Acting commander of division twelve Lieutenant Kurotsuchi Mayuri removed a pipette full of the viscous fluid that swirled around in the tank. The sickly smell of the oily fumes that roiled off the top bothered him not a bit. Placing a drop on a slide, he careful positioned it under the microscope. He chuckled and nodded at what he saw. He began to take notes on the log book beside him.
"Hour 72." He wrote, "Nano-sprites continue to work flawlessly. Assembly of spiritrons occurring at record breaking speed. Anticipate fully operational gigai/gikon prototype within the next twenty four to forty eight hours. "
He continued to write furiously as he documented the latest step in his project. As always while pursuing a promising line of research, a thrill ran though his whole body. It was like a drug, washing over every cell and molecule of his being, causing him to ignore hunger and fatigue. He had been awake for how many days now? He paused to check the date where he started the notes for this experiment. Had it really been four days? No matter. He was almost finished. Not only had he designed a faster, more efficient way of creating a gigai, he also created a way to incorporate a gikon, an artificial soul, simultaneously. A lesser scientist might have found these accomplishments impressive. To Mayuri, they were just a means to an end, stepping stones to his greatest creation. And now the goal was finally within his sight. Raising is head up from his writing, he looked through the clear glass sides of the tank where even now, muscles and tendons were being formed over a skeletal frame by the action of millions of microscopic spritron "sprites" he invented. His daughter. She would emerge from the tank a blank slate, but predisposed to absorb everything he had to teach her. Like any parent, he wanted her to be like him, only better, without his flaws and shortcomings. Unlike other parents, he had the means to edit those parts of him out. His gaze swept across the perfectly functioning equipment where vials and jars of chemicals fed into the tank via a series of tubes. The largest and most important of these was the large glass jar of blood. His blood. Even for him, it had taken a while to gather enough safely. It was all worth it. Soon, he would have someone who he could talk to. Someone to admire him. Someone that would reflect his greatness. He rose from his chair pleased with the thought of finally having someone around he would only have to look down on a little as opposed to the vastly inferior shinigami who surrounded him every day. Placing his hands on the small of his back, he leaned backwards to stretch out the painful kinks that had developed. He was surprised by a loud popping sound followed immediately by a totally unexpected wave of agony!
Akon looked up from his paperwork, distracted by a loud crashing noise. He looked over at Hiyosu who was fiddling with some tubes and burners on the central lab table and Rin who was sweeping the floor.
"What was that?" He asked. His co-workers shrugged. The intercom on the desk buzzed. Akon hit the respond key.
"Yes, Mayuri-sama?" He said.
The voice on the other side was harsh and raspy with pain. "GET. IN. HERE. NOW!"
The three young scientists looked at each other, eyes wide with alarm. After a half second pause, they bolted down the hallway to Mayuri's lab. Bursting in the door, they were shocked to see their leader lying helplessly on the floor.
"Mayuri-sama!" "What happened?" "Are you alright?" They shouted. Running to his side, they seized him and started to lift him off the floor to a standing position.
"AAAHHHRRRGGG! MY BACK!" Mayuri screamed. "Put me down you idiots!"
Without thinking, the three immediately released him, causing him to drop half a meter to the floor. Mayuri's screams pierced their ears and made their blood run cold.
"Sorry Mayuri-sama!" They babbled as they reached down for him again.
"Back, back! Don't touch me!" He ordered through gritted teeth.
"Mayuri-sama." Akon said, "What happened to you? How can we help?"
back spasms." He hissed through pain clenched teeth.
"Well, maybe we can do something." Hiyosu said. "I can go get my tools. It should be a simple modification."
Mayuri took a good look at the faces above him. Akon with his three horns, ash threatening to dribble off the end of his cigarette. Hiyosu, whose extendable eye was unwinding from his socket again without him noticing it. And Rin. Ugh. Rin. He'd be better off being worked on by hollows.
"You touch me and I won't leave enough of you to fill a petri dish!" He threatened.
"But what do you want us to do, sir?" Akon asked.
Mayuri struggled with himself. He knew what needed to be done. He just wasn't sure if he could bear to do it. The next wave of agony decided things for him. It felt as though giant hands were gripping the muscles along his back and were cruelly twisting them. He gritted his teeth as he rode the pain of the spasm out. When it subsided, he was able to speak although he deeply regretted the order he was about to give.
"Call the fourth division." He commanded. "Have Captain Unohana come here."
While Unohana's people were much more skilled at moving patients, Mayuri still complained bitterly all the way to his bedroom. After placing him on his bed, the two assistants stayed well away and allowed their captain to do her work, handing her tools and medicines as needed.
