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Title: Strike Command
Rating: M (violence)
Fandom: FFVII (AU)
Pairing: None
Warnings: Genderbending, death.
Summary: Hel on Gaia, otherwise known as the Wutai War, became something much more interesting for Zack when General Sephiroth joined the game.
Notes: This instalment: Cruel realities of how traitors are dealt with. So sorry, Zack. 



Strike Command


He was checking up on his men when the messenger came to him, folded paper in hand. “From the General, Col--Brigadier General,” he said, hand shaking slightly as he handed it over. The boy saluted and stood stiffly, waiting to see if he’d be needed.

Zack took the paper, but he was honestly more interested in the way the messenger seemed to have liquid knees and a trembling lip. “What do you think of her, Private?”

Tipping up the visor on his helmet, the infantryman looked at him with unenhanced green eyes. “May I be frank, Sir?”

“Of course.”

“She scares the shit out of me, Sir,” he said, certainly looking like that was the case.

Zack laughed. He unfolded the slim piece of paper he’d been handed while he calmed himself.

Sephiroth’s writing wasn’t girly in that there was elegant swirls and the like everywhere, but she wrote in cursive and terribly neat. Zack blinked at the page for a second and he had to study it for a moment because her writing looked precisely like a computer generated font.

It was short and to the point.

Report to Command Tent, Brigadier General.
Mission debriefing to follow ASAP.


Sephiroth
STC SSK tgt IFO BG

Zack looked over the paper to the boy. His chest felt tight. He swallowed thickly, head spinning. How could he... This boy was only fifteen, maybe sixteen. He forced a smile. “Yeah, she scares me too,” he mused quietly. Zack wasn’t all that much older, really, but it still...

The boy hadn’t rested from his salute yet.

“Follow me, Private,” Zack said, turning on his heel and walking for the barrack tent door. He stuffed the note in his pocket. There were guards outside, looking half bored. He was sorry for what he was about to show them, for what he was about to do, but Sephiroth’s coded orders had been urgent, written in ink too faint for regular army soldiers to see.

When the boy exited after him, and took a few paces to come to Zack’s side, pausing as Zack paused. The guards snapped to attention, and Zack took one deep breath. Too fast for any of them to track, too fast for the boy to suspect, Zack moved.

A gun was lifted from the closest guard easily and, not letting himself think about it, he put the barrel of the gun to the boy’s head.

The kid barely had the chance to blink green eyes at him before Zack pulled the trigger.

The body slumped to the ground, falling on its knees and then swinging to the side to land face first in the dirt while the guards jumped and swore. Raising their guns, one belatedly noticed he was missing his backup small arm.

“B-brigadier General, sir!” someone shouted.

Several men came running, milled around Zack and the body. Zack handed the gun back to the guard he’d taken it from, his hand shaking lightly. “Sorry man,” he said, unsure of whom exactly he was speaking to, the kid he’d just killed, the people around him or himself.

The guard only nodded.

“Ah, guys, I have to report to the General, can someone...just, get rid of the body.” He was deflated, listless. Zack’s heart hurt and his fingers were shaking. He wanted to help dispose of the body, because, Shiva’s tits, he’d still been a Shinra. He’d seen the boy running around camp since he’d gotten here. But he couldn’t because the General would have heard the gunshot would be expecting him now.

“Sir, yes, sir!”

Slowly, he made his way over to the Command Tent. It wasn’t the first time he’d killed, but it was the first time he’d used a gun to do so in such close quarters, and someone who wore the face of a friend like a mask that pulled on the strings of his heart. He tried to remind himself that it was what the enemy wanted, that it was why Wutai had gotten to a boy so young.

Angeal was standing just outside the tent, arms crossed over his chest. As Zack came closer he clapped a hand on his shoulder, effectively keeping him from pushing aside the tent flap and entering. “You alright?” he asked, bending a little to look Zack in the eyes.

But Zack couldn’t look back at him. “I’m...yeah. I just want to know why.”

Angeal patted him on his shoulder, the nudged him forward. “Ask the General about it,” he said, turning and following after Zack.

The Command Tent itself was full of only three desks and a wall of radios. Some cabinets had been brought in, but not all paperwork was kept here, certainly not the more important kind. Most of the room was covered in maps and missives. Sephiroth was in the corner, relaying a message to the man operating the radios, having him translate her code into Morse code and then relay it to the Shinra Tower.

She turned and though it was only the second time Zack had seen her, he felt like he knew her all too well. No shit, Angeal, ‘stern’ hadn’t been just quite the right word for it. She was heartless, and her blank expression as she took a seat said as much.

Zack gave a weak salute. “Mission accomplished, Ma’am.”

“Good,” she said, blinking up at him and nodding to a chair. It was a light weight aluminium chair that creaked ominously under Zack’s weight, but he couldn’t make himself stand again. He felt a little sick and Sephiroth was staring at him with an expression that mimicked a brick wall. “Report.”

“Private Kelney came to me in D Company barracks while I was making a quick inspection and seeing how they were going before tomorrow’s mission. He handed me the note,” he paused for a moment, mouth working. He couldn’t omit anything. “He seemed nervous, and was shaking. I asked him what he thought of you, Ma’am, he said you scared the shit out of him.”

There was a soft sound from Angeal behind him, but as he was unable to see him he was unsure whether it was a positive or negative thing. Sephiroth was no help, crossing her arms over her chest and settling in her chair a little. Zack, even in this moment, had to force himself to keep his eyes above her collarbone, because that corset pushed up her chest far too much, and it was distracting as all hell.

“I laughed and read your note, the strike command, and lead him out the door.” He pulled the note from he pocket and placed it on the table. Sephiroth leaned forward and took the paper, handed it to one of the aids milling around the tent’s interior.

“Burn it,” she ordered quietly, then turned her attention back to Zack.

“I took one of the guards stationed outside of D Companies tent and shot him in the head, handed the gun back to the guard and asked then to take care of the body so I could come see you. Here I am.” He held his hands up for a second, then let them drop to his side. “Actually, I kinda feel a little sick. That kid was...what, sixteen?”

Sephiroth nodded. “Entered illegally into the system, one of our Turks have been compromised as well. It was their work. Veld notified me five minutes ago.”

Again Angeal made a soft sound and this time Zack twisted to look at him, he was frowning, standing just a little behind Zack. “Turks are supposed to be uncompromisable,” the elder SOLDIER said.

“Yes.” Sephiroth sighed and twirled a silver pen. It flashed in the light along with her short nails, each turn. “Director Lazard has been instructed to fix that. I won’t have false intelligence fed to us, hence it had to be dealt with immediately. We’ll be blind for a week at which time regular Infantry will cease active duty and only SOLDIER squads will be deployed. D Company’s escorts will be informed shortly.”

“So we just kill him?!” Zack’s mouth was working on its own, teaming up with that tightness in his chest and the feeling that what he’d done was wrong. “We could have...I don’t know, interrogated him or, or, sent him to a POW camp or something...”

Sephiroth’s eyes flicked up to him, flashing in the light perched on the edge of her desk. “Camps are even less secure. I can risk any more information getting back to Wutai. The Turks are compromised and we SOLDIERs are not trained for interrogation of that manner.”

Zack stared at her for a long moment and then rubbed a hand over his face.

“You did well, Zack,” Angeal said, voice soft from somewhere by his shoulder.

Seeming to take her cure from Angeal, Sephiroth leaned forward and crossed her arms over on the desk. Zack raised his head to look at her. She nodded at Angeal. “Listen to your mentor, Brigadier General. He has a point. Your reaction his purely emotional, not moral. If we allowed the Wutaians to get inside our lines many more of our men would have died. Your actions were just. I wouldn’t have ordered it done so otherwise. In any case, this is war. I’m expecting such a thing to happen again and hoping it will not.”

Zack looked down at his boots. There was a certain edge to her voice, and it certainly wasn’t anything close to motherly or kind. Merely stating bland facts. He wanted to argue some more, but going against a four star General when he was a mere one star General as of an hour ago was not something he wanted to do.

He had a feeling he’d just been baptized by blood into the truth of this war.

He looked up, turned his head to fix his eyes on Angeal. “So you’re still my mentor, huh?” he asked.

“Yes, Zack,” he said, smiling faintly. “Despite rank, you’re still eighteen and you need a keeper, more often than not.”

Zack found the heart to glare, trying to ignore the elephant in the room that was trying to blind him. Sephiroth was watching them with something close to curiosity, he could see it from the corner of his eyes. “Great. Thanks, ‘Geal.”

Sephiroth was shuffling through the papers on her desk, lifting some and sorting others. “This will make your change in rank official. Director Lazard sent them over with me, they’ll be sent back for processing, but as of your signature you’ll be General in paper as well as word. Sign here.”

She handed him another pen, keeping her silver one for himself. He signed his name almost blindly and Angeal signed as the witness. Sephiroth made several marks and then filled him in on new duties, that he would lead his own squadron, however he would report directly to Sephiroth as did Angeal and Genesis, Genesis being his immediate superior as Major General. Formalities were not required, more as a personal request rather than anything else, at least when in private as they were now (despite the aids in the tent) to promote kinship between all of the General’s, though he’d have to talk to Genesis over what he preferred.

Zack had always spoken without care for rank and title in a work context to Angeal and Genesis when it wasn’t anything immediately work related, and yet Zack couldn’t help but feel just a slight edge of apprehension when it came to Sephiroth. The feeling was quickly shoved down as far as possible because the General herself just a little too uptight.

‘In need of a good fuck,’ Genesis had put it, not too long ago by the airstrip.

Sephiroth looked down at her papers. “I believe that’s all, Brigadier General, you’re dismissed.”

Zack nodded and stood. Angeal followed him out as they left the tent, and Zack couldn’t help but let his eyes flick over towards the entrance to D Company’s barracks and wince lightly. The body was gone, guards back rigid and chatting to each other idily. They weren’t there precisely for D Company, but because their line of sight provided backup for the guards at the command tent, and no one could sneak up on one set of guards if the other set was vigilant, even in the middle of base camp as they were.

“If you need me...” Angeal started, then paused as Zack came to a stop and turned to look at him.

Angeal’s expression seemed to mirror his own, only Zack’s was full of hurt and anger at the unfairness of it all. “Not as easy as monster hunting, is it?” he prompted.

Zack’s face fell a little more. He had trouble rationalising just how such an act could have him become a hero. His whole dream hinged on honourable actions and honourable, righteous war, and yet he’d just taken the life of a kid. He was too well trained to believe that he could have changed it, or refused such an order. It just wasn’t an easy thing to accept.

Zack reached for Angeal’s arm, held onto his shoulder for a second. “Thanks, ‘Geal.”

Angeal nodded, not saying anything more. his expression of concern said enough for him and in a way, Zack almost felt guilty for being the cause of that expression. “I’ll be alright,” he said, sucking in a deep breath and plastering a smile on his lips. It felt sloppy and ill-executed, but he was made of strong stuff. Had to be.

Zack pulled his PHS from his pocket and checked the time. “I have a mission in ten minutes.”

“Alright,” Angeal said. “Come see me when you get back.”

“Yessir.”
-

Abbreviations: Strike Command, Single Shot Kill, Target, In Front Of, Brigadier General. (Actual military abbreviations from here. Except for the last.)
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