The situation has worsened and Irvine takes matters into his own hands.
The Instructor waved said paper in the air for emphasis. “Where did you find this anyway?”
"Squall’s jacket.” Rinoa answered, gesturing to the beater she was still wearing.
Quistis groaned, slapping herself in the forehead and running the hand down her face. “Don’t tell me that this is for the investigation.”
When neither of them answered, Quistis huffed. “You know what Xu told you, and you know she’ll follow through with her threat.”
"Right now, I don’t care.” Irvine said. “Squall mighta left us a message; some kinda clue, and if we ignore it then we’re hinderin’ the investigation.”
“Then give it to Xu already.”
"Xu’ll assume that he went digging on purpose.” Rinoa pointed out. “And she won’t believe him if he tells her where he actually got it.”
"You were the one who found it,” Quistis pointed out. “You can back him up.”
“Right now, I’ve got as much a reason to look into this as Irvine does.” Rinoa shot back.
Quistis looked from one to the other again and sighed out of frustration. “Well, I don’t know why you came to me with this. I don’t know what he means by ‘Not Selphie’.”
“Well, maybe it’s meant to be literal.” Rinoa offered. “Like, it’s a body double; not really Selphie. Not Selphie.”
“And you needed me to help you figure that out?” Quistis asked, her eyebrow raised.
Irvine sighed. This wasn’t going the exact way he’d planned it. “Look, we need all the help we can get. Obviously the higher ups are overlooking something; it’s obvious. Squall went out of his way to look into it, even when Xu and the Headmaster were telling him not to.”
“No offence, but look where it got him.” Quistis argued back.
“But we also got a clue,” Irvine said, taking the paper back from Quistis. “Dr. Kadowaki’s already gone to bed for the night; let’s say the four of us meet up tomorrow; that includes Zell, and we can brainstorm about it while Dr. Kadowaki’s getting the test done. It’ll take at least a day for the results to come out, right?”
“At least humour us.” Rinoa said. “And if the DNA test doesn’t pan out and we can’t come up with anything legit, we’ll talk to Xu about it.”
“I can live with that.” Irvine conceded. He didn’t like his chances should that happen though.
“You promise,” Quistis asked. Irvine and Rinoa both nodded in response. “Okay, I guess a little brainstorming wouldn’t hurt. But I mean it; if nothing comes from this meeting and you’re wrong about the DNA thing, you drop it and let Xu handle it.”
They met up bright and early the following morning, meeting up in the cafeteria. Rinoa, Irvine, Quistis and Zell sat together at the far end of the cafeteria, where they would attract the least amount of attention. Zell was still half asleep (they’d all had to go to his dorm to wake the brawler up), and they’d had to drag him to the cafeteria in order to get some food into him. A few minutes later, he was wide awake and wondering why he’d been kidnapped. While Irvine and Rinoa explained to Zell about the note Squall had put in his jacket, Quistis went to request the DNA tests, with strict instructions to keep Xu and Cid out of the loop. She came back with the mission having been accomplished, though Dr. Kadowaki wanted a full explanation about it once the results came in.
They spent the next couple of days in the cafeteria, coming up with theory after theory but nothing concrete. In Irvine’s opinion, Zell hadn’t been very helpful; his ideas were mostly conspiracy theories cooked together from watching too many movies. Still, they weren’t ignoring everything, but so far nothing seemed to fit together. By the time the third day rolled out, he was convinced they’d just been wasting their time; none of the ideas had managed to explain away everything and they were back to square one.
Just when they thought that things couldn’t get any worse, the results of the test finally came back, but there was nothing inconclusive about it; the person who had been brought back to Garden over a week ago was Selphie Tilmitt.
When it was nearing dinner time, everyone decided they needed a break (and no one really wanted to stick around while the cafeteria filled up with hungry SeeDs and cadets). Opting to take the time to grade some papers, Quistis retreated to her classroom, and Zell opted to go to the Training Center in order to let off some steam – the fact that they still hadn’t thought of anything had left him frustrated and edgy. Rinoa had to feed and walk Angelo and since Irvine didn’t have much else to do, he decided to join her.
“This sucks,” Rinoa finally said as she led Angelo out into the quad. Since they couldn’t leave the grounds because of the quarantine, Angelo was forced to do her business there, and Rinoa was forced to carry plastic bags with her when she let her dog out for a walk. Even still, Irvine didn’t think she was talking about letting the dog out. “How can we not come up with anything?”
“Squall wasn’t exactly clear in his message,” Irvine stated.
“Maybe he wasn’t thinking in the literal sense, after all.” Rinoa guessed. “What if he wanted to elaborate, but he didn’t have enough time?”
"Rinoa, Squall is the most straight forward person we know.” Irvine argued. “If he knows something, he doesn’t beat around the bush; he just says it. It wouldn’t make any sense at all for him to be intentionally cryptic.”
“So what do you think?”
