Squall fought the urge to shift restlessly while they waited for Sorceress Edea to make her appearance at the podium. Next to him, Irvine was tapping out a complicated beat on the butt of his gun. Squall thought he might recognise it, but he didn't have much interest in asking, no matter how it might help time move on.
"They really expect us to run from the presidential residence to the gate?" Irvine wondered in a whisper under the roar of the crowds. Edea still hadn't appeared, but the closer it got to the time she was scheduled to give her speech, the louder they got.
Squall glanced towards the sharpshooter, then back at the balcony high above them. "Don't miss."
Irvine clenched his jaw for a second, then forced himself to relax. "I don't miss," he hissed. "But if it's outside my control, if there's some reason it doesn't go through. Then what? Hope there's a car in easy reach? Hope we get there before the others can handle her?"
"It's too late for second thoughts," Squall replied drily.
The crescendo of the crowd interrupted Irvine's response and the two teens looked up as Edea finally stepped forward, joining Deling next to the podium. Another person followed Edea, and it took them a moment to recognise her.
"H...Hey... That girl...!"
Squall blinked. "Rinoa?" 'What the fuck is she doing?'
"Lowlifes," Edea started as the noise of the crowds diminished. "...Shameless, fifty wretches. How you celebrate my ascension with such joy. Hailing the very one you have condemned for generations. Have you no shame? What happened to the evil, ruthless sorceress from your fantasies? The cold-blooded tyrant that slaughtered countless men and destroyed many nations? Where is she now? She stands before your very eyes to become your new ruler." Edea laughed. "A new era has just begun."
"Idiots," Irvine muttered as the crowds roared around them, screaming their pleasure at Edea's blood-thirsty speech. "Are they so incapable of understanding–"
"Kinneas," Squall interrupted.
Irvine turned to him, eyebrows raised in silent query, but Squall had nothing else to say; he'd just wanted the taller teen to shut up.
"This is reality," Edea called, holding Deling's sparking body up for everyone to see. "No one can help you. Sit back and enjoy the show." She tossed the smoking body to one side as the crowd screamed with glee. "Rest assured, you fools. Your time will come. This is only the beginning. Let us start a new reign of terror. I will let you live a fantasy beyond your imagination."
The Sorceress left to the cheers of the masses, leaving Rinoa to fend against two gargoyles on her own.
"Hey, hey, hey, she's in trouble, big time! We've gotta go help Rinoa," Irvine hissed, grabbing Squall's shoulder.
'You think I don't know that?' Squall shook the hand off. "The parade hasn't started yet," he reminded his teammate. "The gate's not open."
"You've gotta be kidding!"
Squall shot him an unamused look. 'She got herself into this, she can either hold her own until we get there, or she'll die. It's out of my hands.'
Irvine started tapping nervously on the butt of his gun again, quicker and with less finesse than before. Squall clenched his jaw to keep from snapping at the sharpshooter, the tapping putting him on edge.
Finally, the gates opened and the float rolled out. Edea sat pleasantly in a royal chair. And, next to her...
'Seifer?' Squall almost choked on his surprise. 'But I thought–'
"Now's our chance!" Irvine hissed, roughly grabbing for Squall's arm and falling short of the mark. "Come on! What are you waiting for? Rinoa might die!"
'I don't care about Rinoa,' Squall thought, disgusted. He allowed himself one last glance back at his rival – apparently not as dead as they'd been led to believe – before rushing after Irvine.
With the crowd's eyes focussed on the Sorceress, no one noticed a couple of teens slip through the gates and around the side of the building to where a pile of crates waited for them.
Squall motioned for Irvine to go first while he checked that Revolver was loose enough for a quick draw, but not so loose that it would fall out on the way up; he would be able to react faster on the uneven footing, while the sharpshooter would have a better chance keeping any pursuers back if he had the higher ground. It had been hard to keep an eye out for any overly watchful eyes in the crowds, but it was easy to watch each other's backs in this abandoned back alley, in spite of the noise of the crowd outside.
Once they'd reached the balcony, Squall took the lead, pulling Revolver out as he ran towards where the two Iguions stood over Rinoa's prone form. He refused to let himself wonder about her health, concerned with taking care of the two monsters, first. He was almost relieved to hear a shotgun going off behind him, pellets whizzing past his head and slamming into one of the two creations just before Revolver bit into its shoulder. Irvine was already firing again by the time Squall had freed his blade, and he turned his attention to the other monster as the second round finished the first one off.
As soon as the second one was down, Squall crouched next to Rinoa, intending to check on her status, only for her to lurch up and wrap herself around his neck, shaking with sobs. "I was scared..." she whispered.
Squall resisted the urge to shove her off, instead gently prying her arms off him and standing, dragging her along. "It's over," he offered.
"I was scared... I was really, really scared," Rinoa repeated, latching onto his arm and looking up at him with wide, watery eyes.
'You mentioned that.' Squall glanced towards Irvine, only to scowl at the amused smirk on his lips. 'Oh, great help you are, Kinneas.' He looked back at Rinoa and coolly commented, "You're used to battles, aren't you?"
"I couldn't... I just couldn't..." Rinoa's grip on Squall's arm tightened and he fought a wince. "I couldn't fight alone..."
'Then why the fuck did you come up here alone?' Squall snapped in his mind. Out loud, he only turned back towards Irvine and stated, "Better get going," while carefully extracting his arm from Rinoa's grasp.
Irvine nodded and Squall had managed no more than a single step before Rinoa was clinging to his arm again. Irvine turned away, but not fast enough to fully hide his smile.
Squall rubbed at the scar between his eyes and decided Rinoa wasn't going to let go without some assurance. "I haven't forgotten your order," he said, voice bland to cover his irritation. "Just stay close to me." 'Maybe this will keep her from pulling any further stunts.'
Rinoa did relax at that and followed the two young men somewhat meekly as they slipped down onto the carousal clock.
When they reached the sniper rifle, Squall picked it up and held it out to Irvine, who had taken on a sombre air. "Irvine Kinneas, it's in your hands now," he intoned.
Irvine took the rifle and stepped slowly to his position, where he crouched down to wait, hat pulled low over his eyes.
Squall considered him for a long moment, then settled back against one of the platforms, losing himself in his own thoughts. 'So, Seifer's alive.' Squall glanced up at the closed automated doors above them, the memory of Seifer, standing and smiling so smugly next to the Sorceress playing out again in his mind. 'Alive, but working with our target. Does that make him our enemy?' He breathed a quiet snort. 'What am I saying? I'm a SeeD. If he intends to stand at her side, I'll go through him. That's the life I've chosen. Pull it together, Leonhart.'
Squall brought his head back down and considered Rinoa's huddled form. 'What to do with her? It's not safe, by any means, for her to be facing off against the Sorceress. And Irvine's right, it's not sensible for all of us to make a run for the gate. I can't leave the others to face her alone, but we're SeeDs, and that's our duty. Rinoa and Irvine...' His eyes flickered towards the silent sharpshooter, then back towards Rinoa. 'None of this will matter if Irvine pulls through, but if he misses, or Edea blocks it somehow...'
Squall nodded to himself and pushed away from the platform, heading towards Irvine's huddled form. He was just about to bring up Rinoa when he realised that the taller teen was... twitching. Nervously. "Hey, Kinneas, don't tell me you're getting the jitters..."
"I...I can't do it," Irvine whispered from behind his hat.
Squall muffled a groan against his hand, mind racing. 'Times like this, I wish I'd learned how to shoot for real, like Seifer did. Damn. Even then–'
The floor shuddered and the doors above them popped open. Squall was distantly aware of Rinoa letting out a surprised sound and tumbling to the ground, but he was too busy watching as Irvine's wide, terrified eyes became visible from under the brim of his hat.
"Irvine Kinneas!" Squall snapped, throwing as much authority into his voice as he could.
"I...I can't... I'm sorry, I can't do it." Irvine looked up at Squall, then, eyes bright with self-recrimination and fear. "I always choke like this..." he whispered, as if imparting some great secret. "I try to act all cool, joke around, but I can't handle the pressure..."
Squall fought the urge to throttle the other boy. "Forget it," he growled. "Just shoot."
"My bullet... The Sorceress..." Irvine whispered, eyes going distant into his own mind. "I'll go down in history. I'd change the history of Galbadia...of the world! It's all too much..."
'I am not good at this, dammit,' Squall spat, reaching out and grabbing Irvine's bicep. "Enough!" he hissed, voice just sharp enough to bring Irvine from his thoughts. "Just shoot!"
"I can't, dammit!" Irvine hissed back, anger flashing brightly for just a moment in pained blue eyes.
Squall took a breath, biting back his first two responses and attempting a calm tone. "Irvine, calm down," he directed, wishing his voice would be a bit more gentle, but since Irvine's expression was already clearing, it didn't seem to matter overmuch. "I don't care if you miss, we just need a signal to let us know it's our turn. Just a sign to tell the others to head for the float. Nothing more."
Irvine nodded. "Just a signal..."
"Yes," Squall agreed. He closed his eyes in relief when the sharpshooter turned and knelt, the rifle going smoothly to his shoulder.
"...Just a sign," Irvine reminded himself, then pressed the trigger.
Squall's eyes snapped open and they both watched with bated breath as the shot rang out, impacting against the shield that Irvine's indecision gave Edea the time to form.
Irvine fell back against the wall, face covered again with his hat. "...I'm sorry," he whispered.
Squall shook his head, getting up from his crouch. "It happens. Your new orders are to get Rinoa out of the city." He met the sharp blue eyes that peeked out from under the hat, both deaf to Rinoa's startled complaint. "Get her to one of the Gardens and we'll retrieve her when we can."
Irvine nodded. "You got it."
"But I can help!" Rinoa shouted, grabbing for Squall's arm.
Squall speared her with a cold look. "You asked me to protect you," he informed her in a monotone. "This is the best course for you to survive this intact. Kinneas."
Irvine lurched to his feet and held Rinoa back as Squall turned and jumped off the clock to the podium. From there, he jumped down into the writhing crowd, finally awakened from their frozen moment of awe over the Sorceress and revolting. He jumped into a nearby car, sparing a moment of humour for Irvine's earlier comment, and spun it towards the downed gate, uncaring if the car took damage when crashing against it.
The others were already up on the float, trying their damnedest to reason with Seifer and defend themselves from both Edea and the blond gunblader. Squall vaulted up and blocked a swipe that almost detached Selphie's head and snapped, "I've got Seifer! Take out the Sorceress!"
"But, Squall–" Quistis started, eyes uncertain.
"Now!" Squall snapped, parrying another of Seifer's moves. He didn't have the attention to spare while facing this man, and he knew it. The other three could handle Edea, but he needed to know they would.
Edea assisted Squall in stealing the others' attention by tossing an icy attack at them, forcing them to leave Seifer and Squall's duel while they squared off against the more dangerous opponent.
Without the often questionable sparring parameters hanging in the air between them, Seifer and Squall utilised magic and underhanded tricks that they'd never have tried in the past. Seifer's one fireball was nothing, compared to the slew of ice and fire magic the two traded, or the kicks and hidden knives that tossed them off balance. Even the turns of their blades had changed, aiming for fatal hits instead of the non-fatal 'first blood' they usually called at.
Squall finally brought Seifer down with the poison he'd liberally coated his blade with earlier that evening, before they'd headed out. Seifer knelt before Squall, wounds bleeding an angry green and leaning against Hyperion, green eyes cool with the knowledge that this was the end as Squall drew Revolver back for the final cut.
A flash of cold went up Squall's spine and he suddenly realised there was a pike of ice lodged in his right shoulder. 'What?' he thought as the world tilted around him. He got one last glimpse of green eyes before they fell out of sight, surprised to see horror and fury reflecting in them.
Pain shocked through him as he crashed into the roadway beneath the float. He heard the other three screaming his name, but darkness was starting to set in around his vision. 'How ironic,' he thought before letting the darkness block everything out. 'Just when I was about to win...'
Squall woke feeling sick to his stomach and dizzy from blood-loss, but in no pain. 'What?' He pushed himself into a sitting position and took a moment for the room to settle before looking down at his shoulder. There was an impressive hole through both shirt and jacket, crusty with old blood, but the wound the ice pike left had healed over, leaving only a pale circle of skin as reminder that it had ever been. Likewise, the other wounds he'd received at Seifer's hand had been healed over, leaving behind a few new scars and the rips and dried blood to mark their passage.
'I'm...alive?' Squall reached up and touched the new skin on his shoulder, flinching at the strange chill that radiated from it. 'How? Why?' His eyes darted around the small room, taking note of the tiny latrine and lack of amenities. 'Prison, then. Ransom, or information? SeeD doesn't ransom, so information.' He shook his head. 'What about the others? They should have been captured too, but they may have been killed. Maybe they're being interrogated now...
'Did Irvine and Rinoa make it away? Please let them have escaped. Rinoa would never last under torture, and Irvine... I don't know what sorts of classes they have at Galbadia Garden. Are they prepared for torture? Can you ever, really, be prepared for torture?' Squall let out a humourless chuckle and shook his head.
'Come for me, first,' he silently pleaded their captors. 'I'm the leader, I'm the one in charge. Come for me first and I'll hold out as long as I can. Give the others time to escape. If they can.'
The room jerked and Squall fell forward onto the ground, thrown off balance. He closed his eyes against the movement, stomach and head both rebelling at the continued motion. A headache had begun to form from the grating whine of machinery by the time it stopped, and Squall didn't even bother looking up when the door of the cell opened.
A hand reached under Squall and used his shirt to pull him up. He got a good look at burning green eyes before Seifer whispered, "Squall, you're pitiful," and tossed him against the wall.
Squall grunted, pain flaring up his back. When he landed on the hard bed, he didn't bother moving, not even sure he could.
"Take him away!" Seifer shouted and four paws reached out to carry Squall out.
There was some manoeuvring involved, but Squall was soon enough strapped high against a wall, metal bands biting into his wrists and ankles. He'd considered attempting escape once or twice, but he hadn't been certain that his body would be able to manage it, and he needed to give the others time to escape. Assuming they were even there and alive.
Seifer came strutting out in front of Squall, full of smirks and righteous superiority. "I'm sure you can imagine what happens now."
Squall allowed a gleam of amusement in his eyes, because they had shared their class on resisting torture, and this was a classic textbook set-up. "What do you want?" he asked. There was no reason to suffer pain if there was a simple answer, after all. 'It's not like I know any particular secrets. I don't even know where Rinoa and Irvine might be.'
Seifer considered him for a moment, then asked, "Tell me what SeeD is. Edea demands to know."
Squall blinked. "What?" 'We're mercenaries, combat specialists. Selling our skills to the highest bidder...'
"What is SeeD?" Seifer repeated.
"...Don't you already know?"
"I'm not a SeeD. There must be some kind of secret you're told when you become a SeeD!" Seifer ranted, his eyes lighting with insanity.
Squall fought the urge to jerk back, racking his mind for any secrets about SeeD. 'The Headmaster almost told us something, that day, but the faculty member stopped him. Is that what Seifer's talking about? But... I never heard what it was...'
Seifer chuckled at Squall's silence, the insanity fading from his eyes. "You're on my 'tough-nut-to-crack' list. Didn't think you'd talk that easily."
'You and your lists.' "Geez, I'm honoured," he muttered.
Seifer's eyes glinted again with insanity. "So here's a little something for you." He motioned to one side, where a technician stood.
The cuffs warmed, then lit with electricity and Squall let out a cry as the current slammed through his body and exacerbated his mild headache. Once the current was shut off, he took a moment to be grateful for the settling of his stomach previously, even if his headache made thinking hard. At least he wasn't emptying his stomach as well.
"Even if you don't talk, others will," Seifer commented conversationally. "The instructor, the little messenger girl, or Chicken-wuss... He wouldn't last three seconds!" He laughed loudly at his little joke.
It took a moment for Seifer's words to work past the headache, but once Squall understood what he'd said, he felt something in his chest loosening. 'They're alive. Captured, but alive.' His eyes focussed on the smirking Seifer. 'I have to give them time to escape.' "Zell is... stronger than you think..." he ground out, fighting back against his headache. The hope helped, as did the need to keep Seifer distracted.
Seifer snorted, amused. "Sure he is."
"He made...SeeD..." Squall added.
Seifer's eyes flashed, anger sharpening the green for a moment before the glint of madness returned and the blond smirked. "There are better things than being an evil mercenary," he stated. "I'm the Sorceress' Knight, Squally! Don't you see? Everything I've ever worked towards, everything I've ever dreamed of–"
"A torturer?" Squall interrupted.
Seifer's eyes flashed with anger again and he darted forward to drag Squall's face down with his Griever pendant, uncaring as the slighter teen's wrists were shredded by the cuffs. "Better a torturer than a heartless murderer," he hissed.
Squall showed a parody of a smile. "Aren't your glasses...so very rose...tinted..."
Seifer shoved against him and stepped back, the insanity in his eyes combating the anger. "I am a Knight!" he roared, motioning to the technician.
Lightning coursed through Squall's body again, made worse for the cuffs cutting into his wrists. He let out a proper scream that time, taking pleasure in the way Seifer looked away even through the haze of bitter pain.
Seifer finally motioned for the current to be cut and Squall drooped in his bindings, chest heaving and eyes closed. He started when an overly-gentle hand took his chin. Sad green eyes looked up at him, madness sparking in the depths. "Why do you make me do this to you, Squall?" Seifer whispered, brushing his gloved thumb against his lip to wipe away a trickle of blood from Squall biting his tongue. "Just tell me what I want to know and it'll be over," he soothed. "I could probably get Edea to lighten your sentence–"
Squall spat blood in Seifer's face, triumphant at the flash of anger in the green eyes. "Fuck you."
Seifer made to motion to the technician, but the door to the room opened and a man stepped in. "Sir Seifer, the missiles targeted for the Garden are ready to launch."
The madness took over Seifer's eyes and he smiled. "Excellent." The man left while Seifer explained to his captive, "Balamb Garden is to be destroyed on charges of training SeeDs to oppose the Sorceress."
Squall felt his heart stop. 'W-WHAT?!'
"It's a pity, really," Seifer continued, expression faking contrition even as his eyes gleamed with the madness. "I grew up there, too... But orders are orders, and Edea wants it destroy–"
"Now who's the...heartless...murderer?" Squall hissed, spittle and blood flying from his mouth and speckling the shoulder of Seifer's coat.
Seifer's mouth froze open and he turned to meet pain-filled grey eyes. "Enemies must be dealt wi–"
"There are innocent child–"
"No one in that building is innocent!" Seifer hissed, madness warring with horror and anger in his eyes.
"What about your posse?" Squall snapped at him, uncaring for the way his throat screamed at him for his outburst.
Seifer jerked back, Squall having struck a nerve.
Unwilling to let his chance go, Squall pressed, "Is your dream...worth their...lives...?"
Seifer spun and stalked from the room without another word.
The technician looked uncertain for a moment, then stepped forward to look up at the hanging man. "Ready to talk?" he demanded.
Squall closed his eyes in answer.
The electrocution started again and Squall's head slammed back against the wall. Stars flashed in his vision for one moment of blinding pain, then everything went dark.
Squall woke to the chanting of, "Laguna!" and stared around at the crowd of Moombas for a long moment of disbelief. He was resting on the ground beneath the wall he'd been hanging off of for so long, all other sign of a human presence vanished.
"La...guna?" he wondered. 'Do these Moombas know Laguna? Do they know about my dreams of him?' Squall scoffed mentally. 'How would they know something like that? But, then, why...?'
One of the Moombas stepped up and rested a gentle paw on Squall's wrist, which he only then realised had been bandaged. "Laguna," it said, eyes sad and hopeful.
Squall blinked, uncertain as to what his response should be. In the end, he placed his other hand over the Moomba's paw and whispered, "Thanks."
Any further discussion was cut off by the door slamming open. Zell stood there, framed by Quistis and Selphie, all three breathing hard. There was a moment of silence as they all stared at each other in relief before the three escapees hurried forward, heedless of the Moombas and calling Squall's name.
Zell reached him first and knelt next to him, eyes sharp with concern. "You okay?" he whispered, taking in the healed wounds through his shredded clothing and the bandages on his wrists with a practised eye.
Squall shook his head. "I'll be fine," he whispered, trying not to wince at the raw feeling of his throat.
Selphie whispered, "Cure," and the cool touch of magic settled into Squall's bones, easing the ache of torture and his headache.
"Thanks," Squall murmured, moving to stand. When Zell offered his own assistance, Squall wordlessly accepted it, ignoring the flare of concern in their eyes at the action. "Let's get out of here," he ordered as soon as he was steady on his feet.
"Right. Here." Zell held out Revolver.
Squall took his gunblade with a breath of relief. He gave it a quick look over, and, reassured that it hadn't been tampered with, looked back up at the other three with serious eyes. "Considering we were caught in Deling, I'd say this is D-District."
"Our thoughts exactly," Quistis agreed. "Zell has a few memories of this prison from Ward, who apparently worked here?"
"As a janitor," Zell added helpfully.
Squall's eyes flickered towards the controls in the room, then at the Moombas around them. "You won't want to be involved in this," he told them.
"Laguna!" one declared, which got them all started again.
Selphie grinned and ruffled the nearest one's mane. "I think they intend to stay."
Squall sighed and rubbed at the scar between his eyes. "Whatever. Quistis, Zell, can you keep watch? Selphie, let's see what we can do with those controls."
Squall and Selphie had little difficulty hacking into the prison's system, which probably needed an upgrade, based on how old-fashioned it was. It took them longer to rig the system into believing they were activating the submersion program from all three towers than it did to get into it.
Selphie sort of skipped over the guards who had come to stop them on their way out.
"Seriously, that was the most pathetic prison break ever," Zell decided as they requisitioned a vehicle, Quistis opting to drive. "Did they really think they could hold a group of SeeDs?"
Squall rested his head against the window, eyes turned in the direction he knew the missile base lay. "No," he murmured. "They were just keeping us busy."
"Keeping us busy?" Quistis chanced a glance over. "Why would they need to–"
The car rocked with the aftershocks of an explosion and Quistis immediately hit the brakes. They all craned their necks forward and stared at the mushroom cloud blooming in the distance.
"Whoo-hoo!" Selphie called, doing a little dance in her seat.
"What was that?" Zell wondered, frowning.
Squall blinked, disbelieving. "That... was the Galbadian Missile Base..." he murmured. 'I thought they were supposed to be aiming at Garden? Unless... Seifer?'
"Good riddance to bad rubbish," Quistis decided, putting the car back into drive. "There should be a train stop just up here. Let's head back towards Garden."
"We need to let them know that the assassination failed," Selphie agreed, still bouncing a bit. "Hey! Whatever happened to Irvine, anyway?"
"And Rinoa," Quistis added, expression troubled. "Do we need to go back into Deling to pick her up? We did promise–"
"I told Irvine to get her to a Garden," Squall interrupted. "We're heading to Balamb."
"Galbadia Garden is closer," Quistis reminded him.
"The Sorceress was going to take it over, though, right?" Zell offered. "So it might not be safe. Balamb's the next closest."
"I suppose..." Quistis agreed.
They parked off to one side at the train station and Selphie skipped ahead as they moved to the engine of the train stopped there. The small young woman hopped up and gave the controls a quick look-over as the other three climbed aboard, then started them moving, whistling a cheerful tune.
"HEY! STOP!" someone shouted.
"Look, there's a doofus chasing us," Zell commented, grinning at the soldier running along with the train.
Squall sighed and moved into the first car as Zell laughed at the soldier. There, he dropped into a seat and rubbed tiredly at his forehead, his headache from before returning with a vengeance.
The soothing touch of a Cure spell sank into his bones and Squall glanced up at Quistis, who was watching him with concern bright in her eyes. "You okay?"
Squall shook his head and closed his eyes again. "...Fine," he murmured.
Quistis considered that for a moment, then decided to let it go and asked, "What did you mean, earlier, when you said they were keeping us busy?"
Squall rested against the window and watched her from behind half-lidded eyes. "They were supposed to launch missiles at Garden."
Quistis' expression froze, stuck on curiosity for a long moment before the sickening realisation coloured her eyes. She craned her neck towards the window, eyes on the dispersing cloud in the distance. "But then..."
"There may still be retaliation," Squall commented quietly, closing his eyes again.
Quistis swallowed and nodded. "Okay. Uhm..." She chewed her lower lip for a minute, considering the tired teen across from her. "You get some sleep," she decided. "I'll wake you when we reach Balamb."
Squall considered refusing – what sort of SeeD would sleep on the job? – but he knew his body well enough to know that he would be no use to anyone without getting some rest. It would take a few hours to reach Balamb, and there was no reason for him to be awake for all of it. He settled on a brief nod, curling his limbs into a more comfortable position.
Quistis remained for a moment, watching as the younger teen drifted to sleep, then turned and joined the other two in the engine room. "He's sleeping," she offered to their worried looks.
"That was an electrocution wall," Zell murmured, eyes dark.
"I know." Quistis leaned against one wall, crossing her arms over her stomach.
"It's going to take more than a quick Cure to heal from that."
Quistis closed her eyes, stomach churning at the thought of what her crush had gone through. They'd all been prepared for torture – it was a part of making enemies – but there was a huge difference between being prepared for the possibility of torture and coming in after the fact to find your teammate and friend lying on the ground, occasional shudders racking their frame.
"Squall's strong," Selphie murmured. "He'll be okay. Right?" She looked between the two from Balamb, bright green eyes dark with concern.
Zell took a deep breath, then nodded, determined. "It's going to take a lot more than a few volts of electricity to take him down," he declared.
"He said..." Quistis took a breath and looked up at the younger SeeDs. "Squall said they were supposed to be sending missiles towards Garden."
There was a moment of silence, then Zell hissed, "What?"
"The missile base blew up," Selphie pointed out, shaking her head. "Do you think he fixed it while we were setting the prison to sink?"
"I'm pretty sure you have to be on site for that," Quistis replied, shaking her head.
"Do you think the missiles launched before they blew up?" Selphie asked, concern in her eyes again.
"I don't know." Quistis closed her eyes. "I hope not."
"Can we go faster?" Zell pleaded.
Selphie turned her eyes to the controls, chewing her lower lip. "Maybe. Hold on..." She flicked a lever and twisted a knob and they sped up a bit. "That's the best I can do," she said apologetically.
Zell smiled. "It's enough. Thanks, Selph."
Quistis turned to watch out a window, the hair that had come loose from her clip flying around her face. 'Please, everyone, be okay... Rinoa... I still need to apologise to her. Take care of her, Irvine...'