The Terra Episode Chapter 12

The Murderer

By Magicite54

Tina Branford arrived at the entrance of the hospital. About five soldiers were there at the entrance, armed and alert. There she presented the documents that were given to her by Captain Wells. She was allowed inside without further question. One of the soldiers accompanied her. The soldier, she noticed, was of a lower rank than hers was. They both took the elevator to get to her designated patrol area.

"The elevators will be shut down in the case of an emergency so use only the stairs," explained the soldier. "The witness we are protecting is on the fourth floor of the building. The entire floors above and below that have been evacuated. The patients that used to reside on either floors have been moved. You are ordered to patrol the--"

"Third floor," Tina finished. "I understand."

The soldier nodded. "There will be five other people on the floor making similar rounds with you. You will be relieved of duty after eight hours by another. During your rounds you are not to leave the floor even during an emergency situation unless otherwise ordered. Food and drinks will be delivered by--"

"Yes. I understand. I know the procedures," Tina interrupted with impatience.

"Of course, it’s just that I’ve been given orders to review these to you," the soldier replied.

At that moment, the elevator door opened revealing an empty and quiet hallway. They both stepped out and stood by the entrance of the elevator. The soldier looked at his watch.

"The others have started their rounds. They are about somewhere. Be sure to report to them before starting yours to avoid confusions. Questions, should you have any, must be directed to the front guards through the floor’s communication system. They are all over the place so you can keep in touch with the others."

Tina nodded simply. The soldier saluted to her and then reentered the elevator. A few seconds later she was alone in the hallway. The hallway was unlike the steel-clad corridors of the Magitek Warehouse. It was made of strong concrete and painted white. They were brightly illuminated and very sanitary. None would expect any less from the high-security infirmary of Vector.

Tina approached one of the communication panels on the wall just a few feet from her. She pushed a button and spoke clearly.

"Branford, Second Class of Third Infantry reporting."

Her voice was heard all over the entire floor from the speakers. From the same speakers a response was heard.

"Just in time, Branford. This is Hossbach, First class of the fifth infantry. I am the patrol leader of this shift. Please proceed to the floor’s main office to get acquainted with the rest of the team. North side of the floor past the waiting rooms."

Tina pushed the button again and replied, "Yes, sir. On my way."

Tina started walking towards the only obvious direction. Her footsteps echoed loudly as she moved. The patrol leader’s voice was heard again. "Team, rendezvous at the floor’s main office. Please report. Over."

As Tina continued to walk she heard different voices over the comm system responding to the team leader’s order.

"Friar, here. I copy. Over."

"Collins reporting. On my way. Over."

"Derek. Third Class of First infantry. On my way. Over."

A few seconds have passed, and the last soldier hasn’t reported yet.

Hossbach’s voice was heard again.

"Fletcher? Fletcher, do you copy?" A lengthy round of silence followed. "Robert Fletcher, do you copy? Over."

Tina raised her brows, intrigued. One of them hasn’t reported in yet. Nevertheless, she maintained her calm as she continued to walk to the meeting place.

"Fletcher, report!" Hossbach's voice sounded annoyed.

Tina reached the main office of the floor. The team leader was there, waiting behind a desk, playing with the buttons of the communication system controls. He signaled for Tina to take a seat.

Hossbach leaned forward towards the microphone and spoke again.

"Robert Fletcher, report this instance!"

Two people appeared at the main office. Both looked puzzled. They nodded at Tina Branford and then saluted to the team leader. The team leader just waved at them to take a seat.

"Did any of you see what he was up to?" Hossbach asked.

"No, sir," answered one of the soldiers.

The other shook his head, too. "Friar was last with him in the east section of the floor.

"Where is Friar then?" Hossbach asked.

"He reported a while ago. He should be here any second now," answered Tina.

Hossbach could not wait. "Jonathan Friar, report," he called through the comm system. After what seemed like a full minute, there were no responses, yet.

"Fletcher, Friar! Report to the main office immediately!" he said angrily. His voice boomed across the empty hallways. He cursed then turned off his comm panel. He stood up from his chair buckling his weapon around his waist, giving the soldiers who were present orders.

"Let's arrange a search for them. If you see anything unusual, you report it at once to the front door post, understand? Keep in touch every minute using the comm panels." Hossbach's eyes went to Tina Branford. "Oh, by the way. This is Tina Branford. Branford, this is Derek and Collins," he said quickly as an introduction. The three just nodded to each other.

They all split up to search the various sections of the floor. It was huge. Tina noticed that the security cameras were still on. This gave her an idea. She drew an earpiece from one of her pockets and wore it on her left ear as always.

"Guardian? Can you hear me?"

"Yes, Branford, I can," came an instant response. It never seized to amaze her that Guardian was always at her disposal with the microphone and earpiece. It was as though Guardian was always present in... well... wherever she really was physically.

"You have access to the security system of the Infirmary, right?" Tina asked although she was already sure what the answer was going to be.

"Yes," Guardian answered, nevertheless.

"We have two missing people somewhere on the floor. Can you see them?"

"Negative," Guardian said the very next second. The response was so fast that one would doubt that Guardian did any effort at all to check. Still, Tina trusted her.

"Keep searching," Tina ordered as though Guardian was a subordinate soldier. "I have a bad feeling about this," she mumbled to herself.

"Hossbach, reporting. I'm going to check each of the rooms in the Intensive Care Section. Over," Hossbach's voice boomed over the entire floor.

Tina became more apprehensive every second. She approached a comm panel and said, "I think we should report this to the front desk immediately. It's been a long time already. If they were napping somewhere, they would've woken up by now with the noise we're making."

"I agree," seconded Derek. "This is not like them at all."

"That makes sense," Hossbach replied. "Collins, do you agree?" Hossbach waited for ten seconds before he asked again. Ten seconds were always enough to find another different comm panel. "Collins? Collins, report!" Hossbach swore aloud. A louder recording accompanied by a siren filled the air.

"An emergency has been declared! Proceed to the nearest exit and evacuate the building in an orderly fashion. Attendants must assist the patients."

The voice in the recording struck Tina as puzzled. It was Guardian's voice!

"Guardian, what's going on?" she shouted above the racket.

"Branford! You must--"

Guardian's voice was cut off suddenly. Silence and darkness filled the hallway at the same time. The entire building has lost power. Light from the windows provided little illumination of the inside.

"Guardian?" she whispered. "Guardian, can you hear me?"

Guardian did not respond. It was as though the transmission was cut off with the recording.

"What's going on?" Hossbach bellowed from somewhere in the floor. "Team, report! Team, rep--"

His voice was cut off abruptly, too. Tina drew her sword and started to run towards the direction of the echo. "Hossbach!" she shouted. "Derek! Collins!"

Nobody responded. She dashed through the hallway towards the main office. That was Hossbach's last command. She wasn't sure what happened to her team, but she hoped to find the culprit. Her fears suddenly melted away. At that moment, she was a soldier doing her job.

Tina arrived in the main office. There was less light in the room than the hallway. She wondered when the emergency power would go online. She took off the earpiece because she needed her senses to stay their sharpest. Her eyes roamed the shadowy corners and listened for sounds other than her breathing and heartbeat. Nobody was there.

A breaking of glass was heard all of a sudden from nearby. Tina bolted towards the direction, rounding corners swiftly. She stopped suddenly when she saw a soldier slumped unconscious on the floor in the middle of the hallway up ahead. She could not identify the soldier from her distance, but she was sure that the crashing sound originated there because she could see broken shards of glass on the floor surrounding the body.

Tina moved slowly, this time. She approached the body with her sword in hand, poised to strike. She neared the body without incident. Tina took a quick glance at the soldier and saw that it was Derek. His blood oozed out of a small head wound on his forehead and onto the floor. She checked for a pulse; there was none.

The shards of glass were all over the place. She surmised that it was probably a big crystal vase that decorated the hallway once. It was what knocked the soldier down, but it was not what killed him. Tina saw upon closer inspection that a dagger was sticking out of Derek's right side close to his waist.

"Guardian?" she whispered again. She wore her earpiece on her left ear once more and waited for a reply. There were none. Tina stood up slowly, and backed away from the dead body. There was only one thing left for her to do. Since the comm panels were down she had to find a way to the front door and alert the guards, assuming that they did not know what was amiss yet.

Tina remembered that the elevators would be shut down as well so she followed the signs pointing to the nearest stairwell. She hurried towards it with her senses on full alert. Whoever committed the crime made sure to silence possibly all five of her team patrol. She might be next.

She arrived at the northwest stairwell. The door was ajar. She thought it to be very suspicious. Tina kicked the door open and sprang inside with her sword ready to strike at an intruder. Instead, she saw another soldier. This time it was Hossbach, leaning against a wall with bloody hands clutching at a similar looking dagger that he had pulled from his belly. His uniform was all bloody, and he was breathing very slowly.

"Sir!" she exclaimed.

Hossbach tried to talk, but no sound came out of his mouth. He was at the end of his strength. Tina tried to help him up, but Hossbach pushed her away. Then he pointed towards the flight of stairs that led up to the next floor. It was the same floor that the witness was located.

"You need medical attention," she started. "Let me go get help," Tina offered.

"No!" Hossbach managed to gasp. "Wit... ness..." he said through labored breaths.

Tina understood completely. She thought that the soldiers from downstairs would've noticed already that something was wrong. Backup must be on their way. It was up to her now to stop the intruder and save the witness' life.

She left Hossbach's side and ran up the stairs. A question suddenly entered her mind. Who would want to kill the witness? It was definitely something that didn't make sense to her since she and Guardian were the only--Guardian! she thought. Guardian is going to kill the witness! She never thought it possible. Half of it still didn't make sense since Guardian had reported that the witness was as good as dead. Yet, Guardian had told her earlier that she didn't see anything through the security cameras. The emergency recording had her voice, and she stopped responding to Tina's calls at the same time the power went down.

Tina stopped before going through the door to the floor of destination. She smelled a trap. My assignment here was no mistake. She must’ve falsified the documents herself. But why?

Tina opened the door very slowly. The first thing she spotted was a drop of blood on the white tiled floor. Her eyes went to the dark corridors. They were as silent as the floor below. It being the floor where the witness was, the guard detail would’ve been doubled--tripled, even--and yet the place looked deserted. One thing was different, though. The security cameras seemed to be active. The lights on the cameras were on, and they continually scanned the area. Tina immediately stepped out of the view of the cameras. If Guardian really were her enemy, then the cameras would work against Tina’s favor. Tina removed the earpiece and the microphone and threw them in a corner.

She neared a camera while it was looking the other way and destroyed it with her sword. She kept doing this until she reached where the witness was being held. The place was littered with dead bodies. They were the guards stationed to protect the witness. Whatever killed them, it was swift because she noticed that none of them even had the chance to draw their weapons. Their blood practically covered the only corridor that led to the witness’ room. A set of footprints led to the witness’ room, too.

Tina ran through the corridor, fearing that she might be too late. She reached the entrance to the room. The door was closed and two more guards lay on the ground, lifeless. Tina opened the door using a keycard taken from one of the dead guards. The door hissed open, and a flurry of movement followed that caught Tina off guard.

Tina staggered back as a man in blood stained white robes shoved her back, but she was able to stay her balance. Tina identified the man as the same Devout that talked to her captain about an hour ago back in the briefing room. The man held a mean-looking dagger in his right hand similar to what injured Hossbach. Tina made a slash to prevent the Devout from making another move. To her surprise the Devout ran back inside the room where the witness lay on the hospital bed.

She ran after the Devout, but the man suddenly turned towards her and cast a spell that blew her back out with a freezing blast of wind. Her sword flew out of her hand and onto the floor.

Tina was sent to the floor, shaking uncontrollably, struggling to get up as fast as she could. The Devout turned away from her and to the witness lying on the bed in a calm slumber. The Devout raised the dagger above his head quite deliberately as though to show Tina that he was about to kill the man.

"Fire!" she shouted with outstretched arm.

She created a small ball of fire that shot from her fingertips towards the attacker. The fireball struck the man in the back, and a bright green flash followed it. The fireball bounced back towards her. She ducked just in time, narrowly missing her head and burning her hair that just turned green.

She sprang up towards the man, but she was too late. The man had stuck the dagger into the witness’ chest. Tina grabbed the man by the shoulders and pulled him back away from the witness. The Devout simply turned around and made a grab at her neck. Tina tried in vain to escape the murderer’s strong grip.

