Taking a Tour
The next morning, Rinoa was pleasantly surprised to find Squall waiting
casually for her outsider her door, arms crossed over his chest and his
face averted in thought. He looked up at the sound of her door closing,
and reached out a gloved hand in greeting. He wasn't in his usual fur collared
jacket today. He was wearing his SeeD uniform, with the insignia for the
Garden Commander on his shoulder. One look at the set of his features told
Rinoa that she wasn't going to comment on his choice of dress.
"I thought we might take a walk today, if you don't mind," he said.
Rinoa smiled. "You're going to tell me about your ring?" she asked.
Perhaps it was something official, which might explain the uniform.
Squall made a brief, exasperated sound. "I can't tell you about my reasons,"
he said flatly, then raised his hand to forestall her protests. "I said,
I can't tell you." He paused. "Have you ever taken a good look around
"Not really," replied Rinoa. "The Library and the Cafeteria are mostly
where I go, to watch the students. I remember where the other places are,
He nodded, as if he'd been expecting that answer. "I can't tell you
why I named that ring Griever," he repeated, "but I think I can show you.
I don't know if you really want to know this."
Rinoa smiled gently, and rested her hand against his arm. "It has to
do with something important to you, doesn't it?"
After a moment, he gave a short nod.
"Then I want to know about it." She presented her arm, and said, "Shall
Squall took her arm, but his expression was serious. He didn't want
to be doing this.
* * * * *
The first stop, somewhat to Rinoa's surprise, was the Infirmary. Dr.
Kadowaki greeted them with a smile and a friendly hello.
"What brings you here?" she asked. "Did you get hurt in the Training
Center yesterday, Squall?"
He shook his head. "I'm fine," he said. "We're just taking a tour. Ok?"
Dr. Kadowaki sent Squall a sharp look, then glanced at Rinoa. "All right,
Commander," she said lightly. "I'll just be on my coffee break, if anyone
asks. Think you can hold the fort that long?"
There was a hint of gratitude in Squall's voice as he said, "Sure."
Rinoa looked from one to the other, lost. It felt like a request had been
made and granted - but what request? But then Dr. Kadowaki grabbed her
coat and bustled out, and Squall was heading for the back of the room.
There was a door there that said "Dr. Kadowaki." Quickly, Rinoa followed
- was he going to go through the Doctor's files?
He waited at the door for her. When she reached him, he said, "This
is the first thing. Remember," and opened the door.
It wasn't a doctor's office on the other side. Instead there was a very
large room, brightly lit and soundproofed, with heavy, durable padding
on the floor. All along the walls were beds, some of which were cribs.
Here and there were cadets in the uniform of the medical corps, tending
to the occupants. A few shot Rinoa a curious look and hesitated in what
they were doing, but all of them pretended not to see her after taking
a look at Squall.
The room was a huge nursery, filled with children ranging from infancy
to about five years old, doing a chaotic variety of different things.
And in one corner there were a group of children playing with Carbuncle,
and experimenting with its Ruby Light effect. Rinoa stared. Children no
older than nine years old - for that group looked older - and the Garden
had them playing with a GF? She turned to Squall, mouth open to ask him
Instead, he ushered her back out to the Infirmary proper, and shut the
door behind them.
"Why are they letting children play with GFs?" Rinoa demanded. "Garden
knows it causes memory loss!"
Squall's eyes looked very old as he replied, "You have answered your
own question, Rinoa."
So that was why, then. Garden wanted those children to remember nothing
of who they had been, or anything of their old lives. A clean slate, for
SeeD training to be engraved on. She wondered briefly how Irvine had managed
to slip through the net; the only one of her friends to have remembered
anything of his past at all. Thinking of that, she turned back to Squall
- who appeared to be waiting for her.
"Squall," she asked in the tones of someone who is pretty sure they're
not going to like the answer they're asking for, "Where did all those children
He paused before answering, but decided that this question didn't break
the boundaries of his promise. "Some are real orphans - abandoned by their
parents, or their parents are dead. Mostly, that's the older ones. The
younger ones are the children of SeeDs." She was not imagining the look
on Squall's face. He would rather be doing almost anything than telling
her about this. Then what he had said sunk in.
