The hum of the Spitfire's engines, the sound of its rotors cutting through the air, and the roar of the wind rushing past compete for dominance over Ebon's ears. All blend into a comfortable, constant background din. Though he ignores the din itself, Ebon's senses are tuned to detect any irregularity in those background noises. Catching them and deciphering their cause could mean life or death when two Magitek engines are the only things between Ebon and a particularly long drop.
Looming in the distance like a steel mountain, the Imperial Palace of Vector dominates Ebon's sight as he flies toward the capital. Despite the darkness of the night sky the Palace is illuminated by a number of floodlights, making it possible for the Imperial Air Force, commonly called the IAF, to land there. A number of smaller lights fly about in the darkness, revealing silhouettes of twin-engined pods when the floodlights pass over them, other IAF units like Ebon's.
As the Spitfire races over the thick steel walls of the city, the pilot glances down at the streets below. They are well lit, and completely empty. There has been an unofficial curfew in Vector since the earliest days of the Empire; few outside their homes after dark escaped arrest; but now that curfew is backed by the direct mandate of the Emperor himself. Ebon need only look to the sprawling factories near the Imperial Palace to see why.
Even though a month has passed since Returner sabotage caused an explosion in the central Magitek Research Facility, thick plumes of black smoke, invisible when not touched by a floodlight, rise from fires that are still raging. The scientists claim that those fires will just have to burn out, and Ebon is inclined to believe them.
In truth, he is not entirely upset that the Returners destroyed the facility. He was scheduled to receive a Magitek infusion there eight days from now. Such an infusion would have granted him the power to call on sorcery and allowed him to join the elite Mage Knights. However, there would be a chance that his body couldn't handle the infusion, that the magic would burn him out from the inside, or shatter his sanity.
Even those who survived were never the same. The few Magitek soldiers that Ebon has known were cold, distant people with unhealthy doses of pride, bad humor, or snobbishness. Because of the explosion, Ebon's infusion has been postponed indefinitely.
Two Sky Armors, lighter IAF fighters built to exploit their Magitek weaponry rather than physical power, flank Ebon's Spitfire and signal for him to stop by flashing lights on their flanks in a coded sequence. This code is how individual IAF units communicate; every pilot is required to know the code as well as their own tongue before being allowed to fly at all. Ebon slows his Spitfire to a halt over the Mercantile District of Vector, setting the twin rotor blades into an easy hover.
"You mission was a success?" asks one of the Sky Armors.
"It was a success," Ebon signals back.
"Congratulations," The other blinks to Ebon, "Captain Fisher will be pleased. He sent us to intercept you and direct you to meet him on Air Force."
"Thank you," Ebon replies, "I shall go meet him immediately. Hail to the Empire."
"Hail to the Empire," both answer before leaving and returning to their patrol routes. Ebon hovers over the Mercantile District a little longer, scanning the night sky for Air Force. It is not hard to find, for there is only one mass of blinking lights large enough to be it floating above Vector amidst the floodlights and IAF fighters. Ebon guides his Spitfire toward Air Force, while setting his communication light to signal that he wishes to dock...
A floodlight passes over the floating fortress, illuminating the gray monstrosity. It is almost hundred feet long, and shaped roughly like cylinder, evoking the image of some kind of shark. A large bay door on its side hangs open, revealing a docking area within. Several large Magitek cannons cling to every side of the flying fortress, ready to blast anything that might oppose it from the air. An array of useless communications equipment cling to the dorsal and anterior sides of Air Force, the brainchild of a researcher killed in the explosion at the Research Facility before the array could be completed. The face of a grinning shark is painted across the front of the floating monstrosity.
Though it lacks any visible means of flight, Air Force hovers in the night sky. Ebon knows that the floating fortress' engines produce a massive magical field that lets it defy gravity, but he has a hard time trusting in it. Nothing that lacks true wings or propellers should be able to fly; yet Ebon has to trust his life to something that defies that very axiom.
The hangar is well lit, allowing the Spitfire pilot to see the small army of mechanics working on the parked IAF units inside. Ebon hovers outside the bay, letting his light cycle through its preset message, until the red beacon at the entrance signals for him to enter. Gently, he guides the Spitfire into the hangar, and allows his eyes readjust to the light before he actually docks in the service bay that one of the mechanics guides him to.
