On Earth as it is In Hell
by Caleb Nova
It is raining. Simple a statement to make, it would seem, but the embodiment of the scene that lies before us. You are standing on a pile of broken mortar, raindrops splashing and dribbling down the cracked and worn lines of what might have been a great structure. Before you can see the outline of a hulking shape, blotting out the sky for several hundred feet, what surely must have been a mighty monument, but fragile as any created by man. The broken girders frame a collapsed roof, sticking out at jagged angles towards the gray sky, looking for all the world like a mouth screaming in final agony. And all around you are the littered pieces of this destruction, what ever it may have been.
If you where to walk towards the monolith, as you grew closer you would see twisted walls and sloped floors covered in bricks, walling, shingle, glass, and blood. And if you pushed past these obstructions, you would reach the center, a hollow, burnt out gutted space seared by unimaginable fires. Laying next to you is a shattered object with something inscribed on it, words smeared by soot or shattered by ways unknown. You can decipher one or two, Library, Cafeteria, Quad. What happened here? What forces broke this place, turning it into the debris ridden skeleton of what it once was? To find out, we must go back seven years..........
"Why was SeeD made? Like any company SeeD is here to make money, Sorceress shit aside. We are the employers, you are the employees. So get back to work!"
-Unknown SeeD Instructor in response to student query
The Universe is uneasy. A complex concept to be sure, but as true a one as there ever was. It hangs in the dimension we call home, powered by an unknown psyche, a presence of order or creation. Encompassing all the matter we know of, the Universe is for all intents, infinite. Yet still, it hangs in balance, a fragile creation of some Great Design. On the surface, it is black and white, good and evil. But the line between the two is not always clear, and the truth not readily apparent.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Zell Dincht was a SeeD, 18 years old and at peace with life in general, or as much as one can be. Why shouldn't he be happy, pleased even? He had every right to be so. But somehow, at the back of his mind, like an itch he couldn't scratch, he felt something was not well. For the life of him, he couldn't imagine what, but a sense of foreboding rasped at his conscience, making him falter for a minute on his way to the Cafeteria...... But only for a minute.
Zell strode into the Cafeteria with a smile on his face and Triple Triad cards in his hands. Today he felt, was his lucky day.
"Hey!" Zell yelled at the players in the back. "Who wants to play the Master?"
One of them chuckled, shouting back, "I'm game. Tell me if you see him!"
Zell glowered. "Shut up Kevin!"
Kevin just smiled and looked back to his card game. Zell stood there for a second, and then, against his better judgment, decided to play anyway. Normally, playing Triple Triad and losing is not a horrible situation- you lose a card or two, and then just quit. But in Zell's mind, you didn't have fun unless it was high stakes. Sky high.
Zell slid into a chair across from Kevin and slapped his deck on the table. "I bet half my cards and 200 gil!"
Kevin shook his head. "Zell, don't be an idiot. Just play like the rest of us, okay?"
Zell stubbornly crossed his arms, directing a challenging look at Kevin. "Whatsa matter? Chicken?"
Kevin sighed in exasperation. "Very well, we play it your way."
Zell grinned like a shark.
"Lets do this!"
Carefully picking the cards he wanted, Zell played to his utmost of ability, choosing his moves and considering his options. At last, he lay down his final card and looked up at Kevin, chuckling in smug superiority, with the air of a man who could not possibly lose.
Kevin raised his head. "I win."
Zell did a double take. "WHAT?!"
Kevin pointed it out. "See? It's all there."
"Wha-?! No, no, you cheated! See you got that card there... No wait...Well, that other card, no, damn! What about?! Ah.. Shit."
Zell reluctantly dug into his pocket and produced the money.
"And the cards?"
Scowling at Kevin, he cut his deck and passed over his cards.
Kevin smiled at him. "Thank you, hope we can play again."
Zell made a face and left.
Walking out of the Cafeteria, Zell felt depressed. That had to have been the third time this week, and he was running short on cards. It was something he had never thought could happen. A gloom descended on him, making the world seem dim. As is the case in most such moods, all his other problems in life came to mind, adding to his burden, and he unconsciously began to tick them off in his mind.
He was losing at Triple Triad, Squall and the others except for Rinoa had gone on that diplomatic missions to Galbadia, Selphie.........
His mind stopped at Selphie. The issue was the relationship between them, or to be more specific, the lack of. He had watched her from afar since.....He couldn't remember. It wasn't that she was snubbing him, Selphie was too sweet for that. He was too shy, and he waited too long, for now she was with Irvine.
Irvine. The name invoked a series of mixed feeling, most of them edging towards anger. From day one they were like two opposite sides of an argument, never really agreeing on anything. He had always thought Selphie deserved better, but he knew that argument sounded rather flimsy when his mind told him he was that better man. A hypocrite was something Zell never wanted to be, Seifer's fine example etched in his mind. And when push came to shove, deep down where it really counted, Irvine was his friend.
But didn't he deserve something? Zell was tired of being last in line and first to be forgotten. After all that all he wanted was Selphie, and that was the one thing he couldn't have. If she just wanted to be friends, he supposed he could live with that, but lately she had been distant and distracted, not at all her normal self. It was almost as if something terrible was weighing on her mind, sometimes he would catch her on the verge of tears. When questioned though, she would just shake her head, explaining that everything was fine, giving him a weak, but still beautiful, smile. When Selphie was moody, something was most definitely wrong.
Zell didn't wish to dwell though, not now. The Library was having a book sale from the back shelves, something he didn't want to miss.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Silence settled over the Galbadian Court as Squall finished his final speech.
"As such, Garden extends it's full apology to the Galbadian government for any damage done during the fighting, knowing that it was acting under the total control of the Sorceress Edea, and wishes you all success as a country and as a people. Please know that SeeD is always standing by to lend a hand with any problems Galbadia might have in the future."
If the Court noted that he didn't mention any reparations, they didn't say anything. The Head of State took the floor.
"Thank you all for representing SeeD at this gathering. Let it be known the Galbadian people harbor no ill will towards the name of SeeD, and all apologies are accepted."
Squall nodded, looking into the man's eyes for sign of illusion. He noted none but the ease of the acceptance troubled him.
"Thank you for having us."
The Head smiled. "Thank you for coming."
After an uncomfortably lengthy reception afterward, Squall slowly walked down the steps from the Courthouse, eyes on the ground in deep concentration. He didn't trust the Head, not at all. The man not only had ample motivation to move against SeeD, but Squall was sure he had personal reasons as well. The Galbadian people harbor no ill will towards the name of SeeD. Bullshit. The Galbadians considered SeeD nothing more than common terrorists with delusions of grandeur. The Sorceress Edea\Ultimecia had been willingly embraced as a leader, if not by the people then certainly by the government, and both SeeD and Galbadian alike knew it. As far as he was concerned, Squall knew violence was all but inevitable. Instabilities in alliances and business were set so the global stage was similar to that prior of World War I, not that Squall knew what WWI was, and even if he did it is questionable whether he would see it coming. So few ever do. The complexities of nations, silent ships passing and crashing in the dark. The individual is intelligent, but people as a whole are stupid.
Quistis hurried to catch up with him, shoes clacking loudly on the marble stairs. "Squall, wait up!"
Squall stopped and turned to her. Quistis halted next to him and looked over, eyes searching his face. "Well...What did you think?"
Squall didn't need a moments deliberation to decide his feelings. "Something isn't right. That was too easy."
Quistis nodded. "Those are my feelings also." She hesitated for a second, before continuing. "Do you think they will declare war on Garden?"
Squall frowned. "At this stage I think they may be too weak to wage an all out war on SeeD."
She nodded and blew a stray hair away from her eye. "I hope your right."
Squall smiled slightly, only barely noticeable. "So do I." They walked in silence the rest of the way, both contemplative. Quistis reached the car first, and turned to look at him.
"When do you-" Squall cut her off by shaking his head, indicating with his hands that the car might be bugged.
"Irvine and Selphie are waiting at the hotel, we should discuss this with them." They both climbed into the car.
Deep within a dimension unreachable by humankind, something moved. It opened its eyes, slowly at first, sensing the oncoming tide of destruction, almost tasting the strife. It closed its eyes worriedly, wondering if, in the end, would it's people be destroyed?
"Why do all those small candy bars say, "Fun Size" on them? There's nothing fun about a small candy bar."
A galaxy hung suspended in the Universe, vast and complex in it's wonder. Billions of stars followed their preset rotation, traversing the great distances ordained by mutual gravity. But something did not follow this majestic pattern, this grandiose scheme. Erratic in motion and hectic in thought, small, unpredictable happenings occurred on a small, blue-green planet, deep within the system......
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Hotels in Galbadia have been and always will be infamous for one thing: Price. No matter how shabby or decrepit the building the owners inevitably charged an exorbitant sum. Since all the hotels in the region plyed their trade the same way, a business man or passing tourist had no choice but to eventually be what could only be described as robbed, providing a key staple in the Galbadian economy.
In one such Hotel on the west side of the city of Deling sat Selphie, lost in thought in such a Squall-like pose that she seemed mimic his mental anguish perfectly. That someone might be doing that in itself is not unusual. That Selphie Tilmitt would be in such a state most certainly was out of the ordinary. If Selphie's head was transparent, her every thought displayed as wispy words and memories floating through the conscience, we could see one word predominately repeated: Irvine.
At that moment, the person in question entered the room, sauntering over to the window that she looked out of. His gaze drifted over her body, taking in her petite form. He smiled to himself when he realized she was distracted, unaware of his presence. Slowly, he reached out and placed his hand gently on her shoulder.
Selphie jumped at the sudden touch. She spun around, but instead of relaxing at the sight of him, she only seemed to grow tenser. She forced a smile.
He smiled down at her, while searching her eyes for the problem. "Looking at something in particular?"
