Trust the Planet
by Rituko

My side hurts. I run on and on, clutching the hand of the single most important thing to me on the Planet.

*Run.* The Planet whispers. *Run.*

I obey, mindful of the short breaths and muffled cries of the young one I pull behind me, aware that a pause, even for her comfort, will certainly end in capture and suffering.

Every whimper which she manfully tries not to voice hurts my heart, and I softly swear to myself on the Planet's name that I will make it up to her, my heart's delight, my beautiful little daughter.


My feet pound on. The breaths rip and burn in and out of my ravaged lungs, the freezing air chapping my throat, yet I cannot stop.

*Go. Get to the mainland. It will be harder for the persecutors to find you there.*

I trust the Planet. The Planet will take care of me and mine.

I run wildly in the direction of the boat docks, energy renewed now having a focus, a goal, a definite end to attain. My furs, extra thickly padded for protection from the cold, impedes my motion. Just a little further. Just a little further.

Aerith's steps falter as she trips, exhausted and spent. I stop and swiftly pick her up, cradling her against my heart as I run on. She snuggles next to me, slinging an arm over my shoulder trusting me, and I can sense her utter faith in the Planet and her mother to take care of things, to make everything right. My heart breaks a little.

I will protect her with my life.

The wind rushing in my ears is not enough to mask the sharp reports of gunfire. They are not firing at me; I know that I am too valuable to risk. Warm tears course down my cheeks, as I feel my husband's soul lifting up and joining the Lifestream. Yet it does not assimilate completely. It hovers behind me, urging me on, whispering love into my ear.

I love you. I love you. I will be with you always.

I love you also. Wait for me.

The splintery boards of the pier rumble and buck under my feet as I blindly run for a boat, aware of the pursuers not so far behind me. I can sense them, complacent, arrogantly sure that this frail woman cannot run far, fast enough to escape the most feared assassins in the world.

But I will try.

There is a simple sailboat, moored and tied to the dock with only a simple rope. I pause as I scan for an owner, reluctant to simply steal, but willing to do so. I cuddle my daughter closer. Her breathing has evened, indicating that she has fallen asleep. I smile, and my husband's spirit seems amused. She takes after you, my love, it sends.

I know.

Trying not to jar Aerith's peaceful slumber, I lean down and untie the rope, and clamber into the boat. Immediately the current, even so close to shore, picks up and carries the boat out into the sea. The Planet will take care of me. None of the other boats are so taken, as the current remains internalized strictly to this lone vessel.

I do not know where the Planet is taking us. My husband's spirit remains, reassuring. Aerith smiles, serenely knowing her father's presence, eternally at peace with the wind, with the seagulls, with the cool ocean spray. Occasionally fish jump of their own accord onto the deck, providing us with enough sustenance. It rains often, often enough to keep the buckets full with clear, refreshing water. Aerith is happy, playing with the dolphins and whales sporting around us.

Time passes. I do not bother to count the number of days and nights, knowing soon enough that there will be land on the horizon and the chase will be on again. A dolphin swims up next to the boat, and rolls over to expose its belly, revealing a long gash probably caused by a careless fisherman. I rub it gently. I would heal it myself, but Aerith must learn. She knows inherently everything that she needs to know, but experience is always learned the hard way. I call her over.

Her green eyes widen, sensitive to all creatures' pain and she puts out a small hand, unmindful of her precarious position dangling over the rail. She closes her eyes, and her small pointed face relaxes into an attitude of prayer. Slowly, every so slowly, the wound closes and heals without a scar. I smile. She opens her eyes and smiles back at me. The dolphin thanks us and dives into the water.

The days pass, Aerith learning more and more and learning to utilize the ancient knowledge. She does not seem sad.

One night while we are sleeping, we are woken by a soft thump and a grinding sound. We have beached ashore. I do not know where we are, but I see a monolithic city on the horizon, reaching towards the sky in an arrogant attempt to touch the heavens. I feel the Planet's pain in this massive wound, the skin flaking and crusting, its lifeblood being sucked out by this monstrous parasite. I can feel the souls of the Lifestream losing their consistency, becoming little more than pale wraiths, screaming in agony. Beside me, my little daughter, even more sensitive than I, begins crying.

Why are we here? I ask the spirit.

*You must go,* it replies. *Here will take place the beginning of epic events that will either destroy the Planet... or save it.*

And my Aerith will surely be the fulcrum.

