Victory Garden Chapter 1

Dropping in for a Visit

By Master Odin

After breakfast Glenn, Lucca, Robo, and myself made our way to the summit, using Robo's extending arm in place of the Lavos Spawn shell that had crumbled due to the spawn's revival. Once at the sparkling birch tree we once again said our tearful farewells. Even Robo seemed to be crying. He was quite emotional for an android.

I held Lucca for a long time, not wanting to let go. She kissed me on the cheek when we said our final farewells.

At dawn I made the three sunwise circles around the tree and the Gateway opened. I turned one last time to my friends. "Bye."

I took a deep breath and walked into the Gateway. As it closed behind me I could hear Lucca yell, "I love you, Wallace!"

* * * * *

I found myself once again on the wire bridge, and that I could not breathe. I began to edge my way along the wire bridge, but, as before, I missed my step and fell into the endless chasm.

Again I landed none too softly, this time on a very solid floor. That really hurt. I stood and found a young teenage girl just staring at me.

"Uh, hi?" I said nervously.

The girl just screamed and ran out of the hallway I was in, hitting a red button on the way out. All of a sudden sirens went off. "ALERT! INTRUDER IN GARDEN! ALERT! INTRUDER IN GARDEN!" was announced over and over on the intercom system.

"Oh shit!" I yelled as I flew down the hall. I turned the corner onto some sort of bridge, only to be met by several people wearing dark blue uniforms wielding swords, guns, and various other deadly objects. "Oops! Wrong turn." I turned to head back the way I came, but there were more people behind me. I looked over the edge of the bridge. I was on the second floor of this strange building.

"You're surrounded," one of the men told me. "Surrender at once."

I looked down again. It looked like the exit wasn't far from where the elevator behind the first group led. I looked back up at the man who spoke to me and grinned. "You guys think way too two dimensionally." With that I jumped off the bridge. I used my magic to slow my fall and landed on my feet. I started to fly toward the exit, only to be met by more people. I made to turn left, there were people waiting there, too. I turned around. There, too. Now I really was surrounded. I looked around at the people blocking all escape routes. I grinned nervously. "Uh, how y'all doin' today."

The man at the head of the group blocking the exit stepped forward. He looked no older than I was when I first arrived in Guardia. He had short unkempt brown hair and a scar across the bridge of his nose. He wore a short leather jacket with a fur collar over a white shirt and leather pants. Around his neck hung a silver lion's head on a silver chain. In his hand he held some sort of gun-sword. The hilt was like that of a revolver, but in place of the barrel was a long, single-edge blade. "What do you want here, sorceress?"

"Sor-sorceress?!" I asked. "Look, man. The last time I checked, which was just recently, trust me, I still had all the equipment of the male gender."

Another young man, maybe seventeen or eighteen years old, stomped his foot. He had short blonde hair spiked in the front. On the left side of his face was a claw-like tattoo. He wore a red and dark blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up and blue jean shorts that went just past his knees. He wore red and black leather gloves and high-top sneakers of the same colors. "Guy. Girl. Who cares," he said, waving his arms around excitedly. He then took a fighting stance. "Let's kick his ass!"

With two quick motions I had my sword in my right hand and the Hot Shot in my left. "Hold yer horses, man! I ain't lookin' for any trouble! I just want to go home!"

It was then that I heard a woman's voice from behind me call, "Squall! Zell! Wait!" I turned to see an older woman with long, raven black hair. She was wearing a long, black dress. She hurried down the stairs and ran to me.

I pointed my sword at her. "Careful, lady. Your friends here haven't given me the best impression of you people."

The lady put her hands up to show me that she was unarmed. I lowered my guard just enough to let her approach. She reached up and gently held my face with her hands and looked into my eyes with her dark brown eyes. It felt as though she was staring straight into my soul, like a burning sensation in my heart.

"You can go about your business," she commanded after a few moments. "He's harmless."

I could hear the others mumbling amongst themselves as they went back to whatever they were doing before my arrival. "Thank you, ma'am," I said to the lady with a bow of my head.

"Follow me," she commanded, heading back to the elevator. "We have much to discuss."

"Whoa!" I said, putting my hands up like I was trying to stop her. "We just met. Don't you think we should get to know each other a little before we do anything...."

She turned back to me. "Telling jokes in an unknown situation, the first sign of fear."

Well then! I ran to catch up with her. "Well, it's not like I haven't been in a situation like this before, just a different place with different people."

"I know," she said as the elevator doors opened and she walked in.

I followed her in. "Well, at least there aren't any monsters around trying to wipe out mankind here." She gave me a wry look. "Aw, man!"

* * * * *

The woman, who introduced herself as Edea Kramer, had led me to the office/bridge of the seashell-shaped floating school called the Balamb Garden. The office had a red carpet leading up to a giant metal pillar in the center of the office. On this pillar was a platform elevator that led to the actual bridge of the school. Behind the pillar was a older man sitting behind an elaborate oak desk. He was a little over weight, but for a man his age he looked in decent shape. He had medium length brown hair, which showed signs of gray. He wore wire frame glasses over his wild blue eyes. He wore a red sweater over a white dress shirt and dark blue neck tie and khaki slacks. He stood as Edea and I rounded the pillar.

