The Sorceress War Part I, Chapter VI


"Wolf Pack is like a family.  We always watch each other's backs during tough times, and steal each other's stuff when the rest aren't looking."
-Master Sergeant Edea van Neil of SE-12 'Wolf Pack.'




    Dreamscape ---


    Raine was in her adopted home, no more than age 13.   Her uncle had died a few years earlier and she had to be sent to this family, the Canons.  For Raine, it was hell on Terra.  No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't ever live up to their standards.   It seemed as though their wealth had taken away what was left of their humanity.  Though they were as rich as Trance had been, they were no where near as nice as her uncle was before he died.   Raine had just been walked home from school by Edea and Julia, who lived on either side of the Canon house.  Using the excuse that she was going to spend the night with one of them, she could usually escape the harsh reality of her current family life.  It consisted of just her adoptive parents, they had no children, which is probably why they adopted Raine in the first place.  Now, she wasn't quite sure if they should be trusted with children.  


    She had been out an hour later than usual with Edea and Julia, and had forgotten to do her massive list of chores.  It wouldn't have been that bad of a problem, had this not been the sixth time this week.  Dismissing the responsibilities, she went up to her room.  She would have done the chores if she had known what would happen next.  


    Her father stormed into her room with her mother and began to yell at her, "What the hell's the matter with you?!  How many times have you disobeyed us now?!  You're such a spoiled, useless brat!  You're gonna get what you've been deserving,  you pathetic bitch!!"


    Before she knew what was happening, a strong closed fist punched her across the face.  She tried to scream, but was cut off when a blow to her jaw silenced her, and flung her off her bed and onto the floor.   Then, she tried to get up again, but was stopped when a painful kick to her stomach brought her back down.  She had felt a rib crack during the kick.   Then... it stopped.


    Before her parents had a chance to continue the onslaught, she got up and ran out of her room and flew down the stairs at top speed, still clutching her side at the pain of the broken rib.   Her father started to chase her, but stopped as soon as she bolted out of the front door to their small mansion.   She fled through their front yard, which was covered in snow due to it being January.  The snow was dyed red as the blood began to seep out of her soon to be swollen nose, which had been hit on the first punch.  


    She saw Julia and her mother cleaning dishes in their kitchen, and Julia's father watching TV in the living room not far away.  Without knocking, she burst through their kitchen door.  Julia gasped as she saw Raine, and her mother without a word grabbed a first aid kit from within a cabinet.....


   Raine woke up with a faint scream.  She brought her knees up to her chest and placed her head in her hands as she began to weep softly.  Though she had told herself time and time again to be strong when dealing with this subject, it always seemed to bring her to angered tears.   She sighed heavily and forced herself to stop.  After wiping the tears from her eyes, she stretched back out against her bed.   That beating was just one of many.  Luckily it was also one of the last they gave her before the Heartillys called the cops and had them arrested.   She remembered the time, after that beating in the dream, that she had come home.  Her father, in anger, had taken a bat to her and broke both of her femurs.  She was immobile for a month.   That was when they were arrested.  To old for another adoption, she simply moved in with Julia until the three joined the army.  


    There was a soft knock at her door, and then it slowly opened, revealing the still tired face of Julia.  Raine situated herself even more and waved her in.  She was already up, dressed in light blue jeans with red flames drawn on the side up to her knees (the knees had been worn off however, since the pair was fairly old), a white tank top and her traditional leather jacket.    She approached Raine cautiously and closed the door behind her.


   "You alright?  I thought I heard you crying," she asked, sitting down at the foot of Raine's bed.  She notice Rained nod slightly, and she knew something must be terribly wrong, since Raine never cried.  Then realization hit her,  "Oh!  You were thinking about... them?"


   Raine nodded again.   Julia got up and went over to Raine, giving the sad-faced girl a tight hug around the shoulders.  Raine buried her face into Julia's arm and cried softly into the leather.  Julia tried to soothe her, "Shh... it's okay Raine.  You've just gotta stop thinking about 'em.  It's gonna eat you alive if you keep acting like this..."


   Raine pulled away and wiped her fresh tears away again,  "Yeah, I know.  It's just.... so hard to forget.  Arg... I can't believe I'm whining like this, it's so degrading!  I've become the kind of girl I loathe!" 


   Julia chuckled softly, "Anyways... you alright now?"  When she nodded, she continued, "Good.  What I first came to tell you was,  Celeste's got all her little gizmos running in her room.  Most of us are in there now, she says she may have a plan of attack."


   "Okay... that's great!" Raine said with a smile, "Just give me a minute to get dressed and I'll be right there."


   Julia nodded, gave another brief hug to Raine for good measure, and then exited the room.   Once gone, Raine pulled off the shirt and pair of shorts she had worn to bed.  She went down to her bag and pulled out a pair of leather pants, a white tanktop, and a navy blue trench coat.  She put them on, along with her combat boots, and exited the room as well. 


    She walked down to Celeste's room, which was three doors down, by Edea's room.  Though Celeste was usually the stern one of the group at times, (but not as stern as Raine) she somehow was also the sloppiest.  And that was saying a lot, since Julia had her floor in her Wolf Pack dorm covered with musical equipment, magazines, and whatnot.  Celeste was probably twice as worse.  Even here in the hotel she had made a mess (though Celeste calls it an organized mess).   Being a hacker, she had to take with her numerous technological things, that always seemed to take up room.  In the hotel room, wires and CD cases were littered up all over the place, and Celeste sat in the center with her laptop, typing away quickly.  The team was scattered throughout the room, sitting on the desk or on her bed, or simply standing against the walls, trying to avoid touching anything to do with a computer.

    Celeste smiled as Raine came in, "Raine! You're finally up, you slept in until 11:30!"


    Julia smirked, "Yeah, you're getting lazier than me."


    "So come on Cel', what's this plan you've got to show us?  You interrupted my beauty sleep!" Corin said, stretching out his arms as he tried to stay awake.


    Raine and Edea both plopped down on the couch as she began to talk, "Okay! I've found a way into the palace. It's tricky, but we don't have much of an option.  You can forget about going through the front, there are too many guards and we'd never get passed the lift station there.  The back on the other hand, has only a few garrisons there, and the security camera room!  If one of us can make a distraction, I can slip in and set the cameras on loops so that they won't detect us.  Then we can sneak in through the vent shafts nearby, and get into the main palace.  Sound good?"


    Julia turned to Edea with a smirk, "What did she just say?"


    "Oh Hyne.. don't let her repeat it."


    Celeste crossed her arms, "I don't see you coming up with a plan! Besides, we can't just wing it, like you want Julia.  I don't favor the idea running through the Estharian palace with the entire army on our tail for you blowing up everything in site!"


    "Hey, that sounds like a good plan to me!" Julia said defensively. 


    Raine sighed and smacked Julia across the backside of her neck, "Celeste's right.  Okay guys, this is what we're gonna do.  We'll sneak out of the window in my room at about midnight.  We'll jump across the building roofs until we get back behind the palace.  Then Celeste and Lancer can make a distraction.  While Lancer keeps them occupied, Celeste can go do whatever she needs to do to the cameras.  After that, we'll form into three groups.  Probably the best way to gather information is to hit the three main parts to the Presidential Palace.  Group one will be:  Epsilon, Andraia, and its leader will be Edea.  Since Edea is a sorceress, I want you three to head to Adel's chambers; maybe you can find something useful there.   Group two will be Lancer, Celeste, Zion, and is going to be lead by Julia.  You guys are going to use Celeste's hacking skills to get into the main archives and find info on just… anything the guys back home would be interested in.  Like, what are Esthar's plans and info on Adel.  Stuff like that.  Lastly, I will lead the third group with Corin and Lily.  We're going to try and eavesdrop on some of the meetings that will be held over the conference room.  That should tell us what Galbadia's going to be up against.  Any questions?" 


    Andraia raised her hand, "Yeah!  Are we going to use the vents?" 


    "Of course we will!  I want no contact with Estharian guards.  Julia, this means absolutely no blowing up any of them!"  Raine commanded, pointing an accusing finger towards the brunette, who was admiring one of the guns Raine had brought with her in her backpack. 


    "Aw, come on Raine!"


    "No chance in hell."


    She further protested her cause, "But even if my grenade launcher is loud, there's nothing those Bug Soldiers can do about it!  I'll blow them up before they knew what hit 'em!" 


    Raine shook her head and continued her briefing, "Well we've got a plan, finally.  Alright, you guys meet me in my room at exactly midnight.  Most of the guards should be asleep by then, and the graveyard shifts are usually pretty small, just like Galbadia's.  We'll jump over buildings to get over there, and then execute the plan.  Remember, no contact with guards at all!!"


     "So, I take it we're going to be using our SOCOM pistols and silenced guns, since we want it quiet right?" Zion asked, "Even the melee users?" 


    "Yeah,"  Raine began,  "But melees are okay.  As long as Celeste doesn't crack her whip.  That thing is awful loud."


     "Sorry!  I'll just use it to strangle things… how's that?" Celeste responded, looking back up from her computer laptop. 


    Raine nodded towards the blonde and turned to leave the room, "Okay, my room at midnight.  Don't forget.  Until then, you can wander the hotel, but I don't want you going outside much.  If you have to, just go shopping nearby, and in groups of two or more.  I'm going to go back to my room so I can sleep some more... I suggest you do the same.  We need our strength, and we also need to recover from the last few days."


    "I am going to take a nice long hot bath!" Andraia exclaimed.  Epsilon scrunched up his nose in disgust,  "Yeah!  You really need one! Smelly girl!"

    "Bite me!"


    "Grr baby!" Epsilon jeered, laughing lowly and smirking at her. Andraia simply put her hands on her hips and began to walk away, shoving Epsilon into the wall on the way out, then laughed triumphantly as she exited the room.  


    Lilliana just shook her head as she watched the team,  "I just hope we don't kill each other before we get to kill the Estharians."




Estharian Hotel--  23:50 hours


    Raine finished changing into the Wolf Pack commander's black trenchcoat while keeping her leather pants and tanktop on.  She attached her gun holster and ammunitions belt onto her regular belt, and holstered a silenced pistol to her waist.  She slung her scabbard across her left leg and attached the lower portion to her knee so it wouldn't fly around during combat.  After that was secured, she slid her silver katana into the scabbard.  For safety, just in case the team got into big trouble, she attached four frag grenades to the side of her ammo belt, which hung diagonally across her thigh.  She put two silenced machine guns, MP-5s, out on the bed, she knew for a fact Zion and Epsilon would probably be too stubborn to bring their own silenced gun to trade in for their loud gun arm and shotgun. 


    A knock came at her door, and Edea's voice came from behind it, "Raine, it's me!  Let me in, I'm ready to go!"


    Raine opened the oak door and let the sorceress enter the room.  Edea had dressed in her usual combat gear:  black combat pants, a black turtleneck t-shirt, and a gray Wolf Pack jacket.  Her chain gun was replaced with a silenced machine gun, which hung from the impressive ammunitions belt that hung across her waist.  Her hair was still tied in a braid to keep in out of her face.  She entered the room and sat down in the chair by the bed. 


    "Anyone else ready, Ed'?" Raine asked, fingering the hilt of her katana at her waist. 


    Edea stretched back in the chair, holding her arms over her head, "Yeah, Celeste, Julia and Zion were right behind be.  But they all probably got side tracked by something shiny.. or ... something..."


    However, the three other soldiers came through the door and gathered around Raine for their orders.  Zion had donned a Wolf Pack combat vest, a pair of gray combat pants, and immediately grabbed a MP-5 from the bed and attached it to his ammo belt.  Celeste was wearing a pair of black jeans and had a black shirt on.  Her whip was tied to her ammo belt, and looped around a piece of material around her knee.  Julia had remained in her flamed jeans and leather jacket, but her staff was attached to her back.  She also had grenades and a backpack, just like Raine had. 


    Edea looked impressed, "Wow! Julia, no grenade launcher?"  


    "Uh... yeah... it's back in the room..."


    Raine didn't sound too convinced with that excuse, since most everyone had taken everything they had with them.  They knew they would probably get in trouble in the palace and would have to run straight out from their to the outskirts with no interruptions if they wanted to survive.  Before Raine had a chance to question Julia, the rest of the team came in, dressed as they usually were, with the exception of their ammo belts and item pouches.  Most everyone had a backpack slung over their shoulders as well.  Epsilon grabbed the last MP-5 and hooked it to his belt.  


    "All right guys, you know the plan.  Come along, we're still going to use the roof tops for a route of travel," Raine ordered, opening the window that was on the other side of the room and stepping onto the balcony.  The drop below wasn't very far to the neighboring roof, but it was still far enough to make someone cringe.  


    "Oh lord, I hate heights!"  Celeste said as she winced when she looked over the side.  


    "It's not that far, you'll be okay Cel'!" Andraia said, trying to cheer her up.  Celeste always had a fear of heights... ever since she was little.  


    With that, Raine swung her legs over the guard rail, and dropped down to the roof below.  As she came down, she hurt her knees a bit, but that pain would wear off soon.  She had learned from experience.  One by one, the Pack leapt over the side of the building and onto the path to the palace underneath them.  And after much persuasion, they got Celeste to jump down without repelling down the building using her whip as a rope.


    Once the team gathered below, Raine motioned with her hand and the team took off running towards the rear of the palace complex.  As Raine began the run, she didn't realize just how long the path in front of her would be...




An hour later....

    Wolf Pack crouched along the top of a commercial building just outside the palace complex.  They could see the guards and smaller buildings nearby in the night sky, illuminated by power from the palace's generators.  They could also see two blonde Wolf Pack soldiers making their way towards the three guards that were on duty that night.


    Celeste and Lancer both approached the guards as they were alerted to their presence.  Before they had a chance to stop them, Lancer rushed up with a frightened look on his face.  Not knowing what else to do, Celeste copied him and placed a startled look on her face just the same.  


    "Sir, sir! Please you have to help us!" Lancer practically screamed, waving his hands in the air, "Some of our friends are being attacked by a pack of Toramas!  You have to go help them! They're trapped a ways down the Right Side Highway!"


    Without thought the three Estharian guards nodded and drew out their Boomerang Swords.  All three of them turned and started to run off toward the presumed 'attack site'.  Once they were out of site, Celeste began to run towards the Security room which was just outside the main entrance.  Lancer waved down the Wolf Pack, telling them to hurry up and get into the vents before the soldiers returned.


    Celeste sprinted towards the Security room and opened the door.  She was face-to-face with and Estharian officer.  Before he could react, however, Celeste swung her whip out and captured the officer's neck within it.  She held him there with as strong a grip as she could use, causing the leather of the whip to dig its way into the officer's skin, turning a part of his neck red with his own blood.  She felt him gasp for air for a minute, then he collapsed into her.  She dropped him to the floor and re-holstered her whip.  She took out one of her compact disks and fed it into the main terminal.  She then began to type quickly to loop the security cameras. 


    Lancer waved at her to hurry up.  The Pack was already filing into the ventilation shafts and he could already spot the guards starting to return, a pissed look on their faces.  She set the cameras on loop with a few more keystrokes, and grabbed her disk as she ran out of the office.  Following Lancer's lead, she dove into the shaft, closing it behind her.  They crawled a great distance into the dark pathway before they could feel that they were safe.  Celeste checked back to make sure the guards hadn't followed her.  Once they were clear, Raine began to give quiet orders...


    "Okay, get into your groups and go to your locations.  Celeste should have given you a map, so you should know where it is you need to travel by.  We are going to be split up for a long time, and if you are in distress, use your commlink.  You'll be traced, but even so, Wolf Pack will come running.  Got it?  Let's go then!"



Chapter 7