Phase III: Two Years Later
Footsteps broke the twigs under his heavy boots as he stepped over logs and around slanted trees. His dark eyes scored the area for anything suspicious or out of place. He had lived in these woods for over twenty years knowing the placement of every rock, shrub, and trail. He had gotten a call recently from his partner in Deling City to search through the woodlands of Timber. Apparently the Galbadians were coming up this way next.
His contacts had told him that they were just outside of Dollet in the mountains now. Cellular reception was few and far between in these parts as a lot of towers were malfunctioning lately. The communication streams were getting less reliable, and probably being listened in on by the enemy. He could only guess why.
From what the man gathered from visiting Timber in the past month or so, something was about to happen judging by the heightened security and Galbadian presence in various areas that never needed security before. The Underground Network on the western continent was staring rumble with anxiety over it.
Whatever he was supposed to do- his orders if you wanted to call them that required him to report back on his findings.
By his side was his trusty hound, Rex. He carried a semi automatic pump action shot gun in his left hand. Whoever was roaming the forest in Galbadian blue was going to be eating dirt six feet under tonight.
After a few moments he found himself in a clearing greeted by the smell of rotting corpses that unwelcomingly filled his large nostrils. The man recoiled back for a moment covering his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his checkered shirt. The hound ran up ahead inspecting the dead men lying in the dirt with a curious nose. An intense sound of buzzing suggested that black flies were having a feast on the bodies.
Five of them, he counted. All of them either burnt, shot, or maliciously sliced open. He made his way towards the closest one and kicked the body over to get a closer look. Now lying on his back, he could see that the man's wound was a large gash. It wasn't a caused by something blunt, either. A sword. Judging by the length of the wound that spilt the man's blood on the earth under him, it wasn't an ordinary military model, either. The men were burnt as well, some shot.
Seeing nothing like this before, Jenkins whistled for his hound and turned to rush back to his cottage hidden deep in the woods. When he got there, he started for a small wooden desk by the kitchen. He took out an old morose code kit and created a message sending it to the others determined to keep this message off of conventional wireless airwaves.
SOLDIERS FOUND IN FOREST. LARGE SWORD WOUNDS WITH BURNS ON 'EM. YA WERE RIGHT. SOMETHIN' S 'BOUT TO HAPPEN.
Just as he finished the last word, he heard something knock over and crash to the floor in the kitchen. Jenkins stood up slowly checking to see where his dog was. Rex had been snoozing on he couch nearby, but jumped up to his feet and barked at the front door upon hearing the crash. Jenkins' dark eyes located his gun, snatching it up from its position on the coffee table. He kneeled onto the old couch slowly peering through his blinds. They emerged from the bush surrounding the old cottage. Galbadians, but they didn't have their patriotic blue on. They were clad black.
And those weren't the same uniforms most active Underground agents wore these days. They had no colored bandanas tied to their biceps that suggested which faction they belonged to. They weren't his allies. They were his enemy.
That's when the gunfire started. A barrage of bullets cracked through the air, possibly a hundred at a time with barrels blazing at him. Jenkins threw himself to the side and rolled onto the floor. Glass shattered and burst into pieces scattering all over the living room. Old wood from the walls splintered off mixing in with the glass soon after. The dog kept on barking and running around like he was ready to fight a war.
Jenkins ducked behind the couch periodically poking his head and gun up through the window to defend himself. He thanked his Pa for teaching him to shoot as a boy; may Hyne rest his soul. Expertly, Jenkins shot one man down at a time with ease. When the gunfire stopped, it indicated that he had won. All six of them had fallen, and an eerie silence took over.
Jenkins wasn't a stupid man. At least he didn't think he was. Those were just six soldiers, a small squadron. Others would come, and he needed to be prepared for them. He stumbled around toppled furniture and scattered belongings to his small meager kitchen. The cabinet door above his sink flew open, and his hand clumsily threw aside old cans and tea boxes to his stash of ammo. He spun around to load it into his weapon when he found that he wasn't alone in his house.
