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The Secrets of Esper
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June 2007
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LOST 01 (part one)

Who: Kefka and Sigurd
When: The day they set out on the hunt
Where: jungle, a few miles from the railway's end
What: a chase and an accident
Warning: none
Status: (will be finished in the next post)


Who cared about the rain, when the adrenaline was racing through the veins, speeding up heartbeat, making senses keener? Sigurd was practically leaning on the wheel, trying to see something through the shower's curtain. His native instincts were working with full power - he could almost feel where the monster was, and he wanted to see it dead.

He could only guess, that at the left, there was something they better don't go too close to, as there were no trees. Perhaps an abyss, this was rocky terrain beneath the soil after all.

Despite the rapidly bouncing motion that jarred the car, the blonde General held fast to the massive Mako gun, his gloved fingers practically stuck to the handle, one suspended readily over the trigger. All the nobility and grace with which he normally carried himself had faded into little more than one graceful maniac leaning over the side of the vehicle, his perfect teeth bared in a grin that was far apart from sanity. His heart was thudding in his throat, every muscle throbbing, pale eyes wide as they stared through the rapidly-searching laser-sights. "Faster..." he called out over the roar of the rain, "The sensors are not finding anything!"

Once he dealt the first shot... it would be all over. And the both of them could enjoy their prey like true hunters.

It was a long journey, from the city to here; the SOLDIERs could easily take the train up to the point where the railways stopped. Somebody had to take care of the rampaging monsters anyway, which took workers from the sites, and both of them wanted to get out, to feel Nature, to do something wild, they were trained for - chase and kill and be proud of it.

The thing racing before them was huge, like some oversized reptile with spikes sticking out from its grey skin along the spine. Sigurd growled, the sound uncharacteristically harsh from the soft-spoken officer, and stepped on the pedal to urge the massive military vehicle into a more frenzied rush.

"The Guardians damn that thing, and this cursed terrain! We'll never get it at this rate...!" As if the mighty protectors were answering his plea, the landscape suddenly changed, into something much smoother. The dark-skinned Gear pilot grinned.

"Now, Kefka! Until we're on smooth ground!"

His long hair hit his back like tiny whips, ruining his most cherubic appearance to reveal the animal within; the true Kefka Palazzo, the warrior, not the noble, had been cooped up under doctor's orders for going on three months... and now, he was loose. The numerous medicines that numbed his senses meant nothing when he was on duty. He was in control. He was allowed to do as his instincts wished. Finally, his training re-emerged, and with his legs locked around the upper bars of the vehicle, he was much the Angel of Destruction. Free... for just a little while.

Through the steady veil of raindrops and leaves thick as inky shadows, those keen eyes, strengthened by Mako caught sight of a few spikes jutting up into the darkness, constantly shifting, following the creature's powerful stride. It took only this for him to react. His tiny finger squeezed the trigger once, delivering the shot that would cripple their target. Immediately, a thick stream of bright Mako illuminated the road before them then faded just as quickly; the rain really was coming down, wasn't it? Just as he'd been taught, the moment he heard the roar, deafened by the steady pound of the rain, he braced himself and pulled the trigger again, second shot rocking him backward for a moment. "Turn on the floodlights; I think we have it!"
With a quick flip, the car's headlights came alive, sharp white penetrating the rain. Sigurd slowed down a bit, not wanting to run into the large body - besides, he trusted Kefka's skills. He peered ahead, noting that the rain started to weaken; good.

There was indeed a grey mass ahead of them. The silvery-haired man smirked. "Looks kind of dead to me."

With a bubble of laughter, the delighted blonde's upper half slid back into the safety of the vehicle, fussing over the mess of hair the had become plastered to his forehead. "As if you expected anything less.. Shall we? I would so love to bring back one of those spines."

From his seat, he could see where the cannon had connected: there was a sizzling hole just to the left of that ridge of spikes, where the heart should be. Another opening gaped from a muscular leg, but the smoke had died down--that meant he had struck the leg first. He gave a proud toss of his head, still feeling the bloodlust racing through his veins as he turned to beam at Sigurd. "Lovely driving, I must say."

"And excellent aim, my good sir," Sigurd smiled, nodding respectfully to his companion. "I'd love to have one of those spikes as well - who knows, maybe somebody could carve a ring from it. I just hope we'll be able to get it. It could be pretty tough."

He pulled up next to the fallen reptile and the engine stilled. "I think the rain will end soon. We could wait a bit."

"I am already soaked. A little more rain will not harm me." The blonde pushed open the door with a light grunt, then slid out into the gradually lessening downpour. Still, his entire body was immediately drenched by warm water, but for once, he didn't care. At least he wasn't covered in mud... Wrinkling his nose, he began picking his way across the riverbank, lifting his boots daintily then resetting them in the muck, slowly making his way toward the hulking mass of muscle. With the help of the light from the vehicle, he could see his way around, but something made him stop where he was. The ground... felt strange beneath his feet. Was it shifting? "Sigurd... what are we stopped upon?"

Worry shone clear on his rain-streaked face as he turned to face the car, squinting through the floodlights.

The Gear officer blinked. Something felt a bit funny, yes... But the ground was soaked, it was just natural that it became very soft, nothing to worry about, right...? He edged closer to the chasm next to them, expecting solid rock-

The realization came a heartbeat too late. Beneath them, there was swirling water and Sigurd could _see_ the clay moving. He didn't even have the time to warn the other.

He felt the ground move almost tiredly, and with a terrified yelp, his legs were knocked out from beneath him, dragging his small body beneath the suction of water. At first, he could hear nothing but the murmur of water around him, crushing his dazed mind into quiet acceptance. He couldn't think, he couldn't breathe, and despite his continuous clawing to the soil that practically melted between his fingers, he couldn't break water. His clothes felt heavy, boots sucking him down, deep into the muddied recesses of the deep creek.. The temperature of the water wasn't enough to shock him into realization--oh, no. The inclusion of their military-issued jeep did a fine job of that. Even beneath the constant tumult of the bruising water, he heard the crash, and when his eyes forced themselves open, he was blinded by headlights.

Then, it all fell into place. He couldn't breathe..! He was drowning! With all his strength, he began to kick, his chest burning for air and muscles dying for a breath of oxygen. His brain was a mess of instinct, hands and feet swiping desperately at anything they could reach, mouth gaping.. With a scream, his head pierced the surface of the water; he began gasping in huge gulps of air, even though his mouth was filled with water over and over again. He just spat it out and breathed, trying to relax and tread water, branches and rocks slamming into his terrified form as he was sucked downriver. He couldn't see anything... Only water. Fucking water! Where in the hell was Sigurd?! As loud as he could manage, he shouted into the roar of churning liquid, praying to those Guardians of the officer's that he was all right. "Sigurd! SIGURD!"

The officer was incredibly lucky. The water was deep enough, he had no severe injuries and even though something hit him on the head with quite a bit of force, the impact wasn't forceful enough to render him unconscious. He was just disoriented. He was always a good swimmer but even he wasn't used to wild waters, especially an unknown creek after a tropical rain. The excess water rushed down toward the lower areas with speed and took everything with, it just could. Even the Jeep - Sigurd managed to get a glimpse of the vehicle once and maybe that was the final kick to his brain - if a four ton vehicle was suck an easy prey to the clutches of the river, what chance had they...?

They...?

Guardians! The officer's blood was flooded with adrenaline again, worry slashing into him like a knife - for both his and Kefka's life. He started to fight with the merciless flood, trying to keep on the surface, frantically looking from one side to other hoping he'll discover his friend. Suddenly, the cry reached his ear and relief washed through him... but only for a second. He had to keep struggling.

"KEFKA!" he screamed back; trying to keep contact. At least, the rain was almost finished, quieting to a gentle drizzle.

He tried to call out, but his head was crushed beneath the curling waves, drowning out the sound until he surfaced again. He'd die like this. His arms and legs were too short to keep him afloat for very long, and he was even too panicked to breathe correctly, instead trying to get enough oxygen to his madly pumping limbs. Hadn't he failed the swimming portion of his training? Not after the Mako treatments, he quietly reasoned with himself, setting his mind at ease for a moment. The blonde tried to maneuver himself over to the side of the creekbed, so he could dig his fingers into the mud, but for all his efforts, his digits couldn't find anything to keep hold of, and he was continuously forced down the flow of the water. However, now that he had something to slow himself down with, he didn't have to worry about staying afloat--too much.

Then, he hit something solid and clung, dragging his legs in toward his chest to make himself small as possible. Every so often, another browned wave of water crashed into the side of his head, but all in all, he was all right. "Sigurd! Can you reach me?! I have a hold of something--a root, I think!" Spitting out a mouthful of creekwater, he held out one arm, trusting his other to hold firm once he dug his leg into the riverbank.

Apparently, mako-treatment did good to the vocal chords as well, because the Gear pilot heard the words. Now the rain was gone and he caught sight of the general. With gritted teeth, Sigurd launched himself the right direction, strong body trying fiercely to oppose the current.

Thanks to his enhanced strength, he finally reached Kefka, grabbing for the thick piece of wood and missing it first.

The little blonde grabbed Sigurd's wrist, feeling his heart rate spike a little at the moment when those long, dark fingers missed the root, and once they wrapped around the strong limb, he squeezed tightly. Then, he pulled backwards, setting that hand against the wood, then reaching around to clutch the officer's shoulder. At the moment, he really didn't give a fuck about anything else but keeping the other man safe and protected, using everything he had to keep the half-native holding on. "If you let go, I will pull you back by your hair," he snapped, voice trembling as he kept tight hold of the officer, "Are you hurt? At all?"

