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The Sorceress War Part I, Chapter XI


From the final medical evaluation of Major Raine Leonhart:

    "Cadet Leonhart has an unusual amount of stem cells in her blood along with unexplained energy reserves.  Though these reserves are not Sorceress in nature, they are certainly as intriguing as fellow cadet Julia Heartilly's unexplained magic casting ability.  Further study is required to fully understand these abnormalities..."   



Zeta Base:  12:45 hours


    Raine stormed through the dimly lit officer's hallway which held all of the commanding officer workrooms.  Here she and the Pack would find Reinhart waiting for them impatiently, ready to send them off on yet another mission, despite only having one day to recover from their last fiasco in Esthar.  Raine was easily angered by this, and was clenching her fists so tight in fury that she was afraid her nails were going to pierce the skin on her palms.  The rest of the Wolf Pack was strangely quiet, and not even Corin or Andraia were complaining at the moment.  Raine guessed they were either angry or afraid that they had once again been called back to this remote area of the base for a mission briefing.


    As they approached the rear wing of the officer's workplaces, Reinhart's secretary looked up from her current task and was about to greet them.  That is, until she saw the livid look on Raine's face, then she felt it would be much safer to say nothing at all.  Raine and the Pack didn't bother to wait for Reinhart's okay to enter his room, and simply burst open the door and stormed in.  


    Reinhart turned around suddenly with a stern look on his face.  Not taking kindly to Raine's seditious look, he ordered the Pack to line up against the back wall like they usually did.  Before Raine could say anything, he raised his hand to silence her.  Shutting her mouth, she stood at attention and awaited orders.  She took note that the Excalibur unit was already there, lined up against the left wall.  Ignoring Jesse Almasy's smirking glance, she evaluated the unit that would more than likely be working with them on this mission.


    Excalibur was a small but elite unit in the Galbadian Special Ops. corp.  Only five soldiers made up the unit, each trained in skills that an entire legion of troops would need.  They were one of the best units, but the Pack had accomplished many more successful missions than Excalibur could dream of.  The first person Raine recognized aside from Jesse was Jun Alexandros, the female sniper of the team who had told Raine of the Shaduna and Mysidians only moments ago in the lounge.  The second soldier was Aaron Tilmitt, a young but highly praised aeronautic and mechanical officer.  The next was Icelina Dekium, a gunblade user like Jesse and an expert with communications.  The forth was Alexius Ryan, a sniper and demolitions expert (though his skill with explosives was nowhere near as good as Julia's).  And lastly, Jesse Almasy, who was a hotheaded but skilled gunblade user who always seemed to have the best of luck on his missions. 


   "Ah, the Wolf Pack.  So nice of you to join us this afternoon." Reinhart said with false sincerity.  He placed his hands behind his back and looked to two unit commanders.  "Now Major Almasy and Major Leonhart, I know there is bad blood between your units, but you will have to accept each other for this mission."


   "Sir!" Raine interrupted, "My unit is currently fatigued and is in need of a few days rest.  Please reconsider your selection of soldiers."


   "Silence Leonhart!"  the Colonel replied with an angry shout,  "If I want you to go on this mission you will!  We don't pay you people to just sit around on your asses all day and sleep!  Now you will listen and obey, or else!"


   What are we, the only other unit on this base?!  Can't he send out the Jade Phoenix unit, or the Paladins, or even the goddamned Sentinels?!  Hell, those are just the units at this base, what about the units over in Beta or Omega Headquarters?  Hyne, I'm going to go crazy... Raine thought to herself angrily. 


   "Now, onto your mission."  Reinhart said, his voice returning to its normal volume.  He stood behind his desk and looked to the two commanders.  "You are to go to Helios.  With the information received from the Wolf Pack's espionage mission in Esthar, we have learned that a man named Virados Nomair was placed in charge of Helios' diplomacy section not long ago.  He and Adel are conspiring a treaty between Esthar and Helios.  As you know the combined power of Helios and Esthar could easily wipe out all of Galbadia and her allies.  The combination of Esthar's advanced weaponry and Helios' airship fleet and nuclear arsenal could destroy all hopes of maintaining our own Western Empires, not to mention cut out all chances of gaining a foothold again in this war."


