Angelus Errare by Laguna
Summary: As usual, not long after the events from the game, a strange new problem arises. Squall has to search for answers. (The chapter formatting problem is being worked on. Really. - Goku Girl)
Categories: Video Games > Final Fantasy VIII Division Characters: Irvine Kinneas, Quistis Trepe, Rinoa Heartilly, Seifer Almasy, Selphie Tilmit, Squall Leonhart, Zell Dincht
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 18 Completed: No Word count: 117012 Read: 82924 Published: 01-07-07 Updated: 07-18-07
Story Notes:

I would have never even begun writing this story if it wasn't for Espergirl and her FF VIII fic entitled "Balance of Power" (can be found at It is without a doubt the best fic I have ever read and really inspired me to have a go at creating a FF 8 fanfic of my own. The game Chrono Cross also inspired some elements of the main plot.

This is version 1.5 ; some Chapters have been re-edited (minor changes). In the future I intend to remove all unnecessary scenes (sorry there are still a few) and even downplay the role of one of the new characters a little, so the story will focus more on the main plot and characters we all know from the game. Also I want to remove all the typos and grammatical errors that managed to slip through the automatic spell check and my own checks. If you find any horrible mistakes feel free to point them out to me. Email me at ^___^ Also if you give wanna praise or criticize, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I just hope you'll enjoy the story.

1. The Leap of Fate by Laguna

2. Confusion by Goku Girl

3. The Escape by Goku Girl

4. The Chase by Goku Girl

5. Railway Bridge by Goku Girl

6. Plan Set in Motion by Goku Girl

7. Esthar! by Goku Girl

8. Together by Goku Girl

9. Sleeeeep!! by Goku Girl

10. Tactical Retreat by Goku Girl

11. Looking Back by Goku Girl

12. Back at Balamb Garden by Goku Girl

13. Don't Be Afraid by Goku Girl

14. Confidence by Goku Girl

15. The Past Always Catches Up by Goku Girl

16. On to the Next Mission by Goku Girl

17. The Lamest Journey by Goku Girl

18. Timber and Trains by Goku Girl

The Leap of Fate by Laguna
Note: I would have never even begun writing this story if it wasn't for Espergirl and her FF VIII fic entitled "Balance of Power" (can be found at It is without a doubt the best fic I have ever read and really inspired me to have a go at creating a FF 8 fanfic of my own. The game Chrono Cross also inspired some elements of the main plot.

This is version 1.5 ; some Chapters have been re-edited (minor changes). In the future I intend to remove all unnecessary scenes (sorry there are still a few) and even downplay the role of one of the new characters a little, so the story will focus more on the main plot and characters we all know from the game. Also I want to remove all the typos and grammatical errors that managed to slip through the automatic spell check and my own checks. If you find any horrible mistakes feel free to point them out to me. Email me at ^___^ Also if you give wanna praise or criticize, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I just hope you'll enjoy the story.


Written by -Laguna-


Chapter 1: The Leap of Fate


"Aaargh! There's no stopping this thing---!!" Zell cried out, slamming his fist hard on the floor A fierce roar echoed, leaving Zell speechless. The sound was so loud it shook the whole place. "Oh man!!…i-is it coming o-over here?" Zell asked, not too sure if he wanted to know. Before anyone answered he withdrew even further in the dark corner they were hiding. "It seems to be heading the other way, towards the girls!!" Irvine gasped after glaring around the corner. "We've gotta do something, FAST!" -"Hold on Irvine!" Squall said when he grabbed Irvine by his shoulder. "Check your equipment first!" Another roar could be heard. Again the sound of it was so loud it sent a chill down Squall's spine. It stunned him for a moment. "Squall, man, come on! What are we gonna do?!" Zell uttered. He looked up at Zell. He was panicking. Squall wondered if it would be wise for his buddy to attack the beast again. Squall looked aside and saw the long shadow moving away from them, towards the girls…towards Rinoa. "We don't have a choice," He said, getting up. "Irvine, how's our equipment?" Irvine followed Squall's lead and got up, still staying in the shadows. He shook his head. "It aint good!" "We gave it everything we got in that last round, there isn't much magic left!" Irvine continued. "Nothing we did against it worked." He shook his again head and sighed. Irvine looked down. His hands were trembling, he apparently tried to stop it but couldn't. Squall motioned Zell and Irvine to follow him as he slowly stepped out of the hiding place. For one moment there was a total silence. Even the steam pipes of the Deep Sea Research Deposit seemed to quiet down for just that one instance. Squall glanced over his shoulder. Zell and Irvine were right behind him, ready to fight again if needed. Zell stepped forward and with a glare and a nod in Squall's direction he understood his part. "YO! Ugly!" Zell screamed across the hall, frantically waving his arms "We aint finished with you just yet!" Ultima Weapon raised its head, slowly turning around to face Zell. A nervous grin came across Zell's face. "Oh-kay…now what's the plan?" He said in Squall's direction. By now Ultima Weapon had fully turned around and was making his way towards Zell and the others. Each step it took violently shaking the floor. Squall tightened his grip on the gunblade and took a fighting stance. "Hey! Is that the plan? We can't beat it! It's even stronger than Ultimecia was!" Zell screamed as he took a few steps back and stood in one line with Irvine and Squall. It was approaching fast, but still too far away for an accurate hit with any magic, despite its enormous size. Squall examined his surroundings. They were standing at the end of a long hallway, behind them was nothing but a huge metal wall. Pipes seemed to be running everywhere. The light was severely muffled as there were but a few light sources along the stretch of the hall. At the end there was a bright light, but they'd have to get past a gigantic monster to reach it. Where is this? Squall wondered. …I can't remember this hallway from last time we were here… He re-focused his attention to the approaching Weapon. "Irvine, I have a plan," Squall said. "But it requires a precise shot…" Irvine took up a ready-to-shoot stance. "Just tell me what to hit. I'll make it happen." He told Squall, with a certain false sense of assurance to it. Squall pointed to a steam pipe half way between them and the Weapon. "I want you to shoot that pipe." Irvine glanced up, narrowing his eyes a bit. "Got it!" "Wait until it's next to it," Squall quickly said. "Then shoot a hole in the pipe at about the height of its eyes. Get the plan?" Zell grinned. "The high-pressured steam should hit 'em in the eyes! Yeah!" Irvine got down on one knee. He aimed at the pipe with as much precision as he could. "Come on…just a little bit further." He said softly. The beast continued to walk towards them as if by command. It stopped as it was exactly next to the pipe Squall had pointed out. Raising its head a bit, it slowly opened its mouth, only to release another loud roar. Squall turned to Irvine. "Now, fire!" On this command Irvine checked his cross hair on last time and recovered from the creature's last roar. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he pulled back the trigger. Zell and Squall watched the bullet as it was shot from the barrel of Irvine's gun. It was as if everything was in a state of slow motion. Squall could easily follow the course of the bullet despite its tremendous velocity. If this shot misses… He thought …we're toast. Ultima Weapon just stood there, not moving so much as an inch. Finally, to great relief of Squall there was a bang. The bullet had hit its intended target dead on. Hot steam was gushing from the hole in the pipe. "Okay, run!" Squall ordered. Ultima Weapon was screeching in agony from the steam that had reached its eyes as Irvine got up from the floor. They ran past the beast with all their might. Ultima Weapon was randomly moving about without even knowing where it was going, screaming in pain. Squall was almost hit by its foot but managed to jump aside before it came too close. When Squall reached a safe distance from it, he stopped to catch his breath. "C'mon! It's gonna recover any second now!" Zell yelled back at Squall. He was already far ahead, with Irvine running right along side him. Squall turned to the creature. He felt sorry for it. It looked so utterly helpless, vulnerable… One final gasp and Squall was running towards the bright light at the end of the hall again. He saw Irvine and Zell were practically there already. -How can they run so fast?? Am I so out of shape??- Squall wondered. He could make out a few distant shapes at the end. There were two…no three…people waiting for them. One of them was lying on the ground. Perhaps injured he concluded. Another one of them noticed Squall and the others and waved towards them.   A voice.   Squall couldn't yet make it out over the combined noise of the creature's agony and the steam. But as he ran closer and closer it became apparent it was a woman's voice. Irvine and Zell nodded and suddenly stopped to turn to Squall. -"The door!" Squall heard Irvine shout. "What?" Squall asked when he came in closer range of them. Zell pointed to a spot on the wall. "Push the button over there!" Nodding, Squall dashed with extra speed towards it. He glanced behind him; Ultima Weapon had regained its sight. It looked him straight in the eyes. Squall stared back. Whether it was the hot steam or not, it seemed more furious than ever before. Zell was nervously jumping up and down. "B-b-utton…push…now!" There was another fierce roar. Squall was caught by surprised and the shockwave of the sound made him temporarily lose his balance and he fell down on the smooth hallway floor. -"Get up Squall, close the door!" a woman's voice called. It was a familiar sound. Squall picked himself up from the floor, and nearly fell again when he looked at the approaching creature. The sheer speed with which it was coming at him was enough to stun even the best of warriors. Its legs were hardly even touching the floor. It didn't even make the floor tremble this time. Focus, focus! Squall said to himself. He narrowed his eyes and found a red button along the wall. He got fully up and ran without looking away this time. Squall ran so fast that he nearly smashed against wall when he reached it. There was a rather large red button among a few smaller ones. It was marked 'close'. Without a second thought Squall pushed the button and set the mechanism in motion. Within seconds a large metallic teeth door began to drop from the ceiling. A white line marked where it would close up. Squall was again gripped by panic as he realized he stood on the wrong side of it. A strange sound echoed through the hall. It originated from Ultima Weapon, but Squall couldn't help but think it sounded just like human laughter. -What's with all this running?- Squall wondered as he bolted off yet again. If he could just make it past the white line marked on the floor before either the creature reached him or the door closed up… "Squall!!" A chorus of voices yelled at the same time. The door was closing rapidly. -Why is the door so far away from the button…it makes no sense!- Squall thought. As he ran, he suddenly felt a wave of air just along side of him, followed by a loud clash of metal. Out of the corner of his eyes Squall saw the Weapon's sword hit the floor with astonishing force. A large crack appeared. Slowly water was pouring out the entire stretch of it. With the door almost closed and Weapon practically breathing down his neck, Squall made an all-or-nothing legs first sliding using the smooth hall way floor to its fullest. Ultima Weapon raised its sword up high, ready for the finishing touch. A strange grin appeared over its face. Squall slid for what appeared an eternity to him, the door ever getting closer to the ground. Its sharp teeth would surely be first to hit it. A gigantic sword came falling down at Squall, but stopped just before hitting Squall's face. The sharp end of the sword had gotten stuck in the door, temporarily stopping its downward motion… Squall's slide suddenly came to a full stop as he hit a small slope created by the Weapon's previous hit. Weapon braced itself and applied an even greater force to its sword, scratching a line in the large door as it went further down. The sound of it surpassing that of nails on a chalkboard by far. With one quick role to the left Squall managed to avoid certain doom. This time the sword sank even deeper in the floor, causing water to gush out everywhere. The monster left the sword stuck in the floor, and now raised its huge foot above Squall. There was no way he could get up a run away before getting hit. "Take cover!" A woman's voice yelled. Squall rolled face down to the now soaking wet floor and used his arms to cover his head. Suddenly there was an immensely bright light…an explosion could be heard. When Squall got up he noticed something had hit the ceiling just above Ultima Weapon. The greater part of the debris from the blast had fallen directly on its head and dust got in its eyes. It took a few steps backward and its foot had missed Squall completely. -"Ugh…come on…we can't hold this much longer" Zell yelled. Zell and Irvine had put a metal board under the teeth door and were trying to stop it from going down themselves. Squall ran the small stretch needed to cross the white-line with great ease, and performed a roll to get past the low hanging door. Seconds later the metal board cracked. Zell and Irvine jumped back. The door came crashing down this time, causing a cloud of dust to fly out when it finally reached the floor. Heavily panting, Squall leaned his head against the wall still eyeing the door. "Will it hold?" He asked. -"It will for now." A woman said. Squall turned and saw Quistis dusting off her body. "Everything okay?" She asked standing next to an exhausted Zell and Irvine. -"I'm fine…" Zell answered. "Just let my blood pressure return to normal, will ya?" Irvine nodded in agreement with Zell. Quistis ran her hand through her long blonde hair. "How about you? That was really cutting it close there Squall." He sighed. "Yeah…" Suddenly he looked up. "Where's Rinoa?" Looking down, Quistis crossed her arms. "She…she…was hit." Squall's eyes widened. He turned to the two shadowy figures a bit further down the hall. "Squall…wait, it's better not to look." Quistis spoke with a soft voice. But she didn't try to stop him.   He ignored her, ran closer and saw Selphie bent over Rinoa whom lay on the cold floor. The floor around Rinoa's body was red. She lay with her hands covering her stomach. Blood was all over her. Squall stopped next to her. "NO!" He yelled as he let himself fall on his knees. His voice echoed through the remainder of the hallway. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see her lifeless body. "NO! How can this be?!" He asked with a trembling tone of voice. He heard a faint coughing sound, and as he opened his eyes he saw Rinoa holding out one hand at him. "She's ALIVE!" Selphie exclaimed. Squall took Rinoa's hand, gently squeezing it. Tears were starting to form in his eyes. "I think she's trying to say something!" Selphie nearly cried out. Squall slowly picked up Rinoa's head with his other hand. A small stream of blood flowed from her mouth down her chin. -"Take it easy…I'm here." Squall assured her. The others rushed to Squall's side. Rinoa's eyes were still firmly shut, but her mouth was moving…she was indeed trying to say something. "What? I can't hear you," Squall said to her. He turned his ear closer to her mouth. -"Wake up sleepy-head!" She said.   <<------------------------------------------>>     It felt as though his body weighed at least ten tons as Squall slowly realized he lay in bed in his quarters. "Wakey, wakey." Squall heard Rinoa say. Birds were chirping outside. A cool breeze passed his face. Balamb Garden always was a nice place to wake up in. But Squall's eyes remained shut and he lay perfectly still. "Alright then." Rinoa said saucily, hands on her hips. "You asked for it." She pulled his sheets and uncovered Squall's feet. Rinoa rolled up her sleeves and stretched her fingers. "Let's see if you can resist my tickle torture." Immediately Squall's left eye popped open. "No, I'm awake, I'm awake." For a few seconds the unexpected brightness completely blinded him. But surely a figure appeared next to him. "Hey, good morning mister Leonhart, I trust you slept well?" Rinoa joyfully said. Squall crawled up with his back to the wall holding his hand in front of the light. He now opened both his eyes, slowly they began to focus. Rinoa stood directly next to him. Apparently she had opened up the curtains, and thrown open the window. As Squall regained normal vision, he noticed Rinoa's outfit in particular. She was wearing something he'd never seen before. It looked a lot like a female SeeD's formal uniform, but altered, more festive. He couldn't really describe it. But it looked amazing on her. "Well…actually," Squall said. "I had this weird dream." He rested his hand on his forehead. "Involved a lot of running…" Looking at Rinoa, he saw a warm smile appear on her face. "Was I in your dream?" Rinoa asked. "I was, wasn't I?" He sat up straight, swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and reached for the floor with his feet. "You'd rather I dream about another girl?" Squall replied looking up at her. Rinoa gave Squall a surprised look. "Hey, careful now," She said. "You're developing a sense of humor. This could be dangerous." Squall shook his head. "Whatever…" "There you go again with the 'whatever'-thing," Rinoa chuckled. She extended her arm towards Squall. "Need a hand getting up?" She kindly asked. "No thanks. Just give me a minute." He replied. Rinoa placed her hands on her hips again. "Hurry up already." Squall looked across the room at the small clock hanging on the opposite side of the door. She followed his gaze. "Yes, it IS breakfast time. So get up mister." Another cool breeze entered the room. Squall shivered a bit. No wonder He thought. The window's completely opened! Squall yawned and stretched his arms. He stood up and made his way over to the bathroom. The only things he wore were shorts and a smudgy old T-shirt. Shaking, he made it past the window. "So what was the dream about?" Rinoa asked, still standing next to Squall's bed. Squall turned the water valve at the sink in the bathroom and splashed some water on his face. -"It was actually more of a nightmare." He said, grabbing a nearby towel. It took him a few seconds to realize he was standing on the bathroom floor-tiles with bare feet. He quickly grabbed another towel and placed it on the floor. Rinoa moved closer to the bathroom door then turned her back to it. Wouldn't want to give him the wrong impression. She thought. Rinoa shrugged. "Well, don't they have a meaning sometimes?" Grabbing a comb, Squall peered into the mirror and focused his attention on his hair. It was a real mess. "If that is true," He said. "Then I think it told me I run too slow." A giggling sound came from the bedroom. Squall peeked and noticed Rinoa standing with her back to the door, holding her hands close to her mouth. "But I'll tell you about it later," Squall continued "I'll just get dressed now and we'll head down to the cafeteria." "Cafeteria?!" Rinoa pouted. "Did you forget?" Squall found his socks on the other side of the bathroom and tiptoed over there on the icy floor. He sat down on the small radiator attached to the wall. What did I forget? Squall wondered as he put on his warm socks. …Best remember fast He could just imagine her standing there, hands on her hips… "Well? Did you?" Rinoa impatiently asked Squall. Squall glanced around the bathroom. "Uhm, could you hand me my clothes? I think I left them on the edge of the bed." "Hmph, changing the subject are we?" Rinoa pouted, moving to fetch his clothes. She examined the pile of clothes. "Hey, are you gonna wear this outfit AGAIN?" It was the same outfit Squall wore during their struggle against the sorceress Ultimecia a few weeks ago. Squall's hand appeared around the corner of the bathroom door. "Yeah." He simply said. "Give me that." The clothes came flying across the room in the general direction of his hand. All but his belt fell on the floor. "Whoops, sorry!" Rinoa hastily excused. Squall groaned and gathered the pieces of clothing from the floor. As he was picking up the last item, he noticed a picnic basket next to the door. Ah ha He thought. "The picnic, of course I remember." Squall told her confidently as he proceeded getting dressed. The door to the Garden hall slid open. "I'll wait for you in front of the cafeteria then." Rinoa said picking up her basket. The Cafeteria after all? Squall thought Hmm, no, guess she needs to stock up on food first… Slowly the door closed again, reminding Squall of his nightmare. He dismissed the thought of it as he buckled his belt. The slugs of gunblade ammo he left stored in their little boxes. Squall walked towards the cupboard next to his bed, and found his black gloves there. His boots he found partly shoved under the bed. He sat down and put on his gloves and boots. The strange dream came to his mind again. Replaying the events of it, he zoned out completely for a few minutes. He awoke to the sound of students heavily arguing over something in the hallway outside. Oh right He realized. Rinoa's waiting for me. He walked towards the hallway and grabbed his jacket, hanging besides the exit. The door slid open again and a strange sensation came over Squall. "Am I forgetting something?" He asked himself, looking around the room. His gunblade was safely locked away in a small chest on a desk in the corner. Other than that Squall couldn't think of anything else he could have forgotten. He raised his shoulders. They were just going to have a picnic nearby Balamb Garden, he couldn't see why he needed to bring a weapon. -"Good morning Sir." A passing student said. She looked vaguely familiar to him, but her name didn't come to mind. "Good morning." Squall replied. He took a few steps forward and the door closed up behind him. -Oh, of course- He thought, turning to a digital pad on the wall next to his quarters. "Lock." He told it. A light blinked. The words 'please enter code' appeared on the small screen above the pad. Almost automatically Squall punched in 2-5-3. The light blinked again and the words 'code confirmed' now appeared. He walked off towards the Cafeteria.     <<------------------------------------------>>       As Squall walked down the Dormitory hall, he could hear the faint sound of clashing metal. Even early in the morning, the Training Center could be a busy place. It reminded Squall of the many hours he used to spend there. Perhaps after the picnic I'll go in for a few rounds He thought. There weren't many students in the main hall; the first classes of the day had already started. And the total number of students was still very low since many had died during the battle between Balamb- and Galbadia Garden. But things were returning to normal. People went on with their lives, some already starting to forget what had happened. How close the world came to destruction. Footsteps clicked against the floor behind him. -"Hey Squall." Quistis said as she walked up beside him. She wore her instructor uniform and was carrying a pile of books and paper. "Don't you have a class to teach?" Squall asked. She shook her head. "No, I start the second period." Her arms tightened around the books she was holding. "It'll be my first class since I was deemed unqualified..." Squall remembered the conversation Quistis had with Headmaster Cid a few days earlier. Due to a lack of Instructors she had been re-instated. -"You'll do fine Quistis." Squall assured her. The same surprised look Rinoa had shown now came over Quistis. "Why thank you Squall." She said. "That doesn't really seem like something the old Squall would say though." Quistis smiled. "Guess Rinoa's having a positive effect on you." Squall shrugged. "What-" "Ever..." Quistis giggled as she finished the sentence before Squall could. They walked into the main hall of the Garden and saw Rinoa standing in front of the Cafeteria. Pacing about impatiently. -"Hello Instructor." Rinoa greeted with a smile. "Oh please," Quistis said as she nudged Rinoa with her elbow. "You can call me Quistis." Strange odors hung in the air. Squall traced the scent back to the Cafeteria. Hmm, wonder what's being served? "Aw okay." Rinoa sobbed. "But I DO think Instructor sounds better. Don't you?" Covering his forehead with his hand, Squall got the definite feeling he was about to be standing in the middle of a girl-talk conversation. "Hey, wow, where did you get those clothes?" Quistis asked, surprised at Rinoa's stunning outfit. I knew it… Squall said to himself. "Well," Rinoa started, then she turned to Squall. "Uhm, hey, why don't you go check up on Zell and Irvine? I think I saw them in the Cafeteria." -"Okay." He uncovered his face and looked up. Walking in the direction of the Cafeteria the scent became more and more repellent. Whatever was cooking sure had been over-done.     Glancing across the room Squall noticed Zell, Irvine and Selphie sitting at the table by the big window. There was a small line waiting to get food. A few students sat at the tables. Zell was yapping, whilst Irvine and Selphie sat close together on the other side of the table hardly paying much attention to his rants at all. "So anyway, there I was against this huge cactus-like monster," Zell said. "I told it to get lost or I would booyaka it so hard it would kiss the moon." His body sagged. "That's about the time it 'ker-plunked' on me." "Hey Squally!" Selphie exclaimed cheerily as she noticed him walk up. "Grab a seat, won't ya?" She pointed at Zell. "Pssst, don't mind him Squall, he's in a weird mood today." Zell launched a few pieces of sprouts at Selphie. "Hey I hate these damn vegetables." "GROSS!" Selphie screamed. She noticed most of the people in the Cafeteria turned to see what the commotion is about. Quickly she put on a smile. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Nothing to see here folks." "Why would anyone eat sprouts for breakfast?" Squall asked, drawing a very confused look. Chuckling, Selphie noticed Zell giving the lunch-lady an annoyed glare. "He didn't finish his vegetables yesterday. So now instead of hotdog he gets sprouts!" Selphie explained to Squall. A pack of brown beans came flying towards Selphie. "Oh yeah," She said wiping most of them off. "I forgot the brown beans…" "Now, now. Food fights are sooo immature." Irvine said as he threw what was left of his hotdog at Zell. It missed him and landed on the floor. Slowly Squall grabbed a seat and sat down, not really sure he wanted to be seen with them. "HEY!" Zell yelled as he leaped on the ground to pick up the hotdog. "Don't EVER waste a hotdog like that!" He scolded at Irvine. Irvine picked up his hat from the table. "Well, I was only saving this cutie here from a food-throwing maniac." Zell turned around, pretending to look for someone. "Cutie? Food-throwing maniac?" Irvine yawned and slowly moved his arms to the other side of Selphie's shoulder. "You had better not be doing that old yawn-and-hug trick Irvine. That's so old." Selphie warned him without turning around to look. Quickly Irvine yawned again and crossed his arms. Shoot, He thought. Mission failed. Squall raised an eyebrow when he saw how Zell was cleaning the hotdog thrown on the floor with his sleeve. Selphie too was closely watching him. "You are NOT going to eat that, are ya?" Wiping some dust off the hotdog, Zell opened his mouth as far as he could. Drooling, he moved the hotdog closer. With his free hand he shoved his plate with vegetables to the other side of the table. "Who needs that stuff, when I gots me a hotdog!" He said. "EEW!! A spider!!" Selphie exclaimed. Everyone in the Cafeteria turned to see what the commotion was this time. They all shook their heads as the realized it was only Selphie again. Nothing to worry about, false alarm. Zell paused for a moment, his eyes trying to focus on the hotdog he held just under his nose. Irvine grinned. "Where's a camera when you need one?" -"There's a spider on MY hotdog?!" Zell blurted, trying to inspect every inch of the hotdog. Irvine smacked his forehead. "No, there is no spider. Selphie was just kidding." Not a second later, Zell threw the hotdog high up in the air, and caught it with his mouth. A few choking sounds later he swallowed it whole, eyes tearing, slamming his fist on the table in the process. "Although Selphie probably thought those little hairs on it looked like a spider." Irvine laughed. Zell's eyes went wide and he grabbed his throat. "Water!!" He yelled and burst away from the table. -"Oh, and I always enjoy the extra hot sauce on my hotdogs!" Irvine yelled in his direction. "So Squall, what's up?" Irvine said as he casually sat back and enjoyed the good view of passing female students. A sudden smack on the back of his head made him fall forwards. His face landed in Zell's plate of beans and sprouts. Laughter echoed throughout the Cafeteria. "Serves you right." Selphie told him. "First making moves on me then staring at other girls…" "I'm sowwy." Irvine mumbled with his face still in Zell's breakfast. Selphie patted his head and giggled. "Hey, stay there for a while, why don't ya?" His thumb was raised up high. "Yes ma'am…" He mumbled. "…By the way, I think these beans are giving me gas." "So Squally, what's up? You've been kinda quiet." Selphie said as she moved her chair a bit further away from Irvine. He turned around and saw Rinoa was still talking to Quistis at the Cafeteria entrance. "I have this picnic with Rinoa." He said. He didn't exactly seem enthusiastic about it. Selphie clapped her hands together. "Oh! That's sooo romantic." She exclaimed. Irvine raised his hand. "Uhm…I have a question." He said. "Could I maybe, possibly get up now? I can't breathe." -"Well…okay." Selphie replied. She pulled Irvine up straight by his shoulders. As he sat back in his chair, Irvine took a deep breath. "Whoa…fresh air. I forgot what that was like." "Squall was just telling me about how he and Rinoa were going on a picnic." Selphie told Irvine, nudging him. Irvine raised an eyebrow and waved his hat in front of his face. "Man, I smell like beans." Irvine's face lit up. "Oh! Would you like to go on a picnic with ME later today?" -"No way." Zell said as he ran back and plopped down in his chair. His face was all wet. Selphie got up and hugged Irvine. "I would." She giggled. "You were right though, you DO smell like beans." Waving at Quistis and Rinoa, Selphie walked away. Of course wanting to share the good news with her friends. "See ya later guys." She said. -"Hey! If you're gonna eat my vegetables, at least finish it." Zell yelled as he looked at his plate. Irvine ignored him and looked around. "Hmm, now is my chance." He noticed a group of girls sitting at a nearby table and got up to join them. Zell scratched the back of his head. "So…just you and my now, huh Squall?" Squall sat staring out the window. … Zell's body sagged. "Well at least say SOMETHING." Squall thought for a moment and turned to Zell. "Hey, where's that girl with a pigtail you liked?" "Okay, say anything but THAT." Zell sighed. "She, uhm…left me." He grinned. "She said I was too immature…can you believe that?" "No. Can't imagine where she got that idea." Squall said as honestly as possible. He then stared at Zell for moment. "W-what? I got something stuck between my teeth?" Zell asked, feeling uncomfortable under Squall's gaze. -"No that's not it." Squall replied. "I was just thinking, you were with me and Irvine when we explored the Deep Sea Deposit, right?" Nodding, Zell affirmed him. "Yeah, and we sure did kick that Weapon's ASS! Booyaka!!" Zell noticed Squall's face grew serious. "Why do you ask? Not to reminisce I suppose?" -"Is it possible we overlooked a room, or rather hall-way of some sort?" Squall asked. Scratching the back of his head, Zell pondered for a moment. "Dunno really. I didn't fully figure out the mechanism behind the steam and stuff, so I guess it's possible." Zell said. "Should we go check? I bet Selphie could fly us there in the Ragnarok." -"No. I just had this vivid dream about a hall there. Was probably just that, a dream…" Squall replied. Zell sagged. "Dude, that reminds me of my dream of being Ward in that desert prison." He uttered. "THE most boring dreaming one person could ever have." Squall shrugged. "At least you didn't dream you were a moron." Raising an eyebrow, Zell wondered what Squall meant by that. What moron? "Oh!" He exclaimed. "You mean Laguna? Hehehe!" After suddenly banging his fist together, Zell jumped up and down his seat as if he had a rocket up his ass. "Man, I can't sit still for too long or I'll go nuts!" He explained. He got up and started punching the air. "Don't you miss all the fighting and stuff, Squall?" Squall got up as well. Zell took a few steps back and covered his face. "Zell?" Squall asked. "Is something wrong?" Slowly Zell uncovered his face again. His face glowing in a reddish color. "Phew, for a second there I thought you were gonna hit me for saying that." He said with a relieved tone of voice. -"No, I'm gonna eat some breakfast now, I hope." Squall assured him. Rinoa was still talking to Quistis, and Selphie had joined their discussion as well. But Squall's stomach was churning and he was determined to get some food. He was starving… Sighing with relief, Zell sat down again. "Yeah, it is kinda stupid to hit a person just because that person asks if you miss fights." Zell contemplated. "I mean if you think about it. That's like Irvine calling for stricter gun control laws…hehe." "Hey Squall? How about you and me go in for a few fights later at the Training Center?" Zell asked. "I know you haven't been training much lately so I…uh…Squall?" Zell looked up and saw Squall moving towards the Cafeteria entrance. "Hmph. Guess some things never change." He said. Zell reached for his 'breakfast'-plate and quickly threw it in the thrashcan next to the table. -"HEY!" The lunch-lady yelled across the room. "I saw that young man! No hotdogs for you this week." Zell moaned and groaned, banging his head against the table repeatedly. "I'm a SeeD," He said to himself out loud. "SeeDs deserve hotdogs!" He looked aside and saw how Irvine got water splashed in his face by a several girls at the same time. Hmm, guess I'm not the only one having a bad day. He thought.   "Ready to go?" Squall asked as he walked up to Rinoa. She gave him a slightly annoyed look. "I am in the middle of a conversation here dear." -"Naw that's okay Rinoa. You two go and have your picnic." Selphie assured her. "Tee-hee!" "Yeah, that's fine. Have a good time you two." Quistis added. She examined the books she was holding. "I still have to prepare for my class in. I'll catch you later." She said and searched across the Cafeteria for an empty table. A soaking wet Irvine was just retreating. As he walked past Squall and the girls he threw up his hands. "Don't ask." He said then jogged off towards the dormitories. -"Need any help with that Quis?" Selphie said pointing towards the books Quistis was holding. Quistis nodded and handed Selphie a few of the larger books she carried. "Now let's find a table. Preferably not too close to Zell." She said giggling; noticing Zell was banging his head against the table over and over. "He seems to be…causing permanent brain damage at the moment." Squall glanced at the picnic basket Rinoa had put on the floor. Just as he tried to open the lid, Rinoa slapped him on his hand. "H-ey, wait 'till we find us a good spot." Rinoa said trying to sound angry. A churning sound came from Squall's stomach. "Oh dear," Rinoa laughed. "Best hurry."     <<------------------------------------------>>        The sun was shining brightly as Squall and Rinoa walked over the fields near Balamb. -"Here's a good spot." Rinoa said as she put down her basket. She picked a spot in the lush green grass just next to a small tree. From there they could overlook a large stretch of the beach and the beautiful blue ocean. Wave after wave came rolling across the beach... Besides a few chirping birds, there weren't any other creatures in sight. "C'mon Squall, sit down already," Rinoa ordered. "And help me unpack." Squall moved to Rinoa's basket and grabbed a few packed sandwiches from it. With a thud Squall quickly sat down. Finally! He thought I have some food. Rinoa picked up some more items from her basket and sat down next to Squall. -"It's beautiful, isn't it?" She said as she looked up. They sat under a clear cerulean sky. Squall handed Rinoa a sandwich and took one himself. He took a few large bites and it was gone. -"Wow, you really were hungry." Rinoa laughed. She stared at Squall for a minute. He sat up straight and looked out across the sea. -"Is something bothering you Squall?" She asked, tilting her head slightly. A sudden gush of wind flowed through his hair. He narrowed his eyes a bit. "I don't know," He said. "But it feels like there's some unfinished business." Rinoa moved to sit on her knees behind Squall's back. -"I know what you need." She said. "A relaxing massage!" He shook his head. "No thank you." Above them a flock of seagulls flew by. -"Oh come on." Rinoa said as she hung around Squall's neck, gently hugging him. "You're so tense…" They both stared at the seagulls flying out over the sea until they were out of sight. Rinoa sighed and got up, reaching for the cans of soda she brought. -"How many times do you need to save the world before you'll relax?" She asked, plopping down next to him again. Squall opened his can of soda and took a few sips. "As many as times necessary." He said with a serious look. Playfully punching Squall in the stomach, she grinned. "That's so noble of you." -"My knight in shining armor." She continued. "Yeah…" He mumbled. Rinoa rested her head against Squall's shoulder. "Hey Squall?" He turned his head slightly. "Yes?" -"Is Laguna really your father?" She asked. "I overheard you and Quistis talk about it yesterday." "Yeah. I believe so." Squall said with a worried look. "But he never actually told me this." "Just that he wanted to see me after we defeated Ultimecia." Squall continued. "But I'm not sure I want to see him…" With a smile Rinoa assured Squall whatever he thought was best was okay with her. Suddenly a shot of pain ran through Squall. It felt like someone was pounding his head with a hammer. He cringed and moved his hand against his forehead. "I think I'm coming down with something." He said. "I don't feel so good. Maybe I'd better go." Rinoa put her arm around Squall. "Just a bit longer…" She whispered. "You know once this moment has passed it will never come again…" With a nod Squall agreed. His head still aching. "And Seifer…" Squall realized. "What about him?" -"I think he knows he was wrong. I doubt we'll get any trouble from him anymore." Rinoa tried to assure Squall who still wasn't fully convinced. "Last I heard, he was staying in Fisherman's Horizon." "As long as he just stays there." Squall said, taking a few more sips from his soda. -"You worry too much." Rinoa concluded. She pointed at a small cake she had brought with her. "Be a dear, and hand me a piece of that cake I got from the lunch-lady. It looks delicious." Rinoa said looking at Squall with puppy dog eyes. Squall sighed and bent forward, simply grabbing the whole cake. "There you go." He said. Surprised by a sudden nudge from Rinoa, Squall raised an eyebrow. "What??" Giggling, she shook her head. "You're supposed to feed me pieces goof." She said. "That's what couples do." "Yeah well, I forgot to read the manual on this." Squall explained. He broke off a small piece and fed Rinoa. "Happy now?" He asked. -"Hmm, food's excellent. Lousy service though." Rinoa laughed and turned to Squall. -"It wouldn't hurt to smile." She said as she noticed his troubled look. She shrugged and tried to imitate Squall's expression. "Hey, cut that out. I'm just not used to smiling, okay?" He explained. Rolling up her sleeve, Rinoa turned to Squall. "I'll just have to work on that, now won't I?" "Sure." Squall said slightly grinning. "Just don't expect me to turn out as hyper as Selphie." Rinoa laughed, and snuggled up even closer to Squall. Images suddenly flashed through Squall's mind. They were vague and dark like old photographs, yet at the same time so very clear. Clearer than memories or dreams. He sees a figure looking at him from a distance. This figure closes with each image until he or she is almost within reach. A laugh. Everything goes dark but the same twisted laughter keeps echoing. "Hey, Squall you don't look so good." Rinoa said waving her hand in front of his face. He shook his head and realized he was still sitting next to Rinoa in the fields near Balamb Garden. As he stood up a blue circle appeared on the ground around him. It flashed brightly and began swirling. What?! Terrified, Rinoa backed away from Squall and in doing so tripped over a small stone. Squall reached for his head with both hands. The sudden headache had returned, far worse now than before. He had to fight a severe pain to stay focused. "What's going on!" Squall yelled trying to make sense of everything. He turned to Rinoa. She lay on the ground staring at Squall with wide eyes. Tears appeared . "Squall, what's happening to you?" She demanded to know. The air around Squall's body lit up dark blue. He stretched his arms in front of him, closely examining them. -"Is Ellone doing this?!" Rinoa asked. "Ugh…I…don't…know…!" Squall barely managed to say under the excruciating pain he felt. He tried to walk towards Rinoa. She got up from the grass and extended her arm towards him. He could feel the air pushing at him as if on the verge of imploding. "Grab my hand Squall!" Rinoa shouted, tears now rolling down her face. He could see her mouth move but couldn't hear what she was saying. A blinding light emanated from where Rinoa stood and in the blink of an eye she disappeared right in front of Squall. Then the blue circle widened on the ground around him and became white. Streams of blue light now whirled around Squall, like tentacles growing upwards to the sky. As he looked down, the very ground he stood on faded and Squall fell through the void it left. Everything turned black.
Confusion by Goku Girl
Author's Notes:
Note From Goku Girl: I am not the author of these chapters, I just added them, but I'm unable to change who's listed as the author.
Squall awoke to the sounds of splashing water. He found himself lying on his back in the grass right where he and Rinoa had their picnic. As he sat up straight, he could see the small stone Rinoa tripped over, and the tree that provided a bit of shade. -What did just happen?!- He asked himself. The grass was green, the sea blue. And the sky was still cerulean. He touched the ground around him with his hands. It felt as solid as it should be… Everything seemed in order. Except Rinoa was missing! Squall peered around but couldn't see anyone. Nor could he find any evidence of their picnic. -Another dream?- Squall wondered. "Aah!" He yelled out in pain as he got another sudden burst of headache. Whatever happened was real, he concluded. Jumping up, Squall looked around again. In the distance he could see the town of Balamb. It was too far away to be able to tell if anyone was there. He turned to the direction of Balamb Garden but couldn't see it because of a hill in between. -Hmm,- He thought. -From up there I'll have a better view.- As he started walking towards the hilltop he nearly fell over again. Slowly regaining his sense of balance he moved on. "Rinoa!" He yelled. There was no reply. The sound of waves rolling on the beach was the only thing he heard. Balamb Garden came further into view as Squall walked up the hill. He sighed with relief as he saw students walking in front it. But Rinoa was no where to be seen. The students noticed a man running towards them and followed him closely with their eyes. "Stop right there!" One of them yelled when Squall was nearly there. Amazed by the number of students suddenly standing around him, he did as he was told. They were armed. Their outfits were smudged, and stained. Squall held up his hands, having absolutely no idea what went on. -There was a battle?- He wondered. One of the older students approached him. "Your ID please." He asked with a sword held in his hand. Even though it was hardly ever used, everyone at the Garden had to keep an ID card with them at all times. -"I don't think he carries a weapon, Sir." One of the students reported. Slowly with one hand Squall reached for his coat pocket, carefully being eyed by the students. The older one gestured for some student to fetch Squall's ID card. Squall stared around. When he looked up at the Garden, he noticed a few holes and tares. It somehow looked very different from when he left. Something bad must have happened… -"What happened here?" He asked. The young student quickly yanked Squall's ID card from his hand and threw it to the older one. "Who is it?" A few students asked him. He examined the card. -"Squall Leonhart. A high-rank SeeD apparently." He told them, still keeping his eyes on Squall. Sheathing his sword, he walked closer to Squall. "I'm sorry for all this. But it's necessary." He said giving Squall his ID card back. He turned around. "Nida!" He called. "Escort him to the Cafeteria." Squall wasn't sure what else to do, and saluted the older student. He smiled and saluted back. "We don't have much SeeDs here, always good to have one more." "Has anyone see Rinoa?" Squall asked. -"Who? Who is that?" One of them replied. A discussion lit up. The older student ordered them to quiet down. "Rinoa Heartilly, I have heard of her." He said. "But I'm not sure where she is. You should talk to the SeeDs here. They should all be in the Cafeteria now." -"This way Sir." Nida said, gesturing Squall to follow. Nodding, Squall walked right behind Nida. As he looked back, he saw most students patrolling the entrance again. He turned to Nida. It was the same person he graduated with, the same Nida that flew the Garden. But there was something wrong. He was wearing a student uniform. -"Were you demoted?" Squall asked as they walked past the fountain and through the gates. "Demoted?" Nida asked with a surprised look. "No Sir." As they walked into the main hall, Squall noticed the structural damage of the Garden. There were holes in the ceiling and walls, debris was lying around everywhere. The students walking around all had serious looks on their faces. Not one of them seemed to be smiling. Squall suddenly stopped. -Not demoted? Then shouldn't Nida be wearing the SeeD uniform??- Nida turned and looked at him questioningly. -"You are a SeeD, right?" Squall asked. "You graduated after the Dollet-mission." Looking down at the floor, Nida's body sagged. "I didn't pass the exam." "Well, anyway," Nida mumbled, looking up at Squall again. "The Cafeteria is over there. Do you want me to walk you there, Sir?" -"No that won't be necessary." Squall replied. He watched Nida walk off to the Garden entrance then turned to examine the interior of the Garden further. "Something is very wrong with this picture." Squall said to himself. Bullet shells and debris were lying across the floor. Yet students walked past it without so much as looking at it. A junior student ran past Squall. "Hey. Slow down for a minute." Squall ordered. The student stopped. -"Sir?" Squall pointed at a one of the holes in the wall. "What happened in here?" The young student sighed. "Ah, that's from a battle between this Garden and Galbadia Garden. A few weeks ago." He narrowed his eyes and stared at Squall. "Where have you been? Inside a cave or sumthin'?" Noticing a bench next to the hallway screen, Squall took a seat. "That was all. Move along." He told the kid. Playfully the young student saluted Squall and bolted off. Squall ran his hands through his hair. What's going on? He wondered. Nida didn't graduate. The damage of the battle with Galbadia Garden is still there. How is this all possible? -"Is everything okay with you young man?" A woman asked. Squall looked up. Doctor Kadowaki stood in front of him. She tilted Squall's head a bit. "Are you injured?" -"No." Squall answered. She sat down next to him. "Then what's wrong?" -"Rinoa. She…she suddenly disappeared in the fields." Squall explained. Shaking her head, Doc Kadowaki held out her clipboard in front of her. "Let's see now…Rinoa Heartilly, yes?" She asked sifting through the pages. He nodded. "Ah, there it is. Rinoa was dropped off in Timber a few weeks ago." She said. Squall glared at the doctor questioningly. "What? That's impossible! She was here this morning." Squall uttered. Doc Kadowaki shifted through the pages on her clipboard again. "No, I'm sorry. If she was here I would have known." She said. "You see, I'm charged with keeping the records of students, SeeDs, Instructors and any other people staying here at this Garden." He shrugged. "This can't be…" Taking a pencil, the doctor shifted to the last page in her clipboard. "And you are Squall Leonhart? A SeeD?" She asked. "I just got a call from the gate saying you had arrived." He jumped up from the bench staring at Dr. Kadowaki with eyes wide. "What?!" He exclaimed. "You don't know who I am?!" What game is being played here?! He had known the doctor since he first joined Garden, she had to know him too! -"Calm down Mr. Leonhart, please." Dr. Kadowaki said. She looked at her clipboard again. "There isn't any previous record of you being here, did you come from Trabia Garden?" She asked Squall. This isn't real. This can't be happening! He thought. "Are you alright? You don't look so good." The doctor asked. -"My forehead hurts." Squall sighed. He glanced in the direction of the Cafeteria. "The other SeeDs are in there?" He asked. Dr. Kadowaki stood up, and followed Squall's gaze. "Yes, I believe so." She answered. "Now, should I note you as Squall Leonhart, SeeD from Trabia Garden?" He sighed heavily and reached for his ID Card. "Read what it says right here." He told her, handing his card. This should proof it. -"…Stationed at Balamb Garden…" Kadowaki read out loud. She handed back his card and made a note on her clipboard. -"I'm sorry," She said with a sudden worried look. "Things have been very chaotic around here." "Now if you'll excuse me." She said as she walked off to the Infirmary. Squall shrugged and walked over to one of the holes in the floor. It had been created by several gunshots, the empty shells still lying close to it. Picking up one of the bullets from the floor, Squall examined it. Definitely Galbadian standard issue slugs He realized. Loud footsteps could be heard coming from the Training Center. As Squall turned to see who it was, he saw Zell run as fast as he could towards the Cafeteria. "Zell, wait!" Squall called, but he didn't hear him. Sighing, Squall ran after him, hoping to get some answers. Before Dr. Kadowaki reported back to her post in the Infirmary, she approached the Garden Faculty guarding the entrance. -"What can I help you with doctor?" The Garden Faculty asked in the usual drone-like voice. Slightly trembling, she cleared her throat. "Call Headmaster Cid down here right now. I think there's a spy in the Garden." <<------------------------------------------>> "Halt!" The Garden faculty guarding the Cafeteria yelled as Squall approached. Squall gave him an annoyed look, and showed his ID Card once more. The guards examined it for a moment, and motioned Squall he could proceed. -"Why is every entrance here being guarded?" Squall asked in an attempt to grasp the situation in the Garden. "We are expecting an attack from the Galbadians soon now." He explained. "Commander Gantt tightened the security around here." -Commander Gantt?- Squall thought. The name didn't sound familiar. He considered it was possible he was a Commander at Trabia Garden and was now stationed here. But last Squall checked he was in command of Balamb Garden. Why did Cid demote him? He headed inside the Cafeteria. Zell, Selphie, Irvine, Quistis and one man Squall didn't recognize were standing around a table in the middle of the room. A large worldmap lay on the table with several dozen pieces of paper along side it. Quistis crossed her arms. "According to Doctor Kadowaki, the amount of battle-ready students comes down to--" Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a dark-haired young man approach. The others around the table glared at Squall. He walked up and stood with them in a circle. -"What game are you playing with me? What is going on?!" He demanded to know. Zell banged his fists together. "Game? Everyone's life is at stake here!" "Dincht, can it!" The longhaired man standing at the head of the table said. Squall gazed at his outfit. He wore a long black cape. Underneath this he wore body armor not unlike Irvine's. Only his was in a dark-yellow color in stead of purple. A red bandanna was strapped around his forehead; it was slightly waving in the breeze that flowed through the Cafeteria. In particular Squall noticed his large black boots. They looked like they'd been frequently worn. -"I'm Kenan Gantt. Commander of this Garden." He introduced himself, giving a quick salute. "So you're a SeeD as will then? I heard you just arrived." "The name's Squall. Squall Leonhart." Squall said. Selphie smiled. "And my name's-" "Save it." Squall interrupted her. He tried to remain as calm as he could. "I know all of you except Gantt here." Raising an eyebrow, Selphie's smile quickly faded. "What I don't know however, is what is going on here." Squall continued. "Something strange happened to me out in the fields and now it's as if nobody knows who I am anymore." -"Are we supposed to know you then?" Irvine asked, shrugging. "The orphanage." Squall said. "We all grew up in the orphanage except Gantt." There was a short moment of silence, immediately followed by Zell's loud laughter. -"It's true Zell, Selphie, Quistis and I grew up in the orphanage, but I don't know you." Irvine calmly said. Selphie pouted at Squall. "You big fat liar!" Leaning asking the table, Gantt studied the map and papers. "Please, never mind that right now. There are more important things to attend to. This is a strategic-meeting. We'll discuss the past later, now we need to plan ahead." "Can someone fill me in?" Squall asked, noticing he was being warily eyed. Clearing her throat Quistis turned to him. "The situation is this; Sorceress Ultimecia, in control of Adel's body, is believed to be gathering Galbadian forces together in the Lunatic Pandora. Currently the Lunatic Pandora is stationed near Deling City. We expect them to head over here soon." Quistis explained, leaving Squall even more frustrated than before. Together they had defeated Ultimecia; Squall himself gave her the finishing blow! He knew he had defeated her when he saw Ultimecia hand over her powers to Matron. He witnessed the succession! Squall looked out the Cafeteria window. A few students walked by outside. All appeared as sad and depressed as the ones he'd seen in the main hall. During the struggle against the Sorceress he had seen that look on people's faces quite often, but it was over now, was it not?! -"What's wrong now?" Zell asked, breaking the silence. "We have defeated her already. I know it, I was there!" Squall suddenly yelled. He couldn't stand this non-sense. Kenan grinned coldly. "I doubt you'll make be much of an asset to this team. You've got a screw loose Leonhart." Squall stared at him. Kenan somehow reminded him of Seifer. "Although this information we've gathered here is about a day old," Quistis reasoned. "I very much doubt Ultimecia has been defeated in the mean time." Irvine frowned. "Suppose its true, how the hell did we defeat her?" "Yeah!" Both Zell and Selphie yelled at the same time. Surprised by the synchronized outburst, Selphie stuck out her tongue out towards Zell. Quistis and Kenan stood with arms crossed, waiting for Squall's comeback. Sifting through a few papers, Squall found a rough schematic for the Lunatic Pandora. "Selphie flew the Ragnarok straight into the Lunatic Pandora. Right about here, and--" Squall said. "Whoa. Hold it. Ragnarok? What's that? " Zell asked. Already he couldn't follow the story. -"We don't have the Ragnarok at our disposable??" Squall asked. "Uh…no, I don't think so." Selphie answered as she tried to figure out what Squall was on about. Covering his head with his hands Squall felt further away from finding answers than before. Rinoa. How he missed her. The smile on her face, the way she could always make Squall feel better, even in the most dangerous and bizarre situations. He needed to see her now more than ever. Squall sighed and uncovered his face. "Okay, let's start at the beginning." They agreed. Maybe now this Leonhart fellow would start to make some sense. Squall thought for a moment. Where did it all start? "Yeah," He said aloud. "The mission to Dollet. The SeeD exam." Zell raised his hand. "Allow me, I can tell ya 'bout that." "Me and Kenan were assigned to the Squad which had Seifer as captain." He said, with an annoyed looked as he mentioned Seifer. -Kenan…he took my place?- Squall pondered. Zell paused for a moment to make sure he got the facts right. "Shortly after the landing we arrived at our designated post, Seifer ran off to the Dollet tower and--" -"Please, stick to the short version, we don't have much time." Kenan interrupted Zell. He looked at his wristwatch. Soon lunch was going to be served in Cafeteria. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea making a HQ out of it. "Eventually, with help from Selphie here, we found out the Galbadians were messing with the tower. In short we kicked their ass. Then we returned to the landing vessels, followed along the way by a robot…uhm…friend…" Kenan sighed. "And eventually only me, Selphie and Zell graduated." -So Nida didn't graduate.- Squall thought. -The past…has been altered? Is that what happened?- Selphie jumped in. "After that, our first mission together was in Timber, aiding the resistance." "Your mission failed. The President you attacked was a decoy." Squall sighed. "I was there as well." Selphie glared angrily at Squall. "NO you weren't! Liar!" "He's just insane." Zell concluded. Exploring his options, Squall decided to play along with their story. Maybe listening to the events as they happened according to them, he might get some insight in the whole matter. "Okay, but please continue…" Squall reluctantly said. Scratching the back of his head, Zell turned to Kenan questioningly. "Alright. Tell him the rest. But be quick about it. You're gonna have to explain yourself in a minute Leonhart." Kenan said. -"We were forced to retreat to Galbadia Garden, since we were cut off from this one. Oh yeah, and Quistis had joined us in Timber. Anyway," Zell continued. "Receiving orders to assassinate the Sorceress, we headed for Deling City. Irvine was assigned to our team as the sniper. The one who would actually make the kill." Irvine coughed. "In short, we failed and everyone but me and Rinoa were imprisoned. Oh, and we found out that dog Seifer joined the Sorceress." He said. -Seems to be right so far- Squall thought. -Except that I'm not part of the story…- Carefully thinking back, Quistis remembered something they had forgotten to mention. "And what about those dreams? The ones caused by Ellone, remember?" She asked. -"Yeah, but we'll explain that in a moment." Kenan said, nodding towards Quistis. -Right- Squall thought. -Ellone…She could have something do with all this…- "So anyway, if I may continue!" Zell pouted. They all motioned him to go ahead. "We found out missiles were gonna be launched at Trabia and Balamb Garden. As you know, Galbadia Garden was the Sorceress' Garden. Anyway, we escaped the prison and divided into two teams. One headed for the Missile Site, and the other back here to warn everyone. Oh, and missiles had already been fired at Trabia Garden by the way." Panting from the high-speed explanation he just performed, Zell took a deep breath and continued. "The Missile Site was blown up, but not before the missiles were launched. Luckily, Kenan found out the Garden could fly and we moved out of the way just in the nick of time. We went to assess the damage at Trabia Garden and Irvine told us about the Orphanage. Kenan didn't really agree, but we decided to go back there, the place we grew up." -"Why don't you go get a glass of water," Irvine interrupted as he heard Zell's voice got dryer. Body sagging, Zell reluctantly agreed and he bolted off. "We dropped off Rinoa in Timber, and headed for the Orphanage." Kenan explained as he took a quick glance at his watch again. "Got in a fight with the other Garden, which was hovering around that area. The damage of this battle is still visible as you may have noticed." Finally they were getting somewhere Squall realized. -"May I ask why you dropped her off?" Squall said, intensively staring at Kenan. "I decided it was too dangerous to involve her in this Sorceress hunt we were -and still are- on." He calmly replied. -"And Ellone? Where is she?" Squall asked. He figured she could have something to do with everything that's been going on after all. "DON'T ANSWER!" A man yelled. Headmaster Cid stood at the Cafeteria entrance with at least five Garden Faculty. "Detain him!" He ordered, pointing at Squall. Without further thought Irvine reached for his gun and aimed it at Squall. Zell popped up from behind the lunch counter. "Hey, what's goin' on?!" "Catch," Cid said as he threw a pair of cuffs towards Kenan. "I have reasons to believe he's a spy." "NO!" Squall yelled. "I'm Squall Leonhart. I graduated here at this Garden! Why doesn't anyone know who I am?!" If he had his gunblade with him at that time, he was sure he would stick it at Kenan's throat and demand the whole story. But the fact is he was unarmed, and outnumbered. Maybe he had to talk himself out of this one. He knew Headmaster Cid as an intelligent man, and a good leader. Surely he would listen to reason… "Please listen to me." Squall practically begged. Something he had never done before. As a sign of good intention Squall voluntarily put his arms on his back. Kenan smirked and cuffed Squall. "Alright." Cid said walking closer to Squall. "You get your say." Irvine slowly lowered his gun. Sitting down on the edge of the table, Squall wondered why this had to happen to him of all people… "Well?" Selphie said. "You have a lot of explaining to do." "The orphanage, that's the earliest recollection I have--" Squall started to tell. <<------------------------------------------>> "And that's how we defeated Ultimecia." Squall said, relieved he was almost done telling his part. "And on my way back to the present time, I saw how Matron received her powers from a dying Ultimecia in the past. The succession…" Cid shrugged. "Well, I must say, that's a fascinating story you just told." There was a silence in the room. "Do you believe it, Sir?" Quistis asked with a calm tone of voice, considering the amazing tale she just heard. Squall stared down at the floor. He had now done most he could. Although he left out certain parts about him and Rinoa, he had told almost the complete history. "Well," Cid reasoned. "I…don't know. I've seen and heard some strange things in my lifetime, but this…" Kenan nodded in agreement with Cid. "IF all you say is true Mr. Leonhart, how did you end up here?" "I was out in the fields. There was a blue light--" Squall explained. "Geez, r-ight!" Selphie pouted. She seemed to be the least convinced of all. "There was a flash. Rinoa who was with me at that time suddenly disappeared." Squall said, reaching for his forehead. "I looked down at the ground…it swallowed me up. I lost consciousness not long after." Squall looked around the room. "And when I woke up, and proceeded here, this is what I found." He pointed towards a gap in the ceiling. Presumably caused by an explosion of some sort. "A damaged Garden. People who don't know who I am anymore…" Squall sighed. Cid stood with arms crossed. "Commander, what do you think of this?" -"According to him I never even graduated. Let alone met any of you, fought along side with you…" He grumbled. "You might have been a student here. Maybe I just never met you." Squall reminded him. He could imagine why the guy didn't like it, but it was the truth. -"Well, I don't believe a word of it." Kenan replied. Resting his shotgun on his shoulder, Irvine leaned against the table. "What if the Sorceress can read our minds?" "She could have come up with everything in that story, to fool us!" Selphie exclaimed. -"Quistis, what do you think?" Kenan asked. Zell jumped up from behind the lunch counter. "Hey! Why doesn't anyone ask what I think?" Glancing over sat Squall, Quistis thought for a moment. "Why would a Galbadian spy come up with such a story?" She said in Squall's defense. At least he could still rely on her to be impartial. That Kenan guy seemed to really dislike him from the start. Just what he needed, another Seifer, another rival. One was enough. Cid wasn't sure what to do. Greet the newcomer, or imprison him. As if reading his thoughts, Kenan grabbed the still cuffed-Squall by his shoulders ready to escort him off. "We know the Sorceress wants to achieve time-compression. He wants us to deliberately make this happen. In my book that makes him one of her lapdogs…" Kenan argued. -"That's a good point there." Irvine said, agreeing with him. Squall silently moaned. Of course it was a good point. But it had worked. Cid's face lit up slightly. "I see no other solution for now." He spoke with a soft voice. "Take him to the brig." A Garden Faculty came up to Cid and whispered something in his ear. -"No matter, there already are two guards posted." Cid said to the Garden Faculty. "Please, take him away for now." Kenan started pushing Squall towards the Cafeteria entrance. "Walk." He ordered. "Headmaster, I'm telling the truth!" Squall said. -"I…I would like to believe everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, but you've come at the wrong time at the wrong place. We will talk again later." Cid told him. A Garden Faculty gestured Squall to follow him. Kenan reluctantly let go of Squall's shoulders. "Don't try anything." He warned him. They watched the young man being escorted out of the Cafeteria. The Headmaster followed close behind. "Weird character he is, huh?" Zell said from behind the lunch counter. -"HEY, you'd better not be eating all our hotdogs!" Selphie yelled. Quistis and Irvine sighed. "Now Quistis, you were saying?" Kenan said, focusing on the gathered intelligence on the table. She frowned. "Excuse me?" He pointed towards a piece of paper on the table in front of her. "Your report on the students." Putting his gun away, Irvine headed over to the lunch counter. Zell nearly choked on a hotdog he was devouring as Irvine managed to jump over the counter and land right next to him. Irvine raised an eyebrow as he saw the mess Zell had made in such a short time. A sticky sauce covered the floor around him. Small pieces of hotdogs lay scattered all over. He grabbed Zell by his hair. "Ow, oooooww!!" Zell uttered. -"And you call yourself a SeeD?" Irvine asked. "C'mon, we have a meeting to attend." He dragged Zell over to the table. "Okay, now we're all here," Irvine laughed. "Please continue Quistis." Dusting himself off, Zell moaned and got up. <<------------------------------------------>> Squall was being escorted down the second floor hall towards the brig. He had never been in there before, and hardly even knew where to find it. Probably in some dark-corner on the second floor he thought. Passing students looked strangely at the handcuffed Squall. Some carefully watched him, others pretended to ignore him all together. Xu whom hastily walked by didn't recognize him. But neither did anyone else… Again Squall noticed how different the Garden looked in comparison to the one he was walking through this morning. The structural damage was just one thing. Besides that, Squall noticed how the dark the hallways were. The lights had been muffled. A procedure to conserve energy, Squall had learnt in one of his many classes. They walked up to a door with two guards posted aside it. -"Here's another." A Garden Faculty said. A guard nodded at the Garden Faculty and turned to a panel on the wall. After entering a series of numbers, a light blinked and the door slid open. Squall slowly stepped inside the room, and as he turned around the door closed up. He glared across the room. The brig was about as big as half a classroom. At least he couldn't feel claustrophobic. There were three narrow windows on the opposite wall. A bit of sunlight managed to shine through, but it wasn't much. A girl sat on one of the bunks that were firmly attached to the wall with chains. Even in the dark room, Squall could clearly see her long red hair, which grew blonde at the ends. He couldn't help but think her hair looked just like fire. She seemed quite young, perhaps about Rinoa's age. The girl stood staring out one of the windows for a moment. As she stepped in the faint light, Squall noticed she was wearing a shabby student's uniform. "And who might you be?" She asked. Squall was surprised as he saw she was both handcuffed and wearing a metal bangle of some sort around her neck. She must have done something really bad to deserve all that. Her eyebrows furrowed for an instance. "Oh, don't mind these," She said. "By the way, you're cuffed yourself, you know?" He remained silent and walked over to the bunk on the opposite side of hers. -"Is something wrong?" She asked him, eyeing his every move. "No." He simply answered, not feeling the need to get into that conversation with the girl. He wondered how many times had he heard that question today. What could be worse than seeing the woman you care about the most disappear before your very eyes? He had never felt worse in his life. In one morning, his life had been completely thrown upside down. The girl took a seat on her bunk. She smiled. "You don't look like a dangerous criminal or something to me." -"Whatever." Squall replied. The girl couldn't stand him being so quiet. She had been locked up two days ago and has since been all by herself. Now that there is someone she could talk to, he doesn't say a thing! "Oh c'mon. Cat got yer tongue?" She said. -"…What's with the thing around your neck?" Squall asked as he slowly lay down on the cold, uncomfortable bunk bed. She stood up and tried to remove the bangle with her hands. No luck. "I don't know. They put it around me, saying I would be too much of a danger otherwise." She sighed. Squall wondered why they would lock up such an innocent looking girl. Another one thought to be a spy? They seemed paranoid enough for that. She walked up closer to Squall so she could get a better look of him. "So what's yer name?" The girl asked. -"Squall." He rested his head on his hands and stared at the ceiling. She smiled. "Hi Squall. And welcome to this super-deluxe five star prison." He found it strange she was so cheery given her current situation. "The food here's good, although the rest is..well..lousy." She said. Those words reminded him of Rinoa. He thought about what Kenan had said. They dropped her off in Timber? Suddenly he realized that he actually believed the story he had been told, even though he knew it couldn't be right…could it? The damaged Garden seemed to suggest they spoke the truth. Squall thought back to the moment Rinoa disappeared. That eerie feeling…time-compression? Sighing, he realized he hadn't gotten much closer to finding out what happened. Finding more questions than answers, that's all he had done. "You frown a lot, don't ya?" The girl said laughingly. He turned to her. -"H-ey, w-what?" She asked uncomfortably. "You're not a student here, right?" Squall asked, unable to recognize her. -"Nope. I was found washed ashore a few days ago. They gave me these old clothes." She answered, not sounding too happy anymore, her sadness being clearly visible. "Washed ashore?" -"Yeah. The doctor believes I was involved in some sorta accident." The girl replied. "And they locked you up?" -"No, not right away. It wasn't until I talked to the Headmaster." She said, looking down. A sudden feeling of tiresome came over Squall. Even though it must have hardly been after noon, it felt as though an entire day had passed. He couldn't help but yawn. -"Oh, am I boring you?" She asked with a surprised tone of voice. "No, I'm just tired." Squall answered. The girl walked over to the prison door. She carefully knocked on it, the sound of it too faint to be heard on the other side of the door. Judging by the sound, it was quite a sturdy door. -"I don't know how," The girl said with a determined look. "But I'm getting out of here." Her fire-like hair seemed to glow for just an instance. Or maybe it was just the sunlight shining on it at just the right angle. "So who are you, where are you from?" Squall asked, and was amazed by his own sudden interest. Frowning, she shook her head. -"I can't remember. Doctor Kadowaki diagnosed me with amnesia." She said. "Although according to the identity tag I was wearing, my name is Skye." "Can I see that bangle around your neck?" Squall asked as he got a hunch what it might be. -"Yeah, sure." Skye moved next to Squall's bunk and tilted her head a bit so the bangle was clearly visible. Squall looked up and examined it. She shrugged. "Well? What is it?" He nodded. "It's definitely a Odine bangle." Sitting down next to Squall, she looked puzzled. "It's designed to suppress a Sorceress's powers. So,--" -"I'm a Sorceress?!" She yelled in astonishment. "No…" Skye said shaking her head in disbelief and she let herself drop to the floor. "A Sorceress?" Squall got up from his bunk and stood next to her. "There aren't only bad sorceresses, you might be one of the good ones." He said. She wiped her eyes and looked up at Squall. "If I was a good one, would I have been locked up?" He watched Skye. She sat knee-down on the floor, looking utterly devastated. Rinoa had become a Sorceress without wanting it too. He knew how hard it was. -"If you were really a bad sorceress, you wouldn't be locked up, you'd be dead. SeeD's mission is to fight those sorceresses like Ultimecia and Adel." Squall explained, not sure if he was any good at this comforting-thing. Skye smiled a little as she picked herself up and sat down next to Squall. "I never noticed I had any powers or extra senses a few days ago, back when I didn't have this thingy yet." She said pointing at the Odine bangle around her neck. Squall frowned. "Sorceress Skye…never heard of you. I'm sure I would have if you were considered any threat." -"So, I'm not considered a threat, because if I were I'd already be killed. But I'm not a good one either, 'cause they wouldn't lock up one of the good ones, right?" Skye asked. Sighing, he leaned his back against the wall. "Actually I am one of the good guys. I'm a SeeD." He stated. She looked at him suspiciously. "Really? So why did they lock you up then?" -"They suspect I'm a Galbadian spy." He answered. "I'm not. But it's a long story." She smiled warmly. "Please, tell me. It's not like I don't have time to listen to it." He sighed. "It all started in this orphanage, run by--" <<------------------------------------------>> "Okay, that concludes this meeting." Kenan Gantt said, relieved. He folded up the world map and put all the pieces of paper and notes on one pile. "We'll talk about the attack-plan later." Zell and Irvine nodded at each other. -"Training Center here we come!" Zell yelled as they ran out of the Cafeteria. Selphie pouted as she walked after them. "H-ey! Can't I join in? Three makes a partee-hee complete!" Kenan looked up and noticed Quistis still stood at the table, absently staring. "Quistis?" He asked. "Is something bothering you?" She blinked and realized she'd been completely zoned out. Turning to Kenan, she shrugged. "What if Squall was telling the truth? Maybe he really had defeated the Sorceress…maybe something did happen to him. You saw the look on his face." She said. Kenan crossed his arms and considered Squall's story again. "Well," He said. "I don't know what to think Quistis. I just don't know." He leaned against the table. "It's just an incredible story to believe. Using time-compression, the one thing the Sorceress wants to achieve to stop her; Rinoa disappearing in front of him; falling through the ground… " -"I suppose it is, yeah." She agreed. "But that's not the only reason to distrust him, you know." Kenan said. -"What do you mean?" Quistis asked. "The Sorceress here. She arrived her a few days ago, and Cid suspects the Galbadians are after her." He said. She looked surprised. "You don't know about our other prisoner?" He asked. Quistis looked even more astonished. "We keep a Sorceress prisoner here? In our Garden?" The two lunch-ladies walked in and took place behind the lunch counter to prepare for lunch. "Ew!" One of them shrieked in surprise as she looked down at the floor that Zell had befouled a few minutes earlier. "What in places happened here?!" Kenan held a finger in front of his mouth, gesturing Quistis to keep quiet. "Not a word to anyone else about this matter. We don't want the students to panic." -"We can't keep her here, it would be endangering everyone." She said, trying to keep her voice down a bit. "Don't worry about it," Kenan replied as he picked up the map and several notes. "A Trabia SeeD is on the way over here as we speak to escort her off." Quistis picked up the pile of papers from the table and stared at Kenan questioningly. -"So where is she going then, Trabia Garden?" Quistis asked. He raised his shoulders. "Don't know. But it's none of our concern." Kenan walked towards the Cafeteria exit. "C'mon, let's get this stuff locked up before another spy comes by." "Hey," She said as she followed him. "I thought you said you didn't know whether or not he was a spy." Grinning, he kept walking. "You got me there. I just dislike anyone who claims I don't belong here or something." He stood at the Cafeteria entrance and noticed the long line of students waiting for lunch. The bigger, older ones were practically pushing the younger students aside. It seemed so chaotic, nothing like a military unit is supposed to look. "About bloody time you guys got outta there!" A student yelled. "Man…I'm hungry…" The Intercom rang. "Commander Gantt and SeeDs, please report to the Headmaster's office." Kenan nodded slightly and made his way through the crowd of students. Quistis followed close behind in the path the Commander left for her. <<------------------------------------------>> The elevator doors slid open and Kenan stepped out, followed by Quistis who was still holding a big pile of papers. Kenan turned to her and pointed at a corner of the room. "You can't put it down there." Relieved, she threw it down. It wasn't really that heavy, but walking with such a high pile is always uncomfortable. Turning the knob of the door to the Headmaster's office, the door flew open and the bright sunlight shown directly in their eyes. Covering their eyes a bit, they walked in his office. They noticed Zell, Selphie and Irvine already stood in front of the smaller elevator leading up to the Garden's controls. The small platform descended, and a worried Headmaster Cid stepped off it. Taking of his glasses, he pulled out a handkerchief and cleaned them. "I have some bad news." He started. Cid put on his glasses again and examined the faces of the SeeDs standing in front of him. They looked as worried as he did, if not even more. "I just received a communiqué; Galbadia Garden is heading over here." He calmly spoke. Zell banged his fists together. "I'm ready to fight!" Headmaster Cid smiled. "I know Zell. I know everyone here is ready." "Has this been confirmed? And is the Sorceress on it?" Kenan asked. Information is ammunition, he had always been taught. -"Yes and no. A Trabia SeeD out in the fields saw Galbadia Garden fly over him moments ago. But we believe the Sorceress has remained in the Lunatic Pandora, which is still hovering near Deling City. Seifer is most likely commanding the Galbadian troops." Cid answered. Irvine nervously ginned. "How long until they're here?" An eerie silence followed. "We have about fifteen minutes. Maybe less." The Headmaster finally said. Commander Gantt saluted Cid. "We know what to do Sir, leave it to us." The rest of the SeeDs saluted Cid as well, and ran out of his office. Each one knew their tasks, and responsibilities. Cid and Kenan stepped on the small elevator and went up to the Garden controls. "Should we move the Garden?" He asked. -"No, but we will hover so a ground assault is made impossible." Cid said, looking at the student behind the control panel as the elevator came to a stop. She had heard what Cid said down in his office and nervously glared at him. "Don't worry, " Kenan assured her. "Everything is gonna be fine." He ran his hand through his long black hair, wondering if he really believed that himself. He loaded his handgun with live ammunition, sure to be ready for the soon-to-come battle. <<------------------------------------------>> Galbadia Garden hovered over and past Timber at full speed. Any minute now they would see Balamb appear. Seifer stood triumphantly in the main hall in front of several squads of Galbadian soldiers. "Give 'em hell." He said as he gripped his gunblade tighter, ready for action. -"Yes Sir!" A chorus of voices yelled.
The Escape by Goku Girl
"And that's when they threw me in here." Squall finished, shoulders dropping a bit. He had explained the whole story again, this time to Skye. She had listened to him patiently, at some parts she had been confused, but she let Squall talk without interrupting him even once. She gasped. "Incredible…" Squall turned to Skye questioningly. She sat next to him on the prison bunk. -"You actually believe me?" He asked. "Yeah, I guess so. This story is too weird to just make up." Skye said, smiling. From one moment to the next, students could be heard running in the hall. Squall wondered what the commotion was about but didn't dwell on it. -"So what are you going to do?" Skye asked. "First I'll need to get out of here. Then I think I'll try and find Ellone." He answered. "She might know what's going on, or even be the cause of it all." -"Hmm…Ellone?" Skye mumbled. "That name sounds familiar, but I can't recall where I heard it before…" Squall sighed. "She was the one I told you about just now, you know, with the time-compression and all.." Laughing, she nudged Squall. "I may have amnesia, but I'm not THAT oblivious. I meant some time before my…uh…accident." They heard the intercom rang. The sound of it was muffled, as it came from the other side of the brig door. "…Everyone," Cid spoke through the intercom. "Galbadia Garden is heading this way. They will most likely attack our Garden again. As you should know, we plan to counter-attack this time. Those who are assigned to the counter-force squads; make sure to repel the first wave quickly and head over to the main entrance of Galbadia Garden and follow Commander Gantt's lead. Those on the defense; make sure all the junior classmen, civilians, injured, and other non-combatant personnel are okay. Good luck!" Squall jumped off from his bunk. -"Counter-attack this time?" Skye mumbled. "According to you--" "We DID counter-attack!" He yelled. "Galbadia Garden was incapacitated!" Standing up, Skye moved to Squall and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Please, calm down." She said. "Things are different, you knew that." Is this what would have happened if I weren't around? They didn't counter-attack earlier?! He thought. He banged his fists against the door. "Let me out!" Those idiots, didn't they know he could help them in their fight? "Squall," She said. "There is nothing we can do. They're not just going to let us go."     <<------------------------------------------>>     "Sir?" The student behind the Garden controls said, turning to Cid. He glanced in the direction of the approaching Galbadia Garden. -"Hold it steady. Let them head for us." He ordered. "Yes Sir!" Both Headmaster Cid and Kenan watched the enemy Garden closing in on them. They were sure to launch their first wave any second now. But they were prepared, and this time, they would take to battle to their Garden. "This is it. You better go down now. Godspeed." Cid told Kenan. He saluted and stepped on the small elevator and headed for his squads in the main hall.     Seifer overlooked the rows of soldiers standing in front of him. He pushed a button next to him and a huge door opened. From the side entrance of Galbadia Garden that had opened, he saw Balamb Garden getting closer and closer, and waited for just the right time to give the signal. "Ready," Seifer said. "GO!" On his commands the Galbadian soldiers jumped on their bikes and drove it up the slopes at tremendous speed. Dozens of bikes came flying through the air towards Balamb Garden leaving a trail of smoke. History was repeating itself… Grinning, Seifer reached for his communicator. "Raijin, are the Para-troopers ready?" He said. -"Roger, ya know." Raijin answered. He gave his squad of green-uniformed soldiers the lift-off signal. They strapped themselves in the jetpacks and flew them straight at Balamb Garden. "Fujin," Seifer said through his communicator. "As soon as we're close enough, move your squads in!" -"AFFIRMATIVE." She told him.     "Here they come!!" Zell yelled from Balamb Garden's main hall. He pointed at the bikes landing near the Garden entrance. Selphie gestured for her squad to move in. "Let's kick ass!" Shots of Blizzaga were fired at the Galbadian soldiers. Most of them missed their target completely and the Galbadians droves their bikes right through Zell and Selphie's squads at the front gate, forcing them to break their formation. Para-troopers landed right on top of them, guns firing rapidly. A fierce battle ensued. Irvine and Kenan rushed in the scene with guns drawn. A Para-trooper had flown jetpack straight into Selphie and sent her falling to the ground. Avoiding a few Galbadian soldiers engaged in close combat with Balamb-students, Irvine ran to her aid. He aimed for the Para-trooper, and fired two or three quick shots. Hitting the jetpack's engine, Irvine caused it to explode just as it hovered over two Galbadian soldiers. "A three-in-one shot!" Selphie exclaimed as she got up and hugged Irvine. -"Lieutenant Biggs! Are you okay, Sir?" One of the three wounded Galbadian soldiers asked. Biggs looked up and noticed two students and a SeeD had surrounded them. Kenan smirked and aimed his handgun right in Biggs' face. "Biggs and Wedge, I presume?" Wedge immediately raised his hands. "We give up! Don't hurt us!" -"They're coming out in full force!!" Zell yelled as he saw Fujin lead several squads of Galbadian soldiers onto Balamb Garden. He grinned as he noticed a hoverboard parked near him. "Get outta here you two!" Kenan said to Biggs, and focused his attention on the ensuing battle at the front gate. Nobody could tell for sure which side had the numeric advantage. Stepping on his hoverboard, Zell flew right through the Galbadian squads, knocking down many soldiers all at once. If they can break our formation, why couldn't I do the same to them? He had thought. Left and right, students now engaged in one-on-one battles with the Galbadian soldiers. Fujin watched the fighting from a safe distance. "BAD!" She yelled, seeing how her squads were getting their asses kicked.   -"Whoo-hoo!" Selphie exclaimed after knocking down another Galbadian. "We're winning this time!" Reaching in his baggy coat, Kenan grabbed a flare-gun. "Okay, we're going in!" He said as he fired a flare up in the sky. -"We will handle things here, good luck!" Selphie said. Upon seeing the flare a great amount of students disengaged from their fights and followed Irvine and Commander Gantt towards Galbadia Garden. Selphie and Zell's squads took on the remaining Galbadian soldiers.      <<------------------------------------------>>     Seifer flew his jetpack through a Balamb Garden classroom window together with two Para-troopers. As expected, the classroom was empty, and nobody had noticed them enter. "All right," Seifer said, throwing the jetpack off. "Follow me." The two Para-troopers strapped themselves loose from their jetpacks. "Yes Sir!" Seifer pressed a few buttons on a wall-panel and managed to unlock the classroom door. Glaring around the corner, Seifer noticed the hallway was deserted. "This way." He told his men. They ran across the second floor hallway. The sounds of the battle at the front-gate could be heard faintly -"HEY YOU!" A student yelled, coming up from behind them. Seifer turned around. It was just another young fool with an attitude. This Garden was full of 'em… "You take him, I'll get the Sorceress." He ordered his men. The student drew his sword and attacked the two Para-troopers. Seifer ran further down the hall and noticed a guard stationed up ahead. He grinned and rushed up towards him, charging up a Firaga shot. The guard gasped in surprise and before he could reach for his blade, Seifer's Firaga shot knocked him out. Seifer walked up to the brig door. It looked sturdy enough to withstand blasts of magic. With a quick slash Seifer destroyed the door panel next to it. He yanked out the main board, and reached for the wires behind it. Upon connecting two severed wires, a light blinked for a moment and then short-circuited. The door slid open a few inches and stopped. "I'm in front of the brig." Seifer spoke into his communicator. "How goes the battle?" -"BAD." Fujin replied. "COUNTER-ATTACKED!" Seifer slammed his fist against the wall. "Dammit!" He had hoped his forces could eliminate Balamb Garden for good this time, but he knew that wasn't the purpose of this mission. It's just too bad things turned out just like in Esthar. "Retreat!" Seifer ordered through his communicator. -"Impossible, ya know!" Raijin replied. "They are takin' control of Galbadia Garden, we're losin'!" "Damn. Go to plan B." Seifer told him and switched off the communicator. Bracing himself, Seifer manually slid open the door. To his surprise the brig was completely empty. He stepped inside. Suddenly out of the corner if his eye, he saw a young man rushing up towards him. Seifer gripped his gunblade tighter and pointed it towards him. The man stopped. Seifer pressed the tip of his gunblade against his throat. "Where is the Sorceress?" A sudden bang on his head knocked Seifer down, releasing his gunblade. -"Right behind you." Skye grinned, holding a metal plate in her hands. "Hold out your hands." Squall said, grabbing Seifer's gunblade. Skye nodded and stretch her arms as far apart as the cuffs would permit. Squall cut through the chain fairly easy with the sharp gunblade. "Okay," He said. "Now you free me." -"I'm not very good with weapons…" Skye said, taking the gunblade from Squall. "But I'll try." She raised it high above her head, and swung it down right through Squall's chains. "What about the Odine's bangle?" Skye asked, trying to get if off her neck with both hands. -"I can't cut it." Squall told her. "It's too strong." He took over the gunblade from her and nudged Seifer with the sharp edge of it. Looking at Seifer's forehead, Squall noticed the scar he had made during their 'training session' was gone. "Is he dead?" Skye asked, noticing the man didn't move a muscle. -"Not yet." Squall said, ready to finish Seifer off permanently. "But--" "Don't move!" A Para-trooper yelled as he walked in. "Commander Almasy? Why you!!" The trooper aimed his gun at Squall. "Step back, now!" Will they ever learn? Skye thought, as she smacked him from aside with her plate. -"AH! That hurt!" He cried out, falling to the ground with a loud thud. Grabbing him by his collar, Squall pulled him up. "What are you doing here?" The trooper was wounded. Blood flowed down from the wound on his forehead. -"...Sorceress…Skye…" He uttered before passing out. Skye looked at Squall. "They were here to get me?" -"Yeah." He replied, letting go of the trooper. He wondered why Skye could be so important to them they would risk losing Galbadia Garden. And Seifer personally tried to capture her. Skye stepped in the hallway, relieved she finally got out the dark brig. "Where to now?" The sounds of the raging battles still echoed. "Let's get out of here first," Squall said. "We'll figure something out later." The best choice would be to head for the emergency exit Squall figured. They had to avoid both Balamb Garden's forces and the Galbadians. Again Squall didn't know what he was involved in, but he wasn't about to be imprisoned by either side again…or worse… -"Wait," Skye said, pointing to Seifer. "What about that guy?" She couldn't stand the thought of killing a human being, but if that was the same Seifer she heard Squall talk about, he could be dangerous. Squall was about to reply as he heard a moan from behind him. Not far from them, a Balamb student slowly got up from the floor, and picked up his sword lying nearby. A Para-trooper lay badly injured beside it. "The Sorceress is escaping!" The student yelled. -"Never mind Seifer, let's go!" Squall shouted. He grabbed Skye's arm and together they rushed off. "Where are we going?" Skye asked, yanking her arm loose from Squall's grip. The proceeded down the hallway, running past the injured student. Suddenly Squall stopped in front of the classroom where Seifer had entered. He noticed three jetpacks lying in the corner, just under the broken windows. He moved towards one of the packs. "Like I said, we're getting out of here." Skye followed him with a worried look on her face. "I don't know how to work those things…" She sighed. "Don't worry." Squall assured her. He sheathed his gunblade and strapped himself in the jetpack. "Just hold on to me. I've done this before." She firmly gripped Squall. Slowly, the jetpack's engine began to rumble and they ascended. -"Here we go." Carefully Squall navigated them through the window. He turned to the classroom and saw an angry Seifer standing in the door opening. "WAIT!" Seifer ordered them. "You won't get away!" Skye stuck out her tongue at him as Squall flew the jetpack towards the ground. "Damn!" Seifer cursed and rushed to the window. Whoever that guy was, Seifer swore to himself he would get even with him. He reached for the back of his head, a surge of pain came over him. "Ah hell!" He yelled out. "That witch!" A student stumbled in the classroom, sword held high. "You…are…not…getting away!" -"I may not have my gunblade," Seifer said as he stretched out his arms. "But that doesn't mean I'm unarmed." He smirked, and hit the student with a bolt of Thundaga. He sighed and picked up his jetpack before the student could recover from his bolt, and quickly escaped through the window, cutting his shoulder against a glass shard. As he flew further away from Balamb Garden, he reached for his communicator. "Mission failed. The Sorceress has escaped." He said. "Raijin, Fujin, I'll be in the fields near Balamb." -"Uh," Raijin replied. "What 'bout the others, ya know??" Seifer grabbed a remote-detonator from his pocket and grinned evilly. "Just get out of there, now!"     Quistis and a team of students had heard the fighting on the second floor and rushed to check it out. She helped the student Seifer had shot get up. "What happened?" She asked. The student coughed. "You're…too late. The prisoners…escaped. Seifer went out after them." Rushing to the window, Quistis could see Seifer fly away. The Sorceress was all they were after?      <<------------------------------------------>>     Fujin, Raijin and what was left of their squads reached Galbadia Garden's emergency exits. A few men were left behind to stall Balamb's forces. As far as they knew, no hostile forces had followed them. They rushed outside, most without looking back. "CLOSE." Fujin ordered one of the lasts that escaped the Garden. -"Yes ma'am." The soldier said. He pressed a few buttons and the exit doors closed up tight. Raijin plopped down on the ground. "Phew…" Glaring at him angrily, Fujin walked over to and picked him up by his ear. -"MOVE." She ordered the lazy, good for nothing sub-commander.   <<------------------------------------------>>      Kenan and Irvine's squads rushed down Galbadia Garden's hallways. They were surprise at how little resistance they encountered but considered Galbadia Garden had also lost many soldiers in the previous battle. -"In here!" Irvine yelled as he stopped in front of the control room doors. The doors flew open and Balamb forces poured in. -"Huh? Where are they?" Irvine asked, noticing the room was deserted. Kenan glanced around and chuckled. "They must have abandoned this Garden. It's ours now!" "Right," He continued, rubbing his hands together in childish delight. "Split up in three groups. One will remain here, the other two will search for Galbadians." -"Yes Sir!" A senior student yelled. He did as Kenan ordered and divided the forces. The smallest group stayed to defend the control room, in case the Galbadians would try to get it back, whilst the other two searched through the Garden for any remaining enemies. Irvine walked up to Galbadia Garden's controls and randomly pushed a few buttons. "I wish Zell was here. He's more into the mechanical stuff…" Kenan moved to the rudder. The screens displayed a total lock down of helm-control. "We'll definitely have to get some mechanics up here to get this baby going again." He sighed. -"It doesn't look like anything is working." Irvine said as he glared at the control panels in front of him. "Even communications?" Kenan asked. -"Yeah." Irvine confirmed as he saw the smashed up com panel. "You," Kenan said, pointing at one of the remaining students. "Inform the Headmaster of our status." The student saluted and ran off. Regrettably a message boy was necessary, as in all the commotion Kenan had forgotten his communicator. An eerie feeling came over Irvine. "Something's wrong…" He said. -"What?" Kenan asked, looking at him questioningly. Shrugging, Irvine paced around the control room. "Do you hear that?" Wondering what he was on about, Kenan tried to listen for anything out of the ordinary. Apart from a conversation between students guarding the control room entrance, he didn't hear a thing. "There," Irvine said as he ducked down and opened a floor panel. "Oh shit!" Kenan rushed over and looked down at the opening. "Damn!" A small black box had been placed just under the center floor panel. A few wires stuck out the box, connected to a digital timer of some sort. It was counting down, ticking faintly as a seconds went by. The screen displayed there were about three minutes left… "A bomb!" Irvine yelled. The students guarding the control room turned to Irvine. "S-sir?" -"Tell everyone to get out, now!" Kenan ordered them. Irvine sighed. "They won't all make it out in three minutes, and 10 seconds…9…8…7-" -"I know!" Kenan yelled. "That's why we have to do something." Kenan bent over and reached for a small knife he kept in his boot. Nodding, Irvine grabbed the knife from him. He used it to quickly remove a few screws from the top of the small box. Kenan noticed Irvine's hands were trembling. Cautiously he removed the top cover from the box. A red package covered most of the inside. It had three wires sticking out of it; yellow, green and blue. All appeared to be connected to the timer. "What now?" Irvine asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead. -"One of the wires should be the right one. Cut it and it'll stop counting down…" "And the other two?" -"Boom…" Kenan replied. A cold sweat drop rolled down his face. "So which one do we cut?!" Irvine asked panicky. He glanced at the timer. Only two minutes and change left. Kenan lay himself on the floor and examined the bomb. "Maybe all three are wrong. We're dealing with Seifer here." "And this might not even be the only bomb here," He continued. "This doesn't look good…" Irvine sighed. "Great. We're doomed." -"Maybe not. I have an idea," Kenan said as he stood up. "Keep you fingers crossed." A bright glow emanated around his hand as he held it up high. "Blizzaga!" Irvine jumped back and an icicle appeared around the bomb and timer, covering it up whole. -"Great thinking." He said, getting up to his feet. "Yeah, but did it work?" Kenan replied as he peered through the icicle. Water drops were forming all around the icicle. Irvine stepped back. "Well?" -"The timer has stopped!" Kenan joyously said. "Great, I'd do a victory dance right now, but the ice is melting!!" Irvine yelled, motioning Kenan to get the hell outta there. -"Right," He replied as he joined up with Irvine. "But we might have just bought enough time." The two SeeDs bolted off towards the exit.     <<------------------------------------------>>     "Thanks for the smooth landing." Skye said, stepping out of the bushes. "I'm aching all-over…" Leaving the jetpack covered up in the bush, Squall sighed and looked up at the sky. "I don't think we were followed." -"Well yeah, that's probably because you engaged the turbo or something," She offered. "Aren't you supposed to throttle down upon landing?" "At least we escaped." He replied. He gripped his gunblade and looked around again. In the distance he could make out Zell standing at Balamb Garden's front gate. A lot of Balamb students stood around him, Squall concluded they won the battle. The counter-attack must have succeeded. Skye frowned. "What now? They'll be lookin' for us soon." -"Follow me." Squall said and he walked off in the opposite direction of the Garden. "Where we going?" She asked as she ran up to Squall. "Hey, wait up! Not so fast." He suddenly stopped, and Skye bumped into him. -"Not so slow either…" She said, rubbing her forehead. Up until now she hadn't noticed how tall Squall was compared to her. She considered it must be cold with his head all the way up there.  -"Get down." He told her as he ducked behind a bush, trying to minimize the sound of the leaves brushing against each other. Luckily he remained undetected. Skye narrowed her eyes and saw three figures standing up ahead. She recognized Seifer, but the other two she'd never seen before. They were looking around, probably in search of her and Squall. "Seifer and his lackeys…" Squall whispered. "Don't let them see you. I'm not sure I can take on all three."     -"So where are they?" Raijin asked. Seifer glared around with an annoyed look. "They can't be far away. Fujin, see anything?" "NEGATIVE." She replied. -"Damn guy took my gunblade…he'll pay." Seifer said, balling his fist. "We have to get goin', Kenan and the SeeDs will be lookin' for us, ya know?" Raijin said, nervously staring back at the two Gardens hovering close to each other. Fujin slowly walked towards Raijin and kicked him in the shine. "COWARD." -"OUCH! Ah!!---ya know?" Seifer pulled out a timer. "Hmm…that's odd. The bomb is supposed to have gone off already." They looked up at the hovering Galbadia Garden. Balamb students were practically pouring out of it at the front gate. They managed to get on Balamb Garden quite easily as it still hovered directly next to it. Sighing, Seifer threw his remote on the ground and crushed it with his boot. "Useless junk!" Just then, a great explosion emanated from within Galbadia Garden. They covered their eyes. Seifer's jacket flew back in the wind of the blast-wave, but surely the sudden gust died down. Raijin narrowed his eyes and looked up. The Garden was on fire, smoke filling the air around it. There were a series of smaller explosions and then the Garden came crashing down into the ground, momentarily creating a huge fireball To Seifer's surprise Balamb Garden didn't seem to have suffered any further damage from the blasts as it was clearly steered away from the scuttled Galbadia Garden. "SEIFER?" Fujin called. He stared at the pile of debris that used to be his Garden. The Garden Sorceress Ultimecia placed him in command of. -"Yeah…" He said. "Let's get out of here. The sorceress might have escaped to Balamb, we'll search there."     Squall made sure they were a good distance away before he stood up from the bushes. He stared silently at a burning pile of debris on the edge of an enormous crater. "Oh no!" Skye cried out from behind. "That murderer!" -"There weren't many people in there." Squall said, pointing at Balamb Garden. "See, I think most students made it out in time." She put on a smile. "I hope so." "I know this cave nearby, we'll be safe there for a while." Squall said. -"Lead the way." Skye sighed.       <<------------------------------------------>>     "Oh my!" Doctor Kadowaki called out, running towards Irvine, Kenan and their squads. "Is everyone okay?" -"We're fine Doctor." Kenan assured her. "Just a little shaken up, that's all." Zell arrived on his hoverboard, with Selphie behind him. "Whoa!" He uttered. "Man, that was some blast." Irvine stepped towards the edge of the Garden entrance and stared down at the huge crater. They were lucky they made it out alive. Selphie jumped off Zell's hoverboard. "Are you guys okay?" Irvine and Kenan nodded. "All in a day's work." -"And how are things here?" Kenan asked. He looked around and saw several wounded Galbadian soldiers lying around. Some were being cuffed and taken inside. Beaming, Zell got off his board. "We won. Totally booyakaded them." -"Booyakaded?" Selphie asked questioningly. "That's not even a word." Irvine glanced around. "Hey, where's Quist?" -"Oh, I think I saw her talking with the Headmaster in the main hall." Doctor Kadowaki answered as she was taking care of a student's wounds. Zell sighed. "Suppose you have to report to the Headmaster and all, huh?" -"Yeah." Kenan replied. "But it aint our fault Galbadia Garden blew up." "So what happened?" Selphie asked. -"They planted a bomb." Kenan replied. "But we'll tell you about it later. C'mon Irvine, let's talk to Cid."       "Ah, commander. A student just informed me what happened. Are you alright?" The headmaster said as Kenan and Irvine approached. He straightened his vest and looked full of concern. Quistis stood next to him, arms crossed and frowning. -"We're fine Sir." Irvine answered. Kenan turned to Quistis. "What's wrong?" She sighed. "The Sorceress escaped during the battle. They attacked us because of her. Seifer entered our Garden to capture her, but she got away together with Squall." "What Sorceress?" Irvine asked. Kenan frowned. "You don't know about her?" "No he doesn't." Cid answered. "The less that knew, the better." -"Anyway, what are we going to do?" Kenan said. Zell and Selphie joined up with them. "Wazzup." Zell said as he greeted the rest. Shaking his head, Irvine gave him the immediate impression something was wrong. "Trouble…" Selphie sighed. "What is it this time?" The Headmaster cleared his throat. "A Sorceress we kept prisoner here escaped, together with Mr. Leonhart." -"Whoa, wha?" Zell uttered. Reaching inside his vest, Cid came up with a small photograph and handed it to Zell. "This photo was taken a few days ago when she was brought here. Her name is Skye; Sorceress Skye." Cid explained. "She is quite powerful and thus dangerous. We can't let her fall in Galbadian hands." Selphie stared at the girl's photo over Zell's shoulder. "She doesn't look it…" -"She has been in some sort of accident and is suffering from amnesia." Kenan told them. "Maybe she doesn't even know of her powers." "So how come we haven't heard of her?" Quistis asked. The Headmaster's face grew worried. "There was no need until now." -"Huh?" Irvine said, not quite sure he understood what Cid meant by that. "I'll inform you when you're in my office. But right now there are several other matters to attend to." He replied. An annoyed look came over Zell's face. "What? More work?! We just fought a battle!" -"Zell!"  "Hey, wait a minute." Kenan said, his face lit up. "If Squall escaped from Seifer, that means…" -"He isn't with the Galbadians, yes. And so he might have been telling the truth all along." Quistis said. Irvine and Selphie looked at Cid questioningly. -"Get some rest." He ordered them. "I'll take care of everything for now." This was all Zell wanted to hear, and he walked off to his dormitory. As he got past the Cafeteria he suddenly stopped. Maybe a quick snack He thought, and walked inside. The headmaster followed him with his eyes for a moment and then turned to Kenan. "We'll set course for Fisherman's Horizon soon. Repairs can be completed there." Irvine stood vaguely staring in front of him. Selphie sighed and pushed him in his back. "C'mon, I'll drag you to your quarters!" She exclaimed. With a quick goodbye they were on their way. "I can assist you as well Headmaster, I can't rest very well in the afternoons anyway..." Quistis told him. -"But Sir," Kenan said, thinking out loud. "If the Sorceress is truly is dangerous, shouldn't we go after her right away?" "I have already sent a team of students." He explained. "I put a tracking device in her necklace, she's not far from here…" Kenan sighed in relief. "That's good to know." A pack of wounded students slowly walk past them towards the Infirmary. They were hanging on each other's shoulders, looking utterly devastated. Doctor Kadowaki followed close behind, busy sifting through her clipboard pages. She smiled faintly as she walked past. Quistis gasped. She had heard they had won easily, she didn't know about the casualties. There were many, considering how fast the battle was over. It reminded her of the earlier battle with Galbadia Garden. The battle they had narrowly escaped. -"I should probably go to the Infirmary myself." Kenan said as he inspected his left arm. Blood was flowing from a small wound. He didn't even know where he got it…everything happened so fast… "I'll walk with you Commander." Cid said. "Quistis, why don't you check with Xu upstairs, I'm sure she'll find you something to do."     <<------------------------------------------>>     Squall lead Skye to a cave near the ocean, just past Balamb. As he expected, nobody was anywhere near it. He pulled down the net that covered up the entrance. -"This the one?" Skye asked, staring inside the dark cavern as far as she could. "Yeah." Squall replied. He turned to make sure they weren't seen, and headed inside. Skye reluctantly followed, not sure if the cave was really deserted. What if a monster suddenly showed it's ugly face? Then again, the guy did have a gunblade. He would protect her, wouldn't he? She shivered as they proceeded further in. A cold gust was coming from somewhere further down. -"I can hardly see a thing!" She complained. "Almost there." Squall assured her. Did he have night-vision or something? She heard a clicking sound, and a light just above her went on. Narrowing her eyes at first, she slowly got used to the intensity of the light. Squall had apparently pushed a button on the wall just up ahead. "What is this place?" She asked, trying to make out the ill-lit shapes up ahead. -"Hang on." Squall told her. He messed with another panel along the wall and a few more lights went on up ahead. She looked up ahead and was astonished by what she saw. "That's our way out of here." Squall explained.
The Chase by Goku Girl
"Wow." Skye gasped in astonishment. "Impressive, uh…stuff here." She examined what appeared to be a row of boats, in dry dock inside the cavern. They didn't look like normal boats; machine guns were attached on most of them. Each of the boats was held up a few feet above the ground with some sort of contraption. Squinting, she counted five boats that were docked. A whole bunch of tools and equipment was lying around them. Crates, no doubt filled with ammunition and supplies, were stacked along the cavern wall. -"These are Balamb Garden's armored transports." Squall told her. "If they're not docked in Balamb, they're here." Slowly, Skye approached the nearest boat. She noticed the smooth lines of the boat. It was clearly designed for high-speeds. "Can you pilot it?" She asked, amazed by the good state the vessel she stood by was in. It looked brand new, she could even see her own reflection in it. Squall nodded and investigated the stack of crates. He opened one of them, and picked up some sort of can from it. 'Rations' was printed on it with big white letters. Squall looked dirty at it for a second, then raised his shoulders and placed it on the ground. -"It should be practically automatic." He said, reaching for more cans of rations. "We just need to pack some supplies now, and we're off." She smiled. "Is there anything I should do?" -"Yeah, you could start the engine of that vessel you're standing by. It might take a few minutes to fully warm-up." Skye imitated a SeeD salute as she'd seen before, and moved along the vessel's hull. "Uhm.." She mumbled, shrugging. "Where is the door?" Squall quickly grabbed a few more cans, and packed them all together in a cardboard box. He sighed, picked up the box and walked towards Skye. "There," He said as he threw the box on the ground just in front of Skye. "Hit that button." Grinning sheepishly, she turned to the little red button she had overlooked and bashed it in with her fist. She heard a click, and a door in the vessel slid open to the ground, at the same time providing a stair to climb in with its backside. "Gosh," She laughed as she stepped up. "Modern technology…" She stood in the vessel's opening, and turned to Squall. Laughing at the fact she was now taller than he was. He carefully handed her the cardboard box of cans. "Put it in the back somewhere." As Squall released his grip on the box, Skye nearly fell back. "Hey," She said, trying to maintain balanced, "What kinda food is this? This is heavy!" -"Rations. It doesn't taste good, but has everything you need in it." He explained. She walked inside the transport and quickly dropped the box on one of the two benches inside. "Wow." Skye said, inspecting the interior of the vessel. She wouldn't find it at all hard to believe if ten people could fit on the two benches alone. In between the benches stood a small table. A high-tech map covered most if, some touch-panels and buttons the rest. -"Go to the control panel." Squall told her, as he was busy sifting through the supplies. "Press start, it should work." "Oh-kay," She replied and moved up to the front. "I'm there." The cockpit of the vessel was very narrow compared to the rest. She guessed only one 'pilot' was needed. "Let's see now," She said moving her hand across the panel in search for the ignition. Many buttons, levers and view-screens made up the entire panel. Maybe she'd be better of reading the manual first… "Uhm…Squall?" Skye called. She heard a thud behind her and saw Squall walking up after dropping off another box and his gunblade on the bench. "Move over," He said, slightly annoyed. "I'll take care of everything, just take a seat." Skye looked down. "I'm sorry, I'm not any help…" Squall sighed, and immediately found the right button to start up the system. As he pressed it, all kinds of lights suddenly blinked on in the small cockpit. Several status screens flashed green. It looked like they were all ready to go. Skye was about to take a seat, as she peered through the one of the small windows. "Squall, shouldn't we push this vessel to sea first?" She asked, realizing a boat is no good on dry land. "There's no water in this cave."  -"Don't worry." He assured her from the cockpit. "The dry-dock this vessel is on has wheels. It'll drive us in the water." "Oh…okay." She said as she sat down and buckled up. It could get pretty rough for all she knew. The vessel began slightly trembling, the cans of food were shaking about in their boxes. Skye heard the faint sound of a starting rotor.     Not far from the seaside cave, a group of five Balamb students stood carefully scanning around. In the distance they saw a group of retreating Galbadian soldiers, but they weren't important right now. -"So where is she?" A student asked her squad leader. The oldest student turned to Nida. "Well?" Nida held up the tracking device. "Close by. Can't tell exactly, something is blocking the signal." His eyes widened. "The transports!" He yelled. "She's trying to get away!" The students sprung into action and ran towards the cave, their leader following close behind. Pressing their bodies against the rock wall, they carefully proceeded until they were next to the entrance. -"Sir?" The female student called, noticing the net that normally covered up the Garden's secret cave had been thrown on the ground. Gesturing his squad to wait, the leader peered around the corner, into to dark cavern. The sound of a starting engine echoed. He grabbed his sword. "Let's go in!"     Squall took a seat in the pilot's chair and fastened his seatbelt. He glanced across the control panel. All he needed to do was punch in a few coordinates, but that was easier said than done. "Squall!" Skye yelled from behind him. "They found us!" He looked up through the front window and saw several figures carefully moving towards them. It was too dark to tell from which Garden they were, but Squall could clearly see they were armed; their swords reflected the sun light. Squall quickly closed the vessel's door. Glancing over on the engine's status screen, it still displayed a time of 2 minutes before it was warmed-up. "We don't have that much time!" He yelled at the device and switched it to manual. A warning screen appeared. Squall ignored it and throttled up. The engine roared and the vessel began to drive down the cave with tremendous speed, the small wheels of its dry-dock heavily screeching along the way. -"Get out of the way!" The leader warned his squad, quickly jumping aside. The students threw down their swords and pressed themselves against the cavern wall. With a gust the transport craft drove by them, leaving at trail of dust along its way. As the dust settled, the leader quickly ran towards the sea. But all he could see was the dry dock, half-emerged, and a trail in the water left by the vessel's rotor. Nida slowly opened his eyes, amazed he had remained unharmed. If he were just a few seconds slower, the vessel would have surely rammed him. "Dammit!" Nida's squad leader cursed as he walked back to his team. "We failed." -"Shouldn't we go after her Sir?" He shook his head. "It's almost impossible to catch up with them now." -"At least we will know where they're headed." Nida said, handing the tracking device to his leader. The blink on its tiny radar appeared to be going to the south east.      <<------------------------------------------>>     Seifer stood at the edge of Balamb harbor. He watched the waves of water moving up and down. One day, when all this was over, he would have to go fish here once. "Uh, Seifer?" Raijin called as Fujin nudged him. "I..uh…I don't think they're here, ya know?" Apart from them and a lowly old fisherman, the dock area of Balamb was deserted. There was only one boat docked and it looked like it needed a good work over. Raijin was surprised it managed to stay afloat in the first place. -"Damn." Seifer replied. He followed a small spot on the horizon with his eyes. Fujin and Raijin squinted. A plane? No…wait…a boat? "That's them." He said with an annoyed look. "The Sorceress and that guy." -"How can ya tell?" Raijin asked. By now the boat had disappeared over the horizon. He smirked. "Just trust me on this." "So, what we gonna do now?" Raijin asked. Straightening his jacket a bit, Seifer stepped over to the fisherman. The old man, surprised by the sudden shadow over him, released his grip on the fishing pole. "Dang sonny," He said looking up at Seifer. "Don't scare me like that, it's bad for the old heart." Grabbing his fishing pole from the ground, the old man threw out his line and waited for a bite again. -"That boat, is it yours?" Seifer asked. The old man nodded. "Yep, but it aint for sale." Fujin and Raijin walked up. They wondered what Seifer was on about. -"Shouldn't we get back to the Lunatic Pandora, ya know?" "No." Seifer replied, looking over the fisherman's boat. It was a small boat, the cabin was hardly big enough for even two people to fit in, but it would have to do. Gesturing Fujin and Raijin to jump on, Seifer turned to the old fisherman. "We'll be back." Furious, the old man got up, ready to whack the young lads with his fishing pole. "Git orf me boat, scum!" Seifer grinned and stepped on the boat. "Start her up, Fujin." -"You'll git what's coming to ya, sonny!" The fisherman yelled with his pole waving in the air, as he ran off to get help. As Fujin turned the ignition switch, a crummy old engine was activated. Black smoke came from the rear of the boat. Strange sounds could be heard coming from somewhere below deck. Raijin quickly grabbed hold of the railing, his legs shaking out of control. -"It's just an old engine Raijin, relax." Seifer told him. Gaining a bit of speed, Fujin steered the boat out of Balamb harbor. "DESTINATION?" Seifer stared across the ocean. "They were heading south…I'd say Fisherman's Horizon." -"It'll take ages to get there with this boat, ya know." Raijin said, already hanging over the railing. The gentle up and downward movements of the boat were messing with his stomach. Seifer sat down on a chair at the rear of the deck. He rested his elbows on the railing, and casually sat back. Somehow, he actually enjoyed the ride.     <<------------------------------------------>>     "So, FH it is?" Skye asked, stepping up to the cockpit doorway. She noticed the screen displaying the world map. A course was plotted out; it led south to Fisherman's Horizon. Squall sat, observing a few screens. The autopilot appeared to have been engaged, as Squall wasn't steering. -"I guess so." Squall replied. He unfastened his seatbelt and moved to take a seat on the bench in the main compartment. Maybe he was a little claustrophobic, but he'd prefer sitting out the ride there. As he was about to sit down, the transport vessel hit a high wave. The boat edged towards the right and Squall fell down in the seat. Skye had also lost her balance and landed on Squall's lap. She laughed, but took the seat next to Squall as she noticed he had a worried look on his face. -"Maybe I should go to Timber, and find Rinoa." He said, shaking his head. The same sensation he felt earlier engulfed him again. He had no idea what to do, no idea what was going on. How could he possibly know he had down the right thing by escaping from Balamb Garden? "But what if Rinoa doesn't know who you are either?" Skye offered. He sighed. "Yeah…." But still Squall felt concerned over Rinoa. "So, where are you going?" Squall asked, wondering about the mysterious Sorceress Skye. She combed her hair back with her hands. "I still need to get this thing off." Skye pointed to the Odine's bangle around her neck. Squall inspected it. "Like I said before, I don't think I can get it off with a gunblade." She yanked the bangle, and sighed. "Perhaps only the Headmaster knows how to get it off…" -"No, I'm sure Doctor Odine can as well." He assured her. "After all, he designed it." "Isn't he in Esthar?" Skye asked. "Aren't you going there as well now?" -"Yeah, but I'm going there to see Ellone." He told her. "Although I can't even be sure if she will be there." "We'll just have to see when we get there." She said, cheery. Squall reached grabbed two cans from the cardboard box he had filled. He pulled their lids open and handed one can to Skye. -"Ew…what's this brown stuff…cat food?" She said with a disgusted face. Squall moved the can to his mouth and ate one of the food chunks. "I told you," He said. "They're rations. It's not great, but it will have to do." -"No thanks." She sighed, placing the can beside her. "I'll pass." Skye nudged Squall with her elbow, causing him to drop a few chunks on the floor. -"We do make a great team though, huh?" She smiled. "Escaping Balamb and all…"  "Actually I did all the work…" He mumbled under his breath. She raised an eyebrow. "What was that?" "Nothing…" He replied getting up and moving to the cockpit doorway. "We're almost there." Squall told her, as he saw FH in the distance. They were closing fast. With great curiosity, Skye turned to examine the second box Squall had brought with them. They already had enough food and water in all those other cans, what could be in there? "Something wrong?" Squall asked her, noticing the curious look. -"What ya got in that box?" She wondered. "Ammo for my gunblade and some potions." He told her. "Could come in handy." -"Ah, okay." Squall yawned and leaned against the vessel's hull. Perhaps it was best to rest up a bit soon… A beeping sound came from the cockpit. Squall turned around and took a seat on the driver's chair. He switched off the autopilot. Now came the hard part. -"We there?" Skye asked from her seat. "Yeah, I just need to dock." Squall replied from the driver's chair. Carefully Squall lowered speed and maneuvered the vessel in one of the many docks at FH. He docked the vessel beside a huge crane. With luck, they would hardly be noticed by anyone. "All right," Squall said as the came to a full stop. "Let's go." He opened up the vessel's side entrance and switched off the main control panel. Skye walked down the steps and took a deep breath. As she stared around, she saw two men sitting at a bench not far from them. They appeared to be having an intense debate and didn't notice the Balamb Garden transport that had arrived. … This town, it was so quiet, so peaceful. She wouldn't mind staying here for a while, but figured that wasn't gonna happen. Balamb Garden might still be after her, not to mention that Seifer guy. "Hey, catch." Squall said from inside the vessel. She turned and a backpack flew right in her arms. -"Whoa, what's this?" Skye asked as Squall stepped out and closed the entrance. He carried a backpack too. "I found those under the seats." He explained, moving his shoulders up a bit so his backpack wouldn't suddenly slip off. "It's better than carrying those boxes around." -"Hmph.." Skye uttered, putting on her backpack. "I still think we should just dump those awful cans. No way our we gonna eat that much." Reaching in his pockets, Squall managed to come up with a few hundred gil. "I think we'd better rest up here first." "It is rather a long walk towards Esthar." He added as an explanation. -"Yeah, that's not a bad idea." Skye agreed. "Oh, and I'll need some new clothes." She said, looking over her shabby uniform. -"I see." He replied, his voice thick with uninterest. They walked off to the main street.     The two men sitting at the seaside bench quieted down for a moment and watched them walk past. "Cute couple, don'tcha think?" One of them said.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Commander Gantt and the rest of the gang had joined up in Cid's office again after a short break. Irvine, Selphie and Zell had to be woken up by Quistis, as they were emerged in a deep sleep in their quarters. The late night training sessions of the past week combined with the battle earlier this day had exhausted them more than Kenan expected. He too could use some sleep, but knew that now was not the time. Kenan looked aside. Zell and Irvine were leaning against each other. A sleepy-looking Selphie standing up straight a few feet away. The excess energy she usually possesses seemed drained. Quistis, whom stood aside her, appeared the least effected by exhaustion of all. She examined Kenan's bandage around his arm. He smiled, assuring her he was fine. "Irvine, Zell, get it together." Kenan ordered, thinking by now those two knew he liked a disciplined squad. Moaning, Irvine scratched his back and stood at attention. Zell rubbed his eyes, looking aside. "H-ey, and what about Selphie?" "At least she's standing straight." Quistis replied. Selphie was about to say something, then they heard the small elevator descended. "Ah, you're all here." Headmaster smiled. The elevator reached the floor and he stepped off. Zell grumbled but managed to keep from complaining. Headmaster Cid smiled. "Sorry to wake some of you, but it's rather important." -"What's the matter, Sir?" Quistis asked. His smile faded. Kenan studied the Headmaster's expression. "The Sorceress?" "Indeed Commander," Cid replied. "She managed to escape in one of our transports." -"Where to?" Irvine wondered. Selphie patted him on the back. "Hey, you're awake!" "Fisherman's Horizon." Cid told them, studying a small black object he held in one hand. -"I knew it," Kenan concluded. "You should have let us SeeDs handle it." He didn't believe a bunch of students were up to the task. He was proven to be right. Putting his hands behind his back, the Headmaster started pacing back and forth in his office. "It seems Mr. Leonhart really is a SeeD." He explained. "That's how he knew about the cave with our transports." -"Wow…so he IS one of us…" Selphie mumbled. Quistis shrugged. "But, why is helping Sorceress Skye then?" Suddenly stopping with pacing about, the Headmaster turned to Quistis. "Perhaps he isn't aware of the threat she poses." Selphie thought back to the picture she'd seen. That Sorceress looked like just an average girl, perhaps even about her own age. She knew better than to question the Headmaster, but still, what threat could she possibly pose? The others appeared to be thinking the same. Well, except Zell of course. Selphie could just imagine all he thought about were hotdogs. Then again, she'd rather not think about what goes on inside Zell's mind. -"Everything's ready, Sir." A woman's voice said. They turned and noticed Xu walked in, closing the door behind her. "Ready for what?" Zell asked. -"We're heading to FH." Kenan explained. "Oh, hey everyone." Xu greeted with a warm smile. "You guys all right?" -"No…" Zell moaned. Quistis giggled. "They're fine. Just a little tired." -"A LITTLE?" Zell exclaimed with eyes wide. "Man, I could sleep for hundred years right now!" Kenan cleared his throat. A sure sign for Zell to shut his trap. Xu smiled and stepped on the small elevator. "Well, I'm glad you're all okay." "See ya later." She said as she went up to the Garden's controls. Running his hand through his hair, Kenan looked at Cid questioningly. "So, are WE going after Skye this time, Sir?" "Always straight to the point, Commander." He replied. "But, you are correct." "Your mission is to recapture her and bring her back here." -"And Squall?" Selphie wondered. "Do we have to capture him as well?" Cid shrugged. "I'd rather it didn't have to come to that. And don't harm him either." "Tell Mr. Leonhart I want to talk to him." He added. "He could be vital to winning this battle…" -"I think we understand." Quistis told Cid. "We persuade him to help us." Zell sighed. "Can't someone else do all that? We already have one Sorceress to take one." "Ultimecia hasn't made a move for days," Kenan offered. "Plus others weren't up to the task, we are." -"Yeah…we kick ass…" Selphie yawned and then quickly covered her mouth, not wanting to be inappropriate in front of the Headmaster. Or being inappropriate in company of the Commander for that matter. Quistis stared up at the sky. Suddenly, it turned around. She realized it was in the fact the Garden that turned. The room vibrated, and the Garden slowly started picking up speed. "You'll be dropped off in FH." The Headmaster explained. "We will remain there until you return and repairs to the Garden are completed." "Are they going to Esthar?" Kenan asked studying a small print of the world map. He figured that was the only logical choice. No Sorceress or SeeD could ever have much business in a town like Fisherman's Horizon. Cid smiled. "That's what I assume Commander. Possibly to visit Doctor Odine, to remove the Odine's bangle." Zell started punching the air. "Hey, we can't let that happen!" Irvine rested his shotgun on his shoulder. "Don't worry Zell, it aint gonna happen."  -"We should warn President Loire." Quistis suggested. "I'm sure they'll be able to detain the Sorceress."  "Yes. But the communication panels was damaged during the battle." Cid told them. "We're unable to contact anyone on the outside." "Bummer." Zell mumbled. Headmaster Cid handed a small device to Kenan. "With this you can locate Sorceress Skye." Kenan carefully put the device in the inside pocket of his black cape. "It shouldn't be hard then." "We'll reach FH in a few minutes." Cid informed them. "I suggest you go to the 2nd floor deck and move out as soon as we dock. I hope the mayor won't give you any trouble this time." Irvine agreed. "The sooner we complete this mission, the better." Zell and Irvine opened the office door. "After you." Irvine said, gesturing Zell with his hat to go through. -"Naw, you first." Zell replied, not quite trusting Irvine. Selphie patted Irvine on the back and walked through the door towards the elevator. Raising their shoulders, Zell and Irvine followed Selphie. Kenan and Quistis walked side by side right behind them. -"Oh, one more thing." The Headmaster spoke from his office doorway. Selphie pressed the button for the elevator and turned around. "Sir?" "The Galbadians could still be after Sorceress Skye." He said with a concerned look. "Be careful." A small light blinked and the elevator doors slid open. "We'll be right back Sir." Kenan assured the Headmaster as he and the others stepped inside the elevator. -"Ugh, I get the feeling it's kinda too small for all of us." Selphie mumbled, being pushed against one side. The doors closed. Quistis pushed the button for the 2nd floor and they descended. Apart from the elevator's engine, there was an eerie silence. The silence before the storm? Kenan wondered. Irvine laughed and patted Kenan on his shoulder. He turned around and saw Zell leaning against the wall panel with his cheek. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung open. "The excitement never stops with Zell around…" Selphie grinned. The elevator stopped and Quistis was first to step out as the doors slid open. Kenan and Irvine quickly followed. "Hey," Selphie exclaimed, hands on her hips. "Zell, wake UP!" He moaned something incoherent and hardly moved a muscle. She kicked him in the shin. "I said, WAKE UP!" -"OW! Aah! I'm up! I'm up!" Zell yelled as he stumbled out the elevator, jumping on one leg. "Is it just me, or does this look familiar?" Irvine asked. Kenan smirked. "Fujin and Raijin…" The group proceeded down the second floor hall towards the deck, Zell limping behind.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Squall turned the doorknob. The crummy wooden door swung open, heavily screeching. "This the best room you could get?" Skye asked, looking around the rather cramped hotel chamber. It was better than the brig she was in for a few days, but not by much. Two beds filled up the most of the hotel room. A colorful rug in between the beds added a bit of a cozy feeling, but not enough to compensate for the dull gray walls. There was one empty oak-wood closet, placed against the opposite wall. Next to it a small sink with a mirror. She noticed the room didn't even have a window. -"It's just to take a quick rest." Squall replied. He let Skye step in first and then followed, closing the door behind him. Skye threw off her backpack and plopped down on one of the beds. She laughed as she bounced up slightly. "Wow, these beds are great." Squall sat down on the edge of the other bed. He took off his boots and jacket, glad he could finally rest. Placing them other the bed together with his gunblade and the backpack, he lay down. Squall stared up at the ceiling. Rinoa…what happened to you? What happened to me? This is all so…weird Skye lay with her cheek on the pillow, facing Squall. "Hey Squall, can I ask you something?" He grinned. "Nothing stopped you from doing that before." She rested her head on one hand. "Why did you help me in the first place?" "You could have just run off without me after escaping Balamb Garden, that might have been easier." -"I don't know," Squall replied. "You looked like you could use some help." "I'd say we both need that." Skye laughed. "We're in a similar situation." She couldn't remember a thing, and he didn't wasn't even recognized by his friends and colleagues. Both alone in a messed up world. Squall yawned. "Yeah…" His eyes shut, and he was asleep not long after. Smiling, Skye watched him. He looked a lot better when he wasn't frowning. She crawled up and walked to the sink. In turning the valve, a stream of water poured out. She held her hands under it, rubbing off the smudges and stains. She just couldn't stand being all dirty. Bending forwards, she splashed some water in her face. Skye got up and stared into the mirror. "…Sorceress Skye…" She mumbled to herself. "That's me?" She had already gathered that being Sorceress was cause for many problems and hardships. Things weren't going to be easy. "Nice hair though." She joyously complimented herself as she took hold of a lock of her long, fiery hair. Yawning, Skye realized she'd best rest herself now. She crawled back into her bed and closed her eyes…     <<------------------------------------------>>     "What do you mean 'it's not opening'?" Zell asked, pushing Quistis aside. Much too Selphie's disgust, he spat on his hands and braced himself. "Good luck." Quistis sighed, doubting Zell could open it. -"We're rooting for ya." Kenan laughed. Zell took a deep breath and tried pushing the metal door open with all his might. -"Not opening so much as an inch there," Irvine observed. "Keep it up Dincht." "UGH!" Zell yelled as his face gradually turned red. Quistis shook her head and turned to examine the panel next to the door. She pushed the open button again but nothing happened. Not even an error indicator. Now that she looked at the panel more closely, it seemed completely shut off. How strange, a power failure? "Pooooof!" Zell uttered as he gasped for air. "It's not opening." -"I already came to that conclusion Zell." Quistis giggled. Selphie threw up her hands. "We can't get out now." "Hmm," Kenan mumbled, rubbing his unshaved chin. "Not here anyway." The second floor deck wasn't the only exit. Only the most convenient for entering FH… He looked aside. The panel next to the emergency exit didn't seem to function either. Quistis crossed her arms. "We'd better inform the technicians about this." "Let's just go to the front gate." Kenan suggested. "We'll probably have to climb up somewhere there…we'll see." -"Sir, yes, Si--OW!" Zell said, receiving an elbow in the stomach from Selphie. "I think I enjoy using Zell as a punching bag." Selphie grinned. She and Quistis walked down the hall, back to the elevator. Kenan, Zell and Irvine trudged behind.     A student stood pacing back and forth in front of the elevator doors. "Sir," She said as the Commander and the other SeeDs approached her. "I think it's out of order." -"It was working fine just a minute ago." Quistis told the student. "Something very strange is going on here…." Irvine concluded. -"Great," Zell uttered, leaning over the railing like a sandbag. "We're stuck up here." "Well, we could always throw you down." Selphie chuckled. Kenan pressed the button to call the elevator, but to no avail. "Looks like we'll have to wait then." Zell plopped down on the floor. He crossed his legs and pulled out a deck of cards. "Triple Triad, anyone?' "Not THAT again…" Kenan mumbled covering his face with his hands. Zell looked up. "Quistis? How about it?" -"No thanks," She smiled. "Maybe later." Grinning, Kenan threw his arm around Quistis. "Ha, she hasn't played since I beat her." She shook off his arm. "You were just lucky." He tossed her a charming grin. "Oh really?" -"Uhm…guys?" Selphie interrupted. "We have to get to FH, the Sorceress might be getting away!" Kenan walked to the railing and stared down. "Right, we need some rope…" Irvine shrugged. "I doubt there is any on this floor." -"I know." Quistis said, her face lit up. "We should use the jetpack lying down the hall." "What jetpack?" Zell asked, putting his cards back in his pockets and standing up. -"Seifer entered this Garden in a jetpack, along with two Para-troopers." She explained. "He used one to escape, and Squall used one to escape. So," "There should be one left." Irvine deducted. -"Okay, bring it over here and I'll get you all down one by one." Kenan said, tightening the bandanna around his head.     Balamb Garden lowered speed and eventually came to a full stop in the dock. They had docked by the same big crane as they had before. Several nosy towns' people gathered in the main street and stared up at Balamb Garden. Even if they had seen it before, it was still a beautiful sight. But at the same time, a sense of worry spread among them. What if they would lead the evil Sorceress right to them? The mayor walked up to crowd of people. "Don't worry," He assured his citizens. "I'll handle this." Did those militaristic barbarians really expect they could just drop by like that? The nerve of those people…     <<------------------------------------------>>     Fujin judged they were about halfway to FH now. The crummy fisherman's boat wasn't exactly what one would call fast. She was bored out of her mind. All she needed to do was keep the boat steady, but even Raijin could do that. -"I'm bored, ya know?" Raijin uttered, leaning against the small cabin. "AFFIRMATIVE." A flock of seagulls flew over. Seifer followed them with his eyes until they disappeared over the horizon. "I have a feeling we'll get enough action soon," He told Raijin and Fujin. "Relax for now." He reached under his chair and found an old issue of Weapons Monthly. Seifer wondered why an old fisherman would have such a magazine, but dismissed the thought as he sifted through the pages. With much interest Seifer glared at the gunblade page. He didn't have one for the time being, so maybe he should get one in Fisherman's Horizon. That Flame Saber sure looked good. "Hey! Lemme see, lemme see!" Raijin cried out, noticing the Weapon's Monthly issue Seifer was holding. Seifer smirked and threw the magazine far out in the sea. "No weapons of any interest to you in it anyway…" Raijin's body sagged. "Hey…what if I want to try out a gunblade?" "HA HA!" Seifer laughed. "YOU? A gunblade? Heh, right." -"FOOL." Fujin said in agreement with Seifer. Only a few people can handle a gunblade, she very much doubted Raijin was one of those. Punching the wooden the cabin hard, he showed his fury. "I COULD! YA KNOW!" A tiny crack appeared in the wood. Raijin inspected his fist; it was bruised all over. Fujin sighed, unimpressed, and turned back to the steering wheel. "You just use your staff or whatever you call it." Seifer suggested, equally unimpressed by Raijin's little outburst. The day he would fear Raijin…naw…who was he kidding, that would never happen. As Raijin sat down on the deck, his stomach churned loudly. He looked up at Fujin, like a dog begging his master for food. She didn't respond. Then he turned to Seifer. He replied by throwing up his hands. "I don't have any food." "Ah! I'm gonna die of starvation!" Raijin cried out like a baby. Seifer walked past Raijin and joined up with Fujin in the small cabin. "Did Balamb Garden fly by a few minutes ago?" He asked. -"AFFIRMATIVE." Seifer crossed his arms. "Well, well, looks like we get to swat two flies with one blow..." She turned to Seifer questioningly. "SEED?" "Yeah, they're probably after Sorceress Skye as well." He replied, not at all sounding concerned. Raijin shook his attention from his stomach. "What's so important about her, ya know?" "I don't know." Seifer replied. "Ultimecia wants her captured, that's all I've been told." Scratching his head, Raijin thought back to his encounter with Kenan and the SeeDs in Balamb some time ago. They said Seifer was just an obedient dog to the Sorceress. Oh well, he was sure Seifer knew what he was doing. "Wake me up when we reach FH…" Seifer said as he yawned and moved back to his seat at the rear end of the boat. -"Roger, ya know."
Railway Bridge by Goku Girl
"Thanks for the ride." Irvine said as he jumped off from Kenan's jetpack. He was the last to be airlifted down from the second floor. Kenan threw off the jetpack and joined up with a crowd of students in the main hall. "Calm down." Quistis told the students. "I'm sure it's only temporarily." Irvine peered over the pack of students. He saw Quistis and Selphie standing in the center of them. "What's wrong here?" Kenan asked, gently pushing his way towards Quistis. She shook her head. "There seem to be power malfunctions on this floor as well." -"At least the lights are still on." Irvine said, looking around. A young student, probably no older than ten, pulled Kenan's cape. "Uhm…Commander?" The boy called. Kenan smiled and got down on one knee. "What can I help you with?" The boy's eyes started tearing a bit. He quickly wiped them. "Me, and my friends were just at the Training Center…" -"Go on." Kenan assured him. "Well, we decided to go to the Cafeteria, but when I got out, the door closed up behind me!" The boy told him. He was clearly not joking around. "So, your friends trapped?" Irvine asked, having also listened to the young student. -"Yes Sir." He replied with a sad tone of voice. Kenan turned to Irvine. "We don't have time for this." He whispered. -"True, but we gotta help 'em." Irvine replied, also whispering. Upon jumping on a bench, Kenan could overlook the whole crowd. "Listen up," He practically shouted. The students quieted down. "I have a mission for five strong students…" Five people were probably too many just to open one door, but Kenan figured it couldn't hurt to get more muscle into it. Those young students' lives could be at stake. At least ten students stepped up to volunteer. "Okay, you five," Kenan said, pointing to the first row of five students from left to right. "Go to the Training Center. This young student here will tell you what needs to be done." The boy beamed. He felt honored to be put in command of five older students by the Commander himself. -"Sir." The five students saluted and ran to the Training Center with the young student. "What was that about?" Selphie asked Kenan as he got off the bench. He replied with a never-mind gesture. "Just come on…" Selphie patted Quistis on her shoulder. "Let's go." She quickly said goodbye to the students she was conversing with and followed Selphie. The students all turned to complain to Doctor Kadowaki as she approached. Quistis met up with Kenan and Irvine in front of the Balamb Garden map, in the middle of the main hall. "Where's Zell?" Irvine wondered, scanning around. -"Hey!" Selphie sarcastically pouted. "You didn't forget to fly him down, did ya Kenan?" She smiled. "Kudos if you did." -"I heard that!" A voice yelled from the gates. The SeeDs looked up ahead and noticed Zell was waiting for them. "Wow." Irvine gasped. "Don't normally see that." -"Welcome to the zone where normal things don't happen…very often." Kenan grinned, approaching Zell. Zell leaned against the booth at the gates. "About time you guys got here." Walking right past Zell, Kenan got a better view of Fisherman's Horizon. As before, the big crane served as an excellent docking platform, connected to the 2nd floor deck. But from down at the front gate, it was a bit harder to reach FH. "Oh no!" Selphie exclaimed, staring at the nearest dock that would lead up to the main street. -"What? What?!" Zell wondered. He caught up with Kenan. "We'll have to cross some water." Kenan told the others, noticing there wasn't any direct connection to the town. -"In other words…swim." Zell uttered, scratching the back of his head. "Not necessarily." Quistis said, not feeling much for getting wet either. "Balamb Garden has rafts." -"Right. Zell, Quistis, get one over here." Kenan ordered them. "And fast, we've wasted enough time already." Quistis nodded and ran off. Zell followed, heavily moaning. Why did he always have to do all the work? "Hey Kenan." Irvine called, doing a few stretching exercises next to him. -"Yeah?" "How's Tia?" Irvine asked with a sincere face of concern. "Has she recovered yet?" -"Yeah!" Selphie exclaimed. "I haven't seen your sis in a while. Is she okay?" Kenan shrugged. "Yesterday she was still resting. I don't know how she is now." -"But I'll see her later." He quickly added. "Now we've got another Sorceress to worry about." "Why don't ya check that tracking thing?" Irvine suggested. "Maybe she has left FH already, it's possible." Reaching for the tracking device in his pocket, Kenan grew a worried look. Irvine was right, the Sorceress could have gotten away in the mean time. Those transports are wicked fast… Upon carefully inspecting the display on the device, Kenan smirked. "She's close by, still here in FH." Selphie leaned over Kenan's shoulder. She could clearly see the device, but couldn't make much of the display. There where several dots, lines, circles and stuff. It was way too technical for her to understand. "Great!" Irvine said, clapping his hands together. "We'll have her in no time."


