Chapter 1: The Beginning
Quistis waved politely through the window at the small child as she sat in the waiting room. The kid just stared back for a few seconds, then rubbed her eyes (only kids in movies do that, she thought) as if not believing the person standing in front of her. Quistis winked at her, and the child blushed and ran off back to her friends standing on the opposite corner. You won’t believe who I saw! She smiled and turned back to the magazine she had been reading. Why did all waiting rooms have the same reading material? Always one copy of a beauty magazine (How to banish those wrinkles!) and a few ‘reality’ papers (Aliens ate my chocobo!). It was infuriating.
She heard the door to the doctor’s office swing open, and looked up to see a man in a black anorak walked out, followed by the doctor herself. She caught vague snatches of conversation as the man finished talking.
“-And remember, no more, or you literally will jerk it off.”
Quistis quickly buried her head in her paper to avoid laughing as everyone in the waiting room snorted in amusement, and still only managed to turn it to a cough into her handkerchief as the man turned and left quickly. She started to put it away, but suddenly a small spasm wracked her body and she really coughed so hard it actually hurt. She saw something warm and red spray onto the handkerchief, but she didn’t look at it. Quickly she threw looked around and threw it into the nearest trashcan. When she looked back up the doctor was scanning the clipboard she held in her hand, and looking around the waiting room. She eyes stopped on Quistis and she smiled.
Quistis dropped the magazine and walked to the doctor, holding out her hand. “That’s me,” she said.
The doctor smiled. “I recognised you from the news. Can I first say what an honour it is to have you in my little clinic.”
Quistis blushed slightly. She got that a lot recently. “Thank you. Can we-?”
The woman suddenly remembered why she was here. “Oh! Of course. Come this way,” she said, and walked back through the door, Quistis following. The doctor talked as she walked. “My superior on the other shift said you might be coming back. Some tests he had to run. Anyway, they came back yesterday. I assume that’s why you’re here?” she asked, looking back at her. Quistis nodded. It was. “Then we can take a look. Some very unusual tests, but he seemed to think they were necessary.”
Quistis walked through the archway into the small clinic. It wasn’t much; just a table, a couple of chairs and few bits of paperwork, but it had a really big shelf of medicines on one wall. Above all, it was private.
The doctor sat down on the chair and motioned at the other one. She pulled open a desk drawer and rummaged through it as Quistis sat down, finally coming back up with a single sheet of paper. Her eyes ran across the lines, and Quistis just sat opposite her, trying to resist the urge to fidget.
Then the doctor’s eyes came up from the page and met Quistis’ for a second. Then they went down to the words again. Quistis tried to read the words through the sheet, but the light was to dim.
Hurry and read it to me! She felt like screaming, as the MD checked everything on the page again. Finally the eyes met hers again, and did not look away.
Selphie waved at the small child as she sat licking her ice cream on the beachfront, the SeeD transport vessel rolling gently on the waves a few yards down the beach. She sighed and sat back, careful not to spill any of the lovely creamy frozen stuff. She idly wondered how they made it. Did they just take some cream or freeze it? Or did they use some arcane and dark machine to process it before sacrificing goats and virgins to it? Whatever, Dollet ice-cream rock-
She jumped back a something cold and slippery slid down her back. She whirled around, trying catch it, but it just slipped from her grasp. Then she heard laughing. She turned, fire in her eyes, to see Irvine with a half-full cone behind her, in tears. He had spilled it down her back.
She threw the rest of her cone at him, and it hit him full in the face, covering him in melting ice cream and half a chocolate flake. He stopped laughing and fell backwards onto the sand. He tried to wipe it off, but all that happened was that sand went from his hands onto his face.
“When you two are quite finished, people are trying to sunbathe,” Rinoa said sleepily from behind them.
Selphie looked back at Irvine as he casually (read, his eyes instantly snapped onto her bikini-ed form) glanced at her, and when his gaze failed to move, she threw the rest of the cone at him. He saw this one coming, and ducked. The cone sailed gracefully over his head, and by an amazing feat of trajectories managed to land on Rinoa, who screeched as ice-cold sugarcoated ice-cream landed on her bare stomach. She snapped to her feet instantly, whirling around to snarl something at Irvine. She stopped when she saw him though, and then burst out laughing.
“What?” Irvine said, forgetting he had ice cream and sand all over his face.
That got Selphie going, and pretty soon both girls were in tears, as Irvine just looked confused.
Rinoa wiped tears from her eyes as a crash sounded from inside the SeeD ship, and the hatch to the deck opened upwards to reveal Zell, looking around. “What’s going o-“ He saw Irvine standing there, still looking puzzled, and suddenly dropped back into the ship. Rinoa heard a dull clunk as the martial artist hit the floor. A few seconds later he popped back up again to make sure he was actually seeing Irvine covered in ice-cream, and instead of laughing backed out onto the beach.
Irvine turned to him as he approached. “What? Why is everyone laughing?” he asked. That made Selphie and Rinoa double up in laughter.
Zell just looked at him for a few seconds. “Dude, you do know you’re covered in ice-ream right?” he asked.
Irvine blinked. Then realisation dawned, and he looked across at Selphie and Rinoa. “You!” he shouted in mock anger, and ran at Selphie. Selphie tried to run, but she was laughing to hard and couldn’t stand. Irvine just scooped her up, and threw her unceremoniously in the sea. Selphie spluttered and flailed around for a few seconds before recovering, and waded back out, sand sticking to her where Irvine had dumped her.
“I do not believe you just did that,” she said.
Irvine put his hands on his hips and smiled in what he probably thought was a dashing pose. “Well, you should have thought about the consequences before WHOA!”
This last exclamation came as suddenly as unseen force picked him up, dunked his head under the water, raised him up, dunked him again, and then hung him upside down above the sea-level.
“Now say you’re sorry,” Rinoa said, using one arm to keep Irvine up. Damn, I love being a sorceress!
“OK! OK! I’m sorry! Put me down!”
And she did.
Irvine surfaced and gasped for air. “I meant put me down on the beach!” he said.
Rinoa gave him a dazzling smile. “But that was so much fun,” she said.
“Rin, stop tormenting my boyfriend,” Selphie said. “That’s my job!”
Rinoa pouted. “Fine then. You have him.” She pointed at the sodden figure of Irvine, and suddenly he was off his feet, and laying at Selphie’s.
“Sefie! Tell her to stop!” he begged. “Have mercy on the poor sharpshooter!”
“Leave him alone Rin. I think he learned his lesson.”
Rinoa turned to see Squall smiling tolerantly at the panorama of Irvine hiding behind Selphie from Rinoa, and Zell laughing next to the SeeD ship. He walked past Rinoa, and leant down so she could kiss him. He ignored Selphie’s terribly hidden ‘aww’s and Zell’s snickers.
Rinoa disengaged reluctantly. “Are we leaving?” she asked.
Squall nodded. “As soon as Quistis gets back we’ll go.”
Irvine looked up from grovelling. “How did the meeting with that Dollet leader guy go?” he asked.
Squall shrugged. “They agreed to maintain the Comm. Tower, same as they always do. They also asked SeeD to keep an eye on it ore or less permanently. Cid should be pleased.” Just so long as the SeeDs set to guard it aren’t us!
Zell stood and shook the sand from his clothes. Irvine, unfortunately, couldn’t shake the sand from his hair. Selphie heard a whistle, and looked up to see Quistis walking down the stairs to the beach.
“About time!” Zell said, as she got closer.
“Zell, we’ve only been waiting one minute,” Rinoa whispered.
