AN: Yes! This story has broken the 200 page boundary! It's now 204 pages, and with this and the estimated chapters it will be about 222, or 242 if I add the appendixes I planned. Good god, I think I wrote too much...
Raine and the other nine soldiers snuck quietly down another alleyway in the outskirts of Helios City. Keeping their heads down, and staying in the shadows, they hoped not to draw any attention to themselves at all. Being discovered now was the worst possible scenario Raine kept playing out in her mind. They were too far close to be caught and taken into custody now. They had walked for a day and a half through the snowy plains of Trabia, fighting off monster after monster, and she didn't want that to be in vain. She stopped walking and turned to face the soldiers behind her, who gave her a knowing glance.
"Where do we go from here, right?" Epsilon asked, knowing full well what Raine had been thinking only seconds before.
"Right. There are many military buildings in Helios, all of them secure and hard to infiltrate." Raine informed, unsure of Virados' current location.
Julia looked around the skyline, glancing at every one of the many skyscrapers lining the dusk sky. Most were commercial buildings, though one or two seemed to be fit for military use. One particular building caught her eye, one building that she neglected to pay any attention to earlier. Among the older buildings in the city, there stood one large cylinder shaped tower that had been completely powerless and dark before. Now, it's upper levels were illuminated, and power flowed through the entire structure, making it look like the other skyscrapers that made up the Helios skyline.
"I think I've got it." Julia announced. The others turned to her in shock, and she pointed towards the structure in the center of the city. Raine mentally kicked herself for not noticing it earlier.
"What is that thing?" Corin asked, his hand scratching the back of his head. "I didn't see that before!"
"That..." Lancer began to inform, "...is the tower that used to be Helios' main palace. The dictators used it back when Helios was at war with Feyrband back in 3145. It's remained a derelict structure since then. No one likes to go into it. They think it's haunted."
"Oh, great! Haunted! That's just what we need!" Andraia remarked sarcastically. "Well it does sound like a place Virados would like to make his summer home or something."
"Yes, it sounds wonderful." Raine replied. "Let's get going. It will take a while to get there. We still need to be quiet and sneak about."
Celeste looked around at this, finding something out of place. "Umm.... Raine? Do you notice something a bit different than when we were first in Helios?"
Raine looked around in confusion. What on earth was the hacker talking about now? Helios was the same giant city, covered in snow, with thousands of people walking the streets. Raine stopped at that last trait. Thousands of people? She looked out of the alley, and onto the main street. All she saw was a few on duty soldiers patrolling the highways. There wasn't a civilian in sight! She furrowed her dark brows in confusion.
"What's going on? Did Virados kick them all out of the city?" She queried, looking back to her comrades for possible answers.
"My guess would be that Virados wants this city secure for the Mysidian army and the Helios army for his own personal use. He very well can't attack people in his own city, so he must have sent them to the border towns." Edea suggested, and received agreeing nods in return.
"Right." Raine agreed. "Well come on then, let's get going. We have to stop a power-crazy dictator from enslaving the world. What a way to spend a Sunday..."
The Pack, knowing not as many people were out on the streets, took their chances and darted from road to road. Soon, after passing many an abandoned commercial building or empty house, they had reached the military district in the very center of the city. Now they had to be cautious once more. Soldiers patrolled every inch of this area of the city, Virados telling them to either guard against any intruders, or die.
They ducked behind some warehouses and cargo buildings, avoiding being seen by soldiers walking in their direction. They clung to the side of the building, having that ever familiar fear of being seen come over them all. They held their breath, and relaxed as the soldiers passed by without so much as a glance in their direction. Raine led them onwards, towards the towers main entrance.
She halted after a moment of running though. Edea looked at her in confusion, but following her commander's glance, she soon learned the problem. The entrance to the tower was in the open area. There was absolutely no cover to hide behind. To make matters worse, soldiers patrolled the outer perimeter. The only way into the ancient palace was to fight. Then, Virados would know they were here.
Raine sighed in exasperation. Perfect... this is just what I need.
Julia looked over to her with a slight but almost unnoticeable smile. "Raine... do we get to...?"
Raine nodded. "Guys, we're storming in. Gunners, give us cover. Once we're in, we'll bolt the doors behind us so they can't get in there with us. Virados will know we're coming, but it's too late for him. Now... everyone ready?"
"Of course!" Andraia said happily back. "Let's go get our psycho."
Edea pointed over her shoulder to Julia. "'Go get'? She's right here."
"Not me, you shit-for-brains!"
"Shut up!" Raine ordered, not wanting an argument between them to erupt at their current location.
They drew out their weapons, the gunners loading their firearms with ammunition clips. Raine held them back for a moment, waiting for a section of the patrolling soldiers to leave. That still left a good number in their presence, however. She signaled for the Pack to advance, and they all jumped up and ran at top speed for the door in front of them. The soldiers on duty quickly shouted the alarm, and began to fire their weapons at the charging Pack. Zion and Epsilon began to pick off guards left and right, Edea giving both of them cover and aiding them when she needed to.
The Pack kept their heads low as they felt bullets flying passed their faces and bodies. They leapt for the doorway of the tower's entrance, ducking behind the black stone it was made out of. Bullets hit and exploded against the stone that guarded the Wolves, though several times at least one of them almost was shot. Raine jumped out of hiding and kicked the twin doors open, and the Pack burst inside.
Before any more bullets could be fired at them, Corin and Epsilon pushed the doors shut again. Turning to their sides, they brought down the large old-time lock and latched the door tightly shut. Now it would take a battering ram to break into it, and the Pack felt remotely safe now. Now they just had to worry about Virados lurking inside the large tower, and what he had in store for them.
Virados laughed as he saw the scene break out below him. A squad of ten Galbadians had broken through the defenses of the city, and had burst into his tower attempting to look for him. The mere idea was completely asinine. How could they hope to conquer him?
"What's so funny?" Asked a feminine voice behind him. Satori stood there, a confused look on her face.
He turned to face her, a smile playing with his usually serious facial features. He laughed again. "Those moronic imbeciles! That insubordinate Wolf Pack thought they could come after me! I guess I underestimated Raine's determination."
"Heartilly too." Satori replied. "Now that she knows the truth she probably wants to kill you. If her background is what you say it is, then she won't stand for an invasion or the war in general."
"Yes, maybe so." Virados smirked. "But they're both too late! I've already begun crystal synthesis with my own magic. The gateway will be ready in an hour at the most! They don't stand a chance. Go make sure they don't become a bother to me."
Satori bowed deeply. "Yes, master. As you command."
As Satori left him in his main chamber, he couldn't help but wonder. If Julia would not side with him, then when would Hyne show up to change her mind. He certainly changed Ultimecia's mind about the situation. She, once a powerful guardian of the queen, who agreed with her beliefs not to harm Centrans, was now a deranged Mysidian bent on eliminating all life on both planets.
Julia would join to, in his mind, eventually. It was only a matter of time before Hyne took her. That, or she would be tortured in front of him, and beg for death before her end.
"This place is enormous..." Epsilon said in one of the grand halls. "How are we gonna find this guy?"
"The top." Julia replied. "They bad guys are always at the top."
Raine nodded, liking that suggestion. She led them up another flight of stairs, one of many hundred that the Pack had climbed in the last hour or so of their arrival in the tower. Each of the several hundred floors in the tower were almost identical. There was a main circular hall, with a floor of elegant marble. The hall branched off to many rooms on the outer edge of the floor, and usually a balcony to the left or right. A staircase was always in the back, and the Wolves had been running up flight after flight of them. Their legs were getting very tired, very fast.
The Pack was only two floors below the top floor. Now, they rushed up the last flight, running to the entrance of the top floor. This floor was very different than the rest. There was a main room to their left, and a staircase leading up to a circular room above them, which sealed the tower's top. There were, however, several open areas, allowing them to see the night sky above.
"Now what?" Lancer asked, looking about with a confused glance.
"Do go after the crystal? Or do we go after Virados first?" Corin asked, crossing his legs and leaning on his left one, which he did when he was nervous.
"Virados." Raine said. "I think he would be up top. In that room above."
"What?" Julia replied in astonishment. "No! He's one guy! We're going to have thousands upon millions of Gaia's elite soldiers flying through that gateway soon! That should be first! Who knows if its almost done or not?"
"He'll just make another!" Raine countered, angrily. "We must kill him, and now!"
"That's... no! If the crystal is gone, his portals won't be able to stay open!" Julia said. "You're letting your thirst for revenge get the better of you! Raine, think clearly on this! I know what I'm talking about!"
Raine sighed. "Fine! You take half of the Pack to stop that thing, and I'll take the other to Virados!"
Julia nodded. "Those with me, come here!"
The Pack soldiers looked at each other for a few moments, but four of them cautiously stepped forward. Zion, naturally, was the first. He gave Julia a reassuring smile and stood next to her, letting the other three come behind him. Lancer and Lilliana also seemed to agree with Julia, and left the remaining five Wolves go after Virados. The team, now split in half, took a long last look at each other.
"All right guys!" Raine began. "Move out!"
"You heard her! Let's go!" Julia said in a similar tone. The two leaders looked back at each other a moment. "Hey, Raine?"
"Be careful? All right?" Julia asked with a smile, worry ever-present when it came to her best friend.
Raine nodded. "I'll be fine. He'll get what's coming to him. You take care of yourself now. No flying into a pole or anything."
Julia shook her head and laughed. She waved good bye, and took off to meet with her own group. Raine's were already heading towards the staircase that led to Virados' chambers, yet it was a good distance above. It would take them a little while to get up there. As Julia neared her group, Lancer pointed over his shoulder.
"It'd be in there, I take it?" He asked, pointing to the room to the left.
"More than likely." Julia replied. "Worth a look. Otherwise we'll have to look through the entire fucking base."
Lilliana shook her head. "No, it'd better be in that room. I'd hate to go back through every level looking for it."
Julia began to stride over, and once in range, she swung open the large door before her. Once inside the room, she saw the crystal on a sunken platform below them. It was resonating in it's power, fueling a growing circle of sapphire light on the end of the room. Julia ran down a small set of stairs, the four closely behind her. As she neared, she immediately tried to grab the crystal and yank it out of its holder. However, it was nearly three times the size of a football and very heavy. The power it was sending out shocked her slightly, and she pulled her hand away quickly.
"Shit!" She cursed. Then she had an idea. She took out her staff and extended it to its full length. She shoved it into the crystal socket and began to use her weapon to pry the crystal out. Lancer followed up, using his own spear to help her. The other two grabbed a hold of the weapons, and tried to help by pulling them with all their might.
For a few moments, Julia was sure her and Lancer's weapons were going to break in half rather than move the crystal. However, the gigantic rock began to move in its place. As it moved, it began to spark like electricity. Power to the gateway was interrupted, and it flashed repeatedly and vanished. The crystal fell out of place, but was still crackling and now it had begun to shake on the ground.
"What the hell is wrong with that thing?" Zion asked, tempted to kick it to make it stop, but deciding not to.
"YOU FOOLS!!" called a powerful voice that seemed to come from every corner of the room. It was angry, and sounded male. Julia guessed that it was an angry Virados using telepathy.
The others looked around shocked as the voice continued. "With the crystal out of place, it will overload and explode! You've ruined everything! I will trap you in here for the twenty minutes we have left, and let you explode with this entire city!"
"That does not sound pleasant..." Julia mumbled to herself. As she said so, the door behind them slammed shut, and a large beast descended down in front of it. It guarded it, to make sure no one could leave.
The creature was made from pure crystal, and floated above the ground effortlessly. The five looked at it in wonder, and after a moment of silence, Lancer spoke. "So all we have to do is kill that, and we can leave? Let's do it!"
The other four nodded, drew out their weapons, and charged it. As they did so, the monsters eyes flashed a bright red, and it burst to life. It's limbs stretched, and it took a swipe at the incoming four.
Lilliana skidded to a halt while Zion and Lancer leapt out of the way, barely missing the deadly claw. Julia flipped into the air to miss it, and she countered by sending a Flare spell right between its eyes. It attacked again quickly, too quick for Julia to dodge. It batted her across the room, sending her skidding to a halt against the ground. She screamed in pain and shock.
She stood back up, and charged again with the others. Zion began to fire at the beast with his new gunarm, sending beams of blue lasers into it. To his dismay, they reflected off of it. With a beast of pure crystal, he had a feeling normal attacks weren't going to do the trick. It would be magic which stopped it, and that meant Lilliana's summons, or Julia's magic.
Guessing that as well, Lilliana raised her arm, and began to summon Ifrit into the battle. The demon guardian burst out of a newly formed wall of flame and howled a war cry. He shot a high powered Firaga into the monster before him. Ifrit then leapt out of the way as the beast counter attacked. The demon repeated his magic attack, this time hitting it square in the face. The monster retaliated, angry. It casted a high powered Blizzaga spell at Ifrit, who could not dodge.
The ice spell blasted away at the demon, and the monster repeated the attack five times. Ifrit could not take it any longer, and vanished back into his world of flames. The others were now afraid of the monster's magic skills, who seemed to be able to cast something five times in a row at least. That could be deadly.
Julia spread her wings and took to the air. She sent a powerful Ultima spell in its direction, hoping to blast it away so they could get out. They only had twenty minutes to clear the area to live! The Ultima spell pounded down from above, like a tiny little nuclear explosion incinerating everything it could. The crystal guardian reappeared after the explosion ended, twice as angry. It took two more swipes at Julia, who retracted her wings and fell to the ground, dodging both attacks. As she landed, and Flare spell hit her in the side, and she skidding back once more, this time her skin a bit singed.
Lilliana cast Cura on her, and the mage stood back up to attack again. Lancer and Zion, who were trying another way to attack, kept getting pushed back as the beast kept slicing the ground in front of itself. This prevented them from attacking, unless they wanted a claw in their side anytime soon.
"Damn it!" Julia cursed, and shot another Flare at the beast.
The crystal guardian began to charge her now, but it stopped with the cry of a voice. "Alpha!"
The room went dark, sucked into a black magical realm. Behind the beast, a bright white light erupted. It was Raine, and she was going into a new and very deadly attack. She charged, jumping in the air, and she attacked several dozen times, leaping into the air and bringing her blade down swiftly enough to slice apart the crystal that made up the monster. The energy from her blade spread around the room, rushing in and forming a tightly packed ball of magic which began to compress the beast. It suddenly exploded outward, and blasted apart the beast from the inside.
When all had cleared, the beast that refused to be damaged by normal attacks now was nothing more than several chunks of quarts crystal on the ground, each smaller than a baseball. The five looked at their leader in utter amazement, as were the other four behind Raine.
"Holy fucking shit...!" Julia commented, unable to say anything more.
"How did you...?" Zion began to ask, but Raine held a hand up.
The blue energy crackling against her skin vanished and she simply replied. "Shaduna."
"You get that attack? I want that attack!" Julia said excitedly.
Raine had heard Julia scream at the start of the fight, and she rushed back to help. Now, she was really getting impatient. "Come on! You got that thing out? Let's move!"
"Raine! This place is blowing up like a nuke in twenty minutes! Let's get that guy quick and get the crap out of here!" Julia informed, which naturally made Raine's eyes go wide.
"Oh, what'd you do now...? Never mind... just come on!" Raine ordered, and took off into tower's main hall again.
The rest of the Pack went with her, but they skidded to a halt when they saw who waited for them. Clad in silver armor with turquoise body suit underneath, Satori stood before them, her sais ready to attack.