Phase XI: Rabid SeeD With A Tip
Angelus, Squall, and Nida approached the old FH train station. It had been worn down with age and decorated with rusted pipes and scarp metal. Trains hadn't run here in as long as Angelus could remember. Most traveled to the Estharian continent illegally by foot if they were crazy enough. The air smelt like copper and sea salt as the moon illuminated the streets they walked on. Shadows cast across the ground making it harder to differentiate shapes and objects.
The men strolled side-by-side readying themselves for a potentially dangerous encounter. Angelus could sense the determination radiate from Squall that he hadn't seen much of in the past two weeks. Squall seemed to go about this with intent, while Nida appeared slightly nervous about this whole thing.
Squall was a difficult person to figure out, and as time went on bits and pieces of his past became more apparent to Angelus. It was two years ago during the war of the Gardens against the sorceress that he had gotten word of a young man taking command of the entire SeeD organization. That was when he had first heard the name Leonhart, but never in his life did he think he would ever get the pleasure of meeting him. Let alone work with the guy.
If they were going to establish some kind of partnership, he needed to make sure he could trust the young man.
"Squall." Angelus broke the silence, "Why didn't you tell me you were their commander?
"It wasn't important." He carelessly muttered, eyes never wandering off their desired path.
Angelus halted, angered by Squall's aloofness, "It's not important that you happen to be the ex-commander of one of the largest paramilitaries in the world? That's bullshit!"
Nida really hoped they weren't going to kick each other's ass before the real fighting got started. Knowing Squall for as long as he did, Nida knew the resistance fighter wouldn't stand a chance.
"It was none of your business." Squall said, getting impatient with the hold up and felt like they were wasting time.
"Then since we're on the topic of getting things out in the open," Angelus got right in his face, "If what Selphie said was true, you worked with the Forest Owls. You three were the SeeDs Rinoa hired to stop Galbadia!"
"Again," Squall glared at him, not backing down, "None of your business."
Angelus chuckled in disbelief. "I get it. Rin went to live with SeeD after the war. Being the commander, you would have had to authorize a civilian to live there. So why, Squall? Why did she really stay in Garden and not come back to Timber?"
Squall just stared at him with a stone cold expression, but in reality he was hesitating. There was so much more to all this than most people knew. It wasn't common knowledge to the general public that Rinoa had become a sorceress, which was one of the reasons why she had stayed in Garden in the first place.
Little did anyone know that Squall was given direct orders from Headmaster Cid Kramer to keep her there under SeeD's watchful eye as her powers began to develop. Squall was also her boyfriend at the time, her knight. This came with its own responsibilities, but he realized now where his loyalty truly lied between his duty and love. At some point he had ultimately chosen SeeD over her.
It was duty before us.
Squall exchanged a glance over at his fellow ex-SeeD and finally back at Angelus who impatiently awaited an answer.
"I was involved with Rinoa, too." Squall hated to admit it, but he had no choice right now. Confirming this sensitive information now could very well have its own dangerous consequences. Squall needed to play his cards right if they were going to get through this mission, to get through what seemed like the brink of war. "She stayed in Garden because of me."
Angelus still appeared skeptical, but his tone changed slightly. "Then we both understand what may be going on here."
His statement proved vague, but Squall understood. There could have been many more players to this 'game' if you wanted to call it that. They both were familiar with the Timber's struggle for independence and Galbadia's oppression. Caraway played his part in that incident, which made him a prime suspect now.
He was also Rinoa's father.
Not admitting the whole truth to Angelus was still quite the gamble, as they both didn't entirely understand what they were getting themselves into.
"There's a lot you don't know about her." Squall warned him, deciding to just imply the truth rather than coming out with it. Leaving it at that, Squall began to walk away again, but his arm caught in Angelus' forceful grip.
"Don't you walk away from me, Leonhart."
That was when Squall had finally lost it on him. "If Rinoa is involved in all this, things could get more complicated than you think! She isn't the same girl you remember her to be! She's reckless, impulsive, and dangerous if she's at all affiliated with Galbadia!"
"What makes you think she's siding with her father!?" Angelus snapped. "Rinoa hates her dad!"
"Why do you think Zone sold the SeeDs out to the Galbadians?" Squall retorted, "What connection does Zone have with Galbadia?"
Nida looked back and forth between the two men nervously, convinced they were going to kill each other from their dangerous proximity and quick access to their weapons.
"You think Rinoa has something to do with the attacks?" Angelus glared at him.
"It doesn't matter what I think." Squall backed away, "There's only one way to find out."
Selphie, Riki and Zell cut through a back alley to get to the 'Train Graveyard'. They progressed into an opening at the mouth of the alley leading to their destination. The air smelt of stale liquor and human urine, which made Zell's face contort in disgust and stomach churn with nausea. Selphie pulled the black baklava over her face to help keep the horrid stench from entering her nostrils and mouth.
Riki's brother provided them with black lightweight garbs that camouflaged into the darkness to do this job. Riki's machine gun and Selphie's Nunchaku had also been replaced with two GLOCK 19 Semi-Auto pistols that she assumed were stolen from some oblivious cops. Zell kept his on his belt hoping that he could rely on his fists to attack rather than shoot a gun. He had a terrible shot.
In the yard, they spotted five trains sitting on rusted tracks. It was late at night, so the bustle of people in the area was non-existent, but the sound of upbeat house music blaring from a speaker somewhere in the station could be heard echoing down the platform. The muffling of voices subtlety laced with the rhythmic beats of the song that also indicated that the trio wasn't alone.
It sounded like the SeeDs were having a party.
"There are five trains. Three of us." Selphie explained pressing her back against the wall behind her. Her green eyes exchanged glances with the crouching figures next to her through the eyeholes of her mask. "We have to double up. Who's down to take on two trains?"
"I'll do it." Riki volunteered without missing a beat. The small black haired galbadian looked over expectantly at Zell. "What do ya say, Chicken-wuss?"
Zell grumbled, trying to keep his cool, but failing for the most part. A heavy sigh escaped his lips, and before he volunteered, Selphie spoke up.
"Don't worry, Zell." She said patting his shoulder, "I'll do it. Since you're taking one train, you need to keep tabs on what's going on up front, kay?"
His blue eyes flashed up in the direction towards the 'party'. "They seem pretty distracted."
"Still," Selphie interjected, "They're SeeDs. They've considered every possibility. Whatever we plan to do, they thought of. Most likely they have guys watching Zone."
"Let's just get this over with." Riki dismissed, stepping into the clearing and headed to the nearest train.
Selphie stepped into her first train car after prying the doors open with a piece of scrap sheet metal. She drew her gun and held a small utility flashlight in her other hand. Unlike the trains that ran all over Galbadia, this train had a thinner, cramped intertior resembling a monorail. judging by the current state of this car from the beat up leather seats to garbage littering the floor, it seemed that this train had long since been operational. As she slowly stepped down the singular aisle, Selphie cast her flashlight along the dirty floor towards the seats, but avoided hitting the dirty windows with a beam of light.
A green wine bottle hit the toe of her boot; its contents had long since dried. She kicked at it making it roll towards the opposite wall under a seat. Other than that, she only found dirty rags and black garbage bags filled with old newspapers shredded from overuse.
When she gotten to the end of the elongated car, she found the conductors booth and opened the door; the rusted hinges creaked in protest. Investigating further, she found something curiously staring back at her. She flashed the light at it, and it blinked in response. A small smile crept across her face, and it meowed its hello. A black cat with large green eyes had perched itself onto the leather seat of the conductors chair claiming it for its bed.
Under different circumstances, Selphie would have stayed to pet the feline, but now wasn't the time to coo over a fuzzy animal. "See ya, little guy." She waved it off, making her way out of the first train and onto the second.
"First train cleared." She said into the comm.-link in her ear to the others.
Laughter could be heard over the music, and a warm glow lit up the dark street. A bonfire fueled by trash and papers. He cast a frown over at his comrades and made his way into the train station.
As they turned a corner, Squall counted eight of them. It took a minute to register who they all were, but their faces all seemed familiar enough. Music blared from an old stereo system. Some were singing and swaying holding brown bottles that they occasionally drank out of.
