The Orphan Chapter 8

Maniac Athena

By Kate Lorraine

"No we can't stop for hot dog, Zell!" Selphie yelled as she piloted the Garden aircraft. It was a small hover called the Chipmunk, mainly because it was supposed to be as small and fast as a chipmunk. Xu had insisted that she take it because its small size would make them harder for the Galbadians to follow, also because they were assuming that after Squall was found, they could take the Ragnarok back.

Zell felt his stomach growling. He was hungry. It made him wonder how Selphie could go for so long without food and still be so energetic. Zell looked out the window at the miles of sea they were passing over. He and Selphie had spent two days straight searching for Squall. They hand gone north to Shumi Village, Trabia, and north more still to the Deep Sea Research Center. Now they were heading northeast to Edea's Orphanage. Zell thought that hey had a good change of finding Squall at the research center. Well what better place to take a sorceress than a place remote, unknown and tiny? Had he been Squall he would have slashed Rinoa away at the research center and forgot about it. But Squall had never been the one to think like him. Zell leaned back in boredom as Selphie piloted the Chipmunk. Her face betrayed her perky voice as he saw her weary baggy eyes.

"Yo Selphie, let's get some rest after Edea's house alright?" Zell asked.

Selphie nodded nonchalantly. "Let's go talk to Matron, she might have some idea where they are. She was possessed by Ultimecia before too maybe she can give us a hint."

"Do you really think Ultimecia is back, Selphie?" Zell asked.

"I think if she was she would be really mad at us, especially Squall for trying to kill her."

Zell shook his head.

"Squall won't let us down. He'll do what's right. But I'll be behind him, right or wrong."

Selphie nodded. "Me too" she said and then lapsed into silence.

Zell was worried about Rinoa, he wasn't sure if he could trust Squall to do the right thing. It frightened him when he thought about how Squall had refused to go save her when she was hanging off the side of the Garden. What will Squall do now that he didn't have his friends check his introverted queerness? Zell was afraid for Rinoa, he hadn't know her for long but her optimism and kindness had won him over. She was a hell of a woman, he just hoped that Squall didn't foul things up and lose her somehow.

"There it is," Selphie said, pointing at the tiny lighthouse that had appeared over the horizon.

"Hey yo, we're there. After a million hours of empty water. I wonder if Edea makes hot dogs. Do you remember Selphie? I don't remember anything that far back."

Selphie shook her head. "No more hot dog talk, please. Let's find Squall first."

Selphie landed the Chipmunk on the Cape of Good Hope and they walked out of the tiny aircraft stiff and weary. Zell pulled his Ehrgeiz tighter, if any tonberrys or whatnot dared to show up, he would be ready.

Selphie on the other hand, just casually tucked her Strange Vision under her arm as she smoothed her yellow dress down and began walking.

Zell followed her as they climbed up the rocky landscape to Edea's house.

"I don't think they are here, Selphie," Zell said. "This place is too open to hid the Ragnarok, we would have spotted it in an instant."

"It doesn't matter. Let's just go talk to Cid and Edea, alright?"

They walked through the crumbling archway of the old orphanage and into the front garden of the ancient place.

"Hey, Selphie, do they know about Galbadia and Garden's recent feud? It's going to be hell breaking the news to them."

Selphie shook her head. '" I think Xu phoned ahead. I hope she did. I don't want to be the one to tell them either."

"Alright, as long as I'm not the one. You know what they say about blaming the messenger."

Selphie nodded and knocked on the door.

"Yes?" Edea asked as she opened the old screeching door.

Zell and Selphie both did the SeeD salute.

She smiled, her hair tied back in a neat bun. "You have come about the current situation in garden haven't you?"

"Yes Matron," Zell said. "Can we come in for a little while to talk to the two of you?"

"We've looked everywhere for Squall and Rinoa." Selphie said, desperately.

Edea opened the door and allowed the two SeeDs to come in. She pressed her index finger to her lips

"Sssh" she told them. "Cid is sleeping. He's been sick for a while."

"What?" Selphie asked. "How come?"

"This is bad, " Zell said. "We need Cid to talk to use about Galbadia. This is terrible."

"He spoke to Xu for a few hours on end already. He was going to come see what the situation was but its really hard for him to leave his bed. I would prefer if we don't disturb him right now."

The two nodded.

"Any suggestions, Matron, on where Squall might be?"

Edea sighed. She motioned for them to sit down at the table where she had been cutting flowers.

