AN: Sorry for the long delay, as if anyone really cares…
Chapter 4:Flight to Zanarkand
At around two in the morning, Dr. Cartwright came in with good news.
"Our pilot says the storm should have let up enough to allow for safe passage over the mountains."
"So we can get her to Zanarkand?" asked Mrs. Fore.
"Yes, but I'm afraid there is only enough room for one of you to fly with."
Valerie's parents looked at each other.
"You go," Mathew said, "I'll…drive…or something."
"Drive over the mountains? You're crazy! Those roads are dangerous!"
"Then I'll wait for the ferry to start up again once the storm is passed. But if I know you, you'll be a wreck if you don't go."
"What do we do?" Mindy asked.
"I think it's time we go home," her mother replied.
"Yes, we'll let you know if anything changes," Susana said.
As the two mothers and two children left, Daron stopped in the doorway and looked back. He was trying very hard to keep himself from crying; the first time they had seen tears from him all night.
"Mr. and Mrs. Fore? I…I'm…"
Susana stood up and hugged the boy lightly, so as not to hurt his broken arm. "It's all right."
"But it was my chocobo!"
"You didn't know this would happen."
"But I'm supposed to be the expert rider. She trusted me."
Susana looked him in the eye. "And I'm sure she would trust you again. Valerie thinks very highly of you, Daron. She probably doesn't want me to say this but she talks about you a lot. I think she would be more upset about you beating yourself up than about the fact that your chocobo got scared and threw her."
Daron sniffed and tried to fight his tears. "I'm still sorry."
"Apology accepted, although none of this was your doing, all right?" added Mathew.
"Yes, you just worry about that arm of yours, okay?" Susana said with a smile.
Daron nodded and turned to leave with Mindy and their mothers.
"Shall we proceed, then?" asked the doctor.
Husband and wife embraced.
"I'll see you once the storm is over?" Susana asked.
"As soon as." Mathew replied.
The sky was still filled with thick clouds. Rain fell though not as nearly heavy as it had before. The wind had died down profusely. There were still flashes of light now and then followed by quiet thunder, but nothing like before. Normally the sight of it would make Susana nervous; now all thoughts were on her daughter and getting her to where she could be treated.
The airship the hospital owned was small indeed. It was also very old. It ran on sphere technology; a technology that was fast becoming obsolete. Susana gave a small unconscious frown at the sight of a large circular shape almost like a wheel on the back of the ship.
"Don't worry, many of Zanarkand's elite military vehicles still run on sphere technology," the pilot assured her, "And anything running on sphere technology tends to stay together better if you ask me." He and the copilot then climbed into the ship to prepare for takeoff.
Susana merely nodded as she pulled the hood of her jacket tighter over her face so as to keep out the rain. Two nurses wheeled Valerie out and into the small airship. After they were on board there was the sound of an engine being started. The inside of the large wheel began to turn as it warmed up.
Doctor Cartwright came out to talk to Susana before she boarded. "We are sending two of our nurses with to accompany you to Zanarkand. The hospital you are going to has already been alerted of your coming. You should be there within the hour."
"Thank you. Thank you so much," Susana replied before getting on board.
Once inside the copilot shut the door and instructed them all to find a seat and fasten their safety belts. He then joined the pilot up front and prepared for takeoff.
Slowly the small airship rose off its platform and into the sky. All the seats inside faced each other in a semi-circle with Valerie's gurney in the middle. Her mother looked across at each of the nurses, still bundled up in their raincoats. She was surprised to see the face of Lady Meliora looking at her from under one of the hoods.
"Doing okay?" the summoner asked.
"The doctor didn't tell me you were coming. He said he was sending two nurses."
"He did," she replied.
"Lady Meliora is also a registered nurse," the other nurse replied.
"Oh. I didn't realize summoners had…other jobs."
"This day and age we have to." Meliora sat back in her seat. "There are three of us working at the hospital, actually. Two nurses, one doctor. Our ability to use white magic, among other things, makes us ideal employees."
"But why do summoners need jobs?" Immediately Susana realized that her question was less than tactful. "Sorry."
Meliora smiled meekly. "People lose faith. Fewer and fewer come to the temples all the time. A few summoners still devote themselves full-time, while others seek other means of employment. Some have normal jobs, I even know a guy who works for a funeral home; you can guess what he does. But the true purpose of a summoner is to be a service to the people. I, personally, found that being a nurse was a good choice.
