Ian DaLannen was in his office, making himself busy with the reports from the various teams working on the Crystal Lattice. Great pains had been taken when the Lattice was built to ensure that it would be completely without flaw, so that the crystal structure would be able to resist any amount of strain caused by agitated monsters wishing to leave the moon. Of course, such a feat was impossible, but the Lattice had nonetheless been formed to such consistency that in more than two centuries, not a single imperfection had been revealed.

But apparently nothing lasts forever. A minor design flaw made centuries ago now put the entire Lattice at risk of shattering. Now, the men and women of this base had to race against time to prevent the destruction of society as they knew it. At least, that was how the news media would portray the problem. Anything to make the bigger headlines. In reality, a fracture in the Lattice was an eventuality they had been prepared for since day one. The crews were extensively trained for just this sort of operation, and they knew their jobs. The Lattice itself had been set up so that one fracture would not be enough to damage the entire structure. The problem was only new in that it had never actually happened before.

DaLannen's job was simple enough; he was one of a dozen administrators who supervised the repair efforts, making sure nothing went wrong, and no one made a mistake. So far, every protocol had been followed to the letter, and every worker had performed exactly to expectation. They most likely knew more about what they were supposed to be doing than DaLannen did. The man foresaw himself as being completely useless.

The doors to his office slid open. He took a few seconds to scan through the latest progress report before acknowledging the other's presence. Yes, what is — He froze as he looked up and saw the figure who stood in the doorway.

Yeah, hi. The SeeD stepped forward, allowing the door to close. He looked very uncomfortable. I figured, y'know, since I had my friend Jay fly us all the way up here, I oughtta, like, follow through or something.

The elder DaLannen frowned. Son, why did you come up here?

Hey, look, I was worried about you all right? Tycho spat out the words, refusing to make eye contact. He began pacing back and forth on the opposite side of the room.

I'm not trying to judge you, son. DaLannen stood, stepping out from behind his desk. But, your being here did remind me how long it's been since I've seen you.

What, like that's MY fault? Tycho retorted. Hey, in ten years, you couldn't have come up with enough vacation time to run down to Garden once? Hell, you never even wrote a letter!

That's NOT true. I wrote every week for almost a year, but when you never returned any of my messages, so I thought you weren't interested in hearing from me. And I always meant to go down and visit —

But let me guess, Tycho interrupted. Things just kept coming up.

I'm not trying to excuse my actions, Tycho.

Well, you're doing a damn poor job of saying you're sorry!

Tycho, when your mother left me, I did everything I could to have you stay with me! DaLannen said, his voice rising unconsciously. But all that she wanted was for me to stay away. And the moment I agreed to her demands, as soon as I'd promised to stay away from her, she deposited you in Garden and ran off herself. I still don't understand why she did that, but if her goal was to hurt me, then she couldn't have been more successful. He shook his head. I wanted nothing more than for you to be with me, son. But I could never quite overcome the knowledge of how strongly your mother fought, how much she wanted you to be away from me. Not with her, just...away from me. I know that can never be an excuse, but...I'm sorry. Son, I'm sorry.

For a moment, the two simply stood there, looking at each other. Tycho was the first to break the gaze.

Yeah, well, maybe I should have...y'know, called once in a while, he uttered. Or something.

There was another long silence.

I've missed you every day, son, DaLannen said.

Tycho nodded. Yeah. It's good to see you again...dad.

Good evening. It is now 17:00 hours, and this is the planetary news.

Jay groaned, staring at the blank computer screen across the room. It was horrendously boring on the station. Tycho was nowhere to be found. Jiri was off in another room, engaged in activities that Jay frankly did not know or want to know about. So he was left trying to think up something to do while the major news headlines spilled out over the intercom.

The Odine Historical Research University will suffer a cut in funding from the Esthar government, due to falling enrollment. The World Newspaper Syndicate is announcing a merger with the APEX Broadcasting company to create the first twenty-four hour news channel. Officials in Esthar report that a minor discrepancy in one of their communication satellites may have been caused by an illegal communications tap, and are investigating. Another cargo ship was turned away from Centra waters —

Jay shut off the sound feed into his room. The voice stopped abruptly, returning the chamber to silence.

Hyne, he thought. I am bored.

The problem was, when Jay was bored, he started thinking.

And when I start thinking, I usually don't enjoy it.

Hauling himself out of his bed, he walked over to the computer terminal to play another game of computerized Triple Triad. Flipping on the monitor, he blinked at the half of the screen spontaneously fuzzing out.

Data resequencing at fifty-one percent, the terminal informed him. Estimated time to completion: 2.9 hours. Folders unavailable: HoloVid, Exopsycology Files, Lunabiology Files, Recreation, Art Files, Station Interface, Teratobiology Files —

Jay groaned. What programs are available? he interrupted.

Historical files, volumes —

Let me see those.

Please define time period.

Like I care! ...Commander Leonhart's time!

Those files are temporarily unavailable due to data resequencing.

Jay rolled his eyes. Aincent Centra?

Those files are temporarily unavailable due to data resequencing.

The Lunar Purges?

Those files are temporarily unavailable —

What is available?

Volumes zero nine six to one zero four. Accounts of this and the previous century.

Jay's hand migrated to his forehead. What's the point of this data resequencing? he asked.

To organize data more efficiently and thus make files more easily accessible to users.

Jay shook his head. Of course it is. Let me see the historical files for the last century. I need something to do, after all.

The computer made an acknowledging bleep, and the information appeared on the screen. Leaning forward and resting his chin in one of his hands, Jay started reading.

The year 4201 CR was marked by the continuing hostilities between the Monterosa Federation and the colonies in Grandidi. Hostilities would erupt in 4229 —

Mute audio.

