Categories > Games > Final Fantasy X-2 > As Flies to Wanton Boys

Chapter Thirteen - A Decision is Made

by Ikonopeiston 0 reviews

This follows Nooj into the Crusaders. It will be multi-chapter. The first chapter is, of necessity, expository. It sets the scene for what is to come.

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Nooj - Published: 2006-01-19 - Updated: 2006-01-19 - 3652 words

Chapter Thirteen

"It's called 'phantom limb pain'," said Kalek. "It's pretty rare so not many who aren't surgeons know about it. Don't blame Aquelev."

"I don't blame his lack of knowledge but why did he get so skittish when I mentioned this?"

Kalek laughed with just a touch of scorn, "He thought you were hallucinating or that you were going more than a little out of your mind. He's been worried about that since you first woke and started talking about dreams."

Nooj was silent. He had not remembered mentioning the dreams which had troubled him over the years, dreams which had presaged the injuries he had actually suffered. The discovery he had revealed one of his most private concerns was repugnant to him. "Tell me, doctor, if I asked you to remove these machina objects, would you do it?"

"Are you asking if their presence is causing the phantom pain? If so, I can tell you they have nothing to do with it. Nobody knows the reason some people keep feeling in a body part which is gone but it's nothing connected with the machina replacements."

"That's not what I asked. Listen carefully - if I ask you to take off these abominations, will you do it?" The question was posed with elaborate patience. "They are offensive to me; I want them gone."

Kalek hid his surprise, "No. I will not do it. To remove them will be to condemn you to a life of basic immobility and frustration. What I will do is to help you learn to use these prostheses to the best of your ability. You don't know yet how good they are and have no logical reason to reject what you haven't tested."

"I know I would have preferred to die rather than live like this." Nooj tried to shift his position on the bed but was prevented by both the weight of the new limbs and the pain occasioned by moving the left side of his body. "I have no great attachment to life at all costs."

Kalek stepped closer, "The question is no longer life or death but living as a cripple or not. You can either learn to manipulate the machina limbs and walk again and use both hands or you can spend the rest of your life hobbled to a wheeled chair at the mercy of the kindness of your caregivers. Without your other arm and hand, you can't even use crutches or wheel yourself around. You don't impress me as a man who would relish being that dependent." He folded his arms and stared down at his patient.

The man on the bed clamped his jaw shut. He had no wish to further expose his personal affairs by telling the surgeon he had every intention of seeking and, this time, finding Death as soon as he was freed from surveillance. It was not universally acceptable to be a Deathseeker, not even amongst ordinary Spirans. What the Al Bhed with their unorthodox beliefs would make of it was not certain and Nooj preferred not to find out.

"Then, Kalek, what are your plans for me while I cannot decline them and how long do you intend keeping me a prisoner?"

"You're no prisoner. You're our honored and esteemed patient, the one we are making every effort to heal. We shall help you regain your strength and teach you how to connect your mind and its motor impulses to these machina miracles. We intend to have you walk out of this establishment, opening doors with your left hand and returning to a life which will fulfill you in all the important ways. Nooj, this is not a conspiracy to harm you. You have become a hero to the people, a symbol of the will to conquer Sin. You are nearly a legend - one who challenged the worse Sin can do and lived. Your survival has given hope to millions." He stopped, appalled by the expression on the other's face.

"Don't talk like that! I'm not that man! Who started this idiotic story?"

"Don't upset yourself. People are going to be people and when they need a hero, they'll find one. Forget it. You don't have to worry about it." Kalek, like most surgeons, was not noted for his bedside manner. "Let me tell you more about these things." He lightly tapped the calf of the metal and ceramic leg. There were tremors in his fingers.

Nooj hissed, "Get out and leave me alone, you imperious ass! I don't give a damn about these things you've stitched onto me. I'll find somebody to take them off as soon as I escape from here. Now take your shaking hands and go!"

Kalek flushed angrily. "Then you'll never get out. I won't have my work undone for nothing. I can keep you in institutions for years, until you rot if I choose. You can't dismiss yourself. You're a soldier under the orders of your commanders and they gave you to me." He panted mementarily, trying to recover his equanimity. "Why won't you co-operate and see how they work? You won't even look at them."

Nooj had reached over with his remaining hand and grasped the upper part of the machina arm and was trying to twist it off. In spite of the excruciating pain involved, he tugged and wrenched with all his power. Kalek frantically pressed the call button and turned to prying the other man's fingers off the limb.

"Stop that, you damned fool! You can't get rid of it that way. Knock him out," he shouted to the Healer who had responded to the call. "Put him under. Stop him!"

The Healer cast his most potent sleep spell and stood ready to take whatever additional action seemed required. Unconscious, Nooj sank back onto the pillows and the hysterical air in the room dissipated.

"Strap him back down so he can't try that again. And firmly. He's gone completely mad on us and we'll have to think of something else to do." Kalek examined his hands, checking to see if he had damaged them in the struggle and was dismayed to see the trembling had increased. With a brusque movement, he shoved both hands into his pant's pockets to conceal them from the other personnel who had come at the uproar. "Notify Aquelev I want to see him."


"You wanted me, Kalek? Is anything wrong?" Aquelev entered the office with a worried air. "Has something happened to Nooj?"

"Sit down. We need to talk. No. There's nothing more wrong than usual with our patient if you overlook the fact he is trying to rip off the prostheses with his bare hands."

"What! What did you say to him?" The younger man sank into the chair the older pushed forward with his foot.

"Nothing more or less than the truth. What's the matter with him anyway? The way he acts you'd think he wanted to die."

"He does. I've done some checking into his background and he's what they call a Deathseeker, Taydrcaagan in our tongue. He's been actively trying to get himself killed since he was a boy. I suspected that soon after I met him and should have warned you about it."

Kalek snarled, his face transformed into a mask of fury. "I never heard of such a thing and I won't let his psychological impairments interfere with my accomplishment. Who does he think he is to try to ruin my miracle?" Noticing that his hands were beginning to tremble uncontrollably, he clasped them together and gripped them between his knees to hide the sight from his companion.

"It is his body, you know." Aquelev replied mildly. "You'll have a chance to do this kind of surgery again. He has only his one self to protect. Now - I'm not happy he's so upset and I'll try to calm him and talk him into giving the implants a chance but in the end the decision will be his."

"There may never again be such a perfect candidate for this experiment. He's strong and healthy - in his body anyway. The nerve sockets were viable; the connections are well made. I'll never have something like this again."

"Still, you can't make a person accept help he doesn't want. Don't react too quickly. He's only been faced with this for a couple of days and hasn't had time to see how they work. I know him pretty well and he's a smart one. Give him time to come to terms with all these new ideas. After all, it had to be a shock to wake up and find himself missing a few parts and see them replaced by something he'd been trained to hate and fear all his life."

Kalek shrugged, his body beginning to relax although the tremor remained in his hands. "You may be right. We'll just have to keep a watch on him and make sure he doesn't have a chance to destroy my work until we can reason with him. I tell you, Aquelev, I won't have my chance ruined because some psychotic Warrior can't deal with machina."

When Aquelev had left, Kalek sat unmoving for a while. He unfolded his hands and noticed the slight quivering still animating them. With a violent curse, he threw his appointment book across the room, ignoring the papers which spilled from it like entrails from a gutted bird. The thought of losing his place in surgical history as the first man to successfully connect machina prostheses to the human nervous system made him want to retch. What was it with these Luddite Spirans anyway? Whoever heard of a man who wanted to stop living without even making an effort to keep on? No Al Bhed was ever so wrong-headed. The surgeon swore darkly to himself. He would go immediately to the chiefs of the Crusaders and convince them that it would be necessary to keep Nooj in the care of his doctors for some time yet until he had healed sufficiently to return to duty. A watch would be kept on the man day and night and he would be confined with straps and ties so long as he resisted treatment and rehabilitation. This could be done up to the time of success or failure and publication of the results. He would not be cheated out of his hard earned renown. His plans made, Kalek turned out the light and made his way to his sleeping quarters.


Nooj woke to a raging thirst. Without opening his eyes, he tried to reach for the water glass which stood always ready on the bed stand. To his surprise, he was unable to move his remaining arm. When he looked down, he could not tell why since the sheet had been drawn up to his neck and he could see no obstacle.

"Nurse!" He croaked. "Grayton! Are you there?"

"I'm here, sir. What do you need?" The cheerfully plain face of his attendant appeared in his field of vision.

"I'm thirsty. Why can't I move my arm?"

Grayton looked abashed. "Oh, sir, let me get the glass for you." Holding it so he could drink and supporting his head to make it easier, she continued, "They put the straps back in place so you wouldn't hurt yourself."

He pushed back against the pillow. "Well, take them off again. I want some mobility. Go on, take them off."

"I can't do that without permission. The supervision will be in soon and he may be able to." She stepped back hastily as though to avoid the blow he could not deliver. "Or your doctor when he makes his rounds."

Biting back the impulse to demand Aquelev be summoned at once, Nooj closed his eyes as a way to indicate the woman's presence was no longer required. He was fully awake, aware of all the discomforts of being kept to a single position and thoroughly irritated. The pressure of the sheath against his left hip was nearly unbearable and any attempt to alleviate it simply made things worse. Since he was unable to do anything physical about his state, he settled down to planning how to best deal with the situation in which he found himself.

If what Kalek had said was true and the commanders of the Crusaders had given him over to the Al Bhed technicians to use as an experimental subject, he had no recourse in that direction. Was that likely to be the truth? When he looked at it with honesty, it was not out of line with the way the army worked. The individual was of little importance. If his superiors thought his broken body would be of greater value in developing better ways to return soldiers to battle, they would not hesitate in directing that he be so used. So there was no reason to hope for rescue by reason of his membership in the Crusaders, no matter his former status there. It was in his own hands what became of him. Aquelev seemed inclined to do what he could to help but there was no way the junior Healer could overrule the senior surgeon even if he could be persuaded of the rightness of the cause. Not even Al Bhed were so anarchic as that.

Nooj shifted restlessly, the straps chafing his pride more than his limbs. He was especially annoyed by the one holding his right wrist firmly against the rails of the bed. No amount of tugging loosened it nor offered any slack. Experimentally, he tried to feel the inert machina arm lying along his left side. All that he could sense was the dull ache at the implantation site which became a sharp pain when he tried to move his shoulder. What Kalek had called 'phantom limb pain' was in abeyance at the moment - for which he was numbly grateful.

He would find it necessary to play a role if he was to escape the fate of becoming the demonstration model for Al Bhed ingenuity. It was evident from the behavior and words of Kalek that he was the first to be afflicted with these limbs and that how he adapted to them was of the first order of importance. It was also clear he would not be discharged from this establishment until he had done as they expected and proved their case for them. So, since escape was impossible with no independent mobility, he must learn to use the damnable devices in order to reject them. A sour smile crossed his lips at the paradox.

The picture Kalek had drawn of a half-man impotently tied to a chair and totally reliant on the kindness of others was devastating. Nooj felt a flush of anger and despair wash over his body at the mental image of himself in that position. That was another reason to take advantage of what the engineers wanted to offer him. He arched his back and shuddered violently, causing the stump of his left leg to jerk against the prosthesis. The resultant bolt of agonizing pain forced him to stifle an inadvertent cry into his pillow

Nooj had been trained to make decisions and not second-guess himself. He knew how to formulate his goals and lay out the paths to achieve them. When he had examined his thinking in the matter of his objectives and found no flaws, he made the choice, however unpleasant. Thus, he decided - he would cooperate with those who tended him and do as he was instructed. He would submerge his pride in order to be free of restrictions as quickly as possible. Then when he walked out of this hospital-prison, he would either return to his post in the Crusaders or set out as a mercenary. No matter which case, he would be able to resume his search for Death, that search he had so injudiciously abandoned in a fit of unmerited optimism. When he remembered the time when he had thought he might live, he could only assume his mind had been disordered by the lingering effects of the poisoned spear. Now he was back to his own self, what was left of it, his aim re-established.

Peace restored to his spirit, Nooj permitted himself to drift off into a half-doze.


He was running across the flat lands near the training camp. Keeping pace with him were Nepetu and Kaith. The sound of their breathing was a soft rhythmic counterpoint to his own. The girl's arm brushed occasionally against his side and he could smell the slightly musty fragrance of the great cat's fur blended with the greenness of the grasses crushed by their pounding feet. The air was sweet, the light unshadowed - he knew in his heart he could run like this forever and would never tire. The three of them were one, a part of the continuity of existence, an inseparable unit of youth, courage and joy.

They ran as one, leaping with wide paces across the land. At times they flew, their feet losing contact with the earth for unimaginable moments during which they hung suspended and weightless against the sky. The humans laughed and the beast purred with a deep throb which made the air pulsate like a beating heart. They ran and drank the air as light showers of rain refreshed them and the sun dried them.

Then when at last they chose to leave off running, the three sank to the ground like birds coming to rest, folding lightly, gracefully into a interlocked whole. The man and the woman relaxed against the long body of the cat and embraced one another, finding in the act of love the culmination of their unity and the epitome of their communication. Then ... sleep. And dreams of flying.


Aquelev was at his bedside when he woke. Remembering his resolution, Nooj did not immediately agitate for his release from the straps holding him so rigidly. It had taken him a moment to shake off the residue of his dreams and to recognize the reality of his immobility. Equally, he was determined to hold his anger at the additional bonds firmly in check.

"Are you feeling better, my friend?" The Healer asked with real concern. "Do you need any help in dealing with pain?"

"Not at the moment. I'm grateful to have my mind clear for a change and want to talk to you while that's still true." Nooj drew a carefully shaped smile on his lips. "Could you raise the bed so that I don't have to strain to look up at you?"

When that had been done and the two men comfortably facing one another, Nooj continued, "I have been thinking about what you said and what Kalek told me about these new devices you have given me." He was carefully choosing neutral language so as not to arouse suspicion with too rapid an acquiescence. "I would like to hear more about how they are meant to work."

Aquelev relaxed back into his chair. He had been nervous about how he would be greeted today when the maimed man discovered he had been strapped down again and had braced himself for demands that the bindings be released. With care taken to speak clearly and exactly, he outlined the manner in which the receptors in the machina units would receive the impulses from the neurons firing in the host body and transform them into power with which to actually move the appropriate parts of the new limbs. "So, you see, you will start by gross movements, the whole thing and proceed until you can easily lift an egg safely in your left hand. Within weeks we expect you to be walking with only a cane and doing almost everything for yourself." He concluded cheerfully.

Nooj pushed back into the pillow and closed his eyes, feigning reluctant thought, "I can see this is my best chance to return to service of some sort. ... Very well, I will give it a try. When do we begin?"

The Healer make no effort to conceal his delight. "I'll have to check with the therapists but we'll try sitting you up tomorrow. Not much can be done before the incisions are healed and the areas less sensitive. And you will be given help to manage pain during the sessions. You'll be surprised at how quickly it all goes." He suddenly leaned forward, "I almost forgot. Here are the lens that were prescribed for you." He held out a flat case then, recognizing his error, flushed and opened it, removing a pair of spectacles and unfolding the temples. "Here." He placed the glasses on his friend's face and adjusted them so they sat level.

Nooj rubbed his head against the pillow to settle the frames in their proper position. "It would be nice to be able to straighten them." He murmured meekly.

"Yes, of course. I don't think there's any more need for these." Aquelev turned back the sheet and unfastened the tie holding the other's hand to the rails. "I'll just leave a note to the effect you're to be left free with just these side-rails for protection." He unbuckled the straps which crossed the chest and the hips. "That should be better. You aren't going to do anything rash again, are you?" There was a note of doubt in his voice.

Nooj smiled wanly, "No, I've learned I can't gain anything that way. I'll be a model patient from now on." He awkwardly resettled the spectacles and peered through them. "At least I can see clearly again. I didn't realize how much I was missing until just now." He was tired but content in what he had managed to accomplish so far. One step at a time. Again the irony struck him and he smiled a smile which was promptly misunderstood by his Al Bhed friend.
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