The Terra Episode Chapter 5
"But why cant you tell me?" Tina asked her unseen friend. She was getting close to her quarters.
"Its not important," Guardian simply answered through her earpiece.
Tina frowned. She felt that Guardian was hiding something from her. "That creature whatever it was. It talked to me," Tina started to say. She paused for a moment to wait for Guardian to say something but she didnt. "Did you hear it, too?"
"No, I did not."
Tina believed her. "It spoke to me in my head. I heard the creatures voice in my head."
"You were probably imagining it," Guardian said as an excuse.
"Then how come you were telling me not to listen to it? You knew that it was trying to communicate with me, didnt you?"
Guardian fell silent again as though thinking of a good excuse. She was held speechless, though.
"You know what it was, dont you? Somehow, you predicted that this would happen. Tell me, Guardian. What were those creatures?"
"As you wish, Branford," Guardian submitted. "I will include that information to the exchange once we arrive in your quarters. I do not want you to be distracted again."
Tina satisfied herself with that response. Guardian had never once broken a promise to her. The relationship between them, however, was an odd one. Never have they met face to face. Guardian made contact with her through means of high technological media. The first contact was made through Tinas own computer in her quarters that was primarily used as her means of communicating mission orders from her commander. Only soldiers that belonged to the Third Class ranks and above have these computers in their own quarters. They could be used for other tasks as well like electronically filing for requests such as leaves of absence, permissions, queries and reports. And since the computers were all linked to a central computing core they could also be used to send messages to other people with the same access privileges.
Guardian contacted her for the first time by sending her a cryptic message that Tina first thought was a joke. It was, after all, a common prank between soldiers. The message was direct to the point. Guardian wanted her to go to Vectors main computer library where they could "talk" to each other. Tina ignored the message the first time thinking that maybe it was just from an admirer. Being a serious soldier, she had no intention of wasting her time with conceited men who had nothing to do but flirt around her. Unlike another female friend who was in the military also, she did not delight in their catcalls. In fact, she hated it. She thought of them as being immature and rude. But then she had always felt detached and unconsciously anti-social. There was a sense of caution with everything she did like an aura of paranoia.
Being one of the very few female soldiers in the military (and being an attractive young woman as well) it was no surprise at all that men from her company and from others would send her messages. Almost all of them have attempted to ask her out. Some were very straightforward, and yet some were subtle. Tina saw through all of them. Eventually, she ended up blocking messages coming from about twenty different men. The list continued to grow more slowly. She smiled at this thinking that they were finally getting the idea.
But then there was somebody who called himself Guardian. After the first message from Guardian, she immediately dumped the source to her blocking list. To her surprise, Guardian got around the blocking filter and was able to send her another message the very next day. Both messages were the same: Vector Library of History. Computer Section. Timestrike Ten. Come alone.
Obviously, this was not enough to get her attention. She blocked the source again, and yet on the very next day, a third message from the mysterious entity said: You are in danger. A plot is set against you, and the time is drawing near.
Tina was furious at this. She finally decided to go to the designated meeting place but only to make the person sorry for the sick joke. She was very confident that she would be safe. And indeed, she was. Her magical ability alone was unsurpassed. The magic infusion experiment seemed to do extraordinarily well on her. With but a word, a raging fire could be called to be used as her weapon of defense or destruction. Even without the help of her magical abilities, however, she was still a formidable enemy, skilled in the use of the sword. Nobody expected less from a Third Class Imperial Soldier.
So she went to the Vectors Library of History. It was a building outside the Bronze Fortress Compound, the central and collective superstructures that consisted of a giant steel-clad, highly-technological fortress where the Emperor resided, the Magitek warehouses, the Devils Lab, various high security facilities and the military quarters where she was currently assigned. In fact, the Vector Library of History was a public place; it was open to Vectorian citizens and was without security access restrictions. It was the only building outside of the Bronze Fortress Compound that was still directly linked to the databases of the central computer in the Bronze Fortress itself.
Tina entered the building late that night, fully prepared as if expecting a fight. She was surprised that even at that time of day people were still in the library. She easily recognized a few scholars busily translating old Vectorian parchments. Younger looking people were on another corner, gathered around a study table and seemingly being reprimanded by a librarian for the distractions that they were causing. Tina looked around her. Shelf after shelf of books lined themselves parallel to each other just beyond the row of study tables. The inside was very well lit. Vector civilians walked from one shelf to the next in constant search of answers to their immediate educational or researching needs.
Her eyes watched the people inside intently, looking for somebody that might be a soldier in civilian clothing. Failing to recognize any of them, she made an assumption that whoever Guardian was, he was not from her company. She approached a circular desk at the center of the section she was currently in safely concluding that it was the information desk. An elderly man with thick spectacles smiled at her and pointed the way to the computer section as the answer to her question.
Tina followed the directions. She went past two rows of bookshelves and followed a very short corridor that led directly to the computer section. It was a big room with about a hundred networked computers on their own desk as workspaces. Only a few people were using the computers at the time, and they were all scattered. A few more study tables were lined in the same room along the walls. Tina immediately noticed a man who seemed out of place. The man sat on a chair in a slouching position with his hands across his chest and his head bowed slightly down as though in boredom. He had long silver hair and a strangely pale skin. The man wore a black coat that could only have been made in the Far North. The coat had a high and stiff collar that almost covered the mans mouth. He wore black leather boots that were metal-soled.
The man seemed like he was asleep for he did not move. He just sat there as though waiting for someone. Tina wondered if he was Guardian but she immediately threw away that assumption. Many foreigners, after all, visited the library for its wondrous tomes of knowledge presented in the most luxurious way. So it was not uncommon for an outlander, most especially a Jidooran, to be found in Vector.
Another librarian approached Tina from behind. It was a woman this time. Tina told the librarian her name and asked if somebody was waiting for her in particular. The librarian simply shook her head and went back to her desk. Tina turned towards the study tables again to look at the other people when she noticed that the man from Jidoor was looking at her intently. For the first time she saw his face. The man had multiple scars that mustve been made by a blade. The scars were deep, and all of them were made at different angles. Her guess was that the man mustve been in some kind of a bar fight. She noticed that the man was a strikingly attractive man if it weren't for the scars. The man sat up straight from his slouching position before he stood up. He was a very tall man and well built. His long silver hair dropped to his shoulders. His long black coat, decorated sparingly with silver and gold weaving patterns on edges, straightened as he stood up without so much as a sign of crease or fold.
The tall man walked towards her unthreateningly. Tina thought that she had found Guardian. The man stood in front of her. Tina was forced to raise her head to look him in the eyes for he was a very tall man.
"Tina Branford?" the man asked in a Jidooran accent that sounded snobbish.
"Who wants to know?" Tina asked in a suspicious tone.
"Just a messenger whos been waiting for three days now," the man answered. He neither smiled nor made any attempt to hide his impatience. The man reached for something from inside his coat pocket. Alarmed at the movement, Tina pulled her sword from its sheath halfway. The blade scraped against the interior lining of the sheath and made a sound that echoed in the large room. The people who heard it looked their way. The librarian raised her brows and watched them intently and nervously. It was fortunate that Tina was wearing her military uniform at the time, or else the librarian would have rushed for a local peacekeeper and had them arrested. The man froze and did not dare move.
"I should warn you. A sudden move is a threatening move and will be dealt with accordingly," Tina warned with a voice of authority.
"I am reaching for the message. Nothing more," he assured.
Tina nodded but kept her sword hand around the hilt of her weapon and her eyes on the mans hands. When the man pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket, Tina relaxed her guard. She snatched it from the hand of the Jidooran and started to read it. Tina gasped and then looked at the stranger.
"Who wrote this?" Tina demanded the stranger for an answer but in a soft voice so she wouldnt draw anymore attention to herself.
