Chapter 6: - Fallout from the war

The President rushed in from his morning shower, his long black hair dripping like he was a dog that had just emerged from the rain. Flustered, he pulled the hair back into a loose ponytail and rung it out like a rag. A wave of water fell to the floor of the Presidential suite and Kiros rolled his eyes; the base of his robes had just become soaked.

"Thanks Laguna, just what I need before this meeting."

Laguna grinned. "It woke you up at least. How long have we had them on hold?" Ward held up five fingers. "Not too bad, especially since I was washing off. What is it they want?"

"Wouldn't say that; all that the Commander said was that this message was for the President." Kiros replied swiftly.

"It doesn't sound good; Squall never acts brashly without a reason." He jumped into the leather seat and swung to face the screen. "Time to see what this is about. Main screen, respond!" He commanded.

The image faded in slowly; if the President had expected some respect, then he got a nasty shock. Squall sat straight in the middle of the screen, his eyes locked in a fearsome stare. At his right hand side, the usually jovial sorceress sat with a sunken look. Laguna gulped and felt the blood in his leg begin to lock solid; Squall had never once looked at him this way before.

"Commander..." He began uncertainly, remembering how the former SeeD had demanded formal titles in their previous meeting. "What can we do for you?"

"You can give me a straight answer," Squall replied coldly; the tone was enough to freeze fire. "Mr President, the peninsula above Winter Island. What does your government know about it?"

Laguna gasped in shock. "I don't know what you mean... Which pen... Penin..." He faltered.

"The island where I sent my SeeD unit!" Squall barked furiously. "What do you know of that island?"

"Commander, forgive my interruption." Kiros interjected, "but our..."

"When I wish to hear your opinion, I'll ask for it!" Squall bit back.

Laguna's eyes narrowed, anger replacing the shock. "Now that was uncalled for! Kiros is my respected ally; a man who has been by my side for over twenty years! If he wants to say something then I damn well give him permission to say it."

"You haven't answered my question, sir," Squall suddenly rebutted, his voice stone cold, as if he had never been fazed by the whole instance. "What does your government know about that island?"

Laguna sighed; they weren't getting anywhere. Something must've happened to piss off the Commander this much and sitting there arguing about formalities wasn't going to tell him what it was. "We've been researching that area for the last two days. But we haven't found anything on that site," Laguna added quickly when he noted that Squall's frown had deepened. "Well, what else do you want me to say?"

"Then you can answer this; why was there a huge aircraft dispatched to that island with the aim of destroying the search team I sent?!"

Laguna's jaw dropped. "What?"

Squall nodded. "That's right; an aircraft not unlike the ones in service within the borders of Esthar ambushed SeeD members; specifically personnel from my Garden. They barely escaped with their lives. Don't bother asking where they are now; I ordered them to go dark deliberately. You won't find them." He announced with an edge.

Laguna held up his hands. "Squall, listen to me... I didn't know anything about any of this; I didn't sanction an attack, honest! This is the first I've heard about it."

Squall's eyes narrowed; he didn't look convinced. "Then you had better get to work on launching another investigation. For starters, you can find out exactly where that aircraft came from and why it attacked my men."

The young Commander surprised them all by walking up close to the screen. "And know this; if Garden finds any intelligence that suggests your government is responsible, we will not hesitate to retaliate."

"Squall! The treaty is vital; we wouldn't do anything to put that at risk, you know that! What kind of moron do you think I am?"

"You don't want to hear my answer to that question." He responded before cutting off the transmission.

Laguna began to shake violently. His right leg was frozen, unable to move from the muscle cramp that had taken hold and, as a result, he slouched into the chair. Cold sweat formed on his brow; his eyes had been so cold, and the image would forever be etched into his memory. Deep down Laguna knew that Squall had meant every word; if he didn't want this escalating into a war, he had better find out what happened. Who had attacked SeeD and why had they left Esthar with the blame?

"Get me... something..." He muttered, "something hard... I need something to calm me down..."

Ward nodded and silently rushed to a nearby anteroom, returning with a beautiful crystal decanter that was half full of a brown fluid. As the silent figure made to pour some out into a goblet, Laguna shocked him by grabbing the entire decanter and taking three huge swallows from the lid. A colossal burp followed as some of the whisky flowed over his chin and Ward snatched back the decanter. Laguna stood and shook warily. The muscle in his leg had relaxed a little, but now he simply felt delicate, the liquor making him go lightheaded.

"Get me the military general..." He began slowly; he couldn't afford to botch up this order, "I want footage of everything that took off."

Kiros nodded and then lay him back in his seat. Ward nodded and began to watch the President, while Kiros dashed off to perform his duties.

--

The image of the main boulevard of Galbadia came back to the Headmaster as he strode through the sand before the prison. It was hard to believe that a country which had such a lush three mile route, lined with vegetation and ancient sandstone buildings, was also home to such an inhospitable wilderness.

For as far as he could see, the sand had drowned the earth. A harsh wind flicked fine dust into the air and he desperately clung tightly to the dust mask that disguised his ageing figures. Vinzer Deling had been a genius when he designed the prison, in such a hot and exhausting climate; almost no one attempted to escape while cavalry also found it extremely difficult to overcome the terrain to assist those on their lists.

Only once had the prison been breached; one that felt ironic as he walked towards the guard tower at the front of the secure facility. During the last Sorceress War, Garden Commander Leonhart and three fellow SeeD members had been held captive there, no doubt pending execution. In a daring and bold move, they'd managed to battle free of the cells and up to the top level of the prison, driving the huge facility into the sands miles below.

Cid had always been in awe of the design and still could not figure out how the Centran constructors had made it possible. Deling had insisted that the prison be in the sky, but not have any form of active airspace. He wanted it so the prisoners were completely cut off and that no stolen aircraft could be mistaken for a prison sky shuttle.

As his eyes feasted on the three gigantic limbs that stretched from the floor up to the facility, Cid could at least understand the mechanism of how it worked. The three pillars were all styled in exactly the same way as a drill, the simple idea being that to get new prisoners, the drills brought the facility lower to the floor, then once unloaded, it reverted back to the original structure.

Squall had reported to Cid that there had been around thirteen levels to the prison, not including the control room and the bridge that led to the exit, so there was obviously more to it. The only thing that made any sense to the former Headmaster was that each floor was somehow positioned in a prong of the drill. Either way, the design had rendered it near flawless and only once violated. Ever since the war, SeeD and Esthar had tightened the facility up further, so that any attempt at escape was impossible; nothing would get out of there unless granted release papers.

This certainty of imprisonment brought a twinge of sadness to his mind, the man he came to see did not deserve this, it had been easy to become misguided during such difficult moments. Yet, despite all pleas from Garden which suggested the defendant had been under some form of exterior control. Reports from the school that documented previous disciplinary issues secured his fate.

"I don't know why you still bother with him sir." One guard announced as the bumpy ride to the top of the prison began. "Everyone else has given up on him, and deservedly so, you should have seen him parading round here during the war."

"The inmate is one of many I saw raised from a parentless childhood and face great pressures, not all can do so without cracking."

"Pah!" The guard snorted, "there's no excuse for it, and he doesn't deserve your pity."

Cid's eyes narrowed. "The children are the light of our world, and I am a teacher. Everyone deserves a chance to make amends; I aim to help him make his."

"Well if you want to waste your time I ain't gonna stop you." He announced, Cid stood as the ride continued on in silence.

For another thirty minutes the ride continued, Cid wondered just what level they had him imprisoned upon, but either way, the journey felt arduous. When all of a sudden, the movement stopped. Cid sucked in air as he felt pain blast in his chest. For another minute he struggled until the guards began to move.

They led him into a square room with white walls, surrounding them on all sides were glass window panes. Cid knew that they could be seen through them, though Cid and his prisoner would be unable to see back. He had long become used to being the centre of attention so it did not bother him. What did bother him was the sight of the man he had come to see. His face was dirty and a huge collar had been placed on his throat.

"How are you Seifer?" He asked to the prisoner calmly.

"Exactly what I look like; I'm like shit." The arrogant prisoner retorted.

Cid nodded. "I know how you feel, tell me, did you like the book?"

Seifer nodded. "I especially liked how that general deceived the other; great mind."

Cid smiled. "Knowing your enemy is a key to winning the battle. What rules shall we use today?"

"Timber's; they remind me of the good times." Seifer replied.

"Excellent, open and same it is. Now let me see..." The ageing figure began to ruffle through his cards for the ones he wanted.

"How are the others?" Seifer cut back, five cards already organised into a fan shape.

"I am glad you asked, your closest allies are both doing remarkably. First Raijin, he has moved from Balamb to Fisherman's Horizon. The big guy got himself an apprenticeship with a fisherman and docker." Seifer laughed at this and Cid smiled; he knew how superior a fisher the prisoner was. "As for Fujin, she has signed up for a field exam with the White SeeD's; if she passes, she joins the crew."

Seifer's face went white with shock. "A... SeeD? Fujin? Surely she can't!" He announced with some surprise while laying the card of a Tonberry king down in top left corner of the grid. "She can barely speak for one."

"Makes her a good cadet." Cid countered as he slipped the Chimera card down into the bottom left square of the grid. "Everyone who's in charge loves a quick and enthusiastic answer, you have to give Fujin credit for that Seifer, you of all people."

"It doesn't really matter; these aren't the days of the committee anymore." Seifer rebutted, cooly placing a Death Claw card down to the right of his Tonberry King. "After all, who'd accept my word on disciplinary."

Cid sighed as he pulled clear his next choice. "You suffered a hardship, everyone knows it." Quickly he slid the Elnoyle card into the top right of the triad board, flipping over the captured Death Claw as he made to withdraw. "Everyone deserves a second chance."

"Tell that to my beloved Commander!" Seifer snorted as he placed the Bomb picture underneath the Elnoyle, blocking an obvious take. "It was the treaty that condemned me to this!"

Cid breathed deeply before playing a defensive move. "The world was baying for blood, it wasn't an easy decision. No one liked making a scapegoat." He placated while placing the Blitz card into the bottom right corner, shielded from an easy steal.

"He chose you well Cid, you really do talk with honey dripping out your mouth!" Seifer spat while cooly slotting the Forbidden picture in between the Chimera and Blitz.

"Good move." Cid announced as he played his final move, the game was his, one simple defence and it would be a 6 - 4 victory. "But you're out of aces." He serenaded while putting the Armadodo card in the very centre of the board, leaving one space to the left that could barely be exploited.

Seifer smiled wickedly. "Everyone believes I am brash and out of line." He countered before slamming the Ruby Dragon card into the final space. "But I was way ahead of you." Seifer continued while flipping the Chimera and Death Claw cards, the Same ruling giving him the necessary combo to steal the match. "Better let me take your Elnoyle, it's mine now."

Cid smiled as he picked up the card and handed it over. "Magnificent, I wish we had played much earlier." Quickly the former headmaster began shuffling his cards. "You have a decent set there, do the other prisoners duel with you?"

Seifer nodded. "Not often, but some guys from the next cell play when we have detox time. Even though no one is on anything."

Cid nodded. "Prisoners used to always be doped up, the jails became cleaner about twenty years go. Play again?" Seifer nodded and prepared for his first move.

Cid nodded. "She has trained with them for the last four months and they like how responsive she is, the iron discipline she learned from the committee in particular stands her in good stead."

"Whoa..." He announced while picking up a card that represented the fabled king of Tonberry's and strategically placed it in the top left corner of the triad square. In silence they began their next game when Seifer saw the timer counting down towards ten. Gazing at the hand he realised that this was his only chance to get the one person he trusted into the game.

