Setting 23: 1810 DAY 23, Esthar Palace Command Center 2F
"I consider chaos a gift."
- Clark, Septima
"Close the gap before he gets away!" Kiros shouted.
He chased the Vysage as it slid out of the command center and into the hall. The four Estharian guards stationed in the corridor fell upon the Earth-based creature and tried to pound it into rubble before it disappeared back into the ground.
Kiros was ready to wrap his dreadlocks around his neck and hang himself from one of the posts over the balcony.
It had been just over a week since he and Ward had last seen the President, and an administrative hell beyond their redemption had since broken loose. In nearly two decades of service to the President, he had indulged in the popular misconception that the Commander-in-chief's duties were limited to writing off checks and otherwise pushing papers around. As the aides, his and Ward's clerical skills had degenerated to the grueling responsibility of straightening stacks of paper and stapling others together. He did not realize that Laguna actually had to go through each of those sheets that comprised the towering heap, organize, edit, and prioritize them. After eight days of filling in the presidential shoes, Kiros was going blind on paperwork and suffering from a premature version of rheumatism in his writing arm, even though the meds assured him that he had nothing to worry about, being in his thirties.
As annoying as Loire was to have around, Kiros would have wandered through Centra, trudged across the Kashkabald Desert, and fought his way through Odin's Tower and past the damned Tonberry squad just to rescue Laguna and put him back in his padded presidential seat and give him the presidential pen that they had they had to refill with ink daily.
Sadly, though, the contact they left at Winhill to watch over Laguna had reported the same thing about his condition each day- that he was still in a coma. If he truly believed Laguna was wily enough to think it up. Besides, if he had actually come up with that idea, he would have used it the year he found out that Squall was born. Instead, he basically gave Ward a vacation from shuffling sheets in the copy room to Balamb. Kiros was still feeling jilted about that age-old display of favoritism.
In my experience, Kiros recalled gloomily, whenever Laguna gets hurt, he takes forever to get better, which means I'm going to be here for a while.
Raine ought to have been better acquainted with those facts than he was. She nursed Laguna, a complete stranger, for months at her own expense before he finally caught up with the lazy bum and set him straight- either leave the girl or marry her. It took quite a few walks around the hill before he beat it through Laguna's thick skull that those were the only two honorable options available to him.
Doing both was not on Kiros' list of recommendations, but then again, Laguna could never do anything right. If anything, overdoing things was his forté.
Kiros had actually been pushing for Laguna to just thank her and leave Winhill. Having suffered enough with Ward to know, he did not honestly want to see another human life dragged down by Laguna, especially when he had his own conscious choices had an influence on the matter. He was thus not particularly thrilled about his warnings being ignored and having to accompany Laguna to the pawnshop and watch him pawn off everything of value, including the signed photograph he had of Julia Heartilly, just to pay for a set of wedding rings. Kiros was not aware that the best man's privileges included picking out the ring designs for the bride and groom, but that day Laguna had been very persuasive and convinced him that it was so, that indecisive loafer.
Kiros stopped in front of the white marker board hanging on the wall directly across from the doorway to the Command Center. It had been his and Ward's inside joke to keep it there and write down what redeeming qualities Raine could have possibly seen in Laguna that would induce her to marry him whenever one came to mind.
After eighteen years, the board was still blank.
Kiros took a rare moment of leisure to scrutinize corner where a brown smudge in the form of a fingerprint rested.
That little prick whom they had so democratically delegated to be the President of unlimited terms in office without any prior electoral process had been sneaking chocobolates into the office again and eating them in secret so he did not have to share with the rest of them.
A cry for help interrupted his thoughts.
"Sir," one of the palace staff alerted him, "Vysages, Elnoyles, and Toromas have infiltrated the palace."
"And reports are stilling pouring in from the rest of the city, sir," the man behind him added.
Ever since Esthar had been stricken by a severe and anomalous energy drain a few days ago, intermittent loss of power on each of their power grids had been occurring more and more frequently. Not only did the municipal cloaking device fail during each of these lapses, but the forcefield as well. Monsters had been able to gain access to the city and were running wild in the unlit streets and terrorizing the incapacitated public. Their best electricians had been baffled at why the electrical shorts, energy fluxes, and power surges were occurring.