"You need to get more rest and take better care of yourself, Mayuri-san." Unohana gently scolded. "Not getting enough sleep or exercise and staying hunched over your desk did this to you."
"Just fix my back woman." Mayuri snarled "I have work to do."
"You've done too much damage." She said. She lightly ran her glowing hands over the afflicted area as Mayuri lay face down on his bed. "I can take away the pain, but you will need at least two days of bed rest before you can go back to work. I will leave you some instructions on some stretching exercises I want you to do after that."
" Confound your quackery woman, I have important business to conduct. I can't take time out of my busy schedule for this nonsense." He said.
"Then you'll just end up hurting yourself again. How much time will you lose then?" She pointed out. She reached out behind her and took a cup from one of her assistants.
"Now take this." She said while holding out the cup.
He clumsily swallowed the clear fluid from his awkward position. It tasted strong, but not too unpleasant.
"What was that?" He asked.
"Something to make you sleep." She replied.
"What!" He cried as he struggled to get up. "I can't sleep now! I'm right in the middle of an important experiment!"
Unohana gently but firmly held him down. "Relax, relax. You'll only make things worse if you try to move now. Don't worry. This will cause you to sleep for about twelve hours. You will be able to wake up if someone rouses you. Do you really need to supervise this now?"
Mayuri thought for a moment. "No. It's pretty much automatic at this point." He said. "The next crucial step will most likely be twenty four to forty eight hours away."
"There you are." Unohana said. "You can afford to take some time to heal. Later we can talk about your poor ergonomics."
Mayuri could already feel the drug taking effect. "Never mind about 'ergonomics'." He said, his voice beginning to slur. "I'm going to beat you at your own game. You'll see. Tomorrow I'm going to design and install
back." He eyes fluttered to a close and his breathing slowed.
"Do as you feel you must Mayuri-san." Uhonana said with a smile. She rose from his bedside and nodded to her assistants. They quietly left the sleeping lieutenant's bedroom.
Akon led them on their way out to the gate. "I'm glad you were able to help the boss Captain. I've seen him get worked up before, but nothing like this."
"Always glad to help relieve suffering." She replied. She wrinkled her nose and covered her mouth as she began to quietly cough. With her free hand, she tried to wave away Akon's cigarette smoke. While Akon normally didn't care who his smoking bothered, this was a very different matter. You NEVER offended Captain Unohana unnecessarily, even unintentionally. He snatched the cigarette from his mouth.
"Sorry Captain." He apologized. Quickly looking around, he didn't see any good place to put it out. With a slight wince, he extinguished it on the palm of his hand.
"Thank you." She said. "While it's gratifying to see Mayuri-san doing well, he needs to see to his health. He's working far too hard."
Akon shrugged. "We offer to help, but he always refuses. He says the project he's working on he's working on is too important to let us mess it up."
Uhonana nodded her head. "Yes, I imagine Operation Synthesis is his highest priority."
Akon's eyes widened as he started at her. "You know about Operation Synthesis?" he asked.
"Indeed." She replied. "I chaired the board that approved the funding and provided oversight."
After the disaster of Operation Spearhead, the creation of gigais and gikons was now strictly regulated. Mayuri would be sent straight back to the maggot's nest if he were caught creating new prototypes of either without permission. The gigai in particular was heavily modified. Mayuri's testimony that he would create only one prototype and raise it as his own child was the only reason his project was approved.
"Isn't that his lab?" Uhonaha asked, tilting her head towards the door.
"Yes, it is." Akon replied.
"I would like to see how the experiment is going." She said. "Why don't you escort my assistants to the gate while I take a look?"
Akon scratched his head. "Well, I don't know."
Uhonana smiled at him. "Oh, please?"
Uhohana's smiles were legendary. Looking at her smiling face could make you feel like you were standing in a warm meadow on a sunny day or wrapped up in a thick, cozy blanket. So why did he feel as though he were standing on the edge of a cliff in the middle of a thunderstorm?
"Uh, sure captain. Whatever you say." He squeaked out. He unlocked the laboratory door and opened it for her. "I'll be back later."
"Take your time." She said, smiling at him until he was out of sight.