Wrapping my shawl firmly around my shoulders and leaving our heavy parkas behind, unneeded in this balmy climate, we set out for the pulsating infection in the distance. My beautiful baby follows with a little hesitation but still utter trust shining in her huge green eyes.

As we draw closer, the scream of the Planet becomes ever increasingly louder. It saps me of strength, and Aerith, younger and more versatile than I, grows used to it although trudging along with a pensive and tensed look on her young/old face.

We reach the outskirts of the looming and forbidding city, and enter through an enormous gate. Everywhere is squalor, dirty and unhappy residents lounging about, a pervasive atmosphere of gloom and despair blanketing us all. We pause, Aerith leaning heavily against my leg, as drained as I by the sucking aura. We pause inside a church, now run down and abandoned, to rest. As I slump heavily into a pew, Aerith goes exploring. It is so peaceful here. The pollution isn't quite as bad.

I sit upright in alarm as there is a high pitched squeal. Yet I cannot sense fear or pain. What is it?

She runs up to me, takes my hand, and pulls me over to a patch of dirt in the center. Wordlessly, she points. There in a shaft of bright sunlight, is a nodding yellow flower, bright and vivid in color and lushfully green in health. I touch it reverently, feeling once more in my inner core the serene singing of the Planet. It is a beautiful melody, and I can feel my strength returning with every ethereal note. Aerith's usually worried face is now smoothed out and peaceful once again, wreathed in a wide innocent smile of delight.

Then the door bangs open.

*Run.* the Planet whispers. *Run. There is grave danger to you and to the little one.*

I swiftly rise to my feet and grab for Aerith's hand, but not swiftly enough. A soft click stops me. I look behind me. A tall young Wutaiian man with long black hair is standing there, a gleaming gun in his hand pointed at me. The detached look on his face is frightening.

*Run.* the Planet whispers again. The spirit of my husband joins in the urgent command. *Run.*

The gun is not pointed at Aerith; it is pointed at me. Surely the Turk will not hurt a 'research specimen' as valuable as I was and am. I call his bluff.

We run.

I move quickly and jerkily, weaving in and out, hoping to throw his guard off. Aerith is jerked along with me, without complaint.

A bang.

A sudden impact in my side, a sudden flare of white-hot pain, a sudden gush of blood flowing out and soaking my dress, the blood slicking down my arm to my hand and making my contact with Aerith slippery and red.

I am flung violently against the wall by the force of the impact, but I cannot afford to be incapacitated. I see now. I am extraneous; Aerith is their true object. I push myself off the wall, gritting my teeth against the pain, ignoring my daughter's screams. I grab her hand again more firmly as the blood makes her and my hands slick, and we run. I run for my life, and we run for her future.

Ignore. Ignore the pain.

The train station. I can barely see it, my vision fuzzy and thick, with gray and black and red crowding at the edges, trying to invade and overcome me. I force it back. I can taste blood in my mouth, the thick briny metallic taste almost causing me to gag had I had any air left to spare to that object. Aerith, sounding out of breath herself, questions me incessantly and worriedly, her voice high pitched and reedy. I cannot answer her. I cannot hear. I cannot think.

I must run.

The station master looks at me, then looks away. A bloody woman running past clutching a little girl isn't an unusual sight in this deathpit of a city. I stumble onto the train just as the door whooshes shut. The train rumbles and moves. I slump to the floor.

I want to sleep. I want to sleep. Aerith is crying. Please, I can't die. She needs her mother. I can't die. Aerith is too young to be left alone, much less shoulder the responsibility of being the only Cetra left alive. Please. Aerith is crying.

The train rumbles on, then stops.

I barely feel myself being picked up, then thrown mercilessly out onto another platform to lay there, inert and motionless.

Please. Aerith. I'm still here. It can't end like this.

*The little one will be taken care of.* the Planet soothes. *She will be safe.*

I trust the Planet.

*She will be safe.*

A face suddenly appears in front of me. A relatively young woman, sorrow and compassion etched upon her face. She looks shocked and horrified, and tries to help me up. Aerith is kneeling next to me, crying. I shake my head and smile.

*She will be taken care of.*

I trust the Planet.

I summon the strength to speak.

"Please take Aerith somewhere safe."

The woman, her brown kind eyes brimming with tears, nods.

I love you Aerith.

Trust the Planet.

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