Shades of Gray Chapter 1
By Neyon Karowitz
It's too early in the morning for this.
The crash outside alerted him that something was wrong. Although early-morning noise was common in Figaro Castle, six AM was still too early for Locke's liking. The self-proclaimed "treasure hunter" groaned quietly as he rolled over and onto his feet. He turned and gazed out of the window to discover the source of the disturbace - a loose Chocobo had upset one of the digging mechanisms. A simple accident, he was sure, but Locke was not a fan of accidents, especially during the early-morning hours.
Locke turned back to the bed as his wife, Celes, rolled over to see him, sheilding her eyes from the sunrise with the sheet. "Uhnn.. What time is it?"
"About six. One of Edgar's Chocobos knocked over one of the diggers.Don't suppose you can just roll over and go back to sleep?"
Celes shook her head. "Not likely. Let me get dressed."
Locke shrugged and sat on the bed. Life here in Figaro, with Celes, had been so different from life as a wanderer. Sure, he loved Celes, and he enjoyed living in Figaro. But the past five years had been a little too routine for his liking, especially at first. Of course, after this long, he'd gotten used to it. But it was just that nagging feeling of somewhere, somehow he was missing something. Something that, years ago, he would have risked his life to become involved in. More likely than not, right now it was one of Setzer's latest schemes. The gambler/former airship pilot was now head of one of Edgar's mining companies, and had begun excavation on a deserted island pretty far south. A wild goose chase, Locke thought, but Edgar was the one throwing money away. At least he'd had the brains to pair Setzer with Sabin, who would at least keep his head on straight. The same couldn't be said for Setzer or his other companions, Umaro and Mog: one was all muscle and no mind, the other more or less a walking joke box. In fact, Umaro was merely there for the purpose of brute strength if needed, and Mog was only needed to control Umaro and any Moogles he and Setzer might get involved.
Locke and Celes were making their way through Figaro Castle to speak with Edgar about the noise when Locke turned a corner and rammed into someone.
The person Locke had knocked over was a young woman about Celes's height, wearing an emerald green dress the same color as her hair. She was thinner than Celes and looked a bit younger.
"Klutz," Celes laughed, punching Locke in the arm. "Good morning, Terra. Or should I say, Queen Figaro." It had been a running joke between the two of them - Celes and Terra - ever since their dual wedding ceremony following the end of their "great fights", as Locke tended to call their adventure, since he often considered saying the name of the perpetrator sacreligious, especially inside Figaro or any holy place.
Terra only laughed in return. "Cut it out, Celes." She stood, trying to do so as diginified-looking as possible in the process, then brushed the folds out of her dress. About that point a small, blonde/green-haired child approached them. The little girl grabbed ahold of Terra's dress protectively and looked up at Locke curiously.
Locke grinned. "And how are you, Miss Anna?"
Anna grabbed harder to the dress, but her expression seemed to relax. "Hello, Unkelocke. Hello, Anzelus."
Celes and Locke exchanged glances followed by smiles. Terra's four-year-old daughter still referred to them as uncle and aunt even though there was truly no relation, merely as a reference of how well known they were to her. Celes kneeled to the girl's height and extended her arms in a welcoming gesture. The little girl looked up at Terra, as if expecting a repremand, but only recieved her approval. After this, she quickly released Terra's dress and ran to Celes to recieve a quick hug.
"And where's the father?" Locke said sarcastically.
Terra punched him in the arm, same place that Celes had. "He's in the same place as always, his 'office', doing figuring with the chancellor. With all the work going on, he's so busy. But he's never forgotten to take time off for Anna and me. 'Even to a busy king,' he says, 'family comes first.'"
"I always thought it was women," Locke said offhandedly. Both women shot him a disapproving glare. "What!?"
"Nevermind," Terra sighed. "Did you want to see him about something?"
"One of the digging mechanisms got knocked over by a Chocobo," Celes replied. "Otherwise we'd probably still be asleep, but it happened right by our window and woke us up."
"I see. Well, I'm sure I can get you into a meeting with him. Just remember the other mining captains will be here later today."
"And who all does that include?" Locke asked.
"Setzer and Sabin, Cyan, Strago and family, and Gogo," she replied. "Just about everyone."
"Just about," Locke sighed.
Setzer Galbanni wiped the sweat from his head as he turned to the former-imperial-soldiers-and-Returners-turned-miners gathered in front of him. To his right stood Sabin, silent and towering, more or less there to keep Setzer in line and keep the miners off him in case he mouthed off. Just like last week, he thought with a wry smile.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," he began, with a formality more or less faked. More or less... can't I think of a better comparison? he thought, shaking his head. From the crowd echoed a soft pattern of grunts and whines. "And Moogles," he added, waving one hand in their direction. "Today we continue our excavations, as always, but we will be joined today by a special guest. A fellow supervisor, like myself, who has come on personal request from Figaro to examine our work. Gogo?"
The mimic approached the crowd silently at first, examining the workers, then turned to Setzer. "Besides you, who's in charge here?"
"Sabin and Mog, mostly."
"All I needed to know. You look like you've got a decent crew here. Now, I'd like to see the mine site."
Setzer nodded. "Of course. Sabin?" Sabin stepped up and nodded, then waved for Gogo to follow. The miners, seeing the morning's presentation was pretty much over without any fireworks whatsoever, meandered off to return to their jobs.
"So what was it exactly you wanted me to see?" Gogo finally asked.
"We found something," Sabin replied, face expressionless.
Gogo laughed. "About time!"
"That's not what I meant, you faceless loon!" Sabin yelled back, also laughing. "We've found something a little more out of the ordinary. We knew this place had a high concentration of minerals but we've found a few things we can't identify."
"Remains of civilization."
Gogo turned away, looking up at the horizon. "How long has it been since anyone lived on this island?"
"Our estimate, by the distance we had to dig and experimentation on what we've dug up, is about 14,000 years."
"Yep." Sabin stretched and cracked his knuckles. "But who knows? You can never really tell about these ancient civilizations."
"What do you think you'll find?"
Sabin shrugged. "I dunno. Some ancient temples, artifacts, maybe some rare statues..."
"Sir!" a soldier-turned-miner suddenly yelled. He ran to Sabin's side and stopped for breath. "Pardon the interruption, sir, but there seems to be a problem. We've reached a layer of earth we don't quite know what to do with."
"A 'layer of earth'?" Sabin echoed, confused.
"It's pretty thick, about fifty feet by our estimates," the soldier guessed. "Hard, red rock."
"Red rock?" Gogo asked.
"Yes, sir," the soldier said. "There are also strange structures we have been able to unearth, protruding out of the stone..."
"Show me," Gogo suddenly interrupted. Sabin gave him an odd look but said nothing. The soldier nodded and waved for them to follow, then lead them to the mining area. In the mining pit there was indeed a thick area of red stone. From this stone protruded several spires, seemingly built from another type of rock.
"What did I tell you?" Sabin chuckled. "Ancient civilization. These buildings look to be made of the same substance as the rock above this red stuff..."
Gogo was silent, absorbed in the find. "Can you break it?"
"We've been able to chip away at it," a digger replied, "but we're not too sure about detonating anything around all these relics. We wanted to ask you first."
"Good job," the mimic said, somewhat as if he were talking to himself. "Bring me a piece."
"Uh, yes, sir," he replied. He returned to the pit, where a young woman handed him a large chunk of the red stone. He hurriedly ran back and gave the stone to Gogo, who took it and flipped it around several times in his hands.
"What do you make of it?" Setzer asked, moving up on Gogo's other side.
"Want to take it with us when we go back to talk with Edgar?" Sabin asked.
Setzer stuck his hands in his pockets. "Hey Gogo, what do you think?"
Gogo shook his head, as if coming out of a daze. "This stone. Do you know what it is?"
"We were hoping you could tell us that," a miner replied.
"... Do you think we could use it for anything?"
"Don't know," Sabin replied. "That's what I was asking. Do you think we should show this to Edgar?"
"Of course." The mimic pocketed the shard then turned to the miners. "What relics have you dug up?"
Another miner stepped up. It was a young woman with green eyes and golden hair. She wore the garb of an imperial sergeant, but it was tarnished and torn due to extensive exposure to the work in the mines. "Relics. I'm in charge of that," she replied. "My name is Arcia. May I ask yours? I'm horrible with remembering."
"Just call me Gogo," he replied. "What do you have?"
Arcia nodded, went back to her post, and returned with a small artifact. "It's some type of weapon... perhaps a sword or knife. And we found this with it." Arcia handed over a helmet made of gold.
Setzer whistled. "That'll sell for big cash! Gold must've been cheap stuff to these people if they were so willing to use it as armor."
Gogo, though, was examining the weapon. It was indeed a sword - a katana of some type. It was seemingly made of the same red stone as the rock in his pocket. Gogo mumbled something incomprehensible, as if reciting a half-faded memory. Setzer and Sabin exchanged glances, but decided not to bother the mimic about it. Finally he stood and handed the sword back to Arcia. "Setzer, ready your airship. We are now leaving to go to Edgar's little meeting. And this young lady is coming with us." Arcia jumped, startled, but did not argue. Setzer shrugged and stalked off, and Sabin and Mog followed. Arcia waited for a few moments, as if waiting for further orders from Gogo, but when the mimic did not do anything she decided to follow Setzer. Gogo stayed where he was, staring at the pit and the layer of mysterious red stone, until Setzer's call that the airship was ready, at which he reluctantly pulled his gaze away from the miners and walked to the rest of his party.
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