As soon as the Spitfire's tail fin retracts and its landing struts extend, Ebon sets the IAF fighter down, cuts the engines, and begins to extract himself from the cockpit. By the time he has undone the array of safety belts and harnesses and leaps from the pilot's seat to the metal floor, all sense of the fortress's floating is gone. Unless Ebon walks to the edge of the hangar and looks down, he feels as through he were on the ground.
A gray-uniformed mechanic approaches as Ebon unwraps the scarf from around his face and lifts up his goggles. "Any problems I need to know about?" asks the mechanic, scratching at the dark unshaved stubble on his face.
"None I know about," Ebon answers, "Flew as smoothly as a dream."
"Bah," the mechanic counters, pausing from his scratching long enough to spit, "Probably stressed it to exploding in a dozen places. The day I meet a flyboy who takes care of his machine is the day I get home by leaping out that bay door."
Ebon lets the engineer grouch; knowing that he has probably been working close to eighteen hours non-stop by now. Before even finishing his first sentence, the mechanic is already removing the bolts from the right engine cover. Ebon scans the hangar, as beads of sweat begin to form on his brow. After traveling in the cold air found thousands of feet above the ground, the heat from the bay lights is enough to make the pilot feel uncomfortable.
At the far end of the hangar waits a man in the brown uniform the Imperial Army, looking Ebon's way. Ebon waves in acknowledgement, and the other gestures for him to come. It is slow going at first, as the pilot's legs have to readjust most uncomfortably to receiving proper circulation. Still, Ebon is able to hobble across the bay without too looking too undignified, and salutes the uniformed man while standing as straight as he is able.
"Captain Fisher, Sir," says Ebon as he salutes.
The solid, stony-faced man simply nods, holding his hands behind his back, and asks, "Albrook is secure?"
"Yes sir," Ebon replies, "The reports were accurate; three Fossil Fangs with a lair no more than six miles from the city limits. They have been dealt with permanently, sir." The pilot reaches into his flight jacket, and draws out two glass vials filled with a brackish coppery liquid. "The extra supplies weren't needed."
"Good," Fisher replies, his face stony but his voice betraying that he is obviously pleased, "No need to use up more revivifies than necessary. Those undead monstrosities are becoming far too common since the explosion; the last thing we need is for supplies to run out. Good work, airman."
"Thank you, sir," Ebon answers, happy to have pleased Fisher only a few weeks after the captain was transferred to the IAF.
"You won't be so thankful after I give you your new orders." Ebon's joy evaporates into a cloud of wariness. "We need you back out there in an hour, airman. The Returner forces are close to Vector now. They could attack tonight if they chose, although the latest reports say they're camped for the night. Still, that's not a risk that we should take. We need the IAF on full alert if they strike in the darkness. So, I'm afraid you have half an hour to get cleaned up and eat something, then its back on patrol for you."
"Don't worry sir," Ebon answers, "I can go for days without sleep."
Captain Fisher's face darkens considerably and his voice fills with bitterness and menace as he says, "The last time I heard those words, I ended up in a heap of trouble and lost the position of Governor-General of South Figaro. Don't ever say that to me again..."
Ebon glances down at his dashboard clock to see it is just after fifteen minutes until three in the morning. He shakes his head, then scratches his chin, though his face is too numb to actually feel it. Ebon is grateful for the biting chill, he is certain that he would fall asleep otherwise. The hum of the Spitfire's engines has almost taken the quality of a lullaby, luring him ever closer to sleep if he listens to it for too long.
As it is, his thoughts constantly wander from his patrol duties as he flies around the perimeter of Vector. The Returners occupy his attention. Even though he has done a few spy runs on the approaching rebel forces, Ebon still finds it hard to believe that the Returners were able field an army on the Imperial Continent itself! According to the reports and rumors that he has come across, the Returner Army is a coalition of Figaro's Chocobo Calvary, Jidoor's Independent Army, and Narshe's Regulars. Also, Ebon himself has seen a number of steam-powered war machines that resemble Magitek Armor on treads during his recon missions.
Why are they fighting, Ebon cannot help but ponder, why do they resist the Empire so stringently? Are they truly so in love with their petty nationalities and exploitation by their rulers that they resist the unity and peace to come under Geshtal's World Order? Are they jealous of the Empire, of the medicines and tools produced in Vector and shared freely with the world; things such as tonics and warp stones and revivifies? Are those who desire the Emperor's power for themselves simply duping the Returners? Why can't the rebels see that the Empire offers a way to be free from the petty wars and politics that have plagued the world since the dawn of civilization? That they remain blind to such a simple truth is something that Ebon cannot comprehend.
