Chapter One: Broken Genesis
We'd always wondered if we were alone. When the answer came, it didn't come from the stars. It came from the ocean – from the depths of the Vestige.
Some said the fal'Cie were gods from the Old Days come to punish us for our sins.
Maybe they're right.
The first fal'Cie made landfall at Nautilus. It levelled the city.
But we learned something.
It might have taken us five days, tens of thousands dead, and a city in ruins, but we learned something.
We learned that these gods could bleed. And they could be killed.
To fight the fal'Cie we made gods of our own, gods of steel powered by nuclear fire. If the fal'Cie truly were the gods of the Old Days, then we should show them what humanity could do.
The Eidolon program united the nations around the Vestige into a single force with a single purpose.
The word Eidolon… it can mean a lot of things. It can mean an apparition or ghost. But it can also mean an ideal.
The Eidolons became our ideal. They were our hate and rage given form, our sorrow and loss forged into a weapon. They became the hulking ghosts of our regret, the metal apparitions that stood unflinchingly against our titan enemies.
But all gods demand sacrifice, and our Eidolons are no different. No one understands that better than my sister. No one.
Excerpt from an interview with Sergeant Serah Farron conducted one year after the Battle of Bodhum
X X X
A blow from the fal'Cie's tail tore open the top of the Conn-Pod. Suddenly, the monster's jaws were only feet away. It lunged forward, driving Odin back into the shallows as its jaws clamped down around the Eidolon's head. The Eidolon fought to keep its balance, lost, and then toppled to the ground beneath the fal'Cie's weight. Jagged claws carved slabs of metal armour off Odin's arms and chest.
The screech of straining metal filled the air as Odin drove one enormous fist up into the fal'Cie's gut. The beast's teeth skittered off Odin's head, and it staggered back. Odin lurched to its feet only to run right into the armoured tip of the fal'Cie's tail. The battered armour on the Eidolon's chest crumpled before a second blow shattered it like so much kindling. Odin's nuclear heart was exposed now, a blue star glittering in the middle of its chest. Bereft of the plating that would normally have insulated the core, radiation poured into the rest of the Eidolon.
Odin was more than wounded now. Its pilots were running out of time.
Odin charged again. The Eidolon smashed into the fal'Cie shoulder first and then hammered it with punch after punch, but the monster refused to fall. A swipe of its claws caved in the right side of the Conn-Podd, and Serah screamed. The twisted metal had crushed her right leg. Odin dropped to its knees.
The fal'Cie loomed over her. Odin was done for. They had lost. But she could still save her sister. Ignoring her sister's frantic cries – No! Don't! Stop! – she started the co-pilot eject sequence. She would die, but her sister would live. Even if the fal'Cie killed her, she was certain she could last long enough for her sister to get away. At least that way, she could die without breaking her promise.
Her sister hurtled out of Odin's back in her escape pod, and Serah forced the pain in her ruined leg aside. She didn't have time to hurt. The fal'Cie lunged for the escape pod, but Odin was there to meet it. The Eidolon surged forward, and the machine and the monster tumbled into the water off the coast of Bodhum.
For a split-second, Serah was drowning, cold sea water surging into the punctured Conn-Pod. Then Odin was on its feet again as she grit her teeth and forced her right leg to move – Move damn it! – for a little bit longer.
But she had hardly found her feet before the fal'Cie was hitting her, its claws tearing off one of Odin's arms as its tail pulverised the Eidolon's right knee. She was going to die here, alone, but behind her, she could hear the helicopters closing in. Her sister would be safe. In front of her, the fal'Cie roared again, and she grabbed its tail and wrenched the monster toward her. If Odin couldn't walk, then she would have to even the odds.
She shoved Odin's metal fingers into one of the fal'Cie's eyes and then grabbed it by the throat. The fal'Cie's tail speared toward her again, but this time, she was ready. She ducked beneath it and threw her Eidolon's weight on top of the fal'Cie. Her lone fist rose into the air and came down with all the force of an avalanche. She hit the fal'Cie again and again and again. She hit it so many times the armour around Odin's fist cracked. The fal'Cie's blue blood splattered all over the Eidolon and still, it refused to die.
With a howl, the beast flipped them over, and she was drowning again, its claws trying to tear Odin's head off, to rip her right out of the Conn-Pod and –
Serah woke with a scream and tumbled off her chair.
"Are you all right there?"
The pink haired woman looked around and sighed. This wasn't a Conn-Pod. This was Vanille's lab. She must have fallen asleep in it again after agreeing to help the scientist with a few of her experiments. It was the third time she'd done that this month, but she'd never had dreams before.
No, they weren't dreams. They were memories, but not her memories. They belonged to Lightning, the last few they'd shared in the Drift. Her sister had ejected her from Odin and fought a fal'Cie alone. Serah had lived, but the cost was almost more than she could bear. And there wasn't a single day now when she wasn't reminded of it.
"I'm fine." Serah shook her head and tried to will the memories away. She tried to think of better times: training with Lightning for the first time, their first neural handshake, and the smile on her sister's face when she'd learned that Serah would be her co-pilot. "It was just a dream."
"It must have been some dream then." Vanille emptied her can of energy drink then added it to the top of a pyramid of empty cans on her desk. "Come on, it's almost time for breakfast. If we're late, there won't be anymore pancakes left."
"You and your pancakes. Wait… were you up all night again?"
"Well, you know what they say: the fal'cie never sleep, so neither should we. They've been getting better, adapting to our technology and tactics. If we don't do our best to keep up, they'll win."
"And then we'll all be dead."
"Yep, got it in one." Vanille grinned and opened the door of the lab. "Now, come on – oops!"
Vanille screeched to a halt and just barely managed to avoid running straight into the commanding officer of the Eden City Ark.
"Why am I not surprised to find my sister here, Dr Dia?" Marshal Claire 'Lightning' Farron hobbled into the lab, her cane beating out a steady drumbeat on the metal floor. "Have you forgotten what's happening today?"
"Uh… maybe?" Vanille tried to hide some of the mess in her lab by standing in front of it. It was a wasted effort. The whole lab apart from Serah was one big mess.
"Of course you have. You probably don't even know what day of the week it is." Lightning's right hand tightened on her cane. "Serah, your new co-pilot will be arriving today. You should make sure that you're ready to greet her." Lightning fixed Vanille with a glare. "And you, Dr Katzroy has informed me that you are not sleeping again. Energy drinks are not a substitute for regular sleep, and you are of no use to me, or this program, if you cannot perform at your best. You will resume regular sleeping hours, or I will have you medicated."
"Uh, sure." Another glare. "Uh, sure… ma'am?"
Lightning's lips curled, and she turned to limp out the door. "Tidy this place up. You may also want to be present when Serah's new co-pilot arrives. I think you know her."
Serah listened as her sister made her way down the corridor. The sound of the cane striking metal was as loud as thunder. Lightning had never fully recovered from that battle. Three operations had failed to fix her crippled leg, and the radiation from Odin's nuclear reactor had left her hospitalised for more than a year.
When Lightning had finally recovered – as much as she ever would – there was no longer a place for her in the Conn-Pod of an Eidolon. Cripples couldn't pilot Eidolons, and Odin had been in no condition to resume duty after the fight. Unable to pilot, most people, even Serah, had thought that Lightning would give up.
Not one person in the world would have blamed her. And it wasn't like she needed the money. There was a sizeable pension waiting for arguably the greatest Eidolon pilot who'd ever lived. Serah and Lightning had ten fal'Cie kills to their name, but Serah wasn't stupid. Lightning had been the driving force behind those kills. Serah's role had been to try and keep up.
But instead of walking away, Lightning had hit the books. She'd learned everything she could about the technology behind the Eidolons, and she'd delved deep in the strategy and tactics used to combat the fal'Cie. She started out training pilots, and after that she moved into a command role, rising year after year until finally, she'd become marshal of Eden City's Ark. It was one of the largest Arks in the world with a complement of five Eidolons.
Lightning would never pilot again, but she could still fight.
Yet where many saw a legend, Serah saw only tragedy. Her sister had lost something in the Conn-Pod that day, and it wasn't just her leg. The coldness that had risen every day since they'd lost their parents to one of the fal'Cie had almost completely consumed Lightning. Wars needed soldiers, and soldiers needed generals. Lightning was perhaps the finest general they had, but that was all she was now. She'd killed everything else to get that way.
