Kramer Orphanage, Dishagoum Confederation , three hours before.
The Orphanage where Cid and Edea Kramer lived had fallen into disarray, but since events ten years ago, it had been restored, albeit as a normal house, though events in Dishagoum had ensured there were no shortage of orphans. The capital city, Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn, and most other major cities had become war zones. Rival factions fought for control of the cities, and the country. Tribal divisions, ideological divisions, and religious divisions split the country, and that had spilled into civil war that had raged for four years. Galbadia had spearheaded a peacekeeping attempt, and though the fighting continued, they had won if not peace, then at least respect amongst the rival factions. After the first few months, no Galbadians came under significant attack. The fighting calmed down in peacekeeper-held areas, though recently, a few attacks had occurred on the main peacekeeper bases and security had tightened.
Everywhere else was still a battle zone, and the Galbadians had spent the last year trying to expand operations, but so far, only the capital and the city of Bakara had come under their fragile control. Even then, the capital was only held through their patrols and the threat of bringing greater force to bear.
Peacekeepers could not support government operations directly, but they could supply weapons. Ironically enough, this meant Galbadia was buying in and selling on large amounts of arms from neighbouring Tansin in order to keep the ruse that the government only had support from Galbadia in the control of law and order. Tansin purchased their arms from Esthar. It was one of those curiosities of the half-state of cold war between Galbadia and Esthar that remained hidden, and if ever exposed, would probably be so unbelievable as to be dismissed as a falsification or a joke.
After all, few in the governments of the two major superpowers had any concern in Dishagoum, when proxy wars were already available in Timber and Krastovia. Not even the so-called secondary powers, Dollet, Dusania, and Gdeto, regarded anything in the country of long term importance. Even the PR battle of bringing peace to a war-torn land was pointless to them.
However, the Kramer's were of importance to SeeD, even beyond the link that Squall and his associates had with them. Cid had been head of the group in Balamb for the first half of its existence. As a result, four SeeD operators were based here permanently. Two others were here on a break of sorts.
Corporal Selphie Tilmitt, a Trabian-trained SeeD who had at first appearances changed little since events ten years ago, and Sergeant Irvine Kinneas. The two were partners in that they had been in a relationship outside of professional for ten years, and that together they formed a marksman team, Selphie as a spotter and Irvine as the shooter.
Both had been orphans here twenty years earlier, along with Squall, Zell, Quistis, Seifer, and others. Of the group, they had remained closest to their guardians in early life.
'Hey, guys, who do we have coming into the country just now?' Selphie asked as she entered the house. She had just returned from the capital with groceries.
'No idea, Corp,' Ross Anderson one of the four bodyguards said. A crack from a rifle out on the beach indicated Irvine was having some target practice.
'I just saw about half a dozen guys in Desert SeeDPat come in at the airport. That seem wrong to you, Ross?'
'Uniform? We'd know about a mission like that, surely. Those never stay hidden from anyone in country for too long...'
'Exactly. I think we need to call the commander. Seen Lieutenant Draven?'
Galbadia, the Ministry of Defence
'I see. She was suspicious of men arriving in uniform,' a Galbadian said.
'Yes. In a place like Dishagoum, you only advertise if you want to be seen doing something. We rarely do if we're down there. Mostly all we do down there is private military contractor stuff, escorts on convoys, bodyguard duty, security, crap like that.'
'...But your list here mentions that four SeeD are kept stationed in a house by the shore,' Caraway noted
'That's a long-term contract. Those four, plus Corporal Tilmitt and Sergeant Kinneas are all that we have in Dishagoum right now.'
'What do you think, Captain Dincht?' Wedge asked.
'Honestly, Friedrich? I think we should haul ass down there, because my bet is, these six aren't alone, and a dozen more fake SeeD are probably going to try something. Calling of the routine patrols, besides causing the local government forces Galbadia's in support of to get confused'
'That sounds about right, Zell. Your squad can hitch a ride with Wedge and his troop; I'll request Squall send along some more backup. Any suggestions?'
'Ask for the rest of my platoon. And maybe another.'
'Good. Captain Wedge, how long will it take you to get there?'
'We can be at the airfield and ready to lift off in forty five minutes, be on the ground... Ten hours. That'll be about oh six hundred local.'
'Then get going, Captain. We'll contact Balamb for your support.'
Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn, capital city of Dishagoum with a population of roughly a million, was like the rest of the country, divided. The main factions in the country were the Government, who loosely held about forty percent of the country with their ten thousand strong army.
Against them, the Socialist Front, third largest with seventy five hundred fighters, but smallest in terms of land due to strategic government and Galbadian supplying of weapons to the main rivals of the Socialists, the Democratic Brigade. The two groups had inflicted heavy casualties on each other, and the holes opened in their defences allowed the government and other factions to slip in. Between them, they now held under five percent.
The DB were a far-right nationalist militia who had broken off from the larger, more moderated National Army a few months before the G-Army moved in to achieve peace through threat and occasional use of superior firepower. The National Army, also a nationalist armed force but less extreme, almost rivalled the government in estimated troop numbers, in control of over nine thousand militiamen in their fifteen percent of the country.
The next major factions were those who officially fought in the name of a higher power than mere ideology. The Patriotic Army of God, a religiously-motivated force driven by a monotheistic religion who simply called their deity God, and numbering just over six thousand militia who held around twenty percent of the country. Their main rivals were the Army of Hyne, a different religion, worshipping the first sorcerer as creator and a deity, a common worldwide religion. Their sect was the Orthodox sect, based on the three thousand year old teachings of Hyne.
In fact, all the factions fought on sectarian matters. Though the two nationalist groups were primarily driven by ideology, most fighters in both factions worshipped a god known as Helisol, once god of the sun in a larger pantheon prior to the creation of the modern world, who had won the war in heaven alone and sent down Hyne as a prophet, amongst others, to the new world he had created. Helsolians maintained that those who worshipped Hyne as creator had misinterpreted the truth.
The socialists were agnostics and atheists, the government did not choose a theological stance even as most of their men went to Hyne Reformist churches, ones that had relaxed the somewhat totalitarian stances of the Orthodox on things like meat and in more modern times in more progressive nations, procreation before marriage and the birth control that had made such things possible.
The last two factions were tribal militias of the Unizaoi and Noteve who held what was left. For the most part, they kept to themselves, but occasionally would attack any other side in the war. They were driven simply by defence of their homelands.
The city was divided amongst the Nationalists, Socialists, and the government. The administrative centre, Northern suburbs, docks, and main airport were in firm government control, with the peacekeepers based in the old air force base just a few miles northeast of the city limits but the rest of the outskirts and inner city were split amongst the other three factions present. The Galbadian Embassy, for example, sat four blocks away from the Socialist front lines. The airport was in mortar range of the National Army.
The fake SeeD team consisted of eight men. Their equipment and weapons were a hundred percent accurate, even having cloned the identity tags of SeeD operators who were a close fit in appearance. Selphie had seen them enter the country. She had not seen them hook up with another sixteen who had entered the country long before. They did this at what passed for a hotel in one of the government controlled areas.
'Major, welcome to Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn,' a man dressed in a grey suit said, greeting a faux SeeD who was pretending to be a Major Jack Marbo.
'Pleasure to be here, Mister Jones,' "Marbo" responded, shaking the hand of the suited man.
'We'll go over the plan one more time tonight, but for now, I trust you and you team are tired, Mister Smith. If you'll follow me, the others are waiting in the dining room...'
Three planes were in the air and heading for the Peacekeeper airbase in Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn. One, a Galbadian C5 Heavy Haul Cargoplane with five SeeD and a sixteen strong troop of Galbadian Special Forces aboard, plus four Galbadian Attack Scout Helicopter-92 Stealth Helicopters, used, as the name implied, as scouts, stealth attack craft, and, because it could carry four men in a small compartment in the back, an insertion helicopter for Special Forces. These were flying out from Fort Deling Air Base. The other two, C12s from Junison airbase with a platoon of SeeD aboard one and a half dozen DGPT4s.
Both sets of planes were ten hours out, the Galbadian having set off first, but the speed differences between the two types balancing out to arrive roughly the same time as each other.
'We have managed to successfully spread the rumours that the Galbadians are increasing numbers by convincing them to increase security through a few minor nuisance attacks. Pot shots at base security, a roadside bomb warning, threats of attacks, the usual things to cause visibly larger numbers of men with guns to wander the streets seeking to keep the peace. We have most of the other factions convinced that the Galbadians are going to hit them in force in the next few days as the government wants to take a hold of the city,' Mister Jones explained.
'How will that be done?' a fake SeeD asked.
'Simple,' Smith answered. 'Plan A: We shoot down helicopters, Galbadians send teams out armed and paranoid. We have someone get to the crash site or crash sites, start shooting. That hopefully kicks it off. Then plan B, if that fails, car bomb in an area a helicopter passes fits with a claim we made to the militias that the G-Army planned to blow up a car with a helicopter missile. We simply set off a bomb, shoot one down, and that might work.'
They discussed their plans, unaware of a security flaw. Some of many so-called street rats in the city, children as young as four, had snuck into the unoccupied kitchens, let in by a sympathetic waitress, as the Timberian soldiers discussed their plans. She was clearing the tables of the food the men from the comparatively prosperous South Timber (War or no war, they still lived better than the people of Dishagoum, for Timber's war was stalled in the middle of the country and the political situation rendered any effort by either side to starve the other into submission impossible, as Esthar's food ships were protected, and Galbadia would simply drive the food they sold over the border behind an armoured regiment to feed the South if they came under attack) seeking to take the scraps and hand them to the orphaned street children who sat in the kitchen. It was routine, and the management tolerated it as it meant the refuse bins that a normal hotel would have could be removed, and thus, a nice spot to plant a bomb would be removed.
Unknown to the South Timberians, this maid had been educated in Balamb. The Timberians, to hold the ruse of being SeeDs, spoke in Balambian. She understood every word as she cleared the tables away. After the orphans had left, she immediately told her manager. The manager told his brother by one of the few working phone lines in the country, a Government Militia sergeant. The discovery wound its way up the Militia chain of command, every link up urging the link below to keep quiet. It eventually was passed, at roughly five in the morning, to the Galbadian peacekeepers, and it was decided to start now, and be ready just as the C5 landed. The Special Forces aboard were immediately directed to carry out the mission. Wedge and his team began loading weapons in the hangar as their equipment crates were hurriedly emptied from the hold of the plane.
'Well, Captain Dincht, it appears you may have come all this way for nothing,' Wedge said, loading a magazine for his GMR11 "Commando" Short Carbine. An extremely short carbine variant of the standard GMR11, with standard iron sights and an accessory rail carry handle in place of the zoom scope of most other models of GMR11, it was nothing but what it looked like: A shorter, more manoeuvrable assault rifle. Shorter than the "Kurz", the mid-length carbine variant of the GMR11, it was far more suited to the up close role of Special Forces.
'Maybe,' Zell replied, checking his own sidearm as another SeeD waved him towards a DGPT4 that had rolled up to the hangar door. 'But I get to go sightseeing I suppose.'
Fifteen minutes later, the GASH-92 set down a few hundred yards down the street from the hotel, the other three circling as the four Special Forces soldiers made their way to the building. Having had only time to be woken up and grab equipment, they wore the standard blue dress/urban uniforms of Galbadian soldiers rather than the desert Wüstetarnmuster the peacekeeper contingent wore, similar to Waldtarnmuster, but in Sand, Khaki, Light and Dark Brown rather than the greens and browns of a forest. Equipped with black tactical vests, tan armoured knee and elbow pads, and oddly enough, the type of light safety helmets used to protect skateboarders, they waited.
A car drove up, and parked as a second helicopter, rotors almost silent, glided onto the roof of the hotel. Inside, only the manager remained, his staff replaced in the last hour by Galbadians. Four more Galbadians exited the car, only one with a rifle slung over her back, the other three not even with their hands near sidearms and all four carrying their helmets. This had to appear natural.
One Timberian had wandered downstairs early, and upon seeing Galbadians enter the hotel, panicked. He cursed involuntarily as he walked down the stairs. The riflewoman looked at him. His hand flew for his left hip.
Before the pistol even cleared the waistband of his trousers, the Galbadians had drawn their handguns. The rifle came off the woman's back as the pistols fired. The four Special Forces ran in the front door, and up the stairs. From the roof, the other Special Forces members were moving down, four having landed a moment ago, four more landing as it kicked off. Running to the back door of the hotel, the remaining four. Wedge led the first roof team, the target rooms on the top floor of the three-floor hotel.
Two Timberians, still in the SeeD uniform, surged out of one door as Wedge opened the roof access door. They saw him, and turned, trying to aim their submachine guns. Six rounds in two bursts from the carbine killed both. The four Galbadians had the corridor, so two moved for the door the fake SeeD had ran from. A couple of stun grenades in the open door, a scream, and then with lighting speed and extreme accuracy, the two went in, carbines firing short bursts at anything threatening. They killed three of the false SeeDs in the entry, and another stumbled from the bathroom. One of the grenades had clearly bounced into the confined WC, and the resulting focusing of the loud blast had not been very healthy for the unfortunate Timberian spy. His eardrums had burst, and he moaned in agony before collapsing. They checked the shower room: Nothing.
Outside, the other Special Forces team from the roof came down just as Wedge and the other Galbadian stormed the next of the rooms. Two fake SeeD were here, both had the brains to stand and surrender after the grenades. Another pair of two, plus the original, had moved onto two other rooms. Four more bursts of fire, four more dead, two more surrendered. Downstairs, the Galbadian troops planted as staff helped to draw the other guests into the dining room to search them. The rear door team had nothing to report, two men observing the fire escape in the side alley.
Then they saw the tire marks. A vehicle had been parked in that alley, and had sped off recently.
'Red leader, this is Gold Two, we have tyre marks in the side alley. Possible leak, repeat, possible leak,' the radio crackled, as Wedge stormed the last room, he and his men killing five determined Timberians.
'Roger that. All units, status report!' he said quickly.
Five dead there. Six fake SeeD, four more in the other two rooms, four surrendered, one dead downstairs. Report of twenty four men. Four unaccounted for. The guests were all legitimate.
'Shit,' Wedge concluded. 'Control, this is Entry team, we have lost four Tangos, possibly prior to assault. Repeat, four tangos have been lost, possibly prior to assault.'
Half an hour later, as it emerged a dirty yellow pickup truck had fled the hotel moments before the assault was launched; Zell drove the DGTP4 along a dirt road in the mountains. He had a single Galbadian soldier in the passenger seat, and a SeeD sitting in the rear ready to man the machine gun mounted on a cradle in the roof if need be.
In the dawn haze, another vehicle appeared on the road ahead. The two vehicles neared, and it became apparent the other was a technical, but whose, was uncertain with the half-light of a sun only just rising.
Then the Liberation Rifles and the red flag of the Socialists became clear. They stopped their vehicle, and parked it in a manner which blocked off the road. Two hundred yards away, Zell's right hand moved from the steering wheel to his sidearm. The SeeD in the back prepared to stand.
'Captain Dincht, what they are doing is normal. Simply have the man in the back on the MG, and keep you hands on the steering wheel. I will handle it,' the Galbadian said.
They neared. The Socialist on the machine gun shouted in Centran to stop. They did.
'What is your business in these mountains?' he shouted, in Galbadian.
'We're heading for the coast,' the Galbadian replied. The Socialist eyed the SeeD four by four over, and did not ignore the SeeD officer driving, or the SeeD gunner.
'An unusual set of car buddies, my friend, a G-Army corporal and two SeeD. I hope you're not foolish enough to be trying to attack the old Kramer orphanage with a disguise...'
'No. These two men are SeeD, they have business there. I am merely serving as their guide as they are unfamiliar with the terrain here.'
The man in the other vehicle paused for a moment. Then he spoke.
'Pass on,' he said simply, his driver revving the engine and unblocking the road. The two vehicles passed, and the DGPT drove on.
'We were lucky there,' the corporal said.
'How so?' the SeeD just coming back down from the MG asked.
'This is a toll road. They sometimes charge to get out of the way...'
It was roughly seven AM as the pickup truck pulled up in a street in the National Army controlled portion of the city. Two men and three metal cases, two long black ones, and one green, shorter case. The two men in the back leapt out, taking the two long cases with them. The passenger also jumped out, taking the green case. The truck drove off, and the men quickly disappeared into the concrete jungle of the city.
At that time, the Special Forces were back at the airbase, the hotel having provided nothing in terms of evidence to indicate where it would happen, but plenty to say how. Six Man-Portable Anti Aircraft System launchers, Estharian missile launchers designed to shoot down aircraft mocked up to look like the Man Portable Surface-to-Air Missile-1 launcher used by SeeD.
From a distance, the boxy fire control system replica the Timberians had put on the launcher made it look convincing, but simply tugging it free revealed the standard scope mounted on the side of an MPASS. The missiles themselves were also different: Longer in order to house an internal fire control system, the SeeD launcher instead fed data to the missile from the computer regarding the size of the target, and if a known aircraft, fed a wide array of dimension data on the shape of the vehicle. The missile then used its own, lighter computer, along with this data to track the target. The difference was, chaff and decoy flares would not fool an MPSAM1. The missile knew the shape and size of its target.
Other weapons were recovered. Rifles, anti-tank missiles, grenades, and even landmines.
The four captured men refused to talk; the three discs and laptop computer found at the scene had been burned and smashed beyond any use. The Galbadians were operating blind, prevention having failed, and they were now preparing for response. They still had no idea what they would be responding to as the platoons of G-Soldiers, four wheel drives, infantry fighting vehicles, helicopters, and of course, the SeeD contingent present, sat waiting on the reports that could come in any minute after the patrols, just leaving the base, came under attack. Mister Smith, the intelligence attaché noted, was not amongst the dead or captured.
Five past Eight. The ground patrols had begun to return to base, and the helicopters began the third of their four circuits of the city. Nothing had happened.
On the mountain trail, Zell's DGPT had two extra passengers. Selphie had not properly awoken when Zell had arrived and requested their assistance back in the city, and she was sleeping in the back. Irvine, however, was just not talking as the vehicle neared the airbase. The helicopters were clearly visible in the skies over the city even from here.
'Isn't that just asking for trouble?' Irvine commented.
'The helicopters, you mean?' the G-Corporal replied.
'Yeah. Zell told us the threat could be a shoulder-launched SAM or an attack on a convoy. And in light of this, you're still driving along, and your birds are in the sky.'
'Well...' The corporal began, but one helicopter flashed in the distance. It began wildly spinning, black smoke pouring from the stricken aircraft. The G-Army soldier stared in silent shock, his sentence interrupted and forgotten. Irvine and the other SeeD watched without another word. The helicopter spun once more, and the tail snapped off. It flew off wildly, and the rest of the helicopter simply dropped like a stone and for a moment, disappeared into the city.
Then the first column of smoke rose, apparently a little far from the crash site. Then the second. The vehicle kept driving, as Zell's radio earpiece crackled.
'The birds still up report one is down. They saw a car bomb go off pretty much the second the rocket was launched,' he reported simply and professionally. Then the thin lines of smoke began spitting up from the city, and more explosions popped off in the distance, the smoke of rockets exploding after the fuse in their warhead expired.
'And as you can see, the entire Democratic Brigade sector of town just started shooting the crap out of the sky,' Zell continued. 'Looks like those four that got away sprung their trap.'
A few moments later, they neared the gates and were waved straight through by a Galbadian soldier. As the first few vehicles of the Galbadian rescue column moved past them, the SeeD vehicle sped to the awaiting helicopters. Though the goal of the Southerners, namely, to implicate SeeD, had failed, they had still brought down a Galbadian Army Transport Helicopter and provoked the DB into opening fire.
They had just started the battle of Owlabck-Hal-Wdwn.