On Earth as it is in Hell Chapter 3

Vicarious Reality

By Caleb Nova

"By the time we reached the Castle, we had become more than family, and fighting together was second nature. Sometimes I think if we could have seen ourselves in action, so efficient and cold, that it would be frightening even to us."

-Irvine Kinneas, The SeeD and the Sorceress

A twisted cortex of synapses and reflex, a sparkling and flashing machine made of basic matter, extreme in its complexity and boundless in its wonder. A standing testament to all that makes us human, the brain fuels a swirl of ever changing reactions and counter-reactions. A careful balance between genius and insanity, anything can tip the scale.

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

Julian Foss. If you were to walk down a road in mainstream America, anyone on the street could tell you who Bill Gates was, or Michael Jackson. But if questioned of the name Julian Foss, nobody could answer you. If you were to ask among the power-brokers of America, the reaction would be totally different.

Julian Foss was born in 1956, son to Robert and Mary-Anne Foss, a middle-class couple living in Sacramento. Robert was the foreman in an early electronics firm, and from an early age Julian had experience with high-tech products.

After graduating from high-school with top honors in 73', Julian applied for and was excepted by Yale University. During his 5-year term there he studied business and financing, becoming more and more adept at running companies. And manipulation.

After graduation Julian hopped from one company to the other, until eventually he was hired by Microsoft for three years, becoming a top CEO in the administration. He left after Microsoft accused him of embezzling funds from the Treasury department. None of the accusations were ever proven.

In 1989, after working in several other software companies, Julian founded the blandly named TAA, Technical Applications America. TAA became a mover and shaker behind the scenes of the business world, quickly gaining suppliers and quietly increasing in size. TAA never hesitated to put its hands in everything, resulting in a wide, if somewhat unsavory, reputation.

By 1999, TAA had become a super-corporation to almost rival that of Microsoft, an invisible giant with a large cash flow and unlimited resources. Julian Foss ran it all.

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

New York city has always been a place for big corporations to build their lairs. The local market was expansive of course, but the real value lay in the symbol of status. If somebody asked you where your company was based, and you said "Warrenville", they would probably just nod. If you answered, "New York", well....They would be dutifully impressed.

And in such a city of large corporate buildings and plazas, TAA had one of the biggest of them all, spanning two city blocks and 43 stories. At the very heart of this machine created expanse lay Julian's office, 25 stories up and nestled in the very center, with no windows and thick soundproof walls. One door was the only entry, directly in front of his desk. Nothing ever went through that door without him ordering it. It was from this totally secure room that Julian reigned supreme over his vast enterprise, directing business and affairs with total impunity. He almost never went on inspections and rarely left the staff-titled "Fortress", at all.

On this Saturday night, 9:56 pm, Julian was concentrating on his most important business at hand. Michael Hendrow was approaching his polished mahogany table, and as usual, was all ears for what his partner had to say.

Hendrow was a University graduate who had achieved great success in the often harsh world of Wall Street. Buying and selling stocks was his hobby, his work, and his obsession. By the time he had reached 38, Hendrow was one of the richest men in the country.

He had met Julian during a cruise to Hawaii with his wife. Julian himself had been there for purely business reasons, and the two struck up a friendship almost immediately. Hendrow was fascinated by Julian's ideas and working style, and after returning to the states, bought stock in his company. They worked side by side for many years, until after some time, Hendrow was the only man in Julian's close confidence, entitled to the grandiose schemes and backroom plotting of TAA.

That was why he was here tonight.

Julian did not look up from his papers as Hendrow sat down. They sat in silence for a minute and a half before he stopped shuffling papers and looked up. His dark green eyes studied Hendrow for a second, then returned to the papers.When he spoke, it was in cultured yet hard voice of an ambitious self-made man.

"Hello Michael. How are things with you?"

Hendrow smiled easily, sliding comfortably into the role of old friend. "Things are well with me, thank you."

"The wife is well, I expect?"

"Of course, of course. Kendra just had her twelfth birthday last Tuesday."

"Really?" Julian lowered his eyes to his papers again. "Tell her Uncle Julian sends his regards."

"I shall."

Another shorter stretch of silence prevailed. Julian looked up again.

"Here, I want you to read this."

Hendrow took the thick manila folder labeled, "GPSS". He opened it and read of a failed experiment near a mountain in Utah. After a moment, he closed the folder and placed it back on the desk.

"That was.... Interesting. It seems man will never stop trying to step over the boundaries nature has set for us."

Julian lifted his lips in a thin imitation of a smile. "The report skips a few details."

"Such as?"

"A portal was successfully created."

Hendrow took a deep breath and sat back. It was too unreal to be truly shocking. "Well. Then why did they shut it down?"

