I Know What's Beneath the Snow Fields -Chp.57

"JENOVA Project: Genesis Retrial Experiment- class AdM (highly classified). Since the dawn of human history, man has been too aware of his inferiority compared to God. It is forever engrained into his conscience: man is insignificant, weak, ignorant, and flawed."

The strange introduction had its listeners leaden by heavy silence. Vincent's mistrust of this entire situation intensified further, especially whenever he glanced at Hojo's wily grin.

Davoren continued on. His flat tone showed how well he knew this topic, "God, on the other hand, symbolizes what man dreams of but can never attain: omnipotence, knowledge, mastery. An entity of perfection fit to reign above all creation."

"Though man may struggle an eternity, he will never reach the supremacy of God. The gap is far too wide; the power too great to grasp."

"But if such a gap could somehow be traversed...for a worthless human to ascend to an almighty God...then this supreme being will be true master of the Planet and all heavens above. The superior human."

"Professor Hojo has designed an experiment that would elevate man to such status. Hence the name 'Genesis', or birth of a God."

"However, such a feat has already been performed thirty-one years ago. There has been a human who ascended to a God."

Vincent's cool voice tightened as he breathed, "..Sephiroth."

"Correct. The fruit of the JENOVA project," agreed the callous gunman. "A creation in the image of man, yet brimming with the powers of a God, moulded by science alone. That creation deserves to be master."

Indeed, JENOVA project had spawned a heartless demon thirty-one years ago: Sephiroth, "the son of JENOVA". A god in his own right, who destroyed life in the name of eternal power. Yes, all these mad words sounded familiar to Vincent.

"But the JENOVA Project finished long ago. It was Sephiroth's birth," argued Vincent.

"No, it didn't," intervened Hojo haughtily. All eyes turned to that green-skinned monstrosity, "That experiment was merely to test whether human and JENOVA cells can co-exist in one organism. If the dosage is made correctly, then it becomes possible. Sephiroth and myself are the proof. However, that experiment was only a vital springboard to the *true* goal of JENOVA Project."

Then there was *more* to this hateful project?

Though Vincent dreaded the reply, he nevertheless inquired, "And what may that be?"

"Why, the same purpose it always was, Mr. Valentine," patronised Hojo, "We try to create an almighty God. We've done it once, we'll do it again. This is 'Retrial'."

At last, the final answer to this twisted riddle. Every muscle in Vincent's body stiffened; that sinister answer sent a chill down his spine. His suspicious eyes tensed keenly on Professor Hojo.

Yet it seemed only these two bitter adversaries understood each other. Poor Aeris, silent in her tears, stood held back against Davoren. Up till now, none of the other prisoners had spoken a word.

"...um...what does all that mumbo-jumbo mean in normal language?" the confused Reno pleaded. He spoke for his group.

Without even glancing behind, Vincent obliged one concise explanation. "They want to create another Sephiroth."

Straight to the point, spoken with such composure, yet what impact! Neither Reno nor Rude could retain their stark shock at this sudden revelation. So great, their wide eyes darted in between these two enemies.

Vincent stood his ground against this hateful creature so arrogantly perched infront. His dark demeanour had already shifted from stoicism to stern contempt.

Professor Hojo had enough hatred to show. The evil words slithered out of his twisted mouth. "Very good, Mr. Valentine. That is the purpose of 'Genesis Retrial': to make another God. However, this next Sephiroth will be the 'perfected' version."

"...'perfected' version?"

"Yes!" he retorted, "Yes..but instead of combining human and JENOVA cells...we'll fuse Cetra and JENOVA together. If my theory proves correct, the end result will be **phenomenal**!"

Vincent could say nothing; deep disgust clogged his throat.

"Combining those two races will yield a godlike creation," resumed Davoren, thereby attracting attention again, "But still. There will be certain flaws. That's where WE come in. Professor Hojo has altered our bodies to be 'correcting fragments'. We'll fine-tune this next Sephiroth to his full potential."

Davoren's face lacked emotion save strict business. His pink eyes held Vincent's gaze in cool reserve, "Sephiroth certainly posessed unparalelled strength and ability. But even HE would age with time, and eventually lose his youthful strength."

"Whereas we never age," Vincent completed the sentence.

"Correct. We're both blessed with the full strength of youth as long as we live. Thirty-one years have passed, neither of us has aged a wrinkle."

The three prisoners behind, especially the mute Rufus, gaped in open disbelief. "..th..'thirty-one years'??" fumbled Rude.

"That's nuts!!" exclaimed Reno aloud, "You'd have to be.... I dunno...sixty right now if you..."

"Sixty-two, actually," the gunman smiled weakly. He continued despite that interruption. "Another flaw of Sephiroth: despite his great power, he could still become vulnerable to physical damage, as well as pain. Both factors have detremental effects on ability. Finally, Sephiroth most certainly possessed enormous powers hidden within himself...an untapped resevoir of uncontrollable, raw power he couldn't access."

Davoren's whole face lit up to cruel pleasure; his devellish grin showed it all. "Think of it, Vincent! Just imagine: when JENOVA and Cetra merge into one, with us to perfect the union...what kind of supreme being will it create?"

Vincent hated to imagine. Indeed, a demon more powerful than Sephiroth would emerge; its veins flowing with both JENOVA, a destructive alien life-form, and Cetra, the long-extinct masters of the Planet. This same devil would never age, remain invincible, and house an explosive source of monstrous power behind a human guise...power well beyond control.

