On Earth as it is in Hell Part 7
Chapter 27, Time Again
At some point, Scott realized, he must have lost his hearing, because Rinoa was screaming but he couldn't hear a thing.
It was also odd, he could see, that nobody was moving. Of course, neither was he.
In a matter of seconds the darkness blotted out the sight of Squall lying dead on the floor. * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was raining.
Simple a statement to make, it would seem, but the embodiment of the scene that lay before him.
He stood 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 him rose the silhouette of a hulking shape, blotting out the sky for several hundred feet, what surely must have been a mighty monument, but still fragile as anything created by man. Broken girders framed 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 him were other littered pieces of destruction, offering no hint as to what they may have been.
As he walked towards the monolith, hr began to see twisted walls and sloped floors covered in bricks, walling, shingles, glass, and blood. Pushing past these obstructions, he reached the center: a hollow, burnt-out gutted space seared by unimaginable fires. On the ground before him lay an object, a large sign, with inscriptions on it, words smeared by soot or broken by ways unknown. He could 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?
Why was he in the middle of a destroyed Garden, and how had he come to be here? * * * * * * * * * * * *
Scott cupped his hands around his mouth, the rainwater dripping off the tips of his fingers.
The shout echoed briefly, before fading back into the soft roar of the rainfall. Shoulder slumped, Scott sat on the edge of a broken column, dazed and confused. He was pretty sure he had just been in the middle of this very building, but it hadn't been destroyed, and it hadn't been raining. Squall had been shot. There were men with guns everywhere. And now he was alone in a pile of ruins. The two and two of this did not add up to four.
His solitary contemplation was broken by soft voice behind him, and the unmistakable prod of a cold gun barrel into his back.
"Stand up. Keep your hands where I can see them. No funny stuff."
Slowly, Scott complied, not daring to try and look over his shoulder.
"You don't look like a Kraut to me, but you can't always tell now can you. Turn around."
Still moving slowly, Scott pivoted to face his assailant. And was promptly confused even more. The man was slightly shorter than him, pale, with close set green eyes and a wide mouth. He was clothed in a drab green jumpsuit, a large pack resting on his back and a webbed helmet of the same color on his head. The outfit was unmistakable. He was dressed like a World War II GI.
Like a goddamn World War II GI.
It was too much. Scott couldn't hold back the hysterical laughter that bubbled up out of him. So he didn't. He laughed, laughed until tears ran down his face and mingled with the rain water, the peals of the sound reflecting up and down the walls of the structure until he was out of breath. The GI simply stared at him.
"I'm sorry," Scott gasped. "But I can't tell you how fucked up things are right now."
The gun barrel lowered slightly. "You don't have to, cause I don't got a fucking clue where the hell I am right now, or how I got here."
"Join the club," Scott wheezed, daring to wipe his face with his still raised hands. "So, who are you?"
"First Class Private Randall, 35-367-907."
Name, rank and serial number. Just like the movies.
"I'm Scott Keyor," Scott replied, holding out one hand to shake but keeping the other raised. "And as of late, my life is a joke." * * * * * * * * * * * *
There was nothing to do but sit and compare stories, two men with nothing in common but the method of arrival to this strange place. The rain seemed ceaseless and they took shelter under a fallen slab of concrete.
"So," Randall said, using his trench shovel to clear a small space to sit. They did so, shivering in the damp chill, and Randall dug through his pack, handing Scott a ration bar, which he accepted. He eyed it warily, unsure of how edible it really was. He also got the distinct impression that Randall wasn't taking him all that seriously. "This 'Hyne' thing, you think that was what brought us here?"
Scott bit into the bar, grimacing at the taste but eating it anyway.
"Then I guess I owe it some thanks. I'd be on my way back home in a box if I wasn't here."
"Mm. Yeah, I know what you mean-"
Listen well, for there is not much time.
Randall's eyes were wide. "What the hell was that?"
"That God I was telling you about."
Do not make me impress my power, Outsiders. Simply listen, and listen well.
Randall's ration bar dropped from his shaking fingers. "Jesus!"
No, I am not He. I am Hyne. And you will do my bidding.