Uhonaha's head panned slowly from one side of the room to the other. Mayuri-san really need to work on more than just his ergonomics, she thought. The room was poorly lit and had pipes and wires going everywhere. It looked as though everything had been thrown together in a hurry with no thought given to safety. Shelves were stocked with a variety of chemicals and liquids, all close at hand if needed. To one side was Mayuri's desk, covered in paper, ledgers and reference books. What drew the eye the most was the glass walled tank in the center of the room. It was lit up with an eerie blue light silhouetting a figure floating inside. She stepped up to the tank and marveled at the ingenuity of this new technique. This was far superior to the traditional methods of gigai creation. And the gikon would be built in. Amazing. With her trained physician's eye, she could already see the differences between this creature and a normal shinigami. If successful, the being created would be far stronger and faster than normal. That was in accordance with the specifications she reviewed. Wandering over to Mayui's desk, she noticed the log book open with the last entry dated that very day. She skimmed over the words as she turned the pages backwards, noting where he documented problems or unforeseen roadblocks and how he overcame them. Every word was scrawled out as though the writer were in a hurry or very excited. She smiled. It was good that Mayuri kept busy. He seemed to be such an unhappy little man. She noticed that the entries were all on the gigai development. Wondering why there were no entries on the gikon, she suddenly noticed a tab sticking out towards the back of the book. Turning to that page, she saw why. He was documenting the gikon development separately. Again, there were entries from the very start on progress and setbacks. She flipped though a few pages and was about to close the book when an entry in red ink caught her eye. It said "flaw in the design". Reading more carefully, what Uhohana learned chilled her to the bone. Everyone knew Mayuri was a temperamental and petty man. He would take offense at the smallest thing and harbor a grudge forever. This was a big failing in his personality. It seems he knew it too. He decided halfway through the gikon process to correct that failure in his creation. Indeed, he seemed to feel he would correct what he saw as the biggest weakness of the mind and spirit of all. Emotions. He edited out all capacity for emotions. This was monstrous! It was sure to breed a purely sociopathic personality. How could he even think that was a good thing? Her first impulse upon learning this knowledge was strong, but she fought to resist it. As chairman of the oversight committee, she had every right to arrest Mayuri and terminate the experiment at once. What he was creating was unauthorized and threatened all of soul society with the creation of a consciousless monster. She looked again at the figure in the tank. She could destroy it. It was legally and ethically right. But was it morally right? She remembered when they destroyed all the artificial souls from Operation Spearhead. It didn't seem to bother others, but she had been upset for quite some time. Didn't this creature at least deserve a chance? As things stood, the answer was clearly no. Not unless someone did something. She grabbed some blank paper and a pen. The fourth division was no stranger to research. They were focused more on medical advances as opposed to the twelfth, who researched for pure knowledge, but Unohana knew her way around a lab. Going by Mayuri's notes, she quickly had the necessary formulas for the modifications she wanted. She wasn't sure if it would be enough. The personality was already sixty percent formed. This would be more of a bolt-on modification or overlay on top of the baseline. She went around the tank, adjusting the flow of a chemical here and there, replacing a tube of one liquid for another, adding those ingredients necessary for emotional responses. It didn't take long. Finally, there was only one key ingredient. Finding the correct jar and equipment, she took a look at the container of Mayuri's blood. There wasn't much left in it, but it was still far more than a person should donate at one time. She decided it didn't matter. It was the only way. Tying off one arm, she found the vein and pushed the needle in.
Akon hadn't meant to take so long. Before coming back inside, he stopped to get a good smoke in. He had stubbed out his cigarette and was about to head in when he remembered Unohana's smile. He smoked two more.
"Sorry I took so long, Captain." He said as he entered the room. She was leaning up against the case, staring at the slowly forming body. "Are you alright ma'am?" He asked.
She started as though she hadn't heard him come in. "Oh, sorry. I'm afraid I was lost in thought."
Akon frowned. "You sure you're alright ma'am. You look awfully pale."
She gave a wan, reassuring smile. "You may be right." She said. "I don't feel well at the moment."
Akon steeled his courage for what he was about to do next. She was far above his station and while it was polite, his offer may be considered presumptuous. He held out his hand.
"Would you like me to help you to the gate, ma'am?" He asked.
Unohana's smile widened. She could see how his hand shook. She took his hand and leaned on him for strength. "That would be fine young sir."
With a relived grin, Akon led the captain out of the lab and down the hall. After a few steps she stopped. She patted his arm. "Wait here." She said, "I forgot something." She returned to the lab and went over to Mayuri's desk. She found all of her notes and calculations, folded them up and put them into a pocket in her haori. She walked to the exit. For some reason, she stopped. Turning around, she took one long last look at the laboratory. She especially looked at the large jar of blood emptying into the tank. Her blood. She bowed to the young woman forming in the tank.
"I've done all I can for you." She said. "I will be watching you. I wish you well." She wanted to say more. She didn't know what to say. With one last look, she entered the hallway.