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CoN 20th Anniversary: 1997-2017
Our World... Ruined

Posted: 21st September 2013 14:51

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A Quick Note from the Author:

I am fairly new to the writing scene (though I create and distribute technical manuals and software user guides as part of my full-time job), so all constructive feedback will be appreciated!

EDIT: All four chapters were updated so now they are uniformly past-tense. All future chapters will be past-tense as well.


I'm a huge fan of Final Fantasy 6, which is where a chunk of this story's characters are from. I've had the plot for this story in my mind for months now, and due to a stroke of inspiration I've decided to finally put my digital pen to digital paper!

Enjoy!

This post has been edited by SilentMage on 25th September 2013 13:11

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Posted: 21st September 2013 14:54

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Chapter 1: The Goddess’s Final Act

With a final, agonized roar, the beast known as Atma Weapon collapsed to the hard, cracked surface that comprised the Floating Continent’s peak, its body-length tail and horn-lined head striking the ground with a final thud. Its spiked, organic armor, which lined the top of its body, only served to speed the crumpling of its eight muscled legs as Atma Weapon’s life left its body. The look in its eyes as the last of its magical strength was drawn out of it almost gave the impression of surprise – at least, it seemed so to Celes Chère, former general of the Gestahlian Empire.

Still holding a Thunder Blade, the hilt still tingling from all the magic it helped Celes absorb, in her right hand and a claw-scratched Golden Shield in her left, she looked over to her two companions that helped her – helped each other, really - get this far. She smiled slightly as she looked at Locke Cole, a self-proclaimed “Treasure Hunter”. Dusting off his dark navy blue Mythril Vest while examining a bottle of Elixir that he managed to miraculously pull from between the armor joints of Atma Weapon, Locke sensed Celes’s eyes, looked up briefly and smiled back. He then quickly turned to their regal-armored companion and tossed the Elixir his way. “Another one, my liege!” Locke said with unhidden, but friendly, sarcasm.

“I would respond to that in kind, but not in the presence of a beautiful woman,” Edgar Roni Figaro said as he deftly caught the bottle and just as quickly stashed it in their party’s Handy Haversack, a tanned leather backpack with the magical ability to store large amounts of items without gaining weight. With a custom-built chainsaw and a Heavy Lance, tipped with a blade with spiked ridges on its sides, strapped to his back, he tossed the haversack back to Locke with ease while running his fingers through his blonde hair.

“Besides,” Edgar said as he glanced towards Celes, “at least you didn’t run off like the wind we call Shadow.” An assassin who only cared for money and his dog, Shadow’s sudden departure from the group just before Atma Weapon’s demise caught the trio off-guard, especially since there wasn’t really anywhere else to go on the Continent except into muddied caves, polluted and creature-infested lakes or over the edge and to the world far below. His last words to Celes as he narrowly avoided a Flare spell cast towards him – and caught by Celes’s Thunder Blade – were “I sold my skills to the Empire… I have no right to fight together with you.” After that, he jumped high towards a weathered rock face and climbed up and over it in a few leaps, and once again out of their lives.

“We have one last item of business to take care of,” Edgar said as he prepared to walk past Atma Weapon. Celes nodded, then looked towards the last ridge behind the large beast, on the other side the Warring Triad, the three statues that are the gods of Magic. The story went that one thousand years ago there was a great war called War of the Magi where the three gods, Demon, Fiend, and Goddess, fought over fear of their respective power. Any animals and humans caught in the crossfire turned into powerful creatures, called espers, which were enslaved by the gods to fight for them. Eventually the war ended, the gods realizing that their fighting would destroy their world. They sealed themselves in stone to end the war and the espers took those statues into a realm they created to protect the world from the destructive forces called magic. And now the Gestahlian Empire harnesses the secrets of magic, one thousand years later, to build Magitek, costing the lives of espers during the draining of their power.

The strength of the Triad’s combined magic, even as statues, helped Celes lead the three of them to their location. Magic that she inwardly wished wasn’t genetically infused with her body. Magic that would forever change the world they know.

Kefka Palazzo, donned in his bright red, yellow, and green jester attire with smeared white-and-red makeup on his face and neck, laughed maniacally next to a giddy Emperor Gestahl. The two of them stood a couple of feet from the statues, just in front of the small glowing energy spheres that constantly passed between the three of them. The Emperor, wearing his ornate, red imperial robe with a gold-lined black cape, is the first to notice the three people approach and turned around.

“Well, well…” Gestahl said. “You’re here just in time to perish. Behold! The Statues!!”

Celes, Locke and Edgar all stopped their approach as they watched some of the spheres of energy flow into Gestahl, causing his body to shutter and pulse with light. “Ohh! I’ve got goose bumps! What power…”

“Emperor Gestahl! Please, stop this madness!” Celes ran forward slightly ahead of the group and pleaded to him.

As Locke prepared to fight, an energy sphere fires from the Triad, at the direction of Gestahl, which quickly broke in half and hits both Locke and Edgar, freezing them in place.

Gestahl, with a smirk, walked slowly to the side while still watching Celes. “Celes… Come to me, my pretty! You and Kefka were given life to serve me! It is your birthright to rule the world with me!”

He nodded to Kefka who, with his sword still drawn, walks toward Celes. “Kill the others and we’ll overlook your treachery!” With Kefka handing her an Empire-forged Myhril Sword, Celes took the sword and looked regretfully towards the ground and at her friends. Locke and Edgar were still paralyzed by a Stop spell cast by the Triad, the statues themselves losing control of their power to both Gestahl and Kefka.
“Take this sword! Take care of them. Immediately!” Kefka commanded.

Gestahl took a step forward and extended his hand to Celes. “Celes… together we can rule an entire world! Think of it…!”

Before Celes allowed herself to respond, a boom in the minds of everyone there suddenly exclaimed, “NO!”

Gestahl, Kefka, and Celes collapsed to the ground in front of the Warring Triad as an incredible white flash of light encompassed them, the already-paralyzed Locke and Edgar, and the Floating Continent for a brief moment. As they tried to struggle against the energy field that’s paralyzed them, the Goddess, the center statue which has the shape of a naked, voluptuous young woman with stone ribbons flowing on its sides and a stone medallion behind her head spoke in their minds.

“With our last ounce of will, we three have acted to make the ultimate sacrifice to serve the world we swore to protect. We were responsible for a war on your world in the past, and we will not be held responsible for the destruction that you want to bring.”

The voice of the Goddess began to soften and fade. “Your world is now safe… as you are now far… far away…”

With the final dissipation of their grip on everyone, Kefka jumped up and exclaimed while throwing his arms in the air, “Nice magic trick – now show me your real power!!!”

Gestahl caught his breath as he lifted himself back up, feeling winded from the magical attack, though he was already fast regaining his composure. Just before reaching towards Kefka, something in the distance caught his eye. Something big. Celes, though still on her hands and knees, stared at the same, wide object that she could only think of as an airship – but without the large envelope and with wings. And it was quickly getting closer.

“I command you! Give me your power! Curses!...” Kefka trailed off from his obsessive rant towards the statues as he, too, glanced angrily at the object that was making a sputtering, deafeningly loud screaming sound from two cylinders, one on each wing, as it flew overhead. A shadow enveloped the peak and the group, the object itself close enough to blow the three of them off their feet and towards the edge of the precipice. It continued on to collide with a nearby hill, exploding on impact.


March 10th, 2014, 5:03AM GST
Dubai International Airport, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


“What the hell is going on!”

“We just lost another one: Air India flight 1301, ninety-five kilometers east of here,” Nasir said to Adam with a mix of surprise and increased worry. The beacon for the Boeing 787 from Mumbai just disappeared though it was listed as 7,000 meters in the sky. It was the third plane in the last three minutes that abruptly lost all communications.

Adam Hajjar, one of the air traffic controllers working the early-morning shift, was trying to keep his cool, but with every instrument and radar giving what should be impossible readings, his disheveled black hair was starting to reflect his increasing will to lose it. His colleagues alongside him couldn’t make sense of it either, and with three of them trying to hail a group of Air India flights that suddenly went dark, the situation was starting to truly test their psychological training.

“When was the last time you’ve seen ATC equipment behave like this?” Taj, the youngest controller in the tower, asked.

“Never – and don’t say this is some computer glitch, Adam. You think all problems are computer glitches!” Nasir ran to one of the radar monitors and points at the giant shape that whited out a third of the screen. “This can’t be a glitch!”

“It has to be,” Adam countered as he scrolled through scores of lines of code on his desk monitor, trying to find the source of the problem. “Look, according to our equipment, there’s an object larger than the entire city of Dubai coming from the east – but it simply appeared on everything just a few minutes ago out of nowhere. At the same time of its appearance, we started to lose contact with planes. This is too complicated to be a simple virus or an attack – it has to be a bug in the system!”

Adam wiped beads of sweat from his forehead as he examined the radar screens, which all displayed… something. Something large enough to completely prevent their ability to direct flights coming from all points north and west of Dubai.

“Umm, four more planes just went silent,” Taj nervously said. “They were all originating from the east: Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.”

“This is impossible,” Nasir exclaimed. “Taj, Adam, we need to redirect flights away from the airport until we can figure this out – we’re effectively blind if this can’t get sorted quickly.”

As the sun started to break over the horizon and Adam continued hammering away at his keyboard to find a solution to what he was certain was a serious computer bug, he began to notice that his colleagues are no longer yelling over intercoms or trying to hail the missing planes.

“Adam… you have to see this… Adam!” Taj called without looking at him.

As Adam craned his neck over to where everyone else is standing, his heart began to hasten, his eyes widened. Sliding his hands off the keyboard, knocking it off his paper-covered desk, he joined his colleagues at the east end of the control tower, staring in awe and fear.

“What is it?” Nasir asked, holding onto the rail by the window with whitened knuckles.

“It’s… Allah’s floating rock,” Taj responded, mesmerized. “But much bigger…”

A floating landmass, stretching beyond the eastern horizon and reaching far to the north, dominated the sky. As Adam began to contemplate rolling out his prayer mat, the power for the entire airport went out, soon followed by the city of Dubai.

And the first of many nearby airplanes began their silent, unpowered descent.


This post has been edited by SilentMage on 25th September 2013 13:10
Post #204541
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Posted: 21st September 2013 15:17

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Chapter 2: Breaking Dawn

March 10th, 2014, 5:05AM GST
The Floating Continent


As the dust from the now-burning object settled, Celes swiped her long, blonde hair away from her face to see Gestahl about finished with pulling Kefka from the edge of the precipice. As she regained her balance, she realized the sword Kefka had given her was gone. Unsure of what to say, she stood and looked over at the wreckage while still keeping mental notes on the positions of the two recovered men. A small explosion sounded from a clump of the airship-like object, sending another plume of dark smoke into the air.

“Well, that was disappointing,” Kefka said to nobody in particular as he broke his grip on Gestahl and wipes away the dust and grime from the front of his shirt.

