Akin to Sin
Chapter 1 - Prologue
The thumping of the helicopter's rotor seemed all too distant to me. I could smell nothing but the musky odor of the dark paint I had smeared all over my face. In my hand was the M4 assault rifle, a staple of almost every military branch in the United States. The gun was so light I could've used two at once, one on each arm. Uncle Sam liked his protocol and procedures though...as well as his wallet. To keep accuracy at a maximum and cost at a minimum, soldiers were told what they'd be outfitted with, to hell with their personal preferences.
“You do what you're told, soldier. That's it.”
That line had been spouted millions of times in Basic Training. I do what I'm told, and that's all. And it was true. Sergeant Charles Weston did what he was told, yes he did. The fiasco in Columbia had gotten Sergeant Charles Weston demoted, yes it had. But the Army needs its special ops guys, yes it does. So Sergeant Charles Weston was taken off “tater duty” and put on one of the first helicopters to Hong Kong after San Francisco disappeared under the morning fog. Sergeant Charles Weston had to take the fight to the new enemy, an enemy Sergeant Charles Weston knew would be the death of him.
But Sergeant Charles Weston does what he's told, so when he got his orders to mobilize with the 1st United States Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta...or simply, Delta Force...Sergeant Charles Weston mobilized.
And now I'm here, riding in a bumpy Black Hawk helicopter, a rather old model, with twenty-four other men. A large group for a SpecOps mission, for sure. I had a feeling our lovely Captain would inform us of the true nature of the mission when we landed.
The red “ready” light shone into the darkness, highlighting the men I'd be fighting with. Most looked rather battle-hardened, but then again, that might've been from the bumpy, stomach-churning ride. The jump door was opened and the dense urban jungle that was China's largest city blurred under us like a multi-colored ocean.
I stole my eyes off of the eye-numbing scenery and checked my weapon. I released the magazine from its catch and made sure the shells inside were properly aligned. I didn't want a jam if a firefight broke out. Satisfied, I slammed the magazine home, the clicking sound echoing in the cabin of the helicopter. Not one of the soldiers jumped. Good sign.
I then checked my rucksack, which was slung on my belly. Most of the other guys had it on their backs, but I didn't like the seventy pounds hanging off of my back. Besides, no one seemed to care and always having it at the ready was useful. The only problem would be lack of stealth. If I had to sneak around, I'd just leave the blasted thing somewhere. If I go into stealth mode, all I need is my silenced USP Tactical -which is not standard issue but a gun paid for by my meager salary- and an eight-inch blade.
Speaking of my USP, I pulled the lightweight forty-five caliber pistol from my thigh holster and checked its action. The action was very fluid, so I took a magazine from my utility belt and slammed it home. Again, no one in the helicopter flinched. Very good sign. I thumped the safety latch upwards and returned the beautiful weapon to its home. I snapped the grip-strip over the handle and made sure it was secure.
“You must really love that gun, Weston.”
I looked up. The Captain was smiling at me in almost a fatherly way.
A bit embarrassed, I responded meekly, “I'd make love to it if I could, sir.”
This roused a few laughs from the men.
“I bet you would, Sergeant.”
And with that, the silence returned, accompanied only by the thumping rotor.
As I sat back against the metal wall behind me, I closed my eyes and immediately saw the snapshot the Army reporter assigned to my Columbian mission had taken right when I had learned my entire squad was being demoted and shipped off to Fort Bragg with potato peelers and a truckload of shame. But of course it was the squad's fault. Yeah...even though it had been our Sergeant's curiosity which had eventually left an entire sweatshop, thought to be a cocaine plant, rotting. The squad was only following orders from a ranking officer. Yeah, but he gets promoted and I get the boot. Now that is justice. Justice the American way. I love it.
I opened my mouth and leaned forward, eyes squinted. I had a feeling I was mimicking that photo shown in every newspaper ever printed to a “t.” Damn I really hated my country some times. Even if I was serving it at that time...I could still hate it. And I did.
But that was beside the point, but not because I was worried about this mission. No, I knew this mission would end in disaster. What I was worried about was the rappelling part of the mission. You see, they hadn't bothered to train me in rappelling from a helicopter. I had a feeling they hadn't trained any of the other new Delta Force members in the Black Hawk with me. As the green “go” light illuminated our dirty faces, I wondered what the other men were thinking.
The rappelling was relatively easy. My hands didn't think so, though. Good thing I had hastily put my gloves on. Otherwise, I'd be a very malfunctioning soldier. Friction burn from a twenty-gauge rope is nothing to laugh at, kids. No siree.
Some poor fellow named Smithe wasn't so lucky. Two seconds into the operation and we were already down a man. Just great. The area we had landed in was a large grassy patch hidden by a few trees, a concrete plain with a large fountain directly on the other side. Behind that fountain was a wide, but not tall, glass and steel structure that could only be Ung-So Incorporated's building. Ung-So, for your information, was China's largest biotechnological research facility. I could only see the top of this building
But, of course, I could imagine the hastily prepared fortification that looked like it was made of mud. More than likely, it was made of some sort of high-tech plastic polymer that could be sprayed into molds and mass-produced. When this polymer dried, it was as hard as twenty-inch thick lead. The Army had its own version of this ready-made fort. That meant one well-placed bunker-buster could take care of it. Unfortunately, we didn't have air support. Even though I couldn't see it, satellite photos in our briefing papers had shown it very clearly a few feet from the fountain.
The three men that made up the squad I was supposed to lead formed a nice little ring-around-the-rosy circle around me.
“Who are you guys,” I asked. Sure, I should've gotten to know them from the Squad assignment sheet in the briefing pack and the short list of accomplishments that detailed each man's career...but this was put together very fast. And from the looks of the other squads, introductions were the order of the day. Apparently, none of the other leaders had had the time to look over the details. This made me feel a little bit better.
The large black man standing directly in front of me saluted and said as quickly as possible, “Alonzo Thompson, sir!”
I nodded in response and turned my attention the short, tanned man beside him.
He responded to the nod in a heavy Spanish accent. “Javier Sanchez, sir!”
His lack of salute didn't bother me. The last guy, a rather stout Italian fellow picked up the trend and didn't even wait for my eyes to meet with his. He snapped a salute and yelled, loud enough to interrupt the other squad leaders in their routine. “Anthony Bergman, ready to serve, sir!”
“Good. Let's huddle around the Captain and get the gritty details.”
I turned on my heel and walked the few feet to the Captain, my men following obediently.
Soon, the rest of the squads joined the huddle and the Captain began to lay out the details.
“Ok, men, here's the deal. We're here to gather intel on some new form of weapon the Chinese are supposed to be developing at Ung-So. Word has it that this new weapon, if activated, could be more destructive than nuclear weapons could ever dream of being. That, gentlemen, is not easy on the heart. Speculation out of Army Intelligence says it was this same weapon that turned San Francisco into a large crater in the span of less than thirty minutes. You saw the news broadcasts. Nothing was left but dust and ruins. If this weapon is here, we're going to find a way to destroy it before it has a chance to destroy our country and others.
“Now, we've got six four-man squads. Squad leaders are Mills, Gardner, Sheldon, Weston, Jackson, and Sheridan. Mills' squad will flank the bunker to the right. Gardner, your squad will lay suppression fire from this position. Sheldon's squad has the bunker's right flank. Weston's squad, when the shooting starts, make your way to the fountain on the double-quick. Once there, secure it and then protect it. Jackson's squad shares your objective. Sheridan, your men will be with me. Once the flankers are in position, we'll head straight for the damned thing. Got it?”
The squad leaders and I acknowledged the orders and, even though they probably had heard them, relayed the orders to our men.
The Captain then looked to the wounded Smith, who was still grunting and groaning about his shredded palms.
“Jackson, your squad will take Smith to the fountain.”
Jackson, a five-foot seven black man nodded his head with a sigh. I didn't blame him. Smith was only going to slow his squad down. I was glad my squad didn't have to keep him.
“Ready? On my mark,” the Captain said, holding a fist into the air.
At this gesture, Mills' squad filed into a v-shaped formation to the left, Sheldon's squad doing the same to the right side of the Captain. Gardner and his men moved into crouched firing positions, rifles ready to assault the front of the bunker. From this distance, I doubted the fire would be of any help, but it'd at least keep the flanking squads from having to deal with too much enemy fire. Jackson nodded to me and I took the meaning behind his gesture. His squad filed in behind Mills', my squad and me filing in behind Sheldon and his men.
The Captain looked at the readied squads and opened his fist, mouthing the word, “Go.”
At that, Gardner's squad filled the air between them and the bunker with a steady stream of lead, the sounds from their rifles filling the silence of night. Mills and Sheldon both began in a dead run in their respective directions, Jackson and me falling in behind them. The two flanking squads were running full speed, their rifles at eye level, scanning every direction, looking for the enemy. A moment later, the suppression fire stopped.
That didn't really bother the flankers though. When the bunker was beside us, Sheldon as his men darted to the right, charging the right side of the small fortification and jumping through the window. I imagined Mills' squad had done the same thing, almost at the same time. Jackson and his men joined mine and we made a dead run for the fountain, which was left utterly defenseless.
One thing struck me as odd as we neared the fountain. I heard no gunfire from inside the fortification. That made me feel a bit uneasy, because I was fully expecting to hear the exchange of gunfire. I pushed the thoughts aside and focused on the fountain. The men and I spread ourselves around the right side of the circular structure, Jackson and his squad taking the left side. After a minute or so of scanning, we saw no immediate threats and formed a perimeter, a rifle pointed in every feasible direction.
Still, no gunfire came from the bunker. I kept my eye on it as I was facing it anyway, as was Jackson, who was directly beside me. Instead, Sheldon, Mills, and the men they were directing filed out of the bunker and surrounded it, forming a perimeter as we had around the fountain. From the trees in the distance came the rest of the men, Gardner and Sheridan's squads, as well as the Captain. They were walking and scanning, the Captain not even bothering to raise his weapon.
The Captain yelled to no one in particular, “I think they've gotten the hell out of Dodge.”
It looked that way to me too. No resistance for such a prized research facility? Something was up, and I didn't like it.
The Captain then yelled, “Jackson, Weston. Lead your squads around the building. Make sure everything's clear up. Sheridan, clear down. Mills, Sheldon. Clear left and right. Gardner, take the bunker and anything inside. Might be some nice mementos in there.”
Jackson and I took our squad around the wide building, not finding a single piece of resistance. It was rather disheartening, actually.
When we returned, Sergeant Gardner was talking to the Captain. I told my squad to return to the fountain and I headed towards Gardner.
“Something wrong,” I asked, holding my rifle to my chest, muzzle facing the ground to the side of my left foot.
Gardner nodded and answered me in his nasally voice. “Yeah, there certainly is. The bunker's full of .50 cal machine guns, RPGs, mortars, the works. And it's all there, in working order. We can use it, if need be. Don't look like we have a need though, does it?”
I shook my head. “Everything's clear up. Not a damned thing around that building. I'll bet on the odds of not a damned thing being in the building either.”
Gardner shrugged. “Weird, eh? Just kinda up and left, didn't they?”