“Don’t ruin my air of moral indignity,” he whispered back.
Quistis smiled. “Sorry about that. I got caught up.”
“Where did you go anyway?” Selphie asked.
“I had someone I needed to see. Personal stuff,” she said.
Squall shrugged. “We’re going. Come on.” He and Rinoa linked hands and walked off to the ship where Zell was already climbing into the hold for the journey back.
Irvine jumped on and helped Selphie up, and then Quistis. When the blonde caught a look at his face she burst out laughing. Irvine sighed. “Don’t you start as well.”
Quistis shook her head at him and climbed on. For a second the two were face to face, and Quistis quickly moved away before-
“Are you feeling alright?” Irvine asked, frowning at her as she moved past him. “Your eyes look a little red.”
Quistis waved it away casually. “Fine. Just something got into my eye. The wind,” she explained lamely. Irvine seemed to believe her though and followed her into the hold where the others were already sat.
Three months. Three long, long months. After Ultimecia had been defeated they had their pictures plastered over every flat vertical surface in the globe. The ‘Heroes of Time Compression’ and SeeD in general had enjoyed more publicity than in their wildest dreams (in Zell, Selphie and Irvine’s case) or nightmares (in Squall, Rinoa and Quistis case). After another month everyone had gone back to their day jobs and left them alone, albeit much better known than before.
Quistis stared out of the window as the sea rolled by. She had long gotten over her seasickness. She still vividly remembered the first sea-borne mission she had went on. She and Xu had infiltrated a broken-down tanker floating from the coast of Galbadia that was being used for piracy. They had had to jump off the side of the ship, and float to shore in a dingy barely big enough for one of them. She had been violently sick the entire tri-
A blinding pain flashed through her skull, and she gasped and grabbed her had with her left hand, reaching down to her pocket with the other. She drew them out, but her hand shook, and she dropped them onto the floor. She felt hands on her back, and someone in front of her picked up the packet of pills (please don’t look at the label pleas don’t look at the label) and handed them to her. She drew one out and swallowed them without thinking. Instantly the pain lessened, and her vision cleared to see the others looking worriedly at her, and Rinoa to her left rubbing her back.
“Are you OK?” the teenage sorceress asked. Quistis nodded and drew another pill, gulping it down. She relaxed and slid back down into her seat. Someone whispered something, and she felt the blue glow of Cure ash over her, soothing her body, but leaving the dull throb of her headache intact.
Wasted. Cure won’t touch this. Nothing will.
“Are you gonna be OK?” Irvine asked, concern obvious in his voice.
Quistis took a deep breath and composed herself. She answered as calmly as she could. “I’m fine. Just a headache, that’s all. I just need to get some sleep.
“You need to lay off the grading,” Zell remarked.
“I’ll be fine,” Quistis said again. She stood, waving off the comments. “I just need to get some air.”
Squall shrugged as Quistis opened and shut the door to the deck behind her. “Just lack of sleep. You know how she pushes herself,” he said calmly.
Selphie still looked worried though. “She’s been like this for a while now.”
Irvine patted Selphie on the back, and she leant into him, letting the sway of the ship lull her to sleep.
Cid and Seifer stood on the side of Balamb Harbour, being watched by Xu from the truck.
“This is your last chance Seifer. Please don’t lose this,” Cid said for what had to be the fifth time.
Seifer nodded. “I know. This time I won’t let you down,” he said. Xu snorted, but both men ignored her.
Cid smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “I know you won’t. Ah, here they come.”
Seifer looked to the horizon, and saw the low grey shape of the SeeD craft as it swung around the harbour and drew level with the stone walkway, extending the bridge even before it’s engine had shut off. Seifer sighed, and steeled himself for the coming onslaught of questions.
Surprisingly enough, Zell was the first one ff the boat, jumping the steps and landing on the deck. He too two steps forward, stopped when he saw Seifer, and instantly dropped into a fighting stance. Selphie and Irvine followed suit. Irvine had never known him as the others had, and merely raised one eyebrow. Selphie looked shocked though. When Rinoa saw him, she just looked confused, looking to Cid for answers. Squall, as usual, just looked bored. Quistis just took one look at him, and then turned and walked away to talk to Xu, the white-jacketed man seemingly not worthy of her attention. Seifer bridled at that the most, that she wouldn’t even bother to react.
“What’s he doing here?” Zell said, spitting venom with every syllable.
Cid sighed. “Seifer has rejoined Garden,” he said simply. “I have decided after much thinking, to allow him another chance at graduating.” He spoke like he had said this a thousand times to a thousand other students. “He was under hypnosis by Ultimecia, and has been declared innocent. I believe him,” he added, at the expression on Zell’s face. “He will be taking – and completing – the final parts of the SeeD graduation course. Quistis?”
Quistis looked around from her conversation with Xu. “Yes sir?” she asked.
“You will be teaching him,” Cid said shortly, and turned to go back to the truck before anyone had a chance to argue.
Quistis’ mouth fell open, and she started to complain, but Cid had already gotten into the second truck, and drove away. Xu walked past her, and patted for shoulder sympathetically.
“Tough luck there Quisty,” she whispered, and climbed into the remaining transport.
Quistis crossed her arms and was about to reply when a shadow fell across her, and she turned to see Seifer looking at her, intentionally blocking the sunlight.
“So, you’re teaching me again?” he sneered.
Quistis nodded. “And don’t screw up this time,” she whispered fiercely back. If Cid wanted her to, then she was damn well going to do it right this time.
Seifer smiled. “Think you can handle me again?” he asked.
Quistis turned and walked into the transport. “I did once before, and stop looking at my ass,” she said, as Seifer noticeably failed to walk in front of her.
Seifer cursed silently, trying to think of a comeback as he climbed into the truck. Damn, she was still sharp… Mind you, it was a very nice ass…
Xu started the truck up, and the team plus one wound their way back to Balamb Garden, and home.
Quistis opened the door to her room and virtually fell in, slapping the door lock button behind her, and falling onto the bed. She closed her eyes, and just lay there for a few seconds.
She sighed, and wiped the sweat from her eyes. Just what she needed. Without rising, she looked across the room a the small flip-down calendar she had on the bedside table. Mentally thinking, she worked out the dates involved.
23rd now… Graduation is in… then that
makes it… about…
Suppressing a cough, she got up unsteadily and walked over to the balcony, sliding open the door, and stood outside. She brushed a few stray hairs from her head as the wind washed across the balcony and around her. She stared out at the fields, and beyond them the sea, thinking about everything that had led them here-
“I’ve never seen anything like it…”
-and everything that had happened to them in between. She smiled, thinking about the first time they had realised they had all-
“What is it?”
-grown up together. It had been a shock, but then, everything in those months had been, running from continent to continent, trying to make a difference-
“Whatever it is, it’s… it’s in your bloodstream. It’s infecting your internal organs. The notes say there has never been anything like this before…”
-to the world, trying to save what lives they could. Travelling through time, seeing the past, watching the destruction of the Moon Station, the-
“And that is supposed to be comforting?”
-Lunar Cry, the huge pillar of Lunatic Pandora, floating closer and closer to Tears Point, and the ruin of Esthar-
“I’m sorry… I’ll have to refer you to a specialist. There’s nothing – nothing – like this anywhere on record. Is it true you went through time? Maybe some Bio-weapon?”
-and the future of SeeD, the bodies on the beach of the old
orphanage, the huge castle of Intervigilium-
can you do anything?”
