Once More, With Feeling... – Chapter 61: Theoretical Destruction

Summary: Some people find themselves learning new things in old settings.

Author: Illusor Meaneld

Rated T: for Descriptive violence and injuries, No Adult Situations, No Cussing.

Disclaimer: I did not create, and do not own the characters from Final Fantasy 7. They are owned by Square-Enix, and I am simply borrowing them for my own (and hopefully your) enjoyment.

The Red Lieutenant strode purposefully down the hallways listening to the even click of his own boot heels. His gaze was leveled on his destination and his arms swung loose at his side. The only indication of his negative attitude was the distinctive lack of a particularly recognizable play in his hands. Instead he was obliged to focus on resisting the compulsion to tighten his hands into angry fists. The occasional protesting creak of his leather gloves belying the struggle he kept from his face. He was not an easily agitated individual, under other circumstances he was entirely composed, but he absolutely despised being held ignorant of critical information. Thus the reason he was insistently accompanying his oldest friend and comrade to his appointment in the Science Department in ill-disguised vexation.

"Genesis…" Angeal murmured in a low, discontented tone. "This isn't necessary, I'm fine."

"I would greatly prefer to ascertain that from an individual less inclined to suffer in allegedly honorable silence." The auburn-haired soldier returned in an equally quiet if slightly abrupt tone. Their conversation carefully pitched not to carry to the unenhanced they were passing in the Shinra building hallways.

"I already promised not to do that." The taller First sighed, and Genesis resisted the urge to snort, it would be undignified, and just a shade beyond the acceptable levels of rude he would expose his lifelong friend to.

"I would still prefer to make my own assessment." He insisted, and said friend shook his head and rolled his shoulders in capitulation.

"Just don't hover." The black-haired Lieutenant chided, his tension visibly easing enough to permit a small smirk.

"I would never." He huffed in mock indignation. This acquired him a more honest smile, and the auburn-haired first allowed some of his tension to abate, yet not to such a degree that he reclaimed his book.

Every venture into the laboratories inevitably resulted in a distasteful wrinkling of his nose for the auburn-haired Lieutenant, and this day was no different. The smell of chemicals, Mako, and bodies, with the faint undertone of blood was always an olfactory assault. The technician currently on reception duty greeted them with a visible hint of nervousness, and without even asking their names directed them with anxious haste to Hollander's offices. The waiting area was as insipid as such places always seemed to be, the atmosphere tedious to the point of sedation, but even with an indeterminately banal wait ahead, it was a surprisingly inadequate impetus to enjoy his usual prose. His gloves idly traced the impression of the book through the leather of his coat where it sat in its usual inner pocket. He would not demean himself with 'pacing', and with no acceptable outlets for his aggravations he leaned against a wall near where Angeal had chosen to take a seat and brooded. When Hollander finally emerged, Genesis was fully irascible.

"Angeal, thank you for coming." The Professor began, only to hesitate as his eyes alighted on the red Lieutenant. "Ah, Genesis, … you're welcome to join us." He motioned both of them into his labs, but the awkward pause in his words had the auburn-haired First narrowing his eyes in distrust. "Angeal, if you would take a seat please?" the scientist gestured to the exam table that was, at least, setup appropriately to sanitary standards. As the taller man complied, they both noted the professor trying to surreptitiously swap his lab coat for a similar article that had been stored in a cabinet by one wall. The two SOLDIERs exchanged a bemused glance, but that quickly changed to perturbation as the pronounced, at least to the enhanced, odor of astringent chemicals wafted from the clothing.

Angeal coughed a little, his nose wrinkling, only to grimace further as the odor lingered, before his eyebrows drew downward in dawning suspicion. "Is that… flame retardant?"

Hollander looked up in startled dismay, before visbly composing himself, "Oh… ah, … yes… just a precaution." The eyes behind the glasses darted briefly to Genesis before he turned back to the assorted bandages he was arranging on a tray.

The Auburn-haired First started to sneer, but faltered as Angeal stiffened, slowly turning to confront his friend eye to eye. Genesis could almost hear the scolding "Genesis" from his larger companion, and the disapproving frown spoke its own volumes. The thespian huffed softly, rolling his shoulders in a dismissive shrug, jerking his head minutely in the professor's direction in a silent retort to indicate "He deserved it." This was apparently insufficient for the black-haired First as he folded his arms in harsh rebuke. Genesis rolled his eyes, resisting a defensive arm-fold of his own, and turned slightly with a huff. It had only been once… or twice… He silently grumbled. Angeal gave his own sigh, and shook his head in exasperation. Their near-silent exchange was interrupted, when the scientist turned, wheeling his tray towards the bed on which Angeal sat. The taller Lieutenant's last reproving glance told Genesis they'd be continuing their disagreement later.