“Celes, my dear,” Gestahl said as he walked to her, a silver dagger embroidered with diamonds and glassed mythril drawn. “Follow Kefka’s orders and you’ll be absolved of your crimes against the Empire.”

Now standing at arm’s length, Gestahl took her right hand and placed the dagger in her palm, which she instinctively gripped. With Celes now looking into the emperor’s eyes and his hands cupping her right hand, he smiled wickedly as he said, “Finish them.”

Celes looked behind her without turning around to see Locke and Edgar still frozen, the magic of the statues holding them firmly in place: Locke about to draw his dagger while Edgar got ready to uncover something from behind his cape, still facing the statue that everyone walked towards. She had so many questions, and the fear of what the white flash had done scratched her mind, itching for answers. But for the moment, her anger, coupled with years of military training, was sparked by Gestahl’s words. Whatever happened, she knew it had to end here.

“Power only breeds war,” Celes said to Gestahl, then looking down at the dagger, “I wish I’d never been born.”

With the hilt of the dagger gripped tightly, the diamonds digging slightly into her palm, she broke Gestahl’s hold and swiftly stabbed forward until the hilt of the dagger stopped at the base of his chest, puncturing his heart. In an equally fast motion she twisted the blade in a ninety-degree angle, let go of the hilt, and kicked Gestahl in the stomach, sending him off his feet and onto his back. Kefka, momentarily shocked by the sudden actions of Celes, stood defensively as he watched Gestahl reach weakly in the air before coughing up blood and dropping his arm to the ground. The dagger hilt stood vertically, the base of which started to be the center of a large, deep red blotch that blends with the red robe.

Celes, still standing above Gestahl, kneeled beside him as he again reached in the air. “Why? Nobody will worship us without me and the statues…” Emperor Gestahl of the Gestahlian Empire, the largest empire in the land and almost the world, takes his last breath through his blood-covered lips. Celes gently closed his eyes with her hand as she looked up at Kefka, standing a bit closer with a large grin on his face. By the time she’s on her feet, loud, demented laughter erupted from the jester.

“You’re making this too easy!” Kefka managed to say through bouts of laughter.

“This has to stop! You don’t know what damage you’ll do by interfering with the statues,” Celes yelled glowering at Kefka, her hands started to glow with the warmth of electricity.

Just as Kefka was about to retort, the scream of a woman emanated nearby, just below the hill that the wreckage of the airship-like object resides. Both Celes and Kefka turned to see a lone woman running towards them. Although she was still far away, she was close enough to notice that her clothes were very weird, if not miraculously unburned. It looked like the kind of suit that the impresario at the opera house would wear, but a single dark color and without ruffles. Clearly distraught, she held something small against her chest as a heeled shoe fell off her foot. Seeing the two of them, she cradled the thing in one arm while reaching out towards them with the other. “Please help, this baby needs –”

The woman suddenly burst into magically-fueled flames, with her eyes and mouth opening to reveal even more fire and an animalistic screech instead of human sounds. The baby in her arms melted away as the large torch quickly consumed the two of them. Her final cry echoed throughout the jagged terrain.

Her mouth agape, Celes quickly turned to Kefka who had one outstretched arm with an open, fiery hand in the woman’s direction. “Kefka!”

Turning towards Celes with one hand on his waist and the other pointing towards Celes with a small ball of flame spinning in the palm, he exclaimed, “What?! I was just lighting her path!” With that, he closed his hand over the flame, snuffing it out. “Now, without any more interruptions let me talk to these hunks of stone –”

“She had a child…” Celes clenched her fists while straining to hold back tears, the electricity around her fists sending short sparks and chains of lightning to the ground and her armor.

“Shaddup!” Kefka yelled just before a black figure suddenly flew into him, scooping him off the ground and into the air. Holding Kefka by the neck, Shadow quickly moved to the edge of the continent, holding him over the vast lands below. Moving his right wrist slightly, a knife jutted out of a hidden sheath, aiming right for Kefka’s painted neck. With his free hand, Kefka flicked open a tiny pouch with shrapnel, sending it into Shadow’s face, disorienting him and loosening his grip on the crazed jester. However, in the second he let go of Kefka, he still thrust forward, stabbing Kefka through his shoulder, the metal blade detaching from the sheath as was designed.

“Arrrgh!” Kefka screamed as his wild eyes lock onto the living shadow now above him. Gripping the blade that’s still firmly jammed in his shoulder, the blood now mixing with his makeup, his fading cries consisted of, “HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE!!!”

Shadow, expressionless yet incensed in a way that he hasn’t felt in years, watched as Kefka continued to fall, the light of the rising sun illuminating the fast-fading monster. By the time Celes reached for Shadow’s cloaked shoulder, the feelings were quickly brought under control. “With his and Gestahl’s deaths, my allegiance is no more,” he said, looking at her without turning, the exposed part of his face sliced and bleeding from the shrapnel.

As Celes joins Shadow in looking over the side of the continent, the land below becoming clearly visible with nary a cloud to block their vision, a buzzing sound could be heard behind them, followed by an audible 'pop' – a telltale sign that the Stop spell collapsed. Some shuffling came from the direction of Locke and Edgar as they realized they were frozen for an unknown amount of time. Looking at the body of Gestahl and then at Celes and Shadow nearby, the both of them glowing in the breaking dawn, Edgar held one hand on the back of his head as he asked with a smile, “So, what did we miss?”


March 9th, 2014, 8:45PM EST
The White House, Washington, D.C., United States of America


“So let me get this straight,” President Barack Obama asked with some frustration as he massaged his temples while sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, “The entire Arabian Peninsula, including our military forces in the Arabian Sea, cannot be reached by any means?”

“From what we can tell, that is correct, sir,” Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, stated with as much of a matter-of-fact voice as he could muster. Wearing one of his trademark navy blue neck ties with his suit jacket discarded next to him on a couch, Hagel still had a hard time of believing the few reports that came from the intercepted transmissions of Dubai International just moments before the airport – hell, before all of Dubai and most of the UAE – seemingly disappeared.

Not waiting for someone to speak, Obama asked, “And we know for certain the communications blackout isn’t the result of anything related to Al-Qaeda or some other party with malicious intent?”

With a stoic face, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded, “Fortunately there hasn’t been evidence of a radiological, chemical, or nuclear attack. No missile launches were detected in the region by the Fifth Fleet prior to the comms failure.” Standing over Hagel, he concluded, “We should be receiving snapshots of the region shortly from one of our recon satellites.”

The president looked at the general, wearing his uniform with his rows of ribbons from his years of service running over his heart, then glanced down at his Blackberry. His daughter, Malia, just sent a text message, but sighed as he flipped the face of the phone to the desk. It was just the three of them in the Oval Office, Hagel dismissed his aides as Dempsey closed the door behind them. Ten minutes passed since Obama got a direct call from Hagel to his private line, asking to meet him and General Dempsey in the Oval Office, that they had something of immediate importance to share that couldn’t wait. Once this news was shared, however, it felt like hours had passed instead of minutes.

The last thing he could ask for was any kind of resurgence of Al-Qaeda in the Saudi’s backyard. Or worse, a nation like Iran or Russia detonating an EMP over Dubai as part of an attack on the region; Obama was certain that even Rouhani and Putin wouldn’t be crazy enough to commit such an act, but with what he was being told, he couldn’t rule out those with access to nuclear technology. Between that and the way he was perceived in the handling of Syria by the media only a few months ago, he just knew that whatever the cause he would have to act quickly this time around.

Hagel’s phone beeped twice in succession, indicating a message had arrived. At nearly the same time, the open military-grade laptop chimed. Obama quickly got up as both Hagel and Dempsey turn the laptop towards them to see the incoming images from their satellite. The confused and upturned faces prompted Obama to ask, “What is it?”

Dempsey scratched the side of his head briefly while Hagel stared at the images, the look of grave concern starting to shape his facial features. Hagel picked up the laptop and brought it to the president. “Take a look.”

As Obama looked at one hi-resolution image after another, he at first thought this had to be a joke – someone had too much time on their hands and created these from Photoshop. But as the images changed from photos of the impossible landmass casting a looming shadow over most of Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq to airplanes of all sizes burning around and within Dubai, the worst being an incredible image of an Airbus A320 buried in the ruins of the Burj Al Arab, the president’s heart finally started to speed up, his hands unconsciously balling into fists.

Various thoughts were being processed as Hagel said something to Obama, though for a moment he wasn’t paying attention. There was one voice that stood out amongst the rest: This was something that would be bigger than he’d ever imagined.

His Blackberry vibrated on his desk, another text message from his daughter. Another message that he wouldn’t answer for a while.

This post has been edited by SilentMage on 25th September 2013 13:05
Post #204543
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Posted: 21st September 2013 15:34

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Chapter 3: Second Wind

March 10th, 2014, 6:10AM GST
The Floating Continent


“I definitely don’t recall having my construction crews build roads THAT wide through Figaro Desert,” Edgar said, confused at what exactly he’s looking at from the edge of the continent. He, Celes, Shadow, and Locke were fixated at the desert plains below, observing as small plumes of smoke pepper small sections of what to them looks like the kind of avenue one would build for a city like Vector. But in the middle of a desert?

“There is something very wrong here,” Celes replied with grave concern, holding herself as she watched what she imagined was a family escaping from a growing fire in the middle of the wide path, even though individuals at their height looked like ants to them. “The energy of the world… it changed the moment the Goddess blinded us.”

Shadow, cross-armed and looking more towards the airship wreck than down at the surface, breathed deeply. “I sensed it as well.”

“Figaro Desert certainly didn’t have people living amongst the sands,” Edgar remarked as he pointed at a small grouping of single-level buildings alongside the path, all of which seemed to have a lot of activity around them. “And why aren’t these people being attacked by sand rays or riding chocobos? The wild is no place for unarmed individuals, especially women!”

“You really should learn when to derail that mind of yours,” Locke said, frowning a bit without turning away from the surface. “So are these people fleeing from South Figaro or –”

“I don’t think we’re over Figaro Desert, Locke,” Celes interrupted, the breeze catching her hair as she held her arms tighter. “I don’t even think we’re on our world.” She looked up at Locke, who turned his head to her, locking eyes, pleading to him that she was wrong about what was said, but every fiber of her being was telling her otherwise.

Edgar stepped away from the edge and turned to Celes, now crossing his arms with an incredulous look. “That’s impossible. Sure, there are some oddities on the surface, but that doesn’t mean we’re on…” He almost couldn’t believe he was saying it – “Another planet!”

“Well, whatever that flash did to us, we won’t get answers up here,” Locke said as he walked over to Celes and stood next to her, facing Shadow and Edgar. As he looked back at the two of them, he smiled as his vision focused on a much more familiar and friendly object in the sky. “What we need is air support!”

Celes looked up as the sight of the Blackjack quickly came into full view above the continent, its massive mythril-tipped envelope above the much smaller ship below, which was attached to the envelope by two metal poles and suspension cables. It was a marvel of the world, as it was the fastest airship to streak through the skies: The large black balloon covering the top half, ringed with mythril panels, wiring, and pipes; the rigid frame and metal panels on the underside; two large fins on the envelope and three smaller fins on the stern of the ship; two large propeller engines mounted towards the back of the envelope with two propellers each; four large exhausts just under those propeller engines for energy to safely vent on the sides, which always have a blue glow, complimented by smaller red lights that can be seen for miles.

The fires from the crashed airship-with-wings flap and wave wildly as the Blackjack comes in close to the surface. As the ship came to a standstill above the four of them, four steel ladders clanged their way down. The sounds of the propellers filled the air as the four of them quickly jumped on the ladders, causing them to retract into the belly of the ship. Setzer Gabbiani, the owner of the Blackjack, looked over the side from the top deck as his shoulder-length silver hair blew in the wind. With a scar running partly across his forehead and over his left eye and wearing a black trench coat over layers of other clothing, he walked back to the helm near the center of the ship. Two bronze levers and the control deck, a panel with dials, buttons, and a wooden ship’s wheel, were all that was between him and his next destination to find out what the hell happened.

Shifting the right lever forward while he turned a dial, he felt the extra energy pulse through the ship, knowing he wanted to get to Vector as soon as possible. The air around the Floating Continent was all wrong since the flash of light that penetrated the ship occurred – even the air itself seemed off, which surprised Setzer when he moved the ship around and over to pick up his comrades. A lot of questions were in his mind, but he was confident that the resources available at Vector could possibly provide some answers.

As the Blackjack’s main engines thrust the ship away from the peak of the continent and into the unknown in the distance, the three statues that constitute the Warring Triad looked on, content with the decision they’ve made.


March 10th, 2014, 8:19AM GST
Ajman, United Arab Emirates


The pilot couldn’t believe his luck. Flying his Spitfire, a dual-engine aircraft with propellers facing upward and a Magitek engine providing forward thrust, the pilot prepared for the worst when he witnessed the destruction of the Imperial Air Force leader at the hands of the dastardly Returners, the rebel group his men were tasked to destroy. The boots on the ground did their job after some of the rebels fell for the trap laid out by the great Emperor Gestahl, but the people on that airship wiped the floor with the Emperor’s aerial offensive.

Just when things seemed to hit rock-bottom, a gift from the sky was bestowed upon him. Five years of serving the Empire, and in a matter of moments he might well have defined his place in history! He actually sensed – or was subconsciously commanded, he wasn’t sure – to make a second pass on the north side of the Floating Continent’s underbelly. As he was about to clear one of the inverted hillsides a body, falling from the continent’s surface, came into view. Somehow he knew to rescue whoever that was and flew as fast as he could, firing his ship’s diffractive laser weapon at any rocks that limited his direct path to the person. All his years as a pilot came down to a few moments, and in that time he managed to catch the Emperor’s right-hand man, Kefka! Granted, he caught him using the claws at the end of one of the ship arms below the engines, but caught him nonetheless.

He took the Spitfire down to a paved clearing just north of a city that he’d never seen before, though with the number of fires that were lighting it up, he imagined they were close to Vector, a city he’d never been, but heard reports of it under attack by espers. Upon landing, he jumped from his seat to the ground and quickly lifted the wounded jester from the claw of his ship.
“Argh, my arm, you idiot!” Kefka screamed as the pilot carefully placed him on the ground.

“Hold on, sir,” the pilot said, quickly realizing that there was a blade lodged in Kefka’s shoulder. Saying a few chants with his eyes closed, he cast a healing spell on Kefka, which painlessly pushed the blade out of him and sealed the wound, though there was still an indentation to show where the blade was.

“Hmmm, it looks like your Magitek training actually paid off for once.” Kefka opened his eyes from the pained squint it was in a few moments ago. When he rolled his head to the side and saw the blade on the ground, his dried blood coating it completely, his anger rose back to the surface. Standing back up as if nothing happened, he wiped off the little dirt that was on his collar, looked down for a moment, then looks back at the pilot who saved him. Adjusting his attire, Kefka clears his throat.

“Get me back to the top of that continent, immediately!” He pointed aggressively towards the Floating Continent, hovering several miles northwest of where they were, blanketing the land with shade despite the distance.

The pilot started to sweat, his focus on Kefka starting to falter under the man’s sheer presence. “The Spitfire isn’t able to reach the altitude necessary to get you there, sir.”
“Blast it all!” Kefka kicked some dirt in the air, his hands glowing with fire as he approaches the pilot, a scowl on his face. “Who taught you to fly anyway?!”

Looking around for help he wouldn’t receive, the pilot quickly responded as Kefka gripped his neck. “Actually, sir! I believe I saw an airfield a few miles south of our position! They might have—” he coughed as Kefka squeezed, but manages to get out, “—larger aircraft for you!”

Kefka growled as he let go of the pilot and pointed directly at him. “Lead me there – you’ll get me a craft powerful enough to get me BACK!” He then directed his other palm towards a nearby building that resembled a giant white box in Kefka’s eyes – perfect for a simple point. The pilot, rubbing his neck, watched in dismay as a large bolt of lightning left Kefka’s palm and struck the building, puncturing the windows and causing the building to explode, the walls lauching parallel to the ground as the roof fell neatly on top of the people and equipment kept within. “Don’t be daft, get me a craft! Wee hee-hee!” A smile, followed by laughter, came from the demented clown as yet another building burns.

“GO!” The pilot jumped at that and ran to his Spitfire. As it got off the ground, Kefka jumped onto one of the arms, his feet gripping the sides as he held onto a small tube with one arm to stabilize himself, his free hand glowing with the pulse of fire, his eyes burning with hate and revenge, his face the host to a twisted smile.

“I’ve always enjoyed barbecues!” Kefka started to laugh as a folly of fireballs left his palm and in the direction of a darkened neighborhood. Further south, sections of Dubai started to burn uncontrollably in the dry heat.


March 10th, 2014, 5:30AM GST
Paris, France


The lights of the Eiffel Tower flickered, followed by most of Paris, as the Blackjack stopped momentarily over the city before continuing onward. The few phones and digital cameras that were turned toward the behemoth of an airship, larger than any similar airship or blimp constructed in human history, had their batteries inexplicably drained or, in the cases of some of the most modern devices, the interiors physically warped beyond repair. However, some tourists had older, mechanical cameras, and the film in one of those cameras was quickly developed, scanned, and shared with every news station in France in the course of an hour.

None of them ran the story… for now.

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This post has been edited by SilentMage on 25th September 2013 13:07
Post #204544
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Posted: 23rd September 2013 11:41

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Chapter 4: Gears in Motion

March 10th, 2014, 3:30AM EST
The Pentagon, Arlington, VA, United States of America


“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming at such an early hour,” President Obama began as he addressed his Cabinet. Hagel insisted that this shouldn’t be shared with all of his team, but Obama, for the sake of both transparency and trust, swiftly shot that idea down as the two of them and General Dempsey rode to the Pentagon. With the end of that conversation, Secret Service agents were deployed across the metropolitan area to pick up all the cabinet members.

“Now what I’m about to tell you is deemed classified, though given the nature of this information, that classification will soon be irrelevant.” He looked over everyone, all seated in the crammed briefing room, their attentiveness high, if not strained, given that some of them were woken up only an hour ago. “About five hours ago I was informed of an event so incredible, so impossible, that I couldn’t believe it myself. I wouldn’t expect any of you to believe what I am about to say, either… so I’ll let the following images appear. Please hold your questions until I’m finished.”

Taking a breath, Obama nodded to Hagel, who pressed a button on a remote to dim the lights and activate an 80’’ plasma screen television, illuminating the wall just above Obama. On the screen was a satellite image of the floating island in clear detail; the image shrunk a bit and shifted to the left as a 3D render of the island appeared to the right, statistics rolling beneath the graphic. Based on visual evidence, comparing the size of the floating mass with surrounding geological and political landmarks, it’s been determined that the island is about 800 miles from east to west and about 432 miles from north to south. Though the numbers were sketchy, sound pulses indicated that the island had a few mountain-sized features up to 5,000 feet tall, though most of the land was broken hills and what appeared to be artificial sewer-sized pipes. A single notable area at the peak of one mountain stood out, though the features on it were too small to be rendered clearly.

Hagel advanced through additional images, from the fires around Dubai International Airport, taken a few hours ago, to a satellite image taken just before the meeting started: a large, scalene triangular island now covered most of the northern Persian Gulf, all of Kuwait, and most of central Iran, the northern tip of the island about 60 miles from Tehran. Murmurs began filling the room before Obama put up his hand, silencing them.

“We estimate that around 8PM yesterday this island… appeared… over the Gulf of Oman. The United States Navy lost contact with the Fifth Fleet moments after the island’s appearance. We also lost all contact with most of the Arab Peninsula, presumably because of the power outage.” Obama looked over the crowd, noticing John Kerry leaning forward on the table, hands clasped, indicating that he already had a lot to say. “The loss of power wasn’t just confined to cities in the area, but vehicles on the ground and in the air… judging from the damage, we estimate nearly ten thousand dead in Dubai alone, the numbers expecting to only go up once we can get people there to assess the situation.”

A new image appeared, a world map in black with glowing purple outlines denoting nations and continents. It zoomed over the Middle East, centering over Saudi Arabia. A red dot, accompanied by a radar ping effect, dropped over Dubai while a yellow dot dropped over Riyadh. “Around 3AM Eastern Time we lost contact with Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and all of Kuwait, suggesting that the total communications loss was because of the island. We don’t know for certain, but visible evidence suggests that the island… somehow negates electrical energy.”

With an image of the island now on-screen, various cabinet members started groaning in disbelief. “Mr. President, are you really saying that an island that’s larger than the state of Texas appeared over the Middle East, an island that is causing all electronics to fail? Is that right?” John Kerry looked at Obama, barely believing what he was seeing and hearing.

“This greatly strains credibility on every level,” Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, said. “Even with images from our own satellites, how do we know they haven’t been tampered?”
“I wish I could be laughing,” General Dempsey shifted his standing position slightly as he responded. “All indicators show this island is as real as you and me.”

“Not only is it real, but it’s moving,” Obama interjected. A series of numbers appeared next to the island, along with dashed lines across the world map in a stretched sine wave pattern. As the line expanded, it crossed over Italy and France, sliced through a sliver of the eastern seaboard of the US and Mexico, and traced a path through southern India and northern Australia. A triangle dropped over the current position of the island, blinking white. “Approximately 74 miles an hour from east to west, along this trajectory.” Obama pointed at the dashed line on the world map behind him. Thick lines began drawing themselves vertically in equally-spaced positions along the dashed line. “If this trajectory is accurate, we will lose contact with our allies in Israel within the next 17 hours, along with Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.”

user posted image

Obama stepped away from the podium and slowly walked to his seat at the head of the conference table, feeling himself age faster than he rightfully should, but ignoring the slight pain in his joints as he gripped his chair and sat down. Tenting his fingers and sitting upright, he continued. “In less than three days we’ll lose contact with several of our Western allies in Europe. In five days, the island’s effects will start to be felt along the northeast coast of our nation.”

The room is silent at that, some looked at the world map, reading off the list of cities affected. Others held their phones tightly, as if they were electronic security blankets. Looking around and seeing the expressions on almost everyone’s faces change from disbelief to grim reality, Obama glanced at Joe Biden, who sat upright, cross-armed, and with a look that, as always, instilled confidence in what Obama looked to implement, even in these impossible times.

Breaking his tented hands, Obama leaned back slightly and spread his arms on the table. “Are there any questions?”


March 10th, 2014, 4:55AM EST
New York, NY, United States of America


“I would like to, ah, purchase your latest gazette, good man,” Edgar said to the newsstand owner as nicely as he could without letting his curiosity of the surroundings overstimulate him.
A spark burst from the Greek man’s radio speaker as he tried to replace the light bulbs that went out only a few moments before Edgar approached his steel box near the corner of 34th Street in Midtown. The rest of the city flickered briefly a few minutes earlier, though most of those awake barely noticed.

“A whaa? You mean the news?” The man didn’t even look at Edgar, his concern for getting his stand visible again in the bright midtown area more important to him.

“Yes, I’d like to know –”

“Just leave money on counter – no funny business!” His frustration was fueled more from confusion than anything else, though he was glad to hear the sound of a paper being freed from the stand and some change dropped on the counter. When he looked up, his mouth dropped as he found himself staring at a couple of gold coins instead of quarters. He swiped the coins into his hand as he pushed himself over the darkened counter to find the source of the coins, but nobody other than a homeless person, some drunken partygoers, and a cop were to be seen amongst the moving cabs and trucks around him.


The Blackjack, Above New York City

The air crackled with the sound of popping embers as a space about the size of Edgar glowed blue, where he materialized a few inches above the top deck of the airship. Strago Magus welcomed his return by taking the handful of newspapers that Edgar purchased from the surface. “Excellent work, young man!” Strago’s white mustache arched up slightly as he smiled, the wrinkles on his cheeks curved around his hidden lips. Despite the freezing wind, Strago’s red cape and loose-fitting clothes consisting of yellow-and-green polka dot pants and a black shirt, stayed warm thanks to the air dampening field – a slightly modified Protect spell - that shielded the deck of the ship from extreme temperatures and weather conditions. Stroking his white beard, he began reading one of the papers as he walked below deck, with Edgar behind.

“Why did I buy these again?” Edgar looked at Strago with a smile as he watched him become absorbed with the text on the paper. They walked side by side in a pipe-lined hallway that led to the casino, where everyone else – mostly everyone – conversed.

“The best way to learn about a culture is through its current events!”

“Don’t you mean books?”

“Bah!” Strago threw an arm in the air. “Do you even know what a bookstore looks like on this world? We’re lucky that you were able to stumble on a merchant as fast as you did!”

“You gotta give me a little credit.” Edgar jokingly acted like he was hurt by Strago’s words. “Besides, I’m sure I could’ve gotten the information from one of the dashing young women I saw down there.”
Strago groaned loud enough for Edgar to hear as he swung open the trap door in front of them, moving quickly to be rid of this man, though he remembered the times he played chess against him; the man was not all bad.

They entered the casino, a two-floored deck that spanned most of the ship. Well-lit by ceiling lights that were powered by the same energy that moves the ship, the upper floor, which outlined the lower, is laid with oak wood paneling with stairs at numerous points to access the lower floor. With several blackjack tables, roulette wheels, and a large craps table in the center, the lower floor had deep emerald tiling throughout. The windows on the lower floor were bordered with thick, ornate curtains, which looked outward to the vast city far below and in the distance. A few merchants manned the upper floor desks while the rest of the Returners – and Shadow – were scattered on the lower. As Edgar and Strago rejoined the group, everyone gathered around the craps table.

Terra Branford: an 18-year-old girl who was a former slave to the Empire. She wore a red, form-fitting dress with purple shoulder pads that brought out her white skin and mint green hair. Her apprehension is close to the surface, as the desire to transform into her esper self has been strong since they arrived on this world.

Sabin Rene Figaro: Edgar’s twin brother, who gave up the throne to lead his life on his own terms. Very muscular and wore his short blonde hair in a ponytail, he wore only white pants with the bottoms tucked into boots.

Mog: a small, cream-furred creature with cat-like ears, small wings, narrow eyes and a single antenna that ended with a spherical, yellow poof. He was proven to be a very good dancer and poker player. He has brought a chair over to stand on.

Cyan Garamonde: the last of the Kingdom of Doma which was wiped out by the Empire at the hands of Kefka. Standing tall, his muscular body was covered with a blue armor adorned with the crests of his people, a katana strapped to his side. His black hair was tied back, his neatly-trimmed mustache covering his upper lip.

Gau: a teen that was found on the Veldt by Sabin and Cyan, his wild eyes belied a friendliness that only those on the ship truly experienced. He had long, unkempt green hair while he wore a loose-fitting, tattered tunic with several belts and talismans around his neck, the only ornaments covering his bare chest.

