DISCLAIMER: I, The Mad Poet, do not own any Star Ocean game, publication, or related character. I am a poor fan with too much time on my hands with no money, so don't sue me. This novelization is being written solely for my own sick, twisted amusement; and views expressed herein do not reflect those of the original creators. Do not expect a replica of the game—I am One Sick Puppy. By that token, the following fanfiction and all original concepts therein are my own; do not steal them because I will find out and beat you death with a crowbar. I know where you sleep.

Expect explicit violence, mature themes, politics, crude and/or ethnic jokes, lots of prejudice, more violence, mindgames, a reality check, and enough religious references to choke a Mormon choir.

Flames will be used to work on my tan.

Much credit, love, and general adoration to Batpig Sexgod, who has helped me with so much of this—including putting up with that awful excuse for an SO game long enough to start this.



THOU SHALT NOT

00

It was late afternoon on a day drenched with the warm sun of storybook perfection, and the air was thickly clean with seasalt and greenery; organic and fresh and wholly alive. Through the skylight ceiling of the Grantier Resort Hotel the sky was high and clear and flawlessly azure without even the memory of clouds. Through the high glass walls the beach was clearly visible as a palm-jeweled bracelet of golden sand kissed with white foam and blue water, where the dim specks of vacationers swam in the gentle surf or lay prone beneath shade or sunlight. In the expansive lounge a fern-adorned fountain which dominated its center tossed spangles of reflected brilliance upon the artfully scalloped walls--cream not white, and softer on the eyes--and tiny droplets of moisture onto the padded seats which surrounded it. Somewhere, children ran through the plush carpeted hallways, and their gales of squealing laughter carried across the grounds--just one more sweet summer sound in a world without winter, a careful paradise of careless poise and pleasure. Like the seabirds and the breeze, the music of the surf, it was sublime.

Strange among those natural sounds was the brief, subtle hydraulic hiss of an internal door--the small polished plaque beside it read 'Simulation Center'--as it opened to admit a young man with his eyes squinted into thin chinks of cerulean against the sudden brightness. He paused for a moment, a thourougly average young man of a thorougly average build, with his richly blue-black hair cut into a thoroughly average and artful short raggedness which could have easily been tousled into whatever generic style came into fashion on the campus of his Terran college. He wore sandals and khaki shorts and the sleeveless poly microfiber zip-down which was all the rage this year in white and opened, as was also all the rage, halfway down his unremarkable chest. Except for the untanned, unburned pallor of his skin, so foreign to this sunwashed hideaway, he could have been any of a hundred thousand human boys vacationing on the luxuriant equator of Hyda IV. And, really, that was all he was.

With the heavy, bone-weary moan of a fieldbroken soldier he stumbled away from the safe support of the doorway into the lobby itself, rolling his head on his neck to loosen muscles tight with tension and the last guttering flows of adrenaline; muscles man no longer used on a normal and natural basis which protested loudly and painfully both at being so rudely awakened. His face was flushed, and in the shifting light of fountain-dapples his arms bore their own faint sheen of moisture in the form of a thin sweat. But he was smiling, when he dropped heavily onto the cushioned bench about the fountain's rim. He braced his hands on his knees and lowered his head, letting out a tired, happy sigh and enjoying the cool damp air that flowed from the moving water.

A large soft drink cup was thrust abruptly into his face, the jutting straw nearly jabbing him in the eye, and the boy jumped with a singularly unmasculine yelp. "Woah!" Pinwheeling his arms for a moment, he managed somehow to regain his balance and not tumble backwards into the fountain. It left him heaving and he put a hand over his heart with a gasp, perhaps a little melodramatically; certain that he was going to suffer a heart attack there and then, at the bright young age of nineteen, before he could even complete his symbology major. He jerked his head towards the source of the attack as it giggled softly, and moved the drink back to a safe distance.

"Here you go!"

The voice of the girl was new to the room, sweet and pleasant and just high enough to be slightly grating in its cheer. She herself was not, but matched the voice perfectly with a tan only slightly too pink, which would be red by the evening, and her small hands with trim round nails painted a soft bubblegum color against the bright commercial blue and white and yellow of the cup. The color was thematic and she wore a light shirt over her swimsuit, breezy but hooded and long-sleeved in a muted version of the shade which had once--by the tube of flavored lipstick she had owned as a child--been dubbed Peppermint Yum-Yum. When he was twelve she had kissed him with it and he had informed her solemnly that it tasted not of peppermint but toothpaste and pink bismuth, and she had hit him and run away. Now, the color made her fine brown hair look less ashy and more red where a few drying, vagrant wisps had not been pulled back.