The Jidooran man smiled weakly before answering. "Should you discover who did, then I would be grateful if you let me know as well. Farewell, Miss Branford. I have no answers. I just follow instructions."
"Why dont you ask him yourself? Or her," the man answered impatiently. He turned away then started to leave. His metal-soled boots made a distinctive sound of footsteps heard by all.
"Wait!" she called out. But the man just continued to walk away. She knew that she should have followed the man and demanded more answers, but the words on the piece of paper just struck her as puzzled.
The librarian walked up to her in concern. "Should I call the authorities?" the librarian asked her trying to be helpful.
Tina handed her the note and asked her in an urgent tone, "What does this say?"
"What does it say?" she repeated the question.
The librarian blinked at her in confusion before finally taking the small piece of paper from Tinas hand. She looked at the message and furrowed her brows. Then she rotated the paper many times as thought trying to figure out which side should be up. Finally giving up, she handed Tina the paper, shaking her head.
"Im sorry, maam, but I dont understand whats written on the paper, although, there are scholars in the study rooms who might be able to translate the language for you. Im sure theyd be happy to oblige an Imperial Soldier of your status," the librarian said helpfully after seeing a small, embroidered badge on Tinas left sleeve betraying her rank.
"That wouldnt be necessary. Thank you," Tina answered quickly. The librarian nodded and went back behind the desk to continue her work. Tina turned back towards the computers. The desks were number from '1' to '100' and arranged in a neat row-column layout in the room. Convenient spaces between desks were left so people could walk around computers easily.
She looked at the message again and shuddered once more. She understood what was on the note: Computer 54. It wasnt the words that struck her with surprise but that she was the only who was supposed to understand the words. The characters on the message were something she made up for herself. Only she knew about her secret alphabet. She used it for her logs and diaries. Seeing that somebody else knew about the message has also struck her with fear.
She arrived at the designated computer desk. It was at the very middle of the desk arrangement of the room. The adjacent desks around her were empty except for the one to her left. A man was there with his eyes fixated onto the information being flashed before him on the monitor. Tina sat down quietly only realizing then that she did not know what to do next. The note had not provided her with the next step.
So she waited, looking around nervously until the man to her left noticed her.
"Do you need any help?"
"No, thank you," she answered quickly, smiling weakly as well trying not to look suspicious.
The man nodded and went back to his reading.
Tina decided to, at least, pretend to be doing something as she waited. She stared at her computer screen and saw menus and commands to begin a query. Nothing of interest came to mind. Finally, she typed in Guardian. She was expecting an error message for it was not a known command, but to her surprise, the computer responded with a different screen.
The screen went black as all the menus and command lists were removed. Instead, a single lined question flashed at the bottom of the screen.
What is your name?
Tina hesitated before typing her full name on the screen. Then another question flashed replacing the previous one.
Are you alone?
It was obvious that somebody was communicating with her again, but only this time, it was more interactive.
She typed yes.
I am detecting activity from the computer next to you. Is that terminal occupied?
Yes, she typed.
Then her screen went back to the normal menus and commands. Seconds later the man to her left started to complain.
"I cant believe this! What a piece of junk! An hour of work down the drain."
Tina looked at the man. He seemed upset. He was gathering his belongings on the desk and putting them back on the briefcase. The man looked at her and forced a smile.
"Well, miss. I hope you have better luck with these computers. This one just went dead without a warning. Its blessing in disguise, I guess."
The man stood up and walked away from his computer desk that showed no sign of activity. As soon as the man walked out of the big room, the computer he was using came back to life again. At the same time, Tinas screen went all black with a new question at the bottom.
Is the occupant gone?
She answered yes. Then she followed up her response with her own question. Who are you?
Open your desk drawer and wear the headset.
Tina did. She found a gray and light headset inside. It had a pair of earpiece and a microphone. She wore it at once, guessing that the person would want to communicate with her verbally. As soon as she adjusted everything to fit just right a computer-simulated voice of a woman spoke in her ears. "Greetings, Tina Branford. I have been waiting for you for a long time."
Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic