Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time is the creation and property of Tri-Ace, who created this wonderful anime/video game series, and the publishers at SquareEnix. Anything not attributed belongs to their respective owners, such as references to Cowboy Bebop (the Swordfish II) that is a creation of Sunrise and Shinichiro Watanabe. This story is written purely just for fun, guys; please for God's sake, don't sue me! I'm just a high school student with too much free time on his hands! On the other hand, any specific author created characters I created for this fic (despite how unoriginal they may be at times) are mine. So, without further adieu, let's get on with the show!
The Surgeon General's Warning:
Read at your own risk. This might take you on a trip to some happy lovey-dovey place.
The Coin Toss
A Star Ocean 3 fanfic by James "Ray" Edwards
"Well, this looks like just the kind of mess we were trying so hard to dodge, but so much for wishful thinking, eh, Mirage?" remarked the man with blonde hair in a drawling accent.
Another blonde, a woman this time, replied in an effort to humor his candid tones, "Agreed, Cliff, although I think your hunches could not have picked a more fashionable time to be correct."
Cliff Fittir, former leader of the anti-Federation organization "Quark" and universally renowned "artiste" (using the terms loosely), feigned hurt at the snipe. He had known his fellow Klausian more than long enough to know when she was joking with him and when she was genuinely angry with him. "Hey, I did make it perfectly clear at the meeting that we should've scrambled on the spot and nabbed the Leingods back on Hyda the moment we got the info, instead of sitting on our hands and waiting for the coast to be clear, if you know what I mean."
"Rash as always," replied Mirage in a noncommittal manner, her equally dark blue eyes revealing little save for her nearly ever present curiosity. The older Klausian looked like he was about to shoot back a comeback in his defense, but stopped short, his jaw line creasing rigidly as he shot a glance towards the captain's station. A move didn't go unnoticed by the blonde-haired woman either.
Five minutes ago they had arrived in the sector where the last transmission of the Helre's transponder had been before everything went silent, assuming the Federation transport ship had been destroyed or had gone missing in action. The prospects were depressing to say the least with the wealth fresh wreckage floating about in dead space. Salvage teams double-timed to recover the Helre's so-called "black box" to gain more clues as to what happened particularly in its final moments. The only saving grace per say was that there seemed to be no wreckage so far from any Federation escape pods. Still it didn't help much to alleviate the positively deathly tension in the air.
Maria Traydor was brooding and that was never a good sign.
If it weren't for Marietta's frenzy of diagnostics and scans that she was running repeatedly from the helmsman's station, a clear sign of her own agitation, Cliff would've felt obligated to hit something. The palpable suspense was killing him, figuratively speaking. All they could do now was wait amidst the electronic ambience and constant humming of the Diplo's crucial life support systems that was regulating all breathable air and waste gases aboard the ship.
"Cliff," Maria inquired all of a sudden, calm as water.
This intrusion gave the male Klausian an audible start, "G-yeh! Oh, uh, hey, what's up, Maria?"
He ignored the blossoming grin on Mirage's face.
"What's the farthest range the new Federation escape pods are capable of traveling to?"
"Hmm, the last I heard they were good for about - two to five light-years, give or take a few. I'm kinda rusty on the technical specs myself."
"Cliff is mostly correct, although we should truly give more credit to the compact creation engines the Federation has fitted onto their latest generation escape pods," the woman added, "in fact, they can go a lot farther than their mortal occupants can withstand."
"So, realistically, it's within one to three light-years, right?"
"Good, let's inspect our star maps for any inhabitable planets within a three light-year radius and dispatch teams at once to recover Fayt Leingod..." Maria paused contemplatively, "and any significant relations to the Leingods, especially the girl, Sophia Esteed, understood"
Mirage smiled and nodded her silent assent, moving swiftly off towards her station to compile a list of possible "refugee" planets in the nearby systems. It appeared that in spite of setbacks Quark was still going to follow through with its original plans, that is: A. Get the Leingods all nice and comfy in one spot. B. Beat the snot out of Professor Leingod (optional) for some answers for the abominable experiments he has partaken.
