"On A Day Like Today..."
By Darren Shier
I wish to thank Tamerine, author of "FF7 Twisted" for her permission to use the game-twisting idea. Seeing as how it's been done for FFVI, FFVII and FFVIII, here's me doing it for FFIX. Here's hoping people will be able to 'collect the whole set'. =) Also, in keeping with the style of my other stories, I'm writing this one based around a central theme. For "The Omega" it was Family and for "The Best Of Both Worlds" it was Alternate Realities. This story is all about finding your place in the world, and understanding who you are and where you belong.
"He who overcomes will be dressed in white, and I will not take his name from the book of life; and I will give witness to his name before my Father, and before his Angels." - Revelations 3:5
"If all were so easy, why, none would suffer in the world."– Zidane Tribal
"On A Day Like Today..."
Free is all you gotta be
Dream dreams no one else can see
Sometimes you wanna run away
But you never know what might be comin' round your way
Yeah, yeah, yeah
On a day like today
The whole world could change
The sun's gonna shine,
Shine through the rain
On a day like today
You never wanna see the sun go down
You never wanna see the sun go down
Somewhere, there's a place for you
I know that you believe it too
Sometimes if you wanna get away
All you gotta know is what we got is here to stay,
All the way
On a day like today - The whole world could change
The sun's gonna shine - Shine through the rain
On a day like today - No one complains
We're free to be pure - Free to be sane
On a day like today
You never wanna see the sun go down
You never wanna see the sun go down
Free is all we gotta be
Dream dreams no one else can see
But you never know what might be comin' for you and me
Yeah it's gotta be
On a day like today - The whole world could change
Yeah, the sun's gonna shine - Shine through the rain
On a day like today - No one complains
We're free to be pure - Free to be saved
On a day like today
You never wanna see the sun go down
You never wanna see the sun go down...
Prologue; "The Perfect Storm"
Waves crashed against the boat, throwing the occupants around helplessly. Spray and foam washed over them, whilst stinging rain pelted them from all sides. A huge wave caught the tiny boat, almost literally a twig in a hurricane, lifting it right up out of the sea. It seemed to hang there for a brief instant, before crashing back down into the waves, and still the occupants hung on for dear life as once again the roaring waves pounded over them...
And Queen Garnet opened her eyes.
The images of wind, rain and waves that raced through her subconscious mind were once again, stilled. Almost completely forgotten, were it not for the rainstorm she could see washing itself against the castle windows. Sometimes she wondered about the images. Memories? A dream? Memories of a dream?
She sighed and rubbed the fatigue from her eyes, and walked over to the window. She opened the latches and pushed the glass frames open easily. The breeze was blowing from behind the castle, so the rain didn't fly directly at her. She looked out across the kingdom of Alexandria. Her kingdom, left to her by her recently deceased mother, the late Queen Brahne. Grey clouds blanketed the sky, blotting out the sun and providing the perfect mirror to the Mist that covered the lands beneath the cliffs of the Alexandria plateau. The sky was slowly but surely starting to clear, and the rain was easing up. Maybe the clouds would even finally part and there would be a fresh starry night tonight. Then she looked out over across the country, to where the neighboring kingdom of Lindblum was. The storm seemed to be at it's worst there. Thunder was too far away to be heard, but Garnet could see the lightning, both sheet and forked flashing the sky and stabbing the ground with it's reptile tongue. The country itself was shrouded in fog and the haze of rain in the distance could easily be made out. She hoped then that the theatre ship wouldn't have to cancel it's voyage on account of the storm.
She heard the door open behind her, and followed the clanking of armor. She didn't turn around. "Yes, Steiner?" she sighed. Adelbert Steiner stood bold and tall, a man proud of his place in life, with a belief in the hierarchy of nobles over commoners that was so firm it was often likened to the iron rod palace staff believed was wedged permanently up his butt. "Your majesty!" he saluted, proudly. "I'm delighted to report that the scholars of the royal library have reliably informed me that the rain will have abated in time for tonight's performance." Garnet nodded in appreciation. "And also, I have received word that tonight's honored guests have departed Treno and are heading for Alexandria via Gargant Roo."
"Thank you." said Garnet, and continued staring out towards stormy Lindblum. And let's hope that all tonight's guests will arrive, she thought.
* * *
The stranger walked along the rain-soaked cobblestones atop of the South Gate. It was dangerous to be up here, he knew, but he was a firm believer that with almost every situation, the ends justify the means. And his mission had demanded this of him.
He pulled the cloak further over his head and kept his eyes low as another wash of rain pelted over him and the wind screamed in his ears. He reflected briefly on the necessity of being here and why. He had a job to do in Alexandria, and travel to Alexandria on foot was nigh on impossible if not suicidal. Not that he was worried about dying of course, but time was also a factor in this mission. That meant travel to Alexandria had to be by airship; which he didn't have. Not to mention the fact that all passengers and cargo on airships coming into or leaving the city of Lindblum had to be inspected. And given the nature of his profession, an "alumni" of the city's illegal outlaw Assassin's Guild, there was no way he could ever be given a gate pass. His employer for this mission could easily have given him one, but given the nature of his profession, he couldn't afford people asking questions.
And so, he had been told to make his own way out of Lindblum, and to make sure he could do it quickly. That had led him to Tantalus, the wandering band of thieves and troubadours. Once a price had been agreed, their leader, Baku, had agreed to take him to Alexandria. Their theatre ship, the Prima Vista was to rendezvous with him just outside the South Gate, but, Baku had warned him, they would not wait.
And so, he had left the city by the Dragon's Gate, and wandered out across the marshlands, forests and swamps towards the South Gate. The storm had only just begun when he left, and by now it was at it's peak. He'd walked up into the mountains and back down the side until finally he had come to the top of South Gate itself. And when he'd arrived, it had been just in time to see the Prima Vista coming out of the Mist towards the Gate. Now was the time.
The stranger took one last deep breath, and inexplicably broke into a run. He threw off his black cloak, which caught in an updraft gale, was carried by the storm, and never seen again. He ran into the wind and the rain, which slicked his silver hair and white clothes. He was fast, and he knew it. Potentially faster than anyone else on the planet, well, save one, of course. He gritted his teeth and squinted his eyes, racing across the cobblestones into the storm, until he finally came to the point he needed. Not breaking his lightning-fast run, he breathed out, braced himself, and jumped off the gate, wide and clear. He somersaulted and flipped and finally straightened himself out, opening out his arms and falling gracefully in a perfect swan dive.
Baku stepped out onto the deck and shivered as a blast of cold rain and wind blew at him. He pulled his coat tighter around him and looked around for Blank. He found him at the very back of the ship, searching through the maelstrom with a small collapsible telescope. "Hey Blank!" he shouted over the howling of the wind "Can ya see him?!?"