-and the defeat of the great Dark Sorceress Ultimecia. The parties afterwards, Squall finally breaking out of his damned shell. Irvine and Selphie, Zell and Rosie-
“I can give you a prescription for some painkillers. I’m- I mean, it will get worse as… whatever it is… progresses.”
-and her reinstatement as an Instructor at Balamb Garden-
-and finally, here, now-
“It’s uncertain, apparently it slows and quickens. This specialist could tell you more…”
-to her quarters at Garden-
-dying slowly, from the inside-
“About fifty days.”
-with no hope of cure or release.
On her balcony, watching the sunset, Quistis fell to her knees, and began to cry.
Chapter 2: Lessons
Seifer stood at the back of the room as the rest of the class filed out, legs up on the work terminal in his trademark I-can’t-be-bothered-listening pose. He turned to see one of the other students glare balefully at him on the way out, and he slowly brought the Hyperion into view from behind the desk. The student took one look at the shiny, infamous, and above all sharp Gunblade, and immediately started to walk quicker to catch up with his friends.
“Don’t intimidate the students Mr Almasy.”
Seifer didn’t even look up. “Instructor,” he said coldly. He might have sworn to finish the damned course, but he sure as hell was not going to enjoy it. “Just giving the little cadets a warning,” he said.
Quistis crossed her arms. “Seifer, you do not take your weapon into lessons. Garden Regulations 20/3,” she said quietly.
Seifer stood slowly and towered over the instructor. “I never go anywhere unarmed, as you know Instructor.”
Quistis leant over him. “Put. It. Away,” she hissed at him. If human eyes could glow hers would be doing it. Reluctantly Seifer handed over the Hyperion into her grasp, and she yanked it away, walking over to her desk and placing it against the side. She turned back. “You can have it when the day is over,” she said quietly.
Seifer smirked. “What’s withal the whispering Instructor?” he asked. “Chocobo got your tongue?”
Quistis leaned back against the desk opposite him, and the two stared at each other for a few seconds. “Seifer. You have been accepted back into garden for one last try. Since the headmaster did this without consulting anyone else first, I have been the one to be landed with this thankless task. There are forty-nine days left to the final exam,” she walked up to him so they were face to face, “and this time you are going to pass it, if I have to hammer the knowledge into your brain with a very large mallet. Do I make myself totally clear?”
Seifer unconsciously leaned away from her. He had always remembered Quistis as one hell of a SeeD, but basically insecure. He had never seen her so… focussed… before… He put on his best I’m-not-fazed voice. “Whatever you say, Instructor.”
Quistis smiled. The kind of smile a shark has when it sees swimmers in the water. “Good. Lessons will begin tomorrow morning at nine am. I expect you-“
“Hey, hold on. I only have three lessons tomorrow, none of them with you,”
She smile stayed. “I may not have said that correctly. Your lessons. Your catch-up lessons will start at seven AM tomorrow. I expect you here, on time. Rest assured on this, your second time in Garden, you’re going to succeed, even if I have to pound the knowledge into your head with a sledgehammer. Good day Mr Almasy.” She turned and walked out, leaving Seifer sitting there in his chair. He took a deep breath, and against his hard-man image waited until he was certain she was gone before standing and walking over to his Gunblade. He was about try and walk out with it before he realised she had somehow chained it to her desk.
Quistis closed to door to the classroom, and the adrenaline rush from facing Seifer instantly left, draining her. Moving calmly away from the room Seifer still sat in, she made her way around the foyer, looking deep in thought as students smiled at her.
Coming to the dormitories, she almost made it before-
Quistis turned to watch the student approach. “Yes Brea?” she asked.
“Instructor, I was just wondering about the lesson tonight. You see, I- Miss Trepe? Are you alright?” she girl suddenly asked, as Quistis took a step backwards and put her hand against the wall.
One. Two. Three… “Yes. I’m fine,” Quistis said slowly, trying to think the stars out of her eyes. “Please, carry on.”
Brea looked perturbed. “That’s OK. I’ll just ask later,” she said. Before Quistis could ask what was wrong, the blonde had turned the corner and went out of sight.
Quistis turned and walked as fast as she could down the corridor. Finally reaching her own quarters, she slid her card through the slot and walk in, closing the door behind her. Sinking against the inner wall, she put a hand in her pocket and withdrew the bottle of painkillers from her pocket and swallowed three without thinking. Holding up her hand to eye level, she concentrated as hard as she could. Only when her hand stopped shaking did she lower it to the ground.
Quistis head snapped up and she looked around for whoever had just shouted right next to her ear. It took her a minute to realise that it had been her.
Squall and Rinoa sat in the cafeteria, Squall picking unenthusiastically at the food on his tray, and Rinoa just watching him.
“You’re upset,” she said simply.
“I’m fine,” was the instant reply.
Rinoa sighed. Shelled up again. “It’s Seifer isn’t it?”
“It’s not Seifer.”
Squall dropped up his fork and stared Rinoa in the eyes.
She cheered mentally. Woohoo! Eye contact!
“It’s not that I don’t like Seifer. I despise him. I hate him for what he did. He damn near fed you to Adel.”
Rinoa sighed. Again. Not so good. “But he was under mind control at the time. Anyway, I can sense what he’s feeling. He’s here to do what he says he is.”
Squall looked up from the remains of his meal at his girlfriend. That was one of the good things about having a sorceress for a girlfriend (the other that most others were afraid of her) was that she could, well, read people. If Rinoa said someone wasn’t plotting his or her deaths, then that was usually good enough…
But this is Seifer, is what you’re about to say next I think, Rinoa thought at him.
Oh, and telepathic Knight-Sorceress link was pretty handy too.
“I just… can’t see him here without remembering everything,” Squall finished weakly.
Rinoa sighed, this time in exasperation. “Squall, even you can’t go through the rest of your life with a grudge against Seifer. He made his mistakes. Now he’s paying for them.”
Now it was Squall’s turn to sigh. He did. “OK, fine. But the first sign we get of trouble, I’m getting Cid to eject his ass from Garden.”
Rinoa smiled at him. He had changed a lot, even if he didn’t realise it. “That’s just fine,” she said quietly.
Squall smiled at Rinoa’s happy expression. Even if she didn’t realise it, she had as well. “Anyway, don’t you have a job to go to?” he asked.
Rinoa stared at him for a few seconds, and then slapped her palm against her head. “I completely forgot!” Picking up her jacket, she quickly stood and ran past Squall, stopping to give him a peck on the cheek, before running back to the infirmary. Squall grinned slightly, after making sure no-one was around. Rinoa as a nurse as funny as hell. Especially when she was late for the night shift.
Grabbing the remnants of his lunch, he shoved it down the garbage hole and put the tray back on the pile, walking out of the cafeteria and back to the Training Centre, where the last class of the day was waiting for him.
Footsteps alerted him before the students voice did. He turned. “Yes Brea?” he asked as he saw the young blonde running towards him. She slowed to a walk as she approached and saluted him. He saluted back.
“Sir, it’s you haven’t seen Mi- Instructor Trepe around have you?” she asked.
Squall shook his head. “No, why?”
Brea looked agitated. “She’s supposed to be teaching the lesson I’m in now, but she hasn’t turned up.”
Squall looked at the expression on the Cadet’s face, worry combined with professionalism, and a slight touch of awe. Since the Ultimecia Ordeal the six SeeDs had been treated with that a lot. Luckily, Cid had made it known that such behaviour would be frowned upon in Garden.
