Guardia's Finest Chapter 5

By Captain Gaul

An icy wind blew, and I quickly realized my garb was not suited for my environment. Patrol uniforms are, after all, designed for a temperate climate. I seemed to be the only one affected by the weather, though, so I had little choice but to grit my teeth and ignore. God help me if I should ever lose them all.

I didn’t know where we were going, trudging through the snow, but I followed the person in front of me, whom I assumed was going to the right place. As a small cavern on the horizon grew closer, a thought crossed me.

“Wait a minute? Where did old man Gaspar get booze?”

I don’t think anyone heard me, nor did they care. I guess the question wasn’t that important, but it bugged me. How the heck?

The cave provided much-needed shelter from the winds. Looking around, I realized that, for this point in the past, there was considerably advanced technology.

“Step on the pad, will you, we don’t have all day!”

The fine architecture, too; I really wished we weren’t here on a mission. I could’ve spent months studying the interior. But I stepped onto the pad, and was whisked away in beam of light.

A second later, I was standing on an elevated platform. Looking down, I could see a grassy plain. It was at this point I knew my history failed me. The Zeal of textbooks was an enlightened kingdom, but enlightened how? A survey of the horizon proved the enlightened culture to be considerably more advanced than I would have expected. Not even today do we have the power to create a floating continent, or even anything similar. The prosperity of such a kingdom...I made a mental note to talk to Professor Enkata at the university when I got back.

Again, I was falling behind. The group seemed to have memorized the route to wherever they were going. Rather took the enjoyment out of a mission, I thought, if one can’t bother to enjoy the surroundings!

Through another pad, back to earth, across some more frozen wastes, back up again. It wasn’t any less amazing the second time around, though I guess by the fifteenth or twentieth or whatever trip it was for my comrades, it lost some of the splendor.

Another city of incredible glory was passed. The inability to stop and look at anything was starting to really bother me. When I saw the massive avian of metal, poised on a wooden frame and ready to fly, I stopped the group.

“We aren’t pressed for time and this looks interesting. Stop.” The others looked annoyed but chose not to argue.

The guards wouldn’t let me close enough to get a good look, but I still was envious. High technology, wonders of magic! Now I understood what a gift the others (except for Ayla and Robo) bore. The truly impressive capabilities of a long forgotten force made such an impression in my mind.... I envy the ones to whom magic is free. But all things bear a price...what had these people paid for their power?

The golden platforms within the jungle were yet another display of the beauty of Zeal, though natural rather than architectural. (Though could anything in this place be called natural?) I have a friend, a botanist, who is hard pressed to find new and interesting plants that don’t attack. She would pay a year’s salary to spend a day in this place.

Entering the palace of Zeal, I began to guess at the price paid for the magical powers...while sleeping in on weekends is enjoyable, to spend one’s LIFE sleeping? This I questioned. In my time, there are certain plants that alter the mind in negative ways; plants made illegal for their dangers. It seemed as though every person in this place had ingested such a plant. Listless and dreamy, I made up mind to find another way to acquire magic...Spekkio had denied me one path and these people had paid above the price I would set on such abilities.

We met with our contacts next to a bookcase. Magus, Crono, and Glenn had learned little of value. However, in their time hiding out, Magus had realized one important detail. The gates exist for Lavos, if we stopped the ceremony and undid his existence, the gates would disappear. With Epoch smashed (now I really began to regret my actions at the imp riot), that would leave no way to return.

“Of course, it’s not purely Lavos, it’s magic, too.”

The assurances of Magus that he could create a TimeGate through his own power, somehow, failed to convince me. My mind grew dark as possibilities of being trapped in a foreign land began to strengthen.

“There’s Dalton. The ceremony needs him to work; he’s the only one who knows how to open the ‘Golem-Gate’, and the power there is needed.”

“So what, we bash Dalton?”

“Risky. Merely...waylay him. But first, to the Hall of the Mammon Machine.”

As it turned out, Dalton was heading the same way.

“Blast. We can’t have him in there. And no magic, either, else a bystander may be hit...Schala approaches.”

Looking quickly, I motioned for the group to stand to one side. My clothing didn’t look at all like that of an Enlightened One, and I needed to change that. Knocking a half-dazed person with my club, I assumed the robes and hat, and gathered the appearance of someone who belonged. Except for my hair. My hair should have been purple to really fit in. Blond was not exactly common, especially as I had no magic to reinforce my claim as an enlightened person. But still, I only had to fake it for a minute or two.

I stood in front of the sealed door. As the woman in the purple robes approached, I said the first thing that came to mind: “Pendant, please.”

She looked confused but held forward the pendant. I put it to the sealed door and it opened. Lucky guess, damned lucky guess. I stood aside and allowed her to go through, touching the pendant to the door in order to seal it, then throwing the pendant to her as the portal rematerialized. Less than professional, but the door had to be closed for what I planned.

The one in brown, that Magus had called Dalton, walked up, grumbling. He looked up when he realized the pathway was not open. As he looked up at me with an expression of “Who the heck are YOU?”, I stared him in the eye, totally deadpan, and said: “Pendant, please.”

Irritated, he tried to get around me. Still, I cut him off. “Pendant, please!”

When yet again he tried to pass, I drew my nightstick and slammed it into his head. I followed with swings into his front and to his back. As he stumbled, I lay it across his neck many times. Moaning, he fell. His chest up, I stepped back, took a running jump, and brought the nightstick down across his sternum. Hard. As the bystanders looked at me in horror, I said only: “No pendant!”

The bystanders fled like startled deer. The group approached from behind, somewhat disquieted. Magus was the first to speak.

“Not bad at all...if I ever make any new henchmen, I’ll have to have you teach them that.”

I smiled weakly. “Senseless Brutality 101. We took it for four straight hours a day, every day of the week. It was a twenty-week training course, too. It sorta sticks in your head by that point.”

As one, we turned and entered the Hall of the Mammon Machine.


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