'Have we got other evidence?' Quistis asked, shocked.
'He's AWOL, and he was caught making a letter pass to one of the attackers as well as the meet with this Smith character. Plus, he sent a message to his parents before he left on the mission saying he'd be going away. Police forensics are looking in his room now,' Squall replied.
'Fuck that, Squall. We know he's AWOL, we know he's rouge. We find him and drag him back here. And the little shit gets a court martial.'
'How do you propose to find him?' McKnight asked.
Zell faltered, but Craig stepped in.
'Colonel, I can answer that. Though it's likely he will either be escaping the country or soon will, we can get our people to keep an eye out. Esthar and North Timber both had their embassies hit as a result of this, and the battle of Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn was started by his most likely supporters. Some of the terrorists were Dishagoumian into the bargain, so it's pretty much a given that Galbadia will suspect your man...'
'Of being a southern agent involved in activities against their interests? ' Squall interrupted.
'We can't discount the likelihood they'll want to give assistance to us if only to find out. That pretty much means we'll get some sniff of it sooner or later.'
'Alright then, we'll have teams on standby to intercept him,' McKnight responded.
'I want to head one,' Zell said, quickly,
'Zell, you have experience in mostly frontline grunt work and CRW. You don't have anyone on your team who's pulled any snatch duties like this before, let alone covert urban operations.'
'Then give me some. Besides, I got the same sort of CUO training everyone else in CRW got,' he replied flatly. Squall thought for a second.
'Alright, here's the deal, Zell. You get to take four of your choice, and I pick out three who've done missions like this before.'
'I want onto Zell's team,' Quistis interjected.
'Sure about that, Staff Sergeant-Instructor?' McKnight replied.
'Yes sir. I did CRW training myself. Never served on any ops though.'
'Want her, Major?' Squall said, staring at Zell
'Her former student. Her call.'
'Good. I advise marksmen for the other four. I'll pick the other two out.'
Zell's team ultimately consisted of the recently-qualified Harkness and Wain, plus Selphie and Irvine. Squall's two picks were former CRW officers Alexander Chalmers and Delila Timerston , who had been working bodyguard duty for an Oil firm in Dishagoum until the battle and subsequent international coalition to restore order saw non-essential workers sent home and the company send some of its hired guards with them.
It was the next morning before anything on Mitchell's whereabouts surfaced. An Estharian diplomat spotted a man in SeeD uniform whisked into a car by a number of serious-looking individuals in Vierlin, the capital city of Jochenburg. Jochenburg was a tiny federal republic bordering Galbadia to the west and north, Linderhill to the south, and South Timber to the west, with a single sea port city to its south, the only place a harbour could be built on its fifteen-mile long coast.
It was a key Galbadian ally, hence why the tiny country of only 2 million inhabitants had not been simply rolled over by Galbadia during the imperial age. However, it took a militarily neutral stance, and had no extradition treaties with any nation. It had military forces only just larger than SeeD by about ten thousand troops in its mostly conscripted force of national service soldiers. But SeeD were prepared to send troops in and extract their suspect by force, if need be. After a phone call direct to the Premier of the nation, Squall had assurances Jochenburg would not object to SeeD carrying out the mission. It was that or have SeeD and Estharian troops invade in force seven days later.
The flight had been a civilian one, and the SeeD team met vehicles purchased via the Estharian embassy. Their target was a hotel about three miles from the airport. This was the last place an Estharian spy had seen Mitchell.
'I want two operators per car. Harkness and Wain, you take one. Selphie, Irvine, the same. Quistis, you're with me, Chambers and Timerston get to ride together,' Zell informed them, as they walked towards the four parked vehicles. Inside, the weapons Esthar had helped smuggle for them lay waiting.
'We're gonna kill him, instructor?' Wain asked Quistis
'Not unless we have to. We want him alive.'
'Going to give him detention and lines?'
'The plan reads a little like that, John...'
'The plan is as follows,' Zell said, all eight by their cars. 'We will all take separate routes to the hotel. First people there, get eyes on him. Wait for backup and the marksmen to cover the exits, then we all move in. Marksmen hold the outside and have automatic green light on the go to shoot any hostiles'
'What are the engagement parameters before the go mission?' Chalmers asked.
'If fired upon, you're free to shoot back. When you get green light, any hostile bar the target is free to be put down. I want it clear here, we want Mitchell alive. If you have to shoot him try and make sure it's not fatal. Anything else?'
No one replied.
'Let's roll out. Remember, alive and able to speak. Beyond that, no one will mind him bruised.'
Chalmers and Timerston's route meant they would arrive first, and they moved as fast as the speed limits and city traffic allowed.
'What do you want to do if you catch this asshole?' Chalmers asked.
'I dunno. If I had some bolt cutters or a hacksaw, I'd maybe start on the interrogation myself,' she replied.
'That's too obvious. We have to play it by some rules. I'd bruise him where he feels it, but it heals.'
'I'd rather cut his balls off.'
'Come on, he's turned. His balls fell off, if he had any,' the male said smugly.
'Still pissed off?' Zell asked.
'Damn straight. I thought there was something a little weird about him but...'
'But what? It's not your fault, Quistis. He's a traitor, and all we can do now is get justice.'
'I know. But I feel responsible somehow. I should have found out.'
Zell turned the car around a corner before replying.
'Don't. Someone under your command makes a mistake, or the enemy just get better luck that day. You can't second guess every decision after it. You just have to overcome it and try and bury the memories when they surface.'
Silence for a few blocks.
'But why did he do it? How did the intelligence agencies miss the cells?'
'We'll get answers,' Zell replied. Just then, his radio crackled.
'Romeo One Alpha, we are at Objective Charlie. Proceeding with first stage,' Chalmers informed the Major.
'Roger that, Romeo One Delta. Keep your eyes open.'
Chalmers and Timerston had already walked into the hotel lobby, and the male looked at the guest list as the female distracted the man at reception with a few questions. A few moments later, he had what they wanted.
'The bastards in room hundred and one, seems he hasn't left according to the logbook,' Chalmers said to Timerston, as they walked into the hotel Restaurant.
'Think we should just get him, Alex?'
'Best tell the Major, then,' Delila grinned.
'Sir, we have his location, we're going in,' Chalmers radioed. Zell responded a second later, as they made their way to the elevator.
'Hold your positions outside, do not enter without us!' Zell said into the radio once more. The two other SeeD operators ignored him, ascending the elevator to the fifth and top floor. Exiting, they were almost right on top of the room the traitor was in.
Chalmers had his hand on the doorknob. Timerston had her sub-machine gun aimed at the door.
Chalmers turned the knob and the door swung open. She charged in, he drew his pistol and began to follow...
The windows on the top floor blew out in a fireball as the hotel room exploded. A car screamed out of the alley behind the hotel, Mitchell clearly visible sitting in the rear seat. A man leaned out beside him, a machine pistol in his hand. He fired a burst at Zell and Quistis, forcing them to dive for cover.
'Shit!' she exclaimed, seeing the car drive off. Zell was already running for their rental car, but the instructor chased and leapt over the bonnet to reach the drivers door first.
'I drive, you shoot,' she instructed her superior officer. Zell did not object, quickly running to the other side of the car, grabbing an SMG from the back seats. The blonde SeeD instructor slammed her foot on the accelerator before Zell even had the door closed.
'Sierra One Alpha, Romeo One Alpha, we have a severe problem. Two men down, in pursuit of four tangos in a light green MZ87 saloon, westbound on Valdstraße.'
'Romeo One Alpha, Sierra One, we'll try intercept,' Irvine replied, gunning the engine of his own car a few blocks ahead to do just that.
The machine pistol man leaned out again, firing another burst as the two cars weaved in and out of traffic. Quistis dodged a swerving compact, and Zell returned fire. Machine pistol man screamed as a round slammed into his hand, making him drop his weapon as well as removing three fingers.
A van tore in from the right hand side, slamming into the SeeD's car. Zell almost dropped the SMG, but held on. He spun quickly, firing a burst at the van as the side door opened to reveal a man with a pump actions shotgun. Two other men were visible sitting in the van behind him as he began pumping buckshot at random into the car. Zell fired back blindly, smashing the front window with one burst and putting a row of bullet holes in the open side door with another.
'Sierra One Alpha, Romeo One, want rid of that van?' Irvine asked, a few seconds later. Quistis screamed the reply of yes.
Half a second later, the driver of the van's head kicked back in a puff of gore, and the van swerved right. It slammed into a lamppost, hurling the shot gunner out, and killing the passenger instantly. The car they had been chasing ground to a halt, the engine block shot through by a burst from an assault rifle, one bullet having hit the driver in the heart
Quistis slammed on the brakes, and Zell leapt out. He ran towards the van, firing three quick bursts at the shot gunner, and another of the men inside who tried to emerge. The third man popped his head out, wielding an assault rifle, but bursts from Zell and Quistis stopped him. Meanwhile, the car's occupants leapt out, the man who had lost fingers then losing his life when Selphie put a bullet through his head with her assault rifle. The other passenger in the car other than Mitchell was also put down, by a burst from Paula Wain. Every other car on the road had by now slammed on the brakes, and their drivers, as well as other bystanders, were fleeing for cover.
Mitchell leapt out, brandishing his own sub-machine gun, firing a burst at Zell and Quistis, smashing the window of the car. He ran across the street, blazing at Irvine and Harkness, who both returned fire aimed at his feet. Both missed narrowly. Zell, Quistis, Wain, and Selphie began to chase the fleeing traitor.
He fired the sub-machine gun in random bursts behind him as he fled, causing Paula to fall over, a red cloud having burst over her calf. Selphie kept running, only for the next burst to hit her at least once in the chest, causing her torso to fly back slightly, kicking her running legs into the air. She slammed into the road shoulders first with a cry of pain as Zell fired off an entire clip of his pistol at Mitchell as he fled towards a subway station. Mitchell raised the gun again as Zell charged, only to find a dry click greet him. He desperately threw the weapon at Zell, it dropping far short as the acting Major charged. Mitchell ran down the steps so fast he nearly fell, turning to see Zell chasing still. During this, Quistis had stopped to ensure Selphie and Wain were all right, loosing sight of Zell and Mitchell in the process.
Mitchell dived onto the front carriage of the train at the platform, the pay system on the underground railway of Vierlin allowing one to board and pay at their destination. Zell leapt onto the back carriage of the train, seeing Mitchell's eyes lock onto him as he did so.
Zell quickly made his way through the carriages, switching magazines in his pistol, unnoticed in the crowd as he did so. The Vierlin commuters seemed more annoyed Zell was barging through that ready to notice he was reloading a handgun.
Mitchell dived off the train. Zell quickly pushed his way out the nearest door and began chasing the traitor, who ran up the escalators full pelt. Zell was fifteen meters behind him. At the top, the desperate spy vaulted over the ticket barriers, inciting the anger of a nearby police officer.
'You! Stop!' the officer yelled, blocking Mitchell's path in his blue uniform with one hand on his truncheon. A poor choice when his revolver was on the other hip. Mitchell drew his own handgun, a compact eight millimetre pistol, and shot the officer three times in the chest, not even stopping his run. At the door, ignoring the screaming and panicking civilians, he turned firing a few more shots at random towards Zell, who ducked. An unfortunate commuter behind him caught one in her head, and Zell replied with his own shots, better aimed. One hit Mitchell in the thigh, causing him to stumble, but he kept on running. However, the crowds delayed Zell's pursuit, and he lost track of Mitchell.
'Quistis, it's Zell, Mitchell jumped off the train at the airport. He's shot two locals,' Zell quickly said into his radio microphone.
Three police officers raced down from the main terminal, carrying sub-machine guns. Zell brandished his SeeD ID card, and screamed in Galbadian:
'Where did he go? Where did that fucker go?'
One of the surprised officers simply pointed towards a security gate and security kiosk/shed leading off into cargo hangers, cowed into the response by the sheer aggression in Zell's voice. Zell followed, half surprised simply pulling a card and shouting forcefully had worked even on armed police officers.
The small shed by the gate lay with the side door open, and within, the guard was dead, sitting on a table, head slumped forward with blood dripping from his mouth, surprised eyes still wide open, with three purple stains in the chest of his blue sweater. The window leading to the cargo warehouses had been smashed, and blood spilled on the table in front of it. Looking out, Zell saw the shape of Mitchell fleeing into an Air Galbadia cargo hangar. He climbed through the window, and followed.
Mitchell reloaded his gun, wincing at the wound to his leg. In here, the maze of cargo crates and forklift trucks, Zell would never find him. He ran out in front of a forklift driver, forcing the man to apply the breaks. He began cursing in Galbadian. Mitchell replied in a universal language after a comment in Balambian.
'Shut up, Klaus!' he said, firing the pistol once and killing the man. He pondered removing the body, but realised that if Zell was following, the shot would have alerted him.
At the door, Zell indeed heard the shot, and moved towards it even as another worker hit the fire alarm to clear the warehouse quickly.
Mitchell swung around, firing off a volley of shots as Zell ran past the opposite end of the row of crates he was hiding in. Zell fired back, but Mitchell dodged the shots by diving behind the forklift.
Mitchell ran. Zell ran. They crossed paths again, another fruitless encounter with a burst of wasted shots for each man. Zell realised that from the ground, he had no advantage, nor did Mitchell. A glance at the crates gave Zell an idea.
Mitchell paced slowly down the row, handgun aimed. A noise behind him. He turned, fired instinctively and hit air. Too paranoid. He kept moving, turning back the way he had been going.
He didn't hear Zell drop down behind him and punch him in the back. Mitchell wheezed, falling forward and dropping his pistol. Zell kicked it away before grabbing the spy by the throat. Mitchell weakly kicked out as Zell held him in the air. With a face displaying no emotion, he stared into the terrified eyes of the treacherous Examstroop, and without a word, head butted him, breaking Mitchell's nose and making him stumble back. Blood streamed from the shattered nose, and before Mitchell could blink the tears from his eyes, Zell had him held in the air by the throat once more, one handed. And then choke slammed him onto the concrete, knocking the traitor out cold. As an afterthought, Zell delivered a single stamp to Mitchell's right arm, a sickening yet satisfying crack indicating a broken bone.
Zell dragged the unconscious body of the traitor back, as ambulances and police cars swarmed the airport. Quistis had driven her car full pelt to the airport when Zell had radioed her. She and Selphie had just arrived by the security gate when Zell emerged. He threw Mitchell into the back seat, restraining the traitor with plastic cuffs as Quistis drove off.
'Everyone okay, yeah?' Zell asked. Selphie nodded from the passenger seat.
'We'll live. He clipped my vest, broke a rib or two. Paula's got a nice flesh wound on her leg. I see you broke Mitchell's arm.'
'Amongst other things,' Quistis quickly interjected.
'Oh, you know how it is. They struggle while you subdue them, you use a little too much force.'
'Interrogators might be able to use that broken arm...' she mused.
'After what he did, I hope they bring out all the tools.' Quistis agreed.
'Where's Irvine and the others?' Zell asked.
'Just driving to meet us,' Selphie said.
'Good. He knows how we plan to get out of here?'
'I hope so. It was his dumb idea,' she replied, leaning back.
'What about Chalmers and Timerston?' Quistis asked.
'Nothing we can really do for them. They're dead, the locals will release the bodies to us when we ask. I don't like it, but sometimes you can't take everyone back.'
'Well then, let's at least get this little shit on the heli's and get the rest of us back in Balamb,' Quistis replied.
Half an hour later, Mitchell was bundled onto one of two of the Galbadian Stealth helicopters SeeD had borrowed along with their Special Forces pilots. The two cars were simply abandoned, left in the middle of the field after the helicopters took off, flying towards a Galbadian airfield just over the border, where a SeeD transport was waiting.