On Earth as it is in Hell Chapter 21
By Caleb Nova
"What Scott told us about the universe was a slap in the face to the standard scientific mind set. The dreamers were right all along."
-Quistis Trepe, What's Hyne Got To Do With It?
There was a land once called California, now a wasteland wiped clean by nuclear fire. There was a boy called Link. Sometimes he was young, sometimes he was older, always he was fighting. There was a man who's name was a codeword, and he slipped through hallways, killing like a ghost. There was a bleak future ruled by machines, humankind used as batteries to fuel their mighty host. There was a man called Garion who's destiny was intricately tied to that of a stone. There was a spaceship ruled by an insane AI, haunting its metallic corridors. There was an unstoppable mountain of metal sixty feet tall that ran through a cityscape, the red Wolf emblazoned on its shoulder reflecting the light of burning buildings in its wake. There was a small creature who was thrust into a conflict of massive scale, bonded to fate by what rested around his neck. There was a boy called Ender who destroyed an entire race. There was a girl called Alice who went back to a familiar place that had become twisted and evil. There was a man called Caleb who believed it was all imagined, existing only in two dimensions on his screen.
There were worlds without end.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Scott gasped, exhaling the stale air of sleep in one explosive motion. He thrashed around in his sheets, throwing them aside to sit shaking and sweaty on the edge of his bed, head in one hand to steady himself. The last images of the dream faded from his mind, an unthinkably vast cosmos swelling the limits of his perception.
He frowned, trying to remember what he had seen. Nothing but the vague sensation of infinite, an endless horizon he had stood before. He shrugged, vocalizing his final thought as if to put it behind him.
The lukewarm water from the bathroom tap washed away the unpleasant aftertaste that breathing through the mouth while sleeping resulted in. He walked back into the main room and turned the light on, squinting his eyes against the sudden painful glare. The digital clock on the bedstand glowed 2:24. Early. Way too early.
Nothing to read, no TV to watch, unable to sleep. Scott sighed and leaned against the dresser, drumming his fingers on the top. Oh well. When in doubt, fall back on the old midnight stroll. Grabbing a pair of pants and throwing on a T-shirt, Scott wandered off into the dim hallways of the Garden.
Unlike some of the previous nights before the sky was dark, the moon obscured by heavy clouds. The Garden lights had been brightened to compensate and, while things were still bathed in a dim yellow, it was much easier to see.
Scott padded barefoot across the commons, gazing at the colorful architecture. Arbitrarily, he turned right out of the dormitory entrance, heading off towards the cafeteria. Maybe a late snack would make him sleepy. Until he remembered the cafeteria was completely closed off at night. In fact, by his recollection, the only two places open all night besides the dorms were the Quad and Training Center. There was no way he was going to the Training center, so he strode for the Quad.
The Quad was still filled with the various pieces of the stage that needed to be assembled. A few banners had been hung, the ladders used still sitting out. Several power tools lay on the ground, sawdust swept into piles by the equipment. It gave the air the familiar scent of lumber, lending the area a certain nostalgic atmosphere for Scott.
On a whim, he ascended the shaky stairs to the side of the platform and crossed the large stage, sitting on the edge with his feet dangling off the end. Alone with his thoughts, Scott lay back, relaxing his body. Of course, he'd have to be careful not to fall asleep-
Scott pushed himself up, head whipping around. There was nothing, the Quad still bereft of anyone save himself. He frowned.
"Hello?" He said quietly. "Anybody there?"
I will speak, and you must listen.
Scott lifted himself to his feet, looking behind him. "Oh, God, I know I'm not supposed to be out after curfew-"
I am not your God, Outsider.
"No, that's not what I meant," He laughed nervously, still trying to find the source of the voice. "It's an expression where I come from- Look, I'm not in trouble am I?"
Cease your nonsense and listen to me, for there is not much time.
"Okay, sure, just where are you?"
Soon there will be a time of choice. You must prepare yourself for what will be required.
Now he was starting to become angry. "How about instead you prepare to tell me where the hell you are?"
I have little patience left with you, Outsider. It is only by my grace that-
"Little patience with me?" Scott said incredulously. "I'm not the disembodied voice in this equation lady, don't start with tha-"
A sensation like a spear of lighting ripped its way through his brain and he fell to the stage floor, gasping in pain. The Quad was suffused in light, and he squinted against the brightness. When his eyes adjusted, what was revealed left him breathless.
She hovered over the stage. 'She' was so inadequate, it was so much more. It was a golden beacon, power given female form. It was glorious. And it most certainly silenced him.
Now you will listen to me, or I will revert you back to the matter from which you were formed.
Scott wheezed something that sounded like an affirmative response.