Selphie lowered her eyes under his gaze. "Oh, nothing.....Just the lights I guess.." She stood up and smoothed down her skirt. "Are Quistis and Squall back yet?"
He shook his head in a 'no'. "Not yet. Soon I think, the Senate should have adjourned about twenty minutes ago."
They stood in a uncertain silence for a minute, Selphie with her mind elsewhere, Irvine wondering where that was.
He moved first. "Um.. Selphie, I.. Is something wrong? I mean, not that I want to intrude or anything, but you've been pretty quiet for the past couple days, and-" Selphie cut him off.
"No, Irvine, I'm fine. Thanks for asking though," She said rather coldly, making him take a involuntary step back. Her eyes widened as she caught herself, shocked at her own tone. She let out a breath and started walking to the door.
"I think we should go downstairs."
Irvine stood, confused. What had he done?
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On our world, the planer Earth, in 1972, a scientist by the name of Frederick Gallern made a discovery while testing some equipment of his own design. While looking at some isotopes in his private lab, he noticed something strange. The isotope he was testing on had an echo, a second isotope that was faintly readable, but he couldn't actually perceive. Believing it to be human error, he performed the same tests on other forms of matter, and all rendered the same faint shadow. Why? This led him to speculate on the only reason he believed this might be true: Parallel Universes. Quantum Theory already had laid the basis for these ideas, but what Gallern had was something more concrete. That night, Gallern went home, and wrote was to be called, the 'Tunnel Thesis'.
Gallern theorized that other, similar universes existed close to ours, much like Quantum Theory. But unlike Quantum Theory, Gallern did not believe these universes were branches of our timeline. Quantum Theory says that infinite universes are created every second. Everything you could have done that you didn't, everything that could have happened but never did, causes another universe to be created when the instance might have occured. Most people think that means that there is just another universe where you didn't go to the grocery store, but in fact, this applies to everything. Quantum theory says that there is another universe next to us that is exactly the same, except the molecules in one piece of carpet didn't blow the same way when the air conditioner came on. And then another where the air conditioner didn't come on at all.
But Gallern theorized that this wasn't true. His theory explained that the other universes are either like that, or completely different. The theory explained that all the universes were interconnected, like a web, and as such all the universes affected the other, or manifested themselves in some way. Gallern theorized that these manifestations came in the form of books, stories, and the like. Which means that, in theory, Sonic the Hedgehog exists.... Somewhere.
Gallern believed that travel between these worlds was possible, by connecting a piece of matter and it's shadow by a method he called, Tunneling.
The Tunnel Thesis became the subject of fierce debate within all circles of the scientific world, but the theory was never proved, or likewise disproved.
The controversy died out in 1986, when Gallern died of a fatal heart attack. The papers were filed, the materials disposed of and the Thesis was largely forgotten, a memory among the new sciences of today.
What the scientific community was not privilege to was that in 1993 the government set up a laboratory near Granite Peak, Utah. This laboratory's only purpose was to unravel the mystery of Tunneling. Known only to a few, the lab was utterly secret, due to the military options that would present themselves if the experiment was successful.
Over the next five years some progress was made, but no matter was ever actually transported inter-dimensionally. Then, in 1998, a portal was finally created to another world. It was unstable however, and the researchers were unable to see to the other side. After several days of watching it, the team decided it was stable enough to send someone through. Several volunteers were screened, and in the end, one man was decided on, Scott Keyor. Although only 24 years old, Scott had experience in the field science and military training through an extensive government training program which drew from various colleges and state programs. Athletic or promising students were interviewed for possible military careers. Scott was to carry through only a camera and a glass tube containing basic elements, the grip through which the team on Earthside could pull him back through.
After months of preparation, the portal was opened, and Scott walked through. It would be the first and last mistake the Granite Peak Science Station would ever make. Scott had just entered when the strain of actual transportation proved to much for the portal, and the little stability attained was lost almost immediately. Desperately, the GPSS tried to pull him back through, but the collapsing portal did not provide enough Tunnel Space to bring him back into safety. Only five minutes after entering the alien universe, Scott Keyor was stranded from the dimension he called home.
In the next few months, many attempts were made to open another portal, but none succeeded. In 1999 the government cut their funding, and Project GPSS was disbanded indefinitely.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Squall emerged from the car deep in thought, images of the council bouncing through his mind. Something wasn't right, not at all. The Galbadians had shown an almost obsessive resistance to SeeD in the past, and despite their political problems, there wasn't any really pressuring reason to forgive Garden. Or was there?
Perhaps something was forcing Galbadia's hand? Esthar certainly had the military drive to do so, but no motivation was present and he couldn't really see Laguna doing that. Esthar had always taken the passive road, a fact for which Squall was sure the Galbadians gave thanks to daily. However, a more sinister strain of dealings above and beyond the government's sight take place constantly, a recycling routine of murder and deceit.
Squinting through the polluted mist that always seemed to cover Deling, Squall could make out the slim form of Selphie, back lit by the twin posts flanking the double doors. He was somewhat surprised she was out this time of night with the weather like it was. Irvine was also noticeably absent from her side. As Squall drew closer, the look on her face could only be recognized by a kindred tortured soul, a kind of mental anguish that Squall could recognize written on her pretty features all to well.
And like Zell, an icy moment of near prophecy descended over him, and for one instant in time, he was positive something terrible was going to happen. Then, as quickly as it came, the feeling passed.
Selphie spoke only after he and Quistis had stopped right in front of her.
"How was it?" She asked, rather blandly it seemed.
He shook his head. "I'm not really sure." Squinting against the harsh lamp light, Squall peered through the slightly open doorway. "Where's Irvine?"
"He's inside." The tone of her voice made it evidently clear no further questioning was permitted.
"Oh." A few moments of awkward silence prevailed. Quistis broke it.
"We should get inside," She said, taking a step towards the door. Squall moved with her, but Selphie stayed were she was.
"I'll be coming soon. Just need some air..." She turned back to the night sky. Squall hesitated, then thought better of interfering.
He walked away, but halted just inside the door to look back at Selphie. I wish Rinoa was here...She would know what to do.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Zell Dincht was not a normal teenager. He was trained in advanced combat techniques and equipped with abilities that would make most fighters jealous. But today, Zell was displaying some most teenage-like behavior.
Zell paced around his room, punching the air occasionally. At this precise moment in time it is probably safe to say the he was bored as all hell, and as such, he fell back upon one of his favorite past-times: Eating. Striding towards the cafeteria, Zell knew he had to get there fast before the hot dogs were all gone, a circumstance that frequently plagued him. After arriving, he looked at the line, and if it was possible his jaw would have dropped to the floor. At the head of the line was none other than Rinoa.
Zell ran over just as Rinoa bought not one, not two, but three hot dogs. Frantically he turned to the lunch lady but she shrugged apologetically and turned away. Zell glared desperately at Rinoa.
Rinoa looked at him, then the hot dogs. She smiled teasingly and sat down. Zell was drawn to the hot dogs like Irvine to a strip joint. "Rinoa... you gotta give me a hot dog!"
"Hmm... I don't know Zell." She said as she picked up the mustard and put and excessive amount on, knowing that Zell craved mustard.
"Oh my God... Rinoa! You know I need it!" Zell shouted. All the people at the adjacent lunch tables had gone quiet.
"Zell!" Rinoa exclaimed. Zell looked puzzled for a second, then he slowly smiled as the connotation of what he had just said hit him.
"Rinoa... I need you to give it to me! Right now!" Zell grinned as he said it. The entire lunch room had by now fallen silent.
Rinoa glared daggers at him, then handed him a hot dog. Zell's smiled increased.
"I'm not getting enough Rinoa, I need more!" He held out his other hand.
"I am going to murder you!" She hissed as she handed him another hot dog. Zell just smiled as he sat down across from her.
Zell poured on the mustard and said, "Thanks for giving it to me."
Rinoa did not deign to reply. Zell began to eat the hot dog, and everyone else returned to their rudely interrupted meals.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A man walked through the streets of Deling. His blond hair was long and lank, coming down past his eyes. He wore a dirty and scuffed jumpsuit, which was once blue but was now faded to an almost white, with the letters 'GPSS' stenciled on his shoulder. A shattered glass tube protruded from one pocket. His face was handsome, almost Hollywood in manner, with deep-blue eyes, and a lightly tanned face. A small mark was clear on the left of his his lower lip, indicating that at some time a ring had been present.
He walked with urgency, avoiding crowds and skirting main roads. He strode through town for hours, looking for something it seemed, from dawn to dusk, asking strange questions about scientists, or inquiring about technology. By the time the sun set, the bus conductors almost knew him by name, and the same query followed him wherever he went. "Where to now, Scott?".
Then, suddenly and inexplicably, he stopped. His eyes widened and his breathing quickened as he stared at the petite figure of a woman standing outside the Galbadian Hotel. He shoved his hand down into his pocket and pulled out a ratty, worn square of papers, looking as if they had gone through the wash. He flipped through several pages, then held up the notebook in comparison of the figure and the picture in his book.
A spark of hope entered his eyes.
He jogged, almost ran over to Selphie, and as she stared at him and he stared back, he opened his mouth and said, "Are you......Tilmitt? Slephie Tilmitt?"
Selphie gazed at him for a minute. Then cocking her head sideways, she shrugged.
"Selphie Tilmitt. Who's asking?"
A wave of palpable relief washed over him like a wave. "Thank god! I thought I would never find you guys!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Again, that ethereal presence stirred. Something was here that was not supposed to be. This human, this man, he was, different? No, he was human, but yet, he was not the same. The puzzle expanded to fill it's mind, until horrible realization dawned. The seals had been breached.
::AN:: Special thanks to Gene for writing the cafeteria scene.
