Chapter 025: W4

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The walls of W4 encircled the entire northwestern part of Garlan. For most of the area, going over the wall would involve a drop straight into the ocean. Within these walls, there were several structures, but the centerpiece of the stronghold took up the majority of the area - two tall, round, green towers, standing close together, with an equally tall wall-like section connecting them. On the west tower, on the northern, western and southern walls, three large white Ws had been painted. On the east tower, on the northern, eastern and southern walls, three large white 4s. On both the northern and southern side of the section connecting the two, the Marine emblem. To the northeast of the towers were the docks of W4, to the northwest an open area used for training. Scattered around were smaller buildings with various functions, such as equipment storage, training halls, even some shops and restaurants as well as some other recreational establishments.
 
When it had been first constructed, it was the largest stronghold in West Blue after W1. Since then, W2 had expanded and was now of a similar size, and W5 was built as large. The Marines were currently planning the construction of W6, intended to be a larger installation than even W1, and the first West Blue stronghold constructed after the execution of Gold Roger.
 
But it was through the gates of W4 that Rink and Muse were currently walking, disguised as Marine soldiers and hoping to conceal themselves within a larger group of mostly drunk Marines. The gate was not closed, but there were four guards armed with rifles posted, two on each side. The group wandered in, with a few nods and waves and hellos between the guards and those who were walking in. Rink and Muse had just walked past the perimeter, when...
 
"Hey, you two," one of the guards said. "You with the glasses, and with the black hair..."
"...me, sir?" Rink asked, slowly turning towards the guard that had spoken. Muse did the same.
"I don't recognize you."
"Oh, we're new, sir," Rink said. "Just transfered here, arrived today..."
"Do you have your IDs?"
"We were told our documents would be here, we're new recruits, here to complete our training, but we weren't actually supposed to come until tomorrow," Rink lied. "But they told us it would be fine, that we would get a place to sleep here..."
"Hm..."
"Please, sir, we've had a long journey..."
"Very well, let's see if we can get you cleared," the guard said. "What are your names?"
"Sonya Martinson," Rink replied. "And this is my sister..."
"Um... Morrigan," Muse continued.
"You don't look much alike..."
"We're half-siblings. Different mothers," Rink explained.
"Ages?"
"Twenty-eight," Rink said.
"Twenty-four."
"Alright, we're going to have to run a check," the guard said and looked towards the two guards on the other side. "Hey, Cid!" he shouted, following which one of the guards from the other side walked up to them.
"Sir?" he said.
"Take these two and run a check on them," he said. "Sonya and Morrigan Martinson, was it?"
"Yes, sir," Rink said.
"If it clears, find them a place to sleep, then you can go off your pass."
"Sir, yes sir," the guard named Cid said and then turned to Rink and Muse. "Well then, follow me."
"Alright," Rink said as they followed Cid farther inside W4.
 