“I think we should retrace Squall’s steps. Last I remember, he was researching in the library. Maybe we can convince Zell and Quistis to help us out. She did say we could brainstorm a little, and we haven’t really run outta ideas yet.”
“Do you think they’ll go for it?” Rinoa asked tentatively.
“Zell maybe, but Quistis’ll need a bit of work to convince her. But we convinced her to help us out in the first place, so I don’t see a problem in tryin’.”
The sun had long since set; the sky darkening into a navy blue above. It would’ve been difficult to see anything had the quad not been equipped with lights that activated once the sun had gone down.
“What if we can’t figure this thing out?” Rinoa suddenly asked. “What if Garden can’t even figure it out? What’ll we do then?”
Irvine didn’t answer; he didn’t want to think about it. If they couldn’t figure it out; if Xu or Cid couldn’t wrap their heads around it, then would that mean neither SeeD would ever wake up? Would they be stuck like this for the rest of their lives, until someone finally stumbled across something? Dr. Kadowaki was supplementing the both of them with IV drips to keep their bodies working, but even that wasn’t exactly long term.
“We should probably go back,” Rinoa said. “Try our luck.”
Irvine nodded in agreement and after coaxing Angelo out of the plants that had been planted after the war, they went back into the Garden.
Another day passed; they hadn’t been able to do much research in the library, and Irvine couldn’t possibly remember what books Squall had been skimming through. Quistis hadn’t been able to join them; the faculty had a meeting scheduled and would take up most of the day. The Instructor had promised to try meeting with them later, but she was behind in her own duties and had to catch up. Irvine wasn’t holding his breath. So it was just Rinoa, Irvine and Zell sitting at a round table that was covered in books on comas and other subjects around the subject. Since there was no food or drink allowed in the library, they had to make scheduled trips to the cafeteria in shifts so that the research was being continued. Zell’s girlfriend, Justine, had agreed to keep things quiet on the material they were studying and should even that fail, they could simply say they were just looking up information simply because they were curious.
They were there the entire day and night, aside from getting food for themselves. But they were still no closer than they were upon first discovering the clue, and they went to bed defeated. But Irvine was awoken early in the morning by someone knocking furiously on his dorm door. Sleepily and clad only in a pair of boxers, he opened the door to see Zell on the other side, wearing sweat pants and a muscle shirt. Irvine would’ve made a wise crack about it, but chose not to when he noticed how pale the brawler was. “It happened again.” Zell explained quickly.
“Who?” Irvine asked. He didn’t need to ask Zell what he was talking about.
“Quistis.” Zell answered.
A moment later, Irvine shut the door in the brawler’s face, got dressed and a few minutes later they were at the infirmary. Rinoa was already there when they arrived, looking almost panicked. According to Zell, security had been upped since Squall’s collapse, and very early in the morning, they’d found Quistis on the second floor near her classroom in the same condition. The only reason he found out was he’d decided to visit the infirmary before his early morning exercises in the Training Center (the quarantine was still under affect – normally he jogs around the exterior of the Garden before doing the same inside). He’d gone to Rinoa’s room and then to Irvine’s immediately after. Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t letting anyone in to see anyone at that point in time.
Xu was apparently at a loss of how this could’ve happened; she’d immediately sought out Irvine, assured that he’d been snooping again and had convinced Quistis to join in, but hadn’t been able to pin it on him, what with everyone’s alibi. Secretly though, Irvine wondered if this could’ve been the case; it had happened after he’d went to both of them for help. He couldn’t help but also wonder whether Zell or Rinoa would be next. However, this thought was put on the back burner when Zell brought up an entirely different theory later on in the day when they met up at the library.
“What if this is some kind of thing that’s only goin’ after us?” Zell said suddenly, taking his usual seat – right next to the window at the far corner of the library – and leaning forward, his voice lowered to a whisper. Irvine and Zell had decided to meet Rinoa there; she was going to give it another shot at the infirmary. “Y’know, the ones who killed Ultimecia? Maybe this is the Sorceress’ Revenge.”
“Doesn’t make sense.” Irvine immediately dismissed with the shake of his head. “If it was like that, it woulda happened right after the war ended. Why wait 7 months?”
“Ultimecia wasn’t stupid.” Zell argued. “She wouldn’t attack right away.”
“She’s got an ego the size of Esthar,” Irvine said. “She’d’ve wanted us ta know.”
“Just hear me out,” Zell said. Irvine fell silent; deciding to oblige the brawler for once. “First Selphie collapses in Timber, for no good reason right? Then a week later, Squall’s next. Then, another four days and Quistis gets hit? Normally when the cops or other officials catch wind of a number of murders, the first thing they look at is what the victims all had in common. Aside from Ulti, what’s Selphie, Squall and Quistis got in common?”
“They’re all SeeD,” Irvine answered. “They all live in Garden.”