Dressed in the same uniform as the men he just killed, a blond one stood smirking back at him from the kitchen door. A man he knew personally, but hadn't personally met yet. The blond stepped forward, quickly kicking the weapon from his hand and pulled a large black blade on him. Green envious eyes bore right into his, and suddenly a crippling pain erupted from Jenkins hip to just under his shoulder. The long slender wound burned into his skin, and then came the crack of a gunshot that was so close to his ear everything began to ring. He felt his leg grow wet, and his body hit the wooden floor hard.
The last thing he saw was the dusty kitchen floor and a pair of black combat boots turning the corner retreating from his sight. Rex had gone. He couldn't hear the dog no more.
Slowly, life seemed to be sucked out from his body leaving his soul to roam oblivion.
September 28th, 2009. 2000 hrs
The break that invited all instruments into a solo created the climax to the song. Drums kept the beat, bass a gentle hum in the background, and guitars playing rapid notes at the same time to give the song its musical identity. The singer seized their vocals for a 25 second break.
His boot tapped along with the music blaring in his ears through white ear buds connected to the Smartphone in the pocket of his jeans. He temporarily checked out of reality while he also thumbed through the latest issue of Weapon's Monthly September.
His blue eyes caught sight of some new gunblade parts that he had his eye on for some time. There were additional ones and some he hadn't seen yet. Maybe it was time for an upgrade.
Just as he inspected the glossy pages closer to examine the spec list, his headphones were torn from his ears cutting his relaxing evening short.
"What the hell!?" He snapped at the blonde standing over him from his spot on the leather couch. His icy glare met a rather amused smile.
"Hey, Squall!" Zell Dincht exclaimed, pushing a flyer of another one of his events in his face. "Wanna go out tonight?"
"No." Squall Leonhart didn't even miss a beat.
"Oh come on, man!" the blonde complained.
"I said 'no', leave me alone." Squall said firmly, pushing away the flyer, and going back to his magazine.
"Pu-lease! Many hot chicks!" Zell sung aloud, pointing to the very line that ensured that many attractive women were going to attend as well. "See? Says it right there!"
Squall grunted, "I don't care."
A sly smile crossed Zell's tattooed face just then, trying a different approach "Well, guess somebody is too scared to meet anyone special at the party because he hasn't gotten over a certain girl who shacked up with his rival."
Squall growled getting to his feet to storm off into the kitchen of their small Dollet apartment. "I shouldn't have told you that. I knew this was going to happen."
"Then why did you tell me?" Zell mocked, making his way to the fridge to grab a beer. Their fridge was full of them with the insistence of Zell stating that Dollet was the hub of authentic brews from all over the world. The past two years slowly trickled by for the two ex-SeeD's who where fortunately just shy of turning 20. Outside of SeeD, guys their age were partying, hooking up with women, and drinking. Squall only conformed to the drinking part.
"I might have been drunk or something," Squall answered.
This is where Zell started getting serious. He sighed and slammed his hand onto the nearby counter, "Honestly, honestly? As your best friend, I really think you should move on, man! It's been two fuckin' years, and I don't think Rinoa's comin' back anytime soon!"
"Whatever." Squall shrugged, knowing where this whole speech was going because he heard it at least three times a week, and it never got less annoying. Even Irvine had been getting on his ass about it every time he saw him. Squall's new favorite pastime was tuning his roommate, and the freeloading self proclaimed bachelor out.
"So, will you come to the club or not!?" Zell shouted, flustered, "I can't go alone, it would be weird!"
"Then why don't you not go?" Squall exclaimed sarcastically.
"Because, it's a Friday night, and who stays home on a Friday night anyway? Look, the party doesn't start til 2200. It gives us tons of time to get ready, drink a bit, and go." He justified to the brunette, who still wasn't very interested.
