DISCLAIMER: Bleh bleh, the setting belongs to Squaresoft and so does Irvine, but both Pytor Capanni and the story itself belong to me and if you want to steal either of them please ask first.
WARNING: The story as a whole involves yaoi/shounen ai, but the only specific warning in this chapter relates to the one bad word expressed (twice) by Irvine when he finally realises what's happening. This takes place immediately after Chapter Nine. Chapter Ten intruded because I thought this was going to happen a couple of days later, but then I realised that that made no sense whatsoever.
Chapter Eleven - Of the Tarantulas
As the car pulled away Irvine drew in a breath, but before he could speak Capanni said, "I'll have one of my men take your luggage to your quarters."
"That's kind of you, but I'll hang onto my gun, if you don't mind."
"Not at all."
Capanni looked about to lead him into the command office but appeared to decide against it. "I need to run our plan past you. I'm thinking that the best way to do that would be to ask you to inspect the tools you'll be using. If that's all right with you...?" He left it hanging.
"That's fine." Working with these guys might not be so bad. He seems anxious to make me feel welcome, at least. Now just don't ask me to wade through SeeDs on my way to kill anyone...
"This way, then." But Capanni did not lead him towards the building he had identified as an armoury or towards the one he was sure housed explosives but past the complex of buildings, towards the cliffs. Irvine immediately started wondering what pieces of expensive equipment would be kept outside when there were several perfectly good alternatives. He was fairly sure there were no more buildings back here. He'd had a fairly good view on the drive in. Maybe Capanni meant an aeroplane? If so, he was a fool not to have specified a SeeD who could fly one.
But the mystery was solved when they rounded the corner and Irvine saw the crack in the hillside. These guys hadn't just found a secluded valley for their base, but one with a cave system in it. "Lucky I'm not claustrophobic," he remarked.
"That's true. Mind your head." Capanni nodded to the man who stood on guard beside the dark tunnel, then led the way into the cliff itself.
The lights dotted along the tunnel illuminated the way brightly. Irvine ducked under the low doorway and followed Capanni into the cave - no, it wasn't a cave, more like an abandoned mine. The roof was shored up altogether too carefully for it to be just a cave. When he sniffed at the air it smelt fresh and clean. He could feel a breeze on his face coming from somewhere up ahead. The old vents were working well. He could see how Capanni's people could make use of somewhere like this. Underground, securable, probably weatherproof in places, perfect for hiding anything in.
"Watch your footing here," the WFFC leader called back to him. He acknowledged Capanni and started paying attention to the admittedly broken-up ground at the bend in the passage.
"What happened here?" he asked, staring at the nastily scraped walls. The marks on the rocks looked like they'd been made with an animal's claws - or, he corrected himself, they would on any other surface. A glacier could have done something like this but the marks were too fresh, hardly weathered at all. Had to be mining equipment.
But Capanni answered, "You'll find out," with half a smile for Irvine as the SeeD rounded the bend to join him. "I'd like to introduce you to our master plan."
And Irvine stopped, unable to move.
He was standing on a viewing platform at the top of a natural staircase. He stared down into the deep cavern in front of him, carved out of solid rock by several aeons' worth of rainfall. Light filtered down through the large hole in the ceiling to illuminate the monstrosity sleeping in the centre of the cavern floor.
Its six legs, each joint longer than Irvine was tall, were curled underneath it as it dozed peacefully, its enormous head on one side. The light glinted off its silvery skin and highlighted the reddish-brown markings on its membranous wings. Massive muscles rhythmically clenched and unclenched, and the jaws parted briefly in a yawn, displaying stained, cracked, fist-sized teeth that could sever a man's arm. Far away, a rockfall pierced the silence of the cave complex, and the gargantuan ears automatically turned towards the source of the noise, acute despite the creature's unconsciousness. The tree trunk tail thumped twice, as if to acknowledge that the sound had been heard and the input processed, before stillness resumed.
Irvine's throat was dry. His hand gripped Exeter's trigger as he lost himself in flashes of the past. Struggling down that shaft to the ocean bed only to find a monster that would not let them leave Battleship Island without a horrendous fight. The tolling of the bell in Ultimecia Castle, and the realisation that it might well have tolled for him that came only when they were already engaged in a fight they could not escape. The Light Pillar that had burnt Squall to the bone and thrown him halfway across the room. The Terra Break attack that had knocked down three Guardian Forces and their summoners. A death that had been closer than ever before, and the flash of the feathers of the Phoenix that had been their only salvation.
Capanni cleared his throat. Only then did Irvine realise he'd whispered the word aloud. The jolt back to reality hit him like a bucket of iced water; "What the fuck is this?" he demanded, whirling to face the rebel leader. "What game do you think you're playing?"
"No game. This is very serious. And I wouldn't raise your voice; it probably won't waken at such a tiny stimulus, but you never know."
"You -" Irvine stopped talking and got a grip on himself. "OK," he said, more calmly. "You tell me what you know of that, and I'll tell you what I know of it."
"You aren't here to order me. I tell you what to do, and I'll thank you to remember it."
Irvine kept hold of himself by the smallest of margins. "That - thing - is more dangerous than I could ever tell you. Do you know what it is? It's a Weapon! They're almost impossible to kill -"
"I know that. When we first found it, we lost twenty men to it; the rocks got scratched when it tried to chase us out of there. But when we left it alone and stopped trying to kill it, it fell asleep again." He studied Irvine. "When did you face one?"
"Twice during the last Sorceress War."
"Now you mention it I remember: I heard you were involved with - Leonhart - and his colleagues. Where did you find the other Weapons?"
Irvine forced his temper to stay steady. There was something in Capanni's voice when he'd said Squall's name that made him want to shoot him then and there. "One was on Battleship Island, in an abandoned research facility. The other - I can't tell you where it was because I don't know. Somewhere outside space and time."
"Interesting. You know what the Weapons are?"
"Monsters, but not the normal kind that come from the Lunar Cry. They originate from this planet. But they first lived millions of years ago, before there were humans." Capanni stared down at the Weapon below him like his gaze was magnetically attracted to it. "A few - a very few - scientists have made a study of them. Maybe ten million years ago, they went into hibernation to escape an ice age. Almost all of them never woke.
"But they do not function like normal animals. In particular they do not require food during their time in suspended animation; they can absorb vital nutrients from the soil, through their skin. This enabled a small number of Weapons to survive, even to the present day." He gestured into the cave. "Like that one." He was silent for a moment, then added, "Once they start to hunt, they do not rest or sleep till they have completed their task. They cannot be stopped except by killing them or by drawing them to an easier prey."
"What does this have to do with you and me and Galbadia?" Don't answer me. Don't tell me what thoughts have crossed your twisted mind.
"It has nothing to do with Galbadia - yet. I don't want to destroy Galbadia. I want it whole. No, Eternity Weapon has a better use - to destroy the only external threat we face. Esthar."
Capanni continued like he hadn't noticed Irvine's reaction, "It is sluggish and sleeps deeply when it is content. But when provoked it still chases its prey. Your task will be this. You will fly a small aeroplane into this cavern, wake Eternity Weapon by dropping a low-power bomb on it, and when you have its attention you will leave here and head west across the ocean to Esthar. The Weapon flies, but not well, so you should be able to stay ahead of it but easily within its sight. When you approach Esthar City, you will land at the Airstation and take a car out of the city, which the Weapon should attack believing you have gone to ground there. We predict it will cause massive destruction. Then we will threaten to draw it to Deling City unless Salvador agrees to let me take over Galbadia."
And that's something to be happy about? Irvine stared at him for a moment, then started working out what he could do to avert disaster. Top of the list was temporarily staying in Capanni's good books. "You'd have done better asking SeeD for an experienced pilot. My speciality is sniping. I take it you'll have someone teach me to fly."
"Of course," he waved away the question. "We have an appropriate flight simulator, and an experienced tutor for you." Irvine resisted the temptation to ask the obvious question of why the tutor couldn't take the mission instead. He was an outsider, and therefore expendable: ideal for a mission that verged on suicide. Capanni's gaze suddenly fixed on Irvine's face. "When we go back upstairs you'll go straight to your teacher. Your time should be wholly occupied for the rest of the week before the strike is scheduled to start."
Fuck! That's all I need. Can't even escape to warn anyone. No chance he'll let me near a phone or a radio. He'll probably set a guard on me till it's time to go. For a moment Irvine considered killing him and going to ground in the cave; but that would never work. The rebels would block the entrance and starve him out, even if Eternity Weapon didn't wake up and decide to have him for lunch. We didn't save the world just to let this happen. I can't let him destroy Esthar!
I've got to wreck the mission - but I can't. If I refuse to do it he'll kill me and get someone else to take up the plane. There isn't anywhere I can lead it to where it won't do damage. I'll have to let it catch me mid-air over the ocean. It'll kill me. Hyne, why me?
If Capanni saw the panic in Irvine's eyes he didn't show it. He just beckoned for him to leave the cave. Irvine obeyed, barely able to clamp down on his fear. He knew he had to stop the plan going ahead, even if it meant losing his life. That didn't matter, any more than the fact that he would be expelled from SeeD for mutiny if he succeeded in his task did. He couldn't let Pytor Capanni's megalomania destroy civilisation.
(to be continued...)
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