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Casius Magnus
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Foreword



Final Fantasy is something that has been in my life for over thirteen years, and that's half of my life. It has inspired me from as early back as I can remember. The first eight games impacted me as a writer in a big way - but more-so Squaresoft's body of work in the 90's as a whole.

Creating and writing this story was massively important to me, because I know I can do it, and I feel like I have to do it, for the fans and for myself. It's something I've seen many people try and never quite nail for some justifiable reason or another. I personally never tried, although I had many moments where I thought about it, sometimes even giving it serious thought. But nothing good ever came to me, and I never saw the risk of running with it as worth taking a gamble. Then late last year I went through Six for the first time since the late 90's, about six months after beating Seven again. Somehow the gravity and heart of those games somehow got lost in translation in my mind over the years. They didn't stay with me like Eight did from day one, but somehow I had forgotten just how moving and powerful they were. I immediately began working on some concepts, putting a few characters together, working on a few plot ideas. Two characters emerged, one complete concept, and one skeletal concept, neither of which are the young lady you're about to meet.

The first was Edge. A character I put together for myself as a lead role. An average guy who wields strength of character, moral discipline, and a good heart. The name Edge comes from my Final Fantasy gaming experiences, and was almost a dealbreaker for me on this one. I used to name all of the lead male characters Edge in the games. Cloud, Squall, Locke, even my trusty Fighter in the original game. Edge is a name I still use a LOT for old school RPG's.

The skeletal concept was a Final Fantasy icon, and a tricky decision as a fan and artist. The mysterious Black Mage. From the start I wanted the shade-like enigma we see in One, and many others. As a big fan of the traditional Black Mage, I was faced with the challenge of fitting them into a very organic, grounded, realistic feeling story that will satisfy a group of adult Final Fantasy fans who write themselves and know their stuff. It wasn't easy, and I decided to go with a tall, leaner, very human looking black enigma of a man. The Black Mage is looked upon and considered a cursed, outcast of a creature. They are looked down upon and shunned, but not bothered, as they are powerful, and known for defending themselves with a force often described as overkill. They stick to themselves, as not to be bothered or have to bother. They are a strange people, containing so much knowledge and wisdom, yet so little real emotion. Having said that they do feel, but not as... brightly or strongly as we do.

The summons will also play a big role in this story. That was something I was adamant about from day one.

This story is for the purpose of paying homage, and tribute to the games, their characters and storyline. But also something you can look at, and say it could stand alone as a Final Fantasy story. It's going to be everything you expect from a Final Fantasy, and hopefully more.

I hope everyone enjoys, and thank you for your time.




Introduction



Ana Maria Grace rolled over in her comfy bed, sound asleep. Her beautiful blonde hair rested over her forehead, covering her left eye. Her sparkling green eyes were shut as she slept the morning away against her fluffy purple pillow.

The buzzer inside of her old mechanical clock clang it's usual dull, metallic, insistent racket. New clocks had something called a chip that was made from data or something. Here in the slums of Zenobia, there was no fancy, fussy technology. Bikes that ride themselves, you just sit and stare at people passing by. Neat little boxes that show moving pictures. Nothing so sophisticated.

The inner city was like something from a comic book or fiction novel. Some futuristic metropolis turning time like the inside of a clock. Late at night you can look out your bedroom window, peer north into the night sky, and see it's lights glowing, flashing and blinking like stars hung just above and below the horizon.

She opened her eyes quickly, smiling wide. She smacked the plated spring on the clock, silencing it for another twenty-four hours, and leaped from her bed.

She jogged down the stairs of her tiny home, running into the kitchen where her mother was sitting, reading the Zenobian Times over a cup of tea.

"I made breakfast," her mother said lovingly.

"Not hungry mom," Ana replied, kissing her on the cheek, heading for the door.

Ana's mother looked over her shoulder at her as she grabbed her coat from the rack. "Stay away from those left-wing, hooligan friends of yours!" her mother yelled out to her as she dashed out the door.


The streets of Zenobia were bustling. Buildings, trees, structures and rooftops towered over power lines and into the sky. Bikes, strangely built cars and trucks filled the busy streets. Some were paved or stone, others were run down dirt roads, usually in a series of gritty backstreets networking the outermost corners and reaches of the slums.

Far beyond the cluttered, towering groupings of buildings, the massive structures and sky scrappers of the inner core of Zenobia loomed in the sky like pillars of the heavens, watching over the poverty, despair and corruption that ensued every day amidst the outer slums.




Casius Magnus
Presents


Inspired by Squaresoft's Final Fantasy Series



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Last edited by Casius Magnus on Fri May 10, 2013 2:30 am; edited 2 times in total
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Chapter 1
Sands of Zenobia



Ana dashed through the crowded, busy streets. Posters, banners, post-it adds and flyers were pasted, hung and tacked all over the city. In windows, on walls, utility poles, news stands, hanging from wires and cables strung from building to building, and on billboards laid out everywhere. People in fancy, new world cloths walked or drove vehicles around town, shopping and going about their business. The inner slums were booming on that sunny Saturday morning.

She stopped as she passed a television set in the window of an upscale home electronics shop, just outside the core of the city. She leaned against the glass, listening to the sound of the picture machine. It was a simple recording of a woman giving a news update. News feeds were the only thing you could get in the slums, and the news was filtered propaganda.

"Efforts continue today in the signing of energy contracts that will allow Zenobia Prime to construct reactors and generators, virtually over the houses of land owners in the slums. Dozens of city blocks have had to make way for the massive project, forcing thousands of residents out of their homes if these contracts are signed. Why should people give up their homes for these new reactors, Mr. Ducrinus?"

"Excellent question. One year from now if those very same people didn't have power to cook, or listen to their radios, they would be crying, asking why we didn't build enough reactors to meet the energy demand in the slums."


Sarovoc Ducrinus, brother of Lucious Durcinus, the Emperor of Zenobia. Sarovoc was the President of Zenobia Prime, an umbrella corporation inside the framework of the Zenobian Government housing MiraTech, the corporation that controls all of Zenobia's energy supply. They are a big time technology powerhouse that is responsible for everything technologically advanced in Zenobia, and the majority of the continent.

"Shouldn't believe what you hear on the news."

Ana turned around, smiling. "Jin!"

Jin was her best friend, and ally in the resistance. He stood 5'9, a few inches taller than her. He had a lean build, brown eyes, and scruffy black hair coming down to his eyes. He wore a black and red leather coat, just like hers over a simple white shirt and jeans with scruffy white shoes. They both wore buttons and patches clipped onto and sown into the thick leather fabric. They were a variety of rebellious and anti-government slogans, resistance logos, a few Rebel Radio patches, and a Black Mages Guild patch over the left breast. On the back and shoulders, was a homemade crest hand woven into the fabric. It was their resistance patch, their symbol of freedom, and justice; a depiction of Zenobia's core, as seen from the reaches of the slums, and a white dove flying free in the sky around it.

"The others are waiting," he said, "let's not keep them."

She nodded, walking with him under the far peeks of Zenobia's core.

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Ana sat at the top of the large, dome-shaped roof of a metallic structure. She hugged her knees tightly, gently shivering in the cool, evening air. Her skirt left the bare, flawless skin of her pale legs exposed to the nippy, chilling breeze.

Next to her, leaning back with his legs crossed, was Jin, and Kato to his right, followed by Willow Kensington on the far end. 

The Zenobian Resistance. Four free spirited kids looking to change the world with the strength of their hearts, and the will of their ambition. Lead by Jin, co-founded by Ana, they spent their days day dreaming, studying, seeking knowledge and truth. Workingy menial jobs, plotting the demise of Zenobia Prime and the Ducrinus Administration, and hanging out here, just outside the core of the city. They wasted days and nights away, dreaming of a better world, a better time and place, when people their age didn't have to crusade against their own people, and stand alone against the powers that be. Four kids... just doing what they can to ensure a safer, better Zenobia for all, and not just those locked away in the grand towers of the core, enjoying the greedy, corrupt lap of luxury, ignorant to the horror that dwells just beyond the cold, steel walls of their paradise.


Ana's eyes were fixed intently upon a large, outdoor television screen mounted above a large intersection just inside the walls and defenses of the inner core. The sound it produced glided through the moist evening air toward them, reaching their ears at a level barely audible. It was evening yet, and the city was still booming with an array of sound that distorted and interrupted it's playful waves as they dance through the sky.

"Welcome to Zenobia. We hope you enjoy..."


Kato stood up, casting his gaze to the sky. He was a young man, only nineteen. He was short, and filthy, wearing baggy shorts, high cut black boots, and a dirty, baggy red shirt that hung in agony around his skinny frame. His raggedy, ripped and stained jacket was tied around his waist, and over his bushy, messy blonde hair, he wore a red cap backwards.

Willow, the youngest of them all glanced up at him, and back at the television. She was only seventeen, an orphan like Kato, and practically his sister. She had long, beautiful red hair that surrounded her pale, freckled face. She wore her jacket zipped up to the neck, and a comfy pair of black sweat pants with white shoes. 

"Tomorrow is the big day, Kato. I understand if you're not ready," Jin said compassionately.

"Hey, I'll be there!" Kato replied defensively. Out of them all, Kato was probably the most passionate about their cause, in-that he harbored the most hatred and resentment toward the government, and Zenobia Prime.

"Alright," Jin said, eyes fixed on the television set, "tomorrow, we blow Zenobia Prime off the map."

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"Lucious... You're telling the Zenobian people, that we are in fact, not at war with other nations at present?"

"No."

"And that Zenobia's Armed Forces are not currently engaged in military action against other nations?"

"Absolutely not! Our affairs with other nations are better than they've ever been..."



In the peaceful, quiet town of Pelgrin, the night was setting in slowly, and the hustle and bustle of the day was winding down to a halt.

In the quiet, somber streets, the sound of a large explosion shook the tiny community to the core.

Smoke, dust, rubble, and screams of pain, confusion and terror filled the air.

More bombs exploded, causing mass chaos and confusion as residents spilled into the streets from their crudely built, stone and wooden houses.

Zenobian soldiers flooded the crowded, chaotic streets in organized tactical units, firing weapons, throwing grenades, killing, beating and destroying everything in sight. They moved with precision, and calculation, to exterminate the tiny, peaceful village.

Men with swords, axes and bows fought fiercely in the exchange to defend the village, but their efforts fell short and in vane as the bullets commissioned by Zenobian soldiers cut through them like hot knives slicing through butter.

The scene was morbid, and horrific as the Zenobian troops work tirelessly to kill every last man woman and child, and torch every last structure that stood in the once quiet, somber town.

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Ana took a deep breath of the night air, exhaling slowly. She stood with Jin, Kato, and Willow outside of the Zenobia Prime Building, all wearing heavy backpacks around their shoulders.

It's outer frame reached high into the sky. It was designed and constructed using state of the art architecture. It's steely, enormous curves and features were menacing and gloomy. It represented everything that was wrong with Zenobia. All of the greed, deceit, violence, corruption, and injustice.

"You all know what to do" Jin said sternly. Kato nodded, and the four parted ways, with Kato and Willow quickly disappearing down a manhole, and Jin dashing across the parking lot toward the side of the building.

Ana took one more brief moment to gaze upon the object of her resentment and hatred before she darted for the other side of the building. Her role was parallel to Jin's. Use the map to locate the second generator room, plant the explosives and get out of there. Jin was to cover the first generator, and Kato and Willow were supposed to handle the third.

Jin insisted that Ana stay with him, and that they delay the explosives to give them time to cover the second generator, but Ana put her foot down, insisting the explosives be synchronized and the generators covered simultaneously.

That was the plan...

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Thinking back to that night, I don't remember much. The details become blurry when the moment has passed. It all happened so fast, I didn't have time to think, or even react.

I remember them, the time we spent together that night. I remember fear, and adrenaline. Dark hallways and strange passages. I remember being confused by the map. It's a different experience when you're studying blueprints from the comfort of your bed. 

I remember smoke and fire, the cool, fresh night air. But mostly, I remember him. His hand taking mine before I could pull it away. I remember Jin calling my name as I was dragged away. He looked kind of silly in that clothing with that sword strapped around his back, but he felt threatening and dangerous too.  I remember him holding me in his arms as I struggled to break free...

I remember wishing I had died that night, instead of them...


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Jin fumbled with the explosives, his adrenaline raging out of control, and his nerves resting on the edge of insanity. They were about to kill a lot of people, regular employees, not just the corrupt masterminds. 

The lighting was dim, the air was hot and heavy, and the generator produced a loud, mechanical hum that only added to the pressure of the situation.

He placed the bundled dynamite with a timed device strapped to it in one of the grooves of the massive, noisy machine. He hit detonate, and was startled to see a ten second timer begin to count down.

His mind raced. His black market contact assured him they were set up for a ten minute timer. Jin had stressed the importance of that more than once, and he had clearly been screwed.

He began to panic. As he stood up, he heard Ana shout his name to his horror and dismay. He looked over at her, thinking to himself that it couldn't have been any worse.

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Ana stood helplessly, confused and concerned by the look of horror on Jin's face. She had read the map all wrong. She got scared and got ahead of herself, ended up at the first generator room instead of the second.

She blew it. Botched everything.


She felt a hand firmly grab her own, yanking her backwards. Jin screamed her name as she resisted and turned to face her captor. 

He wore a long sword across his back, and a leather vest over a navy tunic with a steel brassard covering his right breast, arm, and hand. His attire was barbaric and primitive. He was an outsider, no way he worked for Zenobia Prime... Unless he was a mercenary.

She struggled, protesting her being dragged away and parted from Jin when she knew something was wrong.

"No!"

No sooner did the words escape her lips and the thought crossed her mind, an explosion jarred her body and senses, thrusting Ana and her captor into the solid steel wall.

Rubble pelted her body as smoke and dust filled the dark corridors. She nearly lost consciousness, and felt him hoist her over his shoulder, carrying her the rest of the way.

As she came around she began to sob, calling Jin's name, realizing he was dead, and she had left him behind.


He struggled up a sewer ladder, and let her down as they reached the cool night air. She scrambled to her feet and tried to run back toward the smoking manhole, but he wrapped his arms around her, and held her tight.

They both fell to their knees as she wept in his arms, resisting him.

"He's gone" he said softly, "he's gone..."

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Ana's head was spinning, her heart was pounding, and her stomach was squirming as he lead her through a series of dark, unfamiliar backstreets in the slums. He held her hand tightly, aggressively, and belted her mind with a lengthy speech giving her information and instructions.

"They'll come for you, and they'll never be too far behind you. Zenobia isn't safe anymore. They'll find out who you are, kill your friends and family, everyone you know and love until they find you, or leave you so broken and far from Zenobia you might as well be dead... Head east, through the desert. It's a long haul, but help and water will accompany the road east until you reach Odessa. I'll meet you there at the inn."

He stopped and turned to face her. "They know who I am and they are already looking for me, so I can't be near you until we reach Odessa. You have a chance to escape. Find an old friend, someone you don't see often. Lay low until morning and then get out of Zenobia. Do you understand?" he asked her intently.

She didn't respond, still in pain, shock, and mourning.

He shook her gently. "Zenobia isn't safe anymore!" he yelled as he walked backwards away from her. "Odessa Inn!"

"What's your name?!" she asked him before he was out of sight in the dark, gritty backstreets.

He stopped, turning around... "Edge" he replied, disappearing down an alleyway. He didn't need to know her name, you couldn't miss Ana Maria Grace.

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"It's about choice my friends. The choice to live free of oppression, and corruption. To be afforded the same protection, securities, luxuries and privileges as those who live in the core.

We must rise above our oppressors and fight for our freedom. Storm the gates, spill the blood of our brothers who have forgotten and abandoned us. Locked us out, and cast us aside.

They've written us off my brothers and sisters! They've turned their backs on us, and built their walls and towers high. But this I say to you, my friends, my comrades: take for yourselves what is fair and right. Always we will fight. Light of day or dark of night. Always freedom in our sight...

Never back down, there are fellow freedom fighters all around you, hidden in plain sight. Seek and you will find. Keep the faith, have hope and courage. Stay smart, and you will be fighting the fight all the same. Our enemy is clever, and strong... But so are we, in our own right. In fact, we are even stronger! This is Stryker, coming to you from your one and only, Rebel Radio..."



All across the slums, millions of radios were tuned in to Stryker's transmission.

He was the faceless leader of a desperate, broken city. A symbol of hope and freedom; a voice of truth.

He was their hero.



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