"Ah, hi Sophia. . ." He blinked slightly up at her, then made a face and took the offered soda. He was thirsty, and when he took a drink the icy cola was a shock and relief on his throat. He shivered slightly, before gesturing with the cup as she sat down next to him. "You startled me. I thought you were going swimming down at the beach."

She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath before letting it out and turning her small nose imperiously upward. "I was waiting for you, but you never came!" Leaning forward, Sophia fixed him with a look that seemed dreadedly similar to the petulant glare he had received upon debunking the myth of the sacred lipstick--hurt and pouting and angry, and one hundred percent girl; that very essence of guilt trips. "You said you'd play a few games and then head right over. . ."

For a moment, all the boy could do was flinch slightly and scramble for an excuse as he continued to suck at his straw as if unaffected by that horrible weapon of weapons. After a moment he swallowed, and ducked his head submissively as he turned towards her. "Uh. . .I'm sorry! I didn't plan on staying so long. I just, you know, got kinda sucked in. . ."

"All right, well." He cringed at the tone, which was one his mother assumed herself only when he was really, deeply, and truly in for it. She shook her head in exasperation, lip moving out slightly in a pout as she gestured in frustration. "That's what I thought happened. You're so predictable. If you're going to ignore me you could at least have a decent excuse. Didn't you say you said 'such an awful ton' of homework to do before we came to Hyda, anyway?"

"But. . .I. . ." His jaw worked a bit as he scrambled for a defense, before he popped out of his seat to stand in front of her. "But. . .I was fighting so well today! And I leveled up a lot too, you know." It was hard to keep the excitement out of his pleading tones. The slightly narrowed look of her eyes, and the continued presence of the pout, told him it was not appreciated.

"Yeah, yeah. How nice for you."

"Huh. Someone's in a bad mood today."

The change of tactics with its slightly teasing tone did not work, and Sophia looked pointedly away. "What do you expect? You'd rather play silly games than hang out at the beach with me!"

He decided to try again. Looking down, he lowered his voice slightly, and bit his lip in a passably apologetic manner. . .for a child, perhaps. ". . .Sophia?"

"Hmph!" The cold shoulder elevated a level as she not only turned her head from him but stood up and walked away from the fountain a few steps; leaving her back to him. Her sweater was wet in the back still, and had ridden up slightly over her swimsuit. It was blue, pale blue, because it had always been that way. It would be modest and one piece, and there would be a pink heart on the front between her small breasts. It was the kind of thing only a little girl would wear, or a college student who still called her favorite pink by the name of a child's lipstick and drew endearingly malproportioned stick-cats beside her signature and still, sometimes, dotted her 'i's with small hearts if she was not careful not to. The boy came up behind her as timidly as if he approached a wild animal.

"You aren't. . .mad, are you?"

"I'm not mad!" But she said it in a way that meant she was, she was very mad, and that he had gone and done something even worse than debunking the sacred lipstick and now must be punished. Unless of course he could make her happy again.

"Ah. . .Do you. . ." He paused, lowering the drink and swinging around in front of her again, this time with an ingratiating smile. "Do you wanna go to the beach?"

But she had slipped past him and stalked away again even as he made his hopeful proposal, head still turned up and away. And voice still dripping with accusatory, injured scorn. "I swam enough. While somebody I know was having the time of his life, playing games all by himself!" And if he likes it that much, that big mean jerk, he can keep doing it for the rest of the week.

He refused to take the hint. "So. . .do you wanna take a walk through the hotel?" Swinging around in front of her again, he grimaced slightly at the impatient way she turned away--again--and put her hands on her hips, glaring stolidly at the wall. He decided it was time to break out the big guns. Because they always worked, and he was really in it now. He put his hands on Sophia's shoulders and turned her towards himself, assuming the most guilty, puppy-eyed expression of pleading he had perfected after years of trial and error. "I bet it'll be fun. Right? What do you say? C'mon Sophia. . .please? Pretty please?"

"Wellll. . ." She looked up at him critically, but the smile was coming through onto her small pretty mouth again, and the petulance was seeping out of her pretty grey eyes behind the long lashes. She knew she had won, but she was used to that. There was something very self assured in the way she tilted her head and finally smiled up at him as she leaned in, speaking as though she were a queen imparting some massive favor on a commoner. "If you want to hang out with me that badly I guess it's all right. . ."

"Great!" He grinned, offering his hand to her, and some slightly squeamish corner of his masculinity wondered if it wasn't a bad sign that he considered Sophia's smug allowance a grand victory. Most of him was just glad she wouldn't be snubbing him for the rest of the day, or week, or however long it took her to decide he could be forgiven. Once it had been a month, when he had told her it was silly to wash down a burger and box of cookies with diet soda and been accused of calling her fat. "Let's go. Time's a-wastin'!"

Sophia giggled, and took his hand.