// Gearing Up// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//
They all walked inside at a quick, but not frantic pace. No need to make anyone watching suspicious if they weren’t already. Twilight began reading one of the books from a nearby bookcase as she sat down heavily. Healing didn’t restore your stamina, and for some reason she was even more tired than she’d expect from fighting that many enemies, maybe her… ‘companion’ using her body was hard on it.
Lightning took Snow into one of the bedrooms and laid him on the bed, patched him up, and began watching the news with a smaller TV in the room. Fang began inspecting her lance. Hope and his father talked quietly in one of the rooms in the back of the house.
Other than a bit of small talk, they spent the next half hour in these positions. Curiosity getting the best of her, she decided to check in on those two. Fang appeared to have the same idea.
Hope’s father, Bartholomew, held his head in his hands and sobbed quietly. Then, Hope got up and said, “We’re gonna rest up, then we’ll leave. If they find out you’re harboring us, they’ll-” Hope was interrupted by Bartholomew banging angrily on the table. “You’re my son! This is your home.” Hope sat back down, and Bartholomew put a hand on his shoulder. “My son.” It was nice to see the two of them getting along.
Smiling, they went back to the area the rest of the group was hanging around in. Fang turned the TV on.
“And now an update on the situation in Palumpolom.” a male announcer said as they television came on. “The l’cie continue their desperate flight, and the military has launched an all-out campaign to eliminate them, though they’ve had no success in locating them so far. In the event you must leave your home, please follow the instructions that will be broadcast on this channel momentarily.”
They noticed a cluster of picture frames on one wall, one in particular had Hope, Bartholomew, and a woman in a light green dress and who’s hair was the same shade of white as Hope. “Must be his family.” Fang said referring to Hope.
“Makes sense to me.” Twi agreed. She turned, “I’m going to check on Snow. Technically, he’s my boss since I’m in NORA honorarily, and Lightning’s healing spells aren’t exactly top-notch.” she said, hoping that would discourage any jibes. Fang waved her on as she channel-surfed, trying to find something not about the paranoia directed at them. There was something equal parts disturbing and sad that she was having difficulty doing so.
She came in as Lightning was inspecting her survival knife. “How’s Snow?” Twi asked.
“He’ll be fine when he wakes up.” Light said, back in ‘soldier-mode’ now that no one was in imminent danger of dying.
“Roughly twenty-five hundred civilians believed to have come into contact with the l’cie are now being held in quarantine by the Sanctum.” an announcer said, as images were shown of people in cages who were clearly unhappy about the situation. It was difficult to tell if it was the same announcer or a different one as the voices sounded very similar but he wasn’t being shown. “Our latest insta-poll has shown a vast majority of the people are in favor of immediate Purging of these individuals.” The girls twitched at that.
Snow began to groan as he got up. Twilight turned the TV off. “Hey.” Light said. He looked over at her. “Lay down.” she said with a little more force.
“Before you hurt yourself even more.” Twi put forth.
“All right.” he said, laying back down.
Light sat down on a chair next to the bed, which allowed Snow full view of the survival knife. “Huh. I see you got the kid’s toy away from him.” Snow said, glancing at it.
“Actually, he gave it back to me. Said that he didn’t need it anymore.” Light responded.
“Go figure.” Snow said, smiling a bit.
“It was too much.” Light said.
“Hm? What was?” Snow asked.
“What happened to Serah. All I could think about was, ‘What could I have done differently?’ I hated myself for not trusting her. It hurt too much. I couldn’t face it.” they were all silent for a moment after that.
“Look Snow. I.. I’m sorry. Forgive me.” Light said morosely.
“For what?” Snow asked, slightly confused.
“Everything. I took out my feelings on you.” Light said.
“If you’d tell me your real name, I suppose I could.” Snow said, a smile creeping across his face.
Light chuckled. “Just have Serah tell you when she comes back.” Light said.
“Deal.” Snow said.
Twilight bolted fully upright as she remembered. “Oh, that’s right. Snow, I could turn her back if I could just get near enough to see her, the crystallization is a part of the brand’s spell that’s actually supposed to be reversed eventually and I actually saw it happening, so it wasn’t that hard to figure out a reversal. I think I’m getting close to removing our cie’eth problem as well.” Twi said, having realized that Snow likely didn’t know about her progress, since Hope had been somewhat fixated on ending his life.
“So, we don’t have to wait for the crystallization to wear off?” Snow asked, happier than she could ever remember seeing him. She hadn’t seen a smile that wide since Pinkie.
“Nope, a good thing too, because otherwise it could take years at best.” Twi said, though considering how happy he was, Snow was likely at least dimly aware that Serah wouldn’t turn back on her own any time soon.
The door opened with a sliding sound. “My dad said he’d like to see you guys. He wants to talk.” Hope said from the doorway.
*** Sanctum Headquarters: Rosch ***
Rosch was not a happy man, he was hoping someone would have found the l’cie’s hiding spot by now. The reports he’d gotten weren’t promising. Seven platoons wiped out, the last two with almost no survivors. The l’cie would soon be nigh unstoppable with anything less than full battalion strength if this series of failed attempts continued.
Primarch Dysley had informed him before this whole mess (in a conversation that had turned in the direction of Pulse threats) that anything that didn’t kill the l’cie made them stronger, literally. That could very well be where the saying ‘What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’ had come from. So failed attempts to kill them made them that much harder to kill. If he didn’t know any better he would suspect that they were being pushed to their limits intentionally, but that would make no sense, so he put it to the back of his mind.
Still, he’d lost far too many people already, at least 500 hundred of his people had been killed or incapacitated by the l’cie. That settled it, he decided that he was sending Skytanks at them next. If they took two of those at once down, well, they were probably all doomed anyway if that happened. There were some mid-level fal’cie with less power than that.
They’d already proven themselves capable of killing fal’cie. Carbuncle’s death attested to that. The disturbing thing was that there were no signs of a struggle, it certainly wasn’t a combat fal’cie, but it was as if a single attack had sliced it in half. That was a scary thought, check that, it was a terrifying thought.
That would require enough power to slice through a skyscraper made of reinforced steel like butter, even a skytank would be on it’s last legs after that, if it was even still flying.
If they reached that level, they might decide to go after the Primarch or the fal’cie Eden itself, and have a decent chance of succeeding in the attempt. In fact, he mused darkly, considering how they would realize all the attempts to kill them had been directed by those two, it was likely they would go after one or the other, or both. There was a very real possibility that that was their Focus, considering they were Pulse l’cie, and they would want to fulfill it out of a sense of self-preservation if nothing else. Hell, considering how hard Cocoon was trying to kill them, they were less likely to want to protect it by the second.
“Prepare a pair of Skytanks. The moment the l’cie are found, send them to the location. I’ll be going as well.” he told one of his subordinates, too involved in his own thoughts to notice which.
“Yes sir!” the officer said, saluting crisply, before leaving to relay the orders.
Hopefully, this worked, or else, to put in the terms one of his officers from the field had used upon viewing some of the videos taken of the l’cie in combat situations, they were boned. He would have reprimanded the officer if he hadn’t been the only other person present and privately agree with the sentiment.
Particularly since this was the video from a security camera that had only recently been installed, it was shorted out during the fight, but it had lasted long enough to show just one of the l’cie take down four platoons by herself, though she had slowed down noticeably by that point. The Sparkle girl was definitely the most dangerous.
*** Back At The Esthiem Residence ***
The five l’cie and Bartholomew were situated in the living room, they were all silent, waiting for someone else to start talking.
Snow got down on his knees and bowed his head. “The blame is mine. I couldn’t save her.” he said.
Bartholomew held two fingers to his head like he was fighting off a headache.
“If it wasn’t for Snow, I wouldn’t be here now.” Hope said, sticking up for Snow.
“Snow. Did Nora… Did she say anything to you? Anything at all?” Bartholomew asked.
“Hope. She didn’t have enough time to tell me his name, but she said to get him home.” Snow said.
“And that’s exactly what you’ve done.” Bartholomew said. They all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“Seeing you all face to face like this, it’s hard to believe you’re all dangerous fugitives, but the entire world is scared to death of you l’cie.” they shifted uncomfortably at that. “No, not even just you.” Bartholomew continued. “People who’ve helped you, bumped into you… sometimes it’s even just someone who walked by one of you. The common people and even the Sanctum think they’re ‘tainted’ and that every last one should be Purged.”
“That’s idiotic, it’s not like being a l’cie is some kind of contagion.” Twi said, shaking her head. She sighed, “Then again, most Cocoonians are so terrified of Pulse, I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought that was how it worked after the initial branding.” she said.
“You make it sound as if you’re not from Cocoon.” Bartholomew said, slightly confused.
“Parallel worlds thing, magic is a part of daily life in my world, there aren’t any fal’cie either, before you ask, my coming here was involuntary. I suppose if I’d been born here, I’d behave in much the same manner as everyone else in response to all this, assuming that I didn’t end up a l’cie in such a timeline. ‘The Sanctum can do no wrong. Pulse is evil.’ and all that.” Twi said.
“The Santum’s just a puppet of the fal’cie! To them, our lives don’t mean anything at all.” Snow said.
“Believe me, that’s not true, they really want the five of us dead.” Twi said dryly.
“We’ll stop this, take down the Sanctum, and save Cocoon.” Snow said, unfazed.
“Have you thought that through?” Bartholomew asked. Snow paused, thinking. “If l’cie take down the Sanctum, fear of Pulse will only get worse. It won’t stop at fear either. People will take up arms and stand against you. Can you imagine it? The rampant violence.” Bartholomew said.
“I can, it would be a bloodbath, if soldiers with even rudimentary training couldn’t stand against us, what hope would ordinary civilians have? They might even start executing people who fought and survived because they were ‘tainted.'” Twi answered with shudder.
“When the government’s control is gone, the citizens will revolt.” Lightning said.
“So, what then? Should we just smile and eat a bullet? That means you too, you know.” Fang said
Bartholomew chuckled darkly. “I know I’m part of this, I’m on your side of the fence, harborer of l’cie and just short of public enemy number one, with the seven of you filling that spot, including your wayward friends.”
‘Hope must have told him about Vanille and Sazh.’ Twilight inferred.
“Coming here was a bad idea after all.” Hope said morosely.
Bartholomew put a hand on his shoulder and said “This is your home.” Father and son chuckled. “We’re all here, let’s figure this out together.” Just as he said that, the lights flickered and went out, all of them at once.
“They must have found us.” Light said. The sound of booted feet moving around outside confirmed this. “Heads up!” Light called a moment before a pair of Dragoon-type soldiers burst through the sky light. Three gas canisters were dropped in, even as Lightning and Twilight fired on the flying Sanctum troops. Coughing, they fell back.
Dragoons used jetpacks to hover a few feet off the ground, and had fairly thick and strong armor, but weren’t that different from normal soldiers otherwise.
Soldiers burst through the windows and poured in, several felled by potshots by the girls, who found they could see surprisingly well in the dark, even with the partial obscurity caused by the fog. Apparently another l’cie power, she was beginning to wonder if they could even be considered human anymore. Improved night vision implied enhancements to their eyes and/or genetic changes.
“Hope, in the back!” Snow called, even through his coughing. He slumped over a bit.
“You’re not ready for this. I’ll stay here.” Hope said. The girls held off the soldiers as they tried to attack. “Snow, help my dad!” Hope told him. Snow nodded and went to do as Hope said with a grin.
He grabbed Bartholomew’s arm saying “Come on!” and pulled him further into the back. Two soldiers trained their guns on Hope just as he started to turn around, only for a fireball to slam into one, and Lightning’s leg into the other. Twilight and Lightning’s handiwork obviously.
After taking down yet another platoon, the soldiers stopped coming in, clearly waiting for the l’cie to come to them. They had taken cover behind one of the walls not in direct line of fire to any of the windows. Just as Snow and Bartholomew came back into the room, a searchlight from an aircraft was directed at them.
“Who ordered the battalion?” Fang asked.
“Rosch, probably. I’d assume he’s unhappy about our continued wiping out of any of his forces we encounter.” Twi said dryly.
Peeking out from behind their hiding spot, they could see a large number of soldiers, the lower limit of a company (80) by the look of it, had their guns trained on the windows.
“They’ll take out the whole building next.” Light said.
“Probably deciding if they should do that right now.” Twi agreed.
Light waved Snow and Bartholomew closer, they hurried over. “Dad!” Hope exclaimed.
“Hope!” Bartholomew did the same as he embraced Hope. “Thank goodness, are you hurt?” he asked, concerned.
“No, what about you?” Hope asked in concern.
“Still in one piece.” Bartholomew answered.
“My turn.” Snow said. He took off his coat and moved to the edge of their current ‘safe zone’, after taking a deep breath, he held his coat in plain view of the nearest window. As could be expected, the soldiers began firing immediately, and his coat had more holes than Swiss cheese in seconds.
“Snow…” Light started, only for Snow to stop her with a raised hand.
“Don’t shoot! I’ll show you what a l’cie looks like.” Snow said.
The soldiers who had been firing all this time, stopped at almost the same time, presumably at least partially because their clips had finally been emptied. Snow walked out of their hiding spot, leaving his tattered coat behind. He walked in plain view of the soldiers who trained their laser sights on him. He stepped out of the building entirely through the ruins of the wall in the spot that had been the ruins of the second window at first. He held his hands in the air.
“Me! I’m a l’cie! Surprised? Expecting some kind of monster? I’m flesh and blood like you, an ordinary citizen of Cocoon! Don’t you get it? This has been our home our whole lives! How could we even think about destroying it? We want to protect this place just as much as you do!” Snow told them.
The soldiers began to mutter amongst themselves. “He’s on our side?” “He’s lying, it must be a trick.” “But what if it’s not?”
“You must be Snow Villiers.” a familiar voice said. The man walked to a spot just in front of his troops. “Yaag Rosch. PSICOM Division.” he introduced himself. “I can understand your plight, but the Pulse threat is not so easily dismissed. The very existence of you l’cie puts every last one of us at risk. Tell me, do you really think your life is worth more than the lives of the millions of Cocoon citizens? Personally, I do not.” The soldiers began to recover their ‘Have to kill the l’cie to protect Cocoon.’ mindset. “And so, it falls squarely to me to order your execution. It is that simple. It is my responsibility to see you put down.” he pointed directly at Snow, then turned around. “Your lives are forfeit.”
“Aw, cut the crap! You want l’cie, then kill l’cie! Why does anybody else have to die? The Purge has gotta stop!” Snow yelled at him, waving his less injured arm sharply.
“Do you really think we want to Purge our own people?” Rosch asked angrily. “If even a trace of Pulse remains, the populace will erupt into chaos. Without sacrifice, without the Purge, Cocoon will die no matter what happens to you l’cie.” Suddenly a Fog grenade dropped down in front of him, causing more of the obscuring gas to be dispensed right in the middle of the group of Sanctum troops. “Who fired? I gave no order!” Rosch asked between coughs. An explosion was seen and heard nearby, suddenly, gunfire and melee combat erupted around them, the soldiers were panicking and firing on each other.
One of the soldiers cried out “Fall back!”
“We’re leaving.” Light ordered. She turned to Hope and his father. “Hope, tie up your dad.” she said addressing Hope, then addressed Bartholomew. “We threatened you and forced you to help us. Got it?” she asked.
“That should keep them from killing him outright.” Twi agreed.
“There must be-” Bartholomew started to argue, but cut off when Hope told him “Do as she says!” Bartholomew sighed and gave in. Hope started to tie his hands behind his back. “I can’t let you get dragged into this. I want to stay here, but there’s no place for a l’cie. I’m going with the others. We’ll survive somehow. I promise you that. We’ve managed so far. Dad. I hate to run out on you-”
“You’re not running!” Hope flinched as Bartholomew yelled this. “This is not running away. You’ve made a choice. You’ll survive and do what needs to be done.” he reassured Hope.
“You mean… complete my Focus?” Hope asked.
“Don’t you worry about that! You make the choice.” Bartholomew told him.
Hope hugged his father, after breaking the hug, he said “Thanks, Dad.”
They heard Snow recover from the gas, and the sound of a siren. The aircraft had moved closer, the four of them rushed out to help Snow take it down. “Our turn, Hero!” Light ordered.
“What? I can handle a little gas.” Snow argued.
“Catch your breath, I’ll throw in some hits for you.” Hope said. His face paled as a second aircraft, now identifiable as a Skytank came into view behind the first.
“Okay, we’ll need all the help we can get.” Twi said as she used Esuna and Curaga on Snow, he wasn’t in his prime, but he was definitely able to fight again.
“Guess I’ll be drawing fire, since my ranged attacks aren’t great.” Snow said.
Hope and Twilight worked together to get the whole party buffed. Just in time for the things to launch missiles at them, while the turrets fired on them. Snow had launched an ice crystal, destroying one missile mid-flight. Twilight grabbed the rest and used telekinesis to fling them back at their launchers. Then they began raining magic on the turrets, which fired almost constantly. The main guns fired, hurting them badly until a double-Curaga was used on everyone. Once the turrets were destroyed, the hulls which launched the missiles, were next, Since the Skytanks were taking heavy damage from having all their missiles flung back at them, the hulls didn’t last long at all. The central portions of the Skytanks were also soon destroyed, only having enough time to fire the main guns one last time before they went down blazing. However, two more rose from either side of the building to replace them.
“Again? There’s no end to these guys!” Fang said.
Then Skytank on the left turned on the Skytank on the right, firing it’s main gun on it, and causing it to crash. The survivor hovered low to the ground in front of them, letting out a small number of soldiers, one of which approached and said. “Heya, Fang.” in a friendly manner, before removing his mask, showing them his face and red hair. “Need a ride?” he asked.
“Don’t get cute.” Fang said, releasing her lance from it’s previous threatening position. She waved her arm at them. “Right, let’s move it you lot.” Fang said, clearly familiar with him. They all got on, trusting Fang to have allied herself with someone trustworthy and not really having much choice. Twilight wondered how Fang knew these people, but she decided that she’d wait to hear the answers.