Vigil of the Fates Chapter 13

Their True Intent

By PeterEliot

            The lofty figure of the Communication Tower pushing up to the darkening heaven was the dominant feature in their sight long before they reached the summit where it stood.  A steep bluff rose facing the tower’s lone entrance and provided the cadets with a convenient high vantage point from which to observe it.  The three flattened themselves upon the hilltop and spied the facility.  Two Galbadian soldiers guarded the entrance.

            “How are we gonna break in?  We’re breaking in, right?” Zell asked under his breath.

            “Quiet, Dincht.”

            The door opened, and another soldier appeared and addressed the guards.  From thirty yards away, his words were only vaguely intelligible in places.  

            “...The generator up and running... ...boosters operational...”

            “...What are they saying?” Zell whispered.

            “Shut up,” Seifer hissed.

            “Cable disconnection... confirmed... phase imminent... ...need some hands.”

            The guards then followed the third Galbadian into the tower, leaving the entrance unguarded.

            “Repairs...?” Squall said, getting up from the ground.

            “Sure seems that way.  But what does it matter, really?”  Seifer too got back on his feet.  He motioned to the tower beyond the cliff.  “Perfect.  The entrance lies open.  We will proceed to recover this post from the Galbadians.”

            The squad captain threw Squall a sideway glance.  “So, Squall, how’s it like so far, fighting real battles?  Your nerve still holding together?”

            Squall thought for a moment, then answered honestly.  “I don’t know.  I try not to let my thoughts wander in that direction.”

            “That so?  With me it’s different.  For me battles are so exciting that they leave no room for fear—only for boredom sometimes, when they get tepid.  An exam like this is all but a joke.”

            Keep going off on your own like this and these jokes of battles will be the only ones you ever fight, Squall mused.  He made no reply.

            “I relish battles,” Seifer continued.  “With each victory I feel a step closer to attaining my dream.”

            Squall started somewhat.  “...Your dream?” Squall echoed, squinting.

            “Something wrong with that?  You’ve got one yourself, I’m sure?” 

            There was an unwonted look of earnestness on Seifer’s face.  The conversation—when had this become a conversation? Squall wondered—was taking on a very weird quality.  Since when had Seifer Almasy engaged in this sort of discussion?  Regardless, this was not a topic Squall cared to broach with others, most of all with Seifer.

            “Sorry, but I’ll pass on that subject.”

            Seifer snorted at that.

            Zell regarded his comrades with a baffled look of his own.  “Geez, I knew you guys were always at each other’s throat, but nobody told me you two bickered, too.  What’s the deal with you?”

            “Buzz off, Dincht.”  Seifer started on the path that wound down the bluff to the tower.

            This was one brush-off too many for Zell. 

            “Friggin’ hell...” he swore.  His face reddened with alarming speed.  He took a step toward Seifer, both fists raised, and Squall wondered if his temper had finally hit the limit.  Zell, however, held himself at stabbing a couple of sharp feints that fell far behind Seifer’s departing figure.

            “Swatting flies, Zell?”Seifer jeered without looking back.  He continued his way down alone.

            “Damn you...!” Zell snarled, delivering an angry kick to a more substantial target—the earth.  “What the hell am I doing here...?  I’m about to participate in an attack against a hostile post against Garden’s orders because of that.... that psycho punk of a squad leader?”

            “A bit late for that.  Come on, let’s go,” Squall said to Zell, who stood staring despairingly at the ground.

            “There you are!”


*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


            As one, Squall and Zell looked at each other and around themselves.

            “What... what was that?  Who was that?” Zell sputtered, quickly assuming combat stance.

            “Up here!  Wait a second—don’t go!” came the voice again, from above. 

            Squall lifted his eyes and saw a girl standing precariously atop the protrusion of tall boulders behind them, her petite figure silhouetted against the orange sky.  She was a cadet.  For a moment he thought her wildly flailing arms were a gesture to call their attention.  He was corrected in his supposition when the girl, having lost her footing in her hasty descent, toppled over and crashed by the boys’ feet. 

