Defying Fate Part 2
When -if ever- will life be kind?
Is it possible to halt change?
Self awareness brings new reflections-
Not always pleasant to discover.
When may I have a reprieve?
Squall opened his eyes reluctantly- he had a headache and it was making him dizzy. He sat up, carefully as he felt any sudden movement might cause him to be sick on the floor- of the… cell he was in. That was strange- he looked around the room which reminded him of the cell he had been for attempting to assassinate Edea in d-district prison.
He searched in his memories for some idea of where he was- he remembered a dark space where he had been tied up and had to listen to half-whispers from his captors- yes he was sure now- he was a prisoner and he had been drugged. That would explain the headache at least- he had never been known to drink much. He had a low limit for alcohol and getting drunk and not being able to control his actions had always prevented his having too much in one go during his life so far.
But where had he been? He could only suppose he had been to a bar- it wasn’t like he had drinks at the hotel, they weren’t allowed in the rooms. Anyway he would only have been taken to his room if he had been drunk at the bar of the hotel.
Another memory entered his mind, Tehn- the attacker- they were linked and it slowly dawned in his head that Tehn was the attacker. He remembered a lot now, Tehn boasting about being the one to attack Rinoa. The soldiers who had been at the bar, skipping a shift he had believed at first but they had been waiting until the effects of the drug the nervous barman put in his drink to kick in before they knocked him out. Evidently Galbadian soldiers thought a single SeeD could fight six soldiers without a weapon.
Maybe if I were Zell I could have Squall considered, but then again, even Zell would have had a job fighting if he had been drugged. These circumstances lead Squall to consider that maybe whoever was holding him prisoner was not very organised, they had certainly left a lot to chance- or else they thought capturing him would be a bonus point in their plan. Whatever it was.
He looked around the cell for any hope of escape, there seemed to be none. The walls were thick as he tapped on them with his knuckles -not really understanding the point of the action to start with- in the hope of finding out how thick they were, his mind was becoming sharper and the effects of the drug was wearing off. He looked around, the floor was stone, polished and smooth, and the walls were badly painted bricks which he would not be able to break. At least not without his Gunblade- which he didn’t have. He had left it at his hotel and even if he had had it when he’d been captured they would have confiscated it.
He looked around his cell- the room was not large, about the same size as his room at Garden and a small bed he had been lying on was little more than a board with a sheet stretched across it. But that didn’t matter, he wasn’t looking for any sign of luxury and he saw a tray of what he supposed was a meal with a dirty beaker of water beside it. It didn’t look fit for an animal to eat and he kicked it away irritably.
This attracted the attention of the guard. The beaker made a surprisingly loud noise when kicked against the wall and Squall sat down on the bed expecting the guard to tell him to shut up or something.
But the guard looked though the thin slit in the door and laughed, ‘Good, you’re awake. I’ll tell Tehn.” Squall felt a stab of hatred for the man called Tehn who obviously was of some importance in this organisation and wondered what Rinoa was doing, He wasn’t too worried for himself, he was a SeeD and was trained to deal with imprisonment better than an ordinary civilian.
He remembered back to a month or so before when Headmaster Cid had been discussing the leadership of Garden, to make sure Garden was not exploited in any way there was an agreement that if a group should capture any of the people in charge of Garden ransom would not be paid and the best measures were taken to ensure that morale of students would not be effected by losing their commander or their headmaster by appointing capable people to take charge of Garden if the need arose.
A noise alerted Squall’s attention to who he thought was Tehn but instead there were two more soldiers and Squall looked dazedly around at the security- such a lot for an unorganised group, he had little or no chance of escaping now.
They kicked him as a signal to stand up and he stood up dazedly. The alcohol had not worn off completely and as soon as he stepped through the doorway the soldiers, armed with machine guns indicated which way they would be heading. They marched him through a network of corridors which obviously they didn’t fully know yet as there was much consultation at times as to which turning they should take. The corridors were much like the cell he had been in, no windows but many lights and a disgusting shade of green paint covering the walls.
The doors were numbered and labelled in places- but the guard had a map which he kept pulling out of his pocket and consulting. It was a large building and he wondered about where he was. But he had only a little while to think of all the possible places as they reached a door and a series of numbers were pressed slowly, slowing Squall to see them and memorise them. “Damn codes.” The guard muttered and opened the door, a large room behind it.
The walls were bright blue in contrast to the dirty green and the lighting in here was brighter and cleared than in the corridors. But it was not this that made Squall nearly cry out in surprise.
At the side of the room, her wrists and ankles strapped to the chair she was sitting, half lying in was Ellone.
“What did you do to her?” Squall demanded- which earned a nasty kick from the soldier on his right- he was facing a scientist now who had arrived a few minutes after Squall attempted to reach Ellone on the other side of the room. The scientist walked to the side of the room to some computers and tapped some keys. He finally turned his attention to Squall.
“We have not done any long term damage to her. She is fine.” Squall recognised the accent as the distinct accent of Estharians; even Laguna was getting a slight accent after living in the country for so long. The scientist continued. “We put a sleep spell on her- she isn’t used to magic so the spell is working especially well.”
“Why is she here?” Squall demanded.
“In due time. It would make no sense to reveal what we intend to do just yet.” Squall was frustrated by the reply and glanced at Ellone again. She was asleep and now he saw the usual symptoms of a sleep spell which his anger had not let him see to begin with. His mind began to formulate plans for escape but none of them would work with the guards everywhere. He hated to admit it but they were stuck- it wasn’t a case of a film where the allies would come and rescue their friends in this sort of situation. He didn’t know where they were and the place was overflowing with armed soldiers.
“Where are we then?”
“That I can tell you. To a certain extent anyway. We are on the continent of Centra.” Accompanied by a smile, this they both knew was useless information, Squall had flown on the Ragnarok with his friends over Centra. The whole continent was a mass of brown and grey where the grass refused to grow and only tough, resistant trees grew in groups in the few fertile spots of soil. The continent had been destroyed by the lunar cry years before, there used to be a great civilization on the land but now it was destroyed. The few living Centrans had fled to what was now known as Dollet and the number of cities had fallen greatly which overcrowded those remaining.
But there was a slight hope that wherever they were would be conspicuous so that Garden might be able to raid this place. The thought simmered in his mind until he realised how many SeeDs would be needed to rescue two people. It would be far too great a loss of life for the order to be considered.
The scientist walked up to Ellone and checked her pulse. “She should wake up naturally soon, but we’ll take the sleep spell off shall we?” he raised his right hand- only physical attacks would wake her up right now and he brought his hand on her face.
She woke up startled- by her location, the disorientation of sleep and the pain in her cheek. She tried to lift a hand to soothe her face but her hands were bound to the arms of the chair and she was immobilised.
“Where am I?” She looked up and saw Squall and the soldiers who were holding guns to his head. Squall suspected they weren’t intending to shoot him but to Ellone who was unused to the whole situation it looked as if they were going to shoot at any moment. “No!” She cried and turned her head pleading silently to the scientist who watched impassively.
“Ellone, it’s okay.” Squall insisted in the hope of alleviating her worry and stopping her making any unnecessary bargains with the Estharian. “They want something and shooting me won’t help them.”
“You would be right.” The scientist ordered the soldiers to lower their weapons. They looked disappointed. “You two are going to be the means of ridding the world of the sorceress forever.”
There was silence for a moment. Then Squall laughed, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You missed something right? We went to the future to fight Ultimecia- doesn’t that say you won’t succeed?” The scientist looked annoyed. Ellone turned even paler, she looked as though she was going to faint.
“No- we have several theories about how she managed to do that- but we won’t explain them to you- you wouldn’t understand them. But we do believe that this way we will be free from the sorceress with the exclusion of Ultimecia of course.”
Squall felt disbelief- of everything he had seen or done nothing compared to this idea. He lived in a world of magic where the unusual mixed in with ordinary day to day life but this beat even that. That these people could presume to even come up with an idea this far fetched was amazing.
He wanted to ask about Ellone- how had she been captured? Laguna would surely provided security for her? He loved Ellone like nobody else- except for his own mother and he wasn’t getting into that series of bitter thoughts right now. Another thing he wondered was why they wanted Ellone in the first place but he wouldn’t ask- at least not with Ellone here- she might become more frightened.
