Final Fantasy 8 Remixed Chapter 3
By Balin Drax
In the upper atmosphere, three modified Gurluka class transports cruised. Just below them clouds rolled, pouring their contents down in a raging storm below. For now the transports were safe from their rage, but soon they would have to make a choice as to what to do. It wasnt their job to just sit there and fly around. They had a job to do, and soon something would have to be done. In the main transport, the Cyrus, two people were talking in the cockpit. One of them had the mark of a pilot, while the other one was defiantly a ground pounder. They appeared to be in a discussion. The other in the cockpit just ignored them, paying attention to their controls.
Dylan Marx, the SeeD ground commander for this transport and Captain, stood talking to the pilot, Well, what are our options for this. Were already behind our drop schedule and this storm isnt going to go away unless you can summon Hyne down here. What can we do?
Well Major, the pilot began, we have three options in this matter. First we do the planned drop at this altitude, but youll get scattered to Hades in this weather. Next we drop below the cloud cover and do the drop. Youll risk enemy detection, but you probably wont get as scattered. Finally, we go to the next drop point seven clicks away and do it there. But youll have one bloody long hike back to the mission area. He hadnt made a mistake in rank we he called Dylan Major. On a ship, there could only be one captain, and so he got a temporary promotion for this mission. He appreciated it, but unfortunately that put all the responsibility on his shoulders.
Taking a deep breath, Dylan spoke, Alright, I dont like it but lets to the below cloud cover drop. Seems like the best we can do. Were gonna start the drop in five. Ill go inform the troops.
Exiting the cabin, he walked back down a short corridor to the back of the plane. In the cargo hold he would find five squads of SeeD candidates waiting to jump. He hoped they would do well. He remembered his first combat drop into a hot zone, and a shiver went up his spine. At least, he thought, they wont be doing it while being shot at. The leg below his knee still hurt after all these years from where they had to regenerate it after it had been torn off by a flak burst during that fateful drop. As he entered the hold, he saw the students were already getting ready for drop. They were standing next to the static line, checking over equipment one last time. A chaplain walked among them, giving them absolutions before they went into battle. With a glance to Dylan, he turned from his last person and exited the hold.
All the student looked the same with their drop equipment on. Young or old, male or female, SeeD or Cadet, they were all identical. Their camouflage fatigues were practical, as were their jump helmets. Though they didnt look it, the helmet was a shining example of Garden technology. Rugged and durable, the helmet contained a three different light filters that allowed the user to see in thermal, low light, and visible light. It also contained a GPS compass, communication set, and internal filter to allow use in smoke or toxic gas. In all it was a superior piece of equipment that allowed the soldier to function in any combat situation without hampering their performance. Swelling with pride for his charges, Dylan began to bark orders.
Commence equipment check and sound off when done. Begin check!
Each student checked the chute and pack of the person in front of them. Then, once this was done, they turned around and did this to the person behind them. A tap on the right thigh signaled they were done and everything was okay. This was done in complete silence, and was soon completed.
Once everyone finished Dylan shouted, Sound off!
Number One, checked and ready!
Number Two, checked and ready!
And so it went until, Twenty five checked and ready! When the last student finished their equipment check, Dylan ordered, Stand and attach static lines and prepare for jump.
Students attached a yellow polymer cord to a metal cable above their head. At the end of the cargo hold a sort of stoplight hung on the wall. As of now the light was red, but soon it would change. The back doors began to open with a loud creaking sound, and the open hold grew colder as the air was let out. The plane had descended below the clouds, and the storm raged all around it. The light at the end of the hold flashed yellow for a second, then dropped down to green. As soon as it hit, the students ran out the back of the hold, each one launching themselves out the back into the raging storm. After the last one was out the doors began to close. As they did, Dylan whispered, Good luck.
* * *
The wind whipped around the lone figure as it plunged down through the atmosphere. Normally, the storm would have been hazardous to anyone diving through it due to the lack of visibility, but that would be taken care of soon enough. Clenching his jaw twice, the jumper activated the infrared filter built into his helmet. Looking around him he was able to see the rest of his team, their bodies standing out like magnesium flares on his infrared. Looking at the upper right hand section of his helmets screen, he counted down along with the altimeter as it gave his approximate height from the ground. Once it hit five hundred feet he pulled his chute. For a second it felt like the straps were going to pull his shoulder from their sockets, but the feeling soon passed as the chute slackened a little. Glancing around his picked out two other members of his squad as they likened him and pulled their chutes as well. Worried that he only saw two other members of his squad, he quickly open a communications link with them by pressing his tongue out against the comlink.
This is Phantom Three to Phantom Actual. I do not have a visual on you. Please light your beacon off for us to guide to. Only static greeted him as he gave his message. Twice more he tried, but still no success. Speaking again, he addressed the group as a whole, This is Phantom Three to all Phantoms. I do not have a visual on Actual. Does anyone else see Actual?
This is Phantom Two here. I saw Actual on the way down, but he got blow off or something and then I lost track of him. That was about a minute ago.
Phantom One here. Command just radioed in. It appears that Actual is down somewhere way east of here. Hes out for this scenario, so command falls to you Three. Theyre going to give us directions once we get to the ground.
Roger that One. My ETA to ground is twenty seconds. Meet you there.
Severing the link, the trooper flexed his knees as he prepared to hit the ground. As the ground rushed up to meet him, he bent his legs to absorb most of the impact. When he was stable he quickly pulled the release cord and let the chute blow across the clearing. He began to secure the area as the other two members of his team came floating down. The first one to hit executed a perfect landing, quickly cutting his chute and drawing his weapon in one fluid motion. The other one wasnt so lucky. A loose patch of rock or grass caused him to slip as he hit the ground, and his ankle twisted at an odd angle as fell. Stifling a yelp of pain, he quickly cut the chute off so as not to get pulled by it. Signaling that he couldnt move on his own power, the other two members sheathed his weapons and moved to help him. Lifting him up under the arms, they half pulled, half walked him across the clearing to the safety of the woods. Pulling out the fallen troopers medpack, one of them began to pull off the injured trooper boot while the other removed his helmet. They dropped their code names as they began to tend to their comrades injury.
Hows it feel Anton? Does is hurt when I do this?
Ahhhh! Of course it does. I didnt break anything, I just sprained it bad. Nothing that I havent fought with before. Tape me up and lets get moving. Were sitting ducks here.
Alright, Ill do what I can. Wanna be helpful over here Kurt and give me a hand? I know you slept through your medic classes, but all you have to do is hold a flashlight while I do all the hard work.
I dunno Roo, sounds kinda hard for me to handle. You trust me with that kinda responsibility?, Kurt said as his pulled out his flashlight. He slipped a red filter over it so as to cut down on its range to prevent it from being spotted from a long distance.
Argh, remind me to return the favor and be so slow the next time you guys get hurt.
Alright, alright. Kurt, get over here.
Roo quickly taped the ankle and told Anton to get up and try it out before they moved on. Pronouncing himself fit to travel, Anton put his helmet on and open a line to the command post. After a quick conversation, he nodded and talked to the others.
Okay, heres the deal, he began, his voice slightly distorted by the helmet filter and faceplate, A group of SeeDs just got done raiding a command post and found a list of supply depots the Whinhill forces have scattered around this place. Theres big one somewhere over to the east of us, about five klicks off. If we push it we can be there in less than an hour. I might slow you down, but
Ill try to keep up.
Alright, Roo said, taking the role of leader, Kurt, take point. Ill flank to the left and Anton will cover the rear. Anton, shout out if you need help back there. Any questions? Then lets move.
A rustle of leaves and a few seconds later the three Garden students were off to their objective
* * *
So, dats when I said to myself, wat ya doin here boy? Dems alotta guyz offa in da woods, so why ya gonna go thru der? Soz I takes ma squad round em, see, and we ambush real good. Doz guyz never saw it commin. So, ya in our out der?
Shaking his head, James sought to find the answer to his watch partners question. It was hard enough to concentrate on the Drax game with the storm pounding down outside, let alone try to follow the south Whinhill accent his partner had. Throwing a five gil piece in the pot, he tried to block out his partners chatter by looking around their little shack. Made of corrugated tin they had salvaged from the supplies, it had be erected last night during the early morning watch when the rain had started. The sad thing was it was the most permanent thing in their small camp. Aside from the stacks of boxes that had tarps pulled over them, the only other dwelling place somewhat fit for human habitation were the seven small tents for a single soldier and the large mess tent. Looking out of the crude doorway he looked at the living wall of forest that blocked off all sight. Weeks before the forest had been burnt back twenty feet or so, but it still didnt make a difference to these fast growing plants. Already small plants were creeping back over the ruined area. Sighing, he turned his attention back to his partner as he adjusted his position on the ammo crate that served as a chair.
Now dat waz back in da Sorceress War; da first, not da second. It waznt till da second one dat I got real good at fightin. Not dat I waz some kinda pansy before dat, but I got better durin that one. Hey kid, wat ya doin?
James had risen and gotten his rifle, looking out of their little shack. He could have sworn he had seen movement in the foliage beyond. Pulling up the rain hood on his jacket, he leveled his rifle and walked outside. The rain poured down on him as he walked to where he had seen the movement. They hadnt seen any large animals for days that could have shaken branches like that. Suddenly there was movement off to his left, and then his right. His hands shaking, he opened fire into the woods. The shots rang loud, and in seconds he had emptied a whole clip into the woods. With shaking hands he began to reload. Popping out the emptied clip, he turned as his partner came out with his halberd held at ready. He had thought the man to be a fool for using such an antique weapon, but he was soon to be schooled on how affective such weapons could be.
