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Zack’s never been so terrified in his life. It’s not an emotion he likes. The worst thing about it is the darkness, the all consuming, cloying, pitch-black abyss all around him, and he can’t seem to get away from it. He can’t open his eyes. It’s like he can’t even find the right muscles to flex. He can’t do a damn thing, so he just sits there or lies there or maybe even stands there, existing in that horrible nothingness.

And then there’s something else. A commotion bursts around him, something he can’t really see or hear but feels. A burst of heat ripples across him like searing fire, maybe crackling electricity. He wants to scream, more in frustration than anything. He wants to—

He’s picked up. It’s the only way to describe it. There was something hard and cold below him, but then there’s a rush of air, and soft, warm hands pulling him close. He’s cradled gently against a great comfort—he can feel the ripple of breath or maybe a racing pulse and thinks he’s being held against someone’s chest. Except that chest is huge, the hands enormous. Another monster, maybe? He doesn’t know what’s happened since Hollander—maybe it was him?—came and changed everything. Zack shudders with the obvious realization: he’s been experimented on, and something’s gone wrong.

“I’ve got you,” someone tells him, and Zack doesn’t know how he hears the words, but he does, like a whisper or a ripple that slithers right below his skin. He recognizes the cadence: it’s Angeal. Now he recognizes the body that has him—everything from the uniform to the chiseled muscles below to the splay of Angeal’s fingers around him. Angeal promises: “It’s going to be okay.”

Zack wants to ask: “What is? What’s happened?” but he can’t find his lips to move them.

Angeal’s there again, telling him, “Hollander took you. The experiments... Zack... you were turned into a potato.”

For a moment, Zack is mindless. He doesn’t understand. Angeal chuckles sadly: “Should’ve been a puppy.” But there’s no room to joke in a life like this. Zack quivers, or wants to.

“I’ll protect you until I can find a way to turn you back. On my honour, I will.”

Zack wants to wail. He wants to faint but can’t.

Because he’s a potato, at least for now.