That was a factor, she was afraid- she had been brought up to expect capture- and had been taken hostage once. She was always in danger and she had grown up expecting that, but now she had no idea how her power would assist in losing the sorceress powers forever- she didn’t know what to expect.
“Why am I here?” Squall asked a more subtle question, which might lead to the reason for Ellone’s capture too but he decided to risk it. He was a SeeD; admittedly the commander but his position would provide no advantage to these men.
“Don’t you understand?” A familiar voice heralded the return of Tehn, now in a white lab coat like the other scientist. Squall saw him and wanted to punch his face- the emotion surprising him. He did not usually feel so strongly about someone. Even Seifer could not provoke this much hatred in him.
“No.” He was back to single syllable answers. They had replaced his usual silence which he used in response to most people before the war. His relationship with Rinoa had changed him a bit but he wasn’t completely different, he still felt the same worries and insecurities as he had had for most of his life before Rinoa.
Tehn walked around Squall and watched the expression on Ellone’s face. “You’re here to lure the sorceress.”
“If they don’t know where we are how can Rinoa find me?” Squall disguised his concern behind a fact he hoped they hadn’t considered. He felt a sudden shock of worry for Rinoa, why was everyone he ever became close to at risk? Why couldn’t other people stop thinking about themselves and consider other people- why were there so many selfish people in the world who overreacted about nothing?
“You are her Knight aren’t you, you have a link?” He had a point- all of Squall’s theories about their being a disorganised group were fading away rapidly. But there were still holes in the plan.
“How do you think you can get rid of her powers?” He wearily gave in to the question he had been dreading to hear the answer to. He felt the sheer unreality of the situation he was in, a week before the worst of his troubles had been that he had to attend the peace talks and see Laguna there too. Now he was at gunpoint of two guards among a group of people who were obviously fanatical about their objective. That was more dangerous than an ordinary resistance group.
“We kill her.” Squall and Ellone looked up sharply, Ellone with a bruise on her face where she had been hit and Squall with two guns aimed at his head.
“Why! What will that solve?” Squall was the only one to speak.
“Ellone then takes her powers and we kill her.” Squall looked incredulously at them, Ellone looked tearful, and Squall felt the same way, the emotion mixed with anger, both people he had and still loved as his only family were marked for death.
“What about the fact a sorceress can’t die with her powers?” He asked, using every ounce of self control to stop the fear in his heart from showing.
“That’s different.” Tehn replied. “Ellone is a sorceress of sorts, she should be able to take the powers quite easily and according to the tests Dr. Odine made she converts the magic in her body so it becomes a dependant source or energy.” He saw the confusion on Squall’s face and explained.
“When the sorceress has a power it is unique because the magic seems to be an independent form, have some consciousness, it needs no junctioning and GFs to be used and the ability is not linked to its host. So therefore it does not die with the sorceress as other magic usually can. It seeks out a new host and does not let its host die until the link between them is gone. The powers are the link to the living in these situations, the sorceress is them set free and may die.”
“Those are theories.” Squall answered. “You don’t know the powers have a consciousness of their own and what makes you so sure that if Ellone took them they would change their properties just like that?”
“Because Ellone has the ability to do so, her power indicates this. And what else make a sorceress so powerful? She has magic like other magic users, and they can die with it, hers is more powerful and that appears to be the only initial difference between them.”
“You’re just making assumptions! You don’t know anything! You call yourself a scientist…” He saw the uniform, the Esthar insignia on the pocket of the lab coat. “You’re from Esthar?” He said incredulously.
“Yes we are. Most of us in any case. We found plenty of willing people to help us in our cause.” Squall looked around at the soldiers.
“That’s what the peace conference was for wasn’t it?” He said surprised, “You planned this all along. Galbadia is helping you. You’re traitors…”
“No we are not!” Tehn interrupted, “We are helping Esthar, and the rest of the world! So many people have died because of the sorceress and we will prevent more!” He paced the room. “Do you think we should have listened to that idiot’s orders which he formed on sentimentality? He only became president by accident. We have every right to protect ourselves and our children unfortunately we have to sacrifice a few people to do so.”
Ellone bit back a comment, Squall had to agree though, Laguna did not seem to be the most competent person for president, even knowing as he now did that Laguna was his father.
“A few?” Squall wasn’t sure he would like what he was going to hear.
“Yes a few.” Tehn turned to Ellone to watch her reaction. “You’re both going to die.”
“Why? Killing Squall wouldn’t help you at all!” Ellone spoke; despite the fact her voice was getting a little hoarse, probably from dehydration.
“I think it would. You see, when the sorceress sees her knight die she’ll become emotional; and then she will let her emotions affect her judgement. It will provide us with the advantage of clear thinking.” He looked at the computer monitor, clearly uninterested in Squall anymore and this provoked the guards into moving and Squall left with them.
If Squall could have looked behind him as he left he would have seen Ellone, clutching the arms of the chair and struggling to stop the fresh tears falling down her already tear streaked face.
“This is a major disaster!” Zell was the only one to speak; the news struck them all as sudden and unexpected. He spoke in his usual blunt way, Quistis considered the possibility of it being his trademark. Eloquence could not be attributed to Zell certainly.
“Major disaster isn’t the word.” Laguna spoke and Kiros didn’t bother telling him ‘major disaster’ was two words, not one. “I mean, why did they get Ellone? She can’t be what they’re after!” He paced the office; Cid was once again in command of Garden and the group who had been involved in the defeat of Ultimecia were all assembled there.
There were the planners of the aforementioned mission and the SeeDs who had carried out the mission six months ago, with the obvious exceptions. Squall they now understood had been kidnapped along with Ellone, the reason for doing so was not entirely clear but they were closer now to understanding than they had been a week before.
And the outlook was not positive. Cid had called Laguna after Rinoa reported that Squall was missing. Cid had requested to call them into Garden to discuss what they knew. The Esthar president was involved in the matter now regardless of Cid’s opinion that he should leave the matter to garden.
The problem, Rinoa decided was that they were experiencing the aftermath of the recently ended sorceress war. An era had ended with Adel’s death, as had been the case eighteen years earlier there was a lot of debris to clear. Laguna and his friends had postponed her death and left the next generation to do the dirty work.
Another reason Rinoa could not look at Laguna now was that he seemed altogether more concerned about Ellone than Squall. Inwardly she cursed her young sorceress powers for giving her insight into peoples’ emotions. It gave her an advantage in her relationship but made her biased regarding Laguna. Because she out all of Squall’s friends and close ‘family’ knew how much the news of their relationship had hurt him. Not so much the news itself but the damage it had inflicted on his carefully organised life had caused him to come grinding to a halt.
She had tried to put in words the feeling. He had had a routine, she had known it well, he thrived on discipline and he had got up at a certain time each morning and went to bed at curfew and ate at regular times. Missions he was well prepared for and he did them as efficiently as possible, he had the ability to stop thinking about his personal life on these occasions.
When Ellone had introduced him to Laguna months ago he had considered such a person to be unreal. The reason he thought it was a dream, a strange one albeit but what else could it have possibly have been? When acquainted with the truth it was a little more weird, but they lived in a world of magic and added to that his ability to block out curiosity when he needed to everything was okay, he could deal with it.
Laguna had absolutely no right to interfere the way he had, he considered his own situation at risk if he told Squall but ultimately he had believed that Squall would benefit from the knowledge. He had been so wrong.
Rinoa remembered having to watch Squall stumble through the first few weeks with the information at the foremost of his thoughts. Until he developed a way of dealing with what he then knew it was useless to try to be normal, underneath the person Garden had trained Squall had gone through life after what probably would be his major mission knowing he had everything and there was something to his life other than just work. There would be something that would last after.
Now Ellone was gone, Laguna had nothing to take his mind off the situation. Seventeen years in Esthar without any family to look after, Rinoa had previously expected that he had had a part in Ellone’s departure from the orphanage; he had certainly paid for the maintenance of the ship.
Rinoa looked at the wall, nobody was saying anything, and Cid and Edea were letting the silence continue for too long. They were all hoping someone else would say something.
