What the hell is this? The voice cut through the darkened cavern.
It appears that your torch went out, replied a second voice with just a hint of a laugh.
Thats not what Im talking about! the first sounded again. Someone light another torch.
All right, all right, just let me get my flint.
A handful of sparks flashed into existence. A few seconds later, the torch ignited, illuminating the roughly hewn rock room and revealing the three men within. They wore green and red uniforms that were stained with dust and rock fragments.
Sign on with the Returners, fight the empire, the owner of the second voice joked. The recruitment speech sure didnt say anything about spending your days expanding Returner HQ.
I dont feel like a rebel, said the third man, who had not spoken before. I feel like a miner.
Dont be ridiculous, the second man laughed. Were nothing like miners! You see, they get paid. He turned to slap the first man on the back, only to stop short when he saw the others blank stare.
They all followed his gaze, casting their eyes toward the rear of the chamber.
Though they had only been working at carving out additional space in Returner HQ for a short time, each of the three had gained a basic knowledge of mining, both through experience and instruction. It was a simple matter, then, for them to comprehend that the space behind the chambers rear wall was hollow. This had caused the wall to collapse when the first miner had tried to dig there, the collapse had in turn extinguished the torch.
What they couldnt comprehend, couldnt begin to understand, was what exactly the object they had uncovered actually was.
It appeared to be a statue, but all the men felt that to even think of it as such would be terribly inaccurate. It looked like a statue, yes, but it was clearly so much more.
The beauty of the object was almost overwhelming. It was elegant in design, a straight column that rose about five feet in the air. Two perfectly sculpted dragons wound about the full length of the column, the tips of their tails intertwining at the base, their heads facing in opposite directions at the apex. The statues silvery surface flashed suddenly, then began to throb with power, throwing off tiny bursts of light.
Wh-What is it? one of the Returners asked incredulously.
I dont know, said another, but we had better tell Banon about this.
In Doma, it was raining again.
General Leo turned up the collar of his uniform to better shield himself from the chilly drizzle as he strode out of his tent and into the Imperial encampment. Slowly and purposely, he wound his way past tents and smoldering watch fires towards the front.
Around him, the Imperial army was waking up. Brown clad soldiers emerged from the tent beside him, yawning in the misty dawn light. They all seemed so young, nothing more than fresh-faced kids. Some of them probably didnt even shave yet.
Leo shook his head slowly. It always pained him to look upon the new recruits. How many would die today, crushed into powder by the monster that was war? Worse, how many would survive, only to be burdened with horrible mental and physical scars for life?
They were his men, under his command. Their lives were in his hands, and if he should make a foolish mistake and loosen his grip, they would die.
Leo heaved a sigh. Such was the burden of command.
The dewy grass was springy under his boots as he continued on through the camp, his mind mulling over his orders and his objectives. The siege of Doma had been uneventful up to this point, but today the major offensive on the castle was to begin. After weeks of waiting, the raw Imperial strength that was Magitek was finally being thrown into the fray.
Unfortunately, the damned Returners had somehow managed to sink several Imperial cargo ships on the way to the Northern Continent. Instead of the two score suits of Magitek armor he had expected, Leo was left with only half that number.
Twenty suits, Leo thought ruefully, Useless now. Briefly, he wondered if the rebels could even comprehend how much damage they had caused.
Still, the twenty suits he did have, along with his modified officers armor, would be more than enough to get the job done, provided he managed the attack carefully. It was a job easier said than done, however, given the legendary skill and determination of the Doman samurai.
The general looked up from his musings and found that he had reached his destination. He was at the very front of the army now. To one side were the Magitek Weapons themselves, resting under a large canvas canopy as they were busily tended by a team of mechanics.
He turned towards the voice and found himself facing a young man in the green garb of an Imperial sergeant. The man fidgeted nervously as Leo regarded him.
Weve had a deserter. Corporal Landley was heard voicing his objections to attacking Doma sometime late last night, and hes nowhere to be found this morning.
Leo furrowed his brow.
Send a search party out immediately, but make sure that they are given orders not to harm him in any way.
But sir, the sergeant protested. You know the Imperial doctrine condemns deserters as nothing more than cowards! Are you really going to let him go unpunished?
Of course not, came the terse reply. However, his punishment is for the War Court in Vector to decide. It is not the job of you or your men. Therefore, upon capture you will bring him to the stockade, where he will wait until such a time that he can be properly disciplined.
Yes sir, the sergeant said reluctantly.
He had better be brought in unharmed, the general warned, For your sake as much as his.
Understood, sir. The green clad man hurried off.
Leo rubbed his chin thoughtfully. It wasnt unusual for the younger recruits to lose heart and become frightened, especially against such a formidable enemy as Doma. He was feeling a little anxious himself. Not since the early days of the War of Imperial Succession had he found himself up against such a dangerous opponent.
Still, he supposed he had an easier job ahead of him than General Chere. She had been placed in charge of the assault on South Figaro, which would be a difficult challenge, indeed. Victory would be costly, if not impossible.
For a moment, Leo felt a stab of regret at his Empires betrayal of Edgar Figaro, but he quickly stifled it. His job was not to dictate Imperial policy, nor to judge it. His job was simply to obey.
With that thought utmost in his mind, he hurried to make preparations for the attack.
When will it be, do you think? the guard asked, a slight tremor in his voice.
Not long, Cyan Garamonde answered darkly, letting his eyes drift across the meadow to the line of Imperial tents that clustered there like foul toadstools. From the height of Doma Castles walls, they looked so harmless. At a distance, it was hard to believe that they harbored an enemy that could bring a savage end to Domas grand history.
The ramparts of Doma Castle bustled with activity, defenders moving hurriedly back and forth as they performed their various tasks. Cyan stood among them, completely motionless as he contemplated the onrushing battle. Yet, even standing here in the midst of a coming war, he couldnt help but let his thoughts drift.
He could only hope they, and the other people of Doma, would be safe. After all the months of whispers and rumors, the Empire had finally arrived. Come to crush the nation of Doma, just as they had broken the cities of the Southern Continent. It was his responsibility, along with the other samurai, to make sure Doma didnt meet the same end as the other city-states.
It was a task far easier said than done. The enemy possessed Magitek weapons in abundance, along with the knowledge to use them effectively. In a straight battle, the Imperials would smash the Domans easily. Fortunately, the samurai had a little surprise cooked up for General Leo...
Despite the situation, Cyan found a smile spreading across his face.
The voice pealed out loudly, and a few seconds later a dozen soldiers appeared on the ramparts, sweating under their joint burden. They struggled to hold their cargo aloft as they moved into position, each knowing the penalty they would face if it were to be damaged.
It had been next to impossible for Edgar Figaros engineers to slip the Anti-Magitek cannon through Imperial lines, but after several close calls, the weapon had finally been smuggled within the castle. The cannon was immensely valuable; at the moment, it was the only thing in Doma Castle that could actually hurt the Imperial M-Tek Armor head on. Furthermore, with the pressure that was now being applied to South Figaro, it wasnt very likely that another such weapon would be making its way to Doma any time soon.
Cyan turned away as the soldiers eased the cannon down to the stone of the battlements and began to secure it in place. As thankful as he was to Figaro for the gift, he had no great faith in machines. If Doma was to survive the day, it would be through the strength of its loyal soldiers, not the aid of some experimental toy.
He had wished to be with the men on the front lines, but the king had requested that he stay behind to supervise the defense on the wall. Cyan had realized that such an order was well-intentioned and had obeyed it with no hesitation, but that could not quell his desire to be on the forefront of the battle. Age had been kind to him, and though he was now more than fifty years old, he was twice as fit as most men half his age. His place was at the front lines, not at the very rear of the battle.