"The reports indicated the injury was received to the left forearm; Let us assess the extent of the damage." Hollander began, pulling up a delicate pair of scissors. He carefully cut the bandages that were wound about the tall SOLDIER's arm. Despite his care, the wrappings stuck and sucked a bit at the wound as they were removed. Genesis grimaced at the slimy fleshy divots and grooves furrowing his friend's flesh, and flinched backwards when the smell reached him. Angeal's mouth also twisted as he looked down at the gruesome burns. "Hmmm…" the scientist hummed thoughtfully, seemingly unfazed. "Significant epidermal damage, but only minor muscle damage, this was tended with appreciable haste in the field." He turned the arm inspecting it. "Mild necrosis, as expected, that will need debriding." The auburn-haired Lieutenant felt his stomach squirm at the mental picture. "Regeneration of damaged tissues are slow, expected with acid." The portly man continued to murmur to himself. "Perhaps that could be boosted, testing would be needed."

"Testing?" Genesis queried with a frown, but Hollander didn't seem to hear him.

"First let's clean and redress this," The man pulled an antiseptic potion spray from his table, applying it liberally to the affected areas while Angeal hissed at the sting. "I'll need to remove the dead tissue and acquire a small sample, I'm afraid this will be unpleasant and painful." The scientist had at least the presence of mind to give the tall SOLDIER a sympathetic glance before he pulled what looked like a scrubbing sponge from his tray.

Genesis swallowed heavily, and had to look away as the other man began to scrape the blackened bits of flesh from the wound. He'd seen plenty of injuries in battle, and also a significant amount of death, but his stomach churned at the sights and smells in this room. He clenched his teeth, he would not dishonor himself by being sick at his friend's side. Who was it Angeal had said had done this to him? Fuhito? Gloved hands clenched tightly, if he ever met that man across the battle field again, … to Gaia with plans! He'd happily murder the man in cold blood, roast him slowly so he'd know what burning felt like! A soft grunt of discomfort brought his gaze back to the gruesome procedure, though thankfully it seemed the worst was over. The Professor inspected the injury thoroughly, ensuring no dead tissue remained, as Genesis knew from similar experience. It took a few more minute adjustments, a few snips of tiny scissors or brushes of his sponge before he seemed satisfied and pulled out a bottle of aerosol potion. Angeal hissed at the first spray as the light green mist settled on raw flesh. A pause as a few whisps rose into the air, and Hollander applied another coat. It took three more dispersals before the scientist nodded and pulled out cream and gauze. The potion-laced ointment would release slowly, and therefor was applied liberally before the wound was wrapped once again in snug bandages.

"There you are." Hollander nodded as he stepped away, "I'll need to change that bandage in a few days of course."

"Of course" the black haired Lieutenant agreed, gingerly flexing the fingers he'd clenched at the pain.

Genesis eyes narrowed as the Professor turned back with a hypodermic needle and vials. "I'll just need a quick blood sample," the rotund man explained calmly, "Just to monitor your regenerative response and to test for potential healing enhancers." A slightly disconcerted glance shot at the auburn-haired Lieutenant gave the reason behind his sudden forthcoming behavior. "It would have been preferable to collect samples immediately upon your return, and also samples of the afflicting compound." Hollander sighed as he methodically sanitized the inner elbow of Angeal's good arm. "Of course, we lost most of your most recent baseline data with that computer virus fiasco, so I won't have as much to compare it to as I would like. I still have some older hard copies to work from, but your cooperation will be essential to my work here."

"Cooperation?" Genesis repeated with a raised eyebrow. "What kind?"

"Ah," the scientist glanced his way furtively, "I might need more samples, and possibly further samples among the other SOLDIER's for comparison, or if a transfusion is required."

"A transfusion? I would be willing to help of course." The auburn-haired Lieutenant began, but the professor shook his head.

"You two have incompatible blood types." He said somberly, "Though I might take you up on a new baseline sample at another time."

Genesis crossed his arms a little tighter in displeasure, but said nothing. He had to withhold a smirk when even that motion made the scientist tense subtly. He kept his gaze smugly leveled on the Professor as Angeal was cleared to be released for the day. He found the mild pass-time amusing right up until his fellow Lieutenant caught him at it. The disapproving frown told him that he was due a lecture in the near future. He had to stifle a grimace as they left the Science department. … It was probably worth it though, for the agitation in Hollander's body motions.

In short order, they were walking down the hall in companionable quiet, the travel book of Loveless finally open once more in Genesis' hands. The presence of which seemed to relieve Angeal quite noticeably. They had not made significant progress to their next destination when the distant sound of a raised voice reached their sensitive ears. Angeal huffed a soft groan when he recognized the speaker, and Genesis perked up visibly with a grin.

"Proffessor Kivinen is at it again…" Angeal grunted in wry amusement.

