Phase X: The Mole
Fisherman's Horizon or 'FH' was a long manmade bridge connecting the Galbadian and Estharian continents together that also ran along the equator. In history, it was also dubbed 'No Man's Land' due to its pacifist views as a nation and its reluctance to side with any major alliances during the past few wars.
The group walked along the bridge as the sun set upon the sparkling sea, and the sound of seagulls spiraling around them and flapping officially welcomed them. Their journey from Timber had taken about a two days by foot with a few pit stops in between. They were exhausted and in need of some food and a good nights sleep.
Riki on the other hand was the most energetic of them all, even more than Selphie these days. From what Squall had gathered from her constant chatter, that he only half listened to, was that FH was actually Riki's hometown. Riki assured them that they would have a place to stay if they'd come, which also helped to sway the group's decision to follow her lead. Squall didn't care where they went as long as he could sleep on something that wasn't the ground.
"Ta-da!" Riki cheered, opening her arms to the town like she was presenting the grandest thing they ever feasted their eyes on. "Welcome to my humble abode!" Her voice came out in song, and there was no denying the skip in her step.
"Seriously," Squall muttered to Zell, "She needs to calm down. It's getting annoying now."
Zell clapped his hand on his friend's shoulder, "Bro, I'm seriously resistin' the urge to throw her off this bridge."
"I second that notion." Nida smirked, and the two just looked at him. "What? I'd like to see it."
Zell laughed, and Squall just chuckled, "Whatever."
Selphie looked out to the setting sun, "So pretty…"
"Ain't it?" Riki beamed, putting her arms around Selphie's shoulders. "You get used to seein' the ocean all the time. I honestly miss it!"
"You have family here, right?" Selphie asked.
Riki nodded, animatedly, "Yeah. My older bro lives here. That's where were goin' right now. He may have a clue 'bout what's goin' on."
"Riki's brother is a resistance intelligence officer here. He overseas the work between Esthar and Galbadia." Selene explained.
"I wouldn't talk him up that big." Angelus chuckled, "But Vaughn might know something."
As they approached the centre of the city, the streets grew more crowded with people going about their day. Some looked as if they walked with purpose and intent, while others seemed lost and loitered the sides of the road in small clusters. Selphie was just here two years ago, and there hadn't been that large of a population here. Now the streets were covered with people in all directions. Even Riki found it odd.
"Looks like more people moved in." Angelus observed, and Riki frowned. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong here.
"Anyways, this is it." She opened a door next to a shabby vintage antique store in the main shopping strip. The group followed her up the odd rickety staircase that lead to a small apartment on the top floor. The door flung open to reveal a common looking living area with a flat screen and a small kitchen.
Vaughn Callahan was sitting at the kitchen table with papers scattered around him as if he was in the middle of something important. The muggy room had the lingering smell of nicotine, and ashes littered around the clay ashtray next to his paperwork and half drunken coffee.
"Hey, bro!" Riki greeted running up to hug her brother tightly from behind his chair.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in." He laughed.
Selphie could see the uncanny resemblance. Vaughn was around Squall's height with a shaved head. His eyes were the same shade of violet as his sisters. He had a tattoo creeping up his neck, but mostly hidden by his white t-shirt. His left arm was also covered in a sleeve of tattoos, but aside from his rugged appearance, Selphie found herself admitting that he was quite the attractive man.
"And you brought friends. A lot of 'em." He looked surprised, "If I knew y'all were comin' I would'a bought a keg of Dollet ale."
"No need, bro." Angelus smirked making his way past everyone to the kitchen. He casually opened the fridge and popped the cap off the first bottle he grabbed. "I'm on it."
Vaughn glared, "You haven't changed a bit, eh? Was a prick, always a prick!"
"Love you, too, Vaughnny boy." Angelus laughed. The animosity was light between the two men suggesting a long history there. Snide comments aside, it was obvious they had some form of respect for one another.
Vaughn raised a thick black brow at Riki, "So, what's the purpose of this visit?"
"We can't just come by and say hello?" Angelus said.
Riki rolled her eyes, "We need to ask ya a few things 'bout the town."
Vaughn sighed bracing himself, but got comfortable in his chair. "You wanna know why the fuck there's so many people poppin' up?"
The man gestured for them to sit down for a while. All seven pairs of eyes intently looked at him, "Lately there's been these attacks goin' on. An influx of people came in just over two weeks ago, n' then less than one. Basically this has become a refuge city. Everyone n' their mother has come here n' it's makin' business run 'not so usual'."
"What's that mean?" Selphie asked him from here spot on the floor.
Vaughn eyed the group, "The cities crowded, n' the groups here are findin' it hard to gather information 'cause it can leak so easily now that there's more ears to listen."
"Leaking information?" Nida chimed in. "We had that problem back in Timber. That's what started the whole thing in the first place."
Violet eyes flashed up to the newcomer in the conversation, "You were in Timber, boy?"
He nodded. "We all were."
"Then you know that most of 'em fighters there came here, right? They're startin' up quite the ruckus." He added, disdainfully. Nida frowned guiltily to this.
Squall caught on and didn't miss a beat, "Are they SeeDs?"
Vaughn furrowed his brow. Lines defined his face suddenly making him age within seconds. The position he held must have not been an easy one, and the stress seemed to be getting to him. "Yeah. They claimed they were with the fuckin' resistance. I can tell ya's they don't look that familiar to me. That's for fuckin' sure."
"Do you know anything about 'the mole' who leaked the information to Galbadia?" Selphie asked.
Vaughn gave her a disgusted expression, "Yeah, he's with 'em SeeDs. They got his ass tied up somewhere- serves the fucker right. When the Underground Council finds out what he did, they'd kill him on the spot."
"What's his name?" Angelus suddenly asked with more interest. "Do we know this guy?"
"Yeah," Vaughn replied. "Yer ol' buddy Zone, n' I'm not surprised. He's always been a bit of a fuckin' twat."
Selphie looked over to her fellow SeeDs, and Zell and Nida looked just as concerned as everyone else. Squall remained stone faced as his thoughts processed the news. Angelus on the other hand slammed his fist against the counter almost knocking his beer over.
"Are you fucking kidding me!?" He snapped, clearly outraged.
"Hey! Don't shoot the messenger, asshole!" Vaughn shouted back, pointing a threatening finger his way.
"You know Zone?" Selphie asked.
"I go way back with the Forest Owls." Angelus said. "I used to work with that idiot."
"We did, too." Selphie answered for them, ignoring Squall's stare of disapproval for disclosing this information, "We were in Timber trying to help liberate them from Galbadian occupation during our first mission as SeeD."
"What's yer name's again, SeeDs?" Vaughn asked just then.
"I'm Selphie, this is Zell, Squall, and Nida." She told him, gesturing to each man around the room.
Black brows furrowed for a second, and he spun his chair towards the brown haired male in particular, "Hold up. Squall. As in Commander Squall Leonhart?"
Angelus looked up with narrowed eyes expecting to hear Squall's answer. The other resistance members didn't take this information as seriously. They knew the others were SeeD, but nobody ever mentioned Squall's superiority as the leader of the entire paramilitary unit.
"That's me." Squall stated as he pushed himself off the wall he was leaning on. Frankly, he didn't really care for Angelus' accusing stare or what he was thinking at this very moment. "What of it?"
Vaughn's lips unexpectedly pulled back into a delighted smile, "What are the chances, eh? This went from bad to fuckin' awesome."
"Uh, share with the class, Vaughny boy." Angelus growled.
Finally getting up from his seat, the man walked over to the door that led into another room. "I got a plan. Angelus, Squall, and the Timber SeeD come with me."
Once in there, Squall noticed that the walls were covered in newspaper clippings and maps. Upon further investigation some dated back as early as 1991 during the first sorceress war. There was an article nearest to him titled 'Esthar Liberated by Former Galbadian Soldier.'
Squall just scoffed at it for its irony. Those were the days before the honeycomb shield went up when Estharian affairs made international headlines.
"Some of these stories date back decades ago when my father used to live here." Vaughn explained, walking over to a table with a city map on it, "He used to run the show down here before me. Before he died."
So, resistance involvement runs in their blood. Squall noted.
Vaughn lit a cigarette taking a few puffs before he began. The four men stood around the table examining the map. There were colored tacks indicating certain parts of the manmade city, and Vaughn fingered one with particular interest.
"This is where they are keepin' the mole." He began, "When the SeeDs got here, they took over the ol' train station. Trains haven't run through there in almost twenty years because Esthar disappeared from plain sight. No travel between the two countries was permitted for a while. This place's turned into a graveyard for trains and homeless people."
"Nobody would really go there, which is probably why the SeeDs took it over." Angelus added, and the older man nodded.
"Right now, we got a SeeD who ran with them pack, and their ol' commander, here." He pointed to them, explaining this next part to the Naperic leader. "We need to get the mole back, and you need take him back to Deling City."
"Why there?" Squall asked, "What good is he in Deling?"
Angelus tore his eyes away from the map and flashed them up to Squall, "When someone breaks the rules, they are to stand trial in front of the Underground Association's council. The verdict is almost always death for exposing Intel."
Squall nodded, "Okay, so we need to get the SeeDs to give him back to us. Nida, who are we dealing with?"
"The SeeDs are being run by James Alekson. If memory serves, he's got ten guys with him- eight of which were SeeDs at Balamb and two cadets."
"James Alekson." The name rolled of Squall's tongue as he tried to put a name to a face. He remembered a thick Dollet accent and bronze hair. James was two years older than he was, so they probably never took a class together. He did remember hearing that James graduated the same year as Quistis did at sixteen years old. He was granted the highest rank after his field exam, but had a reputation for his temper and ruthlessness on the field.
"Their leader is a pain in the ass," Squall finally said, "He won't be easy to persuade."
"The SeeDs aren't as civilized as they used to be, Squall." Nida had a nervous look of warning in his dark eyes, "They've gone rouge. They're wild and abuse the strength they have now. The violence has gone to their heads, and they won't let us take Zone without a fight."
"Then we take him by force." Angelus replied.
Squall raised a hand, "Or we take him without them knowing. Look," Squall pointed towards the dark area illustrating the 'train graveyard' as they called it. "We have two teams- one can be us three. Nida, you'll go in with us to talk them into giving us Zone. Chances are they won't. I used to command them, so they might listen to me. Angelus, having your knowledge of resistance groups will help as well." He looked to both men on either side of him making sure they were getting all this. "The three of us go in armed. If they really have ten men, they probably have around eight of them they utilize the most- their SeeDs."
"Which means they're armed with various kinds of weapons and field magic." Nida added, explaining this to the resistance members in the room.
"How about the other team, Scarface?" Angelus asked.
Squall's finger moved towards the back of the train graveyard. It was dark and narrow, but it seemed like there were alleyways and roads that lead in from the back, "Selphie, Zell, and Riki will go in from behind. If Zone is with them, the SeeD won't have him out in plain sight. Chances are he's being hidden and guarded by whomever they don't have up front. If they don't, they'd be incredibly stupid to leave a seasoned resistance member unguarded."
"How do ya know all this?" Vaughn asked, impressed by Squall's strategic plan.
Squall kept his face neutral, "SeeD consider every possibility before settling on one. If they aren't holding Zone here, then we're gonna have a long night trying to find him in the city."
Angelus smirked, straightening his back. "Well then, men. What are we waiting for?" His eyes humorously glimmered at them all, "Let's go catch us a mole."