   Uh oh.  Celeste thought.  The sound of the name Virados made her look to Raine in worry.  She noticed as the name was said that her commander's face grew more stern and serious, though she could see Raine was secretly happy to possibly get the chance to see this man again.  She just hoped Raine wouldn't do something that she'd regret later in life.


    "Here is the situation.  Galbadia recently had a meeting of its highest officials, and this ambassador Virados Nomair is considered a primary target of opportunity.  They feel that Virados is the true motivator of the treaty about to be signed, and that he is slowly but surely corrupting and overthrowing the current Helian government.  Your mission is to assassinate ambassador Nomair before he has a chance to sign the Esthar-Helios treaty," Reinhart said, filling them in on their orders as he crossed his arm and furrowed his brows in worry.  This would be dangerous and the two units would have to be clever in order to complete it.


    While some soldiers from both units gasped in shock at this order, Raine smiled inwardly.  Finally she would have a chance at her revenge.  It couldn't have turned out better for her.  She glanced at her soldiers to make sure they were okay with this.  Several looked nervous, and some faces remained neutral as the orders were given.  Julia and Edea looked to Raine with worry on their faces, and Julia even gave her a look of warning that said 'Don't do anything stupid, or I'll come over there and bitch slap you until you pass out.'


    Reinhart checked to make sure neither Major was going to say anything, and then began to give out more specific instructions.  "Here is the plan.  Intelligence reports that this Virados character has a residence in Helios' well-guarded Presidential District.  He is usually in the main base however, discussing plans and strategy with his men.  Team Excalibur will infiltrate his living quarters in the Presidential District while Wolf Pack breaks into the military base in the same district.  The first one to find him will immediately take action and eliminate him.  You will be dropped off by boat-- one unit in one boat while the other unit is in the second-- to the Helios shores in Trabia, far from the capitol city.  However, there are some border towns about a mile or so away, if you can hike to them I'm sure you can find some mode of transportation to get you into Helios' main city.  Meet at the military docks in an hour and a half.  That is all, dismissed!"


    The two units exited the room with sullen expressions on their faces.  Even the usually rambunctious Jesse had a stern or worried look on his face.  No one had gone to Helios for a long time, and it was suicide to go in during war years.  It would be as bad as getting caught in the center of a battlefield with no weapon or armor.  Jesse led his troops down the hall to give out orders to his team, while Raine stayed put just outside Reinhart's office to give hers.


    Raine looked at each one of them, "Okay guys, you know the plan.  Get to your dorms and gather your equipment, then meet at the docks in ninety minutes!  Remember, no uniforms or Galbadian markings on clothes, we don't want to have a dead giveaway so soon.  Kinneas, if I were you, I would remember the silencer and extra ammo for your PSG-1.  Now let's go, we have no time to waste."


    Each Pack member saluted and began to rush off to the dorms.  Julia and Edea stayed back however, and gave Raine a cold stare.  The shrugged their arms and Julia finally spoke, ignoring the morale booster speech Jesse was giving the Excalibur soldiers.  


    "Raine, just because we are assigned to kill this man doesn't mean it's gonna go easy," Julia said seriously, "You've got your chance now, but Edea and I don't want you to go AWOL on us during the mission so you can kill him yourself, okay?"


    "Yes," Edea amended, "We are assigned to kill him, but you cannot abandon your duty to Galbadia.  You will follow our orders to the letter, or your revenge will get in the way and cause us more havoc than we need at this time.  It is going to be hard enough getting into the base, but if you charge after him the first chance that you get, you will be killed."


    Raine sighed and put her hand to her forehead, "Yeah, I know that!  It's not like I'm going to go berserk the first time I see him over there!  Of course I'm going to use judgment in battle and not anger!  You guys must not think I know how to fight if you think I'm going to act like that!"


    Julia shook her head and waved her hand in dismissal, "No, no, no!  We're just trying to look out for you, Raine.  We all know that you can act different when your angry... hell, you act like me!"


    Raine laughed quietly at that.  Edea added on, "Yes.  No one can stop a Leonhart in a rage, even if they are holding a bazooka and a chain saw!"


    Raine told them to go get themselves ready, and the three girls disappeared down the officers hall and into the dorm sections of the base.  Jesse also finished his pep talk with his soldiers, and Excalibur quickly follow suit, jogging back to their own sections of the dorms with quiet excitement.  It had been a very, very long time since the two units had worked together, and some of the soldiers were anxious to see how much the teams had improved since their last joint mission.


(Note:  The two sea craft the teams are taking are almost identical to the ones that were deployed by SeeD at Dollet on Disc 1.)


    The military boat docks of Deling City weren't exactly the flashiest place in the city, but served a large purpose in the war against Esthar.  Aside from the Horizon Bridge, naval forces were the only way to get troops across the vast East ocean to Esthar and Helios.  Air travel was out of the question to both countries, since both had superior anti-aircraft weaponry and radar systems.  Any planes that went over to that side of the world, even high-altitude recon aircraft, were shot down as soon as they got over the lands.  


    As Andraia climbed up the finally set of stairs which led to the loading/personnel entry docks, she saw Raine, Lily and Edea were already there and waiting, fully equipped and having a small bag of items and weapons at their sides.  Andraia herself had her nunchakus, a few high-potions and at least five phoenix downs with her.  Also in her possession was a pair of handguns, just in case she should need them.  She never was a good shot, but when the situation presented itself, she might just end up using them.


    Ugh.. when I said Raine should wait until a mission came up to kill Virados, I never dreamed that it would come this early!  Geez, when did things get so complicated for us? she thought sullenly.  Andraia didn't know much about Raine's past, since the commander never talked much about it, but now she figured with all the chaos going on, she didn't really want to know.  However, Andraia made a promise to herself to make sure Raine didn't get to depressed or angry during the mission, and vowed to make her as happy as she could if her Alpha Wolf ever felt down.  


    She looked around, her brown hair falling in her eyes slightly.  Was it only those three who had gotten here already?  After checking her watch she found that the teams only had about five more minutes to get here, or they would be left behind.  True the teams were both elite and had stunning reputations, but weren't exactly known for their punctuality.  She sighed and began to walk over to the females that were already there.


    As she did so, she took note of the vessels they would be taking.  She passed two identical Galbadian troop carriers, small in size but covert enough to sneak into Helios or Esthar without a problem.  They could hold about ten or eleven soldiers, but there wouldn't be much elbow room once they got in there.  She compared them to a sardine can.  However, this sardine can had a pair of twin heavy caliber anti-ship and anti-infantry machine guns strapped onto the top of the hull while the troops rested within the boat itself.  Andraia smiled,  Oh, ho ho!  Me and Julia are gonna have a field day with that!  Those Helian soldiers have no idea what they're in for!


    "Where is everyone?!"  Raine demanded angrily, "They are going to be late if they don't move it!  Ugh...  they know how much I hate them to be slow!"

    Andraia waved hello and dropped her equipment bag as she did so.  She tried to explain.  "Hmm... I'm not sure where everyone is, but I think I saw Epsilon and Zion running down to the ammo lockers for some last-minute clips and magazines for their guns.  As for the rest, who knows?"


    Celeste bounded up the stairs shortly after Andraia said that.   She smiled sheepishly and apologized for her tardiness, "Sorry boss, I had to make some checks on my computer equipment before we left.  Got to make sure everything works, or else we're screwed, right?"


    "Yeah, I guess.  Are the others coming?"  Raine asked, her hands on her hips, along with an angry face to go with it.  


    Celeste looked back down the stairs and to her leader again.  She shrugged as she began to walk over to them.  "I don't know.  I think the Excalibur people are right behind me, but our group is scattered.  They know the time, so they'll get up here pretty quickly, I'm sure."


    Jesse Almasy, closely followed by his soldiers, came charging up the stairs with an excited face.  The man had always loved to go on missions, and didn't care much for off duty or rest times.  He wanted battle action, and since he was a skilled soldier, he often got what he wanted -- even if his teammates didn't care much for the fight.  He ran his fingers through his scruffy blonde hair which fell slightly past his neck and whistled as soon as he saw the vessels they were taking.  


    "Yo,  Raine babe!  Have you seen these things yet?  Cool!"  Jesse shouted over to them with a smirk.  Though he and Raine never got along, Jesse's personality certainly shone through whenever he was happy.  Raine simply nodded in return, not honoring him with words.  He scoffed in reply, deciding not to waste his time on her.  He raised his gunblade to his shoulder, as he often did when he was anxious.


    "Hey, where the hell is your unit, Raine?!  Come on, I want to get going!"  Jesse shouted over to her again from the Excalibur vessel, which was a few hundred feet away from the Pack's.


    Raine waved her hand in dismissal, "They're coming!  Just hold your horses for a goddamned minute or two! They're making last minute checks!" then Raine added softly so he wouldn't hear, "I think."


    "Have no fear, the sniper is here!"  Epsilon shouted victoriously as he, Zion and Julia came up the stairway.  The Excalibur soldiers scoffed at this, and Raine just gave them an icy glare.  Epsilon explained,  "Sorry Raine, we just had to make sure we had plenty of extra ammo in our guns this time.  We almost ran out in Esthar remember?  Don't worry, Corin and Lancer are right behind us!"   


    As he said, the final two members of the Pack bounded up the stairs in a hurry.  Lancer had his pole arm latched onto his back and Corin didn't have to much of anything aside from the small bag slung around his arm.  More than likely that just held some spare clothes and a few extra metal plates for his knuckles in case they got damaged.  The two men, and the rest of the late arrivals fell into garrison line-up behind Raine as they saw a Galbadian supervisor approach them from the vessels.  


    "Okay listen up people, I'm only gonna say this once!"  the officer shouted to the two units.  "I want absolutely no foul ups on the transport over to Helios!  Do not make radio communications or use electronics, they will set off frequencies which will be picked up by Helios, and our cover will be blown!  By the time we get over to the Helian shore, it will be either dusk or nightfall depending on how bad the seas are today.  Now, Wolf Pack, into the Vigilance and Excalibur into the Defiance on the double!"


    Upon hearing this, the two commanders saluted and the teams marched onto their respective sea craft and descended into the crew and passenger decks below the hull.  It wasn't going to be very roomy, and in fact would be like being held in a submarine for the several hours it would take to get over there.  Wolf Pack sat down on the passenger seats and saw the entryway slowly close behind them.  They looked fondly at the last rays of sunlight that they would probably not see again for some time.  Trabian weather was often overcast with all the snow, so even once they reached the shore it wouldn't be sunny in the morning.


    As soon as the hatch closed, they fastened themselves into the small seats that they were allowed to sit in.  Three columns of five closely packed seats made up most of the area within the vessel.  Behind them was the bridge and in front the exit, which would open up once they reached the shore.  A ladder to the side led to a observation platform.  Not having much room meant they wouldn't get a chance to move around much.  This would lead to stiff muscles or even muscle cramps once they got off the boat again.  


    They heard the Defiance engines roar, and could tell that it sped off before their own boat.  As soon as Excalibur's vessel was out of the way, the Vigilance gave a loud rev from its engine and the team was thrown back into their seats as it too sailed out of the docks and into the ocean beyond.  They had nearly forgotten that these boats could travel at speeds of 60 to 70 miles an hour, even with the friction the water gave.  They had yet another long journey ahead of them.


     Zion yawned and looked to his left and right.  Both Corin and Celeste, who were sitting by him, had fallen asleep on the way over.  Not really anyone was talking, even though they were only half way to Helios.  Most everyone had fallen asleep to conserve energy, but he was one of the people who could not sleep during the day, no matter how tired he was.  The only people who were awake besides himself were Julia, Edea and Epsilon.  Edea was reading a book up in the front row, Epsilon was cleaning his sniper rifle carefully in the back row, and Julia was two rows ahead of him listening to music with her walkman.  


    He would have eaten something, but the only thing the Vigilant had on board were military rations, and he wasn't even going near those if he had the choice.  He had always thought that they tasted like cardboard.  His muscles were already cramping up, especially his legs and his arms.  He stretched out his torso by putting his arms over his head.   Unfastening his seatbelt, he decided that since no one else was up that he would go out to the observation deck to stretch his legs.  He got up from his seat and carefully moved passed the sleeping Corin onto the walkway to the side of the far row.  


    He walked down to the front of the boat and towards the ladder which would lead up to the observation deck above.  Edea stopped reading her book and looked up to him with a confused expression,  "Zion, where are you going?  It's freezing up there!"


    "Yeah, I know." Zion replied with a smile.  "But I'm going to go stir crazy if I stay in here much longer.  To top it off, my muscles are completely sore, I need to go stretch them out a bit.  I don't care how cold it is when I do it, it should wake me up."


    Edea nodded and looked back to her book.  Taking this as an okay sign, he began to ascend up the ladder.   He flipped open the hatch that led to the deck, and climbed up.  As he lifted his body out of the hatch, he was almost knocked off his feet by the wind.  They were traveling at a high speed, and in conjunction with the wind already, the combined force was almost enough to make him lose his footing.  However, the sea wind was a relief compared with the humid passenger cabin below.  


    He crossed his arms and began to shiver.  He wished he had brought his coat with him.   When Edea said it was cold, he didn't know she meant this!  Growing up in the tropical Balamb Island, he wasn't used to temperatures below around 60 degrees or so.  As soon as he stopped moving he would grow cold, so he rubbed his arms to keep himself warm.  Still, what he said to Edea was true, he would have gone stir crazy if he had stayed in the passenger cabin much longer.


    He looked out to the ocean around him in every direction.  Waves were present of course, but to his relief there wasn't a storm up ahead.  The last thing some of the motion-sick prone Wolves needed was to be tossed around like playthings below decks as the boat rode waves over to Helios.  Luckily, the skies were clear and it looked like that wouldn't happen.  Since Zion had grown up in Balamb as a youth, he was used to sailing and water sports, and had grown fairly good at predicting when ocean storms would take shape.  


    As he took a deep breath of sea air, he heard the entry hatch slide open again.  He looked down as Julia began to climb up the ladder, her hair getting blown back from the ferocity of the wind.  She had a large coat draped over her shoulders for warmth.  She yelled over the volume of the wind,  "Are you crazy?!  It's windy and about 30 degrees out here!"


    "Yeah, I know!"  he replied, still crossing his arms, "I just needed to stretch my legs out a bit.  Why are you up here?  Did Edea send you to 'rescue me'?" 


    She wrapped the coat tighter around her body and began to shiver, "Nope, I came up here to rescue you.  Edea's just sitting there looking bewildered because people just seem to keep disappearing up here.  Now come back inside before you catch cold or something."


    He chuckled slowly, "Who are you, my mother?  Honestly I don't see you in that role."


    "As your mother or a mother?  Either way is freaky to think about at 19 years of age." Julia replied, then continued on sarcastically, "If I were your mother, I'd kill myself!"


    "Hey!"  Zion retorted, a gruff look on his face, "That's not funny! If I were your parent, I would begin to wonder where your probation officer is."

    Julia thought for a moment as she opened the hatch again to go back down to the passenger cabin, "My probation officer?  I'm pretty sure that he's back in Deling City at his office.  I don't know, the military officials just usually lock me up in the brig nowadays.  My officer is there just in case I screw up again while I'm on my off duty time.."


    Zion's eyes slightly widen as she said that with absolutely no sarcasm at all.  Though deep down it really didn't surprise him at all.  Julia always did seem a bit reckless and arrogant, even when he first met her.  He didn't find it too strange to hear that she would break the law back in her hometown during her free time.  He just had to ask before she went back down to the cabin, "Really?  What did you get arrested for?"


    "Which time?"  Julia replied, beginning to climb down the ladder.  "Most often its for street racing with my motorcycle, or for fighting.  One time I robbed a few places because I was bored."


    Wow.  I know I should be wary of her because of that, but.... it's actually kind of a turn-on.  Whoa, can't be thinking like that!  He shook his head to clear the thoughts, and followed Julia back down into the cabin.


    As they refastened themselves to their seats, the shores of the continent of Trabia, which Helios resided on, became ever closer as the two craft sped of to the East.  And since none of them had ever been to Helios before, they had no idea what was in store for them ahead....



Chapter 12

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