Chapter Ten: Attack
There was a knock on Mika's door and he rolled off the bed to answer it. Rinoa entered accompanied by Ellone who was looking slightly skittish. Who could blame her Mika thought, especially considering what had happened the last time the three of them had been in a room together.
"Mika Skyle, this is Ellone Loire." Rinoa said making the introductions. "Ellone this is Mika."
"You don't need to introduce us." Mika pointed out objectively. "We were all tied up together by a murderous nut job. My personal favourite part of the ordeal was Ellone threatening to castrate the bastard."
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that." Rinoa said. "As of now however we have a problem a little closer to home."
"Squall." Mika nodded. "Apparently Dante visited him in the detention block. In between ill-conceived escape attempts Squall wasn't too keen on the fact Irvine, Zell, Dante and I acted with the greater good in mind. So, I think it's time be initiated plan B. Ellone, what say you?"
"Well I think it'd help if you could explain to me what exactly plan B entails." Ellone replied, resisting the urge to add "duh" to the end of her sentence.
"We've tried the hard way." Mika said. "Judging by what the guards in the detention centre told Zell and Irvine we only succeeded in enraging him further. So I've decided we should go for a different approach that I like to call "creative persuasion". If Dante was here, he'd be pushing for waterboarding but being the blunt instrument he is, he fails to see that there are other ways."
"Simply put we need someone close to Squall to talk to him. To find out what's really going on." Rinoa stated. "He won't talk to me, because he was with me when he blew his top."
"You think he'll listen to me?" Ellone snorted. "Rinoa you're an only child so I think you need to read up on the sibling dynamic."
"I've got a brother." Mika broke in. "Granted; a short tempered, wilfully lethal, libido driven barbarian but I can always work him out and he'll always listen to me even if he doesn't like what he hears. If I can work out Dante, you can work out Squall no matter how much of a bastard he's being."
"I'll give it a go but I'm not hopeful." Ellone sighed. "Maybe this is just a phase that Squall's going through. It wouldn't be the first time."
"Here's hoping." Rinoa smiled and raised a hand as if proposing a toast. "Thanks Ellone. I owe you one."
"Talk to Zell or Irvine." Mika told Ellone. "They're as desperate as you are to sort out whatever it is that's eating Squall so they'll jump at the chance to let you talk him round."
After Ellone left Rinoa ran a hand down her face and sat down on Mika's bed. She looked up at Mika who was keeping a wary eye on her as he dismantled and reassembled his M16 with practised ease.
"Thank you Mika," Rinoa said quietly. "Thanks for helping me out with Squall. If there's ever anything you need from me, you only have to name it."
"Glad to help." Mika waved her tanks aside. "I'm not doing it just for you. Squall's a hero, no matter how much he hasn't been acting like it over the last few weeks. The world needs people like him and I feel almost obligated to help him out. Lucky me huh?"
"That simply proves that you're a decent guy." Rinoa reasoned. "It also goes some way to people drawing the same conclusion about your brother. I've had very limited contact with the guy but he seems to make Quistis happy. He may be impulsive and a little abrasive but his methods seem to provide the desired results."
"He has his uses I'll admit." Mika shrugged. "It doesn't stop him being a complete douche bag, which is conveniently one of his strengths but family, what can you do?"
"You don't have to talk to me about dysfunctional families trust me." Rinoa smiled in spite of herself. "I've got you beaten."
"Is that a fact?" Mika said, trying unsuccessfully to read her expression. "I like a challenge. How so?"
"You've heard about my career path before I became a cadet here." Rinoa asked. Mika shook his head so Rinoa elaborated. "I was a member of a Timber Resistance Faction known as the Forest Owls. That's how I met Squall. We hired SeeD and he was a team leader. The dysfunctional bit was my father. I was part of an anti-Galbadian faction and he was the head of the Galbadian Military. Now, he's President."
"Okay you've got me beaten." Mika nodded reluctantly. "That's bad. Father and daughter on different sides of what could very easily become a war. That's really bad."
"You're telling me." Rinoa laughed humourlessly. "I hope you're not going to get involved with this problem as well. I understand you wanting to help but this is a bit private for an intervention. I'll deal with it myself."
"I guess it's in my interests to forget you ever mentioned it then." Mika said offhandedly before noticing Rinoa's eyes growing brighter. "Hey, you okay?"
"It's just…" Rinoa took a deep breath to compose herself before continuing. "It's just that the last few years with Squall have been the happiest of my life. I have no idea why he's suddenly changed so drastically. Was it my fault? Did I do something? If so, what? I just don't get it."