He also wonders at the wisdom of letting the Returners march to Vector's front door. The IAF could have easily struck their forces at night, reducing them to nothing before the rebels could begin to organize. According to rumor, both General Leo and General Kefka advocated just that in a rare moment of agreement. Rumors also say that Geshtal wants the Returners to crash against the gates of Vector and see how futile their resistance is, as Imperial forces strike from all sides.
In truth, Ebon really doesn't want either to happen. There is a woman who left the Empire to join the Returners, a friend that Ebon doesn't want to see hurt. As the night wears on, his thoughts turn toward her more and more.
She was a prodigy, no question about that. Ebon met her when she was sixteen, after she had been advanced to the final year of classes in the Imperial Military Academy. He still remembers when the professor introduced her to the class, and couldn't believe that an unassuming girl four years his junior could have excelled nearly as much as the professor claimed she did. That disbelief vanished quickly when she was seated next to him.
She was a Ward of the State, Terra. She and Ebon quickly became friends, and graduated together, Terra's genius enough of an influence on Ebon that his grades were high enough to earn him his position in the IAF later. Looking back, those were some of the happiest days of his life. Ebon is not sure if he actually fell in love with her or not, but he knows that she was the best friend he ever had. Pleasant memories of days spent studying together, of arms practice in the fields behind the academy, and of tormenting the professors with questions they couldn't answer float through the pilot's mind. The last was an especial favorite of Terra's. She was a sort of class clown in that way; making at least one professor admit ignorance every day with a perfectly timed question. Ebon is certain that she was intelligent enough to completely humiliate them had she desired to.
They were placed in the same unit of the Imperial Regulars together, though she was quickly promoted ahead of him and left the regiment after the sack of Miranda. Terra was the only reason Ebon could stand being a grunt at all. Luckily, cadets seldom remain in the Regulars for long, and he was taken up by the IAF.
After Terra left the regiment, he neither heard nor saw anything of her until six months ago, when he was first being examined for a Magitek infusion after being officially promoted to the IAF. It was a chance meeting; Terra passed the room where he was being examined, dressed in a hospital gown and stopped outside the door. She flashed him a brave smile before her escort urged her on, but Ebon could see the pain in her eyes. It took every ounce of will he possessed not to dash out of the room and find out what was wrong, even if it meant going through the two scientists that escorted her. He still laments not doing so as the greatest mistake he ever made.
The last time he saw her was four months ago, wearing a slave crown. The warm face and easy smile that made her so beautiful was gone, replaced by a blank visage free of thought. Were she not being escorted by General Kefka himself, Ebon would have knocked out her escort and snatched the crown off her head personally! He actually moved to do so, but the general froze Ebon with a simple glance and a challenging smile, as if daring Ebon to try something. Terra had looked right at him, but she didn't recognize him in the least. It seemed as though she couldn't see him at all.
It wasn't until Kefka returned from sacking Figaro that Ebon learned Terra's fate. Officially, she was missing in action after the first invasion of Narshe. However, one of the soldiers accompanying Kefka was willing to tell Ebon that he saw a woman matching Terra's description among the Returners escaping from Figaro before the castle submerged. Later, word from the second invasion of Narshe said that Terra was fighting alongside the Returners.
Ebon knows that the military must have poured all kinds of resources into trying to recapture her. He is one of the very few that knows she can use magic. Terra was a natural Mage Knight, something that had not bee seen in the world for a thousand years, and her magic saved his life. He saw Terra's magic when she accidentally impaled his lung with a saber during an after-school sparring practice. At first, she had denied that she had done anything unusual, until Ebon challenged her to produce the potion that she claimed to have used. Afterward, she was remarkably free in its use when they were alone, using magic to spark campfires and heal the minor sprains they incurred throughout their final year at the academy.
According to rumor, Terra escaped not long after Ebon saw her in the Research Facility. The pilot had heard she turned her talents toward striking down an entire regiment of Magitek armor. If she had really done that, Ebon could understand why they used the Slave Crown on her.
Still, he could also understand why Terra ran. She had never mentioned it while they were together, but Ebon knew what kind of pressure the military must have been putting on her. He knows how much the Empire wanted her magic. Perhaps, he could even forgive her for joining those who oppose peace. As much as Ebon hates to think it, he might have done much the same in her situation.
In the back of his mind, a sinister voice whispers that the Slave Crown would have robbed every memory Terra ever had of him...
A sudden explosion jars Ebon from his reverie. Another explosion blossoms to the right, and the pilot realizes that another Spitfire was there seconds ago! A dark shadow flies past Ebon, moving too quickly for him to identify it. The force of its passage knocks his fighter off balance. More explosions, and screams, ring out from behind, while more shadows flit about in the night sky.
The Returners are attacking, Ebon realizes, and wheels his Spitfire toward the gates. However, he finds that the gates are not under siege, and there is no ground-based army in sight. The alarm sirens begin to sound as more explosions blossom both in the air and on the ground. Ebon just watches in shock, trying to figure out what's going on. Then he sees it.
Flying just above the ground as swiftly as any Sky Armor is a creature with skin the color of live coals! It is at least eight feet tall, were it standing, and has long, curving horns reaching upward from its temples. As the creature flies along the ground, it leaves fires in its wake, igniting homes and shops without remorse. Ebon realizes that the Returners are not attacking Vector; Espers are...
The fires below begin to illuminate the sky, and reveal Espers everywhere. Ebon has to bank his Spitfire hard to the right to avoid being blasted from the sky by a shard of ice flung by one of the magical beasts! There are at least two score of Espers flying in the sky, spreading death and destruction in their wakes. Espers of every shape and description, some almost human and others as alien as the Fossil Fangs that he had exterminated earlier. One looks like nothing more than a ghost, a translucent thing striking at the Magitek Regiments emerging from the Palace Barracks with dark energy. Another is resembles a whale, swimming through the air as though it were water and smashing IAF units with its massive flukes. An enormous brown-scaled dragon hovers above the palace, striking at Air Force with its breath.
It takes Ebon a moment to comprehend it all, then he begins to plan his assault. The IAF is in a panic, so there will be no concentrated actions; it's every man for himself unless the Espers are countered well enough for orders to get through.
The pilot urges his Spitfire toward the whale; angling toward it's broad, exposed back. Much to Ebon's surprise, a Sky Armor takes position behind him. However, he can't spare the time to wonder about it, as the massive Esper grows ever closer.
His run turns into a dive, as Ebon swoops at the whale's enormous back. At the range of about fifty yards, Ebon unleashes the primary weapon of his Spitfire, a Magitek cannon called Absolute Zero, which fires a huge beam of lethal chill. The beam slams full into the Esper's back, freezing its grayish flesh white as frostbite takes a firm hold. The whale cries out in pain, punctuated by several blasts from the Sky Armor's Tek Laser.
"Well done," Ebon signals to the other pilot, doing so without really thinking about it as he guides his fighter away from the whale. The dragon immediately catches his eyes as it settles down in front of the Imperial Palace, and begins to unleash its devastating breath upon the Magitek Armor Regiments!
"Strafe the dragon," the Sky Armor replies as it buzzes past, "Follow."
"Got it," Ebon answers reflexively, but the Sky Armor is has already passed him.
Ebon moves to follow the speedy fighter, but he catches a slight motion at the edge of his vision, and pulls up by instinct. That instinct saves his life, as a bolt of flame streaks by just under his Spitfire. However, the bolt curves in midair, and flies right at him! Ebon stops as suddenly as he can, hoping that the bolt will overshoot him.
Instead, it stops as well, and hovers before him. Ebon cannot help but stare, for he has never been so close to an Esper before. It is like an angel, its upper body bare and its legs covered by a robe-like garment of pure white. Wings the color of pearl extend from its back, spread out and motionless. An aura of flame envelops the Esper. Hate twists its visage; its burning eyes boring into the pilot. Heat radiating from its body brings a new tide of sweat to match that brought on by fear.
"I sense the blood of my sister," it snarls at Ebon, clenching its fists at its side. "You demon machine feeds off of my own flesh and blood! Vampire! You shall know the wrath of Agni!" The Esper's fists begin to glow an angry black, Ebon realizes that it is about to unleash some kind of magic on him!
He reacts without thinking, and activates the twin manipulation arms on the underside of his fighter, directing them at the Esper. Agni's eyes go wide in shock as the steel clamps reach toward him, and close on his wings with enough force to warp steel! The flaming angel's hands rise despite its obvious agony, preparing to unleash its spell.
Ebon jerks the controls of his Spitfire hard, jarring the fighter badly enough to make Agni's bolt of black flame fly over his head. A horrible sizzling sound drowns out the roar of the engines, and the steady hum suddenly becomes erratic and is disrupted by a number of horrible grating noises! The smell of steel slag assaults the pilot's nose, confirming his worst fear: one, or possibly both of the engines have been hit.
"Release me!" commands Agni in a voice that is equal parts rage and agony. It begins to gather energy for another spell, intending to blast the Spitfire out of existence to free itself. Ebon realizes that Agni is the more immediate of his problems, and unleashes Absolute Zero on the Esper. The beam of ice slashes through Agni, compounding its agony and disrupting the Esper's spell.
Ebon fires again, and urges the Spitfire to fly forward as fast as it can. Despite the chaos around him, and Agni's pained cries before him, the pilot is strangely calm. A large part of his training involved knowing what to do in such situations. 'If the engines are damaged, the first thing to do is get away from populated areas. After that, land.'
The Spitfire jerks several times as Ebon leaves Vector and the battle behind. Despite being blasted by Absolute Zero as frequently as Ebon can, Agni still fights back, kicking the underside of the IAF unit with inhuman strength born only in part by fear for its life! Ebon realizes that Esper must die, or it will destroy him.
The heat radiating from Agni is incredible, so intense that the pilot wonders if it is taking a toll on the front of his Spitfire. His answer comes a moment later, when the plains outside of the Imperial capital are visible below, despite the darkness. Ebon tries to lower the landing struts, and is dismayed to find that they won't extend! After several attempts, all while keeping a constant battery of Magitek blasts raining down on the captive Esper, Ebon realizes that they are damaged, and can't be depended on.
Another part of his training takes over, as he accelerates forward as fast as he is able. 'If the landing struts fail to extend, seek water. An IAF fighter may be the world's worst boat, but its better than being a twisted metallic heap smeared along the countryside.' Unfortunately, the closest water is miles away. All Ebon can do is zoom onward, and hope to find it in time...
Ebon finally looks at Agni after deciding on a course; truly looking at the Esper instead of watching it out of the corner of his eye. What was once a beautiful angel of flame has become a frostbitten, broken thing. Ebon can tell that its wings have been crushed and dislocated. Agni still hovers, as the downward stress on its wings is not enough to hold its weight. The fiery aura around the angel is guttering like a campfire in a thunderstorm, and its flesh is completely pale. Horrible frostbite riddles Agni's torso.
Out of pity, Ebon finally stops firing the Magitek weapon the Esper, and just watches it. Slowly, Agni raises its sagging head, and groans, "I...perish... But...not unavenged!" The Esper grins wickedly as it utters those last words; its eyes flashing a harsh red. Before Ebon can react, twin beams of ruby light erupt from those eyes, and arc over Ebon's head! The sounds of explosions compete with those of the engine dying noisily!
The Esper laughs hideously as Ebon's stomach suddenly lurches into his throat! The air rushes past him at terrible speed, and his own screams echo in his ears. In the darkness, Ebon is unable to see the ground rushing toward him, and panic drives out any thoughts of procedures that might save him. The last sound to reach his ears is a horrible explosion and the whine of twisting metal ending the Esper's terrible laughter...
That defines his existence. A pulsing, blinding, colorless, impersonal and uncaring agony that suffuses every corner of Ebon's being. It surprises him that he can remember something as inconsequential as a name, when the world has become living pain. Though hardly aware of himself, Ebon feels part of himself move. Then, he feels a liquid sensation sliding into his being.
The pain mercifully recedes, like a wave returning to the sea. The agony lessened, Ebon opens his eyes. Above him is a blue, cloudless sky, with the afternoon sun beginning its descent. A steel tube is clasped in his hand. That tube, a small vial filled with a healing potion and kept inside his flight jacket, captivates him for a moment. Ebon didn't think about using it through the pain, but apparently he retained enough sense to drink it nonetheless.
He reaches for the other tube inside his jacket, and rips the rubber cork off with his teeth. The potion, befouled by the steely aftertaste of its container, slides down his throat and spreads a pleasant coolness through his body, banishing away the last of the pain.
Replacing both vials in their place, Ebon stands up, albeit unsteadily and after a few false starts. Looking around, he finds the twisted remains of his Spitfire some yards to the east. He walks toward it, assessing the damage. The smell of something burning comes to his nose, warning Ebon that the smoke curling from the Spitfire has a source. After crashing, it must have rolled, for the smashed front end of the IAF fighter is angled upward. Not only smashed, it seems that the Esper's fiery aura melted and warped the steel a bit.