That didn’t stop the Trepes though. They had been here before the Ordeal, and would probably be here long after. Brea wasn’t a member – she was far too sensible for that – but she looked up to Quistis. “I’ll find out,” he said, and turned to walk away.
Brea watched him leave, and shivered slightly.
Brea smiled as her GF addressed her calmly. Crux had been a constant companion to her since she had been three; guiding her and helping her along ever since she had joined Balamb Garden.
“I don’t know,” she said quietly, “something doesn’t seem right.”
That’s probably just emotions you’re getting from me, Crux replied. Brea felt a ghostly hand brush through her hair, and smiled.
“You’re probably right.” She turned and walked away. Crux’s prescience – and there, to some extent her own – had managed to baffle the entire Garden faculty for months, and still did. She didn’t think too hard about it as she walked away, and she hadn’t fully grasped Crux’s last sentence.
Squall knocked politely on Quistis door, checking his watch. He stood there for about three minutes, and was in the act of turning away when the door swung open.
“Yes?” Quistis said.
Squall started to turn back to face the Instructor. “Quistis, Cadet Brea came up to me, she’s wondering whether class is- are you OK?”
Quistis nodded quickly. “I’m fine. I completely forgot about the class. I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she said quietly but forcibly. The message was clear: not now.
Squall nodded, confused. “Sure. Just thought you’d like to know,” he said.
Quistis smiled slightly. “Thanks for the headzup though.” She tried to close the door, but Squall got his hand around it first.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” It’s her eyes…They looked… closed…
“I said I was fine Squall,” Quistis whispered. Just leave me the hell alone.
Squall gave the impression that if he wasn’t trying to be polite he would have sighed. “OK. See you around.” Fine, be that way.
This time, Quistis actually did manage to get the door shut. Squall stood in the hall for a few seconds, just trying to think about the fact that he had just had a door close in his face. Then he turned and walked off back towards his own lesson. On the way he checked his watch. Five minutes late. Damn.
Quistis leant against the door until she
muffled sound of footsteps faded from the corridor, then slid down against the
thick plastic surface. She punched the floor and cursed silently. Now she was
forgetting things. Absentmindedly she brushed a few stray strands of hair out of
her face and closed her eyes. When she had been young, she had always believed
that nice people who died went to heaven, and evil people who died went to hell.
Well, what about blonde mercenaries who have killed innocent men women and children by the time they were fifteen, but saved the world once?
She didn’t know, but she was going to find out. Soon.
A dull ache in her head gave her the warning, and she had reached for the bottle of pills before the pain fully descended on her.
Squall was nearly at the end of the hall leading back to the foyer when he heard footsteps running behind him. He turned to see Quistis slow as she approached him. He let her make the first move.
“Squall, I’m sorry about back there. I shouldn’t have been so mad. It’s just been a busy week, with the lessons and all,” Quistis said.
Squall was surprised. Quistis? Admitting to being busy?
Wait, what’s that sound?
Oh, that’s just Hell freezing over.
“That’s OK,” Squall said. “What about the lesson?”
Quistis leant back slightly. Squall got the impression she hadn’t meant to. He tried to stare into her eyes again. Instead of the cold hard gaze he had saw the last time, they were… softer.
“Damn, I forgot about that-”
“…I’ll just have to catch up next time around…”
I’ll be damned if you ever missed a lesson before due to illness. Squall remembered one week when she had a fever, and had still managed to teach her classes for the day, before recovering at lightspeed over the weekend.
“…Can you tell Cid I’m sorry next time you see him?” she finished.
Squall nodded. “Sure,” he said. Quistis turned and went
back to her dormitory, once again leaving Squall staring at her retreating back.
Damn girl, what is wrong with you?
He checked his
watch for the second time, sighed, and decided to follow suit. No way was he
going to get to his class in time…
Seifer sat on his
bed in his dorm, staring at the ceiling and mentally berating himself.
First day back and
already I got in a fight with the Instructor… he had little respect for any Garden staff, and less for Trepe, but she
was still his Hyne-damned instructor…
Not a good idea to piss off
Seifer lay back on
his bed. Damn that woman, making him get up at seven in
He rolled over
onto his stomach and closed his eyes, and tried to get some sleep for the coming
trials. If he knew her, she really was
going to pound the learning into his head. Hell hath no fury…
At roughly the
same time, Quistis collapsed back on her
bed. Unlike Seifer, she was not thinking about the upcoming lessons. She remembered to set her alarm
for seven Am, and then she just sat there. She wondered what it would feel like
when it came.
A coughing fit ran through her body, and she grabbed for the bottle of pills on the bedside table. Swallowing one, she lay back and tried to get some sleep, attempting to escape for future, at least for a little while.
Chapter 3: A New Day
Quistis stood outside of the Training Centre, trying to resist the urge to pace as Seifer noticeably failed to turn up on time. Where was he?
Almost automatically now, she closed her eyes slightly and chanted under her breath. A small barely visible blue glow surrounded her for a second and then faded. She sighed. She had found Cures were easier and more simple than pills.
Footsteps alerted her to his presence long before his voice did. She was turning in his direction before he had opened his mouth. “And were have you been?” she asked, acid in her voice.
Seifer stopped. Damn. He had been hoping to sneak up on her… “I overslept,” he said with a small smirk.
Quistis’ eyes narrowed. “That’s no excuse. You want to be a SeeD?” she asked dangerously.
“Hell yes,” Seifer replied, just as intensely.
“Then you act like one. Which means following orders from a superior officer. Now come on.” She turned suddenly and began to walk off into the Centre, not even checking to see if Seifer was following her. He did anyway.
“What’s the lessons then?” he asked after one minute of walking deeper into the greenery of Garden’s personal Danger Room.
“Since you’re already proficient in combat and magic skills, we won’t spend long on them. Today will be a test to see what you can do, and then it’ll be mostly knowledge-“
“You mean book-learning, right?” he asked.
Quistis tutted in annoyance. “Yes. Come on. We brought this one in special for you,”
Seifer followed as Quistis brushed aside a clump of branches that were thicker than most, and then smile and shout something to someone beyond it. Seifer pushed through the undergrowth, and looked around to see who she was looking at. His mouth dropped open.
Someone, since he had last been here, had cleared a small area of grass and trees from the centre of the facility, and smoothed it into an arena. In the middle of the circle stood Xu, dressed as usual in immaculate SeeD regalia.
Stood next to a fully-grown Blue Dragon.
The beast didn’t attack her. It didn’t even seem to see her. It just stood next to her. The only movement it sowed was when Quistis and Seifer walked into the area. Instantly the creature’s massive set of eyes began to track them both.
“Stay back here,” Quistis whispered to Seifer.
“Fuckin’ A,” Seifer muttered feverently.
Quistis walked towards Xu. “All ready?” she asked.
Xu grinned the grin that a people grins when they’re about to begin inflicting suffering on someone she particularly despises. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life,” she said.
Quistis turned back to Seifer. “This will be your test. It’s had its claws clipped, so it shouldn’t maul you too badly.” She gestured to Xu, who threw something shiny and long into the middle of the arena. The Hyperion…
“Do not tell me you tamed that thing!” Seifer exclaimed, eyeing his Gunblade..
Xu smiled evilly. “Sure we did.” She turned to the domesticated dragon, and patted its flanks. It made a noise not unlike a thousand cats being tortured. She pointed at Seifer. “Kill.”
