On Earth as it is in Hell Chapter 20
By Caleb Nova
"Never before have I met somebody so thoroughly quixotic. She may be a dreamer, but she's my dreamer, my romantic, my innocent."
-Zell Dincht (Summer's Gone, Tio Rank P)
"Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand."
"Oh jesus, get ba-"
The sentence was never finished as the console exploded, sending the scientist flying through the air a blackened corpse. Lights flickered on and off, and sirens blared as various workers ineffectively sprayed the growing fires with extinguishers. It looked like the set of a bad disaster movie, and the Agent found himself in the middle of it all.
Trying to look like he belonged, the Agent weaved his way through the carnage, figuring he would be less likely to draw attention if he ran like everyone else. He saw a likely target in a young technician cowering in a corner. The Agent ran over to him, crouching down.
"You okay?" The Agent shouted. The technician took his hands off his ears, nodding a quick yes.
"Y-yeah.." He muttered, barely audible. The Agent scanned the room in a look of faked confusion.
"What's going on?"
"Ha-has anyone called the fire squad?"
"Yeah, I just did," The Agent lied, gesturing vaguely over his shoulder. " What happened?"
"The portal collapsed!"
"I said, the portal collapsed! Just vanished into thin air!"
"Just a minute ago! Everything was fine and then 'bang'! The whole place started shaking and now it's falling apart!"
The Agent frowned. "Just because of the portal?"
The technician looked at him suspiciously, but didn't question him. "When it went down it went without any control and the feedback fried our systems! Plus the shock of the Tunnel collapsing is raising hell with everything else!"
"What do you mean?"
"Think of it this way- if you collapse a real life tunnel, all the air that was in it is forced out, and the resulting shock wave is pretty big. A big tunnel just fell in on itself, and we were standing close by."
"So what's the effect going to be?"
"Anything and everything! We've never done this before, there's no way of predicting what the result of a collapse might be! This is all so new, we were unprepared!"
All further conversation was halted as one of the I-beams supporting the hangar ceiling jerked, wobbled, and then melted like butter. White hot liquid steel splashed down onto the floor and over several people, incinerating them instantly. The Agent grabbed the technicians arm, and they ran for their lives.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Hendrow paced the plushly carpeted floor of Julian's office, the occasional bead of sweat finding its way down into his collar. How could it have come to this? It wasn't possible. Everything had been so perfect...
Julian sat unruffled behind his desk, languidly palming over several eyewitness statements of the incident. He frowned at Hendrow's pacing, disapproving of his panicked demeanor.
"Please, Michael. Sit down."
Hendrow complied, shakily seating himself across from the desk. The blinds were drawn, and he couldn't tell it was daylight outside, the only source of light being a dim desk lamp. Julian smiled slightly at his discomfort. "If anything Michael, you should be worried for the people Earthside. Since the lab there generated the portal, they are receiving whatever backlash the collapse resulted in."
"What kind of backlash?"
"Completely unknown. It might be nothing, it might be catastrophic. We'll simply have to wait and see."
"What's going to happen to us Julian? How we will get back home?"
Julian sighed, rubbing his temples. "Michael, do not worry yourself. There are two other facilities almost capable of reaching us, and for all we know the Oregon lab has already righted itself and is in the process of reopening the portal as we speak."
"But what about-"
"I no longer find this conversation enlightening," Julian said, eyes hardening. "I've told you there is little reason to fear. Now, why don't you get some rest."
"Yes... Yes, of course."
Hendrow left, but his doubts did not.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Squall returned from the Training Center tired and sweaty. He would have left sooner, but Zell had enthusiastically attempted to enthuse Squall with his enthusiasm until Squall had called it quits himself. Zell just didn't seem to know when to call it a night, and Squall supposed he was still down there right now. On his way to the elevator he saw Selphie walking down the stairs, most likely returning from substitute duty, and decided he might as well send her down to collect Zell.
She turned around, giving him one of her patented smiles. "Hey Squall!"
"I thought you might want to know. Zell is over in the Training Center. You'll probably have to make him leave."
Selphie giggled at the thought. Squall no longer found things like that as annoying as he had used to, as long as she didn't expect him to giggle with her. With a wink, she trotted off to retrieve Zell. Squall rolled his eyes, continuing to the elevator.