The children of SeeDs. Quistis had made SeeD by the age of 15,
and she'd seen no SeeD older than thirty, who were not members of the faculty.
And she seemed to remember that you had to make SeeD by the age of eighteen,
if you were going to. But there were dozens of babies in there, and dozens
of young children. Quickly, she scanned the stores of the Infirmary - nope.
No birth control anywhere. Was Garden trying to breed future SeeDs?
She had reached out unconsciously for Squall's hand while she was working
things out, the body-warmed soft leather somehow comforting. But it made
her wonder, all the same - if she stayed with Squall, would her own children
end up in that bright room, forgetting their lives and their parents as
they played with GFs?
She was silent as Squall led her out of the Infirmary. She had a multitude
of questions still to ask, but her mind was refusing to let her ask them
- afraid, perhaps, of the answers.
* * * * *
The next stop on the 'tour' was the Quad. The walk there had been completely
quiet; no students appeared to be willing to engage Squall in even the
minimum chitchat he'd usually put up with, and Rinoa was trying to think
ahead, to work out what new surprises might be in store for her. Would
every section of Garden hide such altering secrets?
Today was Sunday, so she hadn't been expecting the Quad to be holding
a class. Yet there one was; a group of about thirty cadets, aged five to
fifteen, all in loose fitting white outfits. Zell was at the front, leading
the class. He turned at the sound of Squall's boots on the Quad's paving
stones (for all the students were barefoot). Squall squeezed Rinoa's hand,
and indicated she should wait where she was. He went ahead alone to speak
She couldn't hear what was said, of course. But Zell's expression changed
from delight at seeing his friend to a look of concern, even worry, as
he looked over at Rinoa. She could tell that he wasn't certain Squall was
doing something wise. After a few more moments, he stood at attention and
nodded. Squall nodded back, then returned to Rinoa.
"What was that all about?" was the first thing she asked.
"Wait," Squall replied.
Sure enough, the moment Zell got back to the front of the class, he
took up a fighting stance and shouted, "All right, challenge! One of you
fights me, and if I kick his ass inside three minutes, the whole lot of
you are going on a full tilt run around the Garden! Now, who's up for it?"
The students argued back and forth for a few minutes, then one stepped
forward. He knew he couldn't beat Zell, Rinoa could see it in his face.
He was just going to offer challenge because apparently it had to be done.
She turned to Squall, to ask him to explain, only to find him watching
intently, noting everything about the student's stance.
The fight was over quickly, of course. Zell was the best fist fighter
and kick boxer in Garden - which was of course why he was leading a class
on it. In short order, the whole group were off and running on their assigned
course. As soon as the last one was out of the Quad, Squall led Rinoa onto
the main floor as if nothing had occurred.
"What is going on, Squall?" Rinoa demanded, confused. "What just happened?"
Squall didn't answer - just narrowed his eyes and glared at her. He
quickly walked to the far side of the Quad, where a low wall kept items
on the main floor from sliding off the Quad level and into the ocean. Once
there, he leaned back against it, arms folded across his chest, watching
her -- still looking annoyed.
Of course, thought Rinoa. He can't answer the question if
it breaks his promise. Which meant that there was another piece of
the puzzle here, that he was hoping she could see. That had to be why Zell
had taken his group out of the Quad; to give her time.
Squall was willing to provide clues that didn't involve speaking and
weren't overt. So Rinoa decided to begin looking near where he was standing.
It took her a few minutes to understand what Squall was trying to get across,
though - and in the meantime, his annoyed expression had changed to one
of amusement. Perhaps it was justified; the only odd thing she could find
was a panel in the wall he was leaning against that opened into a downward
"Is this what you wanted me to see?" she asked, indicating the chute.
To her vast relief, he nodded.
A chute? What could be so sinister about a chute? thought Rinoa.
Perhaps it's where it goes.
So she tried to examine it, opening the door and looking as far inside
as she could. The only thing she could see was a small ledge, no higher
than a quarter inch, along one side. When she threatened to overbalance
and fall in, however, Squall roughly yanked her out. When she would have
handed him a snappy remark for the handling, the look of terror that momentarily
passed across his face stopped her.
So. It's lethal. How can I work out what it does, if I can't look
inside and he can't tell me what's there?