Relm Arrowny: a spunky ten-year-old girl with dirty blonde hair that was usually covered by a large red hat, she wore a black tube top that ended with colorful, puffy pants that were tied around her ankles. She always had a set of paintbrushes strapped to her belt. She was also Strago’s granddaughter.

Locke, Celes, and Setzer joined the table as well, putting their game of poker on hold now that Edgar and Strago returned. Shadow leaned against the wall by one of the windows, looking towards the floor.

Terra smiled as she rested one hand on the raised edge of the table. “I’m glad we aren’t affecting the people below this time.”

“It seems that as long as we’re about thirty thousand feet above the surface, our presence won’t interfere with their magic,” Setzer said, playing with an Ace of Spades card between his fingers. “They’ll be fine.”

“How was it on the surface, brother?” Sabin inquired, his curiosity as strong as Edgars. At that, the others at the table looked to him as well.

“Very… bright.” Edgar laughed briefly. “Lots of lights in the buildings and vehicles of all shapes and sizes moving about. Whether they were powered by combustion engines or a form of magic, I couldn’t tell. Quite fascinating!”

“I’m surprised you didn’t disrupt their power source,” Cyan looked at Edgar with some surprise.

“Well, does making the lights go out on a merchant stand count?” Edgar gestured to the two newspapers spread out on the craps table, one of which had some sections removed by Mog and the other briefly picked up by Relm before she slapped it down.

“Whoever made the paintings on this paper’s really good – how dare they try to upstage me!” Relm exclaimed, more to get attention than in any sort of seriousness.

“Hey! Don’t rip that paper, young lady,” yelled Strago without looking up from his paper. He backed into one of the nearby chairs soon after he initially stood by the table. “Who knows when we’ll get more sources of information!”

“Fussy old man!” Relm pouted, turning away from Strago and crossed her arms.

Mog slapped his section gently, getting a sharp look from Strago in the process. “The news here is the same as it is back home, kupo! One empire trying to assert itself over another, kupo!”

“Uwaoooo!” Gau howled, stomped and jumped in place while he gripped the table from excitement, his nails scratching the varnished wood.

Cyan patted Gau on the shoulder, calming him somewhat. “Indeed, Sir Gau. Sir Strago, hast thou found anything useful in their tabloids?”

“I’d certainly like to meet this fellow,” Strago said as he flipped his paper around to show everyone a picture on the page: a black man with greying hair in a dark suit in front of a red-and-white striped flag in an assertive pose, clearly in the middle of speaking. Tapping the image, he continued, “Apparently he’s the leader of the Americas, a free land.”

“Free land, huh,” Edgar nodded slowly while he reached for a newspaper section with ‘Technology’ titled along the top. “So this American Empire might be a good place to get answers…”

“Why would they have answers?” Celes asked. “They weren’t responsible for bringing us here.”

“We don’t know that,” Shadow said flatly.

“What DO we know, exactly?” Setzer stopped manipulating the playing card and looked over at Shadow.

Shadow’s eyes, betraying nothing of the thoughts behind them, shifted to Celes.

“Well… we know that our magic greatly interferes with whatever powers the machinery and lights on this world,” Celes began. “The Blackjack can knock out the energy from a small town, but Edgar walked in the middle of a giant city without his magic stopping machinery in their tracks. Therefore…” Celes snapped her fingers, thinking about the matter for a while. “…the more powerful the magical source, the more disruptive are the effects!”

“If that’s true, we probably shouldn’t let ol’ gramps loose,” Relm joked as she stuck her tongue out at Strago.

“You can’t go down there either,” Celes said to Relm. “Nor can I.”

“Or me…” Terra said softly, looking away from the table as she thought about the other side of her, the chaotic esper that she worked hard to control, but still didn’t fully understand.

“Look, none of us can really go to the surface without disrupting something – this isn’t our world,” Strago stood up and tossed his newspaper onto the table, its front page article with the pictured American leader faced towards the ceiling, the headline reading ‘Obama Rallies Youth Voters Against Midterm Apathy’. “However, we aren’t going to get any answers by hiding in the clouds.”

“I hate to say it, but the old man’s right, kupopo!” Mog said, his antenna swayed to and fro.

“Judging from some of the pictures in this paper and what I saw on the surface, I believe we’re over what they call ‘New York’,” Edgar observed.

“If that’s true, then this ‘District of Columbia’ capital city shouldn’t be too far,” Strago said. “From there, we can talk to this king… O-bah-mah.”

Locke waved his hands while he shook his head. “Wait, wait, wait… We can’t just walk up to a king and ask for help – not without knowing more about the castle where he lives and the surrounding premises.”

“Talking like a true treasure hunter,” Edgar said with a deadpan expression.

“If we send someone to the surface, they’ll have to blend in long enough to gather particulars,” Cyan said as he gripped the hilt of his katana lightly. “Particulars on the king, his whereabouts, and whether or not he has honorable intentions.”

“Especially after what happened the last time we trusted a certain emperor,” Sabin nodded towards Cyan as he cracked his knuckles.

“Then it’s agreed,” Locke said, smiling in anticipation for seeing this world himself.

Everyone looked at each other, contemplating the decision they were about to make, realizing that they had little option if they were to learn more about this world and possibly find a way home.

Setzer, deciding to speak for all, fished a blue chip from one of his coat pockets then flipped it onto the craps table, the token spinning briefly before it landed on Obama’s picture. “Another chip in your pile! Ante up!”


This post has been edited by SilentMage on 25th September 2013 13:01
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Posted: 29th September 2013 02:59

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