We’re all to busy trying not to think about what could happen, why aren’t we doing something? Weeks frustration was coming to a boil, Rinoa let it consume her for a moment, hating Laguna for ruining her life indirectly. Squall was the only person she had now. Her father was miles away, she couldn’t care less, and now Squall was gone.
Do I really need him that much? It was something Rinoa had never really considered, she had always felt that relying on one or a few people was a negative quality, one of Squall’s traits. But she realised in a moment as teenagers often do that she was the same, she had changed so frequently, until now she had changed who she relied on. Her mother, her father for a short while and then Zone and Watts. The last two she had been dependant on in her brief period as the leader of the forest owls. She had then abruptly changed again, Squall being her boyfriend necessarily came first and so he still did.
But she had never been deserted, and although it was not his own fault he had been kidnapped a part of her still blamed him for it. He could have done more to defend himself. Even better he could have not left at all, or taken a weapon.
“Rinoa what do you think?” Quistis had spoken, she was watching Rinoa intently. They all were- as though seeking her permission for something. Rinoa was ashamed to think she had actually missed an entire conversation.
“Do I think what?” Rinoa could think of no valid excuse for missing so much conversation, but her mind still sought reasons to do so.
“About our plan?” Quistis was going to drag out her awkward situation a bit longer. Rinoa had tried but though they talked and seemed perfectly good friends Rinoa felt a quiet dislike toward Quistis. The feeling she knew was mutual.
“I don’t know what you were talking about, sorry.” Rinoa answered. She felt silly- and they were making her feel even worse. Their faces wore serious expressions but she could sense the mirth in all of them. She could imagine Irvine talking about it later- how much like Squall she had become. More than ever she disliked Quistis, in that moment she hated her. How dare she try to evoke laughter from everyone at her expense in the current situation? She was stressed out by this and all they seemed to do was single her out when she didn’t want to.
Laguna seemed to recognise some of what she was feeling from her expression. He quickly explained.
“We thought we could find the base by monitoring areas of activity on isolated areas of the continent. These guys are old scientists and are gonna want a place where nobody’s going to find them. We think they’ll choose Centra.” Rinoa sighed. He had simply quoted his friend in his first sentence and he seemed pretty proud of himself for saying the words properly. It was embarrassing to watch. No wonder Squall was upset about being related to him.
“Yeah but how long will that take?” Selphie asked Laguna, she was standing by Irvine or the other way around, it was hard to tell. “These scientists worked for Esthar once. Do you really think they’re going to wait that long before they do anything like threatening SeeD?”
“Definitely.” Laguna said, but his eyes revealed more concern. “They wanted to send Rinoa into space straight away when they took her to Esthar. They also wanted to take her back to Esthar instead of taking part in the final battle.” Rinoa stood up frowning. She hadn’t heard this bit of information and it made her uncomfortable to listen.
“I suppose I should be saying thank you.” She muttered sarcastically under her breath. It was because of this man her boyfriend was messed up as he was, she owed him nothing- not even politeness.
It seemed as though he had heard her, he reddened and he grabbed his leg briefly before apologising and running out of the room. Kiros shot her a look before following at an equal speed.
The tension in the room was incredible now. Everyone wanted to look at Rinoa but weren’t bold enough to do so. Rinoa looked to Cid and Edea to begin the conversation again. Edea took the hint and announced the first words of the speech she had mentally prepared while everyone else had been talking and thinking.
“We can’t leave things how they are. This organisation believes it is acting on behalf of the world and will not willingly abandon their plan. They must have one otherwise this would be a complete waste of time. Now we have some coordinates we can start examining to rule out all the possible places they can hide on Centra.
You shall have to be extremely careful because they have a motive and are likely to be very driven by it. Another thing, don’t underestimate them. They appear by all accounts to be a amateur, unorganised group but they’ve achieved so much already which singles them out. Any questions?”
“Yeah,” Zell said, raising his hand in the air. “Who’s the leader?” Edea hesitated.
“Selphie shall be.”
“WHAT!!!” Zell shouted. A few smirks appeared on the faces of the three men standing at the back of the room. Selphie looked as surprised as Zell.
“But Matron…” She started to say but Edea cut her off.
“We all need to start somewhere, you haven’t had a chance yet so now is your turn at leadership.” To say they were surprised was an understatement; everyone in the room had expected Quistis to be the leader for the mission. She was the obvious choice, graduating at an early age, becoming an instructor, and having had experience on certain missions as leader. By all rights she should have been squad leader.
She looked relieved though. The responsibility lifted from her shoulders, which had been generated by the reasons for dismissal as an instructor. No leadership qualities they had told her. She would not be forced to being the leader when she didn’t want to be.
“When do we start?” She asked Edea.
“Shouldn’t we get ready then?” Rinoa spoke up.
“You aren’t going.” Edea had spoken. Rinoa looked outraged.
“Why?!” She demanded with a degree of rudeness that Quistis winced at.
“Because you aren’t a SeeD. That’s why.”
“I went on other missions with them! I have powerful magic- you might need me on this mission- that’s why!2 She turned around to face each of the SeeDs in turn. Selphie suddenly was very interested in the pattern of tiles on the floor.
“If you go, you obey Selphie’s orders and don’t go running off to help them yourself. Is that clear?” Rinoa opened her mouth in surprise but closed it again quickly.
As the SeeDs and the sorceress left the room Laguna wondered just how difficult the mission would be. Edea had successfully manipulated Rinoa into obeying orders and the young sorceress had yet to realise it. What would her reaction be then?
When Squall and Ellone were back he would make more effort to get to know Squall, at least that’s what he was trying to force himself to believe. When it was all over he could sort out the mess that was his life and let the ghosts rest.
At least he hoped he could anyway.
He was lying on his back on a tiny bed, trying to dwell on positive thoughts. He mostly could not believe that they had Ellone, and what they wanted to do. Kill Rinoa? He didn’t really understand the theory only that three people would die in order for their plan to take place.
He stared at the ceiling- invariably his thoughts involved Rinoa- but he tried to remember the good memories rather than the thought of her dying soon.
Hyne, I can’t stand this. He shifted on the bed and sighed, the balcony- where they had kissed. Afterwards the mock argument they had about whether they should kiss in public. They had both won; he didn’t have to dance when she wanted to so long as he kissed her when she wanted to.
But had they really experienced much of a relationship for the short while they had been together? He guessed it wasn’t conventional to love your first partner in your very first relationship but considering all that had happened he felt it should be more.
But he wasn’t near her, everything had happened so quickly that he had barely time to think. He was in a relationship for the first time in his life, he had just finished the most difficult mission he was ever likely to face and to top it all he found out he was related to Laguna- that wasn’t something he wanted to deal with. He had tried to forget but it wasn’t working.
It was his natural reaction; he had long ago learnt that he preferred things to stay the same. That was another difference between them- Laguna thrived on change while Squall felt SeeD provided enough risk without fixing what wasn’t broken.
But his mind drifted back to Rinoa- making it a resolution that Laguna would not be in his head in this situation. He had not paid for what he had done and until he had Squall would not forgive him. He banged his fist on the wall- Laguna was still in his head. He had to stop this now.
Rinoa was at risk though. He was afraid- the scientist’s reasons for planning to kill him were insufficient and Squall was beginning to believe that this carefully organised group weren’t so organised after all. Just a group of rejected soldiers from the Galbadian army who wanted to kill and start wars. Tehn himself seemed to want to make a name for himself. A group like that were extremely dangerous and unpredictable.
Squall saw the guard who was guarding his cell mutter some obscene words and pushing a tray of the terrible food through the door. Squall had seen it earlier, but it had been old and the smell was gone, now it came back in full force. Explaining why the guard had muttered, it reeked of ingredients that had been wrongly mixed together.
“Are you trying to poison me?” He murmured, the guard who had surprisingly sharp hearing looked inside the cell.
“What’s the matter with you?” He called, he had a loud voice too and Squall felt the sound echo off the walls, making his head ache further. But he wanted to get rid of the food as quickly as possible.
“That stuff.” He said, surprisingly finding he was enjoying the prospect of an argument. It was better than doing nothing. “It’s not fit for you to eat, and I’m certainly not going to eat it.” He almost smiled, but as always he caught himself just before he did. The guard’s face was a picture.
