Fortune's Hostage Chapter Two
Rinoa sat nervously on the edge of the bed in one of the clinic rooms. The doctor had requested the ebony-haired woman to find an empty room, remove all her clothing and put on a hosptial gown, all of which Rinoa had fulfilled plus she had already participated in the necessary testing. She was now waiting anxiously for the doctor to apprise her of the results. Rinoa had asked both Selphie and Quistis if they could accompany her to the medical appointment, but they each had prior commitments and there was no one else Rinoa trusted with this information.
Oh, I so hope it's good news. But good news for who? Me? Or Squall? Or...? Rinoa's mind was still aflutter with flying thoughts, when Dr. Kadowaki entered the small room holding a file of papers. Rinoa unconsciously held her breath, when the doctor began to speak.
An hour later Irvine, Zell and Squall were safely ensconced in an adequate, but certainly not luxurious in any manner, hotel room. The ride back to Trabia in the land rover had been long, very bumpy, and slow. One good thing that came out of that experience was it allowed Squall some time to ruminate on the present situation and what the various outcomes might be of the different tactics he could choose.
Once settled in the hotel room, Irvine turned to the commander and questioned, "What now?" Before Squall could explain, Zell interrupted, "Now we go get some lunch, don't we Squall?"
The tall cowboy retorted, "I think the lives of these people is a little more important, Zell, then if you have to skip a meal or not."
Zell flushed and began to reply, when their leader riposted, in a harsh voice, "The both of you, knock it off! We have enough problems as it is, without you two acting as though you're cadets again."
Both young men simultaneously ducked their heads, and muttered an apology. They were both ashamed to be caught behaving in a manner that caused them to be called down for it, thereby making Squall's duties even more demanding. In their own way, both of them thought the world of Squall and hated it when their behavior disturbed him.
"To answer your questions," the dark-haired man spoke, nodding at both Irvine and Zell. "I think we should split up and go out into Trabia and see what we can discover that might help us in our assignment. I particularly don't trust that Robert Wilson."
"Yeah, right on!" Zell exclaimed, while pounding his right fist into his left hand. "I don't either."
Standing right beside the excitable young man, Squall winced. Zell's exuberance usually set his back teeth on edge, but for the present he would tolerate it. The commander realized he needed Zell at his best during this assignment and part of that was allowing him his emotional peccadilloes.
Irving, watching the two young men closely, laughed to see such sport. They're so symbiotic and they never realize it. One of them minus the other is only half a person. I hope they never discover that.
"So what's this about lunch, Squall?" Zell spoke.
'We can all get something individually, when we're out if we want. But don't forget to save your receipts for your expense sheet," the dark-haired man explained. "And be careful," he cautioned, "and be back here by dark. We supposedly only have until tonight to attempt to negotiate with the terrorists."
As Irvine initially strolled around the gritty industrial city of Trabia, he naturally noticed the extreme degree of cold. And this is the heat of the day and in the summer, too! he thought. I wonder what the winters are like and why anyone would choose to live here?
When he reached the inner most part of the city, he began to notice the effects of the rampant unemployment that was due to many of the mines being totally played out and closed down. There were out of work men lounging anywhere they could find.
No wonder a radical dissident group developed here, Irvine realized and he wasn't surprised to discover that Galbadia had been blamed, because it was primarily their doing from beginning to end. They invaded economically and had destroyed a natural resource in a very short time that should have lasted decades with some foresight and intelligence.
But the final straw had been The Silverado, a silver mine that few people knew the particulars of since it had been located in the very far interior of the country, but it had apparently collapsed bringing sudden death to many, but also financial rack and ruin to many more.
Deciding to visit the best place he knew of to glean information, Irvine entered the corner bar and secured himself a seat on a stool at the counter. Apparently from the sign over the bar, it was called Krusty's and he didn't understand the significance of that name, unless it was that the bartender resembled Moe.
"What'll you have?" Moe tediously asked.
"Beer," was Irvine's even more unimaginative reply.
After a few moments of Irvine just sitting quietly and sipping his beer, the bartender glanced over and asked, "Where you from? You don't look like you're from around here."
Irvine realized if he just came in and minded his own business, that someone would eventually strike up a conversation with him. But if he were to do it himself, everybody in the bar would instantly fall silent and remain that way.
"Balamb," the cowboy answered.
After a few minutes had passed, the bartender responded, "Balamb, eh? Man, you're a long way from home."
"Yeah," Irvine replied, baiting the hook. "I came up looking for work, but there doesn't seem to be any."
"That's dead right, man," a tallish, stringy looking man, who was sitting to Irvine's right, agreed. "No work at all. If I were you, I'd go back home."
"What happened?" the long haired man wondered.
A man on Irvine's left spoke this time. He appeared to be about fifty years old and looked as if life had not treated him kindly. "Well, that silver mine was going great guns and everybody was making money hand over fist, when the owners got greedy and opened another section of the mine against recommended geological advice."
"Yup," chimed in the bartender. "And this time the geologists were right. The new shaft flooded completely and the entire mine is now inoperable. It would cost way too much to attempt to keep pumping the water out."
Irvine nodded and sipped his beer. He waited a minute or two, so as to not appear inordinately curious, and then casually asked, "By the way, who owns the mine?"
"A guy by the name of Robert Wilson," answered the bartender. "I hear he's from Galbadia, Of course that's nothing new around here, half the city's from Galbadia."
"And his brother - what's his name - owns it with him," added the man on Irvine's right.
"Listen to this," the bartender spoke conspiratorially, waving his three customers close to him so he wouldn't have to raise his voice. "I heard that his brother was one of the people kidnapped by 'Freedom Now' and is being held for some kind of ransom. I think it's got something to do with that mine."
Irvine kept his face perfectly neutral, as he received this startling bit of information concerning their assignment. The would be cowboy now realized that Robert Wilson was mired up to his ass in this kidnapping fiasco somehow and that further investigation was warranted.
Irvine bought his bar mates, including the bartender, another round of beer and after finishing his, he informed them he thought he'd mosey down to unemployment and see what they had to offer him in terms of a possible job. His new friends wished him luck and replied they hoped they'd see him again.
Sure they do, Irvine thought cynically, as he left the establishment. That's 'cause I bought 'em a beer.
Instead of the aforementioned unemployment services, the would be cowboy investigator traveled to The Trabia Enquirer building and spent the rest of the afternoon perusing old issues of the town's only newspaper. Irvine completed his task by dusk and, as per Squall's insructions, he hurried back to the hotel.
Since each of the three young operatives acted accordingly that afternoon as to their individual proclivities, the initial activity that Zell explored was discovering if there was a worthwhile establishment for the serving of hot dogs.
This less than admirable enterprise, considering the life and death plight of the hostages, took Zell over an hour to complete. Surely the restaurant was not of the highest social order as Zell appeared to be surrounded by every type of roughneck known to mankind, although it did seem to be clean and to take its business of serving hot dogs to the public quite seriously.
In the short while that Zell had been there, three fights had broken out around him, although they were handled rather quickly and he did not have to trouble himself to do anything but continue to partake of his cuisine. Zell had already eaten four hot dogs and his plate was still stacked high. As the exciteable SeeD ate, he allowed his thoughts to drift back to Garden and his extraordinary girlfriend, Mina. She was quite lovely with a wonderful figure and a pair of beautifully shaped, but very strong, dancer legs, fore Mina was a dancer; and a very dedicated and talented one too. Zell never could quite understand what Mina saw in him, but whatever it was, he surely hoped she continued seeing it. He found himself wishing she were with him right now on this assignment, because she instinctively would know the correct thing to do next, and Zell admitted to himself ruefully that he didn't have a clue.
After paying his lunch bill and remembering to save his receipt as directed by Squall, the blond SeeD wandered out into Trabia and began to aimlessly drift across town, while attempting to just remain open to anything that he might come to.
Just as Zell entered the more affluent business district, something happened around him, just by the merest fluke, which ended up leading him to an important discovery. He was turning the corner of the Bank of Trabia, the largest and most important by far monetary institution in the city, when he observed a well dressed older man being accosted by two Galbadian soldiers. Something about the entire situation caused Zell's blood to boil; quite possibly it was seeing Galbadian soldiers, still acting as if they were running things when they were actually far away from their home.
Zell couldn't quite hear what they were accusing the man of, but he felt as though he didn't need to. He could tell the older gentleman, who was wearing a tasteful three piece suit and carrying a brief case, either worked for the bank or was going in to conduct some banking business so that it was highly unlikely that he had actually acted in a manner that warranted this type of abuse.
When he approached the situation, he realized he needed to decide if he was going to attempt to solve this problem with some communication skills or if he was just going to wade in and kick some ass. Zell intelligently decided that, since he was currently on more of an undercover fact finding mission he would attempt to reason with them before he would resort to beating some booty.
The first thing that was said to Zell when he joined the small incongruent group was by a soldier. "Hey, kid! What'd you want? Get out of here!"
The other soldier commented, "Hey, nice outfit, kid. Don't you know it's cold out here?"
Zell placed his right arm around the shoulders of the first soldier and forced him away from the other soldier and the well dressed gentleman without seeming to strain at all and leaving the Galbadian feeling as though he was leaving of his own volition.
Zell spoke quickly and barely above a whisper causing the soldier to have to learn forward and pay strict attention, while also causing Zell to sound slightly sinister. "Do you happen to see this tattoo on the side of my head?" When the soldier nodded, Zell continued, "Do you know what it stands for?"
