It was evening when Trianon was released from her duties of watching over Selphie. The tall woman slipped back to her special quarters and breezed through her doors with a sigh. Being a guard was a terribly boring duty, especially when she didn’t believe she was really needed. Selphie was no longer the target. Who needed the creator of the Aries when it was completed and ready for the taking itself?
Trianon shrugged softly to herself and looked around the dark quarters. The main colour she had chosen for her little apartment was navy blue. Navy blue and silver, lots of black and little else. With no lights on the place was inky, and every detail seemed merged together, but Trianon had no troubles weaving around furniture to find her bed. The lithe figure dressed herself in a pale shift that fell mid thigh and was as translucent as one of Irvine’s pick up lines. Letting her hair down in a thick shower of curls, the woman crawled into her bed and lay down, letting her glassy eyes watch the ceiling until they closed.
She awoke into the haze of what could only be a dream world. Voluminous trees of spongy magenta leaves stood in clumps with twisted trunks sprouting out of a blue-green grass that swayed ever so gently. Trianon walked passively through it, reaching up into the tall trees and pulling herself into the branches to look around. A pale-faced woman watched her from a higher branch and then gracefully climbed down, ropes of red hair falling around her spidery, thin body. Her skin was bleached, her eyes pools of black and nothing else, yet a charming and shy smile lit her face.
Trianon nodded, watching her quietly, holding on to the tree and pulling herself up enough that she could sit comfortably.
“You chose me, Trianon,”
“I thought you were right for the job.”
“I want to be with you Trianon.”
“It is not possible.”
“You can make it possible, you do what no other has done!”
“It is not possible, I junction with no one,” Trianon replied in a musical voice, though emotionless as it was.
The woman looked sad and she climbed forward, hanging upside down in front of Trianon, red braids swinging down and coiling amongst the wood and leaves. She leaned forward and planted her lips against Trianon’s while the cerulean haired woman stayed still, her eyes unjudging.
“Was I right for the job? They sealed me away.”
“I picked wrongly.” Trianon said quickly, for once showing some care, “I am to be blamed, and I will…remedy the problem.”
“Thank you my sister,” The woman smiled again and nuzzled Trianon’s cheek like a faithful pet.
“Sleep Psyche,” Trianon whispered, letting herself fall from the tree.
Trianon awoke in the middle of the night. She blinked a few times and then stared out her window for a moment before yawning. As her head hit the pillow once more she heard a crinkle. Frowning she reached up and plucked a crimson-magenta leaf from her hair. Slender fingers twirled it in the graceful moonlight before setting it aside. This was not the first time Psyche, or any other Guardian Force, had come to her at night.
Dawn filtered in through the curtains gently, landing on Trianon’s pillow and crossing her face with a trail of hazy gold. Her eyes opened, appearing a strange pale amber with the sunlight reflecting off them, and she sat up to begin untangling her hair. Time to go meet Selphie.
The cafeteria line-up wasn’t huge at this hour so Trianon grabbed breakfast for both her and Selphie and then trekked down to the mechanics room. Selphie always forgot breakfast when she was thinking about her machines, she had both told this to Trianon and accidentally demonstrated the fact yesterday, much to the older woman’s secret amusement.
The mechanics room was empty save for the girl and her lone guard. Trianon relieved the man of duty and sat down looking pensive. Selphie, meanwhile, had accepted the breakfast gratefully, and went back to tinkering while singing out of earphones.
“It’s harder t’ breathe, when you’re rais-ing the stakes!”
Trianon decided that Selphie could not hear her.
“Cause Heaven aint close to a place like this!”
Trianon sighed softly and went back to her thinking. She had promised the Guardian Force Psyche a place as a junctioned GF but who would take her after an incident like the one with Seifer? It was no secret about what had happened that day, especially with the effects it had on Quistis. Every junior had had the horror of seeing the most composed SeeD and Instructor break down and even be put off duty due to the after shocks of the mysterious guardian force that many didn’t even know exist. Though, truth be told, Garden had several GFs that no one knew about.
As an instructor of the stealth and weapon techniques, Trianon wasn’t really supposed to know about the magical field in Balamb, but through connections with staff and just general courtesy that the other instructors had, most of the secrets had been told to Trianon simply so that she wouldn’t make a mistake later in her career.
Balamb had a lot of secrets that it had to keep from the students, for their safety, and because some of them involved test material. Psyche, for instance, was an illegal guardian force, untrained and used “raw” for the greatest of effects. Trianon didn’t mind it, she knew that when used properly, no guardian force would put their master or allies at risk. The instructions given to Psyche must have been flawed, perhaps the user hadn’t known of Psyche’s powers. It was no reason to keep a guardian force locked in their relic form.
A moving shadow snapped the woman’s attention back into place but it was merely the result of Selphie’s fluttering hand as she added some dance moves to her singing debut. The brunette had been more cheerful than usual for the past few days which had the cerulean haired woman wondering, but Trianon wasn’t stupid, and she knew it had to do with Squall’s constant presence around the young girl.
Trianon wasn’t sure where she fit in with the elite SeeDs. Constantly the cerulean haired woman was paired with them but she lacked the history the teens had and thus she felt odd, out of place, even with the cowboy’s obvious desires to include her. A smile crossed her lips when she thought of Irvine Kinneas. He was an interesting individual, and one she felt she could trust.
An explosion of sparks brought Trianon’s attention back again to Selphie who laughed a little and looked sheepish.
“Sorry about that,” She grinned, emerald eyes dancing.
“Not a problem. Do you require lunch?” Trianon asked curiously,
“Hey, that’d be great! I think the café has watermelon today! Thanks Trianon!”
Selphie beamed up at her, a streak of oil down her cheek and smudges of grime on her arms. Trianon smiled softly and headed out, telling the outside guard to be especially wary.
As soon as Trianon left, Squall came in. He looked a little tired and instead of saying anything he simply sat down beside Selphie and watched her work. The girl recognized this as a “quiet time” moment and kept tinkering away, flashing him a smile to show that she had seen him come in.
Squall rested his gunblade across his legs, the hilt and tip resting on either knee as he watched her. He had received 26 phone messages from Rinoa and after the eighth he had stopped listening. She was very whiny. Very annoying. Squall had decided he had been very desperate when she had first found him. Or stupid. He was still debating.
Grey-blue eyes watched Selphie as she concentrated on the hunk of metal in front of her. She was screwing on plates of metal to protect it now, and inserting wires and taking others out. Her little tool flashed in the fluorescent lighting and reflected in her eyes.
A sudden surge of affection washed over Squall as he watched the tiny girl playing away with a silly grin on her face. He placed his gunblade off to the side and crawled over, wrapping his arms around her tiny waist and placing a kiss on the corner of her mouth. Selphie’s eyes slid closed, and she leaned back into him, surprised but delighted by the sudden tenderness. Her multi-tool dropped from her fingers and she ran her hands through his hair, her back against his chest and his arms running down her sides.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” he whispered huskily, “I was going crazy when you were missing.”
Selphie smiled, tears in her eyes at the memories, “I knew I’d be saved though, I knew you’d keep looking for me, when you rescued me…I was so happy, Squall.”
He held her tighter and buried his face in her hair, the scent of watermelon shampoo lingering there. The fragrance made him smile, and hold her as close as he could. This little body, this cute girl, she was his.
Behind them the door opened silently and Trianon slid in with a tray. Her expression had sobered since and, kneeling on the ground, she set the tray on the floor and backed out of the room without disturbing either SeeD.
Leaning against the door on the opposite side of the guard she closed her eyes. After the Aries was done she could complete her semester of teaching. After that…her plans ended. Would she transfer to a new Garden? Switch occupations entirely and travel the world some more? Perhaps take up an apprentice for weapon crafting. It was too much to think about at the present moment.
Trianon shifted slightly and felt a cool breeze on her cheek. Her eyes snapped open and her dagger fell into her hand immediately. The guard was fanning himself with his hand. Trianon relaxed. The guard, meanwhile, had frozen with uncertainty at the cat-like movements of the woman next to him.
Half an hour later Squall came out, a flushed face and tangled hair. Trianon watched him sedately and then sauntered back inside to see a cheerful Selphie popping on more casing and then rigging chains up to the engine.
One of the thick chains she was using refused to clamp on though, and no matter how Selphie pulled and pushed it into place it always clattered to the floor. Biting her lip and wondering how she’d move the engine into place, the brunette balanced a hand against the hull of the Aries and glared at her engine.
“Stop being stubborn,” she told it sternly.
Trianon watched her yank the chain back up and then scowl as another fell off in result. A smile tugged on the corners of her lips as she watched the little woman dance in frustration. The blue-haired instructor walked over and held the chains still while Selphie moved them into place, and then they tied the chains in place with normal wires that had been left on the floor.
“I’ll go use the crane to hoist the engine up, can you help steer it into place?” Selphie asked breathlessly when they finished,
“Yes.” Trianon nodded and stood up as well, hooking a lock of hair behind her ear.
Selphie scampered up into the portable crane and grabbed the two levers in front of her. Lights clicked on sending beams down on Trianon and then the purring sound of a well-maintained machine began to fill the chambers. Selphie sent a massive hook reeling towards Trianon and then, surprisingly, made a very graceful pick up. The engine creaked into the air slowly and lurched towards the Aries, making both Trianon and Selphie wince. Swinging past without scraping the Aries at all, the engine swung in the air until Trianon grabbed it roughly and steadied the large hunk of metal.
With the brunette’s instructions, Trianon ended up climbing inside the ‘guts’ of the Aries and twisting her body into a weird feat of contortion to push the engine to where it would rest permanently. Selphie climbed out of the crane and then switched places with Trianon, wedging her body inside and beginning to connect the engine to the Aries itself.
By the time they were done, both were sweaty, sore, and tired. Trianon stretched out wearily on the floor, now as dirty as Selphie and not caring for whatever scraps became tangled in her hair. Selphie swayed over to the cockpit and then flicked her fingers over the controls. With a soft shudder the main control panels in the Aries lit up. Selphie flicked the engine on and smiled in relief when all systems showed up bright green.
Test flights could be done another day. The brunette was exhausted, and so was her guardian. The two women trailed out of the mechanics room and, after a brief discussion, decided to head for the pool.
Selphie tilted her head back and sighed. Hot water lapped at her sore muscles and soothed away all the fatigue from her cells. Across from her, Trianon also relaxed, her long hair had been braided and piled atop her head, but two strips on either side of her face had been kept down and now floated in blue coils around her body. Selphie smiled, wondering how long it had taken the woman to get her hair that long. It had to be heavy at that length.
Selphie’s eyes widened as Zell grinned at her, camera in hand. Dazzled by the flash, Selphie blinked for a moment and then stared at the beaming blonde.
“What was that for?”
“Irvine told me to keep an eye out on you and make sure you were happy. He also said to take advantage that this is the last week for the pool to be open, he was sad he was missing all the pretty girls,” a wicked grin crossed Zell’s face.
Trianon raised her eyebrows and said nothing. She looked down at her swimsuit, it was black, but not made of any spandex material. Instead the suit was of supple scales, made from the stretchy hide of a young dragon. Waterproof, and a thin coat of armour, as if she’d have anything less, the suit was glittering gently and an odd contrast to Selphie’s two-piece bright yellow shorts-and-tank bathing suit…featuring a clear-plastic ducky with yellow sparkles contained inside in the middle of it. Neither of them were wearing anything anyone would consider sexy.
“What a playboy!” Selphie shrieked, reaching out and splashing Zell.
The blonde yelped as hot water sprinkled over his clothes and legs. Selphie grinned and then stood up, latching on to a leg and trying to drag him in. Zell slid the camera to safety across the floor and began to claw at the tiles, desperate to avoid getting wet. Giggling as she tugged her friend closer and closer to the water, Selphie gave Trianon a pleading look for help.
Caught by surprise by the invitation, Trianon reached over and took a hold of Zell’s other leg. The blonde was able to manage one last scream before he was thrown into the hot tub. Selphie burst out laughing and nearly began to cry as Zell came up, hair limp and clothes floating around them as the bagginess was picked up by the water. He spluttered, eyes wide, and then swore a blue streak that brought a chuckle from Trianon.
“Why are you punishing me!? I’m just carrying out orders!” The blonde cried out in protest.
“Taking scandalous pictures of us! How dare you!” Selphie shouted in mock-anger.
“Punishment? Dunking!” Trianon announced, joining in with the playful banter.
Zell was allowed a small breath before he was mercilessly pushed under the surface.
“Oooeee!” Irvine grinned roguishly as a maid showed him to his room. He sauntered in and threw his bag down on the massive bed and sighed—Esthar was the golden city of the best hotels ever.
The maid, flushed red from the cowboy’s teasing, hurried out, making Irvine smirk. Teasing Laguna’s helpers was always a source of amusement to the man, he couldn’t help it, Laguna had thought that helping the youth get jobs would be good for the city. He was dressing up teens in those skimpy maid dresses…come to think of it, Irvine thought that was a pretty smart move.
“Laguna, you dog,” He grinned softly.
In the next room over Quistis Trepe finished organizing her bathroom accessories. Shampoo. Conditioner. Oil. Hair spray. Gel. Combs 1, 2, 3. Brush number 5. Strawberry perfume. Blush. Eyeliner. Eye shadow. Lip gloss. The list went on.
After every bottle and container was accounted for Trepe looked at her watch and realized she had half an hour before the final briefing with Laguna. Hurriedly she changed into her SeeD uniform and fixed her hair.
An hour later she sat with her fellow SeeDs and fiddled with papers until she had her case on display. Laguna approved of the areas they wished to search, and he would have his guards surround the area first, discretely. By this time there wasn’t too much to see at the original scene where Morgan’s apartment used to be, but it never hurt to double check. They wanted to keep a low profile and not involve the Qun'Sho at all, if possible. The political environment in the Qun'Sho region was still delicate from the ballroom disaster, and false leads would only stir up anger and discontent.
“We need to find out if Morgan was working alone or if he was just a pawn, is there more to this or was it one-shot,” Quistis announced, her eyes skimming over the various Head of Departments for their approval, “Garden, as it is, is in repair, we need to know if there’s still reason to be cautious. We have a lot of mysteries. There are weapons out there that are not approved by the EGWM,”
“There will always be some weapon unapproved by the Estharian Government Weapon’s Manufacturers,” one man started sternly.
“But, these involve poisons that disrupt the victims mind, it also has the look of mass production. These weapons can’t be seen via scanner. They’re invisible, organic in make, it’s unique but with the right dosage or chemical changes we could be in for some trouble,” Quistis interjected.
The man closed his mouth and nodded, giving in under the SeeD’s harsh stare. Quistis placed her palms flat on the table and outlined her plan of investigation. The men, surprised at her hawk-like gaze and steely tongue, agreed mostly out of shock for the competence of the woman. Laguna smiled knowingly.
The meeting lasted three hours to pick out details and finalize some plans for the future, searches that would involve other parts of the city where they could only predict action might be taken. By the end all of them were exhausted. Seifer felt his eyes uncross when Laguna announced that they had used up all their time, as the President left with a small wave the four SeeDs trailed out wearily.
“That was…awful,” Michelle groaned, “We’re going to have to do that tomorrow too.”
“Every day,” Quistis nodded.
“I’m hitting the shower, I’ll join ya all in the common room,” Irvine tipped his hat at them and sauntered off.
“See you later,” Quistis called, “What are you up to?”
“Sleeping,” Michelle announced.
“Nothing,” Seifer yawned.
“I’m planning on going on a tour of Esthar, would you like to join me Seifer?” Quistis asked.
“Yeah,” He replied gruffly, a faint pink tinge falling across his cheeks as Michelle’s eyes widened and a grin split her face.
Michelle skipped off with a big grin while Quistis and Seifer rolled their eyes and then ducked out of the Presidential Palace. The streets held a scattering of people but they were easy enough to weave through. As they entered a more quiet area Seifer, without looking at Quistis, took her hand in his own. The blonde woman blinked and then smiled softly, looking at the ground.
They walked silently, enjoying each other’s company, and seeing the sights of Esthar of which Quistis would never tire of. Endless blue skies stretched on until they met with the sea, the sparse clouds reflected in Quistis’ eyes when she looked up. Seifer’s hand over her own was warm, rough from handling the gunblade, but comforting. It had been a long time since she was able to take pleasure in rarities such as affection.
The day was a typical Autumn day, a faint breeze that picked up randomly made Quistis’ hair thrash against its confines and had Seifer’s jacket swishing behind him like a tormented soul. They took shelter in a side street until one such gust disappeared before setting out into a torrent of leaves. Quistis shrieked in surprise as they whipped past her, and as her barrettes were torn from her hair letting the leaves get tangled in the blonde strands. Seifer turned and looked back at her, watching her try and keep her hair in control and failing. He smiled in amusement and walked over, pulling her against his chest and wrapping his jacket around her body, shielding her and plucking the leaves out of her hair. Quistis buried her face in his chest, seeking his warmth and inhaling his spicy cologne. She could feel his arms wrap around her lower back and her eyes slid closed. This must be bliss.
They stayed in that moment for a short eternity, before people became to clutter on the streets to talk to friends. Seifer parted from Quistis, wishing he didn’t have to. She was giving herself to him, letting him touch her, but it wasn’t time for that yet, not now, they were here to work. She seemed to regret it just as much and they shared rueful smiles before locking hands and touring back to the Presidential Palace.
In the common room Michelle was twirling one of her long pigtails in boredom, a polished brace of knives on her lap and an empty glass beside her on a table. Another over stuffed chair had yielded to Irvine, who was sitting sideways with a leg draped over the arm. He grinned and mock-shot the two blondes as they stepped inside.
“Ready to go?” Quistis asked.
“Am I ever, dahlin’” Irvine swung his leg over and stood up, ignoring Seifer’s bristle at the comment.
The four were driven into Qun'Sho territory. The car they used was simple and did not stand out as they cruised into the residential neighbourhood that used to contain Morgan's apartment. Once there, they crawled under the fluttering yellow tape, advancing in on the shards of the room. Quistis let her eyes pass over the scene once, just to get a sense of the area, and then she did a more thorough search, noting details she had skimmed over before.
“Glass is on the inside and outside, they threw something in and then the men jumped out,” She announced, investigating the window.
“Normal gunfire used, machine guns, everything typical, they didn’t use the poison,” Irvine added, as he looked at fragmented clasps that would have held guns.
He dropped the one he was holding and rubbed his fingers together, disliking the sooty residue. Standing up slowly he looked around and shook his head.
“They really blew this place to bits,” He murmured sadly.
“Yes,” Quistis nodded, her tone lacking any care, “But they did leave evidence, they flew in, so someone get on the rooftops of the other apartments and compare the dust up there. Whatever apartment is cleaner is most likely the direction they took,”
“Yeah, the ships would have blown the dust away,” Seifer nodded appreciatively, “I’ll go check the East side.”
“I’ll take North,” Michelle added, racing off.
Quistis and Irvine poked around some more, finding nothing of real interest. Quistis sighed in soft frustration, she wanted Morgan behind bars for what he did to Selphie, and she wanted to guarantee the safety of Garden. Turning around she stumbled on a piece of rubble and nearly went down completely if it weren’t for Irvine lunging to half-catch her. Pain jarred her body as her knee slammed on to the gravel ground, making her eyes flare and an intake of air catch in her throat.
“Are you all right?” Irvine gasped, crouching beside her worriedly,
“Y-Yeah,” Trepe’s fingers curled against the ground as she pushed herself up and shook her head to clear the daze.
She brushed her hair back and noticed something wound around her fingers. It was a long strand of raven hair. Quistis stared at it, the throbbing pain in her knee disappearing.
“It’s his hair,” She stated in shock, looking at Irvine, “We’ve got him now. Sir!”
Quistis whirled and ran to the Head of the Guard and beamed at him, “DNA this sample please!”
The man stared at her. Quistis’ hair was falling around her shoulders in a mess, her hands were covered in ash, and blood was soaking through her pants. He numbly took the strand of hair and locked in a clear plastic bag and then steered her to a man dressed in white to get her leg bandaged. Too excited to sit still, the blonde leapt to her feet as soon as Seifer ran back breathlessly. The man who had been wrapping her knee stared at her in exasperation and shook his head as Seifer forced her to sit, ignoring her prattle until he was sure she was okay.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, now listen!” Quistis cried, “We found a strand of his hair! We can get a record on him, we can put up real wanted signs and tour the Internet for any information, this is a tremendous lead!”
“I’m happy,” Seifer said, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Quistis sighed, “Stop worrying, what did you find?”
“They went that way,” Seifer pointed out across the expanse of Esthar, making the shine die from Quistis’ eyes.
“He could be anywhere,” She said bleakly.
“Not anywhere, the ship needs to land somewhere, and we can search all the areas big enough to fit airships.”
“Airships can be tiny,” Quistis argued.
“Not ones with that laser power, we can get Selphie to help us. She’ll know how powerful a ship needs to be in order to use the ammunition seen here, and then we can ask her the minimum size a ship would have to be. Trust Seffie,” Irvine smiled lightly.
Quistis nodded, and rewarded them with a brilliant smile.
Selphie yawned. The Aries, completed, stood behind her silently as a black hulking mass. She had come back to run a few more tests and decided that the engine had been secured properly and all systems were a go. Gathering up her tools, and the special letter from Galbadia, which had been a dark weight in her mind, she left the Mechanics room for a quiet evening in her dorm. Well. An evening of loud music, singing, and maybe planning a party or something.
Her latest mission was now to get Trianon interested in Irvine. Selphie realized she didn’t know how old the tall lady was, it was hard to tell. The Instructor acted as if she was quite mature, yet she looked young. Her face seemed ageless, smooth and serene, but her eyes spoke of something else. What an enigma. The woman had given Selphie an insight though, at the pool she had been more carefree than Selphie had ever seen her. It was a small beacon of hope, because Selphie, and Selphie alone, knew how lonely Irvine truly was.
“Ack!” Selphie smacked into a hard surface and dropped her tools.
The clatter was resounding and she winced as the metallic crash bounced off the walls and reverberated up her arm. She opened an eye warily and saw Squall looking pained and close to laughing.
“Sorry,” She squeaked, kneeling to scoop up her various accessories.
He knelt to help her, his head shaken by the loudness in an otherwise silent hall, and saw a piece of folded paper. Curiously he picked it up and when it fell open his eyes widened. Then narrowed. Obliviously Selphie was organizing tools in her box but she looked up when she realized Squall had stopped moving. His face was white.
“Oh no…” Selphie whispered, horror in her eyes when she saw the paper slip from his fingers.
“Well Mr. Morgan, we have a nice task for you,” the oily voice of Boss rang out in front of Morgan’s cell, “I have good news, the Aries is completed, and guess who is going to try and retrieve it?”
“Me,” the reply was a hushed whisper.
“Yes, you, now, you may be wondering why we want the Aries. It’s not just to spite you, well, partially,” The man laughed, a thick brassy sound, “You were right in choosing the Aries for its special qualities, a stealth ship like this is new technology. See, this establishment is a prison, it’s not that glamorous but it is the best hiding spot. But I thought, why not expand? This is one sector of one city. The black-market options here are limited. I think big, Mr. Morgan, as do you, I think, why not unite the world? Why not set up bases…everywhere? Why not make an underground source of power to directly influence every single person with our secret power. I’m thinking of an organization, kept low, but it will be everywhere. I don’t want world domination, but I do want domination itself. Now, the Aries comes in as a ship I can reproduce. With an army of stealth ships I can get all the peons I need from every black-hearted prison on this planet. These men want some freedom, they want some power, some dignity, and I’m going to give it to them.”
Morgan could see the gleam of pearly teeth in the darkness. He shuddered, suddenly feeling very small. His cell was nearly duplicate to the one he had slammed the princess-girl in, and he could feel her laughing at him, laughing at his karma attack.
“Now then, Mr. Morgan. It seems those little SeeDs are on to you. This would be a good time for you to leave Esthar while they are still here, no? We will move out tonight, and you will get the Aries. It’s simple, you can break in anyway you wish, their security systems haven’t been reinstalled where you damaged their little home. We can take out any guards, and you can find and pilot the Aries. If you crash it, think of your little sister, because we can make her life quite enjoyable.”
Morgan twitched. His sister. He hadn’t seen her in years since she was a decade younger than him, he didn’t even know where she was. The little girl with jet-black hair and bright green eyes, running around, scampering up his back and wrapping her arms around his neck, giggling into his hair…
“Not Carrie,” He whispered in horror, “I’ll fly the Aries.”
“Good, Mr. Morgan.”
Quistis gleamed. She held in her hand a plastic-coated folder with Morgan’s life story. She had already flipped through it, noting his family, and most specifically his father’s death. Their involvement with weapon production was startling but it made perfect sense. Dropping the folder on to the table Quistis smiled brilliantly.
“There’s no address or anything, but we know the people that he’d be involved with, and the direction he was taken in. He has one living relative, that we can also drill.”
“An’ who’s that?” Irvine asked curiously,
“A young girl, only twelve years old, named Carrie,” Quistis replied, “we can lock down her whereabouts via the internet I’m sure. There’s got to be some record of her somewhere. It doesn’t list any public schools under her name, so perhaps she’s in a private one,”
“What’s her name again?” Seifer asked.
They were in a conference room with a laptop glowing in their faces and copies of Morgan’s file spread around so Irvine and Michelle could look them over for anything Trepe had missed.
“Carrie,” Quistis replied, sliding in front of the laptop and entering the Balamb Garden Instructor’s special page.
Quistis smiled when her password was cleared and the depths of Garden were opened to her. Behind her Irvine gasped in surprise at all the options the woman had…including a special search engine made for locating people.
She entered in Carrie’s full name and waited patiently for the information to load. Birth dates and previous homes came up immediately, followed by pages dedicated to acting and sports that the girl had been involved in. Quistis was faintly surprised, Carrie was a typical girl performing in typical child activities…including…
“She’s a cadet. At Balamb.” Quistis whispered in shock, “She’s in Trianon’s youngest class!”
“What?!” Irvine and Michelle leaned over Quistis’ shoulder and Seifer stared at her as if she were nuts.
“She was enrolled two years ago by an anonymous donor who is still paying for her schooling. She’s in four classes this semester, all typical…fieldwork, diplomacy, history, and stealth tactics, she’s smart too.” Quistis was in awe, “I don’t think Morgan knows she’s in there.”
“If he did he would never have attacked Balamb,” Seifer agreed, “But maybe he does know, maybe she’s helping him.”
“True, that could be it,” Michelle nodded, her eyes wide, “We need to talk to her right away! She could be leaking information!”
“What information could a twelve-year old have?” Irvine asked dubiously.
“We’re going to find out. We’ll head our investigation tomorrow, earlier than we planned, and depending on what we find we’ll head straight to Balamb. In the meantime, I’ll contact Trianon and have her keep an eye on Carrie,” Quistis decided.
“This is such a maze,” Seifer groaned,
“Welcome to being a SeeD.” Quistis returned gravely.
Trianon blinked as, across the room from her, a small chime sounded.
“I have mail,” She said in unison with the computerized voice.
Slipping over she slid into her desk seat and stared intently into the screen. A message from instructor Trepe and it read urgent. Opening it and scanning the letter briefly, Trianon opened the many attachments and raised her eyebrows. The life story of one of her students. Little Carrie. Involved in the destruction of Balamb?
“I doubt that.”
Trianon stood and changed back into her uniform. She didn’t like the starchy material and dark green wasn’t really her colour but nevertheless she got into it and then strode out with a mission in her eyes. It was the afternoon and kids would be heading to their third class, Trianon already had Carrie that morning but she knew where to find the girl. Cadets had a block of training in this hour.
“Good afternoon Instructor Elvelyn,” Trianon turned to see who was addressing her.
“Good afternoon Tristan,” She replied softly,
“Heading to the Training Centre?”
“Didn’t you do training earlier this morning before classes?”
“I am looking for Cadet Carrie.”
“Good luck then, I’ll see you later, we have a meeting at sixteen hundred thirty hours.”
“Thank you for reminding me.”
Trianon bid him goodbye and kept walking. The meeting, she had indeed forgotten, had been scheduled out of the blue and so far not many knew what it was about. She had an inkling it would have something to do with the Aries, since the ship was now completed.
The training centre was balmy and marked with clusters of students fighting, exercising or taking breaks together. Trianon swept through them with her eyes tracing patterns over the many heads, looking for Carrie and finding her near the back where Selphie’s summoning of Ifrit had cleared the land to a black plain. Covered in ash up to her knees she was using a silver-bladed axe to hack away at her enemy.
Waiting patiently until the girl finished, her chest heaving and eyes alight, Trianon stepped up and smiled thinly.
“Carrie, may I talk to you in my office for a moment?”
Carrie paled, suspecting the worst, especially since they had just had a test, but she wordlessly followed Trianon and put on a brave face. The tall woman lead the girl into her classroom and pushed some papers aside, motioning for Carrie to sit down.
“Carrie, you have an older brother.”
Carrie looked confused, “Yeah, Morgan…is he in trouble?”
Trianon noted the pain in her eyes and silently shook her head. Carrie’s eyes filled with tears which confirmed Trianon’s earlier hypothesis that Carrie had nothing to do with it.
“I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Carrie whispered forlornly.
“He was in charge for the recent attack on Garden. You are now a suspect,” Trianon responded bluntly.
Carrie shrieked in surprise and stood up, then she dropped down immediately and apologized. Nodding once, Trianon looked at her papers and back to the girl who had begun to cry. Frowning sadly, Trianon stood up and stroked the girl’s back.
“I don’t believe you have anything to do with it,” She told the girl, which seemed to help, “I think I have a way of proving your innocence as well. There is a manipulative Guardian Force that can peer into your mind and reveal memories. I suggest we use this GF on you, to find a memory that proves your innocence, and have the prosecutors witness it. I need your consent,” Trianon said evenly,.
“Will it hurt?” Carrie asked, “This is what they did to Seifer…”
“I will direct the Guardian Force as best I can, do not worry,” Trianon dropped down to eye-level with the girl, “I am a superior magic-wielder to most of those here at Garden. I will not let you be harmed Carrie.”
The girl nodded, her green eyes troubled and red-rimmed. Trianon cleared her for the rest of the day and lead her back to her dorm where she made Carrie a cup of tea and settled her nerves somewhat. When the girl had fallen asleep, Trianon left for her own dorm and closed her eyes.
Psyche, can you hear me?
Trianon felt a shock run up her spine and in seconds she had hit the floor with a dull thud.
Looking around with small skepticism, Quistis, Seifer, Irvine and Michelle walked through the crowded streets of Esthar, looking for suspicious buildings and large plains big enough for a ship. They were nearing a part of town that was fairly low-key, small houses and in the background…a hulking prison shaped like an outline of a square and sporting a massive field in the middle.
“A prison,” Irvine raised his eyebrows, “That’s the nearest open area?”
“There’s no way,” Michelle shook her head, “that a prison would allow its inmates to do something like destroy an apartment building with airships.”
“What’s behind the prison?” Quistis turned to look at three of Laguna’s personal guards.
“The border,” one shrugged, “And that has patrols governing who gets out and in, they didn’t pass otherwise we’d know about it.”
‘This is what the Aries would be able to sneak through,’ Quistis thought to herself, aloud she replied, ‘Then they must have turned around midair. This gets us nowhere. Let’s return to Balamb and follow our route with Carrie. Maybe we can even use her to lure out Morgan…safely of course.”
“That’ll be fun,” Seifer muttered sarcastically, earning him an age-old glare from Trepe.
He shrugged and she shook her head, feeling serious and tired. They headed back to the Presidential Palace where Quistis decided a strawberry bubble bath in one of the pool-sized bathtubs would be just the right cure for her frustration. Michelle bounded off to her room to call Kerei and bring the good news of their imminent return.
Seifer and Irvine nodded to each other and headed out to the balcony that stretched between their rooms. It had become a tradition between them to enjoy the quiet time. Leaning out over the railing Irvine gave Seifer an appraising look.
“How long have you been into Quistis?”
Seifer’s eyebrows rose and he stared out over the darkening Esthar and squinted before answering, “Ever since I met her,”
Irvine nodded, a smile on his face, “She has that affect, doesn’t she? You see her…and Bam! You’ve fallen. Then you realize how solid she is and that you never have a chance…”
As the cowboy trailed off he shook his head, “Well. We didn’t have a chance, you do. She sees something in you.”
“She sees something in everyone,” Seifer returned hoarsely, clearing his throat awkwardly and sighing, “She’s the strongest girl I’ve ever met, but she’s frail at the same time.”
“There’s a little girl inside her, Seifer, there are children in us all, kids who never had the chance to grow up, who became soldiers and learnt to kill before they were ever introduced to toys and games.”
“I guess so. Quistis won’t ever let her little girl out, will she?” He asked softly.
“I think she’s afraid to. We all depend on her, you realize,” Irvine smiled lazily and winked at the tall blonde, “But not anymore, she’s starting to lean on you a little. Catch her when she falls Seifer, it’ll mean the world t’ her.”
He tipped his head and swaggered off, leaving the ex-Knight wondering how the cowboy ever became so intuitive. Seifer watched Esthar turn to a murky blackness before he headed in and fell on to his bed. Would Quistis fall? She seemed so sure of herself.
Squall, in his office, was at a complete loss. He didn’t understand how this would happen. Had she not told him because she was going to accept? Perhaps she didn’t want to hurt him by leaving. He didn’t want her to leave. Knowing that Balamb’s rival, Galbadia, had offered her a better position was a stinging slap to the face for Squall.
A knock at his door made his head snap up and his eyes narrow. He looked at his files, spread around him in his attempt to get his mind of the small girl but he knew that knock all too well. The door opened before he had even called for her to come in, and Selphie peeked through the doors.
Squall’s sedate eyes seemed emotionless, frightening her a little as Selphie crept inside. She was biting her lip and her eyes were wide, shimmering with tears. Squall scribbled his signature on a piece of paper and thrust it to one side almost violently.
“S-Squall?” Selphie asked in a small voice.
Selphie swallowed. The man was back to his usual responses. The paper from Galbadia burned in her hand, crumpled from her tight grip and nearly about to be ripped in her anxiety.
“Th-the letter…I haven’t thought about my answer! I didn’t want to make everyone worry and…”
“I’m busy Selphie,” Squall’s voice was quiet, but the girl was relieved to hear that it was a gentle one,
“Squall, please, I really want to explain this!” Selphie ran forward and knelt at his desk, her hands clasped on the top.
Her eyes glossed over more, agonized that she would hurt him. Seeing her so miserable made his heart ache in return. Squall closed his eyes against her silent pleads and then stood up, walking around the oak desk and kneeling beside her.
“I don’t want to leave you, or the others, but I want a chance!” Selphie burst out, unable to stop the emotion carrying in her voice and making her tears fall.
Squall felt a shudder of pain as he caught her up in his arms and held her tightly. Wrapping his arms around the small quaking body he picked her up and began to walk down the hallway. She shivered, crying on to his shoulder softly, unaware that he was taking her to his dorm until she was inside and being laid on his bed.
Her eyes opened, curiosity, surprise, and a deeper emotion swirling in the emerald orbs. They met the storm in Squall’s eyes and softened, wanting him to accept her once more, to make sure she was going to be okay. He leaned over her, placing a very soft kiss on her lips, making her head tilt back and her body lean up for more.
“Selphie…” he whispered huskily, “No matter what…”
Another tear splashed over, this one happier than the last. Squall closed his eyes and kissed her again, feeling her tiny hands on his chest. She had stopped quaking and now lay still, enveloped by his emotions that flooded over her in a wave of heat. She felt like she was tumbling down into darkness…and watching starbursts explode overhead.
They would make this work.
Trianon felt dazed. Her head swam in a murky void and pain throbbed in her temples. Looking around she found herself in a grassy plain, and a spongy pink tree lurched out of the ground in front of her. Squinting against her headache to try and spot the guardian force, Trianon crawled forward and managed to stand up without too much difficulty.
Unsteadily, she walked over and placed her hands against the bark of the tree, digging in her fingernails and beginning to climb up. She was surprised to find herself in her black-scaled suit, her limbs sheathed in shadow and sliding effortlessly over the tree. Inside the puffy boughs the woman looked up through her eyelashes to see several GFs watching her with small smiles on their faces.
You do not come here enough.
“It takes a lot of energy to return here,” Trianon said softly, shaking her head dimly.
We miss you Trianon, you used to come so often.
“I’m sorry, Siren,” Trianon let her eyes fall in almost shame before she climbed up to sit beside the beautiful creature.
Have you come to help set me free?
“Psyche, I need you for an informal trial. There is a girl, accused of a crime I do not believe she committed. I would like you to show us the last time she saw her brother, can you do that?” Trianon asked as she saw Psyche slowly unraveling her body from the upper coughs and slinking down towards them.
Of course I can. For you Trianon. If you help me.
“I will find someone to junction you.” Trianon promised.
They must be strong.
“We have limited takers, Psyche. It may be temporary. I’ll try my best,” Trianon looked tired at the moment.The others weren’t strong enough…
“I realize that.”
She is strong enough.
There was a crackling sound as a hail of frost rained down on them. Trianon looked up as Shiva descended, the ice goddess looked serene, but sad, as she perched next to Psyche and looked at them all.
/Quistis is not strong enough. She wears herself down easily with this mission/
“She is strong enough to carry you!” Trianon frowned.
Shiva smiled softly, /I have been bonded with Quistis for a very long time. She no longer needs to support me/
Psyche’s eyes widened, You stay with her willingly? Why not break free?
/Where would I go? I do not look human!/ Shiva laughed.
They all shared a soft chuckle before Trianon yawned, “I cannot keep this up any longer, fare well, and thank you Psyche.”
Fare well my sister.Good luck Trianon Elvelyn
/Take care of my Quistis/
Trianon nodded and let her body drop out of the tree. Air blazed past her until she had the unique experience of feeling her body fall up through her floor, only to land hard upon its unyielding surface. Her eyes flared and she coughed softly, feeling her spine complain against the rough treatment.
“I hope I do not have to return there too quickly,” she groaned, rolling on to her side and crawling to her couch.
Lying in a tangle of her hair, Trianon decided that she would approach her pick for Psyche and ask the SeeD if a junction was possible. Then she would trigger the GF, record the scenario, and have proof to support her student. Though many didn’t realize it, Trianon’s pupils were her own little family and she grew quite protective of them.