Disclaimer: I do not own Star Ocean or its Characters.
Note: To avoid tiresome story line, I have integrated it into the first part of this as flashbacks which are in italics. This is one of the shortest chapters, but I wanted to post it while I could…it's taken a while just to get this little bit out.
Star Ocean: The Untold Story
Chapter 19: When Building Emotions Collide
"They're the emissaries of 'the Creator.'" Fayt reported.
Commodore Wittcomb shifted uneasily. "So you're saying it IS the Creator? Nonsense…"
"I don't blame you for being skeptical, but that's what my father believed."
She had to wonder about this creator. Whoever he was – assuming it was a he – was a mystery outside her grasp. Someone had created everything. The universe, planets, plants, dirt…and even life. Not only was it hard for her to believe that everything had been created by a tangible being, but how could that someone create so many beautiful things and want to destroy it all?
She compared him to the most logical of references – herself. When she created a meal she put though and love into it. She would never dream of discarding the food before others were fed! Her creations were dear to her. It was obvious that this 'creator' merely saw them as disposable objects.
"Commodore, we need to travel to the planet Styx, where we can enter a realm known as 4D space, where the Creator resides. According to my father, it's a different dimension than ours, so time won't progress at the same time as it does here. In fact, the concept of time itself will not apply in 4D space. We're hoping that once we're there, we'll find some way to defeat the Creator and save us all."
"But isn't there a possibility that by defeating the Creator, you will also destroy his creation and all of us with it?" Commodore Wittcomb didn't hesitate to voice the fears Sophia had been questioning herself.
Maria spoke next, installing hope. "I don't think that'll be a problem. In fact, I believe defeating the Creator will free us from his hand and enable us to live in absolute freedom."
From the window the stars kept a stationary stance as the Aquaelie sped through space. Her eyes darted from one star to another as if they all held secrets vital to their success.
Would he let them go? It was more likely he would take them out with him – assuming he was defeated. Her innocence had died when she had found herself on a foreign planet and in the middle of a war. She had learned quickly that war followed its own rules. This was war. It was them versus the creator. She had no doubt he would fight. He had already sent his troupes out to fight and the consequences for their failure was death. Surely someone so heartless wouldn't simply give in to the enemy. No! He would kill them or die trying.
This was war. One side would win – one side would die. If they lost then everyone would die. So many innocent people would vanish. If they won, he would have to die.
Even in the loss of her innocence, death of any kind was wrong to her.
Lieutenant Fields' voice etched horror into everyone within hearing range. "The Executioners are moving against our final line of defense!"
As the group watched, the final line of defense along with some federation ships were caught up in flames – immediately destroyed.
"The Executioners have reached our final line of defense. They are now approaching the Earth at warp speed 12. We are reading a strong energy emission, Magnitude 3. Projected target point New York. Raise planetary defense shield to maximum!" Frantically a female called from somewhere behind Sophia. She didn't turn to find who it was. Her vision was locked on the screen in front of her.
The Executioners' beams hit the Earth's shield. Her breath caught in her throat.
"Section #1, #2 and #8 systems are down!"
"Shield's down to 35 efficiency! All systems are down!"
Another round of fire was sent straight at Earth. Despite her intense want to turn away, she couldn't. Her planet…her home was under attack.
"A powerful energy emission is coming from the enemy Executioner. The reaction is an excess Magnitude of 3. No wait, Magnitude 4.5 There's no stopping it!"
Admiral Hermes caught his breath and raged in anger and despair. "Is this, the will of the Creator? Is our sin is so…so unforgivable?"
She watched helpless as the Executioner's beams hit Earth. Her knees faltered but she managed her balance before plummeting to the floor. Her breath was erratic; matching the rhythm of her heart.
She caught a small, very faint, moan from Albel. He had stationed himself behind her and was watching intently. Though the technology around him was new, he had accepted it quicker than she had anticipated.
His moan resonated through her. She wasn't sure if he was echoing her feelings or if he realized Elicoor could meet the same fate.
More likely he was contemplating Elicoor's future. Yet, no matter how he tried to hide it, she knew he cared the best he could for her. It was possible he was responding to her emotions. He knew her well enough to understand she was in total turmoil.
Commodore Wittcomb was spouting commands before she could grasp any order from the chaos. "Calculate a course for evading their attack! Once we are out of the combat zone, proceed to Styx at max warp!"
"Yes, sir!" Lieutenant Fields paused only a moment before speaking again. "Course calculated! 112654.774!"
"Good! Get us out of the combat zone, top speed!"
Lieutenant Fields briefly acknowledged the commodore; guiding the Aquaelie to a safer area. "No enemies detected in the present area."
"Right. Looks like we've escaped them for now." Commodore Wittcomb move gracefully as he faced Fayt. "You all should get a little more rest."
They had fled and she was never able to find out how Earth faired. Was it destroyed or only damaged? Could it be repaired or was it lost forever?
"Sophia? I thought I might find you here."
Keeping her back to Fayt, she quickly swept the tears from her eyes. "Oh, yeah. I tried to sleep but I had a bad dream. There's a lot going on. Almost too much at once."
He moved to stand beside her. He looked out the window briefly before tilting his head to her. "It is a lot and we're…"
His mouth spread into a melancholy smile. "Yeah, we're kids. But that's not all we are. We're a team and dare I say the only hope for our universe. As long as we keep sight of everything we cherish then I'm sure we'll win."
She shook her head slightly. "Fayt…This is war. You hear me? War! We're fighting for our lives. The gravity of this situation is not to be taken lightly. We have to win."
She stared hard into his eyes. The boy she had known had grown a considerable amount, but he was still far from being a man.
His lips trembled in hesitation. "Sophia…I'm sorry. You were always carefree. Your simple life had been turned so far up-side-down that it will never be the same. I wish…"
She cut him off rudely. "Sorry? What are you sorry for?" Perhaps it was his pity or his nature to take the blame for things beyond his control. Either way, she was angry. "This is no time for self pity and meaningless apologies. Did you not hear me! I don't care how my life is going to be when this is over. Right now my focus is on winning. After that I'll worry about what to do next. I suggest you change your mindset. If you are going to 'lead' us then you need confidence. Try to be a little more like Maria."
Before he could blink she was gone. Her feet set determined footsteps as she treaded uncaring down the hall. Then, halfway down the corridor, she stopped.
She didn't understand why she had blown up at Fayt. Perhaps it was stress and her own uncertainty that caused the outburst. Images of her time with the soldiers in Airyglyph haunted her. Though the men were not threatening to her, they never apologized when she was struck down in training. They would help her up and continue their fake assault. Fayt was a long way from being a soldier.
And as she thought about it – so was she.
She turned to make her way back and attempt to mend things. She shouldn't have yelled at him. He was trying to help her. She would go and talk to him. It was her turn to apologize.
Only one problem. Albel had taken residence in the hallway and blocked her path to Fayt.
The tears that had lingered in the backs of her eyes ceased almost immediately. She didn't know if it was the look on his face, completely approving, or the fact that he stood squarely in the middle of the hall; but she didn't want to look weak.
"A-Albel? How long have you been there?"
He rested his weight to one side, crossing his arms. "Long enough."
She set her own feet firm and pressed her lips together. She really wasn't in the mood for his tactics right now. If she allowed him to, she would ask all the questions and he would answer just enough to suit his morbid satisfaction. He would reveal that he knew something, but neglect to state it straight out.
She stared at him for a long minute; but his defenses were impenetrable.
"And?" she finally asked.
He snorted in what she dared to think was pride.
She sighed, massaging her forehead. "You heard it all, huh?"
Her only response was a smirk. Oh sure, he would like to hear someone like her put Fayt in his place. The only problem was that she was the one who overstepped her boundaries. She had been too harsh and Fayt was just being…well, just being Fayt.
"Alright, so you are obviously happy about it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I need to get back and apologize."
She took a step forward, but he didn't budge.
"Apologize for what?"
She moved to the right side, determined to get around him. He responded by mirroring her steps.
"Look, let me through."
She straightened up, planting her hands firmly on her hips. "Why?" she demanded.
"I won't allow you to apologize for doing nothing wrong. Was that not part of what you said to him? This is no time for self pity and meaningless apologies." He shot her own words back at her.
"Because it wasn't right!"
"Oh," he spoke softly, countering her elevated tone. "And why would it be wrong?"
"What I did…what I said wasn't nice."
"It was true."
"Might have been, but it wasn't the right way to say it."
"Oh, and how's that?"
"Because it wasn't what I would say. I was angry and it's not like me to yell like that. Especially when he was only trying to help."
"Not like you?" he mocked. "How could it not be like you when it is something you just did? You just did it and therefore you have it in you. Try and fight it, little girl, but we all have a dark side. Your dark side is only starting to blossom."
He wasn't morbid. He was just evil! How could he say something like that? There he was, talking about a person's dark side as if it were a flower. Flowers were fragrant and dainty – beautiful and symbols of life. And he just spoke to her with a voice full of pride over that!?
But he was also telling the truth. She had a dark side. She didn't often encounter it, but it was there. It had been there as long as she could remember. It was her company on the days the taunting from her school mates never seemed to stop. It was there during those times she could feel it pressing against her, begging to be set free. Her control over it had weakened and it had broken free only once before – the day Vox died.
She suddenly felt sick as the memory of that day echoed in her mind. She was ready to kill that man. If the Vendeeni hadn't, she would have.
Bile rose in her throat and it took all her strength to turn from him and retreat. She may look weak by running, but if she stayed it would have been much worse. And she knew if she relieved herself in front of him, he would never look at her with pride again.
He let a soft growl resonate from his throat as he watched her flee. Such a sudden change shocked and angered him. He had suspected she would argue more, passionate that she had no dark side. Instead, she seemed to accept it and it frightened her.
He had hoped that after hearing her encounter with the maggot that she had decided to grow more of a back bone. As reluctant as he was to even admit it to himself, he cared. For a while in Airyglyph he had felt a welcomed responsibility of protecting her. It was his home turf and she was…innocent. It had been a long time since he had felt such a presence of innocence. But that also made her an easy target.
Vox had honed in on her and in the end she was left to face him without his help. He had felt defeated. The right to challenge Vox had been his; but she had stolen it away from him. Not that he begrudged her for it. He would have done the same. Still, it was his world and his fight.
And now he was in her world. Only, her world wasn't as she had left it. There were hardships in hard numbers waiting for her. He wanted the chance to redeem the fight he lost on Elicoor. So he stayed close to her to repay a debt she didn't even know existed. She had faced Vox in his absence and he waited for the opportunity to face something equally demanding in her absence.
The longer he waited for that moment to come, the more he thought. He was a seasoned soldier and knew anything could go wrong. If something went awry, she needed to be able to protect herself. He might not be capable and it would defeat the purpose for her to perish.
Her outburst against the maggot had shown him that she was along that path.
But then…then she counters it by running away! She contradicted herself completely. How could he hope to understand and protect such an unpredictable creature?
After he had stood there long enough to feel his legs grow stiff, he turned on his heels and walked the opposite direction from which she had fled. Wide green eyes encountered him around the next corner.
Before the boy could speak, he snapped out at him. "Spying now?"
Fayt huffed. "Why are you so hard on her?"
Oh how he was tempted to take his frustration out on the boy right then. Taking a deep breath, he set to calming himself. He might be known as a tyrant, but he wasn't an idiot. The boy, as undeserving as he was, was an ally.
"Someone needs to be. You heard her; this is war. There's no place for the weak here. If she's to survive she needs to grow up."
"She shouldn't even be here. She's done nothing to deserve any of this."
"Oh? And does anyone deserve to be forced to fight? Perhaps you think your Aquarian friend deserves to be here since she is a soldier. Or I for that matter. Do you think we chose to go to war?"
"No we didn't," Nel spoke solemnly, making her presence known. "For once, I'm incline to agree with Albel."
There was a long moment of silence.
"I guess you're both right. I just hope there's something left of the Sophia I've always known when this is all over."
Cliff strolled up, examining everyone in the room. He had been late in arriving and hadn't heard the previous exchange. His eyes darted between Nel and Albel who stood facing each other with Fayt in the middle.
"Um…meeting of the minds?"
"Something like that," Fayt responded with a fringed chuckle.
Cliff nodded. "Good, 'cause I don't think the Commodore would like blood shed on his ship."
As if on cue, an announcement from Wittcomb echoed across the internal speakers. "We've arrived in the sector surrounding Styx, but there's a problem. Report to the bridge, please."
"Huh? What now?" Cliff looked up before making his way to the bridge.
"I'll go get Sophia."
"No," Nel said, blocking Fayt. "I'll go get her. Right now she might need a female."
"Alright Nel, I'll leave it to you."
"Humph, no time to think before being summoned to the bridge…Just my luck."
Sophia had just settled on her bed when the announcement rang out. She shook her head to dislodge the rest of her nausea as she stood. She had, so she thought, dealt with the sudden urge to regurgitate rather well. But right now, the last thing she wanted was to be around a group.
Well, we don't always get what we want. Not to mention Albel would either be right there behind her, as always, or avoiding her. She wasn't sure which one would irritate her more.
Emotions were so sporadic and hard to control. With a quick burst, she started to realize why Albel was so cut off, Maria was so ridged, Mirage so calm and Nel so to-the-point. Each confronted their emotions in their own way. All she had to do was find a way that worked for her. Her own way.
Exiting the room she was so lost in thought that she nearly collided with Nel.
"Oh, sorry 'bout that."
For a few steps neither spoke. Nel faced straight ahead, glancing from time to time at her comrade. Sophia was doing her best to keep her head up, but her hands balled together at her chest.
"There's no need for apprehension. You've made progress. Keep your esteem high."
Sophia smiled softly at her. "Thanks, but I'm not sure I'll be much help."
Nel paused, raising her eyebrow. "Oh, and how is that?"
"I'm not a very good fighter." Sophia's hands moved to twirl a single strand of hair continuously. "Out of all of us, I'm the least likely to win a fight. Even Peppita has more fighting skills than I do."
Nel hummed softly. "So you think since you do not wield a sharp weapon or do not run head first into the heart of a battle you are not a fighter?"
"Something like that."
Nel extended her hand, resting it on Sophia's shoulder. "You have your own strength. Your runology is just as strong, if not stronger than Adray's. You are a long ranged fighter, but a fighter none the less. You don't have to charge in to win a fight and it's not cowardly to stay on the side lines and fight from there. In fact, it's a very smart tactic."
Sophia inhaled deeply. "Yeah, I guess so."
Resuming her walk, Nel waited until Sophia was back in step with her. "There are others in our group that are trying to help you. Their…methods might not indicate such, but they are."
Sophia didn't have to inquire; she was pretty sure she knew who the soldier was talking about. "You heard, huh?"
"Not all of it, but enough. When it comes to fighting, there's nothing subtle about him. But, when he's trying to actually extend his help in a non-violent way it's hard for him. I might be at odds with him, but he was a former enemy. I've studied all possible threats during the war and he was one of them." She glanced at the younger girl. "It might not be big steps, but he's changing; and for the better I think."
Sophia stopped at the door to the bridge. "Then, I'll just have to do my best…For everyone."
Nel smiled, moving just enough to allow Sophia to enter the bridge first.
(A/N) Not much story line, but a critical encounter…Sophia encounters her emotions, Albel encounters some of his motives, and several of the crew encounter each other in a way to broaden the story.