"Fire!" she gasped.

Again, a green flash blinded her momentarily. It was the sign of the magical barrier that the Devout was wearing. It repelled her fire magic, deflecting it elsewhere. She wasn’t sure where it was deflected to at the moment for it was the least of her worries. Without her sword and the effectiveness of her magic she reached for the only weapon within her reach.

She grabbed the dagger that was protruding from the witness’ chest with her right hand and pulled it. She held it high preparing to strike the Fanatic. The enemy saw this so he released Tina’s neck and caught her wrist just in time. Tina called all of her strength to plunge the dagger into the Devout’s heart, but the man was stronger than she was. Tina needed a little help. She struck the man in the stomach with her knee.

The man groaned but held onto her wrist tight. Tina struck him again. This time, he was weakened momentarily for him to lose support. Tina was able to push him back until the man was practically lying on top of the dead witness. Tina continued to push the dagger pointed to the Devout’s heart. The Devout was losing strength being in a more clumsy position. The dagger neared the Devout’s heart, winning over his hands’ failing strength.

"Halt!" shouted somebody from behind.

"Drop the weapon now, and surrender yourself!" commanded another.

Tina didn’t dare turn her attention away from the Devout. She knew that they were Imperial soldiers. She decided to continue to fight the Devout until the soldiers were near enough to see that she was on their side.

"Time for me to go, Terra. It’s been fun," the Devout breathed as he struggled. Tina’s eyes widened at the mention of the name Terra. The Devout smiled a nasty-looking smile and uttered, "Escape."

The man suddenly vanished without a trace. Without the Devout’s hands fighting Tina’s, the dagger plunged into the dead witness’ stomach. Tina gasped and stepped back, pulling the dagger from the dead man on the hospital bed.

"She killed the witness!" exclaimed one of the soldiers.

Tina’s face froze in fright as she looked at the soldiers, holding the bloody dagger in her right hand. The Devout was nowhere to be seen, and the witness was dead. For the first time also, she noticed that half of the room had caught fire, presumably from the deflected magical fire that she cast while defending herself from the man’s strong grip.

"Drop the weapon!" barked the lead soldier. They all approached her slowly with their swords raised.

Tina dropped the bloody dagger on the floor.

"I didn’t kill him!" she protested. "I swear, there was another man here!"

"Turn around with your hands up, now!" roared the soldier, ignoring her words.

"A Devout killed him! He’s escaping. He could still be in the building!" she explained in her defense.

"Do as I say! Now!" the soldier shouted again.

Tina raised her hands in the air slowly, shaking her head. "N-no. This can’t be happening!" she said, her voice quivering in fear. "I didn’t do it! I swear! I didn’t do it!"

Two soldiers rushed inside the room and seized her by the arms. They forced her to turn so they could cuff her hands behind her back, then she was dragged outside the room. Another soldier entered the room carrying a fire extinguisher. He successfully put out the growing fire before it could cause major damage to the scene of the crime.

"I-I didn’t do it!" she said again. "A Devout killed the guards and the witness. I was only trying to stop him!"

The soldier held the edge of his sword against her neck.

"And where exactly is this Devout?" asked one of the soldiers, skeptically.

"The Devout escaped using magic. He may still be in the building. If you hurry up and search the area, you may catch him still! You have to believe me!"

"What is going on here?" roared another soldier running down the corridor towards them, accompanied by more Imperial guards. It was her commanding officer, Captain Wells.

"Captain!" she called.

The soldier pulled her hair back and ordered her to be quiet. "Sir, we caught the murderer, red-handed. She used that dagger over there to kill the witness."

"What?!" the captain exclaimed in surprise, looking at Tina disbelief. Then he rushed inside the room and found the witness covered in bloodstained sheets. The machines around him all indicated no sign of life from the man on the bed. Then he went out of the room and walked towards Tina. "Why did you do this?"

"Captain, I did not! You must believe me. Another man killed the witness. I saw him with my own eyes. I tried to stop him," she answered quickly in defense.

"Who did?" the captain asked.

"It was a--"

Tina was about to mention the Devout when Kefka arrived at the scene and interrupted her.

"Silence!" Kefka bellowed with furious eyes. "You killed that helpless man. You were responsible for the explosion in the Magitek Warehouse killing those soldiers and workers that night," Kefka accused. "And you have come to here to finish the job! What do you have to say in your defense, magic-user?"

Tina tried to say something, but to her horror, no sound escaped her lips. Kefka had cast a Mute spell on her when he yelled the word silence and nobody even noticed! She would’ve pointed a finger at Kefka, but her hands were cuffed behind her.

"Speechless are we? We’ll see what you have to say during your trial, or perhaps your execution," Kefka said evilly with a deathly grin. "Take her away!" he ordered the soldiers.

"Wait!" Captain Wells ordered. "Let me talk to her first!"

"Captain Wells, there is no time!" Kefka insisted "We must act quickly, or it might be too late!"

"Too late for what?" the captain asked, not completely understanding what Kefka meant.

Kefka drew closer to him and whispered, "Not here, captain. I’ll explain everything when we’re alone, but it is important that we see this criminal in her holding cell as soon as possible."

Captain Wells still didn’t know what the urgency was all about, but he figured that the only way to find out was to follow Kefka. He took one last look at Tina who stared back at her with a frightened and pleading look. Then he nodded slowly, thinking that he would get the chance to talk to her later

"Take her to her cell now in the maximum security detention building. Double the guards and never let her escape," barked Kefka

The soldiers glanced at their captain. The captain simply nodded quietly. It was enough for them to follow Kefka’s orders. The soldiers dragged Tina through the corridor as she struggled. It seemed odd of her to struggle without protesting or saying a word.

"I don’t want her harmed! She still has to be proven guilty!" Captain Wells added.

Kefka and the captain were left at the scene alone.

"You did the right thing, captain," Kefka assured"

"I did it because I want an explanation from you," Captain Wells retorted.

"You wanted proof that our culprit was under your command. There is your proof!" Kefka replied scornfully motioning to the people walking away from them. "But remember what I said about the infiltrator having an accomplice. We have reasons to believe that she was not working alone. She could not have sabotaged the reactor by herself, nor could she have killed all the guards in the entire area alone--might I add--disable the main power and the auxiliary power! We have to find the others as well and fast!" Kefka stressed urgently.

"We have no proof yet that Branford really did kill the witness!" Captain Wells argued in her defense. "Just because she had the bloody dagger in hand, it doesn’t immediately make her a criminal. She has the right to defend herself in the Imperial Court, and there are procedures for doing this!"

"Oh, open your eyes! Your very own soldiers saw her plunge the dagger into that man’s chest! Her hands were covered with blood--the witness’ blood! She even tried to burn the room down--possibly the whole building--to cover her tracks! She is as guilty as the sun abandoning the world after sunset! Do you honestly believe that she had nothing to do with this?" Kefka argued, his voice echoing through the hallway.

Captain Wells was struck silent for a moment. "She mentioned another man who--"

"--is nowhere to be seen!" Kefka finished. "It sure sounds like a desperate lie to save her skin."

"Whatever happened in that room today, Kefka, we have proper procedures to follow. We have laws to properly deal with this. I am a man of the Empire. I will do nothing less!" Wells said adamantly.

"I am not asking you to do any less, captain. But I am asking you to do more," Kefka said more calmly. "If you wish to go on with the investigation and your… proper procedures… then who am I to stop you? What I’m asking you to do is simple and not against any of the laws we have. We must find out who the accomplice or accomplices are. Because as soon as they hear about her capture they will flee the place like roaches from the treacherous light."

Captain Wells listened. "What exactly do you want me to do?" he asked.

"Call for an emergency assembly of all of your people in Warehouse 5. It has been emptied to accommodate them."

"Why my people?" Wells asked suspiciously.

"Because whoever the accomplice or accomplices may be, we assume that they are in constant contact with Ter--" Kefka stopped, catching his mistake just in time. "Tina Branford," he corrected himself.

"The accomplice could be anyone. You can’t possibly carelessly assume that more of my men are guilty!" he said defensively.

"True. But it’s a start, don’t you think?"

Wells shook his head. "I will not allow you to harass my men without enough evidence in hand!"

"Wake up, Captain!" Kefka hissed angrily. "Do you really think it will look good on your record to have a traitor operating under your nose?" the captain’s face grew solemn in thought. "What about two? Or three? Or even more?!" added Kefka. "Your men may be treated unfairly during the interrogation, but wouldn’t it be worth it to discover the whole truth? Who knows? Maybe the interrogation could be the very key to prove Branford’s innocence even though I find it to be very unlikely."

Captain Wells stared into his eyes for long moments, looking for a sign of deception or hidden motive from Kefka. He apparently found none from him at the moment, or it was also possible that Kefka was able to hide it very well.

"What exactly will take place in this… interrogation of yours?" Wells asked.

"Your men will be questioned one at a time. While this is going on their private quarters will be checked for questionable items that might have anything to do with this crime or the previous one," Kefka answered quickly. Captain Wells frowned at that idea. Kefka noticed this and immediately added, "You initiate surprise searches of the barracks and private quarters once every two months anyway, captain. Why should this be any different?"

Wells thought it carefully. Kefka smiled inwardly as he saw that Captain Wells was close to being convinced. He waited no further to put the topping on the ice cream.

"There is nothing questionable with what I’m asking you to do, Captain. Anyway it plays out, your call for the interrogation will be looked upon by everybody as a positive action to search for the truth. If we get lucky and capture the accomplices, you may even get a medal… or perhaps get promoted," Kefka said slyly with a grin.

Captain Wells did not share his grin, but deep inside, everything made sense. He would not be violating any rule, nor would he be acting irresponsibly in front of the Imperial Army. The interrogation would also be a good idea to learn the truth about everything. He could also get Tina Branford’s testimony later on.

"Very well, Kefka. You will have your assembly in Warehouse 5 on one condition. I must be present when you interrogate my men," Captain Wells demanded.

Kefka smiled triumphantly. "I insist that you will be there as well."

"Then it is agreed," Wells said sternly. "I will report this to General Fencross and--"

"Do not trouble yourself, Wells. I will personally make sure he knows all that has transpired here myself. He will have a lot on his mind, for sure."

Captain Wells nodded. At the same time, the power in the entire building was restored. The lights once again illuminated the hallways much better than the light from the outside. A team of soldiers could be heard coming to the scene of the crime. They were obviously there to start their investigation. Captain Wells started to walk through the corridor to meet with the soldiers and give them instructions. Kefka was left alone at the scene and was about to magically teleport himself out of the building when he heard a teeny sound coming from an unknown source. The sound was barely audible, and yet he was sure it was there.

Kefka looked around for a moment and found something on the floor in a corner that used to be covered in shadows before the lights went back. It was a tiny receiver. He bent over and picked it up. Sure enough, the sound was coming from the device. Slowly, he raised it to his right ear and listened.

"Branford? Branford, can you hear me? Branford!" said an odd-sounding female voice. It sounded as if it were a recording. Kefka wore an ugly frown. He knew that it was the accomplice. He wanted very much to talk to the accomplice but was afraid to frighten her away so he just kept silent and continued to listen for clues. "I can detect your presence in the infirmary. Let me see you through the security camera," the accomplice said.

Kefka looked up ceiling and found a single security camera monitoring the entrance to the witness’ room. The security camera moved slowly in a rotational angle towards Kefka. Kefka didn’t move to hide from the camera’s view. He just stared at it. He knew that the accomplice had control of the security system. Kefka wanted to see how the accomplice would react to him.

At last, the security camera stopped moving. It focused on him for a few seconds. Kefka stared at it as though he was staring into the eye of a criminal. He wanted the accomplice to fear him. He thought this to be a bad idea, but he just couldn’t resist it.

The reaction was quick. The earpiece emitted a high-pitched sound that hurt Kefka’s ear but not enough to do any long-lasting damage. Kefka pulled the earpiece from his ear as fast as he could and held it in his right hand. The sound lasted for approximately five seconds then it stopped abruptly. Kefka opened his hand and looked at the device closely. It had burnt its circuits out. It was a clever self-destruct mechanism to cover the accomplice’s tracks.

Instead of finding himself infuriated, Kefka laughed maniacally as he tossed the broken device back to the floor. With another word of command he was gone, leaving only the echo of his manic laughter.


Chapter 13

Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic