It seemed as though the whole world was trying to shake itself apart. The tower was collapsing all around them but, through the raining dust, Edgar could still see the bright halo of Esper-fire surrounding Terra and followed it like a beacon. Sabin was right behind him, breathing heavily, but otherwise acting in fine spirits. The fact that he'd been holding a few hundred pounds above their heads not five minutes ago didn't seem to have bothered him one bit. Further behind, Celes, Locke and Setzer were pulling an exhausted looking Strago with them while Cyan carried Relm in his arms, Gau trailing behind them. Mog, Umaro and Gogo were the last to arrive, watching for any of the tower's denizens that might be following.
Terra stopped at the one of the tower's windows and began tearing chunks of masonry from the frame. Edgar and Sabin joined her and, seconds later, the three had torn a hole large enough for a person to dive through. Three hundred paces distant, the Falcon hung lazily in the air, slowly circling the tower, watching for a sign from the Returners to come and retrieve them. Sabin took a step back from the hole they'd torn and raised an eyebrow questioningly as he turned to look at Setzer. "You sure that your crew'll know where to find us?" he asked.
Setzer grinned and produced a small, red mirror from his pocket. "They'll know," he said as he flashed a series of signals with the mirror. Seconds later, a red light blinked a signal back and the airship began drifting toward the tower. "See?" Setzer said with a smile, "I told you they'd find us."
Sabin shook his head and grinned. "I'm impressed," he said as the Falcon extended a pair of crane arms with netting strung between them.
Edgar kept an eye on Terra as Sabin and Setzer watched the Falcon near the tower. She leaned heavily against the tower's debris wall, the glow of her Esper power fading in and out. He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "M'Lady?" he asked, "Are you alright?" Terra offered him a weak smile and nodded as she put her hand on his. "I'll be alright, Edgar. Thank you." Edgar grinned and looked through the breach. The Falcon was nearing the tower, less than a hundred paces distant now, and began slewing to starboard. "This seems awfully familiar," he said as he turned back to Terra and grinned. "Here's hoping I land on the net this time, eh?"
Terra smiled weakly and nodded as she looked over her shoulder. The hallway behind them was beginning to sag and twist at crazed angles as debris rained from the ceiling and walls.
The airship stopped and hung a dozen paces below them, it's engines barely audible over the sound of the tower shaking itself apart. Setzer stood at the breach in the wall and nodded at a signal from the crew as he turned to the waiting Returners. "Ladies and gentlemen," he shouted over the din as he began ushering groups to the gap in the wall. "We'll be boarding now! Two by two, if you please!"
Locke and Celes were first to leap toward the waiting airship and scrambled off the netting. Cyan and Gau were the next off of the tower, then Umaro and Mog leapt, the moogle clinging tightly to his larger companion. Gogo and Sabin were next, and before they jumped, Sabin flashed Edgar a thumbs-up. Strago, Relm and Interceptor were last, the dog fighting to run back into the tower and whining mournfully as the old man hauled on his collar. "He's not coming, you stupid dog!" Strago shouted as Interceptor continued to strain against his grip.
Edgar crossed to the group and took Interceptor from Strago as he motioned to the gap. "Last call's about to sound," he said as he struggled to hold Interceptor still. "Best get aboard." Strago nodded and took his granddaughter's hand as he ran for the window. Edgar watched as the two of them leapt to the waiting net and turned to Terra, Interceptor finally becoming still in his arms.
"I guess this is it," he said as he stepped to the edge and looked at the net below. Debris was raining around the airship and it was nothing short of a miracle that the Falcon had taken no damage yet. Terra was still leaning heavily against the rubble wall and waved Edgar forward as he extended a hand to her. "I'll be alright," she said as she stepped to the ledge. "Go on first, Edgar."
Edgar nodded and leapt to the waiting net, clutching Interceptor tightly against him. The dog yowled in terror as the two flew through the air. Edgar rolled on to his back as he neared the net. As he braced for the impact, Edgar watched Terra leap from the crumbling tower and glide toward the Falcon. The air burst from his lungs as he slammed into the net and Edgar felt the net being reeled back onto the ship. Edgar handed Interceptor to Sabin as he scrambled back onto the Falcon.
"Where's Terra?" He asked as he scanned the deck of the ship. Sabin shook his head and looked skyward. "Wasn't she with you?" he asked. Edgar leaned over the gunwale of the airship and scanned the sky for her. Debris rained down from the tower, slewing he airship around as it struck the rudder. Setzer banked the ship away from the tower, cursing as more wreckage struck the deck and engines. "Where is she?" Locke shouted as he struggled to keep his footing. "I don't know," Edgar shouted back, still looking skyward.
"There!" shouted Celes, pointing at a figure spiralling toward the ship.
The glow surrounding Terra faded with each passing moment as she hurtled toward the Falcon. Setzer pushed the airship into a steep dive, angling the ballonet to intercept Terra's descent. She passed out of view for a moment and then came tumbling down the side of the ship. Edgar lunged over the gunwale, catching her by the leg and pulling her unconscious form aboard, holding her against him and shielding her as more debris slammed into the ship. "Is that everyone?" Setzer shouted as he slewed the Falcon around another cascade of debris.
"Yes," Strago shouted back, "Go! That's all of us!"
Setzer turned the Falcon westward, the engines howling as the ship picked up speed.
"Take cover!" Cyan cried as he pointed to the tower, "It's coming apart!"
Behind them, the tower collapsed on itself with a low rumble and, a moment later, exploded outwards with a thunderous roar. The Falcon began to roll as it was buffeted by the shock wave while Setzer cursed and struggled to keep the ship aloft.
As Setzer pulled the Falcon back under control and levelled it's flight, Edgar laid Terra down on the deck and knelt over her, listening intently for breath. Around them, Celes and Locke were staring dumbly at the ruin behind them while Relm and Strago sat, exhausted, on the deck, the young girl absently stroking the prone, whimpering form of Interceptor. Gau took a step toward Relm, hesitated and then turned to where Mog and Umaro stood, grunting incomprehensibly with them. Gogo and Sabin were standing with Setzer, the three of them grinning - at least Edgar assumed Gogo was grinning beneath his mask - and shaking their heads in disbelief. Cyan stood at the starboard gunwale, silently staring at the passing country below them. In front of Edgar, Terra stirred and opened her eyes.
"Good morning, beautiful." Edgar said with a smile. "How are you feeling?"
Terra shook her head and closed her eyes. "I...What happened?" she asked.
"Setzer got the ship under you and we caught you as you fell," Edgar replied. "Are you alright?"
"I...I think so," Terra said. "But I feel...strange. I'm not hurt, though," she said with a wince as she sat up, "Well, not too badly hurt."
"That's a relief," he said with a smile as he offered her his hand. "Now let's get you back on your feet." Edgar pulled Terra to her feet and she smiled at him as she looked at the crowded deck of the Falcon. She looked at Edgar, her eyebrows raised questioningly. "Shadow?" she mouthed. Edgar lowered his eyes and shook his head. Terra nodded as the two walked to the bow of the ship.
"So," she asked after a moment, "What do we do now?"
Edgar shook his head and looked at the deck. "I...I don't know. There's going to be a lot of rebuilding to do, but," he said, his raising his voice so it could be heard by all on the deck, "If any of you want to stay at the Castle, you're more than welcome to."
Nods and scattered words of thanks met Edgar's offer and he turned back to Terra. "And you, M'Lady?"
She shook her head and closed her eyes. "I'm sorry, Edgar, but I can't."
"Duane, Katarin and the children..." she said, "I the closest thing most of them have to a mother...I can't let them be out there unprotected."
"Well, there's plenty of room for them. Besides," he added with a grin, "I like the idea of having a big family."
Terra looked at Edgar and grinned. "You don't stop, do you?"
Edgar beamed back at her. "Not unless you ask, M'Lady." Terra laughed and turned back to look past the bow. "I'll keep that in mind, Edgar. Although," she added with a wink, "I don't think I'll ask."