Blank looked back at him. "Hey, give me a break, Boss!" he shouted back. "Even with this telescope, in this storm, I couldn't even see Queen Brahne's–"
"–maysherestinpeace, of course, but in this storm I couldn't even see her ass if it was wobbling right in front of me."
"So you still haven't given up hope, huh Blank?" He laughed like a wild boar and slapped him heavily on the back. "Come on, go back inside. Albino Boy's ship has sailed without him."
They turned to go back inside, only to suddenly see a figure coming, falling right out of the storm and land heavily in a crouching position on the deck. "Holy crap!" Blank exclaimed. The fallen man stood up and looked at them, running a hand through his silver hair. "Kuja!" Baku growled. "You nearly gave me a heart attack!"
"You gotta have a heart before you can have an attack, Baku." Kuja replied, pulling a lock of wet hair from his eyes.
"Holy Shnikies." Blank remarked. "You jumped off the South Gate?!?"
"You were expecting me maybe to dance off it?"
"Whatever!" Baku dismissed. "Let's get inside! If I catch cold I'm gonna be taking it out on the price of your ticket, bucko!" Baku walked back inside and slammed the wooden door angrily. "Ah, don't worry about him." said Blank. "He's just in a bad mood, that's all."
"And when is he ever not in a bad mood?" Kuja asked. Blank thought about it for a moment. "Usually only when he's in a really bad mood, I guess, heh heh." Kuja allowed himself a small grin. He had never much considered becoming an actor, he had too much of a grip on this reality than to start pretending about others. But he had thought about becoming a thief, but his skills had been a lot more proficient as an assassin.
"We better go in." said Blank, pulling open the wooden door and stepping inside. Kuja stepped up the door, then turned back to face the storm and Lindblum one last time. He pulled it closed behind him, and the ship sailed on, out across the Mist, out of the storm, and on towards Alexandria.
Chapter I; "City Of Angels"
Without argument, the most magnificent city on all of Gaia. Situated on the top of a plateau that hung on the very border of the Mist, it was a place built on the co-operation and friendship of most of the planet's races and species. A peaceful place, Alexandria was politically neutral. The last war it had been involved in was long out of living memory. It was the kind of place you could only read about in a fairy tale, and only visit if you didn't mind wanting to stay afterward.
They moved through the crowd, keeping with the other nobles. Everything he saw was new to the young Black Mage who walked with them, dwarfed by the human and human-sized nobles whose company he had kept since leaving Treno. Everything of this city awed him. At only nine years of age, the world was still a collection of new experiences waiting for him to cast his golden eyes upon, and Alexandria was truly a feast for the eyes.
Vivi Ornitier stared in marvel at everything around him. It was a fresh night, the bad weather long since gone, leaving the only trace of it's existence a collection of puddles on the ground and a fresh feeling in the air. The orange glow of lights from the various buildings that were still open for business tonight cast strange shadows around the streets.
Not wanting to dawdle, Vivi jogged a few steps, trying to keep up with the quickened pace of his friend, who seemed more eager than ever to get to the castle. Maybe he just really wanted to get to see the play as soon as possible? His friend was a big aficionado of the theatre, after all. Or maybe it was also the fact that this would be the first time he would be seeing Garnet again after her coronation as Queen.
Vivi stopped when he felt a vast shadow looming over him. He turned around and stared upwards at the vast airship that flew over the city, blotting out the light of Gaia's twin moons. He stared in wonder, craning his neck back further and further as the ship passed directly over him, until he fell over, flat on his back. His friend heard the sound of him falling over, stopped and turned around, ignoring the other nobles. He walked up to Vivi, helped him back up and saw what he had been looking at.
"It's only the theatre ship." he said. "They call it the Prima Vista. Don't fall behind, you'll get to see more of it later on during the show." Vivi nodded. "Y-yeah. I just didn't expect it to be so.....big."
"That's not big." said his friend. "If you wanna see some big airships, Alexandria is the right place to be. I'll take you on one later."
"Really?!" Vivi gasped.
"Yeah, 'course." said his friend. "Now let's go, and don't fall behind again."
"Okay, Zidane." said Vivi, and trotted after his friend as they ran to catch up with the other nobles. "Honorable nobles of Treno!" they heard the Herald call. "This way to Alexandria Castle!"
"That's us!" yelled Zidane and sprinted after the other nobles, his tail trailing behind him, leaving Vivi with something to help him keep track of him. He dashed after him through the town square and on towards were the nobles gathered for the ferry that was to take them into the castle.
Meanwhile, on the Prima Vista, everyone was assigning his or her roles for tonight, in more ways than one. Baku wasn't around, busy changing into his costume. Cinna was trying to memorize his lines. The band was rehearsing, Marcus was practicing his sword swings, and Blank and Ruby were arguing. Again. Kuja stood at the back of the room, a man at home in shadows. He was checking his collection of throwing knives and other assorted weapons and equipment that he kept hidden amongst his clothing. Tools of his trade, as they were. Everyone was listening to Blank and Ruby, not that they had much choice.
"Well ah ain't gonna kiss you!" yelled Ruby.
"Ah, my first bit of good news." replied Blank. Cinna tried not to laugh, then looked away as Ruby glared at him. "Anyway, what's so bad about kissing me? I brush my teeth, you know."
"Oh gee, mah first bit of good news too?" Ruby countered.
They always get like this before a showthought Cinna. He took a look at his lines one last time, hid the script from his view and spoke the lines aloud again, interrupting Blank and Ruby. "Oh, tyrant!" he shouted. "Are we not the same, brothers in the family who's ranks swell to only include that which is mortal? If you poison me, will I not die? If you wrong me, shall I not revenge you? If I'm ticklish, won't I laugh? If I bleed, am I not a prick!?!"
Everyone looked up from their business and stared at him. "Uh, better keep practicing, Cinna." Marcus suggested. "And that's not even 'I Want To Be Your Canary' you're butchering. That's 'The Merchant Of Lindbum'."
Cinna moaned his annoyance loudly and walked off to find the proper script. Ruby and Blank resumed their arguing. "Like I was saying, nothing's wrong with kissing me! I haven't had any complaints!" said Blank.
"Ah am an actress, sugah!" said Ruby. "Y'all gotta give me something ah can work with. But with ya, it's just....weird."
"What exactly is the matter?" Kuja asked Marcus as the two continued on their debate over the finer points of kissing in front of a large audience. "Ah, they always get like this." Marcus explained. "Ruby's not a thief like the rest of us. She's an actress, through and through. It's in her blood, you see. Both her parents were wandering troubadours, and she spent her childhood in most of the theatres of the whole continent. It's like she was born to act. Blank on the other hand, he's a thief like the rest of us, only unlike the rest of us, he's not much into acting. We see ourselves as both thieves and actors, but Blank sees himself more as a full-time thief who's required to act every once in a while. And tonight, the big bru-ha-ha is that Ruby is gonna play Princess Cornelia, and Blank's supposed to be her lover Marcus. Now the thing is, they gotta have this big romantic kiss in the third act. Ruby's an actress, so she knows it's just acting. But she knows Blank isn't much of actor, and she knows he's either gonna take it seriously, make a lot of jokes later or embarrass her onstage."
