Raine watched as the last of the Wolves boarded the Valhalla, and once they were aboard, she pressed a button on the control panel. On cue, the gunmetal colored entrance ramp rose from its position on the ground, and slid back into place, sealing the outer hull and allowing it to fly once more. Julia and Lilliana had departed to the bridge without her permission, knowing full well they would have to anyway. The rest were heading towards the lounge, leaving Raine alone in the entrance hall. She looked out remorsefully at the last bit of the orange and red sunrise before the steal door blocked it off. Sighing with a downtrodden tone, she regretfully left the area, and followed Julia and Lilliana to the bridge.
She ran a shaky hand through her chestnut colored hair as she walked, and after she had brought it back down, she noticed that she couldn't stop from shaking. Her nerves were bothering her, and they had been ever since the night before. It had taken her a great while to go to sleep, and it was apparently the same for the others. She knew that Corin and Lilliana had snuck out to the lake, though they didn't suspect it. The truth was, she didn't really mind, though she like the idea that they were terrified of her now. They had been exceedingly nice, and who in their right mind would want to end that? Despite her amusement in that, she was terrified of the battle to come, and what could happen if they were to fail.
There was a rumble from behind and underneath as the Valhalla's engines started up. Still not quite used to it, Raine shifted uneasily as the massive energy threatened to throw her off balance. Once it settled, and the ship began to rise into the air, she regained her ability to walk, and continued to the bridge.
Raine hit a button on a nearby panel, and slid the door open. Stepping into the bridge, Julia turned back to talk to her while she left controlling the ship to Lilliana.
"So you said you had an idea on where to go? Where to?" Julia asked curiously, unsure of their victim's current location.
"Well, this is how I see it." Raine began. "He has what he needs, and in order to open a portal and have it work, he would probably be in the most secure location. Now, where is Virados most safe from harm? Take a guess."
Lilliana nodded from where she sat, looking at the navigation screen. "Helios City."
"Precisely." Raine confirmed. "Julia, plot in the destination and take off. Full speed ahead."
Julia's eyebrows furrowed. "'Full speed ahead'? You aren't a fifty year old Navy commander. And in all honesty, why would I go any slower than top speed? You obviously don't know me very well, do you? And here I thought we were friends...."
Raine turned to walk out of the room while Julia rambled. "Oh, shut up. You know we're friends, we've always been friends, and we'll always be friends. Now get over there and fly, dumb ass."
"Well that wasn't very nice." Julia commented as Raine disappeared behind the door again, heading towards the lounge.
The Wolf Pack, minus the two pilots, were seated inside the lounge area of the ship. Most were talking freely, while Celeste and Corin were trying with much effort to get a radio to work in order to listen to the current war news to see what they had all missed out on. Raine was seated silently among the group, listening rather than talking, as she always did. Edea was also strangely quiet, and sitting by herself in a corner of the room.
"Aw, come on!" Corin exclaimed, hitting his fist lightly on the table. "Why won't you work, you stupid radio?!"
"Here, let me try now." Celeste replied, stepping up behind him.
Corin huffed. "Fine, but I doubt you could fix it. It's impossible. I already tried!"
Celeste shook her head, and lightly pushed him out of the way. She examined the open panels on the common boom box radio for a moment, connecting each wire to another with her eyes to make sure they were all in their proper places. Seeing no other option, she chose to perform the last possible choice in order to fix it. She brought back her hand, and 'bitch' slapped it forcefully on the top of its form. Suddenly, it sprang to life, spurting out a heavy metal song.
Corin's jaw hung open. "That was so not fair."
Celeste smirked, and switched the station to a Galbadian broadcasting channel. "...recovery efforts within Deling City are proceeding greatly. Donations are being accepted from all corners of Galbadia to benefit the rebuilding funds. Damage totals, however, are estimated to be at least 1 billion gil as of yet. Civilian building costs are still being tallied and have not been accounted for."
"Holy crap!" Epsilon couldn't help but exclaim. "How much shit did we all blow up when we were down there?
"Quiet." Raine commanded, interested in the recent news. She leaned forward in her seat, intent on listening closely.
"As for recent attacks and invasion attempts, there have been some new developments. Dollet was attacked once more, but this time by a Helios battle group. The battle lasted several hours, yet with aid from several Special Forces groups shipped in from Deling City, the Helios forces were driven back. This mirrors an attack by Esthar only a little over a week ago."
"Balamb, on the other hand, was hit very hard a few days ago. Hit by both Helios and Esthar forces, this small port town barely fended off incoming invaders. Deling City and Dollet both sent soldiers in to help, but not before having a good deal of military structures destroyed. Balamb, if you did not know, was completely neutral in the war, and posed no threat to the two Eastern countries. This prompted Timber, who is also neutral, to break off any ties with Galbadia. This prevents Galbadia from using the railroad junctions in Timber to get to Esthar. This will slow down future troop deployment."
Andraia tilted back in her chair and whistled. It wasn't that the small brunette had anything against Timber in general, but it was a result drawn by logical thinking, knowing Vinzer Deling and his policy on war. "I have a feeling somebody's gonna be kicking Timber's ass pretty soon. Anyone else have that vibe?"
Raine rolled her eyes, but Corin's fists tightened as he grew angry. "They attacked my hometown?! Stupid assholes! I hope my folks got away okay. They should. My family is pretty resilient when it comes to this sort of thing. Let's go kick they're asses, can't this ship go any faster?!"
"Don't let Julia hear that, please!" Lancer whined. "If she does, she'll find a way to get this thing going faster than it's supposed to, then we'll all blow up with the engines when they overheat."
"We're going at top speed now." Raine informed them, glaring at the two blonde men to her left. Her gaze softened after that. "As for Timber... who knows? At least we got out of there before anything major happens. Who knows why Adel and Virados, if he was involved, decided to attack Balamb? It's pretty small... no army, nothing. I think they just did it to break ties off with Timber. They new the relation between Deling and Timber was weak to begin with, so they probably wanted to scare Timber into total neutrality."
"Sounds like a plausible cause." Edea said quietly from her position in the back of the room. She hadn't bothered to raise her head to say it, and just gazed at the ground as she did so.
Raine furrowed her eyebrows at the young sorceress. Edea was a quiet person, but this was a little extreme for her. This was extreme for Raine or Julia in a bad mood even. The sorceress hadn't said anything for the entire morning. While the rest of the team broke out into a politics discussion about Timber and Galbadia, Raine went over to Edea, sitting down beside her. The two were quiet for a moment, but Raine broke it, knowing Edea wasn't going to willingly tell her what was bothering her.
"What's wrong?" Raine asked, which was all she needed to ask. It was simple and to the point.
Edea shook her head a couple times and was silent. Raine glared at her with such force that Edea found she had no choice but to reply, hoping to ease the gaze of the Alpha Wolf. "I...I had a dream about Sasha again."
Raine nodded, remembering Edea's childhood sorceress mentor, who had been murdered in a public plaza in front of hundreds because of her powers. "Go on."
"It's not fair." Edea said quietly, tears forming in her golden eyes. She refused to let them fall. She continued in a slightly more commanding tone. "It isn't fair that sorceresses are killed just for being sorceresses. The entire Centran population on this planet... all 99.9% of the people here... are alive today because of the sorceresses. We were the ones who countered Mysidian magic during the wars! If we hadn't of been there, then Mysidia would have annihilated all of Centran kind. The summoners helped but... they wouldn't have held out long. I think we should be held in higher regard."
"Sorceresses?! Sorceresses should be held in high regard?" Came a loud and angry voice from the doorway. Julia stood there, having left Lilliana to fly while she got the two of them food from the lounge. Now her pleasant demeanor had disintegrated into a snarling face of anger.
The room fell silent as the angered Mysidian walked over to Edea, who now stood up at Julia's entrance. Raine suddenly had the feeling that their entire rivalry was about to reach it's climax.
Edea spoke again. "Yes! We saved the Centran race from destruction along with the summoners! We should be praised as saviors!"
Julia laughed bitterly. "Excuse me, but, isn't there a power hungry world dictator sorceress taking over the world right now?"
"Virados." Edea replied. "Power-crazed Mysidian. Your people are the ones causing all the problems here! Adel is merely under Virados' influence if you haven't forgotten!"
"My people?!" Julia's eyes suddenly filled with both livid rage and sadness. "Don't you dare talk to me about my people! My people are my responsibility now that my mother was murdered. Don't you get it? My people are enslaved and dying! When I left Gaia civil war was erupting and people were being killed and exiled by the millions!"
"Yes. Enslaved and murdered by your father. I wonder... will you turn out to be the same kind of person he is? I suddenly feel like I can't trust you now." Edea said harshly, making sure her words stung Julia.
Raine's eyes widened in shock. Julia and Edea had argued before, but always kept a level of decency before. Both knew each other's weak and vulnerable spots, and they never brought them in. Edea had done just that. Now Julia's composure had dropped slightly. Tears were in her eyes, and her face had twisted into a vile snarl. If Raine's ears heard right, she swore she heard Julia growl lightly before countering Edea's remark.
Julia stepped in closer to Edea now, facing the taller woman until their faces were only a few inches apart. "Don't you ever say that again! Do you hear me?! I have never, nor will I ever turn that way! How can you even think for a second that I would betray us?!"
Edea laughed. "Betray us? Aren't all Mysidians short tempered and war mongers? I wouldn't be surprised if you did!"
"And sorceresses are supposed to be good?!" Julia shot back right away. "According to what I learned in History, sorceress and their knights captured battalions of Mysidians and executed them without trial in front of everyone! That sort of justifies what happened to Sasha then didn't it? Mysidians never, not once, publicly executed POWs!
Edea gritted her teeth in anger. Her usual calm personality was now completely worn down from Julia's last comment. "You.... you insubordinate bitch! How dare you say that to my face! You know how much I loved her!"
A tear escaped from Julia's eye as she screamed back her reply. "And you don't think I loved my mother? Or Ultimecia? Or Dante? I watched Dante and my mother stabbed to death right in front of my eyes! I can still see it to this day! You never saw Sasha die! Just as I never saw Ultimecia captured and beaten to near death! I was only seven years old for god sakes!"
Julia shoved Edea backwards, causing the sorceress to slide across the floor and into a table. It didn't knock her over, but hurt her side as Edea hit. The taller woman raced back, shoving Julia equally hard by the shoulders. The two soon got into a full fight, both trying to knock one another to the ground. As Celeste and Zion both jumped up to help them stop their fight, but a voice did it before the two even reached the fighting women.
"Enough!" Raine yelled over the noise of the fight, and the Pack's protests. Julia and Edea stopped immediately, though their fists were still hooked onto each other's shirts or arms. The two, and the others for that matter, looked over to Raine and knew something else was going to follow.
"You two are acting like children! You have ever since you met! It hasn't stopped over all these years and I'm sick of it!" Raine yelled. "I hate playing 'mommy' for the both of you! I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in my unit! Now grow up and for the love of the gods, shut up!”
The two were quiet for a moment. The entire Pack waited for their next comment, but it never came. Julia turned on her heels and stormed out of the room, heading back towards the bridge. There was a large 'bang!' following her departure. They guessed it was from her punching a wall outside the lounge. Edea's fist tightened at her side, but she plopped back into her seat and remained silent for the rest of the flight.
As Julia burst out, Andraia could help but sigh once the argument was over. "Whoa...."
Lilliana was flying over the ocean, and the land of Helios was clearly in sight. They would easily reach their destination within the next few minutes, and then, Virados would meet his fate. The snowy plains of Trabia were a pain to her eyes compared with the dark blue ocean, but she was able to dim the navigation screen to the point where it didn't hurt as badly. She looked around. It had been nearly an hour since Julia had left for food, yet the Mysidian hadn't returned. She was hungry damn it, and if Julia was gone she could leave the ship's helm in order to eat. She had heard a commotion earlier, and then a loud bang, but no one had come to tell her what had happened.
That meant there had been an argument, or Raine had killed one of them in annoyance. The former was the more logical choice. It certainly explained why Julia was gone. Lilliana sighed, bored from both being alone and the hours of flying the Valhalla.
A loud noise on the command console in front of her shattered her moment of silence and caused her to shoot up in alarm. Five objects were highlighted on the navigation screen, and words formed on the bottom. She read them, and froze.
"Oh my god.... Helios fighter jets! Shit!" She said at first, then paged the entire ship for the gunners. "Guys! We have fighters inbound! Gunners to your stations! Gunners to your stations! Five bandits inbound!"
From their various positions on the ship, Edea, Julia, Lancer, Epsilon, and Zion all rushed up from their seated positions and rushed towards the same gun turrets they had used during the Battle of Deling City. Julia ascended the ladder to the turret above the bridge, Zion and Edea rushed off to the side mounts, and Lancer and Epsilon took off to the aft guns. Lilliana, in the bridge, turned the gun emplacements back on, allowing the gunners to use them again.
"All right guys, where are the little bastards?" Epsilon called, unable to see the enemy's location from his position in the back of the ship.
"12 o'clock." Julia informed quickly, able to see them from her forward view placement. "They'll be darting passed you and Lancer soon, keep your eyes open."
As the first two neared the Valhalla, Julia pulled the trigger, shooting out a stream of bullets towards them. She cursed outwardly as not one of her shots made its mark, and the two split up and headed down either side of the airship. This cued Edea and Zion to fire, but Helios jets had very quick maneuverability and engine speed, and both ships darted out of harm's way before the two could get a clear shot in.
The remaining three fighters arched above the airship as the other two looped around behind it. Lancer and Epsilon were firing like crazy, trying to cause any damage at all to the attackers. The three above were dodging fire from Julia, but one was able to bank to the left and fire one of its missiles. Julia's eyes widened as the rapidly approaching missile began to arch toward her turret, and closed her eyes in fear. Luckily for her, the missile hit elsewhere.
The entire Pack jumped or flinched in alarm as the missile hit the port side of the ship, tearing apart some of the outer hull. A fireball was now forming in the relevant area as the forward crew quarters of the Valhalla. The three planes above them dove back down, darting passed Edea and Zion as they split up. This time, Zion was able to hit one of them. He tore off a wing from one of the two that flew down his side, causing it to spin out of control and plummet to the ground below them.
"Yes!" He cried as the plane burst into pieces below them. "One down, four to go!"
Lancer flinched as one of the two fighters on the aft side let a stream of bullets hit an area dangerously close to him. He fired back, and was at first unable to hit the attacker. He swung the turret so it faced in front of it and tried again. This time, the cockpit of the enemy craft burst apart as Lancer's shot hit its mark. The second plane burst into flames, just as Zion's did.
"Another!" Lancer informed, triumphantly raising his fist into the air.
Epsilon had the third in his sights, but it suddenly banked upwards, shooting into the sky above them. It looped back around, firing another missile towards the craft. Epsilon tried his best to use his sharp-shooting skills to blast away the missile before it hit, but to no avail. The missile crashed into the rear engines and blew apart. One of the Valhalla's two massive tail engines was now smoking and in ruins. The sniper cursed, and tried again to shoot at the third craft.
He smiled as it burst into pieces in front of him, but they all still had the other two to worry about. "The third is gone. What's the 20 on the other two?"
"One at 9 o'clock, the other at 1!" Julia shouted, tracking both of them. She inwardly feared the ship's structure, and called to Lilliana over the radio. "Lilliana? What's the Valhalla's status?"
"One more missile and we're done for!" The claw user shouted back. "Hull integrity is 40%, and the engines can't get enough speed to maintain altitude. We're gonna be in for a rough landing pretty soon!"
"Shit." Julia said through clenched teeth. "Edea, Lancer, there's one banking down on your side! Get ready!"
The fourth craft shot down the starboard side, and both Lancer and Edea began to shoot wildly at it. The fifth arched above, ready to shoot another missile at the craft. Julia glared at it, staring it down and getting ready for the perfect shot. She aimed slightly below it, figuring it would dive down as the first did. She was right. As she shot, the fighter dove at the same time, causing the bullets to take off the tail fins and forcing the fighter to follow its predecessor back into the ground below.
Edea spun her turret around to met the last, but was second too late. It rolled out of harm's way and fired its own cannon into the airship's side. Bullet holes formed where the engine compartment was, causing further damage to the ship. Edea counted with her own attack, sending the final fighter to meet its squad mates in the afterworld. It burst into flames, and left the skies clear again.
The victory was short lived, and the airship began to plummet as well. Unable to take any more damage, the last attack at damaged the engines beyond flying capability. Lilliana was trying in vain to shift more power to them, but nothing seemed to work. The airship began the quick dive into the snowy ground below them. Air rushing passed the hull drowned out any sounds that the Pack had been making, forcing them to cover their ears as the sound turned deafening. Lilliana banked the craft into the landing position, and hoped to the gods above that they would all make it out safe.