<<------------------------------------------>>   "Squall." …. "Squall!" Skye called again, more forcefully this time. It took Squall a few seconds to realize where he was as he opened his eyes. He got up and swung his feet over the side of the bed. Still feeling sleepy, he gathered his stuff from under the bed. Skye sat down next to him. "Sorry I had to wake you so soon, but I have a feeling we'd better go now." Squall put on his boots, and looked at Skye. "Are the Galbadians here?" She shook her head. "…Balamb Garden…" He noticed the room's door was wide open. Balamb Garden…here? Docked in FH? Putting on his jacket, Squall stood up. "Okay, we'd best hurry." "Right." Skye agreed, moving to the doorway. She had already grabbed her backpack and seemed ready to go. -"Did you even sleep?" Squall asked, quickly grabbing his gunblade and backpack. She smiled. "Not really, but it's okay. Someone has gotta stand watch." Squall looked around the room, making sure he hadn't forgotten anything. As he walked to the hotel hall, Skye shut the room's door, handing the key to Squall. "The Garden arrived a few minutes ago." She explained. "I haven't seen anyone come out though." -"They're probably after us." Squall said as they walked down the hall. She looked thoughtful for a second, then shook her head. "No, after me."


The hotel manager politely smiled as the two young ones walked by. Squall threw the room key in the manager's hands. "We're checking out." "Of course." He replied, grabbing a small book from behind his counter. He looked at the clock hanging on the wall behind him and made a note in the book. The manger looked up and smiled. "Have a nice day, and please, come again." Squall and Skye walked outside. Almost everyone in the town seemed gathered up ahead. They were waiting expectantly. Balamb Garden was docked a bit further away. At the usual place, beside the huge crane. "So, you didn't see any come out there?" Squall asked, pointing to the 2nd floor deck of Balamb Garden. -"No. Not anywhere else either." She stated, intensively staring at the Garden. Squall patted her on the shoulder, she nodded and they both ran in the opposite direction. "This way." Squall told her, choosing the road leading up. He looked back. Nobody was following them. Climbing up the old railway bridge, they had a great view of Fisherman's Horizon. "Uhm…" Skye mumbled, glaring up ahead and back. "Where is the train?" The tracks seemed to go on forever. She couldn't see any mainland in either direction. Just the railway bridge suspended above the ocean. -"There is no train." Squall said, wondering whether or not he had told her this before. "We have to walk." Skye sighed, looking down at her shoes. It wouldn't be comfortable walking with those old discarded student shoes. "I've done it before. It's far, but I don't see any other way." Squall said, eyeing Balamb Garden. "We can't go back now, they'd jump us before we could get to the transport." Skye reluctantly put on a smile and started walking towards the horizon. She stopped as she realized Squall was moving in the other direction. "Hey, wait for me!" He kept walking, knowing there was no time to waste. They'd have to reach Esthar before getting caught up by whoever was after them this time. "Hey, is this the only way to Esthar?" Skye asked as soon as she caught up with Squall. -"Either this way, or by air." He replied. "Although the Garden can't fly high enough." The sun was beginning to set. An orange glow spread across the skies. It was reflected in the ocean. "It'll be dark soon." Skye concluded. -"Yeah, seems so. But that will make us harder to spot for them." Squall assured her, still eyeing Balamb Garden. It got smaller and smaller as they proceeded towards Esthar. Eventually it disappeared out of sight completely, along with FH. In both directions, all they could see were the train tracks. "I must be really important to them, huh?" Skye pondered, breaking the silence. She had heard about Sorceress Ultimecia from Squall. If Ultimecia were really that dangerous, SeeD would go after her instead of Skye. But now that they'd moved the whole Garden to follow her, she was proven wrong. -"I don't understand it." Squall said, thinking out loud. "You are not an evil Sorceress, what do they want with you?" "I've lost my memory Squall," She reminded him. "I could have done terrible things, but just not recall them." He looked aside. "I doubt it. You don't seem that kind of person." She studied him. Squall was actually a lot friendlier than he would let people believe, at least, that was her theory. Rolling her eyes, she wondered why she always had to analyze people. Is that her power? She grinned. The power to analyze people, whoo-hoo, what a dangerous Sorceress she was. Squall silently watched the setting sun as they trudged further towards Esthar. It was going to be a long night…




"YOU again!" The mayor scolded as a team of five SeeDs arrived with a raft on the docks of his town. He recognized Commander Gantt, as they had spoken before. The SeeDs carefully stepped off the raft one by one, and tied up the raft to a nearby pole with a sturdy piece of rope. Kenan raised an eyebrow in surprise by the amount of people standing around them. He had always thought FH was a quiet town with not many inhabitants. There were so many people, they blocked the path to the main street. Zell stepped up to the crowd. "SeeD business, let us through!" Irvine walked up next to Zell. "Uhm…buddy, I think you should let Kenan handle this." The mayor stood triumphantly in front of his townsmen. "Commander," He called, trying to keep his voice down. Respectable people like him didn't need to yell to prove their point. "I thought you agreed to stay away from Fisherman's Horizon?" Kenan sighed. The last thing he needed right now was to get into a debate with this peace-loving guy. -"Our Garden needs more repairs." Kenan explained. "And me and my team are on a mission." "Oi!" A man, wearing a technician's uniform yelled. "We already repaired it." Quistis crossed her arms. "You didn't do a good job last time. The damage from the battle with Galbadia Garden still clearly shows." The man scratched the back of his head. "Well,…uh, we focused mainly on getting it operational again. All the structural damage wasn't the main concern. But we DID repair half of it!" "Now now," The mayor said, trying to calm down the technician. "You and your team did an excellent job, don't be bothered by these barbarians." Quistis and Kenan looked at each other and shook their heads. It was pointless trying to convince the mayor otherwise. According to him, Garden just was a purely aggressive military unit. One that would cause more harm than resolve it. "Listen chum, we're gonna save the world, so don't stand in our way." Selphie exclaimed, slightly dancing around. -"Yeah!" Zell backed her up, taking a fighting stance. "Boo!--yaka." "SELPHIE, ZELL!" Kenan called furiously. They were just going to get themselves into trouble with that attitude. He turned to the mayor again. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but we would appreciate it if you could assist our Garden's repair teams again." The crowd looked questioningly at the mayor as he paced back and forth in front of them. "Very well," He finally said. "But I want you to leave here as soon as the repairs are complete." After all, he wasn't a fool. He may not like their methods, but they might just save the world from that evil Sorceress. Commander Gantt saluted the mayor, and the other SeeDs followed his example. Quistis motioned Zell, Irvine and Selphie to walk up ahead as Kenan remained behind to discuss a few other issues with the mayor of FH. They waited for him in front of a hotel called 'The Golden Pavilion'. From what they could see, it appeared to be a nice hotel, although nothing really fancy. "Hey…" Zell yawned. "Maybe we could go for a little nap." Irvine shook his head. "Don't have the time…" He turned to Kenan. "Right, so just talk to the Headmaster." He said, trying to end his conversation with the mayor. The mayor and the townsmen still didn't like the idea of the Garden being parked beside their town, but they agreed to help them once more. In the end, everyone hoped the SeeDs would soon stop the Sorceress, and restore peace to the land, so to speak. Kenan joined up with his team. "Gawd, that mayor's a major pain in the--" Quistis coughed. "Let's just get on with the mission, shall we?" Resting her nunchakus on her shoulder, Selphie scanned around. "Don't see any Sorceress here." -"Well DUH." Zell exclaimed. "I doubt she'd just be walking in plain sight dummy." Selphie scowled at him and he quickly hid behind Irvine. "Don't hurt me, again." Kenan and Quistis briefly exchanged looks. Kids, that's what those two they were sometimes. So immature… "I'll just use the tracking device." Kenan stated, grabbing it from his pocket. As he switched it on, his eyes widened. Selphie and Zell peered over the Commander's shoulders at the screen. The blinking light was moving! "What does this mean?" Irvine wondered, even though he could guess. Staring ahead, then back at the screen again, Kenan began to move forward. "She's getting away." He started to run, the others followed. "Where's she now?" Selphie asked, already starting to sweat. She could never maintain this speed for long. Swiftly, the SeeDs climbed up to the railway bridge. Like Kenan had guessed, the Sorceress must be headed for Esthar. "Dead ahead." Kenan informed them. "But she has quite a lead on us." Irvine squinted. "Are you sure? I don't see anyone." By now, the entire sky was colored dark-purple. In a few moments, night would fall. Visibility would drop even more. Body sagging, Zell was about to complain, when Selphie jumped up in stead. "We're not going to walk that whole stretch AGAIN, are we?!" Quistis ran her hand through her hair. "Do we have another choice?" -"Go back to the Garden and get a vehicle up here?" Irvine suggested, somehow proud he came up with a solid idea before Mr. Leader could. "That could waste even more precious time. What if the Parking Lot doors won't open." Kenan argued, seeing no other choice but to pursue, on foot. Everyone sighed heavily, but followed their Commander as he walked off. "I should have brought my hoverboard." Zell mumbled, kicking nearly every small stone that lay in his path. He made up the rear of the team. Selphie and Irvine walked in front of him, probably getting all mushy seeing as how they were both giggling about something. Kenan and Quistis took point. Again, they walked side by side ahead of them. Could there be something between those two? Zell pondered about this shortly, but eventually concluded this wasn't very likely. It wasn't a secret that Kenan liked Rinoa. Zell sighed. One day, he really had to gather up the nerve to talk to that girl in the library.