It leapt at him instantly. Seifer ducked under it and rolled past it. He came up right net to the Hyperion, and grabbed it without stopping, swinging around and firing once. The pin fell on an empty chamber, and he barely had time to glance at Xu murderously before the Dragon had recovered from its failed leap and lunged at him. He sidestepped past it and aimed a swipe at its eyes, seeing the Gunblade swing against it’s side and watching for the blood to-
Seifer watched in astonishment as the Hyperion bent in on itself, and instead of scoring a deep gnash in the side of the beast literally bent and ran along it. He ran past the monster and took a closer look at the blade that Xu ha given him. It wasn’t the Hyperion.
Observing from the sidelines, Quistis raised an eyebrow at Xu. “Cardboard?”
Xu sighed in happiness. “I thought we only wanted to see how long he would last. Ten gil says three more minutes.”
“He better not annoy Tiddles.”
Quistis snorted. “Tiddles?”
“I had a cat called Tiddles when I was six. A tame dragon is so much better though…”
Seifer threw the fake sword away in disgust and watched as the dragon swung its tail around. Timing himself, he jumped over the swinging appendage and landed next to its leg. Aiming a kick, he jammed his foot into its knee, and was rewarded with a roar of pain. Faster than he could dodge, it swung around again, knocking him on the head with its front foot and sending him reeling. He fell hard against the floor, and without thinking about what he was heading into rolled to the left, hearing something large and heavy smash down centimetres from his chest. Opening his eyes, he spun around and over the tree branch he was about to hit, and came up next to Xu’s feet. He looked up at her, and she sighed.
“Alright, that’s enough.”
On command, the Blue Dragon stopped its manic attack, and just stood there in the centre of the quad, watching him with it’s compound eyes. He could see himself reflected from them.
Quistis smiled. “Well, I think we can safely say that you don’t need any combat training again. Good, I hated doing that with you.” You always wandered off and killed everything… “We can start you off on basic GF Usage and Theory. You look pretty tired. Go take the rest of the morning off,” she said, looking at Seifer’s haggard appearance. From cool and collected to battered and bruised in three minutes flat. Tiddles, I love you… she thought.
Seifer glared at the two woman with a gaze he reserved exclusively for Things Not Fit To Live, and stalked off, trying to massage some life back into his arms.
Xu turned to Quistis with a smile on her face. The best day of my life ever… “Well, not a bad first les- Quistis?”
Quistis was lying against a tree, eyes closed, whispered something under her breath. Xu watched as a blue glow enveloped her and left. She opened her eyes again and stared at Xu glassily. “Yes?” she whispered.
“Are you alright?” Xu asked, sitting down against the tree at her side. She held up her hand against Quistis’ forehead, and drew it away instantly with a small yelp. She was cold… “We have to get you to the doc,” she said, and looped Quistis’ shoulder around her arm, lifting her from the ground.
Suddenly Quistis’ eyes snapped back into focus, and she jerked away from Xu. Standing shakily against the tree, she breathed deeply, and when she knew her voice would be steady, said; “I’m OK.”
Xu shook her head. “The hell you are.”
Quistis waved away her friend. “It’s just a bug. It’ll go away in a few days,” she said. It ebbs and flows… “Really,” she said, after seeing the expression on Xu’s face. She leant back against the tree and closed her eyes. “Xu?” she asked.
Xu looked around in surprise as Quistis addressed her. “Yes?”
“Are you afraid of death?” she asked frankly, looking directly at her eyes.
Xu sighed, and wrapped her arms around the back of her head. “Toughie. Why do you ask?”
Quistis waved dismissively. “No reason. I just wanted to know,” she said.
Xu slid down the side of the tree, and looked up at the sky. “I’m afraid of dying without finishing what I’m here to do,” she replied.
Quistis smiled wanly. What do you think you’re here to do?”
Xu shrugged. “I have no idea. I suppose I’ll know it when I see it. What about you?”
She laughed softly. “I think I’ve already done what I’m here to do.” She coughed, and Xu handed her a handkerchief. She nodded in thanks and coughed into it, removing it from sight before Xu could look at it. Some small sunlight filtered through the canopy, and she closed her eyes against it as the leaves made it flow across the clearing like liquid gold.
“Judging by that little display with my pet, I think you still need to domesticate Seifer before your work is done. Good luck with that. Are you sure you don’t need to see the doc?” Quistis nodded, and Xu shrugged. “Suit yourself. I’m off. Cid needs me to dig him out of paperwork.” She stood and stretched. Turning to the Blue Dragon that was sitting contentedly in the centre of the clearing, she whistled once at it, and pointed away into the underbrush. Instantly it bounded away into the foliage, and disappeared into the centre proper, where it would terrorise unsuspecting students. Xu glanced back once at her friend, sitting against the tree and staring up at the sky. “Well, looks like you have your work cut out for you. Take it easy this time with him will ya? You’ll kill yourself trying to break him in.”
Quistis laughed and stood, ignoring the throbbing headache that ran down her body at the slightest movement, and walked over to her friend. “You don’t have to worry about that,” she said.
Walking from the quad, they saw Seifer storm off into the dormitories. Quistis pressed her hand over Xu’s mouth to stop the other woman shouting something to the downtrodden cadet. The two wandered into the cafeteria, and-
Quistis and Xu sighed resignedly and walked over to where Selphie and Irvine were sitting at the back of the cafeteria.
“Hello Selphie,” Quistis said, drawing out a seat and sitting next to the bubbly teenager.
Irvine looked up at her from under his hat. “Heard you got stuck with teaching Seifer. Tough job,” he said in sympathy.
Quistis shrugged. “He’ll come around in the end.”
“I heard Xu introduced him to Tiddles,” Selphie said with a smile.
Quistis gaped. “That happened only fifteen minutes ago!”
Irvine shrugged. “News gets around,” he said simply.
Quistis rubbed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. “I don’t know guys. What makes Cid think I’ll do any better this time?” she asked.
Selphie reached across and patted her on the shoulder. “You’ll do great!” she said enthusiastically.
Quistis suddenly realised something, and looked up at her. “Don’t you hate him for what he did?” she asked quietly.
Selphie shrugged and looked serious for a second. “He proved he was under control. He may be a pushy meanie anyway, but he wasn’t doing it on his own. I can forgive him that much,” she said. “And Irvy feels the same, right Irvy? Irvy! Stop waving at those girls!”
Irvine’s gaze swung back at Selphie in panic. “Sorry! Sorry! Just being polite,” he muttered quickly, averting his gaze from the three cute cadets on the next table across. “I don’t really care, so long as he doesn’t do anything nasty again,” he said unconcernedly.
Quistis sighed. Just me then… She took a deep breath. AT least, she tried to. Something caught in the back of her throat and she bent double over the table, coughing again. She felt a reassuring hand rub her back and waved Irvine away. “I’ll be fine,” she gasped. For a while, anyway…
When are people going to stop asking me that! “Yeah. I just need some air,” she said haltingly, and stood, walking out of the cafeteria, face calm.
Selphie, Irvine and XU watched her go from concern.
“Is she alright?” Irvine asked.
Xu shrugged. “Summertime. Flu bug gets around, you know how it is. She denies it of course. You know Quistis. It’ll go on it’s own,” she said without worry, leaning back in her chair and re-running Seifer’s confrontation with Tiddles over again in her mind. She smiled. If she had been teaching that bastard he wouldn’t have had any energy left at the end of the day for sleeping. If she knew Quistis though, she was going to rebuild him from the ground up.
Quistis almost ran down the corridor away from the cafeteria, and reached into her pocket, drawing out her phone, she dialled the number the doctor in Dollet had given her.
“C’mon, pick up,” she prayed feverently.
“Hello?” a voice said from the other end.