Scott nodded in resignation. "I'm listening."
I have brought the other here, this soldier of the past so that you may use his weapon for your purposes. You will need it to reverse what has been wrought by you and your kind. Soldier, give him your instrument.
Randall didn't move, eyes still darting wildly about the small confines of the makeshift shelter. Scott sighed, simply reaching over and picking the gun up from where it lay against the wall.
Right now, Outsider, you are in the Future. This is the future that would be seven of your years from the time I took you from. This must not come to pass.
Scott shook his head. "It's too late. The Garden is theirs. They killed Squall."
It is not too late by the virtue of my plan. I would have you know that at this very moment, it is within my power to send you back to your home.
No. It could never be that easy. "What's the catch."
The 'catch', Outsider, is that I will do no such thing. I have the power to send you back to your world, or the power to send you back seven years into mine. I cannot do both. So do not doubt, that you will do as I require of you or you will be left in this bleak future to rot as mortals do.
"Rather petty of you."
There is nothing petty about the destruction of a universe.
"So how the hell do I reverse everything with an antique M1 Carbine?"
I have prepared for this moment. At this moment in time, seven years past, everything has come into order to save my universe. I have ruptured their portal, eliminating this means of transport. The rupture has accomplished many things, but the most important of these is that now the other Outsiders have devolved into Knots like you.
A Knot. A tear in the fabric of the cosmos. The tear that surrounds you is slowly destroying my world.
"Then why the fuck did you make more of them? A lot more, I might add."
Because by the time the many other Knots would accomplish their true damage, they will be gone if my plan succeeds.
Scott's head was reeling, trying to put the concepts together. "I don't get it."
You are a Knot, and now all the other Outsiders are Knots. I will send you back to the Garden with your weapon, to the moment before one of my children, the one you call Squall was killed. You will kill the head Outsider. You will not have much time to do so. Make sure you do it well. The death of one with result in the collapse of all. The Knot will explode, and consequently so will all others.
"Which means I will also explode. What happens then?"
If you should succeed, I will use the last of my power to prevent the Knot around you from destroying itself. If I am strong enough to do this, the Knot will be propelled by the bottled energy into a cosmos unpredictable.
"So I'll die."
No. The Knot will travel until the energy is gone, then it will settle in whatever world it does.
"So I could end up absolutely anywhere. Not home."
It is that or die, Outsider.
The panic settled deep in his gut. "Oh no. Oh, fuck no."
There is no time for your fears. We must act now. You must save your friends.
There really were no good choices. He would live, but he couldn't know where. What if death would be preferable to the world he found himself in? But this world held nothing for him either. And his friends would die because of him. It was no win, no matter what.
But maybe sometimes, when there was only one choice, it was time to accept it.
"I always wanted to go out in a blaze of glory."
Very good, Outsider. I will put in a good word for your soul. Now stand in the-
"Wait, wait!" Randall choked, snapping out of his Hyne-induced stupor. "What about me?"
You have served your purpose. Begone.
And he was. Scott blinked, disconcerted by Randall's sudden disappearance. "You didn't kill him, did you?"
No. I have placed him in a transit world until I have the strength to send him home. He will be cared for. Now, stand in the open, and prepare your weapon. It is time to set this right.
Time indeed. * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Everybody to the main entrance, lets go!"
Scott gasped, his vision clearing from what he perceived to be a bright flash of light. The situation that met his eyes was familiar. He was standing on the bridge from the elevator to one of the upper stories, rifle clutched in his hands. His mind raced as he remembered the precise order of the events that had happened, or rather, what would happen.
Julian would be standing in the center of the main entrance. The looked at it over the edge slowly, trying not to draw the attention of the guards there. This was a good spot for shooting, but he would be spotted.
He also knew that soldier were coming in from the top down, and would no doubt see him from the upper connecting hallway. There was only one obvious way to go.
He slipped into the elevator doors, letting them gently close behind him. He looked up, and sure enough, there was a hatch on the top. Gingerly snapping the latches, he slid the hatch open and clambered out on top of the elevator.
The shaft was surrounded by glass, but it was partitioned, with tiny slats. That would be his field of fire. Laying down on top of the elevator, he waited.
The soldiers herded them all into the concourse, grouping them in the middle and surrounding them in a circle of firepower.
Scott watched as his friends came to a stop. To his relief, he didn't see himself. Which didn't make sense according to time travel as he understood it. Then again, this was all being orchestrated by a God. More impossible things had happened.
As if on some invisible cue, the ranks of soldiers covering the entrance parted, and a group of men strolled through the opening. Scott's finger tightened on the trigger. He still waited for Julian to come to a complete stop. He might not get a second good shot. He couldn't miss. He decided to aim for a broader target and shoot for the heart.
Julian drew a pistol, cocking it. He looked over the assembled crowd with eyes that looked more like granite. Then he shrugged apologetically.
"Frankly I find this distasteful myself, but... In order to kill a snake, the quickest way is to cut off its head, you understand. I apologize for this necessity, and will not hand off the responsibility to one of my men. No, this deed is required of me."
Julian pulled back the hammer of his gun, and was shot through the chest.
The muffled blast of the carbine rang through the concourse.
Julian Foss stood stock still, the wound over his heart just starting to bleed. He looked at it curiously, before gazing up at the elevator. Scott stared back at him through the tinted glass.
"I see," Julian said in a tone of voice filled not with shock or horror, but quiet understanding.
There was a brief moment of stunned silence.
Then everything went to hell.
Brilliant flashes of white light filled the room, and an incredible noise boomed throughout it. And with every flash and roar, the a mercenary disappeared. The SeeDs huddled to the floor, shock waves blasting them from every directing.
Hendrow was thrown to the floor, a feeling of incredible dizziness overcoming him.
"What.. What is happening?" He gasped, voice lost in the cacophony. Then in another flash and thunder he too was gone.
Then it was over, and the noise faded into silence. The room was blackened and torn, pieces of the walls, floor and even the ceiling littering the cratered area. Stunned, the SeeDs rose to their feet, astounded by the damage.
Everybody jumped when Zell was the first to speak.
"What the fuck was tha-"
At Rinoa's cry everyone turned to see Scott stumble out of the elevator. Nida began running towards him, a smile of relief spreading across his face.
"Scott, we thought they had..." His words died as he drew closer.
Everyone could see him, but his appearance jerked and sputtered, fading in and out of transparency. His mouth moved but no sound came out. There was another flash of light and he fell to his knees. He raised his head to meet their eyes, shaking as if fighting against intense pressure. He lifted a trembling arm, hand outstretched in supplication.
Then he wasn't there anymore.
Chapter 28, Excerpt
...claimed not to have been at the scene at the time. In other news, the government has closed off Granite Peak, Utah after what officials have described as the biggest sinkhole to date collapsed, resulting in a land dip over a mile and a half wide. Officials say that no loss of life has been reported, and that there are no signs of any other potentially dangerous sinkholes in the area. Currently there is an investigation underway as to how this might effect the local environment. New research suggests that carcinogens...
Chapter 29, Conversation
...And that's that.
You mean and that's how you let Hyne do, and do badly, I might add, what you should've done in the first place.
Well, when you put it that way...
It makes you look like the negligent piece of crap that you are.
Something like that.
I don't know why you think you can be so nonchalant about this, but I don't care anymore. I have a few more questions and then I get to leave, hopefully never to see you again.
The fact that the actual person who fixed everything in the end was not rewarded looks very, very bad. What have you done about that?
You mean Scott. Don't worry about that, I redirected him.
To his home.
That was implied.
And what about the other portal installations that Foss had. Those are a potential threat.
Like I made clear, the American government was well aware of them, and they are now no longer an issue.
Well, good. The fact of the matter remains however, that this event was dereliction of duty in the extreme.
I don't see it that way. I used Hyne to get the job done. I worked through her.
No, you didn't. You sat back and prayed it all worked out. That is not how you watch a universe. Our job as Kharadjai is interfere with the day to day things as little as possible, and jump in when something major happens, like say, oh, I don't know, the actual possibility of the complete destruction of an entire universe.
All's well that ends well.
Save it for the trial.