Across the city, in a deserted shore side street earlier that morning, a car apparently swerved off the road, through safety barriers, and into the ocean. Two people drowned, a husband and wife. A husband and wife spy team for the Free Republic of Timber Secret Intelligence Service. A nearby security camera failed to capture the cause of the accident, but an eyewitness almost ran over claimed he saw the driver arguing with the passenger. Police wrote it off as a tragic outcome from a domestic dispute and presumed the front tyre had been burst by smashing through the barrier. This assumption meant they didn't find the traces of the small bomb used to throw the car out of control. Nor did they appear to discover the eyewitness was in fact the SeeD operator who had been standing across the street
In an Estharian Airport, a man collapsed as he left the departure lounge. The first police officer to reach the man, presuming a heart attack, was horrified to find that the man had been shot in the heart. He was even more horrified to later learn this man was the station chief of the South Timber Embassy Intelligence Service, the diplomatic intelligence apparatus of the Free Republic.
A car ran a red light in Lincoln City, the capital of Trabia. It ran over an unfortunate woman and kept going, and was found abandoned and burning fifteen miles outside the city and three hours later. It had been stolen an hour earlier. The woman, apparently just out for her lunch break, was another South Timber spy.
A seemingly unconnected spate of muggings resulted in three men being fatally stabbed in Balamb City. The Balamb Police however, knew who the dead men were, and did not officially link them. As a courtesy, even to an enemy, they did notify the South Timber Consulate their three local informants had been murdered.
Amanver, a country in the Centra continental group, one of only three to survive the lunar cry ninety years before, was not a crime free nation. Incidents like the drive by shooting on a Restaurant in the city happened every once in a while, innocents shot up by either crime gangs, freedom fighters opposing the racial segregation policies of the ruling colonial descendant government, or just the odd lunatic. Few used accurate fire that picked off three exact targets.
In Dollet, a man who worked as a fashion designer for a clothing firm whose items graced started his car. He was clear of any innocent civilians when the device strapped below the driver side door exploded and killed him instantly.
In all, a dozen Southern agents had been killed in three days. For three more days, it seemed quiet, but the threat of whomever was out there killing agents off meant that those working for the Free Republic's intelligence apparatus became more paranoid than usual. Few outside the intelligence services would connect all the incidents, and indeed, the South Timberian Unified Intelligence Command, controlling domestic and foreign agencies like State Security, EIS, SIS, and of course, the Free Republic Committee on Mercenary Actions, had initially thought the earliest deaths were just coincidental accidents.
However, all these assassinations had a large effect upon a cell in Dollet. This cell was the next and final target, as it was apparently one in charge of planning foreign operations and a key link between agents in Balamb and the analysts in South Timber. To start with, it had lost one of its own in a supposed assassination by an animal rights group, angered at his company's treatment of small ,cute but oddly enough, vicious and carnivorous mammals in fur farms, where they were bred and slaughtered to make the coats worn by people with more money than sense. Especially since faux fur from Galbadia was half the price for the same quality in appearance and often superior qualities in resilience.
Comprised of eighteen persons of various covers, the spy ring in Dollet had conveniently ensured their covers meant that all were in some way familiar with each other, either friendships, old school ties, or business relationships. The ringleader and his wife, also an agent, owned a villa out in the countryside. The entire group were attending a "dinner party" that had been , in fact an emergency meeting to discuss the fact their comrades were dropping like flies.
The villa had its own small security staff, a dozen rent-a-cop types who patrolled the grounds with torches and handguns. But tonight, they were to be joined by embassy guards, as one agent was a key member of the South Timber Diplomatic Mission in Dollet. In addition, after the murder of a colleague, the fashion company had outfitted their two employees here with a small team of SeeD Galbadia operators as bodyguards.
This was not a very good sign for the twelve Balambian SeeD operators tasked with somehow getting inside and confirming the deaths of all eighteen agents. The good news was, three more Galbadian Special Forces had joined them, men Wedge assured Zell were trustworthy. Zell didn't really trust them and they knew it.
