CHAPTER 1: Her First Love
Anyone in the Enclave who knew Pascal knew of her love for all things mathematic. Even as a child she excelled with numbers, as if she innately understood them, simple and complex alike, by sheer intuition. Irritating her classmates who attended the "learning circles" to no end, Pascal rarely had to think hard before the correct answer fell out of her mouth. These educational meetings were free form gatherings where young Amarcians learned about the world. Soon after she reached her sixteenth year, the leaders of the Enclave realized Pascal had absorbed everything they could possibly teach her like a sponge. In fact, Pascal had surpassed most of her age group by the time she was seven.
But it was not her love for algorithms that led her down this path. Her sister, Fourier, knew that it was for the love of their father that made a once quiet, soft-spoken and polite little Pascal become a loud-mouthed, uncensored, happy-go-lucky, unbelievably optimistic, and cheerful girl genius.
Fourier cleaned up more of Pascal's room for the second time that week. Every effort to clean up one heap or pile would result in her younger sister creating more heaps and piles in a different location. It was almost as if they were playing some inane little game. When the noon hour came, Fourier finally gave up. Every time she visited her sister's dwelling, it just kept getting worse. Cryas crystals and batteries were stacked in one corner, battery rechargers in the next; then came the hand tools seemingly scattered across the floor but upon further examination Fourier realized they were arranged in order of usefulness for her current project of stabilizing unstable cryas amplifiers. Each pile was a form of disorganized organization, for example; all oblong or cylindrical objects, all things that were a shade of green, all items that made loud noises, or all things that could be salvaged for parts.
"There's method to your madness after all," sighed Fourier, wondering why she hadn't seen the patterns before. "That's so like you," she muttered as she took down the washed scarves that were hanging above to dry from random strings of rope or wire. Even these were arranged by color spectrum. Though she often resented Pascal, Fourier was more in awe of her sister than anything. Pascal's mind was like an onion, hundreds of layers operating at the same time, and when she was working at full capacity she never stopped to eat, sleep…or bathe. It seemed her sister recharged only when she collapsed periodically.
As a child Pascal was a quiet, shy girl, always in the shadow of their very loud, very amiable father. Pascal had observed and followed him in his workshop nonstop when he was home. It was as if she couldn't get enough of him, since his employment took him far away at times. Their father, Ampere, worked for the government of Fendel as a cryas researcher. Renown for his engineering prowess, his lucrative contracts with the government helped him raise a family and provide amply for them. To his chagrin, however, he was unhappy with the government's plans for his work. Eventually, many of the war machines used to invade Lhant or to battle Windor originated with her father's rough sketches. Fortunately he did not live to see that future come to pass.
Quiet and always watching, Pascal's sense of observation originated with watching their parents' facial expressions. Perhaps her little sister had understood her parents, the loud inventor who laughed out loud but hid whatever he was feeling and the quiet homemaker who wore her emotions on her sleeve, better than Fourier had. It was Pascal who first pointed out that their mother, Feuillee was looking unwell. Fourier, who was working on her thesis to pass the Elder's proficiency exams had not noticed at the time. Shortly thereafter, their mother fell ill and passed away. Ampere, unable to look upon a house without his wife making it a home, travelled further away from the Enclave and came back less frequently. When Pascal was ten, news came of their father's entourage being caught in a sudden blizzard, never to return.
Perhaps it was because her older sibling was all she had, and Fourier found it exceedingly difficult to smile in those hard days, that Pascal purposefully put on a cheerful face in hopes it might rub off on her sister.
Thinking about it carefully as she folded the scarves and placed them neatly in her sister's drawers, Fourier realized her sister rarely frowned. Pascal almost always had a goofy look on her face, or a grin, or a beam. It seemed little sister was determined to be happy enough for all of them. If Pascal ever felt anything else, she never showed it to Fourier.
A sudden thud against the door and the sound of it swinging wide open gave Fourier a start. She groaned as she observed her sister, hair and clothes in various states of disarray, bringing small puffs of dirt into the dwelling wherever she stepped.