"I hadn't realized he'd returned." The auburn haired Lieutenant returned, brightening with delight. "I shall have to pay a visit, no doubt he's instructing the poor deprived cadets at the moment, and it would be remiss of me to miss my protégé's progress."

"Excuses," Angeal chided with gentle amusement, "Just don't disrupt his class, or we'll hear about it all the way into the wastes."

"I would never!" Genesis sneered, actually scandalized. Kivenen was one of the few instructors he actually respected, as if he could do any less to the man who taught 'Practical Materia' classes with actual competence, and was one of the only men alive who's knowledge of Materia usage might actually surpass Genesis' own. He paused at that thought, then revised that perhaps Cloud was now another… His smile widened into a near manic grin, he simply must see the two of them interacting. It only took one trepidatious glance at that expression for Angeal to hastily shoo him off. With a wave and a suitably dramatic swirl of his coat tails, the Red Lieutenant made his way to the classrooms. Only one errant SOLDIER had been close enough to see his face as he turned, and said peon hilariously tripped on his own feet in his efforts to backtrack away from the rather demented expression of glee.

For all his eagerness, the red-haired Lieutenant found himself hesitating outside of the classroom door, not due to any particular emotional reservation, but due to the sheer volume of the enthusiastic voice lecturing within. Professor Kivenen was well known for his incredible fervor towards his subjects, in fact, one could decifer exactly how excited he was about a lecture by how loud he became… The man tended to unwittingly increase in volume with his enthusiasm. Today must be a good lesson, as Genesis found that his sensitive ears were already smarting, and it would get exponentially worse inside the sound muffling doors. Despite their inefficiency, he briefly considered fetching a pair of the noise dampening earplugs he kept for missions, but just as quickly decided against it. Bracing himself as best he could, he slid the door open as inaudibly as possible. Not that he expected anyone to hear him over the Instructor's near bellow,

"You need to feel the energy! Don't just pop out sparks, we don't want to tickle our opponents do we? Hold the surge of power in your hand, let it build up before you release it!"

Professor Kivinen was explaining boisterously, as the SOLDIER First peered through the doorway. The Cadets were currently engaged in the practice booths, a rather genius idea of Kivenen's. Each booth had a size adjustable bracer permanently affixed to a height adjustable stand which forced the user to aim forwards, and only forwards, at a carefully designed panel which recorded power and accuracy. It also spread the effects of any spell cast on it. The results were displayed on screens above each student, allowing a single teacher to walk behind and critique progress on a multitude at once. The Lieutenant smirked as his gaze found Cloud's screen, where the Time-Traveler was, to Genesis' eyes, obviously putting considerable effort into appearing average, but his results recorded tidy and precise casting, decently powerful despite what he was sure were the blonde's best efforts. Whoever had told that boy he could be in any way covert had really done him a disservice.

"Well done, Cloud! Keep that splash tight in the center." the Professor had obviously also observed the aforementioned competence, though the Lieutenant would have expected no less from a man of his experience. The lanky instructor loped passed the small blond, who rolled his shoulders in a wordless expression of frustration. Genesis sternly repressed the impulse to express his amusement. "Broad fireballs with no heat are useless! Keep those spells more compact!" Kivinen instructed the next youth in line. Allowing a minute quirk to his lips, the SOLDIER First slid gracefully into the classroom, pausing to prop one hip artfully against a long table as he watched his favorite instructor prowling behind the stations. It didn't take more than a few moments for the attentive professor to spot his new visitor, the mousy haired man immediately perked with a welcoming smile, even as he continued to intently observe his students. A quick head nod in the Lieutenant's direction, along with a meaningful and approving glance at the young time traveler told Genesis that his friend had already correctly surmised his intentions. He confirmed with a little twist of his own lips into a smug smirk, almost wishing Cloud could have witnessed the interaction if only to see the exasperation on the diminutive blond's face. Kivinen walked behind the length of cadets twice more, offering his critiques nostalgically familiar calls of "don't just look for the energy, feel!" And "More oomph! You won't burn yourself kid, that's what the bracer is for." As well as other instructions. After which he finally instructed the young men to disengage the bracers.