The Captain grunted and we turned our attention towards him. He was a stocky fellow, about my own height -roughly six-two- but much older. Probably approaching mid-forties.
“No sense in trying to guess why they're not here. They aren't, and that makes our job easier. They might be in that building though, so we've got to clear that too.”
I nodded. “I'm game, sir.”
Gardner nodded. “Me too.”
“Gardner, you stay in that bunker. Set up the machine guns and have them pointing from every hole. We'll keep this position until further orders arrive.”
Gardner saluted and turned on his heel, already barking orders to his men inside the bunker.
The Captain watched as he walked off and then turned his eyes to me. “Think Jackson'll be up to it too?”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Want me to get him?”
“Go ahead. I'm going to see if Sheldon and Mills are apt to join you.”
“Will do, sir,” I replied, giving a curt salute. Don't really know why. The Captain never returned them.
I made my way back to the fountain, where Jackson, his men, and all of my men save Sanchez were sitting on the outer lip of the stonework. Jackson looked up at me.
“Cap'n wants us to clear that building,” I replied, pointing towards the structure behind the fountain.
Jackson looked over his shoulder nonchalantly, grunting a not so surprised “alright.”
“That, and something odd with the bunker.” I added.
He turned his attention back to me. “Yeah?”
“It's stock full of supplies, completely usable. The guys manning it ran off and ran off fast. Odd.”
“Yeah,” Jackson repeated, not really caring. “So,” he began, looking around at the men, “you guys ready to clear out that building?”
“Yeah, I'm bored.” It was Sanchez. The other men grunted their approval and stood up almost in unison.
Sheldon and Mills were sashaying towards us. I assumed the Captain had convinced them to join us.
Mills grunted as he passed me and started to talk with Jackson. I would've been able to pay attention, but Sheldon caught my attention.
“We got suckered into joining you guys. How do you wanna do this, since you're so 'game?'”
I shot him a look of dissaproval before I turned around to the men.
“Alright, I guess I better figure out a plan.”
“Might help,” Mills said, not bothering to look my way.
“Jackson and I will take the second floor. I'm assuming that's where most of the computer networks will be. My PDA has a SPYder linkup module, so I'll be able to tap into and send all of their network data to one of our satellites. I'll take east wing, Jackson can take west. Sheldon and Mills, clear out the first floor.”
They nodded their approval and the squads reformed.
It was a very short jog to the front doors of the building, which were electronic. A few rifle-butt hits later and those were taken care of. The front lobby had nearly twenty metal detectors, all of which were off. As a matter of fact, I think most if not all of the power was gone from the building. That might hinder my data extraction...
Sheldon and Mills split their squads and started the clearing procedure. Jackson split from me and took the stairway at the left of the lobby. I lead my squad up the right set of stairs.
The building it self seemed rather normal for a research facility. The second floor was nothing but offices and server rooms. Thankfully, the power to the second floor hadn't been cut. None of the computers had been tampered with either, making my job extremely easy.
We went from room to room, kicking in the locked doors and quickly moving from one corner of the rooms to the other, never encountering anything but dust and hot computer terminals. It seemed like whoever had been in this building had left it a while ago.
After confirming that the east wing was secure, and that I had stolen and sent all the information on the network, we met back up with Jackson's group in the lobby. Sheldon and Mills' squads were there too.
Jackson nodded to me. “They found something. Might be that weapon.”
“You'll see. Alright, Mills, let's go see that thing.”
Mills nodded and lead the way, the squads breaking to form a mismatched gaggle of soldiers acting more like kids who were waiting in line at the freak show. In a way, that's what we were.
Mills lead us through a long, gray hallway, nothing on either wall save metal plating. I assumed this must be lab area. All of the pipes, computer terminals, electronic doors, and ventilations shafts gave it away.
When Mills arrived at the large, steel double doors at the end of the hallway, he punched in a few numbers and the doors slid out of the way. What I saw inside was nothing short of amazing.
The room itself was a large tank, a glass dome covering a pool roughly the length of three football fields and as wide as an entire city block. No wonder the building was so damned wide looking on the outside.
Under the glass dome was a rather unpleasant looking brown mass of...some substance. I wasn't even going to begin to try to recognize it. This brown mass looked like it was making a tight fit inside of the dome, so I gathered that whatever this thing was, it was not small, and probably as deadly as rumored, if not more so.
I looked to Mills. “Any idea what it is?”
“Not a damn thing. I have a feeling we're not supposed to know. Intel probably already does. Ya know how it goes, Weston. Soldiers aren't supposed to know any of the details. They're just supposed to do what they're told.”
“I know, I've heard that line quite a few times.”
“I bet you have,” he responded curtly. “That sidearm must get you a lot of flak.”
I shrugged. “Not as much as it could. No one seems to notice.”
“Or care. There's a war on.”
“True. Think we should plant some C4 in here and get rid of this thing. In that line of thought, do we even have enough to cover this thing?”
Mills shrugged. He stood on tiptoe to look over me and at the men milling about the entrance to the tank. “Lemme ask my demo man. Hey, Barnes. Over here.”
A stout but short man made his way over. “Yeah, Sarge?”
“How much C4 do you have in that pack of yours?”
“About twenty pounds. Why?”
“Think that'd blow this tank up?”
“If you can find me the oxygen tanks, which I'm sure are in a lab like this, I can take the whole building out.”
The sergeant nodded towards his underling, scratching at his chin. “Would that take care of our rather large problem under that glass dome?”
“Anything inside the building will be obliterated, sir.”
“Good deal, Barnes. Take Murphy and Stevens and find those oxygen tanks. If you can't find any, report back to me and we'll figure something out.”
The demolition expert saluted and jogged back towards the men.
I turned to Mills. “If they can't find any tanks?”
“We'll blow this room and whatever happens, happens.”
“Sounds fair,” I said, nodding.
A few minutes later, Barnes returned with a smile on his face. Mills guessed the men had found the tanks.
“Find the tanks, Barnes?”
“'Tanks', sir, is an understatement. We're talking wall-sized silos of oxygen. We tested a pump to make sure. Charges are planted, they'll go off whenever we tell them too. Might have to be a ways away.”
“Will that little field we landed on be far enough away?”
“Probably...” Barnes replied, scratching at the back of his head.
“Well,” Mills said, turning to me, “want to get out of here?”
I nodded. “Might as well. Mission is over once we blow the building.”
Mills nodded in return, waving his arm in a circular motion. “Ok men, let's get out of here. Time to complete this mission.”
Audible cheers were heard as the men gathered into a large line. Mills and I took the lead and led the men outside into the plaza.
The Captain, who had been at the bunker, jogged to us. Mills and I saluted, but the Captain didn't return it. “How about it, boys?”
“C4 is planted, ready to take out the weapon.”
I added, “We'll need to get into our landing field so that we're safe from the blast.”
The Captain nodded. “Gardner and his men should be safe in the bunker.”
Mills shrugged. “I don't know, sir.”
Mills called for Barnes, who quickly stepped up and saluted towards all of us. “Yes, sir?”
“Will the men inside the bunker be safe when the blast occurs?”
Barnes looked the structure over a few seconds before answering. “I believe so, sir, yes.”
Mills waved him away. “Good, thanks.”
Barnes saluted us once more, only Mills and I returning it.
The Captain grunted and nodded towards the landing area. “Double-time it over there, gentlemen. I'm going to inform Gardner and I will be with you momentarily.”
Mills and I saluted in unison and led our squads to the landing spot, Jackson and Sheldon's squads following.
Once in the field, Jackson hailed me.
“Yes?” I asked, walking up to him.
“After this it's home, right?”
I laughed. “If you call that aircraft carrier home, then yes, probably.”
“Good. I need to call my wife. She's due any day now.”
“You'll be able to call her,” I said, with a smile.
A few moments later, the Captain and a few stray men entered the field. Mills gave Barnes the ok. A second later, the sky was filled with light and a shockwave shook our innards.
After it was all said and done, there was a large crater where the building had once been, debris littering the plaza. A few fires dotted the debris field. I supposed this was as good a landing beacon for our EVAC as anything.
The Captain jogged towards the bunker and entered it, chatting with Gardner. The rest of the men, including myself, milled around a bit, talking about nothing and calming our tensed muscles from the mission we had just completed.
Or so we thought.
It first started as a rumble. Then it was a loud shrieking. After that...it appeared, as large as a city block...flying in the air.
When I first saw it, it reminded me of a large humpback whale. But as it turned its large head, I could see millions of eyes rolling around in its flesh, like the eyes of a spider. They weren't compound eyes, but separate organs all moving in different directions. The skin tone was brown, a deep dark brown that could've been black had the creature not been lit from its innards by some soft white light.
To say I was scared was an understatement. I was petrified. I literally could not move. Neither could anyone else. Even when this large, insect/whale hybrid flying thing started to glow a bright white. Even as it opened its mouth and even after the bunker was turned to dust, Captain and Gardner's squad with it, we couldn't move.
But when it started to lower itself towards us, our feet found the power to move, and we ran. Ran as fast as we could. There was no such thing as “fighting back.” Fighting back was impossible. We all knew that.
This weapon, whatever the hell it was, was something a few soldiers could not handle. Hell, an army probably couldn't go up against it. As I was running through the landing field, I reflected that the Chinese had abandoned it quite possibly because they had built something they couldn't control. Now, it was after me...and what was left of my fellow soldiers.
I could hear its balls of energy hitting the ground and some of the men running behind me. I personally didn't care. I just wanted to survive. When I hit the wall face-first though, I knew survival was out of the question. In front of me were what remained of the Delta Force soldiers that had started the mission: Mills, Sheldon, Jackson, Sanchez, Barnes, and the wounded Smithe. They were formed in the v-shaped attack pattern, rifles raised to their shoulders. I imagined that Smithe was having quite the trouble aiming the damned thing with burnt palms. Still, the men looked courageous enough. All at once, they started firing at the behemoth in the sky. I simply watched as a large white ball of energy crashed into them, their bodies becoming mere dust in the air. I was surprised the blast didn't kill me as well, but I honestly didn't worry about staying alive. I, Sergeant Charles Weston, was about to die.
”God save those who have to face this weapon...” I whispered, and raised my rifle. I fired and fired, dwindling my magazine down to probably about two or three rounds.
But the creature did not shoot one of its balls of energy at me. Instead, it floated on, lower and lower until I could clearly see the lines, wrinkles, and pores of its underbelly. And I could smell it. Not very pleasant. I fired one last shot into its belly and it stopped dead in its track.
Had I hit a nerve? Some secret weak point? No. I hadn't. I hadn't single handedly saved the world with one shot. No. Instead, its belly...opened...as in a hole appeared. Imagine the shutter on a camera slowly opening to snap a shot. That'd about explain it. A moment later, a sickening smell filled the air and I started to see things around me being sucked up into the creature.
“Oh, great,” I exclaimed, “you're a fucking Hoover, too!”
No response. Hadn't expected one.
As I felt my hair beginning to pull, I laughed at the thought of going out this way. Being snorted up by some bio-engineered monster weapon and becoming its first meal. Well, let me check that. I was its second. San Francisco had been its first, probably.
