Julia glanced to her left to see her husband jogging towards the group of Wolves from the general's table. He gave her a small smile, though to her it looked a bit forced. Most of the other Wolves, even Andraia who seemed to have a fear against silence, were speechless. This was probably the most serious mission, next to Virados' assassination, that the Pack had been ordered to carry out. True, the Pack was used to similar missions, though this one was a little extreme for them.
Before anyone could say a word, they caught glance of the gray-haired bearded Colonel to whom they were under the orders of. He seemed a bit more aged than from the last time they had seen him. A serious air shrouded him, and there was a glance of absolute severity on his face.
As per request to make things less confusing, he called the females by their maiden names. "Major Heartilly, it is a shame we must meet under such grave conditions, yet there is no time to talk about that. We must deal with the mission on hand."
She nodded, and he continued on. "This is your mission file. It contains maps, data, and most anything you would hopefully need to know." He picked up one of the papers from the file, and read it aloud. "Wolf Pack, your mission is to infiltrate the Ganymede Artillery Base, formerly of the country of Helios. Within this base there are approximately four long range missile with nuclear warheads. Master Sergeants Trepe and Dincht are to disable the warheads, and prevent the missiles from reaching the capitol cities of the western nations."
"Unit SE-10 'Excalibur' will accompany you and provide support. Should the two units fail, unit SE-14 'Jade Phoenix' will be brought in as backup, but only if necessary. You will be dropped off by military cargo plane ten miles from the artillery base. Infiltrate the base, maintaining stealth, and proceed to the missile chambers. Heavy resistance is expected. Proceed with extreme caution."
"Here, Heartilly, take it." Reinhart said, handing Julia the file. "Take your unit to the hanger, and board the CT-19d that is prepared to take off. Excalibur will be behind you shortly. Good luck."
With that, Reinhart turned quickly and retreated back into his office before any of the soldiers could began to argue with him. From his experiences with Raine, he knew very well that Wolf Pack was very 'opinionated' when it came to extreme missions, and he didn't want to face the wrath of yet another Wolf Pack leader.
"'Good luck'." Lancer scoffed under his breath. "Yeah. 'Fly a rocket directly into the sun and try not to melt. Good luck!' Idiot."
"Hacking into nuclear warheads and disabling them?" Celeste said, "Well, heights just got knocked down to second place on my 'fear list'."
"Aww, are you afraid of a little nuke?" Epsilon cooed with humor. He stopped when Celeste hit him on the shoulder forcefully.
Lilliana smirked a little at that, but turned towards Julia. "Well, boss, any words or shall we got straight to the armory and then the hanger?"
Julia couldn't help but notice that when Lilliana said the word 'boss', it had been forced. She had mixed emotions when she realized that. Sadness at the fact that she would never be held as the true and absolute leader, but respect and gratitude that Raine was still very much alive in the memory of her soldiers. She shook the thought from her head.
"No. I don't want to say anything." She replied in monotone. Then her voice turned serious, like a leader's. "Get your equipment prepped in the armory and head to the hanger ASAP. They said heavy resistance, so get out the big guns for this one. Chain guns, assault rifles, etc."
They all nodded, and gave her a brief salute which she chose not to return. The armory wasn't too far from the hanger, only a few rooms down, so taking a quick detour to get some heavy weaponry wouldn't be much of a problem. They set off at a brisk pace, entering the nearby room by sliding open the twin steel doors.
The room was empty save for the Pack. While the melee combatants had their weapons from home, like Julia's staff or Lancer's spear, the gunners weren't allowed to take their weaponry home. Plus, to follow protocol on a large combat mission, each soldier was required to have two firearms at least.
Walls and shelves were lined with guns and pistols, though some were reserved for grenadier equipment such as grenades, plastic explosives and other nasty weaponry. Zion retrieved his plasma core gunarm, which he found in Esthar, from one of the lockers. He checked for a moment, to see if it was still operable, and smiled to himself as it checked out fine. Epsilon had also gotten his sniper rifle and shotgun out of his own locker, and placed a silenced pistol at his side.
Most of the Pack settled on grabbing a special ops. pistol as a sidearm, and a machine gun for support should they need it. Edea had gotten her chain gun out of storage, and loaded it with magazines. She slid a pistol into her side holster, and nodded when she was prepared. Julia on the other hand, was in a bit of a frenzy.
The grenadier had her grenade launcher at her side, grenades attached to her belt, and was putting a couple of C4 explosives into her equipment bag. She grabbed a pistol for her sidearm, but held another large silver gun in her hands. She laughed lowly, and raised an eyebrow at Edea once she saw the sorceress giving her an odd look.
Edea stood there in silence for a moment. "Your flamethrower? Isn't that..."
"I don't care what you say, its going!" Julia said with a smile. "Protocol says at least two guns. Grenade launcher, flamethrower, and a pistol. Sounds good to me!"
"Along with your staff and magic?" Corin asked, giving her a look that mirrored Edea's.
Julia shrugged. "So I'm over-prepared, big deal. Most people praise being over-prepared."
"Right, okay." Zion replied. "Let's get to the hanger. I want to get home as soon as I can."
The Pack was seated on some large cargo boxes in front of their transport aircraft, awaiting the Excalibur unit to show up. Knowing Jesse, he was probably giving his own unit a long, overly dramatic pep talk within the armory, getting them ready for the battles at hand. The Pack was silent for the moment, but Andraia broke it, to no one's surprise.
"Guys..." She began, getting their attention. What she said next certainly surprised them. "...I'm, um, going to quit after this. I just can't keep doing it anymore. Not since Selphie was born. I want to stay home with her, watch her grow up and stuff."
Corin smiled. "Yeah, I've been thinking that too. One last mission, then it's off to civilian life for me. I even got it all planned out! Lily and I are gonna reopen her father's martial arts dojo, and we're going to be instructors. Yep, then Zell's going to be one of the world's best martial artists!"
Lilliana smiled and nodded in reply. Zion gave them all a glance with his emerald eyes. "So... you all feel this way?"
One by one, though some took more time than others, the Pack members nodded in return. Julia and Celeste remained as they were though, quiet and unmoving.
"I've felt that way for a long time." Edea said. "I long tired of the fighting. I am only doing this mission because of it's severity. Squall and Ellone should grow without having fear of losing yet another guardian. They wouldn't have anyone left. I don't know their father, and Raine has no more relatives that are alive."
"And Irvine, well he's just too cool to leave alone!" Epsilon chuckled, lightening the mood a bit. "Too much like his old man, I guess. I'll become a gun instructor or something. Maybe go back to Dollet."
"Sounds good to me." Lancer cut in. "I don't know what I'll do, but I want to get into civilian life too. To watch Quistis grow up into the beautiful woman I know she'll become."
"Oh, that's so sweet Lancer!" Andraia replied. "I don't know what I'll do either. I'll probably make Aaron work, and I'll just be a stay at home mom. Plan sleep-over parties, help with homework, more parties, and all of that stuff!"
"Into parties, aren't you?" Zion said with a smirk. "I guess I'll just stay general. Do paperwork and crap. Only injury that might happen is a paper cut, and I think I might be able to take that pain."
Lilliana looked to the still silent Julia and Celeste. "How about you two? What are you going to do when the Pack is dismantled?"
Celeste shrugged. "I'm not sure. The only thing I'm good at is hacking, and I'd get arrested for that if I wasn't careful. Can't have Quistis growing up in that. I think I'll stay in the army. Get a desk job like Zion. I'm fairly good with tactics, so I would be good in that role, I think."
"I'm sure you would." Zion replied. "You're better than me at it, so it'd be no problem."
"And you, Heartilly?" Edea asked, interested in what the Mysidian would have to say.
The dark-haired woman could only shrug. "...I don't know. All I know is how to fight. Singing is boring now, so I'll go stir crazy later on. Before being a soldier I was a criminal, and before that my idea of school was 'detention.' I don't think that's a good role model for Rinoa. So... I don't know."
Lancer shrugged. "How about a stay at home mother that plays Doom and Castle Wolfenstein in the back room while the kids aren't looking? That'd feed your need to fight. Celeste does that now."
The hacker rolled her blue eyes. "Only when I'm really bored. Besides, most of my home time is chasing Quistis around. She's fast for someone with short legs."
Julia shook her head. "I still don't know. That sounds... still too boring. I guess I'll think of something when the time comes. An officer maybe? Or a drill Sergeant! Boss around all the young cadets, and make them go on ten mile jogs. That'd be fun."
"There, see! Now you're being creative!" Andraia cheered. "We can all stay and raise the Wolf Cubs together. Sounds like fun to me!"
"What sounds like fun?" Jesse Almasy called from the doorway, his unit behind him. "Hopefully going home right now."
"Nah, retiring from the army after this mission. Well, some of us. Julia might boss around cadets as a drill sergeant, and Zion and Celeste might command battalions." Epsilon replied.
"Some of us have been thinking that too." Icelina replied, brushing a strand of blonde hair out of her eyes. "Of course, not my stubborn husband or Alexius, but the rest of us."
The two men, on cue, blew raspberries at the idea and gave thumbs down to Icelina and the Pack. Jesse spoke up. "I'd be so bored! Galbadia's been too good to me. I'd stay on as a unit commander for as long as I could."
"You might not see Seifer grow up that way. On that note, how is the little terror doing anyway?" Zion asked curiously. They hadn't seen Seifer much over the past four years of his life.
Jesse smiled broadly. "My boy's doing just fine! He's getting strong just like his old man. It'll only be a matter of time before he's full grown with the way he's been sprouting up lately."
"He's staying with Jesse's sister." Icelina said. "Hopefully not for too long. I miss him already. Then again, it's nice to get some adult time. Seifer's a bit too active, so we never have peace."
"Well, welcome to the club!" Corin said sarcastically. "All six of the Wolf Cubs are hyper littler buggers, too. It wouldn't surprise me that Seifer is."