Quistis jerked upright in relief.
“Yes hello doctor, this is Miss Trepe, I visited about three days ag- Oh good. They want to see me? When? Is this about the- is that good or bad?” She took a deep breath. Maybe there was hope. “Do they think they can do anything?” she asked quietly.
“…Maybe. The man is the best in his particular field. Do you want me to make the arrangements for the appointment?”
Quistis nodded, as if the person on the other end could see her do it. “Please. As soon as possible.”
“Don’t give up just yet Miss Trepe. Even if it seems hopeless,” the doctor said gently.
Quistis heard a click as the woman on the other end of the line put the phone down, and she placed it back into her pocket, the last lines repeating in her head over again.
There is hope. There has to be…
Quistis smiled gently to herself. All her life, from the first second a stray round from another cadet in her class had nearly taken her head off back when she had been a student, she had always thought she had been ready. If anything being a SeeD had only made that sense even higher, because the probability of capture in a game where losing meant a bullet to your temple and an unmarked grave – if your adversary was feeling generous – was so much higher. Standing I the corridor, surrounded by the sights and smells of home, Quistis realised something she had tried to hide her whole life.
I’m afraid. I don’t want to die.
As if on cue, or a warning not to tempt fate, another coughing fit took hold of her, and she quickly drew out Xu’s handkerchief, holding it tightly against her mouth. When she fit passed and she could find the energy to stand up straight again, she looked at it and saw that it was red. It had been white when Xu had given it to her. Using it to wipe away the thin trickle of blood running down her lip, she tossed it in the nearest waste bin and walked away back to her dorm.
Chapter 4: Advice Worth Listening To
Squall heard the intercom beep on his desk, and seconds later heard Rinoa’s voice.
“Squall, Quistis is here to see you,” she said. Squall couldn’t tell, but it sounded like she was smiling.
“Sure, send her in,” Squall said, glad of any distraction from his paperwork.
He sat back on his chair as Quistis entered the room slowly. “Yes?” he asked politely.
Quistis formally saluted, then relaxed and smiled. “Squall, could I take a few days off?” she asked.
That made Squall actually stop and think. Quistis had never, not once, asked for time off, even when she could have asked for it. She had the only perfect record for teaching in the history of Garden, not including the Ultimecia incident. “Why?” he asked out of curiosity.
“I have some personal things I need to take care of,” she said casually.
Squall shrugged. “Fine with me, do you want to use the travel fund?” he said, meaning the small collection kept for SeeDs who went on official trips. Vacations weren’t exactly official, but he could bend the rules slightly, what with being one of the famous Children of Fate.
Quistis smiled. “I don’t need it,” she said. She didn’t. None of them did. After they had come back from Ultimecia’s castle, Intervigilium, Galbadia had came knocking to apologise, and offered to pay the damages for the conflict. The entire group had taken the opportunity to demand overtime for the entire incident, since they had definitely been on continuous duty. Three months of it. They could have quit and lived in modest comfort in most countries.
“OK.” He had to admit, he was curious. “Where are you going?” he said.
Quistis waved away the question. “Esthar,” she said simply, fingering the piece of paper in her pocket with the appointment written on it.
There is something going on here.
Squall shrugged again. “OK. How long are you going to be gone?” he asked.
“About a week probably,” Quistis said.
There is definitely something else going on… “See you in about a week then. Is there anything the cover Instructor should know about lessons?”
Quistis sighed. “Only that the new guy doesn’t let Cadet Brea get her hands on any serious magic. That girl can do some serious damage to herself.”
Squall resisted the urge to laugh. “Note taken,” he said, as Quistis walked out. When the door was shut and he was sure she had left, he sat back and the smile vanished from his face.
Something is definitely wrong…
Quistis closed the door firmly behind her, and leaned against the wall to get her breath back, eyes closed and face inclined towards the ceiling. She felt her hand shaking, and balled it into a fist, trying not to collapse onto the floor-
She opened her eyes and saw a figure in blue walking towards her. She tried to stand up straight, and was rewarded by her vision blurring. “Hey Rinoa,” she said quietly.
“Hi Quisty! What did you want to talk to Squall about?” the teenage sorceress asked.
Quistis walked around her to the door, ignoring the pain in her head. “Just some time off for some personal stuff,” she said, wishing that Rinoa would leave her alone. No such luck.
“Really? Personal stuff? You?”
Quistis managed a weak smile. “Don’t look so shocked Rin. I just need some time off.”
“Where are you going?”
Quistis silently cursed. “Esthar,” she said through gritted teeth.
At that point Fate must have intervened, because the phone rang on Rinoa’s desk, and she whipped away to answer it, giving Quistis enough time to walk out the door and take the lift down before Rin could turn back. In the small elevator car she immediately hit the emergency stop button and sank to the floor, concentrating as hard as she could through the haze over her view of the world.
She relaxed against the wall, feeling the comforting glow of Cura flow through her, driving the pain from her head and body. She smiled slightly and sighed. Standing, she hit the button to start up the lift again, and stepped out, right into Seifer.
“Instructor,” Seifer said in mock surprise, as she stopped right in front of him. “Fancy meeting you here.” He smirked into her face, but saw that no response was forthcoming. “Trepe?” he asked.
Quistis looked up at him. “Yes?” she asked, and Seifer saw the same glaze over her eyes that he had seen before.
Seifer stood back slightly. “Nothing,” he said.
Quistis pushed past him. She actually pushed past him. “Then let me go,” she said, and moved past him.
Seifer stared after her for a few seconds as she walked away towards the dorms, and then shook his head. “Freaky woman,” he said, and wandered off towards the Training Centre to blow of some steam over the last stupid class he had taken with the stupid cadets. Turning and drawing his Gunblade as he went in, he tried to forget about the terrible day he had just had, but for some reason he couldn’t get the single image of Trepe staring at him with those unseeing eyes.
Quistis had the feeling she should really be packing, but she had nothing to pack except some spare clothes, as apparently the specialist liked to keep subjects – she hated that word – under the same room as the equipment.
Sighing, she leaned back against the door, and ran a hand over her face. She felt the Cura wearing off, and started to concentrate on casting a new one, trying to block out the small ache of what would shortly become the next best thing to unbearable pai-
She lowered her hand, and felt the spell fade from her hands, unfinished.
I can’t let it get to me.
She sat, deep in thought, and when raised her hand again. She concentrated, and a new spell fell over her.
She felt the muffling effect of the spell overtake her, and sat there on the floor of her dorm, as the Cura worked it’s last magic charm, and faded leaving in the place of it’s warm sensory oblivion a sharp red pain that flowed through her nervous system and started burning it to ash. She lay there, biting her lower lip, and finally let go and screamed openly, no sound coming from her lips, as the disease continued it’s inexorable process.
Zell lay under the several hundred tons of red-painted metal and liquid oxygen and explosive that was the Ragnarok’s engine-maintenance cavity, Rosie leaning on a nearby desk, watching for signs that the huge spaceship was going to fall of it’s supports and crush her boyfriend. She could hear muffled cursing from Zell, but didn’t want to get any closer to the ship than necessary. Specifically, under it. She didn’t know how Zell could actually sit under something that could turn him into a smear on the hanger floor so casually.
And he’s whistling! Is he crazy?
She heard footsteps, and turned to see a familiar blonde walking towards her, a travel bag swung under her shoulder. She smiled hesitantly. “Hello Miss Trepe,” she said.
Quistis smiled. “Please Rosie, call me Quistis like everyone else does,” the Instructor said.
