The Ragnarok was easily the most boring airship Zell had ever been on.
Admittedly, it was also the only airship he had ever set foot on, but that seemed somehow beside the point. What mattered was that he was bored and he wished Squall and Rinoa would hurry up and finish their little mush-session so they could go kick some Sorceress ass.
Of course, Zell didnít want to kick Seiferís ass on the way. Wasnít even thinking about it, really. Nope. Not a chance.
Well, maybe a little.
Or maybe a little more than a little.
But the point at the moment was that he was bored. He was bouncing slightly in his chair as he watched Quistis and Selphie play Triple Triad. Irvine was sitting further up, reading one of his magazines. Zell didn't know if it was just a magazine-magazine or if it was one of those magazines but then again he really didnít want to think about it. He had actually picked up one of Irvine's special magazines once before, by pure accident, and boy had he regretted it. And not just because Quistis caught him looking and hit him for it, either!
"Quistis, can I play another game with you after you're done playing with Selphie?"
Quistis looked up at him with her "I know more than you" teacher look on. "Zell, I'd be surprised if you even have enough cards left to play after losing to me so many times on this journey. This last half hour or so alone youíve probably lost half your deck."
"I do so have more cards!" He hoped. He mentally counted the ones he had left. Yeah, he had enough to play a game. Barely, but he did. "Come on, Quisty, please?"
She shot him a death glare. He winced; he had forgotten that she didnít like being called by her old nickname.
"Besides," Irvine called, and Zell heard him turn a page in his magazine, "I've already called the next game."
"Thatís no fair! I'm bored here!" He bounced to his feet and threw a few practice punches. In the process, he upset the Triple Triad board that Quistis and Selphie were using.
"Zell! Could you please go practice your moves somewhere else?" Quistis attempted to put the card game back as it had been.
"But Quistis! I'm bored!"
"I don't care, you don't have to annoy all of us while you're being bored. Squall and Rinoa should be back soon."
Zell flopped back into his chair and scowled. "Betcha they're just sucking face down there."
"What? S'probably true."
He rolled his eyes and leaned back with a sigh. "I wish I had something to do."
Cue the built-in phone on the airship ringing. Quistis and Selphie looked up from the cards, and Irvine set down his magazine.
"Donít worry ladies, Iíll get--"
"No no no I got it!" Zell sprung out of his chair and in front of Irvine, grabbing the phone and slapping it to his ear. This was great!
"Dinchtís morgue! You kill 'em, we chill 'em!"
There was a soft chuckle on the other end of the line. "I'm sorry, I seem to have the wrong number."
"No problem, man, you call back if you need our services!" Zell hung up before the man on the line did, grinning. "That was great!"
Quistis was glaring at him.
"Awww, Quistis. It's all in fun."
Ouch. Mad-voice. "Really, Quistis, if it was important, they'll call back!"
Cue phone ringing again.
"I'll answer it," Quistis said, reaching for the phone.
"No, no, you got a card game to play. I got it."
"Answer it right this time, Zell Dincht."
"Yeah, yeah, Quisty." He ignored the death glare she gave him this time. "Sheesh, never let a guy have any fun.Ē He turned on the phone again, muttering softly to himself before speaking into it. "Esthar Airship Ragnarok, Zell Dincht speaking."
Another chuckle. "So it was the right number after all." It was the same voice from before, though Zell could have sworn he recognized it from somewhere else. "I must ask, is there a Mr. Squall Leonhart on-board that I could speak to?"
"No, he's currently . . ." Zell fought the urge to say "sucking face with his girlfriend" and decided on something else, "a bit busy with business. I work close with Squall, though; can I give him a message?"
"Actually, it shouldnít matter who I talk to about this, mister . . . Dincht, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, Zell Dincht, that's me."
"Well, Mr. Dincht, the Sorceress Rinoa Heartilly is currently traveling with your party, correct?"
Panic-time! Zell was pretty sure that only Esthar knew anything about Rinoa being a Sorceress, and they had just busted her out of an Esthar facility. "Ummm, what's it to you? No offense or anything."