"By the time we reached the Castle, we had become more than family, and fighting together was second nature. Sometimes I think if we could have seen ourselves in action, so efficient and cold, that it would be frightening even to us."
-Irvine Kinneas, The SeeD and the Sorceress
A twisted cortex of synapses and reflex, a sparkling and flashing machine made of basic matter, extreme in its complexity and boundless in its wonder. A standing testament to all that makes us human, the brain fuels a swirl of ever changing reactions and counter-reactions. A careful balance between genius and insanity, anything can tip the scale.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Julian Foss. If you were to walk down a road in mainstream America, anyone on the street could tell you who Bill Gates was, or Michael Jackson. But if questioned of the name Julian Foss, nobody could answer you. If you were to ask among the power-brokers of America, the reaction would be totally different.
Julian Foss was born in 1956, son to Robert and Mary-Anne Foss, a middle-class couple living in Sacramento. Robert was the foreman in an early electronics firm, and from an early age Julian had experience with high-tech products.
After graduating from high-school with top honors in 73', Julian applied for and was excepted by Yale University. During his 5-year term there he studied business and financing, becoming more and more adept at running companies. And manipulation.
After graduation Julian hopped from one company to the other, until eventually he was hired by Microsoft for three years, becoming a top CEO in the administration. He left after Microsoft accused him of embezzling funds from the Treasury department. None of the accusations were ever proven.
In 1989, after working in several other software companies, Julian founded the blandly named TAA, Technical Applications America. TAA became a mover and shaker behind the scenes of the business world, quickly gaining suppliers and quietly increasing in size. TAA never hesitated to put its hands in everything, resulting in a wide, if somewhat unsavory, reputation.
By 1999, TAA had become a super-corporation to almost rival that of Microsoft, an invisible giant with a large cash flow and unlimited resources. Julian Foss ran it all.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
New York city has always been a place for big corporations to build their lairs. The local market was expansive of course, but the real value lay in the symbol of status. If somebody asked you where your company was based, and you said "Warrenville", they would probably just nod. If you answered, "New York", well....They would be dutifully impressed.
And in such a city of large corporate buildings and plazas, TAA had one of the biggest of them all, spanning two city blocks and 43 stories. At the very heart of this machine created expanse lay Julian's office, 25 stories up and nestled in the very center, with no windows and thick soundproof walls. One door was the only entry, directly in front of his desk. Nothing ever went through that door without him ordering it. It was from this totally secure room that Julian reigned supreme over his vast enterprise, directing business and affairs with total impunity. He almost never went on inspections and rarely left the staff-titled "Fortress", at all.
On this Saturday night, 9:56 pm, Julian was concentrating on his most important business at hand. Michael Hendrow was approaching his polished mahogany table, and as usual, was all ears for what his partner had to say.
Hendrow was a University graduate who had achieved great success in the often harsh world of Wall Street. Buying and selling stocks was his hobby, his work, and his obsession. By the time he had reached 38, Hendrow was one of the richest men in the country.
He had met Julian during a cruise to Hawaii with his wife. Julian himself had been there for purely business reasons, and the two struck up a friendship almost immediately. Hendrow was fascinated by Julian's ideas and working style, and after returning to the states, bought stock in his company. They worked side by side for many years, until after some time, Hendrow was the only man in Julian's close confidence, entitled to the grandiose schemes and backroom plotting of TAA.
That was why he was here tonight.
Julian did not look up from his papers as Hendrow sat down. They sat in silence for a minute and a half before he stopped shuffling papers and looked up. His dark green eyes studied Hendrow for a second, then returned to the papers.When he spoke, it was in cultured yet hard voice of an ambitious self-made man.
"Hello Michael. How are things with you?"
Hendrow smiled easily, sliding comfortably into the role of old friend. "Things are well with me, thank you."
"The wife is well, I expect?"
"Of course, of course. Kendra just had her twelfth birthday last Tuesday."
"Really?" Julian lowered his eyes to his papers again. "Tell her Uncle Julian sends his regards."
Another shorter stretch of silence prevailed. Julian looked up again.
"Here, I want you to read this."
Hendrow took the thick manila folder labeled, "GPSS". He opened it and read of a failed experiment near a mountain in Utah. After a moment, he closed the folder and placed it back on the desk.
"That was.... Interesting. It seems man will never stop trying to step over the boundaries nature has set for us."
Julian lifted his lips in a thin imitation of a smile. "The report skips a few details."
"A portal was successfully created."
Hendrow took a deep breath and sat back. It was too unreal to be truly shocking. "Well. Then why did they shut it down?"
"The first man inserted was lost after the portal collapsed in an unforeseen accident. The government, in one of their larger blunders, didn't realize the portal had actually worked, and put it off as if the volunteer had simply died. The truth is rarely that obliging."
"Yes, well......If the portal was not a total failure, where did the volunteer go?"
Julian opened another large drawer in his desk and pulled out a slightly thinner file. "You have heard, or course, of the Tunnel Thesis."
