(Sin)


Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.

- William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure





The sounds of construction echoed down through the solid foundation of the Garden, and somewhere in the warming April air an addition was being made to the grandiose building. Edea had seemed to think that a ballroom would be absolutely essential for an academy--For graduation celebrations and promenades and the like, she said--and Cid's only response was that it was A quaint conceit, but one he was willing to go along with.

Garden was naturally excited about it--one of the region's premier architects had designed it (at reasonable costs, no less) to be the equal of any of the reception halls in Galbadia or even Dollet, and it looked as if it might even be done by the time graduation rolled around. The returning birdsong and the receeding chill of winter put the academy in a festive mood.

In the B1 level, hidden behind a specific elevator keycard and unknown to most of the students except as an extraneous button on the elevator panel, the shumi Garden Master had just laid down a proposition that was causing the very human Headmaster to feel anything but festive.

Don't you think there's something wrong with that? Cid demanded, nearly yelling, gesturing angrily under the foreign businessman's cold stare. Most of these kids are war orphans. You want to hire them out like--like mercenaries so that they can perpetuate the violence that took them away from their own parents?

NORG rumbled dangerously. Bjururur. It-was-your-wife-who-wanted-soldiers, he said. This-needs-money. They-can-make-us-money. Sound-business-plan.

My wife-- Cid choked on that. Don't talk to me about what my wife wants. This whole idea--it's bad enough, without--without--

NORG rumbled again. Guruu. You-would-be-nowhere-without-my-money.

You think I don't know that? Cid shook his head. dammit--I should never have built Garden, but you--

Bjururu! Leave-off-your-whinging. NORG leaned forward, his massive bulk looming in the semidark. Your-wife-wanted-them-to-fight. You-agreed. They-will-fight. If-Garden-goes-bankrupt, they-will-not-fight. You-have-no-money. I-have-the-money. And-I-say-we-hire-out-SeeDs. Or-I-withdraw-credit.

Cid deflated. He had suspected that NORG might threaten to pull out of the venture, but it was still an unwelcome turn of events. he said. Fine. We'll do it your way, not that I'm happy with the choice.

NORG smiled, ever so slightly, and leaned back. he purred. Good. It-is-settled.

Cid turned, dejected. He had wanted to exercise his authority as Headmaster of this accursed place--to stop the slow corruption that he could already see creeping into the air. But he had no real authority--all of the power rested squarely in NORG's huge yellow hands. And by the time NORG was finished with it, it would be nothing more than a glorified nest of killers--and he would be behind it, shaking his head, with the watchful eyes of the Faculty pinioning him so that he couldn't even voice his objections in front of anyone who might care to change things.

He slipped his keycard into the slot next to the elevator door, and stepped in when it opened. He rode it to the third floor in silence, and entered his office.

The first person he saw there was Xu, his godsend intern--she was sifting through a pile of paperwork, taking on his headaches so that he wouldn't have to. He wondered how she would adjust when the paperwork ceased to concern registration papers and class assignments and turned into mission orders and SeeD requests--when there would just as likely be a death certificate in a stack with a notice of graduation.

Sooner or later she became aware that he was watching her, and looked up. Is there something I can help you with, sir? she asked. Cid forced a chuckle, pushing his glasses back up his nose.

Oh, nothing really, he said. Xu was going to graduate soon--this year, if memory served. Did that mean she would be among the first to be hired out? He hardly wanted to think about that. Life in a military academy was so much easier when he could make believe that they were only really teaching theory--that there would never come a time for practical application. ...did you know that during the Sorceress War, Galbadia hired out entire platoons of soldiers to neighboring countries?

Actually, I did, Xu said. We studied the Sorceress War in Recent History, last month.

Cid said, nodding. Do you know how many we have here whose parents were in those platoons?

I've no idea, Xu said. Probably more than a few, though. Would you like me to look them up for you?

No, no, Cid said, waving his hand in a negating motion. It's all right. I was just thinking.

Oh? About what?

Cid became aware of the shadowy figure of one of the faculty in the corner, who had moved just enough so as to make himself visible. It was clear he would interrupt if the situation even hinted at demanding it.

Cid took a breath. About the sins of the father, he said enigmatically, with a knowing glance at the faculty member. With a small smile toward Xu, he stepped back toward his office and let the door close behind him.