On Earth as it is in Hell Chapter 8
By Caleb Nova
"I think love is something you have, but don't always know it. Look at Squall. Why else would you jump out of a space station?"
-Irvine Kinneas, The SeeD and the Sorceress
Ender's Game. A novel that tells the tale of a boy torn from everything he knows to a place strange, terrifying, and outside of all experience. Is this so different from anyone's life? Thrown from circumstance to circumstance, events wild and beyond control. Maybe we end were we want, maybe not. Maybe the story ends somewhere unknown, but just as good or even better than the destination you set for yourself. Or not. Scott is a man which fate has, in the most real of senses, kicked in the head. Groping for composure or a handle on this world, he cannot know what is to come. Can we ever really?
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Zell contained his exuberance long enough to get out of the Headmasters office, long enough to get to the dormitories, but not long enough to get into his room. Three feet away from his door, the joy had to be spread.
The victorious cry reverberated up and down the halls, startling more than one student and earning him several reproachful stares. Shrugging these off, he gleefully keyed open his door and practically skipped over to his dresser.
The cause for his obvious euphoria was a set of orders, crumpled and shoved into his left pocket. These orders came from Cid, conceding the need for a investigation and giving Zell permission to take one other SeeD operative along if necessary. Packing in a hurried frenzy, he finished quickly and sped down the hall toward the library, where he knew Rinoa would be studying for one test or the other. SeeD exams could be grueling, and requesting a library pass could give a student much needed cram time.
Zell wasn't very observant even when he wasn't in a rush. He had just entered the library at a dead run when he ran right into the library girl, Amber. Books flew in random patterns as they both fell to the floor. Getting up, Zell immediately began scrambling about on his hands and knees, grabbing the fallen books and stacking them in a lopsided pile. Amber was still picking herself up from the floor when he finished and, giving out a quick 'I'm sorry', ran past her into the reading area.
He might not have been so hasty, but Amber was always, well, weird around him. He supposed she might like him, but his heart was set on another.
Rinoa was as predicted, hunched over a massive tome of Centra history. Smiling in anticipation, Zell moseyed over to her side.
She looked up from her studies. He could tell she hadn't really been working, her eyes far away. Man, was he gonna cheer her up.
"I was up in Cid's office today, and he gave me permission to go check on Galbadia team, aaaaaand," He gave out the punchline. "I can take one-other-SeeD-operative with me!"
Excitement became confusion, became an instant vaporization of euphoria when he saw the look on her face and realized what he had forgotten all along.
"I'm not a SeeD yet Zell."
She hadn't needed to say it, but there it was. Zell's personality came through and impossible hope welled.
"I'll go to the headmaster, I'll ask him-"
She cut him off with a sad shake of her head.
"I already did Zell. He asked me to meet him, he said," She bit her lip, understanding but not wanting to. "That with my power.. I'm a Sorceress, Zell. Galbadia wouldn't want me there, they might panic, they might..." Hurt Squall.
Zell slumped in a nearby chair. His eyes met her.
"All right," He said. "But I'm not taking anyone else along. I mean, this is pretty important, right?"
The moment turned awkward, them now looking away from each other. With nothing more to say, Zell stood up to leave.
"Be careful." Bring him back.
He left, and she sat there for awhile, wishing success, fearing what might happen, frustrated she couldn't help. Or could she?
Since the night before she hadn't touched or used her GFs, still uncertain, not knowing what had happened. Still, there was a time for everything.
She went to her room, locking the door and sitting in a chair, facing the window. Closing her eyes, she once more reached out with her mind, flexing her power, feeling the aura of it pulsing through her. She reached for Ifrit, then stopped, hesitating. She moved away and touched Leviathan. She gasped as the same feeling came over her, expanding, ripping away restraints she hadn't known were there, stretching her humanity.
Fighting it, she forced her mind back into the boundaries, this time controlling the GF enough to focus the surge. Then a voice.
I apologize. I did not mean to bend your psyche so.