'The villa has a central mansion, and a small guardhouse,' Kelly explained. The sixteen men and women were crowded around the back of a four by four, half a mile from the villa, reading a map by torchlight.
'Site security patrol along the red lines regularly, but we observed the six embassy guards wander around outside at random. We also observed a general purpose machinegun being taken into the house when the embassy worker arrived, and it's presumable its found a nice firing position on the roof where it can be propped up and shoot anyone mad enough for a full frontal,' Qwanz reported the sights he, Mellia, and two Galbadian marksmen had seen with an hour of observation.
'We saw no indications of night vision or thermal imaging equipment, but the security system here is tight. Laser grids and motion sensors scattered throughout the woods, but, and this is a good but, it's all legal,' King stated. 'That means it's all commercial, and they have to file the layouts with local police so those sensors send a signal to them as well. We have the coverage of those sensors, and its main control box.'
'Red Element, consisting of myself, Private Jefferson and Private Swofford...' Zell said, referring to a male and female SeeD standing either side of him. '...will take route three into the guard house from the south. There, we will deactivate some portions of the network with a dummy readout inserted into the control hub by hacking their wireless network. We need to get very close to mask our position however, as their wireless network has an outside intrusion detector. Anything any more than ten meters from a registered and active node will set off a silent alarm system and plant some worms onto the attackers system that the South Timberians will use to locate the cyber-attackers. '
'Sierras one to four will return to their observation positions from before as these will give coverage of roughly 85% of the grounds. They're our eyes, and, since they've got the radio scanners, our ears,' Kelly continued. 'They'll be on a permanent green light, so if something starts, they start. They'll also, once the sensors are down, start watching targets of opportunity.
'I will be borrowing one SeeD, Private Castle,' Wedge said, meaning a female SeeD standing with his other Special Forces operative 'We will take route two into the villa when the first team has shut down the sensor grid leading straight to the mansion itself. We'll infiltrate into the basement of the house itself, and conceal ourselves. We will be Gold element.'
'White Element will be led by Sergeant Kelly, and he'll be backed up by Almeis and Venora. They'll move in from the east, and hit the guards with a lot of loud noise and confusion from there. When they do, Blue element will hit the gates over on the west with more noise. Almeis will take a GPMG, but he will be able to use his GF if need be. The rest of us, wait for his signal before we use any magic. His signal of course...'
'Is a half naked blue chick that freezes people to death, sir?' Venora said.
'Correct, Jane. Now, King, Angel, and Butterman all have GPMGs and a grenade launcher each, so they'll make a hell of a lot of noise. When that signal goes, my element will hit the house from the eastern rear as Wedge's sets off a few devices they plant under the front door. They'll pop up in the west wing, and meanwhile, the security teams are hopefully getting cut to ribbons outside between snipers and machine guns. They then take routes one and four into the place, blue sweeping the grounds for other guards as white makes sure no one escapes the mansion.
'We're all sure of the contingency plan if we have to pull out?' Kelly asked.
'Yes sarge,' Butterman confirmed. 'We all make our own way out, split up, and make our own way back to Balamb or Galbadia. If we're caught, we're on our own.'
'Good, Daniel. Now, let's begin.'
Zell's team, dressed in Dollet-made camouflage, snuck through the wire fencing on the southern perimeter of the villa grounds. For all the high-tech gadgets to keep the place secure, the electrified fence was easy enough to cut through, and fool into thinking it was still connected together in the right shape, with patience and careful use of crocodile clips and silicone wire. Each had an Oster Und Lindmaan Machine Pistol Mark Four Kurz, a Galbadian-made short barrelled machinegun that was easy to fit with a silencer, was nice and light, and above all, accurate at the kind of distances the SeeD team would be intending to use them at. For pistols, most had the venerable Cormorant Arms Mark 3 Handgun.