"What-?" asked Fourier, at a loss of words when she saw Pascal had brambles stuck to her short reddish hair. Pascal noticed where her sister was gaping and plucked a few of her mop of hair, tossing them carelessly onto the floor. Fourier watched in silent incredulity as the offending brambles rolled in every direction.
"I came back home through the forest," Pascal answered simply.
"Where-? Fourier demanded, glaring at the dusty footprints, but was unable to finish the sentence as her sister cut her off with a wave of her hand and a grin.
"I was exploring the cavern looking for more cryas samples."
Fourier saw that her sister's shirt was torn on the side but thankfully she appeared unhurt. Still it was the second time she's had to mend Pascal's clothes this week. "How-?" Fourier uttered but Pascal looked down wide eyed at the gash in her clothing answered with a shrug.
"Well dang, I must'a snagged it when I fell out of that tree."
Rubbing the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger Fourier waited until her blood stopped pounding in her ears before she let it go with a sigh and headed for the door. "I'm next door if you need me."
Pascal smiled as she watched her sister go. They had had an argument the night before but as Pascal looked around she saw that her sister had tried to clean her room again, maybe as an apology, but left most things untouched. The floor looked like it had been swept - or at least the parts that were not covered in piles of stuff had been swept. Her scarves were all gone and likely folded and placed in her drawer. Pascal swept aside a beaded curtain of used cryas crystals and reached for an oval picture frame on a nearby shelf. A wistful expression washed over her face as she touched her father's image in the crudely painted frame. It was her gift for him when she turned four, proof of a little girl's love for her father.
"I'm home, Dad."
Pascal absently put the frame on a nearby table and looked around. When she spotted her communicator she cradled it gently in her hand and sat down in her lounge chair to listen again to the last message recorded on it.
"It's starting to get windy. The sandstorms are going to pick up soon. It's my least favorite season since Strahtans have to stay in the city for the most part to avoid the mess outside. That usually means indoor soirees and social, business and political gatherings all wrapped into one in an endless string. More of the same boring people until the season passes." He let out a mirthless chuckle. "I think I'd rather brave the storms. But I enjoyed hearing about your recent research. I'm sorry your cryas regeneration project failed but at least you thought of a way to use natural gas to heat up the stoves in Fendel. I think it's brilliant to rely on other resources since cryas are so scarce. Your ideas are simple and elegant, as always." Pascal could hear the sounds of passers by and falling water as he pondered what else to say.
"I have to go now, duty awaits. Send me another message so I don't get bored to tears here."
A smile crept across her lips as she listened to his voice, rich in intonation and with perfect diction. In her head, she used to refer to him as "little bro" or sometimes in her head as "uptight tights." Her opinion of him changed as they traveled together and she secretly dubbed him "fancy pants" or "straight shooter." His attire was impeccable and the precision of his dual shots never ceased to amaze. Her shot staff barrage was nothing in comparison.
They had all parted ways for some time now, and she couldn't describe the effect it had on her or why it was even affecting her. Little by little he intruded upon her thoughts while she was working her on her machines. With every thunk-a-chunk she pounded, his face and that small little smile he rarely showed kept popping back into her head. Several experiments had gone awry and a few machines almost exploded for her lack of concentration.
As the intrusion continued, Pascal did other things that were extremely out of character. For one, she washed her clothes once a week now and took a bath almost as often. She made sure she always had clean underwear, even if she had to go buy new ones at the shop when there was no time for laundry. Pascal ate at least one normal meal a day, though cooking was not her forte. Before she met Hubert periodically sucking on a lemon gel was enough for her to get by. (Though she did still suck on gels when she had no food at her house.) When she couldn't cook she would invite herself over to Poisson's or Fourier's if they were in. Her schedule even became a bit more regular.
Even more curious, she recently found herself wanting to travel less, and yet felt restless when she wasn't traveling. In her moods she tinkered at her machines without great interest, and instead did little things such as organized her tools in order of size or sometimes usefulness. Other times she found herself washing her hair (and enjoying it) with the sweet smelling Strahtan soap he had sent as a gift. She did this in secret of course so Fourier would not know, or else there would be no end to her sisters' heckling and I-told-you-so's.
