Chapter 1 – Page 4

Nero sighed, rubbing his temple.

“Fine, Johan, I’ll have Marcy look into him being a medium or whatever. As a favor. Do you understand? You owe me for this.”

“But Nero-”

“No buts, Johan.” Nero cut him off. “Look, I know that you are interested in this, but it’s not something that will produce any quantitative results. We’re on a strict schedule, and with all the set backs we’ve had, we’re barely keeping it as it is.”

“Nero, there could be something here, though. Just think of it! It could be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for!”

“What are you expecting to find, Johan? That the boy can actually speak to ghosts? That he is some kind of freak psychic? And how, Johan, would that help us? Even if I did believe in that kind of thing, which I don’t, you know it’s not the type of result the USCU is looking for. They’re breathing down my neck enough as it is, and it’s enough of a problem already that Number 7 got out. Now I have to find a leak. I don’t need this on my plate right now.”

Johan scowled. “Look, Nero. I know this isn’t something you’re interested in,” Nero snorted, “but I don’t think you’re looking at the possibilities here. Imagine an assassin who not only has super human capabilities, but can talk to the dead! There’d be no need to torture anyone for information! Just kill the guy and talk to his ghost!”

“Interesting proposal, but I’d like to get back to work now.”

Now, Johan Hektate was truly angry. This was not what he wanted to hear when he came to this office. He had hoped Nero would place some importance on Seven’s actions. He did not expect his words to be belittled.

“I’d rather you not degrade me,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Johan, look, I’m sorry. I know you’re angry and disappointed with my answer, but this is just the way things are. If we had more time, I’d love to explore this possibility with you, but we just don’t.”

“If you would just-”

“Need I tell you the schedule? Need I tell you the specifics that we are trying to create, specifics that the USCU designated? I can’t deviate from it! Johan! You don’t realize just how much my hands are tied!”

“And what are those specifics, pray tell, Nero,” Johan said out of spite.

“You really want me to go there? Fine, I’ll go there just for you. We’re trying to create a freaking super soldier for the freaking USCU. Just one soldier, and it’s taking us years to do it! A soldier whose body can function perfectly normal for extended periods of time even when being practically bathed in nuclear radiation. One with strength and a durable body, able to take high amounts of stress, with an advanced immune system. One with a freaking higher regeneration ability and that’s just the basics! The only reason we went through the hassle of kidnapping Whitehill is because of her abnormal regeneration ability. Without it, there’s no way she’d live past a year old. And of course you know all about how hard it’s been to get her clones up to her level of regeneration, not to mention stabilizing it! You were there! For all of that! Frankly, Number 7 was a miracle, pure chance, a never-to-be-seen-again result of a lifetime! We can’t mess this up. All our hard work is just finally paying off. So, just please, help me keep the schedule.”

Nero’s tirade of word slowly calmed down the more he talked, and it in turn, cooled Johan’s anger. He couldn’t help but be sympathetic to the director. Nero was the one that bore the full force to the USCU’s annoyance at every setback.

“Are you feeling better now?” Johan asked. Nero looked at him sheepishly.

“And you’re happy, I assume?”

“To see you acting like a child and ranting your worries off to me? I must say I am. I do find it rather amusing. It’s such a rare occurrence.”

“I’m glad I could entertain you,” Nero said wryly.

Johan sighed and rose from his seat. “I suppose I should get back to work now. Must keep the schedule and all.” He walked towards the door.

“Johan, wait.” The doctor paused with his hand on the handle. “Thanks. For you know. Listening to me. I really needed it. And sorry about not being able to help.”

“You’ll still have Marcy look into it for me?” Nero nodded, and Hektate left the room.

Director Nero sat still in his office, thinking back on the encounter. It probably wasn’t what Johan thought it was. He had always had an unusual interest in the supernatural despite being a scientist. Nero, in contrast to his friend, felt himself a practical man. It was impossible for him to believe in ghosts.

For now, he had to keep the situation under the carpet. It wouldn’t due for the United Social-Communist Union to find out that not only was their a leak in their information, but that Pandora was unable to keep their little experiment under control.

It was just his luck that the USCU was sending a sergeant of the People’s Army to supervise the increase in Number 7’s ‘training’ regiment. So, yes, he would be looking into the matter, just not quite in the direction that Johan had wanted.

He called several people into his office to be questioned about the information leak, but no results turned up. Either they were so adapt at lying that the cynical Director couldn’t spot it, or they really didn’t know anything. Asking them how Number 7 escaped proved just as fruitless. It worried him that no one could figure it out.

As a stopgap measure, he planned to have Number 7’s door be reinforced, his room thoroughly inspected, and a security camera place within. It would be costly. Previously he had been trying to save on money as they were running dangerously low, but hopefully it would help solve the problem. Once the USCU witnessed Number 7’s current capabilities, Nero was sure the country would increase their meager budget.

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