Disclaimer: I don't own Parasite Eve nor any of the Final Fantasy games and their associated characters/locations. I do own a pack of cookies, which I'm happily munching on at the moment.
Enjoy, y'all ^_^/
"Your reputation is overrated." The masked figure deadpanned when the man known as Squall Leonhart entered the large room, his stare remaining trained and hard even as the mechanical doors hissed closed behind him with an audible click.
The decorated Commander of SeeD threw a cold scan across the almost empty warehouse only to stop at a large screen at the corner. Behind the mask, the obviously female figure smirked.
"She's alive." She tilted her head towards the screen, blonde hair swaying gently with the sudden movement, and watched the brunet before her with lazy eyes that betrayed the way her hands casually but cautiously lowered to the twin handguns strapped behind her black bodysuit. "Though I won't be able to say the same thing about you."
Sparing one last look at the bound strawberry blonde in the monitor, Squall's gaze refocused back on the captor in front of him, his Revolver appearing in a shimmer of light. "I agree. Your talking is killing me."
A loud bang sounded as the brunet shot towards her like a blue bullet.
Not expecting the man to suddenly charge, the woman nevertheless managed to narrowly sidestep around the man, her guns already drawn and pointed at the back of the man's head. Red orbs suddenly formed around the SeeD Commander and she bit back a curse, crossing her arms in front of her head as she jumped back just as those angry spheres detonated.
Inside the dust cloud, Squall quickly spun around and was about to press on his advantage when the stance of the dark silhouette registered and he quickly drew his gunblade protectively and quickly ran to the sides, narrowly escaping the hail of gunfire that tore through the smoke he had kicked up.
"Fine. You're better than expected." The blonde woman taunted, rhythmically pulling against the triggers in her grasp. "But I've studied you, Leonhart."
Coming up quickly against a wall, Squall never paused as he ran up the side before kicking off, twisting himself in mid-air with his blade held behind him. His eyes suddenly widened when he spotted the woman pull out a second hand gun, her arm aimed at him and he quickly leaned backwards to dodge the twin bullets she had fired.
"Hng." He grunted breathlessly from his abrupt landing. There was a sudden belligerent presence beside him and he swung one arm to bat away both guns trained on him and took the diagonal kick to his now unguarded chest that sent him flying backwards with nary a grunt.
Coming out of her spin, the figure tried to give chase only for the ground beneath her to detonate, sending her crashing in the opposite direction.
Pushing the pain in her legs to the back of her mind, the blonde woman was now forced to run as she was attacked by a flurry of magick as the tall brunet slowly advanced towards her.
"You're not the only one who studied their opponent." He spoke evenly. "I know you, Agent Aya Brea."
"This is your assignment."
A man with kindly features briefed her, showing her a clipboard with a picture of a brunet with cold blue eyes and a scar running down from his forehead to his cheek. The handsome man was dressed in the infamous attire that marked those that called themselves SeeDs.
Briefly skimming through his description, she realized that she had in her grasp the picture of the Commander of SeeD and acting Headmaster of Balamb Garden.
Officially, the mobile fortress was but one of many- and one of the original three- military academies that trained aspiring soldiers and patriots in the art of warfare, while taking Sorceresses needing protection or guidance under their roof.
In reality, they were a ragtag group of rabid dogs that did as the gold dictated; soldiers of fortune that killed indiscriminately for while carrying the name of Balamb, they were loyal only to themselves. They were nothing more than weapon-wielding bullies that actually have the skill and knowledge to strong-arm their way and flaunt their superiority.
They were terrorists and kidnappers, and Aya Brea never really did understand why other nations allowed the wandering group into their lands and waters, for their arrival always heralded death.
"Balamb Garden is scheduled to make port here in a week's time, and have been granted permission to stay for three days. We do not know what their objective for staying is, though I don't think I need to tell you what we all think, especially with the peace talks that will be taking place when they arrive." Her superior continued with a slight trace of humor, drawing up a picture of the mobile academy on screen. "Nevertheless, even with your abilities, it is too risky to infiltrate their stronghold singlehandedly, and a large group of soldiers might be seen as a declaration of war. Not to mention it will be difficult to mobilize a task force as most of our security will be gathered at the designated area for the talks." The screen flashed again and she was given a larger picture of her target and her mission details on the side. "Your assignment is simple. Eliminate Squall Leonhart by whatever means necessary... though I'd rather you don't involve any civilians."
A displeased frown marred her face at the revelation.
"Sir, isn't that too extreme?"
Maybe keeping a close watch, sure, but to outright kill?
"I too find this course of action a bit excessive." Again, the screen flickered but this time it brought up a spreadsheet of pictures marked with red crosses. "Though none of these deaths have been officially proven to be SeeD's doing, you and I both know the truth of the matter. This is the sole reason our black ops division was made, Major Brea, why our Counter Terrorist Investigation was conceived; to take care of threats to our government before they can take action. And much as I don't like nipping the bud before it blossoms, this man's record speaks for himself. We can't take a chance and let him roam freely. That is what the higher ups have decided."
So many people murdered.
And these were all linked to one nineteen year old man?
Her eyes trailed over to the picture once more and spotted a flash of pink at the corner that the man's gazed remained transfixed with.
With a sigh, she steeled herself before giving her superior, the aged Agent Hyde Bohr, a professional salute.
Though Squall couldn't see it behind the blonde's mask, he could feel her glare when she suddenly spun around with her handguns drawn once more and rapidly shot his magick-fueled fusillade down.
Unfazed, the SeeD sped up to a small jog, keen eyes calculating the woman's movements. She was highly trained and highly skilled, that much he could admit, and he was reminded of his experiences in World B- of fighting alongside President Loire at his prime and the surgical precision of Lightning's destructive swordplay, except that this woman was displaying that irksome agility Tifa had. And despite not having Prishe's level of strength, his assailant's kicks weren't anything to scoff about either.