Last night, Fourier's high and mighty lecture had been really unbearable. There came a point when even Pascal, who usually avoided conflict, charged her sister head-on in a debate about none other than Hubert, the young man who had invaded her thoughts of late.
"Are you blind, stupid or both?" Fourier had demanded, wondering where she had gone wrong in Pascal's upbringing that her sister could be so observant of people and yet so clueless as to understanding herself. The question had caught Pascal off guard. She had never been referred to as blind or stupid and so the question was illogical.
"He told you that he couldn't stop thinking of you?" her sister demanded.
"Yes…" Pascal had answered, unable to predict where this conversation was leading.
"He told you he was supposed to marry no less than the President's daughter, and he was going to turn this down despite it being the hopes of all his family?" Fourier continued, her voice becoming more shrill and every moment her face was colored a deeper shade of angry.
"Uh-huh," Pascal nodded.
"And why do you think that is?"
"Please don't tell me it's because he thinks you smell. If that's your answer I'm going to dump you into the bath tub right now."
"I-" Pascal had begun but out of nowhere her temper flashed across her brain. "I didn't know what to say, all right?" she yelled back. "He caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting him to say those things! For one I was concentrating on mecha-Asbel as my next super weapon, but then he comes up to me and starts to tell me this stuff. I was all like, ka-chunk ker-plunk and then he interrupted me with all those-fancy words. I mean, we didn't always get a long, but eventually I think we understood one another and trusted each other enough to actually share what we were thinking so I was kinda only half-listening until his words started tripping over each other and he said he couldn't stop thinking of me. No one has ever said that to me before." Pascal could feel the flush returning to her face. "I was embarrassed. I was scared. I wanted him to go away so I could finish mecha-Asbel. So I just-"
"You played dumb," her sister concluded. Pascal couldn't deny it, and it made her angry to admit it, but all she could do was look down in shame all the while hiding the expression on her face.
"I understand what you're saying, all right?" Pascal blurted out, exasperated. It pained her to think that she had hurt Hubert's feelings to preserve her own by not acknowledging his. "But I didn't know what to do! I'm not you."
"You don't have to be!" her sister had yelled back. "I can't take care of you forever, Pascal. You need to grow up or find someone who will take care of you." Without another word Fourier had left and slammed the door behind her.
Pascal let out an uncharacteristic sigh as the recollection faded and she sat back against her favorite chair. The communicator rolled out of her lap and onto the floor where it popped open. The screen came on and the message played again. She listened to his voice intently, trying to imagine his facial features as he spoke, the way he would push his glasses back up, or run a hand through his short cropped, military style hair. The sound of ambient noise followed. She had never let the recording play beyond this point. Pascal wondered if he had wanted to say more but then was interrupted by someone else - a soldier reporting to him that the President wanted him to attend a meeting. Hubert had forgotten to push the stop button. After the footsteps of the soldier faded Pascal heard him whisper, "I miss you," before the recording ran out.
Pascal froze for a minute wondering if she had heard correctly. She didn't dare pick it up and play it back on the off chance she had imagined it. Her heart was beating erratically now.
She looked over at her father's portrait. "What am I doing, Dad?"
Pascal packed what she needed (note pad, drill, gels, water, holy bottle, food and shot staff) and left a note for Fourier.
Author's note: I wanted to write this as soon as I finished the game earlier this year but I didn't know how to start. It's easy when you see that two characters are cannon as a couple but when you place Pascal into the formula you hit a snag and wonder how that girl even functions on a daily basis, let alone gets to a point where she could fall in love.
So to explain how Pascal gets her happy ending, you have to consider Pascal herself. Is she dense or is she faking it? This story is written under the premise that she is faking it, since she has such moments of thoughtful clarity that make you wonder if everything on the outside is just a facade. There's more to this girl genius than meets the eye, and this chapter is really about her three "first loves."
You guessed it, each chapter will have numerical references ('cause I'm weird like that).