"I see..." said Kuja, tucking a throwing knife into his boot.
"Ah, but they always find something to argue about." said Marcus. "Next time, it'll probably be Blank calling her a Prima Donna. It's actually kinda cute sometimes. Hey, are you leaving?"
"Yes." said Kuja, walking towards the stairs for the upper deck. "I have my mission."
"Ah, you gotta get to your golden paycheck." said Marcus, walking beside him. "Anything you can tell me about?"
"Actually," said Kuja, stepping out onto the deck and looking down on the city lights. "It's a matter of national security. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."
Marcus laughed, then saw that he was being serious. "Oh." he said. "Well, good luck. If you need anything, you know where the ship will be." Kuja said nothing in reply, turning his back to Marcus. He stood atop a guardrail, the wind rushed through his silver hair as he waited for the right moment to drop down. The Prima Vista was rapidly approaching the castle walls. In a flash, Kuja disappeared over the side on the ship. He somersaulted and landed on a rooftop, crashing down onto the tiles, landing in a crouching position. He raised his head and saw the castle ahead of him.
Perfecthe thought. Suddenly, he heard movement behind him. Quick as a flash, he pivoted around, his arm straight out, A blade shot out from a mechanism concealed under his sleeve, which he held bare inches from the throat of the person who had creeped up on him. It was just a small kid, who looked a lot like some mixture of child and rat, who was carrying a heavy-looking wooden ladder across the rooftops. A long snout and a fleshy tail. The tail reminded Kuja almost instantly of a face from his past. The rat kid wasn't so much afraid as he was confused. "Uh-oh." he said. "Are you City Watch?"
Kuja looked behind him, back at the castle, and then at the rat kid again. It was obvious the boy was intending to use the ladder to cross over into the castle. "You City Watch? Am I under arrest?!?"
"No." said Kuja, opening out his palm. The blade retracted back under his cuff. "No, I'm not City Watch. Kind of the opposite, in fact."
"Ah." said the rat kid, not understanding it all. "Couldn't get theatre tickets, or couldn't bother paying for them like me, huh? Well, no problem. You wanna see the show, then this is the free way to do it."
Kuja let the kid pass to put the ladder over the gap between the houses and the castle wall. The kid scrambled across, whilst Kuja merely walked across without even shaking or looking down. He was accustomed to balance and poise. It was practically in his genes.
"Alright" said the rat kid. "The shows gonna be on down there. This is where we go our separate ways. Seeya Sucker!" He ran off, leaving Kuja standing there. He turned back and looked back across the rooftops of the city. If the guards noticed the ladder, they would raise the alarm, and who was he to spoil the show? He smiled as he kicked the ladder away from the wall. It fell to the ground and exploded into pieces and splinters.
He turned and crept along the castle walls, looking for an entrance. Finally, he had made it. But the celebrations would have to wait until his mission was completed. He had a job to do. He had to find Queen Garnet Til Alexandros 17th.
Garnet sat on her throne, her gaze idly drawn to the throne room's large windows. Off to the east, the red moon was shining over the silver-backed mountains. It was kind of ironic. Here she was, the queen of an entire nation, and yet as a supreme ruler, she wasn't allowed to actually go out and see her kingdom and touch it and feel it and taste it and live in it. She's was Alexandria's fairest leader, and at the same time it's biggest prisoner. She sighed internally. Well, maybe the events of tonight would prove a drastic turn.
Captain Adelbert Steiner and General Beatrix Mapother stood on either side of her throne. Garnet trusted them both unconditionally, but knew full well neither of them would ever allow her to just walk out of the castle. Steiner was captain of the Knights of Pluto, the "shock troops" of the Alexandrian armed forces, as he liked to think of them. Beatrix however, was the commander of the entire Alexandrian army, and fiercely proud of her position. But that wasn't the be-all and end-all of her job description. Back on the day Garnet's parents had died, Beatrix had been made to promise to take care of Garnet, who would become Queen before she was even 16. And so Beatrix had sworn an oath to protect her Queen, but it could also be said that Garnet and Beatrix's relationship went beyond a promise and a profession. It could easily have been said that they were becoming friends.
"Your Majesty!" shouted a royal guard that stood at the entrance. "Announcing the arrival of Sir Zidane Tribal, Duke of Treno!" The guard stepped aside, and Zidane entered smiling, with Vivi walking beside him, adjusting his pointed hat. Garnet smiled back, her short depression lifted. She put all thoughts of her role as Queen and her duties of tonight out of her head as she practically jumped out of the throne, ran up to Zidane and hugged him. "Hey, princess!" he laughed as she wrapped her arms around him. "Wow, I didn't think it possible, but I'd say I think you've actually gotten cuter since last time I saw ya." Garnet blushed. "Actually, it's Queen now." she said.
"Aw, shucks!" Zidane laughed. "Does this mean I can't call you cute anymore?"
"Not in public, no." Garnet replied. "And it also means that I'm always right."
Zidane smiled and looked over at Steiner and Beatrix. "Hey Rusty." he said. Steiner saluted. "Sir Zidane." Beatrix merely nodded her respect. "Let me introduce my companion." said Zidane. "This is Vivi."
Vivi nervously imitated Steiner's salute. "Um, it's nice to meet you, your majesty." he stammered. He'd never seen a Queen before. "Curious child." said Garnet with a smile. "What is he?"
Vivi decided to save his existentialist side for later. "I'm a Black Mage, ma'am."
"Sorta like a magician." said Zidane. "I found him wandering around the outskirts of Treno, lost. I took him in, and he's been a companion to me ever since."
Garnet found it amazing that Zidane could easily go walking around the countryside. What an amazing carefree life he must lead. "So, am I just in time for the show?" he asked. "Yes, sir!" said Steiner, speaking before Garnet could. "And the royal box is a-ready and waiting for yourself and the Queen." Garnet chose to remain silent, and absent-mindedly reached for the pendant that hung around her neck.
"Ah," said Zidane. "I see you still have it."
"Yes." said Garnet softly, noticing she was touching it. "I...take it everywhere." Zidane smiled, a strange spark behind his green eyes. Garnet noticed it, for a split second she saw the light shape of the pendant reflecting in his eyes. It was something she wasn't sure she liked the sight of for some reason. "Um, why don't we go? The play won't start without us."
"Sure." said Zidane. "I love this play."
And so, they left the throne room, Steiner and Beatrix escorting them as Vivi trailed behind, the sounds of the magic of the theatre drifting through the air.
Marcus peeked through the theatre curtains. "Wow." he said. "Pretty big audience. Nobles from all over the place. I didn't think they could get this many people into a theatre."
"Well, actually." said Blank. "It's not a theatre, it's a castle. They can fit a lot more people into a castle."
Baku strode out of the changing room, dressed head to toe in his King Leo garb. "Well, fools?" he said. "Everything ready to go?"
"Yes sir!" shouted Blank with mock enthusiasm. "The Prima Donna is ready for tonight's show!" Ruby targeted him with an icy glare that could have put frost on a volcano. "Did I say Prima Donna?" said Blank with falsetto innocence. "I meant Prima Vista. Really."
Baku looked at Marcus, who shrugged and smiled. "I dunno what to tell ya, boss." he said. "The newlyweds are arguing again."
Baku looked at Ruby and Blank. Ruby was dressed elegantly in her Cornelia costume, whilst Blank had just thrown together a few things he had found in the costume room that he thought had looked cool on him. "Okay." said Baku, pointing at Blank and Marcus. "Blank, give Marcus your costume. He's playing Marcus."
"Wha?!?" Blank, Marcus and Ruby chimed simultaneously. "I can't have the two of you acting like kids, so instead of Blank, Marcus is gonna play Marcus. He's got the same name as the lead, after all, so it'll be a dawdle for him."
"And what am I supposed to do?" Blank asked.
"You'll play support." said Baku. "Don't forget, there's lot's of nobles out there. See if you can steal some expensive stuff between acts."
"Ah, gotcha!" said Blank, with all the eagerness of someone who's just been told to do what they do best for an hour if they don't mind doing what they do worst for 5 minutes. "Right!" said Baku. "Curtain up! Lights! SFX! Action!"
"Break a leg!" shouted Blank. "Back at ya." said Ruby.
The chattering of the audience soon fell to a hush as the dramatic music began to play, which changed suddenly to a festive fanfare. Fireworks and special effects exploded into life as the back of the Prima Vista began to unfold before the audience's very eyes, revealing a wide stage. The audience applauded with their approval. In the royal box, even Steiner and Beatrix were silently impressed. Vivi just kept staring in silent awe, amazed. Zidane stood up and clapped his hands loudly, very impressed. Garnet looked around, wondering when the right moment would come for her to make her move. Zidane sat back down beside her, and together they watched as Baku strode out onto the stage.
"Ladies and Gentlemen!" he shouting a booming voice that was well used to a lifetime of public speaking. "Tonight's performance is a story that takes place 'A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away'...Our heroine, Princess Cornelia, is torn from her lover, Marcus. She attempts to flee the castle, only to be captured by her father, King Leo. When our story begins, Marcus, having heard this, crosses swords with the King. And now, Your Royal Majesty, Queen Garnet, Sir Zidane of Treno, noble ladies and lords, and our rooftop viewers, Tantalus proudly presents 'I Want to Be Your Canary'! – We begin with 'Episode I; A Lost Hope'!"
Kuja prowled along the castle wall. Just as he had predicted, most of the guards were busy watching the play. It was the perfect night and the perfect cover for this mission. With any luck, things would run even smoother than he could have hoped for.
Upon finding a window on one of the upper levels of the castle, Kuja clutched the wall and reached for a diamond-tipped blade tucked into his belt. With barely a silent scratching, he used the blade to cut a fine circle in the glass, allowing him to reach in and open the window from the inside. Taking one last look around, he slipped inside, satisfied that he had been completely unnoticed. He looked around, trying to judge his position from the maps of Alexandria castle he had been given to study, which he had to burn once they were committed to memory, to aid in the secrecy of the mission. He was in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Queen Garnet's chambers were only down the hall to the right. Kuja was now a firm believer in the phrase "somebody up there likes me". He stepped out into the hallway and looked around. The way left led outside, to the royal box of the amphitheater where Garnet was currently. And down on the right was her private chambers.
He crept down the hall, with the stealth and skill far surpassing that of any ninja. He carefully opened one of the heavy double doors and closed it behind him again quietly as he slipped into familiar darkness.
Garnet looked around, seeing everyone engrossed in the play. With as little noise as possible, she got out of her seat. Zidane glanced at her, Steiner and Vivi barely even noticed. Beatrix however, stood directly in front of her. "I'm just going to the bathroom, Beatrix." said Garnet. "I can go by myself, you know. Just stay her and enjoy the remainder of the show." Beatrix frowned, mulling it over. "Don't make me make it an order." Garnet chuckled. Beatrix sighed, nodded and stepped aside.
Garnet walked courteously until she felt fully out of the Alexandrian guards' sight. She then clutched at the skirts of her dress, slipped off her shoes and sprinted towards her bedroom. She opened the door as noiselessly as possible and slipped inside, closing it behind her. She squinted in the darkness, not wanting to have to light any of the lamps for fear someone might see. She walked carefully into the center of the room, standing on a patch of moonlight, shaped and distorted through the windows she had been looking through hours before. Listening carefully, she could hear a light breathing.
"You're early." she said. Kuja dropped down stealthily from above the doorway, landing gracefully like a cat. "You're late." he replied. She turned around and faced him. He was tall, taller than Zidane, with a shock of gunmetal-silver hair. Garnet noticed he had that same air about him that Zidane did. She'd only noticed it once or twice, but enough to know it was there. Like Zidane, he certainly looked human, but there was just something about him. It was like looking at something that was trying to be human. Like looking at a photograph that you can tell is fake but can't point out exactly how it's a fake, it just is. Not that she ever thought of Zidane as fake or anything. She had just noticed once or twice when she looked at him that something was decidedly off, but it easily washed out her mind.
"You're the one they sent?" Garnet asked. Kuja nodded. "My name is Kuja, I'm here to rescue you."
"Kuja what?" asked Garnet.
"Kuja. Is that your first name or your last name?"
Kuja didn't give her that "I'm thinking about it" look. He gave her the "I'm deliberately not thinking about it because it's a stupid question" one instead. "Yes." he replied boldly.
"Oh, I see." she said. "Just 'Kuja', then. You realize this isn't a rescue."
"Isn't it?" Kuja asked. "My employer seemed pretty pressed for time. And it certainly sounded like a rescue mission when I was given my MO. But I guess he was mistaken."
"Yes and no." Garnet replayed. "I need you to get me out of Alexandria and escort me safely to Lindblum, can you do that or not?"
"Most definitely yes." replied Kuja. Modesty and his skills did not mix. Some things are just too good for modesty. "So what are you?" Garnet asked. "A Lindblum elite soldier? Or a mercenary?"
"Neither." Kuja replied. "I'm an assassin."