There weren't many Marines outside at this time of day, Rink noted as they headed towards a one-story building at the side of the main structure of W4. As Cid started unlocking the door, Muse turned to Rink.
"What now?" she whispered as low as she could, knowing Rink could probably hear it anyway.
"As soon as we get in, close the door after you and then cover your ears," Rink whispered back and handed their bag over to Muse. She gave the slightest of nods in reply before Cid turned to them.
"Right, come on in and we'll get this done," he said.
"Yes, sir," Rink replied and entered the room after Cid, Muse right behind her. Cid hit a light switch, illuminating the room, revealing it to be an archive room, with bookshelves and cabinets everywhere as well as a few desks. Rink cast a quick glance at Muse, who went inside and closed the door. Without Cid noticing, she put a finger in each ear as Muse turned to Cid and walked up next to him.
"Since you have the same family name, this should be fast, we just-"
Before he could finish talking, Rink opened her mouth and shouted at his head from close range. A very quick, very loud shout, certainly louder than a normal human would be able to shout. Cid put his hands to his head and reeled backwards confused as Rink struck him in the head with her elbow, knocking him out. She removed her glasses and looked down at him.
"What was that?" Muse asked as she approached.
"A loud sound to the head like that would paralyze anyone," Rink replied before leaning down and taking his keyring. "So..."
"And now?"
"Let's stash him somewhere," Rink said and looked around. "And... tie him up, I guess. Do we have any more rope?"
"Maybe," Muse said and opened up the bag, taking out her quiver before holding up a length of rope about as long as her arm. "Not much."
"It'll do," Rink replied and grabbed it before starting to tie Cid's hands together behind his back. They proceeded to gag him as well before putting him in a closet-like room (containing even more shelves with dusty documents) on the other side of the building, locking the door from the outside.
"Is he really going to be fine?" Muse asked.
"If nothing else, they'll find him in the morning," Rink replied. "By then we have to be far away from here anyway."
"Alright, now what's the plan?"
"Well..." Rink said and held up Cid's keyring before pocketing it. "We should probably split up. Easier to explain away being one person acting a bit strangely than two. Trying to wander in here like we did is something that no sensible person would ever consider doing, so I'd wager that nobody's really going to suspect someone dressed like a Marine to be anything but. And that's definitely to our advantage."
"Right..."
"You take the left tower, I take the right... I can't imagine they don't hold the prisoners in the largest structure."
"Sure."
"But most importantly..." Rink said as she got her arm guard out of the bag, put it on and put some tuning forks in her pockets. "No playing the hero on your own. If either of us find Markus, we get back together first before trying to spring him."
"I... alright," Muse replied.
"So to make sure of that, I'll take the bag and the keys," Rink said. "And if we run into too much trouble... get the other's attention, somehow. I think we both have ways to do that. And in the worst case scenario, we bail."
"But-"
"I'm sure you agree that that's better than getting killed."
"Well, let's just go," Muse said, avoiding actually replying to Rink's statement.
"I don't hear anyone in the vicinity, so you should be good to go," Rink said. "I'll stay here for five minutes, better if we don't get seen together from now on."
"Okay."
"And Muse... good luck."
"Thanks," Muse said and walked up to the door. As she put her hand on the handle, she stopped. "And... thanks for all the help..."
"It's what friends are for," Rink said before Muse left the building. "Well then," she said to herself as she wrapped a piece of cloth around her left arm to cover up her arm guard, planning to pass it off as an injury if anyone asked, and added Cid's rifle to the now nearly empty bag of equipment. She flipped through some papers while waiting, trying to see if there was something helpful, something about prisoners or a blueprint of the base or anything - but everything in here just seemed to be about the Marine organization, reports about the base, enlisted soldiers, shipments, bills. Rink quickly grew bored of the contents, so she slung the bag over her right shoulder and put the glasses back on. Standing by the door, she turned the lights off and listened to what was going on outside. Not much - a few people passing, but none close by, and no one heading towards the building she was in. When she figured five minutes had gone by since Muse left, she waited until she was completely sure there weren't anyone outside that would notice anything before opening the door and walking out, closing and locking it behind her. She looked up at the towering structure that was the heart of W4, for the first time really reflecting over just how large this place was. Even if they had split up to cover more ground, searching through this place without being noticed would be a monumental task. But it was too late to realize that now. They'd have to figure this out, one way or another.
 
Being able to hear where every person that could potentially spot her was definitely helped in Rink's journey to the eastern tower, short as it was. As thick as the walls were, though, she couldn't hear much of what going on inside - there were definitely people inside, but everything was muffled, and it could as easily be prisoners in cells as just Marines in their rooms. But what struck her the most, however, was the lack of any kind of entrance on the tower itself. She walked along the wall in search of some kind of door, but found nothing. But at the back, there was a rectangular offshoot of the structure, mostly looking like a small shed fused with the tower itself. And on the western side of this little protrusion, there was an iron door. Rink raised her glasses to her forehead and grabbed the door handle. Locked, unsurprisingly. But maybe that wouldn't be much of an issue, she thought as she got Cid's keys out of her pocket. One of these keys could open that archive room, maybe there was a key to... whatever this was as well. Eleven keys, mostly identical. She started trying them out, one by one, and struck the jackpot on the seventh key in the sequence. She slipped inside, closing and locking the door behind her, and after almost tripping over something on the floor, found a light switch on the wall.
 