“I swear if we weren’t forbidden to injure you until the sorceress gets here I’d…” Squall did not reply with the expected ‘what?’ as he was already bored. The guard turned his attention back to the corridors and Squall turned his attention back to the ceiling.
If I could only get out of here- everything would be okay. But it wouldn’t would it? He considered the matter, if he was alone and Ellone was not involved he would have a higher chance. But the current situation could not be changed and he had to hope that Garden had noticed and was searching for him. He had left in the middle of a world peace treaty. With no one to vouch for them Esthar was in a dangerous position.
He sat up; this might be about the sorceress and trying to help the world according to the soldiers. But if they were trying to help the world why were they starting a potential war? Because if the situation looked desperate there would be no better time to strike than when the enemy was missing it’s leader.
Somewhere the reasoning behind the organisation had been corrupted. Either way, there would be no happy outcome- war or Rinoa’s death. Squall sat absorbed by the horror or either choice.
The guard outside watched the prisoner, trying to remember what he had said that might have induced the effect of transfixing Squall into the statue like state he was in.
Quistis looked at the reports. She had always believed in the power of science and didn’t understand why the headmaster had allowed Selphie to head the mission to search all over Centra for clues rather than trusting the satellites to take geographical surveys. They had turned out some useful information.
Xu was looking over Quistis’ shoulder at the findings. “That looks suspicious doesn’t it?” Quistis turned around and agreed.
“Someone’s been excavating here.” Sitting down at the chair of her desk again she continued to examine them. “It stands out because there are supposed to be caves underground.”
Xu smiled, “That’s why Selphie couldn’t see anything.”
“I don’t know Xu.” Quistis allowed herself to voice the doubts about the competence of SeeD. “We’ve been making stabs in the dark since the beginning. I don’t know how we managed to find anything at all.” Xu took a deep breath, evidently the reason she came in was going to be revealed now.
“Laguna wants to know if you found anything. That’s why I came here now. I didn’t want to interrupt your work.” Quistis saw Xu making the involuntary glance to her desk piled with paperwork. Quistis felt a little embarrassed at how behind she was becoming. She had once been on top of all her paperwork.
“Tell him we might have found a possible location of the base, but first tell Selphie to check the coordinates discreetly. We don’t need them finding out that we know where they are.” Xu nodded, saluted and left.
Quistis never felt comfortable when she was saluted and tried to busy herself in her reports. But peace did not last long and in barged Laguna, obviously in a temper, something Quistis couldn’t recall seeing even in his younger self when Ellone had been sending everyone into the past.
“Is something wrong President?” She addressed him formally despite his anything but formal appearance. He seemed unnerved by the title and lost some of his stride. Quistis felt almost sorry for him, he was not someone who could stay mad for long by the looks of it.
“Er- yeah, I wanted to know what was that you tried to pass as information on Ellone and Squall yet for.” He paused, “I mean don’t you lot think I should have a bit of information too?” He folded his arms across his chest- he was accusing her.
“You were told not no expect too much good news right?” Laguna nodded. “And you get your hopes up easily, if we told you everything you’d get carried away and are disappointed again. We’re trying to avoid that.”
“Don’t act like I’m that naïve Quistis. I’ve lived a lot longer than you.” Laguna looked stressed, the worrying about Ellone was getting to him, Quistis tried to ascertain whether Squall’s capture worried him too. But it was difficult to tell from a face. Anyway, she guessed she shouldn’t be getting involved. Or at least until the prospect of war died down, the politicians had not trusted her and were demanding the old representative. But what could she tell him? There were no words that could make the situation easier.
She rose from the chair and directed her eyes at his to emphasize that she was telling the truth. “Laguna, we have possible coordinates, Selphie is checking them now and when we receive a report from her, if it proves to be where they’ve taken Squall and Ellone we will send SeeDs in.”
Laguna was going to say something, but he never got the chance as Xu came marching into the room in a hurry, she saluted hastily and repeated what she had been told.
“Selphie believes it is the base Commander, there have been sightings of Esthar technicians and Galbadian soldiers at the coordinates you gave.” She awaited orders.
Quistis could barely believe it. That the coordinates could actually be the location they were looking for- such a stab in the dark- was so unexpected that she couldn’t conceal her surprise for a moment. When she regained her composure she replied. “Tell Selphie to return here and pick up the SeeDs who will be going on this mission as soon as possible. We need to resolve this before war breaks out.”
“Yes Commander.” Xu answered and left the room again. Quitis glanced at Laguna, he was getting a glimmer of hope in his eyes that Quistis could hardly tell him to lose, and she felt it herself. Maybe finally since Squall had vanished things would start to work out.
“Woo hoo!” Selphie was zooming toward Garden which was still at FH. She loved flying, the feeling of being in the air and not having to wait for someone to get out of the way. The sky was clear, and hers. She could go wherever she wanted- plus, it was every child’s dream to fly, and here she was living it and having to share it with no one.
Well, Irvine didn’t count. He was standing next to her and calling out things like ‘go Selphie!’ which she didn’t really mind. She felt happy despite the current situation. Ellone and Squall missing and in potential danger as hostages but right now there was no point in worrying.
Having just received Quistis’ message she was flying to pick up the SeeDs. There was more at stake than just their friend’s lives; there would be war if Laguna couldn’t return to the conference for peace talks. And that was something most citizens wanted to avoid.
She flew past a light cloud, wistfully looking out of the window for a second; women were able to multi-task but the ability didn’t extend to being able to pilot the Ragnarok and watch the clouds as she went. She could give up control to Irvine but that would mean relinquishing control of the Ragnarok and anyway, she never trusted anyone else to fly her airship.
“Watch out Selphie!” Irvine cried out, Selphie saw where he was pointing to and pulled the Ragnarok higher so it flew steeply over the mountain they had come close to colliding with. Selphie saw Irvine was covering his face and snorted in derision at his cowardice.
“Come on Irvy, I wouldn’t let us crash. You know that!” She didn’t turn her head to watch him, so she didn’t know what face he just pulled. He had better hope I never find out what it was. Smiling sweetly she caused the Ragnarok to perform a series of astonishing spins through the air, pulling up when the Ragnarok came to close to the ground. When the Ragnarok turned steeply to the right- her doing, Irvine cried out and slid from his position on the right of her seat and crashed into the side wall.
“Selphie watch what you’re doing!” He cried out, picking himself off the floor as the Ragnarok straightened and continued its course to FH. He had landed in a heap and his extra height made the tangle more complicated. He staggered up from the floor and sat down in the seat next to her, careful to put on a seat belt to avoid a repeat. Selphie took a quick look at him and saw his cheeks were red with embarrassment.
“Serve you right.” Selphie said, and then she laughed. “Did you scream back there?”
“No!” Irvine felt compelled to defend himself, “What was that for anyway?”
“Oh, just because I thought you deserved it.” Selphie answered easily, attempting to give herself an air of mystery. “Why would I think you deserve it Irvine?”
“Because- wait, ohhhh, I get it.” He undid his seatbelt to turn around and face her.
“Watch out, I might do a 180 degree turn this time.”
Irvine frowned, not sure whether she had the maths right but decided to ignore it. “You’re still mad about the Post-Ultimecia party.” That was what the celebration was now called, it had been invented some time after the party and now it stuck, because of what the party had meant it was remembered now by everyone. Students kept referring to it because it was the most eventful party they would probably have to remember.
“Well yeah I’m still mad!” She could hear no remorse in his tone. “You flirted with like- every woman there! Do you know how embarrassing it is to be associated with a male flirt?” Her face reddened as she realised what it sounded like, and Irvine picked up on it as well.
“You’re jealous.” His face wore an unbearably smug expression and it made her wish she could crash the Ragnarok that second.
“I am not! Why on earth would I be jealous? I’m just looking out for the female population that’s all.”
“They don’t need protecting Selphie I’m all yours if you want me to be.” He sat sideways in the co-pilot seat and tipped his hat at her. “You only need to say.”
He fell for the second time that day, as they had reached FH Selphie used it as an excuse to land with a steep dive, avoiding crashing it by inches. A lot of FH citizens had run for cover, Selphie undid her own seatbelt and turned to leave the cockpit. “I told you to do up your seatbelt didn’t I Irvy?” She said, her anger gone now and amusement taking its place. Irvine untangled himself again and followed her outside down the ramp to where Quistis was, a few groups of SeeDs waiting to board the Ragnarok, Quistis ready to lead them.
