When he opened his eyes, Beclem's first reaction was a sense of disorientation - striped canvas overhead in an unfamiliar white-and-gold striped pattern, hard earth under his back, the whistles of heavy breathing around him, the low rumble of a crashing ocean in the distance. This was not Bevelle; not Kilika; not the dig site on the Calm Lands. He stretched, his toes popping out the end of a too-small bedroll into the chilly air, and with the cold came memories: Bevelle temple, the destroyed spheres, the march out of the mess hall, following Nooj into the new life.
He sat up then, blinking in the dim early light, counting heads - yes, everyone was still here, all of the Seekers and Crusaders who had come with them from Bevelle, and the others who were arriving every day. They would have to find another name now, he supposed, one that broke from their past of betrayals. Something to wipe the slate clean. Dozens of people, men and women dedicated to the cause of truth and freedom.
With that thought, Beclem slid out of his bedroll and stood, tiptoeing out of the tent to find the man he did not see, the architect of their changed reality: Nooj. Emerging, he wrapped his jacket over his shoulders against the chill and walked to the cliff face where he thought Nooj might be waiting. After a conference held in whispers, he and Nooj had directed their escaping ship here, to the bluff at the end of Mushroom Rock Road, the former command center for Operation Mi'ihen. Lucil had objected, but neither had she been able to come up with a better, more central place to set up their new camp. For Beclem, it had been simple symmetry, reclaiming the ground Yevon would have ceded; Nooj seemed faintly astonished that she might want to create a headquarters elsewhere. "It is where I- we- belong," he had said, and when he spoke in that tone, it was impossible to argue.
And so they had arrived, and taken over the platform where the Maesters had commanded the Operation as the place to pitch their tents. Construction on a more permanent headquarters had already begun, and Nooj was discussing plans for Lucil to head up a delegation to redouble the effort to rebuild Kilika. "It has been neglected for too long, and perhaps we can convince New Yevon's carpenters to join our cause, as well." He was leaving with them later today, in hopes of inspiring more recruits, while Beclem and Maroda stayed at Mushroom Rock to supervise the headquarters and begin setting plans in motion to recover as many spheres as possible.
"Back to Zanarkand, I think, before the Al Bhed can get any more traction there," Maroda had said at dinner the night before. "And maybe we can sneak some agents into Bevelle, people who didn't walk out with us."
"That could work," Beclem had agreed, leaning back on his hands, away from the fire. "And maybe we could put the word out, too, that if people bring us spheres, we'll reward them. We've dug up a fair amount of other kinds of treasure on our sphere hunts - people who don't care about spheres for their own sake might be more likely to bring them here if we have valuables to trade."
Nooj had agreed, and so here they were, ready to move on to the next step. Or- almost ready, Beclem thought, looking at the set of Nooj's shoulders as he stared out to sea. Probably no one else would have seen it, but Beclem thought he detected a smidge of doubt in the tension there. After a pause, Beclem took the last few steps to join him.
"So," he said.
"So." Nooj balanced the cane in front of him, its tip resting on the very edge of the bluff, a trickle of earth running down its face as the cane thumped into place. "Thank you for taking charge of the sphere hunt. Before I leave, I have a favor to ask, a favor you must speak of to none other." He glanced at his right hand and then Beclem noticed the sphere he held, softly glowing in the morning sun. It had an odd reddish cast, duller than the fiery Kilika spheres. "If anyone finds a sphere like this one, set it aside for me. Show it to no one; just save it for my return."
He brought his arm across his body, and Beclem took the sphere from him, holding it to the sky to better check its color. "I suppose it would be too much to ask why."
"Yes." Nooj's voice was low, and dangerous. "I- when I can tell you, I will. But not yet. You will have to trust me. Can you do that?"
"Of course." Beclem stuck the sphere in his pocket, resolving not to watch, despite the temptation. "You wouldn't keep a secret from me without good reason."
Nooj let out a breath. "I shall work to remain worthy of your loyalty, and your friendship." He turned then, to face Beclem fully. "For all you have done this past year, 'thank you' seems inadequate, but I have to wonder: why? When you could have stayed in Luca, or returned to reclaim your life at any time, why did you follow me instead?"
Beclem shrugged. "If anyone can take the mess that's left of this world, wrest it away from Bevelle, and whip it back into shape, it's you. And I can best serve Spira by helping you do it."
"In that case, how can I refuse?" Nooj lowered his chin, and Beclem caught a glint of... something. Satisfaction? No, just the reflection of the rising sun off his spectacles. Nooj looked up again, and he raised his arm in salute. "Carry on, soldier."
"Carrying on, sir." Beclem returned the salute and then turned back to the sea as Nooj walked away, uneven footsteps crunching on gravel, the rays of a new sun dazzling his eyes with their promise of the future.