Chapter 2: The Patriarch

Wayland Yutani Research Facility, System Unknown

It was dark, and his eyes could see nothing, but he was used to that by now, accustomed, after long eras of darkness, to relying on his other senses for comprehension. Idly his fingers traced the rivets of the durasteel floor, the ridges and creases that were nearly as familiar as the darkness around him. He was used to it all by now, no longer angry or afraid at his circumstances.

He did not know why he was here, but he had long since stopped trying to find out.

After an eternity of sitting in the dark he had stopped raging and banging at the door he knew was set into the South wall. After an age of isolation he had stopped crying and bemoaning his fate. After an epoch of being separated from the rest of the humanity he had ceased to wonder what lay outside this little metal room.

When he had first come here- how long ago? A year? Two? He could not accurately tell, for there was no way to keep time in his cell (For a while he'd measured time by counting meals, but had grown bored with the game after reaching one thousand)- But anyway, when he had first come here his only experiences had been pain. He remembered bright lights and humming machines vaguely, but those memories were blurred and dime compared to the pain that those machines had brought. The pain of things changing that did not want to change and the pain of hearing voices that did not speak but grated on his ears all the same. It was torment enough that he'd forgotten his name during those first weeks (if indeed it had been weeks of that torture) and now he barely even recalled what they called him. Subject 7, or simply the Subject, was how they referred to him, if they spoke at all in his presence.

After the pain came the silence, when he'd been thrown into this dark room by big beings in bulky armor (there was a name for them too... marines?) and left to recover from the changes forced upon his body. To come to terms with what he was and, more importantly, what he was not. If the pain had not already shattered his psyche, then the enforced solitude certainly would have. The darkness and silence didn't bother him now, of course, it was much preferred to the pain. But he had been in the silence and darkness for such a very long time.

And so it was only in his sleep that he remembered what he once was, a leader of survivors on a beleaguered planet (Alpha something, or was it Delta?) . He dreamed of the warm air and sunlight, of his comrades, many older than him, and of the rough grip of his pilfered Marine Corps rifle. Before this he was a leader of men, his natural charisma and charm gathering people to him. Here he was nothing, a small empty shell in a dark metal box, put here until they decided to take him out and play with him again.

In a moment of clarity he remembered how little girls on his home world would play with dolls, take them out of decorated little boxes and dress them up, make them talk and dance and sing, and then returned to the box when play time was over. He too was taken out when wanted, only to be thrown back into his box when they grew board of him (Though his box was not so prettily decorated).

In another time, another place he might have smirked at his own cleverness. Now, he only blinked once as the analogy ran through his head, he'd remember it though, it was an interesting comparison.

They hadn't made him do anything for a long while (he wasn't sure if he should be happy because of that, the darkness got boring after a while), but he still ran through tests every dozen meals or so. The big men with armor and weapons would move him to another room, and he would do this or that, something or other. Then, if he performed well, he'd get a slightly larger meal (with food that actually had a flavor) after they put him back into his box. He couldn't care less about the food, but when he performed badly they took him to another room, and put him through more pain. After the first time he'd always been sure to do exactly what was asked of him.

Of course, he never saw them, not for his tests, not for the pain. The only other humans he ever saw were the marines that escorted him to and fro, always a different pair (He could tell by their scents).

He hated it (when he allowed himself to feel any emotion at all), he hated being treated like some sort of science experiment, like he wasn't (or, at least, hadn't been) human. And deep inside of him, beneath all of the subservience and apathy his broken mind could muster, a spark of defiance still burned. He continued to bide his time, waiting for his chance to escape, for his one perfect shot at freedom. But until then he would do nothing, he would give them no reason to clamp down on him and extinguish that last ember of hope.

Then the door to his box slid open with a brief hiss. He'd just had a meal a short while ago, it must be time for another test. He rose, and walked quietly out of the cell into the dim passage beyond. The two marines escorted him down the corridor to another room (left turn, left turn, pass, right turn, pass, second door on the left) where they would play with him for a little bit. Briefly he caught sight of his reflection in a particularly shiny piece of durasteel, the golden disks that were his eyes peered back at him from beneath a shock of messy black hair. Then he was past, moving into the test room.

If he ever let himself feel more than hate, then he would have admitted that he liked the tests. Not for what they made him do, or even for the break from the darkness the tests offered. But because the tests were the only times he could see his friends. He could hear them, sometimes, through the walls of his box (though really hearing was the wrong word for it), but seeing them was so much better. Seeing his friends helped him believe, if only for a little bit, that he actually had a chance of escaping.

Then the door to the room slid shut behind him, and a voice crackled over the speakers, "Subject Seven..."

[page break]

Shizuka Marikawa watched in trepidation as the young man was escorted into the chamber. She stood, along with several of her other colleagues, on the other side of wall made of reinforced one way glass, allowing all of the scientists in the room an unimpeded view of the young man who now stood in the center of the test chamber.

A younger researcher, Martin something-or-other, began to direct the test itself while Shizuka and the others remained silent and observed the process.

"Subject Seven..." He began.

"Absolutely fascinating isn't it." Another scientist remarked to Shizuka. "The results we have already achieved in Seven. This is more or less the last trial after all, and I have no reason to expect that Seven will not function as expected, even when confronted with a mature Xenomorph."

"Yes..." Shizuka murmured. But her attention quickly returned to the test chamber as a large grate set in the far wall of the room began to rise up. She grimaced when she caught the first glimpse of the xenomorph, all chitin and spikes and teeth. For what seemed like the hundredth time Shizuka questioned the morality of this research facility. What right did they have to condemn a mere boy to a life of tests and genetic modifications?

And, for what felt like the hundredth time, she consoled herself with the knowledge that her actions were taken to ensure the survival of the human race as a whole, that her contributions could result in the end of the xenomorphs everywhere.

Slowly, the xenomorph entered the chamber and approached Subject Seven. Shizuka trembled as it bent down so that its massive jaws were merely an inch or so above Seven's head, so close that it could consume him in a heartbeat. This was the final test for a reason.

For a moment, there was complete silence, when neither the subject nor the xenomorph moved. Then, ever so slowly, Subject Seven raised his right hand and placed it upon the xenomorph's head. The alien did nothing. Seven remained touching the xenomorph for a moment, before it twitched once. With the scientist watching in awe, the alien slowly sunk down so that its front claws rested on the ground, low enough that it's head was level with Seven's. Then the xenomorph bowed, exactly what they had told Seven to make it do.

Around Shizuka, her colleagues froze in a moment of breathless exultation. They had done it.

They had done it!

Cheers and laughter erupted from the room, as far as they were concerned the experiment was a complete success. They'd created a genetically modified human capable of commanding the xenomorphs. With such a weapon in their arsenal, humanity would be able to drive back the alien menace at their leisure, using others like Subject Seven to tear apart hives from the inside out. The scientists had triumphed, their labor had finally born fruit.

So absorbed they were by their own success, none of Shizuka's colleagues noticed what happened next. Only Shizuka saw, as Seven stroked the xenomorph's head gently, and as Subject Seven pressed his forehead against the xenomorphs black carapace in a gentle and- dare she think it?- loving gesture.

Shizuka suppressed a shiver.

Perhaps she and her colleagues hadn't saved humanity from the xenomorphs at all. Perhaps they'd only condemned mankind extinction all the faster.

And, for the hundred-and-first time, Shizuka wondered if all of their research was truly worth the cost.

[page break]

He was happy, the first emotion other than anger he'd allow himself to feel in a long time. Before him was one of his friends, so close that he could touch her skin and rest against her shimmery black carapace (it was so smooth). But best of all, he could tell her what to do.

He could tell all his friends what to do, even the big ones, the ones who were stronger than him.

He didn't allow himself to smile, and reluctantly he stepped away from his friend. It wouldn't do to let them know that he'd just been given the keys to his freedom. Already he was listening (though indeed listening was the wrong word) to his friends and, more importantly, taking to them.

The walls of his box couldn't keep him away from his friends any more, the guards could no longer contain him, they could not longer use him.

Now, it was just a matter of time.

Fortunately, he had become very patient (the box had made it so), and he would wait for the perfect chance so that they would never see it coming.

Satisfied with this knowledge, he let his newfound happiness drift away and let apathy take its place once more. He stood silently in the middle of the room, waiting for his next order, and made his friend return to her side of the bars without any fuss.

The Marines (A different two this time) escorted him back to his box and gave him a meal. The food was tasteless and dry in his mouth, but his mind was on other things. Through the steel walls of the box he communed (There. That's the word he wants) with his friends. Slowly, he exerted his influence over them, until they bowed to his will. He made sure that all of them were ready.

Then, he closed his tawny eyes, and let himself sleep.

3 Months Later
Shizuka slowly sipped at her lukewarm coffee as she poured over several spreadsheets of readouts. Subject Seven's vast slew of neurological data was laid out in front of her, the sums and figures blurring as her bleary eyes glanced over the paper. The information was nearly incomprehensible, even to her, and neurology was her field of expertise.

Yet all the same, it appeared that Subject Seven's brain was slowly repurposing its functional regions on a vast scale. Sites that interpreted visual and auditory information had been modified so much that they were almost unrecognizable as part of a human brain.

The data was as fascinating as it was morbid. From what the numbers showed, Seven no longer thought like a human. His brain processed sensory information along different channels, his cerebellum had adapted to a different set of instincts, his hemispheres communicated in a different manner. Looking over the graphs once more, Shizuka wondered if Seven was still capable of speech.

She almost doubted it.

They'd taken Seven, once an ordinary human, and had played around with his genetic code like a kitten played with a ball of yarn. On a good day, Shizuka could justify it to herself- if only barely- and make herself believe that what they'd done would be worth it in the end. But today was not a good day.

She remembered when Subject Seven had first arrived. He was a young man, a child really, lost, confused, and drugged out of his mind. The marines had picked him up from a condemned world, and a Weyland-Yutani scientist had seen him and... recruited the boy. Going with the scientist was the worst decision Subject Seven had ever made.

Shizuka only knew the bare bones of where each of the Subjects came from. Those labeled One through Four were already dead when she arrived on the job. Five perished soon after, and she came too late to do much of anything for Six. Subject Seven had arrived about a day after she had joined the project, and her superiors had ordered her to modify his neurological pathways so that the stress from the physical changes would not be fatal, as the stress of across the scale physiological adaptation had killed the previous six Subjects.

She had done her job. And now that 'Genesis' project was reaping the fruits of her labor, she felt more conflicted than ever before.

Subject Seven may have passed every test, but his journey had only just begun. If she knew her superiors at all, now they would send Seven to other condemned planets for extensive 'field tests', where he would live or die based on how well he could control the 'wild' xenomorphs.

They would work him until he died, they would make him kill aliens until he keeled over. Then, the Genesis project would pick another subject, or, worst come to worst, they would clone Seven as many times as they needed. And he would never truly be free from Weyland-Yutani. In her eyes, that was the worst fate of all.

"Why hello, Miss Shizuka. " Of course, others were not nearly as conflicted (or moral) as she.

Shido, the head of project Genesis smirked down at her, his beady yellow eyes peering out from beneath greased bangs and wire rimmed glasses (AN: okay, does anyone else think Shido is a dead ringer for Orochimaru?).

"Looking over some of Seven's latest test results? You're always so wonderfully... attentive."

Shizuka glanced away from the man, "Yes... I'm somewhat worried about subject Seven's mental health. I'm believe he might be a bit... unstable. And certainly it will do the project more harm than good to begin field testing with his neurological state at less than optimal conditions." Maybe if she whispered in the right ears she could get Seven a reprieve. Her maternal instincts were getting the better of her, and Shizuka knew it, but all the same she hoped that she could help Seven, if only a little.

Shido nodded, "You noticed it too? At the end of the most recent test Seven seemed a bit too close to the Xenomorph for my liking. I believe we may have to take corrective action to prevent any... mishaps with the subject."

"I believe that would be prudent," Counseling would probably be too much to ask for, but perhaps she could give Seven some 'evaluations'? She also had a degree as a psychiatrist after all.

The scientist sighed, "Such a shame." He remarked, "We'll have to make arrangements to euthanize the subject. That will take some time, especially if we want to have a eighth subject on hand to compound our successes." Shizuka could only stare at him in shock, "And I had held such hope that Seven would remain stable enough for field testing. Alas, if our resident neurologist believes that seven is unstable, then certain protocols must be enacted."

"There are protocols in place regarding the termination of subject Seven just based on mental health?" Shizuka was aghast. What happened to basic human rights?

Okay, stupid question.

"Of course Mrs. Marikawa. The subject's mentality is the most important aspect of our entire project. Should the subject have more empathy for the xenomorphs than for other humans, we have no choice but to end its existence."

"... Of course," Shizuka murmured. "When would this procedure take place... so I know how long I have to gather additional data to better prep further subjects." She added the last part because it was something Shido would want to hear. After this, Shizuka doubted she could stomach being on this project any longer.

"Always on the ball I see." Shido replied with a smirk, "It will take about a month to gather the requisite approval. But, since our neurologist has already testified to Seven's instability, the process should go smoothly."

Shizuka gulped, and nodded. A month. She had just signed Seven's death warrant.

Shido smirked down once more at her as he stood. "Well then, I'd best go and finalize the paperwork," His purplish tongue darted out across his lips. Shizuka shuddered.

After he left she gazed down at the datasheets once more, before shoving them off of her desk in disgust, her body trembling with a sudden burst self-loathing and despair. She wilted forward, arms and body collapsing as Shido's remarks began circling through her head.

