The Past is dead, and has no resurrection; but the Future is endowed with such a life, that it lives to us even in anticipation. The Past is, in many things, the foe of mankind; the Future is, in all things, our friend. In the Past is no hope; The Future is both hope and fruition.

--Herman Melville

It was cold.

It was as if the world in front of him had imploded, pulling in heat and light and leaving everything outside the singularity darker and bitterly chilled. He was shivering inside his tattered coat, unable to stop as the anti-energy of Time Compression leeched the warmth from his skin.

Seifer stood and stared--unwilling to accept this one gaping wound in reality as the be-all, end-all result of what he had done. His eyes narrowed as he regarded it. It was something he didn't trust--something sinister.

The vortex warped space and time before him, pulling him forward. The force of its wind tore at his trenchcoat, widening rips already present. It felt as if the world was coming undone--one grey thread was caught in Time Compression's event horizon, spinning and twisting as if possessed. Somewhere beyond that boundary was a way to make sense of things--a way to see what had happened, how it had lead to this moment. There was a pivotal quality to this moment, as if this was a chance to make things--

(Right? Better? End?)


Somewhere within that vortex was the room in which Adel had been fought and killed, in which six would-be heroes were about to best him--and prove him to be the biggest futile dupe in all of recorded history. Somewhere back there was the final nail in the coffin, the final act that would strike him down.

Somewhere within was the last chance he had to undo everything he had done. Just one quick step ahead, into the bitter cold of a twisting, angry nothingness. One step along with the pull of a timeless vacuum, an eternity of chance and choice that might be the last thing he could control, as far as the world had gone wrong already.

One... quick step.

Steps were easy, mechanical things. The heel rose, the weight shifted forward--it was easy to think in terms of that, always easier to see one action separate from continuation or consequence. It kept him moving, anyway.

One quick--

Hey, whoa!


Hands on his shoulders tugged him offbalance, pulling him into an ungainly backward stumble that ended as he--and whoever had grabbed him--tumbled to the floor and slid slightly on the smooth crystal. He rolled on a fighter's instinct, pulling himself away and getting ready to defend himself. In a second he had gained his footing, and turned to challenge--

Green eyes.

Green eyes, slightly flecked with grey, radiating concern and almost glowing in the crystallight. There was something oddly familiar in those eyes.

the owner of the eyes stated, picking himself off the floor. You have to be more careful. You were getting pulled into that thing--

Who the hell are you?

The man blinked, as if he had just realized he had forgotten to introduce himself. he said simply. Laguna Loire.

The name registered--it had something or other to do with politics, something or other to do with Esthar, something or other to do with something or other he had done as the Sorceress's Knight. He didn't care. I'm going in there, he snarled. Don't stop me.

...nnnnno, man, you really shouldn't, Laguna said, shaking his head. It's safer out here.

Yeah, sure. (Like I care.) Seifer turned and made a rush toward the vortex that ended abruptly as Laguna caught his arm. This time Seifer spun around, catching Laguna by the collar and wresting himself out of his grasp.

he snarled. Dunno who you are, but stay the hell out of this!

Laguna shook his head. Squall and the others will handle this, he said, waving his hands in a gesture of appeasement. You don't need to worry about it.

Seifer shook his head. Like I give a damn about them! (They shouldn't even be in there, damn idiots, I should be the one taking her down, it's my right, not theirs--)

Laguna had managed to extricate himself somehow. You're that Almasy kid, aren't you?

Seifer was caught between being annoyed that he had been interrupted, being annoyed that Laguna had called him a and being taken aback. What's it matter to you?

Ellone wanted me to bring you back, Laguna said.

Being taken aback won.

Seifer wrestled with what to say to that for a moment, until he shook off the impulse to respond to it altogether. Like hell. I don't have time for this.

Why do you want to go back there?

(Why do you care?) Because I have to fix something. Okay?

Laguna was shaking his head. No, man, that's not--

Because I have to fix something, and I don't think it's your damn decision whether or not it's too dangerous for me to handle. The last few word were spoken as he laid his hand on the pistol grip of his gunblade, fingering the catch.

Laguna crossed his arms. It's not going to work, he said simply.

Once more, the conversation had gone in a completely different direction than Seifer had anticipated. He made an awkward half-vocalization somewhere in the back of his throat.

It's too late, Laguna clarified. Squall and the rest have already gone up to fight Ultimecia. It's already happened. Everything Ultimecia did... you can't change it. Time won't work like that.

How would you know? You ever try to change the past?

No, but Elle did. Laguna shook his head. She knows more about time than anyone, and if she tells me it can't be done, it can't be done. You can only change the future, man.

Seifer snarled. Seems like Ultimecia did a pretty good job of changing the past, he said.

Laguna looked at him skeptically. Not really. Not in any way she wanted to.

And how would you know that?

Because she still wants to change it. Laguna gestured vaguely. If it worked, if she changed whatever she wanted to, then by the time that time rolled around, she wouldn't want to try it any more. She wouldn't try it. It would never get done. Nothing would change. He shook his head again. The only way you can go in there and fix anything is if you make it so that you wind up here again. I don't know what would happen to you, but it can't work, and it's dangerous. So... don't.

Seifer opened his mouth, took a breath, and said--absolutely nothing. After a moment, he closed his mouth again. And all he could really do was fume, because he couldn't think of any way to refute what he had said.

Laguna looked at him, not with pity, but with... compassion. Which was, in some ways, just as bad. Come on, he said. Let's go to the Ragnarok. He smiled, brushing a wayward lock of hair back from his forehead. You've been through enough. Let's let Squall and the rest take care of it now.

Seifer ground his teeth. I should be fighting her, he snarled. And if I can still change the future--

Laguna shook his head. Don't try to fix everything, he advised. Look--you can still change your future, and that's a pretty big thing. And it's safer than going in there. I don't know if you'd even be able to make it to the other side. It's over.


Hyne, how he hated that word.

He took a deep breath, and then another--stared at Laguna, still wrestling with everything he had brought up, still wondering why the hell he should care so much if he wanted to step into Time Compression and quite possibly throw his life away but as long as there was a chance, a chance that everything could still turn out all right, that what he faced next could be better than what he had already, that the future could be better than the past--

So you couldn't change the past. So it was over, gone. So maybe nothing he did would change anything in any way, so maybe-- maybe--maybe there really was no chance to try and redeem himself or take revenge on Ultimecia.

Maybe it really was too late.

The world had ended--not with a bang, but with a whimper. In the silence of the aftermath, Seifer closed his eyes and looked to the future. Two possible paths--all he had to do was choose which one.

The icy chill of the vortex was still behind him, and he shivered. Suddenly, he felt less than eager to get any closer to that coldness.

He opened his eyes, and swallowed his pride in a painful lump. ...where is it?

For the first time, it seemed as if he had said something Laguna didn't anticipate.

The Ragnarok.

Laguna digested that for a moment, and then smiled. This way, he said, turning and starting off. Thankfully, he didn't seem to be too inclined to make further comments.

With ill grace, Seifer set his back to the threshold and followed after him. It was hard--the negative energy was still pulling him toward it--but he managed.

...it was safer out here.

...maybe it was one of those things he would just have to learn to accept.