Rosie nodded. “Sure Mi- Quistis. Been in the Training Centre?” she asked.
Quistis frowned for a second, and then blinked when Rosie pointed to her head. She wiped quickly wiped the sweat off her forehead. “Yes,” she said quickly.
Zell finally pushed himself out from under the Ragnarok. “Oh, hey Quistis! Need a ride?” he said cheerfully.
“Yes, actually. Going to Esthar?” Quistis replied with a smile.
Zell hesitated slightly. “Actually I was just polishing the engine block,” he said, holding up the dirty rag he had been using. He didn’t see the near-murderous look that Rosie gave him.
Quistis did, and resisted the urge to tell him. The girl had eyes like lasers. “Well, when are you going then?” she asked.
Zell stood, still not seeing Rosie’s urge to kill him, and dramatically slammed his fist on the button to lower the ramp, which slid down with an impressive whirring noise. He bowed. “After you ladies.”
Rosie took a step back. “I refuse to ride in that monstrosity,” she said.
Zell looked surprised. “I didn’t know you were afraid of flying.”
Rosie shook her head. “I’m not. I’m just afraid of flying in that,” she said, pointing at the offending that.
Zell looked offended himself. “What? It’s perfectly safe!” he said.
“You drove it into the wall of a half-mile high slab of marble,” Rosie said simply.
“I repaired it!”
“No,” she emphasised, with the impression that if he didn’t stop arguing soon, needles would be involved.
Quistis ignored the two and moved up into the ship. She turned and rested her hand on the button to close the ramp. “Are you coming? ” she asked. “Or do I have to fly this thing myself?”
Zell ran up so fast Quistis hardly saw him move. That she was actually qualified to drive the Ragnarok probably didn’t matter to him. It was his baby. He waved to Rosie before the ramp closed shut, and avoided Death by Piercing Gaze for another day.
The sound of the Ragnarok effectively made conversation impossible, and Quistis was glad as the act of piloting the massive thing distracted Zell from asking any questions. She sat back against the cold metal surface of the chair and tried to ignore the pain in her head.
Just one more Cura…
She balled her hand into a fist, and closed her eyes.
I am not going to go down that road…
It would make the pain go away…
I could get addicted.
In about forty-seven days it won’t make any difference. And it hurts so bad…
Quistis slowly opened her hand, and the familiar blue glow fell over her, driving away all the pain. She smiled slightly, only vaguely aware of her conscience prodding her.
The Ragnarok touched down five hours and one queasy stomach later, due to Zell’s fast and, well, erratic, flight path. Quistis got off the ramp, one hand held onto the side of the Ragnarok to avoid falling down. She turned to face Zell.
“And next time, can you fly in a straight line?” she asked quietly.
Zell looked confused. “That was one, wasn’t it?”
Quistis sighed and decided not to throttle him today. She turned and started walking away, down the airstrip. She took a moment to look out over Esthar, and smiled when she saw it had been entirely rebuilt. She was about to start walking again when-
She quickly whipped back to look over the landing pad, and saw her again. She smiled and waved. The woman standing on the walkway waved back, and crossed her arms.
Quistis pushed open the door leading away from the Airstation, and whistled.
Quistis walked forward and embraced her. “Hello Ellone,” she said, genuinely smiling.
“I heard you were coming, s’up?” the teen asked.
“You- Wait, how? We only left a few hours ago!”
Ellone giggled. “Laguna got one of the guys at the Airstation to tell him whenever the Rag was incoming. I guessed the rest.” Her eyes suddenly lit up. “hey, where’re you staying?” she asked.
Quistis shrugged. “I was going to go get a room or something,” she said.
Ellone shook her head. “No you aren’t. You can stay with us!” she said cheerfully. “Come on!”
Oblivious to her pleas, Ellone dragged Quistis off onto one of the HoverTeacups (“Laguna couldn’t think up another name,” Ellone said sadly), and the pair flew off through the huge metropolis.
“So, why’re you here?” Ellone asked as the two went through the tunnels that made up the Esthar Public Transport System.
Quistis stared out at the passing scenery. “I need to visit someone,” she said.
“Who?” Ellone asked curiously.
The HT stopped outside the Presidential Palace a few
seconds later, allowing Quistis to climb out first and dodge the question. The
place was massive. She shivered slightly and turned back to Ellone. “Are you
sure you can spare the room?” she asked. She paused. Stupid question…
Ellone smiled. “I think we can all squeeze in together,” she said.
The two women moved into the warmth of the foyer. Ellone took off the jacket she was wearing to reveal her usual blue and white ensemble, whereas Quistis hadn’t bothered bringing a coat in the first place.
“Laguna asked to make sure you got this,” Ellone said, handing her a key to a guestroom.
Quistis looked at the number and wing on the tag, and then raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Alright, Kiros did,” Ellone admitted. “…Are you alright? You’re sweating,” she said.
“I’m fine. I just need some sleep,” Quistis whispered.
Ellone shrugged. “Sure. Hey, you want to do something tomorrow?”
The girl was indefatigable. “I have an appointment to see a- someone,” she said, quickly changing her sentence. She started to move off, head pounding. “I really need to get some sleep,” she said apologetically. “See you tomorrow.”
Quistis turned to close the door behind her, and was surprised when it slid shut on it’s own. She mentally shrugged and turned to the bed, falling on it with a sigh. Changing, she crawled under the covers and Cura-d herself.
She awoke three hours later, head about to explode. She muffled a scream under the pillows and sat there for a few seconds trying to concentrate on casting something stronger, tears streaming from her eyes. Trying to think through the red mist, she cast the only thing she could remember off the top of her memory.
She drifted off instantly into the dreamless oblivion the spell dropped on her. She would see the specialist tomorrow, whoever s/he was. Tomorrow. Everything would be alright tomorrow.
Chapter 5: The Specialist
Quistis woke up to the insistent beep of her alarm clock pounding a steady tone into her ear. She threw her hand out and slammed it down on the top, halting its maddening ring instantly. Getting up slowly, she stumbled over to the bathroom and ran water over her face. She cursed.
It feels like I haven’t had any sleep at all…
She looked up into the mirror, and nearly recoiled from her own face. It was like someone had drained all the colour from her while she slept, leaving her a pale ghost. She laughed silently at the image, and bit back the pain in her head this caused. She was out of Curas anyway.
Good. You’re getting hooked on those things.
She stood there in front of the mirror, just staring at herself, as though if she stared hard enough she could convince the colour to return to her. When nothing happened she turned back to her room and began to get ready for her coming ‘appointment’. If it was possible to dread and look forward to something at the same time, then she was as close as anyone.
A knock at the door startled her out of her small reverie, and she turned to answer it, puling on a simple t-shirt and pair of jeans. She opened the door to the warm smiling face of Ellone.
“Quistis! You ready to g- Hyne, are you alright?” she asked in shock at seeing the Instructor. “You look like Hell.”
I feel worse. “Just a bug or something,” she replied casually.
Ellone frowned. “Quisty, you didn’t look like this last night. You need to see someone. Odine is seeing someone about some sort of lethal disease, but we could go after. He’s the best doctor here crazy or not,” the girl said.
Quistis shook her head. “I’m fine!” she said, a little more forcefully than she had intended. Damn.
“I was just worried, y’know,” Ellone said dejectedly.
Quistis sighed. “I’m sorry Elle, it’s just I’ve been under a lot of pressure recently. I just need some time alone to relax.”
“You work too hard. You need this vacation,” she said.
