Chapter 1 - Quarantine

The leader sat in his high backed seat on the deck high above Balamb garden. The school felt strange to the man, at that moment it was still as a mountain. Yet the Commander remembered it once thundering over the horizon, in an instant he had set the garden free of the chains. The Centa built shackles which had held it in place under the mountain side, torn asunder as an act of desperation to save their home from obliteration at the hands of Sorceress Edea.

A faint smile touched his lips then, Sorceress Edea, while a woman possessed of great power. Had shown how little control she had held over herself during that time of war. Unbeknown to SeeD, a silent future foe, Ultimecia, claimed a reign of power beneath the mask that was Edea Kramer.

Squall felt a sudden urge to rise from his seat and visit the training centre. A desire to witness the focus of his woman, to see her learning to control the craft at the hands of Edea. Who could better train a sorceress for the tasks she was to face than another sorceress? Many had questioned his order, but Squall's authority was absolute. Not only was Ultimecia vanquished from their world, but Edea had long since proven an invalubal ally. A totally different experience from when she had been the deadliest of foes.

The thought of authority crossed the figure's mind once more, spinning the chair around, the eighteen-year old Garden Commander arose from his leather throne. Standing by himself at the corner of the bridge he looked out across the world, here he was at peace and in control. The frosted glass supplied him with fragmented and broken images of the world around Balamb, a sign that winter still claimed them.

Thoughts of a cold world brought back images of the compressed reality SeeD had been dispatched to investigate. If there was any mission that still haunted him, then it was that one. The whole task was a journey out of existence and into a netherworld. Everything that the people recognised and held affinity with, had been ripped apart by Sorceress Ultimecia, an enemy totally devoid of remorse.

It still made no sense to Squall, in the moment where he drove the blade of lionheart into her body, he had vanquished the time compressor, but did that mean that she was truly dead? If he killed the future, had he killed the past? Such questions had made him lose his way and alone he had drifted in an empty world, only to be saved by the touch of Rinoa's love.

The urge to see her rose further, but he repressed it, he was the Commander and until the night fell, he had to remain in play. Squall chuckled as he looked back at the spot where the transgression had occurred. The floor of the upper chamber had been decorated with tribal symbols, lines that had seemed incongrous and meaningless to the SeeD as he had trudged across them.

Once he was on the lift and aboard the bridge proper, Cid Kramer, former commander of Garden, had broadcast how the Garden needed a leader of focus for the upcoming mission against the sorceress.

Squall had been incensed, given no control and no choice in the decision, he had been forced into a change that day. Instead of simply following orders, as he had been trained so resolutely to do. The SeeD was forced to give them, and accept all the ramifcations that went with it. Most had assumed that once the mission was over, life would return to normal and Cid would reassume power. The ageing firgure had, however, declined. He told them all how Squall had done magnificently and that no one else could lead with such focus and control. The man in command of Garden needed to be someone who could gain the most from the students, despite Squall's thoughts on the matter, he was born to do such a role.

Instantly his mind was ripped from the past when the sound of an emergency communication blasted across the bridge. The commander leapt into the swivel chair and spun it around to face the large screen of the bridge. Mind ablaze with what the report might contain.

"Main screen!" Instantly the plump figure of the Garden's Head Doctor, Kadowaki, filled the screen. Large bags formed under her eyes and her skin seemed sunken, as if placed under great stress. "Make your report Doctor, priority 1-A." Squall commanded instantly.

"We have a situation sir. The infirmary is currently being locked down and we need you on site immediately."

Squall frowned. "Why was I not informed of a lockdown? And why does it seem like you are keeping something from me?"

"I apologise sir and accept full responsibility, but the nature of the situation meant that I had to keep it black box until we could gain a full understanding."

"I am on my way now, prepare a full report for my arrival, out." Despite the heavy words and cocky posture, Squall, inside, was a wreck. Something in the Garden was deeply amiss, a situation so grave that all order had been jetisonned. Whatever had made Dr Kadowaki look dreadful had forced her to act unprofessionally... He had never seen her that way before.

The elevator arrived at the first floor with a jarring thud, the platform shook slightly before finally all motion ceased. Through the darkened glass doors, the Garden Commander watched a group of students gathering at the centre of the hall. Taking a deep breath he prepared a statement in his mind, something that would at least disperse them for a short while. Once satisfied, the leader stepped from his protective glass shell and out onto the stairwell before it.

