Reap the Whirlwind

By Chameleon

The night is ablaze with festivities. Below, the streets are blocked off to most vehicles, revelers dancing drunkenly with streamers and hats and whistles and beads. Paper lamps and decorations and strings hang from every lamp post and unfortunate object bolted to the ground. Only parade vehicles pass safely through the throng, brightly colored floats carrying smiling models and famous nobility, waving to the masses with all the enthusiasm of wound up dolls. It is amazing they smile at all, their attention constantly flickering toward the center float. Warily they watch the Sorceress, who only minutes ago had cast aside President Deling.

No one notices the clock high above, towering over most of the city. It is due to rise soon, gears whirling and mechanical wonders performing mechanical motions. No one notices the lone sniper waiting there with restless impatience, his gun prepared, but his emotions still tangled. Heart beating with a terrible rhythm, Irvine Kinneas waits for fate to lift him up and drop him unceremoniously into the halls of history with a single bullet.

Palms sweat, leeching into the fabric of fingerless gloves. The night breeze winds through his chestnut hair, keeping his sight clear. Like an Eagle, his eyes penetrate the darkness, zoning in on the very spot where the parade will unexpectedly be brought to a standstill. The Sorceress' float drifts over the pavement, parting the crowds like a knife through butter. Closer, closer still. He feels the floor beneath him start to vibrate, machinery humming as the clock prepares to lift him and Squall upwards. He draws in a last deep breath just before he feels his stomach drop, lifted upward at a sudden, rocketing rate.

The gate has fallen already, locking the Sorceress in a prison of steel bars. Fitting, really, she had just murdered President Deling, and as much as Irvine never liked him, Galbadia was still technically his home. He hunches down, squinting through one eye to finish the shot, targeting the Sorceress' face within his scope. That sense of familiarity returns to him, stronger then when he'd first see her atop the dais before the parade. Now he can see her features.

Cold realization freezes him in place, his blood turning icy as he recognizes who this woman is suddenly. The Sorceress... is the Matron. The same woman who had sung him to sleep or comforted him after skinning a knee is now his target for death. Knees suddenly weak and fingers shaking, Irvine drops his head, losing the carefully placed targeting. What cruel twist of fate is this? How could they order him to kill the very woman he considers his mother?

"I can't do it..."

Squall approaches from behind, and Irvine knows what this looks like. All his bravado and then this... to break down in front of the very man he'd been trying to impress. Doesn't he recognize Edea? No, that answer is obvious. Squall is oblivious to everyone he'd known at the orphanage, as were all the others. All save Irvine, who alone will have to bear the burden of their actions, because he alone knew who Edea was to all of them. Squall coaxes, pleads, sighs. Irvine could barely get himself to breathe normally to take the shot.

"Treat it like a signal..." Squall offers. A signal. Don't aim, don't try to hit her. This sounds better to Irvine. He leans forward again, forcing his hands to cease shaking. Finger on the trigger, he nearly falters a second time before finally pulling, whispering to himself.

"Forgive me, mother."

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