"I think," she whispered, "that you even if you find the sorceress you won't be much better off than Squall in dealing with her."

"Why do you say that Matron?" Selphie asked. "Do you know who it is?"

"I have a vague idea." Edea whispered. "If my suspicions are correct, Squall's not in danger from any physical attack from the sorceress, but that which is within himself."

"I don't understand!" Zell exclaimed. "Can you explain that in plain language, Matron."

Edea sighed. She picked up the scissors and began to cut the thorns off the roses. Zell and Selphie felt strangely comforted by her acts of routine. They felt strange, it was almost like a sensation of being at home.

"Sorceresses need knights because by their very nature they are better at manipulating others than by using force. Squall is cunning, he won't be taken easily, but in the end, he might still be taken. I know, I was almost led astray by the seductive promises Ultimecia made me. In the end I guess it's up to Squall and how happy he is with the reality which he lives in."

Selphie nodded. "Ultimecia used Seifer's dream against him. So what you are saying is that if Squall really loves us and Rinoa he wouldn't be vulnerable to the sorceress? How about Rinoa? Is she in danger?"

Edea paused. "Rinoa." she said as though in deep contemplation. "The girl in the blue dress, right?" she asked.

Zell nodded. Rinoa, his friend. She simply had to be okay.

"I don't know," Edea said. "It depends on what the sorceress wants and how far she would go to get it. You must understand, as much as I hate to tell you this, Rinoa might need to be sacrificed to destroy the sorceress."

Zell stared at Edea, his mouth agape. Selphie was in shock as well.

"We can't sacrifice Rinoa, she's our friend. We didn't go through all that together just to lose her now. Squall wouldn't have it. He'll kill us all first." Selphie exclaimed.

Edea looked up at Selphie. She raised her hand and touched Selphie on her arm.

"Calm down, Selphie. It hasn't happened yet. But I just want the two of you to prepare yourselves in case such a thing is necessary. Think of the world and everyone in it that you love. You can't let the possibility of losing one life, destroy the future of a billion."

Zell shook his head sadly, not knowing what to say.

Selphie looked away. "How precious is one life? Is it less precious than that of two? Of four? Of a billion?"

There was a moment of silence before Edea spoke up again.

"I know of a weapon against the sorceress, Odine has been developing. It's called a Maniac Athena. This is the most powerful weapon ever developed against the sorceress. I spoke to you of the possibility of Rinoa losing her life before because that is what this weapon will entail. It is a crystal about the size of a fist made to absorb the power of the Sorceress. It will allow the bearer, no matter what gender, to completely take over the sorceress's abilities, even if the sorceress was only possessing a body. Rinoa is a weak sorceress, if that weapon is used against her she will surely die. You see the sorceress's powers is a sort of scaffolding for the body. The powers keep her heart and blood vessels from collapsing on themselves since a tremendous amount of energy is needed to cast spells that strong. If all that power left Rinoa's body, the scaffolding will fall, her heart will collapse upon its self. She will die "

"Is there anyway at all to prevent her from dying?" Zell asked desperately.

"Not any that can be achieve with anything short of a miracle. When a sorceress's powers leave her body she is on the brink of death. If the powers of two sorceresses leaves that body, it won't be able to handle the sudden influx of energy which makes the scaffolding stronger and the sudden departure, which would remove all of it. I can't think of a way to do it unless there was another sorceress nearby to replenish Rinoa with the power she lost. That idea is preposterous as well since even if Rinoa wasn't the last sorceress in our time it would be unlikely that anyone would agree to such a thing."

Selphie shook her head. "There must be a different way."

"I truly hope there is." Edea replied.

Zell shook his head. "Maniac Athena, just the name gives me the chills."

"You should go to Esthar and ask Odine to borrow it. Have it on you just in case. It can't hurt. You might need it as a last resort."

"A really really really desperate last resort," Zell added.

Edea nodded.

"We should be going now." Zell told her. "We should continue in our search. Thank you Matron for your help."

Edea nodded. She stood up and grabbed Zell's arm.

"I just have one last thing to tell you. Please, never forget that the sorceress is evil. No matter what she tells you or leads you to believe, show no mercy. Never forget that. Never, understand?"

Zell and Selphie nodded. "I don't care about the bloody sorceress," Zell told her. "We'll get Rinoa back safe and sound. Just watch."

Edea nodded sadly. "I hope you do, Zell, I truly hope that you do."


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