            Again as one, Squall and Zell jumped back to avoid collision.  Then at the sight of the girl wincing in pain on the ground, they blinked at each other in an awkward mutual realization.  Neither had thought to catch the girl.

            The newcomer groaned and rubbed her knees, but it only took her a second to recover.  From the ground she flashed an embarrassed but cheery smile, and her tongue stuck out with a wink. 

            “Finally found you...” she muttered as she arose.  Back on her feet, the cadet moved to greet the Squad B members, and then stopped mid-salute.  Her eyes widened in recognition.  Squall too saw who the girl was.

            “Heeey... aren’t you that guy who showed me around today?” cried the transfer student.  Her face split in a giant grin.  “You are!  Hey, thanks again!  I don’t seem to get lost much anymore.  I even showed up on time for the field exam, see?”

            Zell made a queer face at Squall.  “You showed her around the campus?” he asked, his tone laced with doubt.  And suspicion.  Squall closed his eyes and let out a quick sigh.

            “Come to think of it, I never even told you my name earlier,” the newcomer went on.  “I’m Selphie, Selphie Tilmitt, from Squad A.  You’re Squall, and Zell, right?”

            Squall nodded.  “That’s right.  What’s this about?”

            “I have a message to deliver to your squad captain.  Where is he?”

            Squall looked to the way Seifer had just left.  Where did he so quickly disappear to... ah, there he goes.  He had already reached the bottom of the bluff and was running toward the tower’s entrance.  Squall pointed to the figure down below just as Seifer stopped to see his squad still up the cliff. 

            “What’re you doing still up there?  Get down here fast!” he yelled, disregarding enemies who might hear him.

            “Wait, Seifer—” Squall began, but with a dull swish of the automatic door the captain had already disappeared into the tower.

            Selphie sighed.  “Gosh, this sure is tougher than training courses.  Guess you guys got some kind of change of orders, huh?”

            “If only it were so...” Zell grumbled gloomily.

            “Squad captain, wait up!” Selphie shouted with matching disregard for enemies’ ears.  Then, to the astonishment of the male cadets, she proceeded to leap off the edge of the cliff.

            “Hey!  What are you...” 

            Before Zell had the time to finish his sentence, Selphie had landed on the ground below like a bird terminating a flight.  She waved to the boys above.

            “Come on, guys!  We gotta go after the captain together!  The message is for all of you!”

            Zell gawked in disbelief at the tiny figure below.  “Good Lord... what is she?”

            “Not impossible to do with support magic—though certainly inadvisable,” Squall observed.  He started running down the path Seifer had taken.  Zell followed behind.


*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


            Selphie was waiting for them at the entrance.  She watched their approach with a disapproving pout. 

            “Geez, people, we’re in hurry here!  Why didn’t you just jump after me?”

            Zell shot the girl an exasperated glare.  “Look, there are several ways for sane people to climb down a cliff, and diving ain’t one of them, okay?  Isn’t that right, Squall?”

            Squall coolly regarded both his quick-tempered companions, resisting the temptation to dwell on his luck for the day.  “...I don’t know, Zell.  Perhaps anyone but a chicken-wuss can manage it.”

            “What... what did you sayyyyy?” Zell screeched, stung.

            Selphie smirked knowingly at Zell.  “...Hmm?  Since you’re so offended, I guess you’re the Chicken-wuss?  Kinda makes sense, now that I take a good look at you.”

            “What the...  Why is everyone...?  I am not a CHICKEN!” 

            The climbing pitch of Zell’s dismayed protest was downright squeaky.  Selphie half-mockingly covered her ears, cringing. 

            “Hey, keep the decibel down when you are talking right next to other people, will you?  Sheesh, you sound just like a certain house fowl when you squawk like that...”

            “Watch where you tread, girl.”  His voice was low and dangerous.

            “All right, all right, if the stupid name bothers you so...  So then, if you think chicken is too dingy a nickname, how about something like Chocobo-man?  Or Choco-dude, maybe?  Now, a chicken certainly better fits your... image, but a chocobo is definitely way more stately a bird than...”


            The pitch had shot back up.  Squall figured this was enough.  “Don’t take it so personally, Zell,” he said, sorry to have catalyzed the whole exchange.  How many times have I said something like this to this guy in two hours?

            “Guys, we really do need to get to your captain,” Selphie said, though her eyes were laughing merrily.  “Come on!” 

            She moved toward the automatic door, eyes still on her companions.  When the door slid open she did not see the two Galbadian soldiers who rushed out of the tower.

            “Watch out!” Zell cried. 

            Startled, Selphie swiveled to find herself nearly face to face with the oncoming enemies.

            “Oh, shit!” one of the Galbadians cried.  Scarcely a blink of an eye later Squall’s fire spell exploded with a piercing boom at extreme proximity, enclosing the doorway in smoke.

            When the smoke dispersed somewhat, Selphie emerged coughing into her hands. 

            “Oh, heck! <cough>  For a second there I thought you were gonna blow me away with them!”

            “Sorry,” said Squall.  “They were right behind you.  I had to act fast.”

            “No need to apologize... and thanks for the cover.  You know something, though?”  Selphie studied the unconscious Galbadians.  “I don’t think these two were about attack us.”

            Zell expressed his agreement.  “Yeah, they were surprised to see us.”

            Squall stepped into the dimly lit interior of the tower and swept it with his gaze.  “It’s Seifer.  They were running from him,” he said.

            Selphie followed him into the tower with Zell.  “How do you know that...  Oh, shoot, this isn’t good,” she muttered upon witnessing what Squall had seen.  A number of Galbadians were prostrate on the floor, all of them motionless.  “What...  Isn’t this an enemy station?  The Galbadians occupied the place?”

            “Afraid so,” Zell replied. 

            Incredulity was written across Selphie’s questioning countenance.  “I’m sorry, but what were you guys about to do—carry out an assault on this place, just the three of you?”

            “Hey, don’t look at us,” said Zell defensively.  “It was that crazy Seifer’s idea!  He is the squad captain, you know.”

            “Oh, man, this is so not good,” Selphie groaned.  She took a quick look at her wristwatch.  “God only knows how many more enemies are lurking in this huge building.  Listen, we need to hurry and find the captain fast.  We don’t have much time.”

            “What do you mean?” asked Squall.  But he thought he could guess the reason.

            “No time to explain.  Let’s move it!” 

            Selphie ran ahead. 

            “Damn, am I getting sick of bossy people.  First Seifer, and now little Miss Shorty...” said Zell.  He ran after the girl with Squall.

            A collosal cylindrical column rose from the center of the circular floor all the way to the dark, nearly invisible ceiling, spanning the tower’s height like a backbone.  Twin circuits for open elevator lifts traversed the length of the column.  Only one of the lifts, a crude horizontal slab of steel without so much as safety rails, was at the ground level. 

            Selphie took a quick look around the lift.  “I don’t see any other way up the tower... I guess he took the other lift up.  We’ll follow him.”

            The cadets stepped onto the remaining lift. 

            “You know how to operate this thing?” Zell asked the girl, who stooped over the control board.

            “You mean do I know how to push this button here that says ‘UP’?  I dare say that I do.”

In another moment the lift began its ascension with a low electric buzz. 

            “This lift is so cool... it’s got no walls,” Selphie chuckled in glee, gazing down at the rapidly diminishing floor beneath.

            Zell clucked his tongue.  “Hey, don’t be careless and go falling off.  No more jump stunts for the day, please.”

            “Uh, excuse me, Mr. Chicken-wuss, sir—but I’m trying to go up this time, not down.”

            “For the second time—watch it.”

            “Both of you, shut up and look out for Galbadians,” Squall snapped at last.  To his surprise, they complied.

Chapter 14

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic