auronlu: (Lady)
[personal profile] auronlu
Title: Love Her and Despair
Chapter 27:
Incoming
Final Fantasy X/X-2
(Yes, both. AU.)
Characters: Auron, Isaaru, Nooj, Rikku, Cast
Rating:
PG
Word Count: 1900
Navigation: Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
Map of Pilgrimage - Links to All Chapters

Our Story So Far: After Elder Cid is possessed by an angry, unsent ghost, Isaaru and his guardians must put their pilgrimage on hold to help the Al Bhed chase down Cid before he destroys Bevelle.



"May I have your attention, guys and garudas! This is your wake-up call. Rise and shine! We hit Bevelle in twenty minutes."

"Hopefully without leaving a crater," Maroda muttered as he and his brother stepped onto the bridge, bracing for the pop of static as the intercom cut off.

Gippal, slouched in the pilot's seat, tossed a vague wave over his shoulder. "Yo, Yevon-dudes. Prepare for Operation Freak the Hell Out of Bevelle."

"It's already started," Shinra said, hunched over his console. "I'm reading energy discharge."

"How bad?" Maroda said, giving a grudging nod to Auron as the older guardian moved back to join him and Isaaru.

The northern sky ignited with a brilliant splash of ruby light, cutting out the shapes of distant towers and terraces against the horizon. Darkness poured back over the city at once, but a few orange splinters were left behind, twinkling like stars of ill-omen. The real stars had vanished, veiled by a skin of cloud thickening into thunderheads to the east: Sin's tracks, an even more ominous reminder.

"Hard to say," Shinra said. "The causeway's on fire. Some rooftops and towers."

There was another soundless explosion, this time spraying the clouds with lime-green light as well as red. A flower of orange and gold blossomed from some high point over the city and began to burn like a beacon-fire. Gippal nudged the steering yoke, angling towards it.

"The Tower of Light," Isaaru guessed, cupping his hands and bowing in prayer. "Yevon grant that we may be in time."

"Macalania," Auron said. "Tell them."

"Oh, right." Shinra pointed straight down, where the gloom seemed more gray than black. There was a faint moving shimmer far below them, the airship's reflection. "It's frozen solid."

"That's how it's supposed to be," Maroda said. "It's always frozen."

Isaaru nodded. "I hope to visit the temple after we've dealt with Cid."

"Unlikely," Shinra said. "The temple's embedded in the ice. My best guess is that Sin thawed the lake, flooded it, and re-froze it. You'd need mining equipment to get down there."

"No!" Isaaru's face contorted in a fleeting spasm. "Captain, we have to help them. Your weapons: have you any with the power to—"

"Belay that," Auron said. "They're already dead."

"It wouldn't work, anyway," Shinra said. "We'd just pulverize the temple."

The summoner wiped his eyes with his sleeve, struggling to master himself. "There was a monastery," he said faintly, "and a score of acolytes. I sent two orphans there just last month to begin their training."

"Sorry, man," Gippal said. "Heck of a way to go."

"Dammit!" Maroda turned on Auron, seething. "You'd better hope your friend dies when we take on Sin, mister. Everyone in Spira's gonna be calling for her execution!"

Auron gave him a stony look and said nothing.

"Maroda," Isaaru said. "Please. The Lady has no choice about Sin's predations, whatever the Cult of Sin may say."

"Like hell she doesn't! She chose to become Sin, right? Now she's choosing her targets! And if you don't think—"

The doors whisked open again. Elma marched onto the flight deck, engaged in a familiar duty. Nooj, whose new artificial limb looked like the modified stock of a rifle, was leaning on her shoulder. If the Crusader felt any discomfort from the grip of cold machina, she concealed it with a wink at Isaaru.

"Report," Nooj said, ignoring the one-sided shouting match between Maroda and Sir Auron.

"Cid took a few pot shots on the way in. Fifteen minutes to intercept." Gippal slapped the intercom again. "Yo, Rikku, the party's leavin' without you."

"Mmmrph," came a sleepy reply. "Vilg oui, Gip."

"Love to, babe, but Wakka'd use my head for a blitzball. Hurry up. Meet the landing party in the hold."

As they descended, the Tower of Light rose high above the citadel at the city's peak, living up to its name in dramatic fashion. Its crown of suspended walkways, the open-air cathedral where Yuna had once been wed in unholy matrimony, was now one vast torch. Flaming debris rained down on the city below, showing fleeting glimpses of domes, flying buttresses, airy promenades and piazzas at many different levels. For once, ordinary men not Sin were to blame for chaos and destruction, but Sin would probably have approved of their chief target.

"Where's Cid?" Nooj said.

"Crash landed," Shinra said. He pointed towards a flicker of green flames and smoke on the far side of the tower. "Northeast sector, right near the temple."

"Crashed?" Elma said, with a rising squeak that betrayed her own fears about their current mode of travel. "You don't think Cid is—"

"It doesn't matter," Nooj said. "Shuyin will seek a new host."

"Doesn't matter?" Gippal said. "Hey, Nooj, Vegnagun may be your first priority, but mine is getting Elder Cid back in one piece."

"Speaking of Vegnagun," Shinra said. "I've got something. Could be important."

Nooj pivoted towards the boy at once. "Let's hear it."

"It's using a pyrefly interface: it can actually read minds at close range. If anyone approaches it with intent to disable it, a robust cascading self-defense program kicks in. It may take aggressive counter-measures or even retreat to the Farplane. That's why Maester Baralai wanted someone working on the problem remotely."

"Not just because you're a genius?" Nooj said.

"That too, of course." Shinra continued pecking away at his workstation. "But I need more time. I'm still analyzing the sphere data he sent us."

"We'll try and buy you that time, kid."

"Translation?" Elma said, listening with a pained frown.

"Don't even think about trying to disable it," Shinra said. "Avoid using weapons near it that could damage it. No high-powered guns. No explosives."

Elma snorted. "No problem there."

"Someone had better sit on Rikku," Gippal said.

They had reached the open water south and west of the capital, where Bevelle's merchant fleet was moored on the southern shore across the straits from the city. By the dim glow of the burning causeway spanning the bay, they could make out the harbor's forest of black masts. Gippal eased the ship down, following the line of the Highbridge all the way in. Ahead, Bevelle rose up behind huge, terraced sea-walls, a manmade mountain fortified with reinforced slopes stout enough to withstand the fearsome attacks of Sin —or of ancient machina. By night, the city gave only a vague impression of looming mass. It was utterly dark, apart from the fires burning on the upper levels.

"Something's wrong," Maroda said. "I can't see any lights."

"That burning tower works pretty well, " Shinra said.

"That's not what I meant," said Maroda.

"Captain Kiyuri," Isaaru said with sudden hope. "If the S.S. Korra risked Sin's waters to convey my warning to Bevelle, she might have reached the city already. Baralai and Shelinda could be preparing for Sin's arrival."

"Seven minutes," Gippal said, banking the ship as a warning sensor gave a shrill chirp. The view around the cockpit abruptly vanished as they plunged into a curtain of smoke. "I'm gonna try to put down in the square behind the tower, near Cid. Get to the hold and find something to hang onto. I'll operate the cargo doors from here."

"Thank you, Captain," Isaaru said. "Good luck."

"And you. Oh...Auron?" Gippal glanced back as they began to file out. "Almost forgot. Your sword's in the first gun rack to the left of the ladder. Sorry I didn't give it to you yesterday: Cid's orders. You guys are so friggin' clueless. Didn't you realize I'd taken you all prisoner?"

"Yes," Auron said.

"Heh. Guess that's one way to see the boss. Now hurry up and go find him!"




Rikku was waiting for them in the hold, scrounging through lockers on the back wall. She tossed Elma a packet from Gippal's stores, then cursed and grabbed a locker frame for support as the ship lurched. "Doesn't anybody know how to fly these things?" she said. "Gippal drives like my brother."

Auron walked over to the nearest rack and set his hand on a familiar grip protruding from the shadows. With a grunt, he drew out the blade whose weight and balance were a part of himself. A new sheath had been tooled to match it: two strips of black metal bolted around an inner leather sleeve, a utilitarian Al Bhed design. The sheath bore no glyphs or decoration, but a crude talisman was bound to the sword's hilt.

"Well, I'll be," Maroda said loudly. "Looks like Auron's girlfriend left her calling card."

"Play nice, boys," Rikku said. "I gotta save my stun grenades for Pops."

"It's a sign, no?" Isaaru said, giving a melancholy smile. "The Lady blesses our endeavor."

Stiffened by seawater, a leather thong had tangled around the hand-guard in a crisscross pattern. A triangle of bone peeped out from the webbing, held fast against the scrollwork that was the sword's only ornamentation. Auron touched the crude likeness of Lulu's face in mute greeting, then slung the sword over his back, anchoring the straps to his belt and gorget.

Elma and Nooj emerged from the freight elevator just as the floor gave a violent shudder. The Crusader managed to keep him on his feet by heaving him against the wall.

"Thanks," Nooj said, wedging his metal arm in the doorframe to steady them.

"Is he trying to get us killed?" Maroda said, wisely staying on the floor where the jolt had thrown him. "This is some ride."

"All Spira must endure a difficult passage, my brother."

"Oh, good grief."

There was another jarring concussion. Air began to whistle loudly through the seals around the loading ramp in the floor.

"Um," Rikku said. "I don't think that's Gippal's fault. That's coming from outside."

"Machina weapons," Nooj said grimly. "Typical Yevon piety."

"Can we take cover somehow?" Elma said. "I don't fancy getting my toes blown off by Maester Baralai's cannons."

"Get in the flyer," Rikku said. "It may not help much, but it's a few more layers of metal."

They staggered and crawled to the small craft strapped to the forward bulkhead. Auron heaved them over the side as the buffeting worsened.

The final minutes of descent were an escalating nightmare. Spilling out of equipment racks, weapons and supply canisters started bouncing around the hold like so many pebbles in a child's rattle. The light panels wavered, then failed, plunging them into harrowing darkness. The party clung to one another desperately as the flyer shook loose from its moorings and began to skitter around the floor. The roar of the engines rose to a deafening crescendo. The hull groaned and boomed under the hail of heavy artillery as if Sin were trying to hammer its way in with its tail. At last, the loading ramp dropped partway open, twisted with a ponderous shriek, and peeled away. Orange light flickered against the ceiling through the breach. From their current position, the helpless passengers could not tell the size of the rupture, but the squeal of wind and metal suggested that it was growing larger by the second. They had no way to know whether the ship's violent pitching was the pilot's attempt at evasive action, or loss of control as the vessel began to tear itself apart.

With a final, wallowing shudder, the ship slowed and came to a swaying stop, miraculously still aloft. The barrage of weapons fire continued, but it had changed from the thudding of shells to the crackle of bullets, some of them rattling around in the hold.

"Will you guys just cut it out?" Rikku shouted, her shrill voice piercing through the din. "D'you want to get your own maester killed? We've got Isaaru!"

The clatter of gunfire died away. Groans, curses, and the creak of the ship's joints filled the jangling silence as the battered group lay stunned in the bed of the flyer, too numb to move or speak.

A woman's voice boomed out from below. "You have five minutes to surrender, or we'll kill Elder Cid."

"Paine?" Nooj said, stirring feebly under the ceiling panel that had fallen across them. "It seems Fate is toying with us."


Next Chapter: Juno
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Date: 2009-06-10 10:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jlsigman.livejournal.com
Wait, wait, Paine's with... oh shit, if she's got Cid, does she...

HAO:ID o;bdxigup9naetch.kajcbv .SJfbg paidgbj

You slay me in the best way.

Date: 2009-06-11 04:14 am (UTC)
ext_445365: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mandyiam.livejournal.com
Why do I get this feeling that Paine is Shuyin's new host?

You got me at the edge of my chair excited for the next chapter.

Date: 2009-06-11 05:59 am (UTC)
ext_79737: (plot device)
From: [identity profile] auronlu.livejournal.com
*whistles innocently*

Oh, I suppose I had better write the next chapter then...

Date: 2009-06-16 04:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cutie-aoide.livejournal.com
WHOA! I know this is left field but I kinda hope her and Baralai are working together in Bevell (and going out! >_>). I also have to wonder...with how much Elma drank from his jug and how much he's been drinking, you think that jug has any more juice left? He's gonna run out soon! lol

I love the whole story. I'm so glad you're still writing for 10 (and you're writing about my favorite couple. Even more of a plus for me!). Everybody else left and I just miss reading fic of this game so much. Good luck writing the next chapters. I bet they take a while to write with how much detail you put into it.

Date: 2009-06-16 05:49 am (UTC)
ext_79737: (Default)
From: [identity profile] auronlu.livejournal.com
The next chapter is indeed giving me a bit of a headache. It's hard to hang onto tone, suspense, and keep all my ducks in a row with so much happening.

Thanks so much for the comment! I try not to notice how many or how few comments, but I gotta admit, it's easier to keep writing when I know I've got readers! :)

"her and Baralai" -- I thought you meant Elma, but yeah, Paine and Baralai are old friends at this point, although if they ever dated, it didn't last. Sorry. I'm too used to seeing Nooj and Paine together, courtesy of a lot of good fanfic by [livejournal.com profile] owlmoose, although in this story they have not seen each other since Nooj shot her.

Date: 2009-06-16 06:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cutie-aoide.livejournal.com
Oops! Sorry about that. I forgot to add Paine's name in there. And I never thought about Nooj and Paine before. I guess since there's not a whole lot of fics between them I never gave it a thought, but I will now. They do seem to fit! I'm gonna give that author a shot. Thanks for recommending.

And btw, I do know that's alcohol in the jug if you misunderstood that too >_>. I just said juice because...well...it just came naturally for me and I usually refer to drinks like that here. lol

I also feel that way with comments too back when I was writing, so I completely understand. I am amazed how you kept updating your stories over on your adultfanfiction.net account with barely any comments. I think that place has the fewest reviewers I have ever seen overall. I used to think because it was an adult site but I'm not really sure anymore. People should review more. I have to say those fics over on your account are wonderfully written too. It's been a while for me but do I have to have an account to review? If so, I don't mind doing that. I just wanted you to know that you have a fan over there! ^_^

Date: 2009-06-16 06:56 am (UTC)
ext_79737: (Default)
From: [identity profile] auronlu.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you so much!
I think you can post anonymous reviews. Much appreciated.

And yep, I knew what you meant by juice. :)

His last refill was in Kilika, from that woman, Kulukan, who runs the pub (yes, I HAVE played this game too often). I don't think Auron's normally much of a drinker, nothing like Jecht, but he's... having a bad night. He may run out!

Finally my PC's up and running!

Date: 2009-06-17 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vandevere.livejournal.com
It looks to me like everyone's in a bit of a sticky wicket right now. Paine's got Cid, and just how i things will blow over-or up-is a mystery...

Vandevere

Date: 2009-07-04 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cumuluscastle.livejournal.com
An ingenious way to dispose of Macalania Temple, and very sobering.

I like Shinra's assessment of how Vegnagun functions and I think Nooj's disturbing tendency to overlook the human side of conflicts is accurate to his character.

Ahaha - I like Gippal's comment that someone will have to sit on Rikku to keep her from exploding things.

I also highly enjoy Rikku's comment about airship pilots.

You're very good at details as well. You know when description is important and when you use it, you use it very clearly and are an expert at creating clear images.

The Paine twist is a good and heart-wrenching one.

Date: 2009-07-05 01:35 am (UTC)
ext_79737: (Default)
From: [identity profile] auronlu.livejournal.com
"I think Nooj's disturbing tendency to overlook the human side of conflicts is accurate to his character."

This would not be the first time you've picked up something I had put into writing, but not picked up on myself. Thank you. It is tiny details like that which allow me to help keep the characters in their own voices!

Re: Rikku's comment about airship pilots... even some of the jokes serve plot in this story. I needed to drop another passing reference to Brother and the Celsius. *sly grin*

And Isaaru's reaction to Macalania Temple is a bit more emotional than usual partly because he's got a habit of wanting to drop his main mission and help out when he sees a crisis. Maroda complained about it in game, and I had Auron take him to task for it a couple times in this story. Also, he's now got Anima's fayth as a hitchhiker. With my minor in depth psychology (Jung, Freud), I can't help but think of the Fayth riding around inside summoners like unconscious complexes that become "conscious" when they manifest as aeons. ;)
Edited Date: 2009-07-05 01:47 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-11-01 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cumuluscastle.livejournal.com
Probably it's details like that last one of aeon's affecting summoners' minds that help you write such wonderfully complex characters.

Date: 2009-07-21 04:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muggy-mountain.livejournal.com
Damn, the action! I'm sorry it took me so long to read this -- I'm not going to blame it on the X-2ness of it, mind you. But the action! You write it so well -- lush with grounding details, but never clogged by them. It's a nice balance.

And the bits of other emotion sprinkled in there, the sadness and the humor, only serves to grip the reader further. Very nice.

Paine!

Date: 2009-08-30 02:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trekqueen.livejournal.com
uhoh don't mess with Paine! She's Lulu and Auron rolled into one!

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