|Points of View
Author: intrasonic PM
SO3: A collection of scenes interspersed throughout the game's plot, focusing mainly on Nel as she comes to grips with a rapidly changing worldview. [Complete]Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 12 - Words: 51,622 - Reviews: 32 - Favs: 38 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 12-30-05 - Published: 03-30-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2329715
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Valley of the Wind Productions presents
Points of View
A Star Ocean 3 fanfic
Nel Zelphyr was having a bad day today.
She'd had a bad day yesterday, too. And the day before yesterday. And the day before that.
Not to put too fine of a point on it, but it hadn't been a good week, and tomorrow wasn't looking promising.
An observer who understood her official position would have rationalized that since she was an elite fighter in a kingdom that was mounting a slowly dwindling defence against an attacking kingdom, she had plenty of reason to be unhappy. But that was an issue that she had learned to deal with years ago.
No, her present mood was something more out of the ordinary. It stemmed from something new, unexpected, and irritating. Two somethings, to be exact.
Nel exhaled noisily but turned to face half of the blame for her present mood. "Cliff."
The big man grinned as he approached her, his usual swagger in full force. "How's it hanging?"
"It's not," she replied evenly. "'It's' working. Hard. Unlike you, it seems."
"Don't be like that," he protested good-naturedly. "I was gathering valuable cultural information over in the East side of this city."
"You were visiting the pub," she interpreted.
"Oh, that's what they call it here, too? Don't worry, I didn't have to use my fists for any diplomatic relations."
"You'd be amazed how many people refrain from doing so on a regular basis," she pointed out, unable to help herself.
"Yeah, well, you'd be amazed how often that doesn't seem to work for me."
Cliff was, Nel had earlier decided, an extremely unique individual. The way he strutted around, his rather obvious physique, his brash and combative demeanour... quite frankly, it was easy to write him off as a generic asshole. Unfortunately, Nel had been in his company long enough to notice a few other things about him.
Most obvious was the fact that he knew how to fight. And fight well, which was actually an entirely different thing altogether. Fayt certainly had some talent and potential, but his style still smacked of too much training and too little practical experience (although the past few days had been steadily remedying that issue).
In contrast, Cliff displayed no such shortcomings, to the point where Nel seriously doubted her ability to carry through with her threat to kill them for non-cooperation. It was a hard pill to swallow, but not as hard as Cliff had hit Airyglyph's chief inquisitor during the jailbreak. Seeing someone dodge a whip and then sucker-punch an overweight man into the ceiling had quickly forced her to reconsider the situation that she'd just engineered. As skilled as Nel knew she was, it was obvious that a more subtle attack would be required.
Which Cliff also seemed capable of handling, considering that he'd apparently been awake when, in a burst of sentimentality, she'd tried to pay her respects before heading off to rescue two of her people in the middle of the night. That type of behaviour smacked of someone who didn't turn his danger sense off at night.
In conjunction with his fighting abilities was Nel's rapidly growing conclusion that he might not, in fact, be a complete idiot. Act like one, certainly, on a repeated basis. But when she really thought about it, she was forced to admit that between him and Fayt, Cliff had been behind the tactical decisions thus far, not to mention their somewhat suspicious backstory. And in retrospect, more than half of the details of their story had been supplied by her, Cliff drawing them out and merely confirming what she'd thought was likely.
"Hey, you okay?" Cliff inquired.
And now she was reduced to worrying about killing the people she was supposed to escort, Nel reflected disgustedly. "I'm fine."
"So... bad news on the war front, huh?"
She blinked, briefly taken aback. "Were you-"
"Nah, I wasn't spying on you. But if were in your position, that'd be the first thing I'd check on whenever I reached a town. And you had a 'bad news' look on your face before I got your attention. So the war isn't getting any better, is it?"
"It's war. It never gets better, just over."
Cliff's face took on a thoughtful look. "So... it's only a matter of time before Airyglyph wins this war, isn't it?"
Nel glowered. "With an attitude like that, I'm glad you're not on our side."
"But you're supposed to want us on your side, remember?"
Annoyingly enough, Cliff was right.
She had shucked the majority of her weapons and armour (although her line of work didn't allow for completely unarmed sleeping), and was preparing to resign herself to her fate, when a quiet knock sounded at the door.
"Who is it?" she demanded.
"It's me. You decent?"
Cliff. "Come in."
Taking the invitation at face value, Cliff entered the room, shutting it quietly behind him. "Hey."
"Can I help you?" she inquired, her curiosity honest for the moment.
"Kind of," the man admitted. "Seeing you and Fayt go at it this evening is starting to wear a little thin."
"You're one to talk," she replied, trying to keep her tone of voice even and failing.
"Look," he began, "I know you're pissed at us, even if you try to hide it. And I'll admit you've got a few things to be angry about."
Damned right. "Oh?"
Cliff closed his eyes briefly, before opening them and gesturing towards a chair. "You mind if I have a seat?"
"By all means," she agreed.
Turning the chair around backwards, he sat down heavily, folding his arms over the chair's back. Uncharacteristically, his face held an expression of heavy concentration. "Look... I just want to try and explain a few things. I know we've been giving you a lot of run-around over this business-"
"Oh? You mean, you're not really engineers from Greeton?" she snapped, unable to help herself. "I never would have guessed."
Cliff couldn't keep himself from grinning. "Aw, come on. For spur-of-the-moment, it's a pretty good cover story, right?"
"Where are you from, really?"
He shook his head regretfully. "I was kind of hoping I could put it into perspective for you, actually. Or try to, anyway."
"Yeah. Let me put a... hypothetical situation to you. You've got... scientists who study ancient cultures, right? Primitive tribes and nations, that kind of stuff? From thousands, or even millions of years ago?"
"A few. The study is not as common as it used to be, however. The war doesn't allow for the resources."
"You know what I'm talking about, though. Basically, once upon a time, people were more primitive, right? Using sticks and stones for weapons, hadn't even discovered how to make fire yet? That kind of thing?"
"I get the idea, yes," Nel allowed, managing to keep her impatience from showing.
"Now... let's suppose that there were two groups of these primitive peoples. And they were fighting each other in a huge war. And you suddenly found yourself, by accident, in the middle of this war."
Nel narrowed her eyes. "If you're implying that-"
"Whoa, let me finish, okay? Maybe you think you can see what I'm getting at, but this is just the beginning, okay?"
She nodded stiffly. "Two primitive groups are fighting. I get involved by accident, and I possess considerably more advanced knowledge that could easily help either side. Can I assume these 'primitive tribes' both wish for 'my' assistance?"
Cliff nodded. "Yeah, that's a pretty safe bet. And for what it's worth, you're definitely in favour of one side. So... you got this scenario in your head?"
"Good, because here's the catch. Your ruler... you've got a queen, right? Right. Let's say that your queen back home has given you a command. Not just some ordinary command, but a big command. Right up there with 'don't murder' and 'don't commit treason'. An important command, see? You'd want to carry it out, right?"
"Of course," she allowed, her curiosity perked. "And... this command?"
"Let's suppose that the command went something like this - you're not allowed to associate with primitive tribes, at all. If you do accidentally come in contact with them, you've got to minimize your impact. Don't tell them anything, don't help them, don't hurt them... basically, don't let your presence change anything. Don't even give them any ideas or concepts. No matter what the justification might be at the time. To do otherwise is a serious crime, of the highest order."
Nel sighed, feeling some of her ire start to drain from her. "I think I can see what you're driving at."
Cliff shrugged. "You can at least see the reasoning behind the law, right? Imagine going to a bunch of a people who hadn't even discovered fire, and giving them some steel weapons and armour. Or runological spells. How long is it going to be before the people with the knowledge go and kill other people? By accident, even? And don't try and tell me that everybody's going to be peaceful and happy and responsible all the time."
She didn't. She wasn't sure she'd ever be that optimistic about people. "Am I to understand that you and Fayt are under a similar law?"
He gave her a lopsided smile. "Well... that's the funny part, actually. Fayt's under that law, and he believes in it. Me, I don't really give a damn about the government that put that law in place."
"So your reasoning for not helping...?"
"Well, I'm in a bit of tight spot. I'm trying to keep Fayt safe, but I also need him friendly to me and my group. So I can't go and break that law, but if he's willing to break it, I've got no problem backing him up."
Nel shook her head, trying to piece everything together. "I see."
"It's not much, I know," Cliff allowed. "But sometimes it helps to understand a little about where the other person is coming from, even if you don't agree with them."
"It's an easy law to support when the existence of your 'tribe' isn't at stake."
"Yeah, I know. But you harping on Fayt like you are isn't going to change things. With his type, if you pressure him, he just automatically pushes back. He's a good kid, but he's been a little sheltered his entire life, and this whole 'war' business is really sending him for a loop. And on top of that, I wasn't lying when I said that his father is being held captive. So he's got a lot on his mind lately."
"I see." Partly, at least.
Cliff stood, replacing the chair under the desk. "I'll let you get some sleep. Just wanted to, I dunno, try and help things a little, that's all."
She nodded. "For the record, I do appreciate it. It's... food for thought."
"Yeah. Try not to worry too much - Fayt's a good kid. That law of his is far away, and this war is really close. I have a hunch that he'll crack pretty soon."
"I hope so. I really do."
"So you should probably tell that hot-looking brunette operative of yours back in Aquios that seducing Fayt isn't the way to go."
Nel couldn't help but laugh. "You overheard her, did you? Rest assured, I vetoed that plan quite quickly. I think it was merely a case of youthful infatuation."
"I doubt it would have worked," Cliff assured her. "Now, if that girl wants to try seducing me-"
"Go to sleep, you pig."