"An assassin?" Garnet gasped. Kuja nodded, a small grin on his lips. "Why did they send an assassin to escort me?"
"Who better?" Kuja replied. "You won't find a better person to protect you than one of the most lethal men alive. Who would dare attack you? And should we be attacked, you have someone with a lot of, shall we say, 'experience' to come to your aid and dispatch the enemy with skill and ease. And, should we be caught or killed, my employer has full and plausible deniability to disavow my actions and say that I was just an assassin acting alone."
Garnet nodded, his logic making sense. "Okay, I understand that we leave as soon as possible. I must change."
Kuja crossed his arms and turned away, his back to her. Garnet didn't know what to say. "Ummm..." she began. Kuja cut her off. "Unless you want me to stand out in hall where a passing guard can see," he said. "Then you'll just have to show a gesture of trust and believe in me that I'll stand facing East."
Garnet sighed and went to change.
Shortly after this time, Zorn and Thorn, Queen Brahne's court jesters ran nervously up and down flights of stairs all over the castle. "Trouble we are in!" "We are in trouble!" The two had been pretty much out of a job since Brahne had died, since Garnet had no use of them. It was widely believed the only reason they were still around was because she hadn't gotten around to firing them yet.
In the meantime, General Beatrix had begun to get less and less happy with Garnet's prolonged absence. She had quietly excused herself from the royal box and went to check on her Queen. Walking along the long hallway, she had found only Zorn and Thorn, a pair that together as a whole only made a nuisance.
"General Beatrix!" "Beatrix the General!" they chorused.
"Begone!" she snapped. "You insult my path by standing in front of me!"
"We have bad news!" cried Thorn. "News we have, bad it is!" Zorn echoed.
Beatrix fixed her solitary-eyed gaze upon them. How they revolted her. She was a soldier, a warrior. Someone with importance in life. In Beatrix's eye, the only thing worse than someone who has no life at all was someone who was a complete waste of a life. Jesters fell under that category. "I don't care for anything you have to say to me." she dismissed. She walked past them, kicking them out of the way. "The Queen has been kidnapped!" Zorn blurted out.
Beatrix stopped in her tracks. "What?" she asked. Thorn echoed on cue. "Kidnapped, the Queen has been!"
"By whom?" Beatrix demanded.
"Know who it was, we did not." said Thorn. "The Queen left her chambers with a silver-haired man."
"Sneak out of her chambers with a silver-haired mysterious man, she did!" said Zorn. "Recognize him we did not."
Beatrix jammed two fingers in her mouth and whistled a few bars loudly. A pair of Alexandrian soldiers came running up the stairs. They saluted and awaited their orders. "The Queen is missing, believed to be kidnapped." Beatrix stated. "Raise the alarm, but make sure everything is done covertly. I don't want the kidnappers or the audience to suspect anything. Seal off the castle entirely."
The soldiers nodded, saluted and ran off. Beatrix turned back, completely ignoring Zorn and Thorn and walked back to the royal box.
"Kidnapped?!" Zidane echoed.
"My Queen!!!" Steiner screamed, hopping up and down on the spot like a lunatic. He stopped when he noticed Beatrix, Zidane and Vivi staring at him strangely. "Ahem." he said. "We should find her as soon as we can!"
"Agreed." said Zidane.
"Sir Zidane." said Beatrix, saluting. "If I may, sir, suggest that you leave it to myself and Captain Steiner. People will notice a lord of your stature running around, and we can't afford to let anyone know about this."
"Yeah, I see." said Zidane, sitting down again.
"We'll find her before the play is over, Sir Zidane!" Steiner vowed. "And we'll hang whoever done it from the closest flagpole!"
Zidane nodded and left them to it, his interest in the play completely obliterated now that Garnet was on his mind. If something should happen to her...
He noticed Vivi looking at him. "Don't worry about it." said Zidane. "They'll get her back."
As Steiner assembled his Knights of Pluto, Beatrix was busy giving orders to the guards to maximize security as quickly and as quietly as possible. She ordered the soldiers to split into teams and search for the Queen. Alone, she drew her sword, ironically called Save The Queen, and began her own search solo.
Kuja and Garnet raced through the night, Kuja making sure Garnet could keep up with his movements. After changing into an orange jumpsuit, white shirt and a hood, Garnet had ordered that Kuja must absolutely not kill a single guard or soldier, which made their escape a little more difficult. As they approached the small dock on the castle moat, they saw the ferry was gone.
"They're locking up the castle!" said Kuja, seeing the gate to the city on the other side of the moat being closed up.
"How do we get out of here?" Garnet asked. Kuja looked around for options. "There!" he pointed at one of the castle's towers. "We can try to swing over the castle walls from there." Garnet nodded, and they ran for the tower.
Steiner was getting nowhere. His Knights were scattered all over the palace, and Beatrix's soldiers had managed to seal off the palace, but didn't have any luck finding the princess and her kidnapper. He decided to report back to Zidane and ask if he had recommendations on the situation. He was a nobleman, after all. The ruling nobleman of Treno, at that, and a skilled warrior. Maybe he would be able to help. Indeed, he was to find that Zidane would not be shortcoming.
"Well, if you want my opinion, I'd suggest moving some squads up to the higher points of the castle." Zidane offered. "They can spot Garnet and her kidnapper from an elevated position. I'd also recommend sealing off the gates to Treno, Burmecia and Lindblum, just in case. And keep all the boats in Alexandria harbor docked, and none are to leave."
Steiner saluted. The rumors of Zidane's skill with battle tactics were not unfounded. Suddenly, Zidane cocked his head to the left, and looked up towards the high towers of the castle. "What's that ruckus?"
Steiner followed his gaze, squinting his eyes. "I can't hear anything..." he said, then gasped as he saw two figures, one in white and one in orange, swing from the tower and land on the Prima Vista. Then a third armored figure with brown hair promptly followed them across. "That's Beatrix!" Steiner yelled.
Kuja and Garnet stood on the tower. As Kuja searched for the right rope, Garnet leaned over the edge, seeing the audience, and, more importantly, the ground far below them. "Are you sure about this?" she said.
"Relax." said Kuja. "I always have a plan. Now, take this rope here. We'll swing over the castle walls, then–"
"Hold it!" Beatrix ordered from behind them. Garnet froze. Kuja merely grinned and turned around, staring down the length of a long ornate sword. A small aura from the blade indicated the presence of one of Beatrix's violent Seiken spells charging. "General Beatrix." he said. "Sorry I don't have time for an autograph."
"I'll take that rope." she said. "Queen Garnet, stand aside."
Kuja handed her the rope, which Beatrix cut instantly. It fell away from the tower, useless to them. "Queen Garnet, are you okay?"
"Beatrix..." she said quietly. "Let me go. This is an order..."
Beatrix looked at her, then at Kuja, then back at her again. "What's going on your majesty? Who is this man?"
"I'm running away." Garnet explained. "I have important business. Let us go and please don't follow."
Beatrix seemed like she was thinking about it for a moment, but actually she was just confused. "I can't allow that to happen, your majesty." she replied earnestly. "Now please, come with me. There is no way out."
Kuja looked around, and soon found the way out. The airship, Prima Vista was still down there. They wouldn't have that way out covered. He turned back to Beatrix, and stared her right in the eye. "What a beautiful eye." he exclaimed. "A shame there's only one..."
Quick as a flash, he clasped the palms of his hands over the blade of her sword and wrenched it from her grasp. Beatrix gasped in shock and indignation, as Kuja pointed her own sword at her. His smile made her blood boil. "Your majesty." he said, staring at Beatrix but speaking to Garnet. "Grab that rope and swing over to the theatre ship." Garnet looked around for the one he meant. She unhooked it from the side of the tower and wrapped a length of it around her wrist and gave it a confidant tug, before getting up to stand on the very edge of the tower.
"Don't do it, your majesty!" Beatrix gasped. Garnet turned and faced her, then smiled and shrugged. Kuja himself grabbed a hold of another rope. Then, abruptly, he held out Beatrix's sword, hilt-first to her. "I'm many things." he said. "But a thief isn't one of them."
Beatrix snatched her sword back, just as Kuja and Garnet went over the side, swinging far over the heads of the play's audience. When they reached the full arc of the swing, Kuja shouted for Garnet to let go. Inertia carried them the rest of the way, and they landed on the soft inflated canopy of the airship.
Beatrix watched them, and then without hesitation, looked around for another rope. She unhitched it and gave it a tug. The swing would take her to the theatre ship too. She stood on the side of the tower, and then swung off, the swing of her rope taking a radically different direction than Garnet and Kuja's. She saw where she was headed, closed her eye and threw an arm up to shield her face as she crashed through one of the large windows on the upper deck of the ship.
She rolled to a stop and stood up, only losing a second to brush the splinters and dust off her clothes. Who was that man? she wondered. What was Queen Garnet up to? She picked up her sword and began to stalk the ship in search of the Queen and the man in white.
In the royal box, Zidane stood facing away from Vivi and Steiner. What was Garnet doing on the theatre ship? He knew that one of those figures had been Garnet, alright. He recognized the orange jumpsuit. It had been a gift from him one Winter solstice. And the man in white? He didn't even want to think about whom that might have been.
"What do we do now, Sir Zidane?" Steiner asked.
"You mean what do you do?" Zidane replied. "This is your show. I'm just a visiting Duke from Treno. I got no say in military situations and matters of state here."
Vivi could sense that Zidane was saying those words not like he believed them, but more like those words were restraining him, those facts holding him back from something...
Blank was busy working the crowd. But, as he lifted a gold watch from some noble's jacket, he could hear a disturbance from the royal box. Sounded like something was up to him. He heard a noise from behind him. Someone was returning to their seat. Blank jumped back into the shadows, waiting for his quarry to appear from around the corner. It was another nobleman, male and a human. He was slightly taller than Blank, but of course, Blank had a weapon, and an attitude. More than enough to make up for the size factor. Never ever underestimate the viciousness, battle prowess, fighting skill and ability of someone shorter than you. Blank liked to call that Rule One. Good rule, that, everyone could agree on.
As the nobleman walked around the corner, Blank stepped out behind him and prodded the small of his back gently with a dagger. "Stick 'em punk, it's the fun lovin' criminal." he said, grinning.
On the stage, Ruby was in her element, procrastinating endlessly over the death of Cornelia's mother. Baku stood at the back of the stage, looking on, doing his best to look like some leary king. Ruby practically sang of her woes. There wasn't a dry eye in the rows at the front, or, in the case of Blank at the back, a full wallet.
Ruby was distracted slightly for a nanosecond as she heard a noise off to her left. But, drawing on her artistic skill, she just made it seem as if her character had sobbed somewhat.
She returned to metaphoring her life with that of a canary in it's cage, secretly wondering what all the ruckus was backstage. Baku heard it too, and seeing as how Leo wasn't important to the scene, went backstage to investigate.
"We're taking off!" Kuja ordered, bursting onto the bridge with Garnet in tow. Cinna had been falling asleep at the wheel, and had gone from a state of practical hibernation to the sobriety level you get after your 5th cup of coffee in the fraction of a second. The effect on the body was obvious.
"Hey!" shouted Baku, storming in. "Nobody gives any orders here but me! Especially not some duded-up albino guttertrash! The play's not over yet! We're staying."
Kuja stepped up to him, face to face, eye to eye. All of a sudden, Baku noticed how tall Kuja was, and that Rule One may only be a good one 95% of the time. "The head of the Alexandrian army, General Beatrix herself is on this ship." Kuja explained. "Think you could last longer than 3 seconds if you resisted her? Longer than 1 if she calls for back up? This ship will be detained, searched and everyone arrested."
Baku seemed to think it over. Kuja was amazed that the man seemed to have gotten it into his head that there actually was time to think it over. "How many outstanding warrants are there for you and your men?" Kuja asked. "And when they search this ship, and they will, how do you think they'll react to all the stolen treasure you've got hidden in the holds of the ship?"
"How did you know about the hidden loot?" Baku asked.
"A good guess."
"We're taking off!" Baku ordered. Cinna leapt to his feet and began to start up the Mist engines. "Hey is that who I think it is?" Baku asked, staring at Garnet. "Who do you think it is?" Kuja asked.
"Someone who could get us all into a lot of trouble when you get caught!" Baku growled.
"You don't have to worry about anything, sir." said Garnet, speaking for the first time. "I came voluntarily. I have an important mission in Lindblum, and Kuja is here to escort me."
"To what end, your majesty?"
Everybody turned. Beatrix stood in the doorway, her sword drawn. "That's Beatrix of Alexandria!" Baku exclaimed. "Well guys, it's been nice knowing you." sighed Cinna.
"It's a personal matter, Beatrix." said Garnet. "Please, I need you not to follow me."
"I'm sorry, your majesty, I took an oath to take care of your well-being. Orders and oaths are different things." Beatrix explained. "Now please, come with me. These men are under arrest."
Baku and Cinna slowly raised their hands. Kuja cautiously took a step back towards the steering wheel. In the distance, he could hear that Cinna had already powered up the Mist engines. "Hey, you!" snapped Beatrix. "Put your hands up!"
"You're the boss." Kuja replied, and threw his arms up, knocking the steering wheel into a spin. The ship veered violently to the left, knocking everyone off balance. Kuja grabbed Garnet and ran with her into the engine room. Outside, the audience stood up and wondered what was going wrong. The ship was starting to turn to the left. Ruby got back on her feet and looked around. Something was going disastrously wrong. Blank, still standing in front of his victim, politely offering to carry for him what looked like an extremely heavy wallet, heard the noise of the ship starting up. "Hey, did you hear something that sounded like an airship taking off?!" He burst into a dash before the sentence was over.
In the royal box, everyone looked startled at the sight before them. "Sound the alarm!" Steiner shouted. "Order all available soldiers to close on that airship! Don't let it get away!"
Kuja and Garnet ran through the engine room. Kuja could sense Beatrix wasn't far behind them. They ran into the room under the stage and looked around for a way out. "It's a dead end!" Garnet gasped. Suddenly, Marcus came running up from the far end of the room. "Kuja!" he yelled, then stopped when he saw Garnet. "Wow, so this is your mission. So much for 'aim small, miss small'..."
"We need a way out of here!" Garnet begged.
"No problem." said Marcus, stepping up to a handful of levers. "Get on number 2." Garnet and Kuja looked at him blankly. "Get on that platform there." he pointed. They got on just as Beatrix came running in. Marcus yanked the lever and the platform rose to the stage above. Beatrix shoved Marcus aside and pulled on one of the other levers. Another platform began to rise. She leapt on and followed Garnet and Kuja up.
"Are we ready to go!?" shouted Baku. "Roger, boss!" Cinna shouted back. "Mist engines are powered up!"
"Then let's make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here!"
"It's 'Baku', actually. Not Roger."
The ship lurched forward, then stopped just as quickly. "What's wrong?" Baku shouted. "We're still moored, boss!"
"Damn! Then let's get un-moored!"
"Rog- ....yes sir, Baku, boss...whatever..."
"What in tarnation!?" Ruby cried as Kuja and Garnet appeared in front of her. "What in the wide, wide, world of Gaia is ah-goin' on here?" Before she could get her answer, the trap door beneath her feet began to open, and she jumped to the side as Beatrix began to rise up, her sword already pointed at Kuja.
"What kinda cattle are you chasin', darlin'?" Ruby asked. Beatrix ignored her, concentrating her anger and her powerful one-eyed glare on Kuja. The pair regarded each other, lost in the moment.
Before Kuja could react, Beatrix's sword flared an icy white and she lunged at him, the beam of light reaching a crescendo as she slashed him wide across the chest. He staggered back, clutching at his heart, his teeth clenched in agony. Beatrix regained a fighting poise, her sword held up behind her head, ready for another Seiken attack should the need arise. Silently, she was amazed. She had slashed open his chest and cut him right across the heart. Where was the gushing fountain of blood? There was no blood anywhere on Kuja's white clothes or the deck around him. Garnet immediately went to Kuja's aid. She was just as amazed as Beatrix to find a lack of blood. His clothes had been torn, but, not a single drop of blood or even a scar. NO Cure spell could ever heal a wound like that and not even not leave some mark on the body. She saw Kuja regain his balance, his hand still on his heart. The look on his face went from one of pain, to a smile.
"Beatrix of Alexandria." he said. "The knight who shows no mercy, and once single-handedly killed 100 knights in combat. And you even managed to hurt me...a little."
Beatrix stared at him. She was silently impressed and awed at the same time. By all rights, she could have killed him ten times over by now. Kuja took his hand off his heart, revealing to her a tiny trickle of blood on two of his fingers. He raised his fingers to his lips and kissed them, taking the blood back into his body.
"You cut my heart in half." he said. "If just for a second..."
"What are you?" Beatrix asked.
"Wish I knew."
Everyone had seen everything. The audience at first believed it to be a part of the play, except for the ones who had seen it before. Nevertheless, the special effects were fantastic! And even Queen Garnet and General Beatrix had played cameo roles. Nobody knew who the silver-haired man was, until somebody suggested it might be the famous Lowell of Lindblum.
However, in the royal box, things were decidedly different. Vivi noticed the change in Zidane's manner instantly. His tail twitched, and his eyes seemed to become more and more cat-like. A quiet angry growl, like an animal, emanated from somewhere in his throat. "Kuja!" he snapped.
On the stage, Kuja turned around to face the royal box. Amid all the chaos and confusion, it was like there was a bell in his head that only he could hear. Something that said; Turn around and face me. Say hello to your biggest nightmare.
"Zidane." he said in recognition.
Zidane turned to Steiner. "Stop that ship at all costs!" he ordered. Steiner instantly seemed to forget that Zidane could not give him orders. "If I may ask how, sir?" he asked.
"That silver-haired man is a dangerous criminal!" Zidane shouted. "He means to murder Queen Garnet! He must be stopped no matter what!"
That certainly got Steiner's motor running. He began to shout commands at his troops a million a minute. In the meanwhile, Zidane remembered some of the castle defenses Garnet had shown him on his many visits. Without even bothering to consult Steiner, he looked around for the hidden control panel and found it within seconds. As he pressed the many stone buttons, silent turrets around the castle began to spin into action, pointing giant-sized harpoons at the Prima Vista.
"Vivi, Firaga." Zidane asked. Vivi looked indecisive for the moment. Queen Garnet was such a nice person. What if he hurt her? But if Zidane was right, then that silver-haired man had to be stopped. He clenched his fists and began to focus his power, concentrating on a huge fireball to hurl at the airship.
"Why aren't we moving?" Baku yelled.
"I don't know!" Cinna yelled. "I think we missed a mooring rope somewhere!"
Baku angrily smacked Cinna upside the head and took control of the steering wheel. He pulled on a lever and pushed the engine's power up to maximum. The ship groaned, protesting their adherence to the laws of physics. The strong mooring rope at the front of the ship was still tied tightly, and the ship was veering left and right, crashing into the walls of the castle in an attempt to break free.
"Come, on!" Baku growled as the engines screamed. "Who's your daddy?"
Blank came running, then jumped, soaring clean over the heads of the audience. The ship was elevated, too high off the ground for him to jump up and grab, not to mention the fact that there were a dozen Alexandrian soldiers chasing him. It wasn't that he didn't want a dozen armored, blonde Amazonian babes chasing after him. It was just a matter of right situation, wrong time, for him.
He ran under the ship towards the front of it, where the last mooring rope was still tied. Without braking his pace, he ran for it, jumping up at the last moment, drawing his sword and slashing the rope beneath him. Instantly, the ship, free from it's restraint, jumped forward. Blank waved bye-bye to his pursuers as the ship began to pull away.
Baku whooped in joy as the ship finally began to move in the right direction, just as Vivi unleashed the Firaga blast. It cut through the air, but thanks to Blank's actions, the ship and been able to move forward, and the fireball slammed into another part of the ship, just over the heads of Kuja, Garnet, Beatrix and Ruby.
