Crash and Burn
Bearit's Notes: Hi all! I'm ready to write fanfic again, and here's a multi-chapter one that I have every intentions at finishing. This is a story about Eagle's past. That's all you need to know for now. Pairing-wise, well, just wait and see. This is just the prologue, which is set in the present, but the format of this fic will be flashback. Enjoy!
A slight breeze rustled the green leaves above their heads, cooling them after a refreshing picnic in the sun. Even after seven years of living in Cephiro, poor Eagle, skin and hair as pale as the cream Fuu used in her homemade tea, could not stand to be in the sun for too long. He managed it once, tolerance only enhanced with splashing with his good friends in one of the crystal lakes of Cephiro, but when he returned to the palace for dinner Caldina could not stop giggling, for Eagle looked "as red as a young one walking in on an attractive woman taking a shower." Sure enough, when Eagle tried to step foot in one of the hot baths later that evening, the water stung his cooked skin from head to toe.
So Hikaru made it a point from then on to keep Eagle in and out of the sun at equal lengths of time of no more than half an hour every time she and Lantis decided to do something with their friend. Even at the wedding, the first, and so far only, Earth's "Western-style" wedding Cephiro has ever witnessed (with the union of Fuu and Ferio there was a mixture of the "Western" wedding with the Cephiro traditions of coronation), the groom's side was shaded by the nearby palace woods so that Eagle would not burn up again. Geo and Zazu had been very amused.
It wasn't an Autozam thing completely, despite the polluted clouds that prevented the sunlight from ever permeating the whole of the country. Zazu could hardly tolerate the sun either, and neither could most ambassadors who visited the country whenever Geo was busy with other duties to the military and could not make it for the monthly summit of the Four Countries. But Geo was one of the few who could stand the sun because of his tanned skin, a recessive gene in Autozam and possibly, as pointed out by a friend, evidence that Geo might have Chizetan heritage.
So underneath the tree with the small wind whistling through their ears and strands of hair the three sat, Hikaru excitedly talking about the antics of her brothers back in Japan and Lantis and Eagle quietly listening, just as things should have been, had the Creator built hearts strong enough to hold two instead of one.
Eagle was no longer hurt over it. Lantis and Hikaru more than deserved each other. In the end he realized that to Hikaru, he was like another older brother, a perfect fit to her already large family, and to Lantis, well, that was a story that had written "The End" once Princess Emeraude passed away.
A loud rumbling and a large shadow slowly drifting overhead interrupted the birds' songs and dances and caught the attention of the three below, who stood and saw the lamp-shaped mobile float towards the castle. Hikaru bounced with a bright smile that rivaled the sunshine and tugged at Lantis's arm.
"Come on!" she urged. "Let's go greet Tatra and Tarta!"
Lantis smiled as he let Hikaru pull him towards the palace, and Eagle laughed as he followed behind, taking a steady pace as the two hurried along. He liked the fresh air, and he could never get enough of it, after living his entire life with gas masks and manufactured air. Being the son of the president had its advantages, he supposed, since his father did a splendid job ruling the country that no one ever thought to impeach him, and Eagle no longer had to worry about upholding his father's reputation by being the perfect son. He could stay in Cephiro for as long as he wanted to, unlike his friends; Geo had obligations ever since Eagle officially passed the command of the NSX to him, which set in motion a plethora of promotions. Geo was general now, and adviser to President Vision. Zazu's life was in Autozam; no way could he pursue mechanics in Cephiro, especially since the only technology Cephiro wanted was the technology that would contribute least to Autozam's destructive path, such as simple communication systems and the little ship Geo left behind for Eagle after he awoke from his coma, "just in case."
When, finally, Eagle entered the courtyard of the palace, where meetings always took place, Clef had only just arrived as well, and today only Tatra, Queen of Chizeta had come to Cephiro. Her elegant white royal robe with yellow, red, and orange jewels bordering the edges of the fabric touched the green grass of the courtyard gently, and her red hair flowed behind her, tamed only by the crown wrapped around her forehead. Serene as ever, she greeted everyone kindly: the Master Mage first, Ferio and Fuu next, and then Hikaru and Lantis. As Eagle approached the group, her calm features hardened, which made Eagle's heart jump.
"Eagle," she said quietly as she extended her hand, "I have a message for you, and it is imperative that you listen to it now."
He frowned and took the shiny, silver metal object from her. "If it was that important, they would have called my ship first."
"It is so important that the Foreign Minister Avant knew that I would give you the message before you would have even checked your ship. It only came to the Bravada this morning."
Eagle could feel the confused eyes of the others on him, and he stared at the communicator, the warmth permeating into his palm. "It's from Meson?" he asked quietly.
Hands clasped, Tatra nodded. "He assured me that it is personal. It has nothing to do with Autozam's foreign policy." She smiled softly. "Believe me, if it were, I would know what is said on the message. Autozam and Chizeta continue to have a peaceful and strong alliance, and your father has made no indication of any aggressive moves against other countries, especially not against Chizeta." She frowned again. "But I do not know how dire the situation is, I do not know what has happened, what is going on. All I can assure you of is that it is domestic and not international."