"You're doing it again," Vanille said. "You're thinking too hard. I can tell by the frown on your face." She poked Serah's cheek. "I bet it's about your sister. She sure is… interesting."
"You had better make sure that she doesn't hear you say that. She will have you locked up." Serah forced a smile. "Come on, let's go. We can still fit breakfast in."
"By the way, who is your new co-pilot? I've been asking around, but everyone keeps telling me that it's classified. How can it be classified from me? I'm like the second highest ranking scientist here."
"And that still puts you pretty far down on the chain of command." This time Serah's smile was real. "But I guess I can tell you since she'll be arriving today. It's your sister, Oerba Yun Fang."
X X X
Fang looked out the window as the helicopter approached Eden City's Ark. It was one of the largest Arks in the world, positioned to provide protection to many of the nations east of the Vestige. Below her, the Ark was a sprawling, uninterrupted mass of steel. There were countless helicopter platforms, landing strips, and larger spaces that had to be reserved for Eidolons.
As the helicopter angled in to land, she gave a slow shake of her head. She wasn't even supposed to be here. She was supposed to be stationed at the Paddra Ark. But one month ago, everything had changed. Her Eidolon, Bahamut, had run into a Category IV fal'Cie named Behemoth. The beast had carved through her Eidolon's armour and almost killed her and her co-pilot.
Jihl Nabaat was a horrible human being, and Fang hated her guts, but the other woman was a damn good pilot, and for some reason they were compatible. They'd managed to kill the fal'Cie, but the damage to the Conn-Pod had left Jihl nursing injuries that would take at least half a year to heal. With things as bad as they were, they couldn't afford to leave an Eidolon idle that long.
Their attempts to find a suitable co-pilot amongst the Paddra candidates had failed miserably. Eventually, another Eidolon had been brought in to replace Bahamut, and Fang and her Eidolon had been shipped off to Eden City. There was supposed to be someone here who could match her. She wasn't sure about that, but it had to better than sitting around and doing nothing.
It didn't hurt either that she'd get to be with Vanille again. They'd gone into this together, but their different career paths had separated them. It had taken every ounce of will power she had not to spill the news to the red head over the phone, but classified was classified. She had enough citations for poor behaviour on her record. Another one might cost her dearly.
"We'll be touching down in a second, ma'am." The helicopter pilot settled the craft over the landing pad. "Watch your step and stay put. There should be someone here to meet you."
"All right, thanks."
The helicopter eased to a stop on the landing pad, but there wasn't anyone there to meet her. Rather than stick around, Fang decided to adopt a more active approach. There was nothing quite as informative as watching people when they didn't know they were being observed. She already knew who her co-pilot was supposed to be, but maybe she could catch them by surprise and see what they were really made of rather than having to put up with some carefully prepared façade.
Following a few engineers into one of the main elevators, she was forced to show her identification to one of the soldiers.
"Captain Yun? It's good to have you here, ma'am, but if you can wait a few moments, there will be someone here to meet you." The soldier sighed. "It's not exactly easy finding your way around here the first time."
"I'll be fine." Fang flashed him a grin. The soldier continued to grimace, and she sighed. "Trust me, corporal, I can manage."
The casual mention of his rank did wonders. Corporal wasn't exactly nothing, but Fang was a captain who'd earned her rank the hard way – killing fal'Cie.
"Yes, ma'am." He paused. "Uh, can I tell Lieutenant Farrron where to find you?"
"I'll be in the hangar." Fang grinned. "I'd like to see everything for myself if that's okay."
"Right, ma'am. Just follow the signs. I'll let Lieutenant Farron know where you are."
Fang followed the signs all the way to the Eidolon hangar. She was pleased to see that the whole Ark was a hive of activity. Every man and woman moved with brisk, sure purpose. There was no mucking around here, only the calm, clinical efficiency that this Ark's marshal was known for.
Finally, she reached the hangar. It was beyond enormous, a metal cavern large enough to hold half a dozen Eidolon and still have room to spare. Normally, she would have gone straight to her Eidolon – Bahamut had arrived about an hour ahead of her – but she couldn't ignore the fully restored Eidolon that stood proudly against the back wall of the hangar. She moved toward it and stopped at the feet of this most revered of Eidolons.
The armour was unmistakable.
Odin had fallen in battle more than five years ago, but they'd never taken it apart. After its last fight, it had been little better than scrap, but no one had the heart to destroy it, not after everything it had been through. Instead, it had been repaired. It was a symbol now, a reminder of everything the Eidolon program stood for. It was a testament to their sacrifice and pain, and its continued existence was a tribute to the resilience of the Eidolons and their pilots.
She could still remember what had happened perfectly. There had been complete, utter silence in the Paddra Ark as everyone watched a tragedy unfold on the shores of Bodhum. Odin had been built to run like the wind. Instead, it had been hobbled by one of the mightiest fal'Cie ever encountered, a Category IV – the very first – named Sin.
Odin had taken a position on the beach, ready and waiting to engage. It didn't work out that way. Sin unleashed some kind of energy blast. The attack annihilated a good portion of the city and wreaked havoc with Odin's armour and electrical systems. The fal'Cie had closed the gap then while the Eidolon fought to recover. A single strike of its tail was enough to carve open Odin's Conn-Pod. A few, horrible moments later, and Odin had been laid bare, its chest armour ripped off, and its nuclear core spewing deadly radiation.
Everyone in Paddra had been convinced that the pilots of Odin would die. Then one of them had been ejected, and the remaining pilot had sought to do the impossible: pilot an Eidolon alone and win against a fal'Cie.
Fang could scarcely imagine what that must have been like. The neural overload from trying to pilot solo should have reduced the pilot's brain to mush. If that wasn't enough, Odin quickly lost one of its arm and suffered severe damage to one of its legs. But somehow, Odin had driven Sin back, had fought the fal'Cie to a terrible standstill in the waters off Bodhum's most famous beach.
A lone news helicopter in clear breach of the exclusion zone had caught a glimpse of the pilot through the gashes in the Conn-Pod. The pilot had been a pink haired woman, her blue eyes flashing with all the fury of a wounded lioness as she roared her hate and rage at the fal'Cie. Her right leg was crushed in the ruins of the Conn-Pod, but she never stopped fighting.
It was the most horrible thing that Fang had ever seen, but one of the most magnificent as well. She'd never seen any Eidolon fight like Odin had. Odin had fought like it was alive; the howl and screech of its battered metal limbs a perfect counterpoint to its pilot's screams of anger and despair. Again and again, Odin had hammered away with its one remaining fist until even that could barely work.
In the end, Odin had stomped one foot down on Sin's head and then reached over to tear off its bottom jaw. Blue fal'Cie blood had spurted everywhere, and Odin had finally bought itself enough time to draw the sword on its back. That sword rose and fell like a butcher's knife, once, twice, and then a third time before Sin finally went still, cut almost in half.
Then Odin's mangled right leg had given way beneath it. The Eidolon had fallen, but it refused to stop. The news helicopter held a steady shot of the pilot. She was beyond exhausted, her blue eyes glazed, broken, and empty as she forced Odin to crawl through the water, its one working hand dragging it up onto the beach.
The last shot the news crew had taken was of Odin reach up at the sky. It was reaching for the helicopters, the ones taking the other pilot away. And then, at last, the pilot had lost consciousness, and Odin had slumped into the sand, a cold, dead slab of metal.
Lightning Farron had almost lost a leg that day, but she'd gained a legend.
Fang knew all about her. How couldn't she? She'd seen something in those blue eyes, something proud and fierce, and she hadn't been able to look away. So she'd asked around, and she'd learned a thing or two about Lightning's injuries: the radiation poisoning that left her in hospital for more than a year, the neural damage that meant trying to pilot again would probably kill her, and the crushed right leg that even three operations and the world's finest doctors couldn't fix. Lightning Farron walked with a limp now, but there wasn't an Eidolon pilot in the world that wouldn't salute when she hobbled past.
Just like Odin, Lightning had become a symbol, a symbol of everything the Eidolon pilots sacrificed to keep the world safe. She was one of them, and now she was the marshal of Eden City's Ark. Fang wasn't sure whether she should be honoured or terrified about serving under someone so distinguished. Even worse, her new co-pilot was Lightning's little sister, the same one she'd crippled herself to save.
If something happened to Serah Farron, Fang wasn't worried about the fal'Cie so much as she was worried about what Lightning would do to her. Looking at Odin, it was hard not to feel the weight of expectation upon her shoulders. But looking at the Eidolon also gave her hope. They'd fixed Odin up, a reminder that victory was possible even against impossible odds.
Eidolon pilots lived to make the impossible possible.
"My sister has been looking for you. You were supposed to wait at the landing pad."
Fang flinched and jerked herself up into a hasty salute.
Lightning Farron came forward, and Fang had to fight the urge to stare at the other woman's cane. It was one thing to hear about it, quite another to see it. The cane's colours matched Odin's perfectly. At the same time, she couldn't help but examine her new commanding officer. A lot of people referred to Lightning Farron as a cripple, but that wasn't what Fang saw.
The marshal might have walked with a cane, and her right leg was definitely damaged, but the rest of her seemed lithe and toned beneath the uniform she wore. And those blue eyes… those were every bit as hard and unyielding as Fang remembered from that news broadcast five years ago. Fire stirred in those blue depths, the same fire that had burnt a fal'Cie to nothing, and Fang swallowed thickly. Lightning had stopped right in front of her. The marshal was sizing her up.
"I thought it would be best to look around first, ma'am." Fang's mouth went dry. Lightning's eyes had narrowed, and everything, from the tightening of her full lips to the way she leaned forward on her cane, spoke of quickly building displeasure. The way the marshal had her pink hair pulled back away from her face only added to the impression of sure, certain authority.
"Did you? You had orders to wait at the landing pad. Your co-pilot was supposed to meet you and escort you around this facility for a tour. Tell me, do you make it your business to ignore orders?" Lightning glanced past Fang, and for a moment, her gaze softened as she laid eyes on Odin. Then her eyes were hard again. "I've read your service records, captain. Your skill in battle is impressive."
"Thank you, ma'am." Fang grinned. A compliment from Lightning meant a lot. "I do my best."
"But your reckless decision making outside of direct combat is deplorable. Your last co-pilot was almost killed when you decided to engage the fal'Cie named Behemoth in the water rather than waiting for it to make land."
Fang bristled. "With all due respect, ma'am, I had a city of ten million people to protect."
"Yes, you did. And what would have happened if your Eidolon had fallen? They would all be dead, captain. That is what would have happened. I helped design the upgrades that have kept Bahamut in service. I know exactly what your Eidolon is capable of. Bahamut is not optimised for deep water combat. Had you been even a few moments slower in getting the battle to the shallows off the coast, both you and your co-pilot would have drowned. As it, Captain Nabaat should consider herself lucky that her injuries can be rehabilitated. Not all pilots are so fortunate."
The words cut deeply especially since they were true. Fang had known Paddra all her life. After Oerba was destroyed by one of the fal'Cie, Paddra had become a second home to her. She hadn't been able to bear the thought of Paddra sharing Oerba's fate. So she'd disobeyed orders and engaged Behemoth in deep water. After Bahamut's armour had been punctured, she and Jihl had managed to drag the fal'Cie into shallow water and finish the fight. But it had cost them dearly. Jihl would need at least half a year to recover, and the fragile trust they'd managed to build was probably gone for good.
"Thank you for your analysis, ma'am." Fang had to force the words out. It looked like some of the other stories about Lightning were true as well. The woman had left something behind in the Conn-Pod against Sin, maybe her heart. "I won't make that mistake again. I will do better. I have to do better."
"Good, because I expect nothing but the best from you. Your decision making aside, your in-combat performance is truly exceptional, which is fortunate because I would never allow my sister to pilot with someone who wasn't good enough." Lightning stepped forward, and despite the fact that she was taller, Fang found herself stumbling back until she almost tripped over Odin's foot. "My sister is the only family that I have left, captain. She is the single most important thing in my life. She was also my co-pilot for a reason. She is very, very good. If I leave her in your hands, you will look after her. If you can learn to work with her, you will win. "
"Just so that we are clear." Lightning's eyes flicked to the right. "Serah, there you are. Perhaps you would like to introduce yourself to Captain Yun." She paused and caught Fang's gaze one more time. "You made a mistake, Captain Yun. Never forget that mistake. Instead, learn from it. Be glad that you have a second chance and do not waste it." She turned, but her voice when she spoke, was a shade softer. "Remember, everything I do, I do for a reason. I wouldn't have asked for you to come here if I didn't think you could do better."
Fang barely noticed Serah approach. Instead, her gaze remained locked onto Lightning. The marshal walked out of the hangar, her back ramrod straight despite her limp, every second step punctuated by the rap of her cane on the metal floor of the hangar. She was something, all right.
"So, you met my sister." Serah grinned and waved one hand in front of Fang's face to get her attention. "And you still want to pilot with me?"
Fang's blinked and then began to chuckle. The two Farrons couldn't have been more different. "Well, yeah."
"That's good. If you had to leave, Vanille would have thrown another tantrum, and she's already on thin ice with my sister."
"Is that so?" Fang had a feeling that she could get to like Serah. "I guess we should introduce ourselves properly." She smirked. "I wouldn't want to get into trouble with the marshal."
Serah laughed. It was a pleasant sound, but it made Fang wonder if Lightning's laugh sounded the same. Or had Lightning stopped laughing? "I'm Lieutenant Serah Farron. Nice to meet you."
Fang shook Serah's hand. "Captain Oerba Yun Fang at your service."
"Okay, now, I'm supposed to show you around, but you must be hungry from the flight in. It's almost lunch time, and they'll be serving spaghetti today."
"And?" Fang failed to grasp the significance of spaghetti.
"I thought you might want to meet up with Vanille. I know she's your sister, and spaghetti is one of the few things that can lure her out of her lab."
"Ah, she hasn't changed then. Lead the way, little Farron."
"Little?" To Fang's relief, Serah chuckled at the nickname and rolled her eyes. It would be nice having a co-pilot with a sense of humour. "I'm hardly little although I suppose I am compared to Lightning. Come on, it's this way."
X X X
As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.
This is based on Fangrai Forever Prompt #178: Pacific Rim fusion/crossover. Fang and Lightning end up piloting jaegers, either together or separately.
As soon as I watched Pacific Rim, I knew I had to do something FLight related with it. Now, this probably isn't the direction most of you were expecting, but perhaps that's for the best.
In this story, the fal'Cie are replacements for the Kaijuu while the Eidolons serve as replacements for the Jaegers. I had considered having Lightning as Fang's co-pilot, but I wanted to try something different. In this story, Lightning isn't a superbly gifted pilot in need of a co-pilot. On the contrary, she was a superb pilot who had a co-pilot. But all of that was taken from her on the shores of Bodhum.
The change in Lightning should make for an interesting dynamic with Fang. Fang might be in the Conn-Pod with Serah, but that doesn't mean she won't learn a lot about Lightning. After all, co-pilots share memories, and even if Fang and Lightning aren't co-pilots, Serah used to be Lightning's co-pilot. In much the same way that Fang learned a lot about Lightning second hand, she can learn even more through what's in Serah's head.
Likewise, Lightning is going to have to approach things a little differently with Fang than other pilots. She is trusting Fang with the only precious thing she has left her in life, and she's doing that knowing full well the mistakes that Fang has made in the past.
In any case, I plan on continuing this (i.e., this won't be a one shot). I should also say here that the opening sequence of this chapter (the interview with Serah and Serah's flashback) are a direct nod at Pacific Rim's opening sequence.
Finally, I should point out that Sin is from FF X, and Behemoth makes an appearance, in some form of another, in most FF games. Lightning, Fang, Serah, Vanille, Sazh (i.e., Dr Katzroy), Jihl, Odin, and Bahamut are all taken from FF XIII.
Also, my second original short story "The Gunslinger and the Necromancer" is now out on Amazon – you can find a link to it in my profile. It runs to roughly 13,000 words. If you like Westerns with a paranormal twist, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Here's the blurb (you can find a link to a longer preview in my profile):
When the Church needs someone to send the denizens of Hell back to where they belong, they go looking for Lizzy Stanton.
As gunslingers go, Lizzy's right up there with the best of them. No matter what kind of evil she's up against, she knows exactly how to handle things – put a holy bullet right between the eyes. But when she takes a job to go after a necromancer over in Pine Creek, she might just have bitten off more than she can chew.
With zombies, demons, and one tricky necromancer to worry about, Lizzy's going to have to be real quick on the trigger. In the gunfight between good and evil, she's the gunslinger who always delivers.
As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.