Now they were here Selphie was already starting to miss the power of being in charge. She couldn’t command Irvine to stop pestering her, but then again she considered- he hadn’t listened before so maybe it wouldn’t be all that different.
Quistis looked stressed; Laguna was waiting outside to see the troops off. Selphie gave her report to Quistis who nodded and gave the order to board the Ragnarok.
“Remember everyone, we aren’t just rescuing hostages, we’re trying to prevent a war. This mission is extremely important, do your best and there can be nothing more to ask of you all.” She nodded. The troops began boarding the Ragnarok and Selphie watched the SeeDs walk calmly file by file.
Zell and Rinoa waited their turn and Selphie thought it a cause for concern. “Is it a good idea to let Rinoa come?” She whispered to Irvine. He shrugged.
“Her magic could really help us on this mission.” Selphie watched, the unease in her mind growing. But ignoring the thought she joined the rest of them in boarding the airship.
“You know, we don’t really have a plan do we Irvy?”
“We’ll be fine Sephie.” He spun the gun in his hand. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.” A reply which earned him a smack round the head. “What was that for?”
“Keep your attention on the mission.”
He frowned and but it soon vanished. They were boarding the Ragnarok and the same feeling of nervousness as they considered what was at stake. Two lives, many more if war was announced, and their own.
It was a lot to risk.
Rinoa was trying to work things out in her head. She looked at the SeeDs milling around her and marvelled again how much effort Laguna had gone to save Squall and Ellone- from what she didn’t understand. Her instincts were saying something wasn’t right about the situation and not for the first time since she had boarded the Ragnarok she wondered whether going along was a good idea after all.
Her fears were based on a number of reasons and the fact that everyone had been against her joining in the mission so far only added to the worry. But however much she hated it she had to admit herself that she found it difficult to fight without Squall.
Her powers had developed and she could confidently defeat any monster that Balamb Garden had to offer in the training centre. But she usually went with Squall so she didn’t feel the small amount of nervousness she usually felt when she fought alone. It was a tiny self doubt that she could not dispel and even as a Sorceress she could not get over it.
But she wasn’t alone here. She had her friends around her and they were supporting her even if she wasn’t a SeeD. They were real friends and after all she had been through with them and Squall she seriously felt it was a relationship that would withstand decades.
She glanced around. Such a short while ago- a few days in fact- she had been at Garden. Her fears about her powers had manifested themselves once more and she had managed to distil fear or doubt into Squall when he had visited the Quad.
It felt like ages ago, days without his irritation at her attempts to get him to talk. Days without trying to persuade him to dance with her. Days of not trying to get him to socialise with his friends.
She twisted her hands in her hair in frustration, I accuse him of being too serious- what have I been like since we fought Ultimecia? Her self doubt was still there, Edea had told her that it would take a while to adjust to the powers. But it was harder to deal with when she had just entered a relationship with someone. Even her ‘relationship’ with Seifer hadn’t been this difficult.
She looked out of the window to gain some idea when they would be nearing Centra. To her surprise she realised they were already there, Selphie was flying the Ragnarok over the mottled brown green that was the remains of the continent which was once covered with cities and green fertile soil.
Rinoa’s mind took a quick history lesson and she remembered some fragments of her old lessons in a private school in Galbadia. Her teacher had read some published diaries of the survivors who had survived the lunar cry somehow so long ago. The monsters had cleared the land of all life excluding some tough trees that survived in such conditions. The site of the old city was visible still and Rinoa saw this as the Ragnarok glided across the continent.
She felt more than a little pity for the ghosts of the civilians who had once lived there. They had had their own language but the few people who had made it off the continent had to surrender their own language and culture to live in Dollet. And so had many other cultures who had been invaded. Like Timber.
Her insides literally squirmed at the thought. How long had it been since she had been fighting against her father’s army along with Zone and Watts. When did she give up her promise that she would liberate Timber with them? She had all but completely forgotten her promise to her old friends.
The GFs. When this was over she would give Squall an order, he would stop junctioning the GFs. They were damaging her own memory and she had only used them for a fraction of the time he had. He had been using them his whole life.
Quistis was waiting outside the door, and giving orders for everyone to get moving toward the exit, they were almost there. Rinoa took a deep breath just before Quistis walked in, her stomach felt as though she hadn’t eaten in days.
“Are we ready to land?” She asked the blonde haired woman who opened her mouth to repeat an order that she was sick of saying. Quistis closed her mouth and nodded. Rinoa left her seat and began to head out of the door. Her legs were starting to feel unsteady, she didn’t know what for, she was nervous but she could face the danger. The Ultimecia battle had held more at stake.
But that battle she had fought alongside Squall. With the victims possibly at risk here she was personally involved and that made it so much harder than it had ever been in time compression.
Watching Quistis jog to catch up to her she walked slower, making her mind up to get to know Quistis after the danger. Quistis was someone she didn’t know very well and it would be nice if she did seeing as Quistis was one of Squalls friends.
She held her breath as the SeeDs who were wearing camouflage uniforms returned from the coordinates given to them by Quistis. They evidently agreed and Quistis smiled at Rinoa who had became suddenly aware of the danger and turned pale.
“We move, we split up into three teams, you know the details of each team as you’ve been assigned positions already. The team who are going to try to rescue the prisoners will be going in behind us, when we have distracted them enough so they can sneak in. Are there any questions?” The whole group of SeeDs solemnly shook their heads.
Rinoa knew she was on the team who were going to help Squall and Ellone escape and almost laughed at the simultaneous shaking of heads. At the same time it was sad that they acted so similarly, like machines. Cid didn’t train them as well as he thought he did. He didn’t want machines for SeeDs. She could remember that from a conversation with Edea about the origins of Garden once.
The team of SeeDs went in, the first- the largest group of SeeDs ran into the small, new building that was merely a way of heading underground without leaving a trapdoor in the middle of the continent for anyone to see from the air. The guards were quickly overwhelmed by the attacking SeeDs and backup was called for.
But that was all part of the plan, Rinoa watched frightened from the Ragnarok which was too large not to be noticed. Some of the soldiers who swarmed out of the ground ran towards the airship, the plan was to draw the soldiers out of the ground and then let the rescue team infiltrate the caves without so many odds stacked against them.
“Come on,” Selphie murmured savagely to the poorly organised team mixed up of Estharian and Galbadian unformed soldiers. Rinoa looked alarmed at Selphie, the side of her she never usually saw.
In fact it was with all of them, Zell, Quistis, Irvine as well as Selphie had determined looks on their faces. She and the orphanage gang made up the rescue party. They were behaving like SeeDs when they were out for vengeance. That Squall needed to be helped as well as Ellone was foremost on their minds, but it was startling to see their expressions. Year’s worth of training had created these people. What sort of people were they when they were angry?
“When do we go Quistis?” Rinoa asked, she watched Quistis’ face settle into a relaxed expression. The soldiers could not be seen anymore, they were closer to the entrance of the Ragnarok than ever. The worst thing to happen would be to be backed into a corner. Which they would be if the soldiers come any closer to the ship’s entrance.
“Now.” Quistis said quietly. They swiftly headed down to the ramp; Rinoa watched the SeeDs in fascination as they moved into single file and headed to meet the soldiers. Their calm organised behaviour contrasted immediately with the opponents. They had been untrained to fight as a group; they had belonged to two different armies.
That was why they had no chance against a group of highly trained SeeDs and a Sorceress. Rinoa nearly flinched at the thought and forced herself to concentrate on the opponents. They only had a small number of people heading to the Ragnarok and Rinoa found it was easy to cast a thunder spell on the remainder of the soldiers who had not been knocked out by the others.
The spell struck the soldiers as soon as she cried ‘thunder’ they slumped to the ground. Their energy gone for the time being.
“Let’s go.” Quistis yelled above the din of shouts and cries of falling soldiers, the SeeDs had the advantage. The memory of their escape form prison kept Rinoa from thinking about the odds of being able to help Squall. They had escaped from the top security prison in Galbadia alive and they could get out of this situation alive.
