Disclaimer: All characters belong to Monolithsoft and Namco and whatnot, not me! The story is mine, though. I doubt you'll want to use anything from it, but if you do, please ask first.
Author's Note: Okay, so I had to write this, but at least it broke my writer's block. Ziggy is an awesome character, but the game kind of neglected him after the rescue sequence on Pleroma. And, as the second game only clarified a few things, well, this still works - though it's really just my speculation and definitely a kind of what-if story. The third one looks promising to tell the whole thing, finally!
This fic's gonna be short, unlike the rest of my stuff, bwaha. And, something like it's probably been done before - especially in the game itself, not to mention any other game where you physically get into someone's past - but it was the story that stuck in my mind so I am just writing it down anyway. I'm not very concerned about when and why this would occur in the timeline, just sometime after the end of Episode I, and I made up any names that weren't mentioned in the game. If we ever find out what they really are, I'll change them then. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Dedicated to TheShoelessOne for inspiring me to just write the thing instead of holding off until I knew the actual story. Rabid Ziggy fans unite, hehe!
By Amanda Swiftgold
"And I can hear voices calling
And I can feel weight upon my mind
You'll hold my hand in your hand
And after I'm gone you'll still have
Time to figure out the things
The things that left me empty inside"
Ra, "On My Side"
It was a world, but there was nothing in it.
MOMO groaned softly, eyelids blinking heavily as she pushed herself up with one arm from where she lay. Her eyes were telling her that the buildings of a large city were surrounding her, skyscrapers piercing upward into the gold and purple of a sunset. There were white-stone bricks beneath her fingers, a small hillock of grass nearby edged with more brick - but none of it seemed real.
The small Realian shivered, wrapping her arms around herself as she staggered a bit unsteadily to her feet. It was taking some time, but she was slowly getting used to the lack of data arriving to her sensors. After all, this had happened once before, when KOS-MOS' mind had taken her and the others to Old Miltia. I guess, she thought unhappily as she stooped to pick up her fallen Dragon Rod, this really is Ziggy's Encephalon.
Maybe it had been a bad idea, diving alone like this. But there hadn't been time, and what else could she do? Staring around, MOMO remembered the suddenness of the attack, how Ziggy had automatically moved to shield her from an unexpected explosion. And, when he'd fallen, she'd used her nanomachines to heal his wounds but he wouldn't wake up, his skin as cold as the metal of his body, his mind closed off, refusing to come back.
And she could tell now that Ziggy didn't want her here, either, staring upward as the tall buildings seemed to close in on her. She couldn't sense any anger; it felt more as if he was gently, but firmly, closing a door to keep her out.
The girl felt her lip trembling and bit it to make it stop. Why was this happening now? Did it have something to do with the conversation she'd overheard all right, spied upon? Her own mother had called the cyborg on the UMN screen, had spoken obliquely about some kind of reward Ziggy had asked for, said it was now ready for him. She hadn't understood why he seemed unhappy about it, and was too ashamed that she'd spied to ask him what was meant.
Yet Juli Mizrahi had signed off quickly, pretending she hadn't seen MOMO run into the room to greet her - oh, but it made her heart ache
"MOMO," a voice said quietly, and she spun around to face its owner.
The Realian choked back a gasp as she saw a familiar figure perched on the edge of the hillock's retaining wall. Tilting her head to the side, she slowly approached the little girl with red-gold hair. "You're Nephilim, aren't you?" MOMO asked, clutching her wand apprehensively. "From when KOS-MOS - why are you here, too?"
"There is," she answered in her low, steady voice, "something you must do. Something that only you can do, MOMO."
"Me?" she squeaked back, raising her hand to her mouth. But, what can I do alone? I need the others, and I don't think anyone even knows I've dived yet...
Nephilim nodded, standing up, her white dress falling in its even folds. As she stood, the motion revealed something in her arms that hadn't been there before: a small blond-haired baby. As MOMO looked on in awe, the girl raised the child up high, staring into his eyes, blue on blue. The baby didn't make a sound, simply looking down at the gently-glowing figure that held him.
"Who-who is that baby?" MOMO asked, taking another step closer. "Is that Ziggy?"
"It is very important that everyone accepts the whole of their memories," she said quietly, sending another shiver down the Realian's spine as she remembered the statement from before. "And yet, for Jan Sauer, this child, the man you know as Ziggy, this may not be possible. For most of his long life he has wished only to be dead."
Stifling a cry, MOMO shook her head hard. "That can't be true!" she protested vehemently before gazing at her feet, sudden guilt rising inside her chest. What did she really know about Ziggy, anyway? She hadn't known his real name, didn't even know how he'd died maybe he really hadn't wanted to be resurrected after all. But what did that matter, since he was alive again? He was her friend, and she trusted him with her life. Yet maybe, he didn't trust her
Nephilim drew the baby back to her chest; slowly, he reached up one tiny hand to grab hold of the cross that hung around her neck. A moment later he let go, bright red blood from four sharp cuts streaking across his palm, but he still remained silent. "You are the only one who can help him," she murmured, brushing the little boy's wisps of golden hair with her fingertips.
And then MOMO looked up again - and she was gone. "Nephilim!" the girl cried out, stumbling forward toward the emptiness. "Don't leave me here alone!" Her shoulders slumped for a moment, and she sighed, fighting back the confusion and panic that was starting to set in. She couldn't let Ziggy stay like this, but what was she supposed to do?
Quickly deciding that staying where she was wouldn't help anything, she started down the nearest street, following it wherever it would lead her. She walked closely along the walls of buildings, trailing one hand across their stone and metal as if to keep her position clear. Certainly there weren't Gnosis here, as there had been in the world of memories KOS-MOS had created for Shion and Junior, but she wasn't sure what might be taking their place.
Sighing, she reached to her wrist, tracing the shape of the bullet charm with her fingers. You'd know how I should help him, Junior, she thought, frowning around at this abandoned city. I guess I should find him, first. It should be easy, since there's nothing else here.
The further she went, with each step she took, the sky above darkened from its sunset gold into a mass of stormy, oppressive clouds, lengthening the shadows across the streets. Wind picked up from out of nowhere, sending MOMO's dusty-rose hair flying wildly around her face; lightning crackled from cloud to cloud in flashes of bluish light.
Catching herself against the unlit display of a street sign, the Realian ducked behind it to shield herself from the gusts, squeezing her eyes closed. "Ziggy," she forced out, her small voice disappearing into the howl of the wind, "stop, you're scaring me-"
Much to her surprise, as soon as the words had left her lips the storm stopped suddenly, as if turned off by a switch. The bright colors of the sunset flooded the sky once more, turning the white façades of the buildings into pillars of red-gold fire. MOMO gasped, pressing a hand to her chest as she slipped out from behind the sign.
And then, she heard the sound of laughter. It came from ahead of her, echoing through the empty streets, and she walked toward it curiously, though with her weapon held tightly in front of her just in case.
There was a boy running through the intersection, giggling at the small dog that chased him, nipping at his heels. He looked about seven or eight, wide eyes of amber-brown catching the fading light, reddish curls escaping from underneath a stocking cap, and after a moment he caught sight of her and came to a stop, blinking at her with interest. Too surprised to do anything else, MOMO simply stared back at him awkwardly.
"Hi!" he piped, jogging toward her; his little brown and white dog bristled, barking. "Wow, someone here! It's been forever since I've seen someone else here!"
Who is this boy? What's he doing here? This is Ziggy's Encephalon, isn't it! "Y-you," MOMO stammered, looking warily at the artificial dog as it continued to growl at her. "You're here all alone?"
The child grinned, shaking his head before bending to sweep up the barking creature into his arms. "My dad's here too," he volunteered. "My dad's really cool. He fights bad guys!"
"Oh, really?" she asked, feeling her lips curve upward into a smile. It was obvious already that this was the kind of boy who carried frogs in his pockets and couldn't sit still for anything. She leaned down a little closer to his level, not that it took much, bracing her hands on her thighs. "What's your name?"
"I'm Nate!" he answered enthusiastically, shifting his grip on the wriggling dog in his arms. "And this is Nex. Dad gave him to me. He's just as good as real, don't you think?"
MOMO patted Nex on the head; the dog finally gave up its barking, letting her scratch behind its ears. It leaned its head into her hand, just like an actual animal, and she smiled gently. These were kind of like the precursors to Realians, weren't they? "Yes, he's just like real," she told him, straightening as Nate put his pet back on the ground.
And then the heart-poundingly loud bang of a gun went off behind her head.
The sound was followed by a breath of air rushing past her cheek, something passing almost close enough to nick her skin. Frightened, MOMO froze for a moment before turning all the way around, flinging out her arms to shield Nate as though her small body could really protect him from anything much.
"That was a warning shot," a familiar voice called, the sound making her heart drop into her stomach. "Step away from him right now, or the next one won't be."
It - can't be! she thought, her jaw dropping as she saw the figure standing down the street, wearing an old-fashioned Federation uniform, a pistol in his hand and aimed for her head. "Ziggy?" she gasped unthinkingly.