“Okay, aside from that.” Zell waved off. “Specifically them; those things everyone here has in common. Squall and Selphie both have dark hair; both Quistis and Squall have light eyes. Selphie and Squall graduated at the same time, Selphie and Quistis are both girls. Aside from all that, they have virtually nothing in common.”
"You’re forgetting one thing,” Irvine said. “Squall and Selphie were both a part of the Garden Committee.”
Zell stared at Irvine boggle-eyed. “I thought he said no.”
"Not according to Selphie,” Irvine said. “But that’s beside the point.”
“Yeah,” Zell said, though the sharpshooter could tell that he was still floored. “But on the whole, the only thing they have in common on the whole is that they’re SeeD, they live in the Garden, and they went to the future to kill the Sorceress. They might of contracted something while we travelled through Time Compression; like a virus or something like that.”
“I still say that’s jumpin’ the gun a bit.” Irvine said. “It should’ve happened sooner than this.”
“Then what do you think happened?” Zell snapped. Irvine could see that he genuinely believed that he’d come up with the answer. “What else do we have here? I think this is the one thing that’s most concrete.”
Just before Irvine could argue, they heard a noise behind them and Rinoa sat down in-between them; she’d apparently just come back from the infirmary. All thoughts of Zell’s theory left his mind as he asked her, “Anything?”
“I finally got into the infirmary.” Rinoa said. “Xu and some other SeeDs were working on the investigation and were just finishing when I got in.”
“Hear anything interesting?” Zell asked.
Surprisingly enough, Rinoa nodded. “Apparently when they brought Quistis to the infirmary, they found something that they didn’t find on the others.”
“Don’t just leave us hangin’, girl. What was it?” Irvine asked.
“There were traces of skin particles underneath Quistis’ finger nails.”
Rinoa didn’t have to say anything else; Zell and Irvine both exchanged glances. It meant Quistis was physically attacked by someone and that she managed to fight off her attacker before she collapsed. It was definitely something more than what they had before. “Do you know who it was?”
Rinoa shook her head. “Xu told Dr. Kadowaki to match the skin cells with anything in their database. If they can’t do that, then they’re going to try the database in Balamb and anywhere else until they can get a match. Xu doesn’t think it’ll come to that though; whoever attacked her is still in the Garden.”
The Sorceress grinned slightly as she continued. “Though I don’t think Xu realized I was listening in. But after she left, I asked the doctor if she could let me know the results, as a concerned friend and all.”
“And?” Both Zell and Irvine echoed.
“She’s a little suspicious, but I managed to convince her to tell me.” Rinoa’s grin turned triumphant before she leaned back in her chair. “So what were you guys arguing about when I got here?”
“Nothin’,” Irvine tried to cover, but Zell punched him in the arm. Damn limb almost went numb, but the brawler didn’t seem to notice as he told her his theory. After a moment, Rinoa looked up thoughtfully.
“Zell, I’m sorry but I have to agree with Irvine; if it really was a virus, then it should’ve happened by now. Not to mention someone attacked Quistis, and we can’t rule that out entirely.”
Zell shot Irvine a glare, but Irvine was feeling pretty good about himself until Rinoa continued. “But I do have to agree with Zell on this one; it’s too big of a coincidence. They’re interests were too different, and the only thing they really do have in common is their occupation and the fact that they stopped the Sorceress War. Along with us, of course.”
“So you’re sayin’ one of us is next.” Irvine said. Rinoa hesitated before nodding slowly. She apparently hadn’t thought of that.
“What do we do then?” Zell asked. He seemed to be in slightly better spirits, knowing that he could at least be half right. “Tell Xu? The Headmaster?”
“We’re gonna have to.” Rinoa shrugged. “We can’t risk this happening to anymore people; a lot of people are on edge as it is. It’d cause a panic if anyone else just collapsed out of the blue.”
“There’s something buggin’ me though.” Irvine said, and both Rinoa and Zell waited until he continued. “Quistis was the only one with any signs of an attack. If she was attacked, then I think we can assume that it happened before. Now, Selphie I can understand having the drop on her; she may be fast, but she’s still small; most people’d be able to take advantage of that. But Squall’s bigger than both of ‘em; why wouldn’t he have fought his attacker? He’d have had the best chance of defending himself.”
"Quistis’ been a SeeD longer than both Selphie and Squall.” Zell guessed. “She’s better trained than both of them; maybe Squall didn’t see the attack coming.”
“No, that doesn’t make any sense.” Rinoa said. “Squall was already looking into Selphie’s condition; he wouldn’t have ruled anything out. If he suspected that someone else was responsible, he would’ve kept his guard up. And Squall’s naturally paranoid; I’ve never been able to sneak up on him for as long as I’ve known him.”
“But you’re also not trained like we are.” Zell said. “No offence Rinoa, but civilians are pretty loud to us when they try to sneak around and you’re no exception.”
Rinoa huffed in annoyance, and Irvine rolled his eyes. “That’s not the only factor to consider though. Quistis is pretty light on her feet; a lightweight compared to Squall, who pretty much works out every mornin’, am I right?”
He looked pointedly at Zell; he would know since he trained roughly around the same time. Zell nodded in response, not sure where this was going. “When I said Selphie was small, I was talking about weight and build. Without junctions, she’s like a feather; you can easily blow her over. Quistis is slightly bigger and weighs more, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to take her down, and since Quistis is an instructor, she isn’t really prone to using junctions during classes or even when she’s off the clock.”
Zell’s eyes lit up and Irvine grinned despite himself. He was finally getting somewhere. “But since Squall’s mostly muscle, he’d weigh more than the both of them and it’d be much more difficult to take him down. Plus he’s almost always using junctions.”
“Exactly.” Irvine nodded. “So why did Quistis fight and Squall didn’t?”
“In either case, we might be able to get something out of the DNA results.” Rinoa said. “We might be able to get a better understanding of how they did it when we figure out who the attacker was. But in the meantime, what can we do?”
“Obviously more research.” Irvine said. “I can do that; been doin’ a lot o’ it recently.”
“I was thinking of calling Edea,” Zell said. “She might know a thing or two about this. I’ve got a couple of things I need to do today, but I don’t see why I couldn’t do that.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Irvine commented.
“And I can stake out the infirmary.” Rinoa said, surprising the other two. “Try to get that update on the test.”
“Okay. We’ll meet back at the dorms in a couple o’ hours.” Irvine suggested. “Sound good to ya’ll?”
Both Rinoa and Zell nodded and a few minutes later, they’d left, leaving Irvine to his work.
Irvine kept a strict eye on the clock as he continued his research, but when the two hours had expired, he hustled it to the dormitory, where Rinoa stood waiting for him. Before he could say two words to her, though, Rinoa spoke up first. “The results should be in in a few minutes. No change in any of their condition though and Dr. Kadowaki is getting really curious about why we want to know.”
“We’ll tell her when we’ve got something concrete.” Irvine said before looking around. “Where’s Zell?”
Rinoa shrugged. “I don’t know; maybe in his room? He did say he had a couple of things to do.”
Irvine sighed in exasperation. He hoped the brawler hadn’t gotten side tracked. “Let’s check it out then.”
Both set off into the dorms down towards Zell’s room. The hallway was filled with one or two students meeting up with one another, and he could hear them loudly complain about their forced confinement. Irvine couldn’t blame them; it seemed like cabin fever was finally setting in and it’d only be a matter of time before fights began to break out.
They reached Zell’s dorm and the sharpshooter went to rap on the door, but he was left with his balled fist hanging in the air as the door automatically slid open. Irvine and Rinoa exchanged puzzled expressions before Irvine’s eyes narrowed and he pulled out the Exeter; Zell always locked his door, even if he was in his room – the boy had a thing about privacy.
Taking in the room, it looked like it normally did from the couple of times he’d been allowed to enter; laundry basket was full and there were a few articles of clothing lyin’ around; almost like a tornado had hit it. It was much different from his room in Balamb, which made him believe his mother cleaned up after him. Trying not to think about that, he made a visual sweep of the room until he noticed an arm lying on the floor on the other side of the bed.
He gestured for Rinoa to come in, and the Sorceress did just that, but when they both circled around the bed, they found the brawler sprawled out on the floor next to his night stand. For some reason, Zell’s bed was positioned in the center of the room (Zell must’ve moved it at some point, but they were supposed to be positioned onto the side next to the wall). The phone was off the hook, and when Irvine picked it up and placed it to his ear, all he heard was the dial tone. He musta been about ta make a call, he thought to himself before letting the handle fall against the table.
Rinoa checked his vitals and nodded at Irvine; at least he was still alive. “Looks like Zell’s theory was half right, after all.” She said grimly
“Yeah, but we’re still no closer to finding out what.” Irvine pointed out frowning. “Why don’t you head on over to the infirmary and check out those tests. I’ll call Xu; say I found him here and bring help her bring him there. I’ll meet up with ya in a few minutes.”
Rinoa nodded and left the room, Irvine picking up the phone and punching in the code that would patch him into Xu’s office.
It took him two minutes to explain the situation to her, and another five for her to meet him in the room, but as soon as she’d arrived, Xu had wanted to know what he was up to. Irvine had simply said he’d wanted to check up on Zell and had found him this way (a half truth, but she didn’t need to know that). Xu had grudgingly let it slid and had helped him bring the unconscious brawler to the infirmary, enlisting help from some of the people standing idly nearby.
It didn’t take them long to reach the infirmary, and when they arrived, Rinoa was seated near the door, her face unnaturally pale. She rose to her feet as soon as she saw them, but Irvine signalled her to wait for a moment while they put Zell to bed along with the others. Right afterwards, Irvine and Rinoa were ushered out of the room by Xu and Dr. Kadowaki while they talked about something they obviously weren’t willing to discuss with him.
“How’d Xu take it?” Rinoa asked in an attempt at small talk.
“Not well. Immediately asked what I was doin’ in Zell’s room.” Irvine said. “Managed to bluff her though, but I don’t know how long it’ll stick.”
Rinoa nodded, definitely uncomfortable about something. They headed back towards the library, but eventually the silence got on Irvine’s nerves. “Didja find anything in the infirmary?”
Rinoa winced; Irvine guessed that she had. Still, he was caught off guard by the look on her face. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
The Sorceress nodded before speaking, though it was in a whisper as they continued walking. “The results came in just as I arrived. But as the doctor was looking them over, I noticed something new; something we haven’t seen before.”
“Okay…” Irvine said, not at all clear on what she was talking about.
“First the DNA results…” Rinoa said before taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. The girl looked like she was gonna faint. “They got a match.”
“Really?” Irvine said. “Who was it?”
Rinoa looked down and mumbled something that Irvine couldn’t hear. He asked her to repeat it and she looked up at him, taking another deep breath. “The DNA was Squall’s.”
Irvine wasn’t sure he’d heard her at first, but as he ran the sentence through his mind, he stared at her incredulously. “You sure?”
Rinoa nodded. “Dr. Kadowaki checked out the results; she says it doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well I’m inclined to agree.” Irvine said. “Squall’s been unconscious for near a week. He couldn’t have done it.”
“Dr. Kadowaki says the test was done accurately. She wants to do another one, but she’s not convinced the results’ll be different. I’m not convinced either; in fact, I think it’ll still say the exact same thing.”
“How can you be so sure?” Irvine asked.
Rinoa sighed again. The news was definitely upsetting her. “The thing I saw that we haven’t seen before. I came in, pretending to visit as usual, but I saw that there was a bandage on one of Squall’s arms. I asked Kadowaki about it, and she said that she’d only noticed it this morning. She doesn’t know how it got there, but she said they were scratches; like someone ran their fingernails across his arm.”
“And the DNA was found in Quistis’ fingernails…” Irvine said as he trailed off. He was beginning to see how Rinoa was so convinced that the results were right. “But that’d mean that Squall’s somehow involved, but he’s in the same condition as the others.”
“I don’t understand it either, but DNA doesn’t lie.” Rinoa frowned thoughtfully. “And since Quistis’ attack was earlier today; the scratches are definitely new.”
Irvine’s mind was running nearly a mile a minute; how could this have happened when Squall was attacked as well? The only thought that came across his mind was that the Commander was faking, but that didn’t make sense either; Dr. Kadowaki would’ve been able to pick it up. She was trained to see through all that, what with Garden being military and all. “Whatever’s going on, we’re definitely the targets. But I can tell when people are lying, Rin. Squall’s pretty good at doin’ just that, but even he has his tells and when I talked to him before he got attacked, he was genuinely willin’ ta help. Maybe he only started attacking after he was attacked.”
Rinoa scrunched her nose up at the idea. “That makes even less sense.”
“Yeah, I know,” Irvine said. “Then again, nothing we’ve actually come up with makes much sense. Not even that ‘Not Selphie’ clue, if we can even believe that.”
“Well it’s really all we have to work with.” Rinoa said. “But we still haven’t figured out what it means.”
Irvine was about to say something, but the sound of footsteps made him stop and as he looked behind him, he saw someone running towards them. He recognized him as one of the SeeDs who’d brought Selphie into the Garden that day nearly two weeks ago. Irvine stepped aside to let him pass, but surprisingly enough he stopped right in front of the both of them. Panting as he tried to catch his breath, Rinoa and Irvine exchanged puzzled expressions before the SeeD was finally able to talk. “Lieutenant Commander Xu wants to talk to you both in her office, ASAP.”
“What’s it about?” Irvine asked. He was getting that trepidation feeling he got whenever he got caught cheating on a girl.
“Dunno,” the SeeD admitted. “But I don’t envy you; she looked seriously pissed.”
Rinoa and Irvine exchanged glances once more, and the thought that crossed Irvine’s mind wasn’t a good one; I’m so fucked.
When they arrived at Xu’s office, the Lieutenant Commander was sitting at her desk, filling out some paperwork that Irvine severely hoped had nothing to do with denying his transfer request. She looked up when both he and Rinoa entered the room, and the door slid shut behind them before she moved the paperwork to one side. Leaning back in her chair, she folded her arms across her chest and fixed them with a level stare. “Who wants to start talking first?”
No one spoke for a moment but Irvine decided to take the bullet; thinking about it he’d rather be stationed in Galbadia for the rest of his life than to follow the rules and watch this happening to the others. “This was my fault.”
“No, it was mine.” Rinoa jumped in, startling the sharpshooter. “Irvine was dead set against looking into this whole thing until I found something in Squall’s jacket and convinced him to help me look into it.”
“If I hadn’t looked into it in the first place…”
“There’s no way we could know for sure that without the initial interference…”
“Shut up.” Xu snapped, and both Irvine and Rinoa snapped their mouths shut. “I’m not interested in whose fault this is, or which one of you wants to take the bullet for the other. Right now, I have four SeeDs lying comatose in the infirmary with no apparent explanation as to why. Even said, no matter what either of you has to say, you both have been working behind my back for the last few days and it stops now. Am I understood?”
“I’ll stay outta it. This time, you’ve got my word.” Irvine said after a moment, hoping to smooth things over, even if he didn’t mean the words. Unfortunately for him, Xu laughed; not a jovial laugh, but a bitter one.
“Kinneas, right now your word means shit to me. I warned you what would happen if you looked into this and you went behind my back anyway, this time involving two other SeeDs. Now Zell, I can understand, but how you managed to rope Quistis into this still boggles me and frankly, I don’t want to know.
“And you,” Xu said, directing her glare at Rinoa. “You’re not even a member of Garden and you’re here by privilege because both Squall and the Headmaster vouched for you. This is the thanks they get for letting you stay here?”
Rinoa looked down guiltily, playing with her nails nervously.
“But you both are very lucky.”
Rinoa immediately looked up to regard Xu and Irvine did the same; if she was so pissed off with them why would she say something like that. “Now is not the time to deal with this, and I will personally see to it that it does get dealt with when it is time. Dr. Kadowaki informed me of your requests to gather information without my knowing about it as well as the DNA test on Tilmitt. I don’t know what was running through your heads when you did this, but you are going to tell me everything that you know about this, so start talking.”
Both Irvine and Rinoa were about to speak when Xu raised her hand and silenced them both. “One at a time.”
Rinoa stepped forward before Irvine could say anything. “The DNA test was done because I found something in Squall’s jacket. Dr. Kadowaki said she’d had it cleaned, but I think the inside of the jacket is water proof.”
“Continue.” Xu said. Apparently, she didn’t care about that.
“Anyways, there’s an inside pocket with a zipper inside, and there was this slip of paper in it. It was in Squall’s handwriting and it said ‘Not Selphie’. That’s why we did the DNA test.”
"Where is this piece of paper?” Xu asked.
Irvine stepped forward and produced the paper, placing it on her desk. The Lieutenant Commander inspected it for a moment before nodding. “What was the result of the test?”
“It proved that Selphie really was brought to the infirmary.” Rinoa said. “We still haven’t figured out what the message meant.”
"And this secondary test proves that Squall was the one who attacked Quistis.” Xu said. Apparently, Kadowaki had briefed her on it as well. “Which doesn’t make much sense at all.”
“Zell thought that we’re being targeted.” Irvine stated. “The ones who defeated the Sorceress, I mean. It makes sense, if you consider who’s layin’ in the infirmary.”
Xu looked confused. “Why would anyone want to target you guys?”
“Don’t know.” Irvine shrugged. “Zell also thought it was the Sorceress’ Revenge.” Rinoa nodded in agreement.
“So in other words, you haven’t found much else out from what I’ve found.” Xu said. Irvine and Rinoa shook their heads in response. Xu sighed before cursing lightly. “Well, since you know as much as you do, I might as well inform you that the Commander is being investigated for his apparent role. I’m having a team search through the surveillance cameras in case we missed something. So far we haven’t been able to find anything so I’m not holding my breath, but at least we’re doing something.”
Irvine suddenly got an idea. “How far back are you planning to look?”
Xu frowned. “Why?”
"Let Rinoa and me look through the tapes.” Irvine suggested and Rinoa stared at him in confusion. “It’s the least we can do for goin’ behind your back. This time we’d have your permission.”
Xu leaned forward, and he didn’t like the look on her face. “Neither one of you are really in my good books right now, and I could have the both of you brought up on charges for your actions. So tell me, Kinneas, what makes you think I’d let a Galbadian Sharpshooter with no credentials and a civilian Sorceress look through Balamb Garden’s security tapes rather than fully trained SeeDs with years of experience in this field of expertise?”
“If we’re helping with the investigation, you’ll keep a better eye on us; we won’t be able to do much without your knowing about it.” Irvine said before he grinned. “And you know we’ll just find a way to do it anyway. We found the paper with the clue on it, right? It’s the only lead we have and since the guy who wrote it is the one you’re focussing the investigation on right now, seems only right we test the clue, right?”
Even Irvine hadn’t expected that to work. In fact, he’d expected to have been thrown in the brig for even considering the notion that he could do something that Xu couldn’t.
And yet here he was, sitting in Garden’s security room with Rinoa, overseeing all of the security tapes for the past two weeks. He must’ve rolled some lucky dice, or done something real good in a past life to have that kinda luck, but he wasn’t gonna jinx it by mulling it over. This was his chance to prove himself right.
Once the escorts had left the room (though they were standing guard in case Irvine or Rinoa tried anything funny), Irvine had looked for a specific set of tapes and filled Rinoa on what they were looking for; something happened between the time Selphie was brought to the Garden to when Squall collapsed. The sharpshooter wasn’t a hundred percent positive, but he’d bet his hat that the clue had something to do with it. Both of them spent the next set of hours watching the surveillance tapes, taking down notes of anything of interest and reporting back to Xu every half hour. It was tedious work but Irvine hoped they found something that’d shed some light to the situation.
It was a couple days later when they finally found something of importance; Rinoa called him over to where she was sitting and told him she was watching the tape when Squall had told Irvine to visit the infirmary. Thinking back on it, he supposed he should have been suspicious, but he still found it difficult to believe Squall would’ve had anything to do with any of this. They got just to the point where Irvine left the library for the night when Rinoa yawned and stretched her arms over her head. Finally, after about another hour and a half, Squall left the library.
Switching that tape with the one overseeing the hallway, they watched that for a few minutes before they realized he had headed to the infirmary. Rinoa turned to look at Irvine who shrugged in response; he’d spent a few minutes with Selphie before heading to bed early that night; he hadn’t actually seen Squall after the library. Switching tapes again, they found the one for the infirmary dated for that night and slapped it in, watching as Squall entered the infirmary. He spoke to Kadowaki for a moment, asking to look around before doing just that. Five minutes into the search, Kadowaki announced that she would be leaving for the night soon, and that she had to go into her office to pack up her things. After the doctor disappeared from the camera’s viewpoint (both Irvine and Rinoa assumed that she’d entered her office), Squall continued his search and didn’t find much of anything.
Just as Irvine was certain Squall’s lead – whatever that had been – was a dead end, he saw Squall stand where he was and close his eyes for an instant before resuming his search. Irvine raised an eyebrow, but Rinoa sat up straighter, leaning forward into her seat and drawing the sharpshooter’s attention. “What?”
“He cast a spell just now.” Rinoa said. “You didn’t catch it.”
"Rin, you know I don’t like to dabble in that kinda stuff.” Irvine pointed out. He preferred to depend on the Exeter more than anything.
Rinoa shrugged sheepishly. “Right, sorry. I can’t tell what spell he cast, but he definitely did.”
“Maybe scan,” Irvine suggested and Rinoa looked at him. “From what I’ve heard, with scan you can pretty much see and identify stuff almost like you were wearing night vision goggles. Maybe he thinks he’ll be able to see something that the naked eye can’t find alone.”
"It’s possible.” Rinoa said, turning to watch the camera again. Sure enough, Squall was looking in the exact same places he had been moments ago. But a couple minutes later, Squall moved towards one of the beds, and jumped back in surprise, almost as if he’d seen a ghost, with his back hitting Kadowaki’s desk. Dr. Kadowaki entered the scene again, but before she could say anything, Squall left, almost like he was in a hurry.
“What d’ya reckon he saw?” Irvine asked. Rinoa shrugged.
“Rewind the tape.” She said. “I’ll try to find out.”
Irvine did as told and when he rewound far enough, Rinoa lowered her head and closed her eyes before opening them slowly. When she raised her head, her eyes looked out of focus; almost like she was blind, but he could tell she was staring right at the screen. It replayed the scene and finally as Squall left, Rinoa’s eyes regained their focus. Pausing the tape, he regarded her curiously, but the Sorceress shook her head. “Just what I thought. The tape recorded what it sees, and the spell didn’t work. Whatever Squall saw, we’ll have to go downstairs and see for ourselves.”
"You think Xu’d let us?” Irvine asked.
"You think I care right now?” Rinoa shot back. Irvine had to admit she did have a point.
The pair of them left the security room and managed to make up an excuse for the SeeDs posted at the door (bathroom break, they both had said). They made it to the elevator, pressed the button for the first floor and rode the elevator down, hoping they wouldn’t run into anyone else.
“I wonder why Xu didn’t tell us this.” Rinoa suddenly asked. Irvine shrugged.
“Need to know bases. You know how she is.”
“You would think Dr. Kadowaki would’ve said something.”
“Maybe she was told not to.” Irvine said. “If I was her, I’d be more scared of Xu than of us.”
The elevator dinged, signalling that their floor had arrived and both of them charged out of the elevator, walking at a brisk pace towards the Infirmary. The doors slid open when they got close enough and they entered, but what they saw was definitely not what they expected to see. The desk at the end of the room, normally immaculate and covered with need piles of files was a mess of loose paper and folders, and Dr. Kadowaki was slowly getting to their feet, gripping her head with her left hand. Both the sharpshooter and the Sorceress instantly forgot the reason they had come and ran to her side, helping the elder woman onto a nearby bed.
“What happened?” Irvine said when they were sure she was alright.
“I don’t know,” Dr. Kadowaki confessed. “I was in here, checking on my patients and organizing my files when I got hit off the back of my head. The next thing I know, I’m on the floor and you two showed up.”
“Call security; get them down here.” Irvine said.
“There’s a directory taped to the wall beside the phone,” Dr. Kadowaki said helpfully. Rinoa nodded and went into the adjacent office.
“You sure you didn’t see who attacked you?” Irvine asked. He felt increasingly stupid; he’d just been up in the security room. Had they not been as focused on the tapes as they had been, they would’ve been able to see who attacked her.
Dr. Kadowaki shook her head in response before standing up suddenly. Irvine didn’t know what had gotten her up in arms and any attempt at getting her to sit back down was futile.
Whoever said ‘Doctors make the worst patients’ had Dr. Kadowaki in mind, that’s for damned sure.
Dr. Kadowaki moved over towards her desk and surveyed the room, frowning deeply when she finished. Just as Irvine was about to ask her what was wrong, she answered him unknowingly. “Where the hell are my patients?”
It took him a moment to realize it, but she was right; the four beds that had been housing the rest of the team were now empty.
An hour later, Xu emerged from the security office, frowning. Though this time, it wasn’t directed towards Irvine or Rinoa. “Nothing.”
Irvine raised an eyebrow. “Nothing?”
"Nothing. For some reason, the tape crapped out before Kadowaki was attacked.” Xu explained. “I thought someone might have broken it, but it started working fine when Kadowaki came around. Either way, we didn’t see who attacked her and there was no DNA left at the scene.”
“How is the doctor?” Rinoa asked.
“A little bruised, but she’ll be alright. The medical staff are looking after her right now.”
“We’re sorry.” Irvine blurted out, startling the Lieutenant Commander. “We went to the infirmary to follow a hunch and we found her like that. If we’d been paying more attention to the actual monitors, we’d’ve seen who attacked her.”
“Are you kidding me?” Xu asked and Irvine was taken aback. For once, the tone wasn’t accusing or embittered. She almost sounded grateful. “Had you two not been down there when you were, who knows what the doctor would’ve done? If anything you probably prevented her from hurting herself worse than she is. What did you find anyway?”
“Squall saw something.” Rinoa jumped in. “We don’t know what, but apparently it shocked him. He left the infirmary almost immediately afterwards.”
“Dr. Kadowaki did mention something like that, but she assumed he’d forgotten something in his office.” Xu said. It made some sense why she hadn’t told them, but regardless Irvine still felt out of the loop. That must have been how Xu felt when she found out what he’d been up to.
“Well,” Xu continued. “I doubt you’ll find what he saw here, but you’re free to look anyway. Where was it he was standing?”
“Right in front of Kadowaki’s desk.” Rinoa said and both she and Irvine led Xu into the Infirmary. When they arrived a few minutes later, Xu stood in front of the desk before shaking her head. “I don’t see anything.”
“Try casting scan.” Irvine said. When Xu stared at him, Irvine shrugged. “Rinoa says Squall cast it on himself before he jumped.”
Nodding, Xu closed her eyes and a moment later she opened them, her hazel eyes holding that same blind-like look that Rinoa’s had earlier. After a moment of looking, Xu shook her head and closed her eyes, dispelling the effects. “I still don’t see anything. Whatever it was, it’s gone now.”
Just before Irvine or Rinoa could say anything, however, one of the SeeD members approached Xu. “Ma’am. Dr. Kadowaki is ready to be questioned.”
Xu nodded at the two (Irvine assumed it was a dismissal) before joining the SeeD in speaking with the doctor. Irvine and Rinoa left the infirmary, walking down the hallway back towards the dorms. “Let’s go over what we know.” Irvine said, Rinoa nodding. “We know that Selphie was brought in almost two weeks ago, unconscious and unresponsive, and that a week later, Squall was found in the same position.”
“We also know that before he collapsed, he saw something and then practically ran out of the infirmary.” Rinoa added. Irvine nodded in response.
“Then, four days after that, Quistis is attacked by Squall; don’t know how or why; and nearly half a day later, Zell is found in his room in the same condition.”
“And now, two days after that, all four of them disappeared. All the people who’ve collapsed so far have been a part of the Esthar team to take out Ultimecia.”
“And the only thing left to figure it all out is this note Squall left us.” Irvine summed up before suddenly stopping. Rinoa walked a few feet ahead before she seemed to realize this and stopped too.
“What’s up?” Rinoa asked uncertainly.
“I think I’ve figured it out.” Irvine said after a moment.
“Figured what out?” Rinoa asked before she seemed to realize it. “You mean this whole thing?”
Irvine nodded in response before Rinoa jumped in front of him. “Don’t just stand there; tell me!”
"I need to get some confirmation first.” Irvine said. “But I think I’ve got it wrapped up.”