There were no two ways about it, she had condemned that boy to die. And she couldn't even lie to herself and say that killing Seven would be a cruelty, not after everything else he had suffered through. If anything, the end of his life would come as sweet release from a never ending nightmare of pain and torment. He would die without ever truly having lived.

She had wanted to help Seven, not kill him.

"The best laid plans of mice and men..." She murmured to herself. She had failed epically, in the greatest proportion. But could she really just give up like that? Could she really just let Seven die after only the weakest of efforts on her part?

There was no way she could talk Shido out of murdering Seven. Well, there was perhaps one way but... Shizuka shivered at the thought of enticing the man stop the execution order. No, she could never bring herself to stoop so low, even for her pitiful sense of right and wrong. Where did that leave her, though? If Shido would send out the order to terminate subject Seven, how could she possibly stop him?

She sighed, Be realistic, Shizuka. As long as the subject remained in the facility, there was nothing she could do to stop his execution. So, if she actually wanted to do something, she'd have to get Seven out of the laboratories, and probably off planet as well. If Shizuka wanted to live after that, she'd have to run as well, probably with Seven. She would have to betray her superiors, forfeit her lavish lifestyle, and give up her entire career to help Seven escape.

So the real inquiry remained; just how much was Shizuka Marikawa willing to give up for Subject Seven?

Shizuka sank back onto her desk with a whimper. She would ponder that question for days.

[page break]

He lay unmoving in the darkness of his box, the slight misting of his breath in the chilled air the only sign of his continued survival.

They hadn't set up any tests for a longer than normal period (of course, he hadn't had meals come during the usual intervals either, so perhaps his sense of time had been thrown off), and he wasn't quite if he was relieved or frustrated by that. He didn't like the idea that they might be saving him for something, or that they needed him to be relatively unhurt and/or weak for the next test.

But, as boring as his box was, at least he wasn't entirely alone anymore (well he was alone in the literal sense, but...) Now, he could spend the time communing with his friends without interruption.

They weren't a particularly intelligent bunch, no help at all in planning his escape, but all the same it was calming to know that he was no longer alone (He had been alone for a very long time). He passed the hours with his friends, using them to alleviate the omnipresent boredom. He wanted so very very badly to escape, and to kill as many of them as possible as he did so, but he forced himself to wait. It was not yet time for such things.

Focused primarily on his friends, He wasn't really paying attention to his surroundings, and he jerked in surprise when the door to his box hissed open.

He scrambled to his feet and waited for the Marines to escort him out of the box. But instead of two armored hulks waiting to drag him somewhere, on the other side of the open door stood no one but a blond woman in a white coat. She glanced around the hallway furtively before beckoning to him in a hurried manner. He blinked.

The two made eye contact for a brief moment, his tawny eyes boring holes into her soft brown ones. She shot him a frown, "Come on!" She hissed out, "Unless you want to stay in there until you die!" Seven's eyes widened. Slowly he edged his way forward, surely she couldn't mean...

Suddenly, the woman grabbed his right arm and pulled him out into the hallway. "Follow me," Her tone, though her voice was light and airy, left no room for argument, "We don't have much time before they notice I'm missing. I'm getting you out of here."

Seven stumbled when he heard that last bit, but he picked up the pace, and was running next to her in a second. When Shizuka saw Seven's eyes light up with enthusiasm she gave him a soft smile. "Yeah..." She whispered to herself, "let's get out of here."

After that it was seemingly random turns down the durasteel halls of the facility, Shizuka leading the way with Seven half a step behind. Somewhere en route, she picked up a large duffle bag and handed it off to Seven. "Keep hold of that. We'll need it once we get out of the labs." She'd said.

A few minutes after that Shizuka slowed to a walk and put an arm on Seven to make sure he didn't rush past her. Holding a finger to her lips, Shizuka motioned for him to follow her quietly as they approached the next intersection in the hallways. "Stay here," She whispered, "I need to take care of the Marines around the corner." Drawing herself up to full height, she straightened out her lab coat and marched smartly around the corner.

Seven could hear their conversation, something about transfers, and how the subject didn't need an escort because he was conditioned. But he didn't really care, there was something far more interesting holding his attention.

One of his friends was close, very close. While Shizuka and the marines argued, Seven placed his hand up against one of the Durasteel walls, his eyes slide over to a control panel next to the doorway. It wasn't a code lock? As far as Takashi could see it was a simple lever (along with a conspicuous 'Xenomorph Holding Pen. Do Not Open' sign above it). His hand moved over to the lever. Should he? Was it really that simple? Were they really that careless?

Then the conversation from around the corner intruded into his senses once more.