"Oh, none taken. I'm one of the aides to the president of Esthar, and we've been . . . having some trouble with things lately. We thought that with a Sorceress's help, we might be able to fix things up."
The voice was absolutely killing him, but the identity of the man pretty much confirmed that he and Zell had never met. Zell wasnít much of one for authority figures, and this was the first time in his life that he had ever been to Esthar. The country wasnít exactly a tourist attraction or anything. But still, the voice of the man on the phone was so familiar that Zell wanted to start asking him if he had ever been in a movie.
"What kind of help are you looking for? Iím not sure Rinoa'll be too interested."
"I assure you, we don't intend to hurt her."
"Yeah, well, that's what the people at the funky sealing-away place said too, and--"
"They were acting out of line, I assure you. The president has no interest in sealing away friendly sorceresses. He's had a lot of experience with the less friendly ones, though, so he might be a bit paranoid." There was the sound of someone yelling in disagreement in the background. The man chuckled again. "Anyway, we have . . . a bit of a situation on our hands. We'd be willing to pay to hire you out as SeeDs if that's what it takes."
"Ah . . . I'll talk to Squall," Zell said. "Canít make any guarantees, but hey, it's worth a shot, right?"
Gave him an excuse to go down and stop those two from sucking face any longer, too! Score!
"That's all I ask. I hope you'll come to the conclusion that we mean you no harm."
Okay, now not only was the voice rubbing at him, but so was the way the guy talked. It was all so insanely familiar that it was driving Zell nuts. But he couldnít put his finger on why it even would be familiar and that wasnít too great, either.
"Yeah, well, I'll try and tell him that the president-guy needs to chat with him, okay?"
"That will be fine. We look forward to seeing you."
"Hey," Zell said quickly to catch the manís attention before he hung up, "I hate to be rude, but could I get your name? You know, so I can tell him who called 'n all."
Another soft chuckle. Even the manís laugh was getting to him now. "Sure. My name is Kiros Seagill. Nice speaking with you."
At about the same moment he hung up, Zell dropped the phone.
"Zell! Honestly, what is with you today?" Quistis picked up the phone and got to her feet, holding it out. Zell stared at the phone, mouth moving wordlessly for a few seconds before he grabbed Quistis by the shoulders.
"It was Kiros, Quisty!"
"Zell, what the--ow! Let go!"
His eyes were probably the size of dinner plates. They sure felt like it. He shook Quistis once by the shoulders, probably harder than he meant to.
"Kiros, Quisty! Kiros!"
"What in the hell--ow!" She shoved him back. "What on earth are you talking about, Zell?"
"That guy on the phone! He said his name was Kiros!"
Quistis blinked at him, looking mildly annoyed. "Yes, Zell, and what's your point?"
"Kiros!" Zell waved his arms, unable to believe that Quistis hadn't caught on. "Kiros-Kiros-Kiros-Kiros! The Kiros! Laguna-dreams Kiros!"
"Zell! Kiros could be a very common name for all we know," Quistis said, brushing off her sleeves. "I think you're overreacting."
Zell made wild motions with his hands, half-punching and half-flailing. "Oh yeah? Well, how many people do you know that are named Kiros, huh? And Quistis, I recognized his voice! I was Ward in the dreams! I would know!"
Quistis seemed to consider this for a few moments. "And why would he have any interest in us?"
"Hell if I know!" Zell replied, leaning back and resting his hands against his neck. "Said he was some kinda aide to the president of Esthar or something."
Quistis's head snapped up with the sudden realization. "That man at the Sorceress Memorial, Zell! The one who helped us escape! I thought he looked familiar!"
"See? See?" Zell went back to punching the air. "Wow, I thought that Kiros an' Ward were real people, but I never thought I'd actually meet 'em! Who knew?"
"I wonder what in Hyne's name they're doing in Esthar," Quistis said, putting a hand to her chin. "I mean, in the dream world... sure, the last place we saw them was in Esthar, but you'd think that they would have gotten out of there. Unless for some reason they decided to stick around."
"Hell, what's it matter, Quistis?" He shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. This was his big chance to meet Kiros for real, not just look at the guy through Ward's eyes. This was going to be so cool! So very, very cool! "Apparently they have somethin' they need Rinoa to do for them."
"That doesn't sound too good," Irvine said, sitting backwards in his chair and looking at them from over the back of it. "I mean, didn't we just make a grand escape from Esthar? Would it really be in our best interests to return?"
"Kiros said they didn't mean us any harm and that whoever was trying to seal Rinoa away was out of line." Zell scoffed one foot against the metal floor, getting a tad impatient with all this questioning. "Look, can I just go tell Squall so we can go?"
"It's up to Squall," Quistis said. "All the same, Selphie, prepare the ship for liftoff. Knowing Squall, he'll want to check this out."
Selphie saluted. "As commanded!" She skipped up to the pilot's seat and sat down, flipping some switches and pressing a few buttons. At the same time, Zell shrugged, and left the cockpit.
"I wonder," he thought aloud, "if Kiros 'n' Ward are there, then maybe . . ."
"He's just like you, Laguna," Kiros said as he hung up the phone with a laugh.
Laguna's green eyes darted up from the paperwork he had been looking over. "Was that Squall that you talked to?"
"Laguna, with all we've heard about Squall, you should know better than to think he's just like you," Kiros said, folding his arms as he walked over to stand next to Ward. "No, it was some kid named Zell. Friend of Squall's, apparently."
Laguna set down his papers, ran one hand through his hair, and sighed. "I know Squall's nothing like me. Ellone's told me that much. But hey, a guy can dream, can't he?" He looked up, mouth curling in a slightly sardonic grin. "Oh, well. I guess that's all I can expect."
Ward grunted softly, and Kiros nodded toward him. "Ward says you shouldn't worry too much about it. It's not that big a deal, Laguna."
"Yeah, yeah . . . I know." Laguna looked over the stack of paperwork on his desk and sighed. "I hope they decide to come."
Kiros watched as Laguna idly flipped through a few of the papers, looking rather uninterested.
"Why didn't you just make the call, Laguna?
"Aw, Kiros, they never would have believed me," he said. "I mean, even you guys can hardly believe that I'm the head cheese around here. You think those kids would have bought it when even you two and even me don't quite believe it after all these years?" He pretended to busy himself with his paperwork, but his eyes were wandering over his desk.
Ward shook his head and made a gesture at the office. Kiros chuckled. "Ward says that the fact we're here is all the proof we need. Though he wishes--and I agree--that we didn't have to wear these ridiculous outfits." He jabbed a finger at Laguna. "And there's you, sitting there in casual clothes without a care in the world."
"I've told you guys how many times that you don't have to wear those getups?" Laguna muttered, grinning up at them.
"Someone has to make it look like we're serious about this whole thing," Kiros said, smiling and shaking his head. "And it certainly isn't going to be you, and we all know it."
Laguna heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Aw, some pals you are!" He set down the papers he had picked up and drummed his fingers on his desk. "This Sorceress thing is making me all antsy. I hope they decide to come and help us out."
Kiros glanced at something on the corner of Laguna's desk. "You're antsy for more reasons than just the Sorceress thing, Laguna." It wasn't a question. "And you want them to come for more reasons than just to help us out with that, don't you?"
Laguna took a breath, and his eyes roamed over the desk to the rest on same thing Kiros was looking at. "Yeah. I guess so."
The object was a picture of a younger version of himself with a woman who had long brown hair and bright blue eyes.
"I hear he looks a lot like her," Kiros said.
"That's what Elle said," Laguna said. He picked up the picture and looked at it for quite some time.
For a bit, there was silence in the room.
"Are you going to tell him, Laguna?" Kiros tilted his head toward Ward. "Ward and I are both wondering."
Laguna set down the picture. "I don't know."
He left it at that, and so did they.