Working with Julian required at least some grounding in science and, as a college graduate himself, he knew of the Thesis. Hendrow said nothing as the implication of this hit him. Julian opened the file and removed several black and white pictures.
"These are surveillance camera photos that I, how shall I say, procured from some very, ah, reclusive sources," He leaned over the desk. "Here, take a look."
Hendrow thumbed through the photos, which brought to mind the set of some bad B movie. He looked up. "If Gallern's Thesis was accurate, then where did he emerge?"
"That was a difficult one. But first, I must tell you, my scientists have recreated the portal at our Oregon lab. It was somewhat tricky, but the results have come through positive. It's quite stable."
"Yes, and you do realize why?"
"The possibilities are endless. If every book and other such things are to be manifest, why, the technology! Imagine if we could enter the universe of Star Wars, that alone is trillions and trillions of dollars!"
Julian smiled viscously. "That was my thinking, but what else is there to yield?"
"Conquest! Lands, people, power! Oil, gold, mineral wealth. A rich man's dream Hendrow. Any man's dream."
"Conquest? But many of these worlds are technologically much more advanced than we are. Certainly, there are some which are not, bu-"
"That doesn't matter. Our portal was created using the same steps as GPSS, and we can only enter whatever world this, 'Scott Keyor' entered. For now."
Hendrow pondered this for a moment. "Still...No matter where we appear, mystery as it is, some advance knowledge is better than no-"
Julian cut him off again. "We know where we are going."
"Yes. Our scientists successfully inserted a probe yesterday, and it brought back sufficient data."
"Why didn't GPSS use a probe as we did?"
"Their portal was incapable of accepting anything but living matter. I don't really follow the physics but the lab people say it makes sense. Ours is much more stable. We hope to duplicate the portals in our Hong Kong and Moscow labs, each reaching the same dimension as the first. By the time the other labs solidify the portals, we should be able to open them wherever we please. But while our limitations in this field still stand, we may only reach a single destination."
Once more reached into his desk and pulled out not a file, but a book. "We go here."
FINAL FANTASY XIII
OFFICIAL STRATEGY GUIDE
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Selphie stared at the rather disreputable looking man in front of here for about 5.3 seconds during which neither of them said a thing. Then she tentatively stepped forward.
"Umm, why do you ask?"
Scott fumbled over several sentences at once, the words rushing out of his mouth in what resulted in incomprehensible gibberish.
Selphie stared at him. "Sir, are you okay? Maybe you just had to much to drink, why don't you-"
Scott shook his head wildly. "No no! I'm not crazy I need to talk to.... 'Squall' cause he can help me. He's the boss or something, right?"
Now she was somewhat suspicious. "What do you know about Squall?"
"I'll tell you if you'll just take me to Squall, please!"
After debating for several seconds, Selphie decided that four SeeD's would be enough to handle whatever threat this man might pose. She turned without looking back and gestured towards the door. "Fine, c'mon."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Squall had no sooner sunk into a chair next to the fire when Selphie burst through the door trailing a somewhat grubby man about 6'1. This better be good. He turned to face them without getting up. Irvine leaned against the window with his hand resting on his guns while Quistis looked up from her laptop with surprise. Unknown visitors were often dangerous visitors.
The stranger didn't look like he might be inebriated with liquor, but Squall knew it was more obvious on some people. Like Selphie.
Squall decided to broach the question diplomatically. "You..Wish to speak with us?"
The man hesitated. "Yes. You see, my situation at this moment is weird beyond imaging." He smiled a little. "I suppose you could say I'm screwed."
Most of the time people came to the SeeDs with minor issues. When your a hero, people expect you to get cats out of trees, something that was not in the job description. Behind the man's calm exterior though, Squall could see a growing terror of...What? Whatever it was, this man was close to the edge. Squall just hoped he didn't crack before he explained things to them. As long as this wasn't some lover's quarrel.
The stranger awkwardly seated himself across from Squall as Selphie crossed the room over to sit by Quistis, rather conspicuously not taking her usual position next to Irvine. I need to talk to her. Whatever was wrong between her and Irvine could not interfere with their job. The man cleared his throat.
"I am Lieutenant Scott Keyor. I am twenty-four years old. I am... Very far from my home, and I need your help to get back."
Irvine leaned forward. "All of which is very interesting... But what's your point?"
And then the wall exploded.
All But One
"I think it was after I reached Garden when it really set in, when I realized where I was. I found myself wishing I had bought the damn game instead of renting it."
-Scott Keyor, Worlds Unknown
Deep beneath the watery depths in the tome of watery Ry'leh, the slumbering horror Cthulhu plagues the Dreamscapes of humanity with unspeakable terrors, as the dread Hounds of Tindalos manifest through the angles and destroy their helpless prey. Shudde M'ell and his Burrowers Beneath glide unknown through the mantle of the Earth and Yog Sothoth lies in his eternal prison since time immemorial, the Gate, the Key, the Keeper.
Or, at least they would be if this was a story of the Cthulhu Mythos. But perhaps in this strange multiverse of Gallern's Thesis, Kthanid and the Elder Gods do lie in eternal watch from Elysia, and Ithaqua does stalk the wintry wastes. All divided by space, time, and things unknown from ours and other universes.
But are these barriers spoken of by any means impassable? Or could a portal be opened throughout the unimaginable continuum, breaching the guards unseen and untouched, to cross the trackless cosmos to other worlds, other galaxies, and other universes. This has become only once, and only here.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Portal glowed a shade of color that Hendrow couldn't quite place, a color that almost seemed to be on the very edge of the spectrum, something not quite clear to human eyes. It was quite disconcerting, and it hurt if you looked at it too long. He supposed that was why Julian and the others wore goggles. He mentally cursed himself for not looking into it before hand.
At that moment a tech who's tag said "Sullivan" ran over across the lead-lined floor to hand him a pair of the same dark goggles everyone else had. Hendrow smiled. Thoughtful lad, knew which side his bread was buttered on.
Hendrow turned back to his viewing, now made comfortable by the goggles. The room was the size of an aircraft hanger, although he still couldn't understand why they needed that much space for the portal. It in itself wasn't all that big. You could drive a truck through it, but it wasn't large enough to warrant the extravagant space. He might ask another tech about it, but he was sure the explanation would be incomprehensible mumbling about spatial physics or something else he knew nothing about. Sometimes he wondered if Julian knew what they were talking about.
He sometimes wondered if they knew what they were talking about.
But technicalities aside, Hendrow had to admit it was impressive. The future of technology was being created right here in front of his eyes. He had arrived earlier than required at the facility to ask some questions. He wanted to voice a rather large concern of his. Julian was reading something off a clipboard, and Hendrow judged this as good of a time as any to approach him. Hendrow cleared his throat. Julian didn't look up.
"Ah, Julian. I couldn't help but research this universe we are entering. The Squaresoft site was most informative, but I can't help feeling we are biting off more than we can chew."
Julian raised an eyebrow. "How so?"
"The game details have lent me some knowledge on the more disturbing aspects of the world-"
That brought confusion. "Pardon me?"
"Spherverse. Our space-time calculations have revealed that all micro-universes are shaped like spheres as far as the relative continuum goes, so we've dubbed them Spherverses."
"Yes, well, I see. Anyway, this Spherverse has magic Julian. Beings called GF's. Certainly some of their technology is archaic but in some instances, like Esthar, it can be far more advanced than ours."
"There won't be problem. This had already been studied, and the results are favorable."
Julian's face, as alway, revealed little. "They won't be able to touch us."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Deling is a windy city, and this did nothing but blow the rubble and bits of glass at Squall's face as he was plastered face-up against the door. At least, there had been a door there. Not even a second passed before the SeeD training so rigorously ingrained kicked in.
He rolled to his feet, grabbing the unconscious form of Selphie and moving into the hallway, keeping low. Irvine and Quistis were nowhere to be seen, but Scott was crouching in the far corner behind the double beds, apparently dazed.
Squall threw Selphie over his shoulder, turned to Scott and shouted, "Move!"
That seemed to bring Scott out of his stupor, and his eyes focused, quickly taking in the situation. There was a time to fight, and there was a time to run. Running seemed like a good idea right now, so he lifted himself up with a overturned table and had made it halfway to the door when something flew through the gaping hole to the outside into the room. A wrecking ball?!?! Was his mind's only impression before whatever it was slammed through the opposite wall and into the hallway, throwing Squall and the unconscious form of Selphie with such force, that Squall smashed through the plaster and wood wall and Selphie flew completely through a door on the other side and out a back window, falling into the small lot behind of the hotel. Scott was only pushed back by the passing force of the object going both ways, and manage to only fall down without serious injury.
Untouched by the path of destruction, he crawled along the floor until he reached Squall. It was apparent that Squall wasn't getting up anytime soon. Dammit to hell! With Irvine and Quistis gone and Selphie somewhere out back, the calvary was him, and he could hear footsteps pounding up the stairs. For one cowardly moment, he tried to convince himself that it wasn't his fight, and he was tempted find Odine himself. But his military training reasserted itself, and he prepared himself. They might take him, but they wouldn't take him easy.
Picking up a solid piece of the shattered wooden door frame, he positioned himself in the corner of the room behind the remaining bed, which was lying on it's side. The other had been carried out when the wrecking ball thing had receded. The footsteps grew closer, and he moved his eyes back and forth between what was now the new door in the wall, to looking outside through the completely destroyed wall. He fervently hope they didn't climb up the front of the building to come in that way. He might be able to hold the door for awhile, but fighting on two fronts would finish him quickly.
Then the soldiers burst into a room at a run. The man at point saw Scott a half-second too late and the board smashed into his uncovered face, sending blood and not a few teeth splattering on the wall and floor.
