Irvine grimaced as a bullet grazed his cheek, spilling blood down his skin and down on to his suit where it became invisible against the black material. Kerei and Michelle were tiring, but since he had joined them, picking off their attackers, it had grown easier for the two women to herd as many of the men as they could outside.
In the loading grounds the other SeeDs were rounding up the unconscious and wounded and tying them together to watch over. It was hard, for some of the wounded still struggled, but the juniors hung on gamely and guarded the men with every ounce of energy they had in them.
Back inside, Michelle scrambled up the stairs to the third floor and ducked a spray of bullets.
“Kerei!” Michelle shrieked as she lunged for the next set of stairs and hid in the shelter the wall provided her.
The man who had tried to shoot down at them ran forward, not expecting another girl with short hair and aqua eyes to come barreling out, her fists flying towards his face. He went down easily and Michelle came out of her hiding spot and breathed a sigh of relief.
The girls and Irvine moved up the stairs.
Zell growled and slammed the last door on the fourth floor. He must have just missed the men and Selphie because he found strands of her hair and seats still warm from being used.
Frustrated, the blonde wondered if they would go up or down. Down seemed more beneficial, as it had more exits, but Zell wasn’t sure. Either way, Squall was already upstairs and from the sounds coming from below the girls might need him.
Always ready to become the hero, Zell dashed down the staircase only to just barely dodge a kick aimed for his face and avoid a sharp knife soaring his way.
The four SeeDs sighed in relief and then heard a piercing scream come from outside.
“The juniors, something must have gone wrong,” Irvine groaned.
“Let’s go!” Michelle breathed.
“Squall—” Zell began.
“Trianon is in here too,” Irvine pushed his friend down the stairs, “Come on, the juniors might panic.”
Like a dark forbidden dancer, Trianon slipped inside the building from one of the windows and eased herself inside. This was her element, her zone, and her world. Her steps made no sound as she dropped in from the seventh floor.
Running in a monarch’s pattern of weaving back and forth, Trianon kept one hand holding the gauntlets made for Selphie and one of her wafer-thin daggers concealed in her other hand.
Squall dashed down the hall. He could hear her. He could hear her close to him. Selphie, her voice echoing through the halls, whimpers at every movement. His feet pounded across the floor, a bold counterpoint to the soft sounds of distress. Squall rounded a corner and his eyes flared, for there she was in the arms of her captor.
At the other end of the hall, Trianon dropped to the floor with the barest of sounds. She could see a group of men, guarding their dark-haired enemy, and in the middle of them was Selphie. By chance alone it was that one of the guards, protecting a fleeing Morgan from harm, saw her as he turned around to glance behind him.
Squall saw his chance and drove in for the attack, his gunblade rearing up and coming down on the first guard who chose to stop the initial target. Chaos erupted immediately as guards swirled to protect Morgan, guard Selphie and kill both Squall and Trianon. The hallway was cramped and dark, dim light came in from the windows from lamps outside, but within the building only small guiding lights gave them room to see.
There were three shots fired but only one hit its mark. Squall’s gunblade triggered at the right moment as a bullet soared over his shoulder harmlessly. In the dark hallway, Morgan had himself and Selphie pressed up against the wall, watching as the first guard toppled down with a heavy thud.
Behind them, Trianon launched herself off the wall and avoided the bullet intended to end her life. She came down on one foot and one knee, springing herself at the guard and viciously flicking her wrist, sending a spray of blood into the darkness. The guard fell, firing one last time, the bullet slicing through Trianon’s arm and cutting into her flesh painfully, but the woman wasn’t about to be let down. She hissed a few curses and tucked her arm close to her body. Even protective armour wouldn't save her from gunshots at this close range.
Squall’s gunblade found a new mark, grazing Morgan’s leg. The unarmed man was defenceless as long as held Selphie and this was a losing battle at the moment. When he was about to drop the girl and run, he saw a blur of darkness come to his rescue. It became a jumbled moment of confusion.
A guard slammed into Squall, knocking the SeeD into the wall awkwardly, but Trianon was still moving and she tripped Morgan, causing Selphie to roll out of his arms where she desperately clung to Squall’s arm. Morgan swore, but now there were four guards to add to the mess of people crammed into the same small hallway. Selphie's fingers curled around Squall's sleeve and tried to clutch there despite her weakness. Her brain felt fogged over but she knew she had to stay close to him to avoid recapture. Squall writhed on the ground to stand up without getting hit, trying to shield Selphie from harm as he did so. The tight press of bodies blocked the meager light they shared, making it difficult to tell friend from foe. Squall's ears rang from the gunshots and yelling.
Squall recovered first, as Trianon was nearly on her belly on the ground. He scooped up Selphie, whispering harshly about the contents of the sheath on his back. As he pushed his way through the dark tangle of men Morgan tried to stop him, grabbing a hold of Selphie’s dress which simply ripped in his hands.
More shots rang out, aimed nowhere near anyone, mostly at the ceiling and the empty walls, just to light up the area. Squall’s eyes widened at the sudden sparks ricocheting off the walls and adding to the chaos. He dodged past Morgan, the man’s eyes full of pale fire as he tried to grab Squall again, the SeeD nimbly side-stepping away though the movement carried him into a guard.
Selphie managed to free the nunchakus and she was surprised by their size but she was able to lash out and catch the man now holding Squall back, catching him across his forehead and tearing the delicate skin there. The guard was momentarily blinded by blood splashing into his eyes. He screamed at Selphie angrily but couldn't get a grip on her to tear her away from Squall. Selphie kept one arm curled around Squall's back, holding herself against him as tightly as she could, tucking her chin on his shoulder so she could watch his back and alert him to danger. Her head swam and she felt so tired, she fought to keep her focus alert.
Squall stumbled free of the melee and watched as Trianon, back on her feet, leapt like a jaguar at him. He passed her in much the same fashion, catching the gauntlets as she slammed them into his chest and kept running. Squall let Selphie deal with them, as his hands were full. He almost fell a few times as they ran down the hall, him with his childhood friend in his arms, his treasure and the trophy to his final victory. He heard footsteps pounding behind him.
Fumbling with the gauntlets, Selphie’s weak arms numbly slipped them on, finding she could swing the nunchakus much easier with them. Her heart cried out in elation, she was being saved, she could go home, and Squall was okay. Squall let her drop to her feet as soon as they were free from the tangle. He dragged her down the hallway, praying she could keep up in her weakened state. Adrenaline would kick in, he hoped, giving her the boost she needed to run. It was hard for her to run and keep up with him but she knew she had to, and it drove her weary, starved limbs into action. Once momentum built her legs tripped over themselves in a clumsy parody of running.
Trianon hit the ground and snarled, as her hair became tangled under one of the men’s boots. Morgan had called for backup on a communications link much like her own and now she was in a swarm of men in black, in the dark, and it was getting hot inside the mess of bodies. The ground was slick with blood, and the dead were only obstacles in her way. Amid the gunshots firing randomly overhead and around her she turned to see if Squall had made it.
An orange flash lit the air and Trianon flinched as a bullet nearly hit her side. She was staring at the end of the hall, trying to make out if Squall was safe. One of the guards, seeing her staring but unable to hit her, fired down the hall with the same thought in mind. The bullet slammed into an intercom system near the ceiling sending blue sparks falling like rain down Squall and Selphie as the Commander paused to look for Trianon.
Her eyes could be seen clear across the hallway. Orange and yellow tinting the light blue and wide as wide could be. From her vantage point all she saw was an emerald storm. Selphie was staring at Morgan with mixed emotions of anger and hurt, her dark green eyes shot through with a pale specks from the reflection of the sparks around her. Squall had a more burning in his orbs, dark grey and light blue; it reminded Trianon of lightning amid the clouds.
The moment lasted only a second before they were plunged into darkness once more. Squall pulled Selphie down the stairs where she hesitated only as moment before following him, wondering the fate of Trianon.
Trianon rolled away from a fist and managed to climb to her feet, her vision in the darkness becoming so clear she could see every detail. Her dagger whipped out, and as she spun, it created havoc amongst the guards who were now in such close quarters with her they couldn’t dare shoot for hurting another. Trianon disabled as many as she could and scrambled away to the staircase she had come up from, right beside the carnage. Turning around with her eyes blazing in the dark she lifted her Taurus and fired all the shots she had, watching half the men fall down, Morgan not one of them. She doubted she landed many killing blows, but disarming and crippling would give them a chance of escape.
With her piece of the mission completed, the sniper dashed into the darkness. Three men on her heels, one with amber eyes.
Selphie felt her vision waver and she leaned up against Squall’s back as they walked at a steady pace. Gunshots could be heard above and below, adding to a confusion and chaos that Squall had rarely experienced in this sort of a mission. His heart was beating painfully as adrenaline urged him to go faster but his mind screamed slowness for the sake of Selphie. She was tiring and he chanced a look back to her in time to see her eyes hazing over in fatigue. He was just barely able to catch her as she tumbled in to his arms.
Selphie inhaled the fragrance of Squall, leather, sweat, and the spicy, classy cologne he wore that she could have breathed in for the rest of her life. So this is was the scent of being saved. Relief turned her limbs to jelly and she had to pause for a moment just to savour her freedom.
He cradled her for a moment, whispering in her ear that he needed her to be able to make it down the hallway, they needed to get down close enough that the other teams could carry them to safety. Selphie registered his words, bemused at the kindness in them, so unlike Squall.
Squall felt so little warmth emanating from the tiny body he held close to his own. He could hear people racing around all about the building and reluctantly he moved their pace, holding her tightly as she breathed heavily, staggering to keep up. She clutched his sleeve for balance and her head hung low, he kept one arm around her to both lead her and keep her standing.
By the time they reached the ground floor, Selphie was covered in the sweat of exhaustion, and Squall was feeling anxious and high-strung with worry for her, then they stumbled upon a disaster.
Irvine, Zell, Kerei, and Michelle all ran out to find chaos. One of the prisoners had escaped and used a hidden weapon's cache to create carnage. Taken by surprise the juniors had been struck down easily and now the wounded on both sides was evening up. Screams lit the air and people darted around the courtyard, taking shelter wherever they could find it.
Kerei and Zell teamed up to take down the most active of the prisoners while Irvine disabled the ones trying to escape. By the end all of them were hot and tired, breathing heavily in the cool night air.
Irvine set up a guard to watch the prisoners, as the wounded juniors were taken care of and then sat down to catch his breath. Kerei was kneeling on the ground wrapping a bandage around the torso of an injured junior solider while Michelle worked to calm the rest down. Irvine’s violet eyes rested on the building where Squall, Selphie and Trianon were still inside.
He was worried sick about Selphie, having not even seen her, and he wondered if Trianon had even found Squall. The ground was cold and unyielding beneath him making it impossible to even try to relax. He kept one eye on the prisoners and one on the building, waiting for his companions to get out. His heart was a hard knot inside his chest, and he waited for the tension to break.