They ran toward the cluster of buildings, Rinoa resisted the strange urge to send her arms out as though she were flying. The sheer sense of unreality surprised her- she was out to save her boyfriend and Ellone and she wanted to revert to old games of her childhood. Looking at her friends for support they made their way to the cells where they thought Squall and Ellone would be.
Tehn was no fool. As soon as he realised he was being attacked he ordered a group of soldiers stay behind, they were more specially trained than the ones who were out doing the fighting and they could protect him far better than the ones out fighting at the present.
He looked toward a scientist who was as cowardly as most Esthar scientists were, he was muttering nervous sentences and running his hands through his hair. Classic signs of desperation- well, they were in trouble.
Not yet. I will finish the plan. He turned to a pair of soldiers awaiting orders. “Fetch the two prisoners, the girl is the most important, we need her to test out the theory, if that fails we need to seal her once she receives the powers.” The soldiers saluted and left the room breaking into a run.
Tehn turned to the doors. There was no way out now, he was sealed in and the SeeDs were approaching, he didn’t want to die but the hope that he would finish the experiment; he wanted to know what would happen once Ellone inherited the powers. If he could prove the power was a sentient life force that needed a host he would be famous. Plus it would pave the way for the rest of the plan.
Ellone could move minds across time. She could transfer intelligence across time, if that was possible what if she could transfer it into some container which could hold the ‘power’. The world would be rid of the sorceress and the last knight as well, Almasy may have believed himself to be the sorceress’ knight but he was a puppet.
Tehn smiled, he knew more about the legends than anyone knew. The knight was only a knight if he and the sorceress loved each other and that was why he was counting on Rinoa’s wanting to bargain with him for the life of her knight.
There were sounds of a struggle outside in the corridor, two shots were released and someone was running away, Tehn was afraid to ask as he saw the guards dragging Ellone into the room. But it was easy enough to guess.
“You let him go!” he said, shaking with fury at their incompetence. “We needed him to bargain with the sorceress! How do you think she’ll agree to the terms now?” The guard looked worried.
“He wasn’t going-” He started, but Tehn signalled to him to be silent. He was thinking and pacing when the other guard spoke, his hand firmly griping Ellone’s left arm.
“He was heading to the cells again. His friends are coming from the other direction.” He loosened his grip on Elle’s arm as he felt fear from the expression on Tehn’s face.
“We could bluff them sir.” The nervous scientist said quickly, “Rinoa won’t give her life if she knows he got away but if we tell her-” He too was cut off as Tehn shouted back in an angry voice fuelled by months of preparation gone wrong.
“We are not going to tell her she’ll die for this! Do you think she’ll agree to die? Even if she did there’s no way her friends would let her!”
He was quiet, the sound of falling guards sounded outside, Tehn watched the guards restrain Ellone who was squirming, desperate to shout out something. Her mouth was gagged however so she could only shake her head. Her eyes were wide with fear she hadn’t felt since she had been held hostage by Seifer’s friends. Laguna had made sure she was safe before. She never should have gone to explore the city.
“Not long now.” Tehn muttered.
Rinoa along with the other SeeDs ran towards the room where Tehn was. They had made it through the base easily enough. Selphie kept running ahead and checking the corridor ahead to see if it was clear. Irvine had followed her and assisted in shooting down any soldiers who dared to attack the SeeDs.
But as soon as they saw the signs which had been put up for navigation around the place they split into two groups. Zell and Selphie went to the cells to see if the prisoners were there. Quistis, Irvine and Rinoa headed to the main laboratory to see if the prisoners were there instead. By all accounts of soldiers pleading for their lives Tehn had left when the SeeDs had started invading.
Selphie and Zell headed towards the cells. The reason they were a smaller group was because the soldiers would most likely have left the cells when they needed to assist in the fight. It was good reasoning but Zell felt it seemed flawed somewhere.
They ran further down the maze of green corridors. Zell was actually surprised that nobody was stopping them to ask why they were there. The soldiers were occupied. They were losing the battle because many of them were young, barely trained and unorganised.
I wouldn’t like to be them, Zell decided. They were all idealistic people who didn’t know what they were fighting for; they were on a losing side and trusting in the wrong people. A sudden thought entered his mind as he followed Selphie who was running hell for leather down towards the cells. He considered the fact that they didn’t really know what they were fighting for either, besides knowing their friend was in trouble. Ellone was too though and she needed help. Unlike Squall she wasn’t trained to deal with such a situation.
Confusion swirled in his thoughts as they were running nearer and nearer to their intended destination. The temperature was starting to drop and Zell found his arms were becoming cold. “Selphie?” He called out, stopping for a second. In which time Selphie had nearly gone out of sight around a corner.
She looked at him, confusion on her face. “What’s the matter Zell, are we going the wrong way?” She looked at a nearby map and judged they were heading in the right direction. So now she couldn’t understand why they had stopped.
Zell answered the unspoken question. “I wondered if you knew why we’re fighting.”
“Does that matter?” Selphie was getting the shadow of a rare frown on her face. But whatever thoughts she was having she pushed them aside. “We need to help Squall and sis!”
“Yeah,” Zell agreed, “But I have a funny feeling something is going on here and we need to get to the bottom of it.”
Selphie shrugged, her light brown hair bounced as she did so. It amazed Zell that she could stand it. “We should go and find Squall and sis.”
Zell had to agree again. There was no answer she could give and nobody else could either. “Yeah, let’s go now.” He began running to the cells again. Selphie watched him, bemused by his sudden decision. She soon realised where he was going and started running faster than she had before to catch up.
“How long have we been running?” Zell asked- leaning against a wall for support, the posters on the walls were misleading. It turned out that they were totally unreliable and they had been running around for ages in a circle.
Selphie glanced at the watch on her wrist which she had taken to wearing all the time. “Ten minutes.” She said, gasping for air, the same as Zell. She suddenly laughed. It was an unusual sound in the middle of a quiet corridor.
Zell looked at her, “What’s so funny?” Selphie wiped tears from her eyes and straightened.
“We’re SeeDs,” She answered, “And we get tired from ten minutes running. I’m ashamed!” She started laughing even harder. Zell felt the accusation keenly and felt embarrassed. It was true, but the reason they were tired was because they had been running flat out.
They had also made the mistake of trusting the maps. They were evidently to fool intruders and the SeeDs had been fooled spectacularly, they had run flat out in full circle trying to find the prisoners.
But while Selphie could have a sense of humour at a time like this, Zell couldn’t. He felt time was going to waste and he needed to back up the others because while they were split up the other team was at risk.
Zell looked around the corner; there were no guards anymore to get information out of. They were being overwhelmed above by the highly trained SeeDs. Every circumstance said this should have been an easy mission. He suddenly jumped.
Selphie had screamed- in a split second someone had run straight into her. They knocked her over easily as she was fairly short and thin, she fell to the floor with the attacker falling clumsily onto her. He had evidently expected some resistance.
But Zell was a martial artist. He pulled up the attacker from behind, and let him go by pushing him away from Selphie. He drew back his arm and punched straight into the attacker’s ribs, stepping forward as he did so to put force into the punch and to extend his reach.
The punch landed exactly where it was intended to, the man had fallen face forward onto the floor struggling to breathe, obviously in pain.
Selphie disentangled her own legs. She had kept her face on the floor to keep herself out of harm. Now she was safe she looked at the guy who had knocked her over. Zell turned him over to look at him and to demand reasons for his actions. But he stopped.
“Squall!” Zell practically shouted, one thing registering in his mind, I punched my friend. I punched a fellow SeeD. He couldn’t believe it. Most of all he wondered why he hadn’t recognised him.
“Squall what happened to you?” Selphie had spoken. Squall had lost weight somehow and his hair was tangled as though someone had dragged him by his hair. His skin was pale but otherwise he was still the same Squall he remembered.
“Why did you knock me over?” Selphie demanded. Squall struggled to answer; the wind had been completely knocked out of him by the punch Zell had delivered.
“I… I thought you were someone else…” He wheezed slightly. But it was a good sign, his breathing was becoming more even and he was recovering slightly. “Why are you here? Where’s everyone else?”
It struck Zell that Squall was talking more to him than he had since their mission some months ago. But he had to answer; maybe Squall could explain what was happening. “We’re all here; there are some more SeeDs outside fighting those soldiers. We don’t really know any more than some scientist guys from Esthar are involved.”