"I am glad for her." He announced, surprising the former headmaster with the switch as he laid a low level card in an unprotected place.

"She'll be happy." Cid replied, out of words, Seifer appeared to switch completely. The sudden empathy and joy he could put down to gamesmanship, but an easy steal? Seifer had to have a plan, carefully he played defensive, aiming to get the numbers far apart for a difficult same play. "It's proof new leaves can be turned over."

"You keep telling me to try, but my beloved Commander is too good a rival." Seifer retorted as he slotted another card in the open, leaving him open for a move from Cid to steal the match. As Cid grabbed at his cards, Seifer slyly slipped something under the first card he played.

"I am pleased Seifer, it'd be good to go fishing in Centra sometime." Cid cut in as he placed the final card and sealed an easy win, seconds later the klaxon for the visit's end sounded.

"Tell everyone I'm feeling better, one day I hope to join you in that challenge." Seifer replied tactfully before placing his hand tight behind his back, less than a heartbeat later the guard had slipped the thick cuffs on the wrists and led him away.

Cid was nervous as he had slipped the Tonberry King card into his deck; this was not the Seifer he knew. The arrogant youth had suddenly turned; Kadowaki had warned him that the exposure of magic might have caused a fissure to form in his mind that could trigger him from one extreme to the other in seconds. Today, he had witnessed that with his own eyes.

The former Headmaster kept his silence as the elevator ride went on. It was best that he kept his concerns to himself, the last thing he needed was to give the guards a reason to start going after him. Especially since Seifer had shown such progress in their earlier meetings. So the ride went on until at last Cid had been escorted from the edge of the prison to the waiting vehicle Caraway had ordered.

As the door opened a wind caught the edge of his deck and dislodged a piece of white paper he had not seen before. Swiftly he grabbed the item from the floor before slotting into the soft leather seats of the limousine. He watched as the blacked out windows rose upwards and blocked out prying eyes, satisfied that no one could see, Cid flipped the paper open and read it swiftly.

"Something is going on in here. I overhead two guys talking about the past coming back and the rule they wanted to begin soon. During the detox sessions I have been getting closer to them, probing at what they're up to. Looks like there's some major challenge to the treaty rising up. All I know is something called 'Eidolon'. I haven't told anyone else; you're the only guy I trust. Don't let me down by blabbing about this to anyone around here! Get a message to Garden; I'm going to go deeper to find out more. Same plan next time, give me seven days."

The note ended abruptly with no signature, but he knew who the writer had been. Seifer had switched himself around, now he was attempting to prove himself. Everyone else would write it off as some ploy to get out, but Cid believed him. Everyone had a second chance.

"Don't let me down either." He whispered as the car drifted towards the distant city.

--

"Heaven's open." The voice called into the receiver.

"Angels fly." The other voice responded swiftly.

"What is the situation there?"

"The communication between our Commander and the President has got everyone over the edge. All the SeeD's have been whispering rumours at each other, Galbadia has also got in on the act. Caraway contacted the Commander only for him to stand his ground."

"Excellent news; this is the type of scenario that we wanted."

"What of the aircraft? Has that been covered up?" The traitor questioned swiftly.

"The general has not found any footage of the craft taking off; as we are aiming. Esthar and Garden will have a collision course. As the entire treaty becomes fragile all peace will be off, and our true plan can begin. I have already ordered the drive to get moving."

"I trust that I shall get the control I want?" The voice asked suddenly.

"Just stay loyal to the Adellone project and you'll get all the rewards you want and more. Don't let us down! Out." Instantly the call on the satellite device died, all the pieces were falling into place; the game was coming to an end...

--

The craft coasted slowly to shore fifteen miles north of Dollet. Warily they had watched their surroundings before they disembarked. Sirena had taken point with her long staff, silently she crouched on her knees behind a large boulder, her hands signalling for them to follow. Behind her, Irvine ran with his gun arm levelled, while Dychestra had his knives unsheathed in his palms. The trio scanned the horizon before pulling the black face masks off and discarding them.

"Dollet is neutral, they don' wanna get involved in some war," Irvine began. "There's this nice bar here with card games and beer; let's lay low there for a while." His recruits nodded and they followed his lead.

Fifteen minutes later, Irvine had seated himself at large table. His worn poncho was rolled away into a side bag; instead he wore a plain white shirt and black trousers combo, his eyes concealed by dark sunglasses. He was sat on the left hand side of a table that curved like a teardrop. Four other men sat in place to his right, while opposite a woman wearing a strange plastic cap began flicking cards repeatedly.

"You all know the rules; minimum 100 gil bet, raise as high as the pot goes. We play hold 'em style. Flop, turn and river, you all with me?" The five men nodded.

At the bar behind him, Dychestra had unfolded the small micro-computer. Carefully he tapped into the wireless network and accessed the Garden sub-server but a second later he was thrown out and an ancient chemical symbol filled the screen for three seconds before he was back at the start screen. He searched the news sites but found no mention of the group, or the attack on them to the north. So far, then their existence was off the map. Shutting the computer down he relaxed with a cold drink, watchful over the Captain that began to mingle with the local gamblers.

--

Doctor Kadowaki slugged the glass back and felt the ice cold water crash against her throat, the three highly caffeinated pills falling towards her stomach at a visceral rate. Three days had passed and two SeeD members hovered on the edge of death. She couldn't take it anymore, the whole thing was a nightmare, and no movie could ever have created such a tense and mortal situation.

She wished that there was something she could do, something that could stop the virus. She tried to carry out an autopsy again, but the fluids had dissolved all frame of the carcass. It was like watching matter disintegrate; nothing but an empty space was left in its wake. Her eyes feasted upon the doctor she had condemned to death by asking him to carry out CPR. But, like the mountain rescue team, he wasn't deteriorating or showing signs of symptom. He was merely tired from the drugs that the team had pumped through the IV to keep him from trying to commit suicide again.

"I can't take it!" She screamed as she launched a large container across her office. She slipped into her seat, ignoring the sound of the concert that was happening merely yards from her. No students had been dragged through, the biometric scanners showed no sign of infection. It was all so baffling, she would have believed that Zell's group had somehow been victim of an assassination had it not been for the fact that the Shumi tribe were no more.

"Doctor..." The voice called suddenly, Kadowaki sighed and turned to face the suited medical staff member. "You need to sleep; the whole thing is getting to you," the friendly voice of Xu overlapped.

Kadowaki shook her head. "I can't stop; something has to be causing this, there has to be something that can stop it. Chaos theory suggests that if a butterfly flaps its wings in one half of the world, a tornado could happen in the other. But I refuse to believe it! Everything has to have a logical beginning and ending. However they got infected has to be figured out."

"But the infection hasn't taken anyone else." Xu added.

Kadowaki nodded. "Exactly! I have known only one thing like it and that is cancer; a disease that killed one person but wouldn't be transmitted in an airborne way. This disease is different; it has killed an entire tribe and has nearly killed Zell's entire group. But a doctor who did CPR is showing no signs and neither are mountain rescue members who brought the team back. There must be something..." She stopped mid-sentence, instantly something hit her.

"What is it?" Xu asked pleadingly.

"Get the doctor who admitted the patients in here with footage of it. Tell him I want it in the highest resolution possible. I have a theory and if true it could end the threat of airborne infection!" Xu darted off swiftly and Kadowaki whispered a prayer to Hyne. A few minutes later, the SeeD returned with the doctor in tow.

"Ma'am." The anonymous Doctor began, "what brought this on?"

"Play the tape and with any luck you'll see why." The three Garden staff watched as the footage of the SeeD's being wheeled in came to light. All the bodies were drenched in blood, open wounds releasing the gore like a leaking pipe. The three members steeled themselves as Kadowaki's team instantly gave the patients bed baths and did all they could to stem the bleeding.

"What were you looking for?" The Doctor asked.

"Do you have the footage of the CPR incident?" Kadowaki asked nervously.

The man's face blanched but he nodded. "Yes... But why?"

"Play it." Kadowaki ordered, throughout it all Xu had remained silent; the Doctor had said nothing to her. It was like she was watching some ancient detective show where the protagonist figured the whole thing out due to one inconspicuous movement.

On screen the Doctor blew air into the patient's mouth and raised his head once done, the mouth was completely dry. The three figures watched, even witnessing the moment Kadowaki ordered the figure to be quarantined.

"Order a meeting Xu, and Doctor get this footage up there. I think we are ready to break our silence!" Instantly the pair got to work, the Doctor's revelation still an unknown quantity.

--

He awoke with the morning and stood guard over Vascaroon. All night he had been sweating at the realisation of the whole thing; somehow he was in Esthar, but he had no clue how he got here let alone to this specific time. It was almost as if he had somehow been sucked into the past, a thought he would have dismissed had he not been a survivor of time compression.

But even though he had survived a fusion of time, it still didn't explain how he had got here. Ultimecia had been killed and, according to Squall, her powers were passed on to Edea a long time ago. So he doubted she'd have sucked him back; even if she did, why had she engineered this fantasy that he was living out? As the days rolled on he had realised how it was like some drama series where he had a task to accomplish.

Yet, he couldn't figure out what it was that he needed to do. Vascaroon had gone on at length with the other Generals about how the evil Hyne had been taking their children and the duties that he expected from his army. It creeped Zell out quite a lot; he'd watched many horror movies and one of his favourites had featured aliens. They were a race who kidnapped people and replaced them with their own species hidden inside a replica host. What Hyne was doing in the north sounded eerily similar and it made Zell puke.

As he looked over the cliff, he saw the many boats bobbling on the waves of the Great Salt Lake. The plan had been simple; the great mouth at the edge provided a perfect natural boundary. The armies would sail on separate ships for all the coasts of the mainland ahead. None knew of the secret diversion that Vascaroon and Zell were going to make. Just one more day and Zell figured that he would get closer to the end of this living nightmare.

During a brief training session earlier in the morning he had found himself repeating his grandfather's mantras. As he did, he noticed a weird buzzing sound emanate from his chest. At first he'd freaked out, thinking that he'd hurt himself during the exercises, but the buzzing subsided, with only a faint soothing voice that urged him to fight on. It was as if someone was calling out to him, trying to guide him home. The fact that a soul waited out there had been enough to spur him on.

"Are you ready for your revenge?" Vascaroon asked quickly.

Zell gave a deep bow. "Ready when you are, my lord." The warrior replied tactfully.

Vascaroon nodded. "That is good. The army grows restless; I do not blame them. The people have feared war ever since Hyne's powers were first revealed. The man became twisted and disjointed; it was like a tree that had been hit by lightning. Fifteen years ago he vanished to the northern islands. In the last two years he has taken fifty of our young."

"He's a cold hearted bastard!" Zell snarled in reply.

"Your ire runs deep Zell; do not let it distract you from your task. You know what we must do." Zell bowed silently. "But it will not be an easy task; Hyne will have his strongest creations and powers at his side. Our prospects for survival are bleak."

"Heart failure or in the front line?" Zell asked with a sly grin.

Vascaroon winked. "Your promise has not been dimmed man of SeeD. Come, we have much preparation to do."

Zell followed the strange leader into his pavilion. All the while his eyes scanned the clouds, looking for the face that had called out to him...

--

As she had asked, the high members of the Garden had gathered in the conference room. Squall announced that President Laguna had done a video brief with his general to say that their aircraft hadn't taken off from the bases. He had also talked of how he didn't buy it but for now Garden would take their word as gospel until new intelligence arrived. Once he was done, Kadowaki took the floor; her plump and tired figure looked rejuvenated after the video footage she had seen in the infirmary.

"I think I know how this happened; I also think we are safe to break quarantine," she began, an announcement that brought shocked gasps from all gathered. "Watch."

The seven figures watched the footage of everything from the wheel in of the patients to the near fatal kiss of life attempted by the orderly; a moment that had brought widespread condemnation from the gathered. The plump matron weathered the criticism and angry yells of the Garden not being safe while such suicidal quarantine breaches were happening. For five minutes the maelstrom raged before calm slowly filtered back in and she felt the control of the meeting return to her.

"I appreciate what you all say, and it is something I ate myself up over for many hours. But this moment is what made me realise why the threat is not as serious as we believe. What did you all notice about the patients when first admitted?" She asked swiftly.

"They were all bleeding badly?" Selphie replied tentatively.

Kadowaki nodded. "Exactly; now as you have seen we bed bathed them and since then, the wounds have not bled at all. It was something I never noticed, but look closely." She commanded as the footage of the orderly giving CPR played again. This time, she freeze-framed it as he moved from the corpse's lips. "Look closely."

Barely a second later Quistis gasped. "The mouth; it's blue! There's no blood circulation there!"

Kadowaki nodded again. "I've checked the other patients; some have lips that are nearing that phase. It could be a sign of the body being at the end of the symptoms. The point is that the orderly did not touch the blood of the infected, and he hasn't contracted the disease. Selphie's concert has been a huge calming effect, but also the scanners showed no one had contracted it since the admittance of the infected team. The men who brought them in have also not begun to show signs of infection."

Squall rose from his chair. "Have you checked these patients fully?"

Kadowaki nodded. "Toxicology is showing nothing. I don't recommend we suddenly allow visitors to the infirmary, but I see no reason for us to be dark any longer."

"It would be a huge boost to morale for the students!" Selphie added. "People can let families know they are ok and everything."

"Not only that, but we could begin to get outside help," Rinoa added. "Some of the scientists in Esthar could..." She was cut off by screaming from Selphie before Squall ordered silence.

"Rinoa's right; we can use this to our advantage. Esthar seems to be hiding; I'm not sure how involved they are. But a face to face meeting might break the deadlock. Order the Ragnarok to be readied, we are going to Esthar!"

"What?" Quistis asked in shock.

"I'm serious. Sail for Centra, from there Rinoa, myself and Selphie will continue on to Esthar while the Garden follows by sea. We need to get into the game properly." He suddenly heard his communicator go off. Bemused, he placed it on the conference speaker. "You're on with the Garden Committee. Report Kramer," Squall ordered.

"Is this a secure line?" The question cut in suddenly.

"It is encoded with the highest level of encryption." A surprised Xu responded.

"I visited Seifer Almasy at the D-District Prison today. Towards the end he slipped a piece of paper to me that suggests that the peace treaty is in danger," The former headmaster announced.

"What could he possibly know about danger to the peace treaty?" Rinoa announced with a huff.

"I know of your past feud Rinoa, but I believe him in this. Apparently some prisoners have been talking of an old rule coming back under a plan codenamed 'eidolon'." Instantly the whole room fell silent, for a nervous thirty seconds nothing was said. "Commander, are you still there?"

"Yes we are. Adellone is the name that a few SeeD's were operating under on a mission to the north. One from which they came back infected with a retro virus... Seifer honestly believes something is going on in that prison?" Squall asked swiftly; he got over his shock quickly.

"He told me to give him two days, what he intends to find out I have no idea but he seems sincere enough. I think he is establishing a cover, hence his overblown anger towards the treaty."

"It sounds convincing. We'll run with it, but he's on his own inside the prison, we can't risk blowing his cover wide open by sending in the cavalry. Keep us updated." The transmission cut out swiftly. "I think that this is our proof that Esthar isn't responsible for the attack on Irvine's crew. Xu, the word Master Kramer used sounded different to the name of Zell's team, go over the audio and find out what the word was. Report back with anything you find by cross referencing the databanks. In the meantime we need to find out what info Esthar has. Set a course for Centra, we're going to the city of the future."

Nida responded to the command and Balamb Garden arced towards the south.