Soon the disease that your kind has brought will spread to Garden. It is building across the sea, and I am powerless to stop it.
The being burned brighter in anger.
Never doubt for a moment of your unnatural existence that if I had the power I would destroy you and your kind.
The heat faded somewhat, and Scott thought the being might have sighed.
Instead, I must use you. You will help right this wrong of your doing.
"What? I didn't do anything-"
Scott did his best to sink into the stage, huddling away from the awesome power.
Your lies only damn you further. Do not attempt to placate me with your falsities.
Willing or not, you must take part in this.
To reveal would be to destroy. What will come will come. At this time, I can only instruct you in a way to impact the future without speaking of it. Before it is too late, you must learn to control the power within you. You must harness that energy. It is the only chance.
Reach inside yourself. You will touch it. There is nothing else to say.
The light started to dim, and the image before him slowly faded.
"Wait!" He called out. "One last question!"
What is it, Outsider?
"Why are higher powers always so goddamn cryptic?"
Then I will phrase my response in a manner which you will understand.
With that, she was gone.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Irvine was awoken by a pounding on his door. He groaned, slowly rolling off the bed. Slowly making his way over to the door, he leaned against the frame and pressed the open button. With a slight hiss, the door slid to the side, revealing a wild eyed Scott.
Irvine squinted at him, contorting his face into a frown. "What the hell are you doing over here? It's 2:42 am."
"A God just told me to go fuck myself."
Irvine yawned, scratching his side. "That's great pal. Why don't you tell me all about it tomorrow over breakfast, okay?"
"No Irvine, I'm serious, I wasn't dreaming, this isn't a joke, some big shit just went down and I'm a little freaked out about it, okay!?" Scott said, voice rising. "I don't know what the hell just happened."
"Alright, alright. Come in."
After Irvine had woken up to at least a state of semi-awareness, Scott related the entire story. Irvine's reactions ran their course through a various range before settling on serious.
"Well," Irvine said, scratching his head. "I can't explain what happened, but considering all the cosmic stuff that's been going down I'm almost not surprised. I'll get everyone together tomorrow for a meeting, we'll figure this out."
Irvine stood up, leading Scott back over to the door. "Try to get some sleep. I'm sure this will make more sense when we talk it over."
Scott began the walk back to his room, mind still churning with the recent events. He turned back around when he heard Irvine call something.
"Oh and, Scott!"
"Don't wake me up again unless something else starts talking to you."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"We press forward."
"But the current concerns of-"
"Forward, Michael," Julian stated again. "It is the only direction available to us. The other labs need time to finish their respective portals, and I will not spend that time sitting here while our plans are on the verge of completion. If we have an even stronger hold on the world by the time the portal reopens, so much the better. Progress is not made by wasting opportunity."
"There are a things working in our favor. All our forces have gathered for quick deployment. With a little research, we found the personal webpage of 'Selphie Tilmitt', and we learned that Garden will be holding some sort of festival soon. That would be the most opportune time to strike. And while we had also originally assumed Galbadia Garden would be a stumbling block, it was decommissioned shortly after the events of the game."
Julian frowned. "However, because the portal is no longer available to us, we cannot bolster our forces with any more Earthside soldiers. We'll have to use more Galbadian men than planned."
Julian stood, walking over to a large map of the world he had pinned to the wall. Taking a red marker, he circled each country. Then he put an x through the circle of Galbadia. Capping the pen, he stood back and observed.
"After our hold on Galbadia is tightened, our main worries will center around Esthar. We can't be sure how they will react to the fall of Garden."
Julian put a question mark over Esthar.
"Trabia is much like Switzerland. What little we know of history has shown them to be neutral and isolationist. They will most like not involve themselves."
Julian put a horizontal line through Trabia.
"Likewise with the Shumi."
He put another line through the Shumi.
"Timber will be far too concerned with its own problems, and even if they did have a negative stance, they lack the power to strike us."
Yet another line was added to Timber.
"Dollet is another wild card, though not one on the scale of Esthar. They lack a strong military and have little political clout. Whichever way they blow, it won't effect the outcome much. The only real threat they pose is Dollet's possible use as a staging area for an Estharian assault."
Julian drew a question mark in the Dollet circle.
"And Centra isn't even a factor as it is for all intents and purposes depopulated."
Julian drew a last horizontal line through the Centra circle. He stepped back, studying the theater of war.
"I class Balamb with Balamb Garden, as they are practically one and the same. The locals will no doubt react to our invasion, and could hamper us if they organize. When we actually capture the Garden itself, it would be in our best interests to move it away from the island to avoid any more unnecessary conflict."
