John Thornton

"We're ready for you."

He looked up from the military paper he was reading, ever the devoted commander. Born and raised on the Veldt, a quiet farmerboy from Mobliz, nobody could ever say that Kefka hadn't exceeded all expectations in his life. He adjusted his simple gray coat (never one for excess in fashion or anything else, Kefka) and strode towards the doorway, and opened it onto a scene from his dreams.

He had seen the blueprints, of course... what little of them passed through his tiny offices in Albrook, of course. But nothing could have prepared Kefka for the reality of the thing... the Magitek Research Facility. Deceptively small on the surface, it stretched far underground, with branches jutting out all over the southern continent, and all of it filled to the brim with technological wonders. Kefka had always been fascinated with machinery... so orderly, so precise, and always in motion, getting the job done. He remembered the day in Mobliz when he took apart a clock that had stood on the Elder's shelf for so many years, to see how the gears fit together and turned. Of course, he was found out, and punished for it. But Kefka never did complain, about anything. Stoic described him perfectly... his old liutenant from his infantry days, Leo, had described him as "a soldier's soldier". High praise from such a great man, indeed.

Kefka had always been one to gather praise. First in his classes all through the Imperial Academy, he rose through the ranks almost too quickly to be believed. Some people, most notably the Emperor's chief general Tannan, believed that he'd become a general himself one day. Among all the precise, brown-helmeted Imperial Troops, Kefka stood out like a relief, a man of excellence. Which was why he was here today.

Briefly, he ran over the details of the matter. A new technology had been discovered and developed by the raincoated genius Cid, and all of Vector was agog over it... the ability to infuse human beings, not just machines, with magical energy was something beyond the wildest fancies of most of the Empire's greatest minds. But Cid had done it, and for many weeks the hottest topic had been the identity of the test subject. Gestahl, however, looked at the records, and chose his brightest star... Kefka. Today, he would make history... the first person in 1,000 years who would be able to literally make magic.

"Commander Kefka?" Cid strode up to him, grinning in his rain slicker. This odd fashion statement had been the impetus for lots of jokes in the soldier barracks, most started by a mischevious young female cadet named Celes. Kefka never joined in with the laughter. Kefka never laughed.

"... and so, let me say again how glad we are to have you here." Kefka's attentions drifted back to Cid. "It's not every day that a man gets the chance to make history." Turning before Kefka had a chance to speak, Cid beckoned him down the hallway to the lower chambers.

In the elevator, Cid jabbered on about his discoveries, how Magicite was the beginning of a new era in technological wonders, and how he wondered just where Gestahl had found this array of amazing beings... Espers, or somesuch. Kefka was studying the gray mechanisms still viewable in the elevator. It was amazing how complex they were... and what a delicate balance act kept them working. One gear out of alignment, one tenuously stretched band snapping, and the whole works would explode. Kefka often found himself wandering the storage yards outside of Vector whenever he found a spare moment... looking at the suits of Magitek armor resting in the shade, powered by wildly rattling generators. Brilliant inventions, machines.

Abruptly, he noticed Cid stepping out of the elevator, and hurried after one second before the door slammed shut. After a glance around the room, he almost wished that it had.

"Who... what are these... things?" he said, showing a moment of emotion. The room was filled with pillars, each containing an odd, floating creature. Some of them boasted an array of horns, while others sported wings, and one even resembled nothing so much as a man of stone. No two were alike, and none looked happy, frozen in time. Cid sighed and cast his head downwards.

"These... things... are Espers. Fascinating beasts, really... I wish that these stasis tubes weren't necessary for studying them, but Gestahl says that they're dangerous when released. And they are to be the source of your magic." Kefka resisted the urge to shudder.

Following Cid again, he finally wound up in a room containing a single, cushioned chair and a multitude of wires snaking towards it, wildly, haphazardly. Now Kefka shuddered. It was so... chaotic.

Cid and his assistants sat him down in the chair, and he went willingly, his eyes passing over a piece of glowing green stone as he sat. Cid examined all the wires while Kefka focused, concentrated. The orderly mind could balance the chaos, and Kefka struggled to keep his mind orderly amidst the chaos. His eyes came back to the stone. Watching it float in the tiny chamber connecting to the wires, the thought struck him that it seemed almost... alive, pulsing with shifting color, like a seething cloud of gas. A gas that wanted to escape.

Finally, Cid was finished. He nodded approvingly at the machines, and then looked at Kefka. "Good luck, lad. Today, the fate of the world will be altered forever." Stepping to a safe corner of the room, he threw the lever. Kefka immediately opened his eyes, and his mouth was on the verge of falling open. He struggled for control, as he watched the gas and smoke from the stone being pumped down the wires and into him. It made him want to laugh and cry and scream, all at once, but he shoved his emotions to the back of his mind, as he had done for so many years, and he felt calm. He was almost unaware of the door slamming open and a man striding in, shorter than most at about five feet, but with an imposing presence only heightened by the imperial robes he wore. Emperor Gestahl.

Kefka felt a desire to know what was being said. He diverted some of his attentions away from his mind and outward, to the conversation that Gestahl and Cid were having so heatedly.

"... not sure, your excellency. Apparently something isn't quite correct... the Magicite isn't fully linking with the subject's brain patterns. He's got the magical ability, but there's no way he can access it unless we can get his brain linked up!"

Gestahl laughed, through the haze. "So you want to abort the process, do you? Do you have any idea how much gil this endeavor has cost the Imperial treasuries? It'll take years to recover the money that this experiment has cost us!"

Cid nodded, flustered. "But still, excellency, we'll need the years to figure out how to solve this mental link problem..."

Gestahl snorted. "Years that will eat up more valuable research money and time in my dealings with the returners. No, Professor... the most cost effective solution is to do this!"... as he cut the safety release hatch regulating the Magicite gas's flow. Kefka's head jerked as five thousand sharp bolts of power spread through him. He felt his control eroding as he lost awareness of the room, of Cid rushing to slam the regulator back in and being held back, forced back by a pair of burly soldiers. His mind was slipping, fading, failing, and as his final semblance of rationality was burned away he finally laughed, and the machine exploded.

Professor Cid hurriedly jumped into the elevator, his raincoat almost getting stuck in the door in his mad rush to ascend into the main streets of Vector. Gestahl had made it out somehow, he knew that for sure... the red-coated soldiers beside him in the elevators would never have left otherwise. None of them talked as they rose ever higher, out of the pit underground, but as they traveled Cid knew that they were only thinking of one thing.

They were all trying to clear their brains of the sounds from the room... the sounds from the man who his science had turned from a model officer into... something. The sounds of wild, unrestrained and totally insane laughter echoed down the halls of the Magitek Research Facility, never fading until Cid forced himself to stop listening and concentrate on the hum of the gears that carried the elevator to the sky.