As Michael collapsed, Seimei was frozen in shock for one moment, then he was in her arms, cradled against her chest. His face was still twisted in pain and anger--even oblivion couldn't drive it away. What had he said?
"We weren't fucking terminated! We were MURDERED!"
We? What did that mean? //No... it can't be...// She stared at him, not even noticing Ensign Winter until the other woman came up behind her, pushing her hair away from the tattoo on her shoulder.
"You're.... you're like Michael." Those violet eyes seemed to peer deep inside her, searching for answers. Answers Seimei couldn't give her.
"I don't know what you mean."
She stiffened at the familiar name, then glared at Winter with narrow eyes. "What about it?"
Instead of replying, the other woman lifted her hair to show the bar code tattoo at the base of her neck. Then gestured to the kanji that was visible through the burned shoulder of her clothing. Seimei blinked in confusion, not understanding. "What is that?"
"It is my serial number. I am subject designate #62104-Alpha. I am like Michael... like you."
Seimei touched the tattoo on her shoulder almost self-consciously, then shook her head. "No, not like me, no one is like me." She glanced down at Michael, then back at Winter. "I have to take him to the infirmary, he's hurt."
Winter put her hand on Seimei's arm; "We are more like you than you may think." She brushed some of Michael's hair off his face and shook her head with a sigh. "He is hurt and confused. I will help you."
She shook her head, "He's my partner, I'll take care of him." A single tear slipped down her cheek, startling both of them.
Winter took a deep breath and wiped the tear from her cheek. "He's my best friend, let me help you, both of you." A soothing touch in her mind helped calm the ripple of strange emotions stirring inside her.
Seimei stared at her for a moment, then nodded, her eyes slightly startled at the mental contact, but comforted all the same. "All right."
Winter offered her a soft, tentative smile. "I appreciate it, and I'm sure that he would, too. Thank you."
The gentle, calm feeling continued, even though it wavered slightly around the edges. More than likely due to the fact that Winter's hands and shoulders were singed.
She nodded again and walked toward the infirmary with Michael in her arms. "You've known him for a while?"
Winter walked along side both of them wincing every now and then. "Ever since I was introduced into this program, 2 years ago. Commander Maxwell has assigned you as Michael's new partner?"
"Hai, as his partner, I am to take care of Michael and help him in whatever way I can. Has he ever done anything like this before?" She walked into the infirmary and set Michael on a bed.
"Not precisely like this. He has had difficulties before, but then again, they have never been triggered by a memory that hit so close to home."
She turned, looking somewhat sad. "I have been able to help him through it... before."
Seimei shook her head. "I'm not even sure why his reaction was so extreme."
Winter looked at Michael on the bed as the nurses and doctors checked him over and tried to look at her hands and shoulders. She shook them off for the time being. "You remind him of something he thought he could forget." She moved to help make him comfortable and then settled close by.
Seimei shook her head and sat in the chair beside Michael, drawing her knees up to her chest and huddling as she bit her lip. "Maybe he reminds me of things I'd rather forget as well."
Winter reached out and tried to calmly brush across Seimei's mind while keeping her pain in check and keeping an eye on Michael. "We all have demons we'd rather not face, Ensign. Ignoring them, however, does not make them go away."
Seimei shrugged. Her eyes had become hard and emotionless, concealing the surge of hate/pain/fear/ inside. "I can't ignore them. They're part of me." She glanced at Michael. "He's one of them isn't he?"
Winter flinched at the surge and slumped a bit as she sat on the edge of Michael's bed. "They are a part of us all." She looked back down at Michael, "it is his decision to tell you, but his records are available for your reading if you wish, as are mine and everyone else's."
Seimei hugged her knees tighter and smiled a little. "I really don't need to, I can tell he is. He said that not all of them died..." She looked up. "That means he's part of me you know. They all are..."
"Yes, they are. As are all of my predecessors. As the final results, you and I are more than what we perceive."
Seimei stiffened, fighting a wave of horror/shock/rage/fear. "That code on your neck... you're... but PanDoRa didn't make any others!" A faint laugh leaked from her, quickly cut off.
"I am not PanDoRa, but a similar project, funded by the same entity. PanDoRa was not the only unauthorized human genome-testing project during the war, although the goals of our creators were different, we are basically the same; altered."
Seimei whimpered softly and shook her head. "God..." She closed her eyes, fighting to control her emotions. She then sat up and slid her feet to the floor. "Then we have a great deal in common." Her voice was calm and emotionless again.
Winter stretched out once more to Seimei, holding herself with one knee bent and resting on the bed and one hand near Michael's. "Yes, we do, Ensign. May I call you Seimei?" She studied the other woman's face, cocking her head at an inquiring angle that made her seem quite young. "You are not unscathed. Perhaps you should let the doctors examine you for injuries."
Seimei accepted the touch, her eyes dark and fathomless. "You may call me Seimei. And I am perfectly all right, slightly bruised, but still fine."
"I would like it if you would call me Winter. Lt. Commander Yuy would not appreciate it if I let you leave the infirmary without at least a cursory examination. Commander Maxwell would appreciate it even less." She smiled again, softly and slightly.
As Seimei prepared to refuse once more, Michael stirred, ending the conversation.
Winter gently laid her hand on Michael's shoulder. "Michael? You okay?"
He groaned and slowly opened his eyes. "Gee, what do you think?" Just then he noticed Seimei sitting beside him. His eyes widened and something indefinable flashed across his face. "Get the fuck away from me!"
She stiffened, watching as he struggled to get up off the bed and Winter settled him back down. He glared at Seimei and then turned his back to both of them. Winter shook her head and looked at Seimei. "I think the two of you have a lot to talk about, I'll be outside." She gently touched Michael on the shoulder before she left the room to let him know that she wasn't abandoning him or leaving him in the lurch and gave Seimei a reassuring look as she walked out the door.
"We have nothing to talk about, go away."
Seimei stared at Michael's back, knowing it would probably be best if she left but at the same time, not being able to leave him, she had too many questions to ask. "You said 'we were murdered', you meant you and the other subjects PanDoRa didn't you?"
He didn't even bother turning over to reply. "Wow, give the intern a fucking cigar."
She bit her lip, trying not to antagonize him worse than she already had. "So what were you?"
"PanDoRa Experiment Serial Number 081-255-070-6EM" The words seemed to be torn from him.
The information flashed through her mind "Serial Number 081-255-070-6EM, Incomplete file: second generation RNA catalization, true triple helix achieved, successful enhancements; cognitive ability, ten point one normal human; physical strength, five point three normal human; dexterity, seven point eight normal human; pain tolerance, unknown; after genesis additional improvements, metal skeletal enhancements to spine, skull and all large bones; aural and retinal enhancements in place; toxin resistance satisfactory; physical levels, success; mental levels, complete instability; subject not suitable for control, rated failure--
He cut into her recitation "I already know what I am, I don't need you to fucking tell me."
"I was not attempting to tell you what you are."
"Then if you're just reciting my file for your health, you can go do it somewhere else."
"I can't do that."
"It's easy, just turn around and walk out the door and go back to your masters like the loyal little bitch you are."
She blinked in confusion, her what? "I don't understand what you mean by my masters, I don't have any masters."
"You don't have to play any games, I know why you're here. I don't know how they found me and I don't care. Either terminate me, as you put it so nicely, or get the fuck out."
"Michael, I wasn't sent here to terminate you."
"So what the fuck do you want?"
"To understand you."
"You've already read my file, so you know what you need to know, piss off."
"That file doesn't mean anything."
"The file means everything, it's what they made me to be."
"No, it's what they made me to be."
"And who the fuck do you think you are?"
"I am you and everyone else who died to create me."
"You are everything that I hate. You made me." His voice was venomous.
There was a pause while she thought about what he'd said. There was no way to argue, it was all true. She glanced at his back and softly, almost pleadingly spoke to him. "Why do you hate yourself?"
"Because I'm some sick little kid's science project. I am an animal. I'm another fucking number for the computers to tear into binary. I am a failure."
That didn't make sense to her, a failure? No. "You're not a failure."
"Yes, I am, you said it yourself."
"That's just the file they wrote."
"That is me. PanDoRa Experiment Serial # 081-255-070-6EM" He suddenly sat up on the bed and spun to face her. "I don't even have a fucking name."
"You are Michael."
"I am nothing."
"That's not what I believe."
"And what the fuck do you know? You have a name. They didn't stick you in some box and shove you in a corner, you could see and hear and touch and think. You were worth enough for someone to care about you and save you."
"Yes. Professor Tengoku saved me. He named me."
"Where was he when I needed him, where was he when we all needed him, where was he when I was screaming in the darkness for someone to touch me so I knew I was alive. Where was he when we were destroyed like a bunch of rabid dogs?" Michael was almost screaming. "WHERE WAS HE?"
"He didn't know, we didn't know anything, if we had known--"
"But you didn't know did you? So instead you went off and lived, and left us all behind."
She jerked in reaction to his words. "I didn't. I never left any of you." She stared at her hands, the hands that were not hers, just like nothing was hers. "I carried all of you with me. Every breath I took, every moment of my life was yours."
"I don't want your fucking life, I want mine. GIVE IT BACK."
"If I could I would, but there's nothing I can do, no matter how hard I try I can't give anything back, I can't live for any of you--"
"I don't want you to live for me. I just want you to fucking leave me alone and stop making me remember what I am."
"I can't, you're the only one who's left, the only one who understands."
"How could I understand? I am nothing. I mean nothing."
"You mean that I'm real."
"You're not real, you're my fucking nightmare!"
"Then wake up so that we don't have to exist any more."
"If I could I would. Don't you get it? I'm still trapped in that little box, none of this exists. Or maybe it's even worse than that. Maybe I'm just a little bit of nothing that thinks it actually means something." Michael laughed, but it was an unstable sound, that of a man who had almost lost his grip on reality completely.
"You're not nothing, you're my brother and you're all I have."
He glared at her, "No, I'm your fucking dog!"
An image flashed across her mind. "I had a dog once, they made me kill it."
There was a long pause while he stared at her as if she'd grown another head. "Okay, fine. I'm not your dog, I'm not your brother, I'm not your friend, I am a complete stranger."
"You're my partner."
He lay back down and turned away in exhaustion. "You've given me a lot to think about and I don't want to deal with it right now, please go away."
She nodded and then, realizing he couldn't see her, got to her feet and walked out the door to leave him to his thoughts.