The soldier shook his head in the negative. Zell spoke even lower. "It means I belong to." Here Zell mentioned the name of a super secret Galbadian police organization that was openly feared by everybody from the President of Galbadia on down. "And we've had this man under surveillance for quite a long period of time. Now you are interfering with us, but I am willing to cut you some slack if you just wrap this up right now and take your partner and go on your way."
Zell had no idea what the soldier really thought, but he did what Zell requested with some alacrity and was soon hurrying down the Trabian boulevard with the other soldier.
The well dressed gentleman stepped forward and declared somewhat boisterously, while holding out his right hand, "I don't know what you did, but I really am in your debt."
"No prob!" Zell grinned, while wiping off his right hand on his blue shorts in preparation of shaking hands with the stranger. When Zell drew closer, he observed that the man may have looked financially prosperous, but in years he was beginning to edge toward middle age and he appeared rather pudgy around the waist.
"My name is Percy Weatherbottom," the man introduced himself. "And I'm president of this institution. Would you like to come in for a moment out of this cold for a slight refreshment and some conversation?"
Not being known for looking a gift horse in the mouth and having absolutely no idea at that time where else he should be looking, Zell accepted the invitation. After being seated in Mr. Weatherbottom's large office and having been served some hot chocolate, the beverage of his choice, Zell leaned forward resting his arms on his knees and inquired, "If you don't mind me asking, why were those soldiers leaning on you like that?"
The genial banker took a sip of his coffee, set it back on the saucer that rested on his desk and sat back in his large chair. "I really can't say, because they hadn't really gotten to what they wanted, but it seemed they were upset about some things I had been overheard saying about the present hostage situation."
"Oh?" the young SeeD interjected, striving to keep his expression neutral.
"You do know about that, don't you?" Mr. Weatherbottom asked.
"Yeah," Zell nodded. "I've heard about little else since my arrival here."
"Haha! Yes, we don't usually have much to talk about that's new around here. So as I was saying, I was overheard discussing that I thought part of the difficulty was that Bill Wilson knew something about that mining disaster that his brother didn't want known and that was part of the reason why the local government and the Galbadians had been dragging their feet on this. I guess the powers-that-be got wind of this somehow and sent them to caution me. I suppose I should be more circumspect in the future. Well, no harm done. How have you been finding our fair city since your arrival?"
The next few minutes were spent in small talk and then Zell excused himself citing afternoon appointments. He thought the banker looked relieved, as he was probably trying to think up a way to get Zell out of his office now that the danger had passed and his adrenaline had died down.
Hot damn! the excitable SeeD thought on his way through the bank back to the street. Wait 'til Squall hears this!
Squall had decided that his investigative skills were totally lacking as he was so easily identifiable, even in the far wilderness town of Trabia due to his hero status from the time of battling Ultimecia. So instead of attempting to inquire around town, he went to visit Robert Wilson in his downtown mining office. Squall noticed, when he was shown into Wilsons' office by one of his very attractive office assistants, that Wilson appeared frustrated to see him so soon after their initial introduction, but he covered it quickly. The dark-haired man didn't blame the mining entrepreneur; if he were Wilson he wouldn't have wanted to see him coming after such a short time either.
After the false, but politically correct, greeting ceremony, Squall sat in the chair proffered to him. "Any luck yet?" Wilson smiled slightly.
The commander stared back stoically. "No, nothing yet," answered Squall. As I bet you already know, you son of a bitch!
"I'd like to ask you a few questions, if I may?" the dark-haired man inquired politely. I'd like to throttle you until the truth fell out the side of your head! That's what I'd like to do.
"Fire away," answered Robert Wilson.
Don't tempt me, Squall thought. "Thank you," he said. "This position you hold here, is it something to do with the embassy?"
"No, I'm a quasi-link between the Galbadian government and also the Galbadian business interests here in Trabia and the Trabian government and their business community."
Squall nodded his understanding. "Are you an elected offical or appointed?"
The Galbadian flashed Squall a perfectly empty smile and responded, "Oh, no, we're appointed. It's a perfectly thankless job, but it's a way of offering thanks and giving something back to Galbadia."
The commander understood that this was more than just a slight mangling of the truth. It was an all out annihilation. Businessmen, such as, Robert Wilson donated huge sums of money to both parties in hopes of securing a political appointment as this one. His official title as government liaison between the Galbadia and Trabia governments also gave him a large advantage in his business dealings in Trabia, not to mention the power he welded locally with the threat of the nation of Galbadia standing firmly behind him.
"What exactly do you do?" the dark-haired man questioned further.
Wilson flushed as irritation crossed his features momentarily. "I just told you," he spoke with some testiness in his voice. "I serve as a liaison, now what can I specifically help you with?"
Squall inwardly smiled, finally having managed to crack the man's thin veneer of civilized behavior. "How much time do we have before the terrorists begin executing people?"
"Until six o'clock tonight."
"Then we haven't got much time. I need to speak with the leader of 'Freedom Now' in hopes of extending the time limit."
"No," said the Galbadian politician firmly.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Squall asked icily.
"You heard me," Wilson riposted. "I said no. Deling City quite pointedly said we are not to deal with the terrorists at any cost. It would set a bad precedent."
"And I suppose that forty dead hostages will set a good precedent," Squall responded angrily. A sudden light of comprehension entered the commander's eyes. "Oh, I get it now," he said. "You hired SeeD to be the fall guy. You expect us to fail under the conditions you set up for us and then we take the blame in world opinion."
Standing up and striding toward the door, Squall declared, "We just might surprise you yet. There's still time enough to talk these people into some kind of agreement." And he slammed the door shut as he passed into the outer office. Behind him, Wilson continued to sit as his desk, smirking slyly at Squall's back. Maybe I've underestimated him. He's smarter than he looks, thought the Galbadian.
Squall approached the desk of one of the administrative assistants in the outer office and cleared his throat. The young woman in question looked up and asked, "Yes, may I help you?"
Squall noticed she had sensual but intelligent features, wore her dark hair very long, and was dressed in a tasteful business suit. He turned on the full wattage of his smile.
"I centainly hope so," the dark-haired man responded. "Mr. Wilson told me if I needed any information that you would be the person for me to see."
"He did?" the young woman questioned, puzzled. "I didn't even know he knew I was alive."
"Oh, no," Squall insisted, fully hating his dishonesty but realizing it was for a good cause. "On the contrary, he spoke very highly of you."
The young ebony-haired woman blushed and responded, "What can I help you with?"
"Is there somewhere we could talk? This is a delicate matter, if you know what I mean."
"Surely," the young woman replied. "I'm due for my break now. We can go out and get a cup of coffee."
As the young woman stood up from behind her desk and Squall helped her on with her heavy winter coat, he couldn't help but notice she had a superb figure. After leaving the office building and walking quickly down a half of block, the young woman led Squall into an attractive looking coffee shop. She sat at a table near the back, while Squall went and ordered two coffees, bringing them back to the table five minutes later.
After giving the young woman one of the coffees, Squall sat down across from her.
"I'm Alecia Roberts," the raven-haired young woman introduced herself, while holding her hand out to shake.
Taking her hand in his for a second and feeling the genuine heat rising from it, Squall glanced up in her face, feeling momentarily confused. The young woman smiled sweetly at him and arched an eye brow. Squall dropped her hand as it were on fire and felt instantly guilty with a vision of Rinoa flashing in his head.
Squall hated that he felt himself blushing and understood that the young woman was secretly amused at his being flustered in her presence. That's alright, thought the young man. Maybe I can use this some way to my advantage.
"Excuse me," he said. "I've just never been around such beauty before."
"Yeah, right," Alecia replied, but her gentle tone and genuine warm smile belied the sarcasm usually implicit in that statement.
Squall smiled in return. "Mr. Wilson said that you would be able to help me."
"You said that before," the young woman replied. "So what do you want help with specifically?"
"Is there anything you can tell me that would help us, if it comes down to us having to storm the embassy in an attempt to save the hostages?"
Alecia was throughtful for a few moments. "I hesitate to mention this because I'm assuming that Mr. Wilson already told you all the details of the blueprint of the building."
When Squall silently shook his head, the young woman appeared more than a little alarmed. "He hasn't?" she asked. "That's odd," Alecia went on to say in a thoughtful manner. After another minute, the young woman continued. "There's a hidden passageway into the basement that could bring you upstairs right outside the door of the room we believe the hostages are being held in. Here, let me draw you a little map of the place."
A few minutes later, the full bodied young woman handed him the napkin that she had drawn the plans for the building on. "Here, this should help you some." Alecia flashed him a sudden smile.
"I can't thank you enough," Squall responded graciously.
The woman with the long dark hair suddenly leaned across the table and clutched Squall's right hand. "Cut out the bullshit! You just get in there and save those people," she hissed.
Alecia sat back in her seat and smiled sweetly at the slightly stunned Squall. "Now finish your coffee and let's go. I have to get back to the office."
On the way walking her back to her job through the swirling snow flurries, Squall realized the young woman was sharp and that his smarmy approach hadn't fooled her at all. If anything ever happens between me and Rinoa, I'll have to remember to look this lady up, the dark-haired man thought.
Once they reached her building, Squall bid her adieu, watched until she entered safely and set off on his way to the Galbadian Embassy.