Quistis shook her head. Bad idea. “I know. But with S- some new students coming in, it’s just been a little tough,” she invented.
Ellone nodded. “OK. But don’t be a stranger, y’hear?” she said with a smile.
Quistis nodded. “Yeah. Sorry.” She looked down at her watch. “Damn. I’m late for my appointment,” she whispered. Too loud.
“You have an appointment? With who?” Ellone asked curiously.
Quistis shook her head. “Sorry, but I need to go,” she said, and quickly grabbed her small rucksack from the bed and moved past Ellone. “Just give me a few days to sort everything out,” she said, and disappeared, leaving Ellone standing at the doorway watching her, wondering what was going on.
Quistis pressed the door for the elevator doors to close, and mentally kicked herself.
Stupid stupid stupid! Now you’re driving your friends away from you as well!
The elevator suddenly lurched to the side, and she sat down hard on one of the small padded seats as it made it’s way out of the palace. She stared out at the scenery as it flew past, taking in the sights and sounds of a place she had always wanted to play tourist in, and now never would. She held back a small sob, and just watched as people and areas whizzed by in some kind of fast-forward of life.
A miniature pressure forcing her forward told her that the vehicle was slowing down, and seconds later it went into the open air and came to a stop outside of a large tall building she vaguely recognised. She frowned and dipped a hand into her pocket, coming up with the small piece of paper she had written the details of this ‘specialist’ on. She looked back up at the building, and then turned to look at the view directly outside the building. A small shiver went though her as she recognised where she was.
The doors slid open with the soundless grace that she had come to expect from Esthar technology, and two men carrying guns immediately greeted her. They turned to face her, but only nodded slightly. They instantly moved aside.
Her curiosity got the better of her. “Aren’t you going to ask me who I am?” she asked them.
One faceless soldier shook his/her head. “No-one is here who isn’t supposed to be,” s/he said.
Quistis walked past them both, and felt their eyes on her back as she walked in. She could tell what they were thinking; there goes another poor bitch to see the doctor. Wonder what’s wrong with her? She resisted the urge to turn around and scream something abusive at them.
She walked up to what appeared to be a very large Dread Portal, made to look intimidating to all who dared stand before it. She would have been surprised to learn it had been made and installed on Laguna’s orders, to scare away visitors. She could hear someone arguing on the other side. She reached out her hand to knock politely, but as soon as her fist came within a few inches, the door slid open, to reveal a tall man in black and the ‘specialist’.
“Ziss eez not practical!” Dr Odine screamed at the man.
On his part, the man in black seemed very calm. “We disagree. We are willing to pay you for your servic-“
“Ziss eez not aboot ze money! Ziss eez aboot ze riskz!”
Quistis rapped her hand gently on the wall. Instantly the man’s head snapped towards her and gave her the once over. She found it vaguely flattering, until she realised he was checking her for weapons.
“Who are you?” the man asked.
Odine recognised her immediately.
“Odine rememberz you! Vhat do you vant here woman? I have an appointment wiz an important subject now!” he shouted.
Quistis sighed. “Yes, I know,” she said.
The man looked form one to the other. “I will leave now,” he said. He walked past her calmly.
Odine shook his fist in the direction of the man’s retreating back. “And do not come back! Or Odine will do fisticuffs wiz you!” he said. He turned back to Quistis. “Now, what iz you trying to tell Odine before ze man walked oot?”
Quistis sighed. “The doctor in Dollet told me to come to you,” she said simply. And already I regret it.
Odine’s expression softened instantly. “My dear child! Odine iz sorry to hear about your condition. But he will try to fix it! Yes, he will!” the man said, and scuttled off towards the back of his lab, where two small seats sat, looking out over the city. He looked back, and Quistis could see genuine warmth in his eyes, and also, something else. She hoped it was just curiosity. She remembered Ellone, and his ‘experiments’.
Odine sat down on one, no mean feat considering his huge ruffle and elaborate robe, and gestured to the other one. Quistis sat down, and stared at him. He stared back.
“Even zou he may be a mazter scientist, Odine iz not completely heartlezz. Now, tell Odine what haz been happeningk to you,” he asked, and leant forward to listen, as she told him.
“It started with dreams…”
Quistis bolted upright in bed, breathing heavily, sweat literally dripping from her body. She fumbled for the small bedside light and got the switch after about two tries, bathing the room in light.
“It’s just a nightmare Quistis. Just a nightmare,” she told herself.
She wiped the sweat from her forehead and stared into the wall opposite the bed, trying to clear her mind. Now that she tried to concentrate on it, she didn’t know what had been so terrible about it. She had gotten the impression of something red and burning, and then… She couldn’t pin it down. She couldn’t remember what it was, except it had terrified her…
She looked across at the clock, and cursed silently as she worked out how much sleep she still had left. AT this rate she was going to be bone-tired by the time it came to teaching. She lay back down and drove all the thoughts of the dream out of her head-
-And woke up three hours later, from the same red burning
glow in her mind. She didn’t both to get up, but instead just lay there under
She went on, and finished
ten minutes later, telling the small man in the frilly neck… thing…
everything since she had woken up in a cold sweat one night, to the appointment
with the female doctor that had sent her here.
Odine stood up slowly,
his mind off in that place that minds go when their user is making them think
about something really hard. Quistis would have thought he had forgotten about
her, except that he occasionally glanced back at her.
Finally he turned back to
face her. “Odine iz not knowingk what is wrong wiz you, but he will find
Quistis nodded. “Thank
you,” she whispered.
Odine smiled. “Relax!
Ze Great Scientist Odine iz on ze case!”
She laughed. “I
know.” She stood and began to walk out of the door when-
“Odine! Laguna wants to
talk to y- Quistis?” Ellone asked, running into the lab.
Quistis managed a small
smile. “Hello Ellone,” she said quietly.
Ellone looked puzzled.
“But I thought you had an appointment?”
Quistis sighed. “I
Elone looked confused,
and then saw Odine from the corner of her eye. She turned to face him.
“Doctor, Laguna wants to talk to you about the Archives he discovered. Are you
finished with your cases?” she asked, oblivious.
Quistis closed her eyes. Say nothing. Please say nothing.
Odine looked up from his
notes. “Yez. Mizz Trepe waz just leavingk,” he said absently.
Ellone looked from Odine
to Quistis, then back at Odine, and then it clicked, and she stared up at
Quistis, eyes wide. “What?” she asked quietly.
Quistis shook her head.
“Ellone, please, don’t-“
“I thought Odine was
seeing someone about some disease. That isn’t you, right?” she said
“Ellone, please don’t
do this here,” Quistis begged.
the girl shouted.
Quistis grabbed her by
the shoulders and looked at her. “Yes, it is.”
Ellone shook her head
forcefully. “No,” she said. “You must have made a mistake.”
Quistis shook her own
head. “Ellone, I’m ill…” she started.
It’s just ‘cause of stress or something, isn’t it?”
she asked Quistis. Silence greeted her. “No. I won’t believe it.” She
rounded on Odine. “What have you been telling her?” she hissed.
The man looked indignant.
“Odine does not lie!” he said, and strode off muttering.
Quistis rubbed her head.
It was starting to hurt again. “Elle…” she managed.
Ellone turned back to
Quistis. “Quistis, this is some kind of joke right? Quistis? Quistis!”
Quistis didn’t hear.
Her head felt like it was about to explode, and she fell to her knees. She felt
Ellone grab her shoulders, but then she started to lose consciousness, she heard
Ellone shouting at Odine to come back, and then darkness fell on her like a
velvet curtain to block out the pain.