Nash and Sierra's Excellent Adventures
A piece filling in the gaps in the wonderful world of the Suikoden series, brought to you by your loyal khaki knight.
Disclaimer: Suikoden and related characters, ideas, etc. are the legal property of Konami, yadda yadda yadda. This is a solely nonprofit endeavour, which, actually, is probably losing money, if anything. This disclaimer applies to the entire work. Insert more legal jargon here if it will keep me from facing a lawsuit. For great justice.
I guess we'd call this Chapter One: Aren't They the Lovely Team?
Solar Year 463
The moon hung low and bright in the sky, mocking any who would dare try to be sneaky on this night. It was in this unfortunate setting one Nash Latkje, lady's man and spy extraordinaire, found himself crawling through the underbrush of a desolate Southern Harmonia forest trying to do that very thing. To be sure, he was cursing nearly everything about the situation—the woods, the moon, his superiors, and a certain woman who would find this situation all too hilarious.
It has been three years since the conclusion of the Dunan Unification War.
Several branches snapped off to his right, and he threw himself flat against the ground. The noise proved itself not to be a guard nor even guard dog, but a small woodland creature who had foolishly wandered near Nash. Several curses later, Nash resumed his trek, spitting a few twigs out of his mouth.
As a result of a deal struck between Lena Suphina and one Sasarai, the super spy Nash Latkje's fate is no longer in his own hands—he is honor bound to work for the Harmonian Bishop. Never one to back down from his word (or Lena's word, as the case may have been), Nash accepted his role as 'Special Bishop Envoy' with surprising aplomb.
The ground curved up to a small rise, up to which Nash quickly and quietly shimmied. Below the rise, in a surprisingly big valley, stretched a squat, gray compound—it looked like a formerly abandoned forest ranger station. Formerly, because Nash could make out several lit lanterns both inside and outside the central buildings. He reached into his traveling cloak for his spy glass.
All things considered, Nash could have been off considerably worse. The work for Sasarai was no more difficult than his SFDF days… After two quiet years of service, however, a certain woman from his past appeared unannounced on his doorstep.
In the months since then…
"You aren't handling this very well, you realize?" A quiet, soothing, yet forceful voice murmured from behind Nash's right ear.
Nash ground his teeth and fought the urge to fire back a pithy remark. He settled for a mildly irritated remark instead. "Yes, well, we can't all be infallible, now can we?" He settled forward again and peered into the spy glass toward the small compound.
"I'm just saying that if you had simply let me go in, all of this would be over now." The voice had an aggravating amount of self-assurance, which made Nash want all the more to smash something. The voice continued, "But there's still time you know, it's not too late—I could just pop in there and—"
"No, no, absolutely not. I can handle this. The last thing I need is you popping around with bats and fangs and whatnot."
He finally glanced back over his shoulder to the speaker. "And will you stop that?" he whispered fiercely, reaching a hand back and trying to force her hovering form to the ground. "The last thing I need is for them to see a floating, pale, withered up old hag and for the one shining beacon to give away my position."
"Watch it, buster," Sierra Mikain warned, the soothing aspects of her voice vanishing in the space of seconds. She slowly allowed her self to float back down toward the ground, her mouth pressed into a thin line.
Well, that's something of an improvement. A few months ago and she would have hit me, no questions, Nash thought tiredly to himself.
Several seconds passed, then she resumed, "And I wouldn't need to float like that if someone wasn't hogging the spy glass, now would I?" Nash fought the urge to curse (for it would have been quite loud), instead calmly handing the spy glass over. Sierra stuck her nose in the air. "That's more like it." She peeked through the device.
Drumming his fingers on the dirt before him, Nash was lost in thought. "Three sentries patrolling the fences… and heaven knows how many are inside the buildings themselves…" he said absently, mostly to himself.
"Five, but only two are awake. The conscious ones seem to be right next to each other. If I had to guess, I'd say that they were playing poker." Sierra negligently held the spy glass out to Nash once again, again looking supremely self-satisfied.
He snatched his tool back. "I have told you how much I hate it when you cheat like that, right?" he asked.
She grinned like a child who had just gotten away with stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. "Oh yes. Multiple times. In fact, I think it was just last night, after we had finished—"
"Okay, yes, I know, thank you," he interrupted quickly, a light blush forming over the bridge of his nose. He said nothing for several seconds, then muttered something under his breath.
Sierra's features sharpened. "What was that, Latkje? I didn't quite catch it." Her crimson eyes promised much bloodshed if he gave the wrong answer.
"Nothing," he said crisply, "I was just muttering about this old rag of mine." He fingered his scarf for emphasis. Her eyes narrowed. She knew he was lying, and he knew that she knew he was lying. I always did like to live dangerously.
"Yes, well, you'd better hope that was all." Sierra turned her attention back to the squat looking compound sitting before them.
A cricket chirped somewhere off the right. "So, why is it, exactly, that the government wants you to break in there, Mr. Special Bishop Envoy? I assume that Harmonia's trained attack dogs could've handled it themselves."
"Hey, hey, some of those 'Harmonian dogs' are friends of mine," he protested. Her cold gaze spoke volumes about how much she cared. He rolled his eyes. "Anyway, the military brass is—" Nash suddenly broke off and turned his head to face her directly. "Since when did you care?" he demanded.
She sighed with almost too much emphasis. "Are you going to tell me your little story, or not?"
They stared at each other for a good several seconds, almost in a silent contest of wills. Finally Nash sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "The higher ups have decided that they can't risk the SFDF for such a high risk situation."
Sierra looked quite self-satisfied, her cheeks dimpling. "I thought so. So your government doesn't want the SFDF blundering in there and stabbing things to death, then?"
His eyes closed, Nash massaged the bridge of his nose. "Not…exactly."
But Sierra would have none of it—as far as she was concerned, she was dead to rights and knew it. "That's exactly what it is! Breaking things seems to be the only thing the SFDF is good for."
"If you're quite done insulting my old outfit, I'd like to get back on topic." His voice was low, as he tried to keep the annoyance from bleeding into his voice.
Sierra paused, acting as if she was weighing a very heavy decision. Finally, "Oh, very well, if you must…"
"As I was saying, regardless of the SFDF's methods—"
"—or lack thereof," Sierra broke in.
There was a pause, then Nash resumed, "My superiors don't think that it is wise send in a full unit. The tip they got about this group is a bit…questionable, and, if at all possible, they'd like to avoid an incident which would make them completely hostile."
"Oh, now I understand," Sierra countered, her voice sounding quite bemused, "Harmonia doesn't know if these fellows actually are hostile, so they're going to send someone—you—in to find out. And they'd like for you do to it without notice—something any unit of the SFDF seems to be incapable of doing lately—so that these fellows aren't pushed into becoming hostile and belligerent. Does that sound about right?"
After a moment's consideration, Nash nodded. "Yeah, looks like you've got it now."
Sierra tapped her chin. "And so what has gotten Harmonia's skirts in a twist this time?"
Nash was about to answer but thought better of it, instead reaching into his traveling cloak. He rooted around in his pockets for a while, then finally withdrew a crumpled piece of paper. "Here. Read it for yourself."
Of all the reactions that Nash expected, laughter was not one of them—which was silly, Nash reflected, because Sierra seemed to think most things he was involved in were laughable. "Oh, you mortals are so silly sometimes! All this subterfuge and fuss because of a crumpled piece of paper?"
Nash scowled. "Hey, I don't make the policy decisions, I just carry out my orders from the Bishops."
"But Nash, dear, there's nothing credible at all about this little note."
Nash shook his head. "No, no, there is," he insisted. Even as he rallied to defend his mission, inwardly Nash knew that the argument was already lost. As vague and unreliable as always… At least this time there aren't supposed to be any true runes involved… Of course, the last time I got a mission about the true runes, I met…
Folding her arms, Sierra cocked her head to one side. "What? What could possible validate any part of this silly little note?" she queried.
In Nash's defense, he was able to meet her gaze. He wasn't able to do much else, unfortunately. "Uh… that is…"
This led, directly, to several more peals of laughter from Sierra. "Oh, this is almost too rich. Well, have fun on your little infiltration, then."
"Well, all right, maybe I will!" he retorted. He stuffed his spy glass back its proper pouch, then grabbed the crumpled tip and shoved it in another pocket.
"Yes, yes, do go have your fun. But just remember to be careful, for if anything were to happen to you, oh, I just don't know what I'd do," she gushed melodramatically. She held her wrist to her forehead, in mock swoon.
"Yeah, sure. Whatever," Nash replied glibly. He began to crawl forward to begin his mission.
Nash didn't make it very far, however. "...wait." Sierra's voice seemed to be filled with iron.
She caught the sleeve of his traveling cloak, holding him in place with a vise grip. Nash's head snapped back to look at her, a mixture of irritation and confusion running through him. Her crimson eyes were deadly serious. "Nash, if you got hurt, I don't know what I would do." Gone was the melodrama and mock swoon. Her hand slowly found its way to his cheek, almost bashfully.
There was silence, and Nash found himself nodding. "I know." They held that pose for several long seconds, then Nash patted her hand and dove forward into the underbrush once again.
Sierra remained, unmoving for several heart beats. She finally let out her breath in a long whoosh, covering her face with a hand. "Heavens, I sound like a love-sick school girl. How utterly pathetic."
She said the words without much conviction, for she had a sinking feeling she didn't really feel them—it was more like simply keeping form. Why is everything involving that boy so damnable complicated now…? The surrounding woods offered no answer (not that she was expecting any), so, using her vampiric powers, she faded into the night.
Nash managed to cover the ground between the ridge and the compound ahead at a much faster clip that he had previously managed. It wasn't due so much the warm feelings left over from the little façade dropping moment he had shared with Sierra as it was a prickly sensation of impending failure. Nash didn't know very much about the group who had holed themselves up in the former ranger station, but he did know they knew a thing or two about preparing a fortified position. Several yards from the low, squat walls, all underbrush around the complex had been burned away.
Executing an almost achingly perfect forward roll, Nash came to a stop next to the low wall. He was quite pleased with his hasty maneuvers (the next guard, by his reckoning, wasn't due past for another two minutes)…until he looked down at himself.
"Oh… dammit…!" he muttered in annoyance, making a few feeble attempts at dusting off the soot from his cloak and body suit. In the end, his efforts seemed to just be spreading the soot around rather than decreasing it by any appreciable amount. He gave up with a disgusted sigh, then hugged the wall and cautiously peeked over.
Nash would in the future, he realized at that moment, look back on this night and laugh and laugh at the comedy of errors it had turned into (this feeling would only become reinforced as the night ground on). Despite all of his careful observations, his plans had been mucked up by the unprofessional attitude of the guards. "You've got to be kidding me…" Nash muttered, as he vaguely felt a headache coming on.
Two of the three sentries were seated near the side entrance Nash had made plans to enter through. They seemed quite relaxed, passing a small flask back and forth and generally carrying on a cheerful conversation. Nash's initial panic faded after a few seconds, soon replaced with his natural composure, his mind already flittering through the implications and possible resolutions… Main avenue of entrance is now questionable, no idea where the third sentry could be, and very few other options for an entry…
Nash grunted. Though this definitely put a bit of a crimp in his plans, the one thing that could always be said about Nash was that he was prepared. He rooted around his many pockets, finally drawing out a rune scroll. Holding the small parchment upright between two fingers, Nash started to grin. "Nighty-night, boys."
There was a tiny flash of light, then a sweet smelling breeze flowed towards the errant guards. In short order, the two were fast asleep, and the scroll clenched in Nash's fingers began to dissolve. "Thank you, Mr. Wind of Sleep," he intoned solemnly, nodding to the last dusty remains of the scroll he brushed from his fingers. Nash scanned down both sides of the narrow path between the wall and the compound and, confident the third sentry was no where in sight, hopped over.
Landing with a soft thump, Nash dropped to a knee and scanned his surroundings once again, a hand on the knife at his hip. Taking several steps forward in a crouched position, Nash moved to inspect the now snoring guards. Hmm… No uniforms. He fingered the weapons the two men were wearing. These guys are packing some well made equipment… And well, well, well… most of it foreign. Several short scenarios ran through his head (dissidents, foreign spies?) but there was nary enough evidence to support any of them.
He glanced towards the side door. Well, one way to find out. He dusted his hands, then slowly stood. Behind him, he heard a quick burst of flapping of wings…leathery wings. He glanced back towards the noise (conveniently near the hanging moon). Her way of letting me know she's still around? His mouth quirked into a smile. She needn't worry, he thought cheerfully, reaching for the door, I'm in my element
After a few moments struggling with the lock, however, Nash was beginning to seriously doubt his element. Normally, Nash was a self-described "mad hurricane of action" when dealing with locks that needed picking. This one, however… The lock was rusted over and an old design that Nash was unfamiliar with to boot. Nash hadn't had such a level of trouble since his early days...
Suffice to say, none of this was helping his headache. With a grunt of aggravation, Nash pounded a fist into his thigh. Think, Nash, think. Is there any other way around this lock…? After a quick visual check of the surrounding area, nothing promising turned up. In sheer frustration, Nash smacked the door knob with the bottom of his fist. There was a quiet clicking, then the door swung inward. Nash, without comment and after a quick look to his left and right to see if anyone had seen him, crept in.
Reasonable men would have been humbled by that situation, or really any situation only resolved through sheer luck. Nash was not a "reasonable man" but rather more a "regular man." Obviously, Nash thought, fighting a grin, Luck is just one of my many skills.
His eye was caught by a mirror along the hall he traveled, at which he stopped and preened for several seconds. Damn, I'm good, and I look good doing it. His confidence restored, Nash carefully edged farther down the hall.
Passing two open doors (both leading to dirty looking bathroom facilities), Nash found himself at the end of the hall. He kneeled and peered carefully at the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. Light did leak from the crack, but not a great deal of it. Pressing his ear against the door, Nash held his breath and listened. Aside from his own heart beat, he heard nothing.
With a surprisingly gentle touch, Nash turned the handle, cracking the door open. The room beyond looked to be a sort of common dining room—three long tables and accompanying chairs arrayed in columns. The light was pouring in from a half open door on the far right of the rectangular room. A second door, a few meters away from the first on the same wall, was firmly closed. From what he could tell, a matching door on the opposite side of the room led to the barracks. Nash advanced.
He edged toward the open door on the right, risking a quick peek around the corner. Two older looking men sat on either side of a battered looking card table, the green felt on the surface stained and thread-bare from years of abuse. The main entrance to the squat compound, locked and chained up, could be seen a little beyond them. One of the men sat with his back to Nash, his face impossible to see. The other man was no one that Nash recognized.
His good mood deflated a little: the men were indeed playing cards. Well, he thought, clinging to some shred of solace, at least they aren't playing poker… Indeed, the men seemed to be engaged in a quite rowdy and involved game of "go fish." Nash wouldn't have been surprised to learn that they'd had a few drinks in them.
Nash backed away from the room, then slid along the wall towards the second door. Well, Sierra said that only two were awake, and everyone else was clustered fast asleep in the barracks… Feeling rather confident, Nash opened the second door and slipped in. Unbeknownst to him, as he stepped into the room, the door didn't quite latch behind him…
The room was a mess of paper work spread on several small desks, the only illumination provided by the moon hanging outside the window. On a desk butted right up against the window, Nash spied a faded looking map, detailing the topography of southern Harmonia, the eastern section of the Grasslands, and even a small section of the former Highland Kingdom. Several lines, seeming to designate potential army maneuvers, were chalked out in carefully added colored pencil, all slowly leading north, deeper into Harmonia proper.
What are you guys planning here…? Nash quickly started grabbing up several of the papers, scanning over them. Most were listings of active troops and resources, and a very few seemed to be drafts of orders for a march against Harmonia. Oh hell… I guess that tip was right. Nash glanced at the window, trying to gauge the time of night. I need to report this as soon as possible… He idly wondered if Dominguez was in earshot… I knew I was going to need him, but no, I had to listen to Sierra…
Something caught the corner of his eye—he turned his head to see the door defiantly open just seconds before someone barged through, a pair of sais at the ready. "Well, what do we have here? Somebody just wandering in from the cold…?" I can see the report now… "Master spy Nash Latkje undone by faulty carpentry." Just bloody perfect… He started to finish his turn, hoping to get some of his tools into play, but the man at the door tensed. "Ah, ah, ah—hands where I can see them, and no turning around." Nash, feeling completely idiotic, slowly lifted his two hands in the air.
The man advanced… which, ironically, was just what Nash was hoping for. Nash spun, slamming his forearm into the wrist of the armed man. Meeting the other sai with his belt knife, Nash swung a leg behind the armed man's and shoved. With a startled yelp, the man fell to the ground. Nash immediately rooted around for another Wind of Sleep scroll.
A cold dread began to settle in his stomach, however, even as he continued to frantically search the pockets of his traveling cloak. No! How could I be out? Sierra said she'd restock my—that was about as far as he got with the thought before the painfully obvious struck him. Sierra could be called a great many things. Reliable was not usually on that list… nor, for that matter, were patient or trustworthy... or caring, or tender, or...
With a weary sounding sigh, Nash cuffed the armed fellow with the butt of his knife. "Stay down, buddy," he advised quietly before diving out into the common area. The little scuffle in the side room had already alerted the other card player, and Nash could hear the man getting to his feet and shuffling towards the common area, calling out 'Ace?' in an altogether suspicious manner. Nash turned towards the side door he had entered through.
But luck was not on his side. As if his situation wasn't bad enough already, his escape route was suddenly cut off: the third sentry—a very dour looking man with an eye patch and a long mail coat—had apparently stumbled upon his two unconscious compatriots and decided something foul was afoot. Seeing the fleeing Nash, he quickly drew his blade.
Nash's mouth pressed into a thin line. With stealth and the element of surprise gone, Nash was decidedly out of his element. He jumped back, managing to dodge the sentry's first attack. With the determination that the only way out was through the fellow in front of him, Nash inverted his grip on his knife, and… the door behind the sentry exploded inward just as the other card player stormed into the room and turned up a nearby lantern.
There was a long pause.
The two stared at once another for what seemed like minutes, then, "What are you doing here?"
Sierra and the third sentry, his sword firmly locked with one of her throwing knives, exchanged confused looks. Sensing the tension in the room quickly ebbing away, the two slowly lowered their weapons.
"A paper work error?" Nash asked, seemingly for the thirteenth time. It had long since become mostly rhetorical.
"How do you think the tip got to the brass of the SFDF?" Wang replied, still wiping tears form his eyes. Suffice to say, once properly appraised of the situation, he had found the entire ordeal profoundly humorous. "Our application for our yearly inter-unit get together must have just gotten placed in the wrong inbox." He broke into a toothy grin. "That's bureaucracy for you."
"And the sentries?"
Wang shrugged. "Junior members of the unit—they always get stuck with guard duty. Well, mostly junior members." Wang's eyes flicked to the third sentry, leaning against the wall near the side entrance's hall. Wang refocused on Nash. "You didn't recognize any of them because most of them are so new." Wang nodded sagely. "Guard duty while on vacation is time-honored way of hazing."
Nash nodded towards the small room where he had first met Ace. "And the maps and paperwork?"
"Those were just a bunch of hypotheticals for the best way to use the SFDF to stop any attempted invasions of the homeland."
At this, Sierra broke into a mocking grin. "Oh, and just what was the final result of that little discussion?"
At this Wang looked uncomfortable. "Uh… Well, the plan, uh…"
Ace, tenderly touching the rather large knot on his forehead, snorted. "Oh, come on. No point beating around the bush, Joker." He turned to look at Nash and Sierra, sitting across one of the dining tables from him. "Harass incoming forces with guerilla tactics, withdraw to the mountains surrounding Caleria, focus on derailing supply lines headed towards the front," he said in a dry and clinical tone, sounding for all the world as if he was reciting from a ponderous textbook.
"Oh, and, uh, hope," he concluded, sounding quite unimpressed. He apparently understood the futility of such maneuvers.
In Sierra's defense, she didn't burst out laughing… immediately… Once her laughing had subsided, "Oh, that has to be the funniest thing I've heard in a while…"
Nash turned to Wang. "Joker?" he mouthed silently. Wang rolled his eyes and shrugged. Guess sometimes you've just got to let your old life go… A few memories flashed in his mind, mostly of Crystal Valley. A grimace flashed on his face, but only for a brief second. No one noticed…except Sierra.
Nash blew out a puft of air, stirring his hair. "I wonder how I'm going to explain this to my superiors…."
Wang walked over to him and clapped him on the shoulder. "Ah, no worries. Send in your report tomorrow, and I'll send in one, too. We'll get this all straightened out." He leaned against the table. "And tonight," he said, tapping the table with a finger for emphasis, "you can use the officer's lounge to rest in."
Nash fingered the edge of his scarf meditatively. "Tomorrow, eh? Well, I am pretty tired. I'll hand it to you guys, infiltrating this little compound of yours wasn't all that easy." He paused, then turned to Sierra, seated next to him. "And what do you think?"
She looked bored, her arms crossed. "You can do whatever you want. I'm going to bed." As if to reinforce the point, Sierra yawned, delicately covering her mouth with a free hand.
Nash clapped his hands in false enthusiasm. "Fantastic," he said dryly, "I guess we're decided then." Both Nash and Sierra stood, Wang motioning for them to follow him.
It was only about then that Ace realized that he had a downright beauty across from him. In his defense, he was contending with a bit too much booze and a very large knot on his forehead. He stuck his hand out. "Now, wait, wait here a minute—I don't think I caught your name, miss," he said, dropping (or at least trying very hard to drop) into a suave tone.
Sierra took one side-long look back at Ace before moving to follow Nash. "No, you didn't." Nash and Joker fought a losing battle to keep the grins off their faces; Ace slid his extended hand back through his hair, letting out a low whistle.
As they passed through the door headed for the so-called officer's lounge, Sierra exchanged looks with third sentry. She lingered for a heartbeat, pointedly staring at his right hand. His eyebrow arched; she merely smirked back in a knowing manner.
The next morning, both reports were sent back to SFDF headquarters by way of Dominguez. After a few friendly parting shots by both parties ("Way to break into your own government forces, Nash!" "Way to go down in one hit, Ace!"), Nash and Sierra left the compound behind, aiming to reach Caleria by late evening the following day.
Nash, however, was still a bit disgruntled. "I don't think I've ever had a mission quite like that one," he stated flatly, his boots crunching undergrowth.
"Oh, and here I thought you had fun like this all the time."
Nash threw his hands up in the air. "Ugh. Don't get me started on how many things went wrong last night." It was about then that he remembered his rune scroll shortage. "It was made more complicated than it needed to be because somebody forgot to replace all the Wind of Sleep scrolls from my last mission." He glared at her from the corner of his eye.
Sierra stuck her nose in the air. "You really should work on remember such things in the future, if they are so important to you." Nash hadn't expected Sierra to simply dismiss the complaint by pretending it had no grounding, but on some level he wasn't really surprised. Before he could fire off a retort, however, she continued. "Well, at least I was around to save your silly behind this time."
His eyes narrowed, the scrolls forgotten for a moment. "And here I thought you promised not to get involved."
"I made no such promise" she asserted indignantly. "I think that was just some of your wishful thinking again, boy."
"Boy, huh? I seem to recall being man enough for you a few nights ago."
"Oh, ho, ho, now we're trying to be risqué, are we?" She meant for the tone to be mocking, but there was a hint of amusement in her words despite her best efforts.
Nash began to smirk. "Is it working?"
Sierra carefully folded her arms. "Not by a long shot." She began to walk faster. Nash, grinning, hurried to catch up.
A/N: See if you can catch the anachronism in this chapter!