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The Sorceress War Part I, Chapter XX

AN:  Never mind about the Valhalla looking like the Blackjack.  It's more or less a weird hybrid between the Blackjack and the Highwind from FF7.  Darn it I wish I had a scanner that worked so I could upload my own artwork!  Oh well. 


ETA to preliminary attack:   20 minutes


    Galbadia's coastline was finally in view of the Helian-Estharian strike force.  The shores of the Northern Galbadian coast were coming ever closer, and the tall buildings of the Deling City skyline were visible despite the heavy amount of haze that night.  It was approaching midnight in Galbadian time, and to Virados, it was the perfect time to strike.  With most of the population asleep and unaware of their presence, the attack would be a hopefully phenomenal success.  True, they would show up on radar soon, but by that time it would be far too late for the Galbadians to counter attack.  With any luck, they would be able to take out the majority of the Deling forces, then get out before they could mobilize.  Then, if he had his way, an invasion force of over 20,000 ground infantry would move in and secure the city a few days later.  


    "How long until we reach the shores?"  A female voice asked from behind his place on the deck over looking the land before him, his hair whipping in the wind.


    "Easy, Satori.  You'll be there before you know it."  He informed her, not looking back.  "We have about twenty minutes until we can attack.  Have you readied the ground soldiers?"


    "They were ready from the moment we left Helios."  Satori replied, crossing her arms and walking towards him for a few paces.  "Answer me this question, will you?  Why did you decide on this sudden attack?  You only gave us about three days worth of warning.  Needless to say, it took much effort to mobilize a force this size in that amount of time, not to mention the time to plan the attack itself."


    "This... 'Sorceress War' as these Galbadians call it, hasn't made much progress.  Though there have been several battles as Adel tried to invade, it's basically been a cold war.  Neither Galbadia nor Esthar have made any serious campaigns in the opposing region, so I am giving them a bit of help.  Besides, the Helios country has always been a player in major wars, and even though they may deny it, the people wish to go to war."


    Satori shook her head in slight disbelief.  "Are you sure it's wise to get into a hot war?  Both Galbadia and Esthar have missile bases now, and if they get into a nuclear war it could be devastating."


    "Still, it would be better than the petty little naval battles that are going on now.  Besides, I have other reasons... ones you can't know of yet and are not really any of your concern."  Virados replied, scanning the shores below with his more sensitive Mysidians eyes that had well adapted to the night time.


    "It's comforting that you don't trust me." She said with sarcasm on her tongue. 


    At this, Virados finally turned around to face her.  There was a slight emotion in her eyes, one that he identified as hurt, but she made sure that she kept her usual poker face on to mask any major feeling she was having.  Virados had been in Helios for about a year, and ever since his arrival Satori had been his most loyal of soldiers.  Due to his Mysidian upbringing, however, he had been taught to be wary of Centrans since he was just a young boy.  He had first met her in Esthar, and had reluctantly taken her on as a pupil of his.  Lately, to his surprise, she had been trying to advance on him romantically, though he had been avoiding the subject at all costs.  Mysidians and Centrans never, under any circumstances, were allowed to be involved with one another.  Or at least, that is what he had been taught. 


    "It's not that I don't trust you." He replied. "It's just that my plans are meant to be reserved for the high ranking personnel of New Mysidia.  You have to understand, we are all still cautious of Centrans thanks to the Centran Wars.  But then if your empire was destroyed, you would be wary of us, wouldn't you?"


    "Let's not talk about--"


    Before Satori could finish what she was saying, a Helian messenger stormed onto the deck from the main bridge that was only a few hundred feet away from the two warriors.  From the panicky and nervous look on his face, it didn't appear that he had any good news to deliver.   He spoke as soon as he and Virados exchanged salutes.


    "Sir, I have terrible news!"  He nearly shouted.  "Somehow, Galbadia became aware of the strike force, and they have massed together their defenses.  Also, there is a platoon moving in from the Timber border and several large convoys heading in from Dollet, which will both arrive in exactly forty minutes.  And, to make matters even worse, there is an airship traveling behind us, but it is not broadcasting a friendly signature.  It is definitely the Valhalla, but the Airship docks have just reported that they fell under attack and that one of their airships had been hijacked."


    "Shit.  This is just what I needed."  Virados grumbled, and threw a look over the side of the airship.  Indeed, if he looked close enough, he could see vast movement along the Galbadian coast.  Looking behind them, he could make out a slight dot in the distance, which was more than likely the Valhalla in close pursuit.   Turning to the messenger, he gave his orders.

    "Tell all airships to ready their air-to-ground missiles, and prepare to take out as much of the artillery defenses as possible.  Get the troops ready to move out at a second's notice.  Order the fighter airship, Pulsar, to go back and take care of the Valhalla.  Get the naval ships to fire their weaponry to any ground targets as soon as they are within range.  Get the Estharians to do the same."


    With that, the messenger sped away to the bridge as fast as his legs would carry him.  Virados looked over the side of the ship again, trying to see the size of the Galbadian forces below.  Satori crossed her arms with hint of frustration on her face. 


    "What do you need me to do?"


    "You go get ready with the troops, I'll need you on the battlefield."  He replied.  "You know what to do in means of your primary objective, correct?"  

    "Abduction.  Yes, I have no problems with doing that.  Just so long as she doesn't get all fired up like she did last time.  And no, I will not try to hurt her this time."



     Celeste had slowly returned herself into consciousness, but in turn she also exposed herself to the pain and sores that had been generated from her beating about an hour or so ago.  Hesitantly opening her eyes, she found herself lost in her new surroundings.  No longer was she in the Helian military base with the rest of Wolf Pack around her, but instead rested against a steel wall of what appeared to be some sort of vehicle.  The low hum of a fairly large engine could be heard and felt where she was, though she was alone inside the hall.  It looked as if she was inside of some navy ship, or so she assumed, but for some reason it felt as if she was higher up in the air.  


    A door opened behind her and whomever it was let out a startled gasp.  Feeling better than she had in previous times, she spun around to face the intruder.  To her surprise, it was Lancer who entered.  He quickly rushed over to her and knelt down to Celeste's level.  


    "Wow, you're awake!"  He said with a smile on his face.  He helped her sit up more, and continued on when he saw her confused expression.  "It's kind of a long story.  We're inside a Helian airship called the Valhalla.  I don't know if you heard it earlier, since you were drifting in and out of consciousness, but Helios and Esthar are attacking Deling City.  We're about twenty minutes away, but we won't be able to stop the strike force."


    Celeste only looked at him for a moment in complete astonishment.  She then groaned in frustration.  "Oh, man.  I'm out of action for just a little bit and this is what happens?!  I swear that I should probably never sleep again."  


    "Well, Raine and some of the others are trying to figure out what to do up on the bridge."  He replied, nodding back in the direction of where she assumed the bridge was.  "Do you want me to take you up there?"


    She stood up on her own, but grabbed onto his shoulder for support.  "That's okay, I'm not so bad anymore.  I can make it on my own.  But, ah, you don't happen to have a potion on you, do you?"


    "Not me.  I think Raine has a few more left, and she'll be more than willing to give you one."  He replied, and led her towards the bridge.  


    Leading up her up a ramp and pushing a button on a control panel, he slid open a pair of steel doors that led to their destination.  To Celeste it revealed a fairly large room with a window stretching all along the forward wall.  At closer inspection, she realized it was an electronic screen, an image transferred from cameras on the outer hull.   A HUD and other information was scattered about the screen.  Deling City was in the distance, it's lights twinkling in the night sky.  Along the lower portion of the sky and on the sea littered more lights, more than likely the Estharian-Helian strike force.  There were several seats in the room itself, but two with a large control panel in front of them looked like the pilot/co-pilot area.  It was here that Julia and Lilliana sat, quietly arguing over what to push on the control panel.  


    The morale of the Wolf Pack was not especially good at the present time.  While some were absent, the group known as the 'strategic Wolves', or the group that planned most of the missions, was currently present trying to think of a plan of attack as soon as they encountered action.   This group included originally Raine, Edea and Celeste.  Now, Zion was also present, trying to help the other women think of something.  From the looks of it, they weren't getting very far, either.  Raine had her head in her hands, and was using her fingers to massage her temples.  That was something she only did if she was stressed.


    "Celeste!" Edea greeted happily, reaching over from where she stood and slinging a welcoming hug around the blonde's shoulders.  "I am glad to see that you are all right!  Do you think you are up for helping us come up with a plan?"


    "Yeah, I think so."  She groggily said with a groan.  Looking over to her commander, she couldn't help but ask.  "Raine?  Do happen to have a potion I could use?  My stamina has all but died on me."


    Raine nodded and went over to her backpack.  Unzipping it, she frowned.  "We only have three left.  I think I should save them for the battle.  Lilliana, why don't you just cast a Curaga on her, instead?"


    "I think I can manage that."  The martial artist responded.  She twisted her body around to face the injured woman, and letting go of the controls she muttered something in the Centran tongue.  Suddenly, Celeste felt a surge of energy hit her, and her stamina and wounds healed themselves completely.  She thanked Lilliana and turned back to the other girls.


   "Now, what can I do to help?"




    ETA to preliminary attack:  10 minutes


    "Oh... crap,"  Julia muttered as she heard a beep coming from the HUD.  Lilliana looked up as well, and her jaw dropped.


    Raine tilted her head away from the brief strategy meeting that the other soldiers had been having to see what the commotion was about.  The only thing she noticed different was that there was another targeting signal on the screen, but having no idea how to read it she couldn't decipher what it meant.  "Julia when you sound like that, it's rarely a good thing.  What's the problem?"


    Julia ignored Raine for a moment and grabbed a hold of the airship's intercom.  "Attention everyone, it's time for the mid-flight entertainment!  We've got an enemy fighter craft inbound, and closing fast.  Anyone with knowledge on how to use firearms report to the gun turrets, ASAP!"


    "What?!"  Celeste responded, her eyebrows furrowing into confusion.  


    Julia pointed to the screen, "That's a Helian Air Force fighter plane!  It's closing fast, and it's gonna tear us to shreds if we don't do something!  Lilliana, fly this thing while I go gun with the others.  Zion, Edea, let's go!"


