruddy from drinking, but that was nothing more alarming than the usual sketchy people often spotted around the city. With an elderly woman walking in the middle of the night, it was understandable for her to be paranoid.

And yet he could still remember the fear in her eyes.

Yuri shook his head and bent over the sink. He splashed water in his face to cool down, to forget. But the harder he tried to suppress the memories, the more frequently they flashed in his mind. Walls stained with blood, corpses strewn over the floor. His mother's cold body, unable to witness what he had done.

No!

Yuri twisted the knob backwards so tightly that his knuckles turned white. The faucet stopped. Droplets of water rolled down his face and stabbed his shirt. He gazed at his dripping face.

I'm not a monster.

Yuri wiped his face with a towel and turned the lights off.

I'm human. I'm normal. I'm not like them.

He landed on the bed and closed his eyes shut. His chest moved up and down, and he listened to the sound of his quiet breathing. The darkness of the tattered apartment room closed in on him until Yuri fell into the lull of sleep.

At 3 AM, a sound rang and his bed sheets vibrated. Yuri rolled over to his side and spotted the pocket of his jacket glowing. He grabbed his phone and squinted at the screen. A single text message was displayed.

"Tonight at 8 PM, don't let her board the plane to Tokyo."

He dialed over the buttons to search for contact details, but the number was blocked. Yuri sighed and tucked the phone back in his pocket.

"Another mysterious text, eh?" he muttered to himself. And an even more cryptic one than the other several times this anonymous caller had reached him.

The corner of his lips tugged into a smirk.

He looked forward to what adventures the future had in store for him.


Author's Note: I've been toying with the idea of a futuristic, sci-fi AU of Shadow Hearts, so this chapter is a test run for me to gauge reader response and see if the story is worth continuing. Sadly, the fandom seems to be nonexistent and I'm not sure if anyone even reads SH fanfiction anymore. If you enjoyed this chapter and are interested in AU, please review and tell me what you think! *tumbleweed rolls*