“Rinoa!” Squall shot up painfully from the floor. “She’s in trouble we need to help her!”
“Easy Squall, we came to find you and sis. Where is she?”
Squall struggled to get up. “She isn’t here, Tehn has her.” He sat up, and watched Zell, who was trying to figure out something.
“I don’t get it Squall, what are you worried about Rinoa for? She came with us to help you.”
“She what!” Squall demanded, it was a nightmare come true for him. It wasn’t really a question; he knew why Rinoa would come. It was just the sort of thing she would do. She had acted on impulse before and didn’t know why it was dangerous to come now.
“What’s the matter?” Selphie asked. She was beginning to feel very confused.
Squall answered wildly. “If Tehn finds her he’ll kill her and Ellone as well we have to stop him!” The news came as a shock to Selphie and Zell, Zell hadn’t been wrong in thinking that something was wrong. But on such a scale that could possibly result in death of two people he knew and loved like his family.
“Who’s Tehn?” Zell wanted to know before they started running to help their friends. Why don’t I care why they’re doing this? He somehow knew why, the sooner they got there and stopped it the more likely they would have that they could ask ‘why?’ later.
“Tehn’s the head scientist; he’s trying to carry out some experiment that gets rid of the sorceress powers. But it means Rinoa and Ellone would have to die, and it’s not guaranteed to work.”
Zell had been letting his mind wander, after asking Squall whether he felt better and getting silence in reply he followed the new leader of his team to the direction the others had been in. They were running, because they knew the risk of this mission had magnified several times. They needed to be there before Rinoa agreed to some bargain.
Rinoa walked into the room where Tehn and Ellone were, Tehn was waiting for them, Rinoa glanced in the direction of Ellone who shook her head desperately for some reason. Rinoa didn’t understand.
“Ah, Sorceress Rinoa, I expected you to find us sooner.” Tehn walked forward a little and stopped when he saw Irvine and Quistis pulling out their weapons. The expression on his face changed. “I don’t think that would be a good idea if you value her life as much as I think you do.”
Rinoa looked at the others; they were dismayed she could see. But then they would be, their ‘sister’ was being held hostage for something- she didn’t know what. The best she could do was to try to find out what he wanted.
She felt nervous, in the middle of a room on a virtually deserted continent. She was essentially alone, there was no Squall to decide for her and sort out any mistakes if the need arose. She was bargaining for the life of someone really close to Squall and her friends. She had to make her own decision one that would have consequences.
She was a sorceress wasn’t she? Surely she could do something. But really it was a question of what. Her powers were still new to her and she didn’t know of any spell accurate enough to hit the guards and not Ellone.
She didn’t know what to do.
She needed Squall again. Where was he? A sudden stab of fear made her feel almost sick. He wasn’t here; he had been kidnapped hadn’t he. What if he hadn’t been captured by these people? If he hadn’t Squall was still not safe.
“Is Squall here?” She asked, forcing her voice to stay still despite her fear about Squall and the anger that her friends were letting her talk on her own. Why weren’t they helping her?
“Squall is here.” Tehn said. Quistis spoke- seeming to have read Rinoa’s mind. Rinoa didn’t really feel very relieved.
“Where is he then?” Rinoa listened and considered the statement, it was a fair question. If they had Squall they would have two hostages instead of one.
Tehn’s expression changed, Rinoa would not be able to tell normally but her Sorceress powers gave her intuition into what people felt sometimes. He was trying to hide something. And it was taking all of his self control to not let his face show it.
“You let him go…” Rinoa said, the realisation dawning on her, not really understanding where it had come from. Quistis and Irvine were surprised.
“You have a choice,” He said, avoiding answering their question. “Save her life by staying behind when they go or let her die.” He indicated to Ellone.
“And what happens to Rinoa?” Irvine replied. “Does she die instead?” He looked at Ellone for a second to let her know he was sorry. She shook her head, she couldn’t wipe the tears out of her eyes so she blinked furiously instead.
“She stays for a while we study her powers.” Tehn answered quickly. “Then she returns to Garden safe and we both end up getting what we want.” Ellone struggled at this, her muffled cry more than letting the SeeDs and Rinoa know Tehn was lying.
“Keep her quiet!” Then ordered the soldiers and they pulled the gag tighter and pulled her further back into the room. “This is your last chance Rinoa.” He walked across the room, pulling something out of the drawer. Rinoa prepared a spell to cast on Tehn if the need arose.
She looked around the room, scanning it in a second, if she cast the spell and killed Tehn Ellone might be killed as well. The mission might already be over because Squall might be dead already.
She stopped believing that quickly. If Squall was dead she would know. She didn’t know how she would but she would know. They had been together through so much. So much that had been worse than this- she hoped it would stay that way.
The light was dim so the back of the room was shaded. The figures creeping around at the back of the room were intent on remaining unseen, two people waited behind the soldiers. Tehn pulled out a small, discreet gun and there was the sound of the safety lock being turned off.
Quistis tried to stop him. The gun was let off however. Fortunately he was a bad aim because he only shot her shoulder. But it was still painful and she winced as her shoulder began to bleed.
Rinoa was ready to release the spell and cast it on the other soldiers who were armed. Tehn was determined his plan would work. He made his way toward her. Irvine aimed his gun but Tehn had already run across the room to Rinoa. Ellone had been released when Selphie and Zell had knocked the soldiers out moments before.
Joining them Squall left the safety of the shadows to help her. He had been one of the people at the back of the room. Tehn hadn’t seen him and still held the barrel of the gun to her neck.
Tehn stared in hatred at Rinoa. “You think you’re wonderful and kind don’t you?” He grabbed her arm, her eyes met Squall’s she sent a silent plea to him through her eyes, He shook his head, he couldn’t do nothing.
Tehn continued. “You aren’t though; you’ll act like the rest of them. They all start off with good intentions and then power corrupts them.” He glanced at Squall who was trying to inch quietly toward them. “Are you paying attention? The sorceress always becomes corrupted. You’re a fool for becoming her knight.” He was going to do it; he was going to accomplish his plan. Even if he died he would be acting on the best interest of the world. With no sorceress there would be no more sorceress wars. Countless lives would be saved in the process.
Rinoa didn’t know Squall could move so fast. He moved while Tehn contemplated what his actions would mean. He repeated what he had done to Selphie earlier with more force, knocking the scientist over and picking himself up to get himself and Rinoa out of the way.
Tehn still had the gun, he pulled it straight for a clear target, the SeeDs were watching as if in slow motion. Squall making sure Rinoa was safely out of the way. His duty was to make sure she was safe as a Knight; neither of them had considered what it would cost. Squall had meant to check that Tehn had no gun but his duty to ensure she was out of the way prevented him from doing so.
It was a mistake not to do so.
Tehn pulled the trigger, hoping to shoot Rinoa; he was a bad aim from a distance. But Squall was in the way. Squall lurched forward in pain as the bullet went into his back. Tehn felt the recoil of the gun as Squall fell. Rinoa watched horrified; her expression was that of complete and utter shock- Squall looked… dead. But he couldn’t be could he? He can’t be.
But she saw Tehn, lying on the floor picking himself up, she turned to look at Squall who was surrounded by his friends- Irvine was shaking his head and amid her grief something inside her snapped.
It was anger. She wouldn’t want another knight. She only needed Squall; this would be the only way. Never mind the complications. Inside herself her power stirred. It was real power this time, fuelled by emotion, and the powerful desire to be wherever Squall would be in a short time-he was dying.
“Rinoa?” Selphie looked up and saw her friend was glowing. It actually made her eyes hurt and she turned them away. Wings spread out of Rinoa’s back and the light grew brighter but Tehn would be on the receiving end of the spell. He would feel worse than her soon.
Emotions fuelled the spell; fear and self doubt inside her were triggered with grief and anger. She didn’t believe Squall could live; certainly nobody else could either judging by the looks on their faces. Her anger finally released the spell onto Tehn.
The light filled the room and spread into the of the corridors. But it only injured the one Rinoa wanted to hurt. It was spreading everywhere and Ellone couldn’t understand it. But it was simple to understand in truth had any of them considered it.