"Yes, quite, but do you think the men will be as willing to fight with the portal gone?"
"Some of them, yes, but I have no intention of solidifying the rumors. Officially, the portal is still operational. Speak nothing else in front of the men."
"Then we are ready. Come tomorrow, it is time."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The fog dissipated as if struck by a strong summer breeze. Odd, considering there was no breeze. Was there ever any fog?
The Agent came to.
He found himself in a hallway. Nothing unusual about that. It looked like any of the many other hallways that crisscrossed the complex. White tile, white drywall covering the concrete beneath. Simple light fixtures on the ceiling. A waist high table against the corner wall. He was lying on his back in just such a corner junction, the hall stretching off above his head and to the left.
He sat up slowly, uncertain what injuries he might have sustained. None. He wasn't even dizzy. Besides himself and the hallway, the only other thing present was the nameless tech he had accosted in the lab, huddling against one of the walls. Sweat ran down his face, and his eyes darted from place to place. The Agent stood up, walking the few feet over to him.
"Thanks," The Agent said, putting out his hand.
"For what?" Despite his appearance, the tech sounded calm.
"For getting me out of the lab. Was I knocked out by the concussion?"
"I didn't do anything."
The Agent frowned, unable to reconcile this with their new position. "Then how did we get here?"
"I don't know."
Perhaps they had been both knocked unconscious by some explosion and then left here by some as yet unknown staffer who had gone off in search of help. But first things first. The Agent knew that the best thing to do first was to secure a safe exit. Then if possible, reenter the facility and salvage whatever information he could. He looked down at the quaking tech.
"We need to get out of here. Where are we?"
"I don't know."
"We need to find a directory then. If we can locate a la-"
"You don't understand. I know every inch of the facility, and I have never seen this hallway before."
The Agent was worried at the hints of panic creeping into the tech's voice. The last thing he needed was a basket case on his hands in the middle of a crisis. The tech was a liability. His mission came first.
"You stay here," The Agent said, arbitrarily picking a hallway to start down. "I'll see what I can find."
The tech said nothing, just watching him.
The Agent started walking. The main priority was to find some sort of exit. Unfortunately, the facility had few paths to the surface. There was the main entrance, a large, almost hangar-like entrance through which most things came through, and then there was a smaller, secondary backdoor somewhere on the other end of the complex. Not knowing which end he was closest to, the Agent was unable to tell which direction would be the most likely to yield results.
At this point the Agent began noticing strange details about the hallway. For one thing, the lighting was strange. Despite that fact that the light fixtures on the ceiling were spaced, the hallway seemed to hold the same light level throughout. Also, not matter how far he walked, the end of the hallway wasn't getting any closer. He knew something was very wrong when he at last glanced down to see he wasn't casting a shadow, nor was there any reflection in the tiles. He stared at the floor for most of a minute, unable to comprehend the situation. He spun around-
-To find that the tech and the corner table were still no more than five feet away.
"What the hell?!"
"I told you."
"What the holy fuck is going on?!"
Not waiting for the tech to explain, the Agent began to run as fast as he could down the hall. After two minutes, he turned around. The table was still there.
In desperation, he slowly started to back away from the corner, keeping the table sight. It seemed to be working, the table slowly shrinking into the distance. Suddenly, he tripped on something, losing his balance and crashing to the floor. He pushed himself to his feet, and found himself looking at the table he had just tripped over, and the tech sitting next to it.
Gasping, he fell against the wall, sliding to a sitting position next to the tech. He stared at the tech, who gazed back with tired eyes.
"I can't entirely. This is beyond me, beyond any of us. What 'this' is, is the result of the portal collapse. We're stuck here."
"For how long?"
"God knows. I don't."
"Is there anything we can do?"
The tech buried his face in his hands, his attitude that of someone already doomed. "No. As you found out for yourself, we can't go anywhere. The only way this place will right itself is if the fracture in the universe, which we are currently sitting in, repairs itself, or at least just goes somewhere else. Even then we're fucked though. When the portal rupture disappears, so will everything that goes with it."
"But wouldn't that just mean the wires and stuff connected to the portal would vanish? What does all this concrete have to do with the portal, it's not part of it."
"It doesn't work like that. The portal takes up a lot of space dimensionally, if not physically. It's all very complex spatial calculations, you wouldn't understand. But the fact is, that when the portal goes away, so will a mile and a half wide sphere around it."
"Jesus Christ. A mile and a half deep crater in the ground."
"Not deep, wide."
"But you said it was a sphere."
"Yeah, but only in the relative Sphereverse. It overlaps."
"Sure, whatever. Can we stop it?"
The tech shook his head. "We can't even start it. I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do."
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