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. "Well..it'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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