The Fourth Universe Chapter 2
By Soul Hunter
MMMM! Hot freakin dogs, baby!
Zell, slow down. Theres more where it came from.
No way, instructor. Im not taking any chances. Zell snapped back, grabbing an armful of the Garden delicacy as if his life depended on them.
Is everyone here?
Oh, hello, Headmaster Cid. Quistis cheerfully greeted the Headmaster, who had just made an entrance. Selphie and Irvine took the northwest side with Xu. Were just waiting for Squall and Rinoa to arrive.
Okay, Ill just head right on there.
Zell! Enough already! The instructor turned her attention back to her comrade, who by that time had managed to borrow a wide serving tray and was currently loading it up with dozens of hot dogs. You cant possibly eat all that in one sitting.
Come on, Quisty. Im getting enough for everybody. One of me, one for you, one for me, one for Selphie, one for me, one for Irvine, one for me, one for
Hey Zell, you planning on going on a long journey? Rinoa interrupted as she walked alongside the two, arm-in-arm with Squall.
Sup, guys! Hey, Squall, where were you? I dropped by your quarters this morning and you werent there.
Oh uhh, I was elsewhere Squall sheepishly replied, throwing a tender look at the smiling Rinoa. Zell blushed when he caught on to the SeeD commanders implied message. Then he walked past the couple, his left hand balancing a tray full of hot dogs while his right balled to a fist, teasingly landing a soft jab on Squalls solar plexus.
You go, boy! Zell mumbled teasingly.
Quistis reaction, however, wasnt as affirming. As she eyed the couple walking just ahead of her, the melancholic instructor couldnt help but bellow a groan of defeat, surrendering herself to the fact that she can never have that one thing which she longed for for as long as she can remember.
Just let go just let go Quistis whispered to herself.
Hey! The gangs all here. Pull up a chair, folks! Irvine exclaimed as he greeted the newcomers. Seeming like this moment was way overdue, the group which consisted of Squall, Rinoa, Quistis, Selphie, Irvine, Zell, Headmaster Cid and Xu gathered together as they enjoyed a rare but delightful moment; talking, exchanging corny jokes and laughing with each other. Breakfast with hot dogs, in the company of friends and loved ones.
After several minutes, Quistis assumed a more formal expression and broke the revelry with her usual, serious demeanor. So, Headmaster, may I ask what this meeting is all about?
Come one, Quisty. Selphie retorted. Can we like, forget about work for a while? Were still having so much fun.
Much as I hate to break the fun, Quistis is right. Lets get down to business, everyone. Cid remarked, eliciting a whimper from the Trabian transfer student. Everyone, as you may all know, Esthar and Galbadia recently forged a peace agreement. President Laguna Loire of Esthar and acting President Richard Caraway of Galbadia are at the moment, in the process of drafting a treaty that, at the very least, could mean the end of the cold war between those two superpowers.
Sounds good, Headmaster. Squall remarked. Were finally on the verge of lasting peace.
Way cool! Seconded the excited Zell.
Yeah. But hasnt anyone ever considered another implication? Balamb Garden will lose its clientele. Xu interrupted, stressing a possible effect that with the absence of warring factions, Garden will lose its main source of income since no one would hire SeeDs anymore.
Xu, were talking world peace here. Dont you think Gardens income should take a back seat in light of this vastly more important development?
I dont think Xu wanted those two countries to start fighting again if thats what youre thinking, Irvine. Quistis countered the former Galbadian students remark.
World peace is important. Stressed the Headmaster. It is perhaps the one thing this war-torn planet needs most right now. I am definitely up to helping it if I can. But as of current, our job is to find some other way to finance Gardens operations. That, or we may have to shut down soon. Cid then paused when he noticed Squall assuming a look of deep thought. Whats on your mind, Squall?
Huh? Nothing, Headmaster.
Squall Rinoa muttered, imploring her lover to speak out his thoughts.
He nodded, and then heaved a breath. Headmaster, Garden is my home. Not having clients to finance its operation is admittedly a serious thing that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. But I think shutting Garden down is a tad overboard, at the very least. Im sure everyone in this table feels the same way. The head SeeD insisted, evoking a nod of approval from everybody.
Now dont get me wrong, Squall. Cid replied. I feel just as attached to this place as everyone of you. Okay, since the consensus appears to be geared toward keeping Balamb Garden running, then we have to find alternative means to keep the cash flow coming in. Ideas, anyone?
Hey, why not hold a benefit concert? I think we did a pretty good job before, so
Oh get real, Selphie. Zell reacted. Whod want to listen to a bunch of amateurs like us? I mean, playing Eyes on Me can only get us so far. No offense, Rinoa.
None taken. Rinoa nodded. And Zells got a point. Garden needs something a little more long term.
The meeting was abruptly interrupted by the sudden arrival of Nida, who pulled the headmaster aside to deliver an urgent message. After a few moments, Cid returned to the table, eyes brimming with anticipation.
Well, ladies and gentlemen. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
Whats up, Headmaster? Zell curiously asked.
It seems a certain malevolent faction of the Galbadian army isnt a bit pleased with the ongoing peace talks. And theyve just forcibly gained control of the Presidential Residence in Deling City, demanding for General Caraway to be relieved of his command.
What?!? Rinoa exclaimed, as the news made her bolt up from her seat. What about my d General Caraway?
Dont worry, Rinoa. Cid assuaged her. Fortunately, General Caraway was out when the coup de tat came down. Right now hes in Esthar. President Loire was gracious enough to offer Esthars protection until this crisis gets resolved. And that, my friends, is where we come in.
Cool! Irvine blurted out. Ive been dying for some action. So what do we do?
Major General Moyet is leading the rebel group. As it is, theyre holding some key government officials as hostages. And Moyet is dangerously hardcore. So storming the place is out of the question because they might just execute some hostages. Cid paused for a few seconds before continuing. General Caraway himself personally requested for your assistance. Your job is to enter the Presidential Residence - undetected - and secure the captives. It includes eliminating everything and everyone that gets in your way. When the hostages are safe, then you can leave the mop up operation to the Galbadian army and the Presidential Guard Corps.
I got the Ragnarok fueled up and ready to go. Nida added. You are to rendezvous with Presidential Guard commander, Captain Elias Mockingbird at the Tomb of the Unknown King. He will then escort you to Caraway Mansion, where you will access the secret passageway leading to the underground waterways. I have the schematics right h
No need for that, Nida. Quistis interjected. I know how to navigate the tunnels.
Very well, unless you have questions, I suggest that you be underway. Cid instructed. The six wasted no time and immediately hurried forth. However, they were stopped dead on their tracks when Cid suddenly called them back.
Rinoa, Irvine. You cant go with them.
B-But why, headmaster? A perplexed Rinoa echoed.
Not until you read these. The headmaster responded while handing them two silver-lined documents. Irvine became wide-eyed after browsing through the papers.
Headmaster this is a SeeD Rank Report! Does this mean
Just wanna make it official. Effective this very moment, you and Rinoa are hereby appointed as full-fledged SeeDs. You have to forgive me though if we cant hold a formal inauguration just ye
WOOWWW! Thank you, Headmaster! Rinoa jubilantly exclaimed while wrapping her arms excitedly around Cids neck.
Come on, guys. We can hold a bash later. Squall remarked amidst his crews festive mood. We have a job to do.
And so, the drama commences. Vainly putting their faith on their vaunted invincibility, these six brave warriors speed to the aid of the weak. With their great powers, this simple task should be mere childs play for them. And yet
Two clandestine figures watched as the speeding juggernaut known as the Ragnarok, a wondrous product of mighty Esthars advanced technology, drew to a halt in mid-air. Intently staring at the object of their fascination and loathing, their eyes followed its movement, as it descended slowly on a wide patch of green land.
And yet, little do they know that these same potent abilities they wield will provide me with the means to conquer them, and everything they stand for.
IF youre plan works, that is. The heftier one interrupted.
You doubt my scheme, Tengu. Its a wonder how much your faith for your master has waned. Do you find me inadequate now?
No, its not that. It just sounds so far-fetched. Thats all. The para-magic technology required for such a strategy is at the very least mind-boggling.
Well, I guess I shouldnt expect too much from someone like you. All brawn, and never mind. Just wait and see, my ignominious behemoth. In a short while, your disgusting moss-hued eyes will finally witness one of the most incredible feats in the history of mystic warfare.
Hey, hey. I dont want to spoil you oratory fit, mistress. But the six have just joined the Galbadians. Theyre on their way to the arched city.
And so are we, Tengu.
Picking up a crystal wineglass from the wall-mounted shelf, Rinoa examined the exquisite piece of glassware for a moment before setting it down on the statue right next to her. With the exception of Quistis, Zell and Selphie, the crew was startled when the sculptured form suddenly rotated to reveal a secret hallway.
Its either Ive been away too long or my d that man has started hiding a lot of things from me. I never knew about this hidden door until now.
How would you know? You dont even talk to your old man anymore. Zell said.
Y Yeah, but
Thats quite enough of that, you two. Squall intermitted. Turning to Quistis, Are you sure you know the way around the sewers?
Hey, dont you trust me? The instructor replied with a slight pout. Ill take point. Everyone, be sure youre all junctioned.
Quietly, the group strutted into the dimly lit channel. Following the familiar path of revolving waterwheels and hardwood bridges, they eventually made their way around the dank sewer system and finally to a rusty metal ladder leading up. Squall firmly held the ladder, shaking it repeatedly to assess its firmness.
Its quite unstable. Okay guys, lets do this one at a time. Zell, you go first.
Roger that, Squall.
Strange, no Creeps or Red Bats Quistis softly wondered.
Heh, I have Diablos junctioned. Selphie revealed. Not quite as exciting as fighting, but its good enough for government work.
Deeper into the north branch of the tunnel system, an ominous figure stirred in reaction to the young SeeDs remark.
Diablos! My hated foe is with them!
Quiet, you beast. Do not spoil my plan with your petty thirst for revenge.
Hrrrrrr The dark shadow quivered, his steel-hard muscles tensing in unison with the clicking sound of his gnashing fangs. The vile monstrosity wanted desperately to attack, but his intense desire for vengeance was still easily overwhelmed by fear of his mistress wrath.
Still, Tengus rage was not something that can be vanquished that easily. Eons had passed and generations had withered into nothingness, yet he remembered it like it was yesterday. A yesterday replete with repressed angst aimed toward his jailer. Toward the one commissioned to keep his mighty powers at bay with an even more powerful faculty that the Ogre-Bat so terribly dreaded. Diablos, the keeper of the prison keys that incarcerated his great pride. The Guardian Force with the temerity to ignore his threats. He had vowed then of shoving his jailers insolence down his hideous throat. And now, he was staring the opportunity in the face. All he needed now was patience, for his ire was still not enough to offset his mistress fury.
Meanwhile, the SeeD team managed to successfully make their way to the kitchen undetected. But not totally undetected. Zell and Irvine lagged behind, dragging four unconscious Galbadian rebels who were unfortunate enough to have stationed themselves along the SeeDs path.
Regrouping inside the abandoned galley, Squall gathered his comrades together for a quick re-briefing. So far, so good. The good news is theres a lift hatch inside the kitchen that leads straight to the bedrooms on the third floor. The bad news, we dont know in what room theyre holding the hostages. I suggest we split up. Turning once more to the instructor, Quistis, choose your party, go upstairs and secure the area. Just leave Selphie with me. Well need her to operate the computers in the central security office.
Got it. Zell, Irvine, youre with me.
As the heroic six dispersed, the two dark figures stalking them once again congregated. Tengu, I trust that you have performed your task well.
Have no fear, my lady. Those youthlings are in for the surprise of their lives once they get to face the Galbadians weapon.
Okay, two more to go. Selphie, punch in the code for the master bedroom.
Okay, lets have it, Squall.
The new SeeD nodded, then turned her attention back to the only Galbadian soldier in the room left conscious. Just two more codes, Eiling. And I wont tell my father that youre in with this rebellion.
Damn spoiled brat The cornered soldier murmured before giving out the required code. Couch-potato Chocobo.
Are these guys serious? Selphie blurted out while punching in the access string. First theres Bratty Moogle, then theres Catatonic Wendigo how do these people think up these pass codes anyway?
Who cares? Just type it in, Sefie.
Okay, o wise and fearless leader.
The monitor blurred for a second as the camera control switched from one room to the next. Squalls fist clenched when the picture came back to reveal four Galbadian soldiers pointing their guns toward at least a dozen hostages.
Bingo! Turning on his communicator, Squall alerted the other party of their vital discovery. Quistis, the masters bedroom at the left wing. Get a move on and secure the hostages.
Were right outside it, Squall. Quistis voice reverberated from the communicators micro-speaker. Zells managed to climb inside the ventilation shaft and is currently right on top of the Galbadian soldiers. Were just waiting for your signal.
Dont wait for us. Move now!
Irvine heard Squalls faint order and took it as a cue. However, even before kicking the door open, the pair heard loud thumping sounds and tortured groans from inside the room. The noise lasted for a few seconds, after which the door opened to reveal a widely grinning Zell. Behind him, four azure-clad Galbadian infantrymen lay unconscious on the floor.
I love this sneak attack bit. Zell beamed. But his smirk quickly disappeared when the security alarm suddenly went off.
Dammit! Were spotted like Dalmatians! Irvine exclaimed.
The beleaguered SeeDs wasted no time in leading the hostages to the roof of the Presidential Residence, where the Ragnarok quietly hovered. Quickly! Get on! Zell hollered as the hostages frantically climbed aboard the magnificent spacecraft. The last captive had barely pulled his legs up when a battalion of Galbadian rogues appeared.
The three embattled warriors braced for battle. Then suddenly, the rebel soldiers were violently swept off their feet and sucked inside the grotesque form of the Guardian Force known as Pandemona. The mighty GF gathered his strength, then ejected the rogues with an even more forceful jet that carried them high into the air. A series of loud thuds resonated when the rogues landed hard on the concrete embankment of the rooftop.
Thats one windbag I dont mind tagging along with me. A smiling Rinoa quipped. She quickly rejoined the others and began helping out to make sure that every hostage was safe and accounted for.
But they took too much time. As the six SeeDs gathered together, a loud metallic shriek pierced the still night air. It was followed by the steady hum of an approaching Galbadian war machine. Squall held his gunblade tight when he recognized the robot.
A Mobile Type 8. Be careful, team. Watch out for its Corona.
Damn! Lets hit it hard and fast Zell yelled, followed by a quick magic attack. Thundaga!
The robot winced when a powerful bolt of lightning exploded from the heavens, bombarding it with debilitating negative energy. The others immediately followed suit, wantonly casting Ultima and Thundaga attacks on the fearsome automaton. After two waves, the SeeDs were flabbergasted to see the robot still standing. It fought back, and Rinoa and Selphie contorted their faces in pain after the machine connected on them with twin homing lasers.
Shit, this one is tough. Irvine remarked with apprehension. Squall, any ideas?
Go for the clincher. The SeeD commander echoed before summoning his GF. QUEZACOTL!
Unbeknownst to the SeeDs, a pair of watchful eyes eagerly fixed their gaze on the spectacular bird-creature while it rained devastating lightning bolts on the enemy. Calling forth her arcane faculties, the painted woman in red projected her essence toward the Thunder Guardians rain of mystic lightning, connecting to its power with her own to claim its magical signature.
Invisible forces spewed forth, drawing in the Fire Guardians mark
Water magic became captive to the same formless receptacle
As did Holy energies
And the power of the earth
The summoned Guardians relentlessly pummeled the robotic foe with their dreaded elemental blows. Mobile Type 8 twitched, reeled back, and recoiled. After the smoke cleared, the SeeDs were gripped anew with surprise when they saw the automaton still floating in front of them.
.One more to go. Come on, you wretched pretenders. Summon your mightiest ally.
If this doesnt destroy this bucket of bolts, nothing will. A furious Zell shot out. EDEN!
Overcome by wicked rejoicing, the mysterious woman in red drew a deep breath.
Above, the menacing form of the fabricated Guardian Force descended upon the vile machine. Using its unearthly energies, Eden mystically transformed the planet itself into a gigantic cosmic cannon, all the while drawing its target in front of its pulsating muzzle. Unimaginable power crackled through the galactic void, cutting a swath across the stellar realm as the cannon-world hurled the Galbadian machine toward a waiting nebula hundreds of light-years away. As if it had ingested a repulsive substance, the heavenly body exploded with even more violent cosmic energies, rejecting the unwanted intruder and sending it crashing back to the earth. A final death wince heralded the robots climactic demise, culminated by a loud explosion that reduced it to scrap metal.
Deafening silence reclaimed its dominion amidst the subtle heaves of refreshing Galbadian air made by the exhausted SeeDs. Focused as ever, Quistis disturbed the permeating stillness to make contact with the Presidential Guard commander through her communicator.
Captain Mockingbird. The hostages are secure. You can move in now. After which the SeeD allowed her fatigued body to slump on the concrete floor. We are obviously out of shape. Never felt this tired in my whole life.
Yo, speak for yourself, instructor. I feel fantastic! I always feel this way after a successful mission. Zell exclaimed while executing his usual shadow boxing routine.
Yeah, I know what you mean, Zell. Rinoa seconded. Sure feels good when you get to save peoples lives, doesnt it?
Hidden in the darkness, the arcane mistress mused at her smug enemies.
Revel in your victory for as long as you can, damnable SeeDs. The concealed figure in crimson garb silently meditated. Rejoice, and savor the moment, counting the last seconds of your precious existence in this puny world. For in saving the lives of those pathetic fools, you have just secured your personal places in hell.
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