"If this continues, Kiros," one of the council members had cautioned him at the last assembly, "Esthar will see anarchy and its neighborhoods will begin to form local militias."
The situation had already forced his hand in sending the Royal Guard into the civilian war zone to dispel some of the larger threats. He and Ward had put a hold on declaring a state of martial law until they had Laguna's input, which was for the time being unavailable.
Now faced with multiple appeals for assistance, Kiros reached for emergency intercom speaker and tried to get a hold of Ward. After his announcement, he radioed in for a reserve squadron of the Estharian army, stretched as it was, to secure whatever district was screaming its head off the loudest at that time for government aid yet again.
He then ran down the stairs in the direction of Dr. Odine's laboratory. He had great faith in the good doctor's abilities to figure out the cause of the problem and find a solution. He also felt, after looking over the past week's electricity bill, that it was rather fishy that the lab was the only place in the palace that had been able to run on an uninterrupted, regulated supply of energy through their crisis.
Kiros found Odine scrambling in and out of his private laboratory as if he were busier than everyone else in the palace. This saved him the trouble of having to barge in on the doctor with the golden all-pass code that Laguna had furnished his presidential aides.
"Vat?" the oddity of a scientist asked when he detected Kiros' presence.
Kiros smirked, remembering the forty-minute discussion the board digressed into about paying for a voice modulator to countervail Odine's cacophonous accent. In the end, it was decided that the only way they would possibly prioritize it high enough to put it on the budget plan would be to hide some other project they spent the Gil on from the public eye upon its publication.
"I know vat you are sinking, Kivos," Odine cut into his argument pre-emptively, "and you should sink again. It is not Odine who is messing vit ze power."
"Can you find out what is causing it then?" Kiros beseeched him. You took the words right out of my mouth, you old fart.
Odine grabbed a box overflowing with manila folders and loose pages and dropped it just outside his door in the hallway.
"It is too elementary for one such as myself to deal vith," he huffed. "Send a first-year electrical engineer, vhy don't you?"
With that derogatory recommendation, he gave Kiros the finger and disappeared back into his lab, taking care to shut the door after him so Kiros would not follow.
Kiros cracked his knuckles but restrained himself. One day, when Odine had gone senile and the board could no longer justify why it was better to keep him around, he was going to enjoy seeing the doctor off.
Kiros bent down to examine the contents of the box that Odine had deposited at his feet for the janitor to take to incinerator. It was a mélange of ancient files and reports, mostly about Ellone which Adel had commissioned him to write up. That also meant that they were now all obsolete.
Kiros shook his head in disappointment and threw down the dusty folders he had been thumbing through. He had not seen Ellone for three weeks. The captain of the Estharian cruiser they sent to Winhill had reported that there were no passengers at the stop. He and Ward had gone back to Winhill to rendezvous with Laguna and do some further investigating, but his condition and Esthar's own emergencies had cut their mission short and utterly incomplete. Ward had no luck contacting the White SeeD ship to inform them that Ellone was missing, probably because the White SeeDs did not want to be found, and possibly because Ellone was with them.
Kiros had a soft spot for that girl that he could proudly admit. Most of the country did too, being all too familiar with Adel's ruthless programs to hunt down Ellone before Laguna took office. She had only been a child then.
Not that she isn't a child now, Kiros reconsidered, thinking about Laguna's eternal kid-niece.
He could not decide if her complete retainment of the spirit of youth and her childish excesses was a precious thing or a pernicious one.
"I just hope she is okay," Kiros murmured.
Portentously the lights in the corridor flickered and died, as if to answer him in the negative. That was a pity because if they had remained lit, he might have had second thoughts about dismissing the entire box so quickly and the titles of three individual folders- "Loire Abortion," "11th Success," and "Crystallization of Great Salt Lake" – might have caught his attention. Sadly, no human would ever set eyes upon those documents again.
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