Phase XIV: Deling City
They parked the car and followed Angelus, Riki, and Selene to an abandoned office building. Dealing City's layout was like day and night. The hustle and bustle was centralized around the galbadian presidential palace, luxury restaurants, and expensive fashion boutiques. The suburbs, on the other hand, were in shambled abandoned buildings and dirty streets that the government left unkempt and ignored.
They also had no idea that these buildings inhabited the central hub of the largest organization in the world: The Underground Association or UA for short.
The term 'right under their nose' was used in the literal sense here as all the main offices and training facilities were located underground and out of plain sight.
Angelus and the group took an old industrial elevator that was probably used for shipping at one point, to the lower levels of a larger building. The sound of strained creaking under their weight told them it had been heavily used, and probably still operated on a daily basis.
When the door flung open at their desired floor, what Squall, Zell, and Selphie saw instantly shocked them. An endless amount of cubicles filled up the room with people manically rushing around with documents in their hands while conversing with others. Right by the elevator, they were met with two stern looking men holding galbadian issued rifles. One had a series of tattoos covering his tanned muscular arms, while the other was blonde and equally as fit.
By the time Angelus approached them, their tense postures fell lax, "Rodney, Echo," Angelus greeted, "How's it going boys?"
"Hey, man." The blonde one called Echo smirked, "You come bearin' gifts?" His brown eyes noticed the tied up man with a canvas bag over his face that Squall and Zell had been dragging along.
Angelus glanced over, amused and proud of their catch, "We were playing a bit of wack-a-mole down south in FH. Had so much fun we decided to take him with us, ain't that right, Leonhart?"
"Where'd you want him?" Squall replied, ignoring the surprised looks on both Rodney and Echo's faces as they exchanged questionable glances with each other.
"Follow us." Rodney's deep voice instructed before he turned his heel to guide them through the mess of resistance agents going about a chaotic day.
"Are they always like this?" Zell asked Riki.
She nodded, "Yeah, they're responsible for any information that comes in from all over the world. The Government in each country separates them by floor. These guys, if you can't already tell, are Galbadia. Lot's of shit happens here that most people don't know 'bout."
Zell warily looked to Squall, who just shrugged and shoved Zone's struggling figure forward. When they got to another door, Angelus gestured for them all to follow, but Rodney and Echo chose to stay behind to continue to guard at their post.
When they all disappeared, Echo looked over at Rodney and smirked, "Did he just say 'Leonhart'?"
"Dude, this just got so much better. Only Angelus can convince a guy like that onto our side."
The next corridor was narrow with offices of higher ups lining it. Gold plaques with their names and position in black lettering hung next to their doors, but they didn't stop until they reached the one at the very end of the hall.
"Here we are and just on time." Inside the room, a familiar face sat at the head of the empty grey table with a bright screen behind him. This place looked more like a war room than anything else and a lot nicer than Vaughn's in FH. It was remarkable how professional this organization was, especially since it was all a secret.
"Take a seat, y'all." Cesar ordered. This time he was dressed in a black uniform issued by the association, consisting of a leather zip up pull over and black military cargo pants. Wrapped around his left bicep, a colored band displaying three simple black dots on it indicated the faction and division he represented.
Everyone took their seats closer to the screen, but Angelus and Squall remained standing to hold up their captive. Cesar walked around the table to meet them, his posture straight and strode with great confidence and intent. He stopped right in front of Zone, all business like. Cesar reminded Squall of a drill sergeant he had back at Garden as a cadet in his younger years, and everyone was scared shitless of that guy.
"Is this him?" He asked in a low galbadian drawl. Squall nodded. "Take off the bag."
Angelus did just that, revealing the traitor that ran SeeD and some of their men out of Timber. They lost their fight because all of him.
Zone, on the other hand, looked petrified.
"What's yer name, son?" Cesar asked him, casually.
"Z-Z-Zone, sir." He barely made out, dark eyes not connecting with the fierce look Cesar gave him.
"Ya understand what ya did?"
An eerie smile crossed Cesar's face just then, " Y'know what we do with guys who break the rules?"
He cleared his throat. "These two men will take ya down to the cells. Ya will rot, spendin' a week thinkin' 'bout what ya did. Then ya'll stand in front of the Council. They decide what to do with yer sorry ass from there." Cesar leaned in and whispered for good measure, "It's almost always death, son. So, count yer blessin's."
Squall could feel Zone's body tremble in absolute fear through his shirt. He almost felt sorry for him, but knew that this was his duty. If Squall was going to get anywhere close to figuring out what was going on with these attacks, and how Rinoa was involved, then he needed to do what he was told.
Cesar turned around walking back to the screen again, "Take him to the cells."
Before they left the room, Selphie locked concerned eyes with Squall, but he just shook his head in response before walking out into the hall again.
Zone's body hit the floor hard in the damp cell, which only provided him with a sink, a cracked mirror, a cot, and a poor excuse for a toilet. Angelus bushed his hands and nodded to the guard dressed in a similar uniform as Cesar's. The sound of the heavy door slamming finalized Zone's fate.
As Angelus spun around to walk out of the cells, Squall followed, keeping up with his pace. "What's this 'council'?"
They turned a corner, "Twelve men and women you never want to stand in front of. They're the ones in charge of this whole network. They deal with people who break the rules. Zone broke the biggest one."
"So, they're gonna kill him?" Squall asked.
"Who the fuck knows or cares at this point." He dismissed.
This place seems so…organized. What's they're ultimate motive? Defeat Galbadia?…then what? Overthrow Caraway and take over the country? Squall thought to himself before exiting the cells.
Back in the boardroom, Squall and Angelus got into their seats. Squall took one next to Selphie who just pouted at him. It seemed like a presentation was about to begin, so he couldn't speak. To reassure her, he patted her knee under the table, and that was all she needed to turn her attention to what Cesar was about to say.
"This meetin' is a briefin' on what we'll be doin' next." Cesar started as the screen showed a map of the entire city. "But first, fill me on your findin's since ya'll been gone."
Angelus spoke first, "We went to Timber Forest to meet with our contact, but found him dead. We also discovered some men decaying in the forest and others just outside of Jenkins' house."
"We investigated the body." Squall added, "It had those large gashes you had mentioned in our previous meeting. Turns out they were inflicted by a gunblade."
"We went to Timber in hopes of talking with the Forest Fox, but the whole city was deserted. We fortunately found one remaining SeeD, Nida, who told us that Zone had relayed information to the enemy." Angelus glanced over at Squall.
"We went to FH to talk with Mr. Callahan, and he explained that most people from the Timber and Dollet attacks were now seeking refuge in FH. After the violence in Timber had escalated, the SeeDs were displaced as well, living in the old train station. We fought against them to win their allegiance and now under my command. We also interrogated Zone and he admitted to everything, but…"
Cesar's dark eyes looked expectantly at Squall from his position near the screen with arms crossed over his chest, "Go on, Leonhart."
"He never relayed the information about SeeDs' plan for a revolution to a soldier. He said that the information leaked to Fury Caraway's daughter, Rinoa Heartilly."
Cesar didn't look at all surprised nor was he pleased. He sighed, looking up at the screen. "The next mission goes as followed: Two of ya will go to the presidential ball being held in honor of Caraway's official election as President where his daughter most likely will be attendin'. The team will follow their targets seekin' any information pertainin' to the attacks and report back to me. This team consists of Leonhart and Angelus." An image broke away from the map showing the presidential palace to the side of the screen as a call out.
"Meanwhile, Callahan, Dincht, and Tilmitt will be at the mansion. Dincht and Tilmitt will arrive at 2030 to cover the graveyard shift for the guards up front." An image broke away to show Caraway's mansion just as it did with the presidential palace.
"Callahan," He called her out specifically, and she perked up, "Ya got two jobs. One: Get these boys dressed up real nice for the party. Two: Ya get to break into Caraway's private study to look around for anythin' that suggests his or the governments involvement in these attacks."
"What about me, sir?" Selene asked, raising a hand.
He smiled at her, "Communications. Keep tabs of all channels. Everyone gets a wire."
"This will go down tomorrow night. Be ready. Dismissed."
Deling City, Galbadia/Carlou Lounge
October 20th, 2009. 2154 hrs
She looked down at the city streets below as cars honked and pedestrians lugged heavy shopping bags from their night out. Deling City was not one for sleeping and early nights.
Strangely, she missed it all. She missed the city lights, the people, the high priced delicacies, the fashion, and, most of all, calling this place home. Two years ago she left Garden, and it was the best decision she ever made. Now she was free to be the woman she thrived to be, and even her father wasn't as controlling because all he wanted was his little girl back in his life. He gave her whatever she wanted now.
So much for the life of a resistance fighter, but she had others still doing that for her.
"Rinoa," He had said to her over dinner, and his green eyes shimmered in the candlelight. The smile on her face faded when she realized Seifer's signature smirk had been replaced with a frown, "You won't like this."
"What is it?" She asked, knowing that what he had to say was going to ruin dinner tonight.
Seifer wasn't one to hesitate. Rinoa always thought it derived from many years of training, "It's Zone. We lost contact with him. My sources say he went missing a few weeks ago."
"Do you think it's because of the SeeDs he ran with?" Rinoa asked, concerned, "The ones I told him to work for!?"
Seifer grabbed her hand, "I wouldn't blame yourself, Princess. I got some guys looking for him in Timber and in FH. We have this covered I promise." He smiled then, and she felt slightly reassured, "Just worry about what your gonna wear tomorrow night."
But Rinoa still worried. Zone was her friend, and she cared deeply for him. A nagging feeling made her believe that those SeeDs had something to do with this. Maybe they found out that he had come to her when she went to visit Timber not too long ago. SeeD considered every possibly. She had learnt this quickly between fighting along side them during the war and dating Squall Leonhart. Rinoa was well versed with their training and battle strategies now.
SeeD tried to control her when she was in Garden, wanting to keep tabs on her powers as they slowly developed. Squall was ordered to confine her there to protect her, the world, and the not so stellar reputation of Garden and SeeD. It was Seifer who confirmed it. At first she didn't believe him, but why wouldn't she? How hard was that to believe?
She was a sorceress, and he was an exiled SeeD Cadet turned knight.
When they met up again, between heated arguments and heated sex, it became evident that what brought them together was their passion for rebellion and desire to conquer the world together. That was what their relationship was all about after all.
Lionheart cut through the air in blue arcs in an overhead swipe. It dipped low and circulated around his body. He switched hands to continue the constant flow of the dance. Squall hated dancing, but found pride in his calculated footwork in battle. His breath was attuned to the rhythm of his heartbeat as blood pumped through his veins as he savored the moment.
The city streets below were lit by their billboards, signs, and traffic lights; the sounds of Deling offered him distraction and challenged Squall to tune it all out. His concentration was on his blade- the one thing he could always count on.
Selphie leaned against the doorway that led to the hotel's rooftop. Of course, Squall had a knack for finding places to be alone. It was in his nature. She could sense how content he was swinging that blade around. There was no doubt about his excellence in battle, and this was something she grew to find was his most attractive trait.
His movements were like a dance, and his gunblade was a stream of light that surrounded his taut body. He was clad in a pair of old B-Garden issued sweat pants and a white under shirt. Without his black leather vest, his back, chest, and arms were more exposed and shimmered with sweat.
Watching him like this wasn't really what Selphie came here for, but she has to admit it was quite the added bonus. She stepped out onto the rooftop when Squall finally noticed her in mid swing. Selphie found a comfortable spot on the rooftop's ledge.
Squall stopped what he was doing, grabbed a sip of water from a plastic bottle, noticing a goofy smile lingering on her lips. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, curiously raising a brow, "What?"
"Figured you'd be by yourself." She teased, handing him the white towel he snagged from his hotel room.
He tossed the bottle aside, grabbing the towel from her, "What do you want?"
Selphie giggled, "Why do you always ask me that?"
He found himself smirking, "I do ask you that a lot. But seriously…" He wiped his brow and face, feeling her tug a corner of the towel to retain his attention.
"I just…wanted to know your thoughts on the situation." Selphie spoke carefully, trying to avoid using the word 'feeling' because Squall and feelings went together like oil and water.
"It's our duty." He told her, finally catching his breath, "We don't have much choice."
Selphie pulled the towel away completely out of his grip, "I meant Rinoa."
"I don't have feelings for her anymore." Squall felt like he needed to officially clarify that.
Selphie rolled her green eyes, and he suddenly knew that's not what she was referring to. "Rinoa is somehow involved in all this. What's your take on it?"
Squall frowned, "Obviously I don't like it. Rinoa's involvement makes this more dangerous than we thought. But I have to put our history in the past and think of her as just another suspect."
Selphie nodded, thoughtfully, "Good answer."
He expected more than that since this was Selphie he was talking to. "That's it? 'Good answer'?"
Selphie pushed herself off the ledge getting closer to him until her breath brushed against his ear, "I was expecting a 'Whatever'." The last word dropped into a deeper tone, mocking him.
"I don't sound like that."
"Well, it's a good thing you got over her then." She smiled, referring to his previous comment. Coyly, she made her way around him. He felt a sudden sharp pain hit his lower back and the snap of a wound up towel. Squall was about to reply with something witty, but Selphie's laughter echoed down the stairwell coupled with the stomping of her boots.
Squall chucked at her antics, turning back to the city lights and skyscrapers that surrounded him. Tomorrow night they were going to a party, and for the first time in just over two years, Squall would have to face Rinoa.
The cell was humid to say the least. He had been laying on the moth eaten cot for hours now. Here there was no time. Nothing in this cell measured time. Was it day or was it night? He had no clue.
Zone sat up and waited. His eyes trained on the door. He ignored the exhaustion in his body as it healed from weeks of torture and interrogation. Zone took a breath reflecting back on the past couple of months.
He did everything he could. He did everything he was told, so how did he end up like this? In this cell inside the Underground Association headquarters? Zone was once one of them; his father was once one of them, too. His whole life he fought for freedom. He fought for independence.
So how did he end up here awaiting his execution day?
He knew the answer. He stuck his nose where it didn't belong. He knew things others didn't and gave that information to the wrong people. He also betrayed the people who were trying to help him. For what? Love?
Yes, because he still loved Rinoa. She asked him to keep watch of the SeeDs and report anything of importance. And that's just what he did.
They were going to revolt and destroy the city. They both wouldn't let that happen.
And if Angelus or even Squall were stupid enough to kill him, he'd go down with sealed lips with some other classified information he picked up. Rinoa begged him to keep this between them, and he'd do anything she asked. It was too bad that what he knew was a game changer. If it happened now, or years from now, nobody would know until then.
Zone found a sick satisfaction in knowing just a little more than everyone else did. He stood up and shuffled over to the cracked mirror. His dark eyes rimmed black and his face dirty from weeks without a proper shower. He observed the cracks in the mirror and an idea struck him. More like a solution to all of his problems.
He pulled his fist back and slammed it into the mirror. Red streamed down from his knuckles as the pain sharply set in. The mirror's pieces fell into the light brown sink, and when he looked up again, the mirror looked like a spider web. He chipped off a larger piece and inhaled deeply, his heart pounding against his chest. In that moment, Zone never felt so alive, so relieved about what he was about to do.
A smile crossed his face, and tore the glass across his flesh. The blood increased, and now it was everywhere. Zone stumbled to the floor, leaning his back against the stone wall next to the sink.
He closed his eyes thinking one final thought.
I'm sorry, Rin.