All war is deception.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Picture a room. A dark room, light not by electric lights or the shining morning sun outside. A room wreathed in shadow, like a layered blanket stretching over all illumination, drowning out any glimmer of light. That kind of dark.
In this darkness, this drapery of shadow, there happens to be a chair. A nice chair, soft leather, durable stuffing that provides that just perfect amount of comfort, a high, cushioned back that subtly demands erect and proper posture, and a swivelly base that doesn't squeak. Plus those nice lockable wheels so you don't go spinning across the room. That kind of chair.
Picture a man. A tall man, nearly perfectly between six and seven feet. Medium build, a tad on the bulked up side, like he lifts weights for a hobby, but isn't too serious about it. A man with black hair, short but not shaved, thick but not overwhelming. A man with piercing black eyes, as dark as the pitchest black of a cloudless city night, with the faintest twinkle of distant starlight somewhere in the depths of the empty blackness. A man with a strong jawline hidden behind a beard, short, but not closely shaved. One of those notorious blonde beards that inexplicably grows on a dark-haired man's face, much to his chagrin. Behind this beard is a mouth, filled with perfect white teeth, the kind of mouth that can switch from a charming, warm and inviting smile to a sinister smirk in a disturbingly short period of time.
Yes, that last tap is well overdue. Now, picture this man, clad in a blue button up shirt, just dark enough to not be sky blue, but a shade above your normal blue. A fine, silken shirt, like the dark blue trousers he wears. On his feet, those expensive black boots that go with expensive suits, shiny and leather, yet possessing a slight appearance of wear and ruggedness, as if utilized more for planting in an individual's anal region than for social functions.
This man sits in the aforementioned chair in the aforementioned room. He sits in this chair in this room leaned back, with one dark blue pantsed-leg over the other, the strong and faintly hardened fingers of one hand wrapped around his chin in a classic contemplative pose. Over the chair is slung a long coat, though this coat seems more of a robe, constructed of midnight blue silken threads, with golden buttons and cloth fasteners, the kind elegant nobility wears.
This man sits in this chair in this room in this pose with his coat, smiling to himself, that thoughtful smile of one on deep yet enjoyable thought. For while the room is not light by natural or electrical lights, it is lit, by dancing images playing through he air before him, displays showing far away events that he is observing with close, focused attention.
There, a beach. On this beach, brightly lit by the rising sun, sits a couple on a wide towel, an umbrella raised above them. One, a small, smiling, brown-haired girl in a bright yellow bathing suit dotted with flowers, a pair of enormous sunglasses atop her head as she reads from a book. The other, a tall, lanky man in bright yellow swimming trunks, with long brown hair pooling out beneath him, a cowboy hat atop his face as he dozes. Nearby sits a double-barreled multipurpose rifle, in easy reach, just in case.
There, a classroom. In this room stands a woman in a black uniform, giving a lesson to a class of fifty wide-eyed children in their early teens, discussing the state of world political geography. A map is displayed on the giant screen behind her as she goes over her lesson. A woman with blonde hair framing her face, delicate sunglasses, and elegant beauty and poise.
There, a running track. A small blonde man with heavily built muscles and a frightening black tattoo over his face prepares to lead forty new recruits in a training run. He bounces up and down, shouting as loud as he can, energetic as ever as the recruits answer his shouts. As one, they all turn and start jogging, the small man leading them.
There, a library. A slender black-haired woman peruses a shelf, pulling a thick textbook out and looking through it. With a nod and a happy bounce in her step, she walks across the room, her blue coat waving in the air behind her, her hair bouncing with the life she exudes. She sits down, and starts reading the book with her deep brown eyes. A wave of a finger, and a page moves, without her ever touching it. A pleasant image, not displaying the true power she, a Sorceress of all people, wielded.
There, a brightly lit room, filled with red wallpaper, golden lights and snake-like dragon statues. Behind a desk sits a man wearing a pair of sunglasses, with shaved blonde hair and a short goatee and mustache. A red coat covers his upper body, beneath which lies a black shirt with a silver cross emblem on it. On his desk sits an exotic saber-style gunblade, and he grins and chuckles as someone speaks. Between his eyes, a diagonal scar.
There, Balamb Garden. And there, running along the exterior of the Garden, in his morning PT, is a man with long brown hair dropping past his mouth, a short brown beard and mustache touching his cheeks and jaw. At his waist, another gunblade, a heavy cleaving weapon, and around his neck the crafted image of a lion's head. Behind his hair, another long, diagonal scar between his eyes.
There is no tap, as this man focuses on this image of this other, scarred man. There is no smile, only a dark grimace as he focuses on that defining scar. His eyes narrow, and the darkest black orbs show a flicker of light, the flicker of hatred.
The man stands, drawing his coat with a flourish, and his smile returns as he dons the coat, fastening it swiftly and with practiced ease, the buttons slipping through the cloth fasteners with little effort. He calmly hefts the item making all the tapping, a long ebony cane, topped with an exquisite pearl handle and tipped in spotless silver. With his smile in place, the man nods to the image before him, and it vanishes.
And with that final tap, the man is gone, the chair is empty, and the room is dark.
Corporal Richard Snow doesn't like rain. Thankfully, his guardhouse is made to defend against rain, with its armored rooftop. The guardhouse is also meant to defend against anything short of a direct airstrike or guided missile, what with its reinforced concrete structure and buried metal and ceramic armor. Snow and the other two soldiers on guard duty could also dispense as much pain right back at the enemy, as the guard house featured a small armory and a mounted .50 caliber machinegun, plus a 120mm double-barreled rocket launcher with enough ammunition to bring down three platoons of armored vehicles.
Of course, they never had to use these weapons, but they were there nonetheless. As with most military assignments, this one followed the typical pattern of months or years of mind-numbing boredom and procedure punctuated by several seconds of prolonged blood, violence, and terror. Right now, though, the blood, violence, and terror were well overdue.
Snow sat back in the chair behind the desk of the guard tower, and was quite bored. Guard duty, especially guard duty at night, had that tendency, and with it raining as it was, he had no reason to get up and leave the post, even with his olive-green waterproof poncho and hat. There was no action in this area, and there never was any action, even with the recent spat of violence that had popped up between the various western nations. This facility had never been attacked by any enemy or army, and Snow liked it that way, even if he was bored to tears because of it.
Up ahead and down the road, Snow saw lights appear through the pouring rain, and he perked up. He soon realizes that they were the headlights of an approaching vehicle. He signals Private First Class Downes to report the approaching vehicle in on the radio while he stands up, hefting his rifle, and steps out into the accursed rain. Water droplet patters off the top of his brimmed hat as he approaches the vehicle - actually, vehicles - that are nearing the gate. From what he can tell, it looks like a humvee is leading the small convoy of three vehicles, followed by a pair of armored and covered twelve-ton trucks.
Corporal Snow approaches the driver's side door, one hand holding his rifle and the other a flashlight. The driver's window slides down, and he looks inside, to see the driver, an enlisted soldier, and the passengers, who appear to be two high-ranking officers. Snow stiffens slightly when he realizes how high-ranking these two men are.
"Identification," he asks brusquely, and the driver hands the papers to him, laminated sheets dispersing the rain. Snow looks over the papers, and nods, not seeing anything wrong with them, before handing them back. He waves his troops out of the guardhouse, and they move around the armored trucks and humvees, one fetching a long rod with a mirror on the end.
"I apologize for the delays, sirs," Snow says to the two officers. "Security procedure. This will only take a moment."
"Understandable, Corporal," answers one of the officers, and Snow turns and watches his men as they move over the trucks. Private First Class Aikens uses the mirrored rod to look at the vehicles' undercarriages to make sure nothing suspicious is down there, while Downes checks the tires and exteriors of the vehicles. They round the back of the trucks, and spot several soldiers sitting in the back of both vehicles.
"Evenin'" remarks one of the men, and Downes chuckles.
"You lucky bastards get to stay out of the rain, huh?" he inquires, and one of the men shrugs.
"Murder on our asses, though," the first man replies. "These metal seats suck."
"Military budget," remarks another. "The flyboys get hot tubs and the grunts don't get shit."
"Could be worse," Downes answers. "You guys could be out on the front lines."
"Almost wish I was," and other soldier remarks as Downes passes the truck. Moments later, the inspection is complete, and the gate guards return to their safe guardhouse as Corporal Snow waves the convoy through the gate.
Ah, Garden. Balamb Garden to be precise, moored off the coast of its home town, taking on supplies and giving its crew and troops a well-deserved shore leave. The towering monolith of the Garden rises above the quaint little blue-painted town that it was named for, seeming quiet and benign, like a benevolent giant.
The man in the blue coat and with the oddly-colored beard calmly walks up the ramp leading up to the entrance of the vast structure. He inhales, taking in the scents and tastes of Balamb harbor's ocean salts and sprays, and smiles. Today, he knows, couldn't be better. Strolling up the ramp, he twirls his expensive cane nonchalantly, smiling as he approaches the front gate.
"Good morning," he calls, for it is indeed morning. Very early in the morning, in fact. He can hear the chants of Garden recruits on their morning runs, calling cadence as they hurried through the Garden like so many ants, rushing about in their purposeless lives. The thought amuses him as he addresses the SeeD on guard duty.
"Good morning, sir," calls the SeeD, though she is by no means referring to him as a superior. Rather, she is calling him as such through proper, polite greeting. He smiles, knowing that Garden has reasonably tight security. After all, one never knew when someone like himself would be showing up.
"Do you have business within the Garden?" she asks, and his smile widens. She's small, petite, with short black hair, and clad in the new working uniforms that SeeDs were assigned: a black coat going to the waist, with black trousers and black combat boots, with her weapon - a sword-rapier - sheathed at her hip. Rank insignia and Garden and unit patches along the shoulders and upper arms, respectively. Much more utilitarian than the old uniform. After all, Murphy's Laws say the truth: the side with the simplest uniforms wins. Clearly their Commander was learned. A pity for Garden, then.
"Personal business," he explains, in a cultured, proper tone, reminiscent of the accent of the peoples of Dollet. As he maintains his smile, he sets his cane down with his left hand, and this simple motion draws the SeeD's attention as he gestures with his right. It's a simple motion, nothing overt, but he doesn't want to give it away, all the same.
"Business with your Commander," he adds, and the woman nods, her brow furrowing in concentration.
"Of course," she replies, not challenging this man she doesn't know or has ever seen in her lifetime. "Identification?"
"You don't need to see any," he replies, still smiling. And yes, he makes the gesture once more.
"Of course I don't," she replies, still smiling. "And your name?"
"Sion," he answers with a nod.
"Very well then, Sion, I will inform the Commander that you wish to meet with him. He should be in the Operations Room on the third floor."
"Thank you," Sion replies, and with smile never fading, he strolls through the opening gates and into Balamb Garden.
The base itself is discreet, though not necessarily compact. Most of the structures are darkly-painted and well-camouflaged concrete bunkers, as the base is built more for secrecy than anything else. The convoy rolls through the base, unchallenged, and passes another checkpoint before stopping outside one particular bunker. The two officers and the driver in the humvee get out and approach the two soldiers standing guard over the main entrance into the bunker.
"Good evening, Corporal," remarks the commanding officer, as he hands the man his papers. The Corporal glances down at them, stiffens, and nods as he realizes who he's dealing with.
"Good evening, sir," replies the younger, enlisted soldier, and he nods to his comrade, who goes to open the armored double door leading into the bunker. The heavy doors, each weighing over a ton and made of solid, reinforced reactive steel plating, begin to slide apart with a whirr and rumble of hydraulics.
There are a half-dozen more men on duty, within, two standing on a loading dock while the others are seated around a table near another huge, heavyset of double doors. Behind them, on the doors, are black and yellow signs with huge, clearly visible "Biohazard" signs painted on them. The two officers start walking into the room, and the Corporals outside start moving back to guard positions when they find ten thousand volts of electricity shooting through their bodies, an instant before they collapse to the rain-soaked pavement, thoroughly unconscious.
The soldiers inside did not see this, but they do see the soldiers in the two twelve-ton trucks stride into the bunker behind the two officers. They're momentarily concerned, but that concern rapidly shifted as the room is filled with silenced pfft-pfft-pffts. The soldiers, as a whole, stare in shock or clutch at their chests as darts bury into their bodies and pump numbing chemicals into their blood. Within moments, all six men are on the floor, either unconscious or blacking out.
The soldiers accompanying the officers move into the room, two of them backing their trucks into the bunker, while the others secure and check the squad on guard duty. Once they're assured that the guards are unconscious but alive, they move to the heavy door at the far end of the bunker.
The two officers stride past their soldiers, and stand in front of the door. They stare at the biohazard sign, and the junior officer glances to his superior.
"Sir, if we open this door, there's no going back," he warns. The other officer shakes his head adamantly.
"For the good of our country, and our soldiers, we have no other choice," he replies, and then nods. "Open the door, Colonel. And may Hyne forgive us for what we have to do today."
The Operations Room is an amazing thing. Too bad the reader has to wait until next chapter to have it described to them, though if they've read other stories by this author, they'd have a good idea what it looks like.
. . . . strange. Anyone else hear the sound of a wall breaking somewhere?
He has been waiting a few minutes, this man named Sion, but as he stands there, non-threateningly and not causing any trouble or looking at what doesn't concern him, the doors open. He looks up, and sees none other than the Commander of Balamb Garden himself enter the room, brown hair hanging past his chin and a short, well-groomed beard running along his cheeks and jawline. He certainly looks far older and more mature than the incarnation Sion was aware of.
The Commander appears to have been informed of this meeting as he arrived, for he starts directly toward Sion, though confusion etches across his features. After all, he's never met with this strange, well-dressed man before.
"Good morning, Commander," the well-dressed man says, with a smile and nod. He extends his hand, and the Commander, Squall Leonhart, accepts it, a testament to how much he'd matured. They shake hands, and the SeeD notes the man's strong grip with a raised eyebrow.
"Is there something you need?" Squall asks, and Sion nods, smiling politely.
"Why yes, Commander, there is."
There is a faint explosion of displaced air, and in the air around the well-dressed man five objects burst into existence: long, slender swords with extended, leaf-shaped blades of pure gleaming black metal. Shimmering silver runes of an unknown variety encrust the blades' lengths, and thin chains of purple and green sigils danc around the handles of the blades as they whirl and oriented themselves directly at Squall, razor-sharp tips leveling at his chest.
"I need you to die."
Full Spectrum SeeD is a little something I've been cooking up, well before I finished Legacy of the Chimera. In many ways, its almost like a repository for ideas that I've developed for Chimera but were never used, twisted and hammered into something resembling a cohesive story.
The title comes from a particular brand of action-strategy game that offers remarkable insights into how combat really works in the real world. This story, similarly, is intended to be a realistic and in many ways rough and gritty portrayal of what I consider to be one of the founding and basic elements of Final Fantasy VIII: the soldier. That is what Full Spectrum SeeD is intended to be, a story about soldiers, both ordinary and elite, commando and conscript.
Full Spectrum SeeD is also intended to convey a stronger sense of realism and military tactics than some of my other works. Both Gunblade and Chimera worked hard to portray combat, but in many ways it was unrealistic compared with real world battles, such as the Estharian infantry charge or the open field battles. Thus, expect this story to be grittier and more realistic in its combat.
However, just because Full Spectrum SeeD will be focused on the soldiers doesn't mean that it will be abandoning fantasy and dramatic elements. Far from it. As this prologue has clearly shown, it will hit the full gamut of action and fantasy, and expect it to get epic. There'll be blood, violence, romance, intrigue, drama, and more intermixed with the tales of our brave soldiers and mercenaries.
Expect me to both notch the pretentiousness in this story up a few degrees than normal and to break the fourth wall enough times to make Kojima cry. Sorta my way of maintaining balance in the cosmic order of things. Chapters will generally be prefaced by quotes or commentary from both real and fictional sources, and many of them may be from the characters in this story. Of course, some will be from real sources, like the legendary Sun Tzu quote you see up above, which was selected precisely because it defines Full Spectrum SeeD. I'm also going to try to keep a consistent theme with my chapter titles, a theme which will likely become apparent as the story progresses.
As an aside, this story ties in with the plotline for my other fic, Ronin. They take place in the same continuity, and follow the events of The Gunblade Saga, and as such, expect the events of that story to have effects in this one. However, this story does not take place in the same continuity as the Chimera storyline did. Like Ronin, this is completely separate from Chimera.
Until first chapter . . . .