"All students at attention!" He barked, the nervous teenagers all adopted salutes at the unexpected command. "As you seem to be aware we have a situation at hand at the moment, for now all information is being restricted in order that a full brief can be made later on." He strode forward and looked over the morass of bodies set before the stairs. "All of you here wish to be a SeeD, correct?" A mass roar shattered his ear drums. "Well in order to become SeeD, you must be aware that we have a chain of command. In this instance I am the chain, you are the links, and I am ordering you all to resume studies and training purposes! Any information that is deemed privy to you all, will be made via a full report later on this afternoon. Dismissed!" The group chanted 'Yes sir!' Then saluted, before slowly filing away from the hall.

Once alone, the young figure walked in the direction of the infirmary, Doctor Kadowaki had told him that the wing was being locked down. It was good fortune though it created murmurings of rumours. Rumours he could hardly ignore until fully briefed, yet if this situation was as grave as the Doctor feared, then any measure to prevent panic would be necessary.

The corridor was no longer open, instead of being a simple bridge over the surrounding water, it had now become a fortress. Thick metal shutters had entombed the aisle like armour and a heavy fire door barred any access. Remembering the protocol for lockdown, Squall walked up to the communicator.

"Priority overide, code SL-GH-69." Squall voiced calmly into the transmitter.

"Scanning... Scanning..." The system bleethed as it went through the databank. "Identity matched, Code SL-GH-69, Leonhart, Squall, Garden Commander. Opening..."

Muttering under his breath at the slow procedure, the young swordsman waited for the shutter to open fully. It drifted upwards like a castle portculis and slowly light filtered through from within, a light corona that was sharp on the retinas at first.

Adjusting swiftly, he looked to the left and saw that hanging from a long rail, were many rubber suits, complete with helmets and oxygen packs. Relieved this part of protocol had been actioned, Squall reached for a hazmat suit.

As he clambered into the awkward garb, Squall's mind flew back to the time of the space incident. Many miles above Esthar, the victors of the Sorceress war had imprisoned Adel, the former Estharian ruler, within a special magic containment facilty. Despite the lifeless void that she had been moved to, Adel was still able to strike one final blow at the peaceful Esthar society.

Sorceress Ultimecia had wrestled control of Rinoa subconsciously. The new found powers that she had inherited from Edea were only just coming to bloom, naturally she was easy pickings. On board the Lunar Base, Rinoa coasted into orbit and released the seal on Adel. While thousands of miles below the Lunatic Pandora guided her home, Rinoa drifted into eternity.

As he looked through the visor of the helmet, Squall could feel the impending fear of death coursing to the surface again. A moment of suicidal courage had guided him into the open void of space, together Rinoa and he had returned to Earth. Suited like this, he felt like it were all about to occur again.

Once satisfied that the suit was secure, he strode through the entryway airlock and into the bustling infirmary. A twelve man team was ferrying chemicals and equipment around the small wing. Where normally a mere three people including the doctor could operate, there was now a small army. Impatiently he waited, wondering why none had asked him for identification or how he had violated a lockdown. Normally Squall would be recognised by anyone, but with a steamy visor and a full length body suit. The Commander could have been anyone, it was a further three minutes before a pair of the team finally walked towards him.

"Squall!" Came the familiar voice of the Doctor. "I apologise, you should have..."

"No!" The commander cut in. "You should have been monitoring the hall, we have many gifted computer students in these halls, any one of them could have been pretending to be me! If any of them got in here things could get out of control."

She winced and nodded. "I am sorry Squall, I..."

"I know, something catastrophic must have happened, for you to forget two key cornerstones of the code is unheard of. So, give me your report."

"Yes sir!" She announced as she slammed her heels together and saluted as best her plump frame would allow. "Lockdown has been officially in place for fourteen hours, ever since our mountain rescue team returned from a call at precisely 02:18 am. I am sorry that..."

Squall held up his hand. "Forget the apologies, just make your report."

"Yes sir!" She replied swiftly, "thirty minutes after being dispatched the team returned with seven bodies, all in an isolated rear trailer to the transport vehicle..."

Squall's nerves rose to a new height. "Why a reserve trailer? Why not on the beds of the vehicle? Those things are designed to carry up to twenty injured survivors!"

"Exactly my question sir, an analysis of the patients has forced me to one conclusion... That the seven have contracted some form of retrovirus."

"Roll call! Priority 1-A!" He barked.

To his left, the second attendant saluted. "Seed Officer Xu, reporting sir!" Squall returned the salute, "students found at the site have been identified as Katrina Wall, Justin Nekras, Yvette Coln, Jessie Knowles, Edu Lomax, Lucia Honahue and…" She paused ominously, "Zell Dincht…"

Squall blanched at the final name, and did his best to focus. "Mission patterns." The distraught commander announced cryptically.

"Sir? I don't understand." Xu replied.

"What missions have they just completed! Give me locations, name of contractees, mission detail, timings, everything! And within the hour!" He snapped, the female officer saluted sloppily before making her way to the clearing chamber.

"Squall..." The voice failed to reach him, "Squall!"

"What is it Doctor?" He replied venomously.

"Don't bottle your feelings up, I know what you are like, you take after Cid. He found it all too easy to cover up what he felt. Like him you go into your shell, hiding behind this authoritative fascade."

The man sighed and looked up. "I did not expect Zell to be named in the list, after all we have been through. The Dollet mission, Sorceress Edea, time compression... Only to be hit by some virus, it seems... Wrong."

Kadowaki smiled. "I have known for a long time how you care for you friends, right now he is in danger, and needs a friend to find a way to get him clear. You can't lose your grip Squall."

The former seed nodded in agreement. "I guess I have to remain focused... The mountain rescue team, where are they?"

She pointed to the north of the infirmary. "The ward for psychiatric patients has been vacated and locked down, they are currently being observed and cared for in there. You wish to see them?"

"I have to, they were the last people to see them before the virus took fully, were any words passed between the victims and rescuers? Was there sign of any interference? This information could be vital. In the meantime, I want you to prepare a full statement. Make it detailed, we need to know what we are up against. Be ready within the hour, I'll have the rank seeds waiting on the deck." With a salute he walked to the hygiene space between the infirmary and the psychiatric wing.

The screen blinked repeatedly in front of her, the image constantly rotating and changing at her almost unconscious demands. Fingers graced and tapped at the keyboard swiftly, her eyes fixed solely on the main screen, never wavering to guide her fingers. To an outsider it was almost as if she were telepathic, yet her mind was not possessing such focus. Nearly twenty-four hours had passed since the team had been admitted to the biohazard wing, and yet she still felt the tension of the whole event pressing against her.

Xu had been vocal about having Squall in from the beginning, during the war with the sorceress Ultimecia, every decision went through their commander, whether he fully controlled the bridge or not. Yet here, Kadowaki and herself had breached his command and setup behind his back, his anger still pressed on her mind.

He was a friend of Zell, surely he had the right to know? Squall may have always passed himself off as the introverted child that trusted no one and revealed no feelings. But the sight of someone he cared about may have broken him, he had, after all, risked himself numerous times for the friends he had been so dismissive of.

"Focus Xu!" She urged herself, "mistakes can be cured another time."

The file popped open and she began to peruse the document. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the mission, ever since the fallout from the war had blown over, there was no real need for mass forces that left destruction in their wake. According to the file this was a nothing mission, but then her eyes were arrested by the last line of the order. Shocked, she instantly ordered reams of paper to be printed from the machine and readied her own statement to the master of the Garden.

His mind swam as the thoughts of his friend came back to him, against all advice of the doctor, he had looked closely at the wounded. Every one of them had red rashes on their faces, while numerous lumps had begun to form underneath the skin. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. When a subject was poisoned the skin became clammy and hot, but even then, it wouldn't look like something was threatening to burst from beneath the epidermis.

For a moment tears formed in his eyes, but he shook them back, he was a professional and would not be jaded by the scenario unravelling before his eyes. So he had gone along with procedure as impartial as always, his greatest suit was that he could shut the emotions off.

