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January 3, 2011
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Rain fell thick and heavy as thunder shook the ground of Giza Plains. Visibility was bad enough, and most folk had already battened down and tried for some semblance of dryness and warmth. Not the young chocobo-wrangler from Rabanastre. She wasn't quite prepared to give up defying the raging elements just yet, though her fur was soaked through and she could barely see past her hands.

Taking a few deep breaths to centre herself, she drew her saturated coat and sleeves in close to her chest, keeping out what cold it could. Any minute now she was sure she might collapse, and she did not want to end up spending the night in the mud with a storm bearing down on her. Rain stung her eyes and went up her nose, causing her to sneeze every now and again. Between sneezes, she berated her charge for running off, as if it could hear her - every time hoping, in vain, that it could.

"Boco... where do you have to run to, kupo? What was wrong with home? You'll be far safer under shelter, kupo! Come home at once!"

Privately, though, she doubted it. While her house had been mostly spared, a violent gale had all but demolished the pen she kept her chocobos in, which sent the poor birds hysterical. After herding back together as many as she could, it was all Gurdy could do to tie them up and encourage them to huddle together for warmth. Unfortunately, the birds now had no roof over their heads, and it pained Gurdy to see them so wet and cold, but having no idea of how to go about rebuilding a pen during the height of a storm, this was as elegant a solution as she was going to get.

And then she realised she was a bird short.

It is observed that in normal people, negative emotions tend to be dealt with in a reasonably consistent, cyclic procedure. This is usually abstracted in well-defined stages, and presented as a cycle, known as the Kubler-Ross model, or more commonly, the grief cycle. The procedure is usually presented in five or six stages, depending on whether or not the initial shock itself counts as a step.

Even if it did count, Gurdy was long past that. She was currently exhibiting what is generally considered the most normal initial response to negative stimuli; that is, to choose to believe that it is not the case, a stage usually dubbed the denial phase. When in doubt, she blamed herself - miscounting, perhaps due to the storm, or perhaps because she was too panicked to count properly. Or perhaps having all the birds in one place was confusing her, or the fatigue was addling her.

Standing out in the middle of a raging thunderstorm can probably do things like that, kupo.

In all her years, Gurdy could not say she had ever seen anything so violent, which for a moogle who regularly did business all over Dalmasca was most definitely saying something. This was doubly frightening when she considered just how close she was to Rabanastre proper, a city noted for many things, but never the weather. She could only imagine what was going on in the city, with mass panic and flooding and people getting lost in the confusion and being separated and drowning and buildings collapsing and all the other things and-

Stop right there. Gurdy steeled herself. You won't find Boco thinking about all those terrible things, kupo.

With that, she realised that she had just accepted the fact that she had a bird loose somewhere, and now she was obliged to go and find him. She hesitated, teetering between denial and anger.

It should here be noted that Gurdy was not actually angry, though anger is the usual adjective used to describe the third stage of the grief cycle. The purpose of the anger phase is to motivate the individual to take a stand against the conflict, with the hope of resolving it quickly and decisively. As the grief cycle is an intrapersonal phenomenon, occurring deep within one's subconscious, it follows that the individual will usually act of their own volition, alone, shunning the company of others, eliminating the possibility of compounding it with further interpersonal conflict.

In this case, Gurdy did not have any company to shun, but whether or not that helped the situation is arguable. The upside was that, there being absolutely no doubt in her own mind that Boco simply must be found, there was no-one around to tell her otherwise, or to suggest that running blindly around an open savannah trying to find a single chocobo during a ferocious storm in the wet by herself was quite possibly not the most well thought out plan she had ever yet come up with, or to offer similar discouragement. Not, of course, that Gurdy was noted for thinking things through properly, all, or even some, of the time.

Which was why, at the slightest hint of a reprieve, Gurdy chose to act.

As any aircraft pilot will tell you, landings are the most dangerous part of any journey.