It was only about the third or so boy who turned the correct direction while exiting his booth to see the visitor, and he promptly yelped in shock when his eyes fixed on the crimson clad form of the SOLDIER First. The next few teens whirled at the sound and cries rose up, some awed, many fearful. Genesis felt his smirk widen into a sly grin, he'd almost forgotten that these cadets had personal experience with him… almost. The professor gave the boys a moment to get the excitement and dismay out of their systems, but gave Genesis a pointed raised eyebrow at their reactions. Silently asking what in the world he'd done to provoke such a response. The Lieutenant's lips simply spread even broader. A couple boys shied back at the obvious expression of glee, and the instructor quickly began calling them to order. It was a measure of their training so far that they began quickly snapping to attention despite their no doubt quivering nerves. Cloud took the moment to shoot one exasperated look at his 'mentor', adding the cherry to an already satisfying interaction. There was more than one student that continued to twitch at the presence of their once tormentor at their backs, but they obediently faced Professor Kivinen where he'd moved to the main sensor panel and display screen at the front of the room. Genesis watched with unusual patience as the slender instructor ran over each student's progress, pointing out where they were improving, and where they weren't. the Lieutenant wasn't surprised when the other man discussed Cloud's progress last, as the class grumbled quietly at the disparity in skill, and the auburn-haired man chuckled softly at the grimace on his diminutive friend's face.

"Now we have a rare opportunity today, Cadets." Kivinen was explaining, "Lieutenant Rhapsodos has decided to spare us a visit, and as the foremost magic practitioner in Shinra, might be willing to give us a true demonstration of skill." The man's brown eyes shifted to rest on Genesis' blue ones. He stifled another bubble of laughter at the sight of the cringing teenagers.

"Of course." The SOLDIER First smirked, "It would be my pleasure." He straightened, and strode past the gaggle of nervous cadets. For a moment, he considered a precision display of their standard Fire spell, or Perhaps Firaga, but as he stood before the large sensor panel considering, he went with the impulse hovering in the forefront of his thoughts. His smile widened, and then after a moment he lifted his left hand, holding it clearly visible to the class as he channeled mana from his equipped fire Materia to wreathe his hand in glowing curls of flame. He tightened his fingers at the same time as he pressed against the magical energies with his mind and will, and with a practiced gesture launched a tight lance of heat at the target. Cloud's technique, which he had been practicing in the open areas around Kalm, was more effective than he could have possibly imagined. The display briefly read an incredible white hot circle of energies, and then the entire screen fuzzed with static as the modified spell seared straight through the panel and into the wall. Genesis did not yelp, but only by sheer force of will as he strangled both the sound and the flow of magic to his spell before the fire could penetrate into the next classroom over. Silence descended, interrupted only by the pop of sparks from the now ruined sensor panel, and the hiss of smoke from the smoldering crater in the wall beyond. The students he could see were staring in abject horror at the damage. Even Professor Kivinen was gawking unbecomingly, his jaw dropped in shock. The Lieutenant carefully schooled his features before he turned slowly affecting a simple satisfied smile, though part of him squirmed in humiliation at the excessive damage.

His gaze lit on Cloud first, the small blond had a very impressive disapproving glare for such a youthful visage. Struggling to keep the chagrin from his face he shifted to glance at the instructor, the wiry man was still staring in some shock at the ruined technology, the internal urge to squirm in guilt only grew, he had certainly not intended to so disrespect his favorite teacher.

"You…" Tenho Kivinen stammered, "You… was that …did you…" As Kivenen continued stumbling over his words Genesis internally cringed. "Did you just…did you just prove Y'Shtola's theory of metamagic?" Awed bespectacled eyes turned slowly onto the SOLDIER. "I didn't realize you were studying it! Was that metacast? Or metamana? At what point do you initiate the alteration of energies? Oh gaia! Have you submitted a paper?" at the end of that question, the man was all but shouting in excitement, and this time the SOLDIER's suppressed flinch was from the volume of noise.

"Ah…" The auburn-haired Lieutenant blurted, taken aback. "I have only recently begun attempting…" He paused,

"Oh, of course, of course! We must speak of it later!" The older man enthused, before turning back to the classroom. "And that is why SOLDIERs are so effective! They never cease striving for excellence!" Most of the cadets looked at him a bit askance but nervously began to clap at the demonstration. Genesis grimaced, but quickly shifted it into a smile for the audience. It felt like a cold stone in his stomach, a bitter taste in his mouth. Usually he was all for praise, but he wanted to be known for his own achievements. To be given false credit, he almost snarled at himself, and now due to his impetuous actions he would somehow have to explain to one of the few people he admired that he had not invented this technique, and was, in fact, learning it from another. It burned unpleasantly inside him, as he was unaccustomed to regret. He nodded quietly to Kivinen, who was giving an impromptu lecture on differing magical theories, and made his way determinedly back to the rear of the classroom. His mind whirled with plans on how to fix this unintended faux pas.

((Author's Note:

I don't know about other authors, but when I write Genesis, I have to go over his parts carefully with a thesaurus, it can make things quite a bit more time consuming, both finding words that flow, and making sure they mean what I THINK they mean.

At the moment, I don't have any more finished chapters after this one, but I'll keep working on them as much as I can.

On a different note, I've just started a foray into Twitch streaming games, if anyone wanted to come say hi and chat, you can find me at twitch dot tv /jianre_m

-Jianre M. A.K.A … Illusor Meaneld.))