At I lifted off of the ground, feeling as if my body was about to rip apart at the waist, I knew then I was dead. Dying, dead, same thing. And let me tell you something. Whoever said that your life passes before your eyes when you're dying was full of shit. Want to know what I saw? That goddamned picture of my skinnier, younger, greener self snapped by that Army photographer in Columbia.
And then, as they say, it all went black. Or white. I can't remember.
Chapter 2 The Fall (ugh, so old, so...icky :P)
"Rikku. Don't kick so hard, ya? Well, until you can control the ball, that is."
"Ok!" The blond-haired Al-Bhed waved to the tall, red-haired figure and smiled, swimming towards the floating blitzball.
Wakka hmmed to himself as he sat down, feeling the sand spread beneath his large frame. He was clad in a pair of yellow shorts, since it was mid-summer, and Besaid summers were unforgiving in their relentless heat. Had his faith remained after the battle with Sin, he would have prayed to the ends of Spira for a rainstorm. Yuna, in a tasteful one-piece, walked up behind the Auroch and laid her hand on his shoulder.
"How is Rikku's training going?"
"She's Rikku. Hyper and a ball hog, ya? I have tonsa stuff to teach her."
Yuna smiled, nodded, and headed for the water. Wakka sighed and thought of Lulu, who, as he was assured, was hiding from the heat in her hut. He smiled and looked to the sky, trying to pick out shapes in the clouds.
Rikku tossed the blitzball to the former summoner, swimming slightly away from her as the young, brown-haired girl barely catched the knobby, blue and white wall. "Let's see what you can do, Yunie! Pass it to me!"
"Ok," Yuna said with a smile, and tossed the ball to Rikku. With a splash, the ball sent water into the young Al-Bhed's face. Rikku laughed as Yuna bowed slightly, yelling a chuckled "Sorry."
Wakka pointed to the two girls. "Hey, you two. Place nice now. Injuries aren't fun."
The girls laughed and nodded, and proceeded to swim about, tossing the blitzball back and forth. Wakka smiled and reflected on how well Yuna was taking Tidus' absence, or, how well she hid her feelings about his absence. It was only a year after Yuna and her guardians had defeated Sin and Yu Yevon. A new era had been born in Spira; an era without the threat of Sin, and an era without, at least to Wakka and his friends, Yevon.
Wakka turned his attention, once again, to the swimming form of Yuna. Being the leader of Spira really didn't stop her from trying to have a little fun. She even stayed and lived in Besaid until she was needed elsewhere. And for this, Wakka's respect for her grew ever more.
Wakka let out an audible sigh as his train of thought once again dwelled onto the real shamble that was Spira. Even though Sin was gone, the Yevon fiasco had torn Spira's people nearly in two. Those most faithful refused to accept the truth, and still prayed to the corrupted deities. The summoner practice had been all but stopped. Those on pilgrimages stopped when hearing word. The maesters had all been properly dealt with. Still, Wakka, and -he hoped- his friends had faith in the Farplane. Rikku's pyrefly explanation hadn't really fazed the belief that one's soul went to the Farplane in death. Wakka was grateful that he could still look forward to peace in death. Faced with it so many times in the year passed, he had grown to not fear, but respect one's final rest. Even Lulu could not deny Wakka's growing maturity.
With a smile, Wakka stood and walked to the shore. "Got any room for an old guy?"
To this Rikku laughed, Yuna chuckling in tow. "Sure," the hyper Al-Bhed replied, "just don't get all tired on us!"
Wakka smiled and thrust thumb into the air, winking to Yuna. "Think I'm to old, eh? Well, Wakka show you a thing or two!" With that, the burly islander grabbed the ball and dove into the water.
The lithe figure Lulu harbored walked hastily onto the beach. Her attire was, as Wakka had guessed, mostly consisting of black fabrics. Clad in a long-sleeve wool shirt and a pair of thin slacks, Lulu made her bare feet hop to the shore. The cool mud offered a soothing relief to her feet, seeing as the sand was burning hot. Wakka, arm around Yuna, saw her and smiled, waving an arm in the air.
"Yo, Lu! Water's fine, ya? Why don't you come in?"
Lulu hid her smile as she shook her head. She regained her serious countenance and glared at him. "I'd rather not. When you three are done playing, I suggest you come with me to the west end of the Island. Something is happening."
Wakka, smile fading, nodded and began to swim to shore. The girls followed in suit. Wakka, quizzical look already appearing on his stubble- ridden face, stopped a couple of feet from Lulu. "Something's happening? What is it?"
Lulu crossed her arms and sighed, nodding to the girls. "Let them get dressed first. I doubt they need to walk into town like that."
Wakka, despite his knowing of the girls' attire, looked to them, and nodded.
"Ya, would be a good idea if you two got dressed."
When he turned back towards Lulu, she frowned and poked his bare chest. "You too. At least put a shirt on."
Wakka sighed and shook his head, hiding a smile. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
His eyes met with Lulu's and he coughed, instantly walking around her to one of the three baskets. He pulled a white shirt from it and slipped it over his bulky torso, his muscles showing through the tightly sized shirt. Lulu tried her best not to notice, but found herself watching him as he stopped at the trail's entrance. He threw a smile her way, and she turned around quickly, cursing herself under her breath.
Rikku, who was heading to her basket, heard the hushed curse. "What, Lulu?"
Rikku shrugged and picked up her basket, Yuna doing the same shortly after. The two girls looked to Wakka and cocked their heads. Wakka mocked a growl and turned around. He moved to the ruined tower, which served as steps, and waited. A few moments later, the three females came, Yuna and Rikku chattering about something as Lulu tried her best not to look annoyed. Wakka climbed the ridges of the towers and walked slightly ahead of the women, trying to avoid them. Girl talk was something Wakka didn't want to hear at the moment.
Wakka stopped under the waterfalls and took his headband off. His hair, save the large crest -kept up with berry juice- fell over his head, hiding most of his face and neck. It wasn't often that Wakka let his locks fall, but his hair needed to be washed of the saltwater, and there was no better neutralizer than Besaid freshwater. The girls stopped and watched as he soaked his head. Rikku laughed, while Yuna tried her best not to. Lulu simply watched, a neutral look about her features. Wakka finished and the four continued.
As they entered town, they each nodded to Gatta. The Crusaders, now without a Sin to fight, were more or less the military of Spira. The riots that ensued in Bevelle once the true ways of Yevon were known were horrendous. The Crusaders helped to stop the mayhem, and to this day, are heavily concentrated in the city. A high number are also in Luca, but most of their job consists of stadium duty. Gatta was Besaid's Crusader Branch's Captain. Any fiends that inhabited the area were either his or Wakka's job. Wakka had adhered to his Blitzball retirement, and without a summoner to guard, took up fiend clean up with Gatta, although he did not join the Crusaders.
In the center of town, a statue of Sir Tidus had been erected. It was crude, and to Wakka, didn't do the young man justice. Dream or not, someone should be respected with a decent likeness. As with her tradition, Yuna walked to the statue and put her hand on its base. Wakka hated to see her in such agony, but what could he do? Tidus was on the Farplane, and hadn't been truly real in the first place. Wakka shook his head and scratched at his chin.
"Thinking too hard again?" It was Lulu's sometimes-harsh voice.
Lulu nodded and sighed. "Come with me, if you're quite done 'reflecting'."
Wakka nodded and the two girls followed Wakka and Lulu to the right side of the temple. Off in the distance, a rather nasty storm front raged. Lulu pointed.
"It's as if it rolled in from the Thunder Plains. I fear it's not our usual storm. I sense that it brings...trouble."
Wakka hmmed and looked to Yuna. "What do you think?"
Yuna hmmed as well, and rested her chin on her fingertip as she looked to the large, gray cloud. "Be it trouble or not, we should warn the people. If it is indeed headed this way, I suggest we all seek shelter."
Rikku, Lulu, and Wakka nodded in unison. Wakka sighed. "I'm heading back to the beach. It looks far off enough. I...need to think, ya?"
Yuna nodded. "I understand. Just be back in soon, ok? I do not want you hurt."
Wakka smiled and nodded, placing a hand on Yuna's shoulder. "I will."
She smiled and he withdrew his hand, already headed back to the beach.
Rikku tapped Yuna's shoulder. "Yunie? Is it ok if I 'seek shelter' in the temple? I'd feel safer in there than my hut..."
Yuna nodded and smiled. "Why of course."
Lulu leaned in to Yuna's direction. "I'm going back to my hut, then. Yuna, I'd like to see you in the temple too."
Yuna smiled at Lulu and shook her head. "Don't worry so, Lulu. I will be fine in my hut."
Lulu smiled half-heartedly and nodded, heading to her tent as Yuna continued to stare towards the slow moving cloud.
Wakka sighed, his back to the beach. The warmth of the sand felt good to him in the later afternoon. The sun was slowly being hidden by the cloud, and he surmised he didn't have long left until the storm hit. His thoughts were being directed not at the storm, but at Chappu. His brother had always gotten the better deals in life. Wakka was surprised when Chappu went to fight Sin. He had always felt like the lesser brother. He would never tell anyone this of course, but he was still a shadow compared to his brother. Chappu had Lulu, the looks, and the drive to be great...but Sin, like it did to everything, ended any hopes or dreams.
Before long, the tears had welled up into his eyes, and rather than wipe them away, he let them fall down the sides of his face. Chappu was his best friend, and seeing Tidus had given him hope that his brother would return. For all the reasons Wakka had resented his brother, he had plenty more to love him.
With the tears still flowing, Wakka sat up and leant forward, elbows on his knees, head down. The tears were hitting the sand and Wakka watched them as they formed small circles of mud.
Unbeknownst to him, Lulu was standing at the mouth of the trail, watching him. She, too, had tears on her cheeks. Her sympathy towards Wakka was something her cold exterior could not hide. For every fault he had, he could make up for it with one simple look, or action. She had shared a great many experiences with him, each one bringing them closer, yet still separated. She hated the side of her that prevented her from being happy. Every day, she wished for Chappu back, but in another way, she didn't want to see his return, for the dead are best left resting.
Wakka sighed once more, the tears still coming, but slower now. He slammed a fist into the sand, causing a small crater. A mumbled curse came from his lips as he raised his head and looked to the sky. The cloud was closer, and Wakka could see that it might miss the island. With a sigh of relief he lowered his head and shook it, cleaning his knuckles of sand by wiping it on the side of his shorts leg.
With a soft thud, Lulu sat beside him. "You know, you shouldn't do that. It will make your clothes that much harder to wash."
Wakka rolled his eyes and uttered a "Bah" before turning his gaze to the sea.
Lulu sighed, and let her gaze move to the waves as well.
The two sat in silence for some time. The approaching thunder and lightning only magnified the tense nature of the silence, and in time, Lulu felt compelled to speak. "What's on your mind, Wakka?"
She nodded, sighing. "You do realize we should try and get on with our lives. We cannot mourn forever." Her voice trailed. "We must accept death and cherish life."