"So," Kenan said, casually trying to start a conversation with Quistis. "Read any good books lately?" She smiled. "Actually, no. Not since the whole thing with Ultimecia started." "Uh-oh." He uttered, seeing the sun set completely. "I forgot to bring a flashlight." Some seconds later, a row of light on both sides of the railway switched on. Chuckling, Quistis watched Kenan gasp in surprise. "I guess someone must have heard you." The lights enabled them to look further ahead than before, but still there was no sign of the Sorceress. Or Leonhart for that matter. "Whoo-hoo!" Zell called from behind. "Go Irvine!" Both Quistis and Kenan turned around. Selphie and Irvine had stopped just under a lamppost and were…kissing? Wow. They knew there could be something starting between the two, but still this came as sort of a surprise. Actually all they could see was Irvine and his hat, which he cleverly used to cover his and Selphie's face. Kenan looked at his watch. "Uhm, Pineapple," He called. "How long is this gonna take?" Irvine put his hat on again and turned to Kenan, smiling widely. "Sorry. Heat of the moment thing…you know?" Selphie's cheeks glowed red. "Hey..what? Never seen two people kiss before?" Quistis laughed. "Not recently." Beaming, Irvine jogged up to Kenan as they moved on. "Stick around me and you might just learn a thing or two…" Selphie joined up with Quistis. Zell trudged behind, solo, as before. Glancing over at Selphie and Irvine, Kenan grinned. "So, it's official now. You're in a relationship Pineapple." -"Would you stop calling me that? It's Kinneas!" Irvine reminded him with an annoyed look. "Kinneas and Pineapple are two totally different names! How on earth did you…ah…forget it!" Kenan threw his hands on his back. "You know what this means though, right?" -"Uh..w-what?" Irvine hesitantly asked. He smirked. "Now she owns you Pine-uh, Irv. It's over. No more flirting, heck, even looking at other girls is a no-no." Silently Irvine whimpered, wondering what he'd gotten himself into. "Yup. You've just given up the things you are best at." Kenan stated again. "Did you know you can't even burp anymore without being whacked or yelled at now?" His eyes widened. "No, she can't take that away from me. I live to burp!" -"Afraid so buddy. You aint single no more. Hmm, there's a song in that, I'm sure." Irvine remained strangely silent for a while. "Too bad about that world record attempt though," Kenan grinned. "Never seen anyone burp the entire alphabet before, I was so sure you could do it with a little more practice." He sighed. "Thanks for the pep-talk there Commander." Kenan rubbed his chin and looked over his shoulder. "Perhaps Zell could do it in stead, he has great talent you know." -"ZELL? Oh no, that record attempt is mine, mine!" Irvine exclaimed, tapping himself on the chest. "What was that about me?" Zell asked from a few feet behind. Kenan supportively patted Irvine on the back. "Too bad, I doubt Selphie would allow such things." "You see, women don't understand the delicate art of burping like we men do. They think it's vulgar, obnoxious and sorts. We KNOW it is." -"And that's why we love it…" Irvine whimpered, pretending to wipe a tear away. Casually, he looked over his shoulder at smiled at his girlfriend, Selphie. Wow…girlfriend. He DID like the sound of that. "C'mon man," Irvine reasoned, eyes on the railway ahead. "It's not like she'll be around me 24/7." -"Oh really?" Kenan smirked, knowingly. "She'll be all over ya. Wanting to know about everything you do." Irvine shivered. "No, you're just saying that. Ha, you're jealous man!" He shook his head and pointed Irvine towards Zell. "See him? Now THAT's a free man. He can do practically whatever he wants. You can not buddy. Your life as you knew it…" "Noooo…" Irvine whimpered. "It's over, all over?" -"Hey, but good going Pineapple!" Kenan exclaimed cheerfully, loud enough for everyone to hear. He shook his head, smiling widely again. "Kay Commander, let's drop the act already. You're jealous I got me a girl." Throwing an arm around Irvine in a best bud kinda way, Kenan laughed out loud. "Yeah. Who knows?" Smiling mischievously, Irvine glanced over at Quistis, then turned to Kenan. "Don't worry my good man, I can help…" Kenan raised an eyebrow. "Hey, don't you even dare setting ME up. I don't need your help." "Right!" Irvine responded sarcastically. "Girls are just waiting in a line for you." He frowned and supported the back of his head with his hands. "Well, no, they're not waiting in a line." "Actually in three lines." He added with a serious look. -"Sure…whatever ya say Sir."


Just a few feet behind, Selphie was really beginning to get tired. She found it extremely hard to even keep her eyes open. Having Quistis walk next to her was actually quite comfortable, if she'd get too tired, Selphie would just lean against her. On the other hand, Quistis did have a way of boring her like every teacher is able to do to her. Then again, she isn't an Instructor anymore of course. Woo-hoo though! Irvine is her boyfriend! She just couldn't wait to tell all her friends at Trabia Garden. He's so cute! Like a teddy bear, only slightly less hairy! Tee-hee! Quistis chuckled, closely observing Selphie. "Don't let it get to your head Selphie." She beamed. "You're just jealous Quisty." Quistis shook her head. "No, I'm happy for you. But don't think too much of it, after all, Irvine is quite a--" Selphie's eyebrows furrowed, turning to Quistis. "Oh..never mind." She quickly said. "But, please, don't call me Quisty."  -"AH, come ON." Selphie pouted. "It's such a cute name! What else am I gonna call you for short, Q?" "How about just plain Quistis?" She offered with a slightly annoyed look on her face. Selphie considered it, but couldn't see the cuteness in just her normal name. Everyone should have a short, cute name. Like, Irvine is Irvy, Kenan is..uh..Ken? Yeah, and Zell would be... She shrugged. Ah, who cares about Zell anyway? Nobody ever calls his name unless he's getting into trouble. But Quisty, oh, that is a great name!


Quistis stared back at FH. Well, there wasn't any FH to see anymore. Perhaps they'd traveled a considerable distance already. Or, it could just be the overall darkness that prevented her from seeing the town. She sighed. The journey has just begun. Surely they would have to walk all night to reach Esthar. Fatigue would soon set in, Zell and Selphie would really have a hard time. At least it would all be worth it. That Squall, he would help them defeat Ultimecia, and then all this hardship would be over. A happy ending, definitely.






"It's getting really dark, not to mention cold, we'd best get back inside now." -"Oh, you worry too much Uncle." She grinned. But she quieted down as she saw the part of the city where the battles had taken place. Even though most fires were extinguished days -if not some weeks- ago, smoke still covered up a great amount of the sky above Esthar. Everyone fought so bravely…all for her? So many young men had sacrificed their lives. People, whom never even met her, but were willing to pay the ultimate price. And for what? Just to make sure the Sorceress wouldn't capture her? Her uncle threw his arm around her, comfortingly. He knew exactly what she was thinking about. "It's not because of you Ellone. They all fought for their loved ones, for freedom. They will not soon be forgotten." A tear rolled down Ellone's cheek. "But it was all for nothing. All they did was force Ultimecia to retreat. She will back Uncle, I know it. Soon…" "Everything is going to be fine. Trust me." Laguna told her. "I won't let anything happen to you." She rested her head against his shoulder. Uncle Laguna…she could always trust him. Never did she doubt this, even when Sorceress Adel had captured her those many years ago. He would never let her down. They overlooked most of Esthar from the presidential balcony. Despite the damage from the battle with the Lunatic Pandora, the city looked as beautiful and majestic as ever. It could always give Laguna a lump in his throat just by looking at it. And to think he was even President of such a city. Ellone closed her eyes, just as a cold breeze passed by her face. "Is something wrong?" Laguna asked, releasing Ellone from his hug. He knew that she would only close her eyes either to sleep…or to use her powers. -"A Sorceress is approaching." She stated, opening her eyes. "It's neither Ultimecia nor Adel." His eyes widened. "Is she…evil?" Ellone shook her head and walked back inside. Laguna followed, closing the balcony doors behind him. "I can't sense any evil." She said. "But these sense are still new to me. I could be wrong." Putting his hands in his pockets, he nervously paced back and forth in his office. "So, where is she coming from?" Ellone shrugged. "I think the same way the SeeDs entered earlier. The rail bridge." "Okay." Laguna said, moving to his intercom. "Kiros and Ward, please report to my office." Giggling, Ellone walked over to her Uncle and actually pushed the 'on' button of the intercom system. Laguna scratched the back of his head. "Kiros and Ward, please report to my office." "Great goobish goo, I'm no good with modern technology. Never even figured out how to flush the toilets here." He mumbled, smiling at his young niece. Ellone giggled again, and switched the intercom off. "The whole Presidential Palace heard that Uncle." He sighed heavily. He could still make a bigger fool out of himself than anyone else could ever do for him. The door to Laguna's office creaked open. His aid Kiros, walked in. "What is it now," He sighed. "Your highness?" Laguna beamed. "Ah, just call me Laguna will ya? And hey, how did you get here so fast?" Kiros smiled politely towards Ellone and crossed his arms. "My office is next to yours Laguna, remember?" "Oh. I thought that was the janitor's closet." Laguna laughed, turning to Ellone. "Kiros might looked like a neat guy, but man! Can he make a mess out of his office…" -"Actually, that was because Ward needed to see the dentist." He explained. "I chased him all around the room before I caught the big guy. That's probably the only thing Ward fears, seeing the dentist." Nervously grinning, Laguna took a seat behind his desk. Kiros leaned against the edge. "Oh, and you were practically crying when you had to go Laguna…" -"With the way I eat, I'm bound to have a million cavities." He admitted. "But you know what the old folks say, it's better to have ten cavities in your teeth, than one in your head." Both Ellone and Kiros stared questioningly at Laguna. "Better have ten cavities in your teeth…than one in your head?" "What? Is it something I said?" He asked. The doors to the office closed. Ward walked up and said something with the expression on his face. -"You're an idiot Laguna. But we wouldn't have it any other way." Kiros translated Ward's expression. "Heeey!" Laguna pouted. Ward chuckled, stomach bobbing up and down. But then his face grew serious, wondering why Laguna had called him. Noticing the look, Laguna stopped clowning around…for now… "Ellone just informed me that a Sorceress is heading towards us." He told his aids. "She doesn't know if the Sorceress is an evil or good one, so I want you to meet her. But be careful." Kiros nodded. "No problem. Anything else?" "Any news from Balamb Garden?" He asked. -"No." Kiros replied. "But we know they're docked in Fisherman's Horizon now." Ellone smiled. "Maybe they're bringing Tia then?" "Isn't that the girl that freed Adel?" Laguna asked. "I didn't know she was a Sorceress." -"Yes, that is her. She received Edea's powers." Ellone smiled sadly. Ward looked down. "Yeah, that's really sad." Kiros said. "But at least she's no longer under Ultimecia's control." -"Anyhoo, get down to the entrance and see who it is." Laguna told them, standing up. He tried his best to make it sound like a request instead of an order. Kiros and Ward walked out of his office. Ellone gazed outside through one of the big windows in Laguna's office. She wondered what lay waiting for them just beyond the horizon. Whistling cheerfully, Laguna peered over at the antique clock. "Whoa, time flies!" He exclaimed, surprised it was already that late. He stretched and yawned. "I think I'll be going to bed now." -"So will I, Uncle." Ellone said, giving Laguna a goodnight kiss.






"Uhm…Seifer…y-ya know?" His eyes popped open. Raijin was backing up towards him, away from a purple colored fog. Seifer stood up and halted him by taking hold of his shoulders. "Stop being such a chicken. It's only the Sorceress…" A cold sweat drop formed on Raijin's forehead. The Sorceress was exactly the person he feared the most. Even Fujin glared nervously at the purple fog as it thickened in the middle of the small deck. Only one lamp in the cabin provided a bit of light on the boat, but it was clear this was the Sorceress' doing. Seifer had seen this before in Timber. "Fujin," He called to the other side of fog. "Are we near FH yet?" -"AFFIRMATIVE." She replied, even though the town itself wasn't visible.
Plan Set in Motion by Goku Girl
"She's here." Seifer said as he stood at attention. Sorceress Adel appeared on the boat and the purple-colored fog lifted. Raijin back away from her as far as he could, for he knew she wasn't gonna be pleased. The mission failed…and now…she would turn them all into frogs? EEK!! Seifer looked down at the wooden deck. It had sprung a few minor leaks, this was probably one of the boat's last voyages. Ugh, focus Almasy! Focus. He shouldn't be distracted, not now of all times. "My Knight." Adel spoke with an eerie voice. It could no doubt shatter glass if she wanted it, and strike fear in the hearts of her foes. Her appearance wasn't any less terrifying. The muscles she showed could make any body-builder jealous. Fujin turned away from the Sorceress. She didn't dare even look at her, a strange feeling came over her every time she stood close by. Part of her wanted to grab her pinwheel and… No, that would be stupid. Adel was far stronger, even more so when Ultimecia was using Adel as a vessel. "Ultimecia?" Seifer asked. He couldn't be sure if this was the Sorceress he served, or simply Sorceress Adel alone. She laughed briefly, sending a shiver down Raijin's spine, then stepped closer to Seifer. He looked up. Sorceress Adel examined the young man for a moment. He appeared injured, yet not bothered by this. His face…just another one of her servants that showed that face. She'd seen it countless times before. Her arm suddenly extended towards Seifer. He didn't react. "Do not worry," Adel said, grabbing his cheeks with one hand. Her sharp nails dug into his skin. "You have done what I've asked. I am pleased." She smiled, only to show her razor-like teeth. "Things are going as expected." -"I…don't understand." Seifer said in an unusual soft tone, as he was released from her grip. The mission was to capture the girl, didn't he fail? "It's very simple." She looked over her shoulder at Fujin, then turned to Raijin and Seifer again. …Simpletons… Seifer's eyes narrowed. "If I knew your plan, I--" "Very well." She interrupted, sounding annoyed. "…All of our problems will soon be together in one place. That is when we will strike. Ellone and the young Sorceress will be captured, as for the rest…" She laughed. "You deal with the rest." Seifer nodded obediently, beginning to understand her. "Yes, my Sorceress. It will be done." "There is one unexpected…problem…" Adel spoke. "The SeeD Leonhart. His presence could ruin everything!" -"Leonhart? I don't think I have ever heard of this SeeD before." Seifer told her, smirking coldly. "But I can handle any SeeD. They don't stand a chance." The Sorceress folded her arms. "Ah yes, you haven't, it's different here. But make no mistake. Leonhart is not to be taken lightly. He managed to escape you once." "What?!" Seifer exclaimed furiously. "That man is Leonhart?" The only man that ever humiliated him like that. Held down by his own gunblade! Revenge! -"I will prepare my forces for the attack." The Sorceress spoke, raising one hand up high. A sudden bright light. As Seifer and his lackeys opened their eyes, Adel was gone. "Talkin' 'bout creepy, ya know?" Grinning, Seifer shook his fist in front of him. "Leonhart…Leonhart! You're mine!" "Now," He said, his tone of voice suddenly returned to normal. "Have we reached FH yet?" -"NEGAT-" Fujin said, but paused. She noticed lights up ahead. A few were really up high…a tall building? She squinted. No, it was a huge crane. There was something else, beside that crane. It wasn't lit at all. Seifer followed Fujin's gaze. "Heh, looks like we are there after all." "Uh..Seifer, are ya sure you wanna....go on, ya know?" Raijin uttered nervously. He didn't dare speak up against the Sorceress' Knight, but was really beginning to feel it was wrong. The Sorceress only used them. She would just as easily kill them after the SeeDs are disposed of. Fujin had agreed with Raijin on this earlier, but now they had to inform Seifer of their hesitation, cautiously. "It's too late for me to back up now." He responded, self-confident. "If you want to chicken out, go ahead." Raijin took a deep breath. "N-naw, we're with ya man. Y-ya know?" "Good." Seifer smirked coldly.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Skye and Squall abruptly halted. A cat-like creature blocked their path. It warningly swinging it’s tail back and forth. "Where did that come from?!" Skye called, panting with fear. Its blood-red eyes were locked on her. -"Just stay calm." Squall said and threw down his backpack. "I've seen this type of creature before, it's a Torama." Skye hid behind his back. "Are they dangerous?" -"Yes." "You could have lied you know…" She gasped with eyes dilated as the slender cat slowly closed in on them. Without a sign of worry Squall took a firm grip of his gunblade. "I don't lie." "This seems hardly seems the time to open to me." Skye nervously grinned. Squall locked his attention on the Torama. It shouldn't be a hard battle against just one of those, but then again a SeeD is taught to never underestimate an opponent. Instinctively, the Torama released a roar prior to his attack. Squall stood his ground. Skye backed away, her breathing quickening. The way it looked at her, she knew it would go after her. But before the Torama could come any closer, Squall charged at it with gunblade extended. It swung its tail violently, and just barely missed Squall's arm. His gunblade sunk deep into the Torama's body. Taking no chances, Squall fired one shot and then backed up a bit. It immediately fell to the ground as he removed the gunblade from the deep cut.  A final agonizing roar, and it passed away. "Thanks." Skye said in a relieved tone of voice. That was over quickly. Now she knew she was safe with Squall around. -"No time to waste." Squall reminded her, moving to pick up his backpack. "Let's keep going." "Y-yeah." She mumbled. "I just hope we don't run into any more creatures."  -"We still have a long way to go. No guarantees." Her heartbeat and respiration were beginning returning to normal again. "I've had enough excitement for one night."     <<------------------------------------------>>       "Whoa, did you guys hear that?!" Zell yelled, running up to the front of their little formation. -"Sounded like a roar." Irvine concluded. He took hold of Zell's shoulders and shook him around. "SCARY huh?" "HEY! Don't do that," Zell ordered. He shivered as goosebumps covered his arms and legs. "Not funny dude." Quistis took hold of her whip. "What do you think it is?" "Beats me." Kenan replied. "But it sounded kinda messed up." -"Whatever roared should fine-tune its…uhm…roar." Zell said in agreement with Kenan. Irvine stepped away from Zell and stood protectively next to Selphie. "Don't you worry girlie." She smiled. "I'm not worried dear." "Dear?" Zell asked, raising an eyebrow. "Hehehe, dear?" He received a smack on the back of his head from both Selphie and Irvine. "Ouch. They're teaming up on me!" Kenan sighed and held up the tracking device in front of him. Hmm, the white dot seemed closer now. They were catching up on the Sorceress. His eyes widened. That roar, it came from up ahead, Leonhart and the Sorceress were under attack? "Oh no, we're gonna check it out, huh?" Zell whimpered. "And double-time it over there?" Kenan looked surprised. "That's a good plan. Who are you, Commander Dincht?" "Hey, not bad. I like the sound of that." He smiled widely. -"C'mon already you guys!" Selphie exclaimed, starting to run. Where did she get the energy, everyone wondered. "You go on ahead, we'll be right there." Quistis assured her. With that said, Selphie bolted off, dragging Irvine along with her. Kenan felt sorry for the poor guy. How could one ever keep up with such a hyper girl? He sighed as he watched Selphie in action. "Ah, to be young again." -"Kenan, you are young," Quistis giggled. "Not even hit the twenty-one mark yet." "What's so special about that then?" Zell wondered. He and his two comrades followed Selphie and Irvine, just at a slightly lower speed. Smiling widely, Kenan Gantt held up his index finger. "One word. Al-co-hol. When you're twenty-one, you're a full-fledged adult. That comes with certain privileges and such. You know?" "Alcohol is bad for your health." Quistis lectured like a true Instructor, even though she wasn't one anymore. "And besides that, it ruins your fighting skills."   Kenan threw his arm around her, acting drunk. "Actually, dear Quistis, I'm pretty sure it improves mine radically." She opened her mouth to argue, but her IQ kicked in. Hmph, men! "Heh heh, a drunken master!" Zell joyfully exclaimed. "Man, that was a great comeback." And that's our Commander? A drunk? Quistis thought, but didn't feel the need to voice it. "Yo, look what we got here." Irvine called from up ahead, pointing to a shadowy figure lying on the tracks. Quistis gasped, shaking the Commander's arm loose. Oh no! Squall, or the Sorceress? -"Is it Leonhart?" Kenan yelled back at him. Would he mind if it were? Hmm… "No," Selphie responded. "It's a beast. Aw, and it's dead." As the three slower members of the team approached the body, it became apparent a battle must have taken place not long ago. Blood oozed from a wound on its belly. Irvine rested the barrel of his shotgun on his shoulder and stared up ahead. "We're really close now." Quistis bent down next to the creature. "A Torama, killed by a blade." "A gunblade." Kenan corrected. "You can tell by the rough overall cut, yet precise bullet impact there." He pointed to a near perfect round hole in one of the Torama's internal organs. Blood had splattered all around. Zell leaned against the railing of the long bridge, casually inspecting his nails. "Great! Why don't we dissect it next? "Can it Dincht," Kenan ordered. "You could learn a thing or two from this." -"C'mon man, it's a dead carcass!" Selphie chuckled. "Carcasses are always dead dummy, there are no living ones." Funny. Kenan thought. I'm pretty sure Quistis is the ex-Instructor among us. "Seriously," Quistis stated. "The Commander is right. This tells us Squall is quite skilled. A gunblade specialist perhaps?"   -"Well, now we know who we're up against." Irvine sighed.   To everyone's annoyance, Zell jumped up to start pummeling the air. Although it lacked the energy he normally put into it. Kenan looked over his shoulder at him. "Stop it. It doesn't exactly calm my nerves." "On top of that, we're gonna run outta oxygen if you keep it up." Irvine said without looking back at the guy. "Punching the oxygen away is a definite no-no." Zell shook his head and threw his fatigued body against the railing. He decided to just refrain from talking for a while..let them sort everything out. Fine, if they wanted to examine a dead cat, that's just fine. As if they had all the time to spare. Quistis continued with her little biology session by studying the Torama, while Selphie and Irvine snuggled together. The temperature could drop rapidly at night. After reaching for something under his black cape, Kenan held an object close to his ear. "What ya doin'?" Selphie asked slightly shivering. She was glad Irvine was there to warm her up a little. The object appeared very small and wiry. One end…in his ear? Oh, and the other in front of his mouth; a microphone headset thingy. Tee-hee. Irvine wondered what other gizmos Kenan could be carrying around. -"Balamb Garden, do you read?" Kenan called. "Is anyone there? Crud, is this thing even working?" Trying to look as awake as ever, Irvine turned to Kenan. "Are they responding yet?" He covered his ears with his hands and tilted his head down. "Nothing. Except for static." "The Headmaster did tell us communications were down." Selphie reminded with a sad smile. -"Balamb Garden, do you read?" He repeated. They glared at their Commander hopefully. If the Garden replied, at least they knew the repairs were going well, but from the look on Kenan's face they concluded nobody answered him. "Oh-kay," He called, removing the headset. "I'll try again later. Let's move on." Zell had to really pick himself up to get in motion again. His legs really felt like concrete by now, each step he took requiring a lot of effort. Stupid mission, he should be in his bunk now! Was this what being a SeeD was all about? Walking miles and miles in the dark? Oh boy. -"Why did you have to call now?" Quistis asked only loud enough for Kenan to hear as she joined up with him. He frowned. "Leonhart is a threat. Persuading him to help might not be so easy with him holding a gunblade. And I'm not gonna have him endanger one of us, so…" "I think I understand," Quistis said. "You want to know if you can take him out?" -"Put simply, yup." She looked over her shoulder briefly. Irvine, Selphie and Zell were right behind, not talking at all. Poor guys, they really need a good night's rest. "I don't believe he is a danger to us." Quistis stated, somehow glad Kenan still could discuss things. "Squall is doing what he thinks is right, I don't blame him." He laughed lightly. "Yeah, so why does he run from us?" "Come on, you practically imprisoned him personally." She countered. "He isn't going to let that happen again." -"You really got this guy figured out, huh?" Quistis ran one hand threw her hair. "Not really, I try to imagine how I would feel in his position." Kenan's eyes narrowed. "I don't even exist according to that guy. That's like the worst insult there is." "Ah, don't worry." She assured him in a soothing tone of voice. "I'm sure there is a logical explanation for it all." He grumbled a bit, yet shook the matter of his mind. "Let's see now." He said to himself, holding out the tracking thing again. "About five X away…great, what does that really mean anyway? Five light-years?" Quistis looked aside. "You don't even know how to read it properly?" He sighed in frustration. "Heh, not really no. I sort of faked it. Uh..reading this thing I mean!" Kenan frowned. Why do I always talk myself into those things…? Scratching the back of his head with his free hand, he paused. "Hold on, what's this?" "What's what?" Selphie chirped from behind. Considering the possibility he could just be seeing things, he waited for the tracking light to blink again. "Holy hotdogs!" He exclaimed when it bleeped. "They're coming at us!" Everyone sprung into action, Zell already at the mere mention of hotdogs. Quistis took a fighting stance. "Are you sure?" -"Positive. Eyes and ears people!" Kenan, Quistis and Irvine formed a three-man front line. They were spread over the bridge. Nobody would slip by unnoticed, that was sure. "Closing rapidly." Kenan informed them. "Pay attention now." He held out his gun in one hand and the tracking device in the other. Carefully he applied pressure to the trigger even though nothing was in sight…yet… Adrenaline flowed rapidly and abundantly through the SeeDs' veins. An effective wake-up call. "Any second now…" Kenan said with a hint of fear in his voice. The rest nodded. … They waited in utter silence. Kenan glanced on the display. "Practically on top of us." "I don't see anything." Zell said panicky. "What is this?!" Irvine thoroughly scanned to the left and then to right with his eyes, seeing an endless row of lights on the sides of the railway bridge, but nothing more than that. "W-what??" Kenan exclaimed. "It's past us!" -"GREAT!" Zell snapped at the so-called leader. "That's just great. Either it's defective, or you're reading it wrong." He fumbled with the device but the reading didn't change. The blinking dot was behind them, gaining distance. "Check the Z-axis reading." Quistis suggested, remembering her math. Z always stood for height. This just shows math is useful in the every day life. -"Oh crap," Kenan said, following her thoughts exactly. "They're below us! In the water." I hate math! He yelled inwardly. They rushed to the railing and peered down. The waves were restless tonight, and they just so happened to flow in the direction the blinking light moved. "A boat?" Selphie wondered. Zell creeped up to Kenan, wanting to see the device himself. After all he was quite the mechanic, he could figure it out. Noticing Zell hung over his shoulder like a monkey with a bad-attitude, Kenan handed him the tracking device. "See Zell? I'm not reading it wrong." Like anyone with half a brain in this field would do, he first re-set the device then switched it on again. "Yeah, you're not." Zell had to admit. "But you fail to understand this little symbol here." He grinned. "The tracking unit itself isn't receiving power anymore, it's working on a backup battery." Selphie blinked, not seeing how that would be relevant. "This means it has been disconnected from the main unit," He continued. "And then thrown out into to sea, apparently." Quistis crossed her arms. "How can you be sure?" Sighing heavily, Zell waved the view screen in front of her. "I know the Sorceress is still up ahead. I mean, she couldn't just jump on a boat like that, or in the freezing cold water. No way. Just look at this data-replay." The screen showed a blinking light moving at about the same speed Kenan must have been moving with the device when that data was recorded. Then, the Z rating drops to below that of the sea level and the tracking unit must have been picked up in the stream. Or so Zell figured. Irvine frowned, his hat nearly sliding of his head in the process. "The bangle has been removed?" Zell threw up his hands. "Dunno. I'm pretty sure only Headmaster Cid or Doc. Odine himself could remove that bangle, but anything is possible now, I guess." "This just keeps getting better and better." Kenan sighed, looking at his team members. "We're against a dangerous Sorceress able to use her powers and a gunblade specialist." Zell's eyes went wide and he shook his head frantically. "Whoa! Seifer is around too?!" "No," Quistis replied with a smile threatening to show on her face. "He means Squall." -"Oh," Zell grinned sheepishly. "The frowning SeeD guy…" "Well, onwards we go…" Kenan muttered as he gestured them to move out again. They paused a little too much he realized, at this rate they weren't going to apprehend the Sorceress before she reached Esthar. And who knows what could happen if she did. He shuddered. Edea…Ultimecia…Adel…Tia…and Skye. What's with Sorceresses these days?     <<------------------------------------------>>       "What was that anyway?" Skye asked, rubbing her neck just under the bangle. Squall sheathed his gunblade and continued walking. "It looked like some kind of battery." -"So you still can't remove this entire bangle?" She asked, following. "No, just that small piece." He replied matter-of-factly. "It seemed to be working independently." She looked at her hands. "I don't feel any Sorceress power or anything. Maybe the bangle is still on." He stared in the distance. Skye observed him momentarily. He didn't seem worried, just cautious, on constant alert. And so they walked for miles on end. Skye was soon bored out of her mind, but left Squall alone…for a while anyway. Occasionally during their long journey to Esthar he would look at her to make sure she was still okay. Whenever Skye looked back at him, he turned away. "Is Ellone the only reason you're going to Esthar?" She suddenly asked at some point about halfway to Esthar. He looked aside questioningly. "What do you mean?" "Well," She remarked. "Didn't you say the President of Esthar is Laguna Loire? Your…father?" Squall moved one his hands against his forehead and sighed. He remembered telling her the complete story when they were still prisoners at Balamb Garden. So, why did he have to mention that? His father…hmph, what did he care? "Oh come on, you must have thought of it." She reasoned. "If he is your father, then he should recognize you. It might even be him who can explain what happened to you instead of Ellone." He uncovered his face. "That bumbling clown? I doubt it." She laughed. "How can you talk about your own father like that? I wouldn't…not that I remember I had one though." "I don't consider him a father." Squall stated coldly. -"Are you really the cold-hearted guy you pretend to be?" She wondered, then smiled. "I don't think so." Squall frowned as he turned away from her. "I don't see the importance of this discussion." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Okay, change of topic then. Uh." What could she talk about? Let's see now… Darkness, nothing but darkness all around. Not counting the endless rows of lights, but that's hardly a topic for discussion. "Oh, look!" Skye exclaimed, pointing at something up high. In a quick reflex, Squall reached for his gunblade. "What?" She rolled her eyes and pushed the blade down. "Geez Squall, relax. I meant the full moon." "I see." He said thick with uninterest. Receiving an elbow-nudge in his side, Squall nearly stumbled over. "WHAT was that for?" "You're so dense," She told him with a smile. "Are all SeeDs like that?" He rubbed the wound on his side. That nudge hurt, it really hurt. Strange, he never considered Skye could be quite strong. She really is a Sorceress. She covered her mouth with her hands, not wanting to show her grin. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" "Yes, but I might have had an old wound there." He told her. "You are strong though." -"Why thank you." Concerned lined her face. "What kind of strength did you mean, by the way? Human, or--" He stopped. "Sorceress' strength. I doubt there are many other girls with strength like that at your age." Sighing, he leaned against the railing. "Are you fatigued?" "Not really, are you?" His backpack fell to the ground, and he bent down to grab another can of rations. "Yeah. We've been walking for at least three hours. It's best you rest up a little too." Skye nodded and sat down on the railing, next to Squall. She looked back in the direction of FH. "You think they're after us?" He opened his cans and slid a few chunks in his mouth. "Probably. I didn't honestly expect to get this far. They should have caught up to us long ago, I don't get it." "Luck must be with us." She offered not really concerned by their persuaders anymore. They would make it to Esthar, she knew this for sure now. Squall chewed his food slowly. This would be the only break he would allow himself to take. His SeeD colleagues were not far behind, presumably. He heard a man's voice earlier, just after killing the Torama. It was too faint to make out who it was, but at that moment he knew they were being followed. The last few chunks he simply swallowed whole, and he stood up. "Are you sure you don't want to eat anything?" -"Not those things." She replied with a disgusted look on her face. Squall made sure his gunblade was fully loaded with ammo and then stood ready to move out again. "Going already?" Skye grinned, but was met by an indifferent shrug. "We haven't even been here five minutes, but sure, by all means let's keep going. Wouldn't want to be late." He waited for her to join up with him, then continued heading east. "I want to reach Esthar at about sunrise." He explained, seeing her wonder why they had to go again so soon. "And we don't have the luxury of resting up now."     <<------------------------------------------>>     "Can it Dincht." Kenan ordered whilst still trying to contact Balamb Garden. He'd been trying it several times the past hours, but without luck. "HEY!" Zell pouted, waving his fists frantically. "I didn't even say anything yet." Irvine yawned and sat down next to Selphie. "But you were gonna, correct?" He scratched the back of his head. "Well, yeah. But that's not the point." The group sat closely together under a lamppost knowing their targets could be getting closer and closer to Esthar. But they just had to rest up for at least a short while. Troop morale would drop to an all-time low if Kenan didn't decide to this little break. Truth was he needed it as well. "How can they be going this fast?" Irvine wondered in disbelief. "We were really close by a while ago…but now…who knows where they are?"  Selphie rested her head against Irvine's shoulder. "They can't go on forever. Everyone needs to rest at some point." Quistis nodded. "Still, a Sorceress and an experienced SeeD. One could expect them to have great stamina." Clearly annoyed, Kenan threw his headset on the ground. "Crud. Still no response." He turned to find Zell, as there was no obnoxious reply of any sort. A snoozing sound, well, it didn't take a genius to figure this one out. Kenan looked behind him, and noticed Zell just lying in between the two train tracks. He shivered from the cold, but other than that appeared quite content. Despite his bed of gravel stones even. "Aw, isn't he cute like this?" Selphie happily chirped. "I like him quiet." -"So does the rest of the planet." Kenan pointed out rubbing his hands together. It didn't help much; it still felt like his fingers could suddenly fall off at any moment. Zell mumbled something and rolled to the other side, so as not to face the others. Quistis smiled. "This is just like a field trip. All we need is a campfire and something to roast over it." "Yeah, just too bad there's an evil Sorceress who wants to destroy us all." Kenan sarcastically replied. Selphie gave her newfound boyfriend a tight hug. "Don't worry Commander. Irvine is here!" He beamed and tipped his hat. "Kinneas, Irvine Kinneas. At your service." Laughing loudly Kenan gave him a thumbs-up. "We might as well head back to the Garden and let you handle it all." "That would be nice." Quistis sighed as she dusted of her outfit. The railway clearly hadn't been used in a while and dust had settled practically everywhere along the track. Irvine fought to keep his eyelids open. He hated the way his mouth always fell open whenever he slept. Not to mention the drool that comes with it. As his eyes fell on Kenan's outfit, he stared at it for a while. "What's with that anyway?" He asked him. "The clothes and all?" Kenan looked down and tapped at the dark-yellow body armor he wore. "This is for protection, obviously." "That's not what I meant." Irvine said. "I mean, you know, with the worn-out boots, the black cape, long dark hair and red bandanna, you kinda look like…well…a bum." Quistis giggled as she saw the surprised look on Kenan's face. "I think he just likes those clothes Irvine, like we all have our favorite outfits." "Any other comments Pineapple?" Kenan sighed casually removing a few wrinkles from his cape. Selphie raised an eyebrow. "Why do you call him that?" He stared up at the sky briefly, trying to recall why. "Oh, now I remember." "Tell us!" Selphie exclaimed suddenly fully awake with interest. "Pleeeeease?" Kenan crossed his legs, striking the image of an old storyteller. "It's really simple, in the Centra language there is this word spelled a-n-a-n-a-s, which means pineapple. I think this seems very simple to Kinneas. That's all." "Oh come on," Irvine pleaded. "Only the last two letters are the same." He waged his finger. "No no. Notice both names have two N's as well, and consist of an equal syllable amount." "Equal syllable amount?" Quistis asked. "So how is it pronounced?" Kenan smiled and shook his head. "Never mind. It's a strange language. Hardly ever spoken anymore." Selphie yawned. "So its true what the say…you are part Centra?" "Yup. The first Gantt was a great Centra warrior." He replied smiling widely. "I intend to follow this legacy." Quistis brought up her knees and hugged them, hoping it would lessen the effects of the cold weather. "There is a theory stating all humans evolved out of the Centra. So everyone would be part-Centra, maybe?" "Ooh, I know that story!" Selphie exclaimed loudly and woke Zell up momentarily. "The Centra were a great tribe, who used to live on the continent now named after them. They lived in harmony with this planet, and moved from place to place, so not to exhaust its natural resources." -"A nomadic tribe." Quistis interrupted her. "That's right," Selphie continued. "But there were those who had enough of this way of live, and settled down overseas. The first humans perhaps? Anyway, the balance was thrown of scale, leading to the eventual death of the remaining Centra tribe. The land around them died as well, leaving the harsh landscape we now see down south." She looked at the Commander for his approval. He blankly stared back at her. After a few seconds, he blinked and returned from wherever he went. "Whoa, sorry, I was zoned out for a sec there." "It's a great story, but that's all it is. And you left out the part with the magic, GF's, Great Hyne and Sorceress stuff." "And not all Centra died apparently," Quistis added. "Tia and Kenan really are part-Centra. Doctor Kadowaki discovered certain differences in their genes, compared to ours. But it has been confirmed the great majority of the Centra people suddenly died long ago, for reasons unknown." Kenan stood up abruptly and walked to the other side of the bridge. His sudden departure seemed to lower the temperature around the others. "What's with him?" Selphie asked, keeping her voice down. Surely Kenan wasn't affected by all this talk about his ancestors? He long knew most were dead, and just simply wasn't the type to grieve a lot. -"I'll ask." Quistis said and got up. She walked towards the Commander. He peered across the sea with elbows resting on the railing. A gust made his hair wave backwards. Silently, she appeared next to him. He noticed her, but didn't say a thing. … … … "Kenan?" Quistis asked in a gentle tone of voice. "I know when something is bothering you. Want to talk about it?" He looked down at his boots. For a moment Quistis thought he would start to bang his head against the railing, but luckily he did no such thing. Perhaps he did want to. She rested her hand on his shoulder. "Is it your sister?" "I should have protected her!" He called furiously. "Why Quistis? Why did the Sorceress possess Tia? That's what I've been wondering. But now it's clear. Because she is part Centra. That MUST have something to do with it!" -"There is no sense blaming yourself for what happened." She assured him, soothing. He took a few deep breaths and eventually calmed down a bit. "It's my fault the Sorceress entered our Garden. If we had countered them earlier like Leonhart said he had, none of it would have happened." The first battle with Galbadia Garden was still a fresh memory in his mind. He remembered every detail clearly. Especially his orders to only defend, rather than take the offensive. A mistake he will regret for the rest of his life. Sorceress Ultimecia inside of Edea's body, she had entered Balamb Garden at one point during the fight, resulting in heavy casualties. When Kenan and his squad took her on and defeated her, she needed to find a new vessel. Of all people she found Tia Gantt, his sister. "We should probably move on now." Quistis carefully suggested, interrupting his thoughts. "There is no sense in worrying about the past. Focus on the mission." His head lifted up slightly. "Yeah…you're right." "Okay, does anyone want to wake up Zell?" Quistis asked giggling. Kenan pulled himself together and simply buried his emotions for the time being. "Dincht! Wake up." Selphie gave Irvine one more tight hug and crawled up. Waking Zell was definitely a mission for her. "Tee-hee, Zell is such a sleepy-head." She grinned as she moved next to him. He rubbed his eyes and looked up. He gulped as he saw Selphie hovering over him with a mischievous smile. "WHOA! I'm up." Zell exclaimed, hastily getting on his feet. "Phew, didn't even get hurt this time." She scolded him briefly then giggled gleefully. "You learn quickly." Noticing Irvine had trouble getting in motion again as well so Kenan walked over and extended his arm. "Need a hand?" Irvine thankfully grabbed hold of it and pulled himself up to his feet. "Thanks there buddy." -"Don't mention it." Quistis crossed her arms. "Everyone ready? We have wasted enough time as it is, I hope we can still catch up in time." Zell's stomach churned loudly. Heh heh, I probably just woke up everyone in FH with that. "Holy…" Irvine mumbled scanning around. "What creature was that?" He laughed. "Sounded dangerous." "Yeah yeah," Zell uttered uninterested. "Make fun of it why don't ya? Meanwhile I'm starving." Kenan gestured for them to move out again. He felt sympathy for Zell; his stomach was empty too. If he had known this mission would take so long, he would have packed some supplies first. And so they were under way again. Kenan wondered what Sorceress Ultimecia was up whilst they were on this mission. For all he knew Balamb Garden could have been attacked shortly after he had left. Hmm, that would explain why he still couldn't contact them. Then again, maybe Communications was still down. Surely the Headmaster would order the repair crews to fix that first…right? Ah well, no sense worrying about it. He told himself.     <<------------------------------------------>>     The two Presidential aids Kiros and Ward had gathered with a small squad of Esthar soldiers on the south entrance platform. That's where the approaching Sorceress would most likely enter. "Laguna didn't tell us when she would arrive, did he?" Kiros asked his buddy. They'd been waiting for at least two hours by now. Nothing had happened. Ward shook his head. He had planted himself on a nearby supply crate. Every now and then he would play a game of Triple Triad with Kiros to kill the time, but he was hardly a challenge for an experienced player like Ward Zabac. The soldiers were leaning against the metal wall. Normally they would complain about how boring this mission was, but considering the endless battles from not too long ago, they were quite content. Kiros reached for his communicator. "Have you been able to contact Balamb Garden yet, Rion?" "No Sir," The officer currently on duty replied. "I'll keep trying." -"Any news on the Galbadians?" Officer Rion sifted through some papers on the panel in front of him. "I received one unconfirmed report that the Lunatic Pandora is going to move out soon. But this has yet to be checked out." -"Inform me whenever you receive any new information." Kiros said on the other end. "Affirmative Sir." Rion replied and ended the transmission. He sank down in his chair and threw his feet up on the Com-panel. To him this was just another boring shift. Night shifts…how great fun. He thought. "Sir?" His lower ranking assistant called. "Here's your cup." -"Thanks." He said joyfully. At least he wasn't running the shift alone. The part of the building where Communications is located is usually pretty much deserted at nights. Anyone for company was welcome. Especially her, Eliza, the most beautiful girl officer Rion had ever seen. Duty kept him from asking her out. Plus it would be hard for an Esthar officer to show himself with a low ranking ensign. What would the other officers think of it? She smiled and handed him the hot cup of soup. "Drink up now, y'hear?" What kind of soup it was remained an unsolved mystery. "Ow. It's still hot. Just the way I like it." He said as he took the cup. At the same time he felt happy to be wearing his standard-issue gloves, otherwise he might have even burned his hand. The soup practically still boiled. Officer Rion looked up as his assistant eyed him warily. "Anything else Eliza?" The young girl seemed dazzled, but smirked a few seconds later. "Perhaps you could…" She moved her mouth closer to his ear. "Scream for me." Rion's eyes widened and he fell backwards. The hot soup spilled all over his body. He let out a choked cry of pain as it burned through his uniform. "Aaahh! This isn't normal soup!!!" Eliza stared at him with ice cold eyes. Like a predator would observe its prey. "S-Sorceress!?" Officer Rion stammered frozen with fear and shock. He tried to crawl up but an invisible force held him down. It was too powerful for him to fight. Her insane laughter echoed throughout the small room. "…Lowly creature…" Rion moved his hands to his throat, trying to fend off a hand choking him. He gasped in utter astonishment. The Sorceress didn't even touch his neck. She stood in front of him, squeezing her hand close. The Esthar Officer fought for air, but to no avail. He felt his very life force being drained out of him by the young woman he had always loved. "E--li--za!" He managed to utter…moments before his death. The man's eyes rolled back and the struggling stopped. She almost forgot the reason she came because of the petty entertainment. A great streak of lighting emanated from her hands, efficiently disabling Esthar primary Com. equipment. The first step in attacking Esthar, cutting off all outside lines, had been completed easily. "How amusing this was. But this body's usefulness ends here." She laughed. Sorceress Ultimecia left the girl's body and returned to her own time. Eliza regained control over her own body, only to immediately fall to the floor. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She knew full well what she had done. "I'm…sorry…!!" A sudden pain hit her in the chest. She screamed in agony, but knew nobody was around to hear her. Not a minute later…her heart stopped beating.
Esthar! by Goku Girl
"He's probably gonna be all moody on us, you know that, right?" -"It'll be fine…" The other Esthar soldier replied. He knocked on the President's bedroom door loudly. His teammate sighed. "I hope do. Cuze if we disturb his sleep all for nuthin'…oh boy…we're gonna get demoted!" They both waited for the door to open. "It'll be fine," The one Esthar soldier assured the other again. "Orders were from Mr. Seagill himself. Sounded serious." -"Yeah?" The other skeptically asked. "So what's the matter?" "I don't know. He didn't tell. Maybe they don't want us to panic or something." They heard footsteps on the other side. Gulp. The skeptical one thought, imagining the worst. A sleepy looking President Loire opened the door. "Yes?" "S-sir!" They saluted. Laguna rubbed his eyes. Those flashy Esthar uniforms always hurt his eyes in the early morning. Too many bright colors… "Mr. Seagill has an urgent message for you, Sir." One of the two identical looking soldiers informed. He peered over the soldiers' shoulders. It seemed still dark outside, whatever was wrong couldn't wait till the morning. "Thanks," Laguna said, smiling. "I'll just get dressed and head down to the Command center right away." With that, the door closed up again. "See? I told you it'd be fine." The other grinned. "Yeah, that wasn't so bad. Our President is quite a nice guy." The two soldiers headed towards the very heart of the Esthar military. The Command bunker. Tucked away in the middle of the President Palace, with reinforced metal walls, it was probably one of the safest places around for miles. Not long after they arrived there, the President followed. Dressed in his familiar blue jacket with brown pants. His favorite outfit, so they learned in time. Everyone in the large room filled with panels, screens, and maps stood at attention. "At ease men." Laguna grinned nervously, as he always did when facing so many people whom stood under his command. The entire Command crew appeared to have been called to their posts. This was something serious. A vaguely familiar looking soldier led the President to a computer panel. A light blinked on it, confirming a transmission. " Ar….ou….re?" Kiros' voice called through the small speakers. He smiled and sat down on. "I'm here. It's hard to understand you with all the interference though." "We are experiencing trouble with all communications equipment." An officer next to Laguna reported. "The primary panels aren't functioning at all. It appears to have been intentionally damaged." Laguna's eyes widened. "Do we know who is responsible?" -"No Sir, but we suspect the Galbadians." The man replied, adjusting a few settings on the panel. "An officer and a ensign were found dead just now." Kiros said, now perfectly audible. "On top of that, all outside communications has been cut." Smashing his fist on down on the panel, Laguna looked down. "…Does this mean?!--" Most men have never seen this side of their normally so cheery and friendly President. Maybe it was just an early morning mood thing they considered. "Yes." Kiros affirmed calmy. "The last report I heard on the Galbadians was that the Lunatic Pandora would soon move out. I believe it will attack either us, or Balamb Garden." -"Send a squad to Balamb Garden right now!" Laguna immediately ordered the officer next to him. "They'll be destroyed if we don't help them." The officer nodded and was about to walk away when something hit him. "Uh..Sir? We're low on transportation vehicles. Most of the fleet is still patrolling our shores, and transport planes aren't that abundant anymore either after the last battle with the Lunatic Pandora."  Laguna shook his head. "This is not want I want to hear. We have to protect Balamb Garden, we failed to help them against Galbadia Garden's attack yesterday, but now we must help. They don't stand a chance all by themselves." "If we don't stick together, we're not gonna make it." Another Esthar officer stepped up after having heard the President's desperation. "We still have the Ragnarok II and III available Sir. Number one is still missing in space however." He showed Laguna a list of squads. It contained information on the number of men on each squad, equipment, current status and other such issues of military importance. "Which squads do you want to send out to Balamb Garden Sir? I think the each plane will only have room for one lightly equipped squad." Frowning, President Loire examined the long list. He had no idea which to choose, such matters were usually decided by someone else. And for all he knew, sending them to protect Balamb Garden against the bulk of the Galbadian forces could be a suicidal mission. Then there was the fact they had little troops to spare after the losses of last time. Esthar couldn't be taken over by the Sorceress. Laguna was chosen as President because he protected the citizens from Sorceress Adel, but now he had to protect them from Sorceress Ultimecia and Adel combined. A deadly combination. "Send squads Omega and Beta." Kiros suggested over the internal Com. "Omega is a Special Forces squad, and Beta is a well-trained reserve unit. That's about all we can miss right now…" -"You heard the man." Laguna said to the officer. "Oh, and make sure someone in one of the squads fills in the Headmaster on our current situation. Or better yet, write a message explaining the situation and let them deliver it." The officer saluted and moved to carry out the orders. Laguna sighed and observed his men moving about panicky in the Command Center. On first sight it looked like perfect chaos, but this was in fact an organized chaos. Everyone had his or her duties to perform and knew of the task at hand. Primary goal was to restore outside Communications and to make sure Esthar was properly defended against the inevitable battle to come.


Ellone noticed her Uncle sitting in a far corner of the large room and walked over. "Uncle Laguna?" She called with a slightly worried tone of voice. "What's going on? I woke up to the sound of soldiers moving up and down the hallways. Are we being attacked?" He looked up and smiled warmly. "Oh, I'm sorry they woke you too. Nothing to worry about, you'd best go to bed." She took a seat next to him and stared him in the eyes. It was real sweet of him to tell her not to worry, but something was very wrong, she could tell…she could always tell. Reading him like an open book. Laguna absently tapped his fingers against the panel on the melody of some song he remembered from his childhood. But Ellone didn't go back to her room like he told her. "They're coming for me again, aren't they?" Ellone asked rhetorically. "…I'm a danger to everyone here." Her Uncle placed his hand on her shoulder comfortingly. "We already talked about this. I'm not gonna let Ultimecia get you, no matter what. Besides…I think Sorceress Adel would attack Esthar anyways. She's got a score to settle with me for shooting her into space and all." She smiled. "Perhaps that is true, but I still feel--" "Hey, hey, cheer up Elly!" Laguna told her with a wide goofy smile. "Okay, topic change. About that Sorceress coming to Esthar? When is she due to arrive?" Ellone closed her eyes. She could feel the Sorceress's powers. It drew nearer every second, but how far away those powers were, she couldn't tell. Her ability to sense a Sorceress was brand new, or perhaps she had always had it, but never knew about it until a few nights ago. Suddenly she felt every Sorceress on the entire planet. A strange sensation, yet enlightening. Who would have known there were that many? Some less powerful than others, maybe not aware of their own powers even… "I'm sorry, " Ellone apologized. "I don't know exactly. But she will be here soon." Laguna nodded and switched on the Com. system. "Kiros, are you there?" -"Yeah, still down here." He replied. "No news yet." "Well, I have a feeling our Sorceress will arrive shortly." Laguna informed him. "Stay sharp." And the transmission was ended again. If only they could contact their sources in Galbadia as easily as that.       <<------------------------------------------>>       Kenan sighed. "Oh-kay, one more time…ready?" Zell and Irvine looked at him. "Kay--none." He told them. Irvine scratched his forehead and tipped his hat up slightly. "Kay-non?" He smiled. "That's my name. Well, not quite pronounced like that, but that's about the closest I can get in this language." "Kay-none." Zell chuckled. "Why didn't you ever tell us that was your name?" Behind the three men, Selphie and Quistis were chuckling gleefully. Kenan glared over his shoulder. "Oh come on, it is a Centra name. One could at least pronounce it properly." "So why don't you spell it like it's pronounced?" Quistis rationally suggested. -"Okay, one should at least pronounce AND spell it the Centra way." He corrected. Zell rubbed his eyes. Probably for the tenth time in the last few minutes. The endless path was really starting to get to him. Five hours, that's how long he estimated the journey cost so far. Five long hours of walking on an endless deserted Rail Bridge, whoo, what great fun. Sure, he could talk to his team buddies, but everyone prefers a pillow and a warm bed to his friends from time to time. That time was probably six hours ago, back when they were still at Balamb Garden being briefed on the situation. Irvine scanned around. No sun to see…yet. He knew it'd be sunrise soon now. Within the hour for sure. And then Esthar would become visible; or at least the cliffs around it. I bet they have great beds in Esthar. High-tech and all…yeah. "Looks like we're not going to catch up in time." Quistis pointed out in a soft tone of voice. Kenan sighed heavily. "I know, I know. Let's just hope Laguna has some common sense and won't just help Leonhart and the Sorceress." -"Knowing Laguna…" Selphie reasoned. "He probably will. He helped us SeeDs, so why wouldn't he help Squall?" A few small stones were kicked ahead. Quistis looked up. It was Kenan who did the kicking. "Commander?" -"Dammit." He cursed. "Sel's right. I failed again." Everyone looked down. Nobody quite knew what to say to that. Sure, Kenan was being too hard on himself, but there was an unmistakable truth to it. He did fail before. "Oh come on. It's not over yet." Zell of all people said to encourage the Commander. "We'll save the day, right guys?" Selphie jumped up with a wide smile. "No, you're wrong Zell." He looked at her. "Uh…wha? I am?" "We're gonna save the world!" She exclaimed cheerfully with some other newly found source of energy. They laughed.     Some miles ahead, Sorceress Skye and the SeeD Squall Leonhart were closing in on the entrance to Esthar. They could see the supposed salt-flats just up ahead. Thus the end of the Railway Bridge was finally in sight after a long nightly walk. Skye looked aside at Squall. "I don't see Esthar, are you sure it's there?" "Yes." Squall stated. "They've just cloaked the city, as a precaution I guess."   She smiled reassured. "Oh, okay. So we just ring the bell then?" -"Yeah." Her eyes narrowed. "You weren't even listening to me." … … … He paused as they were but a few steps away from land, real land. "I thought I heard something up ahead." She peered over the salt-flats, paying attention to any and all sounds coming from it. "There's nothing there!" A cold howling wind was about all she heard. Strange how that's supposed to be only a holographic projection or something…at least, that's what Squall told her. He gestured her to keep it down. She skeptically crossed her arms. Is he getting paranoid now? Squall looked up. "It's coming from up high somewhere. Don't you hear it?" "Sorry to dissap--" She started then her eyes widened. "Wait a minute! I hear it!" The sound was only slightly louder than that of the strong wind ahead, no wonder she couldn't hear it right away. Squall must have great hearing, or heard that sound before? She turned to him. He stood searching the skies ahead. "What is it Squall?" Before he could answer her, the sound doubled and suddenly echoed loudly in the salt-flat valley. Some mere seconds later, two dark shapes flew over side by side at tremendous speeds, with engines roaring. No doubt now, those were airplanes. It was too dark to clearly point out which kind, but with the blinking lights on their wings, the roaring engines, and speed with which they flew by, this was the most logical conclusion. Squall followed the lights for a moment. He shrugged. They were heading directly for FH; they flew almost perfectly above the Railway Bridge. Where would they go there in such hurry? Balamb Garden? He considered it wasn't definite they were headed for the Garden. And it wasn't really his concern right now. "Uhm…Squall…I think you might wanna, uh, tell these guys a thing or two…" Skye uttered as she held up her hands. As he turned around, he noticed a squad of Esthar soldiers had suddenly appeared in front of them, holding up their weapons in a threatening way. "Identify yourself." A soldier directly in front of Squall ordered. "And state your business here." He sighed and threw his gunblade on the ground, to show he was now unarmed, and reached for something in his pocket. Most soldiers aimed their weapons at the young man, as if saying 'don't try anything'. A sense of déjà vu came over Squall. This looked very familiar… He came up with a small card and tossed it to the apparent leader of the pack. "I am Squall Leonhart. SeeD from Balamb Garden." -"Balamb Garden…eh?" The soldier with his card mumbled. "Your card checks out. But who's the girl?" Skye looked at Squall. Seems he left the explaining to her now. "My name is Skye. I'm…a Sorceress. The Galbadians captured me, then Squall freed me. But the Odine's bangle around my neck can't be removed by anyone but Doctor Odine himself, so I'm here to see him. Squall is my escort." The lead soldier was about to reach for his communicator, when he realized they were probably out of internal communications' range. They'd have to be in Esthar to be able to contact anyone. Squall frowned. "Galbadians captured you? I'm your escort?" He whispered. "Yeah well, I had to think of something. You can tell your story once we're inside." She told him reassuringly. On command of the leader, the soldiers lowered their weapons. As ordered, they would just have to take them to Mr. Seagill. He would take care of the rest. With another gesture from the presumed leader, all soldiers except him went to their hiding places again. Some sort of welcoming committee, Skye pondered. The soldier folded his hands on his back. "I'll escort you inside." Squall moved to pick up his gunblade, and carefully sheathed it. "Okay, let's go." -"You're the boss." She grinned and joined up with him. They followed the soldier through the salt flats. Squall was somewhat surprised there were no creatures in sight anywhere. Last time he passed through, there were quite some battles. "It's not far." The soldier assured them. Skye sighed but kept up with the two men. She was now starting to get tired, even powers of a Sorceress have their limits…apparently. After walking some minutes the soldier stopped at the edge of a high cliff. "It's somewhere around here." "I hope so…" Skye stated seeing a long valley up ahead, but no signs of Esthar. She heard some strange sounds coming from her left. Kind of…electric or something? Squall heard it too and soon found the ladder leading to Esthar. "Here it is." The soldier smiled. "Ah, you've been here before?" He took position beside the ladder. "Guests first." Squall just shook his head, and climbed up the ladder. Skye grinned, obviously more impressed by the soldier's kindness.     <<------------------------------------------>>       They walked in and as the door closed a bell rung behind the counter. A rather hefty man appeared from a room next to the shop. Raijin counted his chins…there were about three of em…. "Bloody hell…wat ken I 'elp ye wit?" The man asked in some strange dialect of his own. Seifer concluded it must have been hard talking normal when you're so fat you need to sit on two chairs. He leaned against the counter and smirked. "I want a gunblade." The shopkeeper rubbed his eyes. "Do ye 'ave any idea wat time it is?" "Well, do ye?" He asked impatiently as the three customers just stared at him coldly. A rather strange bunch. Raijin nodded and stretched. "We had to get up early, ya know?" Seifer looked around the small Weapons Shop. Not exactly much choice, but FH did have a sort of 'peaceful town' reputation. Still, he found the one he was looking for. "I'll have that Flame Saber." He told the shopkeeper. He groaned, but since business wasn't exactly flourishing lately, he'd help his early customers. "It's cheaper to collect de items needed for it yerselves." He said as he grabbed the red gunblade from his assortment. Fujin glared at the small clock in the shop. "NO TIME." Seifer grinned. "Yeah, we have some…business to take care of." The shopkeeper threw the gunblade on the counter. "Oh-kay, dat'll be…" As he looked up from the prize-list he was sifting through, he saw the tip of the blade being held mere inches from his neck. Or one of his many chins as Raijin thought. "SEIFER." Fujin called with a hint of annoyance and stepped up to the counter. She gave the man a few thousand gil. The shopkeeper smiled thankfully, already forgetting about the threatening gunblade. "Dat'll do…tanks lady." Fujin and Raijin stepped outside. Seifer followed behind, looking down at his new gunblade. He switched it from his left-hand to his right and then back again. The first thing a good soldier should do when he gets a new weapon is familiarize himself with it. And Seifer obviously considered himself a good soldier. But that Leonhart guy really bothered him. Is it possible that he is stronger than me?! He wondered. I am the Sorceress' Knight! Nobody can beat me! Fujin and Raijin nervously scanned around. Still no Balamb students anywhere, even though the Garden was docked in town. It was quite odd, but they didn't really mind. Perhaps they caused more damage then they realized?  "Cut it out you two." Seifer ordered uncomfortable with their precautions. "They're busy with repairs. And while they do that, we take over Esthar, kill Leonhart and capture Sorceress Skye. Simple really…" Fujin nodded. "AFFIRMATIVE." Seifer sheathed his newly acquired gunblade and looked up at the skies. "Let's get some distance from FH so the Lunatic Pandora can pick us up." He said, pointing to the road leading up to the Rail Bridge. "We should be able to walk a bit closer to Esthar if we go up there."       <<------------------------------------------>>       The soldier that had escorted Skye and Squall inside left to rejoin his squad. Another group of soldiers now stood in front of the two at the city entrance. Although it looked more like a docking platform of some kind to Skye. She gasped in amazement. Sure Squall had told her a bit about Esthar, but still the sight of such a huge city appearing out of thin air was breathtaking. "I'm Squall Leonhart." Squall sighed. "From Balamb Garden." He added quickly. Two men stepped up to him from the group of soldiers. Squall recognized them right away. Kiros and Ward. Kiros smiled. "I'm glad to finally be able to talk to someone from Balamb Garden. We can't contact anyone on the outside anymore, since our equipment was destroyed. And we were worried about the Balamb Forces." Ward's face politely lit up, no doubt his way of greeting since he can't use his voice anymore. Skye peered up at the big guy. "Hi. My name's Skye." By his looks she could tell he was no treat. The other guy, the dark-skinned one, just looked at her strangely. "Are you the Sorceress we've been waiting for?" She looked down, embarrassed having to admit to this in front of all those soldiers. "Y-yes" One didn't need special powers to sense their fear. Ward smiled and tapped his buddy Kiros on the shoulder then gestured to move to the car. "Of course." Kiros said. He turned to the two guests. "Forgive my lack of manners. Please follow us to the Presidential Palace, we'll talk once we get there." They followed Ward to the car and got in. Kiros turned to the group of soldiers that were eyeing the newly arrived Sorceress. "Return to guard duty." "Yes Sir!" Skye looked at the jolly big guy sitting next to her in the back of the car. "So, what's your name?" She was so delighted to finally be able to talk to someone. Squall wasn't really the conversationalist, so she learned. The man looked at her and smiled…but it soon faded. -"His name is Ward. He's one of the President's aids here." Squall explained from the other side of the guy. "He lost his voice some time ago." Ward looked aside at the young man, amazed he knew all that about him. This wasn't one of the SeeDs that had visited Esthar a while ago. Skye turned, but could only see Squall's head. Ward's stomach blocked most else one could see on her right side. "I'm sorry, I didn't know that." She apologized to the President's aid. He shook his head. It was okay. Ward had experienced this sort of thing many times. People would talk to him and no matter how much he wished he could say something back…he never could. The door to the driver's seat opened and Kiros took place behind the wheel. After a few seconds the car hovered up from the ground and drove off. "We'll be at the Palace in no time" He assured. "Wow!" Skye exclaimed as the car drove over the highway. A swirling, purple colored road that ran everywhere. Squall looked out the window briefly, but was hardly impressed. He had too much on his mind to be sightseeing. "Uhm, excuse me Sir?" Skye called to the man on the driver's seat. -"Call me Kiros." He grinned. "Sir makes me sound old." You are old. Squall thought. Skye smiled. Strange how she felt so comfortable around Kiros and Ward even though she'd never met them before. They had this kind of laid-back attitude which a…certain SeeD she knew…lacked. She sat up straight in her seat. "Uhm, Kiros, you said you were waiting for me? How did you--?" Squall lifted his head up in curiosity. That was a good question. How could they know?  "Well," Kiros started off but he had to focus on driving as they passed a long row of armored vehicles. The vehicles were quite large and took up most of the road. One had to drive carefully in order not to scrape any. Soldiers on top and alongside of the armored cars seemed to be getting ready to move; they were all geared up. Sighing in relief he hadn't hit any of the APCs, Kiros looked in the rear view mirror at the Sorceress. "Do you know Ellone? She is the one that informed the President a Sorceress was on her way to our city." Ward grumbled a bit, but maintained a smile on his face. "Don't mind him." Kiros grinned. "It's just that we've been waiting all night." -"Well, we've been up all night too." Skye pointed out with a sudden sleepy face. "It's a long walk to Esthar…" Ward turned to the young Sorceress with a surprised look on his face. "Yeah, we've been walking all night long." She replied to his question, even though he couldn't voice it. In front of the car and slightly to the left, Skye noticed a huge building. All roads seem to lead up there. It was probable that's where they were headed now as well. "So, Ellone is here?" Squall asked. "In Esthar?" Kiros nodded but kept his eyes on the road. "Ellone should be in the Palace. Hmm…I thought all SeeDs knew this…" He looked in the rear view mirror and noticed something metallic around the young woman's neck. "Sorceress Skye? If you don't mind me asking, isn't that a Odine bangle?" "Please, call me Skye." She laughed. The way he said Sorceress was new to her. He didn't say it with fear, more with respect. Still she'd rather not be called that at all. "Yes it is." She said to answer the question. "I'm here to get it removed. Only Doctor Odine can, I think." They neared the huge building now. Kiros slowed the car down a bit. Eventually the car stopped exactly in front of the Palace, in the middle of the road. Ward grinned. "Yeah, I learned to drive from Laguna." Kiros laughed as he opened his door. "And I have his way of parking a car." Skye remained seated till the kind Kiros opened the car door for her. She could really enjoy being treating like royalty or something. If only it was just that, royalty. Ward and Squall crawled out on the other side of the car. "Shall we see Doc Odine right now?" Kiros politely asked. "I'm sure that thing is uncomfortable around your neck." -"Oh, that'd be great." Skye replied and turned to Squall. He seemed as indifferent as ever, but that was just his style. "Go ahead." He told her. "I need to speak to Ellone." Kiros and Ward let the two guests into the palace. To Skye's amusement, they had to ride some sort of hovering couch to actually get in the building. Once inside they trudged down a long hallway, decorated with beautiful paintings on the walls and with a great carpet on the floor to walk on. Truly a hallway fit for a King, Skye observed. Up ahead, the hallway split in two. "Odine is this way." Kiros said and gestured Ward to take the other. "Escort Mr. Leonhart to Ellone." His big buddy made a goofy kind of salute and led Squall in down the other hall. "See ya Squall." Skye grinned and waved him off. He didn't say a thing or even look back. -"Hmpf." She mumbled with hands on her hips. "Didn't even say goodbye." Kiros shook his head and led Skye down the hall. "Just follow me please."       <<------------------------------------------>>       Selphie jumped up and down "WHOO-HOO!" "We made it! Isn't this great guys?!" Zell rubbed his eyes again and looked down. Dirt had started to clog around his shoes. "Yeah…great." They made it to the Esthar continent. He would have been happier about it if he was fully awake. -"It's nice, but that remember the mission?" Kenan asked Selphie. "Were we to reach Esthar? That aint it, I think." Selphie stopped jumping around. "…I'm sorry Commander…" Quistis folded her arms. "Don't be so hard on her Kenan. I think it's quite an achievement that we made it." Irvine took of his hat and ran one hand trough his hair. "Quis is right. We left at sunset, and now we're her at sunrise." "That's really not bad, you know?" Everyone looked at the sun, as it rose over the horizon. The bright, almost cheery color of the sun was beautifully reflected in the clear blue ocean water. "…I forgot dirt could be so dirty…" Zell whimpered as he took off one shoe in a vain attempt to clean it. Irvine put on his hat. "Thanks for ruining the moment Zell…" -"Huh? What moment?" "Come on guys." Kenan said and walked further towards the salt flats. Now that they were actually already on the land surrounding Esthar, it shouldn't be far to the City entrance anymore. Zell hopped one on foot behind, trying to get his shoe back on at the same time. "Uhm, hey guys?" He called. No response. "Wait up. Wait for me!" He yelled then hopped after 'em He stumbled over a rock and fell face down in a puddle of mud. Finally everyone looked back. Irvine and Kenan were laughing so much they nearly forgot to breathe. At first Selphie and Quistis laughed a bit too, then they felt sorry for the guy. It could have happened to anyone. There was no need to humiliate Zell. "Here, let me help ya buddy." Selphie said and pulled him up. She looked at him. "Ew, his face turned to mud!" Quistis giggled. "No Selphie. His face is just completely covered with it." -"That's kinda gross." She chirped then giggled. "You're not eating the mud, are ya Zellie??"  He managed to wipe most mud off with his hands. "No Selphie. Even I'm not THAT hungry…gee…" "Aw. Cut it out!" Zell snapped, noticing the two jerks were still not finished with laughing. His face glowed red. Kenan stopped laughing and softly hit Irvine in the chest to stop him too. "Ooof. " He held up his hands. "Sorry Zell. But ya should have seen how ya looked covered with all that mud…heheheh." "You should have been more careful." Irvine told his unfortunate buddy. Zell's body sagged. "Yeah…well it's hard to see where I'm going if my eyelids keep sagging. I'm dead tired." "Don't worry," Quistis pointed out. "I'm sure Laguna will let us sleep-over." Selphie started dancing around a bit. "Whoo-hoo! Let's make it a slumber party!" Quistis raised an eyebrow. "Uh, Selphie, that's not exactly what I meant." "That's what ya said." Kenan laughed then stretched. "Ugh, we could all use some sleep." Selphie, Zell and Quistis stared back at him rather strangely. -"Whoa, what?" He asked, not sure what this was all about now. "Behind you." The three SeeDs said at about the same time. He gasped and slowly turned around. A group of Esthar soldiers stood with guns aimed at his head.
Together by Goku Girl
"We're the good guys." Irvine pleaded. The soldiers seemed willing to listen. "We're SeeDs from Balamb Garden." They lowered their guns but remained vigilant. Kenan cleared his throat. "I'm Kenan Gantt. Commander of Balamb Garden." "Gantt. Yes…I've heard of you." One of the soldiers in the middle of their formation spoke. "But why are you here? A SeeD from Balamb Garden just arrived, so--" -"His name wouldn't happen to be Squall Leonhart, would it?" Kenan interrupted. The soldier frowned. "Why, yes…that's him. He arrived just now, together with a Sorceress I believe." Zell banged his fists together. "Whoa! You let them pass?!" "Dincht, can it!" Kenan ordered, then approached the leader of the squad from Esthar. -"Is something wrong?" He curiously asked. Kenan nodded. "That Sorceress is dangerous, our mission is to capture her." The others stepped up too. "Inform the President please." Quistis suggested. "We'll handle the rest, don't worry." -"I'm sorry," The squad leader apologized. "But our outside Com is down. I can't contact anyone in Esthar from here." "The same thing happened to Balamb Garden!" Selphie exclaimed with wide eyes. Irvine shrugged. "So what does this mean?" "It aint a coincidence, I'll tell ya that." Zell spoke wisely. -"We believe the Galbadians somehow sabotaged our equipment." The squad leader sighed. "They're probably going to attack either Balamb Garden at FH, or…Esthar." Quistis shook her head in disbelief. Balamb Garden wouldn't stand a chance against the main Galbadian army. "What do we do?" She asked Kenan. After all, he was the commanding officer. He narrowed his eyes. "Damn, there's nothing we can do about that. Our mission is to capture Sorceress Skye, I say it's about time we completed this, then we race back." She reluctantly agreed. "Okay. Now could somehow please show us to the entrance, we'll handle it from there." -"Follow me."