Plan C was still in the works at the moment, though.
"So we're going with the plan, right, Maria?" Cliff asked the light blue-haired girl tentatively. He knew he really should've thought of her more so a young woman considering their current predicament, but it was times like these that he needed a little something to humor himself. Besides, he and Mirage were practically her godparents or surrogate uncle and aunt! How could anybody possibly blame him for doting on Quark's contemporary leader a little?
The "boss" nodded, "Yes, although we'll be a little short on manpower..."
The blonde-haired Klausian gave a laugh, pumping his fists confidently into the air. He had a good hunch already creeping up the back of his sleeve, and his hunches were always good for the money.
"Eh, don't worry about a thing. We'll find the kid for sure!"
"But of course," she agreed with him, "however to make up for the lack of manpower, I'll be joining the search myself as well."
The audible spit-take shattered any semblance of peace and normality (well, if one could call the clearly serious matter of tracking down Fayt Leingod, son of the famed Professor Leingod, anything but average) on the bridge.
Immediately, three sets of eyes affixed themselves onto Cliff Fittir who violently appeared to be trying to swallow something down that had gone down the wrong side of his windpipe. Several more punctuated coughs ensued before he whirled around on Maria with an alarmed, incredulous stare. "W-Whoa, Hey! That's not part of the plan we agreed on at all!"
"I understand your feelings, Cliff, but yesterday and today have become two entirely different stories. We can't rely completely on our original plan anymore..."
"But you're the leader of Quark, Maria!"
"I know, but with the Vendeeni breathing down our necks, we'll need to pull all of our resources together if we're going to beat the clock, including me."
"Whoa, whoa, slow down, Maria. You're not being rational at all here. Aren't you taking this a little bit too..."
"Personal?" the light blue-haired girl said casually without batting an eye.
Cliff internally cringed at his own lack of tact. "I guess you could say that..."
"That's enough, Cliff," Mirage spoke up, deftly defusing a potential emotional bomb that was about to go off.
The male Klausian shot her a look as if to protest but thought better of it and turned away with a pout on his sulky face, crossing his brawny arms over his chest. An aura of displeasure seemed to radiate off the blonde-haired man in waves. Certainly, Cliff meant well but this entire affair was personal since day one.
"I suspect you have grievances to say too, Mirage?" Maria asked the blonde-haired woman.
She nodded, keeping a neutral smile on her face"Yes, to be frank I don't approve of your decision either. However, I also respect that the Leingods are very important to you. We all willingly joined you knowing the risks, and if you feel that locating the boy, Fayt, at this is the best lead we have, then so be it. I won't stop you, Maria, but know that Cliff, myself, and the rest of the crew are only worried about your well-being. It's not because you are our leader, but because you are family to us and we don't want to lose you, that's all."
To say that Maria Traydor wasn't taken a back at all would've been a lie. After having spent the last seven years of her life with Quark through thick and thin, they truly were her family and she didn't want to lose them either. Her heart churned and quailed, torn between two opposing desires. She desperately wanted to find Fayt Leingod. That boy was her last good chance to unravel the secrets behind her origins. If she lost him now, it would take years, maybe decades before she could uncover another solid lead.
No, she thought in steely resolution, shaking her head visibly as she closed her eyes in deep concentration. I won't let Cliff, Mirage, or the crew stop me. I have to - I have to find him! I don't care how many battleships the Vendeeni or the Federation sends! I will find you, Fayt Leingod, and you will help me.
The rage; she could feel it building up inside her. A violent maelstrom of power swirled within her very being, enticing her, daring her to embrace its mellifluous joy. She would never have to fear anyone or anything ever again. The power to protect, the power to destroy, and the power to create would all be hers...
"Maria, snap out of it!" roared a voice at the edge of her consciousness. She couldn't quite put her finger on the familiar male baritone. Where had she heard that voice before?