Despite the wealth of technical documentation and instruction available to pilots regarding final approach, it is almost always during a landing that the chances of disaster are at their greatest. Consider an aircraft, travelling at several hundred kilometres per hour through the air, flying over vast tracts of land, required to land on what must seem from the sky like the head of a pin, surrounded by a million other pinheads, obscured by whatever the weather feels like and coming up to meet you at a speed with a macabre semblance to oncoming traffic as seen by an unfortunate pedestrian. While these are similar phenomena, they do have crucial differences – such as the fact that a plane is considerably larger than a person, the ground is considerably larger than a car, the two are moving faster with respect to one another than on a highway and the initial distance between them is several hundred times greater. Despite being further away and in a relatively larger vehicle, none of this seems to be much comfort to pilots.

Perhaps people just aren't terribly fond of heights. This would make sense, as humans are neither volant nor especially fall-tolerant, and it would be sensible for them to instinctively avoid situations where their feet are not planted firmly on some sort of supporting surface. Perhaps also this is why the sensation of falling inspires such primal fear in people and the instinctive reaction they have to it is a very good way of jolting an unconscious mind awake. This is so that they can become consciously aware of the fact that they are falling, and perhaps do something about it.

Burkhalter could not do anything about it. The first few things he became aware of after the fact that the ground was rushing up to embrace him at some terrific speed was the fact that he was still wet, and it seemed that the sprinklers were still running. Before he was able to process either, however, his newfound momentum was just as quickly arrested. Mercifully, it had been conserved by a few conveniently-placed trees and muddy grass, and so nothing was broken. Fractured, perhaps, painful, certainly, ignoble definitely, but the former physicist was somewhat relieved not to be dead. Or he would be, if his tail end didn't feel like it had just been hit by a truck, a simile which makes a surprising lot of scientific and metaphoric sense when one considers the amount of kinetic energy he just lost and the manner in which he lost it.

Hang on. Tail? Why on Earth would I think a thing like that?

Actually, when he thought about it, the part of him that hurt most was at an area at the base of the spine, slightly above the hindquarters, which seemed to have taken the brunt of the collision. In most vertebrates, this was the location of the tail, and any vertebrate that had taken a fall like that would have crushed the tail, and probably would be in the pain he was in right now.

Burkhalter chuckled through gritted teeth. How quickly the mind can jump to absurd conclusions, without first considering the obvious, like the fact that humans don't have tails. With little else to occupy him, Edgar decided to prove something – for once, even with scientific rigour. The adventurous, entrepreneurial spark in him was rekindled, thirsty for discovery, for knowledge, for experiment. The curious pain around his hindquarters was a good place to start. Explore it. Test it. Verify. Draw conclusions.

Running his hand down his back, he travelled experimentally until he found the concentration of the pain, and yelped. Not out of pain, he'd expected that, but out of what he felt - a most definitely unexpected conclusion.

All well-raised moogles would remember their mothers telling them to avoid three things at all costs - getting wet, loud noises and anything that you are unlikely to walk out of with your pom-pom intact.

The first seems at a glance to be fairly mundane. The unpleasantness of being wet and cold is a sensation transcending virtually all species possessed of thermoception, and they would mostly come to the consensus that situations where they are likely to experience it are preferably avoided – although if getting wet and cold is all a given situation requires, they would probably also agree that this is hardly something to be afraid of. By contrast, moogles are, as a species, instinctively hydrophobic and cheimaphobic - though these are symptoms of several factors, rather than causes in themselves. Firstly, a moogle relies primarily on its fur for insulation; a property it all but loses when wet, and it requires several hours to dry sufficiently to regain it. While even slightly damp, a moogle is extremely sensitive to cold and is quite likely to develop pneumonia or a similar condition. Secondly, a moogle's inner ear is quite sensitive to changes in pressure, especially if a large amount of water enters the ear, basically impeding the function of anything otological until the fluid is cleared. This results in severe migraine, vertigo and temporary deafness. The resultant inability to determine which way is up becomes downright dangerous if a moogle is so impaired when actually immersed, and if they cannot regain their bearings quickly they are very likely to drown. Thirdly, moogles in general make for poor swimmers; their fur produces much drag, and their only limbs of any real use in water are their wings, which are tiring and inefficient enough to use for anything in general, even when they are not being depended on as the sole means of propulsion.

Of course, even if a nearly-drowned moogle makes it out of the water alive, they are typically left exhausted, vertiginous and freezing cold, completely at the mercy of whatever monsters or undesirable fortune chances upon them. For this reason, clans searching for lost moogles near bodies of water are usually looking for corpses, not survivors, hence why young moogle children are told to always avoid playing near water.

So, when it is said that Gurdy did not enjoy the wet weather, the reader should probably recognise that as a gross understatement.

Gurdy did not enjoy the wet weather, though this hardly did her reaction justice. Using both hands, she kept her ears folded over to keep out the rain, but that was about the only part of her not permeated by the icy precipitate.

It had not taken Gurdy long to realise that she really hadn't thought this through when she decided to go through with it. Moogles in general hate wet weather almost as much as they do swimming, and it was sufficiently wet that what Gurdy was doing really was closer to the latter. She had run, more to keep warm than to get anywhere quickly – that was her second mistake, though she had wisely chosen, at least, to not attempt flight. Cold, wet, and now exhausted, she stopped to rest a moment under a tree and catch what she could of her breath, conserving what little energy she had left.

It is around this time that the fourth stage of the grief cycle comes into play. With the attempt to forcibly resolve the conflict thwarted, a feeling of hopelessness overtakes resolve, and the individual sinks into depression, left without recourse, confronted with the inevitability of their situation. This is a sensitive stage, a precise stage, one where the individual must be left to their own devices and allowed to gradually swallow the prospect of living with their misfortune.

To say the least, Gurdy had a lot on her hands to swallow. For one, she was freezing cold, soaked head to toe, totally out of breath – she might as well have drowned - and to top it all off, completely lost. The rain had picked up again, going from a fine, icy spray that did just enough to freeze you to a raging tempest that made your face feel like it was burning to boot. In addition, the thunderbolt and lightning were very, very frightening her indeed – and not even because it was entirely likely to be the death of her.

Moogles in general are averse to loud noises. A moogle's eardrums are quite a bit smaller than a hume's, and hence require far less sound intensity to stimulate. This means that they perceive all sounds around six to seven decibels louder than a hume, and can hear some things humes can't, which is further improved by their long pinnae, which can give their hearing as much as another six decibels of gain while making it directional. They can also perceive some higher frequencies that humes cannot, owing to the shift to higher natural resonant frequencies of their eardrums with respect to humes, which, also as for humes, are biased towards the region of their own speech, which of course is itself more highly pitched.

This does bear some fairly drastic downsides. For instance, humes can listen to everything up to a loud rock concert before it starts to hurt, but simply yelling at a moogle can result in physical pain. For similar reasons, black mages like to make sure there's more than enough distance between them and whoever they're casting spells at, less to avoid striking themselves and more to protect their ears from a painful aftermath.

This was no Akademy student's Thunderga, though. Compared to the titanic fury of a real electrical storm, even the most powerful offensive magicks could be made to look like little flashy sparks of sound and fury - signifying nothing. At least, in the heat of battle, you can still be heard to scream when some hotshot smacks you in the face with a few thousand coulombs of electrical discharge.

Actually, Gurdy had no idea that she was screaming, though if she actually made it through the night, her throat and ears would be sure to let her know the day after. This was partly due to a survival mechanism – in most species with a larynx proximate to the ears (as in most mammals), a reflex action attenuates incoming sound pressure whenever one goes to speak, so that one is not deafened by one's own voice. Screaming can also be a reflex, typically triggered by pain or some related unwanted sensation. The purpose of screaming as a reflex is one's attempt to block out an unwanted stimulus, in the hope that it might go away. As part of this, screaming triggers the aural attenuation reflex quite violently, making one mostly unable to hear. This being exactly what Gurdy was, albeit unconsciously, trying to do.

It must be here said that what Gurdy was doing right now was done unconsciously, because it certainly was no result of a conscious effort on her part. The net sum of her conscious efforts had presently shifted from finding Boco to simply outpacing the storm, which basically meant handing over unconsciously to her instincts to run and keep running. As far as adventuring went – if this could be so called - instincts were mostly all Gurdy had, being that she dealt little with anything outside of some sort of settlement or the keeping of chocobos. Certainly, she made no habit of running completely unprepared out into a storm in the middle of the night, and having no conscious idea of how to proceed, her instincts mandated that she keep moving at all costs.

This was a good plan, as it helped to keep her warm and on her feet, though it had a crucial flaw – it would work only as long as Gurdy was physically able to comply. Trying to run through mud and rain over distance is extremely fatiguing, doubly so if one is not accustomed to cross-country running in the first place. Triply so if one is not the kind to think things through and decides to attempt a marathon in sandals. But worst of all, Gurdy was moving aimlessly, covering no real ground of consequence, and what little light the stars afforded her showed her no familiar landmarks or pathways. With literally nothing left to run to or for, her legs gave out, and Gurdy fell to the ground, panting.

She had failed. Utterly defeated by the elements and fatigue, she knew full well she could not go on.

I... am so... stupid, kupo... why do I have to be so stupid... what would possess me to...

Well and truly into depression, Gurdy could only weep. Even though the storm was moving on, and she was out of immediate danger, this was little comfort, as her body took the opportunity to notify her of every last little ache, pain and injury she'd caused herself. Do not mistake the meaning – although it was every "last little" ache, pain and/or injury, that in no way implies that any of them were little. In fact, when the adrenaline petered out and the pain hit full force, the sheer physical distress was paralytically agonising.

But this was not the only kind of distress she was feeling. Even as her ears stopped ringing and she even began to relax, an even more intense distress wrenched at her, and this was in her heart. A nauseating combination of despair at having been defeated so utterly by the elements, regret at having not tried harder to overcome them, pity for the poor souls who lost their lives in front of her, self-loathing at having done nothing, and a growing apprehension of what the morning would bring. Again, she tried mastering her feelings with resolve, trying to keep the evening's events from plaguing her nightmares. But they did, all at once, and she broke down in tears. Images of burning trees and flooded streets and drowning people and dear Boco being stranded somewhere and a million other things came at her like wolves, flaying her resolve and tearing up troubled dreams. It was more than she could bear.

And then she saw the tree.

It was an average sort of tree, but it was hardly any sort of tree. She recognised this particular tree, because she walked past it every time she went to the south gate of Rabanastre. Which meant she was close to the south gate of Rabanastre. Which meant people. Which meant help.

With renewed hope and a second wind, she staggered to her feet and approached. Barely did she take ten paces that she was close enough to see two figures curled up under it.

People. Kupo-po, there are people still out here! They must be mad, or... worse...

"Hey! K-Kupo, you there! Are you okay?"

No-one moved or said a word. More than a little concerned, Gurdy drew closer, squinting to make them out.

"Kupo-po! You can't stay out here, you'll catch your death! Look, we're not far from the gate, kupo, and the Watch will let us in, and we can stay with my fam-"

Gurdy never finished that sentence, because at that moment a bolt of lightning came right out of the blue and demolished the tree in front of her with an earsplitting clap, despite the fact that the storm had passed over. The shockwave forced Gurdy to the ground, and all but rent her eardrums and resolve. Blackness swallowed up the edges of her vision as consciousness slipped from her.

And as the storm cleared away and night became day, a moogle was still sobbing herself to sleep.

It is observed that in normal people, negative emotions tend to be dealt with in a reasonably consistent, cyclic procedure. This is usually abstracted in well-defined stages, and presented as a cycle, known as the Kubler-Ross model, or more commonly, the grief cycle. The procedure is usually presented in five or six stages, depending on whether or not the initial shock itself counts as a step.

Even if it did count, Burkhalter was long past that. He was currently exhibiting what is generally considered the most normal initial response to negative stimuli; that is, to choose to believe that it is not the case, a stage usually dubbed the denial phase. Indeed, his doubts seemed quite well founded for the moment – for there was no force on earth that the scientist knew of that could obliterate him, reanimate him and drop him from a height of several hundred metres – all the while bearing him some distance from Geneva, noting the lack of snow and presence of trees. Moreover, whatever additional force which had driven the overnight change in his species defied all contemplation -that kind of thing, he knew, simply could not happen. So, he rationalised – it had not, in fact, happened, rather, he was delirious or his senses were otherwise misled, albeit with some frightening thoroughness.

Standing next to an exploding particle accelerator can probably do things like that.

So it was all just an episode of delirium, and he could just sit and wait it out. Sure, there might be some counselling involved, and more than likely some uncomfortable questions. But it was infinitely more plausible than concluding the fantasy his mind had created was real.

And so, he waited. But after a while, he found that just sitting in clay was not making him any more awake, just a lot wetter and colder. He would need to think of a different strategy to beat this delusion. Thinking back to his first fall, he remembered that he had been woken specifically by the sensation of falling, that is, vestibular stimulation. This told him that in this dream, he still had a sense of equilibrium, which he could possibly exploit in similar fashion to wake himself up. Moments later, a simple, somewhat (though not entirely) deliberate slip did the trick. Gritting his teeth from newfound pain, science told him the dream could not last much longer with all that going on.

He opened his eyes, and the rain beat down on them just as hard as ever.

The scientist was now faced with an uncomfortable proposition. The dream was enduring, that is, he could not seem to wake up from it voluntarily. That was to say, it seemed that this fantasy was, for better or worse, his reality for the time being. This would seem to imply one of two things - one, that his experiences were real, if patently impossible, or; two, he had in fact gone insane. Neither was easy to swallow - not least because he could do nothing to escape either possibility - and he spent a good few minutes carefully considering which he would rather live with. Slowly, he eased out of denial, but there was no anger - it was futile here. There was only depression.

It seemed, however, that even in a fantasy world, even Burkhalter's moping was doomed, as thunder pounded in his ears from the oncoming storm and the rain stung his face. Deciding it would be easier to mope if he found somewhere drier, he stood unsteadily and started walking aimlessly.

Barely had he taken two steps that a wharking something ploughed straight through him. Thrown a few feet in the air, the impact winded him before he knew what hit him, and he landed right back in the mud, lurching as he was trampled on in creature's frenzied flight. Hurting in more places than he could name, Burkhalter conceded defeat, and let the black vignette around his eyes take him.

And as the storm cleared away and night became day, science lay in the mud.

Rain fell thick and heavy as thunder shook the ground of Giza Plains. Visibility was bad enough, and most folk had already battened down and tried for some semblance of dryness and warmth. Others ran for whatever shelter they could find, and on first glance, this appeared to be what the two figures sleeping together under the tree had done.

Curiously, however, there were no tracks in the mud leading to or from the tree, and discounting flight, which only the most foolhardy would attempt in this weather, there really was no indication as to how they in fact got there. Of course, they could have teleported, but no sane person would have put themselves under a tree in the middle of a storm.

The reason for this last became quite apparent moments later, because at that moment an enormous bolt of lightning demolished the tree with an earsplitting clap. The sound woke them both to a horrific scene – the wind howled monstrously around them and rain pelted their faces, and the burning tree looked like some sort of monstrous devil. Terrified for their lives, they both got up and ran, hand in hand, away from the nightmare. They had no bearings, no directions, nothing to go on, borne on momentum alone, more wading than walking through a tempest thick as oceans.

Eventually the younger of the two slipped over in the mud, only to be caught by her companion. He carried her for a while until they found some shelter. He set her down there as comfortably as he could before himself collapsing on the ground, panting. His task accomplished, and his will all but defeated, he succumbed to fatigue and gave himself to dreamless sleep.

And as the storm cleared away and night became day, two moogles slept soundly through the wind and the rain.

We, Who Suggest Ourselves, an FFTA Fanfic
Chapter One: Thunderbolt and Lightning

Prologue: [link]
Chapter 1: Above.
Chapter 2: [link]
Chapter 3: To come.

WWSO, OCs and related fanon belong to :iconbeacon515l:

Ivalice and related canon belong to :iconsquareenixplz:
scrat555 Feb 11, 2012   Artisan Crafter
Wow! I am really enjoying reading WWSO. Does it pertain to FFTA3, or is it completely separate?
Beacon515L Feb 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It pertains in part, in that it is the backstory of Liam Malheur-Randell. The last few chapters of WWSO take place during FFTA3.
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