"… … o… ea.. Th…..s……ga…uad. … … … …" Xu adjusted the settings the best she could but the message remained hardly audible. The headmaster walked up to the panel and gave it a firm kick. She looked at him in surprise. "Sometimes that's the best way to fix things, my dear." He explained with a smile. "Now then, let me hear it." Xu chuckled and pressed a few buttons. "I hope it works Sir." "So do I." He said as he looked up at the sky. Something caught his eye…a small dot up high, far away. Nida, who stood behind the Garden controls, followed the Headmaster's stare. "It could be a plane Sir." He said and squinted. "It's too far away to tell." Xu clapped her hands as she looked at the display screen. "Sir! Incoming message from the Airship Ragnarok II!" "--I repeat. Balamb Garden, this is Captain Nagoya calling Balamb Garden. Do you read? Over." Cid pressed the reply switch. "This is Headmaster Cid from Balamb Garden. Can you hear me?" As the Headmaster released the reply switch, cheering could be heard. -"Loud and clear, Balamb Garden. Please report your status." The Headmaster shrugged. "Repairs are nearly completed, Captain. Communications has just been restored." As Nida looked up in the sky again, two big red Airplanes flew by at low altitude with roaring engines. "We see you. Lookin' good." The captain on the other end reported. "Please confirm the transmission of a message from President Loire. It should appear on your screen." Xu glanced at the display screen. "Yes, I think we received it Sir. A message from Laguna Loire." Cid smiled. "Message transmission confirmed." -"Everything is explained in the message. We'll land at the coordinates specified. Can the Garden make it there?" "We should be able to move around Sir." Nida informed the Headmaster. He shrugged. "What are the coordinates Xu?" She quickly read the message. "Somewhere on the Centra continent Sir. Zone Two?" Cid frowned, then his face lit up as if remembering something. "Affirmative. We'll meet you there." "Roger that. We'll be waiting. Out." The captain aboard the Ragnarok II replied as it flew over Balamb Garden one more time together with the Ragnarok III and then headed to the landing zone. Cid folded his hands on his back. "Xu, inform the repair crews from FH to finish what they're working on and leave the Garden. Nida, start up the engine." "Sir!" Nida saluted and turned to the controls. Xu approached the intercom, but hesitated. She looked at the Headmaster. "What about Commander Gantt?" Cid was still reading the message from President Laguna Loire and looked up. "Hmm…yes. It's unfortunate he hasn't returned yet but we have to leave now. I'm sure he'll manage to get back to us as soon as his mission is completed. He is a resourceful young man." Xu smiled sadly. She felt safer with the SeeDs around. "By the way, can you contact the Commander now?" Headmaster Cid asked. -"No Sir, I tried. He's out of our current range." Xu sadly replied and glanced at the panel. "Oh no! Communications is down again Sir. There's no power to the entire console." Sighing, Cid took of his glasses and wiped them clean with his handkerchief. "Well, order the repair crews to leave anyway. We'll have to take care of the rest by ourselves. If we were to stay any longer, we would be endangering FH." He put his glasses on again. "Oh, and I want our forces battle-ready as soon as possible." Xu turned to the intercom, then smacked her head for doing so. Communications was down…again. She'd have to spread the orders some other way. She stepped on the small elevator and it descended. Luckily, Headmaster Cid had downloaded the message from President Laguna to his personal console before the sudden power-outage, and he went down to the desk in his office to read it through again.    He skipped the formal parts and read the core of the message again.    -------------------------- […] The last report Esthar received before our blackout suggested the Lunatic Pandora would soon move out. Despite the fact that this has not been confirmed yet, we will act accordingly. We believe that Balamb Garden could be in danger of immanent attack, and thus we have decided to send two squads to assist you. […] Our two Squads are at your disposal and thus will be under your command. Omega Squad is a SF-Squad (Special Forces) fit for a wide variety of uses, even intelligence gathering and strategic planning. Leading this squad, will be Captain Nagoya, one of the most highly decorated officers in Esthar. The second is Beta Squad, led by Captain Ran Fong. This is a back-up unit, and therefor not experienced in real combat. Unfortunately these two Squads were all we could spare, since Esthar is under threat of attack as well. […] At this time we are still desperately trying to restore Communications, but have been unsuccessful so far. We hope this problem can be resolved soon. But until then, we suggest the Garden hides from the Lunatic Pandora, as a direct battle would almost certainly lead to defeat. Zone Two should be a sufficient hiding place for the Garden to move to -if possible-. We cannot give the exact coordinates of this site, as our enemy may intercept this message. Headmaster Cid and Commander Gantt should know of this location, but if for some reason they are not around, the Ragnarok II will guide the Garden to it. From all of us here, good luck Balamb Garden!   President of Esthar, Laguna Loire --------------------------   Cid sunk back in his comfortable black leather chair. He let his mind drift for a moment.  "I'm Squall Leonhart. I graduated here at this Garden! Why doesn't anyone know who I am?!" The words the young man -claiming to be a SeeD- had uttered still rang through his mind. "Please listen to me." But had he really listened to him? He should have known that the Galbadians would never come up with such a story to infiltrate the Garden. It's too ridiculous a story to have been used by them… "Headmaster, I'm telling the truth!" Squall appeared sure of himself. And he knew things that only Edea and Cid could know about. The succession Squall mentioned, that really happened the way he described. A young man and dying Sorceress from the future. That's exactly what Edea talked about. Cid sighed and looked at the photo of his wife on his desk. If she'd had been around when Squall told his story, she probably would have known he was telling the truth right away. Perhaps even recognized him as the one destined to defeat the evil future Sorceress. But Cid had told his wife to stay at the Orphanage. After she lost her powers to Tia Gantt, he told her it was too dangerous for her to stay in Balamb Garden. As he looked up from his desk, there she stood. Kenan's sister, now known as Sorceress Tia. She was dressed casually, as she didn't want to stand out. But it didn't help, because she still did. It was a curse. "Headmaster Cid?" Tia called softly. "…I was wondering if there was any news on my brother." Cid rose to his feet and put on a smile. "I'm sorry, my dear, we haven't been able to contact him yet." She looked up briefly, as if scanning him with her purple-colored eyes, then humbly looked down to the floor again. "The moment I hear from him, I'll let you know." Cid assured her. She nodded slightly. "Thank you Sir." -"Anytime. My office is always open." Cid replied as he walked her back to the elevator.






"Hi ya Ward, ol' buddy ol' pal!" Laguna cheerfully exclaimed and playfully punched the big guy in his belly. He laughed for a moment, then pointed out something behind him. Laguna looked over the guy's shoulder. A young man with a gunblade stood in the doorway. "Ah, so this is one of our guests?" Ward held up his thumb. He usually preferred it to nodding every time the answer to a particular question was yes. Squall stepped inside the room. He scanned around. Compared to some other rooms he'd seen, this one wasn't all that big. I had a few couches, an expensive looking rug in the middle, some panels on the wall and a painting of a town square. Winhill, so Squall guessed. Large windows on the opposite side of the door let in the rays of the rising sun. There were two guards; one to the left, the other to right. Then there were Laguna and Ward. But behind the President someone sat on the one of the couches. Squall could see a shadow cast on the rug. "So, I take it you're Squall Leonhart?" Laguna asked. "Heh, cuze I doubt the name Skye would really fit you." A bewildered face stared back at him.   Laguna scratched the back of his head. "Uh…that was...just a joke… never mind…" So he doesn't know me either. Squall thought to himself. Or is that clown just joking around…? Ward gestured something to Laguna and left the room. From behind Laguna, a girl stood up and walked up next to him. "Ellone!" Squall shouted. He didn't realize he was that happy to see her up until now. -"Ah, you've met?" Laguna wondered. "Heh heh, I didn't know you had a boyfriend Elly." Ellone blushed a little and folded her hands on her lap. "No Uncle, I don't know--" "…You don't know who I am…" Squall uttered, suddenly feeling like he weighed at least a ton. He frowned. Even Ellone? …Sis??… What happened to me out there!? Laguna raised an eyebrow at the guy. "Uh, you okay? You look kinda pale, why don't you sit down for a minute?" Squall agreed and moved to the couch. Ellone didn't let him out of her sight as he walked past her. "Should I know you?" she curiously asked as soon as Squall sat down. -"Yes." Squall stated as he rubbed his temples. "…It's a long story." He looked up. Both Ellone and Laguna gave him their complete and undivided attention. "Well, you're a SeeD from Balamb Garden right?" Laguna questioned. "So what are you doing here?"  -"I came her to see Ellone." Squall answered. "I hoped that she would have some answers…" "To what question?" Ellone asked and sat down next to the man. She had sensed something strange about him the minute he walked in, but she couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong. With his hands in his pockets, Laguna sat down on the other couch, facing Squall. "It will take too long to explain everything now." He started. "But yesterday something happened to me, out in the fields near Balamb, and everything changed after that. Events in the past had been altered, people didn't know me anymore and worst of all, Sorceress Ultimecia was alive again. Whatever happened, it felt similar to the time-compression I endured a few weeks ago." Laguna stared at Squall with eyes wide. His mouth hung open. "You're saying Ultimecia is supposed to be dead?!" Ellone looked worried. "...Time-compression…" She knew that was what the Sorceress was trying to achieve. This guy endured that? Could that be why he felt, different, somehow…? "Yes. Together with a team of SeeDs, I defeated Sorceress Ultimecia." Squall affirmed solemnly. -"Wow…really?" Laguna uttered. His eyebrows came together in confusion. "Yes." Squall repeated with confidence. "With help from Ellone, Sorceress Ultimecia had been defeated. It couldn't have been done without her. That I'm sure of." "…I helped?" Ellone asked whilst she desperately tried to figure out whether he was lying or not. Squall nodded. "You sent the Sorceress back in the past with your special powers, and then the time-compression began. But our team of SeeDs used this to travel to the future, the time period in which Ultimecia lived…" Laguna stood up from the couch. To him, this tale was too amazing to listen to, sitting. "And you defeated her there?" "Yes." Squall said again, wondering why Laguna needed so much confirmation. "This happened about 3 weeks ago." He looked aside. Ellone was completely dazzled, she didn't know what to say to such a thing. "Somehow," Squall continued. "Things have been altered. Some other guy graduated to become a SeeD instead of me. The outcome of battles in the past have changed…for the worse…definitely." -"You think this has something to do with time-compression?" Ellone asked, catching on quickly. "…With me?" He shrugged. "I don't know. I suppose I didn't know where else to turn…" Laguna gasped. "Gee…that's really quite a…" -"Unbelievable story…I know." Squall sighed. "I know it sounds too strange to be true, but it is true. It happened." "Could you get Kiros up here, please?" Laguna kindly ordered the two guards then turned back to Squall. "We're going to get to the bottom of this, don't worry." As the guards were just about to jolt off, Kiros and Sorceress Skye came round the corner. "In here Sir." The guards said and were surprised Kiros told them they were relieved of duty for now. Having guards in the room was no way to welcome two guests Kiros thought. Laguna chuckled as his buddy stepped in. "Whoa, you're fast!" He crossed his arms. "I was already on my way here." -"Oh. Well, great timing!" Skye entered the room too. There was no bangle around her neck anymore. "Hi everyone." "Hello there," Laguna greeted and shook her hand. "I'm Laguna Loire, the -ahem- President of Esthar." -"He still likes to boast about it after all those years." Kiros explained. Skye shook Ellone's hand too, then plopped down next to Squall. "So, what's up with you? Doctor Odine removed my bangle, see?" She combed back some of her hair and clearly displayed there wasn't a bangle around her neck anymore, even though Squall had immediately noticed it as she walked in. "Now," Laguna said as he calmy sat down on the other couch again and motioned Kiros to do the same. "Could you please tell your story one more time Mr. Leonhart?" Kiros didn't have a clue what was going on, but quietly listened to Squall as he started talking.





"Wow." Laguna exclaimed, impressed by the great tale. The fact that Squall could have been lying hardly even occurred to him. -"So you think forces from Balamb Garden are after you?" Kiros asked. Skye raised her hand. "Not just him, me too." Laguna looked at Ellone and she noticed it. "I can't see why they would think Skye is a dangerous Sorceress, Uncle." She told him. "…I don't think she is." Squall continued to frown. "I don't think she is either." Kiros grinned in disbelief. "You two are in quite an odd situation…" "Tell me about it." Skye sighed heavily, letting her body sag. Laguna exchanged looks with Kiros. "What do you think?" He stood up. "I think our guest must be tired after such a long walk. Let's handle this after they get some rest." After pulling herself up from the couch, Skye felt like she could just hug that man. He was very wise…it clearly showed. "Thanks." She said.  -"I'm sure I can find you rooms." Kiros told their two guests. "There are so many here, Laguna frequently gets lost." "Uh-oh!" Laguna cried out as he quickly reached for his left leg. "Leg cramp!" Ellone, Kiros and Skye laughed. Squall was already walking to the hallway. "Don't move!" A man in the doorway ordered forcefully. -"I wouldn't if I could." Laguna laughed, but as he looked up he knew it was something serious. Irvine, Zell and Selphie rushed in, Kenan and Quistis covered the doorway, making sure Skye wouldn't escape. "Mr. President." Quistis said, while Irvine held both Squall and Skye at gunpoint. "That Sorceress is dangerous, we're here to capture her. Please leave the room." Zell held up his fist like they were as deadly a weapon as Irvine's shotgun. Squall backed up a bit. He made no move to reach for his gunblade…yet. -"What? No, I will not." Laguna replied. "I don't believe she is dangerous." His leg cramp was suddenly subdued with all the excitement and he stepped in Irvine's line of fire. "Sir!" Kenan called. "Get out of the way! Our mission--" He stopped as he noticed the bangle around the Sorceress' neck had already been removed. "Idiot! What have you--" "Shuddap!" Laguna snapped. Even Kiros had never seen him like that. "You're in Esthar now, kid. Lower your guns and will talk about it, but don't expect you can just barge in here like that!!" Selphie felt ashamed for assuming an aggressive posture, and she was the first to stand down. Quistis and Irvine soon followed. Zell still held up his fist but they were shaky. "Commander?" He called with his eyes locked on the Sorceress. Kenan's eyes narrowed, but the President just stared back at him with a furious look. "All right, FINE." "We'll talk." He said and Zell lowered his fists. -"Sorry Sir, but--" Selphie humbly apologized. Laguna smiled and his fury seemed gone in an instance. "It's okay, you guys were only following orders. You thought we might be in some kinda danger, but as you see, we're not." Everyone looked at Squall and Skye. "I--I'm not a dangerous Sorceress…" Skye started to plead. "Why does this have to happen to me? I'm just a normal girl, I don't know what's going on anymore…" Tears formed in her eyes. Ellone walked over and comfortingly threw an arm around her. Quistis and Selphie looked at one another. A feeling of remorse engulfed both of them, but especially Selphie. They'd mindlessly hunted an innocent girl? That was horrible to think of. Kenan still warily eyed the two 'targets' they were sent after. "Listen, the President is right. We're following orders. According to Headmaster Cid this girl is a serious threat." -"I see…" Laguna mumbled as he processed the information. "And Mr. Leonhart?" "And Squall helped her escape," Quistis explained. "But our orders are to escort him back to the Garden. The Headmaster wants to talk to him. He is willing to listen now." Ellone looked at the five SeeDs in front of her. "I believe Squall is telling the truth, even though I don't know him. And I know Skye isn't an evil Sorceress like Adel or Ultimecia…I can sense that she is different." -"That's all fine, but what we believe is irrelevant." Kenan remarked. "Soldiers shouldn't disobey orders." "Soldiers shouldn't be drones either," Laguna pointed out. "They need to think for themselves. Assess the situation…" Zell's eyelids started sagging again. He wished people could just skip the boring talk and get right to the point. Could they, or could they not, capture the Sorceress and take her back to Garden? "I can understand that you have your orders, but I'm not surrendering to you." Squall told the so-called Commander. -"Seems we're stuck." Irvine reasoned. Kiros pondered. "I don't think so. Everyone is on the same side here." Selphie's face lit up. "H-ey, yeah. We're all up against Sorceress Ultimecia." They all nodded. That was a good point Kiros raised. "Tell ya what, we'll let you ESCORT Skye and Squall back to Balamb Garden," Laguna offered. "But only if you'll agree to listen to both of them, and try to help." Kenan rubbed his chin the way he always did when heavily pondering. "…Seems we have no choice but to accept." "Quistis?" He asked. -"I agree." "Pine--uh, Irvine?" -"Whatever you say Commander." "Selphie?" -"Yeah! Let's not fight amongst ourselves and blow Ultimecia to smithereens!" "Dare I ask? …Zell?" -"Hey, what's that supposed to mean? I totally agree to the plan." Laguna grinned. "Okay, seems it's democratically approved." After wiping the tears from her cheeks, Skye smiled again. "Thank you everyone." It gave Selphie and Quistis a good feeling, knowing this would be the right way to approach it. Not with force… Squall didn't want to thank anyone, yet was glad not to be considered an outlaw anymore. … "So, when was the last time you guys were here?" Laguna asked trying to break the tension that still hung in the room like a foul stench. Selphie smiled widely. "It's been a while. Nice to see ya again, Sir Laguna. Tee-hee!" Not long after this, the whole group sat down in the cozy guest room. Finally everyone loosened up and they even got acquainted with Skye. Zell noticed she really wasn't the dangerous Sorceress Headmaster Cid led him to believe. She was actually just a nice girl. And Skye really enjoyed the company. These people were really friendly to her, despite everything they were told. Only Kenan still wasn't fully convinced and didn't let his guard down for a second.


-"So you can't remember anything?" Quistis asked. Skye tried her best to come up with something. A name, an image, a certain smell, anything! …Nothing came to mind. "No, nothing." She sadly affirmed. "…Even didn't know I was a Sorceress until Squall pointed it out to me." Ellone looked at her and felt real sympathy. "That's awful, isn't it Uncle?" Explaining the advanced rules of Triple Triad to someone and having to listen to a conversation at the same time was one of those things Laguna shouldn't do. "Uh…Yes, that's right dear." He assured Ellone, then turned his mind back to explaining Irvine how to play a really good game of Triple Triad. Of course, his mind was totally blank thanks to the distraction. Irvine looked up from the deck of cards on the small table. "Your move Sir. Show me what made you world champ at this. I gotta get better at this game…grr.." -"World Champion?" Kiros wondered if he had heard it correctly. "Laguna a World Champion with Triple Triad?" It appeared likely for him to burst into laughter any second now… "You never won anything in your life Laguna, what are talking about?" Irvine suddenly felt betrayed. Whoa, He wasn't a pro at it? Dang! Selphie just had to butt in at this point of course. "H-ey, Sir Laguna isn't a liar!" -"Heh heh. Thanks Selphie." He smiled and placed his next card. His very special card. With his own face on it. Irvine gestured for a time-out. He was losing but that wasn't the point. Selphie chuckled. "There are no time outs in Triple Triad, silly!" "Anyway!" He started. "Are you joking with me or not? You really a world champ?" Laguna started frantically scratching his left leg. Oh no! A cramp? Not now! Aah! "Well?" Irvine asked impatiently. There was no escape for him this time, he had to tell the truth. The whole truth, mind you, because Laguna didn't lie. He could be untruthful, say stuff that was only half-true, say stuff that was really idiotic, but he didn't lie. -"Uh…I…err…had this really nice dream, in which I..uh..won the World Championship Triple Triad." Irvine looked at Laguna wide-eyed. Selphie almost rolled off the couch laughing. "A dream?" "Yup. I still remember the last round." He stated cheerfully, somehow proud he won something even though it was just a dream. "I used this amazing strategy, but I..uh…forgot how it went. I've been trying to rediscover it ever since…" A fed-up, grumpy and most of all tired, Irvine threw down his cards. "Fine, you win. I haven't learned a thing!" He narrowed his eyes. "Zell…Quistis…I gotta beat 'em one day! I lost nearly all my cards to those two!" "Speaking of Zell…" Selphie whispered and pointed to her left. Zell sat snoring as loud as an airplane engine, leaning against Kenan's shoulder. Lucky for him, the Commander didn't really mind it that much, as long as he wouldn't drool on him or anything. They laughed, too loud it appeared as Zell woke up with a fright. "Bleh. Whoa! Where am I?" He mumbled with eyes half-opened. Skye feigned hurt, since Zell had fallen asleep listening to her talk. "Am I that boring?" He threw up his hands. "No nooo ma'am! I just..uh..rested my eyes a bit…!" Selphie got the feeling someone was missing and scanned around whilst the rest continued talking to one and other. She found Squall leaning against the wall, close to the big windows. He was staring out over Esthar. "Hey ya!" Selphie chirped as she approached the dark-haired-mystery-SeeD-guy. "Hee-hee, are you hiding from the rest or somethin'? Seems like it." Squall shrugged. "It's just weird seeing people that used to know me, and now…" "Then tell me something about yourself!" Selphie offered. "So I can get to know you." He didn't reply. -"He's not one to talk a lot." Skye explained from her comfy position in the middle of the couch. "But he's a great listener." She had been watching Squall the whole time, in a looking-out-for-someone kinda way. Sort of like a big sister. Well, he didn't need any sister. Squall stared up at the ceiling for a moment. It was white with a gold pattern across it. Priceless no doubt. "What can you tell me about Rinoa?" Was the question he came up with eventually. Selphie thought deeply. "I haven't seen her since we dropped her off in Timber. I hope she's doing okay. Kenan agreed that we should all visit her some day…when everything is over…" She leaned against the wall, right next to the guy. "Great view of the room from here, huh?" -"…I suppose…" She giggled. "Okay, if you're not gonna talk about yourself, I'll just talk about me." "Don't bother. I already know you." Squall told her, taking a sip of the drink Kiros offered everyone earlier. It tasted horrid. But the fact was he arrived in Esthar practically dehydrated. Any drink would be gladly accepted. She tilted her head with interest. "Really? Hee-hee, then tell me what you know." -"I don't really see the point of that." -"C'mon Mr. Leonhart," She edged. "Pleeease?" He sighed. "For starters, you called me Squall, not Mr. Leonhart." Selphie grinned sheepishly. "Okay! Squall it is. Tell me more." "Well, you're Selphie Tillmit, transferred to Balamb Garden from Trabia Garden. You participated in the Dollet mission, you were in Squad A, I think. You bumped into my squad to deliver a message and--" -"Boring!" Selphie exclaimed. Everyone stopped talking and turned around. Irvine raised an eyebrow. "You okay sweetie-pie?" "Yeah, it's nothing." She said and with that everyone turned back again and continued wherever they left off. She nudged Squall with her elbow. "I didn't mean you should start telling the complete history…I just wondered what you thought of me. I don't care about the dry, boring facts!" He took another sip. "You're really…active. Or hyper might be the better word for it…" Zell roared with laughter, having secretly listened to their conversation with one ear. Worried that he might choke, Quistis slapped him on the back once or twice. "Breathe in. Breathe in Zell!" Selphie didn't pay much attention to Zell and pressed Squall to say some more. He quickly drank all there was left in his glass, giving him a valid reason to not reply immediately. She nudged him again. "Yeah, everyone can tell I'm a bit a hyper, that doesn't mean you know me." "You're always one to look on the bright side." Squall stated under pressure. "Not that you weren't sad at times, but you were always the one to try to cheer people up…" Rinoa was like that too. He thought to himself. "Now we're getting somewhere." She told him, hinting him to continue at the same time. He shrugged. "You proved yourself a capable leader at the Galbadian Missile Base. A good SeeD too." "Thanks!" Selphie exclaimed and smiled widely. Squall looked down. "I don't think I've ever told you that…the other you I mean…" She giggled. "It's kinda confusing to think about it, huh? This must be a whole different world to you." -"Yeah, it feels like that." He nodded. Selphie looked across the room. Everyone seemed to be talking in pairs now. Kenan was no doubt discussing important issues with Mr. Kiros. Then there was Sir Laguna having a fascinating conversation with Quistis, Irvine joining in every now and then, but mostly he was just goofing around with Zell. And Skye seemed to really enjoy talking to Ellone. "So Squall, what do think of…uhm…Zell?" -"Loud and obnoxious." He replied with a straight face. Selphie giggled again. "Okay…and..uh what about Quistis?" -"I think she sometimes pushes herself too hard." "And what about Kenan?" Squall looked aside. "I've never met him before. Whoever he is, he didn't graduate to become a SeeD in my past." She blinked. Oh yeah, that was right. Wow, she found that weird to think of. If Kenan weren't around, who'd lead the squad? Quistis might be the most likely candidate, she considered. Selphie extended her arm and managed to swipe Irvine's hat. "And what about Irvy?" "I guess he's okay. A bit of a jock…but a reliable SeeD." Squall answered. Perhaps this was the first time he really had to think about all his squad members in this manner. Normally he wouldn't be the one to give out compliments, but the fact that they had defeated Sorceress Ultimecia together meant they were good soldiers, every one of them. Why hadn't Squall realized this before? Or stopped to even think about it? Irvine noticed those two were talking about him and jumped up from the couch, walked over to Selphie, and quickly stole his hat back. He couldn't be seen without it; it would ruin his image. Selphie playfully sobbed for a moment, then she realized he wasn't gonna give her the hat back, so she just planted a kiss on his cheek. For no reason other than the fact his cheek got the way of her lips…yeah…that was it. Skye noticed it and clapped her hands in glee. "Hey, I didn't know you guys were in a relationship." Irvine scratched the back of his head. Relationship…it somehow seemed the wrong word for it. He didn't know why. "We are," Selphie affirmed. "Tee-hee, since last night anyway." -"That's great!" Skye exclaimed. As Kiros looked at the time on his watch, he slowly got up from the couch. "I hate to break this off, but I'm afraid the President and myself have business to attend to." Laguna jumped up. "Oh yeah, I forgot all about that! Great goobish goo!" Yawning heavily, Zell crawled up from the couch, leaving behind an imprint of his butt in the fabric. Neat. "Ah yes, I'll show you all to your rooms first." Kiros grinned. "Shall we wake you in time for supper? I'm sure you're all very tired from walking those many miles…" Irvine and Zell exchanged looks. "Sounds good to me." They both replied. -"One thing though," Kenan remarked from the doorway. Nobody had even seen him get up…he was fast. "It's all great we have this pact with Mr. Leonhart and the Sorceress, but who knows what they'll pull off once we're asleep?" Skye felt hurt. She knew the trust in her being a good Sorceress came real sudden. She knew they couldn't just stop fearing her in a split-second. Trust is something that has to be earned. She knew all that, yet it hurt. As always Squall couldn't really care either way. Although, as a SeeD Commander, he could see Kenan's point. Quistis approached Kenan. "I'm sure it'll be okay. Besides, where would they go? Esthar soldiers are everywhere…" Kiros talked it over Laguna and eventually came up with a solution. "What about putting Zell, Irvine and Commander Gantt together in a room with Mr. Leonhart, and the girls in the other? You could even lock the room if you really think that's necessary." Kiros offered. In a state of being half-asleep, Zell only heard the word room. Room…bed. Bed good. Sleep in bed. Sleep good! Kenan run his hand threw his hair. "Yeah, okay. I can live with that." Quistis smiled politely. "It's a good suggestion. I don't think we'll lock the room though..." "I'm okay with everything right about now," Irvine pointed out. "I just wanna get some shut-eye." Kiros walked into the hallway. "This way please." Before leaving, they had to say goodbye to Laguna of course. After all he IS the President of Esthar. -"See ya later, Sir Laguna, tee-hee!" -"Good day Mr. President. Nice talking to you." -"Catch ya later." -"Say, you wouldn't have any hotdogs for supper, would ya? Ah well, later." -"Wake me if you can contact Balamb Garden. And do you think you could place some guards outside, just in case?" -"… … …" -"Bubbye now Laguna." Skye called and gave him half a hug, it having too little energy in it to call it a normal one. After that Ellone was said goodbye to, and finally they were on their way to a nice, warm, well-deserved beds. Just what they had all been longing for. Of course it was early in the morning in reality, but nobody cared. Only one time existed. Time for a long nap.






Seifer threw his buddies an annoyed look. "Stop messing around. They'll be here, just be patient." "It's cold y'know? And I'm hungry. My belly hurts…ya know?" Raijin nagged. Fujin stopped showing off her pinwheel in front of the two guys. It's just that she hadn't used it in a while. She had hardly lifted a finger in the battle with Balamb Garden. The Galbadian soldiers did all the fighting. FOOLS. Let them die for the Sorceress if they want, but not Fujin, no way. -"Any minute now…" Seifer muttered under his breath. He looked in both directions of the Railway Bridge. Not a soul in sight, excellent. There shouldn't be a problem then. Not that the Lunatic Pandora wouldn't be noticed anyway, but the longer it took the enemy from knowing where it was, the better. In war, the element of surprise is very valuable. … "FH is a nice town, huh you guys?" Raijin said to break the silence. He'd really thought about it. Fujin questioningly stared at him. Strange how she'd never expected Raijin to say something like that. -"…I suppose…" Seifer answered with his arms folded over his chest. "…Great place to fish too." For a minute, Fujin considered the guys' minds had been taken over by evil space aliens that made them say stuff like that. "FISH?!" A kick to Raijin's shine wouldn't even help to clear his mind from this idiotic idea, so she didn't bother. -"Yeah!" Raijin exclaimed, suddenly seeing in all clearly in front of him. "Think 'bout it. Us living in FH. No Sorceress, Garden or anythin'. We could fish all day y'know?" "UNLIKELY." He looked down. "Well, whadda you think Seifer?" -"…Who knows? I can't be the Sorceress' Knight forever. I'll have to retire one day…" Raijin laughed. "We'll become the best fishermen around ya know!" "FOOL." Fujin called loudly.






"Here we go." Nida informed and pushed forward the rudder. The whole Garden shook and slowly picked up speed. He had to be careful not to hit anything on the way out of FH. Luckily it didn't take long to reach the open seas. Nida turned to the Headmaster. "The heading, Sir?' -"Oh yes, yes." He uttered, momentarily confused. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying any attention. The heading is…" Headmaster Cid saw Xu standing at the Com. panel just out if the corner of his eye. The fewer people that knew exactly the location of Zone Two, the better. It had to remain a closely guarded secret to be an effective hiding place. He straightened his vest. "Just head for the Centra Continent. I'll give you further instruction once we're closer to it." Nida saluted. "Yes Sir!" The Headmaster smiled. Things were starting to pick up. Once they'd reach their hiding place they could finally come up with an attack plan; a preemptive strike. Maybe the situation wasn't as hopeless as he thought. Xu's eyes widened, as the display screen colored red right in front of her. "Sir! Another system failure!" "What??" Cid hurried to the panel Xu stood at it. Error messages and warnings filled up the system status screen. Never before had Headmaster Cid experienced something like this. "I thought the crews had repaired most damage!" In sheer panic, Xu randomly hit buttons on the panel. Some of which she'd never used before. -"Nothing Sir!" She needlessly informed him. He could very well see it wasn't working. Nida started to panic as well, but there wasn't a thing he could do. He had to stay behind the rudder. Xu read the error messages. "Power to the elevators is dropping again! It's being drained!" "Drained?" Cid demanded to know. "What is doing this?" -"I'm sorry Sir, I don't have a clue!" Xu replied with a voice of concern. The Headmaster was startled for a few seconds. "Inform the repair crews, quickly, before the elevators stop again!" She ran off, without saluting even, meaning there was no time to spare.
Sleeeeep!! by Goku Girl
The doors screeched open. Irvine could practically hear angels singing hallelujah. Finally, after who knows how long, beds to sleep in! He would do a little victory dance, yet naturally lacked the energy. Kenan thanked Kiros and closed the doors behind him, making sure he'd locked them up good. Squall immediately felt uncomfortable amongst the guys. Out of his place…the odd man out…something like that. "Uhm…Kenan?" Irvine called, counting the beds again. The rest of the room was of no importance, so he paid little attention to it. In an instance he did notice it was a lot shabbier than any room he'd seen in Esthar. It looked like a tiny barrack, with just the bunks, a small wooden table beside to put some stuff on and a sink with mirror in the corner. But all of that didn't really matter. Kenan turned to his buddy Irvine showing little interest. "Yeah, what is it?" "We have a problem." He said, laughing inwardly. The bunks were fine, he could tell. So how come there were only three beds, while there were four of them? He shuddered at the thought of sharing a bed. Not a chance in hell he'd agree to that. Kenan, however, still hadn't a clue what Irvine was talking about. "A problem? What problem?" "Only three beds." Squall sighed as he threw down his backpack and gunblade. "And four of us." Very much zombie-like, Zell shuffled his way to the middle bunk and fell into the pillow face down. He was already asleep before he even made contact with it. Irvine moaned. "…And so there were only two left…" Kenan crossed his arms and leaned against the closed doors. "It doesn't really matter. One of us should stand watch anyway. I'll take the first shift." "Roger that." Irvine mumbled and climbed in the left bed. He didn't bother taking his hat -or anything else for that matter- off and soon slept like a baby too. -"Remember, I'm watching." Kenan gladly reminded Squall. "Don't do anything stupid." Squall shook his head and sat down on the edge of his bed. "Whether you believe it or not, I'm a SeeD." Kenan sat himself down on the floor. "Actually I don't. I'm not as gullible as the rest." He grabbed his handgun and rested it against his shoulder, glaring at Squall in a threatening way. "…Why did Headmaster Cid promote you to Commander?" Squall wondered. It was one of the things he thought about during the long journey to Esthar. He couldn't sleep immediately anyway, why not ask that guy now? -"Dunno." Kenan replied. "I don't understand why he would make you Commander either, IF what you told us is all true." Squall thought about it. "I know why. He knew I'd be the one that would defeat Ultimecia." Kenan was about to laugh but noticed the guy had a serious look on his face. "Heh, the chosen one? That's utter crap." "No. It's not. It might even be why you are Commander here," Squall countered. "Cid's wife, Edea, saw a young man from the future that had defeated an evil Sorceress. What if Headmaster Cid knew what this young man looked like?" Rubbing his chin, Kenan thought about what the guy said. "Hmpf. I dunno. The Headmaster did tell me about that succession but he didn't say anything about a man from the future…." -"Think about it," Squall told him. "If the past has somehow been altered so that I was never around…someone else could have defeated the Sorceress the same way I did." Squall shrugged. "Maybe it was you?" He didn't much like this thought, that Kenan had taken his place, but Sorceress Ultimecia being back alive was of bigger concern. If he couldn't find a way to change the past back to normal, Ultimecia had to be defeated again. Kenan smirked. "The past being altered my butt. You expect us all to believe that?" -"I don't care what you think." Squall stated. "Everything indicates that. I don't think I was even born in your past." "Never born?" Kenan asked. "How do you know that?" Because Laguna doesn't know me. Squall thought to himself. "Because I was never at the Orphanage, my earliest recollection is of that place. I was never there according to Selphie and the rest. I never joined Balamb Garden according to everyone there. Never became a SeeD, a Commander. And I never defeated Ultimecia." Irvine lifted his head up from the pillow. "Hey, could you guys pipe down? You woke me up…" He let out a yawn and rested his head on the pillow again. It didn't take very long for him to fall asleep once more. "You seem hardly upset by this Squall," Kenan whispered. "You find out that all of the people you used to know don't know you anymore, and what do you do? Free a Sorceress from prison and make a run for it? Not bloody likely…" Even though Squall was as tired as the rest, he couldn't rest before he sorted things out with that guy. Not that he cared what Kenan thought about the whole matter…who cares what he thinks?…but perhaps talking to him could give Squall some insight in the situation. Just like he'd played along momentarily in the Cafeteria of Balamb Garden. Only now he could tell the truth, regardless of what Kenan might think of it. Squall stared at the skeptic Commander. He was busy examining his handgun, as if the last thing he said ended the entire conversation. As if there could not be another explanation other than the one in his mind. What a jackass. "Are you familiar with the workings of time-compression?" Squall asked to fire up the debate. Kenan looked up, surprised that Leonhart didn't just shut up and go to sleep already. "Uh, yeah. I am. What about it?" "So you know it's possible to travel through time," Squall replied. "Once this time-compression has begun?" He shrugged. "Doc. Odine told m about it. But the thing is, I don't trust theories, I want proof something will work." Squall looked amazed. "So all this time you knew of a way to defeat Ultimecia, but you didn't do anything?!" "It's not like that," He said as he got up and pointed at the window. "Look outside. This is just another inconsistency with the story you told us." Another inconsistency? Squall wondered and got up to gaze through the window. He could see a part of Esthar that he hadn't seen when driving towards the Palace. It was a part that had been almost completely wiped out. Only part of a building still stood where once were many homes. There were the purple colored roads…that lead nowhere…an entire intersection must have been destroyed. Smoke covered up most of the skies above this site of utter destruction. From where Squall stood, he couldn't see the ground. But he didn't doubt a large crater to be there. Kenan sighed and closed his eyes. "You have no idea what it was like here. Hundreds of people lost their lives fighting off the Lunatic Pandora. Seems the Galbadian mounted some kind of weapon on it…its destructive power is immense, as you can clearly see by what's left. Or…what's not left I should say. It obliterated entire sections of Esthar in one blast. "N-no! That can't be, that never happened!" Squall uttered, slamming his fist against the wall in fury. -"But it did." Kenan remarked, slowing opening his eyes again. "Another reason why it's hard to believe your story…" "No, dammit." Squall cursed. "The Lunatic Pandora only hovered over Esthar once, causing minimal losses and damage! How could this have happened?!" He gestured him to step away from the window. "Calm down. It didn't show you this just to anger you." -"Damn! How can you be so cool about it?!" Squall yelled in astonishment. This guy was just unbelievable. Kenan shook his head. "I wasn't when I first saw this. That was three weeks ago. Before you had defeated Ultimecia according to your, what? …Your version of the past?" Still enraged by the things he had just seen, Squall sat down on the edge of his behind and buried his face in his hands. "So you see," Kenan started. "Your theory is flushed down the drain. You thought everything was different because somehow the past had been altered in a way so you, the supposed killer of Sorceress Ultimecia, were never born. Well now, how do you explain this change of strategy?" … Kenan nodded solemnly. "You can't. There is no way that the Sorceress would suddenly decide to attack Esthar with full power all because one person was never born…wouldn't you say?" Squall looked up. "You're right. So there must have been more than just one change of the past…" -"Crap." Kenan sighed, getting tired of the guy's persistency. "You need to have your head examined. Ever wondered how what you claim makes people feel? They've seen so much death and destruction caused by Sorceress Ultimecia, then some guy nobody knows comes along and starts telling how he had defeated her long ago, with hardly any of the losses compared to the ones suffered already. Tch…" What could Squall possibly say to counter this? The guy had an indisputable point. He was more realistic than the rest. Of course there where those willing to almost blindly accept Squall's story. Who wouldn't want to believe things should be better? Who wouldn't want to believe there might be some way things could be changed back to the way they were? Kenan was too much of a realist to just accept it. He had seen too much of all the carnage to have fate in everything that Squall represented. Silently he moved back to his 'post' in front of the closed doors, leaving Squall to think about what he said. Maybe now the guy would think twice before he opened his mouth and starts blabbing about the past with all that happy crap. Squall lay down on his bed. He had no idea that much was changed. Ultimecia attacked Esthar? But why did she do that? Obviously she didn't succeed or else Laguna would have been killed for sure. …Wait a minute… There was one question that guy hadn't answered. "So why didn't you use Odine's plan yet?" Squall asked. He looked in the direction of the doors, only to see the part of the guy's head and bandanna. Kenan softly grinned in disbelief. "You really that stupid? I thought I pointed it out." -"Because the Lunatic Pandora attacked Esthar?" Squall asked, ignoring the little comment. "Yes, that was the most important reason to delay any assassination plan." Kenan explained. "Although the truth is, we were attacked before we could decide on any plan. We needed a way to get inside the darn thing, and were just about to discuss it with President Loire, when the Lunatic Pandora attacked." A dazzled Irvine mumbled something and stuck his head under his pillow. Squall frowned. "What happened? I mean, what was the outcome of the battle?" "You really don't know jackshit, huh?" Kenan smirked. He didn't really mean it as an insult, it was just his way of joking. -"You did win, right?" Squall asked. He really needed to know. Sighing, Kenan rested his head against the wooden doors and looked up at the ceiling. "Yeah…we won. Just barely I might add. Esthar suffered heavy casualties, the Galbadians only minor I think. They retreated after a group of soldiers managed to infiltrate the Lunatic Pandora by jumping on it from a high way. Maybe we would have done that too, if we had the time to carefully plan everything." Things were starting to make more sense. The looks on Balamb Garden students' faces, now Squall understood them. Yet it wasn't enough. He had to ask more to fully comprehend it all. "But why? Why would they attack full-out, then retreat when a few Esthar soldiers managed to get inside the Lunatic Pandora??" Kenan yawned. "I dunno. Listen, why don't you just can it and get some shut-eye? I will hold myself to the pact and try to help you, but could you slow down for a minute? We'll talk about anything you want tonight at dinner…okay?" Squall agreed and turned on his side. He wondered if he'd even be able to sleep after so much being revealed to him. How does one prove his existence? Kenan started thinking as tried to sit as comfortably as he could, ready for keeping watch on Leonhart for at least a few hours. Someone else knows you, and therefor you exist? But how do you know that someone exists in the first place? He laughed inwardly. Maybe I think too much? But still…it was a strange issue. Leonhart can never prove himself to me, because I'm not willing to buy anything without clear evidence. Yet one cannot prove his existence… It boggles the mind. He thought and let out a big yawn.     <<------------------------------------------>>   Meanwhile, the girls were sitting in their own room. Still wide-awake… Unlike Kenan, Quistis didn't see the need to lock the doors or even keep an eye on the Sorceress. Skye wouldn't do anything harmful. She could never do that. Whatever she was, she wasn't evil. "It's like having a slumber party!" Selphie giggled. "Girls only." Skye and Quistis laughed and looked at Selphie, as she was bouncing on her bunk in the midst. Selphie stopped. "Aww…too bad I didn't bring my pj's. We could have had a pajama party!" Quistis chuckled. She sat on the edge of her bunk, facing Selphie and Skye. It's not like they weren't tired, but this little get-together was a rare occasion, why not make the most of it and gossip 'bout the guys? As if reading her friend's thought, Selphie let out a positive sigh. "Irvine sure is a hunk…huh?" -"Something tells me we'd better not be too eager to agree to that." Skye laughed. "You could get the wrong idea." Selphie smiled. "At least you don't disagree then." Skye nodded. "From what I've seen, he looks okay. I wish you two all the best." -"Thanks!" She exclaimed in gratitude. "Hey…since we're talking about guys anyway," Selphie said, turning to Quistis. "Who do you fancy Quis?" She raised an eyebrow. "Don't you think that's a private matter?" -"Come on!" Selphie edged. "I told you I liked Irvine long ago, you tell us something now." Quistis crossed her arms and frowned. "There…isn't really anyone I like in particular at the moment." -"Oh really?" Selphie called. "I thought you and Kenan looked like a great couple, tee-hee." Her cheeks blushed red. "Kenan and me? No…I don't think so." Skye smiled sadly and tilted her head down. "What's wrong?" Selphie and Quistis asked. She fumbled a bit with her hands in a clumsy matter. "Kenan. He…he doesn't like me very much huh? I saw the way he looked at me in the guest room. He must really hate me." Selphie leaped towards Skye's bed and sat down next to her. "Aw, don't worry about him. He can be a real jerk sometimes. But it's just his way of looking out for us. Right Quistis?" "Kenan isn't really that bad a guy," She explained. "He had some nasty experiences with a Sorceress involved. In fact, we all have, but he was most upset by it. He didn't tell us of course…guys are like that, they prefer being a closed book…yet we could all tell he was deeply affected." Skye looked up at Quistis. "I think I understand. Thank you." Selphie giggled. "No need to thank anyone. What are friends for?" "Friends?" Skye asked. "You hardly know me, how can we be friends?" Quistis smiled. "Of course we're friends. It doesn't matter if we just met." "Say, you and Squall? You are friends too, right?" Skye shrugged. "Actually, I don't know. Squall is very much to himself." "Squall seems like an okay guy," Selphie pointed out. "I'm sure he considers you a friend too." -"Yes," Quistis affirmed. "I think so too. He is a complete stranger to me, yet I trusted him the moment he first explained what was going on, back in Balamb Garden. Unfortunately for him, Kenan was there." "I feel sorry for him," Skye sighed. "He has really no clue what happened to him." Selphie gave her new friend a soft nudge. "H-ey! Let's stop worrying and have some fun! Just the three of us." She smiled. "Uh, okay, what do you have in mind?" Quistis looked her over. "First we'll have to get you some decent clothes." Skye grinned sheepishly and examined her old student uniform. "Yeah, it is rather ugly, isn't it?" -"We should go out and buy you something new at the mall." Quistis suggested. "Whoo-hoo!" Selphie exclaimed. "Yeah! That's a great plan. Wow, I can't remember the last time I went shopping…" They stood up, all ready to head downtown when something hit Quistis. -"You know, Kenan wouldn't like this idea." She said. "And he is the Commander." "No problem!" Selphie replied, still cheery. "We sneak out, and don't tell him anything." Skye frowned. "So isn't he going to notice something when I walk in with new clothes? Quistis opened the sleeping quarter doors and looked down the hall. Nobody in sight, perfect. She stuck her head back in. "Don't worry Skye. We'll just tell him we found it in the closet." Her face lit up. "Heh heh, you're cunning." Quistis bowed politely. "Why thank you." "Seriously though, let's get a move on. We shouldn't be gone too long because we really do need to get some sleep."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Skye couldn't really settle on one dress out of so many. She just couldn't pick which one she liked better. Shopping was something completely new to her…or had she done this before? She couldn't remember, but what else was new? Selphie's eyes widened as she saw the P-E-R-F-E-C-T dress. It was a yellow short-skirt outfit not unlike the one she frequently wore herself, it would fit Skye perfectly. Whoo-hoo! Meanwhile Quistis had also found a nice outfit, on the other side of the shop. A red long dress with beautiful black sleeves. Really a stunning outfit for Skye, so she figured. "This one!" Selphie exclaimed and ran back to Skye in the middle of the shop. "Try this one!" She practically pushed the dress of her choice in Skye's arms. "You'll look fabulous!" Quistis giggled as she slowly walked back to Skye with the dress of her choice. "Uhm, Skye, do you really want to look like Selphie? I think having one of her around is enough." "Heeeeeey!" Selphie pouted loudly. "Wouldn't want Skye to look like you either!" -"Let her decide." Quistis calmly replied. Selphie smiled knowingly. She's gonna go for mine…for sure. Taking her time, Skye examined the two dresses brought to her by Selphie and Quistis. They both looked great, but she didn't want to hurt either of her friends by having to choose for one of them. She hesitated. "Uh…they do look okay…but…uh…" There was a light blue dress hanging just in front of Skye that suddenly caught her attention. Apart from the color, it was a perfect mix of the two dresses offered by Selphie and Quistis. The skirt wasn't as short as the one Selphie offered, but not as long as the one Quistis offered either. And the fabric…wow. Soft yet warm, she could tell just by looking at it. "Sorry," Skye grinned and handed the dress Selphie picked back to her. "But I'm gonna go for that blue one!" Quistis laughed. "Guess you didn't need our help after all." -"Humph…I don't see what's wrong with the one I chose…" Selphie mumbled. "Oh well!" She scurried to the back of the shop and hung the outfit she chose back on the rack. Quistis accompanied Skye to the counter and paid for the dress. It was quite reasonably priced for such nice outfit. "Are you sure you don't want to try it on first?" The lady behind the counter asked. -"No thank you," Skye replied. "I'm sure it'll fit. It's very stretchy…hee-hee…" With a brand new outfit in her possession, Skye exited the shop. Mission accomplished, so to speak. They walked towards one of the many benches in the shopping mall and sat down for a minute or so. Skye sighed. "Phew, I dunno about you two, but I think I'd best get some sleep soon." "Yeah," Selphie muttered, suddenly reminded of her fatigue again. "Let's head back to the Palace." Quistis just casually looked over her shoulder to see what other shops were located at the mall as she noticed a man staring back at her. He sat too far away to be able to clearly identify him, but Quistis did notice his weird collar. The man ran off the moment he found out he was discovered. He had a silly way of running, yet he was quite fast. Quistis shrugged. "Who was that man?" Selphie and Skye turned around. "What man?" -"A man was staring at us just now," Quistis told them, still scanning around. "He ran away when I noticed him." Selphie peered around. A few people were walking around in the mall, but because it was still early, there weren't that many. Plus with the war and all going on, shopping wasn't the first thing on people's minds. Quistis shrugged. "That man…I think I've seen him before." "What did he look like?" Skye asked. She crossed her arms. "Well, he had a strange collar around his neck. And he wasn't exactly tall…ran real fast…" Selphie's face lit up. "I know! That's Doctor Odine! Definitely!" "Yeah," Skye agreed with her. "I went to see him about an hour ago, and that is what he looked like." The question then was; why was he observing them? Quistis realized it could have something to do with Skye, but if so, what exactly? Had he followed her all the way from the Presidential Palace for some reason? Skye looked down. It's me…he's after me. But why? -"Are you okay?" Selphie asked with a voice of concern. She looked up at her. "Oh…yes. I'm fine. Just thinking." Quistis didn't see what else they could do about it right now, and headed for the President Palace. Too bad most hovering thingamajigs were out of order; they had to walk. Selphie and Skye followed Quistis closely behind.   <<------------------------------------------>>   Headmaster Cid sifted through the various reports scattered on his desk. Most were full of bad news. Casualty lists…damaged systems reports; it was enough to depress even the most cheery of people. And still no word from Commander Gantt. He was starting to get worried about the Commander. His mission shouldn't have taken that long, what could be keeping them? Could the Galbadians have attacked them? But then, he knew Kenan was a capable young man. A bit troubled at times, but certainly a strong person. For now Cid just had to wait a bit longer to hear from him. There was nothing else he could do. "Sir." Xu called and saluted. "We have arrived at the coordinates and are preparing to set the Garden down." The headmaster smiled. Finally, some good news. "That's good to hear. But what about the system failure?" Xu's face immediately grew worried. "The drain has stabilized Sir, but we've been unable to find the cause of it."  Cid climbed out of his chair. "Make sure we do. Such a malfunction could be fatal in combat." "Aye Sir!" She replied and saluted. The headmaster stepped on the small elevator and went up to the Garden controls. Nida was very busy trying to keep the Garden steady in the harsh weather conditions they seemed to be in. "Is everything under control Nida?" The Headmaster asked as he stepped up next to him. He let out a sigh. "No Sir…I've lost radar and have to do everything manually now." Cid smiled reassuringly. "I expected this. And I'm sure you can handle it." Nida pushed the rudder forward. "I hope so Sir…" The Garden shook heavily, yet only for a few seconds. So Nida carefully started the descent. It wasn't like they were high up in the sky in the first place, but one still had to descent slowly or else the Garden could suffer heavy damage. "Steady as she goes." He mumbled to himself, hoping he wouldn't crash on top of the two airplanes that had landed on the ground, waiting for Balamb Garden to arrive no doubt. As the Headmaster peered down, a large number of Esthar soldiers came into view. They were standing in the inspection formation, with their squad leaders in front.  "I see our friends made it." Headmaster Cid said as he waved at them with one arm. Nida stopped the descent as the ground came too close for his liking. He couldn't set Balamb Garden all the way down, since that would mean the lower part of the Garden would have to penetrate solid rock first. That probably wouldn't be a pretty sight to see. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Phew, we made it Sir." The headmaster laughed. "I never doubted we would. Excellent flying Nida." -"Thank you Sir."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Irvine rolled down the green hill and landed on his back right next to Selphie. "Whoa, that was new." He laughed, but made no attempt to get up. Selphie smiled, as she lay perfectly still in the grassy field, staring up at the passing clouds. "Didn't you ever roll down hills as a kid Irvy? Boy…can't believe you missed out on that." He supported his head with his hands. "Well, I was never one to goof around all the time." -"And you're saying I am?" Selphie asked, feigning hurt. Irvine tossed his hat on her face, as if offering it to make amends. "Nope that's not what I meant, beautiful." She held the hat up in front of her. "For me?" "Sure, it's all yours." Irvine assured her, running his hand through his hair. He suddenly felt bald without his lucky hat. Her eyes went all puppy-dog like. "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!" -"C'mon, it's no biggie." Irvine replied in his usual laid-back tone of voice. "Though, you should take good care of it." Selphie crawled up to a sitting position. "You know? I think you deserve something very special now." Grinning, Irvine crawled up too. "And what did you have in mind, dear?" -"Get up!" He raised an eyebrow. "Uh…what?" -"Irvine! Get up! It's my turn for some shut-eye." His eyelids slowly opened. "K-Kenan?" Everything was still a big blur, but he could make out a shadow hanging over him. -"Heh heh, yeah it's me. Where you expecting anyone else?" That was a dream? Aww and such a nice one. Irvine thought as he slowly figured out what the hell was going on. Kenan yanked the pillow out from under his head. "C'mon, get up! Your turn to stand watch." He was pulled up without further yelling, and before he knew it Kenan had taken over his bed. "Wake me up in about four hours, kay?" Irvine rubbed his eyes. "Uh…y-eah. Sure thing." He stood dazzled at one side of his…former…bed. For a few moments he was too sleepy to even move a muscle, but this feeling soon faded and he moved towards the center of the room. Zell and Squall were sleeping, Kenan would soon be. And Irvine had to stand watch…yippee… Sighing, he leaned against the wall opposite to Squall's bed and looked at the guy. "Funny, he doesn't look like a bad person." He said to himself.   <<------------------------------------------>>   Finally after four boring long hours of doing totally nothing, Irvine woke them all up. "Rise and shine folks." He laughed. "It's almost time to get some grub." Kenan lifted his head up from the pillow. "Wha? Already?" -"Yup." Squall threw his feet over the edge of the bed and peered through the window. He could tell by the sun's position it was indeed some time in the evening. Or at least in the late afternoon. Moaning, Zell too had to face reality and climb out of his warm crib. "Hey, hey," Irvine exclaimed. "At least you didn't have to stand watch Zell." He looked over his shoulder to see if Squall was still there, then back at Irvine. "Yeah…but still…I could have slept for weeks…" Kenan was the first to get up and ready to go. His stomach growled like some dangerous monster as he approached Irvine, whom stood waiting for everyone at the doors. "Hehe, you're starvin' huh?" Irvine asked. He gave him an annoyed look. "Well…apparently so." Squall stood up and joined with the two guys. He didn't say a word. He didn't have anything to say. As Kenan unlocked the doors, the sweet smell of actual food entered the room. The kitchen was right down the hall. "Hey, do I have great timing or what?" Irvine rhetorically asked. Zell stretched, then punched the air a few times. "Yeah! Food!" The four guys walked into the hallway and almost bumped into Kiros. "Ah," He called happily. "I was just going to wake you for supper. No need, I see." Irvine patted himself on his stomach. "Hehe, we couldn't wait I guess." "Yeah," Zell agreed. "We haven't had a decent meal in a while." Kiros nodded. "Well then, I'll lead you to the dining room." Zell assumed his famous victory pose. Kenan just shook his head and sighed, following Mr. Kiros down the hall. "Hey guys, wait for me!" He felt a sudden pat on his back and practically jumped up through the ceiling. The girls giggled. "Calm down Zell, it's only us." Quistis told him. -"Y-yeah…of course…" He muttered, scratching the back of his head. "J-just don't sneak up on me like that again." Selphie jumped up. "Hey, they're gonna start without us!" Before anyone could assure her that wasn't the case, she bolted off. Quistis sighed and walked after her…at her own pace. Zell tapped against the floor with his shoes. Hmmm…someone's missing?… "Hi ya Zell." Skye chirped as she stepped into his view. "You coming too?" He looked shocked. "Y-y-y-eah. Of c-course ma'am!" That blue dress she was wearing…wow. A big change from the student uniform she was wearing earlier, for sure! Skye tilted her head in surprise. "Ma'am? No no, my name's Skye. S-k-y-e." Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Zell panicked inwardly. She's………hot! Whoa! She waved her hands in fronts of his face. "Hellooo? Anyone home?" He frantically shook his head. "Oh. S-s-sorry, I wa-was just l-lookin' at your c-c-clothes." "My c-c-clothes?" Skye grinned, but then her face displayed pity. "…Oh, sorry. It's not nice to mock people." -"Yo Dincht!" Kenan called from across the hall. "Get a move on will ya?" Zell let his body sag. "Dang Kenan…always bossing me around…" A smile threatened to show on Skye's face, but she just barely managed to hold it back. That Zell was even funnier when moody, she noticed. Aww…kinda cute… She looked straight at him momentarily. That weird mark on the side of his face looked pretty cool, she wondered where he got it. "Well, you heard the man." Skye said and headed for the dinning room. "Let's eat!"


They both gasped as they entered the dinning room. The place was absolutely gorgeous. The walls were made of marble; one could see their own reflection in it perfectly. A huge chandler hung above the long dinning table and provided most light in the room, as there was only one circular window. Laguna rubbed his hands together. "Ah, everyone is here now? Please, grab a seat and enjoy the meal!" He sat on the head of the table together with Commander Gantt. On the left long side sat Selphie, Irvine and Quistis; at the other end of the table Ellone, Kiros and Ward; and finally Squall on the right side who was now joined by Skye and Zell. Naturally, every guy in the room was eyeing Skye's new blue dress. Stunning. Kenan thought to himself. Where'd she get that? She sat down, smiling widely, and examined what was on the table. Everyone had their own set of knifes, forks, and even different plates for the various kind of meals. A large plate of roasted meat lay in the middle of several smaller plates with vegetables, just waiting to be consumed in full. Zell eyed it, making sure he would get a piece and that neither Kenan nor Irvine would steal it all. They politely waited for Laguna to start with the meal. He noticed everyone looking at him and raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah, that's right!" He said, remembering the formalities he'd been taught. "A toast!" He grabbed his glass of wine and stood up. The others did the same. Laguna shrugged. Uh-oh…I forgot my line… "A toast," Kiros started, coming to his friend's aid. "To a better cooperation between Esthar and Balamb Garden. That we may work together as one, and soon end this terrible war." Kenan smirked. "I'll drink to that." They laughed and carefully tapped with their glasses, as people always do when toasting, then all sat down and began filling their plates with whatever lay in their reach. The plate of fried potatoes was the first to be emptied, but luckily one of the kitchen crew stood close by and fetched another plate full of the stuff. Kiros' eyes widened as he saw Zell reaching for the roasted beef like someone who hadn't eaten in years. "There is enough for everyone." He assured, but Zell didn't seem to hear it. Kenan poured himself another glass of wine. His first one of the evening already having disappeared 'down the hatch'. "Easy on the wine Kenan." Quistis giggled. He threw her a surprised look. "Hey, do I look like a guy who would drink too much?" Irvine raised his index finger, indicating he was about to make a good point. "Actually, I think--uhmpf!" Kenan stuffed a piece of bread in his mouth. "Heh, eat my friend, don't talk. Eat." Laguna laughed as he poured some soup on his plate before beginning with the real meal. "That's one way to shut someone up. Gotta remember that when Kiros starts yapping next time." Kiros grinned. "Actually, Laguna, you do most of that…" "And swallow!" Selphie exclaimed looking at big-cheeked Zell across the table. "Swallow the food Zell!" Zell slammed with his fist on the table as he managed to get a huge piece of that roasted meat down his throat, hardly having to chew it at all. Afterwards he considered himself luckily it didn't get stuck halfway to his stomach. Squall had taken a smaller portion of the same meat. "What exactly is this?" He wondered. After slurping down another spoon-full of mighty hot soup, Laguna looked up. "That?…Oh…that's chocobo meat." "Wha?!" Zell coughed heavily. "Chocobo meat?! I ate Chocobo meat!?!" Skye could tell by Laguna's face that he was only kidding so she happily continued consuming everything on her plate. -"No," Kiros laughed. "Laguna's joking. Actually I think it's…uh…quite delicious for meat of unknown origin." Zell drank his glass of wine empty. "Ah…never mind. As long as it's not Chocobo meat, I guess it's okay." They laughed and all starting conversing in little groups, as happened in the guest room that morning. Squall frowned. "Laguna, can I ask you a question?" "Sure," He replied cheery. "Shoot." -"Yo, can someone pass me the peas?" Zell called. "Well," Squall started, and thought about where Kenan had left off when they talked earlier. "It's about the battle with the Lunatic Pandora that took place here." Laguna put his spoon down and his face turned serious. "Go ahead, what do you want to ask?" -"Hellooo? Peas please." Zell grumbled impatiently. He knew Irvine wasn't listening to him… he was too busy feeding his girlfriend. Bah, who needs a girlfriend? Only costs you money, and food even! Squall briefly glared at the other people around the table. Nobody other than Kenan and Laguna paid attention to him. "Can you tell my why it attacked Esthar in the first place?" Squall asked. Laguna nodded slightly. "Probably to get Ellone. But maybe Sorceress Adel wanted revenge too." Zell waved with his arms in the air. "Is anyone listening?!" Skye chuckled and gave him a gentle nudge in his side. "The peas are right under your nose Zell." She whispered. "You really are goofy…just like Selphie said…" Suddenly strange quiet, Zell continued with his meal. Squall took a sip from his wine. "I see. And I was wondering, do you know why they retreated so suddenly?" -"Kiros?" He called across the table. "Do we know why the Lunatic Pandora retreated?" Kiros apologized to Ellone and Quistis for having to interrupt their conversation and thought deeply. "Lunatic Pandora's retreat…hmm? Isn't it because our squad managed to infiltrate it?" "But from what I heard, they were winning." Squall stated. "So why would they retreat when only a small squad gets inside? It doesn't make any sense. Their whole strategy puzzles me." Kiros smiled. "If only things were as you said Mr. Leonhart. That was indeed a better world you talked about." Is he saying I'm from another world? Squall wondered, yet didn't ask. "Yeah? Well your whole story puzzles me Leonhart." Kenan told him as he filled up his plate once more. He was eating like a savage, as were Ward and Zell, so it was okay. Quistis turned to Kenan. "Are you sure it's the right time for this Commander?" He quickly devoured a small chunk of bread then laughed. "Oh, I believe everyone already knows how I feel about it." -"Yes." Squall confirmed. "And I can understand that, but I'm not your enemy. I've been asking all those questions so I knew what went on here, and maybe to come up with a plan to defeat Ultimecia." The mood at the table suddenly changed, and they all quieted down, except for Zell who was making disgusting sounds trying to eat as many as he could in one minute. Or so it appeared. Now seemed the time for discussing the important stuff, rather than engage in small talk. "A plan…" Irvine mumbled, and stopped feeding Selphie tiny grapes. "Yeah, we definitely gotta figure something out." -"Agreed." Kiros said from his end of the table. "Unfortunately we haven't been able to contact Balamb Garden, and we would need to discuss this with the Headmaster." The SeeDs looked worried. Selphie lay down her knife and fork and stared down at her nearly empty plate."…You still haven't contacted Balamb Garden? This can't be a good sign…" "We did contact Balamb Garden," Laguna said. "But not through direct communication, which is what Kiros meant." -"Then how?" Squall and Kenan asked simultaneously. Ward and Kiros exchanged looks. Both Kenan and Squall were definitely leader-types. Kiros and Ward had enough experience with those types of people to be able to tell. Always questioning stuff, one of the trademarks of good leaders. "Two Squads were sent to Balamb Garden and delivered a message." Laguna explained. "By now Balamb Garden should long be in Zone Two on the Centra Continent. It's even harder to get a message through from that position, as I'm sure Commander Gantt is well aware." Zone Two? Squall thought to himself, wondering where he had heard about that before. Quistis shrugged. "Is that a safe place? I've never heard of it." "It should be." Kiros told her. "But just in case it isn't, the two squads that we sent have joined forces with Balamb Garden, strengthening its defenses." Zell leaned against the table with his elbows. "So now the plan is to hide from the enemy or somethin'?" -"Dincht." Kenan called. "Don't be rude." "Only for now." Kiros assured Zell. "Although we've yet to come up with a plan of attack." -"First we need to actually locate the Lunatic Pandora." Laguna sighed. Ellone closed her eyes, and tried her very best to sense the evil Sorceress, but she couldn't. "I'm sorry," She apologized to everyone. "I can't sense Ultimecia or Adel." Squall looked aside at Skye. "Can you sense anything?" He whispered. She was surprised he asked her this, when a while ago she didn't know she could have any power in the first place. "No, I don't think so." She replied. "I can only sense concern…I think…" Selphie smiled sadly. "I hope Balamb Garden won't suffer the same fate as Trabia Garden." Kenan dug into his mind. "If I recall correctly, Headmaster Cid told me that Zone Two is an excellent place to go to if you don't want to be seen. Apart from the fact that it's remote, there's also a lot of strange interference in that area, which blocks most scans. This makes Balamb Garden nearly invisible to the enemy's radar." Laguna grinned. "I think that was supposed to be classified." Making an odd hand gesture, Ward assured it didn't matter. Selphie smiled. "Okay, as long as everyone is safe." "Uh…speaking of safe…" Laguna muttered, scratching the back of his head. He eyed Kiros. "I want you and Ellone to travel back to Balamb Garden together with these guys." "But Uncle," Ellone said, smiling sadly. "Why can't you come too? It's not safe to be here." -"I know. But I can't leave my post now." Laguna pointed out. "I'm the President remember? Besides, the war will be over in no time. You can come back to Esthar as soon as the fighting stops, what do ya say?" She reluctantly nodded. "If you think it's best." Quistis shrugged. "Exactly how will we travel back to Balamb Garden? We'll need to cross an ocean…" Laguna laughed and casually sunk bunk in his chair. "Let's just say, I hope you all went easy on the fish." Zell gulped. "Oh no! By boat?!" Irvine leaned back in his chair too. "Aww, I was kinda hoping we could fly." "People can't fly dummy." Selphie chirped. He raised an eyebrow. "That's not exactly what I meant." Selphie was about to speak up again as a loud alarm sounded. It echoed throughout the entire Palace. Laguna, Kiros and Ward immediately jumped up. "No time for desserts!" Laguna yelled. "The Galbadians are here!"
Tactical Retreat by Goku Girl
They ran into the hallway. Esthar soldiers rushed by, panicking it seemed. It was all very hectic. "Come on!" Laguna called out, with the alarms sounding again in the background. "We'll go to the Command Center." He ran off ahead together with Kiros. Ward accompanied Ellone, as Laguna would only feel comfortable if one of his buddies guarded her. Kenan reached for his handgun and glanced over his shoulder at 'his' team. "Okay," He said. "This could be it…the big battle. Be careful." Irvine, Zell, Selphie and Quistis all nodded. Suddenly there was an explosion. The sound was a bit muffled, but it was definitely a big blast. So that was it…first blood had been shed. Somewhere not far from the Palace something had exploded somehow, no doubt causing casualties on Esthar's side. The whole Palace shook from the aftershock of the explosion. Skye ran close along the walls. If another explosion occurred, she could grab hold of the wall. "What the heck is goin' on?!" Zell exclaimed, panting. -"The Lunatic Pandora?" Irvine wondered. Squall held his gunblade tight with two hands. "That can't be, how could it sneak up on Esthar?" Laguna stopped up ahead to allow everyone to catch up. "C'mon. The Command Center is this way. It should be able to withstand an attack even from the Lunatic Pandora." The sound of another explosion echoed. This one was further away than the last, but not any less powerful. "Dammit!" Kenan cursed. "What is that?!" -"A missile?" Squall questioningly answered. "I don't hear return fire. Is the Lunatic Pandora carrying missiles now?!" Selphie shook her head. "Oh no! Esthar is virtually defenseless against a missile attack!" Laguna waited for the last aftershock to die down, then led the group to the Command Center. The doors slid open. He noticed Kiros stood but a few paces inside the room with his head hanging down. Laguna gasped. "W-what?! …No! Unbelievable!" "What's wrong?" Kenan asked, he stepped up and gestured they rest to stay back. He was stunned by what he saw. There were bodies lying everywhere, soaked in blood. -"…A massacre…" Kiros whispered without looking back at anyone. Nobody had been left alive in the Command Center. Men, women…young soldiers or officers, it didn't matter who they were, they had all been brutally killed. "Uncle?" Ellone called from behind him. She couldn't see inside the room as Kenan and Laguna blocked most of the view by standing in the doorway. The rest of the group in the hallway couldn't see inside either. "What's going on?!" Zell demanded to know. -"Commander, don't let anyone in." Laguna whispered and stepped further into the room. At the same time Kenan backed up and allowed the door to close. He looked at them all, yet cleverly avoided eye contact. They would be able to tell what was going on just by looking into his eyes, he was sure of it.