"I know, Lu. I know. I just keep hoping that one day, I will see my brother again." His teeth clenched as he spoke the next words. "I wish I could've taken care of Sin a long time ago. That way, I'd still have a brudda, and you'd have, more than likely, a husband to go home to."
"Hush, Wakka. You mustn't wish such things. We cannot change the past, so we have to look to the future. I, myself, had to realize this...I just wish I could have done so sooner. Chappu would never want us dwelling over his death." She half-smiled at the visions dancing through her mind. "I could see him now."
"Yeah, Chappu would say something like 'You two move on, now. Brudda, you guys are downers, eh?'"
Lulu's smile widened a bit. "And he would proceed to push us until we did move on. He was an assertive man..."
Wakka nodded, and smiled himself. "See, now this is what we have to do, ya? We have to look at the happy memories and cherish them, while we live. Otherwise, what do we have to live for, ya know?"
Lulu nodded. "You seem to be correct a lot more lately."
Wakka hmmed. "Well, fighting something like Sin tends to wake up the adult in you. At least, I would hope so. I still got the young'un in me, but I'm trying to mature up. Got Yuna to watch over and Rikku to entertain when she isn't working on Home."
Lulu crossed her arms, nudging his shoulder with an elbow. "What happened to the Wakka I knew?"
Wakka laughed. "I 'spose he's somewhere in Luca, looking for players to recruit."
Lulu, for the first time in awhile, laughed too. She sighed at the feeling of laughter. It had been so long since she last felt any surge of laughter; she continued to laugh as Wakka stood, stretching.
"Feels good, hearing you laugh, ya know? You need some laughter every once and awhile, Lu. Without it, you'll fall into your own self-pity...or something like that." Wakka blinked at what he'd just said, instantly regretting it as his hand came up, scratching the back on his neck, waiting to barrage.
Lulu stopped laughed, but smiled up at him, nodding. "I know. I am a bit uptight, am I not?"
Wakka cocked a half-smile, nodding a little. "Well, I wouldn't put it that way...but ya, you are a bit...stiff sometimes."
She smiled once more and stood. Her arms wrapped around him, to his surprise, and his did so shortly after. She muttered a "Thank you" and he nodded. She released her grip on him and walked slowly to the shore.
"Look at the lightning hitting the water. It's beautiful."
Wakka watched her from a few feet back and mmhmmed with a nod. He too, began to watch the storm slowly going by. It was going to miss the island, but it was surely making waves.
"Lu. Stand back, ya? Wouldn't want undertow to take you...under."
She nodded and walked back a few feet, stopping beside him. They continued to watch the lightning as Wakka tried to find the courage to do what he felt like doing. After a few moments of inner conflict, he closed his eyes and eased his arm around her shoulders. To his surprise, he felt her cheek ease down onto his shoulder, her pinned hair tickling at his neck and cheek. He smiled and leaned into her hair, cheek resting against her scalp. She sighed contentedly and they stayed like that for quite some time, watching the storm roll by.
In a whisper, Lulu said, "Do you ever think Tidus is going to come back? Yuna may look happy without him, but she isn't."
He squeezed her shoulder and nodded. "I know all too well, Lu. He'll come back, I'm sure of it. Just give it time, ya? It's not like he's going to just fall from the sky."
As he said these words, a large lighting bolt hit the water near the shore. Startled, the two jumped back and Wakka instinctively stepped in front of Lulu. His eyes darted to the sky as a flailing figure started to fall.
A rather audible scream could be heard as the figure fell and fell, Wakka's eyes lit with surprise. As it was close to the water, the scream became distinct. It was human.
With a loud splash, and the garbled end of the scream, the figure hit the water and landed on the sea floor, about twenty feet from the shore. Lulu, shocked, stood there and watched as Wakka ran forward. Wakka grabbed the shoulders of the figure and hoisted it up, to see that it was a strangely dressed man of about twenty years. His hair was a medium-brown, and his garb was very odd. It was gray, white, and black in a mottled pattern. A lot of straps and gadgets were clanging as he lifted the man. He started to pull the man up onto his shoulder, but being that the man was almost as tall as Wakka, he was finding it difficult. He wrapped his arms around the man's waist and lifted.
To Wakka's bewilderment, the man coughed, spitting water towards Lulu. He thrashed about and freed himself of Wakka's grasp. Heaving and grunting, the man looked about quickly, and drew a rectangular object from a cloth satchel attached to his belt.
Pointing what Wakka now knew was a machina weapon, the oddly dressed man yelled, "Who the hell are you?! Stay there or by God I'll put a goddamned bullet in your head!"
Wakka blinked and immobilized himself. Lulu, still shocked, cocked her head.
"What the hell are you looking at," the man growled, chest heaving quickly.
Wakka cleared his throat. "Hey, now, put the machina down. We won't hurt you."
The man sniffed and wiped his brow in his upper sleeve.
Lulu, coming out of her daze, coughed. "Could you please put the machina away? We bring you no harm. You fell from the sky and we fear you're hurt."
The man, whose green eyes were widening, grimaced and looked to his side, where a piece of glass was lodged into his thigh. He gritted his teeth and still pointed the weapon to them. "Who are you?"
Wakka spoke first. "I'm Wakka." He pointed to Lulu. "That's Lulu."
"Where am I?"
"You are in Besaid, home of Maestress Yuna," replied Wakka.
The man raised an eyebrow and cocked his head, trying to clear his thoughts. "Who?!"
Lulu shook her head. "Don't tell me that this guy has ran into Sin..."
The man once again blinked. "Sin? What the hell?"
Wakka blinked. "Lu, we defeated Sin, remember?" Wakka turned his face back to the man. "Who are you?"
The man blinked and seemed to think for a moment. "Private, 1st Class, Charles Weston, United States Army, Delta Force."
This time, it was Wakka who blinked. "That's a long name."
The man growled. "It's Charles Weston, damnit."
Wakka pushed his hands down. "Calm down, bud. Just calm down. Put the machina away and we'll be fine, ok?"
Lulu sighed. It was happening again.
Wakka pointed to the black object the man was holding. "The weapon you're holding."
The man blinked. "My SOCOM pistol?"
The two Besaid residents blinked.
The man sighed and replaced the gun back to its satchel. Wakka sighed and Lulu walked forward, looking at the man's wounds.
He seemed as bewildered as they were. His eyes looked to what Lulu was doing. She stooped and took a hard look at his wounds. "This is more than a potion can handle. We'll need Yuna."
Wakka came forward. "Can you walk, bud?"
The man tried to step forward, but his leg gave and he fell. Wakka came on one side as Lulu got the other.
Wakka nodded to Lulu and said, "Try hopping on the other leg."
The man nodded and did so, successfully.
"Man you gave us a scare. Maybe you knocked your head or something, and you'll remember where you're from later, yah?"
The man blinked. "I'm from...the United States."
Wakka hmmed. "Yeah, he hit his head."
Lulu sighed. "Wakka, that still doesn't explain why he fell from the sky."
The man coughed. "I don't know how I got here...but I think..." His head lolled and he passed out, leaving Wakka and Lulu with dragging him back to the village.
Chapter 3 - Insight
A dense mist shrouded most of the two-story home, the stench of the animal pens was being carried a ways in the thick cloud. The clumping of sneakers was echoing through the hilly landscape and bouncing off of the moss-covered trees, coming back to the small ears of Charlie Weston. With small, pudgy fingers closing his nose, he made the walk up the long path leading to his home, a midwestern farmhouse. The backpack was heavy, full of the books he needed for the homework still to be completed. A light wind was in the air, blowing his bowl-cut hair to and fro.
With a grunt, the child of twelve walked up the porch steps and knocked on the door, to which the screened piece of wood squealed as it moved, ajar in the door rest. With a meek "Mom? Dad?" the young boy walked into the foyer, dropping the heavy pack onto the wooden floor. His footsteps echoed as he headed to the kitchen, eyes darting about, checking for the presence of his parents. With the first floor checked, a growing nervousness struck the small figure, hands shaky as he made his way up the stairs to the second floor.
Charlie's small hand ran along the banister as he quickly moved towards the upstairs computer room. Once more, only silence greeted his shaky, questioning voice. Finally, he made his way to the far end of the hall and knocked on his parents' bedroom door. It, like the front door, was ajar, and creaked slightly open at the knock. The odor that filled the young boy's nostrils immediately incited his lunch to be released the way it had gone down. Once his stomach had emptied and the bile was not coming, the boy's hand pushed the door open, the other hand busy holding his nostrils closed. The tears from the stench were still in his eyes, and he blinked them away only for more to come as he saw his mother lying on the floor, naked. The only discerning feature left on her face was her eyes. They were open in shock. The lower jaw was missing, as well as her nose. Tears and cuts were all over her body, stab wounds as well. The teary eyes of young Weston moved to the lifeless figure of his father, whose frail figure lay on the bed, a multitude of red stab wounds covering his body. Gone was the stale woody smell in the room, replaced by the metallic smell of coagulated blood. In the heat of the day, the bodies also had begun a bit of decay, adding to the already potent odor.
With a cry so loud that Charlie couldn't believe it was coming from him, he ran back down the stairs. With a loud thud, he landed on the first floor and bolted out of the door, running into the nearby wheat field. After a quarter of a mile into the field, he found a man, sitting on a camping stool, cleaning a knife. Frozen with fear, young Weston watched as the man rose from the chair, eyes already on the stout young boy.
"Whatcha doin here, boy?"
To this, Weston did not reply.
"Cat got yer tongue, eh? Well, I'll fix that."
The scraggly man moved his lanky form towards Charlie, gnarled hand reaching for the young boy's. Weston felt, as the cold hand gripped his forehead, an extreme surge of anger. With a flash, his hand, now quite large and strong, gripped the wrist of his assailant.
"What the...let go of her!"
Weston felt an elbow's force punch into his forehead, and he let go of Yuna's wrist. With a cringe, he sat up, rubbing the now warm spot on his forehead. He blinked the blurriness from his eyes and saw in front of him the tall, bulky frame of the oddly dressed man he had met at the beach. To the red-hair's right was the pale, lithe female he had also met at the beach. A little off to the side of the bed he was laying on was a young girl, of about eighteen, rubbing her wrist as her blue-green eyes showed a slight hint of fear. Weston sighed and rubbed his face, which, oddly, had a medium-sized beard on it.
"Nearly a week," replied the woman in black.
The red-hair moved forward. "Listen, brudda. I understand you might be going through somethin' or what not, but don't grab Yuna like that again, ya hear? She tended to your wounds while you slept there like a baby."
Weston, still not understanding the situation, nodded, and muttered an apology.
"I'm not the one you need to be apologizing to."
Weston turned to the girl and repeated the apology. She nodded curtly and left the hut without a word. The pale woman followed suit and left him with the red-hair.
With a nod, the tanned man sat down on a stool next to the bed.
"Listen, Charles or whoever you are. We gotta talk, ya? Something's going on here that Yuna just can't figure out and Lu's having a troublesome time with whatever was in that bag you had on."
"Whatever. Well, we need some answers, and none of this baloney bout some sort of state. Your outfit has some odd markings on it and we need a full explanation. When you're ready, I'd like to take you to the temple and meet with the others. There, we can have a nice talk about who you are and where you come from. No funny business, ya?"
