Simultaneously, at all six sites where the terrorists held innocent lives at gunpoint, it began. Explosives breaching walls and doors, armed men with sub-machine guns and rifles storming through skylights and basements, helicopters swooping in and deploying dozens of armed marines. Overwhelming force being brought to bear upon the enemy.
At the Estharian embassy, the previous botched assault by the police had influenced this plan. Explosive charged blew open five entry points: Four at each corner of the roof, and one team ready to move in via the basement as soon as the route was clear.
The explosions threw up huge clouds of dust, drawing the assembled cameras to focus on the roof immediately. A few glimpses of shapes in gas masks and black fatigues were had by most, but the figures disappeared like ghosts in the smoke. The blast had covered up the roar of the heavy calibre rifle, shooting straight through the front door and the head of the machine gunner, with violent results.
The basement team stormed through, running up to see the wall behind the dead terrorist painted with his blood. The man's head was missing, and a vast hole was left in the wall.
Five terrorists remained. The two upstairs raced to engage one SeeD team, firing a single grenade and a burst of machinegun fire. The man defending the balcony room raced downstairs to the machinegun, ordered so by the two men holding the hostages. The man from the balcony ran around a corner, straight into the SeeD team ascending the stairs. Two operators fired bursts at him. The team did not pause as the man fell, running forward down the corridor, but one operator paused to fire a burst into the dead corpse, to ensure it was dead.
Upstairs, the grenade had killed a SeeD operator, and the machine-gunner here was helping keep the rest pinned. Two SeeD teams stormed downstairs, but one was racing in behind the two terrorists. They emerged into the opposite end of the corridor the two men were standing in, pouring fire into the room the other SeeD team was pinned in. The machine-gunner was out of sight, but the grenadier was. He was hit with shots from all four members of that element, a full twenty rounds. The gunner turned the corner, firing his weapon inaccurately, but he still managed to hit one SeeD before he too was shot dead.
In the room with the hostages, all three of the other SeeD teams were now outside. One terrorist began shooting the hostages, just as the stun grenades flew in the door. They detonated, the bright flash and loud noise disorientating the terrorists. The SeeD soldiers stormed in, weapons blazing. The terrorist who had fired on the hostages span round as he was shot, finger still on the trigger. One of his shots struck a SeeD in the leg, but it was not a significant wound. The other had dropped his weapon, yelling in pain as the grenades went off. He had been facing away from the door, looking nervously out of the window, but the SeeD operators shot him anyway.
A moment later, the last bursts of fire into the bodies, and the teams upstairs raced to begin evacuating hostages. Two had been killed, and nineteen suffered some injuries, three from gunshots, and the rest from the stun grenades. However, the mission was a success: key embassy staff were free, and the terrorists were all dead. SeeD losses had been fairly low.
At the Timber Embassy, things were simpler. A stun grenade landed on the balcony just as a hole was blown in the basement wall. Meanwhile, a skylight was blown open, and a stun grenade thrown in.
The five elements there raced through the embassy, finding all hostages and terrorists trying to move their hostages to, ironically enough, the basement. The balcony team shot dead one straggling terrorist, the basement team stormed out to see a dozen panicked hostages descending the stairs. The terrorist there immediately began firing on the SeeD operators, but only one shot was fired that did anything, a single round through his head by a SeeD soldier. They ran past the hostages, as the next burst of fire began. The balcony and basement teams found the last terrorist firing at hostages, and the combined fire put the man down beyond any doubt he was dead. Remarkably, the five hostages shot only had minor wounds.
The nightclub was more complex. Holes had been carefully made in the roof and basement, and a total of twelve soldiers had infiltrated the building, hiding in empty rooms and the air vents. The back door, front entrance, and three top floor windows were the other entry points. Hostages were held in four rooms: Most on the dance floor, covered by three men, the rest, locked in the staff room, women's toilets, and a storage room upstairs. One man guarded these doors. The other six terrorists covered the likely entrances by the police or military: the front door, back door, and the top floor skylight.
One terrorist hand span round as the door exploded, suffering for it when the stun grenades went off. His associate had shielded his eyes, but both men could no longer hear, temporally deafened by the grenade. They both began firing bursts at the door, as a Special Army Section commando dropped out of an air vent behind them. He shot them both in the back of the head, two rounds each.
'Doorway clear!' he shouted. The four SeeD CRW operators then came in.
On the top floor, a decoy charge was set off at the skylight, and the two terrorists raced to that office, hurling a hand grenade into it. Then the infiltration teams emerged from the door behind them, making the first arrests. The terrorists, upon feeling guns at the back of their heads, surrendered.
The window entry teams used special shape charges, the size of a common sheet of paper, on the end of long metal poles to blow the windows in. With one man ready to abseil down to the window, another leaned over the edge of the roof, guiding the charge into the middle of the window. Within seconds, the first men in the windows were out of the room, one man emerging near the staff room. The terrorist there was gunned down.
The back door team found itself slaughtered by a similar trick to the front door, except this time, by the door down to the basement opening up and having their kneecaps blasted by the Balamb Defence Force soldiers using shotguns. The SeeD team entering fired three rounds quickly into the prone bodies.
The infiltration team upstairs, plus two of the other teams entering, made their way downstairs as the third team shot dead the storeroom guard. Stun grenades were hurled into the dance floor from the five entrances, one from each team. Before the echo of the blasts had died, the vents deployed three more Balambian soldiers, wearing ear protectors. The basement team had meanwhile shot the man guarding the women's toilets dead just was he was trying to go into the room and shoot hostages. The twenty clubbers there screamed as the door swung open, only for three loud bangs to erupt and the man to fall, his chest covered in blood. The three men in the dance floor were shot down by the entering SeeD and BDF troops, one unlucky terrorist getting nearly seven guns empty at least six rounds each into him.
At the office, two of the gunmen had been in a different room from the hostages, the staff room, watching the only television. It was a critical mistake, as both men were hit by the glass from the exploding skylight. The soldier who dropped down after the stun grenade hurled in detonated found the two terrorists on the floor, writhing in agony. He kicked their guns away and quickly restrained them with plastic handcuffs, similar to the cable-tidies that wrapped large bundles of cables, coming often from the backs of computers, video players, and televisions up in schools and offices. The third man found himself face to face with four armed BDF troops when he ran out of the office to see what had happened. He dropped his weapon the second he saw the soldiers. They soon restrained him also.
In Krastovia, the battle was still raging as the crisis in Balamb was drawing to a close. Four hours before, the Rebels had staged an assault upon government forces inside the city, and an hour later, had ambushed the relief column. The militia who had turned lured their former comrades towards a city now in rebel hands with the fake distress calls. Rebel forces however had entrenched the outer ring of the city, and the Militia sending the distress calls were those carrying out attacks. The power plant had been destroyed, and to the rest of the militia at the base, it appeared a serious assault was under way.
Balamb, with its own problems, was unaware the attack here had occurred until later. The first stage had been a lure, but the SeeD forces they had hoped would come did not. Nonetheless, the rebels slaughtered the relief column.
The allies, Gdetoan and Krastovian loyal militia, had first went into the city via the main highway, and had reached roughly five hundred meters into the city limits when car bombs struck the front and rear of the convoy. Roadside bombs and rocket attacks struck the central portion column, and the allies were drawn into a hopeless gun battle with the rebel forces on the highway. Many rebel soldiers flung themselves towards the battle tanks in the column, attempting to kill the occupants but leave the vehicles operational. Another six columns were heading towards similar ambushes.
The allies kept moving in more troops until a SeeD scout helicopter flew over, and saw the rebel militiamen. It then began buzzing the city, under heavy fire, but nonetheless gave estimate troop numbers and crucially, a safe way out for the other soldiers moving into the city. They were chased by the rebels, and SeeD troops raced out to meet their retreating allies and set up ambushes for the rebels. It was not designed to stop them, but buy time for the retreating column. Half the allied counter attack was lost, but the rebels suffered a heavy toll when the SeeD ambushes occurred. This made them slow down, fearing further ambush even as the SeeD teams hastily retreated.
That left them wide open to the Gdetoan and SeeD helicopter gunships. The cannons, rockets, and missiles of the allied air power tore apart dozens of rebel vehicles and scores of soldiers. However, three other large concentrations of rebels were moving in: Some from the east, south, and the mountains in the north, with the western group having been that which had encountered the SeeD and helicopter assaults.
It was midnight in Balamb, but it was only about eight in Krastovia. Strangely, the Rebels first attack came roughly as the six sieges were resolved in Balamb. Rebel artillery, in the mountains, began to bombard the base. A platoon of Special Forces, plus two of the Airborne, took to the skies and landed near the rebel guns. They captured a large number of guns, turned them towards other rebel positions, and fired a few shots before fleeing. The rebel artillery then began firing upon itself in the confusion, and as the allied counter-artillery rockets exploited that gap to roll out of armoured bunkers and bombard the mountainside with their own artillery. The SeeD teams were already racing back.
Gdetoan troops held a perimeter around the base, most of the SeeD troops here holding the inner base, or away on raids in another city. The rebels pounded the Gdetoan positions with human wave attacks, slowly pushing them back as the rest of SeeD returned by air. At about ten, the Gdetoans finally were pushed back, just as SeeD prepared to push out.
Then, the rebels managed to achieve what could have led them straight to victory. Their remaining artillery in the south and east had remained silent, as the anti-aircraft missiles and guns set up. This rendered helicopter flights impossible due to the risk, and the various artillery guns had pinpointed one building in the base. The command centre. The Gdetoan and loyalist Militia commanders were both in this place, when the shells roared in, the concentrated volume of them defeating the bunker. It meant the satellite uplink was also lost, and command fell to Colonels Smith and Dempsey of SeeD. But events were overtaking the rebels. SeeD troops were guiding incoming Gdetoan and Estharian fighters and bombers to the rebel artillery: the fighters would first try and lure the anti-aircraft guns and surface to air missiles to reveal themselves, allowing other aircraft to destroy them.
Using their speed, the fighters began distracting and destroying the anti aircraft abilities of the rebels, just as the bombers hit the artillery. The rebel guns soon fell silent as aircraft hit them, or SeeD teams attacked and fled into the forest in hit-and-run tactics.
In this place, where the enemy planned to strike the hardest, where they had almost been touching victory, they found themselves losing the battle almost the moment they engaged the SeeD forces. Where the smaller cells in Balamb faced pistol-armed security officers and a small base guard, the Krastovian element of the plan had allowed SeeD troops to infiltrate their lines, and had lost their artillery. Furthermore, their anti-air was being shredded by the allied air power as well as SeeD infiltrators. The infantry and technicals kept moving on the base, the Gdetoan troops and some SeeD making them pay in blood for every inch of ground. But near midnight local time, the last of the anti-aircraft guns were gone, and the air forces, who had been running sorties since first arriving, hit the rebels. The SeeD troops meanwhile moved in to hit the rebels from the rear.
The hit and run tactics, coupled with the superior night fighting equipment of SeeD, meant the rebels lost hundreds of men and vehicles to attacks from the rear they could not even see in the gloom. The battle raged until about four, when the rebels, suffering heavy casualties both from the front and rear, were thrown into disarray when their commander was killed by SeeD troops. They retreated to regroup, SeeD troops eliminating targets of opportunity before the next stage of the battle.
SeeD forces used quad bikes before dawn, the fast all terrain vehicles allowing them to begin hit and run assaults on the rebels even as the air power pounded them as they attempted to regroup. Any attempt to resume the assault was hit in the flanks by SeeD them bombed by the air force or helicopter gunships, and the rebels finally had enough. Before dawn, they retreated to the city, chased by the air force and helicopters all the way. When the allies took the fight to the city, the rebels either surrendered, or kept running.
Allied reinforcements arrived about an hour later, moving to reinforce the base and help clear the city. The rebels had lost the battle of Vologo Graznier, having almost half their forces killed, over eight hundred captured, and most of the surviving troops fled wounded in some way or another. In return, thirty four SeeD, three hundred and twenty two Gdetoans, six Estharian air force pilots and all five hundred loyalist militia had died. Two hundred and eight SeeD, five hundred and ninety eight Gdetoans, and three Estharian pilots shot down had been wounded. At least two hundred and thirty one civilians had died in the city, and at least three hundred and forty five had been reported as wounded, but the true figures were likely higher, the Krastovian locals often not reporting such things, or the doctors at the hospitals not actually counting many of the wounded.
However, back in Balamb as the rebels began shelling the base, the other two assaults took place. The school would be the most complex of the five in Balamb, requiring speed to save the hostages, as well as extra care: dead children were bad enough, children killed by government forces were worse.
The SeeD and Ranger Air Wing forces consisted of sixty troops, including Commander Leonhart's ad-hoc element. They had considered not cutting the power to the building before the assault, to prevent panicking the children, but the fact that either way a firefight would erupt around them led to that idea being scrapped. Four Ranger teams of four would enter by the roof, blowing holes rather than taking skylights. Two ranger teams would enter by the sides, two teams at each side blowing in windows, and three SeeD teams would attack the rear and front. Two attacking via windows, one by the doors. One team was snuck into the basement by a disused drain.
Squall's team was one set to attack by a front window, and the four senior officers were lying in wait. SeeD snipers had taken up concealed positions, Selphie and Irvine among them. Then the go order was issued by Colonel McKnight. The explosions occurred seconds later.
Squall lobbed the flash bang into the room himself, a classroom. Caun and Fletcher were the first two in, and they fired upon the door as it opened. A terrorist gunman let out a gasp as the bullets ripped through him.
'Tango down, ground floor classroom three doorway!' Caun barked into the radio.
'Have that,' came a reply from a BDF intelligence officer in charge of comms.
The four SeeD officers moved into the corridor, seeing the classroom door opposite open. A grenade in the door, and Squall went in, finding a terrorist trying to pick himself up. The commander of SeeD shot the man dead with six rounds.
'Tango down, ground floor classroom five,' he shouted. His element began to clear the block of six classrooms at this end, the other team entering by the rear covering the six on their side and killing one more terrorist. The same was the case at the other side of the house, with those entry teams killing another two. Further along the corridors, the Rangers covered the last four classrooms on each side, only finding one terrorist. The centre of the building housed the dining hall, which doubled as an assembly hall and stage.
The gym hall was to the rear of the building, where a Ranger team and one SeeD team had entered. There, they found four of the gunmen covering many of the hostages. The element of surprise and the darkness meant that the SeeD and Ranger teams could kill all four without anyone seeing them in the pitch black room bar the flashes from their guns, but the screaming began anyway. They radioed for further assistance.
The other teams found terrorists covering the dormitories upstairs, one team actually landing in an empty dorm. They ran out into the corridor after hearing shots, finding two confused terrorists had gunned each other down.
The basement team had raced along with three of the ground floor teams to help the hostages in the gym evacuate, and Squall's team plus a SeeD team went upstairs.
Holding his weapon out ready to fire, Squall led the way, only for a burst of fire to smash the window on the stairwell. Two terrorists were at the top of the stairs, firing down. Squall and his team were pinned.
'This is Sierra Seven Alpha, we are pinned down at stairwell three, request support enters from top and eliminates hold up.'
A ranger team nearby went there, both terrorists turning their heads just as the rangers shot them.
'Mike Three Zero, tango down, first floor dorm nine window,' a sniper reported.
'Three tangos down, first floor dorm three!' a ranger team announced. Those three had been covering the second last group of hostages.
'Two tangos down, one foxtrot down, first floor dorm six!' the other radioed.
'Have those. One tango remains active.'
A scream came then, from a nearby dorm. Squall kicked the door in, seeing two shapes near the window. One had a rifle slung over his back. The other appeared to be a woman. The male turned, his body entering into the light. He was naked from the waist down, and held a bloodied knife in one hand, and the woman in the other. Squall fired the rest of his magazine into the chest of the man. He stumbled back, and the bullets passing through him plus the weight of him falling smashed the window. The dead terrorist fell out.
'Tango down, first floor dorm twelve,' Squall radioed in, before quickly shining the flashlight mounted in the forward handgrip of his sub-machine gun on the woman. She looked to be a young teacher, who had been stabbed in the stomach. It would later emerge that the man had been about to rape her, been distracted by the explosions and failure of power, and tried to continue, before the gunfire got near. Squall however thought the terrorist already had violated the young woman when he radioed it in. The woman, who was indeed a teacher, was not seriously injured, nor had she been so traumatised as not to sell her story to the newspapers three days later. She never learned, however, that she had been saved by the highest ranking member of SeeD, and in fact, she thought a Ranger had been the one who had shot the terrorist, and then had another man (actually Colonel Caun, to her annoyance) help him carry her downstairs and to an ambulance.
Squall returned from the ambulance to stand by Colonel McKnight. The police had moved in, and the SeeD and Ranger teams were helping to ferry the hostages quickly to the waiting fleet of vans and ambulances. Squall unbuckled the chin strap of the black helmet, and tore the gas mask off without any ceremony before speaking.
'Anything from anywhere else?'
McKnight held an earphone to his left ear.
'The other four sites are cleared, but we don't have word from the base as of yet. The attack's been launched, though.'
'As soon as you hear anything about it, get me as soon as. '
McKnight's phone then rang.
'Sir, answer that for me?' the colonel asked, still listening to the radio reporting what was going on elsewhere. Squall picked it up.
'Commander, this is Jack Horvath.'
'General,' Squall said. 'I trust you've got Trabia on high alert right now?'
'Yes sir. But I have something else to report that you won't like. As you're aware, all communications in Krastovia, Esthar, and this continent are handled through SeeD Trabia. We got your general alert to all troops and we've got confirmed replies from most of the people who we expected to receive them except the Airborne and Special Forces.'
'General, are you saying we have lost contact with the forces in Krastovia?'
'No, sir. They contacted us about ten minutes ago to say they're under attack as well. At least four-k militia are trying to break into Vologo Graznier Airbase by force. They're holding them off for now, but we've asked the Estharians and Gdetoan air force to give them cover.'
'Well, General, I think we can guess who attacked us tonight,' Squall replied. 'Thanks for the update. Keep a close eye on the situation in Krastovia.'
By the break of dawn the next morning, SeeD would know for certain who had attacked them. But by now, Squall had his suspicions.