As the little room lit up, Rink's initial reaction was disappointment. The direction of the tower just had a solid wall, so no going through there. The room itself amounted to being little more than a tool shed, and there didn't seem to be much to be had here. But just as Rink decided it was time to head back out, she heard something beneath her.
 
Water.
 
If the floor was solid concrete, she wouldn't be able to hear it this clearly... she searched for the source, and after, with some effort, getting a steel barrel half filled with oil out of the way, discovered a grate in the floor. There was no mistaking what she had found, and while she didn't like the prospect, she figured that it was probably her best bet right now. A crowbar would help, she thought, but as she could not find one, had to settle for the back end of a hammer. It took her a good ten minutes of effort, but eventually she managed to pull the grate free from the rectangular hole in the floor. She'd just about be able to fit through there...
 
Even if she could hear where she was going, some light would definitely help. She had brought a box of matches mostly on reflex, but just matches wouldn't be enough of a light source. As she looked around, she removed her glasses and put her eyepatch on. Spotting two brooms standing in a corner, she had an idea. She broke the handle of one in half, and tied the cloth she had kept on her left arm around the tip. She dipped it in the oil, and figuring it to be the best she could do, looked down the hole in the floor again. She tossed down her bag and the hammer first, then turned off the light in the room. Unlit torch in hand, she squeezed herself through the hole, trying to pull the grate back in place as she descended. It didn't quite fall into place, but she hoped nobody would notice it before it didn't matter anymore.
 
She lit a match and ignited the oily cloth. A lamp would have helped, but it gave Rink enough light to see around her. As expected, it wasn't the best-looking of places... and the smell wasn't much better. Pipes ran along the ceiling and walls, and there was just enough room to be able to walk on a heightened section next to the flow of discoloured water in the middle.
"At least I'm not wearing my good clothes... or my own clothes at all," she said to herself as she held the torch in different directions to figure out where to go. It was as she had hoped - the sewer tunnel went in the direction of the tower, past the wall. Not even a gate or anything.
 
Moving underground, without any walls in the way, let Rink get farther than she had really thought possible. She tried to ignore the filth of this place as much as she could as she followed the tunnel, and while it did have some twists and turns to it, she was sure that it was the right direction. While the most interesting things she found for most of her trip were rats and flies, eventually she spotted a ladder embedded in the wall, leading up towards a circular hole. She put out her torch, which was almost completely spent anyway, and started climbing up. At the top, she felt a metal cover above her. Luckily, this one seemed to have been designed to be removed, as she managed to start shifting it with just a few pushes. Getting it out of the way, she climbed up into another fairly small room, though larger than the one she had found earlier.
 
After putting the cover back in place, she located the light switch. This was some sort of maintenance room, with electrical generators and a lot of wires. A cabinet was situated on the wall with a variety of switches visible through a clear cover, but it was shut with a padlock and Rink found that none of the keys she had worked. She had no idea where she had ended up, but there didn't seem to be any people around. There was a single door in the room, and while it was locked, could be unlocked from the inside without a key. Rink very slightly opened it and peered outside.
 
Just a dark corridor, and only the faintest sound of something or someone that didn't seem to be moving. Well, nothing to lose now, Rink figured as she started making her way down the corridor. The solid, grey concrete walls didn't tell her much about where she had ended up, but there had to be something. With her hand on the wall, she tried moving towards the single sound she was hearing. After two corners, the corridor was completely without light, and the layout seemed almost maze-like to Rink. But there was something here, and whatever it was, should at least clue her in to where she was...
 
After a few more turns, whatever she had located was now in front of her. By now, she had identified it as a body, but something about the sound was odd. She was unable to put her finger on why, but she went towards it with an arm out in front of her, and found...
 
Iron bars. That would make this some kind of prison cell. Rink thought that she might as well see what she had found, and lit a match to get a bit of light. It wasn't much, but as her eye started adjusting itself, could see the silhouette of someone sitting on the other side. It wasn't Markus, that was for sure, but at least she knew she had found at least one jail. She turned around and prepared to look for another exit, hopefully leading to more cells, hopefully leading to Markus. But before she had started moving, she heard a gruff voice from behind her.
 
"I didn't know I was allowed visitors at this hour!"
 

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