This was in fact the same S2 Handgun Seifer's team had used in Timber about a week ago, but in this case, the weapons in question were clearly not SeeD issue. SeeD issue Mark 3's were the military model, with the integral suppressor as standard. These were just simple, off-the-shelf civilian model Mark 3's, identical except they did not come with a built in silencer. A savvy gunsmith could, however, make a simple one. Zell however carried a suppressed GP1911, a single stack magazine point four three Galbadia Action Round pistol that had been the sidearm of Galbadia's forces for almost a hundred years. It was so common, in fact, that the only way anyone could identify a pistol as still Galbadian was that the G-Military now issued their pistols with barrel lugs for suppressors.
Models like the one Zell had required an aftermarket, and in many countries, illegal modification. His had also had a slide lock mechanism put in place, adding an extra notch to the fire selector of the pistol. At this extra setting, the pistol's slide would lock rather than blow back, and the weapon would need to be re-cocked manually. The slide moving made more noise than a well suppressed gunshot, so its elimination increased the stealth of such a weapon.
He currently had this weapon drawn, walking forth pointing the weapon at the ground before him, ready to pull it up at any target that presented itself. The other SeeDs walked forth, SMGs ready to fire if need be as they followed the captain's path through the sensors.
He spotted a guard nearing the point they needed to approach the guardhouse from. A hand signal had his team hit the floor, as the guard walked past. When it was clear, they moved to the shrubs beside the guardhouse, and Zell activated a small wireless sensor device. It confirmed he was in the right spot, and he activated the small palmtop computer he carried. The system began automatically hacking into the sensor grid.
'This is Romeo One Alpha, Golf One Alpha come in,' Zell whispered into his radio.
'Golf One Alpha, Romeo One, proceed,' Wedge whispered back.
'Parcel has been signed for, over.'
'Roger that, Romeo One Alpha, moving in to deliver the rest of the order.'
Zell and his team hid in the shrubs, concealed from guards and watched over by Leonidas Qwanz.
Wedge and his team were armed with similar weapons to Zell's team, except only Private Castle had an MPMK4K. Wedge's men had the MPMK4SSD, or GA35 Submachine gun. Standard issue SMG of Galbadia, used by Laguna Loire amongst others during the invasion of Timber and beyond. This model was a sliding stock variant, which had an integral suppressor. It was the most silent weapon in the world, able to fire in full automatic and be inaudible a hundred meters away. Where it was, the only noise came from the bolt action and sounded like a small power drill, or a wire brush rubbed vigorously over steel. Semi-automatic fire sounded like a click and was difficult to hear if it was in front of you. Almost no one ever heard it if it was behind them. All of the weapons had serial numbers listed lost in North Timber a few months earlier, matching the camouflage of the two Galbadians and one SeeD. This was Jochenburg Woodland, a pattern developed by the tiny nation to the south of Galbadia that was surprisingly effective in many woodland and grassland settings. It was made up of four-colours: olive, a darker green, brown and black, randomly spread with the darkest green as the base, with olive randomly spread out, followed by thinner, random lines of the brown and black.
They reached their objective with little trouble, entering the basement, and were surprised to find that the basement was empty of any guards.
'Golf One Alpha, All call signs, last parcel in place. Fireworks are free.'
With that, all hell broke loose.
Machinegun fire ripped apart anything moving in front of Kelly's team. At the gates, King's grenadiers killed the two men manning it, and knocking the iron gate from the hinges. The next grenades landed in the courtyard of the villa, and soon, the crossfire from the six machineguns was pinning the entire guard force as the snipers picked them off.
Zell's team intercepted a small squad of guards moving out of the guardhouse, killing them with bursts of fire into their backs as the radios came alive with calls of "Tango Down", Tango meaning a target, and therefore meaning a guest, a guard, an embassy guard or SeeD Galbadia operator. Specifically, a guest was a tango alpha, a guard a tango beta, and the embassy and SeeD Galbadia soldiers were Charlie. The Balambian SeeD team ran for the eastern rear door as per the plan, radioing in the four men they had eliminated.
As they approached, two more guards and a South Timber embassy guard entered the kitchen. The SMGs tore the kitchen apart; killing the three armed me inside, as well as a woman who had followed them. They kicked the door in, ran through, and found another guest trying to flee for the front door. A few shots were taken at him as the bomb planted below detonated.
Some guests were at the front door, trying to flee, when the explosion ripped the front of the house apart. A few had tried to run across the courtyard, and as the house exploded, found themselves under fire from King's team. They stood no chance.
Most of the guard team was down except the SeeD Galbadians and the five remaining embassy guards. Gold Element had moved into the dining room, finding the two SeeD Galbadians panicking.
'Drop your weapons!' Bauer foolishly attempted in his native language. The three Galbadian SeeD operators refused. Wedge, Castle, and Bauer shot them as they tried to fire. The fashion designer cowered as his guards were killed, then he too was shot dead.
'Three Tango Charlie's down, One Tango Alpha down!'
Zell's team had chased guests to the stairs, as they fled upwards. This was when they found the GPMG, manned by two of the Timberians.
'All call signs, Romeo One Alpha; we are pinned down at stairwell three alpha by the GPMG. It's near window twelve echo, so a well aimed grenade or whatever ought to solve the problem,' Zell ordered. A few seconds later, said window was torn apart as three machine guns hit it, along with an icy blast.
'Whisky Three Alpha, all call signs, armbands free, repeat, armbands free,' Almeis announced, as Shiva began her assault on a few hapless guards outside.
Upstairs, the last three guards held the roof access stairs. The guests had attempted to go up them, but found themselves sitting ducks to the snipers. Only three of them remained, and Zell readied a firaga spell. The other two SeeD with him did the same. As the three surviving guests fled down from the roof, the bolts of magic were let loose, incinerating the stairs and the six persons there.
'Three Tango Alphas and three Tango Charlies down, Status report!' Zell requested, meaning a count of downed targets.
'This is Sierra One; tally is eighteen Tango Alphas down, twelve Tango Betas, nine Tango Charlies.'
'All call signs check in,' Zell continued. The sixteen attackers soon radioed in, and Wedge ordered the entire force on him in the main hall.
The attacking teams carefully picked their way into the shattered front of the mansion. Rubble and the bodies of the hapless victims of the blast had been strewn all over the ornate entrance hall.
'All right, Captain Dincht, we now have about five minutes to search the mansion for anything interesting before the police will arrive. I'll have my men sweep the basement, have yours clear the first and second floors.'
'Right. Kelly, take your team and clear the guardhouse. Everyone else, look for any files or computer discs that look interesting. If a door's locked, zap it.
Zell managed to find a small office and an interesting disc still inside a courier's envelope. He grabbed it, and a few other discs, before the sixteen men and women ran from the villa. The parting gift of the sappers was set off just as the first sirens were heard from the main road. The column of Police almost crashed into each other as the mansion was utterly destroyed.
The disc in the envelope indeed proved interesting. The entire group had made their way to Galbadia the next morning to meet up with some SeeD Intelligence agents, who decrypted the disc in a hotel. It was, quite simply, a dream find. Had it been undiscovered, it could have been a nightmare.
On the disc were the details of a plan to attack a Galbadian interest somewhere on the planet. This disc specifically detailed a now-defunct plan in Dollet to bomb the Galbadian Embassy. It made reference to other plans, and Galbadia's signals and electronic intelligence groups began searching the airwaves for any further indications of other plans.
It came from a mobile phone. Scrambled and not even registering the network node it was connected through, not even the recipient of the call could be traced. But the call itself was recorded in full. It was short and plain, but it was flagged for containing known code phrases of Southern agents.
'Good morning, Mister Smith, this is Mister Jones. Did you receive my letter?' a voice said.