"There's a word for that mentality." Mika said, sitting down next to her and putting an arm around her. "It's called rot. The problem here is nothing you've done, it's the way Squall's acting and you'd be hard pushed to find someone who disagrees."
"Thanks Mika." Rinoa murmured, closing her eyes and resting her head on his shoulder. "There are not a lot of people who'd do this much for someone. You ought to be careful. People will start to think you're trying to get into my panties."
"And rescuing the girl in questions relationship with her partner is a time honoured method of seduction." Mika grunted candidly. "I just don't like seeing people take things so hard on the chin."
Squall was pacing his cell and occasionally abusing Zell, Irvine, Mika, Dante and a partridge in a pear tree at the top of his lungs for a bit of variety. He'd just finished a particularly creative and colourful tirade when his cell door was unlocked.
"Back away from the door!" A voice yelled as it was opened. Squall sighed before backing up as it was opened. The first thing he saw was the business end of an assault rifles pointed at him. The second was Ellone who walked in.
"Hello Squall," She sounded cheerful but her expression was the opposite to say the very least. "How are you doing?"
"I've been in worse prison cells but at least I didn't design those." Squall replied cantankerously. "That said, I'll be okay. The acoustics are pretty good. I wouldn't hate a chair."
"Oh wonderful." Ellone said. "Sarcasm. Come on then little brother. Let's hear it. I haven't got all day."
"Sorry Ellone but you're going to have to give me more than that." Squall bit off, evidently enjoying pushing her buttons. "I'm drained from lack of food and water, sleep deprivation. That sort of thing."
"Don't play dumb with me Squall Leonhart." Ellone said, striding forward until they were nose to nose. "Out with it! Why are you being such a word class douche bag?"
"Why are you being such a world class douche bag and getting involved?" Squall demanded. "I didn't ask you to horn in on my personal problems."
"No you didn't." Ellone snapped back. "Mika and Rinoa did. They seem to genuinely want to help you." Only one word seemed to have registered with Squall.
"Mika!" He snarled as he wrung an imaginary neck. "Why am I in no way surprised? What gives him the right to join in?"
"He's a decent guy and right now you're not fit to lick his boots." Ellone barked. "Look at the change Rinoa wrought in you. That was nothing short of miraculous and now you're going to throw it away for the sake of a couple of minds. Have you completely taken leave of your senses?"
"Maybe," Squall's face hardened. "And if that's the case maybe it's not such a good idea for you to piss me off."
Before Ellone could retort the lights went out all over the Garden. All at once, without any warning the entire Gardens power grid went down. After a few seconds, green emergency lights clicked into life, lighting the detention centre dimly. The guard headed for the entrance but it burst open before he got there. A figure dressed entirely in black strode forwards. The guard raised his rifle but the figure was carrying a length of chain. He lashed out with it and it wrapped around the guards neck. Then he yanked on it, breaking the guard's neck with a sickening crunch.
Ellone however had not been slow. In the aftermath of the Second Sorceress War she'd taken self-defence classes and she was relatively well versed in hand to hand combat and marksmanship. She dodged a chain strike and seized the guard's rifle. Before the mysterious assailant could attack again she lifted the weapon with remarkable speed and fired. She drilled him in the chest with four shots before finishing him off with two shots to the head. She looked at Squall.
"You coming?" She asked before heading off down the corridor, rifle at the ready. Squall shrugged and followed before heading for the locker where his weapons were kept. Ellone reluctantly shot the padlock off and Squall slid a knife up his left jacket sleeve before hefting the Revolver.
Zell, Irvine and Quistis were standing by the directory when the power went out and the mysterious assassins attacked. Quistis reacted quickest and she immediately blasted the nearest attacker with a powerful sequence of electric bolts, followed by a blast of fire and then finally her potent Laser Eye ability.
Zell and Irvine ducked under blows from the chains and attacked. Irvine jammed the muzzle of his pump action shotgun under the nearest attacker's ribcage and pulled the trigger. The shell ripped down the barrel and into the attacker's thorax. His chest exploded in a shower of bone chips and dark red blood. Zell lashed out, his foot knocking one of his targets backwards. Then he leapt forward and wrapped his legs around the unfortunate intruder, pinning his arms and started to reduce his head to a bloody pulp with a sequence of thunderbolt punches.