"Get down!" Kuja shouted as debris began to rain down on them, shielding the women with his body.
Zidane, waiting for the smoke to clear, slammed his fist down in anger as he saw the ship began to pull away. He was ambivalent, relieved to see Garnet okay, but angered that it meant the others were also alive. He began to press the switches on the control panel. The harpoon cannons aimed themselves at the ship and began to fire, dragging heavy metal chains through the air with them.
They impacted with the ship, tearing chunks out of the hull. Garnet stared in horror as she saw one heading straight for where she stood. Out of nowhere, Kuja appeared, pushing her to the side out of harms way. He saw the chain come slicing through the air towards him. He concentrated his power in that instant of time, and the world seemed to slow around him. He leaned back, too quick to be seen by the naked eye, and felt the slow rush as the arrow and chain screamed past his shoulder. It felt like an eternity. He could feel the pumping in his heart, the one breath that felt like an ice age. He could see the ripples in the air made by the velocity of the arrow, and the slow whooshing sound as it scraped past his shoulder.
He fell backwards, out of harms way, time instantly snapping back to normal. "That's incredible." Beatrix gasped next to him. She'd never seen anything like before. What kind of magic was that?
No time to debate it now. The chains were ripping through the hull, turning the ship into Swiss cheese. "All ahead full!" Baku shouted from behind the wheel. Marcus nodded and dashed into the engine room, turning on an auxiliary Mist engine, a back up for emergencies. "Crank this baby up to 50 knots!" Baku shouted.
With the added power, the ship was able to tear itself away from the heavy chains, whoosh over the castle walls and race over the houses of Alexandria. On of the turrets on the starboard side of the ship gave up it's battle against gravity and fell from the side of the ship, crashing down onto an empty house below.
She ship raced forward, at maximum speed. It cleared the city and record time and rushed out over the Mist, leaving the Alexandria plateau behind it.
Blank clung on to the rope at the front of the ship, dangling like a worm on a hook, not daring to even allow himself a slip. To his horror, he saw the ship was barely able to remain floating on the Mist. They were going down.
Back at Alexandria, an air of gloom hung over the castle. The play had ended with a complete disaster. The only relief was that as far as anyone knew, nobody had been killed. Vivi sat down on a small stool. He was saddened that he'd been the one who had cost a lot of damage, but at the same time, glad that nobody had been hurt. And on top of all that, a little insecure, knowing that Garnet had been taken away by that man Zidane seemed to dislike so much.
Steiner and Zidane were busy talking about what to do now.
"Well, Rusty, seems like you're calling the shots now." Zidane announced.
"What?!" Steiner gasped.
"Check your mandate." Zidane suggested. "What happens when the Queen is declared incapacitated?"
Steiner searched his memory, then found it. "Uh, control of the state falls to her closest living relative."
"But Garnet doesn't have any close living relatives. An only child, and an orphan."
Steiner tried to remember the rest of the mandate. "Then, when there temporarily no member of the royal family available to govern, leadership falls to the commander-in-chief of the Alexandrian armed forces."
"Unless I'm much mistaken, General Beatrix was also on that airship."
"What does that mean?" Vivi asked.
"...It means..." said Steiner, taking the sudden wave of responsibility all in. "...that leadership falls to me, captain of the Knights of Pluto."
"Congratulations." said Zidane. "So, what are you going to do about the situation?"
Steiner stood at the front of the box, seeing all the soldiers and guards assembled beneath him, awaiting orders from their new leader. It was all up to him now. The burden was squarely on his shoulders. He looked at them all, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. He wasn't used to leadership. Well, sure, he was a high-ranking military official, but he just wasn't used to it on this scale. What was he thinking? He couldn't run a country! He was only any good when he was in the middle of the chain of command. He could take any orders, and issue any orders to those he commanded no problem. He was a great middleman. A perfect medium. The problem was, he didn't know the first thing about commanding from the top, especially not as the head of a nation...
...but Zidane did.
Steiner looked at him. Duke Zidane, ruler of Treno. He was a head of state, and completely trustworthy. He knew what to do, and of course, the people of Alexandria knew him and trusted him. And why not? He was a pureblood nobleman, of course! What would Steiner, a lowly knight, know about leadership in comparison to one who was appointed by the gods?
"Duke Zidane!" he said, his mind made up. "I formerly request to temporarily hand control of the state of Alexandria and all it's resources over to you until this crisis is resolved."
Zidane smiled, a tiny glare sparking behind his eyes. "Of course." he said. "I already know how we can rescue the Queen. I have the perfect means of doing so."
Steiner smiled, relieved. Thank the gods for sending Zidane to us. Alexandria's guardian angel.
"She gonna crash! Save yourselves!" Baku shouted.
The Prima Vista had fallen beneath the mist and was heading for the ground. More precisely, the Evil Forest. "Number 2 engine is on fire!" Marcus shouted. "I think she's gonna blow!"
Ruby scrambled to get back on her feet, clutching at the deck to get a handhold. to her surprise, it was Beatrix who helped her up. "What's going on?" the General asked.
"Ah think the ship's gonna crash!" Ruby yelled. "Y'all better brace yourselves!"
Beatrix saw Garnet trying to get to Kuja, who was clinging on to a guardrail tightly. She followed Ruby's advice and found a rope, a length of stage rigging and held on, fighting the wind to stay onboard the ship. The ship was coming dangerously close to the ground now, scraping the treeline. Ruby tried to make it to a handhold, but the large princess outfit she was wearing was hindering her movements. Suddenly, the wind caught her and she fell over the side, landing somewhere among the trees.
"Ruby!" Blank shouted. From where hung, he was the only one who had seen her. He looked around, ahead of him, seeing the ship was heading straight for a mountain. You didn't have to be a genius to calculate the odds of surviving when you're hanging on to only a rope tied to the front a ship that's a flaming thundering juggernaut about to impact headfirst with a very foreboding-looking mountain. The actual odds of surviving? Let's just say that when you actually do the math, you don't have to worry about carrying the 1.
Blank, exceptional math student at that moment, decided to take his chances and let go of the rope. Besides, somebody needed to help Ruby. "Oh hell." he said, and let go of the rope, falling into the trees as the Prima Vista thundered forward, colliding head-on with the mountain.
The explosion was heard for miles around, and then, the Evil Forest went completely silent...
"On A Day Like Today" by Bryan Adams. Lyrics copyright © 1998 badams music ltd. (ascap) Produced by Bryan Adams and Phil Thornally. Music arranged by Bryan Adams. Recorded in Vancouver, Canada. Bryan Adams; Guitar, Bass & Vocals. Keith Scott; Guitars & Six String Bass. Mickey Curry; Drums. Dave Taylor; Bass. Danny Cummings; Percussion. Copyright © 1988 Badman Limited and A&M records Inc.