The Power of Destruction

"We'll head out to the Sealed Cave tomorrow," Setzer said, pointing to the map rolled out over the craps table. The other party members crowded around to look at where he was pointing. "The Cave is on the other side of a Imperial outpost, they'll be sure to notice us. We send down a party, distract the troops with the Blackjack's cannons long enough for the party to get through the base. Getting out is the tricky part."

"Who's going in?" Edgar asked, looking up. Behind him, detached from the group strategizing, Terra sat on a sofa underneath a window. Pale blue eyes stared out over the mountains that made up the Narshian Range that the village of Narshe rest at the foot of. It was dark, but the mountains were lit with starlight, allowing caverns and valleys to be seen among them, unreachable by any human.

"Burn them…"

Terra's eyes narrowed at the small, harsh voice in the back of her head. The voice that had been screaming at her for the last day, ever since she awoke in the Zozo tower. No…she'd heard the voice before that…she remembered now. Her memories of forced servitude to the Empire, being made to kill in their name, through it all it was there. In her head, now and always. Sometimes lower, sometimes louder, but always there.

She heard the voice now and then after waking up in Arvis' house, and soon realized the voice grew in intensity when she used her powers. Then, when she had stood on that bluff and faced the frozen Esper…the voice had overwhelmed her. And for days afterward the voice controlled her, tormented her. It was then Terra understood who she was, and what the voice was – she was only half-human. The other half…

"Useless wretch!" the voice Terra now knew as her Esper side shrieked. "Don't ignore me, it was by my strength you've lived this long!" Terra closed her eyes, trying to ignore it. The sounds of her friends speaking faded in the background, along with the gentle hum of the airship engines. "The Empire would have broken you if it weren't for me! You survived on my power, you cannot toss me away now!"

"I'm not like you." Suddenly, she was there. Terra stood in her mind and faced the voice. She tried not to recoil, but it was difficult. The beast was an unearthly vision of monstrous beauty, with glowing pink skin, red eyes, long wild purple hair and fangs. Its limbs and body were slim but undeniably powerful, the hands and feet tipped with sharp blue claws. The beast was hunched over, flexing those claws as the red eyes glared up at her. "I'm a human…you're a monster," Terra replied.

"So self-righteous," the Esper laughed cruelly. Terra shivered hearing it. It was so similar to her own voice, but guttural and deeper. It felt like a physical blow, to hear her own voice twisted like that. "You self-deluded little girl. You think you're better than me?" In the real world, Terra's breath became labored slightly, and the hand on the windowsill tightened its grip. "You're just a cloak for me, a disguise. I'm what you really are."

"That's not true," Terra cried. "You're destructive, and violent. You and I are nothing alike."

"We're just two parts of the same whole," the Esper said, floating behind her. Terra turned her head to keep it in view. "Why do you reject me? You can't deny me any more than you could deny that human form you hide in. You shackle yourself in bonds of human flesh when you're so much more…" The Esper grinned cruelly, flashing rows of sharp fangs. "You keep me at bay, but whenever the fight comes you use my power…such a little hypocrite you are."

"That's not true," Terra insisted. She knew her efforts were useless. The Esper knew her inside and out, knew all her fears and hesitations. Unfortunately, the wicked creature knew exactly what to say, which thoughts to prey on.

"Isn't it?" the Esper asked. Suddenly, it floated back in front of Terra and grabbed her hand. Terra cried out as the Esper intertwined slim human fingers in sharp blue claws and lifted the joined appendages into Terra's view. "This is what you really are. Esper, human, one and the same. You and I, us, we are both and yet neither. We walk in both worlds but don't belong to either of them. Why can you not see this? You don't belong in the human world, in this human form. You and I are bound, now and always, fated to be a living paradox."

"Stop it," Terra hissed, a bead of sweat running down her forehead. The Esper's eyes grew brighter, and Terra felts its power creep up over her. "No!" Terra concentrated. She'd lost control once before, not again. For the sake of the world, her friends and herself, she had vowed to learn to control her powers. She wouldn't be overtaken by them

"We could rip these humans asunder!" The Esper roared, and Terra felt its grip grow tighter. "With the Gate closed, the only remaining Espers in this world are Magicite shards! We possess power unrivaled by any human! We could crush the Empire beneath our heel! Us, together, alone! You don't need them. You need all you've ever needed; me."

"You're a monster," Terra said. "I don't want to dominate or destroy anything!"

"It is what you really are! Together, with my power, and your body, we could reign over this world! Even as you hold me back, one day the power will be too great. One day you'll need me to control the magic the human can't. And when that day comes…" The Esper released Terra's hand and backed away, "On that day, when you've no choice but to set me free, I'll take control. And together we'll conquer this world and destroy any who oppose us. Starting with them, one by one we'll kill every one of them. On that day, you'll lose control, and I'll murder every last one of your friends." The Esper let out a cruel chuckle, and Terra took a breath, feeling tears run down her cheeks.

"And on that day," she whispered, "I'll be here, fighting you for control. If you're my strength, then I'll be your weakness. I may not be able to escape you, but you can't escape me either. Bound together, you and I, two halves of the same whole. Because I need your strength, but I'm not you, I'll keep fighting you. Keep you locked up, because you're evil."

"I'd have it no other way…it took me seventeen years to get out the first time. I can be patient…" The Esper let out another laugh, and Terra lowered her head, clenching her fist. "Don't forget, never forget! I'll always be right behind you, Terra."

"Terra!"

Terra gasped and lifted her head. Locke snatched his hand back in shock, and Terra looked up at him. The airship was back, her friends looking at her expectantly. Terra blinked twice and let out a sigh.

"Yes?" she asked.

"We called you twice and you didn't answer," Locke frowned. "Are you okay?" Terra ignored the clawing on the back of her mind, tuned out the voice raging at her thoughts, and nodded.

"Yeah…" she whispered. "I'm fine. Just thinking."

"About what?" Setzer asked. Terra turned her head and looked back out over the starlit mountains. A different pain overtook her now, clenching her chest. Terra swallowed and took a deep breath.

"I hope you guys never have to find out."