"Although today was supposed to be my day off. My boyfriend and I were supposed to go out. He told me to tell the hospital that I couldn't come in, but I had been asked to come as a summoner, not a nurse. I couldn't turn that down."
"Thank you," said Susana. "And…I'm sorry, about earlier."
"No, it's fine. I know I'd probably be the same if it were my child. Especially if it were my only child."
The three women continued to talk as the flight went on. Susana swapped motherhood stories with the other nurse, Nancy, who had two children of her own.
It wasn't long before the pilot announced they were passing over the Pavilion Mountains with Mt. Hewlett off to the East. All the while it continued to rain softly.
"Zanarkand. You know, Frank, my wife and I are thinking of moving there," the pilot said to the copilot.
"Really? Why's that, John?" Frank the copilot asked in reply.
John sighed. "With all that's going on with Bevelle these days, you know? I don't like the idea of having nothing between us and them yet a whole mountain range between us and the city, you know?"
"Makes sense. But I dunno, I like it too much out in the sticks. All nice and quiet. I could never live in the city."
"Yeah. It'll be a big change, that's for sure."
The two men were quiet for a moment. Frank gave a sigh much like John's and looked up out his side of the windshield. There was still a lot of cloud cover so all was dark. Here and there the moonlight broke through, but mostly everything was black. He looked back down at the controls but then quickly back up. He had seen something out of the corner of his eye.
"Did you see something, John?"
"I don't know, something strange. Look!" He pointed out the very front of the cockpit. "There's another one!"
John quickly turned his head in disbelief. Was that what he thought it was?
"It looks like a pyrefly."
"There's another to your left!" said Frank.
Indeed there was. And then another. Here and there all over small colorful spheres of light were floating past the windshield.
In the back of the airship Lady Meliora began to feel uneasy.
"Do you guys feel that?"
"Feel what?" asked Nancy.
"John? Frank? Is everything okay up there?" she called.
"Yeah, my lady, but…you better come see this!" said John.
The summoner unstrapped her seat belt and stood. She went up behind the pilot seats and leaned over in between them.
"Look at them all!" the pilot said.
Meliora's mouth fell open in amazement. "What in the…"
Susana joined them up front. "What is it?" She immediately knew she didn't need to have her question answered. She didn't get a reply either way.
There was total silence for a good half a minute. Finally, Frank spoke. "What do you think's causing this? A sending?"
"It would have to be a lot of people all being sent at once," Lady Meliora replied. "But no, something doesn't feel right."
She removed herself from leaning in between the seats and stood. She turned around just as a single pyrefly rose up through the floor of the ship. She froze to her spot and watched as it gently glided upward. Susana turned and saw it, too. Meliora reached out her hand to touch it, then quickly withdrew and watched as the pyrefly rose up through the ceiling.
"Something is defiantly not right here. Susana, in your seat, quick!"
As the summoner spoke these words the ship gave a great jerk. The two standing women each grabbed onto what they could for support. Meliora pushed Susana into her seat as she stumbled for her own.
The airship gave another jerk downwards. More and more pyreflies were coming in through the walls and floor. The three women instinctively held onto Valerie's gurney while the men tried their best to regain control.
John held onto the controls so tightly that his knuckles began to turn white. Frank frantically tried sending out a distress call but got no reply. All the while the ship started to jerk and shake more violently as it descended in altitude towards the rocky cliffs of the Pavilion Mountains down below.
Meliora looked over at Susana. The mother was holding tightly onto her daughter's hand. She looked back at Nancy who was doing her best to keep the I.V. and other equipment from being damaged. She then looked up towards the front of the airship and the struggle going on there. She knew what she had to do. Either she try and succeed or they all died. Certainly she was the one among them who had the least amount to lose.
"John! Will the cabin de-pressurize at this altitude?"
"If the door were to fly open, how would that affect the ship?"
Frank turned to look at her.
"We're low enough that it wouldn't do anything. Why do you ask?"
Without a verbal explanation Lady Summoner Meliora unbuckled her seat belt, grabbed her staff from off the floor at her feet, and stood. She half-stumbled towards the left-side door.
"What are you doing?" Susana asked.
Meliora put one hand on the handle then turned to look the woman in the eye. "My duty."