Finally, the puzzle pieces fitted into one whole picture: a God. Vincent recalled his interrogation of Davoren that miserable night. The artful bastard had joked about reviving Sephiroth, he just didn't mention *which* part was the joke.

But now, the most obvious question hung in the stiff air.

"And how do you plan on merging all these components into one?" inquired Vincent dryly.

"Oh that. That's the easy part," chuckled Davoren with a wave of the hand, "We're killed, and our cells are all assimilated together into one. It's all genetics, my friend."

Somehow, Davoren found this news quite humorous. His pleasant smile expressed such affability, even though his strong arm had never fell off the frightened Aeris. Yet far from any amusement, Vincent's expression remained stone-hard. His keen mind still sought to fully grasp this insane "experiment".

He just happened to glance over at Aeris, who all this time had stood trapped within Davoren's coat, her tearful green eyes strained by anguish. Doubtful the poor girl had understood much of this lengthy discourse. All she grasped was that this nightmare of a Professor would never release her, and that if Vincent did not escape now, he would be killed.

His resolute eyes told her: 'whatever be the consequences, I will not leave here without you.'

"Okay! Lemme get this straight!!" boomed Reno suddenly into the discussion, "Professor Screwball over there has an experiment he wants to try. First, he messes up two guys, then does himself, and then grabs hold of that Cetra girl. Now, he's gonna fuse all those different cells into one person, and make some 'God' or another Sephiroth. Is that it??"

Davoren and the Professor exchanged a meaningful look before Hojo conceded, "In such crude vocabulary, yes. That is roughly the experiment."

When his simple summary proved correct, Reno's fury exploded at once, "Man, what kind of sick-minded psycopath ARE you?!! You can't go screwing around with people like that!! 'Ultimate gift to science advancemnt', my ass!!"

His anger then shifted to the calm gunman. "And YOU, Albino-man! You just blindly obey this bastard? Didn't you just hear yourself? He's gonna kill ya for some warped experiment, and you still.."

"I don't care."

Davoren's curt rebuttal struck Reno dumb.

"Once my body was altered, it automatically became full property of this experiment," stated the gunman indifferently. "My life belongs to the Professor now. Whether it is taken or spared does not concern me."

He paused a moment before adding rather contemptuously, "And for your information, sonny, I'm not an albino."

Silence fell again. Vincent beheld this man; that expressonless face and empty pink eyes. The picture of a slave well accustomed to lowly servitude.

This absolute obedience pleased Professor Hojo. A smug grin creased across his face. He held Vincent alone in imperious contempt, with both scrawny arms folded across his chest. His aura reeked of malice.

Vincent's icy visage never faltered, not even as he pleaded, "Professor, if such an experiment were carried out, it could spawn a devil more destructive and unstable than ten Sephiroths combined."

"You think I will stop *NOW* after all these long years of toil and preparation?!" fumed Hojo. "Our course is clear! It is time to prove we were all MEANT to merge into one ultimate entity..one GOD!!"

No one spoke.

"Yes!! A creation moulded by MY own genius...MINE ALONE!!" the crazed demon spluttered against an invisible audience. His eyes bulged wide with choler, "They all deemed that fool Gast the greatest scientist! But let this experiment be my testament: I am ten..no...a HUNDRED times the better scientist!! **I** have created a GOD!!!!"

By the time Hojo finished, his brash voice had crackled into a breathless bellow. Unforgiving fury raged through his entire demeanour. Stern brows knit his brilliant eyes together. That purple vein had popped further up his neck until one thought it would burst.

Vincent gazed back unaffected by the outburst.

It took Hojo another moment to subdue his rageous gasps. He licked the purple saliva off the corner of his mouth, then faced his main enemy again.

"And so, Mr. Valentine," he hissed with forced calmness, "you appreciate the reason I've altered your body. Be as wise as Mr. Davoren, and fulfill your true purpose to the experiment."

"I refuse," came Vincent's reply loud and firm.

The Professor regarded this resistance as an open challenge to his authority. His frown darkened into an ominous scowl. Not like it bothered Vincent. Hojo may have control over his lungs, but he had enough determination to match.

"I have no interest in fulfilling any purpose in your 'experiment', Professor Hojo. Nor have I come here to fight you. I have only come here to take Aeris back."

Vincent's tone dropped to deadly iciness as he added "Restore her to me *now*, and I will leave."

In other words, he would fight if need be just to get the girl back.

Tense anticipation lingered upon this awkward moment, everyone too aware of its presence. Strangely however, a mocking smile crept across Hojo's thin lips as his reptilian eyes narrowed down.

"'Aeris', eh?" he snorted outloud. "I see you've given her a name. How charming."

He tied his two arms behind before starting a slow pace towrads the much affrighted girl. His thoughtful gaze, however, flickered their evil on the ground.

"Yes, Davoren has informed me how...fond you've grown of protecting this girl. But I fear, my good Sir, you've been wasting your efforts on an image."

The word certainly struck the listeners as quite odd, especially to Vincent, who felt another ominous suspicion creep up. Had he seen Aeris, he would have noticed how greatly alarmed she had become.

"What do you mean 'an image'?" demanded Vincent.

Hojo took his time to answer. He haughtily adjusted his broken specs as he twisted his head aside, if only to cast a derisive glare behind at the man.

"This isn't the real 'Aeris'," he scoffed. "That girl is long dead. This one is her clone."

-End of Chp.57