Cid emerged from the lift noticed another one of the attackers advancing on Irvine's blindside and committed to a charging movement. They crashed to the ground and Cid seized the attacker's chain before wrapping it around the man's neck and started to throttle him mercilessly. Then he locked one arm around his victim's neck and pressed the other against the back of his head. Then with one powerful twist he snapped the man's neck like a twig. Not for nothing was Cid one of the highest ranking inhabitants of a mercenary enclave. There was a surprise in store. As the man dropped there was a loud crackling and flashing of arcing circuits.
"Cyborg!" Quistis yelled. Before they could investigate the body Zell looked up and practically swallowed his tongue in fright. Dozens of identical cyborgs were crawling over the main halls glass roof, and in there hands were…
"Heads up!" Zell yelled as the cyborgs blew the roof in with frame charges and started to rope down directly after the glass. Zell, Irvine, Quistis and Cid dived for cover from the deadly hail of glass. Zell, Irvine and Quistis were unhurt but as Cid landed next to them he cried out in pain as a long shard of glass sliced into his left bicep. Cid wrenched the glass out and tossed it aside before tying his necktie around his arm just above the wound.
"Are you injured?" Quistis asked him.
"Just hurt." Cid said as the cyborgs started to spread out. "Don't make a case out of it. Ready?" Without waiting for an answer Cid rushed the nearest cyborg, howling like a wolf for added effect. Zell and Quistis headed after him.
Irvine decided to go after several cyborgs that were headed for the infirmary. They were so intent on getting there they didn't notice Irvine until he'd shot two dead before they even knew they'd been attacked. Irvine advanced, firing as fast as his pump action allowed. Only one cyborg was left standing when Irvine ran out of ammo. Instead of utilizing the small armoury inside his trench coat he charged forward, shoulder blocking the cyborg before battering him in the face with the butt of his weapon. The cyborg staggered back but before Irvine could press his advantage an enormous lightning bolt promptly incinerated the cyborg. Irvine looked around and immediately identified the culprit.
"No one messes with my Irvy!" Selphie shouted.
Rinoa had been coming out of the library when the alarms had started whooping. She turned towards the dormitories before a black clad figure dropped in front of her swinging a length of chain. Rinoa was taken aback by the sudden appearance and that gave the cyborg all the opportunity he needed. He lashed out with his chain and it snared Rinoa's ankles, upending her. As she went down she let fly with her Blaster Edge, loaded with the Valkyrie projectile. The cyborg simply sidestepped it as it flashed past and then sidestepped again as it returned to Rinoa. Before she could launch it again the cyborg stomped on her arm pinning it to the ground while he pulled what looked a lot like a stun gun from his belt. There was suddenly a loud clang and the cyborg dropped, revealing Mika who had evidently belted it over the head with a long, iron candleholder.
"Nasty sort of fellow," Mika observed as he gave Rinoa a hand up. "Lucky for you I was passing by."
The cyborg staggered to his feet and charged at Mika, stun gun at the ready. Mika however honoured him with a roundhouse kick to the kidneys before blasting the cyborg with an uppercut. Rinoa stared as the cyborg somersaulted over backwards. Then Mika exerted all his considerable strength and tossed the cyborg into the fountain. Then he picked up the dropped stun gun and turned it on full blast before tossing it into the fountain, electrifying the whole pool. Even cyborgs can be electrocuted.
"How…how…" Rinoa stammered before composing herself. "How the hell did you do that?"
"People frequently underestimate what gym sessions on an almost obsessive level can do." Mika said. "Come on, we've got to find the others. If Dante's encountered these guys he'll be leaving a huge trail."
Dante was currently in the training centre, having assisted a short sword wielding cadet dispatch a particularly large and bad tempered T-Rexaur. All in all it hadn't been the greatest struggle ever. Dante had simply blinded it with two well placed bursts from his AK-47 and the cadet had repeatedly hit it with his sword and Fire spells until it stopped moving. They were just heading for the exit when one of the cyborgs entered and came swiftly towards them.
"Down!" The cadet yelled, shoving Dante to the ground as the chain whistled through the air that had been occupied by Dante's head. Dante was spitting out earth as he looked up to see the cadet deflecting the chain swipes. Dante forced himself to his feet mad as hell. As far as he was concerned, a SeeD cadet saving his life was a personal insult. He strolled towards the confrontation and seizing the short sword by the crosspiece on the hilt hurled it at the cyborg. It hit the cyborg in the midriff and as it fell backwards there was a crackling sound and his entire torso erupted in flashes of arcing circuits. Dante knelt down and pulled the sword out and handing it to the cadet.
"Get out of here pronto." He advised quietly. "You're not going to want to witness this."
Once the cadet was out of earshot Dante pulled of the cyborgs balaclava and recoiled slightly. His head was shaved and his face was concealed by a featureless metal plate. Etched on the middle of the plate was an eerily accurate representation of a small bird in flight. A swift, to be exact. Dante grimaced. That put paid to any argument about who exactly had sent these things. He dug his fingernails under the plate and managed to peel it off, revealing a profoundly human face underneath, the metallic teeth and red blinking eyes notwithstanding. The eyes still shone and it was pretty obvious the cyborg was in serious pain.
"Good, you can feel pain." Dante observed grimly. "That makes everything so much easier. Can you speak?" The cyborg didn't reply so Dante stood and flipped the safety catch on his AK-47 to single shot. "Let me help you with that." Then he fired a round into the cyborgs shoulder from point blank range. The cyborg groaned in pain and raised his hands in a gesture of supplication.
"Please stop…" He pleaded in a distinctly mechanical voice. Despite the voice, most people would feel moved to take it easy. Dante however was not most people.
"Excellent we're making progress." Dante observed, before ominously cocking his gun and aiming it between the cyborgs eyes. "What does Swift Obsidian want?"
The cyborg elected to stay quiet so Dante sighed, propped his gun up against a nearby tree and crouched in front of the cyborg examining it with polite interest. The cyborgs facial structure couldn't show a wide range of emotions but fear was particularly noticeable. That was the way Dante liked it. Anyone scared thought twice about lying.
"You're a cyborg aren't you?" Dante enquired rhetorically. "I'm curious about how much programming Swift Obsidian gave you before he sent you out here. Tell me, are you familiar with the name Dante Skyle? No? Okay, what about the phrase biting off more than you can chew?"
"What…what the hell are you talking about?" The cyborg was in a bad way but Dante wasn't in a sympathetic mood.
"You don't know that one?" He said, putting on a passable tone of surprise. "Okay what about, oh God my leg, my leg?" Before the cyborg could even react Dante stomped savagely on his ankle with one foot while stomping on the knee with the other. The metal parts of the cyborg obviously didn't include his legs. There was a loud crunch and the cyborg screamed bloody murder.
"Oh God!" He howled at the top of his lungs as he clutched the shattered limb. "My leg!"
"See, now we're communicating." Dante said, picking up his rifle and loading a fresh magazine before pulling the action back. "What else should we talk about?"
"This sucker wobbles, but he won't fall down!" No one was particularly sure where Cid had found a golf club, but they were more focused on staying alive. The portly Headmaster was savagely belabouring a cyborg, attempting to floor him.
"Cid!" Squall yelled as he and Ellone emerged from the detention area. "Go for his feet."
Cid immediately switched his target and with one well placed swipe he took the cyborgs feet from under him. The cyborg hit the ground and Cid started to lay into it with a will, shouting very colourful abuse and disturbingly graphic threats at the top of his lungs. Several witnesses would later swear blind they'd heard Cid threaten to cut off a cyborgs head and throw it in his face.
Zell and Squall had elected to put their differences aside temporarily and they teamed up to become a single whirling dervish of destruction. Zell punched one cyborg in the face, before dropping it with a high kick to the head. Before it could recover Squall decapitated it with a hard blow. He rolled to avoid one of Zell's typically kamikaze charges. The brawler thundered into a group of the cyborgs battering the aside like ninepins. He started to pummel the nearest cyborg into a sludgy substance. Squall was about to attack the others when there was a deafening explosion that immolated nearly a dozen cyborgs. Squall looked around to see Selphie standing just outside the lift carrying what looked like a bazooka. Squall was temporarily deafened by the blast but he had a fairly good idea of what Selphie was yelling as she pumped a fist in the air.
It was at that point Rinoa and Mika added their contribution to the mayhem. Mika went low, grabbing a cyborg around the thighs before propelling him backwards and smashing him down on the directory with enough force to shatter his spinal column. Rinoa however had gone for the grand effect. She floated a few inches off the ground, thanks primarily to the huge, white feathered wings that had sprouted from her shoulder blades. One cyborg swung a chain towards her. One of the wings curled around Rinoa and deflected the chain and Rinoa grabbed the cyborg. She conjured a small purple light from nowhere and it slid into the cyborgs chest. Rinoa floated away, leaving a cyborg behind that was apparently no worse for wear. Then Rinoa clicked her fingers and the cyborg exploded. The next two didn't suffer much better treatment. They were lifted twenty feet above the ground, and Rinoa's will touched their central operating systems, more accurately, their self-destruct calibrators. They dropped to the floor and exploded among their fellows.