In short, he was screwed if he didn't play his cards right…
…but fortunately, he wasn't the Commander of SeeD for nothing.
Quickly changing his tactic, Squall unleashed his familiar row of mystic flurries. Reacting quickly, the masked blonde woman's eyes honed into each projectile, intercepting each one with her lead bullets.
"Juvenile tactic!" Aya shouted, unloading her cartridge into the smoke formed by the explosion before letting out a startled cry. "Agh-!"
Instead of using the smokescreen to mask his rush like she anticipated, the man had instead drawn her in with a row of electricity. Aya cursed her country's poor knowledge and experience in dealing with all things magick, making her unprepared for such an assault.
Nevertheless, she was much sturdier than the average elite and she gritted her teeth.
Amidst the pain and stench of ozone that made her nose sting, she quickly raised her guns and open fired- she couldn't miss in this range-
"Thundaga." He muttered gruffly with another wave of his hand.
-and was instead flung backwards once more when a net of electric bolts erupted between the two warriors- That's-!
She knew that move!
The CTI agent barely had time to think when the man shot towards her like an angry red spear.
"This is the end!"
The blonde woman stretched her arms above her head and let out a blissful sigh, feeling satisfied that her investigation yielded fruit.
Lightning Farron was the name of the strawberry blonde woman in the photograph of her target. A Brigadier General hailing from Gran Pulse, her rank meant nothing to the blonde counter terrorist agent. Her history, however, proved to be very interesting indeed, though what was most relevant to her was that this woman was, according to rumor, an intimately close confidant of the brunet SeeD Commander.
Whether that rumor held any water remained to be ascertained, but it was clear that there was something between those two soldiers that she could exploit, given the numerous reports she had skimmed through.
After all, confident as she was of her abilities, she wasn't about to travel all the way to Galbadia just to capture a known Sorceress, nor was she about to attempt to subdue the rest of her target's cohorts just to lure the SeeD Commander out of his stronghold.
That, and Brigadier General Farron was accompanying Commander Leonhart during Balamb Garden's visit. Official documents stated that she was there to assist the immigrants from Gran Pulse as well as stand watch of her country's dignitaries that were there to participate in the peace talks.
Saving the file she unearthed into her flash drive, the blonde woman put on her white jacket with a flourish and confidently walked out the door with a smirk on her face.
She already had a game-plan.
SeeD Commander or not, elite or not, it didn't matter.
Squall Leonhart was only human, after all.
Just as Squall was about to drive his revolver through the masked blonde, the violent red aura surrounding him abruptly dissipated into nothingness, forcing the brunet to quickly swerve to the side to avoid the new hail of gunfire Aya had unloaded.
"Not so tough now, are you?" She taunted cockily as Squall ran for cover much more sluggishly than previously. "Come on!"
Squall grit his teeth, feeling the weight of his gunblade suddenly pull on his arm. Already, his mind understood what the blonde CTI agent did.
"Since when did CTI develop an anti-magick field?" He growled out, swiping at a bullet that was veering too close. His eyes blazed with cold fury at the turn of events.
Aya frowned at the man that continued to resist being punctured with holes. It was her turn to take off into a sprint, easily catching up and running parallel with him. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
A flash of steel made her duck and the sound of gunpowder igniting forced her to roll forward. The tip of his blade managed to graze the side of her black bodice. Realizing what was about to happen, she quickly pushed off from the ground into a leap, dodging the staccato of thrusts the SeeD sent with each pull of his trigger.
Knowing that he could not outlast the blonde CTI agent now that she had disabled his Junction Magick, he moved to deliver a decisive blow, blade poised to cleave her head off and swung, only for the woman to disappear in a blur of red.
His eyes widened in alarm when the first bullet penetrated his shoulder.
She drew the collar of her white winter jacket higher to cover her neck, her blonde locks swaying when the CTI agent shivered slightly as she stood outside the school gate. Aya had been waiting there for quite sometime now, wondering where her younger sister was.
The sun had already begun to set, casting an orange light in the sky that slowly embraced the night's royal hue. She had been waiting patiently as students filed out the metal gates on their way home, chatting idly with each other. A small smile had made its way across her lips at their blissful ignorance- an ignorance she would do everything in her power to keep.
That smile slowly disappeared with the day's sun when there still was no sign of Eve.
Aya had sent messages and even rung her younger sister up with her phone, only for no rely to come. This wasn't uncommon, the blonde supposed, with Eve's popularity, but Eve usually had the presence of mind to inform her when she was staying late.
Then again, Eve didn't know she was coming over to pick her up.
Stifling the sense of uneasiness encroaching around her heart, Aya Brea made to walk home only to suddenly pause mid-turn as a tall silhouette made its way from the main entrance to the gates.
"Ah, excuse me!" She called the man's attention, only for her breath to lodge stuck in her throat when the gate's lights illuminated his features.
What's he doing here? !
He looked normal enough. Clad in a white fur-collared black trench coat that covers most of his body, he would have passed off as an average person, until one studied the long scar that ran across his forehead to stop just under his left eye.
The Commander of SeeD spared her a cool glance and her mind quickly worked to cover her slip.
"Do you know if Eve is still in there?" She questioned smoothly, though her eyes narrowed at the flash of something in his eyes at the mention of her sister's name.
"No. I'm not a student here."
Squall Leonhart's voice was like silk despite the snappish reply.
The sense of dread she had been feeling only intensified.
"I see." Her gaze trailed down slowly as if in thought, though in reality her blue-eyed scan made note of the scarred man's appearance. If ever he had something to do with Eve's tardiness, then he didn't show any sign of it.
A professional? Or…
Aya mentally dropped that trail of thought. Experience had taught her that overestimating her adversaries was just as bad as underestimating them.
