The Terra Episode Chapter 14
The Slave Crown
The entire Compound went to red alert once the news of Tina Branfords escape has spread. The soldiers in the area of effect all searched everywhere for her except the ones in Warehouse 5 who were ordered to remain where they were. Patrols and sweeps were organized and managed by General Fencross.
Searchlights from towers ceaselessly spied on shadowed areas. Trained dogs called Vector Pups were released to help in the search. So far, they hadnt had any luck. Almost all the structures were searched and every street scoured. They even took to the sewer access just in case. The soldiers even employed upon the aid of advanced tracking devices. Spitfires, aerial Magitek Units, took to the skies to conduct the search from above. But their prisoner was nowhere to be found. Pretty soon, an order to search beyond the boundaries of effect would be issued. General Fencross was not at all worried. He knew for a fact that it was virtually impossible to run away from the entire Imperial Army.
Tina Branfords whereabouts was the last place anybody would look in the whole of the Bronze Fortress Compound--inside the Bronze Fortress itself. The Fanatics that abducted her from the clutches of the Imperial soldiers took her there shortly after finally losing consciousness from the harsh effect of the collar she was made to wear. She awoke still feeling the burning sensation around her neck and the dizziness of the experience.
She was on a chair that was inclined back and strapped from her heels to her neck. All she could see at the moment was the high metal-clad ceiling with pipes and cables running across it. She still wore the same brown Imperial uniform that she was wearing back in the hospital. Blood was still all over it.
"She is conscious, Chosen Mage," said a Fanatic softly but audibly.
"Then summon the master!" ordered another Fanatic. His voice sounded familiar to Tina.
Tinas chair started to move in its upright position slowly. For the first time she saw a number of Fanatics busily doing something on several different equipment around the room. None seemed to pay any attention to her except one.
"We meet again," said a Fanatic wearing white hooded cloak designed with red cryptic markings all over. Tina tried to focus her eyes as hard as she could through the shadow of his hood. The Fanatic, as if reading her thoughts, drew his hood back to reveal his painted face. He had short black hair, gray eyes and a sharp nose. He had a strong cleft chin and a high hairline. "Remember me now?" he asked.
Tina recognized him at once. He was the same Fanatic that killed the witness in the hospital. He was the one that she tried to stop. Tina didnt say anything as a response, perhaps out of fear.
"My name is Tayan. It means simply Chosen Mage in a forgotten language," he introduced as though he was making small talk. "Do you know what your name is?" Tina just stared at his gray eyes with hate and said nothing. Tayan sneered before continuing. "I doubt that you do Terra!"
Tinas faced changed to a hate-filled expression and into a fearful one. She wanted to ask him to explain, but something inside told her not to. She just averted her eyes from Tayans sneering face and tried to ignore him.
"I know that you have a lot of questions that you want to ask right now. I know I would if I were in your shoes. I mean you killed the witness and all," Tayan said mockingly.
"You murderer," she muttered with hatred.
"Me?" Tayan asked in feigned disbelief. He shook his head with a surprised look in his face. "I believe that you are mistaken! I would never do such a thing! I mean killing a human being is just too much for me!" he said, and then he laughed aloud.
"Why?" she asked in a quivering voice.
Before Tayan could answer the question, Kefka walked in with an ugly grin on his face. "Well, well, well!" he said aloud as he entered the room. "Its been a long time, Terra."
"My name is Tina--"
"--Branford. Of course," Kefka exclaimed with a smile on his face. "You go by that name. You go by your given human name!"
Tina remembered what the creature back in the Devils Lab said about her human upbringing. Since then she wanted to know the whole truth about herself, but she didnt want to discover it this way.
"What do you mean ?" she said. Her voice faltered at the end of the sentence.
"As precisely as it sounds, Terra--"
"Tina!" she cried. "My name is Tina Branford!" Her anger somehow managed to surface above her fear.
"Tina Branford is nothing more than a wanted criminal now!" Kefka said scowling at her. "Tina Branford is an expendable individual. She is a fake, a sham and a fraud! Shes a criminal soon to be tried and found guilty of treason, sabotage, collaborating with the enemy and mass murder! You have been a very bad girl. Do you even realize what the charges are for committing all those premeditated acts?"
"I did none of them!" she protested, but it sounded like a pathetic lie.
