Fade To Black Chapter 7
Locke Cole and his friend Setzer Gabianni made their weary way through the continent of Figaro which, by now, was near complete ruination. Figaro desert was still a bottomless vortex of sand. Kohilegen still left to burn. In addition, South Figaro had been raided and flattened by Rivalin, remaining true to his grim task of assimilating decent people into the syndicate of malice. Similarly, the old man'c coliseum to the far north had been ransacked of all its valuable wartime commodities.
And the demons of the Shadow lurked within every crevice of the newly harbingered devastation. From their vantage point, Locke and Setzer could practically sense when another of Rivalin's kin were neigh. Very soon, dawn would become dusk again, renewing the endangerment of the frightened band.
It could only be beautiful once.
"Locke? I hate this place. I'm tellin' ya, I hate it!" Setzer complained, stopping momentarily to warm his hands over the flames of a barrel fire.
"You're supposed to," he responded snidely. "Try finding another race that enjoys being exterminated."
"We're being exterminated?"
"Where are we going anyway?"
"Daryl's tomb. Not even the devil himself can find that place. I'm assuming that all components of the Falcon are still there to be salvaged. We just gotta get there."
"What if we don't get there?" Locke asked.
Setzer sighed as the two of them began hearing the war cries of Rivalin's armies in the distance.
"We have to get there," he said, not at all feeling confident of his future.
"Just like old times, huh Locke?" Setzer jested, walking down along the long, winding staircase to the cubicle where the disjointed Falcon rested.
"Goddamn it, Setzer! Don't start! The past is what's going to be the death of us yet!" Locke barked, almost tripping over the narrow flight of stairs.
"Don't go rippin' shit at me, ya thief! I'm just tryin' to lighten the atmosphere."
Locke apologized right away.
"Sorry. I'm still having a hard time believing that Celes is really gone. They're all going before their time, Setzer. Whatever Returners are still out there, we have to protect them at all costs. We owe the late Returners that much."
"One thing at a time, Locke. One thing at a time."
Setzer and Locke weren't even halfway down the staircase when they began hearing voices, not in their head but real, true-to-life voice. For no apparent reason, Locke was quick to take the lead, whether Setzer was still behind him or not. The voices were getting louder, sounding as though they were becoming cognizant of the footsteps plodding down the staircase. Locke cared nothing for their own suspicions so long as his own were satisfied.
"Locke? Locke Cole?" came a more than familiar utterance as the two made it down beside the Falcon.
"Banon," Locke replied, relieved as he watched down collectively onto the friendly band of Returners all over again. "It sure is good to see all of you guys."
"Forget the fuckin' pleasantries!!" Setzer snapped. "What are you doing down here?! These catacombs are off limits to anyone and everyone, save for me and my associate here!"
"Setzer, relax. They're here for the same reason we're here. To revolt against Rivalin. Am I right, guys?"
Locke wanted to think that he was the sole voice of leadership amongst them all. In truth, no one wished to report how despondent the situation really was.
"Actually, Locke," Banon corrected. "We're taking Refuge from Rivalin."
"What?! That don't sound like the Returners I one knew."
"It's never easy to admit that one's had enough, Locke," came the youthful inclusion of Banon's right-hand lieutenant. "We had Returner affiliations all around the world once. Albrook, Jidoor, Maranda, you name it. There was once a real good shot that the Returners would give this world a chance. But we underestimated Rivalin. All of those cities were ripped clean of their foundations. Their people killed."
"So, you see why we cannot fight this war anymore, Locke," Banon concluded. "Any who dare oppose Rivalin will meet certain death for sure. Is the same not true for several of your friends."
A tear rolled down Locke's cheek.
"There will always be hope. An old friend told me that once," he sniveled.
"And I'm sure that this friend of yours is probably choking on those words as we speak," Setzer joined in.
"You're all talking as if the world is over, and it's not!!!" the treasure hunter shrieked at them all. "Hope survives above all else, and no one can take that away. I don't care how fucking powerful they think they are!!"
"Look," Setzer said, as if apologizing for his outburst. "Let's at least get the Falcon reassembled so we can get to Doma."
Without comment, they all went to work on the haggard deck of the airship, praying to God that Cyan himself was still holding on to hope.
If there was any left to hang on to.
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