Nighttime was almost upon the Garden, shades of orange filtering in through the front entrance, tinting everything inside. Classes had been dismissed for the evening and most students had retired to their various dorms, a few of the more studious hard at work in the library. As opposed to the usual bustling noise of the day, now there was nothing but the deep omnipresent hum of the Garden machinery and the occasional echoing clack of footsteps.
Up in the office the deep hum was muted to a barely audible rumble. The soft noise of a keyboard being tapped filtered in from Xu's adjoining office, and he shut the doors. Settling in his leather chair, he glanced over at the closed door to his bedroom, light bleeding out from under the door frame. He assumed it was Rinoa, most likely studying for her classes.
He put a hand to his forehead, and, after a long suffering sigh, accessed the communicator main menu and connected to EstharNet. Using a special protocol reserved for SeeD, he went past the normal channels and was put through directly to the President. After waiting a few minutes, the screen flickered and came to life, revealing Laguna sitting behind his desk.
There was a moment of silence as the two stared at each other, Laguna's uncertain grin faltering and Squall's cold stare hardening. Laguna was the first to speak, running a nervous hand through his hair.
"Squall!" He said, forcing a little more joviality than was necessary into his tone. "What a pleasant surprise! What can I do for you?"
"Laguna," Squall deadpanned, jaw muscles twitching slightly. The man was already driving him insane, and he hadn't really done anything yet. "I need to make a request for information. Serving in the capacity of SeeD commander."
"Oh..." Laguna said, face falling. "Well, uh... Esthar is always willing to cooperate."
"It's about Galbadia. Do you have any idea what's going on?"
Laguna changed modes, dropping quickly into his role as President. "Interesting you should bring this up. There's been trouble over there recently. From what we can tell, a rebel insurgence captured De-"
"I know, we were there."
Laguna immediately became concerned. "Really? Is everyone okay?"
"Oh, well that's good. Anyway, if you already knew that, what do you need to know?"
"Which group took over Deling."
Laguna nodded, leaning back in his seat. "Well, that makes two of us. Frankly, we have no idea. And the new government hasn't let out a peep to anyone. However, I can supply you with photographs of the men we believe to be in charge."
"Send them over."
"Consider it done. And Squall," Laguna said, and Squall could see he had shifted back into regular Laguna. "I... Think we should talk, sometime. Maybe when this is all sorted out, you could come over to Esthar and-"
"Just think about it, that's I ask."
Squall didn't reply, canceling the connection.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The flooding stopped.
He was in a pressure cooker. A fly stuck to a windshield, there was a... Hallway? No. It was only a dream.
Some dream from a TV show. He remembered it now, a show about a secret agent in some lab. Sometimes it was dramatic, mostly it was funny. How did it end?
There never was....
Oh yes, there was. He remembered it now, some show about a spy in some bunker. Sometimes it was action packed, mostly it was sad. How did it end?
No, there wasn't....
Some show about a man who turned inside out all the time for no reason. Sometimes it was thought provoking, mostly it was shallow. Did it ever end?
"Oh fuck, wake up!"
Waking up was for chumps, especially on a Saturday morning like this. He'd better not get up until nine at least. That's when that one show came on. What was it about?
There was no show!
So insistent. Maybe it was time to-
The universe toppled, and the Agent fell back to the ground.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The humid atmosphere of the Training Center almost doubled the amount of work required to maintain the area, since it was prone to rust. A layer of plastic over the domed ceiling helped somewhat, but every now and then someone had to go and oil things up a little.
Zell however, did not rust, and as such there was no reason for him to leave. Easily kicking aside a Grat with a powerful roundhouse swipe, Zell roamed the dank arena in search of more challenging prey.
"Fuck!" He shouted, for no reason other than it felt good to do so. Maybe it was just him, but it was fun sometimes to yell stuff when no one was around. And it was because of the assumption that he was alone that he was so startled when a voice sounded behind him.
"Zell! Why in the world did you just say that?"
Zell spun around to be confronted by Selphie, hands on her hips, staring at him. "Uh, well, I-" He stuttered.
"Do you just go around screaming swears for no reason?"
He rubbed the back of his neck, sheepishly kicking the ground. "Not all the time."
Selphie rolled her eyes, walking up to him. She stopped a few feet away and wrinkled her nose. She pointed an accusing finger at him. "And you, Mr. Dincht, need to shower."
"Yeah, I guess I probably do."
Selphie took his hand and led him off towards the dorms. And as he listened to her mildly chastise him, Zell made a realization. He was totally whipped.
And he totally loved it.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic