Author: Ariennye PM
AU after XSII It's a year later, and everyone is trying desperately to settle down. While several of their problems are gone, new ones rise with each passing day. And several old enemies have decided to reenter the stage.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 15 - Words: 62,251 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 15 - Updated: 12-18-07 - Published: 04-09-05 - id: 2343453
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Xenosaga: Gottlicher Eingriff
Chapter Fifteen: Looking Up
"Well, you know what they say about trying new foods. We have to do that. Besides, spicy doesn't usually bother me that much, you know? So I wasn't really too worried about it. I'm sure it'll be awesome, totally awesome."
Okay, brain, shut up now
They had barely been in the restaurant fifteen minutes and he was already making a complete idiot of himself. That certainly didn't bode well for the rest of the date – DINNER! That's all it was, right? Just dinner, like friends.
"Allen, you're rambling."
"Sign of an active mind," he said without delay. Shion blinked.
"Oh…is it really?"
Is it too late to run away from here screaming like a little girl?
"Anyway…" Shion trailed off. Allen tried desperately to look anywhere but directly at the woman across from him. His eyes settled on back of KOS-MOS as she walked out the door.
"Hey, look at that!"
"Was that KOS-MOS?" Shion said at almost the exact same time.
"Do you know any other tall, blue-haired, red-eyed women on the Kukai Foundation?"
"I wonder what she was doing here. She doesn't need to eat food, or drink anything. She couldn't even if she wanted to because she'd damage her circuits. How odd."
"Maybe she was…" Allen bit off the tail end of that statement, just in time to keep himself from saying something embarrassing.
"Maybe she was what?" Shion asked, her full attention on him now. And to think I used to want that.
"Err, nothing." I sound so intelligent. He was currently fighting the urge to slap himself stupid, and he was barely succeeding.
"Allen…" she said, a slight smile hovering around the edges of her lips, "are you nervous?"
"Nervous?" Did my voice just squeak? "Ha! That's ridiculous. Its just two old friends sitting here having dinner." Of course I don't have a crush on you, that's ridiculous. "Ah, but I didn't mean that you're old or anything, it was just an indication of the fact that we've known each other for a really long time now, and – "
"I know that, Allen." Was it his imagination, or was she smiling at him, as though she were amused by his panic attack? No, Shion wasn't that sadistic…right?
The sudden silence of his brain was deafening.
Time for a new subject.
"No-nothing weird about this da – dinner! Dinner!" Higher deity, strike me down now.
"No, there isn't anything unusual about that," Shion said, taking a sip of her water. "So, what do you think about the current situation? From what chaos has said we're might have to open a gate to a place no man has disturbed in over four thousand years."
"Which is kind of exciting and scary at the same time," Allen admitted, thankful that they had moved onto a new and less personal subject.
"I mean, if all of those seals are opened, we won't have any choice. And then we'll be in violation of laws, and fighting something far more sinister than any of the other warriors we've fought before."
"It'll be tough, that's for sure. I don't think any of us really know what to do once we get there…if we get there."
"I'm sure we'll all get there all right…I'm just a little worried that we won't all leave."
Allen knew he had to say something, but he was never good with words, especially around Shion. "It's going to be dangerous, isn't it? I understood was chaos was saying, but to suddenly be faced with all of this is really…frightening."
"I just get so angry, you know? I mean, up until now, what I was trying to do was clear. First I had to help KOS-MOS, and then I knew that people like U-TIC and Ormus had to be stopped before they got out of hand, but this is an entirely different species, a group of beings from a different dimension!" She was practically shouting now, but at the curious glances of their neighbors lowered her voice.
"It's just that," she continued, as though she hadn't heard him, "I can't help feeling lost. All I know is that the answers to all our questions is out there, on Lost Jerusalem. But once we get there, can we find what we're looking for? Will we be able to stop these people? And what about the personal cost? Not knowing is what bothers me the most."
"You're pretty lucky, you know that, right?'
"Huh?" Shion looked up at him, startled, her eyes blinking rapidly as though until that very moment she had forgotten he was there.
"I've spent my entire life wondering where I am, and where I'm going. I've never had a moment in which I completely understood anything. While all of you guys have been out there, battling Gnosis and all the other people trying to unsettle the galaxy, I've just been sitting around waiting for it to end, waiting for the familiar unknowns to come back."
"You've helped us a lot, though."
"Yeah, I have, but for selfish reasons, not noble ones. I did it just because I was personally involved, because there was no way for me to give someone else the responsibility or the blame. I never for a moment thought, 'Wow, I want to try and help everyone' like the rest of you." Allen sighed, a little embarrassed. He hadn't meant to start talking about things like that with her. They were his personal problems, not hers.
Yeah, just a simple dinner. Why the hell do I keep complicating things? She'll be annoyed after this, I just know it…
"I guess what I was trying to say is this. No one knows everything. Most people are like me, in that they just wait for someone to come along and tell them where to go, and what would be the best thing to do in any given situation. It's not always right to lead your life like that, but sometimes you have to, because sitting around pondering what may or may not be behind the door can cause more problems that it solves."
There was silence, and Allen felt like punching himself, screaming, crying, and running all at the same time. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Shion spoke.
"I think that's the most honest thing you've ever said to me."
"Huh? You're not mad?"
"Why would I be, silly?" she said, laughing happily as she did so. "We've been acquaintances for as long as I can remember, but very rarely did you ever touch on anything more personal that our job. It's a really…nice side of you." She was smiling now, more so than he had seen in recent years.
"…thanks," he managed faintly.
Maybe everything was going to be fine.
"I'm going to try to come and see you again tomorrow, MOMO, and I'll make sure that I tell you everything that happens."
"Okay. I miss knowing what's going on around the Durandal," the young Realian admitted. "And tell everyone that I miss them terribly."
"I'm sure that they know that," Jr. said seriously. "But I'll remind them, if that's what you want."
"Yes, please…" she whispered quietly. MOMO still looked nervous, and Jr. resisted the urge to beat his head against a hard surface.
"I really don't blame you, MOMO, and I don't believe that you consciously did anything."
"I know that. I just can't help feeling like I should have deflected the trap Albedo placed, that I should have been stronger."
"Stronger? All of us combined, and that includes KOS-MOS, couldn't defeat him the first couple of times that we faced him. In fact, it wasn't until I faced his weakened and defeated form that I managed to stop him – although if he hadn't used his ether to help me instead of himself I don't know what would have happened in that battle.
"My point is that you shouldn't worry so much. We know it was hard, and that you did your best. We don't – I don't – expect any more or less of you."
"Okay," MOMO said, the faintest impression of a smile forming on her lips. "I had a lot of fun today."
"Me too," Jr. said, flashing a cocky grin to offset her shy smile. "See you tomorrow?"
"Yes!" she said, waving goodbye before she shut the door. Jr. walked away, secretly pleased with himself.
"I think things are looking up," he muttered to no one in particular.
It was the moment Allen had been dreading. He had tried so hard to forget about the predicament that he was forced into, he laughed and joked with Shion, he surreptitiously patted away the sweat with a napkin when she wasn't looking, and even excused himself from the table to complete deep breathing exercises in the hallway near the bathroom – much to the chagrin of a passing gentleman.
Still the inevitable came. It was the twenty-third hour, Judgment Day and the final countdown, all rolled into one giant mass of terrible destruction. If he listened hard enough he could hear the approaching hooves of the Four Harbingers of the Apocalypse…
…or, in this case, the click of heels as Bonnie arrived with their food.
For a wild moment Allen swore he saw a hood and horns appear around her head, but he shook the image off. That was utter nonsense.
He looked down at his plate curiously, moving the food around a bit. When it didn't suddenly jump at him or spontaneously combust he began to feel a little better. During the time he had been pondering his food, Shion had started to eat hers.
"Is something wrong, Allen?"
"Of course not! I was just…sampling the smell. You can always tell good food by the smell."
"That's true. I rarely buy anything if the smell is repulsive, regardless of whether or not the food may actually taste good."
She started in on her dinner, and Allen knew that he would have to try his food before she started to get suspicious. Cautiously, as though afraid that it would bite him, he poked the food. When his fork didn't collapse into a melted puddle he felt a little braver. Cutting off a small portion with the edge of his fork, he stuck it into his mouth.
This isn't spicy at all, he realized, and sent up a quick prayer to whoever had answered his desperate plea. Feeling a lot braver, he stuck a whole piece into his mouth. This piece wasn't spicy either! Allen resisted the urge to get up and perform a victory dance.
"Is it good?" Shion asked from across the table. "It isn't too spicy, is it?"
"No, not at all!" he said, grinning. "Just the way I like it."
Fortunately for Allen, the rest of the dinner passed smoothly, as though it were trying to make up for the panic and awkward conversation that had taken place earlier. Allen kept the conversation neutral, focusing instead on mundane matters like Miyuki's latest scheme and the latest films.
Shion was gathering her things and turning to leave when a thought seemed to strike her. She turned around, and Allen tried to control the nervousness on his face.
"Thanks for dinner. It was great. And I had a great time."
"What?" How can she say that so seriously?
"And don't feel bad about how nervous you were. It was actually kind of cute."
"Really. Its one of the things I love about you."
"What?" He was on autopilot and Cloud 9 all at the same time.
"Night!" she called cheerfully, and waved goodbye as she hurried out the door to find KOS-MOS.
"…did she really mean that the way it sounded?" he asked his plate seriously.
The plate didn't have an answer.
"You seem happy, Little Master."
"I am happy, Mary. Things are looking up, for once, and I intend to keep it that way."
"Sir, there is a call from Representative Helmer."
"Goddamn it, he's ruining my plans already!"
Mary and Shelley turned to look at him, and he grinned sheepishly. It had been such a good day, and now he was calling. And Helmer rarely called unless there was something important to talk about.
"Shall I put the call on your screen?"
"…yeah. And call Gaignun too. He'll want to hear about this."
Jr. forced himself to smile for the camera as the Representative came onto the screen. His smile dropped into artic temperatures as he noticed Jin and Canaan standing behind him. Obviously this was worse than usual. Even the generally affable Jin was looking pale and serious behind the frowning Helmer.
"You may want to get the word out to everyone," he said without preamble – another bad sign. He always skipped the pleasantries in very dire situations. "We have a serious topic to discuss."
"I'll get right on that," Jr. said. He turned to Shelley, but she was already reaching her perfectly manicured hand toward the switch which controlled the P.A. system.
"Will Master Gaignun, Shion, Allen, Ziggy, chaos, and KOS-MOS please report to the bridge? Repeat…"
"Who called?" asked Gaignun, nearly causing Jr. to jump at his sudden appearance.
"It's Helmer. Should I move it to the large screen?"
Within a matter of moments the rest of their group had assembled, and Jr. tried his best to ignore MOMO's conspicuous absence. Helmer looked at them, his eyes betraying nothing of what he felt.
"As you may have been aware, I sent both Canaan and Captain Uzuki here on a mission to ascertain what exactly was happening at a facility I believed to be run by remnants of the U-TIC organization. The results of his investigation were very disheartening." He turned to the two men standing behind him, gesturing toward the screen. "Perhaps one of you could explain it better?"
"I will," Canaan said, stepping forward. "When we were in the facility in question both Captain Uzuki and I were surprised to realize that they were performing illegal experiments on a wide variety of Realians."
"I'm almost afraid to ask but…what kind of illegal experiments?" questioned Allen, looking around nervously from his spot next to Shion."
"They were melding Realians with Gnosis."
"Are you referring to what happens to people who have been attacked by Gnosis who don't die? Those people who slowly turn into Gnosis and then die because the transformation is such a strain on their systems?" asked Shelley from her seat behind Gaignun. Canaan frowned sadly at her.
"Unfortunately this goes beyond that. In this case whatever they did to those Realians was successful, because each one of them had become a strange hybrid of the two. All of the subjects that we saw were still alive."
"What would be the point of such a thing?" Shion asked. "This just seems to be meaningless destruction. How is a Realian-Gnosis hybrid any help whatsoever?"
"Because of the gateway," chaos said suddenly. "The standard route to Lost Jerusalem has been sealed away on that side. To enter the space around Lost Jerusalem we must use the gateway the Gnosis created to move about freely, a gateway that is a part of another dimension, and unseal the standard route from there for others to pass through."
"That's makes a twisted kind of sense," Gaignun agreed. "If they were part Gnosis then they too would be able to freely use this gateway, plus all Realians have been programmed to obey orders, and if necessary, be remotely controlled. They're just disposable soldiers to these people."
"So what are we supposed to do? Go find a friendly Gnosis and bond with it? That'll go well. We could bring them flowers and candies to get on their good sides!" Jr. grumbled sarcastically. "Why, Ms. Gnosis, you look lovely this evening! Might I suggest we start with a quaint little French place, or perhaps you'd prefer a type of food that is a little more…human tasting?"
Gaignun sighed impatiently. "I'm sure that chaos isn't foolish enough to suggest that we ourselves become like that."
"You're a little off topic anyway," Jin interjected from the screen. "They've already left their base, which means that they're probably going to move to their first target soon. We need to start planning a way to intercept them."
"We've figured that part out already," Gaignun said. "We in the midst of locating the gateway they're searching for, and then we'll be there to confront them. But what we need from you, Helmer, is to get together any task force that you can. Once we get the gateway open we'll need a backup force ready incase there is more of a problem than we anticipate."
"I can handle that part just fine. Too many people in the Federation feel that there has been a very passive stance taken recently. I'm sure that with just a little push others would be more than willing to assist us with getting rid of all these Gnosis once and for all. What exactly should I tell them you're planning?"
"To stop them at the source, naturally. Is there any other way to prevent further contamination?"
"True, true." Helmer sighed, and he suddenly seemed years older. "I swear this has taken years off my life."
"Off all our lives," Gaignun agreed. "Will you be keeping Canaan and Captain Uzuki there?"
"No, we don't need them anymore. I'll send them over with you; I have a feeling they would be a tad more useful there anyway."
"Most likely. I'll send over the coordinates."
"Sendin' 'em now, Master Gaignun!" Mary chirped, her fingers flying over her keyboard.
"Is there anything else we should be aware of?"
"Yes, actually," Canaan said. "I hacked what was left of their mainframe and discovered some old reports. Apparently they had two Realians that were above average successes; these two were able to completely suppress all outward signs of the Gnosis on their bodies. The reason for this was some sort of chemical found only in their systems. Anything more specific was lost when they started to destroy the mainframe."
"That is not good. That means any Realian is suspect!" Allen wailed, and Jr. sent him a death glare. Way to point out the freakin' obvious, he thought darkly. I am so not telling MOMO about this.
"Not any Realian," Canaan said. "We can infer that it isn't one of the mass produced brands because then they would be able to make more than two. The flip side is that someone like MOMO can't be the test subject in question because there is only one of her, and the report specifies two. Therefore the Realians would have to be ones that were limited editions or some such thing, perhaps remnants from ages ago."
"That does limit it a little bit. These 100-series are mass produced, so we don't need to worry about any of them."
"Don't question our loyalty!" chimed in Akina and Amara from the front, turning so that they too could glare at Allen, who shrunk back behind Shion.
"We wouldn't assume such a thing," Gaignun said soothingly. "I hope our next conversation has better news, Helmer."
"You and me both," he said, chuckling. "We'd both better get a move on before something terrible happens. Talk to you soon."
"Of course." The link was terminated, and they stood around a few moments more, unable to completely process this information. Was another problem out there somewhere, waiting for them to pass by?
"We won't get anything done standing around here," Gaignun said. "Ziggy, you may return to your previous duties. Shion, Allen, KOS-MOS, chaos, any assistance you can lend to my analysis team would be most appreciated. The sooner we find this seal the better. Jr., I want you to come help me prepare the Durandal for this battle."
"Evacuating all non-combat personnel?"
"That's the first step in a very long list," Gaignun said wearily as the others descended in the lift. "Shelley, Mary, you'll make sure we are stocked up on supplies and munitions? I will head to the Foundation to look for any volunteers that may be willing to lend their assistance."
"This is why you're the leader, Gaignun. I don't have the patience for all this planning."
"That has been made painfully clear in the past," Gaignun said, smiling a little. Jr. snorted.
"Whatever. I'm getting the evacuation done."
"I just can't believe that anyone would do such a thing!" Shion said, horrified, as the four made their way to the analysis room. Allen bowed his head sadly.
"This galaxy has some terrible people in it," he agreed.
"But that shouldn't get you down too much. After all, the rest of us are here to make sure that they don't get away with the crimes that they've committed," chaos said.
"Still…I can't help thinking about those poor Realians. Isn't there anyway to undo what's been done to them?"
"Not with current medical standards," chaos said. "Even my abilities don't extend that far. I once knew someone who could, but she's…"
"She's what?" Shion asked when he didn't continue.
"She's sleeping," KOS-MOS said, and chaos nodded thoughtfully.
"I guess that the simple version would be to say that she's sleeping until its time for her to wake up again. As long as she's asleep, Lost Jerusalem is frozen in time."
"Maybe I'm missing something here, but why? What does it matter whether time moves forward or stays still?" Allen asked.
"Because without her the planet would become so decrepit that humanity would never be able to return. I can't explain this fully, not yet, but suffice to say that Lost Jerusalem can't fall. That would bode ill for all of us."
"That's even more confusing and cryptic!" grumbled Shion, but she didn't pry further. If chaos couldn't or wouldn't explain yet, then she'd wait. Sooner or later he was going to explain it properly though. And that was a promise.
"So, where do you think this seal is, chaos?" Allen asked, jumping in to lighten the mood, and Shion smiled fondly. He really could be perceptive when he tried.
"I would assume on some of the planets that were the original refuges for those who fled Lost Jerusalem would be a safe bet. I am sure I know where the actual Gnosis gateway is, though. I just hope the seal isn't on a planet that has been taken by the Gnosis, although I fear that is the case. After all, they know where the seals are."
"But the gateway itself is a problem. I can enter it, but you cannot," KOS-MOS said.
"That's true; like Jr. said, we aren't part Gnosis."
"Oh, I have an idea about that too. All in good time. Although I think MOMO already knows; she gave me the inspiration, after all." And with that chaos entered the analysis room, leaving Shion and Allen to look at each other bewildered.
"He was enjoying that way too much," Shion grumbled.
Bonnie arrived at her home that night to find a small white card taped to her door. She opened it, and read the scribbled message curiously. Then she made a big show of tossing the card aside like a used tissue, and turning her nose up into the air snobbishly. She was sure her pretend audience would be giving her a high Acting Award.
"I'm not nice, Miss Uzuki," Bonnie grumbled half-heartedly, just for old time's sake. She'd die before admitting that she was secretly pleased with the compliment. Maybe Shion Uzuki wasn't such a bad person. After all, she'd helped her out before, and now she was complimenting her.
"What a strange woman."
I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to say this to you earlier, but I'm sure that being the nice person you are you'll understand why I needed to leave without approaching you. Mostly, though, I wrote this letter to thank you for understanding and helping me out without causing a scene, or saying anything.
Because I know, deep down inside, Allen and his self-esteem would never be able to live it down if he knew I was aware of his weak stomach, and changed his order to keep all the spices out of his food.