"The first man inserted was lost after the portal collapsed in an unforeseen accident. The government, in one of their larger blunders, didn't realize the portal had actually worked, and put it off as if the volunteer had simply died. The truth is rarely that obliging."

"Yes, well...... If the portal was not a total failure, where did the volunteer go?"

Julian opened another large drawer in his desk and pulled out a slightly thinner file. "You have heard, or course, of the Tunnel Thesis."

Working with Julian required at least some grounding in science and, as a college graduate himself, he knew of the Thesis. Hendrow said nothing as the implication of this hit him. Julian opened the file and removed several black and white pictures.

"These are surveillance camera photos that I, how shall I say, procured from some very, ah, reclusive sources," He leaned over the desk. "Here, take a look."

Hendrow thumbed through the photos, which brought to mind the set of some bad B movie. He looked up. "If Gallern's Thesis was accurate, then where did he emerge?"

"That was a difficult one. But first, I must tell you, my scientists have recreated the portal at our Oregon lab. It was somewhat tricky, but the results have come through positive. It's quite stable."


"Yes, and you do realize why?"

"The possibilities are endless. If every book and other such things are to be manifest, why, the technology! Imagine if we could enter the universe of Star Wars, that alone is trillions and trillions of dollars!"

Julian smiled viciously. "That was my thinking, but what else is there to yield?"


"Conquest! Lands, people, power! Oil, gold, mineral wealth. A rich man's dream Hendrow. Any man's dream."

"Conquest? But many of these worlds are technologically much more advanced than we are. Certainly, there are some which are not, bu-"

"That doesn't matter. Our portal was created using the same steps as GPSS, and we can only enter whatever world this, 'Scott Keyor' entered. For now."

Hendrow pondered this for a moment. "Still... No matter where we appear, mystery as it is, some advance knowledge is better than no-"

Julian cut him off again. "We know where we are going."

"We do?"

"Yes. Our scientists successfully inserted a probe yesterday, and it brought back sufficient data."

"Why didn't GPSS use a probe as we did?"

"Their portal was incapable of accepting anything but living matter. I don't really follow the physics but the lab people say it makes sense. Ours is much more stable. We hope to duplicate the portals in our Hong Kong and Moscow labs, each reaching the same dimension as the first. By the time the other labs solidify the portals, we should be able to open them wherever we please. But while our limitations in this field still stand, we may only reach a single destination."

Once more reached into his desk and pulled out not a file, but a book. "We go here."



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

Selphie stared at the rather disreputable looking man in front of here for about 5.3 seconds during which neither of them said a thing. Then she tentatively stepped forward.

"Umm, why do you ask?"

Scott fumbled over several sentences at once, the words rushing out of his mouth in what resulted in incomprehensible gibberish.

Selphie stared at him. "Sir, are you okay? Maybe you just had to much to drink, why don't you-"

Scott shook his head wildly. "No no! I'm not crazy I need to talk to.... 'Squall'. He can help me, he's the boss or something, right?"

Now she was somewhat suspicious. "What do you know about Squall?"

"I'll tell you if you'll just take me to Squall, please!"

After debating for several seconds, Selphie decided that four SeeD's would be enough to handle whatever threat this man might pose. She turned without looking back and gestured towards the door. "Fine, c'mon."

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

Squall had no sooner sunk into a chair next to the fire when Selphie burst through the door trailing a somewhat grubby man about 6'1. This better be good. He turned to face them without getting up. Irvine leaned against the window with his hand resting on his guns while Quistis looked up from her laptop with surprise. Unknown visitors were often dangerous visitors.

The stranger didn't look like he might be inebriated with liquor, but Squall knew it was more obvious on some people. Like Selphie.

Squall decided to broach the question diplomatically. "You..Wish to speak with us?"

The man hesitated. "Yes. You see, my situation at this moment is weird beyond imaging." He smiled a little. "I suppose you could say I'm screwed."

Most of the time people came to the SeeDs with minor issues. When your a hero, people expect you to get cats out of trees, something that was not in the job description. Behind the man's calm exterior though, Squall could see a growing terror of...What? Whatever it was, this man was close to the edge. Squall just hoped he didn't crack before he explained things to them. As long as this wasn't some lovers quarrel.

The stranger awkwardly seated himself across from Squall as Selphie crossed the room over to sit by Quistis, rather conspicuously not taking her usual position next to Irvine. I need to talk to her. Whatever was wrong between her and Irvine could not interfere with their job. The man cleared his throat.

"I am Lieutenant Scott Keyor. I am twenty-four years old. I am... Very far from my home, and I need your help to get back."

Irvine leaned forward. "Okay.... Why?"

And then the wall exploded.

Chapter 4

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic