The alarms began seconds after the rumble of the explosion died down, and Zell was halfway to the door, pistol drawn, before the students present even realised what was going on.
'Come on, move!' he screamed, jolting the class into action. None of them were carrying sidearms except for Mitchell and Harkness. He saw that a few windows in the corridor outside had been blown in, littering the floor with glass, though thankfully, most of the reinforced windows had held up to the shockwave. The fireball was rising into the sky in its dying seconds, chased by the plume of smoke.
'What are we doing, sir?' a recruit asked.
'We're going to the armoury.'
'Are you deaf, recruit? In that case, you may not have heard the explosion!'
The nearest armoury building was less than a hundred yards from the debriefing room, and on the way, they encountered a security officer. Zell stopped, telling the patrolman to stop also. He noted this security officer was a sergeant
'Class, keep moving to the armoury, I'll be right behind you,' Zell ordered, walking towards the man. His radio was alive with confused and panicked shouting. The thirty recruits moved past the pale faced patrolman.
'Sergeant, what's the situation?'
'Captain, the main gate is gone. Car bomb attack. Gunmen are moving into the base at the hole it made,' he said, a nervous hint to his words. Zell saw his name was Rodgers according to the badge he wore on his blue shirt.
'How many casualties?'
'Not sure sir, it's chaos out there. At least four so far we can't raise.'
'What's your task here, Rodgers?'
'I'm to move to secure the armoury, sir. Can't leave that post.'
Zell smiled as the two men began walking to their shared destination
'Don't worry about that, we're probably not leaving much in there. Get me the Dean on the radio if you can.'
At the shared base between SeeD and Balamb's Defence Force at Port Sedca, a similar attack took place seconds after. Mortar shells screamed into the base perimeter, as further car bombs were driven at the gates. A BDF trooper was stunned to see his perfectly aimed bursts into the driver's side window fail to halt the oncoming car. When the gunfire from two other rifles smashed the window apart, it appeared the driver had ducked. In fact, there was no driver, and these vehicles had been rigged into large drone bombs, piloted by a terrorist hiding less than a hundred metres away. He kept his remote bomb on target, and it slammed home, killing the soldiers on the gate and opening the way for the next three car bombs to drive through the wrecked security barriers and detonate within the base perimeter, one annihilating a barracks and killing the twelve SeeD operators inside.
Unfortunately for the attackers, a team of three had set up too open, and when the flash of the mortar shell being launched came, it betrayed their position to marksmen. Two Balamb Defence Force soldiers saw the three man crew ready their next shot, and let their own loose. It was perfect. The loader's head disappeared in a puff of pink, and his hands dropped the primed shell, with the usual consequences of dropping an explosive device. This ended the attack, the other mortar teams fearing counter battery fire had begun. They fled, leaving parts of the base on fire. This attack had only lasted a minute, but in that time, twelve SeeD and eighteen Balamb Defence Force soldiers lost their lives. A further fifty-four were wounded.
At the Northern Mountain Base, things went wrong this time for the attackers. The isolation of the base meant aircraft were the only reliable attack method. The militants flying the light plane laden with explosives had not known that the SAM crews at the base often tracked passing light aircraft as practice. When they banked off of their flight path to a nearby airfield in the town of Oswood, all it took was one missile streaking into the sky to rip the plane and its bomb out of it.
The Mobile Garden was halfway between Balamb and Fisherman's Horizon when news came of the attacks. Radar, and soon, Sentries spotted a boat speeding towards the garden. The response was simple. The sea was bombarded by the artillery aboard the garden, and within a few moments, the flash of an explosion on the waves indicated the presumed suicide boat was no longer a threat. But Radar had been tracking a suspect vessel nearby for a few hours, and that vessel now revealed itself to be a rocket gunboat. As the guns redirected their fire, the rockets landed. Most missed, but a single rocket slammed into the port bow, wounding seven operators. The gunboat threat was ended seconds later, it too hit by the shelling. It sank within minutes.
At Port Balamb, three boats had attacked in a similar manner to the car bombs and the suicide assault on garden just seconds before. Here too, news of the attacks elsewhere was out, and the three boats were eliminated quickly by the defenders.
Unknown to the Port at this time was that less than half an hour ago, the police had arrested the van full of gunmen twenty miles away. These five men were scheduled to join another twenty in assaulting the base, but the capture of one van forced them to select a secondary target. They had a long list of them to select from, as well as a diversionary mission that any survivors were to carry out in the city.
Command HQ was fully locked down ten minutes after the attack, and by now, naval and air units were patrolling Balamb. HQ had blocked off all entry roads at least half a mile along from the gate, and the base itself was on high alert. Inside the defence cordon being completed, vehicles patrolled the perimeter and helicopters carefully watched for any signs of life through thermal imaging cameras.
In this case, the attack was late, and attacked a roadblock on the south road made by a single DGPT four-by-four utility truck. The four SeeD manning that roadblock were killed within a few minutes of fighting, and the convoy of vans and cars proceeded down the road quickly.
This was a significant mistake for the attackers, as they were driving right into four Challenger-98 tanks. Parked outside the southern gates, the main guns of these battle tanks could hit a fast moving target three miles away and were able to shoot down helicopters at up to a mile if need be. Four shells were fired. The lead van was virtually annihilated, and the remaining seven vehicles scattered. Each tank picked a target, and fired once more for four kills. The heavy machine guns on the top turrets joined in the barrage, tracer rounds reaching out and tearing apart another car, all four MGs concentrating on one target. Then the last salvo. Two cars. Two shells each. The machine guns peppered the burning wreckage as helicopters swooped in to chase down any errant attackers who had somehow survived their botched assault.
In that killing field, they would find at least seventy-eight bodies. The team clearing the mess up the next morning however were certain that some had escaped. They were also certain some of the bodies had been burnt to ashes in the inferno the shells ignited.
The Barracks in Balamb City were attacked also, by the four men who had been in the hotel at the costal suburbs. A suicide car bomb killed three and wounded twelve, but the gun attack was easily repelled and hunted down by the police within the hour. The three others were killed without claiming another life.
Worst of all for SeeD was Fort Balamb. The main rest base for operators just off a mission, a hundred gunmen slaughtered the security teams plus eight more SeeD operators who tried to fight back. Though twenty six managed to hole up in a barracks building, seventy six others were taken hostage, alongside a tour group of fourth year high school students numbering a hundred and twenty eight including instructors. Two attacks on the barracks building were repelled with three terrorists dead, but these SeeD too were forced to surrender at a threat to execute an entire class of the tour group. However, in the ten minutes they remained free, help had been summoned.
However, not only SeeD was under attack tonight. The terrorist strategy involved stretching SeeD commitments to breaking point, and so, eight gunmen stormed into the front of the Estharian embassy in Balamb City even as the bomb at the barracks across the city was still echoing through the night air. The two men at the door were gunned down as the terrorists smashed into the building, only for the first terrorist to be killed by the remaining two guards at main reception. The terrorists simply lobbed a hand grenade at them, killing both along with a secretary. By the time they held full control of the building, Esthar's government was on the line to the Prime Minister of Balamb demanding a fast resolution to the attack and suspected siege of their embassy.
North Trabia's embassy, a few blocks away, was more alert and had immediately requested the police to send an armed unit to supplement their guard force, the chief of security being a paranoid man who had in fact warned that an attack on a vast scale striking dozens of places of political important and for their large number of hostages or victims would occur soon. It only had three guards though, and as two waited at the front door for arriving police reinforcements to assist, a missile slammed into the front of the building. The surviving guard at the back of the building found himself face to face with two armed men, who shot him dead before he even drew his pistol.
At the front, both guards had been killed, along with an embassy worker. Another worker had been severely injured by the explosion, but the single terrorist had no need to drag a wounded hostage inside. He dropped his missile launcher and moved into the building, shooting the wounded man on his way past.