Eagle nodded. "Thank you." He turned to the others with a little grin. "I have to apologize, but I do believe this is something I must listen to on my own. If you'll excuse me."
He turned his heel out of the circle and walked through the opposite hall from where he entered, to the docking bay that Clef created for the convenience of the other three countries for when they visited if only because they loved bringing their biggest ships (even though Eagle was convinced that Geo brought the NSX only to appease Zazu, who continued work on the battleship ever since the FTO was lost forever in the Creator's mouth). When he caught sight of the modest little white and green ship in the corner of the docking bay, he found himself gasping for air—had he been so desperate to know what in Mokona's name Meson Avant wanted to tell him that he would run here, and had he been so anxious that during the dash he would hold his breath?
Eagle punched the numbers into the keypad of the little ship, and air puffed from the edges of the door as it slowly dropped to the linoleum floor of the bay. The only sound he heard as he wandered the short distance from the modest living quarters suited for one to the cockpit was the quiet humming of the ship starting up its computers, just enough so that Eagle could seat himself down in the pilot's seat and insert the communicator into a couple of cables on the console and listen—and watch—the message his old friend had sent.
On the square screen that popped up against the front view windows, a digitalized picture of a man with smooth chocolate brown hair and softly rugged features crackled into picture, a white military suit with green badges and patches pinned to his jacket. His face was stern, but his eyes gave away something else. Something…
Eagle braced himself for the worst. It couldn't be his father—everyone would have known immediately. It couldn't be his mother… could it? A civil war had broken out? A rebellion? Tatra had promised that it was nothing foreign but what if it was, and Meson had only said that it wasn't just so Tatra would give the message to Eagle without question? Maybe it wasn't bad news. Maybe it was good news. As unlikely as it were, Eagle could only hope for that.
"Eagle Vision," the picture began, its mouth moving along with the words, "this is Meson Avant, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Autozam. I am here to tell you that last night there has been an accident."
Eagle took a deep breath. Okay. Bad news.
"There was a fire at a restaurant called the Asuna Sunfire, and the manager hadn't had the ventilation systems checked in over ten years. Naturally, there was a leak, and the smoke filtered its way to outside the dome, which due to the chemicals in Autozam's atmosphere and the chemicals in the smoke caused an explosion. Many people were wounded, some were killed. Among these casualties were—"
Meson stopped then, and he bit his lip and shifted his eyes away from the view screen. Eagle closed his eyes and turned his head down. That crazy old man. Geo kept warning him to get the ventilation system checked, but time and time again, he kept assuring them that no, no, it's fine, and it was just a scam anyway for the companies to make more money.
"Eagle," Meson began again, quietly, "I can't tell you this with a straight face." He sighed, searching for the right words. "A couple of people we went to school with were killed, several others were wounded, and I don't know how to say this, and I don't know why I'm the one who has to, I mean, yeah, I'm the Foreign Minister, I have to take care of international messages from the Cabinet, but… but I'm one of the unscathed survivors… and I…"
He stopped and caught a few breaths from his speedy explanations. He took a deep breath, and slowly continued, "The old man, who owned the restaurant, you remember him, right? There wasn't any trace of him… anywhere. Last we saw him he was going into the kitchen… and next thing we knew… there was the explosion, and… Old Man Meyers wasn't the only one killed that we knew."
Meson hesitated again. "Eagle," he said, his voice clinging on to just above a whisper, "Zazu… didn't… make it."
Eagle's eyes flew open and he jerked his head to the screen. Meson had his head down, too, his shoulders trembling, and then he looked back up to meet Eagle eye-to-eye, biting his lip and tears brimming his eyes. Eagle felt much of the same.
"The… the funeral… is—" Meson took another breath. "—is soon. A couple of days. In three days. I know you haven't been back to Autozam in a while and I know you don't want to, but… you should. You should come back. If only for that day. Please, Eagle. Please."
There was a pause. The screen had yet to go blank, and Meson shifted in his seat and looked away again. His arms trembled, and he made a conscious and conspicuous effort to control his breathing.
How could that not be all?
How could Meson sit there, not turning off the transmission, after just telling him that one of his closest friends had just died because of a freak accident waiting to happen? How could Meson just sit there, after just telling him this, that there was more? What more? Old Man Meyers who always brightened up any gloomy day with his quirky habits, and Zazu Torque, the mechanical prodigy wanted everywhere for every battleship for every company but Eagle was able to have him for the NSX because Zazu chose Eagle, because Eagle and Zazu graduated in the same class, because Eagle promised Zazu a bright future, because Zazu was Eagle's first real friend… who else? Who…
"No," he muttered, widening his eyes. "It can't be. It's… it's impossible."
"That's all I was supposed to tell you," said Meson slowly, "because those two are the only casualties that pertain to you. But… there might be another one… soon."
Eagle shook his head. "No…"
"… and it's only fair to tell you, knowing how close you two are… but… Geo…"
For the first time in his life, Eagle fell, and no one was there to support him.