Disclaimer: I do not own Star Ocean or its Characters.

Note: Nothing to really say here but update – update – I finally updated! Yay me! (lol)

Racing the Storm

Chapter 4: Breaking Out

She couldn't breath. Her lungs burned and she was forced to finally take air in to retain her consciousness. Her world seemed to spin out of control as she watched the men drag Albel away; leaving her alone in the room with Fayt.

Both doors, the one behind her and the one behind Fayt, had been locked securely after the room emptied. Fayt had convinced the commander (she still didn't know his name) to give him some time to talk to Sophia alone.

She sat still in the chair she had been pushed back into. She hardly moved her head as her eyes followed Fayt's every movement. He waited until they were alone before trudging to the seat beside her. Her hands rested on the table's smooth surface and knotted together tightly. When he reached out to take her hand, both of her hands shot from the table and to her lap as if a snake had bitten her.

"Sophia?" The tremor in his voice was so small she was sure no one that didn't know him as well as she did would notice it. She didn't respond but glared at him.

He flinched and sighed softly. "Listen to me, okay. Do you remember when we were little and we would play games. We always fought imaginary enemies. You would find them and I would fight them. Remember? Do you remember our rookie days?" He spoke slowly; drawing each word out to emphasize his speech.

She simply stared at him; the wheels in her mind spinning. Of all times, he would choose this to be the time to reminisce. It was so strange to hear him talk like this. Only six months ago he was so serious about his 'mission'. Her train of thought honed in on the word mission and a light of something being significant started to burn in her.

Her eyes grew slightly larger. "A mission?"

He smiled. As quick as the smile appeared it vanished. "That's it. You do remember. It was fun to play wasn't it?"

She wasn't sure if she was reading his words correctly or not. In their youth they would go on 'missions' together; each having a specific role. Sophia was the one who tracked down the enemy and Fayt was the one who ended the threat. It was a game they played often as children.

But why would he bring up that now? What did that have to do with their current situation?

"I'm here to help ensure that other children will have the opportunity to live happy lives like we did." He rested his chin on his hand, his first finger resting vertical against his cheek. "I want to be sure that other little girls can spy out the bad guys and little boys can defeat them." His index finger twitched slightly. "Your role was crucial…" He paused to take a breath. "And it still is; even if it means the roles are reversed."

She nodded slowly, replaying select words in her mind. '…little girls can spyout the bad guys… roles are reversed.'

Tilting her head back, she pinched the bridge of her nose for show. Her eyes wandered over the general area that Fayt had been pointing to. It didn't take long for her to notice the patch in the ceiling. It was a security measure on almost every ship and a direct link to a terminal that would display both an image and the audio to the room they sat in. They were being monitored.

She lowered her head and let her forehead come to rest in her hand; to further the show of having a headache. "So you are doing what you think is right for the future?" She tried her best to sound confused. She didn't have to try very hard since his words were still turning the wheels in her mind.

"Yes, and I want you and Maria to help me. We can only do this together."

She almost opened her mouth in agreement before stopping herself. She had to argue the point further. If she was to be believable, she had to act the part. "What of the file Maria found? It went into graphic detail of how to pull the symbological coding directly off our DNA. The process can't be successful without killing us."

"I'll be honest with you, I never saw that." He paused and reached out again. His hand gently lowered her hand back to the table. "From what I was shown, they don't need to pull the coding off our DNA. With a series of test that will cause us no pain they can obtain the research they need. No harm will come to us."

She bit her lip tenderly. She was ready to just jump forward and see exactly what Fayt had in mind. Still, she had a role to play and it was a good opportunity to ask questions she wanted answered.

"What do they plan to do with that knowledge once they gain it? Take over the whole universe? How is that any better than what Luther was doing?"

Fayt closed his fingers and held on to her hand. "Nothing like that. You know I would never go along with something like that. It's all to ensure peace and to be ready should another threat arise."

Sophia simply looked at him, turning his words over in her head. She wasn't sure how to respond.

"You know I would never lie to you."

He had just provided what she needed to bring this whole piece of the charade to an end. She nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess."

Smiling he squeezed her hand gently. "So, will you help me?"

"Yes, Fayt," she responded looking him directly in the eye. "I'll help you."

As if her agreement had set in motion a command, the door opened and the commander entered the room. He wore a smug expression that increased her distrust in the man.