"Mika!" Dante yelled as he reached his brother. "I had a thought about how we deal with these guys. Come with me."
"Okay, just wait a minute." Mika said as he shoulder blocked a cyborg knocking it to the floor and then stomped it's head in. "I have to grab Rinoa."
"I don't think you should worry about her." Dante said, pointing at Rinoa who kicked a cyborg under the jaw with enough force to send his head flipping end over end across the hall.
"Good point." Mika said as he followed Dante away from the main bulk of the fighting. "Hey hang on, where are we going?"
"The armoury." Dante replied. "I had a thought. These guys work primarily on electricity so the ideal attack on them would definitely be an…"
"EMP," Mika completed, the light of comprehension crossing his face. "An electromagnetic pulse."
"The dawn of understanding." Dante chuckled darkly. "Now the primary way to cause an EMP is to set off a nuclear bomb, but I'm not interested in turning Balamb Garden, not to mention everything within ten miles into radioactive grit. The secondary way would be to overload transformers on Balamb Garden premises but that would have the minor side effect of sending Balamb Garden back to the Stone Age."
"So what do you suggest?" Mika said while Dante shot the lock on the door to the armoury.
"I was talking to Irvine and he let slip that Balamb Garden had taken delivery of some very interesting ordnance." Dante gestured to a couple of large crates. Mika opened them and grinned at his brother.
"This is good."
Even with Rinoa's Sorceress powers bolstering their side of the battle, Squall, Ellone, Quistis, Zell, Irvine, Selphie and Cid were still vastly outnumbered and they were beginning to tire while the cyborgs seemed to have vast reserves of strength and stamina. Quistis and Cid were being boxed into a corner, Blue Magic, a chain whip and a golf club doing little more than delaying the inevitable. Quistis' back had just touched the wall when something flew across her field of vision. Before she could identify what it was, it exploded. It certainly wasn't a high explosive grenade, or a flash bang. She couldn't recall ever seeing a detonation quite like that. Every cyborg with five metres however instantly collapsed, ran in circles or simply fell apart. Quistis looked around to see Dante and Mika throwing what Quistis guessed were the EMP grenades they'd bought from the Esthar Munitions Bureau. They'd cost a pretty penny, but (and maybe Quistis' was biased as she'd seen Dante naked) she couldn't think of a better opportunity to test them. To everyone's surprise it certainly struck a chord with Squall.
"Now that's more like it!" He yelled over the detonations. "Looks like you two have your uses! Fucking brilliant so it is!"
"I'm glad you're satisfied." Dante bit off, apparently not in a forgiving mood. "I think we have a bit of a problem. The problem is the answer to a question I think all of you must be asking yourselves. Who decided to send in cyborgs to fuck our operations up even more?"
"And that would be…?" Cid asked.
Dante grabbed a cyborg and pulled his balaclava off, revealing the metal face plate and the inscribed image of a swift. Cid recoiled visibly and across the room Irvine swore softly as a highly pregnant silence fell. It was eventually broken by Dante.
"Who do you think?"
Author Commentary: Sorry this took so long but this chapter went through quite a few different incarnations and it took an industrial bout of insomnia to allow me to finish it (I'm writing this at 2:39 in the morning). I will try to bang them out quicker but I knew going into this fic that a chapter every three days or so was a pretty tall order. However, I will not allow that to get me down so yay me! I did say this chapter would have a lot of action so I hope I delivered on that front. There were also more hints at the burgeoning friendship between Rinoa and Mika. Squinoa fans, please form an orderly queue for the torches and pitchforks because that will be built on massively in the next few chapters. I particularly enjoyed Rinoa exhibiting her Sorceress powers and Cid armed with his bare hands and a golf club is my personal highlight of this chapter. As for the EMP idea, what does is say about me that I would attempt to set one off if I was being attacked by cyborg chain fighters? While we're on the subject, this chapters antagonist were influenced heavily by (if not stolen outright) similar articles in the Angel episode "Lineage". Thanks a million to all my readers and reviewers, especially Dee and Bebedora, especially the latter without whose encouragement I probably would've started slitting my wrists and chugging bottles of bleach. Please read and review even if is to give me the first of many venomous death threats I will undoubtedly receive soon. Until then, love life, get paid and then get…maybe I should leave it there. I don't want angry dads turning up on my doorstep and kicking my head in because I gave their little darlings my warped idea of life advice. Peace out.