Two gunmen walked into an office just a few hundred yards from the embassies. This was a Ministry of Defence office, which mainly dealt with minor accounting and recruitment. Only three people were here, none armed. They were joined a few seconds later by a third gunman, dragging an unconscious police officer with him. No one had been killed in this assault and not one shot had been fired.
In a nightclub in the city centre, twelve armed men shot the doormen, and then the DJ as they took over the dance floor. The nightclub was full, hundreds of people present. The gunmen spread them out in groups, restraining hostages in every room to reduce the chances of a police or military assault.
Even as these attacks took place, the twenty gunmen who had an aborted mission carried out their new mission. In a suburban street, a car carrying five men pulled up outside a house. Three left, and kicked the door down. The surprised family of four inside barely had time to scream before the three men restrained them. The plan had hoped for at least three houses taken, but the end result was only one.
The remaining seventeen terrorists drove further out of the city. A few moments later, they were at their target they had selected. A Hynian boarding school called Saint Margaret's . The night watchman was foolish enough to challenge the armed men and for his troubles, the elderly former policeman was shot once through the head. The gunmen rounded up teachers, forcing them to herd their frightened students from their dormitories and to the assembly hall. The headmaster had managed to summon the police, and the leader of this group shot him dead in his anger. However, the terrorists held the school before the police were even on the way to the somewhat isolated building.
As these attacks occurred, so too did the assault at the Central HQ. The other students were confirmed to be in safe areas. The instructors, any active SeeD present, and examstroops were expected to assist the security detail in the event of an attack.
However, three of the four classes were gone, leaving only twenty five instructors, three SeeD operators, and thirty examstroops on site. The security detail was currently fighting a losing battle to hold the enemy attack force from entering the campus proper. As the instructors were busy evacuating students to shelter, and the SeeD operators assisting, the burden fell on Zell's class to reinforce the security detail. The forty eight campus patrolmen still alive were racing to either defend armouries or the main building.
The class had reached the armoury to find two security officers and Instructor Trepe present, already carrying rifles and wearing tactical vests.
'Everyone, grab a rifle, sidearm, and magazines. Just grab what you can in a minute!' Quistis ordered the class. Zell and Sergeant Rodgers arrived as they went in.
'Is it bad?' Quistis asked the more experienced Captain.
'It's a shit and fan collision, Quistis. At least fifty gunmen from what Rodgers last heard. Have you got comms?'
'Not yet.' He walked past her into the locker-filled room.
Zell yelled an order to the students in the armoury as he began readying kit for himself.
'Bring radios and batteries too! Frequency 1.92 is security, so put it on 1.96 for us.'
He tossed a radio and earphone to Quistis, and the thirty two now armed and equipped SeeD operator and recruits moved out. Sergeant Rodgers took command of the other two security officers.
'Good luck!' he shouted after the moving class. Zell turned and gave a thumbs up.
Armed only with pistols, it was remarkable the six men defending the debris-strewn entrance to the campus had held for any length of time. Though other security officers arrived with heavier weapons, the attackers overwhelmed them and forced them to retreat to the entrance of the main building before the class was halfway through the vast park/playground in the middle of the campus. Radio communications would assume that Quistis was Romeo-One, and Zell Bravo-One. The recruits had no call signs as such, expected instead to sound off as Indigo One to Thirty.
'Quistis, take fifteen with you to the dorms and take the marksmen, wait for the other elements to form up then radio when you're coming. Try and find a security guard and pass anything I need to know on. The others, with me. Donny, Cecil, Bartz and Zinidine, make sure you four are with me,' he ordered, selecting the CQB specialists out of the group. They split in half, Zell's team moving through the pathways carefully, using the shrubs and plants decorating the area as cover. Between them and the main building were basketball and tennis courts. Zell took point, and saw six men racing across the open tennis courts.
'Romeo-One, Bravo-One, we have Six Tangos, six o' clock,' he whispered into the radio, taking aim. Beside him, two recruits took aim, and the rest of the recruits scattered. A few seconds later, all were in cover, aiming at either the six men or places more could come from. Gunfire echoed from the opposite site of the main building. Then it rang out from the SeeD team. The six men fell, short bursts of fire tearing them down. Zell moved forward with four others, the rest providing cover.