    "Why don't you just fire a missile at it?!"  Raine asked angrily, with frustration in her voice.


    Julia and Lilliana looked at each other for a moment or two, then Julia looked back to Raine.   "I... uh.... well, the thing is...  Never mind, Lilliana will tell you, I've gotta go!"


    The staff user then sped out of the room after re-opening the double doors of the bridge with Zion and Edea, leaving the others standing there with dumbfounded expressions etched on their faces. The most of which belonged to Lilliana, who was left sitting in the pilot's seat looking desperately at the point at which Julia once stood.  She did not have any ideas on what to do to fly the airship, and would only have to rely on what she saw Julia do moments earlier.  Raine on the other hand, had an angry look on her face.  She, having no prior experience in aerial combat, was not the leader.  When she was out of command she felt very out of place, and therefore irritated.  But still, she couldn't help but wonder why Julia simply didn't fire the missiles at the incoming airship.


   To find the answer, though inwardly she probably already knew it, she turned to Lilliana.  "I think I know the reason why you and Julia just don't fire missiles.  That rumbling I heard earlier?  When we were taking off?   You and Julia used them to blow something up didn't you?"


   "It was all her, I swear!"


   Meanwhile, on the lower decks, Julia was rallying together the gunner team.   While the Valhalla itself had many gun placements, the amount of Wolves that could used them were limited.   Only Edea, Epsilon, Lancer, Zion, and herself stood within the hall.  She was a little surprised to see Lancer of all people down there with them, but with her little knowledge of his fighting she simply assumed that he had been instructed in the ways of gunning before and just never liked to use it.  She had to now separate them into two groups.


   "Okay, guys!"  She began, thrusting a fist into the air in excitement.  "Edea and Epsilon are going to gun from the aft portions of the ship, and the rest of us will stay in the foredecks.  Zion and Lancer, you guys use the guns on the side of the ship, and I'll gun from the upper turret that's on the top.  Everyone be sure to communicate with each other to get a 20 on the enemy! Okay, go!"


   With that, they broke off into their appointed sections.  Edea and Epsilon disappeared behind a corner as they hurried down to the aft turrets, while Lancer and Zion separated and ran off to opposite sides.  Julia turned back around and ascended a ladder that wasn't far off from the bridge.  Each soldier climbed into their respective turrets, and having not been turned off from their previous use, were ready immediately.  Luckily, Edea, Epsilon and Zion already had used the turrets and knew how they worked.  Tapping a few commands into their consoles, they activated the targeting system, and locked onto the enemy fighter craft.  To their surprise, it was closer than they had assumed. 


   The ship rocketed past the underside of the Valhalla at a speed which barely registered by the human eye.  Edea and Epsilon were barely able to spin their turrets around in time to try and shoot the enemy before it circled around again.  Lining up their targeting sights, they let off as much fire as they could.  To their dismay, the enemy ship quickly pitched high into the air and looped back towards the much slower Valhalla. Now, it was elevated and exposed to the other turrets.  Julia had turned herself around and was now letting out a round of fire as well.  She missed, but it didn't.  Spraying out a stream of bullets from its main gun, it punctured several spots on the outer hull, luckily nowhere near the other Wolves. 


   However, it made a fatal mistake.  Unbeknownst to the craft, Zion was in the turret below Julia along the side of the Valhalla.  The enemy, not knowing this, banked down to the side of the larger craft to escape Julia's fire.  Zion then pulled the trigger of his own gun, sending liquid hot steel crashing into the engine compartment of the enemy ship.  A small explosion was seen, and smoke began to pour out from the rear of the craft.  It banked down again, in a final attempt to save itself from plunging to Terra in a fiery ball of burning steel.  In the process, it pulled up a bit too far than it first intended.  Lancer took this time to push his turret down as far as it would go, and sent a final stream of fire into the craft.  This time, the entire fighter craft exploded into several flaming pieces, each falling down out of sight in the night sky. 


   "Nice shot, guys!" Julia congratulated through her communications device inside the turret.  "Now come on, we have to get back to the bridge, Raine probably has a plan for the ground combat.  Whoa, it's getting close too, only about six minutes left until we hit land.  Let's go, people!"


   "Oh, yeah, no kidding !"  Zion replied, slowly stepping out of the turret and down to the hall floor.  "I just hope Jesse was able to get all of the defenses in place as early as possible.  Otherwise, we are completely screwed over."


   Edea had all ready jogged back to that area from the aft regions of the ship.  "If he did most of the defense prep. should have been left up to the Sentinels and the other defense Special Forces units.  If they're in charge, we should have tons of support."


   "Well, then I guess we're about to see just what Galbadia has to offer."  Lancer  said, beginning his walk back to the bridge from his turret placement.  "The final countdown is on, I just pray that we don't backfire in our defense.  All of Deling depends on it."




AN:  All right, a BIG battle chapter is up next.  Happy readings in advance for all of you gore and battle junkies out there.  Don't be fooled, this is not the end, I've estimated we have about ten more chapters to go!  Thank the gods, this is starting to take it's toll on me! 

Chapter 21

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