"What is the meaning of this?!" A voice, male, but not one of the Marines. Angry.

"Sir!" Marine one. "Dr. Marikawa stated that Subject Seven is being transferred to a new facility."

A pause. The first man growled. "How dare you Shizuka! Attempting to steal my research, and right after I find that you've sabotaged my attempts to procure an new test subject. Did you really thing I wouldn't notice!? Soldiers! Seize Dr. Marikawa immediately! If you see subject Seven gun it down where it stands!"

Well, no sense in standing around.

Seven pulled down on the lever. The door hissed open, and Seven grinned as one of his friends stepped out of the darkness. He ran a hand along her smooth carapace, and gave her a very simple instruction.

When the men come around the corner, kill. Oh, but leave the blond one alive.

The xenomorph was more than happy to obey its master's instructions. When the marines + a dark haired scientist fell to the floor in a bloody mess, Seven stepped around the corner. The last marine gapped at the alien behind him for in instant, before bringing his assault rifle to bear. But, sadly, by that point the alien had already impaled the poor man through his skull.

Seven looked at Shizuka, who had been reduced to a quivering mess in the corner at the site of the torn bodies and hulking alien in front of her. "Well?" he asked, "Aren't we going somewhere?" His voice was quiet and raspy from disuse. In the end, it sounded more like an animal's growl than any form of civilized speech, but it snapped Shizuka out of her funk all the same.

She scrambled to her feet, "Yes." She replied hastily as she brushed off her lab coat. "Um, is.. it... coming with us?"

Seven glanced up at his friend. "Yes."

Shizuka gulped, and opened the door that the marines had been guarding quickly. "Well... ah... let's keep moving then."

And with that they took off down the corridors again.

Any further resistance they encountered was easily taken care of by the Alien, and they reached the shuttle bay before the alarm was even sounded.

Shizuka punched a set of commands into the bay consol "Get into the big shuttle. It's the only one with enough space for... our extra passenger." Shizuka really wished she could convince seven to leave the xenomorph behind, but she didn't think he'd take too kindly to the idea.

Slowly, as alarms began to blare around the facility, the shuttle bay doors slid open. Standing behind the pilot's seat as Shizuka manipulated the controls, Seven's eyes widened as he glimpsed sunlight for the first time in years.

He was so used to the dark that the brightness burned his eyes. After all, why else would he be tearing up.

With a jerk, the shuttle blasted out of the bay and into the world beyond. As the dark durasteel walls of the research facility gave way to blue sky Seven gasped, sinking to the floor of the shuttle. He said nothing, merely continuing to stare at a world he had only dreamt of returning to.

In front of him, Shizuka let out a sigh and a wan smile. "We made it." She jumped in surprise when a set of arms encircled her from behind and pulled her into a tight embrace.

"Thank you," Seven whispered. His voice was quiet and deep, but Shizuka could hear his gratitude. For a moment he was shocked, both at his actions and his words.

She placed on hand on his forearm. "You're welcome." She manipulated the controls one handed for a while, letting the shuttle coast high off the ground as it left the facility behind.

Shizuka let out a quiet sigh. She had just thrown away her entire life's work, all the respect and notoriety she had gained as a scientist, the most high paying job she had ever secured; for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to regret it in the slightest. Perhaps that was God's way of telling her that she'd done the right thing.

Slowly, Seven straightened, releasing Shizuka. He moved next to her and collapsed gently into the co-pilot's seat, his eyes never once looking away from the window. Seven sighed. "I won't let it hurt anyone..." He murmured.

"What?"

"The alien, I won't let it hurt innocent people. I'll repay your kindness." Shizuka let out a relieved sigh and a weary chuckle.

"Thank you," She replied.

The shuttle wouldn't take them off planet, but Shizuka had called in a few favors from friends at the nearest colony. Her friends would smuggled their shuttle aboard the frigate currently orbiting the planet, and Shizuka and subject Seven would disappear into the far reaches of space.

Was she still a bit leery of traveling with a xenomorph? Of course. But Shizuka had been observing the dealing with the creatures for over a year now, she'd long since moved past fearing the aliens.

If anything, she could hardly wait to see how subject Seven and the xenomorph would interact...

Oh, speaking of 'subject Seven'- Shizuka took the duffle bag back from Seven and pulled out a stack of papers in a manila folder. She flipped open to the first page.

"Takashi Komuro huh...?" She said out loud. Seven, or Takashi rather, jumped at the sound of his name. Shizuka smiled at him. "It's nice to meet you Takashi, My name's Shizuka Marikawa." She held out her hand.

Takashi blinked, before gently shaking her hand. "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Marikawa."