Weston, whose eyes were scanning his lightly clad body, nodded and turned on the bed, bare feet hitting dirt and grass. In a raspy, tired voice, he managed, "Where's my gear?"
"Your stuff's in the temple. Come on and we can get it, after that talk."
Weston nodded and followed the burly redhead out into the sun.
Weston's bare feet nearly sang when they finally felt the cold marble of the temple's main hall. The tanned behemoth, now known to Weston as Wakka, led him into a small room to the right of a pair of statues. Through a heavy door, the two walked into a medium sized round room with books all over it. Sitting at the round table in the center was the pale woman known as Lulu, the girl Yuna, and the dirty blond known as Rikku. Rikku, who had yet to see the stranger from the sky, leapt from her seat, her small hand grabbing Weston's, shaking it.
"Hi, I'm Rikku. Nice to meet you!"
Weston nodded and sat down, Wakka sitting next to him. Rikku ran around to the side with the girls and sat. Weston recognized his rucksack, which was lying in the center of the table, contents splayed out, covering the marble.
Wakka was the first to speak after a long silence filled with curious and nervous glances. "Well, we understand some of this stuff. Like the food and the water flask. But this rectangular metal object is a bit perplexing, as well as this white box. It seems to be filled with...what look like potions...I think-"
Weston interrupted. "The rectangular object is a PDA, or personal digital assistant. It is a universal translator, infrared information gatherer, and well, does anything except wash my skivvies and heal wounds. The wounds part is what the white box is for. It's a first aid kit. The universal solvent for bullet wounds, scrapes, stabs, gashes, rashes, and minor abrasions. It helps you stay alive until you can get some form of medical treatment."
He smiled and looked around, satisfied with his explanation. The others, however, weren't as pleased and looked rather confused. To this Weston shrugged and grabbed the PDA, flipping open its leather cover. He extracted the Stylus out of the top and turned it on. With a beep, it clicked on and he logged in as usual. "I'm glad this survived my fall...it's invaluable to a soldier."
"Oh...are you a crusader?" asked Rikku.
"A what? No. I'm a soldier in the United States Army."
Wakka cleared his throat. "Hey, what did I say-"
Weston held up his hand. "Wakka, I am who I say I am. I believe my PDA may be able to explain some things."
With that, Weston opened a small window on the backlit color screen. With another beep, the screen flashed with the new information message. Weston hmmed and tapped the screen with the Stylus, making the program open the information reader. What popped up were a diagram sheet, a few pages of Chinese lettering, and a memo. Weston hmmed and pressed the translate button within the image viewer. In a few moments, the text turned into English and Weston read it quickly. After a few moments, he noticed the others becoming a bit impatient. He exited the documents and turned the small gadget off, flipping the leather cover back down. He stuffed it into the side leg pocket of his fatigues.
"And what did this...PDA...just tell you?" the gruff, cold voice of Lulu inquired. Weston shrugged. "Just some intel from the mission I was on. It must have gathered as I was going through that office building. Very interesting though. Said something about a Yttrium Evolved Vehicular Organic Nucleate, which is shortened to Y-E-V-O-N. Seems that it's the driving force of what my squad and I were after. Some sort of hyper-learning AI based computer that uses organic tissue to protect itself. But that information is useless to me now..."
To this, the others had the same confused, quizzical looks. Weston cleared his throat, laying his head on the stone table. "I don't think I'm getting anywhere. Just ask questions and I'll answer the best I can."
Lulu, who Weston was sure had a lot of questions, spoke first. "How about the basics, then? Age, occupation, things of that sort."
Weston sighed and brought his head up, eyes going to each of the people in front of him as he spoke. "I'm Charles Weston. I'm twenty-six years of age. I am enlisted in the United States Army. The United States is my country. The Army is the land-bound branch of the military. The other branches are the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines. I am a technology specialist in a team of infantrymen. I've been on a few missions and, yes, I have killed more than my fair share of men."
Lulu nodded neutrally while Yuna and Rikku cringed at the mention of killing. Wakka, while also disgusted, raised a finger. "Not to be a pest, bud, but we've never heard of a place called "United States", and we've been all over Spira."
"You mean Earth," Weston corrected.
"Earth?" It was Rikku who posed this question.
Weston sighed and took his PDA out once more, cutting it on and bringing up a map of the world. The built in GPS, Weston noticed, had marked his position on the map. According to latitude and longitude readings, he was near Honomu, Hawaii. He blew up the map and passed the small computer to Wakka.
"If you can see, this is a map of Earth, every continent."
Wakka studied it and handed it to Lulu, who also studied it awhile before passing it to Yuna. Perplexed, Yuna spoke up.
"This does not look like Spira...but has some resemblances..."
Weston nodded. "I'll have to see a map of your 'Spira' and compare. I still don't know where the hell I am, though. I'm feeling really out of place..."
Rikku chimed in. "You do look out of place!"
Weston laughed. "Thanks."
Wakka pointed to Rikku. "Hey, Rikku. Don't talk to him like that."
Rikku rolled her eyes and mumbled a "Yes, sir."
Weston laughed still, putting his head down on the table.
Yuna offered the next question. "Your United States...is it under the rule of a maester?"
Weston blinked, wondering why he was going to have to explain his country's government to people who spoke English and looked relatively American. "It's ruled by the people. The government is a democracy, where everyone has his or her equal political rights. A president is elected every four years. There is a Congress, where representatives from every state within the country meet to pass laws. The same goes for the House of Representatives. Each state has its own government that passes any needed laws that aren't on the national level. Taxes are also state controlled. I could go on, but I can see your faces and I'll stop here."
Lulu, who had dropped her cold exterior to display a curious and somewhat puzzled look, commented, "Sounds quite complicated."
"It's a large country...it has to be."
Lulu nodded and looked to Yuna. Yuna seemed to get the message and turned her multi-colored eyes back to Weston.
"Mr. Weston, sir, Spira's government is...nothing compared to what you're used to. I was named Maestress after defeating Sin..."
It was Weston's turn to give the confused look.
Yuna smiled, nodding. "I'm sure you do not know what I'm speaking of..." Weston nodded.
Yuna smiled and offered some explanation. "The government of Spira is run by the Maester or Maestress, even though they have little power. I cannot stretch the arm of law and order everywhere, and ever since the religion crumbled, it has been even harder to keep control of some areas. The people of Spira are split. Those who still believe in Yevon, and those who accept that Yevon was not what he seemed."
Weston looked curious. "Your religion...crumbled?"
Yuna nodded. "We," she proceeded to motion her arm, including every one at the table save Weston in "we", "defeated Sin, the vehicle of death that Yu Yevon wielded as armor to keep the cycle of life and death moving. With it, he instilled his power and the fear of that power into the people of Spira."
Weston hmmed. "In other words, he was a tyrant and you four took care of him in rebellion. Sounds like you did the right thing."
Yuna sighed, nodding. "But still, it tore the people of Spira in two."
Rikku chimed in. "And it was seven...not four..."
Weston hmmed curiously. Wakka offered the explanation.
"We had three others. Tidus, Auron, and Kihmari. Auron and Tidus...are in the Farplane. Kihmari has gone to Mount Gagazet to try and rebuild the Ronso tribe."
To this, Weston could only nod. He'd have to learn more of this "Sin" business and more of the war that raged against it later. But then again, his mind wasn't exactly stressing on the history of this Spira and its people. He wanted to find his way home, but somehow knew that that had gone out the window the moment he woke up in a strange hut surrounded by strange people. It was just his luck to be stuck in some alternate dimension with no means of going back to his own. Of course, Weston knew he was just rambling on and on in his own mind, letting his thoughts move about rapidly, trying to explain where or when he was.
"Yo, bud, wake up, ya?"
Weston jumped in his chair, Rikku laughing behind a palm as he did so.
Wakka hmmed. "I asked if you would like to explain this...machina you had in this satchel."
"That's a holster. It houses my gun, or pistol."
Yuna chimed in. "Machina...are what we call machines, or anything that does not require pure human force to make it perform an action."
Weston nodded. "So you don't have computers, I take it."
They all stared at him with puzzled looks.
Weston laughed, shaking his head. "I thought not. Well, to tell you the truth, where I come from, our lives revolve around 'machina'. We use them to get to places, to find our way, to help us in education and entertainment, and they affect us in every facet of life. And yes, they are used in war as well."
With this, Weston smiled to himself, now thinking himself to be in the past. With that, of course, came the complications of adapting to a society without advanced technology. But still, he could teach these people a thing or two, so he smiled, outwardly, to the four sitting with him at the table.
Yuna and Rikku were the only ones who smiled back his way. Lulu leaned over and whispered something to Wakka, who nodded in return. The two got up and excused themselves.
"I'm torn. He sounds sincere, but if what he says is true, then he's obviously not from our time. And if that is true, then we have another Tidus on our hands. Tidus had a reason for being here, Wakka. But this Charles fellow...what's his reason for being here? We're at peace. There is no Sin and no Yevon to disturb Spira..."
Wakka sighed, squinting as the afternoon sun shone into his eyes. "I know that, Lu. But, like I've always said, 'everything has a reason, Yevon or not.'"
Lulu shut her mahogany eyes and sighed. "Why do these things have to happen to us? If it's not Sin, it's some traveler from some far off land or time."
Wakka sighed and wrapped his arms around her thin frame, his own covering hers. She sighed and nuzzled into his stubbly cheek, reveling in the intimate nature of the embrace. For so long, she had wanted this to happen, but now that it was, she was confused over what to label it, and she prayed that he was as sincere about it as she was becoming.
"Shh, Lu. No need to worry. I'll put 'em to work tomorrow, if he can make it. We have to finish up the renovations to the Liki and I need an extra hand or two. Who cares who and what he says he is. Long as he's a good guy, everything's under control, ya?"
Lulu nodded in response, but spoke no more and nuzzled into the nape of his neck before breaking the embrace. "I'll go get a dinner started. Inform our...guest that he's invited to dinner at the Crusader's lodge. Yuna and Rikku, too."
Wakka smiled and, with a nod, turned on his heel back towards the temple.
Lulu watched him walk away, silently pondering what would become of the sudden intimacy expressed between them. She, too, thought of the stranger, and how he would come into play. As always, a biting feeling came to her that he meant trouble, but if it was direct or indirect, she could not tell. All she knew was that the next few days would not be ordinary days.
Wakka walked back into the room, feeling awkward, since he had just come into the middle of a conversation. The others didn't take notice and he leaned against the doorjamb, listening.
"So, you mean to tell me that where you're from, everyone can talk to everyone else by just looking at a screen and typing some words?"
"Well, simply put, yes, you can do that Rikku. I won't try to go into the schematics of it, but everyone is connected to everyone else, not through spiritual means, but through technological means. The machina in my country not only entertains, but also saves lives. We don't have magic or potions. We have surgery, medicine, and long-term treatment. Surgery is a form of treatment that requires a practitioner to put the patient under a form of anesthesia, or something that won't make them fall asleep, and literally go inside their bodies and fix the problem. They cut the person open where they have a problem, fix it, or help it, and then sew them back up."
At this, Yuna nodded, and unlike Rikku, was able to hold back the look of disgust.
Weston laughed. "It may be 'gross' but it works. It's the best way to be treated, really. But some things we can't cure. Cancer and AIDS. But I won't go into those, since I doubt you've even heard of them."
Yuna, once again, nodded in response, but added a smile. "It is very interesting, learning about your culture."
Weston smiled, and turned, noticing Wakka.
Wakka cleared his throat and nodded. "Sorry for the interruption, but I've come to tell you that you're all invited to a big dinner at the Lodge. If ya want good eats, I suggest coming." He smiled.
Weston hmmed, trying to imagine what sort of food this place would have. As the other two sat up and smiled, thanking him for what he had told them, he began to think over many things. His mind raced, a direct opposite of what he showed on the outside. To the three in the doorway, he was just a guy filling his sack with his gear. But on the inside, Weston was torn between the urge to adapt and the urge to find a way home. He sighed and looked at his PDA, writing in a note on the calendar. He didn't know what day it was, so he just set a reminder. Scrawled in his own handwriting, the words "Get the hell out of here" were displayed back to him on the screen. With a smirk, he turned the device of and threw the rucksack over his shoulder, its weight considerable.
He followed the three outside and was shown to his makeshift hut near the one he had come out of earlier. He tossed his rucksack into the corner and plopped onto the cot in the center. With his hands behind his head and his legs bent, knees in the air, he closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep in the afternoon heat.
Chapter 4: Climate
"I cannot accept those terms, sir. Spira is not something to be divided up among rulers. We are one people, united by our love for the land we inhabit."
"You may think so, Maestress, but the Bevelle council fears that the fissure of Spira's people, the Yevonites and the...other group, will eventually turn into two separate governments. One based on faith, the other based on...whatever it shall be based on. The Council urges you to reconsider. If we separate this world into two governments -now-, we'll avoid war and still be a united people, just through trade and common goals."
Yuna sighed and let her head fall. She gathered herself and looked back up to the robed Council member, who was known simply as Fagan. He was tall and dark haired. His skin was a tad pale, and he was young to be in such a position, his wardrobe white with gold trim, marking his esteemed rank.
Yuna shook her head. "I cannot divide the people anymore than they already are-"
She stopped as the large wooden door to the small temple's library opened with an audible groan. Wakka's red hair, then stubbly face, peeked in the small crack between the door and jamb.
"Sorry to interrupt, but dinner is served. The Councilman may come too, ya?"
Yuna looked to the tall figure. He nodded and gathered the parchments, sliding them into a leather satchel. With a quick turn on his sandaled heel, he exited the room with Wakka, leaving Yuna to her thoughts. A few moments later, she immerged from the Temple's granite walkway.
There was a cool wind in the night air, and Yuna's hair was freely flowing in it. She smiled as she smelled the salty ocean sent coming in on the breeze, the starry sky overshadowing the lit torches. With her eyes closed, she slowly twirled in a circle, remembering the night of Tidus' arrival, and their short, yet entertaining introduction. When her eyelids finally opened, standing a few feet in front of her was the tank top and fatigue clad figure of Weston. His head was cocked, an eyebrow rose, and his eyes were curious. She smiled.
He simply nodded and walked towards the Crusader's lodge. She watched him as he did so, seeing that he was in excellent physical condition. He was probably a tad bit more fit than Wakka, since the former Blitzer had cut down on his exercise routines. With a hmm, she followed a ways behind.
When Yuna entered, she was greeted by a hug and cheek peck from Rikku, who as Yuna could tell from the girl's lips, had sampled some of the food. Wakka waved and Weston, who was leaning against a pole near the main table with arms crossed, nodded in her direction. Lulu was setting the table and waved after setting the last plate down. Yuna gave her usual smile and nod. The only one not to greet her was the Councilman, who sat near Weston. The man's eyes were studying Weston quite closely.
Lulu smiled. "I'll get the food. Take your places, everyone. Doesn't matter where, just find a plate."
Yuna smiled and complied, remarking that Lulu was a bit more cheery when entertaining guests.
Weston moved forward slowly and took a seat near the end of the table. The Councilman sat next to Weston, eyes still locked on the stranger. Weston gave him an odd look and the bureaucrat looked towards Yuna, as she sat down at the south end of the table. Wakka sat opposite of Yuna's left, facing the young politician.
From her perspective, Yuna could see all of the people gathered there. Rikku chose the seat across from Weston, and Lulu had begun setting the food down.
"Just veggies tonight, I'm afraid," Lulu remarked as she sat the final bowl down.
Fagan smiled, waving a hand. "No problem, madam. It looks wonderful."
Weston looked to the bowls and hmmed, recognizing none of the smells. He sighed and once again told himself that he'd have to adapt, even if it meant reprogramming his taste buds.
Wakka smirked. "Lulu's grumpy, but man can she cook!"
Lulu sighed and gave the lummox a cold stare, immediately wiping the smirk off of his face. Afterwards, she placed large wooden utensils into the bowls and smaller ones next to each plate. "I hope you enjoy it."
Rikku grabbed a bowl of a green, mossy substance that resembled spaghetti.
Weston inquired as to what it was.
"Seaweed," Rikku replied, smelling a leaf of it, "boiled in freshwater and a bit of chopped bell pepper."
Weston gave a less than satisfactory look as he replied. "Ah."
Wakka blinked. "Don't like seaweed, bud?"
Weston shook his head. "We never really ate it much in my country. In other countries, they do...but not in mine."
Wakka nodded. "Well, you like potatoes?"
Weston smiled. "Yes. Finally something I recognize."
Wakka grinned. "You'll have to go to Luca for them. We can't grow em here."
Rikku laughed and Lulu scolded the red-haired behemoth. "Wakka!"
Wakka looked down, staring at his already empty plate. "Sorry..."
Weston sighed. "No need to be sorry. I'll take a bite of everything, and see what I like."
Lulu smiled and nodded. "Have at it."
As Weston bit into a white, chewy substance, he learned he'd have to adapt to quite a bit.
Lulu tilted her head, a sorrowful look on her face. "I'm sorry that we didn't have much to give you to eat. But you did like the Moonflow beans, right? You ate quite a bit of them."
Weston smiled. "They were excellent. They remind me of Navy Beans, which I love."
Lulu hmmed. "Well, I'm glad. Now, I have to go find that thickheaded Wakka..."
Weston laughed, pointing towards the Temple. "He went that'a way."
She smiled and turned on her heel, quickly walking towards the large stone building. Rikku and Yuna were chatting it up in the entrance of the lodge. Fagan was sifting through some papers on the step of the temple's walkway. He looked flustered.
Fagan looked up to the strange young man. "Er...no. Just getting these papers in order."
Weston hmmed and grabbed them quickly from the Councilman's hand. "Hey! What are you doing?"
Weston grinned as he quickly read the cover sheet. "What is this?"
"Or a declaration?"
"It is only a proposal. The Maestress refused to sign."
"I don't blame her. From what this rhetoric states, she'd be given the smallest amount of land to rule as possible. I doubt you used that line when you tried to sell her the idea, eh?"
"It is nothing of your concern! You are not even a legal inhabitant!"
"I'm here, am I not?"
"But are you welcome here?"
"So far, so good."
Fagan growled and reached for the papers, to which Weston quickly snatched them away. Once again the Councilman reached, only to be stopped once more. After a few more tries, the struggle caught the attention of Rikku and Yuna, who began walking towards the two.
"Something the matter," asked Yuna.
"Nothing I cannot handle myself, Maestress," came Fagan's curt reply.
Yuna looked to Weston.
"What? You know this entire proposal is pure bull...lies, right?"
Yuna nodded. "He did not let me read it, but I could gather that much from his words."
Weston nodded and once more Fagan tried for the papers. Weston shrugged him off and began walking towards one of the torches that lit the village's main road. He held the corner of the cover sheet to the fire and immediately, it began burning.
"If she doesn't sign it, what use is it to you?"
"The Council would revise it in negotiation."
Yuna spoke up. "And what if I refused -that- revision?"
"Then we would revise it once more. We will not give up, Maestress. With or without a war, this world will have to be divided one day."
Weston laughed and dropped the burning page to the ground, stomping it out with his heel. The fire had left only the title of the document intact.
Yuna cringed, trying to stay calm as Weston defied some of the most principal laws of the new Calm's government. She witness Fagan charge Weston and closed her eyes, not wanting to see what she thought would happen next.
Weston's laughter hit its peak when the young Councilman slid into one of the torches that lit the path, his head making a loud thock sound as it hit. Rikku, too, was laughing and pointing. Yuna sighed and tried to keep herself under control. She didn't know how this little episode would affect her relationship with the Council, but she knew it would not have a positive outcome.
Fagan pushed himself up and growled, brushing off the front of his robe. "Your friend's treatment of me will not bode well for you, Maestress. I pray that Yevon forgives you in your infidelity and your treatment of me, but I doubt he has much care for you -and- your heathen friends. Now, if you wouldn't mind sir, I have to be back in Bevelle within two days."
Weston smirked and handed Fagan the rest of the document, who then stuffed it in the satchel and curtly turned around, hurriedly heading towards the trail that led to the docks.
Weston wiped his ashy feet on a patch of grass and started heading towards his tent, only to be stopped by the grasping hand of Rikku.
"Hey, Yunie needs to talk to you!"
Weston grunted and turned around. Yuna was slightly to the left of Rikku.
"I'm going to have to ask you not to do anything of that sort again. He may have deserved it, but the Council must be respected, no matter what you may have against them. I, as a Maestress, must represent all that is good in Spira." Yuna said in a soft, yet commanding voice.
Weston nodded. "Yeah. I understand. But you do realize the "Council" or whatever it is -will- try again, and again, and again, until they'll even threaten your life. That's just how those types operate. If you're the 'ruler' of this world, why do you even need them?"
"For advice. I was only a summoner. I had no experience in ruling and a group of men was selected by an elder in Bevelle to help me. They're my counsel, but they are a Council."
Weston grinned. "The power behind the power. You should watch what they do. Never trust the brain trust."
Yuna shrugged. "I do what I must."
Weston sighed. "Yeah, and so did Hitler."
"Nothing. Good night." And with that, Weston once again turned towards his makeshift dwelling, popping his neck before ducking into it.
Yuna sighed and looked to Rikku. "Not very diplomatic, is he?"
Rikku laughed. "He's going to get all of us in trouble bullying a Council member around like that."
As Yuna headed for Weston's tent, she mumbled under her breath, "That's what I'm afraid of..."
Lulu found Wakka in the Temple's library, reading through some old documents. Surprised, she stepped forward a little bit, bending over to glance at what he was reading.
He must've sensed her questioning gaze, for he quietly said, "Old summoner tales..."
She hmmed and leaned back, looking for something to sit on. Next to a small shelf, she found a flat pillow. Quickly, she shuffled it over with her foot and next to Wakka's pad. She bent down, knees first, and rested her elbows on the table, head resting in her palms. Wakka didn't really notice with his nose buried in the manuscripts.
Finally, she asked, "And why are you looking at these tales?"
Wakka shrugged. "I...won't lie. I miss it Lu, ya know?"
She sighed, nodding. "I know. I miss Tidus' cheery banter and Auron's insights."
"And I miss all the battles. I know that we were all in danger, but I 'spose nothing will ever really compare. All the places, too. We visited a whole lotta places, ya?"
Lulu nodded in response and closed her eyes, remembering the events of the previous year. "Things certainly have changed since then."
"Ya. For one, I ain't got anything to do around here, what with all the summoner business stopped. The Eternal Calm isn't all it's cracked up to be, ya?"
"True, Wakka, but we have to be thankful we don't have to worry about Sin any longer. No more senseless killing. No more destruction."
"Ya, that is a good thing. The world isn't what it used to be and we aren't going to be the same people in a few years. We have a buncha stuff to get used to."
Lulu sighed as Wakka put down the papers and turned towards her. "What do you think the future has in store for us, Wakka?"
Wakka shrugged. "Hard to say really. With all this Council crap and the New Yevon movement with its Youth Alliance, ya can't just go around pointing towards the future of Spira."
Lulu nodded and opened her eyes, looking directly into Wakka's. "And of -us-?"
Taken aback by the question, the only legible sound that came from his mouth was "I...I..."
She smiled softly and stood, returning the pillow to its original place. She headed to the door without a word and put her hand on the knob. She turned it and pushed the heavy door open, and faintly heard Wakka's hushed and mumbled words.
"A lifetime of happiness, I pray..."
Yuna quickly turned around at the sight of Weston is only his boxers. To this, Weston had only laughed as the red-cheeked Yuna kept mumbling her apologies.
She had caught him shaving with his army issue knife. Half of his beard was gone, the other half with a foamy substance covering it. A bowl of water was on a medium-sized stone, Weston's makeshift table.
"I really need a door on this hut and a damn mirror, as you can see," he remarked, pointing to the bloody nicks on his face.
She cleared her throat and nodded. After a few moments, he told her to turn around. He was still sans shirt, but his fatigues were around his waist.
"Come to chew me out some more," he asked.
"Just to inform you of some things. I haven't explained the full situation to you, and I apologize. But I feel now that I must warn you, for your actions tonight would have gotten you landed in confinement in some areas of Spira."
"Darn. And I so looked forward to incarceration."
Yuna hmmed and tilted her head, obviously not getting his sarcasm.
He shrugged. "Go on."
She sighed. "The Council is mine, of course, but as you can tell, they do not like the idea of me in power."
"But there is another movement that I fear even greater than the Council."
Weston hmmed and raised an eyebrow. "And that is...?"
"The New Yevon movement. Its leadership consists of the ousted Maesters and the Guado. They're ranks are rather large and are still growing. The majority of the people in Bevelle are New Yevoners. They appeal mainly to teens."
"About your age?"
"Yes, and younger. The younger teens were confused once the religion fell. Misguided and without anything to put faith in, they started the Youth Alliance in Luca. It was just an organization helping teens face their problems. But, slowly, the New Yevon party seeded the teens with the ideals of the rebirth of Yu Yevon and the second coming of Sin. The teens readily accepted it because of their want to believe in something not of this world. Now the Youth Alliance has moved shop to Bevelle and is the main recruitment for the New Yevon party."
"And let me guess. The New Yevon party wants you out of power and is probably controlling your Council as well."
"Evidence would suggest that, yes. Therefore, I cannot trust the actions of the Council because I feel they are against me as much as the New Yevoners are. And I'm constantly bombarded with invitations to join the Youth Alliance and New Yevon party."
"And you deny them politely."
"But they still hold hostilities against you because, simply put, you're everything they stand against."
Yuna sighed and nodded.
"That helps quite a bit to know."
"So I must ask you to obey any and all laws in any given area and to watch what you say about the climate of politics here in Spira."
She raised an eyebrow.
Weston laughed. "I understand."
She smiled. "Thank you."
He bowed mockingly, but she didn't catch it. "No, thank -you-."
With that, she ducked out of the tent and Weston plopped onto his cot. While closing his eyes, he put out the small candle on the floor next to the cot. His first conscious day was tiring, and sleep came fast for Charles Weston.
Chapter 5 - Pre-Tournament
"Hey you two. Need some water?"
Wakka, who was coated in a thick sheen of sweat, wiped his brow and jumped down from the roof of the nearly completed dwelling. Wakka's shirtless body was red with exhaustion, nearly becoming the same color as his hair.
"You're a life saver, Lu."
Lulu, clad in a thin, black satin blouse and grayish capris, smiled and handed over one of the glasses of water to him. He smiled and nearly downed the drink in one gulp.
Weston, who was still hammering away, failed to notice the offer and continued to work, grunting now and then when a nail or board troubled him.
Wakka looked up, indicating Weston as he spoke. "Dunno why he doesn't use straw. Has to make it hard on himself with wood. It's costing Besaid a fortune to import all of these trees. Good thing he's almost done, ya?"
Lulu shrugged. "I tend to not want to get into such matters. I believe that one can do what one wants, if that certain want -is- possible. A wooden house isn't impossible...just not practical."
"Eh...I just think it's nuts. He coulda had a straw and leaf hut built in two days. Instead it's taken him nearly a month to do this."
"Oh, let him do what he will. It's his money...and his time. I'm sure he appreciates the help," Lulu remarked, smiling as she poked the burly redhead in the chest. Besides, he's done an excellent job on the Likki."
"Ya, I'll give him that. Wonder where he learned wood working like he does..."
Weston hit the ground as Wakka asked this, hands resting on his hips.
He answered, words coming between gasps for air, "College. Minored in carpentry. I come from a long line of woodworkers."
"You went to a college," asked Wakka, wide eyed.
"Yeah. It's not uncommon if you can afford it."
"Yeah, bud, but College...that's a high privilege around here. Before the Eternal Calm, College was for Maester hopefuls and Summoners. Now it's just extremely expensive and you have to have high social status."
"Well, where I come from, college is available as long as you have the money and will power to get into one."
Weston shook his head and laughed. Lulu came up to him and smiled, offering the other glass of water. Weston smiled, nodded, and took the glass, downing it quickly. He handed the glass back to Lulu and quickly headed back up the ladder. In a few moments, he was hammering away once more.
Lulu sighed. "He just doesn't give up, does he? He's constantly working on that."
Wakka nodded. "Ya, Lu, but that just means he's goal oriented. He starts on something and keeps his pace until he's done."
She sighed once more. "But it's not healthy working sun up to sun down."
Wakka shrugged. "If it's what he wants to do, let him. The sooner he gets a hut...er...house to live in, the sooner he'll be able to relax."
She nodded, staring off into the distance for a little while. A small silence came between them until she raised a finger as if a thought had just jumped to her.
"Ah, I remembered what I was going to ask you."
"Ya," he asked.
"What about the yearly blitzball tournament? It's only two days away. The Aurochs will be defending their title. Are you going to be there to support them?"
"I thought about it. Dunno if we should go though...too many memories in that place...specially for Yuna, ya?"
Lulu thought for a moment, nodding as she did so. "I see what you mean. Well, Yuna has been busy lately. The shopkeeper told me that, while buying more potatoes in Luca, she heard something about this year's Tournament being sponsored by the Youth Alliance. If that's true, the New Yevon council will be attending. Maybe Yuna can do a bit of diplomacy while she's there."
"That would keep her mind offa things, but you think that she'd wanna mix her duties in with some fun?" Wakka agreed.
"I believe Yuna's more worried over the growing tensions than she lets on. If she could catch the New Yevoners while they're enjoying themselves, and maybe have a meeting with them, then she could possibly end the blossoming disputes."
"Maybe...but they do seem a bit...stubborn."
"As stubborn as you," Lulu asked with a smile.
Wakka mocked a growl and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her forehead.
"No one's as stubborn as -me-," he whispered with a grin.
She mmhmmed and nuzzled her cheek into his bare chest, a hand slowly sliding up and down his back as he held her.
"You like to hug sweaty guys?"
He smiled and released the embrace. "I needa shower. I'll be in my hut if you need me."
She smiled and nodded. "I'll ask Yuna about the tournament."
He hmmed. "Where is she anyway?"
Lulu shrugged. "I haven't seen her since breakfast. Well...I thought...Ok, now I'm worried. I'll go look for her, ok?"
Wakka nodded and headed towards his hut. "Keep me informed, ya?"
"I will," she replied.
She turned to go look for Yuna at the temple, but stopped in her tracks at a sudden animalistic growl filled the air.
She backed away a bit to see above the roof. A hammer went flying over her head and landed with a loud -thwack- into the side of the Temple. She backed up a few more feet and saw Weston going in circles, mumbling curses to himself as his gripped his visibly red thumb.
"Are you ok," she asked.
"Yeah," he grumbled in reply. "Just hit my thumb."
She nodded and walked towards the temple. "Do you need your hammer back?"
He shook his head. "Nah. It got the last nail in regardless of my thumb being there."
"So you're done?"
"On the outside, yeah."
She smiled and stepped into the Temple, leaving Weston to transfer his furniture alone.
Yuna sighed as she looked out into the vast ocean in front of her. Her bare feet were cool, a stark contrast to her nearly boiling back, which was right under the afternoon sun. As her toes dug into the muddy sand, she thought back to the night that she's focused on for a year or more.
~ Spinning around in the water, lips pressed to his, she's truly happy. She forgets her woes, her enemies, and for once, focuses on her self and her wants, something not becoming of someone of her pedigree. Alas, she remembers what she must do as they break away from the kissing, their hands separating. The kisses and cuddles daze her for a moment, but soon, reality hits her like a catapulted stone. For a fleeting moment, she's truly happy, and she vows, that when she's done, and if she survives, that happiness will never leave her side. ~
Of course, Yuna's moment of smiles ends abruptly, as she recalls the moment when she ran to be in his arms, but only fell. He turned and muttered not a word. She vowed her love and he jumped away from whence he came.
Soon, the water isn't the only thing staining the beach. The salty drops that are her tears hit the sand in large, booming waves, her ears picking up each sound as if they were bombs being dropped on a city. With each tear came a cry of sorrow and a sob of grief.
Why couldn't she have what she wanted? Why was she always robbed of her happiness? These things she wondered as her red, tear-clouded eyes scanned the horizon.
Shakily, two fingers came to her lips and she whistled as loud as she could. And she kept whistling until she could scarcely draw a breath.
No answer came and she once again broke into her sorrowful sobs. But, as soon as her eyes opened, a small, human like blur was thrashing through the water towards her. Confused at first, she simply watched it as it got closer.
Her mind raced and her heart pounded. Was this finally her chance to be happy? She stood, wiping the tears from her eyes, trying to view the blur a bit better. It was steaming toward her at alarming speed. From this closing distance, she could finally tell what it was; a human figure.
She walked forward, ankle deep in the surging tide, leaning forward as the figure drew near, her hands clasped together as if in prayer. The figure dove into the water and disappeared amongst the depths. She whimpered a bit and walked forward a few feet more, shin deep in the water, looking for it under the water.
