A/N: Wow, I actually typed this up. I started this over a year ago, despite my efforts not to (this was called 'the fic that does not exist' for a very long time), and finally decided to type this up and give it a go a week or so ago.
Just a couple of things before we start. Firstly, this is my attempt to do something grittier than my usual stuff, so if you like my lighter and fluffier stuff, this might not be for you. While Squall and his gang are more organised than the average group, they are still a street gang. This is not a fic about the organised and structured lives of gangsters/mafia, this is about the more chaotic lives of street gangs. Which means the characters will be involved and doing some rather unpleasant things (though the fic is very much still in the WIP stage). Well, that's the plan anyway. In hope it doesn't just turn into a laughable Disney-fied version. So, the rating is to be on the safe side.
Secondly, I'm really shit at accents and such. I've tried to give the right feel to the gangs without it descending into incomprehensible grammar and slang. So if a gang member says something that isn't grammatically correct, it's probably on purpose. I do apologise if they still all sound very middle class though.
Their Law- Chapter 1
Esthar was once a great country – strong, beautiful and, above all, rich. Then the war came. It was between the three most powerful nations in the world, Esthar, Galbadia and Centra, each determined to destroy the other. It lasted for twenty-five years and there was no winner, but not in the 'war has no winners' sense. Twenty-five years of warfare and natural disasters had crippled two countries and destroyed the third. The remaining enemies called a truce and retreated to lick their wounds. Eighty-seven years later and Esthar was still paying.
The government was as ruined as its country. Unable to deal with its people, the 'old money' rose up and took power. They were families that still had vast wealth after the war, many profiting from it. Families like the Zabacs, the Kramers and the Liores. They formed the council and set about rebuilding the city, restoring it to its former glory. They started to return democracy to the people and investing time and money into science and technology. The inner city rose from the ashes of the past, stronger and more wondrous than before, while the outer city was left to rot and decay into slums.
The slums had no wealth and, when ignored by the council, started to crumble. In time, the gangs started appear. The neighbourhood watches, the organised crime groups and the common street gangs emerged, took control, claiming their territory and defending it to the death, but from the chaos came a strange stability and the city stopped crumbling. The mafia, and the more successful neighbourhood watches, returned some wealth to their territory and from this the suburbs were born. The slums couldn't repair their city, but they could hold off its demise, like a paused video before the tragedy. They could live, a life trapped in poverty, but it was living.
The gangs had power while the police had little, corrupt and scared of the gangs. They wanted little to do with gang warfare and only few had the courage to pursue true justice. In the slums it wasn't the police who had power, it was the gangs who ran the city and this was their law.
In the southern slums lay a night club called The Fire Cavern. A tacky name for a tacky club, but more importantly it was a gang club. An establishment adopted by a gang as 'theirs', which was a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides: the gang had a place to use as their own, while the owner got increased business from the elevated position, and more business was always welcome. This club was used by the Sewer Rats, and in Squall's opinion, the name couldn't suit them better.
The young man, not yet twenty, leaned against the bar. The drink in his hands was there more to keep them occupied than a desire to drink the intoxicating liquid, not when he needed a clear head. The music burst loudly from the speakers, generic trash with too much beat and little else. His eyes flickered round the room and caught sight of his friend in the crowd, talking (well, shouting) to some pretty girl. Squall's eyes returned to his drink and he took a small sip, wondering what was taking Quistis so long.
Squall looked up at the voice. A girl who looked too young to be in a club stood before him, her eyes sparkling in a manner that indicated that she'd had more than a few drinks. She smiled broadly and held out her hand in a demanding manner.
"Dance with me."
She failed to spark the slightest bit of interest in him. He looked back down at his drink.
"I don't dance."
"You don' dance?" Amusement joined the slight slur in her voice now. "Who go ta a club but don' dance?"
She leaned forward to try and peer at him more clearly, but she staggered drunkenly instead. To her credit, she recovered her balance quickly enough and placed her hands on her hips instead. It was supposed to be smooth gesture, as if that had always been her intent, and he supposed she thought it looked authoritative, but instead it came off as extremely childish. She was definitely under age. He didn't dignify her with an answer, but that didn't stop her talking.
"Ya know, a girl migh' think that you don' like her. So, wanna dance?"
Squall paused, feeling his phone vibrate in his pocket. He didn't bother looking up at her as he replied.
She huffed, her face turning into an ugly scowl. She tossed her vivid red hair over her shoulder and marched – 'stumbled' was probably a more accurate term – back into the heaving mass of dancers. He didn't spare her a glance as he reached for his phone. Seeing Quistis' name light up on the screen, he opened the message.
Are you ready?
A second later the screen flashed again, this time Irvine's name appeared.
He slid the phone shut and slipped it back into his pocket. Setting his glass down on the bar, he shrugged out of the long coat he had 'borrowed' for the evening. As it fell to the ground with a soft thud, he reached for one of the guns resting by his thigh. He raised it up and fired into the ceiling once.
As soon as the gunshot cut through the air, panicked screams mixed with the music as dancers scrambled towards the exit, desperate to be out of the crossfire as quickly as they could. They had a minute or two to escape before the conflict kicked off and they were caught in the middle. It wasn't long, but then that was the risk you took in coming to a gang club – that gang warfare would decide to make its way home.
In that minute he'd reached for a second gun against his leg, a cheap and standard weapon he'd stolen. They were nowhere near the quality of his own customised guns that he carried on him, the twin machine pistols resting by his hips and the pair of guns secured in the shoulder holsters, but they would do the job and could be thrown away in the heat of the moment.
His eyes scanned the dance floor for his first victim, only to find several teens sprinting over. The closest came at him, an ugly bastard if he ever laid eyes on one. Behind him a couple, a male and a female, took aim with their guns. Squall dropped and kicked a stool into the approaching man. The repulsive opponent flew over the seat and crashed to the ground. One well placed bullet to the head later and he was dead. No sooner had the bullet left his gun then Squall was on the move again. He took shelter behind a pillar, bullets chasing him all the while.
He looked up at the mirrored wall in front of him, a rather pathetic attempt to make the place look 'classy'. It was now smashed and cracked, but through what remained he could see the man drop, and then the woman. Good old Irvine. He smiled grimly, the 'music' still blaring out of the speakers. How long would it take for Quistis to cut that that damn crap?
He didn't have long to dwell on his thoughts. Behind the bar a door was jerked open, while there was movement on the other side of the club. He let off a shot in that direction and someone fell to the ground. He didn't bother checking to see if it was a gang member or not, he was busying making his way to the door that had opened. He trusted Irvine to take care of anyone else, to cover his back.
The first man dashed through the gap between the bar and the wall, and Squall levelled the right gun at the man's face and let off a shot between the eyes. As the man hit the floor another gang member leapt over his fallen comrade, hair dyed bright red, with his hands out to grab his opponent. Too close to use his gun, Squall quickly stepped to the side and was forced to take another step back when a girl came at him with a knife. As she lunged again, he ducked and rammed his shoulder into her stomach, winding her. He shrugged her off as he stood and another of his bullets found a deadly target. He turned back to the red haired man to see him standing, flanked by two others, in front of the bar. He was lucky, only two of them had a gun while other had what could only be called a butcher's knife. He was young, probably still had to earn his stripes and become a full member of the gang.
For a moment they were still. Squall could feel the music's beat through his body as if it pumped his heart and drove the adrenaline round his body. He was calm, his mind clear, with the familiar mix of excitement and nerves lining his gut. Then the moment was gone and he acted.
Aiming both guns he fired, one found its victim, but not its mark. The victim, a young boy with dark hair, clutched his arm where the bullet had entered, dropping his knife. The redhead gun wielder ducked away from his intended killer, firing his own gun clumsily. Idiot, having a gun was hardly any better than not having one if you couldn't use it properly. The bullets were easy for Squall to dodge and the music dulled slightly as one bullet found its way into a speaker. The second Sewer Rat with a gun, a dark skinned girl, ducked out of the way.
There was no time to feel relief though as the red gun wielder came at him. Squall fired his left gun at the man again, but for the all the other man's clumsy firing he was damn quick. He waited for his opponent to come straight at him and then he lifted his right gun to level it at the red head. The Sewer Rat halted, wide eyed as he stared down the barrel of Squall's gun. The brunet pulled the trigger. Nothing. Squall pulled the trigger again and still nothing. He growled in annoyance; the cheap piece of crap just had to jam on him now. The other man's face split into a grin as he realised what was happening, but it didn't last long. Squall swung the useless weapon at his opponent's head, hitting him hard on the temple. The victim fell heavily and Squall didn't have time to spare a bullet for him. The other two members of the small group had disappeared from his sight and he didn't know where to.
There was a sudden crunching of glass and a gun was fired. Squall stepped back, feeling the air stir as the bullet just missed him, but he did catch sight of his two missing opponents. The young boy searched his fallen comrade's bodies for a gun to use, his shot arm dangling by his side. His friend fired again, causing Squall to duck.
The hand that held Squall's jammed gun shot up to the injured boy, but he let go of the gun and it flew across the room to its target. He fired the final bullet in his other gun, hitting the woman at last and he dropped the empty weapon. His hands went to the twin machine pistols at his waist, drawing them before the empty gun hit the ground. Turning, he saw the boy nearly upon him. Apparently the gun he'd thrown had missed its target. He swung his leg up into a roundhouse kick, catching the kid heavily on the side of his head. Twisting his right arm up, he let off a very shot burst of bullets into his opponent's abdomen.
The boy fell to the floor, clutching his belly, whimpering as his life slipped away with his blood. As the red pooled on the ground Squall held down the trigger for a second again, this time in the kid's head. It was better just to put the kid out of his misery.
Suddenly the music finally died, better late than never he guessed. He shifted the guns, the 'Twin Punishment' in his hands and looked round for another attacker, but the room was vacant of any more live 'rats'. Light filled the room, giving him a clear view for the first time that night. To his right someone gave a low whistle. Looking round he saw Zell, hands in pockets, looking around them.
"We sure made a mess, didn't we?"
He wasn't lying, though from the looks of this Zell hadn't been completely innocent of this crime. He must have taken care of the guys that Irvine had missed. Speaking of the gunslinger …
Irvine looked down at them, leaning against the railing of the mezzanine level. The grin was casual, as if he hadn't noticed he was in the middle of a destroyed, blood spattered, corpse scattered club. He waved his gun in a mock salute.
"All clear in here," he called down. "What now?"
Quistis appeared on the walkway above and behind Squall, who turned just enough to look up at her.
"I have it," she held up a card for them to see, a pistol in the other hand. "The door's in the office."
"There more Rats in there?" he asked, making his way over to the stairs.
"Zell, watch out down here."
"What about the guns you chucked?" Irvine asked, eyeing the abandoned firearms from across the room.
"Leave them," Squall grunted, passing him as he made his way to Quistis' side.
Irvine sighed before following his leader. "Hate to see good hardware wasted."
"They were crap." Squall gave in the way of a consolation.
"That's why you strip 'em down and fix 'em up," the older man said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Seeing the look on Squall's face, he decided not to press the matter.
The dull clunk of footsteps echoed round the hall as they walked to the other side of the room, where Quistis waited by a couple of doors. As they drew close she swiped the card and punched in a code. The closet door bleeped, followed by the definite click of a lock opening. Squall swung the door open, guns at the ready, but the room was empty. Stepping inside his eyes swept it, his guns following.
"Empty?" It was Quistis, but she didn't wait for a reply before stepping over the threshold. "Looks like the Big Rat isn't home."
"Or he's 'round back."
"Talking about Rats, how'd they get all this tech?" asked Irvine, stepping into the office. Not that it looked like it had ever been used for that purpose. There was a desk, but not a paper was in sight. "Bit much for a shitty gang." He jerked a thumb at a stained sofa in the corner, as if this proved his point. "Six months ago this place barely had a speaker, and now all this."
"A reward for hiding their client and his prize," Squall replied.
"Ya guy tell you that?" Squall nodded. "You'd think they'd do something about this room if they had so much money."
"They have a room with a bed in it through here," Quistis replied, swiping her card and typing in a code again.
Irvine tipped his hat back, an eyebrow raised. "How'd you know that?"
There was another beep and click. She held up the card as if that explained everything. Catching on, Irvine chuckled. "What happened to the owner?"
"He died a very disappointed man before he could make it to the bed." She swung the door open onto an empty corridor, with three doors along it leading into other rooms. "It's the one on the end, on the right."
The trio made their way down the corridor, glancing into the rooms they passed. One was filled with bottles of alcohol and various other supplies; a man was slumped against one wall in a drunken slumber. The other room contained a tacky bedroom; the Rats really had awful taste. It didn't look particularly clean, either. The third room was locked, but not for long as Quistis' trusty stolen card appeared again to work its magic.
The room's two occupants turned around with startled expressions as Squall kicked the door open. He held down the triggers of his guns in short bursts, easily disposing of them. He stepped forward, ready to fire again, but his two friends passed him by and their guns remained silent. He stepped towards the closest corpse, stowing away his guns. He looked down at the face and his eyes widened, biting back a tirade of curses. Son of a bitch. He had not been told about this.
He ignored Irvine, his mind working quickly to try and find a way out of this hellish mess.
"Squall, mate, you'll wanna see this."
Squall looked up irritably, but his ire disappeared as he saw what had caught his friend's attention. Against the far wall was the girl whom they were looking for, but she was far from what they were expecting.
She was slumped against a wall, a lifeless doll, her hands spread apart and above her head. Like she was a princess from a fairytale, held captive in a dungeon, but there was one major difference: it wasn't chains that held her in place, but wires. The area was a tangle of multicoloured wires, trailing from the computers around her and piercing through her skin at various points. At some of these entry ports a small circle of metal could be seen. She was naked apart from a pair of briefs, a rather bizarre consideration in Squall's opinion. That and the way her hair covered her breasts were the only things that protected her dignity. Her head was titled to the side, her expression blank, beyond the looks of the vapid girls that he'd known. It was as if she had been … switched off. The way her eyes were half closed and dead seemed to reinforce this. She didn't stir as he came to stand by Irvine's side.
This was not going as planned.
Curious to see what all the fuss was about Quistis abandoned her post by the door to join them. A soft gasp left her lips.
"An android. I didn't know they could be so realistic."
It was a small detail that their informant had left out.
"Irvine, there's a room back there that's full of alcohol. Bring some strong spirits, and lots of it. I want to burn this room down when we leave."
"Gotcha." And he was gone.
Squall turned to Quistis standing behind him. "How do we unplug her?"
She shook her head. "This is way beyond me. I can deal with computers, but androids are completely different."
"You know better than any of us. Can we just take the wires out?"
"I don't think so, we might hurt … er, damage her."
"Then how do we get her out?"
"I'm sorry Squall, I don't know. This is nothing like computers."
Squall fought away the frustration rising inside him. He doubted they had much time, and now all he wanted was to get out of here as quickly as possible. He reached out to touch the android girl's face. He wasn't sure why, maybe in the hope that it would lead to some divine inspiration. His gloved hand brushed her skin –
– and her head shot up. Squall snatched his hand back at the sudden movement as though it had been burned. The android looked straight ahead, her gaze remaining disturbingly blank, and when she spoke her voice equally empty – no, that wasn't quite right. There was something else, a mechanical quality, both in the sound of her voice and the manner in which she spoke.
"Project Seven Eighty-Six: Cy dash RH dash zero three zero three six eight. Do you wish to continue?"
Squall looked to Quistis who was trying not to look lost.
"Maybe," she started, "We can ask her how to get the wires out."
The Android's face turned towards her. "You wish to disconnect?"
Quistis paused briefly. "Yeah."
"Affirmative. Do you wish to pacify the cyborg interface-persona?"
This time the blonde looked openly blank. "I think she's asking if we want to shut her down."
"Negative. Cy dash RH dash zero three zero three six eight does not shut down."
There was the sound of footfalls and Squall looked back, taking one of the weapons in his shoulder harness, rather than one of the machine pistols. Zell burst into the room.
"Squall – whoa!" He caught sight of the strange girl. "Whoa! Naked girl. Naked girl with wires and … whoa."
"Zell, what do you what?" Squall snapped.
The boy's eyes didn't leave the girl as he spoke. "Pigs'll be here soon; can hear 'em coming. What's goin' on?"
Shit. This was enough trouble as it was, he didn't fancy making things more difficult by including the police. This was too big for them to weasel out of if they were caught red handed; even the police knew when something was too good to be bribed and twisted out of. Even if they did get out of it, it was likely the military would become involved, and then they were screwed. This could become very awkward, very quickly.
"Here." The wannabe cowboy appeared in the doorway.
Squall took out the bullet clip of his gun removing two bullets before replacing the rest. He moved and crouched down by the two bodies, placing a bullet in each mouth. Hopefully when the fire reached their mouths the bullets would go off and destroy the teeth, making it impossible to easily identify them. Well, he hoped it would work, anyway; he'd never needed to test out the theory. Normally it was simple, shoot and run. Then if the police did come knocking, they played smugly dumb.
Quistis ignored them as she continued to try and make sense of the girl. "I don't understand."
"Do you wish for the ghost to regain control?"
Squall stepped away from the corpses and turned to see the wires snap back into place as they were released from their ports. Fascinated he stepped to Quistis' side. The girl blinked several times, rolling her head forwards. Then her eyes slid shut and plunged forward, straight into Squall's arms.
"Irvine," he called back. "I need your coat."
"I need your coat."
"You have a long coat, she has no clothes," he bit back the patronising tone that threatened to crept into his voice.
"Ain't a problem with that."
"Just give me the fucking coat," Squall spat, his patience running thin.
"I like this coat," Irvine grumbled, as he shrugged out of his duster and handed it to his friend.
Squall took the garment and threw it around the girl, swamping the smaller frame. He pulled it closed as he continued talking to Irvine.
"Did you find something to burn them with?"
"How 'bout this?"
Squall glanced back to see a grinning Irvine holding up a can of …
"Ain't the strangest thing I found."
After everything that had happened tonight, he couldn't find it in himself to be surprised. He stood, picking up the girl.
"Quistis and Zell, can you deal with that and get out?"
"'Course boss," Zell called cheerily. "No problem."
"See you back at the warehouse then. Irvine, call Selphie and tell her to meet us round back."
Squall quickly left the room carrying the girl, leaving Zell and Quistis to finish their job while Irvine followed him, flicking the phone open and speed dialing his girlfriend. After they got out of this, he was going to have a very long talk with his 'friend' about leaving out certain important information.
A/N: Woot. There you go, chapter one. This feels like a new area that I'm branching into, so I would love everyone's feedback, especially on the fight scene. I'm still very much working on writing fights and so I'd love some constructive criticism. Hope I wasn't dull or confusing.