He extended his hand to me as I approached the desk. "Welcome, young man, to Balamb Garden." His voice was gentle, almost fatherly. "I'm Cid Kramer, Headmaster."

I took his hand and shook it as Edea took her place to the right of him. "Wallace Odinson, lost traveler."

Cid motioned to the chair behind me. "Have a seat," he said, taking his own advice and sat down in the large leather chair behind him. I sat down in the leather chair behind me. It wasn't as lush as his, but it was still comfortable. He leaned back in his chair and made a diamond with his hands in front of his face. "Sorry about the commotion out there. It's not everyday we have someone drop out of nowhere on us."

A half smile crossed my lips. "It's understandable. The only question I have is why did that guy call me a sorceress?"

"Oh, that. There are women in this world that are born with the natural ability to use magic."

"Okay, but that doesn't explain why he used the feminine form when I'm obviously a man."

"There have been some very masculine appearing sorceresses," he explained, shuddering as he recalled an image of one.

"I see. Okay, why were they afraid of me?"

"Some of the sorceress have used their powers for more selfish reasons." He looked over to Edea. "Then, of course, there are good ones, like my wife here."

That would explain why it felt like she was staring into my soul. She was! I felt myself growing tired. That trip between worlds and using all that magic had taken their toll. "I'm sorry, but I'm really tired. Do you mind if I get some rest before we continue this?"

Cid shook his head. "Not at all. I'm sure this has all been quite an experience for you." He turned to Edea. "Would you take him to the dormitory. Since he's a guest, let him have one of the unoccupied SeeD quarters."

"Very well," was her response. She turned to me. "If you'll follow me, Mr. Odinson."

I stood and shook hands with Cid once again before following Edea out of the office. We went back down to the first floor. She led me around the base of the school to the back side where the dormitory was. After leading me through several hallways we arrived in an unoccupied room. The room had a twin size bed and a desk. Simple, but it worked. The bed was all I cared about at the time.

"You may sleep here during your stay at the Garden. Good night, Mr. Odinson."

* * * * *

The day's events must have really taken their toll on me, because I did not wake until the next afternoon. I quickly got dressed, fully arming myself. Never can be too careful. I left the room, and bumped into someone in the process. He was stood about six feet even, six feet and four inches if you include the dark brown leather cowboy hat he was wearing. He was a pretty-boy, flawless facial features, long brown hair and brown eyes. He probably wore a hockey mask over his face as a kid to keep it that perfect. He probably thought himself a real ladies man. He was sort of lanky, not a lot of meat on his bones. He wore a leather vest that matched his hat under a tan suede long coat. He wore a pair of chaps that matched his coat over a pair of blue jeans and cowboy boots. He was also a wanna-be cowboy, probably.

"Whoa yerself there, man!" he said as I bumped into him.

Definitely a Wanna-be cowboy. "Sorry 'bout that." I extended my hand to him. "Wallace Odinson."

"Irvine Kinneas," he said as he took my hand and gave it a hearty shake. "You must be that fellow that dropped in on us here."

"Something like that," I responded with a shrug. "You don't seem very afraid of me. Everyone else was when they first met me."

Irvine shrugged. "Matron says you're okay, and that's good enough for me." He motioned for the exit of the dormitory. "Care for a tour?"

"Sure." He began to lead us out of the dorms. "Who's Matron?"

"Edea Kramer."

"Oh. Why do you call her that?"

"Matron used to run a small orphanage. Me and a few others here grew up there."

I nodded. "I see."

We walked out of the dormitory wing and turned right. "That one guy with the tattoo on his face was really eager to beat the shit outta me."

"Zell Dincht," he said with a nod. "He was more eager to protect his friends than hurting you. Not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but if you're in a jam you can count on him to help ya out."

"What is this place?" I asked, looking around. "Is it some sort of military academy? All those people who were chasing after me couldn't have just been security."

Irvine smiled as he nodded. "Yeah. The students here are training to become SeeDs, a group of soldiers trained to battle sorceresses, just in case one decides to become a little big for her britches. As a matter of fact, we just had to put down three here not too long ago."

Cool! A military academy. Maybe I'll stick around for a little bit a hone some of my skills. Then a thought stuck me. I had forgotten to check the locator to find where the Gateway was. I pulled the device out of my pocket. It looked like a large pocket watch.

"What's that?" Irvine asked.

"It's a Gateway locator. That's how I got here."

Irvine gave me a confused look. "Pardon?"

"It's sorta a long story, so I'll give ya the abridged version. I'm from a totally different world. I found a sort of magical Gateway and used it to travel to another world. I spent eleven years in that world before I could find another Gateway. The one I found brought me to this world." I held up the locator for him to see. "This will let me find the ones in this world, and hopefully one of them will lead me home."

Irvine's facade of confusion had yet to leave his face. "Ya lost me there."

I let out a sigh. "Figures."

We arrived at what looked like one of those maps that I've seen before in the few times I've been to the mall. With this map he showed me where the different areas of the main floor were. The main floor was divided into eight spokes. Starting from the dormitory in the direction we went was the cafeteria; the quad, which was some sort of meeting place; the infirmary; the main gate, which was where we were; the library, the training center, the parking lot, and then back to the dormitory.

"Simple," I noted thoughtfully. "Well, I gotta go talk to Mr. Kramer. Thanks for the tour."

"No prob," the cowboy replied before he walked off.

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