Suddenly, Ebon realizes that Agni is gone! Frantically, the pilot searches for some sign of the Esper, but finds nothing. Panic seizes the core of Ebon's soul, and he searches the skies desperately, frightened that the vengeful Esper is about to swoop out of the sky!
But there is nothing. Agni is long gone. Ebon turns his attention back to the wreck of his Spitfire. The engines are destroyed beyond repair; one half-reduced to slag, and both mangled and twisted in the crash. The cockpit has been mostly crushed by the impact, but the most important part still remains...
Gingerly climbing into the broken machine, Ebon prays for it not to overturn on him or explode from the fires. Working swiftly, he pulls at the seat, looking for a release button. He notes that the seat belts have all given, proving that he retained enough sense to pull their release level before crashing; better to be sent flying than to be pinned in the twisted hulk of a damaged IAF fighter, unconscious and waiting for it to explode...
With a soft click, the button gives, and the seat easily opens outward to reveal a compartment behind with a small backpack resting within. Ebon pulls out the pack, and extracts himself from the wreckage as quickly as he can. Slinging the pack over his shoulders, Ebon feels a sense of relief mixed with renewed anxiety he wasn't aware he had.
Pushing those feelings aside, the pilot takes a quickly look at the Spitfire's mangled arms. Both hang limply from the fighter's underside, resting on the grass. He had noticed before, but the grass is a little charred, bits of black marring the green here and again. The metallic fingers on the manipulation limbs are fused together, an obvious aftereffect of grabbing something with a fiery aura...
The wind blows, stirring the grass and drawing Ebon's attention to something glassy lying between the arms. Quickly, Ebon snaps it up, and feels a surprising amount of warmth flowing from what seems to be a glass crystal. Taking several steps away from the burning wreckage; a flame peeks out from one of the many rents in the left engine casing; he examines the palm-sized gem.
Inside it rests an orange core, like a garnet encased in glass. For some odd reason, the mild warmth the crystal radiates doesn't seem to bleed out as Ebon holds it. He begins to wonder if the gem is actually creating the heat. After a moment, he just shakes his head, and slides the crystal into his pocket, then turns his mind to other matters.
Judging from the angle that the Spitfire crashed, Ebon guesses that he must somewhere between Miranda and Vector. The Pilot is relieved to find that; he has no desire whatsoever to hike back to Vector without receiving some news first. With the supplies in his backpack: five days of rations, some bandages, another potion, and a blanket, he should be able to reach Miranda without too many problems.
As he begins to walk southward, Ebon's thoughts are dominated by the previous night. Why did the Espers attack? Ebon knows the answer; a significant portion of the army knows about the origin of Magitek; but he finds it difficult to believe that they would cause such havoc over just that. Could any sane soul justify wreaking such destruction in revenge for the lives of a handful of Espers?
A vampire, Agni had called him. Ebon knows that the power of an Esper fueled his Spitfire, but he had never though of it as being anything like vampirism... In a way, the Esper was right. As much as Ebon hates to admit it, Agni was right. It is the price of peace; draining Espers to fuel Magitek; but Ebon cannot help but wonder if there is another way. What if the power of the Espers could have been turned willingly toward the Empire's goals? Would Magitek have been needed if Agni were part of Leo's battalion?
Could Espers have been trusted? Ebon cannot bring himself to believe that even the most bloodthirsty Returner would have indiscriminately burnt the homes of civilians. Not even Returners... Are Espers just tools of destruction, things with no value for lives other than their own?
Agni's words keep echoing in the pilot's head: 'I sense the blood of my sister.' Could a being that honors family be a blindly destructive killer? Could Magitek have truly infuriated them so?
Could the Returners have known this? Is it Magitek they oppose, not the Empire? Did the Returners suspect what carnage the Espers were capable of, and fought to remove Magitek before it was too late? Is this why they opposed peace, knowing that peace with Magitek would spell destruction at the hands of the Espers?
There is only one way to learn, one way to truly find out. If the Returners were within a day's march of Vector, then perhaps... Yes, Ebon decides, the only way to learn is to ask them. Maybe, just maybe, Terra will be there. Maybe she will know the truth. Can true peace be had without Magitek?
An explosion rings out from behind as Ebon changes course, and a thick plume of black smoke curls toward the sky, marking the death of Ebon's Spitfire.