TRAITOR TO DUTY


Cocoon – a utopia in the sky.

Its inhabitants believed their world a paradise. Under the Sanctum's rule, Cocoon had long known peace and prosperity.

Mankind was blessed by its protectors, the benevolent fal'Cie, and believed that tranquil days would continue forever.

Their tranquility was shattered with the discovery of one hostile fal'Cie.

The moment that fal'Cie from Pulse – the feared and detested lowerworld – awoke from its slumber, peace on Cocoon came to an end.

Fal'Cie curse humans, turning them into magic-wielding servants.

They become l'Cie – chosen of the fal'Cie.

Those branded with the mark of a l'Cie carry the burden of either fulfilling their Focus or facing a fate harsher than death itself.

A prayer for redemption.

A wish to protect the world.

A promise to challenge destiny.

After thirteen days of fates intertwined, the battle begins.


"Hudson! Are you paying attention!"

I rolled my eyes, a gesture which my commanding officer couldn't see due to my helmet.

"Of course," I said. "We go in, Purge people, and then Purge the vestige."

My CO muttered something under his breath, and I grinned under my helmet.

"Alright, Hudson, you take your squad down to the Hanging Edge; there's been some trouble with the Purge deportees there."

I frowned. "Trouble?"

"The people aren't being very cooperative," he spat harshly.

I raised my eyebrows at his tone. "I don't blame them. If I was about to be relocated to Pulse, I'd fight back too."

Though I never would have said it to my CO, I felt sorry for the citizens of Bodhum. All of them Purged simply because they lived too close to something from Pulse. I understood the reason behind the Purge, but that didn't mean I was happy about it.

Sometimes my job really sucked.

I turned to face the seven PSICOM soldiers that stood at attention before me. My frown deepened as I noticed that the majority of them were fresh out of the academy. These rookies wouldn't last five seconds in the Hanging Edge. Not if the situation reports were accurate.

"Okay team, hustle up!" I barked at them. "Weapons check."

I watched in silence as my squad looked over their weapons. Of the seven before me, only two knew what they were doing. While those two quickly checked their ammo and safety switches, the other five simply looked over their rifles.

I shook my head at their abysmal display.

"Check that your safety's on," I said, flicking the switch on my own black and silver rifle. "Then make sure that your clip is secure." I ejected the clip, checked the bullets, tapped the clip once against the rifle – an idiosyncrasy of mine – then slid it back in.

I waited as they copied my demonstration.

"Okay, the jump's in two minutes. Make sure you've got your grav-con in hand." I withdrew the small device from my pouch as I spoke.

I heard a loud ding and looked up at the two lights above the hatch of the airship. One was green, and the other was yellow, illuminating brightly.

"Get ready."

My 8-man squad—including me—lined up in two lines facing the hatch. The tension was almost visible.

The man in front of me was trembling, his fist clenched around his grav-con unit.

I put a hand on his shoulder reassuringly. "Calm down."

Why couldn't they have given me a more experienced team?

A huge gust of wind rocked the inside of the craft as the hatch slowly opened. I braced myself, the wind buffeting around me.

Another loud ding and the green light lit up.

"Go!" I shouted above the wind.

One after another, my squad leaped out of the airship. One even screamed as he fell.

Finally, I was the last one left. I took a step forward when a hand on my shoulder stopped me.

"New orders, direct from the Sanctum."

My CO was standing behind me.

"What are the orders?"

"Sanctum says that all the deportees are now classified as targets. They want us to take them all out."

I blinked as what he said registered. "Take them out? What about the Purge?" I shouted.

He shook his head. "This one's from the top."

I thought about that for a minute. The Sanctum was only doing what was 'moral' by Purging everyone. Anybody who lived in proximity to the Pulse Fal'Cie that had been discovered in the Vestige was a threat. There was no telling how many of them could have been cursed already. The risk was too great, hence the Purge.

But now the Sanctum wanted everyone dead. Why? Did they think the deportation of so many people to be too much of a bother?

"What about the Vestige?" I asked roughly, clenching my teeth and balling my hands into fists.

"To be destroyed."

Destroyed. So the Pulse Fal'Cie dies alongside the innocent citizens. What was the Sanctum up to? Why go to all the

trouble of creating the Purge in the first place if slaughter was the objective?

"James?"

My thoughts were interrupted at the sound of my name.

When I glanced up, my CO stared at me intently, brow furrowed.

"Why?" I asked simply. The question wasn't directed only at him.

"Orders are orders, James," he replied gently.

"Orders," I muttered bitterly.

It didn't take me long to decide upon a course of action. I couldn't shoot innocent people. It wasn't their fault that a Pulse Fal'Cie had been discovered so close to them. Deportation to Pulse was already an extreme. No one deserved to be sent to that place, that Hell. Only death awaited them there.

Apparently, death was here as well.

There was nowhere for them to escape.

I nodded once at my CO, and he looked relieved at my seeming acceptance.

Then I jumped.

The air rushed past me, but my black and silver PSICOM uniform protected me from the harmful wind.

I could already see the rest of my squad waiting for me.

As I neared the ground, I pressed the button to activate my grav-con unit.

I somersaulted out of my nosedive and landed on the bridge in a crouch. It was as if I had just jumped in the air, and not out of an airship that was hovering forty miles above me.

Smiling, I slowly stood. I was sure my landing had been impressive. That ought to show the rookies how it's done.

Placing the grav-con unit back in the pouch at my waist, I looked around.

The Hanging Edge was a sprawling district of bridges and platforms, and it seemed that a fire fight dominated each one of them. In the center of the district was the Pulse Vestige.

"Okay, everyone switch to frequency 118.6," I told my squad once I had gotten their attention.

I paused as they adjusted their radio to the specified frequency. I didn't want anybody listening in.

"Can everybody hear me?"

Seven nods answered me.

"We've got new orders, direct from the top," I said, getting straight to the point. "The Sanctum wants us to kill everybody who was going to be Purged."

My team gasped.

"I'm a soldier, same as you. I've done some bad things, things that I'm not proud of, but orders are orders, and I obeyed," I said. "But this is mass-murder! This is crossing the line!"

I waited for someone to speak. When none did, I told them what I planned to do.

"So I'm going to try and get everyone to safety."

More silence.

"The Sanctum punishes traitors with death, and after this, that's exactly what I'll be, a traitor to PSICOM and the Sanctum, an enemy of Cocoon."

I paused to let my words sink in. Most of them were shaking their heads.

"If anyone else thinks that what the Sanctum is doing here isn't the right thing to do, feel free to join me." I paused before continuing. "If anyone wants to follow orders and murder Cocoon's people," my tone sounded dark and harsh, threatening, exactly as I had intended, "we part as enemies."

They shifted at my words. Of the seven that surrounded me, only two came to stand beside me; the rest backed away as if I were a crazy person.

"If we follow you, if we turn our backs on the Sanctum," one of them said, "we'll die."

A couple of them nodded.

I approached the soldier who spoke.

"So you would rather kill innocents, go against everything we stand for, than do what's right?" I asked.

He stepped back involuntarily at the menace in my words. "But – the Sanctum will Purge us too!" he said desperately.

I shook my head. "No, they'll probably kill us."

"But—"

"Everyone who agrees with this man here, raise your hand!" I ordered.

Four soldiers' hands rose slowly into the air.

I sighed, then raised my rifle and pointed it at the offender.

He gasped as he realized what was about to happen and quickly stepped backwards, stumbling in his haste.

I pulled the trigger.

Blood spurted from his uniform as he was sprayed with bullets, and I turned my weapon on the other four before his body hit the ground.

Within moments, five PSICOM soldiers lay dead.

I turned to face the remaining two members of my squad. They both stood there, still and statuesque, seemingly unperturbed by my display.

As I walked up to them, they fell into formation beside me, and slightly behind.

"Serves them right," one said.

I only nodded. I had killed before; it was nothing new to me. But this time was different. They hadn't been expecting it; I shot them in cold blood. A more reasonable part of me wrestled with the pessimistic voice inside my head. They did

deserve it. If I hadn't shot them, then they would have ended up killing more people to satisfy the Sanctum's orders.

"I know."

I pushed the voice to the back of my mind and concentrated on the matter at hand.

"Sit-rep," I said loudly, falling back into a tone more befitting of a PSICOM elite.

"Heavy resistance in all areas," the man to my left spoke. His voice was surprisingly deep. "It seems that NORA has

been recruiting."

NORA was the group of amateurs who fancied themselves heroes. I grimaced at the word. Taking out weak monsters with slingshots hardly classified as heroic.

"Where are they set up?" I asked.

He pointed at a platform near the vestige. "They've set up their base there, but they've got people all over the Hanging Edge. They're causing most of the trouble."

I nodded. "What else."

"Well..." He paused.

"What?" I asked forcibly.

"One of the Purge trains crashed."

"Any survivors?"

I waited for a response. When none came, I turned.

The soldier was shuffling his feet sheepishly.

"What?"

"Yeah, but that's not the problem."

"What is the problem?"

"Two civilians from the train have been working their way through the district."

"Civilians?"

"Reports say that one's a woman in her early twenties, and fights like a soldier. She's been cutting her way through waves of our guys."

I thought about this. She must be a soldier if she's managed to stay alive this long.

"We think she's headed to the vestige," he continued.

My brow furrowed. "She's not heading for safety?"

"No, sir."

I nodded again. "You said there were two of them?"

"The other's a male."

"Is he a soldier as well?"

The man shook his head.

That gave me two options. I could either aid the resistance fend off the PSICOM soldiers, or find out about this woman.

I had to admit, my interest was piqued, but the obvious choice would be to help NORA.

"Okay, we're heading for the resistance base," I said, reaching a decision.

The two beside me nodded, and fell into a jog behind me.

The three of us headed towards the end of the bridge, jumping down to another platform, and continuing on.

As we approached the end of the platform, we slowed, spotting five PSICOM soldiers standing at the edge.

They turned in unison as they heard our approach.

I grinned under my helmet. They were obviously green.

"Are you our backup?" one shouted at us.

I whispered into my earpiece, "On my go."

"No!" I yelled back, then quietly, "Go."

The result was instantaneous. All three of us pointed our rifles at the five soldiers and fired.

They were faster than I gave them credit for. Four of them dived behind cover as soon as we raised our weapons. The fifth wasn't so lucky.

The three of us crouched behind whatever cover we could find as the opposing four raised their rifles and blind-fired in our direction.

I waited for the sound of gunfire to cease before standing up and firing back. The enemies ducked down, but I managed to hit one before he cleared the line of fire.

The spray of blood that erupted from his helmet was oddly satisfying.

I crouched back down just in time to see one of my companions take several shots to the chest. He flew backwards with the force of the bullets.

I responded by firing back.

While swiftly ducking behind the crate, I heard the sound of bullets entering flesh.

Three down, two to go.

Beside me, my remaining cohort fired furiously, only to be riddled with bullets when he was too slow to return to cover.

It was time to get up close and personal.

Pushing a button on my rifle, I leaned back against the crate. I held the weapon out in front of me, holding each side. I watched as the weapon transformed in my hands, the parts separating and reforming so that I held what looked to be two blade hilts, one in each hand. Then the blades extended, one was jet black, the other was silver.

The entire process took less than a second.

I held the blades in my outstretched arms and prepared to spring.

The sound of gunfire ceased.

Launching myself over the crate, I closed the distance between myself and the two men in seconds.

I leaped over their cover, impaling my blade in one of the soldiers in mid-air, then turned towards the remaining soldier.

He lifted his gun, but he had no time to pull the trigger before my other blade—the silver one—decapitated him.

I rose out of my half-crouch and clicked the button on the hilt of my swords, sliding them together as I did so. The blades reverted back to their rifle form.

I eyed the weapon with a satisfied expression, briefly pausing to read the inscription on the side of the weapon.

Soldier's Edge.

It was a fitting name for such a deadly weapon.

The weapon had been a gift from my father. He was an armorer for the Sanctum. One of the best, before he succumbed to sickness two years ago. It was because of him that I joined PSICOM in the first place. I was 19 when I graduated from the academy, and now, four years later, I had reached the rank of PSICOM elite.

My father would have been proud.

Tightening my grip on the rifle, I continued onwards, jumping from the platform to the next bridge that would lead me to the resistance base.

I crossed several more bridges on the way to my destination, constantly hindered by the presence of PSICOM. But they

were no match for my combat skills.

As I crossed another platform, there was a loud explosion on the bridge across from my position. I turned to see the bridge split as it was hit by a missile from one of the PSICOM airships.

The center of the bridge collapsed, leaving it in two halves. One side seemed to split off from the other, and a section of that side collapsed, forming a ramp.

I watched in horror as civilians and soldiers alike plunged to their deaths.

A figure on the other side of the bridge caught my eye. It was a man in a tan trench coat, hanging desperately onto the end of the bridge. He held onto the hand of a woman, who dangled precariously beneath him.

Her hand was just barely starting to slip.

Then she fell.

My eyes grew wide as the woman plummeted to her doom.