A few moments later, which felt like years to Yuna, the figure rose from the water, splashing water a few feet in front of her. She recognized him through her squinted eyes. The sun played off of his blond-with-brown rooted hair, his ocean blue eyes piercing into her own. He was shirtless and as muscular as ever, and she ran forward as he walked up onto shore, wrapping her arms around his waist. She began spouting confessions of love at the top of her lungs as she nuzzled into his chest.
Had her eyes been open, she would've been able to tell that he was much taller than her. To her horror, he pushed her away. She backed up a few feet from him, tears blinding her vision. She heard him speak, and it certainly wasn't Tidus.
"Uh...Yuna? You sick or something?"
Now on the verge of spilling her lunch all over the sand from embarrassment, Yuna ran off, weeping rather loudly.
Weston blinked and ran a hand through his wet hair, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
"And then she ran off somewhere. I still don't know what really happened. I was just taking a dip into the ocean and I come up on Besaid beach, and then she pounces me."
Wakka hmmed, staring at the ground infront of his bare feet. "So you have nothing to do with her running off? It was her mistake?"
"Far as I know. All I did was walk onto the beach."
Lulu walked over, distraught from having to calm Yuna. "Yuna apologizes. She...thought he was Tidus."
Wakka groaned. "When is she going to let go of him? It's been nearly a year, ya?"
Lulu sighed, ignoring Wakka's comment. "I calmed her enough to get the gist of her somewhat coherent explanation. She simply mistook him for Tidus and was so embarrassed by it, she had to run off to compose herself."
Weston sighed. "I didn't mean to cause any harm..."
Lulu sighed and raised a hand. "It wasn't your fault. But now we certainly need to get her away from this place. It's gotten her delusional."
Wakka nodded. "Ya, we've got to get her outta here.
Weston raised an eyebrow. "And your plans are...?"
Wakka looked to Lulu for approval, to which she nodded.
"A blitzball tournament in Luca. Just get her mind offa things, ya?"
Lulu sighed. "A sport. An athletic challenge where teams come together to see who's better. You have those where you come from?"
Weston nodded. "Yeah, but nothing called 'blitzball.'"
Wakka shook his head, not wanting to explain the game. "He'll learn about it at the tournament, if we go."
Lulu nodded and crossed her arms, while Weston just stood there, a veritable deer in headlights. His life and military training had not trained him for a whole new world filled with customs and beliefs that totally turned his head around. All he could do was sit and observe, hoping he could someday blend in. Right now, he was like a canker sore, something that stuck out and could easily be targeted. His survival depended upon his ability to blend in. He'd have to get some of their clothing before he even tried to go outside of Besaid.
Weston broke the dreary silence. "Wakka, I've been meaning to ask you. These clothes of mine are becoming hard to wash everyday. Think I could borrow some clothes?"
This seemed to break Wakka from his daze. "Oh...ya. I'll bring you an old uniform later."
Weston hmmed and stood there, watching the other two stare off in the distance, trying to solve inner conflicts through a silence that even a soldier like Weston couldn't handle.
Weston sighed and excused himself, to which no answer came, and headed back to his newly built dwelling. The house itself, if it could be called that, was only one room. It lacked any necessities save the bed and nightstand. A small wicker chair was placed in front of the only window on the small home. The window faced the sea, which mean that it was harbored on the southernmost wall of the structure. The door was hastily made and the hinges on which it moved were cheap little mechanisms from Luca's market. The small stove and icebox -that only kept potatoes at the moment- were in the Northwest corner, just opposite of the doorjamb.
Upon entering, Weston immediately sat on the chair, leaning back to let the wicker dig into his torso's naked flesh. His eyes wandered about the waves, trying to capture some sense of meaning for his occupation here. Why, he asked himself, am I here? What did I do to get here and how do I get back? Of course, to these questions came no answers. Only the white- noise silence that accompanied a troublesome afternoon on Besaid Island filled his ears.
The ocean's churning and the sounds of the local nature were the backdrop for Weston's wandering thoughts. From his situation to his parents to the odd encounter on the beach, he thought of everything that would soon affect his life. But these thoughts ere soon drowned out by his body's sudden awareness of all the work and punishment it had been through. He nodded off and would not wake until the next day.
"So you'll go?"
"Yes. Will you send correspondence to ask the New Yevon council to meet me in the conference balcony during the finals? If I can settle this now, it'll help Spira become stronger...I hope."
"I'll get right on it."
"Thank you, Lulu."
Fagan sighed, looking around at his fellow councilmen. Most of them were much older than he, and he wondered why the elder had chosen him to help lead this council. Fagan had been one of the founding members of the Youth Alliance. He was the great grandson of Maester Mika himself, and believed full heartedly in Yevon, making him the best candidate for the job, save his lack of experience. Still, he felt odd amongst the older men of both Yuna's Council and the heads of the New Yevon party.
Fagan had received a hurried letter seeking his counsel at a secret meeting between the two councils. Fagan knew that Yuna knew nothing of the two councils being joined, but he felt that it was almost common knowledge that the two shared information and advised each other.
The purpose of the meeting was to decide on the problem that Yuna posed. She was not pro-Yevon and was considered a threat to any movement to unite the people under the control of Yevon, which would be administered from Bevelle. Of course, the two councils would merge and rule together. All they needed was her signature, but they knew that wasn't going to happen.
Fagan sighed once more and slowly stood, bringing his hands up, trying to gesture the men to be quiet. "Gentlemen, gentlemen. We must get down to order. We have less than a day to find a solution."
The chosen leader between the two councils, Lord Nyka, formerly a maester, rose. "Aye. Fagan, please be seated. Now, gentlemen, we have a dilemma. We all know that Braska's daughter will not comply with our wishes for the people of Spira. What we must now do is find a way to silence or overshadow the High Summoner Yuna."
A man from Yuna's council, named Clegan nodded. "I agree, but what shall we do? We cannot defy the teachings."
Nyka nodded. "Yes, I know. We must adhere to the teachings. But, if I may," he said, motioning to a thick book laid out on the table. "This, gentlemen, is the book of Yevon. It is opened to page nine hundred and twenty seven. The fifth chapter, second verse reads, 'He who opposes all that Yevon teaches, is the infidel, the heathen, the traitor and he must be taught to love Yevon and his teachings, or die for his sin.' So you see, my friends that the Book states that anyone who opposes us is the enemy, and therefore can be dealt with accordingly. I push forward to vote on dispelling our dear Yuna by punishing her for her sins."
While this seemed to calm some of the worried members, it still did not click in Fagan's mind. He hmmed and thought on Nyka's words while the rest of the men gave their supporting nods.
Fagan blinked, the plan just now registering in his mind. "There are other ways of dealing with this. Negative force is not one! We cannot punish Yuna for believing what she wants...It's not the right thing to do. We could, maybe, try to reinstate her faith in the teachings."
Nyka smiled. "Young one, you are going to have to learn that, if you want to be a prominent leader in this organization, you're going to have to have a strong fist. One that can't be questioned no matter what. Even Yevon himself says so."
Fagan sighed and slumped in his chair, not liking the impromptu lesson.
Nyka continued. "Gentlemen, we have to do something and we have to do it now. She meets with us tomorrow. That something -must- occur after that meeting."
Fagan sighed. "You have a plan?"
"Yes I do, but let's convene for now. Leave separately from the balcony, as to not draw any attention. Do not converse with each other. Go straight home. We'll meet back here in two hours. Don't worry about the guards, they're trust worthy."
The men nodded and stood, shaking each other's hands. Fagan sighed and left first, the rest of them filing out shortly after, obeying Nyka's rules.
Fagan sighed heavily as he slumped into his chair even more, robe sliding up, revealing his pale shins.
"Something wrong, dear," asked his newly wedded wife, Elaine. She was about his height, roughly five foot six, slender with long sandy-brown hair, jade-green eyes and rosy cheeks. He loved her more than anything else on Spira, and he prayed that she could help him in his dilemma.
He sighed as he spoke. "Nothing's wrong," he replied softly, to which she just shook her head and plopped into his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"Hon, that's not the way things look from here. Now tell me, what's bothering you?"
He sighed once more. "It's just...the council is planning something I don't want to participate in."
She nodded, leaning in to kiss his chin. "Well then don't participate in it."
"I have to go with what the council does. Otherwise, I'm back to square one. I -want- to lead someday, Elaine..."
She smiled and put her palm to his cheek. "You -will-, just have faith and you will. Everything will turn out for the better over time."
He smiled and ran a hand through her hair, kissing the tip of her nose. "Thank you for your faith in me."
"Why wouldn't I have faith in you," she asked with a smile, rubbing her nose against his.
"Oh, I don't know..." he replied, lightly pressing his lips to hers.
She closed her eyes and deepened the kiss, her hands kneading into the back of his neck. When the kiss slowly faded, she asked him in a gruffer, deeper voice, "When do you have to be back?"
"In about an hour..."
"Nice to see you again, gentlemen. I pray you had decent lunches," Nyka said, as the members each took their seat.
To Nyka's comment Fagan smiled to himself, nodding in agreement. Nyka went over the formalities once more, explaining that, simply put, everything said and done in the room was completely secret, as was the union between the two councils, blah blah.
Fagan yawned and Nyka took the hint.
"On to business. Many of you have probably conjectured as to what my exact plans are. Well, rather than bore you with having to read mounds of paperwork, I'll just tell you now. Of course, I will pass out an outline of proposed events. This will be what to expect tomorrow."
And with that, he handed a stack of paper to the man closest to him and let the papers circulate.
Fagan received his copy but did not read it, fearing what it said. He simply waited for Nyka to spell out his plans.
"Now, I shall explain each time listed in exact detail. Yuna and the Aurochs will more than likely arrive by airship around nine in the morning. The airship will dock much like a sea-fairing ship, so no extra procedures should be in place here. Since they arrive at the Docks, the will have to make the way to the stadium through crowded paths. It should take Yuna roughly thirty minutes to make it to the locker room alone, due to her high position of power. Look for her normal companions, formerly her guardians, to be with her.
"At ten o'clock, the games start. Yuna and her compatriots will be enjoying the entertainment. The games should last until one in the afternoon. While the finals are being played, the meeting will commence and The New Yevon Council will -try- to negotiate some sort of diplomatic deal with her. We'll just throw a little treaty proclaiming peace between New Yevon and the Maestress at her."
"But how does that tie in with our getting rid of her? If we just sign a peace treaty and move on, how is she out of our way?"
"Clegan, please, let me finish. When Yuna and the Aurochs make their way back to the Docks, two hired men will be on their dock. They will be dressed as Crusaders, but they will be two men I pick from a list of resources. The council will not be able to be traced, so none of you should be worried. With the Crusaders blamed for the two men's actions, it'll be dispersed. That way, any sympathy towards the Maestress within the ranks will be gone, and we can reform our own army. With an army, I do not believe much opposition will befall us."
Another member asked, "And after that?"
"We spread the word of Yevon...and Spira is ours."
Fagan sighed. "And what, exactly, are these two men's actions?"
Nyka blinked, as if someone had asked him the most rhetorical question ever muttered. "They are going to kill her."