Rinoa wildly cast about with her thoughts, trying to find the entity invading her mind. She had been positive no one could break into her aura, the power of Sorceress would be required. Then she realized that the voice was not coming into her mind, but rather already in her mind.
Yes, it is I. You reached for me, did you not?
But this is.. Why did Ifrit not speak to me? I mean, so.. Fluently.
If a GF could chuckle, then Leviathan did.
Ifrit is rash and fiery as his element. His contact is simple. He is sorry for any harm done to your mind, he did not mean to rush you so.
Rinoa hadn't known that GFs had personalities.
I'm okay, he was helpful in his own way.
Then let it be known that I can be even more so. Articulate your need to me.
'Articulate your need to me?' GFs were also apparently rather formal. She dredged up three years of speech and etiquette lessons from her childhood as a member of the privileged in Deling.
I have a need that you assist me in the search for a single essence.
Leviathan laughed again.
There is no need to conform your speech for me, child. I have no ears and no sensibilities to speak of.
Help me find Squall.
Of course child.
This time the trip was not so rough or fast. Given almost total control, Rinoa sped towards Deling only gently guided by Leviathan. When they approached Deling, Leviathan stopped them both, suspended.
What is it Leviathan?
Rinoa could sense a sort of unease in Leviathan, making her uncomfortable. If a GF was worried, she should be on guard.
Leviathan gave off a signal the equivalent of a mental frown.
There is a disturbance here. Ifrit spoke of something like this before, but it did not stop him. But now the... Stuff of things is torn, knotted. This prevents us from getting closer, for there is nothing there for us to traverse. Strange, I have never encountered anything of this magnitude.
Rinoa felt helpless, unable to reach Squall, who was somehow in that mental block.
Leviathan, will this affect normal people? People who don't touch this plane?
Only if the Knot becomes severe enough to rupture. Otherwise, it is apparent only to us.
Relieved, Rinoa decided on her next best option.
Lets find Zell.
I believe he is at the Balamb docks. Shall we go there?
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Zell tapped his foot impatiently, waiting for the boat to arrive. This mission was undercover, so no official SeeD transport could be used. His orders gave him just enough credit to use standard civilian travel methods without dipping into his own pocket.
"Hmm?" Zell turned around, expecting some native to have recognized him. There was no one looking at him, or anyone by him. The other people on the dock were several piers down, fishing or waiting for other boats. Everyone else was just passing by.
Shrugging it off as the wind, he turned back to the ocean.
"Okay," He glared around, earning him several strange glances from the men on the docks. "Who the hell said that?"
Zell, it's me, Rinoa!
"Rinoa!?" Zell almost gave himself whiplash scanning the docks for her. "Where are you?"
I'm not here, I'm talking to you from somewhere else!
Zell laid his bags down, scratching his head. "Oh really? You know what I think? I think you just snuck down here because you want to see Squall."
He took several step towards the nearest building, in front of which several stacked barrels made a conspicuous hiding place. "Am I getting warmer?"
Zell! Stop it and listen to me!
"AH-HA!" He shouted as he dove for the barrels, knocking them over. To his surprise, no Rinoa.
One of the fishermen called from down the docks. "You okay there son?"
Zell ignored him, pacing in front of the fallen barrels.
"But how?" He argued, apparently to himself from all the bystanders points of view. A mother shopping for fish was edging her young daughter away from him.
"I'm here, your in the Garden, this doesn't make any sense!"
Trust me, I found a way. I'll be following you around for the trip.
"If you can be invisible or whatever, why don't you go find Squall?"
I can't reach him, there's some sort of field that prevents me.
"Oh great, another Sorceress."
He had been kidding, but became concerned when she didn't answer.
No. I would know if there was another. I can sense power like mine, GFs and magic. I couldn't not sense another Sorceress.
"Well, okay then."
I'll keep in touch.
Then she was gone. Zell picked up his things, marveling at this new discovery. He walked back to his place at the pier. Humming to himself, he noticed that everyone who had not fled was staring at him, wide-eyed. He frowned.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Scott rolled over, desperately trying to find comfort where there was none. The cold concrete was not only hard, but the surface was curved and vaguely damp. He gave up, propping himself uncomfortably against the tunnel wall, back curved, legs straight and head bent with the sloping pipe. He and the others were camped in an abandoned piping project, some sort of water system that had never been connected or completed. The tube they lay within was quite large, at least twelve by twelve feet for the actual hole and forty something feet long. Despite this, the wall still sloped to much for Scott to get a comfortable head rest.
He didn't know what time it was. Even if he had his watch the time might not be accurate. How long were the days here, or nights? How many days to a month or year? The planetary movements here were a mystery to him. Maybe he could ask Squall, or someone more approachable, like Quistis. He vaguely remembered she had been the smart one in the game.
What Scott didn't know was that everyone was awake, lost in thought. In the moments before full awakening, things become apparent. The moment passes, but for now, all they have is what is true in themselves.
Squall was on the far side of the pipe, just as Scott was on the other end. Squall thought of the mission, thought of the possible perpetrators, enemies, and how to escape. A difficult task this was, but his friends had never failed to pull through. And so I depend on others again. He thought mostly of Rinoa. What you had becomes painfully clear when it's not there. The sound of her voice, the feel of her hair, all came back in detail. She brought out the best in him. And when they were alone, sometimes he could forget everything the world told him he had to be, and just be what he was. Maybe he could never be like Zell or the others, talking, openly laughing, socially competent. But Rinoa gave him room for change. In a very real sense, he was only complete with her.
Quistis was next to Scott. In the night she had unconsciously pressed herself against him, seeking warmth in the cavernous space. She had woke before him, and moved away. He seemed a nice guy, but she didn't care for him that way. He might misunderstand. That seemed the way of it now days. No one seemed to catch her eye, not since Squall. It had been hard to admit to herself that she didn't really love him. Doing so destroyed a center part of her concept of herself, her attraction to Squall had seemed a constant, a romantic pastime. But no more. Truly alone without even the illusion of love to comfort her. Perhaps it didn't have to be so, but.. She had never been good at such things. She knew many people at Garden found her attractive, and she could have any one of the Trepies. But the Trepies had nothing but hero worship, and her attractiveness was offset by her authority figure, a strong counter that discouraged both lust and sincere interest. She hadn't had the courage or assertiveness to not turn down the offers that had been made.
Selphie and Irvine lay in the middle, not together, but not too far apart. Irvine had considered getting closer, but her recent attitude made him wary of trying. He reflected on their past together, the good and the bad. He still wasn't sure of his feelings towards her, honest enough to admit to himself he wasn't ready to be serious with her or anyone else. The game still seemed exciting, the image of the ladies man his trademark. Someday he would lose the label, but it seemed to not be the right time now. Still, her distance was worrying. Had he given offense? Irvine agonizingly went over his various doings in the previous months, searching for some discrepancy. She knew his occasional advances towards other women were only a game, a game between the two of them. He hadn't really seen anybody else, but did she need some more reassurance? He didn't know, but this mission probably wasn't the time to find out.
Selphie had her half of the problems with Irvine. She liked him, she did, and at first being his casual girl had been the best thing ever. But the magic faded. When every girl seems to get the same attention you do, how do you know you're special to him? She knew that he wasn't a bad person, it was just his way. He had even joked about with her, made it clear that he wasn't really serious. But neither was she. She knew he didn't love her, she didn't love him. All they had was a mutual attraction and a friendship. Maybe just a friendship would be good. And there was... Zell. Zell had always just been a friend, but... Sometimes she just liked watching him, the way he smiled, talked, moved. She was on unexplored ground, unsure of where her feeling lay, and unsure of where his. She just didn't know about Irvine, or Zell. These thoughts had consumed her for some time. She knew it made her pensive, and noticeably not her usual self. It was confusing Irvine too, although she hadn't yet seen that. Torn between two uninformed decisions, Selphie shivered on the tunnel floor.
Scott was coping, which is all that can really be said. Unfamiliar faces, names only read in a game. No McDonalds, Sony, Best Buy, Old Country Buffet. He knew that when the first person stood, there would be a meeting of sorts, a discussion of events and plans ahead. He didn't know how the jailer died. He hardly knew how he came to be here, a story which only Squall knew, and would have to be repeated for the benefit of the rest. The part about the game, well... He considered telling it, then decided against it. Not only would it raise doubts of his sanity, he had left his 'proof' back in the hotel, the Final Fantasy VIII manual that had accidentally been in the pocket of his pants, put there, he suspected, by his nephew Brandon, who had been visiting with the rest of the family the day before the experiment and had brought his Playstation. Which reminded him, that if he ever was able to go back home, to buy Bushido Blade, which was quite fun. Rolling over again, he waited.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Hendrow smiled in the manner of a wealthy uncle, pleased to see the rest of his family and generous with it. He strolled the perimeter, noting the excellent progress and giving praise wherever he thought spirits were lagging. Chuckling heartily at the high walls surrounding him, he walked back to the completed bunker, traversing the tent covered green to the base. The only problem thus far had been the lack of space- the wall had to be extended, there were too many men for the space previously planned. The bridge had been behind schedule, but the boys on Earthside had managed to deliver the pylons in time. Now the walls could be completed in a matter of days.
After the walls were finished, a massive transportation of manpower would result, and the first forays into civilization could occur.
Hendrow had just reached the stairs to descend into the headquarters when a messenger came up to him from the bottom of said stairway.
"Mr. Hendrow," The messenger saluted, returned by Hendrow. "Mr. Foss requests your presence."
Hendrow smiled genially. So, Julian finally wished to talk of further plans. "I'm heading there now."
Waving off the messenger, Hendrow made his way through the main hallway towards the elevator. In the interests of speed and simplicity, the bunker was simply built. There were five floors, each deeper into the earth. Each floor consisted of a two hallways crossing each other like a plus sign. If looking at a flat blueprint, there were two elevators on each floor, one on either end of what on the blueprint would be the vertical hallway, save the first floor, which had only one elevator and a set of stairs at the other end. The horizontal hallway was dead end on both ends. All hallways had numerous doors leading off to their respective rooms. While the basic concrete structure was complete, the internal systems such as plumbing, electricity, radar and all other functions were still under construction, due to be completed within the week. Julian had hundreds of technicians working shifts to complete the bunker on time.
Taking the elevator down to the fifth floor, which was currently the only completely functioning area, he walked down the corridor and opened the door to Julian's office. The inside might as well have been his office back in New York. Either the whole office had actually been transplanted or every detail had flawlessly been attended to. Closing the door behind him, Hendrow comfortably seated himself across from Julian.
As always, there was a moment of silence while Julian finished with the papers he had been intently studying.
"Well now," Julian said, looking up from his work. "We have made fine progress, Michael."
"Indeed we have. Our workers have been most industrious."
"Quite. Tell me Michael, what do you think our next move should be?"
Hendrow wasn't fooled, he had known Julian too long. He knew Julian had already decided what to do, but as a friend had decided to ask for his input.
"I have been," Hendrow pulled the strategy guide. "Studying these maps for some time now, and, it's interesting- there seem to be relatively few centers of civilization. You see, this map shows very few cities. Indeed, even the walkthrough doesn't really list that many locations even though it explores the world in depth. These people have been through some fascinating things. I hope to meet them."
Julian gave a slight smile. "You will Michael. But we cannot be sure how this is going to go. We may find that conquest is, ah, not in our interests. However, I believe we won't find it necessary to hold back."
"Well, their 'magic', as it is said, will be quite ineffective for one thing. For another, the game guide and the game itself are not entirely accurate. You see, while the this world does manifest itself in ours as the good Gallern said, he did not predict the distortion that would occur. We get the basic story, perhaps, but we lose quite a lot of it. It is, after all, a game. What about all the times they slept? Went to the bathroom? They have to eat three times a day, Michael, they don't have hit points."
"I see. So, there are more cities than this?"
Julian shrugged. "I imagine we will find what you would expect from countries of their size and technology. It will vary."
"So we will not have a small, easy to control population."
"A population doesn't have to be small to control it, Michael. And this is not an overnight undertaking, nor do we have to aim for world domination. If there is some way to harness this magic as an energy source, or perhaps just for it's basic function, we will have more power and money than we know what to do with. But lets not take over the world and find we have nothing to do with it."
"Then this world does not have the mineral wealth we had hoped for?"
"We've made only a few tests, and only in this area," Julian said, pulling several thick folders out of his desk as he did so. "But according to our research division this world is just as mineral rich as ours, and probably just as exploited. We're not dealing with stone age natives, Michael. But lets not give up hope. First we need to take something, any area of land or country. From studies of the game and other sources we have concluded that Galbadia would be our best bet. The country is politically unstable, with no President, ruled only by a weak cabinet of former Congressmen. It is also quite centralized."
"If you captured Washington D.C the government would not fall, and there would be immediate retaliation. If we capture this, 'Deling', the government will be ours. Simple. The history we have recovered tells us that Galbadia changes governments often, and uprisings and revolts are commonplace. Perfect. If we take over in the most quick and painless manner possible, the way of life for the masses might not even be interrupted at all."
Hendrow felt better about the prospects, but shifted uncomfortably in his seat at the thought of full-scale fighting. Julian might have enough money to hire a small army, but it was still only a small one.
Julian sensed this. "Relax, Michael. Their military is a joke, devastated by raids from Esthar right after the time period when the game ends. As you've read, one of the central military hubs, the Missle Base, was also destroyed. And if we take Deling, we won't even have a fight. Their military will be our military."
"They will follow people from another world?"
"They followed a Sorceress Michael. I don't believe they'll have any problem with us. To a soldier, a leader is a leader. Besides, we're not going to tell them that. Our spies in Deling are gathering enough information to create identities for us."
"How in the world did you train spies enough to pass as commoners?"
"All of ours spies were given copies of the manual for careful study and classes from our researchers on the local weather and such. We then trained them to fit in the small villages and towns just around this area. They won't know a few bits of common knowledge such as legends or much of history, but if they speak carefully and don't make themselves conspicuous, no one will know better."
Hendrow sat back in his chair, wiping his forehead. "This is all quite amazing. You've really planned this well."
"I have to Michael. And besides, there is no excuse for the intelligent mind that does not think ahead. These events will all take place soon Michael. Within the week, we will be standing in the Deling Senate Hall."
Hendrow savored the thought. Then another one occurred to him. "You speak of magic being harmless. Is the game so inaccurate that this magic is not used offensively as it appears?"
"No Michael, it is. Fire magic will burn a man and Ice will freeze him. But not us, or anyone else who came from Earthside. You see, it has to do with relative physics. Even I don't completely understand it, and I suspect the scientists don't either for all their assurances. While gravity, time, wind even, are all native to our world, there is no magic. Our bodies are made of mostly the same stuff as those here, but not completely. Our matter is incompatible with magic. It cannot touch us in any way. Of course, the down side to that being we cannot 'junction' GFs or use these offensive spells. To our matter, the very stuff of which we are made, none of it exists."
"Then how do we harness magic and still be able to use it as energy or otherwise back on Earthside?"
Julians sighed, hands rubbing his temples. "That is our problem Michael. We don't know. Our scientists are still studying matter compatibility back in our Earthside lab. This a new field to science, so some of the best researchers in the world jumped at the chance to work on it, but it may be years, even decades, before a solution is found."
Julian leaned back once more and shuffled his folders. "But no matter. We must live in the present, and work on the current problems. Please Michael, go talk to Foreman Valesquez. We are behind schedule for our electric wiring, and he needs these blue prints, if you will."
"I'll see you tonight Michael. We brought in a new chef, dinner should be excellent." And Julian returned to his papers, contemplating his new empire.
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