Fortune's Hostage Chapter Three
It was long past dusk. In fact, it was quite dark out because of the intense cloud cover that almost completely blotted out any light from the moon and the stars. The three young men sat in their hotel room voraciously partaking of the takeout Shumi food that Irvine had acquired.
Squall had just finished his report on what had occurred when he attempted to contact the 'Freedom Now' leader to negotiate a possible time extension being granted. The commander informed his charges that when he arrived at the embassy building there were Galbadian Army soldiers four and five rows deep blocking the building from approach on all four sides.
"So basically there wasn't anything you could do?" asked Irvine, but actually stating the obvious.
"Nope," Squall answered, shaking his head. "There was absolutely nothing I could do."
"Grrr," Zell actually growled to Irvine's amusement. "Those bastards make me mad as hell!"
Squall cautioned, "Zell, calm down," while Irvine laughed and interjected, "Throw him some raw meat!" Zell shot Irvine a nasty look, but explained, "Squall, wait 'til you hear what I found out!"
"Listen, I want to talk about what everybody found out, but I need to speak with Cid first. If I don't call him, you know he'll get worried and I need to call now, before it gets much later because of the time difference."
Squall retrieved the Garden's special cell phone and began the long tedious process of calling the Garden, which started with contacting the local Trabia operators and finally culminated in utilizing the Estharian communication satellites.
Approximately fifteen minutes later, the phone at the other end of the line began to ring. It just rang and rang. It's just like Cid to be very worried about something and then leave his cell phone at his desk, Squall thought greatly exasperated. Just when the dark-haired man thought he was going to have to hang up and attempt the call later, someone picked up the other end of the line.
Squall could hear the thousands of miles of dead air humming in his ear. It has to be Cid, he thought. Anybody else would have said hello by now.
"Hello, anybody there?" the young man finally asked.
"Hello, hello," a voice from the other end squawked.
"Cid, is that you?" the commander asked patiently, knowing that it was. "This is Squall, Cid."
"Squall? Did you say this was Squall?"
Hyne, he must really be upset about this. He's never near this bad. "Yes, Cid This is Squall," he repeated again.
"Yes Squall, go ahead with your report," the head master requested almost formally, making an effort to emotionally pull himself together. Standing beside him, Rinoa waited breathlessly for her opportunity to speak with her beloved.
"Yes sir," Squall replied. The young man reported everything that had occurred since their arrival in Trabia. He realized that some vital piece of information, that only the headmaster was aware of, was causing Cid great concern and consternation, so Squall attempted to keep his report businesslike and devoid of any emotional overtones and delivered it in a monotone voice in an effort to help the headmaster remain calm.
An effort which apparently failed as Cid launched into a series of questions the answers to which Squall had already assiduously covered in his initial detailed account. But the commander did not offer any complaints and instead good naturedly answered each question that the headmaster broached.
Suddenly Cid muttered into his cell phone, "Well, keep up the good work and keep me posted," to which Squall promised he would immediately upon any further developments.
The headmaster clicked off his cell phone and turned to say something to Rinoa. When he observed the expression of disappointment on her face, he suddenly became aware that, in all his concerns and worries, he'd forgotten Rinoa was waiting to speak with Squall.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, my dear. I forgot all about it," Cid confessed.
Rinoa was in such a fragile emotional state that she felt the tears welling up in her eyes but, realizing that Cid was presently in more pain that she, the young woman was able to force herself to remain appearing pleasant.
"Oh, that's okay, Cid," she lied. "I'll talk to him when he comes back and that'll be soon enough."
"Are you sure Rinoa? I can try to call him back," the headmaster offered.
Rinoa suddenly had a vision of how long that would take and then to have Cid hovering over her, while she attempted to speak to Squall of highly personal matters and decided the whole thing just couldn't be worth that.
"Come," the dark-haired woman, invited, wrapping her arm through one of Cid's. "Let's get out of this depressing office."
It was an hour before daybreak. Squall's interior clock woke him before the alarm clock by the side of his bed could perform the same function. He leaned over and turned it off before it could wake the others. He wanted a few minutes alone before he woke them. He got up out of bed, stretched and went to the bathroom to perform his morning duties.
After they had eaten dinner the night before, Squall allowed time for each of them to explain and discuss what they had learned during their travels in Trabia during the day. It had become quite clear to the three young men that Robert Wilson was seriously involved in this whole fiasco and that it wasn't a coincidence that he had been assigned to assist them.
Hell! thought Squall. He probably begged for it.
Always the impetuous one, Zell was all for going over to Wilsons' residence and confronting him with his mendaciousness, but the commander demurred citing there was no reason to play Triple Triad with an open hand, when they didn't have to.
Irvine had laughed aloud, while Zell attempted to reason out that statement and Squall had sent them to bed soon after. Since they were scheduled to meet Robert Wilson at dawn in front of the embassy, Squall hurriedly dressed and then woke the others. The dark-haired man had realized they needed to wait until daylight to go in when one of the Galbadian troops had informed him on the preceding day that the Trabian officials had cut the power to the lights and heat hoping to convince the radicals to exit the building. Squall realized all it accomplished was to increase the hostages' chances of not surviving the ordeal.
Since Zell and Irvine dressed quickly, the three of them were able to leave their room earlier than expected. Eschewing the offical Galbadian transportation provided by Wilson, Squall elected to travel to the embassy by taxi. The three of them sat crammed together in the back seat, while the commander spoke in low tones outlining their strategy.
Arriving fifteen minutes earlier than expected, Squall thought the Galbadian politician appreared a little flustered as his face was flushed when he spoke. "Well, this is a surpise. I didn't expect you so early. What happened to the ride I sent over?"
"We didn't need it," Zell responded harshly. "In fact, we have come to expect very little from you concerning anything."
Since Wilson had surrounded himself with a squadron of Galbadian troops for the occasion, the commander didn't feel as though he wanted to involve themselves with this man in a pissing contest, so he stepped up and cautioned Zell to say no more.
But before Squall could offer further direction, Irvine spoke to Wilson. "Don't think we don't know what's really going on here."
"I don't have any idea what you're talking about!" the Galbadian exclaimed in a shrill tone.
The tall cowboy moved in much closer to Wilson and grabbed him by the collar of his very expensive fur-lined winter coat. "Listen here," he spoke menacingly. "You drilled that new shaft realizing it would flood the mine. But you didn't care. Because you, and only you, knew the mine's output was beginning to slow down and it would be completely petered out in less than three months. So you took out a big insurance policy on it and then drilled the shaft and waited for the disaster to strike."
Irvine drew a breath. "Unfortunately when it was flooded a lot of men died. Somehow you hadn't counted on that, but I suppose you figured you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. You paid those men's wives and families a pittance and then you were home free, weren't you? Except for one thing - your brother found out. He was abhorred by it, wasn't he? From all accounts that I could discover, he was an honest, decent man - unlike you. And what did he want? Your brother probably wanted you to return the insurance money and make good the restitution with the miners' familes, didn't he? And now you were between a rock and a hard place. You couldn't shut your brother up and you didn't want to return the money. And then providence struck. Your brother was abducted by 'Freedom Now.' All you had to do was hamper his being rescued. You're lower than scum," Irvine spat out.
"None of this is true," Wilson whined. "And besides you can't prove any of it."
Irvine flushed bright red and trembled slightly from his increasing anger. "I don't have to prove it," he explained. "Everyone in Trabia will know all about it by the time this thing is over."
The Galbadian official screeched. "No one in Trabia will believe you! They know me, I live here. Besides, I'll take you to court for defamation of character. You'll end up owning me money for the rest of your little piss ant life."
The dam broke on the last bit of control Irvine had retained over his anger and he struck Wilson over his left eyebrow with his thundering right hand knocking him soundly to the ground. Sitting stunned on the ground for the minute it took him to clear his head, the Galbadian suddenly exclaimed to the troops standing behind him and pointing his right arm at the Garden cowboy, "Arrest that man!"
The Galbadian troops, having heard all of the conversation, didn't appear to have much inclination towards following Wilsons' order and attempting to detain Irvine, although it all became acadmic as the tall sharpshooter pulled out his huge weapon, Exeter, from beneath his long cattleman's coat and pointed it directly at the Galbadian villain!
"Try me," the cowboy almost pleaded, wanting just one excuse to shoot the man.
"Let's go," Squall ordered curtly.
Clambering to his feet quickly, Wilson exclaimed, "Wait a minute! Where are you going? The way in is right here!"
Squall looked at him blankly. "We know the way in and if you and your troops know what's good for you, you'll stay out of the building," he threatened tonelessly, but deadly sounding all the more.
Squall turned and sprinted around the side of the building, closely followed by Zell and Irvine. Quickly reaching their destination, which was a secret passage that was accessed by clearing the cellar doors of the leaves and other debris that hid it readily from sight, Zell and Irvine each lifted up a door and the three Garden operatives quickly scrambled down the wooden steps into the embassy's basement.
Having memorized the map that was given to him by Alecia, Squall led his charges without difficulty through the convoluted basement hallways and onto the first floor. Directing Irvine to guard the front doors with orders to shoot to kill any intruders or members of 'Freedom Now' attempting to leave, Squall then led Zell to outside the room that it was believed the hostages were being held in.
Squall stood beside Zell outside an ornate mahogany door. As the dark-haired man watched Zell standing poised on the balls of his feet, Squall realized there was no one who he trusted more in a fight than the excitable young blond-haired man.
They stood in the elaborate interior with its very large hallways, marbled floors, famous clssical paintings hanging from the walls and high ceiling chandeliers and Squall realized that his overriding emotions were conveying the tinges of tragedy to him. The commander wasn't superstitious, but he didn't like it. Squall gave himself a slight shake to try to rid himself of the unwanted emotions. This was Rinoa's thing, precognition; not his, but he assumed it was so quiet because the hostages were all dead.
Shivering slightly in the cold of the dawn, because of the power and heat being discontinued, Squall thought, It's now or never. The commander nodded slightly at Zell.
When the young blond SeeD lowered his shoulder to crash through the heavy door, Squall quickly positioned himself behind in order to have an unimpeded view of the entire room once the door was brought down. The taciturn young man stood with Lionheart drawn and held in his right hand. He watched coolly as Zell successfully battered the door down.
Moving quickly, the two SeeDs raced through the now unprotected doorway and into the next room, with Squall taking the entire room in with a single glance.
Despite it now being the middle of the night, sleep had proven to be elusive to the distraught Rinoa. Oh, how she wished she could have spoken to Squall on the phone and gotten this over with.
On their way back to their bed rooms after hanging out until late at the new club in Timber, Selphie and Quistis noticed the light still burning in their ebony-haired friend's room and, despite the lateness of the hour, knocked on her door and invited themselves in.
Truth to be told, they both felt guilty over not being able to meet with her in the morning as she had requested. The two young women were seated on Rinoa's bed now, with their friend sitting against the head of the bed with a plethora of pillows behind her back.
Selphie asked, "So there's absolutely no way that the Doctor could be mistaken?"
Rinoa shook her head and replied, "No, plus I already knew before I went. I sensed it."
"Well, why the long faces?" Quistis demanded. "This is an happy occasion, isn't it?"
"I certainly hope Squall thinks so," Rinoa murmured.
It only took Zell and Squall a split second to absorb the fact that the room was surfeited with the carnage of bloody, slaughtered people laying in the obsene positions of violent death. The nauseating smell of drying blood hung over the mileu as a precursor of the tragic futility and awfulness of forty people being violently relieved of their earthly existence for absolutely no reason.
The scene that lay before him was so horrific that it caused Squall to act in a manner certainly not characteristic of him in the past. He stood completely stunned for a matter of seconds until he heard Zell explode, "Those bastards! Come on, Squall! They might still be in the building!" Zell ran through the room and out the far door.
"Zell, wait," he protested, fore Squall certainly understood that these people had been dead for hours; probably since a little after six o'clock the evening before.
Squall reached a decision that his time might be better served searching to discover if there were any survivors in this room of pure horror. Despite the bloody carnage, the dark-haired man began to search the room closely for any signs of someone still breathing, but initially his cause was of no avail. Suddenly Squall sensed, on a subliminal level rather than hearing or seeing, that there remained someone with life buried beneath the awful pile of corpses. Freezing his soul, the commander gritted his teeth and pulled a recently dead youngish blonde woman covered with blood off the top of the pile and began to reach further underneath in his search to find just one living person in this hellish heap of death.
Suddenly a thrill of hope rushed through Squall as adrenaline coursed his body as he felt something warm and moving. Plunging his hands further down into the nightmarish mound, the commander then hauled up a tow headed little boy, alive and well! A surge of emotion passed through Squall when he realized that, at least, someone had survived this hideous atrocity and it was a small child!
The normally repressed young man lifted the boy up and hugged him for a second. Comforted, the child, who looked to be around four years of age, ceased his crying and gazed into Squall's serious features and uttered, "Uncle Cid?"
Suddenly the dark-haired man understood it all. The young woman, who had thrown herself over the boy in a last ditch effort to save his life and the child, himself, were somehow related to Cid. Squall now comprehended the headmaster's motivation completely, although he discovered himself wishing Cid would have taken him into his confidence.
Hearing a noise, the commander quickly glanced behind him and realized it was Irvine standing in the doorway. He appeared horror struck at the grisly tableau that lay before him. Squall shook his head at him and Irvine nodded. The taciturn young man pointed his finger at the next room and the young cowboy went forward to retrieve Zell from wherever he might be at that particular moment.
Upon reaching the sidewalk, none of the three Garden operatives were surprised that the Galbadians had all vanished leaving them standing alone in the post-dawn weak sunlight. Upon being asked, the small child said his name was Coey, which was translated by Zell as being Corey. Irvine wrapped the tow headed little boy in his large coat, while Zell paced back and forth on the sidewalk like a caged tiger, cursing under his breath.
As Squall waited interminably on the cell phone for the appropriate phone connections to be made in order to report to Cid, Irvine cracked to Zell that he had a new shipment of raw meat he could have for breakfast, if he wanted it.
Zell had begun to respond negatively, when he suddenly became aware that the dark-haired commander was glaring at him and the exciteable SeeD immediately swallowed his comment, but made a promise to himself that he would get that smart ass cowboy back as soon as he could after arriving back at the Garden.
Thirty long minutes later the connection was finally made with the Garden and Squall once again was listening to thousands of miles of open line.
"Hello, Headmaster? Are you there?"
"Yes, Squall, I'm here. Anything to report?" Cid asked, his affect completely flat.
Squall rightly assumed the emotional flatness was born of the headmaster being awake all night. The commander proceeded to keep his voice neutral as he outlined for Cid the awful results of their assignment. Squall only detected some energy from the middle-aged man after he reported they had discovered a small child left alive.
"What's his name?" the headmaster demanded breathlessly.
After learning that, at least, his nephew had been left alive to him, Cid muttered, "Thank Hyne."
After discussing the final details, the headmaster offered his rare compliment. "You all did a fine job, Squall. It was the best anyone could have done under the circumstances. It was a set-up from the beginning. I knew that, but what could I do? It was my only sister and her son. I'll talk to you more after you get back." And Cid quickly broke the connection, before his voice broke as well.
Squall quickly explained to the rest of the party that the instructions from the Garden were to take a taxi to the outskirts of town, where they were to wait until the Ragnarok materialized. After using the cell phone and requesting a taxi, the taciturn man walked away from the others. Zell wanted to point out to their leader that quite possibly the Ragnarok arriving unannounced and not landing in legal airspace could be viewed as an Act of War, but when he recognized the solemn look on Squall's features, Zell realized his ideas would not be welcomed.
Two hours later, the three mercenaries and the small child, who was Cid's last living blood relative, were safely and, at last, warmly aboard the Ragnarok. Irvine was disappointed, to say the least, to discover the pilot for the Ragnarok was not Selphie, but instead another young female SeeD by name of Akane. But the tall cowboy changed his mind when he noticed her extremely pretty features, framed by her long dark hair and slim, but still rounded, figure.
She kinda reminds me of Rinoa, Irvine thought, as he stood chatting with her once the Ragnarok had acquired lift and was out of the immediate Trabian airspace.
Zell sat in a chair in the lounge area with his legs stretched out in front of him, with his eyes closed. He was not quite asleep, but also not quite conscious and the excitable SeeD finally was able to relax by intensely thinking or lightly dreaming of seeing Mina immediately upon reaching the Garden and everything he was going to tell her about the last twenty-four hours.
Squall sat in the very back row of the cabin with a detached appearance upon his features, which totally belied the whirlpool of conflicting feelings that swirled inside of him. The young commander sat holding the little boy in his lap. The child was curled up and holding Squall by the left hand and was soundly sleeping.
I guess Cid's got a new pigeon, Squall thought, rather sardonically.
Upon the Ragnarok landing just outside the Garden, which had since moved to Timber in preparation of a new assignment, Zell galloped out of the back door and, spotting Mina immediately, the excitable young man didn't stop until he was embracing her in his arms.
"Whoa, Dincht! What the heck happened out there?!" Mina exclaimed, while pushing him away from her.
Noticing that a number of SeeDs. who had gathered to welcome them back, were watching them amusedly, Mina flushed heavily and attempted to lead Zell away from the immediate vicinity.
"Come on Zell," the attractive young woman suggested. "Let's go inside the Garden where we can get some privacy," Mina elaborated, while attempting to take Zell by the hand to lead him away from this embarrassing situation. But he thwarted her by beginning to shadow box, bouncing all around her, while exclaiming, "You should've seen it, Mimi! It was really heavy! And I saved the guy who owns the Trabia Bank and everything."
"Zell!" Mina said in the tone that indicated to him she would book no further nonsense. He stopped bouncing immediately. "Good," she indicated. "Now let's go." And the two of them entered the Garden without further ceremony.
Stepping outside the Ragnarok, still holding the sleeping child in his arms, Squall witnessed the scene between Zell and Mina and shook his head ruefully. If only I had that much control over Zell, the dark-haired man thought.
Selphie hurried over to Squall and asked breathlessly, "Where's Irvine? Is he okay?"
"Yes, he's fine," Squall replied laconically, deigning not to divulge anything to the young woman concerning what Irvine was really involved with.
"Selphie, is something wrong with Rinoa?" the dark-haired man asked in a serious tone.
Squall wasn't positive but he thought Selphie looked uncomfortable with the question for a second, before she responded, "Oh, no, she's fine. I think she's got a touch of the flu or something."
"Ooh!" the diminutive SeeD gushed upon finally noticing Cid's nephew. "Isn't he cute? Squall, what have you been up to, anyway?" Selphie grinned.
Flushing heavily, the commander stuttered, "T - This is Cid's nephew."
The attractive brown-haired woman learned forward and patted Squall's arm. "I know that, I'm just teasing you. Now relax."
Just then Squall was very relieved to observe the young SeeD pilot exit the back of the ship followed closely by her new friend, Irvine.
"There's Irvine now," the commander pointed out to Selphie, hoping to distract her.
It apparently worked as the brown-haired woman glanced over and exclaimed, "Irvy! Are you ok?"
Irvine strode quickly to her and leaned down and offered a quick embrace. "Right as rain, now that I'm back with you." And the two young people strolled off together arm in arm.
Squall shook his head and thought, I just don't get it. A little while ago he was as furious as I've ever seen him and now look at him - not a care in the world. If I were to get that mad, It would take a year for me to get it back together.
The young commander suddenly realized that Akane was standing squarely in front of him waiting to speak with him about something. He flushed at the thought of what he must have looked like standing there day dreaming.
"Commander Leonhart," the young SeeD began. "Headmaster Cid has asked me to bring his nephew to him as soon as possible upon our return to the Garden."
Squall nodded and handed the tow headed boy over to Akane, who must have been stronger than she looked as she held him easily in her arms.
"And," she continued, "he asked me to instruct you to report to him later on the final outsome of your mission, but first it is of the utmost importance that you speak with Ms. Heartilly."
She saluted Squall and, after he returned the salute, she turned and entered the Garden also carrying the small child with her.
Now what in the hell is going on here? Squall thought, feeling rather aggravated by this time. As the normally emotionally guarded appearing man hurried through the Garden on the way to the women's dormitories, his thoughts were agitated. Why would Cid be involved with Rinoa having the flu? And why is that more important than me reporting to him? I'm beginning to think that this whole affair with his sister and nephew has unhinged his sanity.
Suddenly discovering himself standing in front of Rinoa's door, Squall knocked lightly, assuming if she were truly sick, she may not wish to be disturbed at the present time.
"Who is it?" Rinoa called out from inside the room.
Funny, she doesn't sound sick in the slightest. Maybe she's over the worst part and what does this have to do with her wanting to talk to me before we left? She wanted to tell me she was getting the flu?
As female underclassmen were passing in the corridor, some of whom were looking at the presence of Squall in the women's dorm with askance and slight fear, as they were so new to the Garden they didn't recognize his position, he decided to forego the inevitable 'It's me, darling' farce and attempt to open the door. It opened easily and he quickly stepped inside the room.
Discovering it was Squall who had entered her room uninvited, Rinoa sat up quickly in her bed, the bedcovers falling away revealing the rather transparent nightgown she had worn for the occasion of welcoming him home. The ebony-haired beauty leaped up from the bed easily and crossed the small room in three steps. As the young couple embraced, Rinoa explained, "I'm so relieved you're back. I heard just enough from Cid to know how rough that could have been. I've never seen Cid so upset. What happened out there anyway?"
For the next several moments Squall mostly answered with his embrace, but was finally able to share verbally some of what had occurred and ended with news of saving Cid's young nephew.
Rinoa stepped back from their embrace. "I'm proud of you Squall. You did all that was possible, you brought everyone back unharmed and you saved that little boy's life."
The dark-haired man, as usual, ducked his head away from receiving a compliment for the moment. When Squall looked back, he casually mentioned, "I heard that you haven't been feeling well since we've been gone. It's nothing serious, is it?"
"I'm pregnant," Rinoa whispered. Squall appeared taken aback for a few seconds before breaking into a smile. He leaned forward and kissed her gently, while offering a hug as his answer.
"I'm sorry," the ebony-haired woman expressed. "I know how you felt about us having children right away."
"Shhh," Squall answered, while placing his forefinger up to her lips. "It'll be fine and hopefully we can do a better job than our parents did."
"Oh, Squall," Rinoa murmured, "I so want this baby," as Squall continued to hold her in a manner that indicated he might never let her go.