"If there's nothing more…" Squall trailed off while folding his arms. The tall man tilted his head to the side, gesturing for her to move out of his path.
Her blue eyes flashed briefly to a spot behind the mercenary and she opened her mouth to speak when a young woman's call interrupted their stare-off.
"Mister!" Eve waved as she ran towards the gates.
The younger Brea was clothed in a warm brown winter coat, her long and fluffy scarf wrapped around her neck several times before it trailed behind her. Eve's hair, the exact same shade as her sister's but slightly longer as it descended to just below her shoulders, was done up in a cute ponytail.
Aya's eyes narrowed at the familiar tone her younger sister spoke with.
Eve blinked in bewilderment when she spotted the elder Brea standing beside the man. "Oh! Sis, you're here!"
"A good evening to you too, Eve." Aya couldn't help but reply, to which the teen grinned sheepishly at. "What took you so long?"
Eve blushed at her sister's words. "I had to show the prospective students around school. It was a last minute thing; the decans needed extra hands." Her blue eyes flashed to the slowly retreating brunet. "Wait! Mister!"
Squall turned around, staring at the teenaged girl with a questioning eye. "What is it?"
The young blonde fished a pen from her messenger bag before showing it to the man. "You dropped this earlier."
The brunet's gaze remained transfixed with the girl not that much younger than him, and Aya was about to comment as she could feel the uneasiness radiating off Eve's smile before the man gave a sharp nod and accepted the blue fountain pen back.
"Thank you." He spoke coolly but Aya's instincts told her the murderer was hiding something. The man turned to gaze at the white blanket surrounding the city before placing the pen in his pocket. "My name is Leon. I'm new here. Do you know any good place to eat?"
"Leon…" Eve repeated softly, testing the name against her lips before finding that it was quite fitting. "Well there's- I mean." The blonde girl blushed again and warning bells rang in Aya's mind. "My name is Eve." She glanced towards the older blonde. "This is my sister-"
"-Maya." Aya cut her younger sister off quickly. "The pleasure is all yours, of course."
Squall's eyes remained impassive as he glanced between the two sisters in turn, though Aya could feel his gaze linger a tad bit longer in her direction before he echoed good-naturedly. "Of course."
And it seemed, Eve felt it too as the little blonde girl huffed slightly and threw a displeased glance at her sister before straightening her dress presentably and calling the brunet's attention.
"Well, welcome to our city, Leon." Never one to shy from taking the initiative, Eve quickly stepped forward to hook her arm around Squall's. "I'd be delighted to show you around!"
"Let me help." Aya's eyes flashed dangerously and she too stepped forward and flanked the man from his other side, looping her arm around his much like the way her sister did, and threw a meaningful glance at the younger blonde. Get away from him!
A glance that Eve clearly misinterpreted as she returned it with a small scowl- Back off, sis!- before turning to the older teen in-between to let off some steam. "Any preferences, Leon?" She batted her eyelashes cutely at the brunet. "You are paying for dinner, right?"
The brunet gave her an amused smile, making the unprepared girl's cheeks flush. "Something warm would be nice and yes, I'm paying."
"G-great!" The flustered Eve nodded.
Aya's calculating eyes remained trained on the man her sister seemed infatuated with.
Squall allowed the force of the impact to twist his body, narrowly dodging the hail of metal sent his way by the CTI agent. His eyes struggled to keep up with the red blur moving around, combining his instincts and sense of hearing to dodge out of harm's way, each bullet seemingly getting closer and closer to burying itself on its fleshy target.
She's boxing me into a corner.
An angry growl left his throat at the revelation and he fought the surge of adrenaline that threatened to cloud his judgment.
Indeed, it was getting harder and harder to contort his body out of harm's way, and now he didn't have his magick to conjure up a distraction or a smokescreen to hide under. Another loud bang resounded through the warehouse and he stretched his torso to its limit as he leaned to the side, ignoring the way his muscles felt like tearing.
Instincts suddenly flaring, Squall raised his blade upwards, narrowly averting a clean headshot.
Just a few seconds more…!
His eyes finally caught up with the vanishing woman.
Squall sprinted forward and thrust his arms out just as Aya came out of her adrenaline-fueled Liberation, quickly ducking and suppressing his wince as two angry energy shots licked at his shoulder-
-before slamming his arm against the staggering woman's neck in a lariat and sending her crashing into the ground.
Turning abruptly, Squall forced himself to his feet, steadying himself as he swayed slightly, his vision swimming as the colors swirled and his surroundings distorted. His legs were burning with lactic acid, protesting at him for pushing them beyond what they were meant to do and threatening to send his towering frame into the unrelenting floor.
Like a tyrant, Squall remained standing tall as he took ragged breaths, his gunblade lowered at his side, fighting down bile that threatened to escape and the dizziness that set itself upon him.
"How… are you still… standing?" Aya rasped out lowly as she slowly stood, coughing a few times to relieve the soreness of her throat. The blow was strong, yes, but far from being strong enough to cripple her and she shrugged the cobwebs out of her head.
"Like… I said…" Even breathing was harder now, but he commanded his body to take steady breaths. "I've… studied you. I know you can't… keep up that… up… for more than… fifteen seconds." He grunted and squinted past his blur sight. "And that… stagger… after using… that."
"You've done your homework." She rubbed her throat and craned her neck before narrowing her eyes behind her mask. "That still doesn't answer my question."
Squall flashed a confident smirk despite how his body felt.
"What…?" Another pained grunt. "You didn't think that I… came prepared… for your poison?"
Aya's eyes flashed dangerously as she pointed her guns on the half-dead man.
"Stay away from that man." Aya warned when both Eve and her had returned to their two bedroom flat.
Eve pouted at her sister as she absently twirled the fountain pen between her fingers. "I was just being friendly."
"Well, don't." Aya spoke succinctly as she set her jacket on their coat hanger. "Not to him."
The younger blonde paused briefly at her sister's warning tone before narrowing her eyes. "Why? What's wrong with him?"
"I see." Aya spun around, not liking the glimmer of realization dawning on her Eve's expressive eyes. "He's connected to your job, isn't he?"
"That's classified." She stressed the word meaningfully, hoping the younger girl would leave it at that.
"Do you need help?"
"No. Just don't associate with him."
"I can gather intel."
Aya resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose as she repeated with growing insistence. "Drop it, Eve."
"No!" Much like the elder blonde, Eve remained steadfast with what she wanted. "I can finally do something to help."
"This is a tricky operation." Aya tried to explain without going into the specifics. "I don't even know what that man is doing here so early."
"He really isn't from around here, then?" Eve quickly questioned, her perceptive eyes lighting up with the implication. "Is he a big shot in other countries?"
A dangerous glint flashed through Aya's eyes. "Drop it."
Eve ignored her sister's tone as she continued brainstorming.
"He has to be a soldier, right? Or is he an agent from a private group like you?"
"I said drop it!" Aya slammed her hand against the wall, making the furniture tremble and Eve jump. A pained expression immediately crossed her face as she noted the scared shock in Eve's countenance. "…I'm sorry."
"Aya…" Eve approached her sister slowly, her words soft and pleading. "…Why won't you let me help?"
"This…" Slowly, her arms found their way around the younger blonde's frame as the younger girl pressed her head against the elder Brea's bosom. "It's too dangerous, Eve."
"I can take it." Came the muffled reply before Eve craned her face out of her sister's warmth to stare up into the face that looked so much like her own. "After all, I'm your-"
"No." Aya cut her off quickly before cupping the younger girl's face. "You're your own person, Eve." She told her firmly, her blue sapphires staring at its mirror image with a warmth that she rarely showed. "You're Eve Brea. Just Eve Brea. My younger sister."
Eve's carefree giggle that followed brought a proud smile to Aya's lips. The younger girl's eyes twinkled mischievously. "A shame. He's really cute, too."
"Oh you…" Aya trailed with a wry sigh.
"Hey Aya…" Eve started.
Aya tilted her head questioningly. "What is it?"
"I don't know if this will be relevant or not, but Leon also had a pink-haired woman with him."
The elder Brea considered her sister's proclamation with calculating eyes.
"You're bluffing. You don't seem prepared to me." Aya mocked as she noted the man's posture. "But I'm curious; how did you know of our poison?"
"Besides the fact that…" A sudden sharp intake of breath as his intercostal muscles started constricting around his lungs, making his breathing even more haphazard. "You managed… to capture… Lightning?"
His blue gray eyes shifted towards the screen where the bound and blindfolded form of Lightning was projected.
Xu had analyzed the scene at which Lightning was thought to be abducted- what with the telltale signs of Lightning's presence marring the darkened street. The fact that the damage she dealt to her surroundings was much less than expected meant that whoever had taken her down did it in record time, with minimal struggle on the strawberry blonde's part, and experience had taught him that Lightning Farron was not one that could be captured so easily.
The lack of blood in the surroundings had also suggested that whatever underhanded tactic was used on the Brigadier General from Gran Pulse was not connected to the assailant's weapon, and whatever poison that was used was no ordinary poison either for Lightning, while not as proficient with White Magick as she was with her dualweapon- her familiar gunblade- was no slouch at the discipline either, and Squall had conjectured that whatever poison the woman had been under was immune to the traditional Poisona and Esuna.
That is, the poison was not something her immune system could clear; it had affected her physiology directly.
Another point, one Xu had observed and Shiva had confirmed, was that the poison was either fast-acting, potent, or both, as the l'Cie still hosted the mighty Odin, and that Eidolon should have been able to counter the poison's influence.
Something was up- that much the gathered minds had figured- and as SeeD, they prepared countermeasures against the unknown variable accordingly.
After all, Lightning Farron was no easy prey; that woman was a veteran army of one.
"I see." The CTI agent's voice remained neutral. It didn't matter, she decided, that he was alerted about the compound they were using so long as he didn't know what it was.
He was struggling to stand, his hands trembling and she could tell the Commander of SeeD was fighting an internal battle to regain control of his body. And to survive.
She was impressed, despite the hollowing feeling squeezing her chest at the tactics she had to employ to neutralize the brunet.
"Hnn…" Squall grunted, holding his gunblade with both hands in an age-old but not forgotten stance, one he used as a SeeD cadet. The fact that he was forced to assume such a posture was testament to how crippled the CTI agent had made him, though he wouldn't admit it out loud. Cold beads of sweat ran down his temples at the excruciating pain his now searing body was screaming at him.
But despite its protests, Squall's face remained neutral.
Just a few moments more.
"Surrender now and maybe we'll grant you a trial." Aya mocked from behind her mask, her twin handguns pointed at the brunet. "You've got no other option."
The edge of Squall's lips curled into an amused smirk. "Funny… you should say… that."
"Hands in the air, Leonhart." Aya's feet slowly shuffled forward, steadily inching towards the man as she was still wary of any tricks he had up his sleeves.
"Took that… to heart…" Squall continued with the same wry slur.
"I will now exercise your right to remain sile-"
He cut her off with a triumphant gleam in his eyes.
Eve was missing.
That one sentence echoed through Aya's mind like a gong, sending her heart racing against her hollow body as she frantically looked for clues.
Her primary suspect was the SeeD Commander.
For the past two days since they'd met the rather taciturn man, she had noticed Squall casually walking down their street from her window a tad too often than normal, though not enough to raise suspicions had she not already found his presence suspicious.
How had he known where they lived? When they had their dinner, their conversation never dwelled into anything too personal- Aya had made sure to sway Eve from spouting anything of the sort, among other things.
The leather-clad man seemed to always be there when Eve left in the mornings- her younger sister always giving the man a friendly wave as she scurried off towards school, to which the scarred man returned the greeting with a courteous nod every time- and evenings when Eve was already home- scanning the area with the wide eyes of a tourist though the CTI agent swore that his gaze lingered on their apartment window, as if he was searching for something each and every time.
The thought made her skin crawl with apprehension.
The day after her and Eve's dinner with the reticent man, Aya had immediately reported her findings to her superior, Agent Hyde Bohr, looking for an explanation as to why their target was here early. The man had shifted his glasses on his nose and looked pensive, spouting speculations but concluding that the matter as to why he was here, and more importantly, how he bypassed their strict immigration procedures and CTI's records, was irrelevant to their current assignment.
And that as their chief Agent, Aya had to pick up the pace.
That was the day before yesterday, and now Eve had disappeared.
It was already nearing midnight and Eve, sensible, responsible Eve, always called her if she was coming home late. Aya had also rang Eve's friends if they knew where she was, had any idea where the younger Brea was, but none could say for certain, only that Eve had left school the usual time.
There was no mention if a brown haired stalker was following Eve either, but she doubted the SeeD Commander would be noticed by Eve's high school friends even if that was the case.
And as expected, she hadn't seen the so-called tourist pass by their apartment building from her vantage point by the window.
So, with her winter jacket zipped up and scarf wrapped warmly around her neck even if she didn't really need it, Aya had rushed out into the cold night in search of either the kidnapped or the suspected kidnapper.
And as fate or some cruel deity would have it, the blonde woman had found the latter first.
"Leon!" She called out to the tall man, struggling to keep herself from lashing out at him for who knew what he'd do to her precious sister if her suspicions were proven true. Inwardly, Aya prayed that she still had time.
The brunet turned around, eyes cool and features composed and gave a curt nod as usual. "Maya. A good evening to you."
"Leon, have you seen Eve?" She asked him in a worried rush; though behind her frantic gaze laid her clinical thoughts as she studied the man's reaction.
A very brief flash of something- recognition? Warning?- as his eyes shifted slightly before it disappeared, and she almost dismissed it as a figment of her imagination.
"No." He folded his arms questioningly. "Is there something wrong?"
Aya refused to let her guard down. "Yeah; Eve's missing."
Worry made itself present across the man's face and Aya found herself questioning why.
"Since when?" he asked seriously.
"I don't know." She admitted, still studying him. "I called her friends and they said that their classes ended at the usual time. Eve hasn't said anything either."
The man seemed to consider his words and Aya was a hair's width away from demanding answers from the brunet when his next words stopped her in her tracks.
"Have you tried contacting the police?"
"I've already filed a case. I work in the police department." The double lie was rather obvious. She hadn't yet, as she was in a rush to start her hunt, but the man didn't need to know that. Aya also noted with growing suspicion that he didn't seem to be surprised by her admission of working in the police force.
"I just thought that you might know where she is. I'm sorry for taking up your time." She gave a tense nod before making to leave.
Squall seemed to hesitate before he next spoke. "…Maya." Aya looked up. "I never said what I was doing here, right?" his voice was cool yet ominous, and the blonde CTI agent's eyes narrowed marginally as she tried to figure out what he was getting it.
"I'm a journalist."
Had Aya not known otherwise, she would have believed the man's honest tone.
"I'm working on a story about mysterious kidnappings happening in this city."
Her blue eyes narrowed even more, though it was hard for the man to tell in this dimly lit night.
Where are you going with this, Leonhart?
"I've never heard of this." She tried to call out his lie subtly while prodding his dialogue further.
"Hence the mystery." He deadpanned a tad too sarcastically for her tastes, before continuing after a short pause, and she could see the man seem to consider his words before staring straight into her eyes. "There's a rumor that an agency called Seatai is researching the Neo-Ark event eleven years ago."
For a moment, Aya could swear his eyes were searching answers from hers, and she struggled to keep her features professional.
Even amidst the chaos her emotions were playing inside.
The Neo-Ark incident was not something she could just forget- the horror of an organization whose only redeeming quality was that it gave her the one she held closest to her heart, her younger sister, Eve Brea.
Her dear sweet Eve, her dear sweet younger sister…
…her dear and sweet clone.
The shadow facility, Neo-Ark, had been using her DNA samples- for she was a rare super soldier, her mitochondria having evolved to an unprecedented existence, granting her certain skills that made her compete with the magick-based enhancements of the other countries- to create biological weapons, horrors the likes that could not be released into the world, controlled only by her brainwashed clone. And so, Aya had taken it upon herself to bring down the facility and their research, and taken Eve inside her arms.
Aya could not prove that her government funded the facility, and thus was wary of government-sanctioned organizations for a time, until such time she came across the Counter Terrorist Investigation, a group separate from the government but nonetheless approved, at the urging of both her trusted friends Gabrielle Monsigny and Kunihiko Maeda , and at her sense of patriotism despite everything that had happened to her.
Not seeming to find anything through their meeting eyes, Squall's lips thinned before breaking their gaze to stare anywhere but at her. "Who knows? They might be behind the kidnappings." He spared her a cursory glance. "In the meantime, I'll help search for Eve."
His glance once more turned serious- meaningful- and there was an undercurrent of warning in the intensity of his blue-grey orbs.
"Leave this to me, Maya. I'll get her back."
And with that, the brown haired man pulled up his collar and adjusted his long scarf before walking away, the black coattails of his trench coat swaying slightly with a flourish against the winter wind, leaving the blonde woman to stare after him with narrowed eyes.
"What's your angle, Leonhart?" she whispered to herself before taking off in the opposite direction to the man.
"Seatai… Seeteeai…" Aya mumbled as she jogged the familiar path Eve took to school. "Seeteeai…"
Aya suddenly skidded to a halt.
She knew what his game was now.
The man was trying to make her betray her organization.
But did he know who she really was? Or was this coincidence?
Another chilling thought made her glare at the direction Squall had walked.
What if he's right…?
"So… you did know who I was." Aya spoke darkly, coming to a stop just out of the immobilized man's reach.
"Hn…" Squall hummed in affirmation, inwardly struggling to regain control of his body. "I warned you, Brea."
Anger flashed in her eyes and she shot forward.
Squall quickly raised his arm to block, only to get knocked to the side by her backhand. He righted himself quickly before falling by digging the tip of his weapon against the ground before pulling on its trigger as he no longer had the strength to raise his weapon.
The recoil sent his blade jerking upwards and he held on tight, maneuvering his arm with marginal effort to stab at the blonde.
Not seeing the approaching blade and being too close to the man, Aya could only twist to avoid the uncomfortable experience of having a blade that sharp run through her body.
The man pulled his trigger again and this time Aya let out a pained cry as his blade jerked wildly while he retracted his weapon, leaving a large gash on her waist. Reacting on instinct, Aya leaped backwards to dodge the second stab and glared hard at the man.
"Why won't you fall? !" She screamed before unloading her cartridge at him.
Moving faster than she thought possible given the state his body should be in, Squall leaped to the side and tucked himself into a ball, rolling quickly before sticking his hand out to spring himself up with a one-armed cartwheel before crashing his landing behind the crate as one of her bullets managed to graze his thigh.
"I told you." His strained voice shouted above the gunfire. "I came prepared."
"Give it up, Squall!" Aya shouted back, her rapid barrage slowing down just enough to keep the man in place as she approached, one handgun raised and waiting while the other fired relentlessly. "You have no chance of winning!" The cut she had received had already started healing, thanks to her accelerated regeneration. "Give up!"
Her eyes flashed dangerously. "If you ever cared about Eve, give up now!"
She needed to complete her mission; it was the only way to save her captive sister.
Dull clicks signified that her gun had finished its magazine. Aya quickly pointed her other forward, anticipating that the SeeD Commander would jump at the opportunity to return fire.
Instead, a dark chuckle sounded.
"You should have just let me handle this, Aya." He slowly emerged from his hiding spot, eyes staring intently at her. "Let me guess, you went to Bohr after our talk?"
"Hyde?" Aya asked suspiciously, her gun remained trained on the man's heart. "What does he have anything to do with this?" But despite her words, Aya's mind started painting a horrifying picture.
"It seems you've figured it out."
A loud bang sounded as Aya pulled the trigger, sending a bullet flying true as it swiped at Squall's cheek, leaving a large gash in its wake.
"Stop spouting your lies!"
Squall didn't flinch, choosing to stare at her impassively. "Why do you think he wants me dead?"
"It's not him! It's our organization that wants you dead! You're a terrorist, a hitman prowling on a much larger scale!" She growled. "He's- Hyde wouldn't do that!"
Hyde Bohr, her commanding officer, had always been there for her, doting on both her and Eve like a worried uncle. She had worked with the man for over three years already; the bespectacled scientist had been there for Eve's graduation from Middle School.
Was that a just a façade?
Squall's eyes bored holes into her and Aya found herself at a loss for words at their crystal clear certainty.
"He has Eve, Aya." The SeeD Commander's blue-gray orbs darted to the side and he let out a small, triumphant grin. "Your proof is coming soon."
Squall tossed his blade.
Aya washed detachedly as it soared through the air before embedding itself on the metallic door with a shrill clang.
The masked CTI agent wondered what he was doing before the door abruptly burst open, a flash of pink, red and black darting towards her blindingly.
"What the-?" her ears picked up the sound of a blade being drawn and her eyes darted quickly to the gun pointed at her. Aya instinctively dodged to the side as the new arrival open fired.
"Get away from him!" The familiar growl made her eyes widen as the blur came to a stop.
Lightning Farron stood between her and her target, clad in a black trench coat much like the one Squall had been wearing during his walks through the city, the Brigadier General's red scarf swaying slightly before settling in place. There was a dangerous glare present on the woman's features and Aya quickly assessed whether she could still complete her mission or not with the new arrival.
The last time they fought, Aya had taken Lightning completely by surprise.
Now, standing with her blade pointed at her imposingly, Aya could feel why Gran Pulse's premier Brigadier General had her title.
"Stand down, Lightning." Squall grunted.
Aya glanced behind the woman, wondering what Squall was getting at.
"Not until she's lowered her weapon." Lightning growled pointedly, her sapphire-eyed glare never leaving the CTI agent.
"What do you think I am, stupid?" Aya spoke menacingly, hands grasping her weapon tightly as she prepared to make a final stand.
It didn't matter if the odds were against her. One way or another, she would return Eve safely.
"You kidnapped a foreign dignitary during a treaty signing event." Lightning lowered her stance warningly. "You tell me."
Another voice sounded, drawing the attention of the gathered soldiers.
Aya's eyes widened in shock as Eve came running down towards her. "Eve? !" Alarm bells rang in her head. "Wait! The poison-!"
"Aya, it's alright! It's finished!" Eve cut in happily before tackling her older sister and enveloping her in a hug. "I'm safe; we're safe!"
"What- I don't-" Aya looked around as more people started filing in; most faces she couldn't didn't know beyond the reports she read while others she knew.
Another blonde woman approached, her downcast eyes taking in Aya's appearance as the elder Brea removed the mask covering her face. "I'm sorry, Aya." Gabrielle's voice was remorseful. "I didn't know."
"Gabrielle? I don't understand."
"I came as soon as I heard." Gabrielle ignored her as she grabbed the elder Brea's face to stare at it intently. "You had to go through so much; I'm sorry. I really didn't know that Bohr-"
"ROSS!" A loud cry suddenly boomed through the warehouse. "WHERE THE HELL ARE-"
"Step aside, people!" A raven-haired woman wearing a lab coat shouted as she hurriedly cut through the worried crowd gathered in a circle before kneeling beside Lightning- who Aya could see had Squall's head cradled on her lap.
Eve's eyes widened in horror when she realized Squall was convulsing. "Aya, Leon's-"
"It's sarin!" Aya shouted, drawing everyone's gazes upon herself. "It's a chemical CTI has synthesized!" she didn't know what she was doing but she did know that Squall, somehow, had saved Eve. Aya didn't know why or how the man had done it, but she'd be damned before she let his life slip away before she had her answers. "Our databases should have-"
"I've got it already, so shut up." The raven-haired woman spoke pointedly as she took out a syringe. "Lightning, lower his pants."
Without any fuss, Lightning immediately complied, unbuckling Squall's belt before revealing his thigh. "This enough, Aki?"
"Plenty." The woman replied before plunging the needle deep into the man's thigh and unloading the counter-drug within. "And it's Dr. Aki Ross, to you."
"Doc, he'll be alright, right?" a worried blond man with a tattoo on his face asked.
Zell Dincht, Aya detachedly noted as she stroked Eve's hair disbelievingly, still shocked at the sudden turn of events.
"He'll live." Aki deadpanned. "Dr. Kadowaki and I only gave him a cocktail of physiological agonists. We didn't know what type of poison Hyde Bohr had developed, so we relied on a combination of his Guardian Forces and our preventive drugs. The rest is up to him." Her eyes suddenly narrowed. "And where the hell is that ambulance? !"
"I'll carry him." Lightning volunteered suddenly, leaving no room for argument.
"Bohr!" Aya suddenly shouted. "Where is he?"
"Eliminated." A weak voice replied.
Everyone's gazes shot towards the source before they shouted as a chorus.
"IDIOT!" Lightning shouted heatedly as she fell to her knees beside the man and resisted the powerful urge to smack him. "You stop talk right now!"
"Hnn…" He hummed, his eyes shut tiredly. "You're alright…"
"Yes, Squall." She affirmed gently, her hands glowing with a cool light. "Now, sleep."
Aya looked at everyone expectantly. "Would someone please explain to me what the hell is going on?"
"You've been duped, lady." Zell answered nonplussed. "By that Bohr guy."
There was a shimmer of light before a white stallion suddenly pranced into being, circling Lightning once before lowering its front legs. Lightning declined Zell's offer to carry Squall as she placed the unconscious Leonhart onto Odin's back.
"I get that but, what the hell?"
"Aya…" Eve's worried voice started, drawing her sister's attention. "Let's get you checked out first in the hospital, okay? Then we can answer all your questions."
Aya looked between the gathered people before hanging her head.
"Fine. Just…" her adrenaline leaving her, Aya felt her heavy eyes slowly blink. "make sure you don't hold back the details."
Her eyes didn't open anymore.
Gabrielle and Eve caught the woman before she could hit the ground.
"I heard, you know." Aya began as she drew a chair from the table by the window to sit beside the man's bed. "You'll be discharged within the week, right?"
"Hmm…" Squall nodded in confirmation. "How is Eve?"
"She's fine." The CTI agent stared at her hands absently. "She's going to undergo a psychological evaluation later for what she's just experienced." Aya glanced upwards at the man and gave him a small smile. "Thanks, you know? For arranging that."
"It was Dr. Ross." He replied, pressing the power button of the remote to switch off the television.
According to the news, Lightning's group had just left the council hall, Gran Pulse's negotiations successful and securing yet another ally.
Aya shook her head. "You were the one who suggested it." She fidgeted again with her hands before letting out a long sigh and leaning back on her chair and draping her arms behind it, unintentionally jutting her considerable bust out as it strained against her black vest. "I was debriefed of the whole situation by that other SeeD working for you. Xu, I think her name was."
The whole situation, being the truth that Hyde Bohr really was researching and attempting to replicate the Neo-Ark incident, using his close contact with both her and Eve to draw DNA samples. Hyde had been plotting to unleash his biological weapons during the peace talks before using CTI to neutralize it, no doubt hoping to gain additional funding for his research as well as putting the organization on the map following the well-orchestrated victory.
Dr. Sid and his protégé, Dr. Aki Ross, two researchers also in the employ of CTI, had accidentally stumbled on his data. Sid had been trying to convince the man to stop, even going so far as to threaten to expose his research to the director of CTI, Hunter Owen, as well as their government.
Naturally, Bohr was displeased and had Sid sent to the hospital.
In a full body cast.
Knowing that she could be next, Aki had, instead, contacted SeeD, after finding out that they were arriving. The young doctor had told them of her plight and hired them to stop Hyde's research whatever means necessary, as she didn't want the horrors the man had created to be unleashed.
Thus, SeeD Commander Squall Leonhart, along with Senior SeeD Officers Zell Dincht, Xu, and Selphie Tilmitt, had boarded the Ragnarok and arrived ahead of the rest of Balamb Garden's contingent.
The SeeDs had promptly began taking turns guarding Eve while systematically shutting down Bohr's operations. Squall's blue pen, as it turned out, was a tracking beacon so they'd know where the younger Brea was at all times. It was just his luck that Eve, being the honest and responsible person she was, always kept returning his pen whenever he managed to slip it onto her person.
"We thought the pen would be less conspicuous." Xu laughed cheerfully. "Eve's a student, so she'd always carry that pen around, and we couldn't plant a tracer on her clothes because of the duration of our operation." The woman's eyes twinkled with mirth. "Our dear commander was vexed by your sister's actions."
Naturally, Bohr had persuaded Aya that Squall Leonhart was targeted for elimination, and the knowledge that SeeD was already in the area had made him panic. The old researched had kidnapped Eve and made it seem like SeeD was responsible. With prior knowledge of Aya's personality and relationship with Eve, it was a simple matter for the cunning man to plant ideas on Aya's head and allow her to shape her own conclusions and place the blame on him.