...between a band of Grandidi rebels self-styled after the Timber factions of the eleventh century. The intervention of Trabia on behalf of the rebels forced Monterosa to relinquish its claim on the region, and the Grandidi Republic was formed on July 4, 4234. DETAILS

This period also marked the beginning of a new period of economic decline in Timber. With air and sub-orbital transit widely replacing rail travel, the country's primary source of economic income was rapidly becoming obsolete. This led many officials in neutrality-oriented Timber to finally consider the opening of a Garden within national boundaries. However, a strong anti-Garden sentiment, dating back to the failed SeeD operation that resulted in months of urban warfare within the city, caused the abandonment of this plan. Timber continued to decline in economic stature until....

I just learned about all this in class, Jay thought. Skip ahead to the present decade.

A number of failed operations by Trabia and Grandidi Gardens to unseat the increasingly corrupt government of the Grandidi Republic fueled an increasingly anti-SeeD attitude in the North during the early 4340s, and public opinion, especially in Trabia, began to turn strongly against Garden. In an attempt to restore public confidence, Balamb distanced itself from these two Gardens, promising full reevaluation of their operating proceeders. However, due to lack of co-operation in the North, such an evaluation has been a long time coming. DETAILS

Sure...why not? Jay thought, staring at the underlined command prompt. I might as well read up on why everybody hates us up there.

When the president of Grandidi, Rydia Noton, officially dissolved the National Congress in 4339, she gained worldwide criticism and illustrated the increasingly unilateral nature the national government was taking. She claimed this to be a result of the utter failure of the weak, decentralized government described in the original Articles of Republic. What Grandidi needs is strong and proactive leadership, she is noted as saying, not a Congress that is crippled by bureaucracy and poisoned by political greed.=

=While her actions were widely accepted in Grandidi, where anti-government sentiment had been building for some time, outsiders viewed the move as a long step towards a totalitarian state. The officials of Grandidi Garden, fearful of being shut down — or worse, taken over in a manner similar to that of the old Galbadia Garden during the Third Sorceress War – devised a plan to remove Noton from office. Supported by officials of Trabia Garden, a series of operations were launched, ranging from planting false evidence incriminating her of various crimes against the state, to one alleged assassination attempt in 4342. However, due to the statements of certain SeeDs to members of the press, these actions were exposed, sparking public outrage across the world. Grandidi Garden's entire leadership was dismissed, and Trabia was effectively shut down pending a full review. In addition, Trabians were angry at Garden's failure to prevent the destruction of Sorbald in 4341 by a rogue Sorceress. Trabia Garden was officially shut down on December 18, 4342.=

=The role of Balamb Garden in any of these events is ambiguous at best. Accounts do show a widening rift between Balamb and the northern Gardens during the last century. This is especially evident with the newly established Grandidi Garden; the independent spirit of Grandidi was transferred into its SeeDs, and the Garden became notoriously resistant to Balamb's influence. Trabia, on the other hand, is nearly as old as Balamb itself, and it is likely that the Garden's leadership simply failed to see why Balamb should have any superior authority in the first place.

Jay stopped reading. Something he had seen was nagging at him. He scanned back through the text.

...Trabians were angry at Garden's failure to prevent the destruction of Sorbald in 4341 by a rogue Sorceress....

Sorbald, Jay thought. I've heard that name before. Display all information regarding Sorbald, he ordered.

Sorbald ('sôr·bald). Region of eastern Trabia, sparsely populated with minimal industrial capacity or mineral wealth. Home to a number of arctic resorts, and little else. DETAILS=

=Also the name of the principal town in this region, population 916, which was burned completely to the ground on April 4, 4341. DETAILS

Jay selected the second prompt.

Founded in 4191 as the base for mining expeditions into Eastern Trabia, Sorbald eventually became a jumping-off point for the various vacation resorts that appeared in the area as prospecting opportunities began to disappear. The town's first official government...

Skip ahead to the town's destruction, Jay ordered.

The cause of the destruction of Sorbald is unclear. It is known that a fire spread through the town, reducing every building to ashes within an hour, however the cause of the blaze has never been confirmed. Many survivors attribute the fire to the actions of a Sorceress, whose identity has never been confirmed. She is thought to have been quite young, and according to some even grew up in the town. Her motives have never been established, and it has never been proven that such a person ever even existed. Nonetheless, the story did a great deal to fuel anti-Garden sentiment in Trabia, as the local SeeDs seemed powerless to save the town, or even understand what had happened.

TIANA! The memory exploded in Jay's mind. When the angry lunatics in Trabia City had accosted them, they had repeatedly called Tiana an and referenced to some place called Sorbald.

You're that — that kid from Sorbald!

Wasn't Sorbald enough? You had to drag these SeeDs up from whatever godforsaken pit they came from to make a mess of Trabia City, too?

Hey, you oughtta be thanking me! I probably saved your fricking city from going down like Sorbald!

Jay shook his head. She never talked about herself...and she was acting really weird when those guys seemed to recognize her in Trabia City. And she took off right after.

So...does that mean...?

His thoughts were shattered as an alarm siren blasted out of the intercom. Emergency alert, announced a calm computer voice. A security alarm has been sounded. All persons are to remain where they are, and wait for security personnel to deal with the situation.

Security alarm?! Even as he had this thought, he fancied he could hear some kind of explosion in the distance outside his door. What's going on here?

The door to the adjoining room flew open, and Jiri shot through. What's happening? she asked.

I don't know, Jay says. We should probably just —

Come on! We've gotta find Tycho and see if we can help! Without waiting for Jay's answer, she streaked out the door.

...wait here for station security to handle it, Jay finished. Sighing, he picked up his sword and ran after her.