The sorceress war Part I, Chapter II
by Skyknight


"This soldier will make either a superior and lethal warrior, or a very violent and disobedient civilian criminal."
From the final evaluation of Lieutenant Julia Heartilly, SE-12 Wolf Pack Operative.


Headquarters Zeta:
07:30 hours.

Julia Heartilly was sprawled out across her Queen sized bed in her tiny dorm room, sleeping peacefully under the first rays of the morning. She was somewhat awake however, knowing that she was about to drift back off to dreamland anytime soon. Until, that is, the piercing scream of her alarm clock thought differently.
The twenty-year old soldier bolted upright in alarm, trying to determine the source of the high pitched noise.
She fumbled across her bed, dragging most of the sheets with her, to hit the alarm clock forcefully from above. The squealing winded down, but was still annoyingly loud.
Julia quickly and angrily grabbed the black power cord and yanked it out of the wall.

Damned alarms....
She thought to herself before sitting up and getting out of bed, not even bothering to make it.
She took a quick shower, then changed from her plaid pajama bottoms and white tank top into a pair of blue jeans, white t-shirt and threw on her black leather jacket (which she wore mostly everywhere).
She slid her electric guitar, from the side of her wall to under her bed for extra walking room, her floor was littered with magazines, musical equipment and whatnot.
She flipped off her light switch and exited into the main hallway.

She shut her door behind her and walked down the empty hallway, the only sound was of her boots on the metallic flooring. She was pretty sure the others were already up and taking their breakfast in the lounge, she was usually the last up out of them.
She slid down the stairway from the dorm area on the fourth floor to the third floor, the area with the upper lounge and the shooting range.
She could already hear the sounds of rapid machine gun fire, and heavy fire at that. Edea was probably in there, trying to hone her skills to perfection.

Edea was the last person you would expect as a soldier. She cared too much.
When Raine and herself had said to Edea that they were going to enlist in the army, the three girls had grown up together in the richer portion of Deling, Edea quickly volunteered to go with them.
Edea said that too many innocent lives were being lost, and said that she would do anything to try and stop the massacres that Esthar was inducing.
She claimed she would quit if the government assigned her to do anything unjust or immoral, however.

Julia slid open the door to the lounge, where the three units (most members), had already settled in for the morning. Some soldiers were asleep in their chairs, while some just sat in front of the TVs.
All of Wolf Pack, except for Edea, Andraia, and Lancer, was seated at the bar taking their meals.
Julia sat in the free seat, between Raine and Zion.

She yawned and greeted her friends, "Hey guys. Anything interesting happen while I was unconscious?"

"No...not really. Corin got stuck in the doorway again," Celeste replied, half-asleep.

Raine scoffed, "How you do that Corin is beyond me."

"Well, it's really easy, but only Andraia would probably get it," he replied, then munched down some sausage from his plate.

Julia went to the food counter and returned with a plate of food. Her favorite, sausage, eggs and bacon.
She sat down and began munching wholesomely at her meal. Raine and Lilliana gave her a look of disgust.

"I swear you're almost as bad as Corin or Epsilon while you eat," Lilliana declared, getting a mean look from Epsilon, she set down her fork, she'd lost her appetite.

Julia stuck her tongue out at the blonde and Zion laughed, "Are you always this grumpy in the morning?"

Before she could answer Raine, Celeste, and Lilliana answered for her, "Yes!"

Julia sank even lower in her seat and gave each one of them a threatening look. They stopped their quiet laughing for a moment, but continued giggling after she looked away.
She gave them another glare but continued to eat her eggs. The door slid open at the entrance to reveal Andraia, half asleep and to not much to their surprise, on the verge of snoring.
She mumbled something incoherent then sat down at one of the free stools by the bar which Raine pulled over for her.

Epsilon looked over to Corin, "Okay Corin let's put it to the test," he said then turned to Andraia, "How do you think Corin here gets stuck in the doorway?"

She looked unintelligently at him with sleep in eyes, "D-oor?"

Several Wolves raised an eyebrow at her. Celeste shook her head, "...Never mind 'Ray, never mind."

Just then the doors slid open to reveal a shocked looking Edea and Lancer ran into the room. They quickly ran over to the bar to find the group with mostly concerned looks, a black stare from Andraia, and saw Julia with her head and arms sprawled across the bar out like a light and slightly snoring.
Edea had just heard some startling news and had passed it on to Lancer, who immediately came with her to the lounge to inform his employers.

Raine stood up, "What's up Edea? You look stunned."

Just then the television set switched from what the other units were watching earlier to the bases short range transmitter, which informed the teams on any outbreak of new in the war zones. Edea shook her head, "Never mind, just watch!"

The base informant appeared in front of a blue background with the Galbadian insignia and started the news briefing in her clear voice,

"Attention all military personnel! Government agents stationed as spies in the Estharian region have reported startling news in the war campaign.
The Estharian president was murdered recently and the Estharian government has been overthrown by an unknown Sorceress by the name of Adel.
This Sorceress has plans to abandon Esthar's scientific development and increase the rate of invasion attempts much greater than during the rule of the president.
The war has turned into a greater struggle then it has been in the past years. Check your nearest news bulletin board for further details, repeat............"

"Man!" Corin exclaimed, "As if we weren't fighting enough as it is! Now more?!"

Edea stood there with a kind of worry and mix of sadness in her eyes, "Another Sorceress? As if we weren't hated enough as it was.... I was just starting to be accepted."

Sorceresses were always bad news to everyone who had known them only in legends.
Stories had always made Sorceresses to be power-crazed maniacs who tried to enslave human kind.
Some Sorceresses were like this however, corrupt and twisted. Though Edea was a Sorceress herself, she was completely benign and was one of the most sensitive and caring people the base had ever seen.
Some of the elder soldiers had harassed Edea when the Wolf Pack unit was formed, but Raine and Julia quickly defended her.
Now Edea had the fear that this would begin again. The gift of natural magic was rarely a gift, but more a curse it seemed.
And it struck her oddly, how Andraia and Lilliana, who could summon and use white magic naturally, were never persecuted.

Raine sensed Edea's worry and gave her a look of concern. When they grew up in the classy portion of Deling City she, Edea and Julia had been like sisters.
Julia and Edea fought constantly (but that died down a bit when Julia started picking on Andraia), and Raine and Edea never fought but could relate to each other as being as close as family.
Raine never got along with her adopted parents well, she was an orphan, and often stayed with one of the other two for substantial periods of time. Edea was never as close as to them as Raine and Julia were to each other, but they were still inseparable.

Julia came up to Edea with a look of arrogance and determination, "No worries Edward! If anyone starts messin' with you again Raine and I will kick the crap out of 'em! Right Raine?"

Raine nodded in return and so did the other members of the team. Just like their name, the were as close knit as a pack of wolves, and if one was harmed, the rest would mass together to attack the enemy head on.
Most of the other units knew this, and there was rarely any conflicts with anyone outside of the Excalibur unit.

The intercom buzzed for a moment and sounded clearly, "All members of unit SE-12 'Wolf Pack' please report to Colonel Reinhart's office immediately. Thank you. That is all."

Lilliana quickly groaned, "Oh no! No I don't! I'm still way to sore to go one any mission again. You go and tell Reinhart he can just kiss my ass!"

"Ooh, vulgar language is a sign of unintelligence my dear," Edea said, "Besides, you need the money right?"

"Yeah... but Julia swears all the time and you never call her unintelligent!" Lilliana protested, getting up and stretching out her body, then adjusted her blonde spiky bun.

Edea gave her a look of stupidity, "I've grown up with Julia since she was seven. I already know she's an idiot."

Julia put her hands on her hips and glared forcefully at Edea with a look of mocking hatred, "Oh... whoa, now just wait a minute there! You can't even program your VCR smarty pants!"

"Yeah well I didn't spend five-sixths of high school in detention!" Edea shot back with a look of triumph, then realized how degrading this argument was and withdrew a bit while Julia looked as mad as ever.

"Okay, okay!" Raine interjected, "You all know how pissy Reinhart gets if we're late so c'mon, let's get going."

Raine was the "mother" of Wolf Pack. She always broke up any arguments that the team members had or if any decisions had to be made outside of the battlefield, they all still turned to her.
She figured it was the price of being a leader.
She rarely got much free time to herself. She was always training or listening to mission briefings and paying attention to her soldiers. Then when she did have free time to herself, Julia or Edea always seemed to be barging into her room to use all her stuff. And she valued her stuff very much. She had been pissed at Julia for breaking her Nintendo, one of her last escapes away from reality.

The team followed her out of the entrance door of the lounge, and received several shouts and yells from the Excalibur unit, taunting to the team that they would never make it back to base alive if they knew what was good for them.
Some of the Excalibur females restrained the rambunctious men from causing a scene past which they already were.
That was one good thing about Excalibur, the girls in the unit were generally level-headed and trustworthy compared to the men, and quickly tried to resolve any conflict between the two units as soon as possible.

They walked down the main stairway to the first floor, where all the officers held their briefing or working rooms.
They entered Reinhart's office in the central corridor of the base. His secretary buzzed them into his office and they entered to find a distraught and worried looking Colonel.
He was pacing around the back wall like a caged animal, his eyes full of concern. He stroked his graying beard and told them to line up against the back wall in front of him, and they did so.
He adjusted his black uniform and became the stern looking Colonel they always knew him as.

"Major Leonhart, Wolf Pack, good job on the Dollet mission," he started out with a half smile, then became serious again, "But I am afraid something more urgent has come up. You'll need to move out immediately."

Lilliana and Corin both groaned but Raine silenced them with a glare, "How do you mean Sir?"

He looked at the ground, as if afraid of what he was about to tell them, "The government has ordered you into the depths of Esthar," several Wolves looked shocked to say the least, "You are to retrieve all information on Adel and Esthar's military plans without much conflict between yourself and what soldiers are guarding the Estharian Presidential Palace."

Raine looked both stunned and angry at the same time, "But Sir! We aren't a covert or undercover unit! We're supposed to handle just combat missions!"

He glared at her, "Are you questioning me Leonhart?!" she shut up and he continued, "The government is designating this as a combat mission. There is a good chance not even a covert team could make it out without a fight on their hands. We need someone with superb combat training, hence, we send in Wolf Pack."

Raine snorted in near sedition but remained silent.
Julia didn't look so happy either.
Raine simply nodded in compliance and awaited further instructions.
Reinhart put his hands behind his back and looked on to make sure no one else had any complaints. Everyone maintained a steely glare and a cool demeanor.

"All right then," he started, "You are to drive to Timber in your own vehicles and then purchase train tickets to Esthar across the horizon bridge. The vendor is a contact of ours and has ten tickets on reserve for you.
The only way in is through Salt Lake. Cross it and you'll find a flashing "barrier." Our informants have told us that this is simply a hologram and that there is a ladder and a opening if you just follow the path through the lake. As from there, it's up to you. You will have three days to contact us on any information you can come up with."

Julia raised her hand, "Why not just have the informants inform you of what is happening?"

Reinhart glared but decided to answer, "They can't leave the Palace without information without being caught. If they were to transmit anything they would be caught and killed on the spot. You need to get in and get out quickly.
Once you get past Salt Lake again, we should be able to pick up anything without Esthar knowing. You move out at your discretion, that is all. You are dismissed."

The team saluted and left the office out into the main hall. Raine could tell all of them were easily nervous or angered, as was she.
They became as distraught as Reinhart when they had first entered his office and saw him pacing.

Corin kicked the wall forcefully, "God damn it!! I hate anything with words covert or incognito in it! Isn't this a kind of mission for the Smoke Panthers?!"

Edea shook her head and motioned for Corin to calm down, "I know. But the Panthers are already on a mission somewhere else. I guess we have no choice."

Lancer shrugged in confusion on their behavior, "I don't see what the problem is, all we have to do is keep quiet and sneak around. Big deal."

Celeste raised an eyebrow at him and looked around the room, "I don't think you've noticed in the short time you've been here but we have a few people who can't keep quiet and/or are complete klutzes when it comes to spying. It's going to be harder then it sounds, believe me."

Lancer sighed and crossed his arms in disapproval, "Great... just what I needed."

Epsilon had leaned against the wall, not far from where Corin had made a large dent in it. He looked more serious than he had is a long time, "We might as well get it over with. We can rest on the ride there and if worst comes to worst we can always fight our way out."

Raine, who had been almost livid with silence un-crossed her arms and nodded almost forcefully, "He's right. Let's just do this and come home."

The others nodded back and Andraia responded with a supporting 'Whoo-hoo!' to cheer up the team.
Julia gave her a funny look then slapped her in the back of the head to keep her quiet, telling her if she did that during the middle of the mission she'd kill her. Lilliana shook her head and smiled after them.
Raine motioned for them to go back to their rooms and get their equipment back on.
She warned them not to wear their uniforms though, that would be blatantly stupid.
She followed after them as they walked down their respected hallways.

*************************************************************************** ***

10: 35 hours

Raine quickly changed from her lounging clothes into leather pants, a white tank-top, and a navy blue trench coat with no Wolf Pack markings on it.
She slid a knife into her boot and slung her katana under the coat so it wasn't viewable to anyone but still loose enough so she could draw it out quickly. She also placed her SOCOM heavy fire pistol in a holster underneath her left arm, that too was not viewable. She let her hair free from her headband and shook it out, she then place the band in one of her pockets should she need it later. She then grabbed her back pack and place several potions and phoenix downs in it, along with two extra machine guns should one of the team members need them.

She slung the back over her shoulder and fuming, she placed several things back where they should have been in her tiny room.
This is a suicide mission and Reinhart knows it! We could easily get captured and he'd be to chicken to try and save our hides, and we'd be left rotting in an Estharian prison somewhere! I'm just suprised Julia didn't try and cuss him out. I was even about to!
Stupid idiot... this isn't our kind of mission!
What if something happens to one of them.... no, I'm not even going to think about that happening. That bastard!

She exited her room to meet the face of Julia, who was leaving her room as well. She didn't change, as was still wearing her leather coat and jeans. She too, looked as mad as Raine did and had almost the same armaments that she did.
Julia was lucky her staff could be turned into pieces which should could assemble when needed, put together the staff was nearly as tall as she was, and couldn't be hidden.

She walked with Raine in the direction of the parking lot, "Fucking Reinhart!! This is completely unfair! We just get back from a mission and we're off again! This time on a suicide mission I'm sure!"

"I know..." was all Raine had to say in response. Usually the two of them had lengthy conversations, but she was pissed and didn't feel like talking. Julia knew this.

Julia looked at her best friend with her coffee brown eyes, "I mean... Andraia's scared out of her mind and Edea's more worried then I've seen her in a long time! Even more than the time I blew up that one part of her car accidentally!"

Usually Raine would have laughed at that, but was still brooding over the mission. She caught site of Andraia, in a green tank top and short khaki skirt, sitting in her car listening to some pop tune that Raine had never heard before.
Edea was with her, wearing a pair of black jeans a white t-shirt and a blue windbreaker, and could tell she was saying something to Andraia but they were too far away to make out just what.

Celeste came up behind Raine and Julia wearing a black coat and black jeans with a red shirt, and was mumbling something incoherent, but Raine knew is was probably not good.
The two waited up for her and the three entered the exterior parking lot, where all the soldiers kept their cars in case they had break and could go home.
That's where Raine wanted to be, even if it was an apartment she shared with Julia in upper Deling.
The three met Edea and Andraia as they came and stood next to the car. Julia jumped into the backseat and landed comfortably. Andraia was lucky enough to have a convertible that the six girls could ride in, even if it was a tight squeeze.

They said nothing for a moment, then Raine leaned against the car and spoke in a cool voice, "I know none of you like this, but we've got no choice."

They nodded in response and Andraia banged on the sides of her steering wheel, "It's just not fair! We shouldn't have to go, I suck at covert anything!"

"Yeah, we know, so do most of us, " Lilliana said walking up in a black brawling tank top and a pair of blue jeans. Her gloves were combat, but she had retracted the claws to them.

"Hey Lil'," Julia addressed, "I didn't hear you come in."

She waved a hello with lack of effort.
Zion came in after her, wearing the same thing he had on before, just a different black combat vest with no markings. Lancer followed him in a red jacket and silver gauntlets, with a pair of black jeans. Zion waved said hi to them and climbed into his red jeep, which is what the four men were taking.
Lancer smiled to them and followed Zion into the jeep. Epsilon was next, dragging his sniper rifle in a case that looked like it belonged to a guitar, he wore a denim coat and blue jeans. He threw the case into the back of the jeep and leapt into the backseat with Lancer. Corin, of course, was last. He ran in at full speed with a leather jacket on and a pair of punk looking jeans with a chain hanging from his side. He bounded into the second front seat with Zion, who started the car.

"Okay guys," Raine started her own orders, "Just meet us on the outskirts of Timber, we'll stop off for supplies in the town plaza then go to the train."

Raine slid back down into the front seat as Andraia started the car and pulled out onto the main road, she and Julia were already fighting over which radio station to listen to. Zion followed closely in the jeep, and the girls were already talking up a storm over some sport most likely.
Raine knew well that this mission would be particularly dangerous, and sat back and enjoyed the company of her friends conversations and arguments while she still had the chance.
She just hoped that they would live long enough so she could talk about things with them after the mission as well.

Chapter III