"That is good to hear. Now, we'll need to make the proper arrangements." He approached the end of the table and rested both hands on its surface. "Now, Miss. Esteed, we need to get you back to Elicoor so you can aid us with the Traydor girl."

Sophia swallowed hard as she removed her hand from Fayt's grasp and stood. She made eye contact with the commander and inhaled deeply. "What about Albel?"

The commander chuckled his amusement. "You may have offered your help, but we still need something to ensure your loyalty. He'll stay here, tucked away safe until you return with the Traydor girl. After that we'll send him home."

Sophia's lips twisted into a frown. "No can do. If you don't trust me then I can't help you. You have to earn my trust first."

"Oh?" He raised his eyebrow. "Did you not just agree to help?"

"I agreed to help Fayt; not you. Your men attacked us. If you wanted my trust you could have tried a more tactful approach. Right now I have no reason to trust you. I only agreed to help Fayt."

He released a short grunt. "Fine. We'll send him back but Fayt and a few of my men will accompany you. Your negotiation skills are poor. I only agree to this since time is limited."

She resisted the urge to smile in triumph. So far so good.

"If I may suggest something?" Fayt stood, eyeing the commander. "It would be easier to transport the Elicoorian if he doesn't resist."

"He is rather hostile. What is it you have in mind, Leingod?"

"I suggest you allow Sophia to talk to him. Give her the key to his restraints with the promise she'll undo them after she's calmed him."

The commander eyed in suspiciously. "Give her the key?"

"Yes. It would help to gain her trust. If we want her on our side we have to give a little too."

The commander hummed in thought. His glance danced between Fayt and Sophia. After a few seconds of deliberation, he waved his hand. "Fine. Guards!"

At his orders, two men pushed through the door behind him. They stopped and stood at attention; waiting for further instructions.

"Escort Miss Esteed to the holding cells. Give her the key and allow her ample time with the prisoner." His eyes stopped wandering and landed on Sophia. "Just keep in mind we have a time limit."

"I will."

Sophia stepped around the table. She didn't want to be any closer to the commander than necessary, but she was determined to keep her act going. Her heart beat increased as her slow steps drew her closer to him. She was never good at role playing. She could only hope her demeanor was well played and that he wouldn't see through it.

Once she had passed him she pent up her need to release air in abundance. Her chest ached as she steadied her breath to release the air at a constant rate instead of all at once.

The guards did as instructed and led her to the holding cell. The one thing that helped her stay calm was that she was allowed to walk without being held on to; even if she had to walk between the two men. She would occasionally catch them watching her from the corner of their eyes.

They had no reason to trust her. She couldn't blame them. In reality, they weren't far from the truth.

The guards had guided her to a hallway lined on both sides with identical doors. Four doors on each side mirrored each other with the same design. All of the doors were solid metal with large shatter-proof windows. They stopped at the first door; positioning Sophia directly in front of it.

Through the glass she could see Albel pacing restlessly back and forth. He would pause occasionally and twist in the restraints. After an agitated growl, he would resume his pace.

"Here," the guard on her right said as he held up the electronic key out to her.

She took the device and turned it over in her hand. It was cylinder in shape, three and a half inches long and a fourth an inch in diameter. She nodded to the man as the guard on her left unlocked the door.

Before she could protest, she was pushed into the room; the door slammed and locked behind her. Once again she couldn't blame them for their actions. Albel had killed three of their comrades and didn't look like he wanted to do anything less to anyone else.

He stopped dead in his tracks and glared at her. She shifted uneasily under his stare and cleared her throat. He didn't move any muscle other then his eyes as he watched her approach him.

She held her free hand out as if she were trying to comfort a wild animal. "Albel? I need you to listen to me, okay?" She kept her voice low and calm.

He nodded shortly, chewing on his gag.

She released a long hiss, debating on the best thing to say and do that would tell him what she needed him to know without anyone else understanding. It would have been easier if he had let her in a few months ago. She had tried to get to know him, but he had always pushed her away.

His stubborn nature was working against her. She huffed in determination. If she could do this just right, they would have a chance at getting out alive.

"First, let me remove the gag." Her simple statement was also a question for permission. If she knew one thing it was that Albel didn't like was being close and Heaven forbid someone try to touch him. She had nearly lost a hand trying to heal him in Firewall.

He held his glare a bit longer before bowing toward her. A faint sigh of relief crossed her lips as she reached around his head and fumbled with the knot under his hair. She couldn't help but to note the softness of his hair as her fingers pushed into the heart of the gag's knot. There had been times she had wanted to feel his hair. All those months ago, she remembered being fascinated by his two tone locks.

