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Fantasy in the Shell

by Tetsuken

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Part 2 (2006)
Part 3 (2006)

Chapter 2



We finally arrive at my safe house. Thank God the only people who know about this place are myself and the Major. Well Celes knows now, but that's beside the point.

"Can I get you anything? Drink? Something to eat?" I offer.

"Just a glass of water would be fine, please," Celes smiles.

"Got it," I reply as I make my way into the kitchen.

So what do I do now? Do we just wall up in here until this all ends? Damn this is nerve-wracking. Let's see... Arrow hired someone to kill Celes and myself. Arrow's weapons were used in the attack yesterday. Celes' father was ex-Vector Mafia. He's since disappeared. Where's the connection. What does Arrow want from this? What's in it for them? No point burning myself out over it, I guess.

"Here you go."

"Thank you."

"Cole," Terra calls.

"Major?" I reply.

"We've received reports of several vehicles heading in your direction. Thermal scans indicate five men in each. Armed to the teeth. Get outta of there NOW!"

No sooner does she finish than the windows shatter.

"Shit! Too late!" I yell through the link.

"I'm sending Backup. Hold on!" Terra replies, calmly. How the Hell can she be so calm right now.

Twenty armed men pour in through the broken windows. So we were followed. I run for Celes and push her into the secret escape route. They won't find her there. Once one person enters, no more can enter until I give a specific genetic print. Gotta get to the armory. A hurricane of bullets whiz past me as I run for my gun chamber. They must not be too concerned with me. Their aim sucks.

"Thank God. Now, it's time to kick some ass," I glower as I grab my Kalashnikov AK-47 and a P-90 Assault Rifle. Hey, not all my weapons are antiques.

At any rate, they're not getting Celes without a fight. Bastards. I take cover behind my bar counter. Five of them enter the room.

"Unleash Hell," I whisper to myself as I pepper them with the Kalashnikov. Five down.

Running into the main room, I feel a sudden impact and everything goes black.




"Where the Hell?" I mutter, still groggy.

I find myself tied securely to a chair in a dimly lit room. A lone spotlight dangles overhead giving occasional light. I feel like I'm in an old movie from the 1930's.

"Hmm. He finally wakes," A voice muses.

"That voice... Governor Gestahl. So I'm in Vector am I?" I reason.

"Very good. I expected no less from Section 9," Gestahl laughs.

"So, to what do I owe this honor?" I growl.

"Ah, yes. I'll cut to the chase. Where did you hide Chere?" Gestahl growls.

So they couldn't find her. Good. The Major probably recovered her.

"Go to Hell," I reply.

Way to go Cole. Now you're in for it.

"Tough guy, huh?" Gestahl muses, "Well, no matter. We'll just work that out of you. Biggs. Wedge. Enlighten him,"

Shit.

After hours being on the ass end of an ass kicking, I've had enough. Too bad they didn't tie my legs. Idiots. Just before Wedge can resume his fun, I quickly spring up and break the chair over his head. He's out. Using the ropes on my wrists, I manage to strangle Biggs into unconsciousness.

"Now to get free... " I whisper to myself as I grab Biggs' knife, which he used quite liberally on my sides - just missing the vitals - and cut away the ropes.

"Simple," I quietly laugh, bringing intense pain to my sides. "Major. You there?" I ask through the link.

"Cole? Thank God. Where the Hell are you?" Terra asks.

"Dunno. Somewhere in Vector," I reply, "Listen Major. Those guys that hit my safe house. They're Gestahl's men."

"How do you know?" Terra asks.

"Because Gestahl was just here trying to get me to tell him where Celes is," I tell her.

"This is more serious than we thought. Hmm. At any rate, I'm bringing in the heavy support to extract you. Sit tight," Terra replies.

"What about Celes?" I ask.

"Don't worry. We recovered her shortly after they left with you. She's back in a safe room in Section 9," Terra explains.

"Good. That's one less thing," I exhale deeply, bringing even more pain to my sides.

"Your brain activity just jumped significantly. What's going on?" Terra asks.

"Nothing. Just a few mementos from my interrogators," I cringe.




After what seems like hours, I suddenly hear footsteps coming from down the hall. I brace myself for a struggle, knife in hand. The door opens to reveal the Major.

"Thank God you're here," I mutter before succumbing to the blood-loss.




I awake several days later.

"Major?" I ask, groggy.

"About time you woke up. You've been out for three days. It's funny, weren't we in the opposite places the first time we met?" Terra laughs.

I never heard the Major... jovial? It's kinda scary.

"Oh yeah, back in the Empire days. That was before you joined Section 9," I recall.

"Right. They were just small-time crooks at the time, just stealing from a young girl. They'd chased me into an alley, when you showed up," Terra scoffs.

"Heh. You were just a confused kid at the time, still trying to figure out matters of the heart. Funny how this job changes people..." I smirk.

"Yeah, you used to be smart. What happened? You never used to let this sort of thing happen. I think you've gone soft," Terra laughs.

I decide this would be a good time to change the subject.

"What's happened since I've been out?" I ask.

"We took your interrogators into custody for some interrogations of our own. After about seven minutes with Shadow they sang like canaries. Based on that, we managed to remove Gestahl from the governor's seat. It also turns out that one of Vector's own generals, Leo Cristophe, found some details about Gestahl's aide, Kefka Palazzo, but we've been unable to locate him. Our efforts with the Arrow company staff yielded some interesting results. It turns out nearly 50% of the people working there were helping out the Vector Mafia. Other than that, nothing new has developed. By the way, you have another visitor," Terra finishes before stepping out of the room.

"Locke?" a voice asks from my right. I look over to see Celes.

"Celes. You're safe. Good. Sorry about what happened," I tell her.

"Sorry? You saved my life. Who knows what might've happened had they found me. I'm just sorry you got so seriously injured on my account," Celes replies.

"Bah. It's what I do. Besides I couldn't just let them take you," I laugh.

It still hurts a bit when I laugh, or breathe deeply for that matter, but I'll live.

"Some bodyguard I am. Two days on the job. Four in the hospital. Maybe I'm the one who needs protection," I laugh. Celes laughs as well.

Even her laugh is captivating. God damn it! Pull yourself together Cole. This woman's beauty is gonna get you killed if you keep this up.

"All right Cole. The doctor says you'll have to stay here for another day or two. Just until they can be sure the internal wounds won't open up again. I tell you, you came damn close to death," Terra tells me.

"Just lucky, I guess," I mutter.

"Sabin is taking Chere back to HQ until you return," Terra explains.

"Why exactly was I in charge of her protection. Wouldn't it have been better to keep her inside Section 9 until the end?" I ask.

"Simple. If you want to catch a shark, you need the right bait," Terra smirks.

"You mean you were using her as bait, knowing I'd play the hero and save her from harm!" I burst, bringing another small jolt of pain to my sides.

"Essentially. Yes," Terra smirks again. I hate it when she does that.

"So now what? When I recover, am I back on 'Meat Shield' duty?" I fume.

"Perceptive," Terra sighs.

"Shit," I mutter.

"I'm heading back to HQ to follow up on Cristophe's information. If he's right, Palazzo might be involved in this whole affair," Terra explains before walking out the door.

Some days I hate this job.




"Great... So I'm laid up here for two more days. Chances are, only to wind up here again, if I'm lucky."

In the midst of my internal monologue, I hear strange sounds from outside my room. Grinding sounds? But no one's scheduled any construction on this building for two months. Damn. Without a second thought, I roll off of my bed and grab my gun. The Major must have brought it in. Good thinking. No sooner do I grab my gun, than three armed men enter the room. Two more break through the wall.

" ...The Hell!?" I growl as I turn the bed on its side for cover.

Five against one. Better make each shot count. As the two wall breakers enter, I manage to eliminate them before they get a shot off. The other three take up positions around the room. Think Cole. Think. What would the Major do? I think back to the Transport incident. Too bad I don't have a KG-96. Even if I did, it wouldn't do much good. Hmm. Four shots left. No extra ammo. Against God knows what. I'm flexible. After the three attackers stop to reload, I pop up and shoot down the two by the door. My bed's right next to the door and the last shooter is near the rear wall. This doesn't take a rocket scientist. I get low and run out the door. Before the other guy even realizes what just happened, I'm out of the ward. I hear him coming from behind. I take cover around the corner. As he comes by, I line up and...




That's five down.

"Major," I call.

"Cole?" Terra responds.

"Five armed men just came into the hospital. After me. They've all been taken care of, but I think it's time I get out of this damn hospital," I mutter.

"Got it. Gabbiani's on the way," Terra replies.

Moments later Setzer arrives.

"You just can't help but get your stupid ass kicked, can you? Although, I sincerely hope I never see you in any of my casinos. You've got the most insane luck I've ever seen. You must have a horseshoe stuffed up your-" Setzer begins.

"Shut up and drive," I glower, cutting him short.

God, what's with that guy lately?




We soon arrive at Section 9.

"Garamonde performed a remote hack on the men who attacked you," Terra begins.

"And?" I ask.

"Nothing. It seems they committed cyberbrain suicide just after you shot them," Terra replies.

"Damn," I grumble.

"Not so fast," Terra stops me.

"Huh?" I ask.

"Did you even look at the weapons they were issued?" she asks.

"Sorry, but I was a little bit preoccupied with the whole 'staying alive' thing," I mutter.

"They were carrying Sweigger M-4 Urban Assault-Class Rifles," Terra tells me, "You know, the assault rifles with the dual clips under the barrel, receding hand-grips for added protection, compact muzzle, forty-round clip-"

"I know what a Sweigger looks like!" I burst.

"That's right, you used to be the traveling thief. You've probably seen every weapon- every thing there is to see..." Terra muses.

"I resent that. Thief is such an ugly word," I shrug. She knows I don't like bringing up my past doings.

"You still prefer "treasurehunter", right?" Terra smirks, cynically.

"Whatever. It doesn't matter anymore, seeing as how I'm not in that line of work anymore..." I sigh, trying to brush it off with a casual shrug, but after all these years working together, I know she can see right through it, "Anyway, what's your point?"

"Sweiggers are only used in one Territory. Vector. They're used by the Vector Military Units. Exclusively," Terra tells me.

"So if Gestahl isn't the only one involved in Vector..." I begin.

"Palazzo," Terra finishes.

"We need proof," I sigh.

"Way ahead of you," Terra begins, "Remember that data we pulled from Arrow?"

"Yeah?" I reply.

"Guess whose name we found several times on that list," Terra says.

"Palazzo?" I venture.

"Exactly. Gogo and Gau did some digging. There's no record of those transactions ever officially taking place. In other words, they were sold illegally, under the table," Terra explains.

"So Arrow was selling arms illegally to the Vector Territory. Where are you going with this?" I ask.

"Gestahl may have been in power, but Palazzo was calling the shots. It turns out Palazzo was heading up the Vector Mafia and using that to pressure Gestahl into doing whatever he says. Gestahl didn't even know his own aide was doing it. Gestahl was then pressured to send men in to capture you and Chere. Hence your brief stint in Vector," Terra elaborates, "Palazzo was also using the Mafia to blackmail Arrow into selling them Lambda-Class suits. At this time, Palazzo possesses over seventy-five Lambda-Class suits. All illegally."

"How did you get this?" I ask.

"I pieced it together from the information gleaned from Arrow's documents, Arrow company testimonies and the recent facts tying Vector into this," Terra explains.

"So what do we do now?" I ask.

"You said it in the hospital," Terra jokes.

"Shit," I mutter.

I hate being a Meat Shield.




Once again I enter the elevator for the third floor. Odd. The door took longer to close than usual. About 1.5 seconds longer. I enter the guard checkpoint and run the usual drill. This time, before they open the door to Chere's room, I turn around and fire three rounds behind me. Bingo.

"What the Hell!?" one guard yells.

A Vector Mafia goon drops to the floor.

"Major. We have a problem. I just found a Vector Mafia thug trying to get to Chere," I alert Terra.

"Damn. Sabin. Shadow. Perform a thorough sweep of the entire building. Garamonde. Check all thermal and infrared cameras for anyone in thermo-optic camouflage," Terra orders, without waiting for response, "Gau. Gogo. Prepare to evacuate any civilians in the building. Gabbiani. Prep a transport for immediate departure. Cole. Get Chere the Hell outta there!"

"On it," I reply, as I rush through the door to Celes, "Come on. We have to get the hell outta here."

"What's going on?" Celes asks, a bit shaken. "I heard gunshots."

"Vector. We're to get you out. Stay close to me, all right?" I tell her. She simply nods. We waste no time making our escape. I decide to take Celes to the only safe place I can think of. For security's sake, I can't tell you where it is.




When we arrive she pulls one right outta left field.

"Locke?" Celes asks.

"Yeah?" I reply.

"What did Setzer mean that day when he said, 'new girlfriend'?" she asks.

"Huh? Oh... He was just being a wiseass. He can be an okay guy; he's just been in a bad mood lately," I begin.

"I see," Celes smirks, quizzically.

"Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Right now we have to make sure you stay safe. I'll be damned if I let them hurt you," I tell her, changing the subject.

"Cole," Terra calls.

"Major?" I ask.

"We just finished our search of the building," Terra begins.

"And?" I ask.

"You've got to get out of there. NOW! We found three others and after questioning, one let slip that there's a bomb planted where you are right now," Terra continues.

"But how!?" I gape.

"Seems while you were unconscious in the hospital, someone hacked your brain. They know all your most likely hiding places. You've got to move," Terra finishes.

"Right," I reply. "We have to go. Quickly," I tell Celes, as I lead her out of the building.

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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