Kiros and Laguna stood side by side in the Command Center, appalled by the sight of so many people lying lifeless in a puddle of their own blood. Even though they'd both seen much death before -during their time in the Galbadian army-, what they saw around them turned their stomach. It wasn't until now Laguna noticed the air in the room was different; thinker somehow. As if there hung a mist, yet an invisible one, as neither him nor Kiros could see anything wrong with the air. "…They never saw it coming…" Kiros pointed out. "There must be at least thirty people that lost their lives here…" He was looking at an officer whom had been killed, still sitting in his chair at his post. Laguna now looked at the other bodies. They all looked like they'd been attacked from behind. A sudden, swift and most off all, deadly attack. One soldier had left a trail of blood on the floor, from his guard post beside the entrance on the opposite side of the room, leading to a control panel. His hand was still on one of the buttons of the panel. It was the alarm button. With his last ounce of strength he tried to warn everyone. He had died not long after that. It looked like someone…or something…had cut him in the back. Kiros bent over to examine another victim. Also cut in the back. Their first conclusion was correct, indeed it was a lightning fast surprise attack. No ordinary human or even group of humans could ever kill so quickly and efficiently. Apart from the one soldier that managed to sound the alarm, everyone had been killed instantaneously. Before anyone could put up a fight…or cry for help. Kiros stood up again. "Whatever did this is in the Palace. We have to get out of here." "And leave everyone in Esthar to be murdered like these men?!" Laguna yelled. His respiration was rapid. He had to catch his breath for a moment. Seemingly calm, Kiros picked up a machine gun and threw it to Laguna. "If you get caught or killed, Esthar is surely lost. Take the gun and let's go." -"But the Sorceress will--!" "No." Kiros replied. "I don't think the Sorceress will kill everyone in Esthar. She's just after you; this killing is just to get to you. And most people should be safe in the caverns for now. Only our soldiers have remained in the city." Laguna shook his head. "…We have already lost before the fight started…" Kiros started to make his way to the door. "As long as you are alive, our forces will surely continue to fight. For now we have to escape. Let's go to the Airport." -"So you're just going to abandon them like that? Run away from the fight?! Hand Esthar back to Adel?!" Kiros stopped. "There is no choice. Our troops will probably surrender if you are killed or caught. As long as there is the possibility…the hope, that you are alive and well, they will fight." Laguna slammed his fist against one of the panels. "Dammit Kiros, I swore to protect Esthar!" -"You can't always." Kiros offered and mindlessly stared at the lifeless body of a female officer lying close to him. Laguna couldn't look and turned his head away. "Okay! Say we run, where do we go?!" -"Balamb Garden." "I wonder what's keeping them." Zell mumbled, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. Quistis looked up. "Commander, what went on in there? Why can't we see?" His eyes narrowed as he stared back at her blankly. "We lost…that's what happened." Squall knew what he meant. He looked at the others. Skye knew it too. Perhaps she was able to sense it somehow. She was shocked. Quistis and Ward had guessed it by now as well. The rest still looked worried, when in fact they should consider themselves lucky to be blessed with such ignorance. It's better not to know certain things... Squall started down at the floor. One never gets used to being close to death. It can even change a person completely. Zell stood up straight. "Say, is it just me or has the attack stopped?" They all found it was strangely quiet all of the sudden. No explosions, no gunfire, no clash of metal, nothing. Ward glanced around nervously. This couldn't be right. They couldn't just stop attacking. The doors of the Command Center slid open. Kiros and Laguna joined up with the group in the hallway. Before anyone had the time to look inside, Laguna smashed his hand on the touch plate on the wall next to the entrance. The door shut. He pushed another few buttons and it locked up completely. Besides himself, Kiros and Ward, nobody would be able to enter. "Well?" Selphie asked curiously. "Can someone please tell me what's going on?" She noticed Laguna held a machine gun in his right hand. It reminded her of the dreams. He was even dressed in his battle outfit. "Did the Galbadians enter the Palace?" Kiros seemed to explain it all to Ward first with a few hand-gestures. He understood what it meant. Laguna took a deep breath and hoped he could keep himself together. "Yes Selphie. And the Sorceress too." -"What do you want us to do, Sir?" Quistis asked. He made sure his machine gun was loaded. "We're going to the Airport. We're gonna escape…" Kenan approached him. "What? Are you sure?" Laguna walked past, heading for the exit. "I don't like the plan either. But if we all die here, that won't do Esthar any good either. There is no choice." "Yes, there is no choice…" Kiros sighed. He wished there were something he could do, but what? The very heart of the Esthar military had been destroyed without any resistance what so ever. What could the nine of them possibly do? …Or ten perhaps, Kiros didn't know whether or not Skye could fight. Kenan jogged up to Laguna. "So we're gonna leave? But what about the people here?!" He was their President, he couldn't just abandon them, could he? "We are going." He replied self-assured. "And don't worry about the people. There are hiding places in the mountains, built for situations like this. Only the military will stay in Esthar and fight, the rest should be save for a while." -"A while?" Kenan asked. "Do you even realize what you're saying here?" Laguna gestured everyone to follow him and he made his way to the Airport. He never answered the question.   <<------------------------------------------>>   After running for about two minutes, the hallways came to an end. Strange thing was they didn't encounter any Esthar soldiers along the way. No Palace personnel either. They were now walking through some sort of big tube. The floor of which was made from glass. Zell looked down through it. The tube was suspended above the ground…quite high. Lucky for him his fear of heights didn't act up now. Kiros was first to reach the end of the tube. There was a rather large door, mostly made of glass, but lined with a sturdy metal in the shape of an 'X'. He simply pushed the open button, and the door began rising towards the ceiling. "Phew," Selphie said, relieved. "We made it." Irvine peered up ahead. There was only one more stretch to go; a purple road that connected the Presidential Palace to the Airport. The door rose slowly but made it to the ceiling before anyone really got impatient. Kiros stepped outside and first made sure they weren't walking into an ambush. But there were no Galbadian soldiers, and the Lunatic Pandora was nowhere in sight. He was relieved to see there were Esthar soldiers, however. They were running along a lower highway. Kiros couldn't tell whether they were running away from something, or towards a battle in which they were needed. It hit him that those soldiers were probably receiving orders from the secondary Command Center, which was located on the outskirts of the city. Esthar wasn't lost just yet. Those soldiers wouldn't stop fighting until the battle had been won. "Mr. Kiros?" Selphie called. "I don't see any Airplane." Laguna bolted past. "Don't worry, it's there." He sure is in a hurry to leave. Kenan thought. What a coward… Squall was walking at the rear of the group together with Skye. She felt safe around that guy. He'd proven himself a great fighter…for sure… "C'mon guys." Zell said as he glanced back at those two. "Let's get the hell outta here." They hadn't reached the end of the tube yet, but were nearly there. Suddenly a control panel next to the exit short-circuited. There was a bolt of electricity, followed by a puff of smoke. Skye kept walking. "They're going to leave without us if we fall behind like this." …''Leonhart''…. Squall stopped. "Did you hear that?" Ward waved with his arms from up ahead. Skye waved back. "Yes, we're coming! Right Squall?" …''Just you and me Leonhart…'' Squall cursed under his breath. Seifer is here. He could recognize the voice amongst a thousand others. With a last few steps Skye made it outside. The smell of fire hung in the air. She noticed there was a reasonable distance between her and Kiros, given the fact she couldn't keep up with all the running just now. Kenan turned around and noticed Squall still hadn't left the Palace yet. "Dincht! Go check on Leonhart! What the hell is that guy thinking?" Squall raised his shoulder. Perhaps he'd imagined it all. There was nobody behind him. He was about to join up with Skye as the door came crashing down. He had to jump back or he'd be squished like a pancake. "Squall?!" Skye yelled from outside. "Squall!!" She smashed against the door with her hands. -"Leonhart. So we meet again." Squall turned. Seifer slowly walked towards him, holding a red gunblade. "Seifer!" He smirked. "That's right. I've come to get my gunblade back." Squall briefly examined his gunblade. "The blade is crooked, just like you." Seifer stared back at him. "Oh, aren't you the smartass? He laughed. "Well, no matter. You'll be dead in about a minute anyway." Squall stood with his back against the closed door and the tip of his blade pointed at Seifer. "We'll end this here!" Seifer looked back over his shoulder at his two lackeys. "What is he talking about? End what?" -"UNKNOWN." He turned back to Leonhart. "All right. Let's end this."


Laguna and Kiros ran back. "The door!" Skye told them. "It closed all of a sudden!" Zell and Selphie were working on the outside panel. No luck…it wouldn't respond to anything. Kenan and the others waited up ahead, not really sure what all the commotion was about. "We'll have to force it open." Laguna stated. Kiros nodded. "Yes, but that could take a while. Do we have the time?" Laguna smashed at the glass with his fist. "Ow! You're right!" He affirmed, seeing nothing happen to the glass. "Just go then! Start up the plane, I'll take care of things here. And no complaints, that's an order Kiros." -"Yes Sir!" He replied. Laguna watched him heading for the Airport then turned to Selphie and Zell. They were gasping about something. "They're fighting!" Zell exclaimed, witnessing Squall and Seifer attacking each other on the other side of the door. Selphie banged against the panel once more. "C'mon! Open up stupid door!" As Kenan ran all the way back to check on the situation, the tip of a gunblade hit the glass of the door on the inside, just in front of Kenan's nose. "Whoa damn!" He cursed. "Dincht! Work on that panel, open the damn door!" Zell jumped aside and started messing with the circuitry. He pretty much already learned it wasn't going to work, but who was he to question Kenan's orders? "Squall!" Skye yelled again and looked at Laguna. "He's outnumbered three to one! He can't win!" -"What?! Who is he fighting?!" Kenan demanded to know. "Seifer is there with his two friends," Selphie replied after taking another peek. "But it doesn't look like Raijin and Fujin are fighting, only Squall and Seifer."


Seifer stopped attacking momentarily to catch his breath. "Not bad Leonhart, not bad at all." -"Do you know who I am?!" Squall demanded to know, holding his gunblade like he could strike at any moment. -"Answer me!" He smirked, unimpressed. "You'll have to do better than that to scare me Leonhart." And before Squall knew it, he ran straight at him for another attack. Squall held out his gunblade to shield Seifer's. "You're predictable Seifer!" Squall yelled as the two blades clashed. He put more pressure on his blade and forced Seifer to take a few steps back. -"What the hell are you talking about?!" Seifer yelled furiously. Damn, that guy was good! Squall defended against another slash from Seifer. "I mean, you're moves are all the same as before. It's all a predictable routine." Seifer was enraged and fired a shot of Firaga. The shot was blocked by Squall's gunblade, but threw him with his back against the door. "And did you see that one coming?!" Seifer yelled. Squall laughed. "You really don't know. You're repeating your every move…but this time you won't walk away with just a scar! You won't walk away at all!" -"SEIFER!" Fujin called nervously. Leonhart gave her the creeps. "Remember what the Sorceress said, ya know?!" Raijin reminded him from his safe distance away. Seifer smirked and eyed Squall. "It seems you're quite a pest. Even Ultimecia agrees to that." Squall shook his head. "I don't care! Your tyranny ends here Seifer!" He held up his free head a few inches from his forehead and concentrated. "SEIFER!" Fujin called again. "DANGER!" -"What are you doing?!" Seifer demanded to know as the guy's hand started to glow. SHIT! He's charging up! He suddenly realized. Without another thought running through him, Seifer charged at Squall. …It was too late…. Before his gunblade got in range of Leonhart, he was attacked with magic. A sphere filled with green air swirled around Seifer, causing severe agony. He was knocked down. Lucky for him the green dissipated after only a few seconds…yet the damage was done. Seifer tried getting up but Squall had already reached him. "Here's your scar back!" He shouted as he slashed across Seifer's forehead with his blade. Right between the eyes. Blood oozed down Seifer's face, he cringed but didn't cry out. Squall put his foot down hard on Seifer's stomach. "You're far weaker than you should be Seifer. Even for you." Seifer let his head fall back against the floor and closed his eyes. He waited to be killed. "Leonhart!" Squall looked up. A tall figure appeared in between Raijin and Fujin. It was Sorceress Adel.


"Dincht!" Kenan yelled again. "Can you open the damn door already?!" -"Allow me." Laguna said as he gently pushed the Commander aside. He held up his machine gun and fired his clip empty at the glass. Luckily he had already sent off Skye towards the Airport, or she might have stood in the way. Kenan sighed. The bullets had hardly even scratched the surface of the glass, let alone passed through it. Zell could have told Laguna that would never work. The door was a sturdy piece of work. It could quite probably even take a direct hit from a bazooka and still not crack. "Oh-kay…time for plan B." Laguna said. "Uh, does anyone have a plan B?" Selphie's eyes widened. "Get out of the way, NOW!" Instinctively, Kenan, Zell and Laguna ducked away from the door. Selphie pushed her body against the wall next to door and had to close her eyes as a bright light came from inside. Laguna lay on the ground with his hands covering his head, yet looked up to see what he was ducking for. A beam from inside the Palace rushed towards him and blew the door open with an immensely powerful blast. The yellow and orange colored beam surged past, just a few inches above his head. He could feel the intense heat. Debris landed all around Laguna. Some pieces were still burning hot and nearly melted through the road. His ears were ringing from the explosion. Kenan had already gotten on his feet again and helped him up. He yelled something but it wasn't audible for Laguna. He looked up. Smoke came from the doorway. Surely some of it lifted, revealing that the door had been almost completely destroyed. The edges on the small parts that didn't fly away were practically liquid. Squall jumped through the doorway with his gunblade sheathed. He had a scorch-mark on his jacket…the beam must have missed him by only a few inches… "It's Adel!" He yelled at Kenan. "I don't know if we can take her on!" -"Just run!" Kenan yelled back and fired through the remaining smoke with his handgun, hoping he hit the Sorceress. Selphie helped Zell get up from under a chunk of debris and together with Laguna and Squall they ran the stretch towards the Airport…without looking back. They reached it and saw a huge Airship ascend on an even larger platform. Squall recognized it as a perfect copy of the Ragnarok, only this one was colored dark-blue. "Over here!" Irvine shouted from the rear of the plane as the platform reached a stop. The aft cargo entrance of the Airship was opened and Irvine stood waiting inside. "Go!" Laguna told them. "I'll wait for the Commander! No buts! Run!" Selphie, Squall and Zell quickly climbed aboard. Irvine was relieved at least they made it aboard, but not everyone had just yet. Laguna grabbed a new ammo-clip from his vest pocket and loaded his machine gun. He breathed in and out deeply. Come on Commander…you can make it! As he heard more gunfire he aimed his machine gun at the Airport entrance. Through the crosshair at the end of the gun's barrel he saw two figures running towards the Airship. One was further ahead than the other, but was being gained on. Laguna gulped. The smoke prevented clear sight, he couldn't tell which one was Adel and which one the Commander. Thunder struck down at the figure closest to Laguna, and missed just barely. It illuminated the area enough for him to distinguish the two. Kenan was running for his life, randomly firing with his gun behind him. Sorceress Adel floated above the ground but was faster than him, she would catch up before he reached the Airship. With total disregard to his own life, Laguna ran towards the approaching Sorceress. She stopped firing spells at the Commander as she caught eye of him. "La-gu-na!!" Adel cried out, her voice filled with hatred. He grinned and fired with his machine gun. A barrage of bullets was shot from the barrel, aimed directly at Sorceress Adel's body. Empty shells fell on the ground next to Laguna. "Fools!!" Adel laughed and held up one hand as far in front of her as she could. Her laughter overpowered even the sound of the blazing gun. The bullets were stopped by an invisible forcefield just a few inches before hitting her hand and fell down. "It's no use!" Kenan yelled and threw his handgun away. He had stopped behind Laguna, in between him and the Airship. Laguna stared Adel in the eyes, his face not giving away any emotions. He threw his machine gun down too. "Sir!" Kenan called out. "It's no use!" Sorceress Adel set down on the ground. She slowly walked closer to Laguna, enjoying the moment to its fullest. He still didn't make a move. She had to be closer. There was more yelling in the background. Laguna didn't listen to it. The Sorceress smiled, showing her sharp fangs. "I will take back from you that which is rightfully mine!" "No chance in hell!" Laguna laughed and threw a grenade in front of the Sorceress. She looked down at the puny object showing a strange interest. "You want to kill me with that?!" -"Nope." Laguna replied and threw himself down on the ground. The Airship behind him banked left and it's main cannon lined up perfectly with Adel. He covered his ears, and looked up at Adel. "See ya!" Not a second later, the cannon was fired and its beam sent Adel tumbling back Kenan rushed to Laguna's side. "That isn't gonna stop her for long, let's move!" The Airship turned around. Its nose was pointed the other way. A roaring sound emanated from the four engines above. Two to left of him, two to the right. Both Laguna and Kenan crossed the last distance needed to get aboard swiftly and Irvine signed the clear-for-take-off as soon as they climbed in the cargo bay. An automated flight-system shut the aft doors and the engine were now set to full thrust. Laguna lay panting on the cargo bay floor but could feel the exact moment the Airship lifted off from the ground. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach. "WHOO-HOO!" Selphie exclaimed, jumping up and down. "We really made it!!"       Raijin and Fujin stood defeated just outside the Palace and watched the Airship soar away. "ESCAPE!" Fujin suggested their next course of action. She was almost scared to death. -"Yeah…" Raijin muttered, stopping his crying momentarily. "…I'm…with ya…"   <<------------------------------------------>>   "Are you okay, Sir?" Irvine asked, helping Laguna get up from the floor. He hadn't realized what he had done up until now. Take on Adel head-on? What the hell was he thinking? Laguna coughed. "I'll be fine in a moment." He looked to his side. Commander Gantt just barely stood up straight, examining a bandage around his arm. "We made a great team." Laguna remarked. Kenan turned to the President with a smile, thinking he was happy about it too. Yet he was met by a blank expression on Laguna's face. Kenan let his smile fade. Now really wasn't the time to smile…he should have known. "How did you know Kiros was going to fire the cannon?" Selphie asked from a crate she was sitting on, a bit further down the cargo bay of the Airship. Laguna wiped the dirt of his face with two hands. "I think it's Kiros who knew I would duck, rather than me knowing he would fire, if you know what I mean." He glanced around. There were quite a few crates stacked in the large cargo bay. There were food supplies that could last them a few weeks, as well as various pieces of equipment. Perhaps weapons too. Only the Commander, Irvine and Selphie were in the cargo room with him. -"Is everyone aboard?" He asked, his face lined with concern. To his relief Selphie assured him they were all accounted for. "Kiros and Quistis are in the cockpit," She explained. "The others should be in the, uh, passenger room of some sort." -"Ah, I'll think I'll go up there if I can find the way." Kenan run his hand through his hair. "Yeah, it is a huge plane. What's its name by the way?" "The Einlanzer." Laguna replied as he made his way out of the cargo area. Selphie ran up to Irvine and gave him a hug. She didn't have to time to do that yet. "I'm so glad you're okay!"
Making annoying gagging sounds, Kenan exited the cargo bay too. Irvine held his head against Selphie's. "There was no need to worry about me. Squall, Kenan and Laguna were the ones in real trouble." "Heeey," Selphie pouted, as she backed up. "I had to run for my life too!" Irvine grinned. "I know dear. Actually I was worried sick. I would have never forgiven myself for leaving if something happened to you back there." She grinned too. "Aw, you're so gosh darn cute!" He raised an eyebrow. "Yeah? I knew that though, hehehe. You're quite cute yourself, you know?" Selphie's eyes turned puppy dog-like and she fluttered her eyelashes. "Why really?" Quistis cleared her throat, making her two mushy friends alert of her presence. "Oh, hi ya Quisty!" Selphie chirped. "Hee-hee, how long have you been standing there?" She smiled. "Never mind. Kiros needs you in the cockpit Selphie." Irvine scratched the back of his head. "Can I come too?" -"I don't see why not." Quistis replied, slightly laughing. "As long as you don't…distract…anyone." He laughed. "I'll just have to try to hold myself back then." Quistis led them out the cargo bay, into an equally big -yet empty- bay, then up a stairway. Irvine whistled, impressed by the size of the Airship. "It's…huge!" They were led through a large door, which could make even the biggest of men feel tiny. Why the heck did there need to be such a large door? Then again, there were lotsa big doors in Esthar as well, he guessed those people rea-eally hated bumping their heads when walking into a room and just made sure that couldn't happen. Well, that was one theory. Quistis stopped. Irvine smacked into her. He reached for his nose. "Ow..that sorta hurt.." Selphie giggled. "Dummy, you should watch where you're going." "Oh, that makes me feel a lot better." Irvine uttered, whimpering. "I broke my nose and you make fun of it." Quistis sighed. "Now pay attention, the passenger deck is over there." She pointed at a narrow hallway next to a platform she had stopped on. "This elevator leads up to the cockpit." She explained. "Let's go." Irvine and Selphie stepped on the elevator and they ascended towards the cockpit. They saw Kiros sitting in one of the two pilot chairs at the front of the cockpit. He had a big manual lying on his knees and was quickly searching through it. To Irvine's left and right were two other empty seats. One behind the weapons' console, the other behind the radar panel. "Mr. Kiros." Quistis spoke softly. She didn't want to startle the man. "Selphie's here." He glanced over his should and smiled. "Ah, please take a seat." Selphie walked to the other pilot seat and sat down. "Do you know how to fly?" Irvine wondered, still standing on the elevator with Quistis. She grabbed hold of the steering wheel. "Sure I do. It's real simple, I could teach anyone." With his mouth threatening to fall open from amazement, Irvine stepped a bit further down the cockpit. He was surrounded by glass from three sides, to his left, right, and above him. Clouds seemed to rush by, when in fact it was the Einlanzer rushing by the clouds. Quistis got seated behind the radar panel. "The Lunatic Pandora doesn't seem to be moving. It's still hovering somewhere in the north of Esthar. We're gaining distance from it fast." Not quite knowing what else he could possibly do, Irvine got seated behind the weapons console-panel-thingy. He didn't dare press any button on it. For all he knew he might just press the self-destruct switch…that would be bad. Not to mention stupid… Kiros looked aside. "Squall said you were able pilot the Ragnarok. The Einlanzer is practically the same, only it has thicker armor and faster engines. Can you handle it?" Selphie waved one hand up in the air and held the rudder with the other. "Whoooo! Yeah! Piece of cake!" "Just make sure you fasten your seatbelt!" Irvine called and quickly did that himself. "After all…safety first." -"Seems I've done my part." Kiros said, putting the 'how to fly'-manual back in the space under the control panel. "I think I'll go check up on everyone now, if that's okay with you Miss Tilmitt?" "Uh…actually I don't know where I'm headed right now…" Quistis chuckled. "The landing coordinates should be on your display screen Selphie." She blinked and titled her head down. Ah, there it was. "Oh…I see it now. Thanks." Kiros moved to the elevator. "I'll be right back." He said and went down. -"Yeah yeah," Selphie muttered, having the time of her life flying such a beautiful Airship. Too bad she couldn't try out some maneuvers. That would probably be an inappropriate thing to do given the current predicament. Irvine rested his head against the window and shrugged. "Say, what else don't I know about you Selphie?" She just giggled gleefully. Oh well. He thought to himself and pushed his face against the window. His nose sorta still hurt though. He looked down and was able to see the ocean. It rolled by. Occasionally he could even see parts of the Railway Bride through the clouds. Some parts of which he swore to recognize. But then, didn't it all look the same? "I see another aircraft coming from the south," Quistis calmly reported from her position by the radar panel. "Attempting to identify now." She let the onboard computer do the math. It didn't take long before a reading popped up on the display. "It's the Ragnarok III." She read on the display. "I think it's trying to contact us." -"Roger." Selphie chirped and pressed a button on the panel in front of her. "Einlanzer, this is the Ragnarok II." A man spoke. "Please report on status and crew." Selphie briefly glanced over her shoulder at Quistis. "What should I say?" -"Just tell them Esthar has been attacked." She told her. "And that we've escaped with the President." "Okay." Selphie said and pushed the reply button. "This is Selphie Tilmitt. We escaped from Esthar after the Lunatic Pandora attacked. I'm with a team of SeeDs from Balamb Garden. Also President Laguna Loire, Mr. Kiros, Mr. Ward and Ellone are on board." There was a brief silence. "Commander Gantt's team?" The man on the Ragnarok II asked. -"Yes." Selphie replied. "Roger. We'll escort you to Balamb Garden. There's some pretty rough turbulence in the landing area so be careful." -"Acknowledged." Irvine gulped and tightened his seatbelt even more. Perhaps a boat trip would have been better after all… "We should be there in about five minutes at our current speed." Quistis told Irvine, clearly noticing his anxiety. -"Can't be there any faster than that." Selphie added. "I LOVE flying!" Irvine crossed his arms. "People can't fly…dummy…"
Looking Back by Goku Girl
Kiros entered the passenger-deck. It was relatively quiet, considering Laguna was present and he usually could yap for hours on end. Usually…yet not this time. In fact only Squall and Commander Gantt were discussing something. Kiros couldn't hear what, as they were sitting at the front of the two rows of seats. It seemed important though; not a smile on either guy's face. Ward and Ellone were seated close to the entrance together with Laguna. Zell and Skye were sort of in between that group, and the two SeeDs discussing certain issues. "Is everyone all right?" Kiros asked since nobody had noticed him standing on the passenger deck entrance yet. Laguna glanced over his shoulder. "Yes, we're fine. Great cannon shot by the way." Ward gave Kiros a thumbs-up, in agreement with Laguna. He nodded and looked at Skye. "How about you?" She smiled reassuringly. "Oh, I'm fine too. A little shaken by all that…but fine." "No problem here." Zell affirmed, grinning. Kiros walked further on the passenger deck. He didn't really mean to eavesdrop, but wondered what the Commander could be talking to Squall about. Last time they talk, it wasn't exactly a friendly conversation... "How can you be sure?" Squall asked calmy, but with a surprised look. -"I've seen lifeless bodies before," Kenan remarked. "And Seifer was definitely dead." "Seifer's dead?" Kiros asked as he walked up. "Who killed him?" He asked it loudly enough for everyone on the passenger deck to hear. They all looked up. -"That's the second time I've heard he was dead…" Zell muttered. Kenan stood up in front of the rows of seats and faced everyone. "Listen, I saw Adel walking up to me, holding his body. She threw it next to her as she was about to kill me as well." "So how do you know Seifer wasn't just unconscious?" Zell wondered. -"It wasn't a pretty sight." Kenan replied. "He had a wound on his head somewhere, and on his back. I could see a large cut there when Adel threw him down. I'm telling you, he's dead." Zell crossed his arms and rested his head against the back of the seat. "Well, can't say I really care. He was a nuisance. I think it suits him just right…and gives us one less thing to worry about…" "The Sorceress's Knight? I think you have a point Zell." Laguna said. He had stood up and was now leaning against a seat next to Zell's. "Although the main problem still has to be taken care of." Squall still couldn't quite believe it. "Seifer was a lot weaker than I recall…but dead? Killed by Adel?" -"Or one of my bullets." Kenan offered, intensively searching for his handgun. It later on hit him that he'd thrown it away. Not the smartest thing to do, yet not of any real concern. Balamb Garden would have another gun just like it for sure. Zell shrugged. "Say Squall, what was that all about back there? What the heck happened?" He showed him his gunblade. "This used to belong to Seifer. I guess he badly wanted it back. We fought briefly. Then came along Sorceress Adel…" Skye listened to Squall's short story, paying much interest to it.. "What happened next? Did she say anything?" Squall nodded. "She said she wouldn't let me beat her this time, then she fired some kind of beam. I managed to escape. I only ran because I wasn't sure if I could take her on by myself." "That isn't all," Kenan said in a taunting tone of voice. "Is it, Leonhart?" Squall eyed Kenan. "What do you mean?" He smirked. "I think you know what I mean. It's a little convenient for you that the Sorceress happened to miss, now isn't it? We were standing a lot further away from her and barely escaped that beam ourselves. It makes you think…" Zell rolled his eyes. "Ah, do you have to keep being like that man? Why can't you trust the guy?" "It's true, I think you are being stubborn Commander." Laguna said with hands in his pockets. -"Yes, I am stubborn." He said, untouched by the fact that some people were starting to dislike him. Laguna would have tried to change Kenan's mind, if it wasn't for the fact that this seemed an impossible mission. Some people are just more stubborn than others, he had gathered. Briefly Squall considered beating the guy into believing his story. But then, that probably wouldn't be such a good idea. So how could he ever make Kenan believe his story? By now everyone had returned to their seats and sat silently staring out the window at the clouds racing by. "I'd best go back to the Bridge." Kiros said, primarily aimed at Laguna. He understood. Skye smiled. "See you later Mr. Kiros." He politely smiled back at her. "Count on it." A short while after he left, Squall got out of his seat. He had a great idea, but just needed to be sure if it would work. Knowing Kenan would be warily watching him, he approached Ellone. "I need your help with something." He said. She gave him a strange look. "What is it Squall?" -"Can you still send someone back into another person's past?" He asked cautiously, not yet revealing what he really wanted to ask. And for all he knew Ellone didn't have this special ability anymore in this mixed up world… Laguna's face lit up. He knew what Squall would suggest. Quite brilliantly thought of. "Yes," Ellone replied. "I think so. It has been a while since I last did that though." -"And can you send someone back into my past?" Squall asked thoughtfully. Kenan jumped up from his seat. "Hey…wait a minute…you're saying--?" Zell laughed. "Yeah! That's it! If you don't trust him, why don't you see if he's saying the truth for yourself Kenan?" "What are you guys talking about?" Skye wondered. Zell quickly explained it to her. She had already heard of Ellone's ability, yet didn't know she could do that to anyone. Well, to anyone she has met, that is. Squall turned to Kenan. "How about it? The past can't be a lie. So either you'll find out I have been lying all this time, or you'll see that I'm telling the truth." "Are you sure you can do it Elly?" Laguna asked, concerned for Ellone's well being. "If it's too hard or takes too much--" She chuckled. "Oh, stop worrying Uncle. I have done this before, it should work." Kenan stared wide-eyed at Ellone and held up his hands. "Hey whoa, I haven't agreed to anything yet." Zell stood up and gave him a pat on the back. "C'mon Kenan. If you do this, we can all trust Squall's telling the truth. Not just you. But hey, since you're the big shot around here, it's your mission." "Oow!" Kenan cringed and reached for his back. That Zell didn't know his own strength… -"How about it?" Laguna asked as he moved away from Ellone a bit so she had some more space to work with. He gritted his teeth. "Oh crap. What the heck. As long as someone keeps an eye on Leonhart." -"Don't worry, I will." Zell told him, knowing he'd do little more than occasionally see what the guy was doing. As long as he wasn't sabotaging the plane or killing people, everything would be fine. Ward got up and offered Kenan to take his seat, as it was right next to Ellone's, only in the other row. "Thanks." He said and plopped down. He strapped the seatbelt…you never knowit could be a bumpy ride… Skye sat backwards on her seat and watched the Commander. He felt very uneasy, even somewhat humiliated he'd have to endure another weird dream trip just to prove he was right. She frowned. It was so clear to her how Kenan felt. It was more than just seeing stuff…she could sense it??? Did I read his mind?! Skye panicked inwardly. How did I do that?! Squall thought for a second. "Ellone, you'll have to try to let him experience yesterday morning in me." -"Yesterday morning," She repeated. "Okay. I'll try Squall." Ellone faced Kenan. "Are you ready?" He took a deep breath. "This won't, uh…hurt, will it?" "No of course not," She grinned. "It's more like sleeping. You'll suddenly get very tired. Don't fight this feeling." He took one last look at Leonhart. "For your sake, I hope you were telling the truth." Squall couldn't care less about hollow threats coming from that guy. Of course, it didn't matter. He was telling the truth! "Here goes." Ellone spoke softly and closed her eyes. She concentrated, pictured Squall in her mind, then Kenan. Kenan's eyelids started sagging. He didn't really fight the tiredness, but didn't want to be defenseless either so he put a mild effort in trying to stay awake for a few more seconds. It didn't matter anyway, for in the blink of an eye, both him and Ellone appeared to be unconscious to the rest. Skye rested her head in her arms. "Aww, he's sleeping?" Zell laughed. "…He's a pretty cool guy when he isn't, you know, doing anything. Hehehe" After brushing a strand of hair from her eyes, Laguna kissed Ellone on her forehead. "Sweet dreams."   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   ?! Where the hell am I? "Hello?" "Hellooo? Is anyone there?" Heck, am I even talking out loud? I can't hear myself talk… "Ellone, can you hear me? It isn't working!" Squall. "Who said that?" …. "Squall." Skye called again, more forcefully this time. Ah, Sorceress Skye. So she's in league with Leonhart then? It took Squall a few seconds to realize where he was as he opened his eyes. He got up and swung his feet over the side of the bed. Still feeling sleepy, he gathered his stuff from under the bed. Whoa, I feel sleepy. Just like Leonhart…this is weird… Skye sat down next to him. "Sorry I had to wake you so soon, but I have a feeling we'd better go now." "Go where? Why? Will someone please tell me what the hell is happening?!" Squall put on his boots, and looked at Skye. "Are the Galbadians here?" Hmm…this room doesn't look familiar. "Dammit Leonhart, look up, I want to get a better view of the room!" She shook her head. "…Balamb Garden…" Ah ha! This must be… He noticed the room's door was wide open. Balamb Garden…here? Docked in FH? Bingo, FH. Putting on his jacket, Squall stood up. "Okay, we'd best hurry." Yeah…you hurry Leonhart. "Right." Skye agreed, moving to the doorway. She had already grabbed her backpack and seemed ready to go. -"Did you even sleep?" Squall asked, quickly grabbing his gunblade and backpack. This seems wrong. This is yesterday, but I think it's in the afternoon…maybe evening… She smiled. "Not really, but it's okay. Someone has gotta stand watch." Oh? Standing watch over Leonhart, eh? She has potential yet… Squall looked around the room, making sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Ah, thank you Leonhart! …Man…what a crappy room…what is this? A cheap hotel? As he walked to the hotel hall, Skye shut the room's door, handing the key to Squall. "The Garden arrived a few minutes ago." She explained. "I haven't seen anyone come out though." Definitely the wrong time for me to be inside Squall's head. Yet…strange, how he hardly has a thought running through his mind…or…can't I sense his thoughts? -"They're probably after us." Squall said as they walked down the hall. She looked thoughtful for a second, then shook her head. "No, after me." Aww. That reminds me…Headmaster Cid is going to have a scare when we come back with her… "Ellone?" "This is not far back enough, do you hear me Ellone? I have to go further back in the past."   <<------------------------------------------>>   They both awoke at about the same time. Zell immediately jumped up. "Did it work?" Kenan rubbed his eyes, then looked up at Zell hovering over him like flies would hover over a pile of crap. The smelly kind. "No, it wasn't far back enough." Laguna got down on his knees next to Ellone. "You okay?" -"Of course." She said. Although truth being she was a bit dazzled. Squall folded his arms over his chest. "You were in FH, weren't you?" Kenan raised an eyebrow. "And how did you know that?" -"I remembering feeling something odd." Laguna nodded. "Like fairies were watching over you…" "Something like that." -"Can I try again?" Ellone interrupted. "Even though it didn't work last time, I did narrow it down a bit." Kenan closed his eyes. "Go ahead." He didn't recall feeling sleepy with this attempt, as he thought back about it one time later.     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   "You frown a lot, don't ya?" A girl said laughingly. Sigh…I wonder where I am? That voice…her again?   It's dark in here…and damp…hmm…sorta smelly too… He turned to her. -"H-ey, w-what?" Skye asked uncomfortably. Skye again! So what does this mean? Nothing much…I suppose… "You're not a student here, right?" Squall asked, unable to recognize her. Nope! -"Nope. I was found washed ashore a few days ago. They gave me these old clothes." She answered, not sounding too happy anymore, her sadness being clearly visible. Go me… I'm guessing Skye's thoughts now? "Washed ashore?" Hey wait a sec! Headmaster Cid never told me this -"Yeah. The doctor believes I was involved in some sorta accident." The girl replied. She seems to be sure of herself. "And they locked you up?" -"No, not right away. It wasn't until I talked to the Headmaster." She said, looking down. …I have to talk to him when I get back to Balamb Garden… A sudden feeling of tiresome came over Squall. Even though it must have hardly been after noon, it felt as though an entire day had passed. He couldn't help but yawn. Is he sensing me now? "Hey Leonhart! Am I the one making you feel tired? Huh?" -"Oh, am I boring you?" She asked with a surprised tone of voice. "Yes." "No, I'm just tired." Squall answered. Guessed that one wrong, I suppose. The girl walked over to the prison door. She carefully knocked on it, the sound of it too faint to be heard on the other side of the door. Judging by the sound, it was quite a sturdy door. -"I don't know how," The girl said with a determined look. "But I'm getting out of here." That…is true. Her fire-like hair seemed to glow for just an instance. Or maybe it was just the sunlight shining on it at just the right angle. "So who are you, where are you from?" Squall asked, and was amazed by his own sudden interest. Yeah…sudden interest, huh? Tch… Frowning, she shook her head. Never seen someone do that before…they usually settle for either one of those things… -"I can't remember. Doctor Kadowaki diagnosed me with amnesia." She said. "Although according to the identity tag I was wearing, my name is Skye." Very touching, but still wrong, this isn't the right time. -"Kenan?" "Yes? Is that you Ellone? I…can't see anything…" -"Technically speaking, we're still sleeping." "I see." "Well, not literally of course." -"Never mind. I'll try to get it right now, without having to wake up first, okay? "Sure." Hmm, I wonder if I'll see Skye again.   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   It felt as though his body weighed at least ten tons as Squall slowly realized he lay in bed in his quarters. Oh shit…does this mean I'm lying in bed with another man?! Damn…better not put this in my report. "Wakey, wakey." Squall heard Rinoa say. R-rinoa? She's here? But, where is here? Birds were chirping outside. A cool breeze passed his face. Balamb Garden always was a nice place to wake up in. Rinoa, in Balamb Garden? But Squall's eyes remained shut and he lay perfectly still. Is this guy teasing me, or what? "Alright then." Rinoa said saucily, hands on her hips. "You asked for it." She pulled his sheets and uncovered Squall's feet. I feel…a draft… Rinoa rolled up her sleeves and stretched her fingers. "Let's see if you can resist my tickle torture." I sort of hope I don't have to endure that, thank you very much. Immediately Squall's left eye popped open. "No, I'm awake, I'm awake." Phew, thanks Leonhart, close one. For a few seconds the unexpected brightness completely blinded him. But surely a figure appeared next to him. It…it IS Rinoa! In Balamb Garden! Holy hotdogs! Leonhart is telling the truth?! "Hey, good morning mister Leonhart, I trust you slept well?" Rinoa joyfully said. Okay, okay…he said it happened out in the fields…well?…this could take a while… Squall crawled up with his back to the wall holding his hand in front of the light. He now opened both his eyes, slowly they began to focus. Rinoa stood directly next to him. Apparently she had opened up the curtains, and thrown open the window. As Squall regained normal vision, he noticed Rinoa's outfit in particular. She was wearing something he'd never seen before. It looked a lot like a female SeeD's formal uniform, but altered, more festive. He couldn't really describe it. But it looked amazing on her. Beautiful as ever. Say, but what IS she doing in his bedroom?! !! Do I wanna know? "Well…actually," Squall said. "I had this weird dream." Uh-oh. He rested his hand on his forehead. "Involved a lot of running…" Looking at Rinoa, he saw a warm smile appear on her face. "Was I in your dream?" Rinoa asked. "I was, wasn't I?" Whoa! Stop, I rea-eally don't wanna hear anymore! He sat up straight, swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and reached for the floor with his feet. "You'd rather I dream about another girl?" Squall replied looking up at her. Ha…good one… Rinoa gave Squall a surprised look. "Hey, careful now," She said. "You're developing a sense of humor. This could be dangerous." Squall shook his head. "Whatever…" Ugh…don't shake your head too much…I'm getting a headache… "There you go again with the 'whatever'-thing," Rinoa chuckled. She extended her arm towards Squall. "Need a hand getting up?" She kindly asked. "No thanks. Just give me a minute." He replied. Rinoa placed her hands on her hips again. "Hurry up already." Yeah, that would be nice. Squall looked across the room at the small clock hanging on the opposite side of the door. She followed his gaze. "Yes, it IS breakfast time. So get up mister." "Ellone? Just a bit further, we're close, but not yet there…"   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   "Halt!" The Garden faculty guarding the Cafeteria yelled as Squall approached. What the…? Squall gave him an annoyed look, and showed his ID Card once more. OoooOOoooo, beware of the annoyed Leonhart! Uh…okay…Kenan, get a grip. Be serious… The guards examined it for a moment, and motioned Squall he could proceed. -"Why is every entrance here being guarded?" Squall asked in an attempt to grasp the situation in the Garden. He is genuinely confused…that's why he asked all those questions… "We are expecting an attack from the Galbadians soon now." He explained. "Commander Gantt tightened the security around here." Yeah, I'm amazing, thank you…I'd take a bow but I'm not in control of my body at the moment Seriously though, this is too far. I have to go just a little bit further back…I'm very close now… Commander Gantt?-Squall thought. The name didn't sound familiar. He considered it was possible he was a Commander at Trabia Garden and was now stationed here. But last Squall checked he was in command of Balamb Garden. Why did Cid demote him? "Ellone, I'd love to see myself through Squall's eyes but…well, just send me back a little further if you can…"   <<------------------------------------------>>   Kenan's eyes popped open. Where am I now? He noticed Zell still hung over him and sighed. Oh, the present I guess. "Did you see it?" He curiously asked. -"Not yet. I did see Rinoa however…" Zell's eyes went wide. "So this means?" Kenan held up his hand. "Whoa, not yet. I have to see what happened to Squall that got him here in the first place." Skye grinned. "You've stopped calling him Leonhart now?" He frowned. "Never mind. Is Ellone ready again?" Laguna moved away from her and Kenan could see her face. It showed exhaustion. She nodded. "I can do it, but only once more." "Roger that." Kenan said and closed his eyes again, ready for the 'dreamworld'. Some seconds later he felt his head getting heavier and heavier. Here I go…for the fourth time…     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   "Yeah. I believe so." Squall said with a worried look. "But he never actually told me this." Whoa, is this the right place? Hmm…a picnic out in the fields near Balamb…damn…this is it… Now what is he talking about? "Just that he wanted to see me after we defeated Ultimecia." Squall continued. "But I'm not sure I want to see him…" …Defeated Ultimecia… With a smile Rinoa assured Squall whatever he thought was best was okay with her. Suddenly a shot of pain ran through Squall. It felt like someone was pounding his head with a hammer. Yeah, hi, it's me again… He cringed and moved his hand against his forehead. "I think I'm coming down with something." He said. "I don't feel so good. Maybe I'd better go." Am I causing pain now? Maybe I shouldn't keep entering the same person's mind. Rinoa put her arm around Squall. "Just a bit longer…" She whispered. "You know once this moment has passed it will never come again…" By Odin! They're lovers! With a nod Squall agreed. His head still aching. Hehe, sorry Squall, shouldn't have yelled huh? "And Seifer…" Squall realized. "What about him?" He died… -"I think he knows he was wrong. I doubt we'll get any trouble from him anymore." Rinoa tried to assure Squall who still wasn't fully convinced. "Last I heard, he was staying in Fisherman's Horizon." The past for Squall must be totally different… "As long as he just stays there." Squall said, taking a few more sips from his soda. -"You worry too much." Rinoa concluded. She pointed at a small cake she had brought with her. Looks delicious… "Be a dear, and hand me a piece of that cake I got from the lunch-lady. It looks delicious." Rinoa said looking at Squall with puppy dog eyes. Squall sighed and bent forward, simply grabbing the whole cake. "There you go." He said. Surprised by a sudden nudge from Rinoa, Squall raised an eyebrow. "What??" He isn't the brightest… Giggling, she shook her head. "You're supposed to feed me pieces goof." She said. "That's what couples do." I think I pretty much envy him at this point. "Yeah…well I forgot to read the manual on this…" Squall explained. He broke off a small piece and fed Rinoa. "Happy now?" He asked. -"Hmm, food's excellent. Lousy service though." Rinoa laughed and turned to Squall. "It wouldn't hurt to smile." She said as she noticed his troubled look. She shrugged and tried to imitate Squall's expression. "Hey, cut that out. I'm just not used to smiling, okay?" He explained. Why? Bad childhood? Rolling up her sleeve, Rinoa turned to Squall. "I'll just have to work on that, now won't I?" "Yeah okay." Squall said slightly grinning. "Just don't expect me to turn out as hyper as Selphie." Rinoa laughed, and snuggled up even closer to Squall. Images suddenly flashed through Squall's mind. Whoa! They were vague and dark like old photographs, yet at the same time so very clear. Clearer than memories or dreams. This is weird! He sees a figure looking at him from a distance. The figure closes with each image until he or she is almost within reach. A laugh. Everything goes dark but the same twisted laughter keeps echoing. "Hey, Squall you don't look so good." Rinoa said waving her hand before his face. ? I'm back here? He shook his head and realized he was still sitting next to Rinoa in the fields near Balamb Garden. Again with the head shaking… As he stood up a blue circle appeared on the ground around him. It flashed brightly and began swirled. Shit, this is it! -What?! My thoughts exactly Leonhart Terrified, Rinoa backed away from Squall and in doing so tripped over a small stone. Squall reached for his head with both hands. The sudden headache had returned, far worse now than before. He had to fight a severe pain to stay focused. Ugh! I feel it too! It isn't being caused by me, is it!? "What's going on!" Squall yelled trying to make sense of everything. He turned to Rinoa. She lay on the ground staring at Squall with wide eyes. Tears appeared . "Squall, what's happening to you?" She demanded to know. The air around Squall's body lit up dark blue. He stretched his arms in front of him, closely examining them. T-this is too much…this can't be real! -"Is Ellone doing this??" Rinoa asked. ! That's why he fled to Esthar. "Ugh…I…don't…know…!" Squall barely managed to say under the excruciating pain he felt. He tried to walk towards Rinoa. She got up from the grass and extended her arm towards him. "Grab my hand Squall!" Rinoa shouted, tears now rolling down her face. "Rinoa!" He could see her mouth move but couldn't hear what she was saying. She won't let you go, that's what she said Squall! A blinding light emanated from where Rinoa stood and in the blink of an eye she disappeared right in front of Squall. !? Then the blue circle widened on the ground around him and became white. Streams of blue light whirled around Squall, like tentacles growing upwards to the sky. It's…beautiful… As he looked down, the ground he stood on faded and Squall fell through the void it left. "Ellone! Get me out now! I can't breathe!" Everything turned black.     <<------------------------------------------>>    "Is he--?" -"No." Laguna observed. "Look, he's snapping out of it." Suddenly Kenan started heaving heavily, as if fighting to get every bit of air he could. He was hyperventilating. Zell hold him down by his shoulders. "Kenan! Relax! You're aboard the Einlanzer again." Kenan opened his eyes and noticed they'd all gathered around him. Even Ellone had gotten up. She must have known she couldn't be harmed by anything that happened in the past. So, she didn't experience it like Kenan did… "Commander?" Laguna called. "Whatever happened, you're okay now." His respiration returned to normal. -"So you saw it?" Squall asked. Kenan replied with a slight nod, still being too shocked to speak up. He'd probably blurt incoherent stuff if he tried to talk at this time. "It was…terrible…" Skye mumbled. Kenan looked up at her questioningly. She smiled nervously. "Uh, it must have been I mean. Judging by the look on your face." Now wasn't the time to tell him she sensed certain things. But then she wasn't sure she could really have any control over this sense, in the way Ellone controlled her ability. With Skye, it was totally random. She'd get a vague sketch of a person's mind, and it would be over too quickly to tell much more than the person's emotional state. Zell let go of Kenan's shoulders, seeing he recovered from the shock. "What did you see Kenan?" He asked. He turned his head aside and coughed a few times. -"Everything." He stated. "I saw it all. Leonha--, I mean, Squall…is telling the truth." Zell gasped. "Everything he said is true?" -"As far is I can tell, yeah." Laguna eyed the Commander. "Do you know what exactly happened to Mr. Leonhart now?" He reached for his forehead. "N-no. I don't know what it was. Just that it aint anything normal. Squall literally fell through the ground. And Rinoa really did just vanish all of a sudden." "Wow," Zell breathed. "That's amazing. Well, amazingly strange, of course." -"I'm glad it's finely settled." Squall said. Skye laughed. "Glad? That's a bit of an understatement, isn't it?" He frowned. "This only conforms what happened to me in the past, in doesn't solve anything in the present." "But it's a start," Laguna pointed out. "To finding out how you got here. And at least you've gained the Commander's trust now, right?" Kenan unbuckled his seatbelt and crawled up from his seat. Grinning, Zell supported the back of his head with his hands. "I don't think he likes admitting he was wrong." "Yeah, okay, I was wrong. I know that now." He said, making his way to the doors. They slid open. "We'll be landing soon," He told them, glancing over his shoulder. "I suggest you all get seated and buckle up." Kenan walked out of the room and the doors closed up behind him. Everyone stared at them momentarily, wondering where he was going, but then did what the Commander suggested. With the exception of Ward, nobody had any trouble with the seatbelt. Skye twiddled with her thumbs. "I don't think Kenan likes to apologize either." But Squall didn't care much for a 'I'm sorry' from that guy. It wouldn't change anything. Something happened to him, and that was a fact. An excited Zell pressed his cheek against the glass and peered down. The Airship was flying over land! Kinda barren and dry type land. The Centra continent! "Zone Two…" Laguna mumbled to himself. "Let's hope Selphie is a good pilot." Whilst everyone stared down from the plane, either to the left or right, Ward stared in front of him, worrying. Dark clouds seem to lie waiting for them up ahead. Only a few rays of sunlight managed to shine through. Zone Two. He thought. A cursed place. A rather sudden announcement over the intercom gave everyone a bit of a fright. "Hello everyone!" Selphie's voice rung through a speaker nearby. "I just wanted to say we'll be landing in about a minute from now,'d better have strapped yourselves in." -"Ugh." Zell uttered. "I just had this sinking feeling in my stomach!"   <<------------------------------------------>>   "Hey, hey, hey!" Irvine called out. "What do you mean 'severe storms'?" Selphie was too busy trying to keep the plane in one piece to be able to answer. Apparently there was a lot of turbulence in the area they were about to land. -"Not to worry." Kiros assured from the other pilot seat. "Miss Tilmitt will guide us through safely." Irvine shifted uncomfortably in his seat, as the white clouds that raced by gradually became darker. "I can see why this makes a good hiding place." Quistis remarked. "Who would go to an area such as this one?" Kiros turned to the ex-Instructor. "Sorceress Ultimecia will find us sooner or later. She won't give up until she knows all threats have been eliminated." Just when Irvine was starting to feel a little bitter…Kiros had to go say something like that… "Einlanzer, reduce speed and slowly start descending." The man aboard the Ragnarok III instructed Selphie. "Try to keep it steady at all times, since the Airship will get a tendency to stall." -"Okie dokie!" She responded cheerfully and did as the man told her. Quistis chuckled. "Okie dokie? I don't think that's the correct reply according to the formal rules of communication." "That's Selphie for ya." Irvine pointed out. "Un-formal." Just then a thunderbolt struck down from the dark clouds, illuminating the entire area for a second. It didn't strike near the Einlanzer, yet gave everyone quite a startle. Suddenly all kinds of dots filled up the radar screen Quistis sat behind. At first each dot was interpreted as by the onboard computer as an armed threat, but she knew that couldn't be right. "There seems to be strange electrical activity in this whole area." She concluded. "It's interfering with our systems." Irvine shrugged. "Haven't we seen this before?" -"Yes." Quistis said after a few moments of thought. "There is an area near Trabia Garden with similar disturbance." Kiros looked down at the small display of the world map on his console. "… … Zone Three." The Airship suddenly banked right and avoided a thunder strike. Irvine had smacked against the glass window with his cheek. "Ow…great flying dear." He sighed, rubbing his -very mild- injury. Quistis glanced at the storms, which now completely surrounded the Einlanzer on all sides. "Mr. Kiros?" She called. "If this is Zone Two, and the area near Trabia Garden Zone Three, where is Zone One?" He crossed his arms. "Somewhere deep in the ocean. I remember scientists from all over the world came to study that area when first discovered thirty or forty years ago. They had some kind of Research Island there. It was called The Deep Sea Research Institute or something along those lines. Perhaps you've heard of it?" Irvine looked up. He remembered hearing Zell rant about some kinda facility in the ocean before. "Uhm, didn't they research in Guardian Forces?" -"Yes." Kiros replied, amazed Mr. Kinneas knew of it. "That and some other things." Before Irvine could ask exactly what, Selphie started the final descent as instructed. She could hardly see anything through the dark clouds, and the guidance system wasn't working, but the man on the Ragnarok III assured her that Balamb Garden was 'parked' nearby. Irvine braced himself. Which is to say he tightly held on to the weapons console in front of him; avoiding any contact with the buttons on it as if they were red-hot. "Okay." He heard the man say to Selphie. "You're almost there now. Ease her in, nice and slow."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Kenan held on to the guardrail until he felt the Airship had landed. There was a brief loud thud, but other than that it appeared a perfect and safe landing. He stood just in front of the stairs in the second large bay. The empty one. From there he could either follow the walkway to the exterior airlock, or head down the stairs towards the normal exit. Yet, without a doubt, Headmaster Cid would be waiting outside. Kenan wasn't sure how he would react to seeing Sorceress Skye without Odine's bangle, and not in captivity either. "Kenan, you're fired!" He grinned inwardly. No, that wasn't very likely. He would be needed in the fight against Ultimecia. However there could be repercussions. Like reduced salary or a demotion. "Your report Commander." He said to himself, mimicking the Headmaster's voice. -"Well Sir, it took us an entire day to accomplish nothing. We didn't complete our mission, and in fact are even somewhere in the minus in terms of accomplishments, since Esthar was lost during our stay there. Without much of a fight, I might add. So, in general, we wasted our damn time!" He glanced around. Good…nobody had heard him. Oh well. Kenan thought and slowly descended on the stairs. Now to report what I just said to the Headmaster and…He sighed. Be sentenced to death or something.
Back at Balamb Garden by Goku Girl
"Great landing Miss Tilmitt." The man from the Ragnarok III said, excited. "Meet you on the ground." Irvine rose to his feet, slowly, since he still felt pretty shook up from the landing. Smiling, Quistis looked out the window. Balamb Garden was hovering low above the ground not far away. She noticed a group of people stood waiting for them on the ground. A sort of welcoming committee? "Ah. They seem to be expecting us." Kiros said in a joyful tone of voice. "Mustn't keep them waiting." Selphie shut off the Einlanzer's engine and jumped up in excitement. "Well, let's go!" They got on the elevator and met up with the group from the passenger room. Everyone but Kenan. "Where is the Commander?" Quistis asked. -"I..uh..think he went to get some air." Zell answered with a guess. Ellone and Skye chuckled. Squall just walked past and headed down the stairs towards the exit. "He doesn't say much," Laguna noticed. "But sure has some great ideas." "Just like a certain big guy I know." He added, exchanging looks with Kiros. They all followed him down one by one. Their footsteps echoed strangely throughout the empty Bay. "We'll use the cargo exit." Kiros told them. Laguna frowned. "Yeah, good idea. That way we know Ward will fit through." The big guy rolled his eyes. Laguna's jokes were getting very old, if not bothersome too. Squall waited just a few steps inside the Cargo hold for the rest to catch up with him. Selphie and Irvine were first to join him. They had to shield their eyes from the bright light coming from other end. "Have the storms ended?" Irvine wondered. -"I don't think so." Kiros said as he caught up too. "Most likely this is the eye of the storms." Quistis seemed confused. "But Sir? Shouldn't it already be dark outside? It is in the evening, isn't it?" It didn't take that long for them all to get used to the light. Now it wasn't as bright as they first thought. Laguna scratched the back of his head. "Guess it isn't exactly summer after all." -"Are you people gonna get a move on or what?" Kenan remarked from way further in the Cargo bay. Apparently he was the one who had opened up the doors already. Everyone headed outside except for Quistis and Skye. "Uh…Skye," Quistis started and let go of the Sorceress' shoulder. "The Headmaster is probably waiting for us, and I don't know what will happen when he sees you." -"I know." She said and reluctantly held out her hands. "If you wanna cuff me, you know, so you can pretend that you caught me, that's okay." "No, no." Quistis assured her she wouldn't do that. Not again. "I just said it to warn you. But don't worry, we won't imprison you. Trust me, I won't let that happen." Skye let her hands fall. "Okay. I trust you." Laguna had stopped some feet up ahead and turned around. "Skye, Miss Trepe? Is something wrong?" They smiled politely but said nothing. There was nothing wrong.     <<------------------------------------------>>     As everyone exited the Airship, they were met by two groups of Esthar soldiers, and one small group of Balamb students. Headmaster Cid stood in of the three groups front and waved. "Welcome." A dark-haired girl stood next to him and nervously glared at the approaching SeeDs. Squall noticed her purple-colored eyes in particular. He couldn't recall ever seeing that girl before, but there was a certain sense of familiarity in those eyes. The girl ran up to Kenan once he got closer. "I was so worried about you!" He gave her a hug. "You really didn't need to Ti, I was fine." -"That's his sister Tia." Selphie whispered to Squall and Skye. Headmaster Cid and an Esthar officer walked up to Laguna and shook hands. "Welcome Mr. President." Cid greeted. "A pleasure to meet you, although I wish the circumstances were different." -"Sir!" Captain Nagoya saluted. He was a man with a rather loud and bombastic voice. It fitted perfectly with the way he looked; Large and bearded. Quistis, Selphie, Irvine and Zell lined up and saluted both Headmaster Cid and the Captain properly, as they'd always been taught to do. Even though formalities seemed something they could do without in these troubled times. "Talk to ya in a minute." Kenan told his Sis and took place next to Quistis. This was all rather strange to Squall. He wondered if he should join the rest of the SeeDs, or stay behind them with Skye. He chose the latter. Firstly, Headmaster Cid welcomed the other new guests; Kiros, Ward and Ellone. "It must have been pretty rough in Esthar." He assumed with a sad voice. "I'm glad you got out safely." -"Yes." Kiros sighed. "We were lucky to escape. Unfortunately now Sorceress Adel has taken over our city." Captain Nagoya watched the Ragnarok III land perfectly next to the Einlanzer and Ragnarok II. "Sir, according to Captain Ran Fong, the battle in Esthar still isn't over just yet." Laguna looked down. "Let's hope for the best." After feeling a shot of pain, Ellone reached for her forehead. Ward threw his arm around her, just to make sure she wouldn't fall to the ground if she should faint. Headmaster Cid looked concerned. "Perhaps I'd best let someone show you to your quarters." Ellone smiled at her uncle Laguna, assuring it wasn't anything severe. Yet naturally Laguna was still worried. "Yeah, I think we'd best get some rest. Especially you Ellone." The Headmaster summoned a student from the pack of students still standing behind him. "Sir?" The girl called. -"Could you escort these people to their quarters please?" She smiled widely as if honored she got that duty. "Yes Sir." Slowly Ward let go of Ellone, but remained close by just in case the headache or whatever it was would return. "If you'll follow me please." The girl told them kindly. Headmaster Cid turned back to President Loire. "We will talk in the morning if that is okay with you, Sir." "I agree." He stated and glanced over his shoulders at the team of SeeDs. "Well, goodnight everyone." -"Goodnight Sir Laguna. Tee-hee" The newly arrived guests from Esthar entered Balamb Garden. And since most of the Esthar soldiers were relieved of active duty for the remainder of the day they headed inside as well. A few were assigned to guard duty outside however. Now the Headmaster walked up to Commander Gantt's team. "Ah, Commander. It's good to see you again." -"Likewise Sir." He told him. Cid folded his hands on his back. "You're probably tired as well. I'll let you have some free time then. I'll hear your report tomorrow morning at 07:00, unless you have anything urgent to report now?" "Whoa!" Zell exclaimed, at first not sure if he heard correctly. "Free time? For real?" -"Yes Zell." The headmaster affirmed, grinning slightly. "And I believe the Cafeteria just started serving meals for the soldiers from Esthar. You're welcome to join." "…Hotdogs?" -"It's possible." Cid replied. Zell bolted off shouting "See ya later." He even left a trail of dust. Didn't he eat in Esthar or something? Irvine wondered. Squall turned to Skye. "You should head inside as well. The Headmaster hasn't noticed you yet and I think it's best it stays that way until we found out more." She agreed and managed to follow a group Esthar soldiers inside without being spotted by Cid. However, the rest did see it. "N-no Sir." Kenan blurted out. "Nothing urgent to report, well besides the news you've already received…" Selphie smiled sadly. The headmaster saw this and placed his hand on her shoulder. "It's all right. I don't blame anyone for what happened in Esthar. In fact I think escaping was the best course of action you could follow. It wasn't until now that he looked behind the lined-up SeeDs. Squall stepped up. "Sir." He smiled. "Mr. Leonhart. I'm glad you decided to come back. I…must apologize for my behavior earlier…" "I understand why you did what you did Sir." Squall said. "I had no idea the situation was this bad back then." Irvine sneezed. This standing outside was all nice and well but it was getting kinda cold. Headmaster Cid laughed. "Oh forgive me for making you wait. Like I said, you're all excused until tomorrow morning." Selphie yawned. "Great, I think I'll get some sleep then." "Not a bad idea." Irvine muttered, rubbing his eyes. "At least around here I won't have guard duty." He scolded Kenan, whom in turn just stared back. "Oh, Selphie?" The headmaster called. -"Yes Sir?" She responded. "Could you please show Squall his quarters?" He asked. "I'm sure you can find an empty one." Before Squall knew it Selphie was practically dragging him inside. Irvine tagging along, of course. "Sir." Kenan whispered before joining up with Tia. "Squall was telling the truth after all." Before Cid could ask how the Commander had learned this he walked off. Oh well, the next morning lots of things would have to be explained. The issue Leonhart would be just one of those. Then there was the Sorceress problem… He shrugged. Whatever happened to Sorceress Skye? Was she killed in Esthar? Somehow he hoped so. That would be a lot better than letting her fall in Galbadian hands. Quistis had stopped at the Garden's front gate. "Uhm, Sir? Are you coming inside?" The Headmaster looked up and realized he'd been emerged in thought for a few moments. "Ah, Quistis." He spoke rejoiced. "I want to ask you something. About Sorceress Skye." She looked like she'd been caught off guard, but then her face straightened. "Sir, I believe she is no longer of any danger to us." "I see." The headmaster mumbled, thinking he understood what Quistis meant with that. "Thank you."     <<------------------------------------------>>     "This way." Zell told her. "C'mon, I can smell them!" -"The soldiers or the hotdogs?" Skye wondered. He smacked himself on his forehead. "Duh, the hotdogs!" She grinned. "Never mind." He said hastily, as if he had a plane to catch. "It's chow time." He led her to the Cafeteria. It was really crowded inside given the time. There were Esthar soldiers sitting at almost every table. "What's this?" Zell asked rhetorically. "The Esthar happy-hour?" He grabbed two food plates from the stack, handed one to Skye, and joined the shortest queue. "Ding-dong." Zell rang like an automated message. "There are four Esthar soldiers waiting in front of you. Please hold." The soldier in front of Zell turned around, displaying an annoyed look. "Sorry buddy, you'll have ta wait in line, like us." "Patience is a virtue." Skye pointed out. Zell grumbled and held his food plate tight. "If the hotdogs are gone when I reach the counter, someone's gonna pay." The soldiers that heard this laughed. "How can you really be hungry Zell?" Skye asked. "We had a grand meal in Esthar not even an hour ago." He peered over a few shoulders and saw a guy taking away two of the most delicious looking hotdogs he'd ever seen in his entire life. His body sagged and he turned to Skye. "Well…you're standing here too…aren't you?" She grinned. "Good point. But I'm just thirsty actually. I didn't like the wine in Esthar." "Although I will have a sandwich if they have any here." She added. He pointed at the last empty table in the Cafeteria. "Take a seat, I'll bring the food 'n drinks." -"Thanks!" She chirped happily and took a seat at the table in the corner. With her blue dress, she blended in perfectly with the soldiers, since most were wearing a regular blue uniform. The line shortened and Zell moved forward a few steps. He turned around to make sure Skye was still sitting at the table, only to see an Esthar soldier taking a seat next to her. It was a young man…of the flirting kind. After spending some time with Irvine, it isn't hard to recognize them. Zell moved forward a step or two again. Only two more soldiers in front. He followed the soldier that had just gotten his meal with his eyes and to his amazement that guy took a seat at Skye's table too! Aahh! His jaw dropped. Not a minute later he finally he made it to the counter, only to see the two soldiers previously ahead of him sitting down at Skye's table as well!! They were even joined by a green-unformed commander or something! Aaah! "Yeah? What ya want kiddo?" The lunch lady asked. -"H-hotdogs." Zell said as if his throat was suddenly dry as a bone. "Oh. And a sandwich." The lady moved somewhere to the back. Wow, there are still some left! He thought to himself. "Here you go kid." The lunch lady said and dropped six hotdogs and a cheese sandwich on his platter. "Next!" Zell already started drooling but first grabbed two cans of soda from the dispensing machine. Cherry flavored. The best it had to offer! He dashed towards Skye's table and landed on the last empty seat at the table. Perhaps in the entire Cafeteria. "Here." He said and gave Skye her cheese sandwich and soda, at the same time glaring at the others around the table. -"Hey, I'm Zieg." A green-uniformed soldier introduced himself. "I'm with Omega Squad." He said it like that would mean anything to Zell. "Uhm…you know…Special Forces?" Zieg tried to explain. "Sort of like SeeD is Garden's special force, you know?" Zell picked up a hotdog from his plate and devoured it rather grossly. He didn't exactly chew with his mouth closed so spit and grease flew everywhere. -"I'm Blank." Another soldier said. They didn't seemed to know Zell couldn't care less who they were, as long as they just got lost. "The name is Coral." A slender looking guy told him. Three down…two to go…Zell thought to himself. "Hey yas. They call me Belzack." A significantly less slender looking guy said. Significantly less brain power too… -"I'm Ryogo." The last said; the flirty one. "Although most everyone calls me Rice for some reason." Two more hotdogs 'mysteriously disappeared' from Zell's plate. "Mmshfh. Hi. Zell Dincht." Skye popped open her can of soda. "Don't be so rude Zell…" Zieg grinned. "Naw, that's okay. Most students dislike us hanging around." -"I'm a SeeD." Zell sighed. "Not a student." Belzack crossed his arms. "Suppose that explains the attitude, eh?" -"Now you're being rude." Ryogo laughed, casually looking around the room for fellow squad members. Preferably female ones. Zell ate the last hotdogs without looking up from his plate. "Hmpfh. So, like, you all from this Omega Squad?" "Nope." Zieg replied, making it clear to Zell who the leader of the bunch was. "Coral and Ryogo and from the other one, Beta Squad." -"I see…" Zell muttered, his voice thick with uninterest. Coral had finished his meal and stood up. "Sorry guys, I have to report to Fong." "That's Captain Ran Fong to you." Zieg reminded him. -"Yeah, yeah." He laughed. "It's practically the same." Ryogo quickly ate his meal and jumped up as well. "Yeah, later guys. Gotta go to the Fongster too." Both of 'em exited the Cafeteria. "It's strange though." Zieg thought out loud, continuing with eating his food. "There are hardly any woman in the Esthar military besides Cap'n Ran Fong." Zell frowned. "Oh? I didn't know he was a she." Belzack chuckled. His stomach bopping up and down not unlike Ward could do. "He a she? Ha ha, good one." Skye rolled her eyes. Selphie really wasn't kidding when she called Zell a goofball. "Yup." Blank affirmed. "Ran Fong is a lady alright. Quite a breed apart…" -"The only female Captain in Esthar." Zieg told them matter-of-factly. Skye grinned, seeing as how Zell's face turned sour whilst the Esthar soldiers kept talking about stuff he couldn't care less about. She knew he wanted them to just disappear, but actually she didn't mind the company. From time to time, she still thought back to her stay in the brig. Never again did she want to be that alone and scared of not knowing what would happen to her next. -"Unless Meru's gonna become Captain some day." Belzack offered. Zieg laughed with disbelief. "Meru? Ha, are you kidding? She's way too hyper." Ah…there you have it. Zell thought. The Esthar equivalent of Selphie. He looked up. And Belzack did look a lot like Ward. Blank then…Esthar's reply to Kenan? He even had a red bandanna as well. Strange coincidence… Hmm, and Zieg. Somehow that guy reminded Zell of Seifer. But perhaps it was just due to his blonde hair. Zieg stretched and patted himself on his stomach. "Aah! That was a great meal. The best I've had in weeks. My compliments to the Chef here." "Indeed, it was gooood." Belzack seconded. Blank's face lit up. "Let's hit the Training Center! Nothing like a good work out after a good meal." -"If you'll excuse us then." Zieg told Skye and Zell. She smiled. "Sure. And good luck to you." Blank waged his finger. "Luck? No, no, no. We don't need THAT!" He received a nudge from Belzack. "Oh really? And aren't you lucky to be alive after being turned to stone like that?" "A nasty petrify spell that was." Zieg sighed, then shook his head. "Anyway, let's go!" -"FINALLY." Zell exclaimed after they left the Cafeteria. "..Gone.." Skye drank her soda can empty, eyeing him. He didn't notice until after he'd burped and crushed his can with his hands. She looked impressed and tried compressing hers too. No such luck though. "Allow me." Zell told her and grabbed the tiny aluminum thing. "Now watch closely." He held it in with two hands in front of him, then suddenly smacked it against his head, effectively reducing it's size until it just wouldn't compress any further. She glared at him. "Wow. I didn't know you could do that." Zell beamed with pride. "Oh, it's nothing really. Just requires a hard head." Skye laughed briefly. But then her face turned more serious. "You, didn't like those guys, did you?" She asked. He leaned against the table with arms crossed. "I just don't like so many new characte--uh, I mean, people hanging around here. That and I just wanted to be--" "Oh, don't look now." Skye suddenly grinned again, looking at something over his shoulder. He raised an eyebrow. "Uh, okay. I won't." -"I knew I would find you here Dincht." Zell cringed. That voice…no! It could only be…! Kenan sat down at the table. Quistis joined them too. "Did the Headmaster see you?" She immediately asked Skye, her face lined with sincere concern. Skye shook her head. "I don't think so. Not yet anyway." Zell looked at Kenan with narrowed eyes. "Aren't you supposed to be with Tia now? Or somewhere else?" His face lit up. "That reminds me. Skye, you can stay in my sister's quarters for the time being." "When we talk to the Headmaster tomorrow, we'll arrange your own room." Quistis added. -"Thanks." She said, smiling with profound gratitude. "Don't mention it." Both Quistis and Kenan said simultaneously. Kenan tossed her a charming grin. "Isn't that cute?" Zell said sarcastically after licking his plate clean. Quistis looked at him, then at his empty plate. "I can't believe you can just keep eating." "Do you ever stop?" Kenan asked. "Seriously, is there any limit you can reach?" Zell stood up. "Yeah." -"Oh? Is that so?" "Whenever I see your ugly face my appetite just goes away." He scoffed and walked away. Kenan rubbed his chin. "Gee, I never heard that before." Quistis followed Zell with her eyes. He was in a rush to leave the Cafeteria, even pushed aside a few soldiers standing in his way. Clearly agitated…very agitated… "I think he just needed to let out some steam." Skye concluded, perhaps aided by her senses. Kenan tilted his head, considering this. "Suppose so. But still, that's no way to treat your superior." "Maybe if you didn't act so superior all the time." Quistis offered, speaking softly so he wouldn't think of it as an insult. He now noticed a group of Balamb students glaring at him from another table. They turned around as soon as they knew the Commander had spotted them looking. Suddenly the room seemed dead quiet, with the exception of a storm raging outside. This was something Kenan really need to process. Him, a jerk? Did everyone think that? When did that happen? Quistis turned to Skye. "Would you like a tour of the Garden? A proper one this time, I'll make sure to skip the brig." She smiled. "Yes, I think I would." She then looked around. "Well, I think the Cafeteria is already covered now." Quistis stood up. "I'll show you the Quad then. It's quite lovely." "Quite damaged." Kenan corrected. Not surprisingly, Quistis ignored that little comment and walked off with Skye, leaving Kenan alone at the table. He casually looked around the room once more, just to be sure students weren't glaring at him anymore. But it appeared most had pretty much finished their meals already and were about to leave. Kenan let out a yawn and looked at his wristwatch. Normally, the Cafeteria should already be close. Of course the arrival of those many Esthar soldiers upset the normal closing times a bit. The other facilities were probably opened a little longer as well now. "Maybe…just maybe…" He mumbled to himself, trying to figure out his next course of action. For a few moments he stared curiously at two compressed soda cans lying on the table. His thoughts drifted too easily sometimes, he sadly concluded. He supported the back of his head with his hands and stared up at the ceiling. No distractions there… Hmm? The repair crew fixed the holes. He noticed. Damn…get a grip…think THINK. It was like he had to force his own brain to get in motion. Okay, what do we have here? Sorceress Skye…Squall Leonhart…Sorceress Ultimecia. The three things he worried about the most. If only he could just figure out how those three were connected. He felt a breeze go past his cheeks. Some students might have just walked, but dammit, that didn't matter. He knew he wouldn't sleep well before he could solve at least a part of the mysteries at hand. Well…Squall was telling the truth. So he really must have killed Sorceress Ultimecia in his past. That was the easiest connection. He'd seen indisputable proof on that. Then again. He began to ponder. I didn't actually see him kill Ultimecia. Although the whole falling through the ground thing was true. Maybe…I should stop doubting him? Kenan decided to let Squall of the hook for the time being. As his father used to say, there were bigger fish to fry. Sorceress Skye then. He really hadn't heard of her anywhere before. Who the hell is she? He wondered. Where did she come from? Why does Sorceress Ultimecia want her so badly she was willing to sacrifice Galbadia Garden in a diversionary attack? And that weren't even all the question one could ask, but he stopped there. "Maybe…just maybe…" He repeated, the same thought as earlier crossing his mind. Yeah, his mind was set. So he headed for the library to do some research. After all, information was ammunition!     <<------------------------------------------>>     Kenan still being half-emerged in thoughts barely avoided an Esthar soldier exiting the library, as he entered that facility at the same time. Wow. It was quite busy in there. Not really crowded or anything, the library never was, but still more lively then Kenan had ever seen. When was that last time he'd been at the library anyway? He couldn't recall. It must have been a while ago then… A few Esthar soldiers and Balamb students were trying to find books to their liking and some were sitting at the desk in the back, obviously having already found whatever they were looking for. "I'm sorry." A librarian apologized to a student. "All books on combat tactics have been checked out." Kenan shrugged. Books on combat tactics? Is that the kind of literature soldiers read during war? He made note to read one of those books himself, one day. -"Commander, can I help you?" The pig-tailed girl inquired. That girl again. Wasn't that the girl Zell had a crush on? No matter how hard Kenan thought, she still remained nameless to him. Seems she was doomed forever to be called just like she looked 'the pig-tailed girl'. 'T was sad, if not disturbing even… "Uhm, Sir?" She inquired again. "Is there any book you'd like to read?" Kenan shook his head, stopping the little voice inside his head from ranting. "Yeah." She smiled. "Which one, Sir?" "I don't know yet." He replied as if that were perfectly normal. The pig-tailed girl grinned nervously. "You…don't know?" His eyes hit the librarian's desk. "I will in a minute or so." "S-sir? If you tell me what you're looking for, I can find it for you." She offered, hoping that would keep him away from her console. Nobody but the librarians were allowed to use that, normally speaking. It didn't work, he just seemed completely in a world of his own and took place behind the desk with console. She guessed it was okay for the Commander to work with it. As long as the students didn't take up that habit as well. They'd probably upset her whole filing system in no time. He looked up. The girl turned to help a student find a book, leaving Kenan with the console and the means to look up any information he wanted without anyone ever knowing. Perhaps this secrecy wasn't needed at all. Yet who knows what he could stumble upon? Something Headmaster might not want anyone to see? It was a possibility. He sighed and finally actually switched on the damn thing, then almost immediately received a screen with the words 'Insert Search Parameters' flashing on it. Here goes. He thought, then typed 'Sorceress Skye'." He had wait a few seconds while the computer processed the input. The computer in front of him probably packed the most information one could find on short notice. And not just data on the books that Balamb Garden happened to have. Information from the other two Gardens and various other libraries in Dollet, Esthar and Timber should also be stored there. It just had to be able to come up with something. The screen showed there were four pages with search results. Kenan read the first result out loud. "A Sorceress's Knight." A fiction novel. Not exactly what he was looking for. To his surprise the rest of page one, and even page two and three were all just fiction books with Sorceress in the title. "Sorceress Matilda meets Berry the bear? Sorceress Matilda and the magical oak tree?" Kenan laughed. "Kids stuff." He sighed. Perhaps it won't work out quite as he thought it would. Unexpectedly, page four showed some more hope. First was a file on exactly what the title Sorceress entails…ya da ya da…first grade stuff basically. Secondly a report on Sorceress Edea. Kenan rolled his eyes and checked the date on the report. Great, it was months old. Edea wasn't a Sorceress any longer, but apparently nobody bother to remove that report. His optimism now at an all-time low, he quickly read the titles of the other results found. There were five more 'help' files, as Kenan just called them, for students who hadn't paid attention in class and needed to learn more about a Sorceress and the powers she could possess. Utterly useless. And really boring material too. Then a file marked "Current situation; update." caught his attention. Yet that wasn't what he was looking for either. It was just a short note explaining the recent events that had taken place to anyone who would like to know what exactly happened. It lacked thoroughness and eye for detail as it only mentioned a few things such as the failed assassination attempt on the Sorceress, missile strike on Trabia Garden, and several other main events from the past few weeks. The file would probably only be helpful to people living in a cave during the times described, since everyone was sure to already know of all this. Seems Kenan was looking in the wrong place, or so he concluded. He added 'find person:' to the search parameters. Hopefully the damn thing would check all databases this time, and not just Balamb Garden's files. If Skye used to be a registered citizen somewhere, she would be found easily by the search program. The words "Zero result(s)" appeared. Kenan cursed under his breath but still wasn't about to give up just yet. He deleted the title of Sorceress and entered Skye as a last name now instead of a first name. Again, the words "Zero result(s)" flashed on the screen. The only thing this showed was that the name Skye was unique. Which is to say nobody else in the entire world carried that name. Well, nobody at all according to the search thingy, but what did that really know? "Did you find what you were looking for, Sir?" The pig-tailed girl asked, suddenly creeping up from behind. -"No." Kenan said coldly. "I'm still trying." She nodded and walked away to help another student in need. Damn…there must a record somewhere! Kenan yelled inwardly. She exists, doesn't she?! With a sense of 'why the heck not?' he typed in the name Squall Leonhart. Seven results this time. ::Hairil Leonhart. Age: 64. Currently residing in: Dollet. [Further Info] :: Kenan rubbed his chin. No..that man probably had no connection to Squall what so ever. And neither did the six next results. Just six more people that had 'Leonhart' as a last name as well. Presumably all from the same family as Hairil. He shook his head. This isn't getting anywhere. Besides I came here to find something on Skye…not Squall… As he was about to clear the screen for another attempt at finding something about Sorceress Skye, the last name of the seven results suddenly rung a bell. :: Raine Loire-Leonhart. --Deceased-- :: Raine? This must be the Raine from Winhill I saw in those 'dreams'.   Kenan intensively stared at the name on the screen. What odd coincidence. Raine Leonhart was her maiden name… "And this here is the library." Quistis said. Kenan looked up. Just as he could predict, Skye walked in behind her. He figured the library was just another stop in their 'tour of Balamb Garden'. After shutting off the console, he stepped away from the desk. -"Kenan?" Quistis called as she saw him approach from the corner of her eye. "What are you doing here?" "Oh, hi ya." Skye greeted then turned back to the bookshelf she was looking at.  He shrugged. "Oh, nothing much. Just wondered if 'Sorceress Matilda meets Berry the bear' was in." Quistis giggled. "Ah, I see." She combed back her blonde locks. "Uhm, do you know where Selphie and Irvine went?" "In either of their quarters, doing who knows what." He guessed offhandedly. She gave him a disturbed look. "Kenan, I don't think that's any of our business." He smirked. "You wanted to know where the were, didn't ya?" "Not what they were doing." Quistis gladly countered. He scratched the back of his head. "ANYway, bring Skye to my Sis's quarter once your done with the guided tour, okay? I'm gonna head there myself now. Knowing Tia, she probably wants to hear all about our last mission." -"Sure." She looked over her shoulder. Skye was reading a book she'd found on the shelf. She wasn't paying any attention to Kenan or Quistis. "What's wrong?" Kenan asked. He could tell by Quistis's face there was something bothering her. -"Do you think I should take Skye to the Training Center as well?" She asked, keeping her voice down as much as she could. "I mean, it might be a little dangerous there, and I don't know if she can fight--" Kenan raised an eyebrow. "Why not? If she's a Sorceress she should learn to fight someday anyways, right?" -"I suppose so." Quistis replied, still not too thrilled with it. He gave her a gently pat on the shoulder. "Oh come on, I couldn't think of a better teach. You can tell her all about GF's, magic, battle strategies and all that." "You could also ask someone to join you two." He added, already making his way to the hall, clearly indicating she could ask anyone to come along…anyone but him.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Irvine tapped against the glass of Selphie's little aquarium in her room. "Hello? Anyone home?" He called out. Not surprisingly, there was no reply. Yet slowly, but surely, a big old fish appeared from behind some green sea plants in the back of the aquarium. Irvine grinned. The fish had a mustache! That was…new… Selphie came out of the bathroom, her hair still partially wet after having washed it. "Oh, say hello to my pet fish." She said joyfully. "Isn't it just adorable? I found it on Balamb beach a few days ago. It must have washed up there." Irvine tapped against the glass again and the fish swam towards the point where his finger hit. "I think it wants to bite my finger off." He told Selphie. "Really cute…" Selphie walked up to Irvine and leaned against his firm shoulder, watching her new pet swim happily around in his little very own water world. "If you don't tease him, he's really nice." She pointed out. -"I still say I would eat my finger if it had the chance to." Irvine thickheadedly muttered. She picked up a small box with seaweed and chunked the contents in the aquarium. "Aw, poor thing hasn't been fed since yesterday. I bet it's hungry." "Which supports my theory of it wanting to eat my finger." Irvine remarked, seeing as how the big fish suddenly started swimming a lot faster as the bits of weed slowly sank to the bottom of the aquarium. Its mouth didn't close for even second. It was like an underwater vacuum cleaner of some sort. "What's it called anyway?" He asked. Selphie looked up at him. "Hmm? Oh! The fish? I haven't settled on any name just yet." "How about Killer?" He suggested. She chuckled. "That's not a very nice name. It has to be something…uhm…cute!" "Cute, huh?" Irvine repeated. "A cute name for a fish? So, we're talking about a fishy name here then?" He crossed his arms, appearing to be thinking deeply. "A name for Selphie's fish…Selphie's fish…Sel's fish…" His face lit up. "Sel's fish! Selfish!" Selphie laughed. "Selfish? Does that really count as a name?" He threw his arm around her, laughing. "Hush woman, of course it does. It's perfect." -"Selfish it is then." She agreed with Irvine and let out a sigh of relief. "It's good to be home again, isn't it?" Irvine had his head turned away from Selphie so he could look outside through her window. Dark storms were raging in the skies. Thunder seemed to strike randomly just over and beyond the nearby mountain range. "Yeah." He said with little conviction to it. "Good to be back…"
Don't Be Afraid by Goku Girl
In desperation, Zell started bashing against the door with his fists. "Come on!" He pleaded, as if actually expecting the door would feel pity and open up. "Come on, please!" Nothing happened. Zell wouldn't be able to pass through even if he were gaseous, that's how tightly shut it remained. He stamped on the floor like a little kid. And he really did do that sort of thing back when he was young, in the Orphanage. Some things never changed… "Open. Open! O-p-e-n!" He ordered childishly. All he wanted was to get inside his own quarters. Was that too much to ask for? …Take a quick shower…read the next issue of Timber Maniacs and Weapons monthly…those were just some of the things he could do. As long as he managed to get I-N-S-I-D-E! Sighing, Zell slowly banged with his head against the wall right next to his quarters. He seemed ready to give up trying. So there he stood, leaning with his head against the wall, staring down at his shoes. Nice shoes. He thought dryly. Then he heard footsteps coming from his left; someone was heading towards him.His face blushed red as he thought about how ridiculous he must look. Therefor he quickly turned around 180 degrees, leaned more normally with his back against the wall instead of his head and crossed his arms. Casually, as if he was 'just hanging' in the dormitory hallway. The footsteps were getting louder, he could tell they drew nearer but didn't dare look up. He felt too humiliated. This is nuts. He suddenly realized. I'm an experienced SeeD…normally okay with technical gizmos 'n stuff…but I can't get into my own room! He finally looked up as the person making the footsteps passed by without saying anything. Turns out it was only a junior student, on his way to his quarters quite probably, as the students' quarters were further down the hall than the SeeD quarters. Zell waited until the student was a good distance away then gritted his teeth, considering the use of excessive force. Pure, raw, brute, uncontrollable, rage-powered, totally unnecessary force!Yeah, he could show that door a thing or two with his fists of fury. Surprisingly, his brain kicked in, telling the brawn to hold back for now. He frowned. Trouble with a door…We had that when we left in FH. Is something wrong with the Garden? But then, how could that be? Didn't the repair crews fix everything? Odd…very odd… Zell began whistling the tune of some famous chocobo theme he had once heard. Not that he could whistle, at all, so it sounded awfully off key. The thing most everyone would do next in his situation was reporting the malfunction to the appropriate authority. Zell knew that. However, if he really did report this, Kenan would probably hear about it too.Him being the Commander and all. And knowing Kenan, he'd probably laugh and tease Zell with it indefinitely. "Ha ha ha! You couldn't get into your own room Dincht?" Zell's eyes narrowed, his face turned a bit sour. Yeah…that's exactly how he would react… Just his luck. He wondered why someone or something had to prevent Zell Dincht, of all people, from entering his own domain?! Better it be Kenan… He thought with a boyish smirk. The door to the right of Zell's quarters slid open. Squall stepped out in the hallway. Both his hair and clothes were still covered in dust. He hadn't even freshened up yet. He stared at Zell with a questioning look. "The…uh…doors won't open." Zell cautiously explained, hoping Squall wouldn't break into a fit of laughter. -"I see. So you were the one making all the noise out here?" Squall asked, being nowhere close to laughing. Scratching the back of his head, Zell for the first time considered the loud noises he must have made. Squall walked over. "Never mind. Maybe I can help. This used to be my quarters." Zell shrugged good-naturedly. "Be my guest. I doubt it'll work though." He stepped away from the wall and allowed Squall to access the small door panel. "Let's see." He mumbled and punched in his own entry code. 2-5-3. With wide eyes, Zell watched from a few away feet. "Wow. You knew my code right away." "I figured it'd be the same as mine. The codes are hardly ever changed." Squall logically reasoned. … … … He lifted his eyebrows, thinking. "Nothing happened." Zell observed. "Told ya so, didn't I?" -"I guess…it doesn't work." Squall had no choice but to agree. Zell let his body sag. "Aww man! I don't wanna report this, or else the Commander will get wind of it." Squall finally displayed a slight grin. Even though he seemed to be in another world…Zell was the same as always. "H-ey," He scolded, feeling betrayed. "It's not funny! I thought you would help me." -"Sorry." Squall sincerely apologized. "You reminded me of someone, that's all." Not knowing what else he could do, he headed back to his quarters. Taking a shower sure was a good idea. "Wha?" Zell muttered, amazed. "You're just gonna leave me standing here outside my own quarters?" Squall turned just before stepping inside his room. "Well, I don't know what to do about it either. I thought you were good with technical stuff? Can't you fix it?" He smacked himself on his forehead. "If I could fix it, would I be standing out here?" "Okay, tell you what. I'll see if I can contact Xu on the console inside my quarters." Squall told him, seeing as how Zell would probably continue moping and smashing his fists against the wall if he didn't get any help. Zell smiled gratefully. "Thanks Squall. You're an okay guy, you know?" He had already entered his room to tell Xu about the malfunctioning door on Zell's behalf. That way the Commander wouldn't find out Zell was involved. -"Naw, I'm serious." Zell called out after him just before the doors closed. You shouldn't be bothered with Kenan. Who cares what he thinks anyway?" A sudden creepy feeling came over him and he carefully peeked over his shoulder. "Phew…" He breathed. Kenan hadn't sneaked up behind him and overheard his little comment, thank Odin!   <<------------------------------------------>>     Not by chance, the last facility Quistis visited with Skye in the little tour of the Garden was the Training Center. She hesitated whether or not to head in, so stopped in the hallway leading to it. "And finally, there's the Training Center." Quistis explained, simply pointing at the door. "It's the only facility open 24 hours a day. I don't recommend anyone going in there alone, creatures run loose there and it could be dangerous." Skye looked at Quistis. It wasn't planned, it was more of an accident…but she sensed something again. "Do you think I should go in?" She asked after reading her concerns and worries about that issue. -"I don't know." Quistis said honestly. "Although you are a Sorceress. You should be able to defend yourself." A male student carrying a sharp looking silver blade walked past the two girls. Skye eyed him briefly, then made up her mind. "I want to learn. I don't want to feel helpless. I want to be able to fight." Then, without warning, most lights in the main hall were extinguished. At first Skye was a bit startled but when she noticed Quistis thought nothing of it she guessed it was something normal. Quistis shook her head, realizing the time and her foolishness. "I'm sorry for pressing you. You've just arrived here and already I'm telling you to learn how to fight. Oh…I'm so silly." "Naw, it's okay." Skye assured, still wondering why the lights were suddenly switched off. -"It's now officially bed time." Quistis grinned. "They always turn off the main lights at night, nothing to worry about." She gestured to move on, and so the both walked towards the dormitories. It wasn't until now that Quistis thought about all that had happened that day. In the morning they were still hunting Sorceress Skye…now she's become an ally. And Squall too. Esthar had been taken over by the Sorceress. Then again…the fight probably still raged on…. "A lot has happened." She told Skye. "It feels like I've been away from Balamb Garden for weeks instead of one day." -"Yeah." Skye sadly affirmed. "I know what you mean." Nonetheless, she smiled after seeing how beautiful the Garden looked even without much lighting. The slowly streaming water all around the main hall reflected on the walls, providing a perfect ambiance and even soothing background sound. It was a tough choice to make should someone ask her which place she liked better; FH or Balamb Garden? Her cheery mood almost completely vanished as she realized there was another place she had visited. Esthar. That city too was an impressive sight. But with so much destroyed by that evil Sorceress… For the first time Skye could remember, she felt really angry. She felt anger towards Sorceress Ultimecia for causing destruction and chaos in the world. With that, Ultimecia gave all Sorceresses a bad name. Why does she want to capture me? Skye asked herself. I don't understand… "Are you okay?" Quistis stopped to ask. Skye looked up. They were about to walk through the hallway leading towards the dormitories. Or so a sign said. -"Yeah, I'm fine." Quistis giggled. "Just emerged in thought? You're not the first one today." Seeing Skye didn't find that amusing, Quistis's smile faded. "Oh, sorry." It didn't take them long to reach Tia's quarters thereafter. Despite the fact that she wasn't a SeeD, she did reside in SeeD quarters. Nobody minded Tia getting special treatment. Quistis remembered Headmaster Cid had decided to give Tia a room of her own after it became clear she had received Edea's powers. He thought it would be best for both the students and for her. In reality that only supported the separation between her and 'normal' students. She shook off the matter and knocked on the door. "It's Quistis. I'm here with Skye." -"Come on in." Kenan called in an inviting tone. Quistis pressed a button on the door and it slid open. A small room was revealed. Perhaps about as big as the hotel room Skye stayed at in FH. Although it looked way better than that. A lot more decorated. There were big green plants in the four corners of the room which really managed to brighten up the place. And along one wall there was a shelf with a long row of books just above a desk, which also practically overflowed in books and pieces of paper. "How did the tour go?" Kenan asked from the seat behind the desk. Skye knew he basically only wanted to know whether or not she went inside the Training Center. He worried too much, she concluded. Quistis must have quickly explained it to him, as she was gone the next time Skye looked back. A girl dressed in nightgown entered the room from an adjacent bathroom, Skye hadn't noticed until now. It was the same girl that stood waiting outside the Airship. She extended her hand. "Hi. I'm Tia, nice to meet ya." Skye shook it, then abruptly halted as she made eye contact. The girl's purple-colored eyes revealed something she hadn't sensed in anyone else before. "Y-you're…?" She uttered with a stammering voice. Tia looked at her older brother then back at Skye. "Yes. I'm a Sorceress too." -"Wow." Skye gasped in amazement. "I had no idea there was another Sorceress here." Tia moved to sit down on her bed. "You truly are a Sorceress or else you couldn't have known right away." Kenan chewed at the end of a pen he held onto. "Hmm. At least that's confirmed." That only leaves about a billion other unanswered questions. He thought yet refrained from voicing it. That wouldn't be very nice to Skye. And on top of that, his sister might give him a jolt of thunder. Quite nasty that would be. Sis always did hate him being negative and skeptic towards all things. Skye scanned around. Besides the bed and that one chair at the desk there was nowhere else to sit. "Just a sec." Tia chuckled, grabbed her pillow then staring at her brother mischievously. Kenan held up his hands. "Oh all right. I'll go." He collected the pieces of paper he wrote on and stood up. "Well, good night I guess." "Aww." Tia pouted. "I don't even get a goodnight kiss?" His face blushed red. The thought of kissing his nearly adult sister in front of someone else was just…odd somehow. Instead he gave a goofy kind of salute, slipped past Skye and into the hallway. "He's a little strange," Tia explained. "But then all guys are, right?" Skye took a seat at the chair by the desk, and turned it so she would face Tia. "Hee-hee. You've met Zell?" She snickered and hugged the pillow. "He is more than just a little strange…" Her face then showed a bit more compassion. "Aw. Poor guy though. I don't think he can help it." Skye smiled knowingly, at the same time thinking how at ease she felt. She wasn't considered to be a dangerous Sorceress anymore, made new friends and found a place she could in time perhaps call ''home''. All the nasty things faded of the past two days in the background until at least the next morning. For now, it was useless to worry. "Hey," Tia called. "Can you do this?" She held up her index finger and it started to glow. Skye watched with puppy dog eyes. Unlike other people who might find it scary, she was intrigued. A small blue flame appeared and began circling around the tip of Tia's finger. The light it emitted was so bright it turned the whole room blue. Tia laughed but kept her eyes on the flame as she moved her finger to the left and right. Like an obedient pet the blue flame followed Tia's finger wherever it went. "That's great." Skye told her, clapping her hands. Tia smiled widely. "I know. I can even get a green one if I try my best." Inspired by seeing this, Skye held up her left index finger. All her power was spent on trying to get the same thing as Tia, but not so much as a sparkle appeared. "I could teach you how to use your powers." Tia offered, knowing the difficulties Skye faced. "Not that I know everything, but I can cast some basic magic spells without having to stock up first." -"Really?" She replied. "That'd be great!" Her face turned serious. "Then again…not too great…" Tia frowned, recalling something her brother told her some minutes ago. "The Headmaster thinks you're dangerous, doesn't he?" She closed her fist. The blue flame instantly vanished into thin air. "I can't imagine why." Skye said with a sad tone of voice, not too thrilled by the display of magic anymore. -"He's a really nice man." Tia knew from experience. "He must have his reasons…" "So I heard." Skye sighed. The way he acted when she met him couldn't exactly be described as nice. Tia jumped up from the bed and pointed at the bathroom. "Say, if you want to freshen up, go ahead." "Thanks." Skye gratefully replied. "I will." Once Skye was inside the bathroom, Tia picked up the least fluffy of her two pillows and threw it down on the floor next to her bed together with a spare blanket to lie down on.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Meanwhile a bit further down the hall, Zell paced back and forth in front of his quarters with his hands in his butt-pockets, waiting for Squall. A moment later he came back out into the hallway. "I informed Xu. She'll send someone right away." "You didn't mention my name, did ya?" Zell cautiously inquired. -"No." Zell gave him a thumbs-up. "Great. Thanks loads!" "Don't mention it." Squall replied, heading back in his quarters for a well-deserved shower.


As he stepped out in the hallway again fifteen minutes later, Zell still stood impatiently waiting. Squall looked puzzled. "Didn't anyone fix it yet?" "Nope." He replied, annoyance clearly showing. "Some guy came by and said the problem is at the main power source. I think he said he'd go down to MD Level." Zell turned his head back to the hallway to his left, expecting Squall would just return to his quarters like he did before. "How long ago was this?" Squall asked, imagining the worst. Surprised, Zell glanced over his shoulder. "Uh, 'bout ten minutes I think. I dunno exactly." He looked in front of him again. Then it hit him and his eyes widened. "You…don't suppose something happened?" By the time Zell glanced over his shoulder again wondering why there was no reply, the doors to Squall's quarters shut once more.   Hmph. What a jerk. He concluded. Precisely 1 minute and 28.67 seconds later (Zell just loved timing stuff with his new digital watch) he heard the sound of the door sliding open for, oh, about the millionth time. Squall, holding his gunblade in one hand, bashed against the door panel with his other. "Let's go." He told Zell as his quarters was now locked. -"What? Go where?"     <<------------------------------------------>>     Squall stopped in front of the elevator in the main hall, waiting for Zell to catch up. Heavily panting, he arrived a few moments later. "What's…with…all…this…running?" "Xu told me about another repair crew that headed down to MD Level to solve a similar malfunction." He explained and pressed the button to call the elevator. -"And?" Zell urged him to go on, with heaving chest. "They never came back." Squall said, not mincing words. Zell gulped. "And you want me to go down there with ya?!" "Don't be such a coward Dincht." He cringed. Noooo! That voice! Kenan met up with the two guys in front of the elevator. "Thanks for notifying me. I'll go check it out." Zell's lower jaw dropped. That double-crossing Squall DID inform Kenan! "I'm going too." Squall said confidently. "Things may be different here but this is still Balamb Garden…" After pressing the elevator call button, Kenan nodded. "I…I understand." -"You guys are crazy." Zell grinned nervously. "Who knows what's down there?" "Is the Zell you know also this wimpy?" Kenan asked Squall. He folded his arms over his chest and smirked. "I can't imagine him being a bold hero type." Squall preferred not to answer that question. Seeing a clear opportunity to escape, Zell dashed away from the elevator…or so he thought… Kenan had grabbed him by his collar and the only thing Zell achieved was nearly choking himself. "You're not going anywhere." He warned. "We're going down there, whether you like it or not." Zell held up his hands in defense. "All right! I'll go. I'm just saying it's a stupid idea." He was released from Kenan's grip. The Commander turned his attention back to the elevator, which still hadn't arrived. "I guess this isn't working either." Squall pried his gunblade right in between the slide doors and forced them open. He bent forward and looked up. The elevator appeared stuck on the second floor. Ignorant as ever, Zell stuck his head inside the shaft and peered all the way down. "Careful." Kenan told him whilst pulling him back quickly. "Wouldn't want to lose your head, would ya?" His face showed confusion. "Lose my head? How?" They heard a terribly loud scrapping sound. The entire elevator fell down and crashed into the bottom of the shaft. The sheer speed with which it dropped caused a gust of wind that blew Zell's hair into a mess. "Oh." He said and scratched the back of his neck, grateful his head remained attached to it. "Never mind, I get it." Squall sheathed his gunblade. "We'll have to climb down." "Agreed…" Kenan spoke delighted that someone else could come up with solid ideas for a change. He jumped to the other side of the shaft and held on the emergency ladder. Zell re-straightened his hair. "Watch this," He whispered to Squall. "He's gonna say something really nerdy." -"Let's mosey!" Kenan ordered, already starting to climb down. Zell shook his head. "He's so predictable." The three SeeDs went down to MD Level one by one.     Kenan was first to reach the ventilation duct that led to the control room. It was about halfway between the first floor and…rock bottom? Since there were only a few red emergency lights operational in the shaft it was hard to tell how far down one could go. Or fall, for that matter… He couldn't help but sneeze since dust particles abundantly flew in the air. No doubt stirred up by the crashing elevator. "Here, let me help." He offered and extended his arm towards Squall to be of some aid. Without receiving any thanks he pulled Squall into the duct. "I'll go on ahead." Was all he got. Kenan didn't pursue the matter and extended his arm to help Zell. "C'mon, let's go." Zell whimpered and calculated in how much agony he'd be in the event something went wrong. A hundred feet fall seemed a fair estimate. Of course he'd fall on metallic debris…perhaps with sharp edges… He closed his eyes and prayed. I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die! Please! "Uh, Zell?" Kenan called impatiently. "Come on. It's only one small step away." Easy for him to say. Zell thought. He already made it… "Come on!" Kenan repeated forcefully. His voice echoed strangely, making it sound almost robotic. Zell huffed and puffed as if he was an old man. "Hey don't rush me. I'll get there eventually." He gripped the ladder even tighter, nearly squeezing his arteries closed. So later he accounted it to lack of oxygen to his brain that he suddenly let go of the ladder after another 'encouragement' and miraculously found himself some feet inside the ventilation duct. What he didn't realize was that he would have fallen like a brick if it wasn't for Kenan and his helping hand. But again he didn't pursue the matter. By all means, don't thank your savior! The two crawled quickly through the duct and made it to the control room. Well, they made to a room of some sort… They should have remembered the controls were a lot further down but strangely enough didn't. Guardian Forces effecting their brains? Zell and Kenan straightened and dusted themselves off. The dome-shaped room they were in luckily provided a little more breathing space than those cramped and dusty ducts. "Oh yeah!" Kenan exclaimed, memories flooding back to him at the sight of Squall standing next to a valve. "The valve! We need to turn the valve." After spitting on his gloves and rubbing them together until he felt a burning sensation, Zell deemed himself ready to single-handly turn the rusty valve handle. Squall didn't seem to mind and stepped aside. "We're rooting for ya." Kenan laughed, gesturing his comrade to go ahead by all means. Ready to give it all he got, Zell stepped up to the valve. He eyed it like it was his mortal enemy. After take one last deep breath he firmly took hold of the valve and applied pressure, aimed at getting the handle to open up towards the left. Zell was caught of guard when it already began the spin before he even used all his strength. Since he held on so tightly he was thrown along to in the direction the handle went. It felt like his arms were stretched to the limit before that handle finally stopped turning. "Someone already opened it." Kenan reasoned, barely holding back a sudden burst of laughter. -"The technicians." Squall concluded after helping a now strangely quiet Zell open the lid. The three men gathered around the hole and peered down, wondering what could lay waiting… "I wish we had a flashbang." Kenan sort of whimpered. "That's probably what the pros would thrown in the hole before going down themselves, you know?" Squall titled his head in consideration. Zell's eyebrows furrowed. "Well, we went down here before. Everything was fine then." "Fine?" Kenan asked in disbelief. "We were attacked by dozens of creatures. Like those two oilboyles, remember?" Zell stepped on the ladder, remaining perfectly calm and in control. "All we can do now is go down further." Kenan rubbed his chin, wondering at what time did Zell suddenly become fearless and he worried sick. With enough said already they descended the ladder and found themselves to be in some sort of large pipe with small puddles of oil laying spread across everywhere. Even spots of oil on the top of the pipe, which somehow seemed to defy the basic laws of gravity… So it was a pipeline to supply oil to the oil tank, they guessed. After first checking his equipment before moving on, Kenan came to a shocking conclusion. "Dammit!" He cursed loudly. "I'm unarmed." Shouldn't have thrown my gun away in despair. He reminded himself and made a mental note never to do something utterly stupid like that again. Zell banged his fists together. "I aint armed either." Kenan rolled his eyes in annoyance. "I can see that. But you're good with hand-to-hand combat. I prefer a gun." "That's right." Zell was more than happy to confirm and started ranting. "…Hand-to-hand is the basis of all combat, only a fool trusts his life to a weapon. Yeah, the clashing of bone and sinew is truly….uh…guys?" By now Kenan had joined up with Squall and the two were walking far ahead. "Whoa!" Zell exclaimed, frantically waving with his arms. "Wait up! Wait for me!"   <<------------------------------------------>>   Just a bit further down, in a control room only accessible after crossing an almost horizontal ladder, two Galbadian officers were attempting to fully disable Balamb Garden. Their efforts had met with little result, as it appeared someone up at the Garden controls stayed a few steps ahead each time they managed to disable a sub-system. The power outage would thus only be of temporary nature. But finally after having crawled down to MD Level while Balamb Garden was fending off the attack from Galbadia Garden they were getting close to figuring out how to deal with the problems. After spending more than a day in the ill-lit creepy metal dungeon that those Balamb wimps called MD Level they would do something right for a change and get their well-earned promotion. "Well Sir?" Private Wedge called hopefully. He hadn't seen daylight since that SeeD shot him down and he fled towards Balamb Garden's basement, and was getting pretty fed up with the whole effort. -"Let's see," Lieutenant Biggs mumbled, messing around with a set of wires. "Put this here…that there…" A wide smile appeared on his face. "There. I did it!" He stood up, pushed his lower-ranking buddy away from the console and grinned evilly. Wedge recognized it as a lame rip-off of Seifer's evil grin. Biggs came nowhere close to sounding that evil, but it was a nice try nonetheless. Definitely worth a 3.9 out of 5. "Why didn't you just pull all the plugs Sir?" He ignorantly wondered, scratching his butt like a baboon after feeling a nasty itch. Presumably caused by his butt-cushioned landing from a day ago. "If you want a complete power outage--" Biggs bashed him against the wall with his metallic arm. "You idiot! We would be trapped down here if I did that!" Wedge bent down his head in shame. "Oh. Right. Of course. Naturally. You're absolutely--" "Will you shaddap?!" Biggs snapped at him in a fit of rage. "I'm trying to cause optimum mayhem." "This requires silence!" Not quite following his boss's line of reasoning Wedge nodded obediently anyway. Like a child that just received a new fabulous toy to play with, Biggs moved his hands over the many buttons on the panel. He could now disable any system he wanted, since he managed to re-route control to the console in front. "Which will be first?" He asked out loud, but by no means meant for Wedge to open his mouth. "Communications again? Perhaps the lighting? The engines? …So many choices…" -"S-sir?" Wedge tried to warn, tapping on Biggs' shoulder. "Cut that out!" He ordered, swatting his buddy away like a fly. "Can't you see I'm busy?" Wedge took a few steps back and pointed at something beyond the shattered control room window with an anything but a steady hand. "It's them Sir! They're here!!" Biggs gazed at the other end of the horizontal ladder in awe. He was completely frozen in his place by the surprise. The two SeeDs standing there exchanged looks, then smirked at Biggs and Wedge. One held a gunblade not unlike the one Commander Almasy had. The other appeared unarmed at first glance, but by no means appeared any less menacing with his sturdy boots that would definitely leave a mark if used to kick with. "It's him!!" Wedge cried out, pointing at the unarmed SeeD. "He's the one that beat us twice before!!" -"Something isn't right." Biggs realized panicky. "Weren't there always three of them?" "This is insAAAAAaaaaaaaane!!" Zell yelled out on the top of his lungs as he swung with a loose cable over a two hundred feet deep steel chasm towards the control room. -"Go Dincht!" Kenan rooted, just like he always said he would. Biggs raised his metallic arms in defense and Wedge cowardly hid behind his boss's back. To no avail, since Zell perfectly timed his letting go of the cable and crashed landed right on top of the two Galbadian soldiers without suffering any injury himself, miraculously enough. Kenan carefully walked across the horizontal ladder and was first to congratulate Zell for pulling off such an amazing display of courage and stupidity at the same time. "Well done!" He said overjoyed. "You really earned your salary with that one Dincht." -"Ugh. I have no feeling in my legs." Wedge complained. "Do you think you could get off me Sir?" Biggs rolled over and plopped down on the floor with a loud thud. He lay face down, perfectly still, admitting his defeat. Zell looked around himself and swallowed heavily. "I… I… made it?" "Sure did." Kenan laughed out loud. "You might not be such a wimp after all." He bent down on one knee to inspect Biggs and Wedge. "Well well. You two again. I should have known." Biggs let a short choked evil grin then coughed heavily. "W-we give up!" Wedge cried. "Don't hurt us!" Kenan crossed his arms and dug into his mind. "As I recall…you said the same thing during the battle yesterday." Quickly Wedge pasted on a false smile. "I..uh..mean it now?" He offered for the SeeD's approval. -"I found the technicians." Squall informed the others, seeing two men tied up at the bottom of the gigantic oil drum. Simply forgetting the fact that he could have easily gotten himself killed just now, Zell proudly assumed his famous victory pose. "The winner! I totally booyakaded them." Knowing it would be a while before Zell would stop boasting about his achievements of that night, Kenan really didn't care to give him further thanks or congrats. He was able to contact Xu with the console Biggs was about to use for his 'optimum mayhem' and received instructions on how to restore all systems back to normal. The technicians were freed and the Garden was saved. All in a day's work. Of course, a for once quickly thinking Zell did most of the work… But that needn't be repeated out loud too many times.   <<------------------------------------------>>   Headmaster Cid helped pull up the second Galbadian prisoner of war from the elevator shaft, and lastly a tired-looking Commander Gantt. He beamed with pride. "Excellent work Commander. We've been wondering for some time now what was causing our mysterious power outages, but thanks to your efforts we shouldn't have to worry about that anymore." Zell pasted on an unusually cheesy smile, expecting a promotion or something along those lines. Much to Kenan's amusement the Headmaster only gave him a firm 'good-job-son' pat on the shoulder, while even the stranger Squall got a handshake and a "Thank you." Doctor Kadowaki, carrying a bag full of medical- and diagnostic equipment, arrived in front of the first floor elevator rather rapidly after being called upon. Especially given the fact she had to be called out of her bed for the emergency. "Is everyone okay?" She immediately began asking, thinking along the line of catastrophic accidents and other doomsday-like scenarios. She was met with weird looks, as it appeared nobody bothered to inform her it nothing seriously bad had happened. So they all found out first hand that even a normally very friendly person like the Doc could get a little upset from being called out bed for nothing more than two people who's wrists were slightly injured from being tied together with rope. "Excuse me?" Doctor Kadowaki asked. Her tone of voice revealed she was being anything but polite. "Rope cuts? I'm dragged out of my bed late in the evening for rope cuts?" Headmaster Cid tried his best putting the Doctor at ease, but all her stress and anxiety of the last few days had bundled up, ready to be released in full. Knowing what was best for them, everyone fled the scene before being dragged into it. Kenan made sure a Garden Faculty escorted Biggs and Wedge to the brig, where they would undoubtedly spent some quality time with the other Galbadian prisoners. Sun…sea…hot chicks…great food… Those were but a few things they'd surely miss out on during their stay behind bars. Hey kids, what have we learned? Kenan sarcastically asked himself like he was Barney, the purple-colored T-Rexaur that he used to adore as a child. -A long, long time ago!- That's right. He thought, continuing with his mental charade. Crime-does-not-pay. He stopped and realized he had forgotten their special victory group hug. Shoot, wouldn't you know it? "Yo Kenan," Zell called out from behind, freeing him from his childish thoughts. "Where you goin'?" Kenan looked around and realized he'd been subconsciously walking towards…the front gate? Yeah. That's where he had headed. The thought of getting some fresh air, as opposed to the oil-stench from MD Level must have crossed his mind without him consciously being able to recall it. -"For a stroll." He explained to hero of the day. Though luckily few knew of the title. "How about you?" "Well," He started but was cut off by a yawn. "…Take a wild guess." Kenan laughed. "Goodnight then. And, please, try not to wet the bed again. We're running out of clean sheets…" "Oi!" Zell grumbled, recalling that particular incident. "I told you! I spilled some water, okay?! Water!" -"Sure Zell." Kenan agreed, way too eager. "Whatever you say." Too tired to fire up that old argument again, Zell retreated to his quarters. Knowing the door would open, at last!   <<------------------------------------------>>   Rain pelted down outside. It felt warm as if hit Kenan's skin. An occasional gust of wind made his hair fly in almost all directions. … … … He stared across the barren Centra land. Even in the darkness it revealed a certain beauty only a Centra like him could ever truly comprehend. The land of his ancestors. Barren or not, it showed incredible strength. Neither the insistent rain nor the thunderstorms could bring any harm to it. It would remain untouched like Kenan saw before him until the end of time. Yet it used to be truly beautiful, long ago. No scientists, archeologists, historians or scholars could ever fully grasp what caused such dreadful thing as the death of an entire tribe and its land. "A 4000 year old civilization. They were the first immigrants in the areas now called Esthar and The Dollet Dukedom. The Lunar Cry of 80 years ago wiped out the entire population on the Centra Continent." Was what the schoolbooks said about the Centra. But Kenan never believed they were all wiped out. His family's existence proved that theory to be incorrect. Their genetics were different from those of other humans. They were descendants of that ancient civilization. He crossed his arms. How did so many die, but my family and a few other ones survive? Eighty years ago…it seemed so…close by. Yet eighty years ago was the time of the First Sorceress War. The modern technologies had hardly been invented yet. It was like the entire planet still lived in the dark ages. And nobody but the Centra survivors knew of their civilization's disappearance. Even the people who had immigrated across the seas during the course of the four centuries history of the Centra race didn't know of it. How could almost an entire race suddenly vanish? "The Centra…like humans today…got too powerful. They had lived peacefully for so long, but a Sorceress from the North started a terrible war." Kenan's dad used to tell him all the time. "It was magic son! No Lunar Cry or any of that hubbub, misused magic killed our people." What kind of magic could be that powerful? He always wondered. Nobody knew. The survivors themselves didn't know what happened. "A Sorceress?!" He demanded, looking up at the sky. It was exactly the same dark sky that appeared the day his father was buried. He asked the same question as he did that fateful day seven years ago. "The work of a Sorceress?" It had to be a Sorceress who did it. He was convinced of it. A Sorceress killed them all. His dad…his mom…his entire civilization. It was a never-ending curse the Gantts carried with them. Tia had already encountered her 'fate'. When would he? To end the curse once and for all…he decided at young age that he wanted to become a SeeD. So he could fight fate. No Sorceress would do a terrible thing again, ever! Fate isn't something written down in advance, waiting to happen. I have the power to change fate… He was a bit startled as thunder struck down from the ominous dark clouds that very moment. As if Mother Nature ironically showed Kenan there were always limitations to humans changing their own fate. The thunder struck nowhere near him, yet he was concerned about the fact he was standing out in the open. Didn't thunder always strike at the highest point? He looked over his shoulder. He had by now walked a good distance away from the low-hovering Balamb Garden, but could still make out the Esthar soldiers guarding the front gate. Kenan sighed. He couldn't exactly point out why, but he didn't mind standing there all by himself, slowly getting soaked. Finally some time to stop and think, could that be it? Not many distractions in this sort of landscape… Part of an old Centra tale described the land best. Angelus Errare; A place where even angels don't dwell. The rain was turning the usually dry land to mud. There were pools of water all around now. He smiled, and listened to the howling wind. "The wind, it's the cry of the planet. Listen closely, and you might hear what its trying to say. " His dad used to tell him whenever he got frightened as a kid by a storm outside. Sometimes he'd sit in the dark attic, all alone, trying to understand the planet's cries. But he never really heard anything. As he grew older he realized such a thing was nonsense… "It's not very wise standing out here, unarmed." He turned around and Squall holding his gunblade stepped up to him. "There might be monsters here." Kenan eyed him momentarily, then once again stared at the endless landmass in front, not minding the company. "Those Geezards might cause some nasty injuries if you're caught off guard." He warned again. -"It's okay." Kenan remarked. "It seems no monster dares show its ugly head around here anyway." And he was right. Not a creature was stirring. This land…it didn't look familiar to Squall. "…This is what you call Zone Two? I don't recall ever seeing such a place on the Centra Continent when I traveled through it." -"The Continent is quite large." He offered. "You may have over looked it." Squall shook his head. "I doubt it." -"Strange." Kenan muttered but didn't think much of it. "But what's ever stranger, why did Sorceress Adel attack only you? She was more powerful than the Adel you recall, why didn't she attack us all?" He knew by what he had witnessed in the Command Center that she could have won the battle, yet she chose to avoid it. Why did she attack only Squall, and let Laguna whom she hated so much the chance to escape? "I don't know." Squall replied honestly. "…There are lots of things I don't know…" -"Same goes for me." Kenan grinned. "Oh, but if there's anything you wish to ask, go ahead." Squall looked at his gunblade. The one he stole from Seifer. "Who killed him?" He wanted to know. "Was it the Sorceress?" Kenan looked aside. "You mean Seifer? I dunno actually, you sure you didn't?" "No. But If Adel hadn't shown up…" He paused. Would I have killed him? He didn't know. Despite everything Seifer had done, he didn't know. In a way, there was always a mutual understanding between him and Seifer, even if they acted like enemies and fought all the time. The Seifer Squall encountered in Esthar was weak. He wasn't the real Seifer. Perhaps in a world where Squall hadn't been around, Seifer didn't have anyone to spar with it and hone his skills. A world where I was never around…is that it? No, it can't be. The Sorceress attacked Esthar in the Lunatic Pandora. That couldn't happen all because I wasn't around… … …It makes no sense! I don't get it! "Say," Kenan started, interrupting his thoughts. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about Skye, would you?" Squall rubbed his temples. "She told me that she had washed ashore, suffering from amnesia. All she had on her was a dog-tag with the her name on it." Kenan beamed, his dirty mind kicking in. "You mean, she was naked besides that?" "No." Squall told him with a serious face. "I doubt that." Moron. He laughed, then ran his hand through his hair. "Okay, but seriously. That tag could be a clue. Civilians don't normally wear dog tags, do they? So--" "She is in some military." Squall concluded at the same time. Kenan grinned in disbelief. "And the hits just keep on coming…" The wind flared up. Both men shivered from the unexpected coldness. "I'm going to head back inside." Kenan told Squall. "I suggest you do the same." He zipped his jacket tightly closed. "I think I will." Kenan started walking back towards Balamb Garden. "I have one other question." Squall said, thinking now would be the best time to ask since the guy appeared in a good mood. "It's about Rinoa." Kenan stopped and turned. "Your girlie, huh? Sure…shoot." "Didn't you have a contract with her?" He asked. "I'm wondering how you could have dropped her off in Timber." -"It wasn't easy." Kenan sighed and crossed his arms. "Naturally she wanted to stay with us, but I thought it would be best if she stayed with her friends in Timber. A lot safer, you know? I talked about it with Headmaster Cid and he allowed the contract to be canceled." Squall nodded as if he understood and continued walking. Feeling sleep creep up, Kenan rubbed his eyes. Bed…here I come…He thought and had only one goal in sight now; getting some shut-eye.
Confidence by Goku Girl
"You failed us Commander!" The Headmaster's voice echoed loudly in his office. Kenan stood at attention in the center. "But Sir, I did what I could!" Laughter. "Did what you could?!" Headmaster Cid stepped into his view. His face showed anger unlike Kenan had ever seen before. "You did NOTHING! You were the one that condemned all those students to death! Because of YOU, we lost!" Kenan looked at him bitterly. "Don't you think I know that Sir?!" He buried his face in hands. "I saw countless being butchered by the Sorceress! Where were you in all that?!" The Headmaster looked up in surprise. "You left command to an inexperienced, just barely graduated SeeD!" Kenan shouted in self-defense, uncovering his face to show his fury. "Why! Were you too scared to carry the burden yourself?!" Shaking his head, Headmaster Cid stepped closer. "You were in command! You are responsible!" -"No!" Kenan yelled back. "You should have never given me command! I did the best I could, but I was never trained to be ordering around so many!" A smell of blood invaded the room, making him sick to his stomach. The Headmaster laughed insanely. "You say it's all my fault then? So you will admit I should have never put an obvious failure like you in command of my Garden?! I should have never allowed you to even become a member of SeeD." He began circling around Kenan like a vulture. "You're a disgrace to this Garden and all it stands for!" "Master NORG was right. We should deliver your head on a platter to the Sorceress!" "There are so little thoughts floating about in that head of yours, you couldn't even blow out a candle with them." Kenan felt himself being lifted up. Two Galbadian soldiers hung him on the torture wall in the D-district prison, making sure the chains around his arms were tightened so much they almost cut off blood circulation.  Seifer gestured the two soldiers to leave him alone with his victim. "Well, well! If it isn't the great Commander Gantt!" He scoffed. "You won't be so lucky this time!" -"What do you mean?!" Kenan demanded to know, trying in vain to free himself. Grinning evilly, Seifer stepped up to the torture console. "There is no escape. Your so-called friends left you here to rot. They won't come in and safe the day. Not this time!!" He pushed the button and Kenan screamed out in agony as the surge of electricity ran through him like a thousands needles methodically stabbing at every nerve in his body. The surge abruptly ended after a few seconds. "Aw. Had enough?" Seifer asked, mimicking sympathy. "I think not!!" Without remorse or compassion he electrocuted his victim once more. Kenan's head hung down. He was moments away from passing out. Seifer smirked and lifted his head up. "What's this?! Going so soon? I'm not finished yet!" "I…won't…tell…you…anything!" Kenan uttered under extreme pain. The tip of Seifer's gunblade was held to his neck. "Admit it!" Kenan fought to keep focused. "….Admit…what?…" More laughter. "Part of you yearns to give in!" Seifer explained knowingly. "The pain is too much to handle! Your friends mean nothing to you now! You're ready to tell me anything, as long as I spare you're miserable life!" -"Liar!" He threw his gunblade away and beat Kenan across his face twice. "You KNOW I'm telling the truth." Kenan coldly stared him in the eyes as blood oozed down from his nose. "I would NEVER betray the Garden! NEVER!!" Sorceress Adel appeared instead of Seifer. "Fool! You SeeDs are all cowards!" He coughed from a severe pain on his chest. "Ha. I'll kill both you and Sorceress Ultimecia." She cut his chains with her claws and let him fall on the hard ground. "Why do you insist on fighting? You couldn't even protect your own sister!" Adel cast a thunder bolt upon his body and he caved in. "WEAKLING!"     Skye helped Kenan get up. "Thanks." He said and scanned around. Countless students watched him standing in the middle of the main hall. Their faces were pale and covered in blood. "Who are they?" He asked Skye. "Why are the looking at me like that?!" -"Don't you recognize the faces of the people that died under your command?" She answered and allowed a little boy to step up. The others remained in the circle all around Kenan. Skye held him by the shoulder like it was her child. "This is Jack. He used to love running around the main hall to work on his stamina, until that one fateful moment…" Kenan seemed puzzled. "He died?" She smiled and bent down to whisper something in the boy's ear. "Bye!" He exclaimed and joined up with the other students. -"He was such a nice little guy." She sighed. "Too bad he's gone now." "Gone?" Kenan asked. "What are you talking about? All junior classmen were…. H-he couldn't have possibly…" Skye tried her best to hold back a grin. "Don't you get it?" He frowned. "What? Tell me!" "They're all dead." She reported cheerfully. "All thanks to you." Quistis stepped up from the crowd. "She's right. Everyone was killed thanks to you Commander." He shook his head in disbelief. "No! That isn't right!" "Afraid so buddy." Irvine spoke sadly. "And to think we all trusted you…" Doctor Kadowaki handed Kenan a list of casualties. Everyone single name written on the first page was crossed out with a red-ink pen. Deceased. Disturbed, he quickly sifted through until he found the name he looked for, under 'G'. The name Gantt, Tia, had been crossed out. Like all the others. Even his name made no exception to this. Gantt, Kenan. Crossed out with a red-ink pen. Deceased. Skye eyed him, tugging playfully with a strand of her hair. "Told ya so. All dead." "This list can't be right." He told her, refusing to believe anything she'd said. "I'm not dead." She placed her hands on her hip. "You will be sooner or later. It doesn't matter when. Time doesn't exist in the realm of the deceased. Besides, everyone is marked with the sign of death from the day they were born." -"Afraid so." Irvine sadly confirmed. Selphie, drained of all color, clenched on to him. "Why did you send Irvy off to die? Why Kenan?" "Yes." Xu affirmed, stepping up with her clipboard close to her chest. "That's is what we would like to know." -"Why did you send them all off to die?" Skye repeated. "I think you owe them an explanation." Kenan looked at the countless pale faces staring at him waiting for an answer. Quistis crossed her arms. "Well Sir? Why did we die?" He wanted to speak up, but couldn't find the words. "Should I tell them?" Skye whispered, coming to his aid. Before he could reply, she placed her finger on his mouth. Like people always do when they want someone to hush. "Allow me." She said softly then turned to the students. He couldn't talk anymore. All he could was painstakingly watch her plead. "This man, Commander Kenan Gantt," She started. "Got every last one of you killed. And why, you wonder?" She grinned. "It's really very simple." They waited patiently for her to explain. "He's afraid of Sorceresses." She repeated over and over. "He didn't dare attack, until it was too late!" The crowd's patient holding back slowly turned into anger and rage. Skye smirked and as she turned around, the students attacked. Kenan fell to his knees and tried to shield himself with his arms. "Now you DIE!" A chorus of voice yelled.   <<------------------------------------------>>     His eyes opened, immediately focused. The dark ceiling of his room was the first thing he saw. He groaned and placed one hand on his forehead. It felt hot. Am I dead? He wondered. After pulling away his sheets, Kenan shivered from the low temperature in his quarters. Everyone is marked with the sign of death from the day they were born? There are so little thoughts floating about in that head of yours, you couldn't even blow out a candle with them? What the… "…Strange dream…" He concluded with a yawn. The light switch was only a few feet away, so he picked himself up and walked over. He had held up his hand in front of his eyes until they adjusted to the light. The next thing he knew, he stood in the bathroom, staring at his reflection in the mirror. His face…it looked pale…like those students in his dream. No. Nightmare. That was a better description for it. He thoughtlessly picked up the scissors from the drawer and started cutting his long hair short. It wasn't until the first hairs fell into the sink that he fully realized it. Nevertheless, he continued cutting his hair. That nightmare…did the Sorceress have something to do with it…? They were all wrong. He thought about the people that had appeared in the nightmare. I'm not afraid of fighting Sorceresses, and I'm not a traitor. I'm sorry for what happened earlier…but I did the best I could… He leaned against the sink and looked himself in the eyes. "Didn't I?" Yes, I did. He was confident. That nightmare only strengthened him. If indeed Sorceress Adel or Ultimecia were behind it, they failed to break his spirit. For now his mission was clearer than ever, and a confrontation with one of his greatest fears was inevitable. "No regrets about the past anymore." He told himself out loud. "I'm a SeeD. I'll fight, no matter what." To signify this, he cut his long hair that he had let grow since the first battle with Galbadia Garden. People died. That happened in wars. Nobody to blame but the one that started all the killing, Ultimecia! Kenan smiled. This getting new insight thing was really great, although next time he hoped the people in his dreams could possible shout a little less. His head was ringing. Back in his bedroom, the tiny digital alarm clock displayed approximately three a.m. He yawned and crawled back in bed. Let's hope my next dream includes some hot chicks… for a change…     <<------------------------------------------>>     The next morning at about seven a.m., the guests from Esthar and the entire SeeD team -with the exception of Zell- had gathered in the main hall, in front of the lobby. "He's going to be late." Quistis said, noticing his absence. "You don't think he's still sleeping?" -"What a sleepy-head!" Selphie exclaimed, despite the fact she had to partially lean against Irvine to stand up straight. Kenan exchanged looks with Squall. "Well…I don't see why he'd be that sleepy. It's not like he risked his life yesterday night trying to save the Garden or anything." Irvine raised an eyebrow. "Uh, what did you say?" He smiled. "Nothing. Never mind." Irvine let it rest, too tired to pursue the matter. Laguna and co. were sitting on a bench close by. Ellone sat protected in the middle. "Isn't someone else missing?" The President asked curiously. -"Are you saying you're hundred percent present?" Kiros grinned. Selphie chuckled gleefully. "The Commander isn't hundred percent anymore either. Tee-hee!" He sighed. "Yeah, yeah. I cut my hair and didn't put on my bandanna. Whoop-tee-doo." The bandanna didn't serve a useful function anymore with his hair short, so didn't bother wearing it. "But you didn't tell us why." She reminded him. He smirked. "And he isn't gonna." Irvine laughed. Selphie pouted. "Aww, come on. Tell us! Don't be such a closed book all the time." "Why don't you tell us what you were doing last night?" Kenan offered instead. "I'm sure that's much more interesting." Quistis threw him a slightly disturbed look. "That's really none of our business." "Sure it is." He reasoned. "Garden rules state that the dorms are only to be used as a place to sleep and study…" He suddenly broke into a short fit of laughter. "Then again, maybe they were studying biology? If you catch my drift." Everyone looked disgusted now. Kenan held up his hands, still partly laughing. "Okay, okay. None of my business." Squall covered his face with one hand. What am I doing here with this clown? I want everything to be normal… Laguna still insisted that someone else was missing. "You know? …Guys? That Sorceress girl?" "Course we know Sir." Kenan replied laughingly. "But since the Headmaster hasn't heard about her being yet, we thought it would be best to bring it up during the meeting, rather than have that scene play out here in the hall. Skye should be in the Training Center now with my sister." There were a few moments of silence as the elevator doors opened. An Esthar soldier stepped out, and not the Headmaster whom everyone expected. It was amazing, Kenan knew, that the repair crews managed to fix the elevator in such short time. -"It's past 7:00." Quistis informed everyone with a concerned look. "It isn't like the Headmaster to be late…" Not feeling much for early morning heroics, Kenan leaned against the railing and looked down at the slow flowing water stream. "If he isn't here in ten minutes, I'll go look." "He'll be here shortly." Kiros assured. "He was already up early today and sent Captain Ran Fong on reconnaissance, and Captain Nagoya on a mission to Balamb. Perhaps he's busy supervising at the moment." -"What kind of mission?" Kenan inquired, having not heard of any such thing yet. Kiros frowned, trying to recall. "I believe to ascertain whether or not parts of Galbadia Garden could be salvaged and to stock up on necessary supplies from the town of Balamb." Irvine started pacing back and forth. "A mission this early?" "We have to act fast or Esthar will fall." Laguna explained. "It's hard to think people are fighting out there, while we get to relax here. I guess the Headmaster thought this too…" A faint sound of a T-board engine emanated from the dormitory area. Kenan tried looking for it, but it hadn't entered the main hall yet. "Hmm, guess who's breaking Garden rules again?" "Zell!" Selphie exclaimed as he moments later hovered past the Cafeteria on his T-board. Several students and Esthar soldiers alike had to jump aside as Zell came speeding towards the lobby. -"Zell!" Quistis warned. "T-boards are prohibited, you know that." He 'parked' besides the bench on the other side of Laguna. He slammed his foot down on the T-board's rear end and held it in his hands. "Sorry. I know…but I thought I was late…." Kenan pointed his finger at him. "Don't let me catch you using that thing inside again." Zell glared at him angrily. "It's just this one time!" "Yeah, cut him some slack Commander." Irvine agreed. -"Sure." He replied, then sighed. "He almost killed a few people with that thing, by all means let's cut him some slack." Squall frowned. Is this guy ever serious? "You're such a smartass." Selphie giggled. Kenan raised an eyebrow in consideration. "Yeah, I suppose my ass does have an above average IQ." -"Compared to what?" Quistis asked, barely being able to hold back a grin. "Other asses?" Squall continued to frown. Even Quistis now? A pack of short-skirted female students walked by. "Speaking of asses…" Kenan mumbled to Irvine. He grinned. "I know what you mean. I just love Balamb Garden's uniforms." Kenan rubbed his chin. "Gee, I dunno. The winter outfits aren't that great, but the summer ones…heck yeah!" "What are you two talking about?" Selphie butted in. -"N-nothing." Both men assured. She shook her head and joined up with Zell. "So, couldn't get out bed early, huh?" He stopped polishing his T-board. "What? Didn't hear what I did last night?" She shrugged. "You…wet the bed again?" "Aaah!" Zell screamed furiously. "For the last time, I DID NOT wet the bed, EVER!!" Selphie looked over her shoulder at Kenan. "But that's what the Commander said…" "And you believe him?!" Zell spat, amazed she apparently did. She shifted her balance from her left leg to her right, thinking. "I don't know. Why would he lie?" "It's okay Zell." Laguna assured from the bench. "Accidentally wetting the bed happens to the best of us." They all stared at him. He scratched the back of his head. "I…err… … … never mind!" Squall began to wonder how he ended up with those clowns. Normally he'd tell everyone to stop goofing around, but that was Gantt's job now, not his. At last, the elevator doors slid open and Headmaster Cid stepped out. Everyone stood up straight. He smiled as he descended down the stairs. "I'm sorry for being late, let's get our meeting started right away." "In the hall?" Kenan wondered. Headmaster Cid shook his head and gestured everyone to follow him. "Since those Garden controls have reduced the available space in my office, I cleared the Cafeteria for our meeting." Zell cheered. "Uh, I doubt we'll be eating hotdogs just yet…" Irvine grinned. -"Oh Man! But I'm hungryyy!" Zell nagged childishly. Squall remembered something and reached in his pocket. Yup, still there. "Here you go." He told Zell and handed him a can of rations. "It's…food." The way he said it didn't exactly sound convincing. Yet with an empty stomach, Zell could eat anything even closely resembling food, so he gratefully accepted the generous gift from Squall. As soon as the can was opened, a foul odor spread. Laguna chuckled. "Ward! How could you? Is the bathroom really that far?" He looked at Laguna questioningly. "I don't think it's Ward." Kiros told him. "…Not this time anyway." Quistis waved one hand in front of her nose. "Are those rations you're eating Zell?" He stopped chewing momentarily and made a strange sort of "uh-huh" sound. Headmaster Cid cleared his throat and everyone immediately paid attention. "Commander Gantt and Mr. Leonhart, please follow me inside. The rest of the SeeDs will have to wait here." Laguna turned to Ward. "You guard Ellone, okay?" Ward beamed and taped himself on the chest. "Leave it to me", being the unspoken reply. "Uncle, I really don't need a bodyguard." Ellone assured again. He pretended not to hear it and entered the Cafeteria together with Kiros. Squall silently followed. "Okay, you guys just wait out here." Kenan ordered the others. "It won't take too long." Zell couldn't really see the logic in it all. "Why order us to come out of bed early if you're not gonna allow us to attend the meeting in the first place?" Kenan smirked knowingly. "You wouldn't have anything to contribute to planning a mission. That's my job." "Commander Gantt?" Headmaster Cid called from just outside the Cafeteria. -"Sorry, gotta go." Kenan swiftly excused himself and ran inside. He took seat at the table where Laguna and the others already sat. As before, several documents and a world map lay spread across the table. The short report Kenan had written the other night in his sister's quarters lay there too, meaning the Headmaster had been briefed on everything that happened during the mission to Esthar. Only one thing wasn't true. Kenan wrote that Sorceress Adel had killed Seifer and Skye. The first could be true, but the second most surely not. "The situation in Esthar is the most urgent. We'll start there." The Headmaster explained and took up the last chair. They agreed, needless to say. "Currently, the Ragnarok III is flying near Esthar, gathering information." He informed. "According to the latest report, it looks like the Galbadians are winning." -"Do we know how many G-soldiers there are?" Kiros inquired. "The exact numbers are unknown." Headmaster Cid replied. "But we know the Esthar forces are outnumbered since the Galbadians have recruited monsters from the last Lunar Cry in their army somehow." Kenan cursed inwardly. "I bet the Sorceress is behind that." -"Most Galbadian soldiers aren't fighting for the Sorceress out of free will either." Squall stated, having read the preliminary findings on the cause of Sorceress's huge following some time after defeating Ultimecia. Despite the fact that Ultimecia hadn't been defeated yet in the mixed-up world Squall found himself in, those findings could still prove to be correct. "Some Galbadians soldiers fight blindly for their nation, hoping it will one day rule the entire world. But most others are forced into cooperating by the Sorceress." Squall explained. "They explained afterwards that they knew the Sorceress would only use them for her own purposes. Yet the Sorceress managed to control them regardless, just like I'm sure Kenan has seen in Deling City." -"Yeah." He affirmed. "I saw how she controlled a whole crowd of people." Kiros nodded, having suspected as much. "Do you know how she controls the soldiers?" -"Magic, I would guess." Kenan answered. "Or, some kind of mind-control?" Laguna looked puzzled. "Then how come she only uses this on the Galbadians?" Squall shrugged. "I think it only works on them. They're patriotic. Sorceress Ultimecia used that to her advantage." "You mean 'uses'." Kenan corrected. "She's still alive here, you know." Headmaster Cid folded his hands on the table. "We should first come up with a plan to liberate Esthar." He then handed everyone a copy of the list of combat-ready personnel in Balamb Garden. "As you can see, even with the two squads from Esthar, we are still no match for the Galbadian army…" Squall looked at the list briefly. "No, the best course of action to liberate Esthar would be to take out the Sorceress with a small insertion squad. The Galbadians should retreat after she's been killed." "That may be why the Lunatic Pandora aborted its attack on Esthar earlier." Kiros suddenly realized. "The Sorceress is afraid of being beaten again." -"Again?" Kenan wondered. "Sorceress Adel, probably under control of Ultimecia, recognized Mr. Leonhart and said she wouldn't be beaten this time." Kiros pointed out, referring to Squall's encounter with Adel in Esthar. "So she must know that Mr. Leonhart beat her once before and know how this happened, by entering the Lunatic Pandora." There was a silence and everyone thought of Squall's story. "If everything Mr. Leonhart has said is indeed true," Laguna began reasoning. "And it surely appears that way, all we need to do figure out is what happened to him, and undo it." -"What if it can't be un-done?" Kenan argued. "I'm sorry, but I think we should focus on the things we do understand Sir. Esthar is being over-run, and if we don't do anything…" Squall could understand his point yet wanted everything to change back to the way things were but than anything else at that time. "I don't have a clue what brought about this sudden change in the past, but I think the President is right. If we can find out what happened, and undo it, everything will be back to normal." "It's strange though," Kiros remarked. "It appears only you and the Sorceress are aware of a change." -"I know." Squall said. "And I think she is the only one that has all the answers." Laguna raised his hand. "Wait, I just thought of something." He got everyone's attention. "The way Squall describes the strange phenomenon that brought about all the changes, well, it sounds a lot like magic to me. You know, with the bright swirling lights and everything, I don't know what else it could be, but magic." Kenan rubbed his chin. "So, you're saying Ultimecia cast some sort of spell on Squall?" "She couldn't have." Squall reminded him. "I had already killed her." -"So what else could it be?" Kenan asked. "An after effect of that time-compression you endured?" Headmaster Cid made up his mind. "We'll have to find out. Any suggestions on how we could do this?" Well, you can forget checking the library. Kenan thought dryly. Nothing you need in there. Kiros crossed his arms. "There used to be an advisor in Esthar that knew all about magic and Sorceresses, besides our Doctor Odine I mean." Remembering the massacre that took place in the Command Center, he assumed Doctor Odine had been killed. Laguna's face lit up. "Oh yeah, I remember her. Wasn't she the leading expert on magic together with the Doc?" "Yeah, I think so." Kiros cautiously affirmed then turned to the others. "But she retired a while ago. I think she lives in Dollet now. But you'd have to check." Headmaster Cid smiled. "Thank you Mr. Seagill, that gives us at least one lead." -"I still say we shouldn't bet all our money on one chocobo." Kenan argued. "In case things can't be changed back, we'll have to attack the Sorceress." "As always, you are quite right Commander." The Headmaster had to agree. "We'll have to come up with a plan."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Zell stared in the direction of the Cafeteria. Still no sign of anyone coming out. How much longer would he have to wait? He hated waiting, since essentially it was doing nothing. Quistis didn't seem to mind as much. Same for Ward and Ellone. And Irvine and Selphie didn't mind at all, seeing as how they were all mushy. "So, Skye is in the Training Center?" Ellone asked, trying to get a conversation going. -"Yes." Quistis replied. "She wanted to learn how to fight. I just hope I didn't force her into making that decision." Zell looked aside at her. "Huh? In what way would you have forced her?" She giggled. "Well, I might have said that Sorceresses should be able to defend themselves." He kept a straight face. "Is that funny or something?" "No, I'm sorry." Quistis apologized and stopped giggling. "That wasn't what made me laugh." -"Then what?" She held one hand in front of her mouth so she wouldn't be caught laughing again. "You were with her in the Cafeteria last night, and not too happy when me and Kenan showed up, correct?" Selphie's face lit up. "Ooh! You were on a date Zellie?" His eyes widened. "No! It wasn't a date!" Irvine laughed. "Oh really? Sure sounds like one. A candlelight hotdog dinner, hmm? Zell slammed his foot down hard. "What? No way! Don't you know I like Shizuka?" "Who?" Irvine, Selphie and Quistis asked simultaneously. He gave them a surprised look. "The pig-tailed girl, don't you remember?" Irvine barely refrained from laughing out loud. "Her name is Shizuka??"* *{{It is according to this FF8 strategy guide I read. But I never completed Zell's love quest myself, can't be sure.}} Ellone smiled. "I think it's a nice name." Irvine frowned, considering. "Gee, I dunno. Selphie sounds a lot better to me." Quistis giggled. "I can imagine."   <<------------------------------------------>>   The monster known as a Grat swung one of his many tentacles towards Skye. As Tia had just taught her, she cast Firaga on its body before the tentacles hit. It let out a high-pitched screech and withered away, engulfed by the flames. She smiled and rubbed her hands together. Wow. Her third kill of the day. She wasn't doing badly. "Great going." Tia called from her position on a pile of construction materials. "But you can't use magic forever." -"I know." Skye assured. "I just don't know which weapon I should choose." Something brushed against a couple of leaves and branches not far from her. "Oh boy, here we go again." She sighed and got ready for another fight. Fully focused, she listened to any and all sounds, trying to distinguish them. Besides her and Tia, there weren't that many people in the Training Center. She'd been told this was because a lot of people had been sent away on a mission by the Headmaster. I'm a Sorceress, I have to know how to fight. She tired convincing herself, even though her instincts told her to run away. Tia said everyone was scared the first few times they fought in the Training Center…but still… She nervously waited for the next monster to show itself. It could happen anytime. It was rather ironic the Training Center looked so much like a nice botanical garden, yet hid so many monsters. There was another sound of a branch being crushed. The ground started shaking a bit as the creature drew nearer. Skye looked over her shoulder at Tia. "What's going on?" "It's a T-Rexaur I told you about." She replied, picking up her flail. "It might be wise to avoid these." She turned back to look in front of her. "No. I'll fight." "If it's too hard I'll back you up." Tia reminded her. A fence line some feet away fell down, and out of the lush green appeared a large reptilian monster. Skye's eyes widened. So that's what a T-Rexaur looked like. No wonder people feared it. All her instincts again told her to run away, but she had already decided to fight. The large beast roared fiercely with its big mouth fully opened. "Sleep!" Skye yelled out and cast a sleep spell at it. The T-Rexaur's eyelids sagged and its head hung down. "Whoo-hoo!" Skye cheered for herself. "Go me!" -"You only put him to sleep temporarily," Tia explained. "You have to finish him off now." She stopped cheering. "Oh. Right!" Tia looked in awe as Skye cast one spell after another. Sure, it were only low level ones, but she had never seen anyone learn as quickly as Skye did. The way she used magic, it seemed so natural. Like she had been doing it for years. Her moves needed work, but her magic seemed pretty much covered already. No need for a GF-junction even. A Sorceress can cast spells by her own power. Was she born a Sorceress? Tia wondered as Skye killed the T-Rexaur by dropping a big chunk of ice on its head; blizzard, so she knew. The beast fell to the ground. Number four of the day…and she had just started learning… Amazing. Such talent for fighting. If she were indeed an evil Sorceress, the Headmaster warnings would be justified. Only one Sorceress by birth existed -as far as everyone knew-, Sorceress Adel. History showed that dying Sorceresses usually passed along their powers to teen-aged girls. It was extremely rare to have that 'gift' upon birth. Yet each time this would occur, the baby Sorceress grew up to be evil… Skye smiled widely and climbed up the construction pile. "Did you see it? It's was so easy!" "You have talent." Tia pointed out, neither sounding cheery or worried. She plopped down next to her teach. "Yeah, seems so." They sat silently for a moment, watching a young man take on three Grats all by himself. He didn't need to use magic, as his attacks were so powerful that he easily knocked the Grats out one by one, each receiving but one slash from his blade. Another student with a sword of some kind…there were so many like him. Skye brought up her knees and hugged them. "You'd think I'd be allowed to join this Garden?" "Yeah, of course." Tia assured, a bit surprised she asked that out of the blue. "You're thinking about joining?" -"I'm a Sorceress. I could help Squall and the others." Tia laughed. "Hey, what a coincidence, so am I." She laughed too. "Figure that, two Sorceresses and a bunch of SeeDs fighting evil Sorceresses." "I bet we'd make a great team."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Back in the Cafeteria, the Headmaster -with help from President Loire, Kiros, Commander Gantt and Squall- had put together a plan. It wouldn't be the last planning they'd have to do, since it didn't mention anything about taking on Adel or Ultimecia. But it was a start. "Does everyone agree?" -"Who will be infiltrating Esthar?" Kenan wanted to know, thinking that was a job for SeeDs like him. "A small team led by Lieutenant Zieg Erhart from Omega Squad." Kiros told him. "He's far more familiar with Esthar than you are, so it'd be best to send him." Kenan looked aside at Squall, then back at Kiros. "Yeah, but we're more experienced in dealing with Sorceresses." Headmaster Cid nodded. "This is true. But you'd never be able to reach her. There are far too many G-soldiers." -"And Erhart can?" He argued. This is a mission for SeeDs! "His mission isn't to fight her." The Headmaster reminded him. "They'll gather information we can use to come up with an assassination plan. Don't worry Commander, you'll get your chance to fight…" Laguna raised his hand. "Uhm, you don't have to do that, you know?" Kiros whispered. He pretended not to hear it and waited again until everyone gave him their attention. "I have a request to make." Headmaster Cid smiled politely. "A request?" Laguna stood up and pointed at his buddy. "We want to come along. I may be old, but I'm still…." "Stupid." Kiros remarked knowingly. He shook his head. "No, I meant a great soldier. And so are Kiros and Ward. We could be of help." Kenan raised an eyebrow. "You think so? Remember, I was inside your body when you pushed your two buddies off a cliff…carelessly detonated bombs…forgot to bring maps and stuff like that." Kiros grinned. "Good point Commander. Let's go Laguna, no need to bother these young people anymore." "Aww, come on." Laguna began whimpering. "Give an old guy a break. I haven't had adventures like old times in years. What else do you want me to do? Just hang around here? No way." One could only call it sympathetic of Headmaster Cid and Kenan to eventually agree to Laguna coming along. "All right!" Laguna exclaimed as if he had never grown up and remained stuck in his puberty forever. "I'll meet you SeeD guys at the Einlanzer in an hour then." Kiros said goodbye to everyone and exited the Cafeteria. "You won't regret it." Laguna called, running out after his buddy. I already do. Kenan thought. The Headmaster stood up, ready to leave as well. "Please wait a minute Sir." Kenan said. "There's something we have to talk about." Squall frowned, yet remained in his seat. We? He should speak for himself. "Certainly." Cid replied kindly and gathered the pieces of paper and documents together on one pile. "What is it?" Kenan had serious face. "You might want to sit down Sir." He didn't want the poor man to pass out on the floor after hearing the shocking news. "It's about Sorceress Skye," He continued as Cid sat down. "What I said in my report isn't true. She wasn't killed by Adel, in fact she's very much alive." -"What?" The Headmaster called out in surprise. "Ms. Trepe said Skye was no longer a threat." Squall wondered if he should say something. He then decided to let Kenan handle it since he apparently loved to argue, and stayed out of the discussion for now. "Skye is indeed no longer a threat, Sir." Kenan reported. "In fact, I don't think she ever was. She's just a young girl with Sorceress powers she didn't know of. I really don't think that makes her dangerous Sir." Cid's eyes widened. "Where is she now?" "Here… in Balamb Garden." Kenan answered truthfully. "The Odine's bangle she wore has been removed." The Headmaster abruptly stood up. "That bangle will have to be out back around her immediately!" His face displayed anger and worry. Both Squall and Kenan got up now too. "Sir." Commander Gantt called in a much lower tone of voice "Can't you explain why Skye is such a danger?" From over the men's shoulders, Headmaster Cid could see Quistis approaching with a questioning look. She figured the meeting was over since Laguna and Kiros were now sitting in the main hall with the rest, and knew Kenan would bring up the Skye-issue afterwards. Just like everyone, she wanted to hear the answers from the Headmaster. She had ordered the rest to stay in the hall while she went inside, not knowing what to expect… "All right. I will tell you everything," Headmaster Cid sighed, more calmed down now. "Under one condition." Kenan gestured to Quistis it was okay for her to step up and so she did. They all watched the Headmaster, their silence meaning they agreed to the one condition, whatever it might be. For the first time in a long while, Kenan felt a true sense of relief. Finally, the explanations he'd been hoping to get…
The Past Always Catches Up by Goku Girl
The Headmaster took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "I should have know it couldn't be kept a secret forever…" "A secret, Sir?" Quistis asked, having no clue what he meant. He started cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief. "Yes. It…it is something few people know of. I was foolish for trying to hide it from you. I realize this now." What is he talking about? Squall wondered. He smiled faintly and put on his glasses. "The condition is; whatever I say to you three now does not leave this room." -"Sir, but that means we can't even tell Skye…?" Quistis thought out loud. He folded his arms on his back. "After you hear what I'm about to say, you might choose it'd be better not to tell her." She looked at him, surprised. "It started long ago…" The Headmaster began to explain. "Before the Second Sorceress War had ended. Before I had married Edea. I hadn't gotten the idea of building Gardens and training SeeDs yet." "Things were different back then. Most people didn't think the war would ever end. If it wasn't for the young Mr. Loire it might not have. But what I'm talking about happened a few years before that…"   ~~~~~~~~~~   "Zat iz good!" Doctor Odine said joyously, after sifting through the first results. "It iz going better than expected." "As you know, Doc. Odine did studied Sorceresses in those days, and discovered what we call magic. What you don't know is what he used this data for…It's been kept a secret by everyone involved, including me." Martine smirked and tapped against the glass of the in-vitro chamber. "Excellent. I knew it, this is going to work." "The later Headmaster of Galbadia Garden, Martine, was there too." Oxygen bubbles traveled upwards from the bottom of the chamber to the surface of the special cocktail inside. A green colored display screen on the console beside it showed all kinds of readings. Cid jotted them down on his clipboard. "I don't know if we should be optimistic about it." He said, reading the display again then writing down some more. "Now, don't think I was ever a real scientist. I served as a lab-assistant to Doctor Odine. He and I shared the same goals so I decided to work with him for a while. Looking back, I shouldn't have." Martine shook his head. "What? Don't tell me you're backing out now Cid. It's too late." "I'm not." He said confidently and readjusted his silver-rimmed spectacles. "…It's just that this seems so wrong. By what right can we humans interfere in the work of the Great Hyne?" After running his hand through his blonde uncut hair, Martine smirked. "I'm an atheist. Perhaps it's easier for me." "Despite the fact that Martine and I had our differences, I considered us to be friends back then." Cid looked in the direction of the doctor. He was busy processing the latest data, holding pen and paper, and didn't pay attention to his two assistants. The flickering light coming from the lamp up high cast an eerie shadow of him. The shadow almost appeared as if streaming, just like the liquid in the in-vitro chamber. Cid silently placed the clipboard on Odine's desk. "We will win this war because of her." Martine tried cheering up Cid. "She'll be stronger than Adel and Lumia." "Lumia was an evil Sorceress from Galbadia. She hated Adel even more than she did humans, which is why there was a constant war between the two nations. When the Sorceress War abruptly ended, she was killed." He stuck his hands in his lab coat and sighed. "I don't know about that Marty." Martine eyed him. "Don't be like that. It will work, it has to." He laughed, making a square with his index fingers and thumbs, and lined it up with Cid like he was a camera director. "You'd look good on the front page of newspapers, you know? Imagine that, the Sorceress War ended by an Esthar Doctor and two Galbadian lab assistants." "Martine was always like that. He wanted to be famous, get credit for his work." Cid didn't so much as smile. "That wouldn't be the truth, would it?" "Suppose not." Martine replied and crossed his arms again. "You really want the people to know the truth of what we're doing here? What do you think they'll do with us then?" He didn't say anything in reply. "So you see, we can't tell them." Martine pointed out and walked over the metallic grind on the floor towards the second in-vitro chamber. He didn't bother peeking inside, as the sight sometimes turned his stomach. Steam gushed again from the pipelines above Cid's head. It would happen about ever minute, most everywhere in the Deep Sea Research facility. Except the lower level, where other scientist worked on something. Cid never found out what, they too kept their research a closely guarded secret. But it didn't matter exactly what they were working on. Cid knew they had the same ideals as every scientist did on the island. "Lots of people would later say they studied purely out of human's natural curiosity. It wasn't true, they did what they did for only one purpose back then…" To end the Sorceress War. To finally be able to stand up as humans, against the immensely more powerful Sorceresses whom thought to be superior, and thought to be born to rule over the other species. "Cid!" Martine called. "Stop day dreaming and check on number One." He nodded and made sure everything was going as planned. "We're still in the green." He reported. "The process is over fifty percent now." Over fifty percent meant it was too late to abort. The subject would surely die if they stopped before the hundred percent. But there were now guarantees of success even if the process had been fully completed. Martine checked the other five chambers. "It's all going according to plan. The rest is at ten percent." It was a fail-safe precaution. If the process didn't work, only the first subject would die. The others would still be under fifty percent and chances were aborting the process then wouldn't be lethal. Cid read the small inscription just under the glass. "Seed One…?" "Korrect." Doctor Odine affirmed proudly and stepped up to the in-vitro tank. "Zat is the name I have given them." "Seeds." Cid looked thoughtful. "As in, seeds of hope?" Doctor Odine nodded. "Korrect. Also, the letters stand for something." Seeing his colleague's puzzled look, Martine grinned. "Special Energetically Enhanced Disciples. You didn't know?" The irony in that name wasn't hard to understand. Sorceress Lumia often referred to humans as her disciples. "That's the true origin of the name SeeD. Though, SeeD today has nothing to do with that project. It's just that I must have thought of that as a fitting name for the elite squad I envisioned." "Seeds…" Cid repeated, knowing that name would forever be engraved in his memory. He read the inscription again. "Seed One." "But, they used to be humans." Cid said in a soft, amazed tone of voice "They had names…not numbers…" Both Doctor Odine and Martine wondered why their colleague said such things. Knowing full well what the project did to the subjects, Cid joined their research team. If he couldn't stomach it, he should never have joined. "Okay, okay." Martine grinned a bit. "What was her name then?" He pointed at the number one in-vitro chamber. The first subject. Cid sighed and took of his glasses, but didn't look inside the chamber as he thought about the girl. The girl that he had found in the high grass near timber, shortly after Lumia's attack. Her parents had been killed, she said. But it didn't stop there. The resistance group she belonged to was publicly executed. At the time he had found her, she was malnourished and injured. She told him she had no reason to live anymore, and lay waiting in those fields…to die… He felt sympathy and wanted to care of the girl. She wouldn't have it. She'd rather die than live another day with the images of everyone she once knew and loved being killed in front of her. "In a way, she was the first orphan I ever helped. Or at least tried to help. Seeing her despair might even be what inspired me to build the Orphanage together with Edea a few months later." That's when he told her about the project. He told her everything, all the dangers and risks involved, but she agreed almost immediately. It would her chance to have revenge upon Sorceress Lumia. He felt bad, really bad 'recruiting' her like that. Like the Grim Reaper, choosing which person would die. He never asked for her name and she never gave it. Now it was too late to ask. "You don't know her name, do you?" Martine asked, in a slightly mocking tone. Cid shook his head. "No. I only know the name of number five. The rest, I couldn't ask. I was afraid." "Afraid?" Martine asked. "Of what?" Doctor Odine stepped up before Cid could answer. "Number five? Zat would be Edea, yes?" He nodded, then for the first time since the nameless girl had stepped inside the chamber, he looked at her. It looked like she floated in the glass tube, her long blonde hair waved. The liquid she was suspended in hardly showed, and Cid never knew exactly what it was, but it might have just been water. The oxygen masked hid most of her face from Cid's view. She was wearing a tight blue uniform with a strange symbol on it, one that he had never before seen. It looked vaguely like the old Centra's black and white circled yin-yang symbol. But the end of the white color didn't stay in the circle, but rather led down, looking like the blade of a sword. The end of the black color led up. "The later symbol of Garden…I never realized I copied it from the project…" He pasted on a smile. It was a visible lie. "Let's give her a name." Doctor Odine agreed to this, but for other motives. A real name would give the subjects an identity. Bitter irony, killer machines with identities… "That's how I always imagined Odine to think about his creations. He forgot that after the process had been completed they were in fact still human, only with magic power. That didn't turn them into killers" "Well?" Martine asked after Cid had remained silent for about a minute. "Know a good one?" Cid looked aside at him. "What's her affinity?" Martine shrugged and looked at the display screen. "Wind." "Brilliant!" Odine exclaimed. "Ze subjects will be named according to their affinities." -"How about…Skye?" Cid suggested.   ~~~~~~~~~~   Kenan looked wide-eyed and so did Squall. Too stunned to speak. Or too appalled. The Headmaster couldn't see Quistis, she had taken a seat at the table and had her head turned away. "Things were a lot different back then, you have to understand." He spoke, trying to ease the anger Quistis must now feel. "The project was our only hope, we thought." After taking a deep breath, Kenan could hide his strong emotions. Although part of him wanted to yell out. Headmaster Cid looked him in the eyes. "I'm sorry. I should have told you…but…" Quistis turned around. "How could you? You experimented on human beings. What did you do to them?" He looked down at the floor. "The process had been invented by Doctor Odine. He called it energy enhancement. A scientist shouldn't use the term magic. But it was exactly that, giving the power of magic to humans…" "No way!" Kenan called out in utter astonishment. "Artificially creating Sorceresses?" He nodded. "…Yes. That's true. We were desperate. You can't possibly fully understand it now. But lots of people had grown up, witnessing constant misery and death caused by Sorceresses. Humans were told that they were inferior, since they had to rely upon GFs to be able to use magic." "So Odine invented a way for humans to use magic," Squall summed up. "By creating Sorceresses?" Headmaster Cid closed his eyes. "The most unethical deed in the history of science. And I was there, observing it all." Quistis shook her head in disbelief. "…Skye is Odine's creation?…" Kenan sat down next to her, trying to be comforting. "Things were different back then Quistis, humans had to struggle to survive in the old days. It was a desperate attempt to safeguard their continued survival." Squall thought deeply, his face showing no strong emotion. "What about the other five? Edea wasn't--?' "No," The Headmaster answered before he had finished his sentence. "After Skye's process had been completed, the initial results weren't as good as expected. Her power was too weak. The project was deemed a failure and aborted. All other subjects were released. I eventually fell in love with number five…Edea." He cleared his throat. "The war wasn't over yet then. But that's when together with Edea I came up with the idea of SeeD. First, we started an Orphanage…what happened hereafter you know." Laguna trapped Adel, and ended the war. Edea did become a Sorceress; A real Sorceress, by receiving Ultimecia's powers. Squall knew from first hand experience. The Headmaster traveled around the world to find funding for building his Gardens that would train the SeeDs. An elite force that would prevent Sorceresses from ever doing harm again… "What happened to Skye?" Quistis asked in a soft tone of voice. -"She did kill Sorceress Lumia, despite the fact we deemed her a failure." The Headmaster said, knowing full well that it would shock them. "After that, the Sorceress hunt started. Everyone went crazy…" The Sorceress hunt. The humans' rebellion against the Great Hyne's creations. Everyone thought to be a Sorceress was killed on the spot. No fair trial. It was sheer madness. A dark page in the history of mankind. "How did she end up here?" Kenan asked further, keeping a caring eye at Quistis. "How come she didn't age?" -"We suspended her just like Esthar did to Sorceress Adel." Headmaster Cid stated. "But we couldn't let her be shot in space, that would alert to many people. The project had to remain a secret. So we sealed her deep down in the Research Island, hoping we would never need her again. The containment device must have failed after that explosion five days ago. According to reports I received someone or something was rampaging inside the Deep Sea Depository. My best guess would be that Skye was someone thrown into the sea and the currents brought her to Balamb of all places. It's a very strange coincidence." … … … … "Why didn't they kill her?" Quistis said, almost whispering. "In a way she too is a Sorceress…" The Headmaster rubbed his eyes, as if hiding tears. But as his hands moved away, there was no evidence of him crying. "I wouldn't allow it." He explained seemingly calm. "I couldn't let that happen, I just couldn't. It would all be my fault. I was the one who got her involved in the project." Kenan sighed heavily and rested his elbows against the wooden table. A war orphan…an experiment…an artificial Sorceress…a killer? So this is why he thought Skye was dangerous. Quistis buried her face in her hands. It was too much. When she thought about having to tell everything to Skye… "But why did you imprison her, Sir?" Kenan continued with trying to learn more. The Headmaster rested his hands on the table, like they were his anchors. "She is powerful. Her skills hadn't developed yet so short after the process had been completed, we should have known. She showed but a glimpse of her potential when she killed Sorceress Lumia with a magic spell called 'Super Nova'. Imagine the power Ultimecia would have if she were to take control of Skye's body. It would be disastrous!" Squall crossed his arms. "Skye's been without the Odine Bangle since yesterday morning. Nothing strange happened." Quistis's face lit up. So that's why Doctor Odine followed us to the mall. He too must have recognized her. "Is something wrong Quistis?" Kenan asked, concerned. She stood up and looked at the Headmaster. "Sir, Doctor Odine removed the bangle himself." It didn't come as a real surprise to Cid. He had some suspicions Skye was different. "This means he is confident Ultimecia can't get to her. He would never have removed it otherwise." "By Odin." Kenan gasped. "Ultimecia sacrificed Galbadia Garden to capture Skye. Now I get it." -"If she is captured," Headmaster Cid spoke slowly. "Well…there are other techniques Ultimecia could use to obtain Skye's power. THAT's why she is so dangerous. Not because she abuses her own power. I know she is a kind person, I met her. But because other people could take advantage of her power." He looked out the window at passing students. "The sealing process must have wiped out her memory somehow." Quistis shook her head in awe, finding everything almost too unbelievable to be true. "All right." The Headmaster spoke, suddenly a lot louder. His mind made up. "If you will take responsibility for her, I won't let anyone take her away, or do her any harm. I will allow her to stay in our Garden for now…" "Yet I urge you to be careful." He added with a warning. "Somehow Ultimecia must have found out about Skye's power. Maybe Esthar was attacked just to get her. Look out Commander." Kenan couldn't see why he decided that she could stay, out of the blue, but accepted his offer. "Yes Sir." The Headmaster smiled. It didn't look fake this time. "There is one other thing." -"What's that?"     <<------------------------------------------>>      "You guys are probably breaking a few rules, you know?" Selphie chirped warningly. -"Ah, it'll be okay." Zell assured her. "It's just a test of his ability. Sort of like a SeeD test." He placed his empty can of rations on the railing. "Ready Irvine?" "Ready." He said confidently from further down the hall and aimed with his gun. Zell made sure nobody got in the way of his line of fire. "All clear." He reported. "Take the shot." Irvine closed one eye and made sure his aim wasn't off. His imaginary crosshair aligned perfectly with the small can. Even a baby couldn't miss that shot. Yet, he hesitated and lifted his head up from the stock. "What are we bettin' for again?" "If you miss, you'll have to pay my date with Shizuka." Zell explained, beaming. "Should you hit, I'll pay your date with Selphie. How's that Mr. Sharpshooter? " Laguna, standing beside Irvine with his hands in his pockets, frantically nodded. "Ooh, good offer. Take it." "I like going to expensive places," Irvine reminded Zell and rested the stock of the gun on his shoulder again. "You'll find that out when you get the bill." "Yeah, yeah" Zell cooed. "Just shaddap and shoot, will ya?" Kiros grinned. "You should consider yourselves lucky Laguna isn't the one taking the shot." "Hey!" Laguna pouted, shaking his fist and feigning anger. "What is that suppose to mean? I have near perfect aim!" Irvine ignored the background noise and focused on his shot. A lot was riding on it. Maybe not as much as the time he had to shoot Sorceress Edea in Deling, but still…a lot. But before he could pull the trigger, Kenan and Quistis entered the main hall. Zell wanted to grab the can so they could play that same betting game later yet accidentally knocked it over. It fell in the water and was picked up by a slow stream. "So, what did he say?" Selphie immediately asked, running up to Quistis. She kept a straight face and remembered the one condition. "Nothing really. He doesn't know Skye either, but thought her to be dangerous since she is a Sorceress without knowing it." "Oh! That explains a lot, I guess." Selphie exclaimed, still cheery. The fact that Quistis wasn't as cheerful didn't bother her. Irvine hid his shotgun under his coat and jogged up to Kenan. "Hey ya, have you decided on a plan?" "Better yet." Zell interrupted. "Do you know when breakfast will be served?" Kenan smiled and held up a plastic-covered document map. "Yes, and yes. I have the preliminary plan right here. And I hear breakfast will be served as soon as Squall and the Headmaster have cleared out all the stuff." "What stuff?" Zell wondered, drawing a disgusted face. One could but guess what he was thinking of. -"You know, valuable info…" Kenan tried to explain. "Top secret, for my eyes only stuff." He watched Laguna, Kiros, Ward and Ellone heading to back to the dormitories. "We'll assemble at the Einlanzer in an hour," He told the others that hadn't heard this yet. "I'll brief you guys there." Zell took a few steps back, ready to dash inside the Cafeteria with light-speed when Kenan realized he had forgotten something. Guardian Forces messing with his head? "There is one mission I have to complete right away." He said with a serious face. -"And what's that?" Selphie for one liked to know. Kenan put on his gloves. "Bringing Edea here. I'm gonna drive to the Orphanage in one of the APCs. It should be reachable from here. I hope so anyway." "Matron!" Selphie exclaimed jumping up and down, pulling Irvine's arm. "Can we come too?" Kenan didn't see why not. "Sure. Eat your breakfast quickly then head to the Parking Lot, I'll wait for you guys." "I have some things to take care of." Quistis excused herself after hearing all she needed to know and walked off in the direction of the lobby. They turned to Zell. "How about it?" "Naw, I think I'll stay here too." He replied and his stomach churned. "I..uhm…have to stock up…" Laughing, Kenan walked of towards the Training Center. Selphie, Irvine and Zell waited a few moments and then both Headmaster Cid and Squall exited the Cafeteria, carrying cardboard boxes filled with secret documents, no doubt.  "Hey Squall." Selphie chirped in a greeting fashion. The flaps of the cardboard boxes nearly hid his face but they could see a faint smile. "Hey." "You can go inside now." The Headmaster informed the three waiting SeeDs. Zell saluted and quickly made sure he got the best seat. Which wasn't hard, considering the Cafeteria was empty. Of course, that also meant the lunch ladies hadn't arrived yet. So again, Zell would have to wait…     <<------------------------------------------>>     Just as Kenan was about to enter the Training Center, looking for his sister, Tia and Skye stepped out. Skye looked a bit exhausted but otherwise fine. "So…" Kenan started as casually as he could. "How did it go?" Tia smiled. "Great. She kicked ass. But, more importantly…did you talk to the Headmaster?" "Yeah." He reported, as if he were foretelling the weather. "Skye is allowed to stay here in Balamb Garden, as long as we look out for her." -"Look out for me?" Skye wondered if she heard correctly.  He nodded solemnly. "Yeah. After all, you're still a Sorceress and…uhm, you could be dangerous. Sorry." Tia placed her hands on her hips. "Dangerous? That's nonsense. Is that the only reason the Headmaster locked her up?" Kenan shifted uncomfortably under his sister's gaze. "Uh..well, she didn't know she was a Sorceress. If you don't know about your own powers, you can't control it, right?"   Damn, I wish I could tell you the truth. He thought, looking at Skye. But, I can't. You'd best not know about your past. You can build a future for yourself here, in this time. Forget about what once was. Skye heard it. Every word of thought, directed at her like non-verbal speech. But nothing beyond that. She didn't know why he had to lie, why he couldn't tell her about what happened in the past. Though, she trusted him, like he had trusted her in his own way. Sometimes, it's better not to know certain things. A lie can be better than the truth...right? Tia eyed the document her brother held in his hand. "You're going on a mission again, huh?" He looked down at the floor. "Yeah. Sorry. I know I'm not around much lately." "Yeah." Tia sighed. Skye hesitated slightly but decided to ask anyway. "Uhm…Commander?" He looked up, smiling. "Call me Kenan. What's up?" "I want to go with you and the others on the mission," She said. "I can help, I know it." He crossed his arms. "Great, first Laguna, now you too? This isn't a free-for-all squad, you know." Tia glared angrily. "Don't be so rude. Either say yes, or no." "I'm only endangering everyone if I stay here." Skye added. "I can use magic, maybe I can help you guys." Kenan rubbed his chin. She does have a point…and the Headmaster did say we had to take care of her. What better way then taking her with us? Hmm…but still. She could be a liability. "She single-handedly beat a T-Rexaur." Tia offered, hoping that would persuade her brother in taking Skye along. I'll probably regret this later. "Okay. All right. She's in. Only on this one mission, mind you." She smiled and saluted. It was a perfect SeeD salute. Tia had proven herself quite a good teacher. "What's the mission?" Tia asked. -"Nothing serious." He replied offhandedly. "We shouldn't run into any trouble." Skye beamed. "Thanks anyway." A sweat scent reached Tia's nose. "Hey, is that breakfast I smell?" "Yup." Her brother confirmed and then watched the two girls walk away, eager to eat after their workout. Sighing, Kenan looked up at the ceiling. "Skye too, huh? …Does anyone else wanna come along?!" Someone pulled his cape. He looked down…further down…a bit further down still…then saw a little kid. "NO." Kenan told him, way too harshly. "You STAY!" The boy's lower lip protruded and he whimpered. "I just wanted to play Triple Triad." He received a pat on his head. "Oh. Sorry." The kid looked sad then ran off. Great going. Kenan thought dryly, watching the young one ask someone else to play. Now I'm scaring little kids… Just then, his nose picked up something else. Something bad. Really baaaaaaaad. He couldn't quite place it, but the smell was more repelling than even a heap of garbage. "Holy…!" He muttered realizing he was the origin of the smell. Despite the fact that he'd taken a shower he could kill a T-Rexaur instantaneously with the odor he spreaded. His clothes, he hadn't washed them for days, that must be it. Time for a quick change. He told himself.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Some minutes later, after Selphie and Irvine ate breakfast they entered the Parking Lot. There was only one APC parked near the exit with a dark haired student leaned against it. The rest of the cars were parked way in the back. That would be safer when traveling around with Balamb Garden. Seeing as there was nobody else in sight, Irvine tapped the student on the shoulder to ask if he'd seen Kenan. He took a step back in surprise as the man turned out to be Kenan himself, dressed in a standard student uniform. Neither Irvine nor Selphie recognized him because his change in outfit and recent hair cut. "You guys ready?" Kenan asked, wondering why they looked at him so strangely. Selphie near fell over laughing. His face blushed red. "What? WHAT?" "You're…wearing a student uniform…?" Irvine mumbled, pointing. "Why?" He scratched the back of his head. "I dunno, my shabby outfit didn't feel right anymore. Besides, blue suits me." "Why didn't you put on your SeeD uniform?" Selphie asked in between fits of laughter. -"Hey, I'm not stupid." He answered. "That'd be like walking with "TARGET" printed in big neon letters on my arse." "I…see…" He made a never-mind gesture and opened the door. "I'll drive. You'll sit in the back, kay?" "Kay-none." Irvine grinned, remembering that's how Kenan said his name is really pronounced. Selphie stopped laughing and stepped inside the car. Just as she recalled, there were three big seats on one side, and three on the other. She chose the seat furthest away from her, to her left. As Irvine stepped in too, he had to squat down a bit since he was too tall for the car. Selphie being a short sprout naturally didn't have that problem. Kenan stepped in on the driver's side, and sat the behind the wheel. "We're off." Selphie and Irvine heard him report. Perhaps true a communicator of some kind. The wheels screeched, Kenan geared up and they drove out. "You're gonna feel a slight bump." He warned his passengers in the back. -"Bump?" Selphie asked, worry creeping up. He steered the car past the front gate and drove off the low-hovering Garden with foot down on the gas-paddle. Irvine held onto his hat, feeling in his stomach something wasn't right. But from where he sat he couldn't see outside. They literally flew in the air for a few seconds with the car, before landing on the muddy land below. Everyone was jolted up, then quickly down again. Luckily, the APC had great shock absorbers. Breathing out in relief, Selphie and Irvine sank back in their seats. "Don't ever do that again." Selphie warned Kenan, with a less than genuine threatening tone -but not by far-. The car turned hard right and she nearly smacked against the left side. "Sorry, my mistake." Kenan laughed from the driver's seat.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Meanwhile, other members of the team still hung around in the Cafeteria. Though breakfast had already been consumed. Squall sat on one side of the table, Zell and Skye on the other. Since a lot of Esthar soldiers were on a mission and students were receiving special classes, it was very quiet. Kenan's sister -being a student- didn't have the time to hang around. The whereabouts of the President and pals was unknown. Shortly after they'd finished breakfast they left the Cafeteria again. As if they didn't like being seen in public… "That's great." Zell told Skye after hearing she would be coming along on the next mission. "It's great having a Sorceress on our side every once in a while, right Squall?" -"Yeah." He said with a serious face, scanning around a bit. Zell let his shoulder drop. "Ah man, are you always like that?" Squall frowned. "Like what?" What does this guy want from me? "Like you don't know." Skye said, eyeing him. -"You seem so indifferent." Zell explained. "Like you don't care about what's going on." "Of course I care." Squall remarked. "That doesn't mean I have to keep worrying all the time." You don't understand, everything I have ever feared has come true. I have lost everyone dear to me, what do you want me to do? He frowned. Do you want me to pretend like nothing happened? Should I try to be social and get acquainted with you people again? It's no use… -"So you are worried, like, sometimes?" Zell asked, desperately trying to figure out what was on Squall's mind. "Yeah." He sighed, finally revealing himself a little. "And scared." Zell banged his fist together. It was like his nervous twitch or something. "So am I." Skye smiled sadly. "Me three." "What are we talking about here?" Quistis asked from behind them and moved to sit down next to Squall. Zell grinned nervously. "Basically we all just agreed that we're scared." "Oh. Count me in as well." Quistis said knowingly. "I really felt scared in Esthar yesterday. I thought we weren't…" -"Hey, come on." Skye exclaimed, suddenly cheery. "We made it, didn't we? We should be happy." Quistis nodded, then looked at the various empty plates on the table. "Hey, how was breakfast?" "Nice." Zell replied, barely holding back a burp. "You're too late though, the hotdogs are all gone." She smiled. "Oh, I don't mind. They're too greasy to my liking anyway." His eyes went wide. "W-what?! How dare you call these delicious gifts from Hyne greasy!" Squall furrowed his eyebrows. "Since when are you religious?" "Since about five seconds ago." Zell estimated, casually resting an elbow on the arm of the chair. -"Goof." Skye grinned. He blinked. "H-ey, quit listening to everything Selphie tells you, I am NOT a goof." "Of course." Quistis grinned. "And Selphie isn't hyper." -"She is to!" He yelled. Squall turned his head aside and held one hand on his forehead. Somethings never change. Quistis looked around. "Say, where is President Loire?" "He left." Zell explained. "It's like he doesn't want to be seen. I have no idea why." She had a good hunch why. "Oh, he might feel guilty for abandoning Esthar. As we speak, Esthar soldiers are giving their lives defending the city against the G-army. And it's not looking good." Zell gulped. "What's our next mission? They're not sending us to Esthar all by ourselves, are they?" "No, that's not the mission." Squall stated, being the only one at the table that was present at the entire meeting. "I'm sure Gantt will explain it in the Einlanzer. Although I hear a small squad has been sent to Esthar, led by Lieutenant Zieg." The question is, why didn't the Headmaster send SeeD? He thought, staring at the Garden symbol up high. Too many G-soldiers in Esthar…tch…that was just an excuse. He was afraid. But of what? Skye's face lit up. "Oh, Zieg. That's the soldier that joined us at dinner yesterday." "Yeah," Zell scoffed. "How could I forget?" Quistis looked concerned. "They're going in alone?" "To obtain more information on the G-army, and the location of the Sorceress in Esthar." Squall explained. -"She shouldn't be hard to find." Skye sighed. "The Presidential Palace." Zell mumbled. "I bet she's there."     <<------------------------------------------>>     Adel stared coldly with her dark red eyes at the kneeling soldier before her. "You have not won yet?" "N-no ma'am." The soldier reported, shaking to his very bones. "The Esthar soldiers continue to elude us. We have them outnumbered but they're using hit-and-run tactics." -"Useless fools." Adel said with anger and sat down on her old thrown. It looked the same as it did almost eighteen years ago, when she last sat on it. Her throne, from which she ruled the whole of Esthar. They had preserved it for her…the humans must have known she'd be back one day. How nice of them. Maybe now she'd spare a few. Maybe. She smirked evilly. "The people will bow to their rightful ruler eventually." The soldier saluted and ran out the room, back to the battlefield. "The SeeD Leonhart is proving to be a unforeseen problem." Ultimecia spoke to Adel inside her head. "If we don't stop him…we will lose again." Adel gritted her teeth. "I will not let that happen. We won't lose to mere humans twice." In fury, she bashed with her fist against the arm of the chair and it broke off. "How did Leonhart survive in the first place? He should have been eliminated for good." "I don't know." She heard Ultimecia's voice say. "The spell must not have been fully effective. It is strange…nearly all Centra died…but young Leonhart did not…" Adel crushed the arm piece in her one hand. "That girl. Did she help him?" "Possibly. She is powerful. I need her…alive."   "Yes Ultimecia." Adel spoke obediently. "It will be done."  She got up and walked over to the window. There were blazing fires all over Esthar. It colored the sky a strange orange. "Leonhart will not survive." She said out loud. "We cannot lose."
On to the Next Mission by Goku Girl
He drove across the barren land with great speed. Now and then Kenan would have to steer quickly to avoid a few rocks or something, but other than that it was an easy ride. No unexpected encounters with hideously deformed beasts or anything like that. A fun ride it was too. Kenan found it to be a lot like Deling's annual cross-country rally. Only there were no opponents except for Mother Nature. And the APC couldn't exactly be called a rally car of course. Still, by no means did that make things any less challenging. 'Hard left', 'hard right', 'slow down damn you', he could practically hear a co-driver shouting. He had to avoid mud pools, caused by the rain, or risk getting stuck. Since getting stranded in the middle of nowhere was exactly an appealing thought, he drove stayed clear of the pools the furthest he could. In the back, Irvine and Selphie were being rocked up, down and sideways. The land they drove over couldn't exactly be described as flat. And since Kenan had the habit of taking sharp turns with full-throttle, this caused some queasiness. Irvine held his hands on his stomach. "I think I'm gonna..ugh…hurl…" Selphie screamed. "Aaah! No, not over my dress!" "Oh--ugh--kay." Irvine muttered, his eyelids taking turns in sagging. Not far in front of him, Kenan saw rays of sunlight appearing. They penetrated the dense dark clouds like knives through butter. This could only mean they'd be leaving the area named 'Zone Two' soon. He laughed. "Guys, don't worry. We'll be at the Orphanage in no time." "Hurry!" Selphie yelled, seeing no other choice but to offer Irvine his own hat as an improvised barf bag. -"I'm..ugh..not gonna… throw…my lucky hat!…" He spoke, fighting to keep the contents of his stomach inside of his body. So they raced on for miles and miles. Eventually they arrived at the Orphanage somewhere between fifteen and twenty minutes after leaving Balamb Garden. Not a bad par time. Not bad at all. Kenan got out first and opened the door for Selphie and Irvine like a true gentleman. After stumbling out, Irvine took repeated deep breaths. "Fresh air…I love it!" Selphie patted him on the back. "You sure you're okay hun?" The sight of the dilapidated old stone building brought back some fond memories to Selphie's mind. It's not like she ever totally forgot about it since Irvine pointed out nearly everyone in the team was raised at the Orphanage, however certain things were starting to blur again. Kenan leaned against the side of the car. "So, this used to be your home, huh?" A bright ray of sunlight shone upon the south wall of the little stone building and broke into many smaller rays; there were obviously many holes. Various kinds of plants had started climbing their way up along remnants of the brick wall. Given a few years, the whole place would be covered in green. Absorbed into the ecosystem. "It used to look a lot better." Irvine pointed out. Kenan smiled kindly. "Oh, I didn't mean anything with it. It's just such odd coincidence that Quistis, Zell and you two all grew up there. Oh, Seifer too. Hmm, and even Squall claims to have been here. Wow." Selphie checked the bottoms of her leather boots, just to make sure if there hadn't gathered a thick layer of mud. As the three neared the building, they could see right inside the living room, as the southeast corner of the building had nearly completely vanished. They opened a small wooden gate and proceeded along a gravel path. Before they had walked up to the house, they saw Edea stepping out. She held a travel suitcase in one hand. Ready to leave. "Matron!" Selphie cried out happily and ran up to Edea. "It's been a while, hasn't it?" She nodded and smiled. "Hello Selphie. It's good to see you again." Irvine walked over and they shook hands. "Hey Matron. We're here to pick you up." She laughed and showed him her suitcase. "As you can see Irvine, I'm all packed." "You knew we were coming?" Kenan asked. -"Oh, hello Commander." She greeted, not having noticed him up until now. "I saw the armored car approaching and knew you were here to take me back to Balamb Garden." "That's right." He told her. "Balamb Garden is in Zone Two. Should be a safe place for at least a few days." Edea thanked the Commander and they walked towards their ride back. Kenan gasped. He now noticed Edea wore the same black dress as when he had to fight here in Deling City. It startled him. He felt uneasy and caught off guard. For all they know Ultimecia could have been inside Edea's body. If that were so, she could have gotten close enough to kill them instantly, before they could react. But, then he remembered Edea wasn't a Sorceress anymore. She was the kind woman his buddies knew as 'Matron'. "Here you go." He said and opened the door for her. "It's no limousine, but it will have to do." She stepped inside slowly, careful not to stumble on her own long dress. Selphie edged past. "Kay-none." Irvine greeted in typical man-to-man way, then snickered once more as he slipped by. Kenan sighed and shut the door. He looked back at the Orphanage one last time. I suppose…it doesn't look all that bad…     <<------------------------------------------>>   Squall trudged down the long corridors of the second floor, alone. He didn't feel liking waiting in the Cafeteria for a whole hour so decided to go for a walk. He wouldn't admit it to anyone…but there were more reasons than that. Somehow he kept getting the feeling he was out of place. Like he upset some kind of balance. The people here had managed without him for so long, there was no need for him to show up. And the question whether or not the people he saw were the people he knew, or used to know, kept rising in his mind. Zell sure acted the same as always. Quistis, Selphie and Irvine too. But the rest were different. Seifer…the Headmaster…and Ultimecia. He abruptly stopped in front of an empty classroom. The windows in the back were broken. One tiny shard of glass had a few blood drops on it and a line of fabric from a jacket. It was waving it the wind like a torn flag. "Seifer." Squall said out loud, realizing the classroom he stood in must have been Seifer's point of entry…and escape. He walked further in the classroom until he could see the outside horizon. If someone were to go around telling everyone it was in fact night, he might even find people who believed him. The nearby clouds didn't allow much sunlight to shine through, making the land look like one big shadow. It made him feel his despair. But there was one hope Squall hold onto. The mission he was about to embark on. One of the objectives was to locate an advisor that once served Laguna. She might be able to find answers to his questions. He couldn't be sure of anything…but it was something. A flicker of hope in the darkness. That's what it was. Somehow, things had to turn out okay. Squall wasn't about to let himself be beaten by any kind of setback. He wouldn't give up until he found Rinoa. His Rinoa, and none other. He noticed something out of the corner of his eyes. Not far from where he stood some kind of light incessantly blinked on and off. It emanated from one of the Network consoles in the front of the classroom. No, it was actually the Instructor's console, he noticed upon closer inspection. It had been damaged during the battle. He cleared a few pieces of debris, so he could see the entire screen. A small chunk of wood, most likely broken off one of the benches in the classroom, had pierced the glass of the screen in the upper left corner. Some of the electric wires must have been cut, causing the console to malfunction. Though each time the screen blinked on again, the same pages was displayed. It seemed to be a message box from the Instructor whom used to teach in the classroom that Squall found himself in. Nobody was allowed to use the Instructor's personal console, though he doubted it'd be an invasion of privacy. All messages looked like they related to students and classes, rather than containing anything personal or confidential. A message marked [Dollet SeeD Exam; Reassignments] had been highlighted. Squall wiped some dust of the keyboard and pressed enter, just out of curiosity, though he didn't doubt the fact that this was an old message.   [To: Instructor No. 8: Syrec Aki.] [From: Exam Committee.] [Mr. Aki, we would like to make a change in the Squads participating in the upcoming SeeD Exam. As you may know, Seifer Almasy from Instructor Trepe's class has been appointed Captain of Squad B. Seifer is known to be a troublemaker and he definitely has a mind of his own. Since the SeeD Exam is more than a test of fighting skills -good teamwork is of equal importance- Zell Dincht from Instructor Morton's class has also been assigned to Squad B. Zell is known as a bit of a loudmouth and should really put Seifer to the test.]   Is this why Zell was on Squad B? Squall couldn't help but wonder. To put Seifer to the test? There was more…   [The reason you are being contacted by us now is this: We need a third student in Squad B, preferably one that can stand up to Seifer and won't be bullied around. We've gone over all participating students' records, and we have concluded that your student, Kenan Gantt, is most suited. Your notes describe him as a stubborn young man with his own view on how to deal with certain situations. We think he'd make a perfect third member for Squad B. Therefor he'll be reassigned from Squad C to Squad B. Nida Weyoun will take Kenan Gantt's original place in Squad C.]   Squall paused to rub his eyes. The light which constantly flickering on and off started to hurt his vision. Did Nida fail the field exam because of this transfer? He began to think. He remembered that Squad C's captain had gotten ill during the Exam and that the members from Squad C took him to a pub in Dollet. They all failed the test because of that. Kenan took my place and graduated…Nida took Kenan's place and did not graduate… He summed up in his head. Who took Nida's place, and why didn't he graduate? There should be four graduates! He scrolled down. The Instructor's reply could be read as well.   [Am I led to believe that Squad B is to be this year's trouble Squad? In any case, I agree to the reassignment. Although I have a few remarks on the student filling Nida's original position. Her name is Tia Gantt; she is Kenan's sister. I'm worried about her since her fighting skills are below average. On the other hand her written exam was excellent, still I…]   Squall stopped reading. The message went on a bit further, saying Tia probably wouldn't pass. He figured that explained why there were only three graduates, but it didn't explain much more that. There never was a female SeeD candidate from Instructor Aki's class, that much Squall knew for sure. This information led him to believe that, if he where never around, Tia would just barely be chosen as one of the twelve students who participated in the field Exam. Another world. He thought again. Kiros probably never really meant to imply that, but that is how he said it. Is that why things are different?…Why people don't know me? Given the facts at hand, that theory seemed one of the most likely. But then there was another such theory. Perhaps…the past had somehow been altered. Altered in a way that Squall was never born, which is the kind of world he appeared to be in. Could this have something to do with time-compression? Yet no matter how much he pondered about it, he couldn't figure it out on his own. Kenan Gantt. Was he really Squall's replacement in a world where he would never have been born? … … … He couldn't possible know the answer to that question. For all Squall knew there was a Kenan Gantt in the Balamb Garden of his memories. He realized that was the only place where his world still existed; in his memories. "Rinoa." He said softly, feeling utterly alone. "I…miss you…" The wind howled. "Where are you Rinoa? …Where am I?"   <<------------------------------------------>>     "You must be in a hurry." Edea concluded, sensing they were driving back at high speed. -"Indeed." Kenan said from behind the steering wheel. "We have to go on a mission in…" He checked the time on the dashboard. "About fifteen minutes." Irvine folded his arms. "Like they're gonna leave without us." "You never know." Kenan laughed. -"Is everyone at the Garden all right? Edea asked. "I heard there was another battle with Galbadia Garden." Selphie smiled warmly. "They're fine Matron. We had only a few casualties this time." "I'm glad Ultimecia didn't do any more damage." She spoke relieved. Irvine sighed. "Still, a lot has happened in the past few days." Edea looked up. "Oh, really?" "Yeah." Selphie chirped in an attempt to clarify some things. "There came this guy out of the blue, saying he was in fact the Commander of Balamb Garden. But nobody had ever heard of him or seen him before. Then there was trouble with another Sorceress. But it turns out they're both on our side." Edea smiled, knowing things aren't always as bad as they appear at first. "We'll be back in no time at all." Kenan informed his passengers, seeing the dark clouds doom up again. -"I bet the Headmaster will be really happy to see you again Matron." Selphie remarked. "How long has it been?" "About two weeks." She guessed without really thinking. It didn't matter to her exactly how long she was alone, since she wouldn't be any longer. -"Wow." Irvine gasped. "You spent two weeks alone in that run down house?" She laughed then shook her head. "No, I stayed in the lighthouse. It's still intact." Selphie clapped her hands in glee. "Ooh! I think I used to spend the night there too!' "Don't recall that." Irvine said sadly. "Maybe…I shouldn't have junctioned a GF." -"You should start writing stuff down." Selphie suggested. "If you forget something, you can just read about it." Irvine tilted his head in consideration. "Gee, I dunno. Writing a diary is more of a girl thing…" He received a playful nudge from Selphie, heaven knows why. "I just thought of something." She told him with a wide smile. -"And what's that?" Kenan asked, keeping eyes on the 'road'. Selphie stood up and peered over to the drivers seat. "You know how troop morale isn't exactly soaring lately, right?" "Yup." Irvine moaned behind her. "It sure aint. Not surprising though with the war and all." -"We know." Kenan confirmed as well. "What about it? Don't tell me you're gonna…" Selphie giggled. "She's gonna what?" Irvine wondered. -"Isn't it obvious?" Kenan asked, a bit taunting. He then had to steer quickly hard right to avoid a big rock that suddenly doomed up. The sudden course correction made Selphie fly back on Irvine's lap. "How about…a party!" Selphie exclaimed. "I would need some help though, I can't organize everything by myself." Kenan grinned. "I warned you about having a girlfriend, didn't I Pineapple?" "Gee…Selphie…uh..I…" Irvine mumbled incoherently, not too eager to become member of the Festival Committee. She sobbed. "You don't want to help?" "I think it's a good idea Selphie." Edea said smiling. "The students could use a little distraction for once." -"And us SeeDs too." Kenan reminded. Selphie jumped up. "Thanks Matron! So, you think it'd be okay with the Headmaster and everything?" "I'll talk to him about." Edea assured, being kind as always. "I'm sure he'll find it an excellent idea." -"Whoo-hoo!" She was as happy as she could ever be. Organizing parties was her kinda thing, she loved it! Then there were also people who were less willing to organize stuff. No matter what kind of stuff. Most commonly these people were referred to as men. "Isn't this great Irvy?!" Selphie called overjoyed. -"Yeah. It's a nice idea." He said, quickly pasting on a happy face. And I'll be stuck doing all the work…you'll see. She placed her hands on her hips. "Idea? H-ey, we're gonna do this mister. You'll see!" Irvine sighed and tilted his hat down lower so nobody could see his eyes. "I wish Rinoa were around. She'd be of great help organizing everything, like last time in FH, you know?" Selphie rolled her eyes. "That was weeks ago! And Rinoa isn't here, so you'll have to help again." "Rinoa not here? Oh, I wouldn't be too sure about that Sel." Kenan remarked. She looked puzzled. "What do you mean?" In the distance, Kenan could already see Balamb Garden and the Einlanzer. "Nearly there people." "Hey, you didn't answer my question." Selphie pouted, her curiosity getting the better of her. What was he talking about?!     <<------------------------------------------>>     "And you know what I did?!" Quistis sighed. "No Zell. What did you do?" He beamed. "I swung over a loose cable and landed right on top of em. Pretty good huh?" She nodded and watched the lunch ladies finish cleaning up the kitchen behind the counters, then leaving the Cafeteria. Now only Zell and Skye remained, besides her. "Sounds like a nice dream." She finally answered, seeing as how Zell looked eager for a reply of some kind. "Dream?" He asked, looking at Quistis like as if there were mushrooms coming out of her ears. "Dream?!" Skye gasped. "You mean…it wasn't a dream?" "No!" Zell yelled, banging his head against the table once or twice. "Course not! Man! Doesn't anyone believe me?!" -"It's hard to." Quistis pointed out calmy. "I've never heard of anyone ever doing such a dangerous thing. You could have gotten yourself killed, did you realize that?" He grinned rather…fake. "Uh..y-eah. I knew that. Sure I did!" Skye waged her finger. "Hey watch it now. Best not lie in front of a Sorceress." He gulped, looking like he swallowed a large apple. "I'll keep that in mind." After checking her watch, Quistis noticed it was just about time for the next mission. They'd had to assemble in front of the Einlanzer and Kenan would explain the mission. "G-G-Galbadians!! Sound the alarm!" Someone shouted from the main hall. Quistis and Zell sprung into action and swiftly ran out, leaving Skye a bit dazzled and alone.     As the two SeeDs entered the main hall they soon saw three Galbadians soldiers, surrounded by a pack of armed students and a Garden Faculty. Strange thing was the G-soldiers didn't reach for their weapons. "Capture them!" The Garden Faculty ordered in drone-like voice. Zell squinted. "Say, isn't that…?" One of the three G-soldiers, a longhaired one, reached for his left leg. "Ah dammit! Now look what you've done." Giggling slightly, Quistis ran closer. Even the other two Galbadian soldiers were laughing at their comrade. The students looked confused and one and other, not knowing what went on. "I got to hand it to you." A slender, dark-skinned G-soldier said. "This has to be one of your most stupidest plans ever. Dressing up as the enemy…and then being attacked by a bunch of Balamb students…" Quistis gestured the students to stand down. "Hold on. These aren't Galbadians." The biggest of the three G-soldiers crossed his arms and glared angrily at the longhaired one. "Laguna!" Zell laughed as he stepped closed enough to be able to tell for sure. "What the heck are you doin'?!" He scratched the back of his head. "Well…it's undercover stuff you know? And the first thing you do when going undercover..uh… is get a good cover, isn't that right? Pretty smart, huh?" Ward smacked himself on the forehead, wishing he had his voice back so he could yell at his moronic buddy. "President Loire, my apologies." The Garden Faculty said humbly and returned to his guard post. The students shook their heads and dispersed. "Didn't I tell you it's a stupid idea?" Kiros asked. Laguna stumbled around in a circle a bit, limping on his right leg, hoping his left leg would un-cramp. Zell still laughed. "Hehehe, you look just like that one time in the 'dream world'." "Why did you change clothes, Sir?" Quistis inquired with a stern face. Kiros straightened his body armor, feeling the old Galbadian outfit didn't quite fit him properly. "A better question would be, how did he trick us into it?" Ward shrugged and looked aside, then sighed heavily. Laguna waved his machine gun in the air, cheering for himself after he got mobility in his left leg back. "Sir?" Quistis asked again. He stopped cheering. "Oh…right. You wanna know why we're dressed as Galbadians?" She nodded. "I heard you say something about going undercover?" "We might be going to Galbadia on our next mission." He replied. "So with these uniforms we can just mix in…" -"You mean, blend in." Kiros corrected. Ward chuckled. "You only got the 'in' part right." Kiros translated his buddy's facial expression. Zell got a feeling the scene looked familiar, but before he could say anything he caught sight of Skye. She now had her hair bundled up with a black elastic band. Probably borrowed from Tia, he guessed. Her fire-like hair almost glowed in the artificial light of the main hall. "Hi ya guys." She said cheerfully, seeing the Galbadians were in fact Laguna and his gang. "Nice outfits." -"Depends on one's definition of 'nice' I suppose." Kiros moaned. Laguna laughed. "Yeah, like you're outfits are all that great. You dress funny, man." Quistis cleared her throat. "We should probably get going." Skye peered around. "Hey, where's Ellone?" "She's not coming with us." Laguna explained, nervously scratching the back of his head. "I have to admit, she'd be safer here in the Garden than anywhere else right now."     <<------------------------------------------>>     Kenan stepped on the brake and the car stopped perfectly beside the hovering Garden. How the hell anyone would get the car back in the Parking Lot wasn't his concern. He checked his watch. They were on time, in fact, a little early even. Headmaster Cid stood waiting as he stepped out. "How was the trip Commander? I'm to have asked you, but Xu--" -"It's okay, Sir." Kenan interrupted. "Not like I had anything else to do." Edea got out of the vehicle, Selphie and Irvine following behind. The Headmaster hugged his wife, giving the others the feeling they'd better go away and leave the two some privacy. After all, they hadn't seen each other in two weeks. That's a long time for two people who love each other to be apart. Selphie and Irvine climbed up on the Garden. As Kenan was about to, as the Headmaster told him to wait. -"Sir?" He walked over. "Commander, I wanted to wish you good luck on your next mission." He extended his hand and Kenan shook it. "Thanks. Although I doubt we need it. The mission is a cinch." "Nevertheless, it as an important mission." The Headmaster replied. Kenan's face lit up. "That reminds me Sir. I heard from Squall that Rinoa assisted in defeating the Sorceress. Would it be okay to ask for her help?" Cid straightened his vest. "Rinoa. Hmm. Yes. We could use all the help we can get, but do you think she'd want to join your team again after canceling her contract?" A good point he raised there. Exactly what was on Kenan's mind as well. "I dunno Sir. She'll most likely still be mad at me." He said. "We'll have to see how things go. But I do think I was too harsh on her. And I bet the others would love to see her back in the team." The Headmaster nodded and walked back to his wife after wishing the Commander good luck once more. She, in turn, smiled politely and said thanks for driving her back to Garden. "No problem." Kenan assured. He met with Selphie and Irvine as he climbed up. They were waiting by the fountain, near the draw point. "What were you talking about?" Selphie asked, wondering what kept him. -"Nothin' much." He replied casually and stared at the Garden entrance. "Okay. You wait here, I'll go get the others." Irvine pointed a finger at him. "What 'bout you?" Kenan made an imaginary gun with his thumb and index finger and pretended to shoot Irvine. "I need a new shooter from the Armory. On second thought, wait for me in front of the Einlanzer, kay?" Selphie smiled and saluted. "Yes Sir!" Knowing she was mocking him, Kenan rolled his eyes in annoyance as he walked away. He was shocked when he saw three Galbadian soldiers approaching from afar and in a reflex reached for his holster. His…empty…holster. "Damn." He cursed, being reminded he was unarmed. "Am I stoopid, or what?" Then he heard Zell's laughter. It wasn't hard to distinguish since it sounded quite unique. Sort of like a machine gun blurting out bullets, only less rapid and not as loud. "It's Laguna!" Zell shouted, waving his arms. "Don't shoot!" Not having a clue what went on, Kenan impatiently tapped his boot on the pavement and waited for them to catch up. He noticed Quistis and Skye were with the three Galbadians as well. But they didn't look like they were escorting prisoners. What the hell? "Sorry." Laguna apologized with a goofy grin as he came close enough to recognize. "Didn't mean to scare anyone." Kenan's rubbed his eyes, hoping they were deceiving him. "You're outfit…why are dressed as Galbadians??" -"Undercover." Kiros explained, sounding about as happy as a Chocobo on Thanksgiving. "Laguna insisted…" Chocobo on Thanksgiving? Kenan wondered inwardly. My comparisons suck. Chocobos can't even talk! Quistis giggled, finally recognizing the dark haired young man as the Commander. "You changed outfit too." "At least I'm not dressed up as the enemy." He countered harshly. Laguna stuck his hands in his pockets and whistled, pretending to look at the fountain. Kenan looked over his student uniform. "So, what ya think?" Zell roared with laughter, slapping his knee in delight. Kenan glared at him with a sour face. "I take you don't approve?" Skye bit her lip. "You're the leader of Balamb Garden yet you look like a student. That's kinda weird, isn't it?" He shifted balance from his left to right foot. "I..uh..I'll explain later. Everyone head towards the Einlanzer already." "Yes Sir!" Laguna exclaimed and ran off bent double like he had to sneak for some reason. Everyone silently eyed him for a moment. Why does he have to come along…Why? Kenan wondered. Ward took a deep breath, held in his stomach and followed Laguna. "We are so insane." Kiros sighed and walked after them, in stead of running. By now Zell had pretty much stopped laughing. Skye stood slapping him on the back now and then, making sure he wouldn't choke. That would be a bad thing. He held up his hands. "Okay. Phew, I'm okay now. Sorry." But as he looked up and saw Kenan in the student uniform again he couldn't hold back another fit of laughter. "Poor guy." Skye sympathetically mumbled. -"Anyways, I'm gonna get a gun." Kenan reported to Quistis. "And..uh..hey? Where's Squall?" He looked around. No Squall in sight. Or anyone fitting his description for that matter. Well, for all Kenan knew Squall too had changed into another outfit. It seemed the right day for it. "Squall said he would go for a walk in the Garden." Quistis replied. "I haven't seen him since." -"Zell!" Skye called, her hands flew to her biceps. "Snap out of it. This isn't funny." The laughter finally came to an end and he breathed in and out deeply, his head bent over. Quistis eyed Zell briefly, saw everything was fine, then turned back to Kenan. "Do you want me to go look for him?" "Naw, I'll do that." Kenan said in a tone of voice that seemed to suggest he didn't really hear the question. He approached Zell. The sudden shadow frightened him a bit and he looked up, unsure what to expect. "Uh…hi?" Kenan smirked and patted Zell on the shoulder, looking at Skye. "You'll take care of him, won't ya?" She gave him a thumbs-up. "Sure thing." "Isn't it suppose to be the other way around?" Zell suggestively asked. -"No." Kenan stated as seriously he could. "Not in your case." Before Zell could counter he walked away. "You heard him." Quistis said from a few feet ahead. "Assemble in front of the Einlanzer."     <<------------------------------------------>>     The redhead female student standing guard beside the second floor armory looked at Kenan questioningly. "You want a gun?" She asked. "Just like that?" Kenan looked over her shoulder, trying to peer inside. "Uh. Yeah. That's it." The student stifled a laugh. "Hey, no way. I can't do that. I'll need authorization from your Instructor." "My Instructor?" He grinned. "I don't HAVE one anymore. I'm the Commander of Balamb Garden. A SeeD." She laughed again and didn't move aside. Kenan noticed her teeth were sparkling white. Amazing. She must have great toothpaste. "The Commander doesn't look anything like you." She pointed out. "He's..uhm…sort of scruffy, you know?" He ran his hand to his hair…it didn't take as long to get through as it usually did. "Missy, I don't care whether you believe me or not, I need to get a new gun. You don't recommend anyone going out unarmed, do ya?" She thought about it. "I can give you a squirt gun. How about that?" Kenan smacked himself on the forehead and slowly let the hand slide down his face. "Not what I'm looking for." "Is it time for the mission?" A familiar voice asked. -"Yeah it is." Kenan confirmed and looked aside. Squall rested his blade on his shoulder. "Okay. I think I'll--" He frowned, eyeing the student then Kenan. "Is something wrong here?" The reason for Kenan to wear a uniform escaped him completely. The student shook her head. "No Sir." Kenan noticed her beautiful red hair fell over her shoulder after shaking her head. She must have great shampoo. He blinked. "Sir? Oh, so you call HIM Sir?" -"He is clearly a SeeD." She said, annoyed. "Higher ranking. So yeah, I call him Sir." "Squall?" Kenan called. "Could you please tell her to get me a gun? A real gun, I mean." He shrugged. "You heard him." "If it's okay with you Sir." She told him and moved to get a gun from the Armory. -"Thanks." Kenan said to Squall, whom in turn shrugged good-naturedly before heading to the elevator. The student came back, holding two guns, one in each hand. "Which one do you want?" He looked down at her hands and couldn't help but notice their smoothness. She must have great hand-crème stuff. He then realized he was making her wait, and picked the largest of the two guns. "They both look good." He reasoned, tilting his head. "But I'll take this one. Definitely." The gun of his choice had an extra infrared scope mounted on the barrel and a silencer. -"Ah, you know guns." The girl affirmed. "You're sure to beat the bad guys with that." "One can but hope." He grinned and holstered the gun. The extra weight on his belt again… it felt good. Seeing as how there was some time left, Kenan attempted to start a conversation as casually as possible. "So…uhm, when do you get off duty?" She looked surprised and giggled a bit. He rubbed the back of his neck, imagining the girl was laughing AT him. Not with. And there's a difference… "Seriously." He assured. Attempt number two: "You're one of the best looking chi--uh..girls around here." She blushed and looked away. Kenan noticed her cheeks were -in one word- luscious. She must have great make-up. If he were to walk away at this point, he'd admit to failure. So he persisted. Be blunt…straight to the point… "At the next Garden dance, will you be my date?" She kept blushing and looked him in the eyes. Kenan noticed her eyes were like priceless gems, wonderfully reflecting the light. She must have great…genes? The way her face colored red, it'd soon match her hair. "There's isn't gonna be any dance." She countered his flirts. "Suppose…suppose there were one, soon." He offered in highly theoretical tone of voice. "How about it then?" She saw he was serious. "But, I don't know you. Not even your name." He smiled and extended his hand. "Kenan." She nervously shook it. "Jovanka. Always nice to meet a fellow student." The touch of her palm made Kenan a bit giddy. She had such soft hands. Nothing like his big crude shovels. Jovanka. What a great name. He thought. Almost heavenly. "G-great meeting you too." He stuttered, at the same time thanking Hyne for not spitting at the girl. Luckily he didn't say any words with an 's' sound in em. That would have been bad. Real bad. The sound of doors sliding open somewhere further down the hall stopped the ranting voice in his head. He gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. "I gotta go now. Time for a mission. But I WILL see you later." Her blush dissipated at last. "I hope so. Goodbye…Kenan." The way she pronounced his name made him feel light headed. Too bad he had already started walking away from her or he might have stayed a little longer even. He stopped and realized he had a date with a gorgeous gal. She must have….lousy taste in men if she picked him.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Squall and Kenan arrived lastly at the Einlanzer. The rest of the team had waited near the aft Cargo entrance. Kenan was amused to see they all stood lined up, at attention. Zell…Irvine…Selphie…Skye…Quistis…Laguna…Ward…Kiros, and now Squall as well. Being Mr. Leader, Kenan got to stand in front of them all. He slowly and most of all carefully grabbed the mission-details document from inside his jacket. "What's the mission?" Zell inquired impatiently. -"Don't rush me." Kenan 'barked' and sifted through the few hand-written pages to make sure he didn't forget a thing. Seeing nothing else to do, Zell inspected his nails then decided a few were too large and bit em off. He spat them out, mere inches from Irvine's feet. "Oh, thanks a lot Zell." Selphie danced around slightly to some theme inside her head, oblivious to anyone but Kenan. "My first mission." Skye told Quistis. "Ooh. I'm excited. No…wait. Nervous is probably the better word for it." Just to check its durability, Quistis rapped the end of her whip round her hand and pulled. She almost immediately started to get rope-cuts so stopped. At least she knew the whip was fine. Laguna raised an eyebrow, thinking of old times. "A minus three on the manliness scale? Hey…damn…that's bad…" "I said that ages ago." Kiros sighed, recalling that particular phrase. "Though I suppose it still applies." Ward agreed, one could tell by his boyish grin. Squall stared out in the distant horizon. To his surprise, there were still no monsters in sight. As if no monster dared to dwell in this so-called 'Zone Two'… "All right. First things first." Kenan started to tell. "This mission isn't really one suited for SeeDs. But since the Garden is short-staffed and most students are receiving special battle training, so we get this task. Anyway, I don't expect much trouble on this one. It's gonna be a walk in the park basically." Zell elbowed Irvine lightly. "Best check our equipment." Kenan looked puzzled. "Wha? Zell, you must have heard me wrong. I don't expect to run into any monsters this time." "In that case, best double check our equipment." Irvine whispered. Kiros nodded. "That might not be such a bad idea. One can never be too cautious." He looked aside. Laguna waved at him. "Granted…sometimes there are those that can be too cautious." He corrected himself, images of the sneaking man with the machine gun flooding back to his mind. Squall checked his equipment status. "I still have Cactuar junctioned, and some magic stocked." "Cactuar?" Quistis wondered, having never heard of such a GF before. He seemed confused. "Oh, you never acquired Jumbo Cactuar?" After coughing to get his due attention again, Kenan continued with the briefing. "Even though I expect this mission to be easy, it doesn't mean it isn't important. If all goes as planned, we'll be one step closer to our ultimate goal." Zell upper-cutted the air. "Killing the Sorceress! Right?!" "R-ight." Kenan said a bit bewildered by the outburst, though he should know better. "Now could you stop punching the oxygen away and let me tell ya what to do, please?" Zell let his body sag, at the same time gesturing for him to continue with one hand. "Now." Kenan carefully started once more, expecting to be cut off again, but since that didn't happen continued. "There are two objectives. Our main one: Gather support. It's as simple as that people. The G-Army is too strong for us alone, so we need all the help we can get." Selphie raised her hand, jumping up and down. "Ooh! Ooh! Question!" "Yes?" She smiled. "Is that why you said Rinoa might be back? Her help would be very much appreciated, right?" "Yeah!" Zell backed her up. -"For sure." Irvine agreed as well. Kenan kept his eyes on the document. "Well…if she wants to come back, she can." Selphie joyously hugged Irvine. "Whoo-hoo, did you hear that? Rinoa's coming back!" "This is indeed great news." Quistis said, happy in her own controlled way. Squall's face didn't give away much emotion. Although one could say he looked sad. Ward nudged him, and with a goofy smile tried to cheer him up. He rubbed his shoulder and smiled, knowing that would make the guy stop. But what Ward didn't know…Squall wouldn't be on the team that would try to locate Rinoa. Kenan was reminded of the other news he had to give. "Oh yeah. That's right. From now on, Squall's officially a Balamb Garden SeeD, make sure to treat him accordingly." Quistis giggled. "I thought you were the only one treating him any different." He made a swatting-flies gesture. "Bah. That's was ages ago." "That was yesterday." Zell pointed out, crystal clear. Kenan cleared his throat. "Umm…stop distracting me everyone, I hadn't finished. Our first sub-objective is to locate the White SeeDs. Xu is unable to contact the them and we lost track of their ship when we entered this area." "Do we have any idea where they are now?" Irvine inquired. Last time they had to find the White SeeD ship it didn't take them too long. Weren't they hiding near the Centra continent? -"No. Not really." Kenan replied, looking as concerned about this as the rest did. "Which is why we're going to Timber, the local resistance might know." He saw some faces lit up in recognition but nobody said anything out loud so he continued. "Once there, we will split in two teams. Both have the main task of gathering support." He looked at the relevant page in the mission details document. "Oh, and we're to avoid getting into fights. It'd be great if we remained undetected by Galbadians, but with the crucial time factor, we're not expected to sneak around." They all understood that. Although Laguna let his head hang down in disappointment. "What about the teams?" Quistis inquired on everyone's behalf. Kenan closed the document and looked up. "As said, we'll split up in two teams. Team one is the Timber team. Team two is the Dollet team; after arrival in Timber they'll travel to Dollet. Either by train or by car." He briefly ran his tongue over his lips, feeling they were getting dry. Purely by accident he aimed it at Quistis, whom gave him quite a weird look. "Since we had little time in planning all this, the teams weren't really decided upon. However, I will lead Timber team and Quistis, you lead Dollet team." Zell kicked some sand in protest, yet all ignored him. Quistis accepted leadership, but still had a question to ask. "What's our second objective?" "You're to visit a woman named Merlose in Dollet." He told her business-like. "She might know something about what happened to Squall, so he'll be on the Dollet team as well." He smiled reassuringly. "Okay, that's all for now. I'll explain the rest later." Irvine looked confused. "There's more?" "Man!" Zell whimpered. "Give us a break! We can't save the entire world all by ourselves." Again the rest purposely ignored him and boarded the Einlanzer. Zell slammed his foot down hard on the ground. "Guys, that's really not funny." He let a shriek of terror as thunder struck somewhere up high. With his hands covering his ass he ran after them.
The Lamest Journey by Goku Girl
While most everyone proceeded ahead, Irvine and Selphie stopped just before entering the room with the elevator leading up to the cockpit. Zell rushed by, shouting something like "Don't leave me out there all by myself" and the doors closed up behind him. Irvine squatted down a bit and affectionately kissed Selphie on the mouth. She playfully pushed him away. "Hey, what was that for?" Smirking, Irvine turned aside and leaned on the guardrail. "Hey, do I need a reason?" "Tee-hee. I guess not." She answered and hung over the guardrail, balanced on her stomach and hands. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back. "Careful, babe. Wouldn't want you to fall." She looked down at the floor below. It probably would hurt a lot to fall on hard metal even if they weren't that high up. -"I bet it's gonna be a hectic day again." Irvine remarked, turning around and resting his elbow on the railing. Selphie looked sad. "Yeah. You're probably right Irv." "I always am." He commented with a boyish smile. -"We're gonna run into some trouble." She predicted with a sad undertone. Irvine soothed Selphie by caressing her cheek with the back of his hand. "Don't be like that. You can let this get you down. One could're not like that." For a moment it appeared her eyes were starting to tear, but then she smiled, ruining the notion of her ever crying. He should have known better. Nobody…no thing...will ever get Selphie down. She had her eyes locked on him, her hands on her hips. "So, what am I like?" Irvine laughed. "You're the girl of my dreams Sel." He made open arms gestures to support his speech. "It's destiny we met again after leaving the Orphanage. I'm telling you, we were meant to be together!" "You're so mushy." She giggled. -"Isn't that why you like me?" He reasoned, pretending to genuinely think about it. She played along with the game and crossed her arms, then put on the best Quistis voice she could. "Statistics indicate you are quite a nice specimen of the male gender." Irvine in turn rubbed his chin Kenan-style. "Well, well. Might I say you don't look half so bad yourself." They both laughed at their childish little charade. "They're probably wondering what's keeping us." He told her, though not making much movement himself. She allowed herself another minute of rest before piloting the plane away from Balamb Garden. "It feels like everything happens so fast lately. Just two days ago we had never heard of Skye or Squall…" "Yup." He sort of moaned in agreement. "We surely have to rush a lot." Selphie weakly held up a finger as if to make a point. "For a reason though, right?" "To rid the world of evil and save mankind." Irvine guessed then yawned. "I would have preferred staying in bed." -"Not exactly the hero-type, eh mister?" She grinned. "I have my needs." He pointed out. "Getting sleep being the most important one at the moment." His eyes widened. "Oh, and getting to spend time with my girlie is a close second of course." She tapped with her fingers on the metal guardrail. "Aw. Now I'm second best?" "I said a close second." He reminded her, despite the fact that he knew she was just joking. Selphie hardly heard it. Her thoughts had drifted ahead to meeting Rinoa. Only if she came back the team would be truly complete. And not to forget little Angelo of course. Then again, the little part was debatable. She thought back to the moment Rinoa was dropped off in Timber. An awkward scene it was. Nobody quite knew what to say to her expect a simple 'goodbye' and 'see ya later'. Selphie found it harder than saying goodbye to her friends at Trabia Garden. Maybe because she had made a choice to leave in that particular case. She chose to be transferred to Balamb Garden. Rinoa did not have a choice to make; others made it for her. Though she never wanted to leave. And, actually, nobody else wanted her to do that either, each showing this in his or her own way. How could someone do that to a person? Selphie always wondered from that point on. Rinoa had been dumped. She was mad at Kenan for it, though never truly resisted his decision. And to think that he was right. Rinoa really was much safer in Timber than in Balamb Garden. Should she have stayed, Ultimecia would have possessed her and not Tia; that's what Squall said. Irvine had other things on his mind. Somehow the explanations given to him regarding Skye weren't satisfactory. The Headmaster didn't know who she was either, but locked her up as a precaution? He wondered how likely such a scenario was. Whenever he thought about Skye he couldn't help but feel sympathy. She was alone in a strange world. He tried imagining how he would feel if he were in her position. Pretty lousy, was the conclusion. At least he had Selphie now. Who did Skye have? He laughed inwardly as the though of her being together with Squall crossed his mind. The mental image looked wrong somehow. Irvine found Squall and Skye to be radically different from each other. Not likely seeing those two paired up… The doors to his right slid open. Kenan showed an understanding look for once as he stepped up. "Come on. We have to get going." "Affirmative!" Selphie exclaimed and bolted past. -"Ooh." Irvine cooed, impressed by his girlfriend's willingness to get on with serious business. "Wish she'd teach me how to do that someday. Does she have a switch or something?" Kenan displayed a don't-look-at-me face. "Women." They both sighed, as if that explained it all.   <<------------------------------------------>>   After sending Selphie up to the cockpit with Irvine, Kenan joined the rest of the crew on the passenger deck. As he entered, it didn't take him long to figure out an intense discussion was taking place. Kenan only heard bits and pieces over the combined noise of most everyone talking, but gathered enough to know they were worried about the mission. In particular the teams. Who would be on what team? "Hey, I wanna be on Laguna's team." Zell said, dominantly tapping himself on the chest. "He kicks ass." -"Eighteen years ago, perhaps." Was as far as Kiros would admit. "Right now he's just…well…" The plane began to shake a bit. They heard the sound of starting engines and quieted down. It gave Kenan a chance to address them all. "Okay, let's decide on the teams." He calmy suggested. "I'll be on the Timber Team. Who's with me?" The people stared at him. At first Kenan thought they didn't want to yell over the engine sound, but that wasn't it. "Nobody wants to be on my team?" He asked in disbelief, feigning hurt. "Damn, this reminds me of gym class." -"Selphie and Irvine aren't here." Zell hinted with a smirk. "All right." Kenan said, rubbing his hands together in delight. "They're with me. The rest will be the Dollet team." -"Understood." Squall said and took his seat up front. At least I won't be with that clown… Ward elbowed Kiros, forcing him to speak up. "Well… could say this is not a fair decision. It would leave the Timber team with only three people and the Dollet team with seven." Quistis nodded in agreement. "That's a good point. We'd best make two teams of five." Skye glanced over her shoulder. "I wanna stay with Squall." They accepted this, considering he had rescued her and thus gained her trust. What's with this girl? Squall asked himself. Why me? Why doesn't she go along with someone else? Laguna looked distant as he tried to figure out a good way to divide the people. Zell still had trouble counting to ten. Kiros exchanged looks with Ward and then made a suggestion. "I'll go on the Timber team with Ward. At least one of us needs to stay on the Dollet team to find lady Merlose." "Yeah, that's great thi-" Laguna started to congratulate, but before he had finished his eyes widened. "Hey! Hey! Hey! That means you guys won't be on the same team as me!" Ward shrugged and made a face as if saying "Yeah, so?" "I thought you wanted to fight along side me!" He exclaimed to strengthen his point. Kenan buried his face in his hands. "Doesn't anyone ever listen to me? I said we won't get into any fights." Since his hands also covered his mouth all that the rest heard was incoherent mumbling. -"Actually no." Kiros said in hopes to end that discussion with Laguna. "You've changed. We've changed. I suppose now that we're older we have come to value our lives more. I'd prefer not to be thrown off a cliff again." Zell, with aid of his ten fingers at last discovered there were in fact ten people on the entire team, then looked up and wondered what everyone was talking about. Laguna sure looked surprised about something. "But…guys? We're a team." "If it's really that important, I'll switch teams." Skye offered. She didn't like seeing anyone get sad, especially an old man like Laguna. How old was he anyway? Forty? Fifty? Kiros smiled appreciatively. "That won't be necessary Skye." Zell followed the conversation with great fascination. What the hell were they talkin' about? Ward pointed his thumb downwards, most likely meaning Kiros and him stayed in the Timber team. "Ah. Come on." Laguna whimpered, knowing it had effect last time. Though not this time. Kiros and Ward didn't give in. -"Well, the teams are decided then." Kenan concluded by both men's persistency. "I'll go tell Pineapple and Selphie." With that said he walked out the Passenger room, letting cold air slip in as the doors momentarily opened up. Laguna turned to his buddies. "Pineapple?" Kiros and Ward raised their shoulders and turned to their seats. Making a mental note to ask about it later, Laguna plopped down as well and strapped himself in. By now the engines were fully warmed up and the plane slowly began building up speed. The glass window appeared to be vibrating but to their relief remained in place. The Einlanzer, after all, was one of the sturdiest Airships ever built. They taxied until the nose of the plane pointed in the opposite direction of the Garden, then still got some distance from it so the after burners wouldn't shake up the entire Garden. "Here we go!" Zell exclaimed in excitement. "Man! I love this!" Quistis laughed at his immaturity, as she was last to sit down and put on a seatbelt. Everyone was abruptly pushed back into their seats. The image of Selphie stepping down on some throttle coming to mind. A few moments of collective queasiness later, they found themselves up high in the air. Streams of dark clouds rolled over the window like water over a beach until they'd had climbed above the storms. They gasped. The sky looked so beautifully cerulean above the dark clouds. It was sad the people inside Balamb Garden couldn't see any of it.  "I still don't really get the plan." Zell moped. "The way I see it, the Timber team gets to relax in Timber while the other team has to go all the way to Dollet. Why doesn't Selphie just fly us there?" Quistis sat on the row to his right so naturally the complaints were aimed at her. "I'm sure that's not all Kenan's team has to do. I have a feeling we'll be told everything on-site." "I hate that." Zell grunted from his seat, with his feet on the headrest of the empty seat in front of him. "I bet there isn't even a real plan. We'll probably end up improvising…" Skye sat in the left row, almost breathless from the view. Slowly but surely the dark clouds turned whiter as they gained distance from Balamb Garden. She could see the Einlanzer's shadow on top of the clouds after a while. She looked to her right. "You guys are SeeDs…surely you need to improvise at times?" "Actually I thought that's what Zell did all the time." Quistis giggled, not thinking Zell to be the kind of person that needs a solid plan. He said he swung a loose cable two hundred feet above the floor…did he plan that? She very much doubted it. Feeling this was where he came in, Laguna jumped up from his seat. "Don't worry. If there's anything I'm good at-" -"It's stupidity." Kiros finished the sentence for him with a stone face. "The being of stupid. You can look it up in the dictionary and you'll see a picture of him." Laguna flexed his muscles. Ward looked away in disgust. "Nope, it's improvising!" He exclaimed, waving his machine gun in the air for some reason. "I' King of it." Skye smiled and looked up. "Really? So what's this I heard about you throwing Kiros and Ward off a cliff?" "Yeah." Zell laughed, following her point. "Is that your way of improvising? In that case…no thanks." -"I wish people would stop making such a big deal out of it." Laguna said with just a tiny hint of anger. "We survived it, didn't we? It wasn't exactly a walk in the park..but hey…" "That's your answer to everything." Kiros pointed out, going over one of his katanas. Laguna let his body sag and plopped down in his seat again. "Not to be rude, but weren't you at the meeting Sir?" Quistis carefully probed. "Should you not know the plan?" -"I believe Commander Gantt told almost everything." Kiros replied instead of Laguna. "Both teams are to gather support for a large scale operation to retake Esthar. The Dollet team has a secondary objective, which is trying to find out what happened to Mr. Leonhart." Zell smashed his fists together. "So, we gotta ask the Dollet Army for their support and visit this lady Turquoise?" "Lady Merlose." Laguna corrected immediately. "She's like the smartest woman on that face of the planet. If she doesn't know anything that could clear things up--" -"Then Ultimecia does." Squall stated determinedly, leaving them to wonder what Laguna would have said. Skye gulped. "Let's hope Merlose knows. I don't think I like Ultimecia very much." "Understatement of the year." Zell sighed. She tilted her head in consideration. "Uhm, how about: I really dislike her, a lot!" "Yes." Quistis confirmed with her unique calmness. "That's a lot closer to how we all feel." Who cares what we feel? Squall thought to himself. We're SeeDs…we just do our jobs. -"Okay, so we land in Timber then go to Dollet by train or car. Once there we try to find this lady whom might know some stuff and talk to the Duke of Dollet about gathering a support army?" Zell summarized, showing uncertainty about the plan. "Precisely." Kiros replied, touching the tip of one his katanas with his thumb. Zell's face turned sour. "I still say the Timber team has a much easier job. It aint fair." Skye giggled, glancing over her shoulder. "Does he always complain this much?" "More often than not." Quistis straightforwardly replied.   <<------------------------------------------>>   Rinoa sat on the edge of her bed, looking at herself in her large standing mirror. The small bead on her necklace sparkled, despite the muffled light. She held on to it with one hand and tried to smile, yet didn't succeed. The thought of her friends giving their lives out there while she had to remain indoors was hard to bear. "I may not be a SeeD…but that doesn't mean I can't help." She said softly, wondering if she still could sound convincing after it's been at least two weeks since she really fought. The room she sat in had remained unchanged for years now. The wallpaper was still colored light pink with cute little bears on it. She had chosen it when she was seven years old. Now that she thought about it, she realized that was the last time her dad really helped. Her mother said it was time for some re-decorating and dad had constructed a bed all by himself. Rinoa remembered being very proud of him. But that was long ago. After mother died, things changed… Without really feeling like doing anything at all, Rinoa slowly crawled up. She walked over to the window and opened the curtains, letting the bright sunshine into her room. The street in front of the house looked misty as always. Steam from the sewers vented through the manholes. Deling City wasn't the kind of place a person could ever truly love. More often than not, it looked gloomy. Sometimes eerie too. Quite some horror movies had been recorded in Deling and this wasn't surprising to anyone who had lived there. Its dark alleys could hide countless of monsters…. She heard footsteps coming up the stairs. "Rinoa? Don't you want breakfast?" "No." She replied, staying by the window. The door to her room was locked. Dad wouldn't get in. General Caraway marched up to his daughter's room. "You have to eat." The knob on her door turned but the door remained shut. Rinoa closed her eyes, wishing him away. "I'm not hungry." Her father banged on the door, not too loud for anyone outside to hear but loud enough for her to understand he was angry. She hated him for always wanting a perfect daughter who would obey to his every command. Rinoa wasn't one of the soldiers under his command, so why was she treated that way? "You can't stay in your room forever." Her father argued. She stuck out her tongue in his direction. The fact that he couldn't see it because of the closed door didn't matter. "Come on Rinoa." Her father attempted in a much nicer tone of voice. "You know I'm only keeping you here so you'll be safe. There is a war going on outside, I don't want you to get hurt." Ha ha. Good one. She thought. Like I'm going to believe that dad. To him, losing his daughter would be like losing one of his men. It looked bad on his record as a General so naturally he tried to avoid casualties. It didn't mean he cared. He pleaded over and over, using all kinds of painstakingly obvious psychological tactics. First he was mad. Then nice. After that he even started offering rewards for her as long as she came out of her room. She silently listened for a few minutes. Her dad eventually gave up and went down to the living room. The two guards standing at the gate were all that stood in her way. If she were careful enough, she could open her window, get out on the roof and slid down to the ground using the drainpipe. But she couldn't leave the premises because her dad had ordered them not to let her through. The calendar hanging on one of her walls had eight marked days on them. She'd been in Deling for eight days already. Ever since Watts and Zone left with the White SeeDs, staying in Timber just wasn't the same as it used to be. When a friend of hers from another resistance faction suggested she head back home, she reluctantly agreed. Now she wished she never had. It felt like she had no use to anyone anymore. People were always saying how they wanted her to stay somewhere safe, but wasn't that another way of saying she got in the way? Another way of saying 'get lost'? She missed Selphie and Quistis the most. They were so nice to her, no matter if she wasn't a SeeD like them. Unfortunately, Kenan paid more attention to that detail. "Rinoa, it aint safe for you to stay here. I've talked to the Headmaster and he agreed to cancel the contract until this fight with the Sorceress has ended." -"…I don't wanna go. I may not be a SeeD like you guys, but that doesn't mean I can't help!" If only she had been more convincing. But then, how does one go about convincing such a stubborn, thickheaded guy like Kenan Gantt? Single-handedly defeat an entire army? Would that prove her skills to him, or was even that not enough? Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw some movement. She turned to see Angelo stretch, and then jump off her bed with his tail wagging. "Hey ya." She giggled, patting the dog on his head. "You won't send me away, will you?" Angelo sat down and held up one paw. She shook it, laughing. "Good boy!"   <<------------------------------------------>>   "This is Captain Ran Fong calling the Einlanzer, please respond." A middle-aged woman's voice sounded through the speakers in the cockpit, waking Irvine with an oddish snort. Kenan sat in the co-pilot's seat and reached for the right button to press. There was one big red button behind a bit of glass, marked [EMERGENCY] in letters even dyslectic people could read. Then on another panel was a small button marked [Shadow]. He had no idea what it did, but knew it wasn't what he looked for. Eventually he just randomly pushed a few, hoping it'd be the right one. "Uh..hello? I'm Commander Gantt." "Oh, very neatly done." Selphie giggled, looking aside briefly. -"The insertion team has been dispatched," Captain Ran Fong reported. "We're now heading to Balamb to assist with the salvage operation. The Lunatic Pandora is a few miles north of Esthar and isn't moving. You're clear to go." "Understood." Kenan confirmed from his side. "…Any news on the G-army?" -"We're waiting to hear more from the team we sent." She responded. "As far as we can tell from up here, the situation in Esthar hasn't changed since early this morning." "Understood." Kenan confirmed once more then ended the transmission with a simple "Good luck".  -"Personally, I hope they'll salvage some missile launchers or something like that and mount them on Balamb Garden. We need some more firepower." Selphie said, having listened in to the short conversation. Kenan looked aside with eyes wide. "What was that?" She smirked. "Blow 'em all to smithereens! Whoo-hoo!" He gasped. For such an innocent looking girl she sure could surprise a man sometimes with her outbursts. Irvine yawned, less impressed by Selphie's fanatics since he'd pretty much gotten used to it. "You really scare me sometimes." Kenan stifled a laugh. "Did you know that?" Selphie beamed proudly though remained focused on piloting the Einlanzer. A bit surprised about the fact that he'd dozed off, Irvine pushed himself up in his seat behind the weapons console. "Oh, you're awake again?" Kenan asked in a taunting tone as he heard a sound and glanced over his shoulder. -"I was just resting my eyes." Irvine lied. As soon as he said it he wished he'd used a different excuse. Just resting my eyes was used way too much. It'd become quite a cliché. "Yeah, yeah."  Kenan scoffed. "Just resting yer eyes…" -"Say, can I ask you a question?" Kenan pondered heavily. "The answer is…uhm…seven!" Irvine stared at him in disbelief, showing no signs of amusement. "Uh, I meant as" "Shoot." He replied, seriously this time. -"It's about Squall." Irvine told him. "Now I'm no strategist or anything, but don't you think he should be on the team that's gonna search for Rinoa?" "Oh yeah!" Selphie exclaimed. "They're close, aren't they?" -"Who told you this?" Kenan nearly demanded to know. "Uh. You did." Irvine cautiously laid down the facts. "This morning, by the lobby. You were telling us that you saw Squall outside yesterday and had a talk about some stuff. You forgot about it?" He drew a puzzled look. Did I tell them? Well…I might have. I do rant a lot. "Ah, never mind." He hastily responded, dropping that issue like it wasn't important. "But if you must know, Squall is on the Dollet team and not the Timber team because we decided it'd be best to first try and find out more." Irvine walked towards the front of the cockpit until he was practically in between the two pilot seats.  His eyes hurt as he stared to his right. He held up one hand to block the sunlight. "If I were in Squall's place, and we were searching for Selphie instead of Rinoa, I'd definitely want to be on the team that would search for her." "Awww." Selphie cooed with the puppy dog look. "So gosh darn cute!" She made a slight course correction and the plane edged left. Through a few openings in the bed of clouds, the ocean below was visible. And again, part of the old Horizon Bridge. Kenan leveled his viewing field. Staring down made him feel uneasy. "I understand your point Irvine, but what's the use for Squall to see Rinoa? She doesn't know him either, I bet. Besides, information--" "Is ammunition." Irvine and Selphie sighed, fed up after hearing that same line at least ten times already. He smiled. "That's right. So he'll go to this advisor person in Dollet and maybe learn more." He looked at Selphie. "Anyway, what's our E.T.A.?" She looked at the tiny map. "Uhm..'bout five minutes or less." "Eggcellent." Kenan mimicked Odine's weird accent. "Be sure to land a güd..ah dammit, I mean, good distance away from Timber. We do not wanna be seen by any G-jerks." -"Roger that." She exclaimed. Suddenly, he gasped. "Oh…shit. This is bad." "Is something wrong?" Irvine asked thoughtfully. -"Well, you know how I'm always saying information is ammunition, right?" "Do we ever." Selphie giggled. "You always say that when we need to find out more on something." Kenan couldn't belief his own stupidity. "Well guys, I forgot the other rule. Ammunition is ammunition." "What does that mean?" She wondered. "You…forgot to bring ammo?"  He grabbed the gun from his holster and checked if there was an ammo clip. "Uh..let's see…" There was none. "Shit!" He sighed. "Yup. I forgot to bring the ammo." Irvine smacked himself on the forehead. "Good one Kenan. I bet Laguna would be proud of ya."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Zell leaned against Squall's seat. "Wow. Really? Me?" "Yeah." He affirmed for the third time. "You and Irvine." He was telling them about the final battle with Ultimecia. Zell felt especially honored to have been chosen in the Alpha team, the team that would take on the evil Sorceress. -"All the guys in one team?" Quistis asked with an inquisitive look. "You thought that to be wise?" "Yeah, who would protect the girls if all the big strong men weren't around?" Skye remarked sarcastically. Squall took it seriously. "They weren't defenseless. In fact, everyone was strong at that point. Even Rinoa." -"Too bad Kenan didn't hear this sooner." Quistis sighed, combing her locks back with one hand. "Perhaps he would have let her stay if he knew." A few feet behind them, Laguna did some stretching exercises in between the two rows of seats. "Ah, relax gang. I'll find your friend and then we'll all kick Ultimecia's keester!" Kiros looked confused. "Uh..Laguna…aren't you on the Dollet team?…" He nodded slowly. "Yeah. Why do ya ask?" Sighing, Kiros turned his head aside, figuring Laguna already forgot about the plan. "Never mind." What horrors the people on the Dollet team would have to endure. He felt sorry for them. Those people should really consider themselves lucky if they came back uninjured. "So Squall, now that you've told us about all that serious stuff…" Skye started, half-giggling. "How about a joke?" He frowned. "A joke?" Skye exchanged looks with Zell and Quistis. "Yeah. Just to show you actually have a sense of humor." Have they been talking about me behind my back? Squall immediately wondered. When he went for a walk alone…? Did Skye talk about him in the Cafeteria? "C'mon." Zell edged, smiling widely. "You can do it." This is stupid. He thought. I'm a SeeD…not a clown. I'm not here to amuse people. -"Don't force him Zell." Quistis said, sympathetic to Squall. "I'm not forcing him." He explained. "It's called..uh…you know…that word……" Laguna scratched the back of his head. "Pulling?" "Pulling??" Kiros repeated, although knowing better than to play along with his buddy's stupidity. "What the…??" Laguna laughed, having a false sense of superiority. "Yeah, y'know? People always say that. 'Don't pull me around'. Never heard of it? Man…and you say I'm dumb?" Ward didn't even bother laughing at Laguna for being stupid this time. The lameness never ends… Zell stared wide-eyed in front of him for a moment, wondering on a scale of one to ten how stupid Laguna's remark really was. He then shook his head and turned back to Squall. "C'mon. Just a tiny joke." "Why?" Squall whispered, so the girls couldn't hear. "Is this Skye's idea?" He bit his lip. "I can't tell. But pu-lease man. So we'll know you're not a robot or sumthin'." Squall stood. "All right. If you're that desperate." I can't believe I'm agreeing to this. Skye clapped and the others followed her example. He sighed and turned his head aside for a moment. A joke. I have to think of a joke. Hmm………… There was an eerie silence. Everyone eyed Squall with high expectations. I don't know any jokes. Squall realized. No…wait. Before all the weird stuff started to happen. Rinoa warned about developing a sense of humor. Did I make a joke then? …It's no good. I can't remember. Zell let his shoulder dropped a bit. "Any minute now." He looked at the others over his shoulder with a grin. "Squall's just thinking of a good one." Why did the chicobo cross the road? Squall pondered heavily. …How should I know?!… Zell's shoulders dropped further. "Yeah, ANY minute now." "Okay. I think I have one." Squall reported. Skye gestured him to blurt it out, by all means. "Two peanuts were walking down the street." He told dryly, like forecasting the weather. "One was assaulted." He noticed the bewildered faces, then sat down in his seat again. "There. A joke. Happy?" Skye and Quistis chuckled thereafter, Laguna and Zell still looked blank. "I don't get it." The President of Esthar complained in almost child-like moping tone. -"Some people wouldn't get 'it' even if 'it' came in a large box marked 'it'." Kiros pointed out sharply. Very sharply. "Suppose we shouldn't have pressured him." Zell offered as explanation.  Quistis smiled and approached Squall, while the others went on discussing stuff in the back of the passenger room. "I'm sorry for that." She apologized. "It was a silly request, I know." -"That was your idea?" Squall asked, avoiding eye contact out of anger for having to do something that stupid. "Yes. Sort of." She answered truthfully. "We were just talking about how you seem so serious all the time. I know I myself am like that a lot too, but you really need to lighten up." -"You don't understand." He sighed. "This is a nightmare. It's like I lost everyone close to me, and--" "I do understand." Quistis interrupted, smiling compassionately. "By seeing us, the people you used to know, it hurts even more. Whenever you look at one of us, you are reminded of that fact that you lost your friends." "Is that it?" She asked, as there was no reply from him. "I don't know about the Quistis you knew, but I'm always like this. Wondering what goes on in other people's minds. Wondering what moves them…" He finally looked her in the eyes. "You're exactly like her." "Ah. So you see," She pointed out. "We are the people you know. We're right here with you." He shook his head. " don't know me. And Kenan has taken my place. It feels like I shouldn't be here." Quistis crossed her arms. "You probably shouldn't. That's exactly it. The entire problem you're facing." "That doesn't mean you have to face it alone." She added. "We can help. You do trust us, don't you?" -"Yeah." He replied. "I do. Although Kenan is kind of an oddball." She laughed, mostly out of relief. "Ah, so you do have a sense of humor." He looked down. "I wish someone could tell me what brought me here." "We'll find out soon." She assured then started walking back to her seat. She stopped halfway there and turned around. "Oh, and welcome on the team Squall." -"Thanks Quistis." He let out under his breath. He felt a renewed sense of hope. "Hey-lo." Selphie's voice sounded through the intercom, as if she'd purposely waited for Quistis and Squall to end their conversation. "Please prepare for landing, everyone."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Zieg untied the propelling rope around his waist and checked his small radar device. "Hmm. Looks like we're a bit off." "That's just great." Belzack sarcastically commented, helping the rest of the guys up the cliff. "Did you hear that?" Ryogo and Blank carried with them the raft they'd used and worked on deflating it. Waves clashed relentlessly down below. They were lucky to have landed on a small beach, instead of the sharp rocks to the left and right of them. "I'm sorry," Zieg apologized to his team. "I didn't realize how strong the currents would be." -"It's okay." Meru assured as she walked back with her binoculars hanging around her neck. "It doesn't really matter where we've landed. Esthar is to the north, just like it would be according to the original landing plan." She was the only one on the team whom hadn't put on her full suit. Which is to say she didn't wear her helmet. It never fitted right anyway, and it was really uncomfortable to wear in the scorching heat of the South Esthar area. The guys however, did wear there full bug suits -as they were sometimes called since the helmet made people look like some kind of insect with beady eyes-, and she was having a hard time keeping them apart. Though the Squad leader and her friend, Lieutenant Zieg, wore a distinctively grayer suit. It wasn't exactly a stealth camo, but it beat the red amour lieutenants of Omega Squad usually wore in battle. "How do things look?" Coral inquired, fidgeting with his sniper gun after first bringing up all the ropes that were used to climb the coastal cliff. Only a Special Forces team would ever dare to land on the South tip of Esthar with just an inflatable raft and some ropes; the natural barrier around the country kept the sensible people at bay. -"Not so good." She reported. "Even worse than from up in the air." Ryogo packed the fully deflated raft on his back. "Damn…that's bad." "I have a bad feelin' 'bout this guys." Belzack told them. "This sorta mission should be carried out at night." Blank looked up at the morning sun. "Yeah. We have to be careful or they'll pick us off like dogs." Coral finished piecing together the parts of his sniper gun and stood. "Worry not guys. I'll cover yer asses." -"Which is exactly what worries us." Meru said what no doubt crossed everyone's mind. Looking around, Zieg discovered a cave a bit further inland. He gestured everyone to move over there, as it would provide a bit of shade from the sun, and more importantly, cover from the enemy. "Now," He started as soon as they arrived at the safe position. "Did they have a perimeter?" Meru squatted down and placed her radio backpack on the ground. "Afraid so. It looks like they're guarding the City limits with frequent patrols. They don't want anyone going in…or out…" They heard the sound of Belzack gritting his teeth, even if he wore a helmet. "Those G-bastards. I'll show them!" -"Calm down." Zieg ordered. "We're not here to fight, remember?" "Yeah yeah." He scoffed. "We're here to gather intelligence on enemy positions and stuff like for those SeeD people." -"Not just them." Coral corrected. "I hear they're gonna gather support from all over and launch a strike to retake Esthar and get rid of Sorceress Whatever permanently." Zieg switched on Meru's radio and contacted Captain Ran Fong whom covertly flew somewhere near Esthar in the Ragnarok III. "This is Erhart. Landing successful, we'll begin our mission right away. I'll be in touch again when we need our ride out of here. Out." They'd have to maintain a strict radio-silence from now on. If the Galbadians were to intercept a message it'd be nearly impossible to complete the mission. The G-soldiers would most likely track them down… The incursion team stepped out of the cave and began moving towards Esthar. It was still a long hike away, but their landing had to remain undetected so they were forced to land far away from the City. They'd jumped out of the Ragnarok III, flying over the southern ocean at low altitude, and used a raft to move in closer to the south tip of the continent. All they could see with their naked eyes were clouds of smoke far ahead of them. And every now and then, an explosion. The light of which traveled faster than the sound, just like far away thunder. "Meru, Coral." Zieg called after making up his mind. "You're on my team. The rest, good luck trying to sneak about the Lunatic Pandora. It's a hell of a job." Belzack grinned. "Which is why you take the easier one, right? Invading the Palace…" He stopped walking and looked over his shoulder. "If you want to switch, it's fine by me." -"Belly-boy was only kidding Zieg." Meru assured, urging him to keep on going. "We're all a bit tense right now." Blank sighed. "That's quite an understatement."   <<------------------------------------------>>   The group from the passenger room gathered outside shortly after the successful landing. They were somewhere south of Timber, behind a set of grass hills so that the Einlanzer wouldn't soon be spotted. "Galbadia is still in control of Timber?" Squall asked, staring at the town. He could barely see it. -"Yes." Kiros replied, moving about uneasily in his Galbadian uniform. "So did Timber become independent after Sorceress Ultimecia was defeated?" "Yeah." He answered, not feeling the need to use more words. One was enough. Zell and Laguna stood side by side on top of the nearest hill like two proud warriors. A sigh of wind messed up Zell's flamboyant hairstyle, making it near flat. "Do you guys see anything?" Skye shouted. She still stood in the shadow of the Einlanzer along with Quistis. -"Only a few G-soldiers." Zell shouted back at her. "Nothing we can't handle." The girls giggled. "We're not here to fight." Laguna nevertheless held his machine gun tightly in one hand. "Why else would we bring weapons?" "You got me." Zell moaned. "I say we kicked their asses back to wherever they hell they came from." -"Galbadia." Laguna suggested offhandedly after actually thinking about it. "The uniform pretty much gives that away." Ward had planted himself on a rock at the base of the small hill and couldn't help but listen to the most moronic conversation since…well…last time Laguna spoke. Kenan, Irvine and Selphie now exited the Einlanzer as well. "Thanks for waiting everyone." Kenan told them. "Now let's go. Remember that house next to the Timber Maniacs building? That's where we'll head. Any questions?" -"I have more of a suggestion." Quistis informed. "I think it'd be too conspicuous if all ten of us entered Timber at the same time…maybe we'd best split into a few smaller groups?" Selphie hopped up and down. "I'm with Irvy! I'm with Irvy!" Kenan looked at the first hill and saw Laguna there. "Hey Mr. President! You, Kiros and Ward take point." "Might as well make use of these uniforms." Kiros considered and dashed to the hilltop with his large buddy. Kenan turned to Quistis. "There's a few more things we have to go over before you can leave on your mission. I hope that resistance cell lady will let us stay in her house for a moment." -"She let us in last time." She pointed out. "I'm sure it'll be okay." Squall started walking towards Timber. Skye shouted something and gestured for him to wait. She followed. Irvine pointed at the Einlanzer. "You sure it's okay to leave it here?" Kenan smirked. "I think so. I remember where we parked." "The lame jokes never end, eh?" -"Not any time soon." He estimated in a flat tone of voice. Zell paced back on forth impatiently on top of the hill. "You guys coming or not?! Quit talking!" Quistis silently climbed up towards him. Selphie pulled Irvine along by his arms. "Let's go!" Kenan shrugged, walking behind. "Hey guys? Didn't those Timber resistance factions have all kinds of goofy names?" "Heh heh. Yeah." Zell confirmed as the two met up. "Like forest ducks or sumthin'." -"I bet I could think of a few more." "Like what?" Zell asked, already starting to laugh. Kenan appeared to think about it. "Like…I dunno….flipped foxes, clueless cats, half-brained hounds, powerless primates, spineless spiders…uh..frightened fish, moronic mutts, bonehead buffoons, mental monkeys, you know…stuff like that." "But wait," He quickly added in cheesy voice. "There's more; Gutless geezards..uhm…ignorant imps, brainless beasts, wood wimps, water weenies, uhm.. grass goofs, cissy saplings…river retards….wow, I could go on like this forever." Zell had stopped laughing. "You…you really don't like those guys huh?" "They're a bunch of amateurs." He told him. "I'm sure Squall thinks this too. Those people should leave it to the pro's." -"That's us, right?" Kenan halted. "Of course. Who else??" -"Just checking." He grinned. "You sometimes worry me Dincht." -"Like you don't worry us…kay-non…heh heh" "Do shaddap." He warned. "I may not have a loaded gun…but I am a Centra." Zell pretended to be shocked. "Oh no! A Centra! I'm scared to death now!" "Seriously," Kenan persisted. "Don't you know that song?" -"I know lotsa songs." He mumbled. "Which do you mean?" He began humming a weird kind of theme. "…Beware of Centra fighting…do do's fast as lighting…do do do…and oh so frighting…do do do…Centra fighting…" -"Never heard of it." Kenan didn't seem surprised. "Well, it is a crappy song, though the morale of it kinda appeals to me." "Whoa!" Zell exclaimed, pointing ahead. "One of those things again." A thrustaevis flapped its wings and hovered above the hill, letting out a few high-pitched screeches. The two men exchanged looks. "Another fight." They both sighed.
Timber and Trains by Goku Girl
As suggested, they had split into a few smaller groups to enter Timber more safely. Galbadian soldiers may be stupid, but even they would get suspicious when seeing seven funny looking people walk in at the same time as three even funnier looking Galbadian soldiers. Squall and Skye had headed to the west so it wouldn't seem like everyone approached from the same direction. It could appear to be a silly precaution…but you never know. "Hee-hee. It's like earlier." Skye pointed out. "Just the two of us." Seeing Laguna, Kiros and Ward enter Timber first, Squall sat down and leaned against one of the few trees left in the area around Timber. Didn't there use to be a huge forest? Not much evidence left of it now. -"Don't get any bright ideas." He warned her coldly. "N-no." She stammered, still partially scanning around. "I didn't mean it like THAT Squall." Irvine, Selphie and Quistis were waiting on a hill to the east, not far from the town entrance. Waiting for Laguna's group to make it past the guards without any hubbub, presumably. She squinted and tried to make herself taller by standing on her toes. Where were Zell and Kenan? She couldn't see them. They waited like this for a few minutes. Squall totally at ease, and Skye nervously standing watch. "You're unusually quiet." He perceived after a while, only hearing sounds coming from inside Timber. Trains constantly arriving and departing all day long. How could anyone stand to leave in such a place, he wondered. -"Am I?" She asked and sat down in the grass. He'd normally prefer not to get involved in other people's problems but somehow had concerns for her. "You okay?" She smiled and looked down at a daisy. "Yeah, sure. I'm fine." Squall saw Quistis' group entering Timber too. No fuss or anything. The guards didn't make a move. "I wonder what this smells like…" Skye mumbled, picked the daisy, and held it close to her nose. Her eyes began blinking rapidly, she turned her head aside and sneezed. "Bless you." He grinned, finding it somewhat amusing. She wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her blue dress. "Thanks." By now Quistis and Laguna had met up in the town square. Squall got up using the tree as his support. "We'll go next. Come on." Skye grabbed him by his arm. "Wait, please. I…lied when I said I was okay." He tried his best putting on a compassionate look. "Is something bothering you?" "Of course." She replied thinking he should know. "About my past. Kenan wouldn't tell me." And you want me to? Squall wondered. "I do trust him…but… I think I do want to hear about who I am. Or what." She said, showing confusing. "Whatever it is, I do want to know. I'm sure can handle it. I've already accepted the fact that it might be shocking." -"I can't tell you." He told her sternly. "At least, not right now." She let go of him. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked you to." He dropped the matter with a simple hand gesture. "Never mind. Let's just go." He walked a few feet then turned around to see Skye still standing by the tree, staring blankly at her feet. "Listen," He said to get her attention. "I don't know if this makes you feel any better, but I hear you're a Sorceress by your own choice. You wanted to get those powers so you could help people." She took a deep breath. I became a Sorceress to help people? "Come on." Squall ordered softly again. "We have to get going or that Kenan will give us a hard time." Smiling, she looked up. "You're probably right." So the two of them moved towards Timber, hoping the guards would think they were anything but their enemies.     Kenan gave the winged-monster a few more kicks with the tip of his boot to be sure of its demise. "He's dead." Zell assured in idle tone. "We'd best get moving. A dead bird thingy could attract other monsters." Kenan looked over his shoulder. "Did you stock up enough?" After quickly checking, Zell smirked. "Plenty." He stepped on the paved road leading up to Timber with his hands in his pockets. A truck drove by, heading in the other direction. Towards Deling City perhaps? "There are Skye and Squall." Kenan reported more focused on things up ahead, rather than anything else. "We'll wait a minute or so. It would seem too suspicious otherwise." The thought of having a short conversation of some kind with Zell crossed his mind and made him laugh. He knew it'd be either about hotdogs or Combat King related stuff. Zell leaned against a sign. "Somethin' funny?" "No." Kenan replied, reaching for something in his jacket. "Never mind." He came up with a SeeD Test, level 30. He figured it wouldn't hurt to increase his paycheck a little. "Pen…pen..pen." He mumbled while going through every pocket his uniform had. "Did I forget that too?" Finally, he found a small pen in his butt pocket. The end of which had been chewed upon frequently. In hopes that it really was his pen, he started to fill in the test with it. He stared intensively at each question, then grabbed a small piece of paper out of his pocket and jotted down all correct answers. "No…yes…no…no…no….no dammit! Yes…no…no…and..uh…no! There. All done." Zell didn't look impressed. "You cheated." "All is fair in love and war." Kenan pointed out, having heard those words of wisdom somewhere before, though he didn't have a clue where. "Think about it." -"I will." Zell lied and snatched the test from him to look it through. "Hey, what's this?' "What?" -"No dammit." He read out loud and made a weird face. "What the hell?" Kenan grinned and stole the piece of paper back to scribble over that small curse word until either the pen ran out of ink or nobody could possibly read what once was written there anymore. Whichever came first… "You know…I sometimes wonder why you're our Commander…" Zell confessed. -"As do I." Was the reply. With little said, yet enough to think about they both waited a little longer. A SeeD Commander dressed in a student uniform plagued by a ranting voice inside his head and a teenager whom just didn't seem to grow up, dressed in a brightly colored T-shirt and shorts. What a team. About as inconspicuous as large pink elephant. About a minute later, after first checking to his left and right, Kenan stepped on the road and followed it to Timber. It was time to get serious, he figured. It'd be a welcome change from all the lameness, no doubt. There were two security men guarding the entrance. They didn't look Galbadian. The one on the left stood almost completely frozen in place, as there was a cat resting on his shouldered rifle. "Don't show any signs of fear," The man said with a definite hint of fear in his voice. "…It's what a pro would do." The guard on the right laughed. "That's what you get when your daughter likes cats." Kenan and Zell passed them without being spoken to or noticed in particular. Though by now they assumed the guards weren't Galbadians in disguise, which meant they were just friendly Timber folk. However, it wasn't until the two SeeDs made it past the Hotel and Weapon Shop that they dared looked back. It seemed they too had made it in without causing any ruckus. Though they weren't out of the woods yet. A Galbadian soldier had noticed the two and marched closer. "Here comes trouble." Zell whispered. Kenan moved to the bridge suspended over three sets of train tracks and gestured Zell to do the same. -"What are you doing here?" The Galbadian private demanded to know. It must not have occurred to him that he was outnumbered two to one. A rookie. For sure. "Just hanging." Kenan replied in a laid back tone of voice. The soldier jumped furiously up and down, his rusty body armor making awful noises. "Loitering is expressly forbidden by Sorceress Edea!" Zell pointed and laughed. "Edea? Ha ha ha. I bet nobody ever tells you anything, huh? She isn't in command of the Galbadian forces anymore." The soldier shook his fist in a threatening way, then thought about it and let it drop. "Well…that's true…nobody tells me anything…I haven't even gotten a paycheck yet…and…I really have no idea what I'm doing here…" Thinking the two men lend him an ear, he continued ranting about the pathetic story that was his life for five minutes. "Well, if you see anyone suspicious, let me know." He ended at last and resumed his patrol. -"Is it just me?" Kenan asked. "Or is the entire Galbadian Army incompetent? How can we not win…?" They proceeded towards the town square, then turned right towards the Timber Maniacs building. A boy whimpered loudly, sitting on a staircase next to the pet shop. "Where's my Georgie?! I want Georgie back!" On the door of a pet shop hung a sign. [Closed]. Kenan directed more attention to a small shop on the other side of the stairs. "Won't you look at that?" Zell followed his gaze. It was a shop he'd seen before. The one next to the station where all trains from and to Balamb stopped. It was run by an old lady, whom sold various items such as model trains and… "Girl Next Door?" -"Now what did Rinoa call it?" Kenan wondered and thought deeply. "Oh yeah! Heh heh. A naughty magazine." "She's right." Zell agreed with her remark. In search of gil, Kenan once again went through all his pockets. "You're gonna buy a naughty magazine?!" Zell exclaimed loud enough for nearly everyone in Timber to hear. A few people in the town square turned to the two men. "Not anymore.." Kenan sighed, face blushing crimson. "I'd thought it'd be useful…but never mind now…" "To bribe Zone or something!" He quickly added upon perceiving Zell's slightly disgusted expression. "You know? He's into those sorts of magazines. Perhaps it would persuade him to help us…that's what I thought." The people shrugged and returned to whatever the hell they were doing. A train to Balamb arrived at the station and Zell sobbed. "I haven't seen Ma in three days. I hope she's okay." -"We'll go visit her after this mission." Kenan suggested, primarily to stop any further whimpering. "All right?" "Thanks." Zell said with a smile. "Now let's go. We're late!" If it wasn't for that idiot G-soldier. Kenan considered, having to run to keep up with Zell. The house next to the Timber Maniacs building was very easy to reach. Ward stood on the right side of the door, Kiros and Laguna on the left. "Uh..can we go in?" Kenan asked, almost humbly. The big guy pushed the screechy wooden door open, then crossed his arms. He resembled the image of a mean guard. "Go right ahead." Laguna assured in a friendly voice. "We've already heard all about the mission so we'll just stand out here and make sure no unexpected guests bother you. Like the G-soldiers." Kiros seemed less at ease. "It's not them I'm worried about. The people here have been giving us dirty looks…" -"Well…be careful not be beaten up by any resistance dudes." Zell needlessly warned. "I hear those Mental Monkey are especially dangerous. Good luck you guys." He and Kenan stepped through the doorway, grinning. Ward closed the door and a bit nervously looked over at Laguna. … … … "Mental Monkeys." Laguna repeated, raising an eyebrow. Kiros frowned. "They sure come up with strange names nowadays." A train conductor's whistle sounded and the Balamb-bound express departed. Laguna eyed it until it disappeared into a tunnel. His eyes focused on a building closer by. The Timber Maniacs building. "No. Don't." Kiros sighed, being one step ahead in his buddy's thought process. He knew Laguna too well. He knew he couldn't resist taking a peek inside. Just to see if anyone familiar was around. Or to see how the magazine was doing after so many years. "We're on a mission." Kiros reminded him. "There's no time." Laguna pretended not to hear because of the noise of another arriving train. So before Kiros could stop him, he rushed away and slipped through the doors of the building. "We'll have to drag him out of there." Kiros told Ward, who in turn rubbed his hands together in childish delight.   <<------------------------------------------>>   "…In short," Quistis summarized for the old lady. "We're here to find Rinoa and to get information on the whereabouts of the White SeeD ship." She stood by a round kitchen table. Behind her, Irvine and Selphie gazed out a small window, only partially paying attention to the things said. Skye and Squall were standing in the corner of the room, nearby the stairs leading up. The old woman looked more concerned over her kettle on the stove than over the fact that some young people 'invaded' her home. She had her back turned to everyone. Zell stormed in. "Hey guys!" The only one to look real happy was Skye. "Hey ya. I was wondering what kept you." Without a sudden greeting-outburst, Kenan joined up with Quistis at the one end of the table, while the lady picked up her kettle and sat down on the other end to drink her morning tea. She poured herself a cup full and very carefully took a sip. "The White SeeDs? Who are they?" "Watts and Zone are with them." Quistis told her, not sure if it'd be okay to reveal anything more. Her face seemed to light up. Although with all those wrinkles, who could really tell? "Oh. I saw those two about a week ago. Or maybe two…I don't know, time flies. Anyway, they were in town to stock up and left again without saying where they were going or when they'd be back." -"Doesn't anyone else know?" Kenan inquired, just as Quistis was about to. The lady gave it a few moments of thought. "I suppose Rinoa might know." Selphie got excited again. "Whoo-hoo. So we have to see Rinoa!" "We were gonna anyway." Irvine calmy stated, but by no means did that lessen her cheery mood. -"You want to know where she is?" The lady asked, standing up to fetch the sugar from one of the cupboards. "Yeah." Kenan replied. "Can you tell us?" She sat down and dumped two lumps in her tea. "About a week ago she decided she was better off in Deling City with her dad. The G-soldiers here still held a grudge against her so it wouldn't have been safe to stay." Zell looked at Kenan. "I guess this means you'll have to travel to Deling." He rolled his eyes. "Well duh. That's exactly what we're gonna do." -"Is there anything else?" Irvine asked, hinting at certain mission details that might still be in need of explaining. Kenan rubbed his chin. "Hmm. Yes. We'll have to decide where to meet up again after we split." "How about here" Quistis suggest logically. "If one team is back earlier than the other, it can wait at the hotel." The lady smiled and looked at the SeeD people. "You're welcome to stay here if you'd like." -"Okay." Kenan accepted the offer. "I guess that's settled." Selphie walked towards the front door, eager to get going. "C'mon! Rinoa's waiting!" "Wait a sec." He ordered. "How about the GFs? They have to be equally divided amongst the two teams." Skye smiled and raised her hand above her head. "I don't need any GF. I can cast magic on my own." -"And I don't think we should give Laguna a GF either." Irvine reasoned, though not appearing too serious. Kenan laughed. "Yeah. I get your point. Wouldn't want him to start forgetting even more." Quistis held one hand in front of her mouth, not wanting to show her grin. "Really, I don't think--" "Let's not taking any chances." Zell interrupted her. "I'll take Laguna's GF." -"How many GFs do you have?" Squall asked, just because he'd been silent for a while now and didn't want people to start worrying about him again. Or forcing him to make jokes… Kenan calculated out loud. "Uh..let's see. There's Quezacotl, Siren, Shiva, Ifrit, Brothers, Diablos, Leviathan, Alexander, Pandemona and..uh…I'm probably forgetting one now…" "Carbuncle." Selphie chirped, knowing that GF was Kenan's least favorite. They're missing a few. Squall thought to himself, but decided not to say anything about it. "I don't need one." He informed the others. "I have one junctioned already." -"I'll take Siren." Kenan said, in a way that suggested this was indisputable. Irvine smirked. "I want Diablos." "Ifrit!" Selphie and Zell shouted nearly simultaneously. Quistis intervened before the two would pout and nag. "Selphie will take Ifrit, Zell…you take Quezacotl." She crossed her arms. "Ward can have Alexander and Kiros Leviathan." -"Which one will you take?" Kenan asked, showing profound interest. "Shiva." She answered with a smile. He smiled back. "Yeah, she suits you." Everyone looked at him in a rather strange way, having no clue what he meant by that. "Okay, this leaves Carbuncle, Pandemona and Brothers." He hastily continued with the discussion. "I'll take Brothers." Zell tapped himself on the chest. "And I'll have…uhm..Carbuncle. Auto-reflect, baby! Yeah!" Skye chuckled. "Gee, it's like you're dividing candy or something." Wind affinity…Quistis suddenly remembered. "Skye, you can have Pandemona." She held up her hands. "No thanks, I don't need a GF." "GFs do more than provide use with the power to use para-magic." Quistis lectured like a true Instructor. "You might find one useful. I suggest you take it." The old lady blankly stared at all the people standing in her kitchen. That whole GF hubbub was beyond her understanding. She had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Skye shrugged. "Uh. Okay. If you say so…" It took a minute or so for everyone to junction their GFs properly. Zell lightly elbowed Squall. "Say, what was that magic you used against Seifer?" "Ultima." He replied. "It's quite powerful." -"Can I have some of it?" Zell asked with his hands folded together like he was praying. "Please?" Kenan smacked his forehead. "Dincht, don't be dumb. You're on the same team. It doesn't matter who has it." He smiled. "I, on the other hand, am on the other team. "So…you want a few Ultimas?" Squall needlessly asked, already moving towards the guy to exchange the magic. He gave him ten Ultimas, which left about forty in his own stock. If only Squall'd known he'd be going on a mission again, he would have surely junctioned more GFs and stocked a lot more magic. Now, he only had Ultima, Curaga, a few Meteors and some Full-Life. It was his emergency stock that he carried with him at all times. Just in case he'd get into an unexpected fight. Never had he anticipated the circumstances in which he found himself to be in now. A mere three days ago he though he could relax for a while. So he didn't think there was much need for junctioning anything. Kenan thanked him after the donation of Ultimas and everyone exited the building. "Good luck!" The old lady shouted and waved them goodbye, knowing the fate of the world might very well rest on the shoulder of those young men and women. Once outside, Quistis received one of the two communication headsets Kenan brought with him. "It's state of the art technology." He explained to her. "We can keep in touch even if the enemy tries to jam the signal. Well, as long as you stay on the same continent, it should work." -"I'm not planning on going anywhere far." She giggled and put the item with the other things she carried. Irvine patted Zell on the back. "Hey, I guess this is where we split up." "Suppose so." He muttered, pretending not to care. Selphie waved goodbye. "Quistis, Skye, Squall, Zell…take care!" She looked around. "And where is Sir Laguna?" The doors to the Timber Maniac building flew open and Laguna stepped out. Or rather, was forced out by Kiros and Ward whom didn't let him get back in again. "You guys!" Laguna pouted. "I was just talking about writing an article." Quistis giggled. "You're a President, not a journalist." He stuck his hands in his pockets. "Hmph. But I wanna be both." Kenan brought Ward, Kiros and Laguna up to speed on everything that was discussed inside and gave the GFs. "What?" Laguna asked, after seeing both his buddies junction a GF. "Why don't I get one?" As luck would have it, the train to Dollet arrived at the station to the far right at that very moment. Kenan saw it slowly drive in and come to a stop. "Uh…Quistis, you'd best hurry before it leaves." Nearly everyone said "see ya later" at the same time and they all laughed. "We have to go." Squall soberly reminded his team and headed for the station. -"Later!" Zell shouted, running off too. Skye waited for Quistis to say goodbye to Kenan then the girls ran to catch the train. Now only Laguna still had to go. But he hesitated and looked at his two buddies. "You guys…" He started, scratching the back of his head. -"Just go. Go! Go! Go!" Kiros cut him off, purposely hurrying him. He literally left a trail of dust as he finally bolted away. The five members of the Timber team watched him just barely making it on time. The train pulled away the exact moment Laguna jumped onboard. The guy seemed to have lady luck on his side. "He made it." Kiros sighed in relief. Kenan nodded, watching the train until it disappeared into a tunnel. "Yup. But now we have a train to catch as well." -"Why don't we just use the Einlanzer?" Selphie asked. "It's much faster." "If we're spotted near Galbadia, we're toast." Irvine offered as explanation. "Right?" -"That, and flying isn't good for my stomach." Kenan remarked, rubbing his belly. "I prefer a train."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Laguna cheered for himself. "Yeah! Did you see that? I made it!" He felt a sudden cramp in his left leg and stumbled around in pain. "Ah! Ah! Ow!" Quistis moved to the card scanner and slid her card through the slot to open up the door to the next compartment. "Thanks!" Zell exclaimed with a wide smile and immediately rushed by as it slid open. An equally excited Skye followed him. The train picked up speed and before long reached its maximum velocity. At that rate it wouldn't take long to get to Dollet. -"I..uh…think I'll sit down somewhere." Laguna informed, as he limped by on one leg. Quistis leaned against the wall. She didn't mind standing and felt no need to check out the next compartment. Nothing she hadn't seen dozens of times before. "What about you?" She asked, noticing Squall stayed in the first compartment too. It looked like she'd interrupted his thoughts, as he seemed to only have heard half the question. She smiled kindly. "Are you going inside, or not?" He shook his head. "No thanks. I'll wait out the ride here." "As will I." She said, and immediately wondered why she had to say it like that. Normal people would say 'me too'. Apart from the consistent sound of the train running along its track, there was an awkward silence. "Next stop, East Academy station." A man's voice reported over the intercom. They had to take the one after that, Dollet station. "Let's hope that lady in Dollet can help." Quistis said, staring at the floor. "And change things back for you…" He knew it was just to break the silence, but somehow felt he had to say something too. -"But what if things can't be changed back to normal?" He asked out loud what was on his mind. Up until now he had hardly thought about it. But it was a realistic possibility, that the changes couldn't be un-done. He had to keep in mind that he might never see his Rinoa again. Quistis showed more optimism. "Don't worry about that. There has to be a way." She smiled warmly. "Trust me Squall, we'll find a way to make things right again." He frowned. "You never doubted my story, did you? Not from the first time we met." "That's right." She confirmed his suspicions. "I don't really know why, but I just knew what you said was true." -"Everyone but Kenan." He sighed. Could it be because everyone but Kenan once knew him? She stifled a laugh. "Oh, he's really not such a bad person. He can be a bit stubborn at times…but when things heat up you can always count on him. Kenan is a better Commander than I would ever be." -"But why him?" Squall wondered. "I don't get it. Why did Cid appoint him Commander?" She crossed her arms. "Are you…jealous?" He turned his head away. Is that what it is? "It's perfectly understandable." She assured him in soothing tone. "You feel like he has taken your place. It's only natural you would be angry with him. But I don't think that's the case…" The hint she dropped for the next question was so obvious even Squall understood it. "So, what do you think?" She lifted herself up straight and started pacing back and forth. "There is too little evidence to be able to come up with anything. But let me recapitulate: It was some time after you've defeated Ultimecia. You went for a picnic with Rinoa outside Balamb Garden, and something strange happened. Correct?" He shifted his weight to his other leg, thinking. "Yeah. And Laguna suggested it could be magic." "Whatever it was," She continued. "It brought you here. And I can't tell you where you are, but it seems things have changed compared to the world you lived in. This could very well be because of you apparent absence. There was never a kid like you back in the Orphanage. Where you ever even born here?" -"No, it doesn't seem like it." He replied. "But still more than that has changed." She stopped pacing and looked at him. "The Sorceress attacked Esthar with the Lunatic Pandora." He reported, having seen the damage first hand. "She never did that on such a large scale…it can't be all because of my absence that she decided to attack…." The slight bouncing motion of the compartment lessened. The train slowed down and reached a stop next to the East Academy Station. The outer door opened and two people stepped onboard. Quistis waited until they were in the next compartment. "There's more; didn't you say the Sorceress knows who you are? What if this means she knows of the world you come from? If she knew everything you knew about the events there…couldn't she have changed her tactics?" It was a logical conclusion to reach, but it was partly flawed. "Why didn't she fire the missiles on Balamb Garden first then, instead of Trabia?" Squall argued to point out that her theory couldn't be correct. "If Ultimecia knew about her own death…that she would be killed by Balamb SeeDs…why didn't she strike first? I don't get it." Inside her head, Quistis replayed the events she witnessed and compared them to Squall's story. "Correct me if I'm wrong," She started, having a hunch. "But doesn't it seem like nearly everything is the same up until the first fight against Galbadia Garden?" He nodded. "Apart from the fact that I'm not around, yeah." The doors closed and the train drove off again. She combed back her blonde locks. "Just prior to the battle Kenan decided to drop Rinoa off in Timber, thinking she'd be a lot safer there. And then the battle itself went different from your battle with Galbadia Garden." -"I heard there never was a counter-attack." Squall said. "Was that Kenan's decision?" Her face lit up. "Yes. So let's account that change to him, rather than the Sorceress knowing about everything." "The first real change would be the Lunatic Pandora's attack on Esthar and its rapid retreat." He reasoned. -"Exactly." She said almost joyously because she finally began to figure things out. "This was after Sorceress Adel had been freed. What if it isn't Ultimecia that knows about you…what if it's Adel?" He moved one hand to his forehead. "The more I try making sense of everything, the more questions are raised."   <<------------------------------------------>>   The rookie G-soldier ran to his superior officer inside the Timber Hotel. "The SeeDs just left, Sir!" "Really?" The elite soldier asked, keeping his eyes on the model trains riding on the miniature track. "So the Sorceress was right. Those SeeDs would show their faces sooner or later…" -"What should we do, Sir?" He asked, at the same time glaring at the woman behind the counter. Was she allowed to listen in to their conversation?? She wasn't scared away that easily and stayed put, but his officer didn't seem to mind. "We'll attack them of course, what else did you have in mind?! Now…where did they go to?" The soldier took one step back so he couldn't be hit by the elite's metallic arm should he get furious again. "T-they split up and each boarded a different train, S-sir!" "Dammit!" The elite cursed and smashed one of the model trains. "You should have reported back earlier! I can't split up my squad or they'll be spread to thinly… … …which train do I pursue?!" -"The train to Deling, Sir!" The soldier suggested. "Their leader boarded that one." "We're not after the leader!" The elite soldier snapped. "Did you see a dark haired young man?!" -"Y-yes Sir. Actually…there were two…I talked to one that was dressed in a Balamb Garden outfit. That's the one that looked like the leader. He boarded the train to Deling. The other headed to East Academy." Pondering heavily, the elite paced back and forth in the Hotel Lobby. "Balamb Garden outfit…hmm…that has to be the one called Leonhart…yes…he's from Balamb Garden I heard Adel say….but the leader?…hmm…" He shrugged. "Oh well. I'm sure it doesn't matter who I kill. A SeeD is a SeeD, right?" The soldier looked around him, wondering who his officer spoke to. Besides the woman by the counter there was none else in the Hotel lobby. "Tell the men to get ready!" The elite ordered, grinning evily. "We've got a train to catch!" After giving a proper salute the rookie ran off to carry out the order.   <<------------------------------------------>>   Meanwhile…Skye, Zell and Laguna sat comfortably on the big sofa in their luxurious looking coupe. There also was a bunk to sleep in, in case anyone was really tired. And not to forget a whole stack of complimentary magazines. Such as Pet Pals and even the Battle Series. "You know, it's been ages such I last rode on a train." Laguna told them, still rubbing his cramped leg. -"Hey, I might know something that could help." Skye suddenly thought out loud. Zell threw his magazine aside for a moment. "Huh? What?" She smiled and touched Laguna's leg with her hand. A dot of blue light appeared and it swirled around Laguna's leg. Within a few seconds it was gone again, leaving the three to wonder if it worked. "Here goes nothing." Laguna mumbled and tried to stand up. He cheered. The pain in his leg had disappeared completely. -"Wow." Zell gasped. "How did you do that?" She waved her finger around in a little circle, smiling. "Magic. Cure to be exact." "Nifty." Laguna cooed. "But how come that never worked before?" She thought about what Tia had taught her. "Uhm, maybe because I can cast magic, while most everyone casts para-magic with help of GFs? Does that make any sense or…?" He smiled appreciatively. "Yeah. That might be it." Zell lifted his legs on the sofa and crossed them. "Hmm…maybe. So, like, can you only cast Cure?" "I have yet to learn to higher level ones." She sadly admitted. "But Tia thinks I'll learn eventually." Laguna sat down next to her. "I'm glad you're one our side." She grinned. "Me too. I wouldn't ever want to be up against you guys." "Yeah!" Zell exclaimed with great passion. "Cuze we'll win! We'll kick Ultimecia's ass so hard she'll kiss the moon!" Laguna laughed. "Yeah! Good one kid! I--" He went abruptly silent as Skye and Zell gave him weird looks. "Uh…what?…Something I said?…" "How old are you anyway?" Zell asked, his eyes narrowing. Laguna cleared his throat. "I..ah…uhm…that is…ah, never mind! Now lady Merlose is old! Whoa boy. She should be like, ninety or so by now. Aint that old?" -"You're changing the subject." Skye perceived, playfully nudging the guy. "Well…yeah…" He said, trying to go for the innocence look. "Did it work?" Zell shook his head. "Gee…" Laguna uttered. "You really wanna know? Actually, I'm not that old. Why don't you guess?" Skye looked him over. "Uhm, fifty?" He feigned hurt. "F-fifty? No way!" "Thirty-five?" Zell estimated offhandedly after thinking about it. He smiled and seemed flattered. "Well…let's just leave it at that. Anyway, about that woman we're gonna visit--" "Changing the subject again." Skye told him, waging her finger. -"It's hopeless." Zell remarked. "He's not gonna tell." He clapped his hands. "That's right. I'm sure you kids would laugh if I told you, so I won't. Nah-nah!"     <<------------------------------------------>>   "Train, train, take us away." Selphie sung, standing by the row of windows just outside their coupe. "Far…far away." -"Actually no." Kenan interrupted as he approached her. "Deling City would be fine, thank you very much." "It's just a song!" She reminded him loudly. "Do you have a problem with it?!" His smile faded. "No ma'am. Sorry." She remained as cheery as ever and continued singing. "Train, train, take us away!" Kenan couldn't stand it any longer, so moved back to the coupe. In one corner, Kiros and Ward sat playing a game of Triple Triad. Neither of them appeared to have a winning hand. Yeah, that random rule really sucked. What moron invented that one anyway? He mentally smacked himself as he realized it was his fault that the random rule had spread to nearly every region. "Let's play a game using your rules and ours." How often had he heard that line? And why the heck did he always agree to it? He yawned and sat down of the sofa. Why do I ask myself that many questions? … … …Shit! That's one too! Irvine still methodically cleaned his rifle with a handkerchief, sitting on the lower bunk. He kept letting out positive sighs, leaving anyone to wonder where his thoughts were. Not anywhere on the planet, Kenan concluded. "So Pineapple." He said out loud, hoping to startle him. "How's everything with your girlfriend?" Irvine's mind returned to him, and he felt bad like people always do when they just had a nice dream and somebody wakes them up, only to face the cold everyday reality. -"Okay, I guess." He hastily recovered and continued cleaning his weapon like nothing had happened. He looked up and smirked. "How's everything with yours?" Kenan's eyes widened. Not the kind of comeback he'd expected. "Uh…she's fine…I…err…haven't found her yet…" -"Probably hiding under a rock." Irvine offered, barely louder than a whisper. "She's safe there." "I heard that!" Kenan called out in anger. Irvine whimpered inwardly then titled his hat down. Me and my big mouth… The gentle rocking motion of the train soothed Kenan and he dropped the matter. There were more important issues. He wondered how Quistis was doing. Would she be okay with Squall and Skye on her team? Not to mention Laguna and Zell…two of the biggest goofs on the face of the planet. But he had a great trust in her abilities. Both as a leader and as a fighter. She'd manage. Yeah. She'd be just fine. Nothing would drive her crazy…not Quistis. Kenan smiled boyishly and supported the back of his head with his hands. Quite a capable lady… "Hey, you never told us why you changed outfit all of a sudden." Irvine recalled, leaning forward. "How about it?" -"The same reason as Laguna, I imagine." He answered. My old outfit smelled like blood. And a change of appearance to part with guilt over things in the past…yeah, that's probably it. How…deep… Irvine didn't get it. "Same reason as Laguna…? To go undercover you mean?" "Yeah. To get a date for the next Garden Dance." Kenan spoke truthfully. "Really, it helped." -"You're one strange dude…" Irvine concluded and loaded his rifle with pulse ammo. The best kind. Kenan pointed at one of his cartridges with ammo. "Say, can I have some of your ammunition? Your normal ammo should be compatible with my gun." "Sure." Irvine said, very near to sounding sarcastic. "Anything else? My GF? My lucky hat? My girlfriend?" -"No, no and..uhm…" He paused to rub his chin. "'s almost a tempting offer." A pack of ammo clips came flying in his direction and hit him on the head. He tightly shut his eyes and fell backwards on the sofa. "Ah! Dammit! That hurt!" "I hope you didn't damage my bullets." Irvine laughed. "Y'know. With that hard head of yours and all." -"Guys!" Selphie shouted, sprinting inside. "We've got trouble!" Kenan stopped the play-acting and crawled up. "What?!" "It's the Galbadians!" She cried out panicky. "A whole bunch of them drive by on their bikes and jump on the train." Ward quickly grabbed all the cards even though the game hadn't been decided yet. "Are they crazy?" Kiros asked as he took hold of his katals and stood up. "The train is moving." He read on his buddy's face that he too did not understand. They heard the roaring engine of a bike outside and before they knew it a G-soldier jumped through the window in the coupe. Shards of glass flew everywhere, and the team had to cover their faces with their arms to avoid getting cut. The soldier recovered before anyone else did and was about to attack as panic set in. He looked wide-eyed at a huge man with a harpoon. Kenan grabbed his gun and loaded the clip of ammo he received from Irvine. He quickly aimed it at the soldier. "What the hell are you doing here?!" He demanded to know. "How did you find us?!" Ward, Kiros, Irvine and Selphie stood around the soldier, all armed. There was no way he could escape. But unexpectedly, the soldier jumped back through the window in desperation. Kenan reached out trying to capture him, but he was too late. Everyone rushed to the window and saw the soldier rolling down the side of the track. Just then, three more G-soldiers appeared next to the train on their high-speed bikes. They had undoubtedly seen their comrade fail, and throttled up their engines. "Damn!" Kenan cursed. "We might be in trouble." He kept his eyes on the three, but they drove past the coupe without looking at him. Selphie stuck her head out, trying to see where they headed. "Oh no! They're going to stop the train!" Kiros sighed. "And I thought staying with Laguna to be dangerous." He lifted himself up on the windowsill. "I'll try to stop them." Selphie's eyes widened. "Are you CRAZY? You're gonna get killed!" He smiled a bit uncomfortably. "Well…hey, I've survived being around Laguna. I'm sure I'll be fine." Ward pointed at the coupe door. Kenan understood. "All right. We'll try to reach the locomotive from inside." The train sped onwards, still at top speed, as Kiros climbed up on the roof. He noticed groups of bikes both to the left and right sides. He couldn't really count them but saw there were at least fifteen Galbadians. Three to one. He realized as he crawled to the center of the roof and tried standing up. A wind blew against him fiercely, almost forcing him down. But then the train rocked upwards again and it gave him enough momentum to stand straight. Two train cars ahead, a soldier managed to get to the roof as well. He balanced himself by holding out his arms momentarily, then came running towards Kiros. "If it's a fight he wants…" Kiros said to himself and defensively held his two swords in front of him, at the same time running towards the Galbadian. The top of the cars wasn't flat at the sides, so he made sure to stay in the middle. One car in front, the soldier abruptly stopped. It was a car that had decoratively arched-edges, which could now perfectly served as a low guardrail that would prevent them for rolling over the side of the train. Kiros leaped across the gap between the cars and met the soldier face-to-face. "Surrender!" The Galbadian yelled and thrust his sword towards his enemy. In a quick set of movements Kiros blocked the sword with one katal and slashed with the other. "Ugh!" The soldier cried out in pain and backed up a few steps. He reached for his stomach with his free hand. Small streams of blood oozed from a cut, coloring the blue uniform dark purple. Amazed by the sight of his own blood, the soldier held out his hand in front of him. "You bastard!" "I'm one of you!" Kiros attempted deceit and pointed at his Galbadian uniform. The soldier let out a choked laugh. "Mwha gha! You think I'm that stupid?" He raised his sword above his shoulder, ready to attack again. Kiros threateningly swung with his katals near his thighs, eyes locked on the soldier. With bloodlust in both their eyes, they stared at one and other. Waiting to make for the other to make a move…prepared for a quick merciless counter. There was nobody and nothing else but the foe. All other sights and sounds dissipated into the background. Both men were trained killers, fully focused on the task at hand. Then the train rocked up and the private had to redistribute his weight to remain balanced. Kiros took the opportunity and flew at him fully stretched out, his hands he clamped around the soldier's waist. The two struggled and rolled from one side of the roof to the other. Their weapons were dropped during the fight. They hit the side arch, and the soldier had managed to be on top. He tightly gripped his hands around his foe's neck and bashed his head up and down repeatedly. Out of the corner of his eye, Kiros saw the scenery roll by. Slowly the grass plains of the Timber area turned to desolate desert land, with mountains dooming up in the far horizon. He smiled and the soldier loosened his grip for just a fraction of a second in surprise. "See you," Kiros grinned and lifted the soldier up and over the edge with his powerful legs. "…Later" -"Aaah!" The soldier screamed and landed in a small field of cacti next to the train track. Still gasping for air, Kiros continued to head for the locomotive. I'm getting too old for this.
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