A tanned skinned man with bronze hair peered up from his conversation with an attractive blonde girl. Some others squinted their eyes and lowered their beer when they saw Squall and Nida.
The bronze haired man was just as tall as Angelus wearing a black leather jacket and a blue t-shirt with a SeeD logo on it underneath. Squall took note of this, recognizing the yellow in the emblem. It was the SeeD emblem of Balamb Garden. Some of the others, mainly the men, had tattoos on their arms or legs of that exact symbol- a sign of allegiance to the former paramilitary unit. It was a common practice amongst some of the SeeD back then to have those tattoos. It was SeeD for life.
The man wearing the SeeD shirt finally strolled over; the closer he got to the bonfire the more apparent his appearance was to Squall. He had a hooked nose and a scruffy short beard. His eyes were a reddish brown that bored right into Squall's and never lost contact.
James Alekson. His name popped into Squall's head instantly.
"Well," James spoke up in his Dollet accent, "Look what the cat dragged in."
"Alekson." Squall responded in a flat tone. His body was tense and back straight much like he held himself as commander.
"Hey James," Nida greeted in the friendliest of tones, "It's nice to see you again! I'm glad you guys made it out o-"
James didn't bother looking Nida's way. He raised a hand at him to get him to shut his mouth, but still stared squarely at Squall.
Angelus examined the rest of the group who eyed them like hungry dogs waiting for a cut of this meal.
"It's 'bout time our Commanda' finally shows his face." James taunted, his blade flashing in the light at his side. The taller SeeD stepped up right into Squall's face looking down on him, scrutinizing him.
"Where's Zone?" Squall just cut to the chase; he didn't really care for small talk.
James scoffed, his breath smelling stale with beer. "You want the Mole? He fucked us. We are fuckin' him now."
It was Angelus' turn to laugh, and this caught the attention of James and some of the other guys. "What did he do to deserve that?"
James didn't look pleased at all by the galbadian's sense of humor. Clearly he didn't know the SeeD commander's entourage very well. Among the Underground, Angelus held quite the reputation after working under Cesar for so long- especially with his work in Timber.
"Who's this bloke?" He spat at Squall.
"Skyros Angelus. It offends me that you, someone who worked with the Underground in Timber, have never heard of me." Angelus introduced, his signature crooked smirk fully present on his lips.
James raised his blade pointing it at him, "A household name, I reckon."
"Yup. Now if you excuse us, we want Zone." Angelus brushed him off, ignoring the blade and was not the least bit intimidated. In fact, he was getting bored of this exchange.
James burst out laughing turning towards his friends, "Ya hear that? He wants the Mole?" The rest of the group laughed like this was some kind of cheesy sitcom.
"Look." Squall cut in, grabbing the SeeD's attention, "We get he screwed you guys, which resulted in you getting run out of Timber. We can deal with him for you."
His amusement suddenly changed at the drop of a hat, stepping into Squall's face again. "This comin' from a shitty excuse for a commanda? Lemme ask you this, Squall. Where tha fuck were ya when we fought against the galbadians?"
Squall remained silent. James' nose almost pressed against Squall's as anger rose inside him. The rest of the group cheered and cat called. Angelus rested his hand on his blade's sheath ready for this to get ugly.
James' arm extended to gesture towards the rouge SeeDs who intently watch on, "We risked our men for the liberation of Timba. We lost our home thanks of your bloody orders durin' the war two years ago. We now know we are s'pose ta' kill Soceresses'. And yet you house one under the roof of Garden, our home, because you're stickin' your cock where it doesn't belong."
Squall inhaled deeply through his nose, his eyes narrowed at the other SeeD. If Angelus could read between the lines now, he would know the truth. And by the way his brown and blue eyes glanced questionably towards him again, he did. One thing Squall was thankful for was that Angelus wasn't Zell. Whereas the blond would have blown a gasket, Angelus just looked taken aback. He was definitely going to question him later rather than make a fuss now.
"The intent of my orders back then is none of your concern." Squall stated firmly, "We want Zone now. We know he's here."
The bronze haired man just smirked, but all seriousness never left his eyes, "Then fight me, Leonhart. Winner gets Zone and this jolly band of SeeDs."
"Another car cleared." Riki's voice chimed in through the speaker in her ear.
"Mine, too." Zell spoke soon after, "I'm headin' west towards the entrance. I'm gonna check out what's goin' down up front."
"Take higher ground, Zell." Selphie order him quietly, seeing a fire escape lead into the building through an emergency door. "You can scope better where they can't see you."
Selphie hide behind the last car timing herself as the other two got into their positions. She could see a shadow carefully crawl his way around the corner and up the ladder. After a few minutes, she figured it was time to get to the last train. Riki was making her way over as backup.
The small brunette readied her weapon again- a finger looped around and pressed against the trigger. Just like the last train, Selphie stepped inside soundlessly, and lucky for her, it was passengers train not a monorail. The footprint was wider, and the seats were booths now. They were in no better shape than the ones in the other train, and some had been torn apart with a knife to get at the upholstery.
Selphie kept the flashlight lower this time as more darkness shrouded around her. The gun was thankfully just as dark as her attire, which made concealing it a lot easier. As she made her way towards the middle of the train she heard stomping sounds and then whispers. Slowly, she slid and ducked behind two chairs, her eye peering through the space between them. Just ahead two young men guarded what looked to be the car's small conductor booth.
She couldn't see as far, which made her sight unreliable, but her ears perked up to their conversation. Selphie crouched lower to the floor and then waited. The adrenaline pumping through her veins from being so close to the enemy scared her, but exhilarated her simultaneously. A reminder of the life she used to lead, and she welcomed it in all its glory.
The two men stood side by side playing guard to whatever was in the single room, both armed with swords. "So, I hear he's pissed his pants a few times. You're bro really scared the shit outta him from that last beatin', yeah?"
"He's just try'na to scare him." The other one muttered looking ahead.
"We trusted this guy." The first one said, "Why'd he rat us out? I mean, it was quick, too. Those galbadians were on us within a few hours. Woulda' been cool if we actually went through with the revolution!"
Revolution, huh? Selphie mused. So, this is where they're keeping Zone. She pressed a button on her earpiece and whispered, "Target's been located. I repeat: target located. Riki you're up."
"Wondering when you'd ask.' Squall grunted, and watched as James stepped back with that smirk on his face to his merry band of followers.
He made his way around Squall, Nida, and Angelus in an arc like he was scoping them out. The men stood still, confident even, showing no cowardice. Nobody was going to back down tonight.
Angelus took out his blade ready to take this guy on, but James just laughed, "Two against me, is it? Now things are gettin' interestin'!"
Squall unleashed the Lionheart, which earned a few spectators to get up from their seats and create a circle around them. If they were all armed, none of them had obvious weapons on them. Squall trusted they all had concealed ones- throwing knives, daggers, and small guns. Secondary weapons, as they used to call them.
James suddenly stopped, raising a hand Angelus' way. "Ya, rebel. As much as I would love ta kick yer sorry ass. I very much wanna kick our commanda's instead. Hope that doesn't offend ya, friend."
Angelus grunted in reply, "You scared, asshole?"
James let out a laugh, a hysterical laugh that rivaled the volume of the music still blaring, "This is between SeeD. It's our fight."
"Listen to him," Squall growled, blue eyes never leaving James' figure. "I'll handle this."
"Watch the others, make sure they don't jump in." He whispered the last part to Angelus who just nodded. The black haired man backed down, standing next to Nida now.
"You heard the man." He said to the ex-SeeD. "Watch your friends."
Nida nodded in reply.
The two started this off by staring the other down, calculating their opening move. Squall wasn't surprised that James took the opportunity to come at him from above taking advance of their height difference. When his blade swooped downwards, Lionheart met it eagerly.
James realized he couldn't get him there, so he backed up calculating his next move for a moment- picking Squall's stance apart, and trying to find a weakness or any kind of opening.
Squall gave him the time, wanting to be challenged. Suddenly, James leapt through the air coming at him like a bullet, spinning his body to increase momentum in a flashy looking attack. The blade came right at him in a forceful deadlock, but it was what James had in his left hand that caught Squall's attention. Fire circulated into his opponent's fist, and it erupted and burst outwards at him.
The lion fell back feeling his skin burn and tingle with damage to his lower left torso. He gritted his teeth through temporary pain, and felt anger take control of the situation. Squall came running right at him striking the blade three times with more ferocity. And James' laugh could be heard over their clashing blades.
The SeeDs yelled suggestions and cheered their 'leader' on, making this feel more like a cockfight rather than a battle. Nida sighed, knowing that neither man was going listen to their bad advice.
Squall spun around putting more power into the next attack and parried away from an overhead strike after they broke away again. His heart raced, and his feet picked up the pace. There was no way he was going to lose this fight.
"Selphie!" She heard him call her name through the speaker, his voice frantic. "It's Squall. He's fightin' James! All the SeeD are distracted. Get Riki, and go for it!"
"Riki, you heard him." Selphie whispered, "Take point."
Selphie slipped out from where she hid, aiming her gun towards the closest guard. She fired the bullet, which sounded off a loud crack within the train car. The man cried out in pain dropping his sword as the bullet lodged into his upper arm. The other became alert running in her direction.
Selphie's foot landed onto a seat that she used for leverage to bounce upwards. She managed to use the top of the backrests to jump from seat to seat as a means to gain some distance from the younger swordsman. The man scampered after her with his blade in hand.
Her strength was magic, and she needed to formularize a spell fast. Lightning spells proved to be dangerous inside of a metal structure such as a train, so Selphie had to immediately rule them out. Fire spells could catch on the seats burning them all alive and turning the car into an oven, and water wouldn't be much use at all.
The cadet ran at her, his stance sloppy and unprofessional. He wasn't well trained, which gave her a huge advantage. Selphie's hand drew in the spell and cast it, but not at the boy. She lunged downwards to the floor as a huge unnatural gust of wind picked up, and the floor cracked to life. Snow frosted the windows creating an icebox, feeling the frigid temperature bite into the thin fabric of her black clothing. The floor underneath the boy turned into a slick ice rink, only for him to lose his footing and fall over onto his back.
Up ahead, the other guy struggled to get back up lifting his head only to be eye to barrel with Riki smirking insanely. Her gun clicked a bullet into position, and his face went pale in fright.
"Where do ya think you're goin', kid?"
After getting a few shots in, both men stood just a few feet apart at a standstill. The rest of the SeeDs were cheering James on like barbarians, chanting motivational lyrics from SeeD songs Squall knew from his past.
He panted, feeling various parts of his body grow swore and blood trickled down his limbs from James' successful attempts. James didn't appear in any better shape; he had his own wounds he had to lick later.
"Face it, Commanda," James continued to taunt, "Ya failed us. What are ya now?"
"Shut up." Squall snapped, jumping right back into action. He had to muster up any energy he had left into this attack. He swiped downward, and then leveled his blade horizontally to come back up, tossing James around in the process. Meanwhile, his other hand was at work gathering what he mentally needed to cast a thunder spell.
He felt something bluntly slam into his temple, temporarily knocking Squall senseless and stumbling to the ground. He felt someone jerk his body backwards, and a fist clashed against his face causing blood to cascade out of his nostrils.
Squall blinked through tears and sinus pain when he saw a dark figure body slam into the second man who jumped into the fight. Angelus was dodging fists, grabbing limbs, flipping a couple of guys over, and throwing his own punches and flamboyant kicks.
James' growl caught Squall's attention and looked up to find the man throw himself onto him again, but this time his blade was carelessly tossed to the side opting to use his bare hands. Squall's shoulder collided into the ground, knocking his blade from his own hand. He tried to reach for it, but a black boot came down onto his hand crushing it in the process. Squall bite down through the pain, tasting copper and stifling a scream.
"What will ya do now, commanda?" James chuckled.
Zell made his way towards the train the girls were in. He knew which one it was when he heard gunshots go off. Riki must have sunk bullets into one of the sorry assholes keeping watch. He smiled at the urgency of adrenaline coursing through his veins.
His SeeD days felt like they were back in full swing, but these days getting were better and better.
He grabbed the handle on the outside of the train door and swung his body inside the car to join the fight. Riki struggled with one boy, kicking his blade away. The bastard proved to be reluctant to die because the girl was on the ice covered floor wrestling with the cadet who tried to pry her handgun out of her grasp despite the bullet holes in his torso and arm.
Selphie was further down fighting the other guy casting spell after spell. Zell stumbled towards the small conductor booth, yanking at the handle, but it wouldn't budge.
SeeDs think of everythin', eh? Even lockin' doors with two guards keepin' watch. He mentally chuckled at the irony, pulling out the gun he hoped he wasn't going to use. Pointing at the lock, Zell pulled the trigger, and the door jolted from the impact. The handle broke, and he was able to open it with the creaking of the hinges sounding like the greatest thing in the world right now.
Inside sat a terrified man tied up with a gag in his mouth, shrieking hysterically at Zell's abrupt entrance. His hands were chained together and attached to a random bar continently situated in the wall by the window. The fighter could hear a few more shots go off just outside the door and someone scampering towards the conductor booth.
Riki panted in relief seeing that they had accomplished what they came here for. She laughed, not believing her eyes.
"…holy shit." She breathed, "We got 'em!"
Selphie stumbled into the corridor after winning her own fight. She pulled her mask off in the same disbelief as Riki. "We did it!"
Zone made some alarming noises, and Zell laughed. "Let's just get him outta here."
"Lemme do the honors then." Riki pushed past him in the cramped space, and before anyone could say anything, she pulled the trigger breaking the chain. Then she suddenly took the handle of her gun and knocked Zone out with blunt force to the temple.
Zell forced Zone up to his feet and shoved him through the door, but looked to Riki for an explanation, "Did ya have to do that?"
Riki just shrugged, "What can I say? I'm a badass."
"Target has been located and taken into custody." Selphie happily said through the comm. link in his ear, and Nida's dark eyes looked over to Angelus urgently. He could barley contain his smile. This was almost too good. "They got him! Mission accomplished!"
Angelus took down another guy, turning towards the SeeD who cowardly stayed out of the fight and let them do all the work. Squall and James were still scrapping it out.
Squall managed to get to his blade, swiping through air at an alarming speed. James was wearing down now with slower movements and sloppy combos, but persistently managed to jump at him again. Squall then sidestepped him, ducked under his attack, and took hold of his body from behind.
The blue glow of the Lionheart blinded James, feeling its razor sharp edge dig into the skin of his neck. He could feel air scraping against the inside of his throat and a thin layer of shimmering sweat on his body. He was shoved hard in the back by Squall's fist and felt volts rattle his bones.
"Not yet." Angelus watched Squall stand before James' body that lay in the dirty after losing the fight. The passion and strength exhibited during this mission was undeniably impressive. This was something he never imaged Squall was capable of when he'd first met him.
James panted through the pain from his wounds and mentally battled with hurt confidence and pride, "Y-ya win, Leonhart."
Squall didn't break into a smile, nor did he acknowledge the victory. His blue eyes peered up to the others staring at him in wonder and amazement. The ex-SeeD commander stood with a straight back regarding his newly required men and women.
"What you saw today was a demonstration of what happens when you divert from the teachings you were brought up with. You all were raised to be SeeD. To proudly wear the uniform and serve those that needs it the most. Regardless of what we were truly created for, or that we are no longer a paramilitary organization, we are still SeeD. We fight together, not with each other. You are not rouges; you are soldiers that carry integrity and dignity on your shoulders. I am Commander Squall Leonhart, and from today onward you are under my command when I call for it. Is that understood?"
Something happened then. Angelus' eyes went wide to see all the rouge SeeD stand at attention and salute all at once with such passion and vigor, he couldn't help but feel slightly envious.
"Sir, yes, sir!" They all shouted in unison.
Squall stepped away from James walking back to the two men who waited for him, "Alekson. The next time we meet, you'll get your next order. Til then you are to stay here and report anything you find."
"Oh, and just so you know, we got Zone." Angelus snickered to James before leaving, "I'd also Google me sometime if I were you. I'm quite the celebrity in these parts. Maybe next time I'll sign you an autograph."
Angelus turned his heel to follow Squall and Nida. James was left to punch the dirt watching the three men retreat and disappear into the darkness of the night.