"Oh, believe me, Aaron and I have made sure that the other Excalibur soldiers know that." Jun replied, smiling slightly. Aaron nodded from behind her.
Jesse smirked slightly, but didn't respond to that. Instead, he walked up to Julia. "So, you ready to move out or what? I'm getting a little anxious here, with nuclear warheads aimed at me and all. How about you?"
"Yeah, it's a comforting thought." She responded in an equally sarcastic tone. "Let's get going. The Pack is all ready, and I assume that you made sure your unit was. Right?"
"Of course." Almasy replied shortly, tapping his Hyperion against his shoulder impatiently.
"Good." Julia replied, then stood up to face both units. "Everyone into the transport, now! Sit down, and await our return to Trabia. Who knows how it's changed in the years we've been gone."
They nodded, and boarded the transport, equipment thrown over their shoulders. Once all were aboard and seated, the pilots sealed the entrance, and started the engines.
The large twin engine craft sped out of the newly opened hanger, and took off into the dusk sky, bound for snow covered Trabia. The former home of the largest military nation in the world.
"Oh, man, I forgot how much these planes feel like sardine cans." Andraia complained, fidgeting in her seat beside Aaron and Corin.
Icelina groaned from a row up. "Yeah, well we don't have much choice in the matter. Better bear with it until we can get out."
Andraia sighed. She absolutely hated behind confined in one area for so long. It had been two hours since their departure from the base, and they had yet two more to go. She especially hated it when barely anyone was talking. She rested her chin against one of her hands, and whimpered. She truly wanted to get up and go somewhere.
She looked behind to see Julia in a similar state. The grenadier hated being pent up in one area, as well. If she had the walking room, Julia would have been pacing back and forth like a caged animal. The two shifted uncomfortably in their seats, their husbands giving them odd glances from time to time.
Celeste, a walkman playing rock songs into her ears, turned to see the two in that state. She rolled her eyes. Inwardly, she felt the same as those two, but she was far too calm to fidget as they were. Everyone in her row were completely calm as well. All they needed was distraction.
Zion laughed quietly as he saw his wife try to find something to do. "Wished you would have brought a hand-held video game, now? I told you before we left..."
"Oh, don't even give me that." She grumbled. "Just because I'm too stupid to listen to someone doesn't mean that I can't find something to do now."
He raised an eyebrow, and after a minute of her think, she groaned in anger. He laughed again, but received a swift, yet light punch in the side as a comeback. "Are you going to be like this if you have to stay home after Wolf Pack is gone?"
"No. At home I have M-80's and other fireworks. They will be my entertainment, thank you very much." She replied quickly and confidently. She crossed her arms over her Galbadian combat uniform, which they had all changed into after the briefing.
They were both silent at that. Julia was once again with her thoughts. After a moment or two, she grew restless again, and produced a photograph from within her equipment bag. She looked at it, and smiled warmly at it. Eyes an identical color to hers that held so much innocence stared back at her underneath raven colored hair like Zion's. He caught sight of the photo as well, and matched his wife's own smile.
"I still can't believe Rinoa's ours." Zion said, a proud smirk on his face.
Julia nodded, but was silent for a moment, musing quietly. "...She looks quite a bit like my mother, you know. The hair and eyes mainly. The faces are slightly different. Maybe when she's full grown."
Zion furrowed his brows slightly. "You remember your mother?"
"Slightly." Julia replied, a touch of sadness in her voice. "Long black hair, brown eyes, and a nice smile. Rinoa acts like her too, well, so far at least. Very kind and caring. You know, the other day, she found a dying snake in the backyard. Even though she doesn't like snakes, she picked it up and put a band-aid on it. It lived."
"Band-aids do wonders I guess. It's nice though. It shows she not afraid." Zion said, then leaned closer to her. "A bit like her mom, if you ask me."
"Yeah, right." Julia replied giggling. "I'm not exactly 'nice'. It's too early to tell though, she's only three. A lot can happen in the years coming, you know. Besides, I think I'm more idiotic than brave. Well, let's just hope she has a better temper than I do."
"Oh, yeah, that'll be a bother in the teenage years, won't it?" Zion replied, laughing.
"Let's not even go there. Pray she's like you. Calm and kind. We don't want a raving psychopath for a daughter, do we?" Julia chuckled.
"That's right!" Andraia called from in front. "We don't need two of you! I all ready picture you training that poor thing to go throw eggs at people's houses!"
"Yours is first, Tilmitt!" Julia called back, slightly angry. "And not until she's fifteen!"
"Yeah? Well, I'll send Selphie over to slit your tires on that Lamborghini of yours!"
"You do not touch that car! I love that car!" Julia shouted, causing some soldiers to cover their ears, and others to wake from their naps.
"Down children!" Edea called over the shouting match, quieting the two women. "Please behave this mission. I swear you two fight more than Zell and Selphie when they're hyper."
Julia and Andraia sat back down, quiet again. Once silence came over the craft again, Julia couldn't help but wonder what the future would bring for the Wolf Cubs, and how they would really turn out.
She sighed, and looked at Rinoa's picture one more time before sliding it back into her equipment bag.