She bit her lip trying to bring herself back to the task at hand. It didn't take her long to remove the gag. She let the cloth fall to the floor as she withdrew her hands.

He straightened up and licked his lips. Flexing his jaw, he did nothing but keep his eyes glued to her.

"You have something to say?" His tone slithered from his throat. Suspicion rung clear as a bell in his words. It was obvious he thought Fayt had convinced her to turn sides.

"Um, yeah. I know this will be hard but I need you to trust me."

He raised an eyebrow at her and gritted his teeth. A soft but harsh grunt was the only answer she received.

"I have permission to remove the restraints and we'll be transported back to Elicoor. You'll have to stay close to me and try not to hurt anyone. They will most likely shoot you should you try anything. If you can trust me just long enough to get out of here then you'll make it back home."

She chewed nervously on her bottom lip; waiting to hear a harsh rebuttal. She watched as his stare drifted off of her and to the window behind her. She didn't have to turn to know the guards were watching them and waiting.

"What of my sword?"

He had spoken in such a quiet and almost respectful way that it surprised her slightly. She really had expected him to react a lot differently. Especially after being tied up and pushed around like he had been.

"I'm afraid we'll have to leave it. I doubt they will turn it back over to you."

As nonchalantly as he has just spoken; he replied. "I do not wish to leave without my sword."

She shifted, fully aware that time would not allow this debate but equally aware that he would not be getting his sword back. "I'm sorry but it's your sword or your life. Please, just let it go, okay? I'll get you a new one."

"But that sword is irreplaceable…" He growled. His gaze shifted constantly between her and the guards on the other side of the door. In his eyes she was sure she saw him mulling it over.

"Please…"

"Fine," he all but shouted. "I'll leave it. Now, get these damn things off of me."

She closed her eyes briefly to clear her mind before she moved around behind him. She could see him twitch as she got out of his sight. She knew it would be hard for him to trust her. She didn't know why, but he had a hard time trusting anyone.

With the electronic key she unlocked the clasp at his back. In response, the whole bundle of the restraints fell from him and hit the floor with a loud clank. Albel immediately side stepped so that the only thing at his back was the wall.

"Are you ready to go, Albel?"

He nodded silently.

"Please, just trust me on this." Her hands knotted up around the electronic key. "You think you can?" She pleaded with her eyes. All she wanted was just some small indication that he would go along with her.

He nodded once again without a single sound.

Reluctantly she put her back to him and motioned to the guards to open the door. Once the door was opened she led Albel from the cell.

The guards motioned her through and fell in the rear. "This way plea…umph"

Sophia jerked her head back just in time to see one guard fall unconscious to the floor as the other was being disarmed. Albel moved faster than a cat as he pounced the remaining threat.

"Albel! Stop!" she cried as she leapt over the first guard and at him. She managed to snake her small arms around his metal arm; causing a mild expression of shock to cross his face.

He growled at her; baring his teeth. With one quick twist he flung her from his arm. She hit the wall between two of the doors with enough force to just knock her breath slightly from her.

He gave her one look-over before turning and sprinting down the hall. She pushed herself off the wall and staggered a few steps in his direction. That's when she heard a rustle behind her.

She turned sharply. "No, I'll get him please!" Her eyes took in the sight of the commander and Fayt at the end of the corridor.

She didn't wait for a response. Catching her breath, she took off in a full run after Albel. She didn't know what she would do when she caught up to him (if she ever did) to keep him alive, but she wasn't about to give up.

Damn him and his stubborn, untrusting, arrogant, selfish ass. She was tired of running. She was tired of fighting. All she wanted to do was hide somewhere no one would find her and try to live out the rest of her life.

Sophia was mad. Truly and utterly mad.

She had just figured out a way to keep him alive and maybe keep the Federation from getting Maria. But no! Albel couldn't just trust her enough to help out. He had to do things the hard way. She had half a mind to let them shoot him.

Despite her anger, she pumped her legs to their maximum speed. She would catch up to him. After that, well, she didn't know what she would do but if she did anything like she felt then he would think twice about pulling a stunt like that on her again.


(A/N) You know, I was going to wait to have Albel act up after they got back to Elicoor, but he would have none of that. I'm sure a lot of you out there know how it goes: You plan it one way but the characters have their own ideas…

And I know there might be some confusion about Fayt. But trust me, it will be explained better in the near future.