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Sigurd smiled at the comment. To avoid further damages on his silvery tresses, he hooked one arm securely around the root, while his free hand attempted to check the rest of his anatomy.

"I don't know... I suppose, the adrenaline numbs any pain now I might feel... Something hit my head when I fell though-" he gingerly ran his fingers over his forehead, and as he pulled his fingers back, he spotted crimson smear on them before a wave washed it away. "Nnh. I'm bleeding but I think it's just a cut. How about you?"

He rested his forehead against the root in order to hide that sudden breath of relief, squeezing his eyes closed as he tried to calm his mind down. "Bruises... that is all. Perhaps a few scrapes, but no more."

He cringed as another wave crashed against the both of them, a little of the water making its way up his nose; after dispelling it with a series of gagging coughs, he readjusted position and bravely tilted his head back, trying to see up the length of the riverbank. It would be a difficult climb, but if one of them could drag themselves up the root and grab hold of one of the smaller trees that lined the bank, then they might be able to get out. As battered as he felt, he knew it would be best using up his strength climbing up than clinging to this root.

But, he was the superior officer here, and that meant he would act accordingly. "Think you can make it up?" Battlefield ethics: others before oneself.

"It might work." Sigurd nodded, used to the same standards. Digging his foot into the soft clay, he reached up, grabbing another much thinner root. He yanked it twice to test its strength and he deemed it safe enough. His tall body stretched, working its way upwards slowly but steadily, and finally, the pilot was able to stand on the root, while holding onto a thick enough, stable tree.

"Come, I'll help you climb and then you'll pull me up as well." He extended his hand, ready to grab his smaller companion. Sigurd was starting to become aware of the state he was in - the eyepatch stuck to his face uncomfortably, and blood trickled down from his forehead, fortunately on the wrong side, where he didn't have an eye anyway. His high boots were filled with water, and he could feel sweat forming on his brow - after a tropical rain, the air became insanely hot and humid.

Damn his own pathetic genes. He watched in almost-envy as Sigurd gracefully lifted himself up, his long limbs giving him quite an advantage that the blonde could only dream of. Pale blue eyes stared up after the officer, his stomach tied into knots as he tried to keep up hope that the precious man wouldn't slip and fall into the torrent below; if he fell now, there would be little that either of them could do. Once he was certain that the other was upon stable ground, he began his own ascension, but even that was not without its difficulty; his gloves made it damned near impossible for him to hold onto the mud-slicked root. He ripped these from his hands and spat them reluctantly into the water, the delicate white things floating on the surface like moths on black wind before being pulled under as well.

As he began lifting himself out of the water, he realized how heavy the rest of his body was, but in no way was he dexterous enough to slide out of his coat while he climbed. He just put all his faith in his muscles and the root he held onto, the speed of his legs as they pressed into sloppy clay, lifting himself inch by inch by inch, until he could grasp the outstretched hand. "Hold on.." he whispered to the officer, ashen brow furrowing as he used the strength offered by the other man to reach the bank side. His shoulders and chest strained as he hauled himself over, and as badly as he needed to stop and gasp for breath, he locked his legs around a smaller tree set farther back from the creek and reached with both arms. "Siggy!"

Strong, dark fingers locked around his wrists and the Gear pilot, with all the frustration he felt, implanted his foot into the slippery wall. It didn't take long until he could grab something else than Kefka as well, and he emerged from the depth, his white uniform smeared with grey, stained with red and thoroughly soaked.

With a final grunt, Sigurd hauled himself up to the top, but didn't stop for a breath. "Let's go, it could slip again, and I don't fancy another bath!" Carefully, he struggled to his feet, and as quickly as he could, he targeted a large tree. If he didn't fall back, Kefka won't either - he was smaller, lighter.

He unwrapped his legs from their anchor with the grace of a cat, maneuvering to rest on the balls of his feet and the heels of his hands, perched cautiously at the edge, almost wanting to peek down. Was this even real...? They'd been just fine just minutes before... At the sound of Sigurd's voice, he rose to his full height, thick boots sticking in the moist earth as he hurried after the officer. "We need to find shelter in case it rains again," he spoke, snagging his companion's hand in both of his own, "Preferably away from the water, if at all possible... Are you well enough to walk..?"

"At the moment and honestly? No." The Gear pilot collapsed under the large tree, leaned back against the trunk, and pulled his companion closer. "I've been close to death not once, but never like this... Give me a moment to enjoy the fact that I'm still breathing." He had to stop for a moment anyway, body protesting against the sudden exercise. "Damn it, we should have been more careful..."

~tbc~