With unnatural strength Meliora pulled the handle and pushed the door open. She fell back a few steps until she was against the opposite side. She closed her eyes tightly for concentration. She called upon all the powers of the world to aid her. She took a couple steps toward the open door and spread her arms out to her side, standing perfectly still despite the movement of the ship.
Susana could have touched her. Every instinct she had told her to reach out and do so. Grab her; throw her back into her seat. But the terrified mother resisted.
The summoner began to glow. Rows of differently colored and patterned circles twisted around her. Jets of light shot out through the door. She then slowly walked toward the door and fell out.
Nancy screamed. Susana and Frank were too stunned for words. John was shouting, "What happened? What happened?" over the noise.
There were a few moments of silence broken only by the sound of the wind rushing past the door and Nancy's frantic sobs. Then there came a bright flash of light followed by a loud screech. Just seconds later the bright light spilled in through the open door, so bright none could see. When the light subsided, there stood Meliora. She quickly pulled the door shut and sat in her seat.
Susana, Frank, and Nancy could do nothing but stare, but the summoner was all business.
"John! Ease up on the controls! He's going to guide you down!"
Meliora strapped herself back into her seat and sat with her eyes closed. There was the sound of a light thud and the ship leveled off.
Susana stared at her from her seat. She could hardly believe what was happening. She could hardly believe what she had just witnessed; Meliora had summoned and aeon.
"Easy now, John. Take it very easy. We're coming up on a good place to land. He's going to ease us down."
Ever so slowly the airship began to descend, guided on the back of the aeon below it. Susana wondered what the beast must look like.
"When we get back, the first thing I'm going to do is go to the temple and pray," said John with a nervous laugh.
"We'd be glad to have you," Meliora replied, her eyes still closed. "Watch it now."
"Can you…see what the aeon is seeing?" Susana asked.
"Yes, and he obeys my every command."
Susana relaxed in her seat. "I think I'm going to go pray, too."
Across the gurney from her the summoner smiled. But her feeling of elation would not last long.
Something was moving far below them. Meliora could see it out of the corner of her aeon's eye. It glowed bright. At first she thought it might be a pyrefly. Then she realized just how far away it was. It was much too large to be a pyrefly. The object streaked past quickly, always coming closer, then moving far away. Every time it came close it was nearer than before.
"There's something moving around below us. It may be a fiend," Meliora told them.
"Can you fight it?" Nancy asked.
"Let's just try to land first, then I'll be able to worry about that."
The moon broke through the clouds and illuminated the snowy mountainside. Not far ahead of them was a long, flat ridge, perfect for a landing. But the airship was not fast enough.
The object came back into view, and then darted up, straight toward them. Meliora gasped. "Everyone hang on!" was all she had time to say.
The aeon let out a loud screech as the bright object passed through it, a screech that was echoed by a scream from Meliora. The airship jerked violently and fell before being leveled off again by the aeon.
The cabin of the ship was filled with light as the bright object came through the floor and hovered in mid air. Everyone stared at it. Meliora, who had doubled over in her seat, looked up at it, finally opening her eyes. She was breathing heavy as if she had done hard, physical labor. Beads of sweat rolled down her face.
There was a flash and everything in the cabin turned white. After only a few seconds everyone's sight returned, but the damage had been done.
"We're losing power!" John cried.
Meliora was sitting up in her seat again, eyes closed. "We're almost there!"
The sky around the outside of the airship began to look as if it were glowing as more and more pyreflies began to swarm, flying in and out of the sides of the ship. Below the aeon roared and screeched in pain as the pyreflies flew about it. Inside, Meliora did her best to hold everything up. Her eyes were shut tightly, her knuckles white as she held onto the sides of her seat.
Everything began to shake again as the airship moved faster and faster towards the mountain below. Susana looked over at her daughter and reached out to take her hand. She squeezed.
Valerie squeezed back.
"Mom?" came a weak voice.
Mother and daughter looked into each other's eyes, just as Meliora let out a piercing scream.
The small ship crashed into the side of the mountain, skidding along the ridge before finally coming to a halt.
So, shall I continue? As I have stated previously, Advent Children has instilled in me a desire to write FFVII fanfiction, and I already have two stories started. I do want to finish this fic, but how fast that is accomplished will depend upon how many reviews I get, I guess.