As the leader hit the floor the second and third soldiers brought up their guns, shouting to the others in the hall. Scott ducked beneath the line of fire of the one closest to the door and swung the club in a tight arc against the soldiers kneecap, bringing a satisfying snap. The man screamed something as he fell and loosed two wild shots over Scott's shoulder into the ceiling.
Plaster dust and chips flew into the remaining man's eyes, momentarily blinding him, choking in agony, a quick side sweep to the head brought him down in a crumpled pile. Scott didn't hesitate to bring the club down, slamming on the last conscious man's head. All in a days work.
Just as his mind was swept up in victorious exultation, a clank and rattle of something bouncing off the wall announced the one thing he had fervently hoped against. Grenade. Then everything went black.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Selphie woke up. Immediately after doing so, she started to wish she hadn't. Her head felt like a Nirvana concert and she was sure her right ankle was broken. Good thing they hadn't trimmed the hedges recently, or cut the grass. Sloppiness wasn't something to be admired, but she was feeling very grateful to the minimum wage.
The back porch light wasn't on, it was turned off with all the other lights when whoever had attacked them cut the power. She wasn't sure where her weapons were, they were presumably lost in the explosion. On the whole, this situation sucked, and it most likely wasn't going to get any better. She needed to either find Squall, or find a way to contact Garden. Cid had to be told of this situation.
She had a mission, she had a plan..... She had a concussion. Selphie tried to stand up and promptly fell back down.
This might take some work.
Steadying herself on what looked like some misbegotten lawn gnome, she forcibly pushed herself to her feet and stayed slightly hunched over until the pounding stopped. She wasn't sure how serious the head injury was, but she didn't want to fool around with head injuries. She needed a doctor, or at least a good nights sleep, neither of which was available.
There might be a communicator in the hotel, but whoever had just wrecked the building had probably cut all the lines, power or otherwise. The best bet was not the police station, the invaders might actually be the police. No, the main chance was either access to a toll or private communicator.
She straightened up quickly, a mistake, when footsteps and murmurs could be heard moving up the side of the hotel. Both sides, if her hearing could be trusted after the tremendous blow, or blows, her head had received.
She broke into a jog, but it was too much, so she lowered herself to the damp grass and crawled at what seemed a agonizingly slow pace, but was actually fast enough to reach to fence ahead of the searchers. At the price of some pain, she vaulted the fence and tumbled into the bushes on the other side. Lights swept the ground as the soldiers carefully checked the back yard.
Fugitive was not in the job description.
"After Trabia, my friends became everything. I fought the Sorceress because they fought with me."
A hand is one of the most significant, elegant, and deadly parts of the body. The hand is responsible for countless killings in history, yet one cannot blame this alive yet non-sentient conglomeration of tissues. The blame is laid to rest not on the hand that performs the deed but the mind behind the hand and the personality that drove it to reap the life of another being. Does the Multiverse itself adhere to this? Planets may explode, people may die of natural causes or of the horrible forces of nature, so do we blame the Multiverse, the hand in this equation? Or is there a force and personality behind the structure that performs the deed?
Regardless of the theological implications, the Universe is still structured, but not unable to be bent. Are the rules bypassed in the joining of dimensions? Anck-Su-Namun and Imhotep were surely not meant to walk the shining streets of Coruscant. Kane and the forces of Nod will not rule Oz. Will Mattimeo this time be slave to Dolza of the Zentraedi? But the path always ends where it is supposed to, and whether Indiana Jones is fighting an Agent of the Matrix or Nazis, the story will finish the same.
Perhaps one day Scott will battle the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, but in the Multiverse reality of FF8, the truths are beginning to coalesce, and confrontation will be imminent. This Event Horizon will be monitored by many beings, some hostile, some not. This is the first clash between dimensions, and even should Scott return victorious from this encounter it is doubtful that it will end so easily. He is a drifter, the first one to drift dimensionally. These Presence's will use him to their means.
One Being in particular has a vested interest in this outcome, and she watches on the fringe of the reality, waiting.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Selphie lay hidden behind a dumpster across from the hotel, waiting for her chance to hobble across the opposite street. She had managed to get this far, and she was sure to find a communicator in the city. They would need backup or immediate extraction from the area, since whoever was powerful enough to destroy the hotel without immediate and serious repercussions from the local authorities was bound to be in bed with the government and likely to be the government itself.
The hotel was being doused by fire trucks, a crowd of gawkers or concerned onlookers leaning over the yellow police tape.
Selphie half walked, half hopped her way down the alley and across the street when the light turned red, earning many stares and a few offers for help. This wasn't good. She couldn't afford this kind of attention.
Holding onto a streetlight for support, she desperately scanned the area for a public com unit. A visible relief flooded over her as she spied one several blocks down.
It seemed to take hours, but she reached the com unit, opening the door and hurrying inside the row of equipped cubicles. Then someone behind her spoke out.
"Yeah?" She said, turning towards the voice, realizing too late that the correct response was not to confirm her identity.
The plainclothes agent drove the shock stick into her stomach. Luckily, her last thought turned out the lights as it left.