It was useful as this torture continued, the thick jets of water pressed him against the wall, despite any urge he had to cut and run, he endured. The feeling of being assaulted by the streams was compounded upon by the horrible chafing of his skin. Thick brushes rubbed at his skin, the sharp bristles drawing blood as the soap bubbled up on his back.

For three minutes he stood naked, hands pressed to the wall, beneath his feet he could see a trickle of blood sloshing towards the central drain. Slowly the pain on his spine began to abate as the brushes were lifted clear. Turning he stomped into the drying cubicle and felt the hot air blast all the moisture from his body. Hung on a hook, still damp from the wash, were his regular clothes. With a mutter of annoyance he swiftly dressed and walked to the main corridor.

"We're very sorry sir, we had to be cautious with the outbreak." One sentry called as he reappeared and dressed into the rubber suit again.

"We have a code to follow, so don't worry yourself. How do you avoid contagion in the washing though?" The leader asked, more to fill the silence of the walk towards the survivors.

"We don't actually touch anything with our hands, all the rubber and disposal bags are made from a special form that is composed on the same basis as a hydrocarbon ring." Squall concealed his disinterest by nodding. "Plastic is made from the fusion of carbon and hydrogen, what we did was find a way to replicate that process using the chemical hydroxide. Once water hits the plastic, it reacts to dissolve completely, so in short. We dump the clothes in the bags, throw the bags into the wash and then it dissolves and washes. Easy."

"Innovative, sounds like the kind of technology that made Esthar so famous. Are the excavation team in a sealed chamber?"

The nameless soldier nodded. "Doctor Kadowaki ordered an immediate detention of anyone who had come into contact with the infected. Luckily the initial arrival had occured at such an hour that the other students were in their dorms. Vigilance of the night staff prevented them from mixing."

"Take me to them, I want to know more about how they came into contact."

The spires of the future city glistened in the distance, this world was what he had become one with. A world that had risen, fallen and risen again. It was a testimony to the constant attempt to improve and strive to succeed, even when all seemed lost. Yet the glistening beauty of the spires touched his soul, this was a world that he had crafted and moulded into greatness once again.

"I miss her," he suddenly announced, cutting across the silence of the Presidential suite. "Lil Ellone always makes me smile, the thought of her out in the world again terrifies me." Laguna added in a fatherly tone.

Kiros smiled. "Man you really have become the big guy about family haven't you? I'll never forget the shock I experienced when I found you in Winhill all those years ago. Months earlier we had been sinking whiskeys in Deling and generally going about life like all men should. Heh, and who can forget that encounter with Julia?"

"That's not funny Kiros!" The President shouted, Ward, the mute giant, felt a huge smile form on his lips, showing all the words he needed to the massed group. "I am scared, all that business with time messed everyone up."

"It brought everyone together though, the family reunion, you never felt closer." Instantly he knew he had made a mistake, the happy atmosphere began to shrink and fade. An uncomfortable silence reigned over the air for a moment before Laguna's eyes sank towards the desk.

"Not completely... I... Wish it could have been easier..." A cramp began to rise in his leg, "oww!" He screamed as it took hold, painfully he staggered around the suite, his right leg locked solid, as if splintered. Slowly the cramp began to ease and he stood with his hands clasped tightly to his spine. "Squall said to me that he learned a long time ago that he had to survive on his own, that he couldn't accept me as his father... I understood... Ellone always recieved more love from me..."

Kiros placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "According to those friends of his, your boy also feels very close to her. These things take time man."

"Eighteen years, Kiros, how much longer can I give him?" The question went unanswered, it was all too rehtoric.

The quarantine enforced at the infirmary had left the crew with little alternative to offer the rescue team. The area assigned for them was the space used for those who were diagnosed with dementia or other mental side effects, lovingly referred to as the 'isolation ward' by those on the outside. Squall felt it ironic that its colloquial name had become all so literal.

The floors were highly reflexive, tiny speckled dots interrupted the images of themselves that were formed in the floor. All the windows were blacked out, no natural light being allowed into the cells. A staggering smell of disenfectant saturated their senses as they walked towards the group. Squall lifted his eyes from the ground and looked at the window before him. The large rectangle pane emphasised the despair that was being felt inside.

A six man crew sat on rock hard pallet beds, their elbows resting on their knees and palms under their chins, like bored school children. As the squadron saw the sudden visit, a sole figure arose from the bed and snapped into the garden salute.

"Rescue team JA-79 reporting, sir!"

Squall returned the salute. "At ease." The man relaxed and stood casually. "I realise that current conditions for you are difficult. As Commander of Garden, I profusely apologise for enforcing this. But we cannot be certain that you were not exposed to what could be a potentially fatal virus. Do you understand?"

Every member of the crew nodded. "We understand perfectly, sir." The man announced.

"Are you the squad leader?" The man nodded, "announce yourself and introduce your team."

"Yes sir!" He called loudly. "Operative Jason Wilcox, ID number ALSR43786; squad leader of unit JA-79 of the Mountain rescue team, based at Balamb Garden." He turned and pointed at a young girl. "This is operative Tijana Swale, Medical support to the Mountain rescue." Swiftly the figure pointed at an aged and bearded man. "Operative Ritegen van Darias, Main pilot." Seemlessly he directed Squall to a short man. "Operative Ted Wallace, Communications engineer." The leader immediately gestured at another young woman. "Operative Nadia Turunen, Navigation engineer." Lastly he pointed at a young and short man. "Operative Ash Hanneman, main rescue operative at ground level."

Squall nodded, "thank you squad leader, you may rejoin your colleagues." As the squad leader walked to the long beds, the commander sat himself in a large chair. "I want a full report on how you found the wounded, and how you recovered them."

Jason took a breath. "Mountain rescue, due to the nature of our role, are on constant twenty-four hour alert. At precisely 01:30 hours we were disturbed by our communication device. I ordered for the message to be relayed on the main screen. I saw a lone figure with a large tribal tattoo on his face, he was kneeling on the ground, clutching at his chest. Behind him lay six other survivors, all groaning and lying flat on their backs. The message simply asked for immediate assistance. No co-ordinates were given." Before Squall could question the manhunt for the infected, the rescue team leader pointed at Ted Wallace.

"I swiftly deployed tracking software to recover the location of where the distress call originated. It told us that they were at the base of a set of mountains just to the north of Balamb, merely half a mile from the military sea port." He gestured back to Jason.

"With the data in hand we immediately took a large SUV and went to our duty. A report was filed with the main gate, before we drove out to them."

Squall nodded. "Did any of you make physical with contact them?"

The leader nodded, "we had to lift them onto stretchers. Ash and Nadia were the ones who did that, as they were the only true expert medics in our team."

Squall nodded again and turned to the pair, "You have been back from the job for over twelve hours now, are you feeling any form of illness?" The pair shook their heads, "that's good; it could be a sign of all clear. However to be safe I am going to have the pair of you removed to individual cells, just so we can protect the less infected." The pair nodded and rose from the pallet bed, beside him Squall saw the quarantine leader move forwards. "Make them comfortable, whatever they ask for give it to them, so long as no one enters the cells they are assigned." The Seed turned back to the Perspex, "thank you for your assistance. I shall have the doctor thoroughly examine all of you, she will eventually decide if any of you can have the all clear, thank you once again for your co-operation." Swiftly he rose from the seat and left the ward.

Doctor Kadowaki felt the strings of her age dragging her down. Twice her head struck the desk before her eyes flickered open. The files were open where she had left them, frustrated she knocked the cup of coffee to the floor. In fifteen minutes she would be expected to give a report to the entire senior SeeD and she had the square root of nothing that was conclusive.

Her only theory was about as believable as a meteor throwing tornadoes at a two levelled city. Yet, she knew that a professional attitude was required during the meeting. This was definitely a form of virus, somehow it was acting in the blood and deteriorating the organs from within. This was common with fatal viruses, which didn't help, but one thing they often shared was time.

Months, years even, before they reached a state where they had no biological control, yet it had been days at the most. How Zell managed to communicate that message, or even lead his team home, were things that she could not guess at. Clasping her eyes at the text and images once more she began to look for something, anything that could possibly give a clue to the situation at hand.

An alarm clock vibrated on the desk, the bell sounding like an alarm to alert for general chaos. Jumping from the chair she gathered up the card files and rushed towards the lift.

The walk to the office had not been one that he had taken with great haste. As soon as he walked on the bridge, the tranquility that all had enjoyed would be shattered. Sighing he looked at the patterns on the floor once more. "Where are you Cid? With your calm and control when all began to come apart?" This thought kept him in check as he stormed through the milled crowd that had gathered in the halls. A barrage of questions assaulted his hearing, stone faced and silent, he ignored them and marched on.

Arriving later than everyone, he maintained his authority by walking past the SeeDs and sitting in the swivel chair, facing the frosted windows once again. Inside his mind, the thoughts swirled like a maelstrom, once he turned it would have to be the Commander who addressed them. Taking a deep breath, he spun around and watched as the four slid their left foot into their right and placed a palm salute in front of their faces.

Squall returned it swiftly. "At ease," the order was obeyed instantly. "You have all performed exceptionally in the new roles to which you have been assigned." His eyes glanced askance at the figure of sharp shooter Irvine. "Your task has been especially difficult, to return to a place you called home for so long to discharge and dismiss your friends must have been very difficult. The approach and methods used have brought great praise to you from the President of Esthar." Ignoring the deserved smile, Squall walked back towards his chair. "I wish that this was what I called the meeting for, in fact, I wish I had more time to reward the exceptional effort you have all shown to Garden..."

"Squall it's ok, you know that..." Quistis was silenced by the raised hand of her commander.

"Quistis, your work with the criminal investigation team has been remarkable too, in fact every one of you deserve a one to one brief on what you have accomplished... There is no easy way to do this, so I'll come right out with it."

Selphie nervously glanced at him. "Squall... You're scaring me, what's wrong?"

"As you may or may not be aware, the infirmary has been locked down. This is not a drill, it is an emergency procedure invoked by the medical staff. In the early hours of this morning, seven of our students were committed in a critical condition. All are suffering from what appears to be some form of virus... One of those students was the Commander of the mission, Zell Dincht." The name cut through the trio before him, tears stung the eyes of Quistis, blinking fast she failed to stop them welling out. Irvine meanwhile, felt the upset form of Selphie slide against him, circling an arm around her, he began to whisper soft words into her ear.

"I understand and sympathise with what you are feeling. However, we must not allow personal feelings to get in the way of our investigation and ultimately the safety of this garden. I will shortly be going on record to confirm a report to the students, but before I do, I want all of you to be aware of the full findings... Give me your report!" The sudden command cut through the ambivalent atmosphere. All eyes fell on a nearby pillar as Xu stalked from behind it, originally unseen and unheard. She snapped into a salute at the four figures.

"The group were assigned under the pseudonym 'Angellus', the mission statement has them listed as an orbservation unit hired by the Shumi Tribe, North-East of what was Trabia Garden. The mission itself seems to be very little out of the ordinary, they were wanted to watch and report on activity that had begun at an abandoned site on a peninsula north of the settlement..." Xu hesitated suddenly.

"Your report, please complete it!" Squall ordered.

"Yes sir!" She nervously announced, " the site is referred to as Adellone."

Squall's eyes narrowed. "That name... It sounds like a remnant of the Sorceress war, such a term should have been flagged by our systems and reported to me! Who authorised the mission?"

"It was an order signed by yourself sir." Xu answered.

"I have no idea how this order came to be signed, we'll look at that itself. In the meantime it is clear that this tribe know more about the site and exactly why the Seed's were hired. This information will be crucial, with seven lives at stake we are not sure how long we have, Doctor, report on the virus." The group looked on as she appeared from a second swivel chair and bowed to all on the bridge.

"The students are all going through a stage of viral infection that is causing the bodies to deteriorate. Are any of you aware of a condition called Leprosy?" She asked, all shook their heads. "I am not surprised, it is an illness that was wiped out centuries ago. What I know of it, is similar to this condition. The body begins to literally break up."

"How do you mean? It sounds awful!" Quistis cut back.

Kadowaki nodded. "It is, Leprosy, as I said, literally made the body break up. People would be sitting down minding their on business when their toes would just drop off, the body withers while the host lives."

"It sounds like a corpse decaying." Irvine interjected.

"That is probably the closest analogy I have heard for a long time. What I am seeing downstairs is a form of this, the bodies are seemingly beginning to decay, however, it looks like it could be affecting the inside of the body too. This is all based off basic findings, the condition is in early stages but we have no idea how fast it moves. A cure is probably the only way for us to save them."