And when that failed, he had a third party threaten Aya that they'd terminate Eve's life if she didn't deliver Squall Leonhart's head.
So Aya had begun her operation.
She ambushed and captured Brigadier General Lightning Farron, who had been in the city for a while now as the head of security for Gran Pulse's representatives, and used her as bait to draw Squall Leonhart into her trap.
A trap the man had already known about and willingly walked in.
Squall had fought her to buy time for the rest of his contingent as Xu had rescued Lightning, while Dr. Ross and Zell made their way to rescue Eve, who thankfully still had her pen on her as she was abducted on her way home from school. Selphie had been in charge of disabling the security, turning themselves invisible to the CCTV cameras, as well as disabling whatever traps Squall was being subjected to.
Namely, the sarin gas seeping through the ventilation and the anti-magick field.
With those accomplished, the SeeDs along with Lightning were about to make their way to Squall when Zell's frantic voice had hailed them over their intercom; the blonde brawler had his hands full as Hyde Bohr had turned his research onto himself, mutating into a twisted humanoid, a High Breed, the man had gloated himself.
Even with Gabrielle Monsigny, who Dr. Ross had managed to convince, Zell couldn't beat the crazed scientist, so the rest of the party made their way to the man.
The battle was fierce but the mutated monster had eventually fallen to their combined might and, like the fairy tales Eve was so fond of, rescued the abducted girl while Lightning rushed off to Squall, concern fueling her rapid footfalls.
And the rest was history.
A brow twitched. "Are you just going to respond like that?"
Squall looked at her blankly.
The blonde woman threw her body forward, using her momentum to plant her hands against the bed and push herself up so she was leaning over the occupied mattress. "You know, I liked you better when you were just Leon."
He studied her curiously before giving a slight shrug. "People say that, too."
"He's just more talkative." She palmed her cheek and glanced at him lazily. "You really should talk more."
"..." His eyes met with hers. "What are you going to do now?"
"Honestly?" Aya looked uncertain. "I'm not sure. I know CTI wasn't at fault, but… I don't know anymore."
"Life goes on, Brea." Squall's voice held an aged tone. "Shit happens. That shouldn't stop you from doing your job. You've got good people in that little group of yours."
Aya blinked before shooting the man an annoyed scowl. "I know that, Leon. How old do you think I am?"
It was Squall's turn to blink as he looked at her. Aya looked like she was in her early to mid-twenties but…
"…your records didn't actually say."
The blonde woman shot him a triumphant smirk. "The government owed me a favor, so I had my records tweaked around."
"That's a first; you're proud of being an old lady."
"Oh shut up, boy." She emphasized the last word before letting out a small chuckle.
Squall looked at her oddly. "That's the first time I've seen you relax."
"Yeah well, it doesn't happen often." Aya shrugged.
"You really do sound like an old woman." Squall pointed out.
"And I think I liked you better when you were just Squall."
Another careless shrug. "Make up your mind."
Aya threw a glance at the door before running a hand against her silky golden locks, brushing a few strands away from her sapphire eyes. "Fine. Sorry and thanks, Squall."
The man raised a brow at her before accepting her apology and gratitude. "It's alright."
Aya rose from her chair and leaned across the bed.
"I think I know which of you I like. You."
She pecked the edge of his lip.
His tinted cheeks betrayed his indifference.
A/N: Aaaand that's a wrap! Oh wow, this turned out to be much longer than I planned. I'll proofread and update this at a later date; maybe this weekend or when my obsessive compulsion make it hard to sleep.
How did this start? Well, Indurrago, this is actually what SCE theme 15 was supposed to be, until I realized that it doesn't fit SCE (because it doesn't deserve the M rating), and I had too many ideas for this thing to fit 1000 words (lulz, I know right?). The premise was me incorporating again one of the things I've learned- sarin, and how the paramedics counteracted that attack. I could explain it, but I can't be bothered to at the moment. I'll post it eventually in my forum in the Dissidia section of ffnet, if people are really curious about it.
For Parasite Eve fans, I'll admit; the only PE game I've played is 3rd Birthday, where Aya wasn't actually Aya, so that kinda threw a wrench on my perspective of her character. Luckily, there's such a thing as a PE wikia, so I read through her description and stuff, and this is how I envisioned her character. My apologies if she isn't that much of a deadpan snarker, or if I completely butchered her character.
In other news, woohoo! The first Squall Leonhart/Aya Brea centric fic on this website (and possibly other sites too, methinks) o/ What actually drew me in to Aya Brea as a character (and made me buy the 3rd Birthday, come to think) was Traingham's Stalker's Log. Sure Aya doesn't have a major role there (yet, I hope D=), but I was made to do a quick google of her character.
And I liked what I saw :'D
Then I played 3rd Birthday, and despite the convoluted concept and delivery, I was wowed by Aya Brea as a character…
Until the ending happened o_O
I did enjoy Aya's fighting capabilities though XD sadly, the only skill of hers (from 3rd Birthday anyways, I don't know if she had other skills) I couldn't incorporate in this story (because I'm tired of typing this already…) was her overdive. Initially, I planned to have her attempt to Overdive early on in the fight to incapacitate Squall, only for Shiva to do an Orihime-esque "I reject!" and blast her soul back into her body.
But that would detract too much from the plot :'D
So I scrapped that, and typed on~!
Also, for those wondering what Squall and Lightning's coat looks like, I'd like to direct you all to Eirlys-Tylluan's DFF - 8+13 Doodle Dump ::12_2011:: over at DA. The link is, as usual, in my profile.
I'm tired, I'm freezing, and I'm hungry.
I'm rambling, and I need eats badly since I'm now in such a sour mood x_x
Despite all this, I hope you brave readers who have decided to stomach this sorry excuse for a crossover have enjoyed your treat ^_^