Crucial Round Chapter 1

Unfinished Business

By John Boske

John sighed. He was bored out of his skull. Granted, fighting a war was far less pleasant than leading a country, but at least there was something to do. He couldn’t stand simply waiting for something to happen before doing something. Maybe a walk will help. I just need to get out and around more. The president of the recently formed republic moved to his feet and approached his office door. He stopped lying to himself at that moment - he knew exactly what was wrong. His thoughts returned to someone he cared for very much, someone he missed as one would miss living and breathing.

"Eilie…" he whispered.

Truth be told, he didn’t know how he felt. Do I love her? I don’t know… all I know is I miss her. She’s… I’ve gotta see her, it’s been almost a year now… He turned the knob on his office door, but didn’t get to open it before it was kicked in, slamming it smack into his face and sending him reeling backwards. Instantly he jumped into a combative stance, tonfa at the ready, but he relaxed when he saw his assailant.

"Nanami, will you please knock next time?!" he yelled.

"Sorry John, but I had to warn you! There’s this weird-looking guy in here, he’s been detained by the guards, but he says he needs to see you!"

Weird-looking guy…? "Let’s go see him."

John followed Nanami out into the main hall, where he spotted the visitor, accompanied by three state troopers.

"Are you President John?? Is that really you?" asked the blue-clad visitor.

John nodded. "Who are you, sir?" asked John.

The young man removed his blue beret, and began wringing it nervously in his hands. "Well, I am a blacksmith from a gypsy caravan that passed through here some time ago. My name is Maas."

John smiled, and nodded at the blacksmith. He glanced at the guards, and waved them aside. The guards nodded, and backed away from Maas. John stepped forward and extended his hand. "Good to meet you, Maas. Sorry about the treatment, security has been tightened, what with the upcoming summit at Muse and all."

Maas smiled slightly. "It’s quite all right." He took a deep breath. "Okay, I might as well level with you. I’ve got some news for you - bad and really bad."

John’s throat tightened. The only gypsy caravan he remembered passing through was the one Eilie, Rina, and Bolgan joined with. "How bad?"

Maas’s smile disappeared. "Last night the caravan was attacked by a lone bandit. The attacker must have been a tactical genius, because she had the entire caravan subdued in a manner of minutes."

The president was speechless. "One bandit… did all that?? To one caravan?!" His heart stopped. Eilie!! No… "Who was it?"

"A woman named Elza. About this high" Maas illustrated by raising his hand to about 5’10" in height "blond hair, white cloak. She was carrying two pistols, and… well, she took a hostage into a vacant wagon and hasn’t left since. She says she wants a man named Clive delivered to her. The odd thing about this request is that she instructed me to deliver it to you."

John was at a loss for words. "She… wait, she wants me to find Clive?? What for, I thought he was hunting her!"

"I don’t know too much about that, Clive appears and disappears like the wind - he used to work for the Toran Republic, you know - but I think she figures that you were his last employer, so you of all people should be able to find him."

"That won’t be necessary, Maas."

A shadowy figure stepped into the hall. The guards approached him, then backed off as John nodded to the cloaked figure.

"Clive. Never thought I’d see you here again." John smiled.

Clive smiled back, a rare sight even to comrades. "Guess you were right that time in Radat, pal. Looks like I didn’t need a lead, though." Clive joined Maas and John.

Maas continued. "So anyway, she says she wants you to show up with John and myself, no one else." Maas took another deep breath. "John. When I left, she was holding someone at gunpoint. One of the gypsies… a knife-thrower, I think. If we don’t hurry back, she’ll probably kill her. We really should go now."

John’s mind zeroed-in on the words ‘knife-thrower’. "Eilie!!" he shouted.

Clive sighed. "I’m sorry, John. But don’t worry. Elza won’t get the chance to pull the trigger."

John nodded slightly. "Let’s go." He said.


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