It was a task he felt was beneath him. Miles Lindeman had been told that a high-ranking agent, codenamed Citadel, had demanded to meet with a high ranking Intelligence official. And so, he had spent a day travelling by train to Fisherman's Horizon, a bastard city-state in the middle of the ocean. He wondered why no one had sunk this city of pacifists and cowards, but had to concede it was useful for tasks like this. He preferred them conducted by lower ranking field agents. Not people like himself.
'Why couldn't we have bodyguards?' his companion asked in Galbadian.
'Because we're only allowed so many armed soldiers in FH, Fritz, and the conference the Estharians have organised to bully Amanver into giving up the bomb has all of our quota tied up protecting our advisors and other hangers-on.'
The two Galbadian intelligence officers were walking out of the city's main train station into the plaza where ten years before, SeeD troops had engaged in the last open conflict in the city against Galbadians. At this early hour, the train station was almost empty apart from those up at the ungodly hour to catch early trains, or greet those arriving on those trains pulling in.
The arms talks had began, the pressure on Amanver causing the organisation of these diplomatic discussions to occur at a lighting pace, even if the actual discussions would last days, weeks, or even months. Neither side would back down early, but then one would offer a concession, real or a smokescreen. The other side would suggest different concessions, and should any be adopted, those concessions would then form the basis of the debate. If they failed, concessions would be withdrawn or the talks would fail in most such discussions. In this case, a failure of the talks was not in the interests of either side, even as both conspired to draw the process out for as long as possible.
'I don't understand it.' Lindeman continued. 'Some inbred ginger Estharian bastards and their SeeD and Balamb lapdogs attack them for no good reason, and they respond rationally. I mean, they wouldn't stand a chance against a supercarrier, especially if it had its own a-bombs.'
'True, but the president did...'
'The President? He's practically a fucking communist. He might as well be the vice-president of Esthar.'
'Um, Miles, the Estharians are socialists. The Gdetoans are the communists, and the Dusanians are a Unified People's Society...'
'What's the difference? And don't tell me. All I know is the similarities. Freedom-hating filth, who want to force draconian measures on the world supposedly in the name of the poorest people in society.'
Neither man commented on the irony in the statement. Galbadia had started electing it's president ten years ago. Galbadia had only outlawed detainment without trial nine years ago. Dusania elected all of its leaders for many decades. Gdeto had done likewise, and Esthar had also elected Laguna Loire into position, albeit only every ten years. Only Galbadia had actually invaded and occupied another country within the last thirty years.
The two Galbadians neared their destination, a car hire facility across from the station. To avoid bugs, they would select a random car to meet their agent. Kurzwald drove, sitting in the right hand driver's seat, not a familiar setup to a Galbadian more used to left hand drive.
'I don't like this,' he complained as the drove onto the highway. Their meeting was across the city.
'Why? They can't have bugged this car, we picked it at random. No one has the means to possibly bug every single rental car they have, even if they knew we were coming. And if they're trailing us with a directional microphone, then we're already in trouble.'
'It's not that. The battle in Amanver... Do you think the Southerners might have talked?'
'Don't be ridiculous. They don't have proof. FRCMA Director Edmondson shredded the documents in front of me and assured me that there were no other copies.'
There was almost no traffic on the three-lane highway at this hour, with only a truck drawing up behind them. The speed limit was eighty miles per hour, and the car they had chosen had a speed limiter locking it eighty. They were currently cruising at sixty, in no rush to meet a paranoid spy.
'And you trust him?' Kurzwald asked.
'He implemented our plan, didn't he?'
The truck drew nearer, drawing up beside them. It was a red six-wheeler, cab-over truck with a trailer attached proclaiming it carried goods for a lumber merchant.
'Going quite fast, isn't he?' Lindeman commented.
'You know truck drivers. Paid by the hour, so they drive as fast as they can to the nearest service station and waste three reading a tabloid and eating a fry up.'
Silence again, broken by Kurzwald.
'What's this about anyway?'
'I told you. This agent has shit his britches over something or other, and wants to clear up that his transfer line is clean.'
'And he needs someone senior why?'
'Because he thinks he's important.'
There was further silence for the next minute, as the vehicle kept moving. The truck appeared to now be cruising at the same speed as the car; a point Lindeman took exception to.
'Why is he driving beside us now?'
'He's in a sixty ton lump of metal; we're in a five gram soft drinks can. Truckers like to intimidate other road users, it's just their thing.'
'I'm not so sure...' the paranoid Lindeman replied. Kurzwald laughed.
'A minute ago you were implying I was paranoid, now a truck's got you spooked!'
Lindeman saw the funny side and joined in the laughter, but grew serious a few seconds later.
'Still, maybe you were right. Maybe we could have used bodyguards.'
'Maybe it was you who was right. No one sane kills diplomats.'
Lindeman was about to agree when the red paint drew closer to the window, and the world began to shake. The truck had slammed into the rental car, forcing it violently into the crash barriers separating the two directions of the highway. The truck kept the car pinned to the barrier, sustaining little damage to itself but inflicting catastrophic destruction to the car and barrier, almost pushing through the barrier at some points. Sparks flew and metal screamed in the mere moments it all happened over, before the truck drove off. The mangled car had halted. Kurzwald lay slumped into the airbag, his neck broken. Lindeman moaned in pain as he heard a siren approach from behind. He tried to lift his head, his back screaming in protest as he spat blood from his mouth. His head span, and for some reason the light coming through the smashed windscreen hurt his eyes.
The police car had neared, and two officers raced over. Lindeman weakly tried to beg for help, but the whimper barely escaped his throat. He tried to move his hand, reach for the officer, pull himself out, whatever he could do to get free and escape. He could not feel his legs any more, and wasn't sure if he was seeing out of both eyes. His back felt strange... And something felt unusual about these policemen, he thought, before the pain sprang back into effect and drove the thoughts away. Even as what was left of his body he could feel was wracked with agony, he still made out the words of the police officers.
'Driver is dead,' one officer said.
'The passenger's still with us. Mine, Seifer?' the other asked, and Lindeman felt a chill course through his body.
'He's your countryman.'
Lindeman turned to see a face he had seen once before, the face of a Special Forces soldier who had escorted him in South Timber. Hauptman Friedrich Wedge, who was picking up a shard of the glass.
'The President says goodbye, Herr Lindeman,' Wedge said, as he swiped the shard of glass across the man's throat, cutting his windpipe and arteries. The last thing Lindeman saw as he bled to death was Wedge and the man he had called Seifer walk out of his vision to their car. And then there was blackness.