'Romeo-One, Bravo-One, Six tangos down, tennis court three!' Zell radioed back to Quistis.
'Bravo-One, Romeo One, have estimate on enemy numbers. Fifty tangos minimum, counting your six minimum thirty eight active. Move with caution to take the doors.'
'We're heading to the main building to hold the rear entrances. Split up, groups of four to form elements. Donny, Cecil, Bartz, on me. Zinidine, take those three beside you. Other eight split yourselves up fast,' the recruits soon formed four teams. Zell motioned for Zinidine and his team to follow his own.
'Other eight of you, follow on behind us and move to cover the doors and windows, we're on point and entering via whiskey three.'
They moved towards the westernmost rear entrance of the main building, a ground level red steel door with a large number 3 marked on it, hence whiskey (west) three, when two gunmen burst through that door. Zell shot both down before his recruits even had their rifles up. The three recruits however opened fire anyway: A window just above the door had filled with a third gunman who was just raising his weapon. He too was eliminated.
'Romeo-One, Bravo-One, three tangos down, main building entrance whiskey three,'
'Have that Romeo-One. Be advised, tangos suspected to be in main building. All Yellows accounted for,' she responded, meaning non-combat personnel.
'What's the situation on Foxtrots?'
'We have six security unaccounted for, nine pinned down in main entrance of main building, at least one dead.'
Zell was first to move to the door as his team began to stack up, standing behind him in three metre gaps. Zinidine's group covered the windows above the doors as the other two groups moved into positions to cover doors and windows. A minute later, the eight others acknowledged every door but whiskey three and echo three was covered by a rifleman, and the windows being scanned. Zinidine's group moved to Echo three, and stacked up on it. Shortly after that, Quistis announced all students were secure and that thirty two more, including her and her fifteen were moving in. Dean Simpson took over as command.
'Bravo One, security has lost the main entrance, main building is now hostile. Police are en-route, other examstroop units are holding at exercise ground awaiting police assistance.'
'Roger that, sir.'
Marksmen moved to cover the windows, freeing up further defenders for the door. Four more assault elements moved to the remaining doors.
'All assault elements, this is Delta Six, I have control,' the Dean announced. 'Prepare for entry on my mark.'
Zell switched magazines in his rifle, seeking a full thirty rounds for the entry.
He didn't draw his eyes off the open doorway.
He wasn't sure if it was his heart he heard pounding or the recruits behind him. Probably his.
Zell rounded the corner, rifle raised, but finger held flat against the receiver just an inch above the trigger. Any threat that appeared and in a split second, that finger would move down and squeeze the mechanism. The door led along a short corridor towards the assembly hall at the front: this was lying wide open. The corridor had eight rooms in the total of its length. The team moved to the first... Empty. Clearing each room gave no signs of life. Then to the main entrance.
The security officers had clearly put up a fierce resistance. Shattered masonry littered the floor, and every wall was half-ruined from bullet impacts. The various plants and other decorative features had been shredded by the gunfire. Glass littered the floors near the shattered frames of windows.
'Delta Six, Bravo One, Have nine Foxtrots down in main entrance, no contact at this point.'
The stairs to the next floor. Slowly climbing the main stairs, they found two gunmen. Zell fired a burst at one, dropping him, as the second main raised his rifle. A ball of fire from a recruit beside Zell engulfed the man, and Zell finished the job with another burst.
'Delta Six, Bravo One, two tangos down, Corridor Two Alpha.'
The SeeD teams moved to clear the second floor.
After ten minutes of slowly clearing the building, it turned out the remaining attackers had occupied the library on the top floor, apparently deciding that it provided an elevated position to watch for snipers and also gave themselves an easy to defend stronghold. Two recruits had been wounded during a firefight to retake the third floor, but the enemy had retreated to the library without casualties. The library only had six entrances excluding the roof, and only three skylights provided any way in without explosives. The main entrance had been wrecked by the gun battle that had taken place, and a total of eleven dead security officers were found in the building. Marksmen had moved to the roofs of the dormitories, and as expected the enemy had scurried behind bookshelves the second they saw them move in. A helicopter had arrived, a thermal imaging camera counting thirty eight bodies inside the library, each of them confirmed to be an enemy.
The six assault elements that had retaken the building were now positioned near each library entrance. They were in position just in case the Dean's plan to end the crisis failed.
The helicopter had two miniguns aboard, MG5s able to fire at a rate of ten thousand rounds a minute. The crewman manning the gun facing the library roof was looking through a thermal scope mounted to the weapon, counting targets and keeping the gun aimed at a small group of enemies. Aiming out of the door beside him were two marksmen carrying large-calibre sniper rifles with similar thermal scopes mounted on the top rails, the SeeD Antimaterial rifle. Firing a 14x60mm calibre round, the same as used in heavy machineguns, it could rip through the roof of the library: and probably quite far into the next floors.
On top of the dormitory buildings, another eight similar rifles were aimed along with lighter rifles. Machine guns were aimed alongside the snipers, and all that was left to spring this trap was confirmation.
'Go,' Dean Simpson ordered, and a second later, tracer rounds ripped across the campus from the machine guns, smashing the windows and ripping through the enemy and the aisles of bookshelves. The minigun fired short bursts, as snipers fired at any targets of opportunity. The snipers at the rear were merely to add volume of fire and take any shot of opportunity: The helicopter provided the real attack. The snipers and the minigun were picking off the enemy one by one as the fire team on the dorm roof simply shot the library in general. It was hardly subtle, but the idea was mostly psychological, to remind the enemy they were not safe
The firing ceased after twenty seconds. At least nineteen of the enemy were dead, and the attack elements moved into the devastated library. Only a few of the survivors had not thrown themselves and their weapons to the floor. Those few were soon alongside their dead comrades. The surviving attackers rather wisely surrendered, and it was over. The library was a mess, but everything there could be replaced. Lives could not.
Zell had proceeded back to the Dean's office, where the head instructor had went to when the situation was resolved. The class had been ordered to assist security, and in addition, local emergency services had arrived, and were also supporting the security staff with the clear-up and investigation. The non-examstroop students had been returned to their rooms, those authorised to carry sidearms instructed to do so, and a company of SeeDs was on the way up to tighten security at the base.
'Good work, captain Dincht, but we might need your help elsewhere,' Dean Simpson said.
'What's the situation, sir?' Zell asked. A muted TV in the corner was displaying footage of a news channel covering the carnage of the evening.
'In short, we've been hit pretty much everywhere. Command HQ came under attack late and the bad guys drove into a platoon of tanks, but we've had our asses whipped in most other places. Contact's been lost with Fort Balamb, all we know about Mobile Garden is a rocket hit the second deck, Northern Mountain base shot down a hostile plane, and no further word yet from anywhere else except they were under attack and they've all gone into lockdown.'
'I presume we're getting CRW ready for to take a look at Fort Balamb?'
'We would, but they've hit a few other targets beside us, including the Estharian embassy,' Simpson said. 'According to the guy the negotiators spoke to, they've also taken a random house in the city hostage, and he was kind enough to narrow it down to say its at least half a mile from the sea, which only leaves about a million houses to search. Balamb Metropolitan Police haven't asked for assistance yet, but Esthar's requested a rapid solution to it.'
'Well, it rules out my parent's house at least. Saves me a phone call,' Zell commented.
The TV image changed once more, to a woman standing before the Estharian embassy. A distinctive building from the turn of the previous century in a more upmarket part of the capital city, it had housed Esthar's embassy since then until they pursued isolation, and then they had been back for the last ten years since it had re-opened. It had a single main balcony, and the door there was pouring smoke. Simpson turned the volume up.
'...at least one of the men on the balcony was knocked over when it went off, and I can hear what sounds like more gunfire from within the building...'
'Looks like the police might have obliged the request for a rapid solution a little too soon,' Zell commented.
'This can't end well,' Simpson replied. 'The police don't have the training to handle this sort of thing. I think we're about to watch a slaughter.'