'Yes I did. I'm glad to hear your wife is well.'
'Please pass the message on once only. Have our cousins help you later.'
In a conference room in the Galbadian Ministry of Defence. Five SeeD, two Galbadians, and General Caraway sat around a table. The recording had just stopped. Each person in the room had a copy of the files on the Mansion Disc.
'Mister Smith, as he calls himself, is a guy we've been watching for some time,' Caraway noted. 'We managed to get a name on him and a probable rank, Major Kevin Mothley, but that could be a pseudonym. Jones is a code name for another FRCMA agent; all we've got on him is a codename and a fifty percent reliable track on his movements. Last we knew, he was out of the country on a mission that is to begin soon, but as I say, that's fifty-fifty towards being true,' Caraway explained.
'What are our possible countermeasures, assuming this isn't a bluff to throw us off the trail once they heard about us obtaining the disc?' Zell asked.
'So far, we haven't heard any indication they've heard of the incident. We've put a little pressure on Dollet to keep it hidden, but we think we have twenty four hours, maximum, before they find out, if they haven't already and kept it hidden themselves,' the other Galbadian, an intelligence officer, replied.
'Now, we could take it to the Southerners, but they'll either deny it, or it'll turn out it's an "exercise", and since we don't know anything but this defunct Dollet mission, us using just this will have questions asked about the attack on the villa in the first place. The reference to the wife is just confirmation they have the plan. Once only... We hope that means that they're the only ones. Cousins means us, presumably bombing the shit out of SeeD. Which, even if we wanted to, won't get far because Esthar will start Inter-global War Number Four, and this time it's going to be for real and not just a few skirmishes like the Sorceress wars turned out.'
'We have nothing on the other plans, General?' Wedge asked.
'No, Captain, nothing. However, SeeD think they may be able to help. They won't disclose how the Estharia... I'm sorry, how they obtained it, but they have a list of target cities, if not actual targets. What is that list, Captain Dincht?'
'Naturally, it starts with Deling. It then goes on to list three other major cities in Galbadia: Listerburg, Rimmerlin, and Kryten. We're sending records of where all our men are in relation to all these targets, and for the record, there are only six SeeD in Galbadia from Balamb or Trabia, and the only reason we're not all in here is Dave's here as a bodyguard for a paranoid businessman from Selegna Sol. No idea anywhere else. Only Dollet City was listed, then Balamb. Trabia had a mention, funnily enough; Selegna Sol. Probable target there is...'
'Galbadia Petroleum. The oilfields in Trabia are pretty much all Galbadia has an interest in there, and I'll bet that your man David is working for GP?' Wedge interrupted.
'...Pretty much correct, but we figured the consulate was a target as well.'
'Nein, captain, the consulate in Trabia is where diplomats who get it wrong are sent to rot.'
'Please, Captain Dincht, continue the list,' Caraway urged.
'Yes sir. In Esthargrad, it mentions the embassy. Cosmow and Hojing are then mentioned down in Gdeto and Dusania, again the embassy, but the Dusanian's have the same situation as Trabia. Then there's Amanver and Tansin, Oil and Embassies again. And finally, Dishagoum, the peacekeepers in Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn and Bakara.'
'Heli and ground patrols are the likely target there, and simply pulling them isn't an option, too high profile. We have to keep some birds airborne one in every two hours because a visible eye in the sky keeps all the local factions in line. The patrols are all run like clockwork along routes that half the city knows by heart, and if they don't hear a heli pass over at a certain time, or see three General Purpose Four Wheel Drive Vehicles drive down certain streets, people have been known to start getting twitchy on account of the fact if we don't come out, something else is coming out,' the intelligence officer explained.
At that, Zell's phone rang. He answered, and did not speak after that.
'Thanks, sir,' he said, hanging up.
'That was Colonel McKnight in Balamb, gentlemen. We might have a lead on where the attack will take place.'