"Whatever." Squall muttered, angry at the fact that he was about to relent because he didn't want to hear about it anymore, "What's it in for me?"
"Girls and girls!" Zell chirped.
"Besides that," Squall waved a dismissive hand.
Zell began to think, "Ummm…." His face brightened to an idea like a light bulb turning on. "I'll do your laundry with my laundry fare for a month, make dinner, and also buy you as many drinks as you want tonight!"
Squall deliberated for a second, and spoke up again, "How about, six months, make dinner for a week, and keep the free drinks whenever I want deal, and you got yourself an agreement."
As he always did, Zell jumped in excitement and wrapped his arms around Squall into a bear hug much to his dismay. Squall did not say anything after that. He was going to a club with Zell, which involved loud music, freaky men trying to pick up fifteen year old girls who used a fake ID to get in, and women coming up to him for a dance- he hated all aspects of that. "Oh and Zell?" Squall said when Zell started back to his room. "Don't expect me to dance, because I won't."
The blonde waved his hands in the air, and disappeared around the corner. As for Squall, he sighed and settled down to read his magazine again in the living area.
SeeD had disbanded two years ago leaving everyone who resided in the Gardens to find their own paths in life. The two men had lived in Balamb town for a few months with Zell's mother, and then had moved out to Dollet just over a year ago as a fresh start.
Squall was still trying to figure his own out, while Zell had considered enrolling at Dollet University to further his studies in metallurgy next term. Irvine had been doing some traveling living the life as a single bachelor. The cowboy would stop by Dollet from time to time and tell the stories of his adventures and often slept on their couch. Together Zell and Irvine berated him about his relationship status, and the 'lack of women' in his life.
When Rinoa left something in him broke. He couldn't bring himself to get into another relationship that would inevitably end the same way. More often than not now, Squall believed he was over Rinoa. Other times he missed it. Missed the grind of it all, and the physical aspects as well.
Yet again, the club scene was not Squall's choice of a good night. He absolutely loathed them with a passion for many reasons. The type of music was far from the genres he listened to. It was party music, and nothing like what he heard in any rock, or metal track. This type of music was upbeat; the kind that would give you an extreme adrenaline rush, and make you dance some more. Squall hated dancing.
Dollet Dukedom/Amaro Club
And yet, he ended up going to the club that night. It was just hours prior that Squall agreed to participate in Zell's little 'outing'. He and Zell walked through the doors of the nightclub after standing in a line that was so long it circled the block with an hour of waiting time. They had finally got up to the bouncers; two huge muscular men that seemed as if they took steroids to get that big. They both wore black, tight pants, tight shirts, and all. He just passed through flashing his ID and walked to the door with Zell trailing him.
"Check it out, man!" Zell yelled, clearly excited. The interior of the club was an astonishing sight making even Squall want to drop his jaw in amazement. It was packed with people dancing and having fun. Lights beamed everywhere in an array of colors that moved along to the sound of the faded music playing in the nearest room.
"There are four rooms and five types of music," Zell explained, "Each have their own room. I believe they're Reggae, Hip-Hop, Latin, and Electronic."
"Terrific…" Squall muttered. His frown had been ripped from his face as his eyes came upon the first venue that played hip-hop. The lighting was red and blue with a large bar crowded with dancers and other patrons getting their orders of alcoholic beverages. Platforms came out from the walls with women and men dressed in outrageously colorful outfits grinding up on each other. The music blared from large speakers by the stage playing some over rated song he had heard frequently on the radio as of late. Far atop a stage was the DJ spinning his remix to this song.
So, this is what a club is like, he thought just as his eyes caught sight of a rather attractive blonde in a revealing dress strutting by him. I suppose Zell wasn't kidding when he said there was going to be a lot of 'hot chicks' in this place…
"Isn't this place awesome!?" Zell yelled over the loud music.
"I guess!" Squall shouted, turning his attention back to his friend.
"Yo, wanna get some drinks first!?" he heard Zell offer, and Squall allowed him to lead the way to the crowded bar.
Zell ordered two Heinekens from a male bartender as they both pulled up a few stools. Their order came within five minutes, and the two were left to sip their beers observing the adjacent women that strode around in their outrageously high heels and short skirts.
Zell's eye's caught the sight of one brunette that was dancing off onto the dance floor with one of her girlfriends. She wore a faded blue short skirt with a white tank top that showed off one bare shoulder. She had on brown knee high boots that complimented her attire quiet well. Her brown bangs covered her face as her long hair swished from side to side as she danced. Her length was just about at her mid back or maybe longer. Zell couldn't shake the feeling that he knew her from somewhere.
The girl's face turned towards him, and he was right. His heart beat fast, and his movements quickened urgently hoping that he wouldn't lose sight of her.
Zell then nudged Squall in the shoulder who was minding his own business drinking his beer. He looked at him annoyed wondering what had gotten into him. "Squall, look over at that brunette," He pointed.
Squall's eyes scanned the area, seeing five or maybe six brunettes around the spot Zell had pointed. "Which one?"
"That one!" the young man shouted hopping off the stool making his way towards her. Squall did the same.
"Oh her?" he clarified, "What about her?"
"Look at her face, doesn't she look familiar?" Zell asked.
Squall narrowed his eyes slightly as the girl turned his way. He got a good view of her face. Her frame was slender enough. She stood at the same height at about 5'2''.
Zell went up behind her to tap her shoulder. The girl huffed, agitatedly, "I told you! I don't wanna da-" She cut herself off when she realized who was standing there.
Selphie Tilmitt's green eyes lit up upon seeing her old friend from Garden standing behind her. She only knew of one guy crazy enough to tattoo his face and have a wildly gelled hairstyle like that one. He even had grown out a bid of a goatee making him look older and more mature. Zell looked peculiar wearing a cleanly pressed white shirt that contrasted well with his skin. It gave him a fresh summer look.
"Zell!" She jumped at him, hugging him tightly. "I can't believe it's you!"
"Same…here!" Zell choked and broke off the hug. That's when another man walked up behind Zell. Selphie's eyes widened even more finding Squall Leonhart standing there wearing a black dress shirt and dark jeans looking so out of place in the middle of the dance floor. He appeared generally the same as before and hadn't changed his appearance much. Seeing him made excitement burst in her chest.
Squall's eyes couldn't tear away from the girl he knew from his SeeD days. She looked so different from head to toe, and he couldn't help but feel strangely attracted to this transformation. It must have been the fact that her now long brown locks almost made her look more…grown up.
A memory flashed in his mind of the night before they left Garden where he dared to make a huge mistake. Selphie and himself had never spoken about it after- they actually had never spoken at all.
Just like she had done with Zell, Selphie wrapped her arms around him tightly. Selphie seemed to forget what had happened that night as time had a tendency to change people's perspectives. Maybe she didn't think it meant anything. The closeness made him resistant, and he did not return the gesture.
"Hey, Selphie." He muttered resorting to a simple pat on the shoulder.
"You guys look great! Tee-hee." She giggled.
"You do, too." Zell commented.
Selphie went to turn to her friend that she was dancing with. "Oh! Guys, this is Stacy. We went to Trabia together, and now we're roommates. This is Zell and Squall. I graduated with them at Balamb Garden."
"It's nice to meet you two." She smiled warmly, but her brown eyes locked onto Zell particularly.
Stacy was a taller girl than Selphie. She was clad in a tight black evening dress and matching heels that just added to her height. Her red hair was in loose ringlets that cascaded down to her shoulders. Her hand slipped into Zell's and pulled him away laughing, "Wanna dance?"
"Hell yeah!" With that she pulled him away, and they got lost in the crowd.
Trying to avoid an awkward conversation Squall promptly turned on his heels and weaved his way between the dancers to get another beer at the bar. Selphie watched him curiously and followed him.
Oh, no you don't! She thought. Once back at the bar area, Selphie found Squall leaning against the counter waiting for a bartender to come back. Selphie joined him and said nothing.
"Heineken." He muttered to the man and passed him off some Gil. "What do you want?"
Selphie knew that he wasn't asking her about the alcohol, and the question was more literal than he made it out to be. She smirked and replied, "Amaretto." The lion sighed, and the man went off to make the drink. After getting their orders, the two sat in silence. Silence was all they had for the past two years, and she couldn't take it anymore.
"So…" Selphie started awkwardly, sipping at her drink through a small straw. "Why didn't you keep in touch with me, Squall?"
Squall remained composed, but knew this was coming. "I was busy."
What is this all about? He asked himself first before speaking to her, "I was working and training."
"I guess you haven't changed much then, huh?"
"Whatever…" was all he could say before he took in another mouthful of beer. He felt like that comment was unnecessary and a poor attempt to get under his skin. He could sense hostility in the way she spoke and acted and didn't know what her problem was. This wasn't the Selphie he remembered.
Selphie tried a different approach, "I guess you're finally over Rinoa. That's why you're here, right? So, you can check out some nice ladies?" Her tone switched suddenly to an amused one.
"Not really," Just by bringing his ex-girlfriend up, he knew that was her intention now. Although truthfully, he wasn't really there for the ladies, but had checked out three or four before Selphie showed up.
The girl scoffed in disbelief, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear, "Very funny, Squall." Selphie stood up from her stool next to him, and patted his shoulder.
He looked at her hand and suddenly didn't want it there. "I'm serious." He informed her as he cocked an eyebrow.
The brunette rolled her eyes before turning away. Squall knew he had done something to irritate her. I suppose it's because I never kept in contact with her. I didn't really keep in contact with anyone aside from Zell and Irvine. What was I supposed to say? After a few seconds, he didn't even care anymore. He also didn't care what satisfaction she got out of this interaction.
"It was nice talking to you." She finally said walking off to the dance floor to find her friend and leaving Squall to sulk. The DJ switched songs with a smooth transition, and the crowd of dancers went wild to the chart topping song that played.
The floor shook and all the glasses on the bar rattled. The walls jolted, and smoke began to fill the inside of the club. The brick sent clouds of dust down towards the floor. The sudden jolt was followed by a loud eruption. Between the explosion and the screaming of other partygoers, Squall couldn't hear anything aside from the ringing in his ears.
"Everyone RUN!" the DJ yelled through a microphone and disappeared out of sight.
Something clicked in his mind that Squall hadn't felt in quite some time. The same feeling he got when a battle broke out, and he needed to do something to save himself or his comrades. He twisted his body and latched onto Selphie's arm. Her face filled with horror and confusion.
"Squall, what the hell is goin' on?" she shouted, staring him in the face hoping for a sensible answer.
"Honestly, I don't know." he replied, "We need to find Zell and Stacy!"
"Squall!" They heard Zell's voice boom with Selphie's friend not too far away.
"Selphie!" Stacy let out, hugging her tightly, "What is going on!?"
"I have no idea!"
"We need to get out of here!" Zell announced.
"He's right. If we value our lives, we have to leave now!" Squall added holding onto Selphie's wrist. They rushed to leave hoping to find another exit somewhere. There was a fire door right next to the stage with less people running through it.
The four of them cut through the horrified crowd, struggling every inch of the way to that exit. On their way there, soldiers burst through all the doors and windows of the giant club with uniforms and guns; rushing everyone in one swoop.
"Soldiers!?" Selphie cried out, noting the uniforms. Galbadian, but not blue. Black uniforms?
"Another Galbadian invasion!? What the fuck!?" Zell asked Squall, who was just as surprised as everyone else.
Stacy pointed out the logical, "This is insane!"
"You're tellin' me…" Selphie commented, getting closer to her, "Squall?"
"Why would Galbadian soldiers be attacking now? What do they want?" He asked himself more than he asked the group.
A sharp shriek was heard nearby, causing him to avert his attention towards the sound. The soldier was mistreating a blonde woman, pulling her by her long ponytail. "Stop it, please!" She pleaded with him, kicking around and flailing her arms.
"Hey!" Squall demanded, "Let her go!"
The soldier laughed, "Who do you think you're talkin' to, kid?"
"I said, let her go." He repeated in a more threatening tone this time.
"And what if I don't?" The obnoxious soldier asked, scornfully smirking at him.
Just a split second after the man had finished asking his question, Squall replied by charging at him. The soldier didn't even know what was coming to him; the teenager kicked his gun away and made it go flying somewhere on the ground now unarming him.
The lion punched the guy a few times: two to the face, and three to the stomach to knock the wind out of him. The soldier groaned shocked by the surprising strength that this mere teenager had unleashed on him. He was fast and remarkably strong. His technique was even more superior against an experienced soldier such as himself. Where did he learn to fight like that?
Squall sprang off the ground and swung his right leg high enough to hook the guy's head with his foot. The soldier's body spun around sending him onto the floor to fall on his stomach.
The women struggled to get up, and panted heavily. Squall grabbed her bicep and helped get her to her feet. "Thank you so much…" she whispered in a Trabian accent.
Her long hair was platinum blonde and tied up in a high ponytail. Her eyes were a honey brown almost yellow, complimenting her tanned skin. Her blue and white silk dress was more formal than this club even required.
"Umm…pardon me?" Her sweet voice spoke again, and Squall realized that he was starting to make her nervous with his prolonged stare.
"Selene!" A male voice called out from somewhere nearby. Squall and the others looked in the general direction of the voice, but couldn't identify who had shouted. The girl named Selene steadied herself on her feet and ran off to disappear into a crowd of people.
"She didn't even say goodbye!" Stacy looked affronted, planting her hands to her curvy hips.
"Let's go!" Squall shouted.
"Then what're we standin' 'round here for!?" Zell replied, and then made his way towards the exit where a giant crowd pushed through the door at the same time.
When they got out they smelt smoke and felt heat against their skin. The streets were filled with people and sirens going off indicating that the police had showed up. Men got out of cars in riot gear ready to take the soldiers on. Club goers where filling the streets screaming and trying to make phone calls to locate their lost friends, but cellular connection was lacking. The paramedics were present to take in the injured. News station trucks drove into the area and began to interview witnesses, officers, and other personnel.
"But didn't Galbadian soldiers do this?" Selphie asked Squall when they got into a vacant alleyway. The four of them hid in the shadows relieved to get fresh air and a quieter place to talk.
"That makes no sense…" Squall muttered, placing his hand over scar on his forehead.
Zell suddenly took matters into his own hands and stormed out of the alley just when a cop ran by. "Zell, where are you going!?" Selphie called after him.
"Hey! We saw Galbadian soldiers attack the club! What the hell is goin' on?" he said as he approached.
"Soldiers didn't attack the club; terrorists did. They had posed as actual soldiers and attacked the new military base at Yaulny Canyon. They stole the identities of soldiers," The cop quickly explained, "Just round up your friends and get as far away from here as possible. I suggest you go home now." Then the officer had left to tend to his duties.
"Hear that?" Zell asked the three of them as he walked back to the alley, "Terrorists!"
"Why would they attack a club of all places?" Squall asked.
"Maybe we should do what the cop said and get out of here," Selphie suggested.
"Good idea, Sefie," Stacy agreed, "But our apartment is on the eastside, it's too dangerous to go there now with all this chaos!"
"Then come to ours, its just a few blocks away from here." Zell suggested.