As he fumbled for another clip, he felt a solid hit against his rib cage. Surprised, he looked down to see a knife sticking out of him. It was his first instinct to pull it out, but before he could raise his hand, the poison took effect. The shaking began in his limbs, his arms trembling and his legs buckling as he slumped to the ground. In second he was lying face down in the mud, unable to do so much as whimper. His partner had see what had happened, and was about to yell for help when they struck. Out from the edge of the guard shack a shadow bounded out at the man, twin kindjals held in each hand. Though it hobbled slightly, the shadow quickly got inside the reach of the halberd and cut the man down. Even as this was happening, two other shadows had broken off from the woods and were racing into camp, swords drawn. And all private James could do was lay and watch
* * *
Three body bags and four prisoners later Roo stood in the rain outside a large tent with Anton, quietly talking on the portable radio Anton had found among the supplies. Submitting the proper passwords and codes, he informed command that the target had been taken, and pickup was needed for prisoner, supplies, and bodies. Nodding to Anton, he turned from him and walked into the tent. Four prisoners-including the one Anton had hit with the poisoned blade, the effects now worn off-sat with their arms tied behind their backs, glaring at Kurt as he watched them. Kurt was using a combat knife taken from one of the prisoners to carve a little block of wood he had found somewhere. It proved to be an unsettling effect as the helmet made it seem that he was staring back at the prisoners while he carved.
Each one of the prisoners sitting in the tent showed some sign that they had put up a fight. Ranging from muddy clothing to blood stains from weapon slashes, they all had a ragged look to them. Though they were trying to show now fear, every now and then one of them would look back at the body bags that sat in a row in the back of the tent. It was all the reminder they would need not to try and escape. Roo gave a hand signal to Kurt, telling him command had been called and pickup would soon arrive. Nodding, he just went back to his carving with no comment. Roo turned to leave in so he could help Anton mark the supplies for pickup and setup a landing beacon for the plane. Right before he exited the door, one of the prisoners yelled at him.
You damn Galbadians are gonna pay, you hear? Well never be taken over by you, even if we have to fight to the last man, well never surrender.
Roo turned back to them, looking for the man that had spoken. Walking over to him, he picked him up by the front of his uniform, pulling him up to eye level. As he spoke his voice fell flat and emotionless as the helmets filter distorted it, Do you know anything about sacrifice my friend? You said youd fight to the last man, but what about the last woman, the last child? How many innocents would you be will to burn as a sacrifice at the altar of war in order to keep your nation alive? I know your type, Ive seen it before even though I havent been around that long. You speak grandly, wanting to let others know how you will spend your life like a bullet casing to kill just one of the enemy. But the sad thing is you know nothing of sacrifice. For even though you would die grandly in some suicidal charge or terrorist attack, you couldnt live with the consequences of your actions. That is why you would give your life so easy; you could never live with the pain of guilt.
That is even why you want to die now. Three of your friends are dead, comrade. You dont want them to be the martyrs, to be the ones cried over. You want to be that person, the one that people will talk about for years in stories extolling your sacrifice. But I am going to give you something worse than death. You are going to live; not just through this battle but through every one for the rest of your life. Never will you find your eternal rest on the battlefield. You will die of old age, in your bed. This I swear by the eternal Hyne. Tossing the soldier to the ground, Roo stalked off to help unload the supplies. As he left the tent he could he the stifled sounds of crying.
* * *
The small helicopter cruised low over the trees, searching for the landing beacon that had sounded off on their radar. Seconds later the woods opened up into a clearing where several flares were arranged in a crude landing pad. The copilot signaled for the pilot to land in the center of the flares. Moving in slowly, they saw that two men in camo fatigues were guiding them in. Less that a minute later the copter was on the ground and has cut the rotor to allow the men to approach. They both wore Garden helmets and standard fatigues. Only the difference in weapons, one had gunblade and the other had a pair of dagger, let them differentiate between the two.
The one with the gunblade approached the copter doors. His voice distorted by the filter, he address the pilot, Are you here for the prisoners and supplies?
Nodding, the pilot replied, Thats right. We can start loading any time. Lets make it quick though; I dont like to be on the ground for long though.
Do you have any extra crew?
Just a few other guys who came along for the ride. They can help you load that stuff on board if you need assistance.
It would be appreciated. I got one guy guarding the prisoners and the other man had a twisted ankle. Im the only one able to do any work.
Alright, Ill send out my guys. Just tell us what you marked for pickup and well do the rest.
Saluting, the soldier walked off to tell his comrade what was going on. The cargo door to the helicopter was opening already and five men in fatigues were coming out to help load the supplies. Following the orders of the gunblade wielding soldier, the quickly began to load up the crates of supplies that had marked for delivery. In twenty minutes everything was onboard, except one thing.
You got any room for a couple of prisoners in there, Sergeant?
I could probably make some space, as long as they dont cause too much trouble in the back.
I wouldnt worry about it. Theyre too battle numbed to put up too much of a fight. Just have your men watched them and youll be alright.
You guys wouldnt happen to be Phantom group, would ya?
Umm, yes we are. Why do you ask?
This here it for you, he said, handing him a case sealed with the official Garden stamp, Your relief is coming in the morning. After that you have two hours to get to the boats. Be sure to read that, alright? Well looks like the prisoners are loaded up, so Ill be on my way. See ya around kid.
Huh? Oh yeah, sure.
As soon as the helicopter was in the air, Roo took off for the tent to tell Kurt and Anton the good news