Chapter XXIII: The Battle of Five Armies

Esthar Resistance Forces- North
2300 Hours, March 16 2 G.E.
Location: Forgotten Sanctum, Trabia Crater Area, Trabi

"You've been having dreams about us?" Laguna asked, while stirring the contents of a large cooking pot. "Well I don't know what to make of that really."

The Sanctum was deep within the Oubliette, although it didn't look very different. The monitors had been organized and were displaying what appeared to be security camera footage from various strategic locations around the sprawling capitol of Esthar, but other than that the place was fairly messy. A rudimentary dormitory had been made out of one of the larger chambers, and sleeping bags were piled in only slightly neat rows and columns. A fire was lit here or there, not much bigger than the one they currently sat around.

Laguna, Ward and Kiros sat on one side, and Selphie and Fabian the other. Between the five of them the circle was almost complete, albeit most of that was due to Ward's immense size.

"What I would like to know is how a bunch of SeeD's found their way into the Forgotten Oubliette," Laguna asked. "I thought only the Resistance knew about that."

Selphie recounted the story about the Battle of Trabia Canyon and how they'd uncovered the hidden door.

"Hmm," Laguna sighed. "That's troubling. Before too long we could have Galbadian soldiers breathing down our rear entrance. But it seems like they're mostly occupied with the battle in Esthar right now."

"What battle?" Fabian asked.

"Oh jeez, you haven't heard," Laguna chuckled. "Sorry to rattle on. Let me get you up to speed."

"Shouldn't we deal with those Esthar soldiers first?" Kiros asked. "If they've got scouts in this area…"

"Yeah, yeah Kiros. Send a detachment and report back in an hour. If you get in trouble-"

"Yes, I know, you won't be able to help anyways," Kiros grunted. He nodded to Selphie and Fabian. "Pardon us. We have to make sure we aren't about to be ambushed."

"Kiros is a good man. He believes it's better to be safe than uncertain," Laguna smirked.

"Better safe than sorry," Kiros corrected. "Honestly, have you forgotten how to speak altogether?"

Kiros left the room and Laguna returned to his explanation.

"From our intelligence - which is extensive as you can see – Galbadia Garden, Esthar, monsters summoned by the Lunar Cry and your Dark Garden are locked in combat as we speak. After we confirm that we're not being followed, we are going to leap right into the fray and attack the city from underneath," Laguna explained.

Ward made an odd hand gestured that looked like turning a manhole.

"Ward says we'll be using the subterranean passages which we've had mapped out for years. The only reason we never attacked before is because using those routes would lead them straight back to our hideout," Laguna advised.

"What kind of resistance will we be facing once we emerge?" Fabian asked.

"It is the Esthar Palace, and home to Sorceress Adel's most elite unite of guards. Most of them should be deployed into combat, but I'd still wager there's a massive security team protecting her with their lives," Laguna explained. "Once we get inside Esthar Palace, we won't know what to expect, so be prepared for anything."

"How many soldiers do we have?" Selphie asked.

"Including your squad? Roughly 200," Laguna sighed. "It's not an ideal army, but as a small strike team focused on one target, it's perfect. Thank goodness for the fortuitous circumstances of this three-pronged attack."

"So when do we move out?" Fabian asked.

Ward made a circular motion with his hand then pointed a finger straight up.

"Ward says midnight. All these big operations go down at midnight, just like in the movies," Laguna chuckled.

Ward rolled his eyes and made another hand gesture, which Selphie and Fabian didn't need to have translated.

Galbadian Forces- West
2300 Hours, March 16, 2 G.E.
Location: Skies over Esthar, Esthar Capitol Area, Esthar

Alarm bells were ringing all throughout the floating fortress of Galbadia Garden. Xu stood at attention in a hangar bay which was slowly opening. She stood at the front of a platoon of Galbadian Special Forces. Standing in front of her, pacing back and forth in front of the entire Battalion was Seifer.

"Esthar's forces are formidable. And they have the might of a Sorceress behind them," Seifer said. "This will not be an easy fight."

Seifer paused and chuckled to himself.

"Of course, that's the way I prefer it. You, on the other hand might not find it so comforting. Too bad, that's what we're here to do. Fight a battle. Without strife there can be no glory. That holds true today more than any other. You are soldiers of Galbadia, and the hand of the true Sorceress, Sorceress Edea. You will bring her wrath to any who oppose her!

"My… old friends," Seifer paused again and rubbed his chin. "They're providing us some assistance, rather unwittingly. They have forced Esthar's forces to divide into two fronts, giving us a significant advantage. We'll be over the target in just a moment! This will be an Aerial drop, so be sure not to lose your lunches."

The hangar door was now completely open. "Go now into glorious battle! Spill the blood of all who would dare oppose us!"

The tracks they were standing on lit up, and one by one they all began to glide towards the door with their jump-packs. Xu didn't care what Edea or Seifer said. She wasn't fighting for their glory. She was going to find Adel and kill her, and then kill herself. She would not be a puppet for any Sorceress.

Dark Garden Forces- East
2100 Hours, March 16 2 G.E.
Location: Esthar Outskirts, Esthar Capitol Area, Esthar

"We're running hot!" Cid shouted over the intercom. "Our hull is burnt, but she'll hold. Squall! Make sure your strike team is ready for the drop in five minutes! Secondary offensive team report to the main docking bay! Support staff, get into position!"

Squall, Quistis and Rinoa ran through the halls towards the main docking bay. There were three confiscated Galbadian motorcycles which they would be using.

Cole showed them how to utilize them.

"I wish I could come with you guys," Cole sighed. "But I'm useless in combat. This is your fight."

"You can do something useful," Squall said. "Take control of the rear 50-cal mounted gun. We're going to need all the cover fire we can get."

Cole smirked. "I'm liking you more and more every day man. Okay, I got your guys back!"

The company behind Squall strapped on their parachutes and readied their weapons.

"This is just like we've trained for guys," Squall said. "Don't open your chutes until the very last minute. The second you hit the ground, detach immediately and start firing!"

"We are two minutes from the insertion point! Squall you have the green light to prepare your drop! Offensive batteries, fire at will!"

The Garden began to shake as every single gun that the Garden had began to fire in unison.

"Secondary offensive team, fifteen minutes until your insertion point. Make sure you are ready to drop. Support team, commence operations!" Cid ordered.

The docking bay platform lowered slowly. Even though the Garden was flying relatively low they were still at least 15,000 feet up.

"These cycles will hover," Squall said. "Not fly. Deploy the rockets at the last possible second, just like the chutes."

"Squall and primary offensive team! Insertion in T-30 seconds!

"This is it everybody!" Quistis called. "This is why we became SeeDs. Let's show them what Balamb Garden's special forces can do!"

There was a rallying cry from the soldiers as they all moved into position.

"T-5….4…."

Squall revved his cycle and Rinoa and Quistis followed.

"3….2…."

"Here goes," Rinoa cried.

"1… Engage!"

Squall, Rinoa and Quistis hit the throttle on their bikes and launched over the edge of the platform. Before too long every soldier in the first team had jumped and were following right behind them. Bullets whizzed past them so close that even though they were freefalling, Squall could still feel the air displacement by the heavy 50 calibur rounds.

But Cole had their back. Their own 50-cal reigned fiery death from above, taking out two of the enemy battery towers in one quick burst.

"Good work, Cole!" Squall shouted over his radio.

But the descent was far from over. More battery towers engaged them. With the air ringing in his ears Squall could only hear the faint echoes of the screams of some of the men behind him who'd been hit. The ground was rushing up to meet him. They must be at 1,000 feet now.

"Okay everybody!" Quistis called over her radio. "Now!"

All the chutes opened almost at once, except for one soldier who's pack had been cut through with a bullet. Rinoa and Quistis engaged their hover engines, but Squall kept going, cutting a path across the air to try and save the soldier.

"Squall! You're too low! You have to engage your engine now!" Quistis ordered.

"I can reach him!" Squall shouted.

"500 feet! Squall your bike won't survive if you engage the engines any later!" Quistis shouted.

He was so close. Ten feet… five…

A bullet barrage cut through the soldier just before Squall got to him. He screamed and his body went limp.

"Damn it!" Squall shouted. He hit the thrusters, but at this point he was far too low. Even with the energy from his hover engine he still touched down with enough force to put a dent in the road. Squall fell over and clutched his stomach.

Quistis and Rinoa rushed up to him.

"Squall! Are you okay?!" Rinoa cried.

Squall tried to stand up. He wasn't too badly injured considering, but his legs shook violently and his head was ringing.

"My bike is destroyed," Squall cursed. "But I'm okay."

"We'll share one. Come on," Rinoa insisted.

"No, I'll continue on foot-"

"Squall!" Rinoa ordered. "Don't be stupid and listen to us for a change! Get on my bike right now!"

Squall was impressed. Rinoa might be bossy sometimes but she was very rarely decisive like this. He slowly stood up. "Okay have it your way. But I'm driving."

Rinoa smirked. "Yes, sir."

"Okay!" Squall ordered. "The secondary offensive team will be meeting us at the town center. Galbadian Forces are touching down as we speak on the west side of town, so we'll likely converge in the center. Our orders are NOT to engage the Galbadian Forces, but to take down the center of Sorceress Adel's power, the Esthar Palace. As for the monster hordes, only take down the ones that are in our way to the Palace!"

"Yes sir!" the company replied.

Squall turned back to look at Rinoa. "And you. Stay close to me, understood?"

Rinoa waved her hand. "I'm not completely incompetent, you know."

Timber Resistance Forces
2100 Hours, March 16 2 G.E.
Location: Timber Beaches, Timber Forest, Galbadia

Jenson had made it back to Timber much quicker than he expected and within a few hours, the rallying cry had gone around Timber and Dollet. The vessels from Dollet had already arrived and were being loaded with men and women from the resistance forces.

"Let's get a move on. The battle's already starting without us! We don't want to keep them waiting!" Jenson shouted.

Location: The Great Salt Lake, Esthar Outskirts, Esthar

"Look at that! The entire night sky is lit up with gunfire!" Zell exclaimed.

"Fantastic. And we're trying to break in with no army to back us up," Dent sighed.

"Quick your whining kid. You gotta learn to live a little," Raurk replied.

"Living is at the forefront of my mind right now. That's why I'm whining," Dent retorted.

"Sees like the Timber Resistance pulled through okay. They're loading up right now. Running those vessels at top speed they can be here in about three hours," Caraway said.

"So we just gotta wait?" Irvine asked, rubbing his head. "Sounds boring."

"You remind me of somebody," Zell sighed. "Waiting is a perfectly good idea right now. I'm with Dent."

"Just because we don't have an army doesn't mean we can't cause a ruckus," Caraway said. He pointed to a small grate he'd just opened. "Subterranean passages. I'd be willing to bet that, if this is a sewer system it leads right underneath Esthar."

"You're just gung-ho to go into an unwinnable situation huh?" Dent asked.

"I'm a military man. I see any opportunity I focus on that," Caraway replied.

"Yeah Dent," Raurk replied. "Shut up and get in the hole."

"I don't suppose I have any say in this, huh?" Nida asked.

"Sure you do. You can go first and tell us what it's like down there," Irvine smirked, patting Nida on the shoulder.