The harsh mechanical shriek of M-Tek reactors coming online tore through the air, sounding Domas death knell. It was a sound that no one who had faced Imperial guns before could ever forget.
It was the sound of hell given voice.
The crew that manned the cannon hurried to set it in place, scurrying madly to and fro as they prepped it for combat. Cyan looked out over the meadow forlornly.
Such a serene place it had always been. A gentle place for children to run and play, for young couples to sit in solitude. In seconds, it would be turned into a killing ground.
The massive metal titans across the meadow began to move.
General Leo rapped out orders as he strode down the line of Magitek Armored troops. His eyes traveled up and down their powerful forms as he walked. Four of the light Chocobo scouts, standing fifteen feet tall and looking ludicrously like headless ostriches with their spherical cockpits and reverse-articulated legs. Next, sixteen standard issue Grunt suits, roughly human in shape but with long arms and a powerful torso. The pilots of these sat exposed to air, and took the time to snap off a quick salute as the general walked by.
Lastly, there was his own suit of Gigas-class Officers armor, reminiscent of a huge mechanical dragon. It leaned forward on stubby legs, its jet black surface gleaming in the sun, its hideous front like a twisted face. Two gangly claw-tipped arms extended from the sides, completing its psychologically terrifying form.
With a grim smile, Leo clambered up into the titan, sliding into the cockpit with practiced ease. He reached out with both hands, busily throwing switches and pressing buttons as he prepped the suit for combat. The entire craft began to thrum as he brought the M-Tek core online. A transparent protective canopy descended around him, locking into place with a hiss, and a few seconds later a series of high beeps signaled the activation of his controls. Leo donned his headset and tested the headphone and transmitting microphone. Both were in fine working order, as he had expected. The technicians attached to his army were some of the best in the Empire.
As he completed the final checks, Leo let his eyes drift across the meadow, surveying it as he went over the battle plan. The approach to Doma was as straightforward as you could get, the only thing separating the two armies being a stretch of grasslands bordered to either side by thick forest. The forest could have presented a difficulty, had the samurai actually bothered to take up positions there. But no Doman had shown their face outside of the castle since the arrival of the Imperials, and those forests had been swept a hundred times since then, effectively ruling out any possibility of ambush.
The plan, in essence, was simple. The four scouts would fan out and advance first, followed by the other M-Tek units. Any resistance met would be quickly smashed, and once the castle was reached they would use their superior firepower to sweep the walls clean of defenders and force their way in.
Leo hoped it wouldnt come to that. He respected these Domans for their courage, but surely by now they could see that resisting the Empire was futile. If only they would agree to be drawn under Gestahls wing, this bloodshed could be avoided. Perhaps the mere show of Magitek power would work. It had worked often enough before.
Despite his overall confidence, however, Leo couldnt help but feel a certain doubt. Had all the legends about the skill and resourcefulness of the Doman samurai been nothing more than fiction? They had certainly failed to show much skill so far.
General Leo, this is Commander Grant, came the tinny voice through Leos headphones. All units report ready status. The assault may commence on your orders.
The rain had stopped minutes before, and as the sun came out from behind a cloud, the moisture on the springy grass gleamed brightly. Leos eyes flickered briefly down to his vidscreen, where he could clearly see an image of Grant provided by the mans cockpit camera. Grant gave a sharp salute, indicating his readiness.
All troops, move out in V formation, Leo ordered.
As one, the M-Tek suits lumbered forward, the faster scouts soon outdistancing their slower brethren. Leo advanced steadily in the center of the pack, his eyes narrowed in concentration. Only the sounds of pumping hydraulics cut through the silence of the afternoon.
The scouts had reached the approximate center of the meadow now, the main formation lagging behind. Later, Leo would recall that it was at this moment that his battle plan first began to go to hell.
Suddenly, there were samurai. The manner of their almost magical appearance in the center of the meadow was a mystery, but the reason for it was unmistakable. Yelling the battle cries of their homeland, they threw themselves upon the nearest scout, katanas slashing wildly at its metal legs.
A second later, the scout was down, its hydraulic cables shredded by the razor sharp blades. The samurai swarmed about the cockpit entrance, and a moment later a loud scream sounded in Leos headphones. He clenched his teeth in anger and frustration.
One suit down already....
While two of the remaining scouts continued on toward the castle, the other paused to engage the samurai. A loud whine split the air as it opened up with its single M-Tek cannon, sending a spray of beams into the advancing samurai. The Domans screamed as hot lances of blue fire tore through their bodies.
But the victory was short-lived. The samurai were simply too numerous for it to suppress with its single cannon. They charged head on, and though many were cut down by the M-Tek beams, more than enough made their way underneath the Imperial mech.
It died much the same as the first.
Now, the main formation of heavy suits was in striking range. Leo felt a strange sense of grim satisfaction as he gave the order to fire. The Domans would pay for the young Imperials they had snuffed out.
An eye for an eye.... His hands danced across the controls.
A tooth for a tooth. He depressed the firing trigger.
Massive gouts of magical flame spewed from the front of Leos armor, turning the grasslands around him into an inferno. Samurai screamed as the flame danced over their bodies, feasting upon their flesh as if it were starving. They fell to the ground, their minds overloaded by pain and fear.
The other Magitek troopers also met with great success. Striking with fire, ice, and bolt beams, they forced the Domans back, tearing their ranks to pieces with superior weaponry. For a moment, it seemed as if the battle would become a rout.
General Leo, General Leo! the Imperial General looked down at his cockpit vidscreen to see Commander Grants face. It seemed unusually pale.
Theyre coming out of the woods, sir! More samurai, and Returners... Shit! Theyve got autocro-AAAAAAAGGGH! The image turned red as Grants own blood splattered across his cockpit camera. For a split second, Leo saw Grant reel backwards, a crossbow bolt buried in his eye. Then, the image dissolved into static.
Damn it, Leo snarled, furiously tapping the keys on the control board before him. All Squad Leaders, report.
Tearing into our flanks-
Angrily, Leo turned his Gigas suit to face the attackers. Hordes of samurai were pouring from the forests on either side of the meadow while Returners fired autocrossbow salvos from the treetops.
Fearlessly, samurai approached to point blank range to throw their weapons at the M-Tek pilots. The Imperials returned fire, raking the attackers with raw elemental force. Domans were brought down in scores, Returners fell dead from scorched treetops, but still the enemies came on, maddened beyond belief by the desire to defeat the Imperials.
Then, the cannon atop Domas wall opened up. One of the still-advancing scouts flew backwards, its cockpit pierced by an incredibly dense metal slug. The spherical structure atop the legs collapsed, bursting into a messy fireball.
Leo swore again. The scout crashed to the earth in flaming chunks as he watched. Clenching his fists, he yelled into his headset,
Stay in formation! Provide supporting fire!
The fighting waxed savagely as even more foes charged from the trees. Those Imperials on the western flank of the assault force had marshaled themselves into a respectable defensive position and were holding their own. The eastern flank, however, was threatening to collapse completely. The formation had been broken there, and the suits were isolated from each other, making them more vulnerable than ever to the mobile defenders. Even as Leo guided his suit over to lend a hand, he saw another Grunt collapse, its pilot pierced by a thrown katana.
He threw himself into the very heart of the fighting, hoping his presence alone would lend confidence to his faltering troops. As Domans surrounded him on all sides, he slipped into an almost zen state, focusing his entire mind on the battle at hand.
It was as if he had suddenly become separated from his body. Although Leo was vaguely aware that it was he who was yelling orders, he who was frantically firing away, he who was burning down dozens of Domans and Returners, he felt a curious sense of detachment. The clanging of katanas on his suits armor was soon accompanied by the clash of autocrossbow bolts ricocheting off his protective canopy, but he was barely aware of it. It could have been the rain pattering on the roof of the Imperial Palace.
With the arrival of their general, the Imperials gained new vigor. They began to regain the offensive, forcing their attackers back. The samurai, realizing that Leo was the heart and soul of the attacking army, sought to bring him down. Dozens rushed him from every direction.
Furrowing his brow in careful concentration, Leo flicked a pair of switches, then depressed his firing trigger, launching every single Tekmissile his craft possessed. Like a swarm of hornets, they boiled from their launch tubes, snaking towards the approaching men. The resulting explosion was more than enough to break the counter attack and send the survivors scurrying for cover. Dead samurai littered the ground like fallen leaves, some of their bodies still burning as the smoke cleared.
Even as the smoke wafted away from the corpses, the haze of battle wafted from Leos mind. He felt a pang of regret. Brave men, these Domans, to face Magitek weapons head on. If only they could have been fighting on the same side. Shoving aside the troublesome thought, Leo turned once again to his monitors. The heart of a battlefield was hardly a place to philosophize.
A quick look informed him that the forces on the western wing had also managed to beat back the attackers. Gathering what Imperials that remained about him, Leo continued the advance.
It is not over yet.... he thought fiercely.
Not by a long shot.
Atop the walls of Doma Castle, the samurai hastily moved into defensive positions, readying themselves for the coming Magitek onslaught. Even as Cyan tested the edge of his katana, the Anti-Magitek cannon spoke again. The last scout went down, its spherical cockpit bursting like a ripe tomato.
Another cheer went through the air, and Cyan began to realize that the defenders believed that they had a chance now. Certainly, the losses incurred in the strike force had been great, but they had greatly stalled and damaged the Magitek advance.
At any rate, Cyan thought, I am thankful that our ancestors possessed the presence of mind to construct those secret tunnels. It was these hidden pathways that branched out from Domas dungeon that allowed the samurai and Returners to appear so suddenly, and so savagely.
We are running out of ammo! one of the men tending the cannon shouted, the ragged fear in his voice clear even in the turmoil of battle.
The heavier Magitek suits had moved into striking range by now. They opened up, beam weapons spewing death in multicolored fury. The defenders atop the wall threw themselves down as the beams impacted, sweeping across the battlements and wreaking chaos beyond imagining.
Cyan gave a grunt as he dove out of the way of a blue colored beam, the rough impact of armor on stone driving his breath from him. Still, better a little pain than utter destruction. He was aware that the spot where he had been standing just moments before was now being supercooled. Even through his armor, he felt the fringes of the attack sweeping across the back, Deaths cold fingers carressing him. A thin layer of frost began to form in his hair, on the back of his neck, across his armor.
Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the ice beam was gone. Cyan grabbed the battlements and hauled himself up to a standing position, gaping as chunk of stone broke off in his hand. The ice spell had rendered this small section of the wall as brittle as glass. He was lucky that the only ill effects he had suffered from the attack were the tiny rivulets of melting ice that ran down his back.
Clearing his head, Cyan surveyed the area, his heart sinking. The defenders atop the wall had been devastated in the elemental onslaught, some caught by the dancing electrical beams, some reduced to charred ruin by magical fire, and some - the worst to Cyan - frozen into living sculptures of agony, their dying screams trapped perfectly beneath a layer of ice. Many more had been wounded, their shrill screams tore through the air as they held shattered limbs. The battlements themselves were pocked and scarred, some places frozen solid, others covered with black scorch marks, others reduced to rubble. At least the Imperials hadnt fired again yet; perhaps the great distance had temporarily drained their weapons, perhaps General Leo had decided to be merciful. Perhaps they were just having fun, toying with their helpless opponents as a Veldt cat toyed with a crippled Chocobo before ripping it to pieces.
In any case, their hesitation appeared to matter little. The damage was already done. The painstakingly drawn defensive formations had been shattered almost carelessly. The walls that had stood for hundreds of years were falling apart at the first Imperial strike. It seemed as if the battle plan were unravelling, coming apart in useless, ragged tatters. And it seemed that there was nothing any of the Domans could do to stop it.
It was the gleam of metal amid the rubble that caught Cyans eye. Smooth, unmarked metal, machine-worked. Figarian. Breaking into a run, the aging warrior raced along the walltop, leaping over the dead forms of former comrades and trying desperately not to look at them.
The cannon! he cried as loudly as possible. To your posts, samurai!
Men who were not too wounded to stand moved towards him, still trying to shake off the shock of the initial attack. They threw themselves upon the pile of rubble, digging with swords, shields, and bare hands. Through the sheer strength of desperation, they managed to clear away the broken hunks of stone, revealing the form of the cannon. It was battered and dented, but at least it was all still in one piece. Quickly, they gathered on one side, lifting it back into an upright position.
Do any of you know how this... this machine works? Cyan said, pronouncing the word with a tone that was part wonder, part contempt.
I do, Sir Cyan, a young samurai spoke up from the rear of the crowd. Cyan noticed with a wince that his left arm had been broken in the attack and was hanging at a grossly unnatural angle. I was one of the crew that the Returners taught to operate the cannon... but with my arm like this, there is no way that I can aim it.
And your companions?
Dead, sir, the other reported grimly. We suffered a direct hit. Despite my injuries, it seems I was lucky.
Cyan heaved a sigh. Is there any among you who thinks he canst operate this weapon?
There were a few heartbeats of silence, then someone spoke up.
None we trust more than you, Sir Cyan.
With a curt nod, Cyan moved to stand by the unearthed Anti-Magitek weapon. He had always hated machines - loud, noisy, ungainly things that violated nature, that didnt belong in this world. He was sure he would always hate them. At the moment, however, they were all desperate for someone, anyone, to step in and try to save the day. He could not deny his comrades that hope, no matter what his personal feelings.
Simply stand behind the cannon here, the young samurai said, pointing at a spot on the ground. And look through the scope there.
Cyan stepped behind the massive weapon, standing rather unsteadily. Squinting one eye, he put the other to the so-called scope. Instantly the distant figures advancing across the meadow seemed to leap up at him, the world gaining astonishing clarity. He could even make out the faces of the approaching M-Tek troopers. Twin black lines ran across his vision, one vertical, one horizontal. They divided the view before him into four equal quarters.
Now, put your hands on the firing mechanism, but do not press the triggers.
Cyan looked away from the scope for only a moment to fasten his hands around a pair of L-shaped bars that extended from the body of the cannon. Each bore an identical red button right under the place where his thumb rested.
All right, Sir Cyan, the voice continued, shaking now in nervousness. If you will just move your arms, you can control the direction that the cannon aims. All you have to do is put the object you want to hit in the center of the scope and press the firing buttons. There was a long pause. There is only one shot left. You had best make it count.
Looking back into the scope, Cyan tentatively swiveled the cannon to the left, then to the right. The image of the advancing Imperials blurred and then reformed.
Make it count, eh? There is only one logical target, then. Cut off the head, and the snake will die.
Stilling the shaking of his hands by an act of sheer will, the samurai carefully adjusted the position of the cannon as best as he knew how, not stopping until the place where the two lines met rested almost directly over the center of the advancing officers armor, right where the hellish creatures heart would be, if it were a thing of flesh and blood.
General Leo seemed an honorable man for an Imperial, but there could be no hesitation. His homeland was at stake.
Setting his teeth, Cyan pressed the firing buttons.
The metal titans thundered onward towards the shattered castle.
Even at extreme range, the initial Magitek volley had done surprising damage. The great wall of Doma castle was scorched and burned, riddled with deep craters and patches of ice. In places, it seemed ready to collapse altogether.
After seeing the initial damage, Leo had ordered his men to hold their fire until he gave further orders. He had already done grievous damage to the defenders and the structure of the castle. Another such attack could bring the walls down entirely, resulting not only in the death of all the defenders, but in the death of civilians within the castle as well. Leo wanted to prevent as much carnage as he could, especially when it involved innocents.
Perhaps these Domans would see reason, would surrender. He and his men had already killed so many today that he felt sick at heart. This wasnt war, it was slaughter. And he was in command. He should end this, end it in any way possible, so that no more Imperials or Domans died today.
No! He crushed the thought mercilessly. I swore to serve the Emperor. I will follow his orders.
Even if those orders meant employing Magitek against opponents who fought with swords? At least they no longer tried to attack his forces head on, and apparently that damned cannon of theirs had been silenced in the attack. They would see the impossibility of their position and yield. They had to.
The sleek barrel of the Anti-Magitek cannon appeared above the rim of the battlements as a group of Domans pushed it upright again. Even from this distance, Leo could pick out signs of damage on the weapon. It probably wasnt even operational anymore.
Are you going to take that chance, Leo? Are you going to risk your mens lives because of a hunch?
Sir, the voice crackled over his headphones. That cannon might still be operational. Even at this range, itll tear us apart. Permission to open fire? ... Sir? .... Sir?
Visions of shattered Magitek armor drifted through Leos mind, images of young Imperials bleeding their lives away as they lay trapped in a cage of mangled metal. Yet even as the order to fire was on his lips, the inner panorama shifted to an image of shattered masonry. Children burned and buried in the rubble. Women screaming as the blood ran into their eyes.
Maranda. Damn it, itll be just like Maranda.
The only thing to do was try to take that cannon out with a surgical strike. Perhaps his suits M-Tek beam could-
The world exploded.
All the instruments on Leos control panel seemed to flare at once and the console leapt towards his face, the metal warping, dials twisting and popping free. Glass display screens shattered, spraying him with hundreds of glistening shards. They caused little pinpricks of pain as they embedded themselves in his exposed skin, but his mind barely had time to register that sensation before even more overwhelmed him.
The cockpit seemed to be reshaping itself. His earphones gave one last, earsplitting squeal before going silent. Vaguely, he became aware that he was tumbling, the suit rolling backwards. Sparks began to rain from shattered cables around him. A jagged shard of metal tore free and embedded itself in his leg. Likely only seconds had passed, but time seemed to stretch and distort itself, stretching out interminably towards some distant horizon. Every spark seemed to linger in the air like a firefly, every shard of flying glass frozen in its light.
The suit seemed to be rolling to a stop now, but there was something new. Behind and below him, he could feel a series of rumbles starting to shake the frame of the suit. Somewhere in the distant reaches of his mind, a thought worked its way free and ran across his mind.
The ordinance mustve been set off by the shot...
Shot... Hed been shot! The cannon mustve opened fire just before he could do so himself. Ironic, that hed been worried about saving Imperial and Doman lives when it seemed that his own was the one at risk.
Then a final, violent concussion shook the suit, sending a stitch of fiery pain across his back. As he faded towards unconsciousness, faces and images flashed before him - General Celes, the burning landscape of Maranda, the emperor standing before a field of Magitek armor on the move. The face of the girl, Kefkas test subject, rose towards the surface of his consciousness, her eyes somehow blank and accusing at the same time. He felt his heart beat more furiously. Why do you let him do those things to me? she seemed to scream at him, but her expression did not alter. Why?
He struggled to speak, to explain his actions.
B-because the Emperor commands - ughh...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yeah, I realize Cyan is missing his distinctive "Olde English"ness. Then again, I wasn't sure I could write it correctly, so I was left with the choice of leaving it out or putting it in and sounding lame. So it's out.