The voice raged on in ever increasing alarm, "Dammit, its no good! Looks like I got no other choice. Sorry 'bout this, Maria, no harm meant!"
"The Swordfish II is away, sir!" announced the deck master over the comm-link, much to the ambivalence of several parties involved.
A mixture of relief and consternation was abuzz on the bridge as the relief crew went to work. Word of the "incident" had not spread yet but everyone would find out soon enough about Maria's latest little "hiccup." Once she had regained consciousness, the light blue-haired girl - err, young woman - had been full of questions, not knowing herself what had happened. Lying to her hadn't been exactly the right thing to do, but Mirage was an expert when it came to skillful rhetoric. A careful medley of the truth and something otherwise took care of that unfavorable predicament soon enough.
The Boss took the bait whole and quickly shrugged it off, taking some extra painkillers to alleviate the bothersome abdominal pain. It was decided they would all still meet as planned at the rendezvous point after Fayt Leingod had been rescued from whatever uncertainty that had befallen him. Hopefully, he hadn't gotten eaten by some wild animal in the wilderness. Worse: the locals took an interest in him, deciding to put him on the menu for their next sacrifice to their god.
"Oh boy, this is so not my day," Cliff drawled dryly, staring off into space as he lounged in the captain's chair. Even after Maria had taken command, she still hadn't bothered to alter the comfort setting on the chair at all, almost as if she was planning to give it back to him some day.
The blonde-haired Klausian man frowned at that thought, "Okay, now I'm thinking way too much about this."
"About what, Cliff?" Mirage asked him from where she stood beside him. Her presence was affording him a little bit of peace, although not necessarily peace of mind. He had insisted the she went with Maria, a demand that she had all but said "HELL NO" to, which soured his mood some at the time.
"It's Maria, isn't it?"
"Yeah, yeah, I still don't like this one bit at all."
"I agree, Cliff."
"...So why did you let her go then?" he queried with a cynical sidelong glance at her.
She smiled affably back, assuaging his abject irritation at her somewhat, "There was not much we could do ourselves to help her now, could we? If she learned about what happened, it would only bother her and make her even more, as you say, wound up then she already is."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. She's been really uptight lately. The Leingods are pretty much on her mind twenty four-seven."
"But you're still worried, aren't you?"
Cliff snorted, "Of course! You know I don't like keeping secrets from her, especially when they're every bit her business to know."
"But don't you think meeting with the Leingod boy, Fayt, would help?" Mirage countered casually, her tone losing its usual objective formality. She was eyeing him with an absolute twinkle in her dazzling eyes, a look that never meant good things.
He gulped, laying his eyes flat, "You're up to something aren't you?"
"Whatever could you mean, Cliff?"
"Mirage, this isn't a game, you know. They could both be exact polar opposites for all we know."
"But don't opposites attract, sir? You're always telling me that whenever I see you with a new paw print on your cheeks."
"Hey, that was seriously just for fun! How was I supposed to know..."
"...That foxfolk women don't like having their tails pulled?"
"Ugh, come on, Mirage, work with me here."
"I am, and I think that being around Fayt Leingod will be good for her. Though they're from different walks of life, I think they will learn to pull together, or they will be unhappily bonded together as two people with completely different outlooks. Maria is not an unreasonable person granted, but she does have a rather pragmatic and sometimes dispassionate way of doing things. Minimizing risk, potential loses, while boosting efficiency and the chances of success, even at the expense of herself. She does what has to be done, but her passion is a quiet one and that may be mistaken for cold objectivity."
"That's what I'm afraid of," groaned Cliff Fittir, now the newly appointed interim leader of Quark, burying his face pitifully into a gloved hand.
He really should have called heads instead of tails on that stupid fifty-fifty coin toss!
To be continued...
Hey, thanks a lot, Zosocrowe! I'd never have picked up the missing punctuation if you hadn't pointed it out.