Sitting on a couch in the lounge, Selphie tried to pay attention to the main speaker at the meeting. Squall was distracting her by staring at the wall beside her, lost in thought. She kept thinking he was looking at her, but instead she found he was staring right past her. It was creepy.
When the meeting was over Selphie wasn’t even aware it had ended. She snapped out of her daze when Nida tapped her on the shoulder and looked concerned in her direction.
“Selphie, we can go now,” He announced.
“Oh? Oh! Gosh, sorry Nida, I…yeah,” Selphie stood up quickly and ran a hand through her hair, “So, um, how did you do on the test?”
“I thought I had fixed my engine but whatever I did it only lasted temporarily because the instructor called me half an hour later saying it was broken again,” Nida sighed.
“Aw, that’s too bad. Did you replace the regenerator?” Selphie asked.
“Replaced? No, I just changed one of the components, the inner case on mine was busted up so I found a new one,” Nida looked sorrowfully at her, “Let me guess, they gave me two different models and I didn’t notice.”
“Yup, the engine we were given was a V8-9AF, and the extra pieces were all V8-2000, I made the same mistake too, but since I had kept my engine on the entire time it sparked and let me know I had made a mistake,” Selphie grinned and gave Nida a comforting pat, “No big deal, at least you had it running for a bit.”
“Yeah, I got half points,” Nida nodded, and sighed.
Selphie felt bad for the man, he usually did so well, if not better than her. They parted ways, and she returned to her dorm. As she walked down the empty hallway she noticed out of the corner of her eye a dark blur behind her. Puzzled, she turned only to receive a bullet to her ribs. Screaming, she fell back, landing on the ground hard, the world growing red around her.
On an adjacent hallway Nida turned and ran back to Selphie. Why had there been a gunshot? He found Selphie curled on her side with blood pouring out of her torso. Shocked, he cried out and lunged for her, grabbing her up into his arms and running down the hallways screaming for help.
“Nida? What’s wrong with…” Quistis came out of her dorm looking tired, and then suddenly wide-awake, “Selphie!”
“Get her to Kadowaki,” Nida ordered.
Quistis fumbled to hold on to Selphie, slippery with blood as she was. Once Quistis had the small form in her arms she began to complete the mission Nida had set out for. Behind her, Nida grabbed two guns from the holsters at either side of his hip. His eyes narrowed as he stalked down the hallways, looking and listening for the intruder.
He found nothing by the end. Growling softly he paged Xu and told her what happened. Yellow lights blinked down the hallways automatically as Balamb went on silent alarm. As Nida ran down the corridors of the dormitories he bumped into Irvine, the two SeeDs nearly shooting each other in their surprise.
“Find anything?” Irvine asked grimly, his sharpshooter held tightly.
“No,” Nida shook his head regretfully, frowning.
“I thought I saw a figure run out through the Quads, but I didn’t get a clear look, or a clear shot,” Irvine frowned and gritted his teeth, “Bastard. Why would anyone shoot Selphie?”
“Maybe she was in his way. Has anything been stolen? It happened so quickly I doubt anyone’s noticed anything amiss yet,” Nida whispered, looking around darkly.
“We’ll find out soon enough though. I don’t think the person’s here, let’s go see how Selphie is, Quistis found me and told me Selphie didn’t look so great.”
Worry etched Irvine’s voice and his eyes were dark with troubled emotions. Nida gave him a sympathetic look and they walked down the hallways, keeping their eyes alert and their trigger fingers ready.
“Did you see anything?” Kadowaki asked, staring intently into Selphie’s red-rimmed eyes.
“N-no,” Selphie swallowed and tried to stop trembling,” A dark blur, that’s all.”
“You’ll be okay Selphie,” Quistis soothed, rubbing her friend’s shoulders, “We got you here in good timing.”
Selphie nodded but her lip trembled and more tears fell down her cheeks leaving hot trails. Quistis felt her own eyes tearing up just at the sight. Rarely did Selphie look so miserable. The bullet had pierced two vital organs but Kadowaki had already injected the brunette with stem cells to get her on recovery’s road. She had been given a heavy sedative, but the girl’s natural hyperness countered it and it had only made her drowsy. Kadowaki had told Quistis that she didn’t dare give the girl any more medicine lest it be too much.
“Selphie!” Irvine burst into the doctor’s office. making them all jump, and then knelt down beside the girl’s bed.
Quistis stepped back and watched as Irvine stroked Selphie’s hair and kissed her forehead. Nida stood back with Quistis and the two shared a look of comfort, their shoulders brushing against one another’s for the sake of mutual friendship and need for touch. All SeeDs were accustomed to dangerous missions, but rarely did trouble find them at home like this.
“I’m okay,” Selphie struggled to get her voice out without it trembling, “I just…I just hurt a little bit.”
“Yeah, you’ll be fine, nothing knocks Selphie down for long,” Irvine agreed, his hand tangled in her chestnut locks.
“You find anything?” She asked numbly.
“No, sorry, we’ll look again,” Irvine whispered.
“It’s okay…ah…” Selphie winced as Kadowaki began wrapping up her torso in bandages.
“Don’t worry, you’ll fall asleep soon.” Kadowaki assured, “Well, you’ve all seen that she’s okay. She needs some sleep now; I’m keeping her over night so the rest of you can go back to your dorms. For Hyne’s sake, be careful though.”
One by one they trailed out. Quistis breathed out shakily and took out Save the Queen, holding her whip with a white-knuckled grip. Both Irvine and Nida had their guns out and grim looks on their faces.
“Night you two,” Quistis said, walking down her branch of administrative dorms.
Nida and Irvine both bid her goodnight and then went to their own floors. The dorms were situated in a circular floor plan that looked like a peace sign. The outer rim of dorms was for juniors, and the three inside hallways were for Seeds and admins. Irvine and Nida were on opposite ends of the same hallway, and Quistis’ was perpendicular to them both.
As she walked down to her dorm Quistis suddenly felt her instincts kick in. She slammed herself against the wall and looked behind her in time to see a dark blur scamper across the hallways. Yelling, she gave chase, her heart beating fiercely against her chest. The intruder!
Irvine whirled around as soon as he heard Quistis’ yell. As he did, a figure hurtled past him, pushing him against his door. Irvine fired but missed the shape; it was hard to find the body of the person because they wore a long billowing cape.
Running after the person and firing twice more Irvine spun around a corner and saw Quistis racing towards him, about to clear the same corner. Both stopped, narrowly missing a collision, and stared at each other in confusion.
“You saw him too, right?” Quistis demanded, her sapphire eyes wide.
“Yeah, he was going this way, did you see him?” Irvine blinked in astonishment.
“I did, but, I looked behind me for just a second and thought he had ran around the corner,” Quistis bit her lip, “Where is he!”
“Guys!” Nida showed up, breathless, Zell behind him also panting.
“Did you see where he went?” Irvine and Quistis asked at the same time,
“No,” Nida growled, punching the wall in frustration, “We came out when we heard the shots.”
“Damn,” Irvine sighed, running a hand through his hair.
Quistis cursed and looked around. There were standing in the intersection of the three hallways. There was no way the stranger could have gone down one of the hallways without them seeing him. She tilted her head back in defeat and then cried out in surprise.
The three men followed her gaze and shared a grimmer look. The vents.
“He could be anywhere,” Quistis whispered.
“That he could.” Irvine agreed, “What do we do?”
“Tell Xu, get SeeDs near every opening of the vents, put on patrols, put Garden on the full red alert. No one goes in, and no one goes out,” Nida decided.
Quistis sighed dismally, “Cancel classes, get Cid, someone needs to tell Squall.”
“I already know.”
They turned in surprise and then all blanched. Squall was holding a scrap of black cloth dripping with blood. Quistis took it and studied it thoughtfully while Irvine looked at Squall with wide eyes.
“Where did you get that?”
“You’re a better shot than you thought,” Squall replied with a shrug, “I got a bit suspicious when the vent in my hall dripped blood.”
“What were you doing out?” Quistis asked, her eyes never leaving the cloth.
“Coming back from the meeting. I heard the shots and ran around the outside of the hallways, didn’t see anything but then when I was going to my door I saw the blood on the way there. Xu wanted me to go over paper work after the meeting so I came out late. I slashed the vent open, but missed the enemy.” Squall replied, his voice quiet with rage.
“Well, this helps, but do you know where he went?” Nida asked,
“No,” Now Squall shivered, which made Irvine’s eyes narrow, “He…or possible it―”
Quistis’ head snapped up, “―ran away through the vents.”
“It?” She asked, her heart beginning to hammer again,
“It didn’t move like a human,” Squall said quietly, “It didn’t crawl, it sort of lurched along.”
“Could that be because I hit it?” Irvine asked breathlessly.
“I’m not sure,” Squall answered honestly, his stormy eyes hard.
Quistis felt icy tingles run up her spine. What the hell were they dealing with?