"Oh really?" Kefka paced back and forth as though in thought. "The witness clearly mentioned seeing an unmasked intruder with green hair, running out of the Magitek Warehouse just seconds before it blew up, killing sixteen people. And you have also been in contact with somebody who has access to the most secured systems of Vector." Kefka moved closer to touch her hair. Tina flinched at his touch. "It looks green enough to me!"
"You set me up, you monster!" she spat.
"We didnt need to!" Kefka said quickly sounding like he was giving an excuse. "Your own crimes wouldve put you in the same predicament as you are now. We simply sped things up a bit. Skip the trial and get right to the execution," explained Kefka.
"If you want to kill me then why dont you get it over with?" she said boldly.
"But we dont want to kill you!" Kefka asked feigning surprise. "We want to kill Tina Branford--not you! Not only that, we also want to eliminate everybody who knows Branfords existence."
Tina didnt understand what he meant by that, but she knew that no answer would make it sound any better.
"If you dont plan to kill me then what do you want of me?" she asked with dread.
Kefka laughed a hellish, throaty laugh. "Everything!" he exclaimed as he threw his hands up into the air. "You cannot possibly comprehend how valuable you are to the Empire!" he shouted. Then he drew closer to Tina, close enough for him to whisper into her ears. "You cannot possibly comprehend how valuable you are to me." Kefka moved away from her again wearing the same ugly grin he was wearing when he entered the room.
She didnt want to hear any more, but deep inside she just had to ask. "Wh-what am I exactly?" she asked softly with a breath that almost failed to become a voice.
"You, my dear magic-user, are the key to great power. You are destined to unlock the gate to my destiny. You are Terra, the Appointed Gate Sentry!" he proclaimed aloud and melodramatically. "That is who you are and you dont have a clue!" Kefka laughed again.
Tina shook her head, stubbornly refusing to accept everything she heard from Kefka as the truth. "You you have the wrong person. I had human parents. They were from Vector who died for the Empire in the early wars. I am human. I have to be "
"Ordinary humans cannot use magic," Tayan said as an answer.
"I took the magic infusion proce--"
"The magic infusion process does not give the individual permanent powers like yours," Tayan interrupted again. "Nor does it make your hair change color whenever you use magic."
"Which means throwing you into the painful process of magic diffusion will do nothing at all," Kefka interjected. "Of course, those fools didnt know that. They think youre well normal."
"I am normal!" she cried, but Kefka only ignored her.
"They dont know anything about you. They know far less than what you know of yourself. In fact, only a handful of people know the secret. The Emperor knows the secret, as well as General Cristophe. So you see nobody gives a damn about Tina Branford. Shes just a deluded individual thinking she was conceived by loving and heroic parents. An image given to the lost and confused youth to feel protected and loved," Kefka said mockingly. "How pathetic! This was the Emperors subtle solution of bringing you up when you were just a child... in the orphanage of a hundred matrons!" Kefka laughed again at some cruel joke nobody else could share.
"You lie!" Tina screamed in denial before she broke in tears.
Kefka continued to laugh his sinister laugh in front of Tina. It lasted for a few more seconds before he could stop himself completely. "But dont cry," Kefka started to say, sounding sympathetic. "Its better that you discover this now, dont you think? Consider this a part of the preparation for your foretold future. By this, I mean your future of unconditional service to your master--me!"
"Never!" she screamed louder than before. "Never, you monster! I will never serve you! I'll die first! I will kill myself first!"
Tina continued to cry as Kefka and Tayan stared at her in silence. Kefka nodded to Tayan and Tayan immediately left his masters side to retrieve something from the closest table. It was a black box marked SC-203 in big letters. He returned to his masters side without delay. He opened the box for his master, and Kefka took the content from it carefully with his hands. It was a thin strip of gold-colored metal headband about an inch in width. She eyed it with dread, remembering the collar that the soldiers put around her neck.
Kefka held the headpiece in front of her, as though showing it off. Then he said, "I believe this gift will change your mind literally!"
"I will die first," Tina repeatedly fiercely.
"Unfortunately, it is no longer a matter of choice. Its not even a matter if will. You see, my sweet, little magic-user with this slave crown Ill practically own you! With it, youll follow my commands without question or hesitation. You will even betray to us your accomplice." Kefka drew even closer to put the crown around her head. Tina struggled in vain. It didnt take long for Kefka to put it around her. "There. You see? Its a perfect fit!" Kefka said as he stepped back to look. "Almost."