I heard a scream permeate the air. On a platform overlooking the collapsed bridge were two people in white Purge cloaks. One had his hand outstretched towards the falling woman.

Then he was gone, pulled away by his companion.

On the collapsed bridge, the man in the trench coat pulled himself up.

Suddenly, I recognized him. He was Snow, the resistance leader. He had a reputation as a capable fighter and a determined personality. I remembered him from the files PSICOM had on NORA.

He was quickly joined by another man and, after exchanging words, they headed back along the bridge.

They must be heading back to base, I concluded. I needed to hurry.

Sprinting to the end of the bridge, I jumped to the adjoining platform, only to be greeted by the sight of a dark-skinned man with an afro and a green jacket.

But I paid no attention to him.

My eyes were completely focused on the woman beside him.

She had pink hair that flowed to one side in the soft breeze. Her white jacket was sleeveless and clung to her figure, accentuating her curves. A Guardian Corps rank plate was strapped to her left shoulder. Her blue eyes smouldered as they looked me up and down. In her hand was a menacing gunblade.

I raised my hands in surrender. This was obviously the woman my comrade spoke about.

"Don't shoot," I said calmly. "I'm on your side."

Her stance didn't relax.

The man next to her had his guns pointed at me, a puzzled expression on his face.

With agonizing slowness, I pulled my helmet off. "I'm here to help."

Her gunblade lowered ever so slightly at my words, but she continued to stare at me suspiciously.

"You're PSICOM," she said, confusion in her voice.

"Not anymore," I replied with a grin.

"What does that mean?" she asked, not in the mood for jokes.

"It means that I'm against this whole 'Purge' thing."

She continued to scrutinize me for another long moment.

"Listen" I said desperately, "I want to help." I tried to convey my sincerity with my voice and my eyes.

The man next to her spoke. "I think he's telling the truth. The fact that he hasn't attacked us yet-"

"Exactly – yet." She spoke in an undertone, still suspicious.

Then her eyes flickered over my shoulder.

I spun around to see a squad of PSICOM soldiers running towards us.

"There he is!" One shouted, pointing at me. "Take that traitor out!"

"Traitor, huh." The woman was suddenly standing at my side, her gunblade at the ready.

I felt a surge of relief at her words, and pressed the button on my rifle.

I let instinct take over as the soldiers raised their guns, and I sprinted forwards, barely noticing as the woman ran beside me.

Bullets whizzed past me as the the third member of our party fired at the soldiers. His aim was true, and two of them crumpled to the ground.

As we reached the soldiers, the woman veered off to the side, swinging her gunblade with swift, precise movements. Three fell victim to her ferocious attacks.

As the woman moved on, I carved a bloody path with my own blades. My strikes weren't as graceful as hers, but they yielded the same results, and the last three soldiers fell.

After a quick analysis of the scene surrounding her, the woman turned to me, her eyes cold.

Her companion hurried to stand beside her.

Again, her eyes looked me up and down.

"PSICOM obviously wants you dead," She said, a frown on her face. "Why?"

"I decided that the Purge wasn't in Cocoon's best interests." I told her.

After another searching look, she seemed to understand that I wasn't a threat. She retracted her gunblade and placed it in the sheath at her waist.

"Why aren't you leaving?" I asked her. The question had bothered me since I had first heard of her.

She just looked at me.

Apparently, she didn't want to share.

Suddenly, a colossal shadow passed over us, closely followed by several PSICOM airships pulling the Pulse Vestige beneath them.

She looked to me, then to the vestige, then she jumped, closely followed by her companion.

The movement took me by surprise. I stood there for a few seconds, stunned by her actions.

She had just leaped into the vestige when it was about to be destroyed!

Above me, a hoverbike roared towards the colossal Pulse monument. The man driving was easily recognizable, his tan trench coat flapping in the air as he flew around the alien structure. He didn't reappear on the other side.

What was in the vestige, apart from the Pulse Fal'Cie, that summoned them?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw another hoverbike approach the vestige. Two small figures, children, I realized with shock, were entering the vestige.

I switched over to the PSICOM frequency.

"Standby for my go, then blast it!" a commanding voice called.

That was all I needed to hear. I had about ten minutes to get into the vestige and find (and maybe rescue) the five people who were inside.

I didn't pause. I didn't hesitate. I just acted.

I sprinted forwards towards the side of the bridge, Soldier's Edge firmly in my grasp, and leaped onto the vestige.