"With this threat," Squall began, "we have to go through with an unusual protocol. Here is how it shall be played out. Quistis, you are too liase with Xu and organise a military lockdown of the entire Garden. Every exit and main entryway is to be fully secured with biohazard procedures seen at the infirmary, we have to control this threat now."

"Squall... I mean... Sir... Who am I to allow through?"

"No one." He responded quickly. "Unless I give the order, there is to be no access to or from this garden, as of now we are dark. Any Seeds currently active in the field will be ordered via com devices to report to the outfield bases in Centra, Galbadia and Esthar." The group all gave out a sound of shock as they heard the order. "You probably think this foolish, but with this potential outbreak we cannot afford to have open access, the consequences could be appalling."

"What if there is an internal outbreak!" Selphie screamed, "do we just let people die?"

"If we have to yes!" He snapped, "an outbreak in Garden would be devastating, that is certain, but at least we can cap the losses as our own, rather than risk the outside world." She made to protest but Squall raised his hand, "this is the final word on the matter! We must secure the virus, if that gets out then anything could and more likely would happen!" Swiftly he faced Irvine. "You are to be the last to leave Garden, your team will go through a full detox procedure beforehand. Your mission is simple, investigate that village and find out what happened there."

"How many will I have?" The shooter responded.

"Three Seed agents and a hazmat team. You leave in an hour." Cautiously he looked back at Selphie. "You are an agile and well liked student. As such I need you to head the final part of the operation. There is a chance that students could have been infected, it isn't likely, but we need to have a contingency plan ready. You will work with the doctor to prepare a medical response team in case anyone succumbs to the virus, or worse, we have an outbreak."

With the brief prepared, Squall sighed before reaching for the microphone, as he hit the switch a jingle sounded across the Garden.

In the centre of the garden, a swarm of students descended upon the large dais at the main entrance. The collosus mapped out all areas of the garden to those who had not set foot in before. Yet, for once, this magnificent construction was not what marshalled the attention of all around it. As the jingle ebbed, all listened to the announcement.

"Attention all Students, staff and visitors." The voice of Squall rang out over the crowd of people.

"I have no doubts that you have all seen the infirmary and the mass of strangers working within it. This is not an exercise, we are, as of this moment, in full scale crisis alert. Specific details are unclear, however, this Garden is at major risk. Due to circumstances of this risk, we are locking this Garden down." There was a shocked outcry as the words hammered home like a pneumatic drill.

"Understand that this is done out of sheer necessity alone, there will be no access to and from this garden. We are going to relocate to a secure location soon, in the meantime we are remaining at the old site on the continent of Balamb. Classes will continue as normal as possible, so all students and staff return to your roles. All visitors from outside the garden will be given free accommodation within our en-suite wing. This risk will be combated."

There was a sense of shock that hung in the air as the words cut out, their leader had just confirmed that the Garden was at crisis alert. Last time that happened there had been a mutiny amongst the redundant Garden Faculty and missiles had almost wiped them out. Yet they had survived because of the professional work of SeeD and the backup from the main comanders. Cid had ordered unity in the face of crisis, it had worked then. Unsure, but not panicked, the students began to mill towards their destined classes.

Quistis stepped forwards as he finished speaking. "You didn't tell them the full details."

Squall nodded his head. "Correct, I didn't." He paused slightly. "Selphie raised an important point when she mentioned a potential outbreak. If I told all the students that there was a highly dangerous retrovirus at work within the Garden we would have an immediate panic. Followed with rioting on the gates, with the gates down they would be out amongst the populace, and possibly carry with them, this virus."

Xu nodded, "you have chosen the correct course, though once Selphie appears with her team people are going to question the enhanced medical activity."

"We shall address that problem when it arises, right now the safety of the students needs to be ensured." Swiftly the leader turned to Irvine. "You are to leave quietly, join Quistis and she will ensure you are not seen leaving. Dismissed." They all turned to leave, "One final thing." They all stopped in their tracks. "Good luck to you all, find whatever information you can. An anti-virus maybe our only option." They nodded and left the office. Squall sank into the soft leather and angrily slapped the armrests. Only once he was alone did he allow the tears for his comrade fall…