But Squall had evidently come to the same conclusion. Still looking
a bit frighted - had she had that narrow an escape? - he walked to the
far side of the Quad, where the low wall met up with the exterior of the
Garden proper. Pressing a button that would be invisible at any distance
if you didn't know to look for it, a door opened.
Inside was a smallish closet space, stacked floor to ceiling with coffins.
Well, of course mercenaries die, thought Rinoa. Why would
Squall consider the method of burial to be a secret?
Unless there was something unusual in the method. Something people might
object to - like the nursery, raising the children of children.
Thinking of that, she took a closer look at the coffins. She noted that
they were really showpieces; plastic models embossed with the symbols of
Garden and SeeD. But the truly interesting thing about them was that none
of them had any foot-panels. Where the feet of the corpse would rest against
the coffin was only empty air. A Garden flag, or a SeeD flag, concealed
She checked the widths against the chute. Yes, every one of the coffins
would fit. A coffin would be placed in the chute, appear to slide all the
way down, but come up instead against the little ledge on the inside. Whereupon
the body would keep going...where?
Judging by the spooked look Squall had had, probably an incinerator.
No muss, no fuss. But that still didn't answer why Squall would show her
this in the first place. She couldn't imagine he'd find lack of earth-burial
a reason to get upset; it did at least count as burial, which was
more than many soldiers ever got. Rinoa tried to think the way Squall would
think, to work out what was wrong.
Maybe it wasn't what she was seeing, but what she was not seeing
that was important. SeeD were considered masters of misdirection. What
hadn't she seen, that she should have?
Then it hit her. "Squall," she asked. "Are the students of Gardens given
Squall gave her a small nod, a pleased look lurking in the back of his
eyes. "If the person's family requests it," was his only reply.
Except that the majority of SeeD and cadets were orphans, she remembered,
thinking back to the nursery. Even the children that were children of SeeDs
would count as orphans, as the use of GF eroded their memories of family.
Squall had even forgotten the existence of Ellone, the sister whose loss
had driven him to become SeeD in the first place, under the Lethe-like
influence of the GFs. So only the few SeeDs who had family outside Garden
would ever be given funerals. The rest - and here she finally understood
what bothered Squall - the rest would be forgotten. Worse than being
other people's memories, was to be forgotten as if you never were - as
if all that you had been counted for nothing. The only people likely to
remember a SeeD were that SeeD's partners - but only a fallen comrade's
family could request a funeral. A loophole that no one would think of or
question. She looked up at Squall. "There's more, isn't there?" she asked.
"Yes," he said. "But only one more thing today."
Rinoa blinked. "Why? There's probably time today to see everything,
the Garden isn't that big," she said.
"I'm going to have to answer to Garden for showing you what I have,"
he said, sounding sad, "promise or no. I'm showing you only as much as
you need to decide."
"You're the Commander of Garden," Rinoa said. "Doesn't that mean you
"Come on," said Squall, tugging on her hand. "You still have to see
one more thing."
Drat it, thought Rinoa. He's not going to answer me.
But to her surprise, he just continued around the Garden ring, and the
next stop was the Dormitory. Squall turned to her, and said, "This is it."
Oh, really. What about the Dormitory could be worthy of an oath of
silence? Ah, better not ask that, Rinoa thought to herself. I've
been bitten once by that question already today.
But this time it was easier, because she had the first two rooms to
draw on. It wasn't what was there, it was what was not there that
Squall wanted her to see. And with her thoughts fresh from the Infirmary
and Quad, she noted what was missing as soon as she thought to look for
it. Sure enough, something that by rights should have been there,
"No family quarters, right?" she said.
"Right," said Squall. "You know what happens, now."
"And what am I supposed to decide with this knowledge?" sighed Rinoa.
"You said you were giving me as much as I needed to decide. Decide what?"
"I have to go," said Squall, in a change of subject. "Will you be at
the Cafeteria tonight?"
"Squall," Rinoa pleaded. "What am I supposed to decide?"
He responded by taking one of her hands in his gloved ones, and pressing
her fingers closed over something. "The Cafeteria, tonight?" he whispered,
and left her standing at the door to the dormitory rooms.
When she opened her hand, she found that what Squall had given her was
a SeeD emblem.
Was she supposed to decide whether she wanted to become a SeeD?