Chapter One

The cold walls of the Detsuka Research Center resonated despair. The floor, comprised of a cheap, sturdy steel, made a light clanking sound as Alan's loafers collided with it. The clanking was accompanied by a squishing sound that only comes from a thick liquid being expelled from beneath a heavy foot. Alan was running. He was beyond late. The experiment not only lasted longer than he had planned, but it had backfired, taking the lives of four of his co-workers. Alan's face was sweared with blood. Not his own, of course. He had managed to miraculously elude this hungry demon know as "The Augur Contract". Bitter tears flowed down Alan's cheek. Zerich's demands, coupled with the deaths of his workers, were crushing him, threatening to squash him into some deranged lunatic. He could certainly pay the part, too. It seemed as though blood were a part of his being, caking his loafers, staining his lab coat, and giving his otherwise mousy brown hair a dark, gruesome feel.

A truely pathetic portrait of mankind.

President Michael Zerich stood completely still in his office. He was waiting. Zerich's large, impressive figure graced the simple office space that he was residing in. A forest green rug enveloped the floor, perfectly complementing the azure walls. A large, regal desk stood on the far left side of the room. It was neatly arranged, with nothing out of place. One simple picture frame lay, face down, on the mahogany wood. This was Zerich's office in the Research Center. He had recently ordered its construction following the initialization of "The Augur Contract". That was the only reason he was here. This "hobby" of his had become so much more.

Two very faint, very weak knocks broke the tranquility in the silent room, magnifying the chaos lumbering in the tormented President's mind.

"Come in, Alan. You had better have what I need." His calm, deep, commanding voice resonated beyond the oak double-doors..

On the other side stood a trembling man. He didn't have the information. His shaking hand slowly opened the door, and he stepped through the doorway. The moment he entered, he heard Zerich, reprimanding his lateness.

"Damnit, Alan. Why is it you're always late? Just give me the information you have." Zerich's icy tone pierced Alan's consciousness.

Alan stood, hunched over in a moment of thought. "Why am I late? My research is going haywire. I can't even begin to contain the effects of my experiments. It's killing off my entire lab crew. I won't be ready for a long time. God knows how many more people will die before I get this worked out. But all you care about are results, you leech."

Of course, Alan couldn't say this out loud. He knew what happened to people who oppose the Elgrid. On the surface, the Council of Elgrid didn't seem all bad. In fact, they had even raised employment rates among the common people, and made intercontinental travel more convenient. But if they were so good, why were there so many resistance factions against the Elgrid? Alan knew why. Elgrid didn't care about the lives of the lower class, and although they tried to cover it, rumors of barbaric and downright horrific "experiments" leaked out into society. Yes, Alan knew this to be a fact. He had participated in the nightmares Elgrid demanded. He looked down at his sleeve. That blood had been there for the past month. He had been working on this research for nearly two years straight.

"I'm sorry, sir. We haven't gotten the level of success we wanted...there were quite a few "mistakes" with our original equation, and well...we need more bodies."

Alan escaped into the confines of his mind yet again. What was he saying? That he needed more bodies? Had his research crippled his emotions this much? What was success, anyway? Even when Alan completed this gruesome task, Zerich would have some other thing to dump on his lab. He didn't even know what his research would yield. The only person who seemed to have an idea was Stetson, appropriately named "Ghost" by his coworkers. Ghost was a strange man. He was a brilliant scientist, if not slightly morbid. He always seemed to know what he was doing, and greeted it with a smile, regardless of how many people got killed. He seemed to enjoy the prospect of killing off his "lab rats " for the sake of science. If he was so good, then why wasn't he head of the lab? He would certainly be a better person than this failure, Alan Kokoro. Alan felt like he was stumbling around in the dark, hoping his guesses at science wouldn't kill them all. But every attempt at success brought him more deaths of his test subjects, and sometimes, it ended up killing his lab workers, too. He began to shuffle his feet.

"Don't tell me you've managed to waste all the samples I gave you. I expected you to have complete research, and all I get is a request?"

Samples? Is this what Zerich called the sacrificial lambs Elgrid rounded up? Alan could tell that Zerich was beginning to get angry. So this was what the "Cold Fury" of Elgrid was like.

"Well, sir, we ARE doing our best to calculate the best possible course of action for our research, but it is very difficult."

"Let me see what you do have, then."

This was what Alan had been dreading since Zerich called him. He took a big gulp.

"Well, sir, we don't really have anything tangible just yet, but-"

Alan was elevated into the air. Zerich's strong, left arm was gripping his neck, lifting him off the ground. Alan could feel his arms begin to lose feeling. How long had Zerich been holding him up? Alan suddenly realized that he was choking. Zerich was speaking to him.

"This is the ability of the greatest scientists I could find? I see. Well, consider this a warning. Your research is more time-consuming than I had hoped, however, this changes nothing. What your team is working towards is highly valuable to Elgrid. I will grant your requests. Next time, clean yourself up, you smell like a dead body."

With that, Zerich tossed Alan's limp body to left, and with a thud, it hit his desk, knocking over the portrait that had lain on the top. There was a small shattering sound. Zerich demanded Alan's leave, and upon his departure, Zerich delicately picked up the photo from under the broken shards lying on the floor. He tucked it gently into his desk drawer, without sparing it a single glance.

Alan regrouped himself outside in the silent hallway. It seemed like his labcoat was again fresh with the stench of new blood. He looked at his wrist. One of the pieces of glass had managed to pierce his skin. He grimaced, pulling the fragment out. With a slight sigh, he began to stagger down the deserted corridor.

Zerich's office was sitting on the twenty-ninth floor of The Elgrid Research Center in Detsuka City. He slowly got up, poured his coffee into the sink, and left the room. He could even see the bloody footprints Alan had left in his haste to return to his own room, situated on the third floor. "What had that man been up to anyway? Why was he drenched in blood?" Zerich thought to himself. He could only begin to imagine the nightmare that was to be born. As he looked to his left, he could see where the footprints had branched away from the main hallway, towards the elevator. Zerich too took this path, and after a short ride down the elevator shaft, left the Research Center.

Alan opened up the door to his room, and walking in, began to sob quietly. This had been too much. Ghost said this time would be different. But, same as always, seconds after ignition of the experiment, the light seemed to be sucked out of the room, and there was a low rumbling sound. When the pitch-black darkness subsided, the bodies of the samples were lying on the floor, their faces submerged in nearly an inch of blood. Thanks to Zerich, Alan didn't even have time to acknowledge his four friends that had perished in today's testing. "What kind of experiment required human sacrifices?" Alan thought to himself. It's as if The Council of Elgrid tailor-made it just to crush his hopes. Alan gritted his teeth, squinting hard. Was the whole world collectively trying to break him?

"We got alot of valuable information today, hmmm? I'm glad the experiment turned out the way it did. But it still seems like we're using too much. I don't like cleaning up so much blood. Let's cut that number down by 23 percent tomorrow, alright?"

Alan looked up, his face veiled in his long, mousy brown hair, which was glued to his face. Maybe it was his tears, maybe the blood. Who knows?

Ghost was standing in the doorway, grinning.