Rinoa was letting go. Letting go of all the unwanted emotions she had had to deal with since becoming a sorceress- fear, loneliness, and worry that her powers would change her. Not all change was a bad thing. She finally realised that in the closing moments of the spell.
The spell was drawing to an end. The light dimmed, it returned to her. Her friends watched her. She felt so tired, more tired than she had ever been in her whole life. It was so deep that she collapsed onto the floor.
Irvine was torn between Squall and Rinoa. A check revealed Rinoa was not breathing and Squall’s pulse was becoming weaker. Selphie was pouring magic curaga spells into Rinoa. “It’s not working!” She said urgently. Zell shook his head.
Ellone waited near the door, there were people marching up the corridor. She looked up and her heart jumped in fear as she saw Estharian soldiers- so many of them, she and the others were outnumbered. “No,” She murmured.
She saw someone she recognised however- they weren’t the enemy. But it was too late. Far too late, if they had got here sooner Squall and Rinoa would be okay. It was alright to cry she decided as she let herself fall to the floor. There was no hope now.
Rinoa watched the sunset over the horizon of Esthar. It was odd how she felt a part of her life was coming to an end. In one way it was. Squall and she would have to start looking for somewhere else to live soon.
Maybe the recent events had changed their priorities. Squall had been shot and she had cast a spell that had had some effect on her powers. They seemed dormant. She couldn’t explain it, understand it and as her mind had been filled with anger and grief she couldn’t explain what had happened when she cast the spell.
She was now familiar with the theory about the sorceress powers being conscious. Well she wasn’t sure she believed it. But then again she wasn’t sure that she would like to believe it. But it fitted in with the legends of Hyne, along with the story of Hyne which she had heard in her childhood.
She had nearly exhausted her powers when she had cast the spell. A little part of her formed the hypothesis that the power was really conscious and that maybe it had lost the battle of dominance over her mind.
And with that thought she wondered if that was why Adel had become corrupted, losing the battle. Rinoa had been fighting something after receiving her powers- she had thought it was fear. But strangely it was gone.
She cared most about the future now. When she began thinking about her powers it gave her a headache. She wanted to concentrate on whatever future she had now with Squall. She was nervous but excited too.
Laguna had brought medical facilities along with the boat which had understandably taken longer to arrive at Centra than the Ragnarok. Back in Esthar the doctors had treated herself and the more seriously injured Seeds after the battle.
The losses had been none for Garden. The casualties had been severe in a few cases but life could return to normal.
The treaties had gone again underway as soon as Squall had recovered. Rinoa laughed as she remembered the sheepish look on Quistis’ face when she explained he was expected at the peace talks the next evening.
Leaning against the rail she noticed there wasn’t much wind. Which was surprising considering how cold it was getting now, winter was setting in and it was considerably colder than any winters she had experienced.
She smiled again at the new idea she had come up with, persuade Squall to let them go to a warm country. Maybe somewhere down south. She liked the idea of learning another language.
Someone was walking behind her, it was a case of déjà vu switched around as she recognised squall. It was like the time when Squall had been wandering in the quad ages ago to get a bit of peace and quiet.
“Hello Squall.” She bit back a laugh; he was surprised she could tell. She could almost feel the emotion radiating off him. She gave him credit though; he continued on his path and slipped a pair of arms around her waist.
“Can’t sneak up on you can I?” He murmured into her hair, she being a little shorter than he was.
“I could sense you coming a mile off.” That was another thing, since the ‘battle’ she had fought with herself had left her feeling more focused and she was experiencing other powers. Such as the ability to sense her knight.
“Yeah well next time you won’t be so lucky.” It was amazing now that Squall could create small talk. Maybe it was from being around politicians for so long.
“It really has been a while hasn’t it?”
“Since we could talk.” She glanced at him, she was right; they hadn’t had much time to talk lately. His final duties before he could give up his position as commander had taken up some time. Then sorting things out with his father to whom he did owe something. He owed his life that he was now going to spend with Rinoa.
“I think I should mention something Rinoa.” Squall was trying to look embarrassed, but he wasn’t practiced in the art of acting and he failed badly. It actually seemed that he was trying not to laugh.
“What?” She asked while twisting her head up to look at him. It wasn’t a very good view of his face; she could only see his chin and his nose. She pulled her body out of his arms and he had to settle for looping an arm round her shoulders instead.
“I’ve got some ideas about where we should choose to go…” She started as they headed into the building as the wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping further.
Laguna was sitting at his desk pretending that he was working. If Kiros or Ward had been there they would have known it was really an excuse to think. This was in itself uncharacteristic behaviour. He never liked to consider things because he had so much faith in his ability to act on impulse and everything turn out fine.
It was strange but it was Squall who had caused the sudden character change. They had spent a long time talking about things, things Squall wanted to know about his mother.
But though they were at an uneasy truce now, things were definitely better. They could talk when they needed to; Squall’s awkwardness was caused by his discomfort at talking more than he felt he needed to. He had never been much of a conservationist but he was making extreme attempts to make their relationship easier.
It still hurt as it had always done to look at him and think of Raine. But that was something that could only be changed over time. Right now Laguna could only think of Squall as Raine’s baby. He didn’t want to think that way but it was how he had come to know of Squall and he only hoped it would be rectified as he came to know him.
But there would not be so much chance of that now.
Squall had quit SeeD. He had come to some decision that being a SeeD and the partner of the sorceress was nothing short of hypocritical. It was choosing between duty and who he loved that had caused so much conflict ever since meeting Rinoa.
Than again Laguna decided, it could all be guesswork on his part; he was assuming that this was a welcome change for Squall. There was nothing worse than closing a door totally; you were inevitably drawn toward it again when you could never walk back into your old life so he hoped it was a god thing.
He had Ellone still though and now Squall was on speaking terms with him. He couldn’t imagine what had made Squall change his mind about wanting to know his own family but it had been near death for Squall before Laguna had shown up with backup. Maybe Squall was re-assessing his priorities.
Ellone wandered in again, which could only be a good thing. He had Ellone near at hand, Squall would be leaving with Rinoa soon and he would have only remnants of his family left.
Not true, the optimistic side in him refused to give in to misery. Squall would have one settled home so it would be easier to contact him; he was going to have a longer life expectancy out of Garden. The missions considerably shortened that for a SeeD.
And there would be no animosity between them either. That was something to be grateful for.
Ellone was talking about Rinoa’s plans for her and Squall to live somewhere in a little town that was rarely visited by tourists. Laguna directed his attention to Ellone who was at that moment was describing Rinoa’s plans to persuade Squall to choose that place to go.
Rinoa would win no doubt.
Selphie and Irvine were doing well Quistis decided. Well, Selphie hadn’t said that she would go out with Irvine yet but it would happen. Irvine was winning her over and Zell would win over the library girl.
A few people had joked about her getting together with Seifer, but that was ridiculous. She had heard of the saying of opposites attract but not that opposite.
No, for now she was content with being on her own, she might meet someone in Garden, she was returning there next week. There was someone out there for her, she just didn’t know him yet that was all.
Meanwhile, Rinoa and Selphie were planning a shopping trip in Deling city soon and she had been invited. It would be one of her few chances of being a normal teenager, it was strange that sometimes she forgot her age and acted considerably older.
She had been promoted permanently; she had just coped with the workload last time and without her old work added to it she could cope. Xu was taking over her old position.
She walked along the halls of the hotel she was staying in, bumping into everyone she knew at the palace had been too much and she had to settle for her own room in a nearby hotel.
She glanced out of the window. Something wasn’t finished in this situation. She couldn’t describe it. An uneasy feeling crept into her heart and she had a feeling it was to do with Rinoa’s powers.
The scientist couldn’t be entirely wrong could he?
She thought of Squall and Rinoa, planning their new life elsewhere. What did the thoughts mean?
A comet burned in the sky, visible as a firework across the sky. She had learned that nothing in life was ever so simple as they looked. Maybe this was another case.
Laughter rang throughout the city; the surface of things looked fine. What was underneath was the problem.
She tried to shake off the unhappy thoughts. She was going to meet up with her friends and they would plan their immediate futures. What was waiting ahead for them all would have to wait.
She picked up her pace and reached her room just as another comet burned in the sky.