Once a Knight

Chapter 2

By Race Ulfson

Seventeen horrible hours later, I stood on General Caraway’s doorstep.

I had ditched the reporters and the plush SeeD rail car in Fisherman’s Horizon as planned. The restless sense of trouble, not doom exactly, but danger nonetheless, drove me to take the next transport out to Winhill. I suspected I smelled as strongly of fish as the ship and her Captain had. Fortunately, my nose shut down halfway through the voyage.

The only rental car available in Winhill was sculpted entirely out of bondo and rust. It wheezed and bounced across the desert until it lost a confrontation with a ruby dragon about 2 miles out of the Old Prison compound. Dragons aren’t much of a challenge for Shiva and me, but the car was no more. I grabbed my suitcase and hiked to the Prison Compound and called Selphie for a lift.

Selphie came to get me in a new air conditioned off road sports utility vehicle. I put my suitcase in the back with the other jumbled mess - her nunchucks, a case of ammo, boxes of mysterious crafty looking things, and a bale of diapers.

I checked the back seat as I got in and Trabian was with us, strapped into his flying saucer shaped car seat. To his credit, he didn’t make near the noise Selphie did on the trip to Deling.

“Squall, why didn’t you tell me you were coming? The house is a mess, you’ll ignore that, won’t you? Irvy is out on a training mission. Well, you know that.  He’s determined to capture Blue Flag this year, since Zell is commanding Blue Army. Why didn’t you call me sooner? I’d’ve picked you up in FH! Tra loves the boats and ships, don’t you, Lovie?”

I would have told her to breathe, but it brought back unpleasant memories of delivering Trabian. I wondered if Irvine put Selphie’s ability to go so long between breaths to good use. That got me thinking about Seifer.

I hated spending my leave anywhere he wasn’t. This time was different, though. We started sniping at each other as soon as I arrived. I thought it was because I was tired from a Peacekeeping action that blew up into a full-scale battle. The rest I put to Seifer’s typical pre-test jitters. He always gets crazy during midterms.

I couldn’t sleep. I’d get up all hours and pacing the apartment. I’d find myself pouring over train schedules to Deling. When I did sleep, the nightmares were all of some formless smothering terror. And Rinoa.

Seifer was disturbed and cast Scan on me. After that he was even more disturbed. I asked him what he saw, and he said, “Feathers.”

Rinoa was summoning me through the Sorceress-Knight link.

My first reaction was irritation. The last time Rinoa summoned me – and off a mission, I might add – it was because she’d locked her keys in her car. To be fair, that was years ago, when we were both kids and still trying to have a relationship.

My second reaction was fear. I did not want to go through what Seifer had with his sorceress. Among the many reasons was the knowledge that Seifer would not be able to defeat me.

Seifer was an expert on Sorceresses, having spent time with basically all of them. He told me Rinoa was in danger, which confirmed what my dreams were trying to tell me. I packed my bags and took the next train out.

“Squall? Hellllllllllllllllllllllllloooooo. Come back, come back, I promise I’ll stop talking. Okay, a blatant lie, there, ignore that, Tra Lovie, Mommy only lies for…”

“Fun and profit?” I suggested, hoping I wouldn’t be held accountable for anything Selphie had been confiding to me on the trip. Glowing reports of Trabian’s obvious superiority to any other baby in the history of mankind would be my first guess.

Selphie smacked me.

“Hands on the wheel.”

She stopped the truck and twisted in her seat to grin at me. “What I said was, “ Selphie repeated, totally unoffended by the fact that I had not been paying attention, “I need to feed Trabian.”

He was getting fussy and I had no desire to be trapped in the vehicle with two vocal Tilmitts. I looked around the barren Galbadian desert for a restaurant or a store or someplace even with a method of sterilizing bottles and heating formula.

Selphie meanwhile crawled into the back seat and rooted around in a coffin sized carry bag. She scooped her baby out of his little space ship and kissed and cuddled him, saying the most ridiculous things. If people were born understanding the language they’d spend most of their early life writhing in embarrassment. Selphie settled Trabian across her lap and unzipped her blouse.

“Selphie? What are you doing?”

“Feeding Trabian.”

“You’re not going to do what I think you are going to do… here?” I said weakly.

She laughed and unhooked her bra. “Yes, Squall, in front of Hyne, you, and the geezards.”

So I wandered around in the desert a while, getting my nose sunburned and pretending to check the tires and guard against geezard attacks. The wind picked up and instantly I was coated in fine golden dust. I could feel it inside my ears, up my nose, weighing down my eyelashes. I knocked on the window and getting no response, opened the door. Inside in the climate-controlled dust free SUV, Selphie and son were napping happily.

I slid into the drivers’ seat and headed for Deling.

We were forced to stop 2 more times for Selphie to deal with an aroma that would be banned from use in warfare. I took the ass chewing for driving without Trabian in the car seat like a man.

I am so never having kids.

After the last stop Selphie took over driving again. She pouted about the fact that we were in Deling and not at Garden, and I promised to swing by and visit on my way home. Hopefully Irvine would be back by then and she wouldn’t feel obligated to try to cook.

I made Selphie drop me off at the bus stop. She knows me too well to argue, but I could tell she didn’t like it and I imagined the emails would be flying that night as she tried to find out what was going on. Quistis and Zell didn’t know, and Seifer wouldn’t tell, so I felt fairly safe with my secret.

Deling City’s Public Transport System was modeled on Esther’s. They left in the sense of randomness and took out the reliability. It went eventually to General Caraway’s house and that was good enough for me.

Rinoa and I had lost touch. Since the night she walked out of my life, I had seen her only once, at the nightmare that was Selphie and Irvine’s wedding. It seemed reasonable that her father would know where to find her. I could have gone to the Hotel first and rented a car, but I wasn’t entirely sure the bus went that way.

That, and the overhanging fear was back.

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