On Earth as it is in Hell Chapter 22

Impending Conflict

By Caleb Nova

"A naive young soldier enters a portal and finds himself in a video game that has become his fantastic reality. A cheesy plot in the cheesiest of 1950s sci-fi flicks. Sometimes in the middle of the night I lie awake and wonder if it was all real. Wouldn't you?"

-Scott Keyor, Worlds Unknown

Michelle happened to be stacking papers on Squall's desk when everyone assembled for another impromptu meeting, and with the present atmosphere she understood the need to leave. On her way out she gave Scott a small, perhaps hopeful, smile, which he rewarded with an uncertain one of his own. She closed the large double doors behind her, and all attention immediately focused on him.

He sighed, the situation all too familiar. "I had a run in with God last night."

Zell laughed, grinning widely. Everybody turned to stare at him and he shrank back, suddenly realizing that Scott wasn't joking. Selphie winced slightly, leaning over to whisper something in his ear. Zell shrugged sheepishly, embarrassed at his outburst. "Uh.. Sorry."

"Anyway," Scott continued. "I was walking around the Quad, when-"

"After curfew?" Quistis interrupted, tone somewhat disapproving. Irvine rolled his eyes.

"Not now, Quiz. Besides, we've all been out after curfew."

"It's no big deal," He added to Scott. "Keep going."

"So, I was in the Quad when I heard someone talking to me. I talked back a little bit, kind of made it angry when I wouldn't listen, and then it appeared over the stage."

Scott gestured with his hands, trying to emphasize the dimensions of what he saw. "It was big. Not so big it filled the whole room, but pretty damn big. And it glowed. Gold, actually. Bright gold. Basically, and I forget exactly what it said, but the gist of it was that something big is going to happen and that I was the only one who could do anything about it. It talked about some 'power' I have and told me I needed to use it to do the stopping in question."

The group was silent as they digested this. Squall was the first to speak, gauging Scott's reaction.

"Would this have anything to do with what happened in the tunnel?"

Scott gave a start, stammering a half formed response. "I, uh, well-"

Irvine grimaced, avoiding looking at Scott's eyes. "I told everyone when we got back. We didn't say anything because it was... Best that you were observed, rather than messing with it."

From a strictly militant point of view, Scott understood the rationale behind such a decision, but it still hurt him a little. He stared at the floor, unsure of how to respond to such a statement. The atmosphere quickly turned awkward.

Scott looked up, giving a small smile. "I... understand."

"Good," Squall said shortly with his usual tactlessness. "Now we want to try something. Rinoa."

Rinoa stood, walking over in front of Scott. He leaned back in his chair, not sure what to expect.

"I'm going to try to 'see' what's inside of you," She said, kneeling down until she was at eye level with him. "The minute you start feeling some sort of reaction you think might be bad, say something, okay?"

"Got it."

Closing her eyes in intense concentration, she put both hands on the side of his head. Everyone watched, tense and waiting for some sort of sudden backlash. Ten seconds passed, and nothing happened. The tension started to ease and the group began to relax. Fifteen seconds passed, and boredom began to set in, at least for Zell. Twenty seconds passed, and Rinoa leapt back with a gasp.

Squall was immediately on his feet, rushing over to her. The others were hot on his heels, and soon they crowded around a wheezing, pale Rinoa.

Squall glared up at Scott. "What happened?!"

"I, God, I don't know!"

"You didn't feel anything?"

"No, nothing!" Scott almost yelled. "I was just sitting there and she fell down!"

"Infirmary, now!" Squall ordered. Selphie was halfway to the door to open it and Rinoa was in Squall's arms when she began to feebly wave her arms about.

"No no, stop!" She gasped. "Set me down, I'm okay!"

Squall carefully complied, and everyone backed off to give her some air. It was several seconds before she could continue.

"I... I think all my GFs are out," She said dazedly.

"Well what the hell did that?" Zell asked, still filled with adrenaline from the short panic. "You were just sitting there, nothing weird happened. Well, besides the knocking out thing."

"Yeah, it was so fast!" Selphie seconded.

Rinoa made a face, recalling the details. "Ugh, it was like being sucker punched. This big wave of energy knocked all of my magic out, and me with it."

She felt around her subconscious, finding the familiar power sans the GFs. "It's back now though. I guess I can't touch whatever Scott has."

"Here," Squall grunted, lifting her to her feet. "You sit down for awhile."

He helped her into a chair, and she gratefully sank back into it. Scott knew he hadn't done anything, but he still felt a little guilty.

Quistis shook her head in frustration. "If we didn't need Odine before, we certainly do now."

Zell started to shadow box, hopping back in forth in one place. "I say we grab the Ragnarock and go find that little butt monkey!"