Tina moved her head in sharp sudden moves trying to shake it loose, but the strap around her neck made it impossible for her to do so.
"Dont panic, Terra. Its not even activated yet. That process takes " Kefka turned to Tayan and asked, "How long does the process take?"
"Approximately three hours, master," he answered.
"Wonderful. Just enough time to set up the stage. You see there is one last thing that we need to take care of. We need to get rid of the people who might prove to know you too much. I want to give Tina Branford a new and convincing image in the eyes of the Army. I want them to think of you as a terrorist from the rumored resistance group, the Returners. For that to happen we need to eradicate the people who know you well like your comrades under Captain Wells command. Not only this, I also want to convince the Emperor and General Cristophe that you are out of control. That way, theyll allow me to leave the slave crown on you giving me total control." He turned to Tayan again and gave him an order. "Proceed immediately, Tayan. I dont want delays. This is a critical part of the plan."
Tayan bowed and replied, "Yes, master."
"Allow my Chosen Mage to entertain you during the process as I must make preparations myself. Might I suggest that you ask all the questions you have because this really is your last chance. In three hours time you will be nothing more than an empty shell."
With that Kefka departed.
Tayan removed the crown from her head and examined it closely. "Its not quite as perfect as it looks. It needs to be refitted slightly before the process. I will make haste," Tayan said.
"Please!" Tina pleaded. She hated herself for it. "I did nothing wrong to you or your master. Let me go."
"Im afraid I cant do that, Terra--"
"Im not Terra!" she cried.
"Yes, you are. You should be proud of that name. That is your real name," Tayan explained calmly but coldly. Tayan addressed the other Fanatics. "Lets start the process! Everything as we did during the simulation!"
Lights from the different machinations in the room blinked to life. Then Tinas chair tilted back as it was when she first came to. Again, all she could see clearly was the high ceiling. Tayan walked around and to her side. He stared at her bloody uniform and then shook her head. "We need to get that changed. Master Kefka wants you to look like a rebel from the north. But I suppose we can do that af--"
"Tell me about my name," Tina interrupted. After Tayan mentioned that Terra was her real name she became more intrigued. "Who gave me that name?"
Tayan smiled. "Your parents, of course!"
Tina paused a moment. "Who were my parents?"
"Your mother was, if I recall correctly, Madeline Brandfire. She was one of the science expedition team working for Vector twenty years ago. Thats all I know about her. Her records were sealed after her death. Not too many people know this. But, at least, you know now where we got your last name from."
"My father? Who was my father?"
Tayan grinned. "Unlike your mother, your father is still alive. In fact, he is somewhere inside this building, Magitek Lab Omega--the Devils Lab."
"Where is he? Let me see him, please! I beg of you, let me see him just once," Tina pleaded with tears in her eyes.
"Im not allowed to do that, Terra. We simply dont have any time." Tayan was approached by a Fanatic and whispered something to him. Tayan nodded in response. The Fanatic left and went on his business.
"Its time to begin, Terra. You should be more excited about this. You are going to partake in the making of history!" he exclaimed.
Tinas chair trembled slightly, and the machines around her hummed louder in activity. It made her forget about her questions of origin.
"Whats going to happen?" she asked nervously.
"First of all, we are going to remove your very consciousness from your body leaving only an empty shell. So in essence you will die," Tayan said bluntly. "We will then feed your brain with programmed instructions that will basically allow us to control you. These are all in theory. The slave crown itself is an untested prototype. The Emperor scrapped the research many years ago, but we continued it secretly." Tayan rubbed his hands together as he got ready with the process. "The process, however, is painless so I wouldnt worry too much."
"Wait! I change my mind. Ill cooperate! Ill do anything you tell me. This is not necessary!" Tina lied as her last desperate attempt.
Tayan scowled at her. "That choice was never given to you in the first place, Terra. Now hold still while I put the crown around your head again."
"No!" she screamed, shaking her head side to side. "Fire! Fire!"
Tayan laughed. "Your magic may be permanent, but youre still susceptible to Rasp. We took precautions. But seeing that youll make this as difficult as you can then I have no choice but to put you to sleep first."
Tayan waved his hand in front of her face and uttered a word of magical command. The next second, Tina stopped her struggling. She was in a magic-induced sleep, helpless.
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