"What?" Nate interjected in a near-shout, peering around her, and then he suddenly pushed past her, running toward the man, Nex immediately at his side. "Hey! Dad!"
MOMO didn't move to stop him, realizing that she was wrong. Strands of blond hair trailed forward over his forehead - much more messily than Ziggy's hair ever fell - and the electric-blue eyes were the same, but this man was obviously no cyborg.
He lowered the gun as the boy and dog came near, but his gaze never left the little Realian as he placed his other hand on Nate's shoulder. "Are you all right?" he asked quickly.
"Yeah, Dad," he responded, sounding surprised that the question was even asked. "She's a girl-"
"Just stay here." The uniformed man approached her slowly, the gun still held casually in his hand; it reminded her of the exact way Junior wielded his own weapons. "Little girl, what are you doing here? Where are your parents?"
Stunned by the sound of Ziggy's voice asking her something like this, she just looked back up at him, shaking her head mutely. It hurt how much this stranger looked like her friend and bodyguard, but there was something different about his eyes, something missing somehow that she couldn't quite recognize. "Daddy's... dead," MOMO finally whispered, not wanting to lie, "and Mommy's at Fifth Jerusalem"
"You mean Fourth Jerusalem, surely?" Gazing at her closely for a moment, the policeman holstered his pistol and knelt down on one knee to look into her golden eyes before giving her a smile. After a moment MOMO had to look away; she knew she'd never seen Ziggy smile before. "And what's your name?"
"My name's MOMO," she replied quietly.
"Hi, MOMO!" Nate giggled from behind his father's shoulder, and the man turned slightly to frown back at him.
The Realian covered her mouth with her hand to hide her own smile. I wish I'd known that Ziggy had a son, she thought wistfully, at the same time able to see that, on the genetic level, the two were not even related at all. She knew from experience, however, that something like that didn't always matter.
The blond human rose back up to his feet, brushing strands of hair back from his face with a gloved hand. "I'm Captain Jan Sauer of the Federation Police Bureau, Eighteen-Seventy-Fifth Special- well, anyway, that's not important. You've already met my" - a barely perceptible pause - "son, Nathan."
She nodded, wrapping her arms around herself as she worked out what she was going to say, the strange apprehension of history filling her mind. "May I call you Captain Sauer?" MOMO asked, her throat tight and dry.
He raised his eyebrow at her, giving her a hard glance before turning away, scanning the horizon ahead to the west where the sun was disappearing behind the skyscrapers. "Call me whatever you like," he answered gruffly.
"Jan," she decided, feeling dizzy. "I'll call you Jan."
He gave a quick nod, still staring outward at the city, looking displeased. "We can't stay here," Jan murmured. "MOMO, you'll have to come with us. It's not safe here. I don't know how you got here, but it's not safe."
"Yes, you have to come with us!" Nate echoed, a furrow forming between his brows. "Dad, do you see it?"
"Not yet." Shaking his head, he gave the boy a stern look. "I don't want you wandering off alone again."
He sighed, his shoulders slumping. "Yes, Dad." His eyes lit up again a moment later, though, and he pointed at MOMO with a grin. "But can't I go with MOMO? I want to-"
"No," Jan said sharply. "Neither of you leave my sight. It'll be night soon. We'd best be finding dinner and getting back home. Hopefully," he sighed, beckoning toward the two children as he started off down the left-hand street, "we won't be seen."
The catch in his voice warned her something was wrong, and jogging slightly to catch up, MOMO asked, "What do you mean? Seen by what? There's nothing else here-"
"No, there is," Jan replied, his eyes narrowing. "I don't want to scare you, but there's something hunting us. I'm glad we found you before it did."
"Hunting you?" MOMO breathed. What is going on here, Ziggy? All I've found is an empty city and and you, I think, but it's not you and "Why?"
Suddenly, she felt a small hand grab hold of her own. "Don't be scared," Nate told her, smiling sweetly. "Dad will keep us safe."
She let out the breath she had been holding in, giving him a wan grin in return. "Don't worry, I'm not scared," she told him, staring up at the tall figure walking ahead of them, pistol drawn again and held ready as he kept lookout. Too familiar and yet too wrong; his footsteps were too quiet, but he still had such confidence in his movements. "I don't understand what's happening, but I believe you, Nate."
Looking back over his shoulder, Jan gave her a quick smile; this time, despite the weirdness of it, she flashed one back as well. They weren't real, she had to keep reminding herself; they were just memories, or something like them, but maybe these two would lead her to the way she could help Ziggy after all