Irvine rolled his eyes. "Hell, that's a great idea. You go warm up the ship and we'll be right down."

"Kick ass! Hurry up though, it's almost-" Zell froze, and his eyes narrowed. He turned back to glare at Irvine. "Fuck you man. Fuck you up the ass."

"I'm sure you'd like that."

"Shut your cake hole, faggot."

"I'm not going to take being called a faggot from the guy who wanted to do me up the ass, you little turd burglar."

"Then how about you shut the fuck up you fucking hayseed-"

"Stop it, both of you!" Selphie shouted, stamping her foot. "We're not supposed to fight each other!"

Zell gestured angrily towards Irvine. "Why don't you tell that to Huckleberry over there?"

"It takes two to tango, butt pirate."

"You goddamn hick-"

"No, she's right," Quistis interjected, not a little angry herself. "This isn't helping anything."

Once again Zell started up. "But he was-"

"You're both done," Squall said quietly, instantly asserting control. "And so is this meeting. We can't do anything without more information."

Everyone who wasn't already standing did so to leave. Zell was the first to the door, and before he left he couldn't resist one last jab at Irvine.

"Right behind you, hillbilly," Zell said, making a grand sweep with his arm at the door.

"Ladies first ass face."

Squall put his face in his hands as the argument ignited again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sergeant Patrick wasn't a real Sergeant, but that didn't stop him from acting like one. If you fell behind, he'd be in your face. If you forgot something, he'd remind you less than gently. And if you should for one moment step beyond the bounds of your authority, he'd be sure to let you know. The end result of his harsh regime was the behind the back nickname of Punishing Patrick or, if he had done something to particularly piss the men off, the shortened version consisting of just the initials.

Perhaps in a regular army his discipline might have paid off in eventual grudging respect and improved battlefield performance. Unfortunately for Patrick, the combined mercenary forces of Julian Foss were a most irregular army. When every man under your command is used to fighting by himself or in smaller groups, and in decidedly different circumstances, it became extremely difficult to overcome the vigilante atmosphere. To make matters worse, the average merc hadn't necessarily seen actual combat. Not a few were fresh to the business, and many of the veterans had been bounty hunters or worked security. Patrick himself had been in several private armies in Columbia and had taken part in serious fighting, attacking neighboring drug plantations and gunning down members of rival cartels. That was why he was a Sergeant.

It was strange duty, to be sure. Assaulting and occupying an alien city. And the portal... Most of the men had refused to enter it. The staff on site had been forced to send several people back and forth to prove it was safe, and their pay had been increased. There had still been a few holdouts, but the scientists had put on a convincing demonstration and the pay was too good to refuse. Strange stars at night, strange weather patterns in the day. Strange people with strange clothes. A lot of things were familiar. Cars, television, streetlights and telephones. It was still hard to believe it could be real. But after awhile the city became ordinary and the business of guarding a new country routine. Anything could become standard if you were exposed to it enough.

But then something had happened, and things had started to move again. Official word from the top was that there would soon be smaller assault on another target. Rumors drifted around about what that target might be. Anybody who had ever played Final Fantasy VIII, of which there were few, became valuable commodities, often charging for information. Even more troubling rumors circulated that hinted at trouble with the portal. But Patrick wasn't paid to question. He was paid to fight.

And from the way things were accelerating, he would soon get his chance.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So anyway, what happened was-

Hyne shut her senses to the state of the universe and concentrated solely on the task at hand. It didn't matter now anyway. If she failed, all would be lost despite her administrations.

....Did I mention that she talked to Scott?

I think so.

You're probably right, I just couldn't remember.

What about Rinoa?

What about her?

What was she doing?


Rinoa tried to concentrate on planning the upcoming Garden Festival, but the memory of her brush with Scott's mind nagged at her. Despite her failure to completely grasp what had happened, just before the feedback hit she had felt something. Something part of whatever was wrong with the world around Scott. If only she could get a handle on it, maybe something could be done.

Are you sure that's how it went?

Well, I simply assumed. I wasn't there after all.

I know I asked about her, but what does that have to do with anything?

...What do you mean?

It's pointless. It leads nowhere. She never fixed the Knot.

Yeah, but she thought about it.

Save it for your book, I want the real story.

My book is about me. How can I tell you what happened if I wasn't there for it all?

Alright, then explain this. How come the portal was completed and Scott was sent through in '98 and Julian didn't arrive until after '99, but Scott hadn't been in Deling for more than a few hours?

Funny story that. Lucky he doesn't remember.

You didn't.

Not quite. I never shared all that much. And I never talked to Hyne.

I never liked her.

Nobody did.

We're getting close to the reason I'm here. You knew about Scott, and you still didn't do your job.

I had my reasons.

Then I'd better hear them.

You just sat through all that and you still don't get it?

All I get is that if things had gone just a little bit differently I wouldn't be here questioning you, I'd be beating the hell out of you. You know the Council doesn't take kindly to this crap.

Maybe I felt Hyne could handle it.

Hyne was a minor deity with a bad track record. If that's true, I'd leave it out of your excuse.

I think the Council would do well to judge me by the end results.

I think you would do well to kiss your ass goodbye.

Once a Kharadjai, always a Kharadjai. What are they going to do, impeach me?

No Kharadjai has almost lost an entire universe before. You'd better think fast or they'll have you by the balls and squeeze.

Before you start threatening me again, at least let me finish the story.

Fine. But hurry it up, I need to check on A21b in awhile.

Really? What did Brian do?

Few problems with a black hole and a decaying orbit. Nothing compared to the shit you're mired in. Start talking.

Okay, so the Garden Festival was coming soon, and everyone was getting ready for it,

* * * * * * * * * * * *

And it wasn't so much that Scott didn't want to take part as the fact that he had no idea what to do. He wasn't particularly skilled at decorating or stage design, and he couldn't play any instruments. Not being much of a partygoer, he also wasn't sure what sort of food to serve. As such, he was fairly useless and spent most of his volunteered time hauling stuff around.

The stage had taken form and now whatever crew Selphie could pull together was trying to put together an acceptable sound system, a tall order for the inexperienced. So far, they had managed to get the subwoofers working and were now attempting to wire it all in to a main board. Wisely, Zell had been sent to see if one of the Garden's technical experts would oversee the setup.

Selphie was giddy in anticipation, nearing something Scott could only describe as hyper-giddy. He wondered if her diet consisted entirely of Oreos and Pixie Stixs, a private joke that quickly fell flat when he remembered that they didn't exist. Well, there would probably be some sort of equivalent anyway. So far all he had eaten was the basic hamburger\hotdog or salad with chips from the cafeteria, and a thing of nachos he had begged off a vendor in Deling. Those nachos hadn't been half bad. Scott suddenly found himself hungry.

Looking around the Quad, he found the most likely source of a quick fix in Nida, who was lounging on the stairs munching on some sort of snack bar. Scott strolled over to him and planted himself on the stairs next to Nida, who steadfastly ignored his obvious interest in the snack bar.

"So.... Nida..." Scott began. "Whatcha eating there?"


"I see. Got any more of that?"

"I dunno."

"You sure?"


"....Don't hold out on me man."

Nida sighed, reluctantly breaking off part of the bar bottom. Scott eagerly snatched it from him, savoring the taste. Sure, it was just granola, but it was something.

"So Nida," Scott mumbled through a mouth full. "When's this Festival going to be ready?"

Nida shrugged. "Selphie would know, I don't. But if things go the way they usually do, I'd say no more than another day, if not even. Once things get going it gets done quick."

"When's the Festival itself?"

"There actually isn't a set date, but it's always held somewhere in the same space of two weeks. One of those being this week. So if they do finish up, I'd say the day after tomorrow or the day after that."

"What do you do there?"

"It's a little different every year, but they always have a or DJ to play music, the dance floor around the stage and a bunch of food tables."

"...I think I'll just hang around the food tables."

Nida laughed, shooting Scott a look he didn't like. "Oh no my friend, I think not. If I know Selphie, and I think I do, you're part of 'the group' now, and she'll make it her sacred duty to see you hooked up for the Festival. Mark my words, you are marked for slau- Oh shit, here she comes now!"

Nida jumped to his feet, walking quickly off towards the main dome. "Later!"

Scott glared after him as Selphie closed in. Judas!

"Hey Scott!"

"Oh... Hey.."

Selphie plopped herself down next to him, smoothing out her skirt. "Well, we're almost done! Just a few finishing touches and then I'll arrange the catering, and we'll be set for the dance! You looking forward to it?"

"Well, I-"

"Great! So tell me, who's the lucky lady that will be accompanying Mr. Keyor to the dance, hmm?"

"I wasn't-"

"You don't have a date?!" Selphie squealed. "But you're so handsome! I'm sure there are a ton of girls who would love to go with you!"

"I don't know-"

"Don't worry," Selphie said, patting him on the back. "I'll find you the perfect match!"

"No, that's-"

"I could do nothing less for a friend! Any preferences?"

"Selphie, I-"

"Oh Scott!" Selphie laughed. "I'm flattered, but I'm already going with Zell!"

"I didn't mean-"

"Of course you didn't! So, no preferences then?"

"Son of a-"

"Okay then! Leave everything to me!"

With that, she skipped off, no doubt to find someone else to torture. Scott sighed, putting his head in his hands. Fuck.

Chapter 23

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic