Chapter 1: The Day the World Went Away


A light rain fell over the darkening city as night approached. Cars packed the main streets, full of citizens trying to get home to their families. Several business' were closing up for the evening and the ones that weren't, mostly nightclubs, stood with their doors wide open. They welcomed the regulars and other workers that just wanted to kick back and have a tall smooth one. Many people made use of the rain slicked side walks. As the city skyline grew darker, the night life began to shuffle out from the shadows and into the bars. Indeed, the city of Midgar never slept.

The output of the eight working mako reactors never once ceased to operate. Mako pumped from the depths of the earth beneath the city was processed through the reactors, and then used in business after business as electrical energy. Even the rural dwellings of the citizens used mako energy. So it was no surprise that after nearly fifty years, the ShinRa Electric Power Company was still quite the monopoly. A constant low hum filled the city with the comfort that the power was still on and not likely to go out.

In the center of this impressive city, stood the illustrious ShinRa Building; a massive monument of steel and glass; its mere size overwhelming to gaze at. Several flood lights swayed around the structure, casting it into a never ending cascade of illumination.

However, that was effectively cut short as a fulminating blast of fire and metal suddenly blew out from the side. A good portion of the entrance and nearby street filled with a choking cloud of smoke, pulling everything into darkness. A few cars collided into one another with the unannounced outage of the traffic lights that lined the street. Smoke poured from a hole in the side of the building; several electrical wires hung like tendrils in the hollow passage.

During all the commotion, no one took notice of a quick moving figure that dashed away from the scene. This individual simply sunk into the darkness of the closest alley and disappeared. It didn't take long for ShinRa soldiers to crowd the area that surrounded the blast range. All were armed to the teeth with Junon issued assault rifles and pistols. The traffic jam and frightened onlookers were the least of their concerns.. It was the one who had escaped.

One soldier suddenly took charge and started belting off orders. "Alright! All soldiers of the 'S' division stake out this area and beyond in a three block radius.", he paused, then began again. "I want you to search everything! Cars, businesses, but try not to interfere with residential homes, you got that?!"

The ones being addressed nodded and split off from the group. "The rest of you come with me!", he finished.

There were about eight men before him as he turned and started towards the target's escape route. On cue, the trained men crept stealthily into the ominous back-street, keeping their guns leveled and ready. Without warning, a ragged alley cat raced across the pathway, narrowly escaping a torrent of bullets from one of the soldiers. The leader turned to him and slammed his back against the wall. "She'll be able to hear us coming from a mile away!", he whispered harshly. "Pay attention." He released the lackey and they resumed on their way.

Several yards ahead, a lone shadow cursed while keeping close to the dingy wall. She passed under a dimly lit lamp, her hair showing a deep burgundy in the light. They were getting closer; it would only be a matter of time before they caught up. She needed to rendezvous with the others, pronto. A trashcan suddenly tipped over loudly, spilling its contents all over the dirty ground.

The running woman stumbled back, expecting a soldier to rise up and shoot her.
But to her immediate surprise, a familiar man emerged from the darkness. He kicked the trashcan away, grumbling about Midgar's public waste disposal. Right away, he turned to face the startled woman and smirked, green lacquered eyes gleamed gently. "Ashe! It's about time you showed up!", the woman gasped as she raced over to him.

Ashe merely flicked back a few light-brown bangs. "Hey, I'm sorry Kess. It took me long enough to set up the explosion.", he smirked. "Besides, I had to time it just right so you could get out of there quickly without getting caught in the blast."

"Blah blah blah.. Stop complaining, let's just get out of here.", she grabbed his arm and tugged him ahead.

"Right right.", he replied.

A single gun shot suddenly rang out through the alley; the unseen bullet ripping straight through Ashe's left shoulder. Blood streaked across the filthy wall and bespattered Kess' right side. "Shit~~", he cursed, quickly sinking downwards.

"You there, halt!", called a gruff voice from the enveloping darkness.

Kess gripped Ashe by the waist and hauled him back to his feet. Blood drenched his arm and had already formed a pool beneath him. Ashe grimaced as he withheld more curses. "Urgh... good to have you back Kess.", he muttered as she steadied him on his feet. "I always liked working with you."

"Hey! I said halt!!", the voice cried again, followed by rapidly approaching footsteps.

Kess stumbled quickly forward with Ashe, his hand gripping his right shoulder as more blood spurt out between his fingers. Another shot ricocheted against the brick wall near Kess' side, chucks of red clay danced up from the wall. "As soon as we get out of this alley, take a left to the train station", Ashe instructed as clearly as he could. " Raven said she'd be there."

Kess gave a quick nod as the two picked up the pace and ran faster towards the ghost sector, Sector Six. Ten minutes passed like nothing. The two escapees emerged from the dead streets and into the train station. After dodging into obscure alley ways and out running the ShinRa soldiers, they were relieved to finally reach this place. However, it appeared they had just missed the train. Though the departure lights still flashed above the entrance tunnel, the station was now deathly silent.

Ashe had taken to using Kess as his initial support; the damage of blood loss beginning to settle in. They stumbled across the elevated platform that ran under the station's arched entrance. Once arriving to the loading area at the end of the long corridor, Ashe glanced over the side while Kess scanned for soldiers. "It's not going to take them very long to figure out where we went.", he cringed, taking a few steps away from his partner.

"I know.. I know.", Kess answered as she leaned over to him and tightened the bloody rag that was now fastened around his upper arm.

Again he cringed, his other hand moving instinctively to grasp the wound. "Shit.. that really hurts, ya know.", he growled.

"Stop complaining.", came Kess' immediate response as she lowered herself into the railway below. "It could have been worse."

Ashe crouched down slightly to follow behind, with some assistance from Kess of course. He jumped down to the lower level, his boots crunched on the gravel that surrounded the tracks. Just as he steadied himself against the nearby concrete wall, an amiable voice called out gently. "I just about gave up on the two of you."

To their surprise, Kess and Ashe found themselves looking at a tall familiar woman with long dark hair. Ashe smirked, his hand still pressed against the concrete. "Geez Raven, we really could've used your help back there."

Both Kess and Ashe started over to her hastily, the signs of Ashe's injury becoming more obvious. Raven walked over and gripped his left arm, coming up onto his other side. "Took a hit, eh?", she murmured softly, looking his shoulder over. "How did you get shot?"

"With a bullet.. from a gun.", he rolled his eyes teasingly.

"Well I see you still having enough energy to be a smartass.", she chuckled.

"Smartass? I can't sit on ice cream and tell you the flavor.", he joked.

Both women laughed aloud as they stumbled down the darkening trail. After a few more steps, Raven looked over to the other woman. "Welcome back, Miss Reignheart. I take it you were able to get what Fuhito requested?"

Kess smirked and flicked her burgundy bangs back. She then tapped the side of her head and nodded. "All here. I trust that Fuhito will want to download it right away."

"Yea, they've already set up the computer. You did good.", Raven smirked.

Nothing was said for a moment as the three continued on down the tunnel, careful not to trip over the electrified rails or drop Ashe. Raven spoke again. "I decided to meet you here and take the east entrance."

Ashe signed heavily and leaned more onto Kess. "Well, can we please hurry..?", he groaned. "I'm about to pass out."

"Stop complaining!", both women shouted at once.

Raven adjusted her grip on his side and together, they made their way down the darkened tunnel. They came to a portion of wall that looked vaguely suspicious. Raven reached out and pressed her hand against one of the nearby bricks and it sank into the wall with her touch. A small panel suddenly slid from above and Raven tapped at the code pad quickly. Once finished, the piece of wall seemed to fall backwards, and then slid to the left. An empty hallway extended for several yards before another more obvious door was seen.

They entered the empty hallway, Raven turned back towards the wall and shut the door by pushing the brick back into place. With some groaning and grunting, mostly from Ashe, they managed to pull him down the hallway towards the secured door. Raven whipped out a badge and pressed it to a plate near the door. Instantly it shot open to reveal the checkpoint. An individual stood there, rifle ready with a headset. He waved on seeing the group and spoke into the mouthpiece attached to his head. "Heya Biggs.", Raven smiled. "Any news?"

He nodded, helping them pull Ashe further into the room. "Sears is waiting for you in the computer room.", he indicated to Kess.

Kess nodded and released Ashe's side. "Well, I better get my ass down there.", she smirked. "Will you be okay?" She glanced to Ashe.

"Oh yea, this is nothing.", he teased.

Biggs glanced back and whistled loudly, then shouted. "Medic!"

In seconds, two individuals appeared and took the load off of Raven. "I'll see you guys once they patch me up. Good luck Kess!"

He winked to her as she and Raven turned to make their way towards the computer room. There was much to discuss.

Raven and Kess entered the room, various pieces of computer equipment crowding this small space. There was even a comfortable looking chair set up for Kess to relax in as they extracted the data. Fuhito was standing not too far away near one of the techs. He pointed at the lighted screen a few times then turned to greet the new arrivals. "Ah, made it back in one piece I see.", he smirked. "Well done, Ms. Reignheart. Please, have a seat."

He motioned to the chair and then glanced up as another individual entered. "Sears, we're just about to begin the extraction.", he motioned him and Raven to the other chairs.

"Very good. I'm glad to see that you completed this task, Kess. Perhaps you will prove to be one of us soon enough.", Sears said curtly.

Raven glanced over sharply and shook her head. "Sears, despite her passed with the ShinRa, I can vouch for Kess. She holds no more ties with them, just like Ashe, and hasn't he already gained your favor?"

Sears rubbed his hands together and sighed. "We'll see. Let's get this started."

Fuhito nodded and turned to Kess. He reached for a few wires, and then moved them towards Kess' head.

He worked there for a moment, then stepped back to reveal the wires plugged in behind Kess' ear. Raven stared for a moment before pulling her gaze away and glancing to the nearby computer screen. In an instant, information flooded the screen. It looked like a waterfall of text and symbols. The tech at the computer went to work decoding the text and making it appear more like words. Soon, the information was as clear as crystal.

Fuhito pointed to a few parts, using the touch screen to pull those pieces into groups. He then had the tech pull the view back. Instantly, the text on the screen shifted from words to an image. It was the ShinRa building; every floor, every entrance, every room. It was all there. Raven clapped loudly with a 'woo-hoo!'. Sears sat there quietly, taking it all in. He glanced over to Kess who rested in the comfort of the chair and nodded. She had earned his respect, for now at least.

He stood, muttering a few words and then turned back to the group. "Well, process the rest of that and then we'll hold a meeting. I'll be discussing things with Elfe until you are finished." He turned and left, Fuhito remained at the screen as the rest of the information downloaded. As Kess lay there, she closed her eyes to relax a bit more, her mind drifting from the current situation to a time before all of this.

The events that took her away from ShinRa was the death of her family.

Kess grew up in Kalm on the outskirts Midgar. Her parents owned the inn there and made a good business of it. When Kess was fourteen, her brother Grey left to join Soldier. She missed him greatly, but made up her mind to join ShinRa Inc so that they could visit more often. When Kess was old enough, she applied for a job with the company. She had wanted to work in the ShinRa building as a security guard, but upon a further examination of her skills, they suggested that she would be better suited for Soldier. Excited that she would get to see her brother, Kess leapt at the opportunity.

Upon arriving in Junon for training, her brother was on leave. It was great to see him again and the two caught up with what each was doing. But it was not to last, Grey was shipped along with several other units to the war front in Wutai. It was the last time she saw him. Kess continued her training, standing out in her unit as one of the top Soldiers. She received letters from Grey every week, but then suddenly after she had completed her first year, the letters stopped. She soon received a letter from ShinRa Inc saying that Grey had been killed in action at the war front.

Kess was devastated. She turned to drinking and began to slowly not care about her position in Soldier. Her commanding officer, noticing her reckless attitude, approached her with some information. The company was preparing to do a few experiments. They needed humans, preferably Soldiers, to participate in these experiments. With nothing else to do, and having just lost her brother, Kess accepted. The following week, she and a few others stood together in a laboratory in the ShinRa building. That was the first time she met Hojo.

The group was subjected to high level mako treatments. Each time, they were led to their rooms to rest and sleep off the heavy poisoning. Eventually, they built up a tolerance for it. Each person of the seven man group was given muscle implants to quicken their reflexes and had a small computer implanted into their brains. A jack with which to upload and download information was installed just behind their right ears. After this, and the immense headaches that followed, they were trained in hand to hand combat, weapon combat and vehicular skills. After a year, they were ready.

Kess rarely worked with her team. In fact, after the initial training, they rarely saw each other. Kess was given missions of retrieving information and this kept her busy enough. She was skilled with breaking into places and sneaking about undetected, so they simply kept enlisting her for those jobs. On one such mission, Kess was to crack into the computer of an ex-Soldier, a veteran of the Great War.

It seemed when he left Soldier, he took a few of the secrets with him. Kess was to retrieve said secrets while another from her group assassinated the man.

Breaking into the computer was easy enough. It was what she found there that changed the course of her life. The ex-Soldier kept a journal of nearly every day he was in the war. Apparently, he was also in Grey's unit. Kess read on with horror as she discovered her brother was not a casualty of war, but of the company's cruelty.

Instead of the proud story the ShinRa had told her, Grey dying heroically for the ShinRa's noble cause, she discovered the horrible reality. He had been executed for disobeying direct orders: to kill everyone on sight at the Wutai front; women, children, anyone. He refused to kill innocents and had been executed on site. Kess was furious. At the lies told to her, how she had thrown her life away to serve the company that murdered her brother. Kess took the information from the computer, left the site and disappeared into the night. She immediately sought out a doctor to remove the homing device in her neck and after that it was impossible for ShinRa to track her.

After wandering for months, she met Ashe in a Cosmo Canyon tavern. He too had just recently told the ShinRa to 'fuck off', and was now seeking better employment. This was when they heard about the rebels: Avalanche. Together, they decided to support their cause. And after an extensive background and body check, they were welcomed into the ranks. And they never looked back.

While working with the rebels, a horrible misfortune occurred in Kalm. On orders of the ShinRa, the village was attacked and nearly completely wiped off the face of the Planet. Missiles intended to strike a military target instead blasted the small town due to a miscalculation. The destruction was heinous and it took with it the lives of Kess' parents. Now an orphan, she turned to calling Avalanche her home indefinitely and intended to make the ShinRa Company pay for every infraction.

* * *

Fuhito walked over to Kess and removed the wires from behind her ear, snapping her back to reality. "Well done. Expect a promotion from this. Not anything large mind you.", he smirked. "You are dismissed."

Kess stood and nodded. She gave Raven a little wave before exiting the room. Her next stop was her quarters; she was in desperate need of a shower. Upon entering her small dwelling, Kess immediately began to strip off her dingy clothes. She tossed them in a pile near the front door and then made tracks for the bathing area. The room was cold, but that change as she grabbed the shower's knob and turned it to hot. Within moments, the enclosed space was a steamy sauna. She stepped into the shower and just leaned against the wall. She slowed her breathing and let the warm water run over her back and down her legs.

"What a night..", she muttered as she slid her head under the water.

Red strands of her hair stuck to her neck as she ran her hands across the back of her arms. It just felt good to be here and she didn't want to get out. But her stomach began to remind her that she hadn't eaten almost the entire day. And so she was driven from the warm shower and into the comfort of a dry towel. She exited the washroom and moved over to her closet. As soon as she arrived, she tossed the towel onto her bed and searched among the clothes for something comfortable. Within minutes, she was dressed for the evening; a black sleeveless shirt and some cargo pants. She dried her hair and pulled it back into a dripping ponytail while she slid her shoes on.

"Hope they patched Ashe up by now.. I need a drink.", she thought to herself as she exited the dwelling.

She moved down the cement hallway, her combat boots stomping almost too loudly against the floor. As she walked, her eyes darted to the several other dwellings in the area. How convenient for Avalanche to discover an ancient barracks beneath the city. She guessed they were remnants from a time when the city was under attack. The city itself was over thirty years old, so anything could have been happening at that time. Perhaps they were added as a precautionary and just never used. She tossed a few ideas around her head until she had come to the infirmary.

She entered the room and was greeted by the on duty medic and a nurse. She nodded back and made her way to the back of the room where Ashe was propped on a table. Another nurse was by his side, tightening the bandages around his upper arm. "Ouch!", he cried out. "That hurts, can't you be more careful!?"

The nurse just shook her head and smiled. "Mr. Kincaid, if I don't make this tight enough, you could get an infection. And I'm sure you don't want that."

He nodded in defeat and grimaced as the nurse tightened the bandage one last time. "There, finished.", she leaned back up and began to clean the area.

On her way to the trash bin she took notice of Kess and smirked. "He's such a whiner, but he'll live.", she giggled.

"Hey, I heard that!!", Ashe called out with a grimace.

Kess snickered and made her way over to her friend as the nurse hurried away. "Holding up?", Kess asked.

"Well yea, but the bastard shot my drinking arm.", he joked. "You know, Avalanche could do wonders if we would just hijack a pharmaceutical train. Nothing to dull the pain is hard enough without Nurse Ratchet ripping apart your arm."

"I heard that!", called the nurse from the front.

Ashe cringed and with his good arm, pushed himself from the table. "Good, you were supposed to!"

They shared a laugh and Kess helped him steady himself. "Well, let's go strengthen the other one then. I've been dying for a drink and some food ever since I got back here."

"Oh Kess.. you just said the magic words.", he smirked and together they walked from the infirmary to the small cafeteria and bar that the rebels had set up.

Once there, they took their seats at the bar and ordered their drinks and something to eat. While they waited for the cook on duty to whip up their food, their drinks were given to them. They immediately made those disappear and ordered a second round. This one they took a bit more slowly. "Hmm..", Ashe muttered as he sipped at his drink.

"What's up?"

He glanced around and then set his drink down. "Diego was supposed to meet us here. He's a new addition to Raven's squad."

Kess raised an eyebrow and set her drink down as well. "Oh really? I didn't hear anything about this."

"It was decided while you were in the ShinRa's custody. His background check came back and Sears decided to let him in. Raven said he'd meet us here, but it's already passed eleven."

Kess returned to her drink and sipped at it while Ashe kept his gaze riveted on the entrance.

Elsewhere, and a little earlier, things were not going as smoothly.. An entire crew of workers had already piled around the hole in the ShinRa building. If they continued their work into the early morning, by day break, the damage would barely be visible. However, most of them were standing around, idly chatting about the attack and stuffing donuts into their faces. A few feet away stood a certain group of individuals who had just entered the lobby. They too were mesmerized by the mess on the left side of the building. The foreman suddenly took notice of them and turned back towards the workers.

"Damnit all, get to work!!", he shouted, and then in a low voice added, "Some of those Turks are watchin' us.. get movin'!"

The workers took notice of the three Turks and decided that it would be in their best interest to pick up the pace. In truth, the Turks that had been noticed weren't even paying attention. Their focus remained on the hole until one of their cell phones rang. The owner took it from his inner jacket pocket and flipped it open. "Drake here. Yes sir, we're here. Yes sir, right away."

He shut the phone and spoke aloud, "It's Veld, he's calling a meeting now."

"Lemmie guess.", another one piped up. "It's about this unexpected renovation?" He smiled at his own joke and flipped back a shock of his brown hair.

The third man smirked and shoved his way passed them towards the elevators. "Good one, cupcake. You're so witty."

"Cupcake?! Hey, fuck you Jale!", he turned to walk after him as the first man followed.

"Marcus, calm down please.", the apparent leader spoke softly as they boarded the elevator. "No need to let Jale's cutting remarks get to you."

Marcus glared over to Jale from his spot near the elevator panel, the doors shut and after the push of a button, they made their way to the upper floors. After a few moments, Jale piped up, "So, how do you think that hole got to be there, Drake?"

"I'm not sure, but I have no doubt we'll find out when we get to Veld's office.", he exhaled, pushing his black bangs away from his face. "At least our shift is over, so whatever they'll want, Reno and Rude will get to jump right on it. Samantha and Becca will probably be called in."

After a bit of silence between the three, the elevator came to a halt and the doors slid open to reveal a hallway lined with many doors. Jale extended his arm towards the entrance and said quite loudly to Marcus, "Ladies first!"

Marcus immediately turned to him and narrowed his chestnut colored eyes. "Piss off, Jale!" But he also didn't move.

They stood there for a moment; neither one daring to move for fear that the other would crack their joke. Drake looked between the both of them and shook his head. "Grow up, both of you.", and he took a step off into the hallway.

Jale and Marcus both smirked a bit, but Jale beat the latter to the joke, "Have a nice day, ma'am!"

They both burst out laughing and exited the elevator. Drake ignored the comment and continued on his way towards Veld's office. "Well shit, he isn't any fun.", Jale murmured as he and Marcus ran to catch up.

They both skid to a sharp halt before the office door and waited for Drake to open it. "Both of you be respectful..", Drake said sternly as he glanced to both of them.

He opened the door and entered the large room, making immediate tracks for the large desk against the opposite wall. There sat a man with dark brown hair and a goatee. His expression was serious and he seemed to be upset. He shuffled through a few papers before seemingly finding the one he wanted. He took no notice of Drake and his group for the moment, but then he spoke without glancing up from the paper. "I take it you saw the fiasco downstairs, and I assure you that is why I called you up here."

He finally glanced up and greeted the small group, calling them each by name. Finally he rested on Drake, "Seems like we are starting to have trouble with that damnable rebel faction again. One of their agents breached the security and was luckily caught. However, she escaped and well, now there's a gaping hole in the side of the building. The President wants to find her at all costs. He's furious at the amount of damage she caused."

As he trailed off, another group of individuals entered the office. The first to come through the door was a lanky man with bright red hair and a pony tail.

His counterpart who closed the door was larger and showed no signs of hair. They spoke to each other before turning away from the room's center and heading off to another pair of men who were standing over another desk. Veld eyed them for a moment, but then continued briefing Drake's group. "Go ahead and take off as scheduled. Reno and Rude will continue the search for now. Samantha and Becca will pick up where they leave off in the afternoon. And then you three will continue the search tomorrow evening."

"We'll do what?", Reno piped up from the other side of the room.

"Continue the search for the girl.", Veld said calmly.

"Oh hell yea we will. She'll be back in the cell block before day break.", he boasted, his gloved hands falling into his pockets.

"One thing still puzzles me.", Rude spoke softly, yet definitely. "How did she manage to escape from the cell block in the first place?"

Veld nodded and then shrugged. "That is one of the many mysteries about her. The security cameras were surprisingly shut off during which time her cell door was opened and she escaped."

Now the other two individuals at the other desk became interested. They silently put down their work and walked over to the others. "Perhaps she tampered with it or had knowledge in the way the doors work?", one asked.

"Perhaps Tseng. But I'm not so sure.", Veld tapped his finger against his desk as the other spoke.

"Or maybe there's an insider..", the man next to Tseng said softly.

Veld pointed to him and nodded, "That's what I was going to suggest. Good call, Rufus."

With this new realization, things began to make more sense. After a bit more contemplating, Veld spoke up and began to stack his papers. "Well you all have your orders. I for one am going home. It's been quite a day."

He dismissed the group to their own devices and excused himself. Reno and Rude left immediately, taking to the streets to continue the search for the girl. Drake, Marcus, and Jale took their leave and headed for the cafeteria. However, on the way, Jale stopped and slapped a hand to his forehead. "Damn, wouldn't you know it."

"What?", Marcus questioned as they all stopped in the hall.

"I completely forgot. I have other plans for tonight.", he chuckled and began to turn away. "I'll see you two tomorrow."

And like that, he turned and trotted off leaving Drake and Marcus alone in the hallway. "What was that all about?", Drake inquired.

Marcus simply shrugged and turned towards the cafeteria door. "Who cares, at least we don't have to put up with his snide ass."

Drake shrugged a bit and then smirked, "Yea, I suppose you're right."

They entered the cafeteria and thought nothing more of it.

* * *

Jale quickly made tracks for the elevator once he had ditched that annoying Marcus and workaholic Drake. His hand fumbled upward to his tie where he loosened the navy blue material and pulled it from his neck. He tucked the tie away into the inner pocket of his jacket as he came to the end of the hall. His fingers pushed the button for the elevator mechanically and he waited for the arrival of his escape pod. Soon enough, he was stepping aboard, punching in the lobby button. "Almost out of here..", he muttered to himself.

Jale has just rest his head against the cold metal wall when the elevator suddenly stopped on floor 37. He leaned up as the doors opened to reveal someone standing there. A man also wearing a blue suit entered the elevator. His hair was neatly combed back and he had the start of a mustache on his upper lip. He nodded to Jale with a smile and reached out to touch the 29th floor button.

"Well you look exhausted, sir.", he chuckled, his body straightening up once the doors shut.

Jale didn't say anything for a moment, trying to remember who this man was. It was then that he recalled the name. He was about to reply, but the man turned to him. "Very tired indeed.. heh heh", he extended his hand to Jale and introduced himself. "Reeve Tuesti, and you look as if you are one of the Turks, correct?"

Jale took Reeve's extended hand and shook it reassuringly. "Yup, new recruit. Been here about a week.",, he spoke confidently.

"Ah, I see.", Reeve took his hand back and glanced up to the floor display momentarily. "So are they making you do all the grunt work?"

Jale leaned up from the wall and replied, "Eh, most of it. But it's not anything I'm not used to."

Reeve nodded,, his hand raising to stoke his chin. "I tried out for the Turks a while back. However, it seemed I was better suited for helping run the city.", he turned back and smiled as the elevator slowed to a halt and the doors shot open.

"Well this is my stop. Good to chat with you…?", he had forgotten to ask the young man's name.

"Jale Gerrick.", Jale replied.

"Right, right. Nice talking with you Jale.", Reeve stepped from the elevator, the doors shutting immediately behind him.

Jale rested against the wall once more. He chuckled to himself as he folded his arms across his chest. He was becoming quite the chatter box. He'd have to watch that. At last the elevator reached the bottom of the building and just in time too. He was pushing it if he was going to meet up with his other little group.

Jale made his way to the front of the building and made a small pit stop at the employee restrooms. Earlier he had stashed a duffle bag with some regular clothes in one of the maintenance closets; he only hoped that no one had found it.

He entered the room and luckily found the bag just as he had left it. He locked himself in one of the stalls and set to work changing his clothes. It might not be a good idea to show up in the Turk's suit. He chuckled to himself as he folded the suit neatly and put it back into the bag. He straightened his t-shirt, buttoned his jeans, and within minutes he stepped from the stall.

Jale exited the restroom toting the bag with him as he walked towards the building's entrance. Now his only worries were catching the train that would take him closer to the Avalanche hideout.

Ashe continued to glance about the bar in search of the aforementioned man. "He said he'd be here by now.", he grimaced, taking a short sip of his drink.

Kess just remained calm and didn't even bat an eye. "He'll get here when he gets here. Besides, he's probably late because someone blew a hole in he side of the ShinRa building.", she laughed, glancing askance to Ashe.

He smirked and shook his head. "You say that like it's a bad thing.", he snickered.

When he finally took his gaze off the door, the man decided to make his entrance. He walked into the bar, the smell of liquor and cigarettes thick in the air. In his left hand he held a duffle bag; his other hand jammed deeply into his pocket. He began to make his way towards Ashe when he took notice of the girl that was sitting next to him. "Oh how nice of him, a date for the evening.", he smiled coolly as he approached the two.

"Hey Ashe, you call this a greeting?", he joked as he stood behind the pair.

He had startled poor Ashe to the point of choking on his drink. He coughed some of it onto the counter and Kess slapped his back to keep him from choking. Once Ashe had regained his composure, he turned quickly and jumped up from his seat. "Diego, glad you made it!", Ashe smiled, shaking his hand.

Diego tossed his duffle bag to the floor and took a seat on the other side of Ashe's chair. "Hey, better late than never, Ashey boy. The train was delayed because of an accident at the ShinRa building."

Kess nodded, as if to tell Ashe, "I told you." She looked over to Diego and extended her hand to him. "Since Ashe is slow at introductions, I'm Kess."

Diego suddenly froze, his eyes riveted on the girl's face. Across the room he hadn't got a good look at her, but now sitting so close, he recognized her immediately. He swallowed and put his hand into hers, then turned her hand over and leaned over to plant a suave kiss on it. "Diego, the pleasure is all mine.", he smiled coyly, but Kess barely seemed to notice.

Ashe reclaimed his seat just as the bartender came over to the new arrival and took his drink order. She scurried off to fulfill it and the conversation resumed its place. "So I caused the trains to be late, eh?", Ashe smirked smugly, finishing off his drink.

Diego raised a brow and crossed his arms over his chest. "You mean to tell me that you put that big hole in the ShinRa building?", he asked casually.

"Indeed I did.", Ashe set his glass down and glanced over to Diego who actually looked quite impressed.

Diego let out a few hearty chuckles and the group grew silent for a moment. His drink arrived soon after and he put the glass to his lips. "So, how long have you two been with the rebels?", he inquired before taking a sip.

Ashe, being the excited person that he was, readily answered, "I've been here for about a year. And Kess, well she's been here for-"

"Only six months.", she interjected. "Ashe, I can speak for myself."

She smirked and ruffled his reddish brown hair a bit. Diego could tell that there was something between them. But was it a relationship or were they just close friends? He'd have to find out. "So, when will I get to meet the higher ups?", Diego asked, deciding to change the subject in his mind before he thought too far.

"Oh Sears will be holding a meeting tomorrow with the new recruits. Then you will probably meet Fuhito and Elfe afterward or maybe during. I can't remember how they did it when we joined.", Ashe laughed.

Kess looked to her watch and then back to the boys. "Crap, it's getting late. Fuhito wants to meet with me early tomorrow and well, after today I'm dead tired."

She rose and adjusted her shirt. "Hey wait, I'll walk you to your room.", Ashe offered, taking to his feet.

"Sure.", she smirked, both hands pulling on her shortened burgundy ponytail.

Ashe turned back to Diego, his hand resting on the counter. "I'll be right back. If you want, we can have a few more drinks and I can fill you in."

Diego merely waved his hand and replied, "Don't worry about it. Sounds like you two had a rough day. I'll just finish my drink and head off to my place. I'm a bit tired too." He even stretched out both arms and yawned.

Ashe nodded and reached out to shake Diego's hand. "Alright then, I'll see you tomorrow before the meeting. Good to have you aboard, Diego."

He smiled and Diego returned the shake. "What can I say? I had to find my place in the world sometime."

Kess bid Diego a good evening as well and turned towards the door. Ashe followed behind her and soon the two were out of sight. "How very interesting. I bet I could have some fun with her..", Diego chuckled quietly to himself and finished off his drink.

He rose, deciding to check out the room they had supplied him with. He just wanted to sleep after all the crap he had to deal with today.

* * *

Kess and Ashe had made it to the hallway that housed Kess' living quarters. They stopped shortly before her door and talked for a few moments. "Thank you again, Ashe.. for getting me out of the building."

Ashe scratched the back of his head nervously and blushed. "Eh, don't mention it. You'd do the same for me, right?"

Kess nodded with a smirk and leaned over to hug him. "Ahhh.. ", he cringed back a little, still in a bit of pain from the bullet.

"Oh shit, sorry! I completely forgot.", Kess apologized, her hands pulling away.

"I'm just a baby.", Ashe laughed, pulling his hand instinctively to the spot. "I'll see you tomorrow, Kess."

She nodded and turned towards her door. She opened it and stepped inside as Ashe turned to walk away. Once inside, Kess stopped momentarily and poked her head back into the hallway. "Good night, Ashe.", she called after him.

He turned on his heels and waved to her with his good arm, a kind smile on his face. Without a word, he turned and began to walk off once more. Kess returned to her room and shut the door behind her. She crossed the room to the bed and just flopped on top of it. It had been a long day and she was thankful for the soft bed. She didn't even bother to turn the lights on; she was comfortable and she wasn't moving.

Ashe made his way down the lonely corridor towards his own living space. He was located on the other side of the base and so had to travel through the main areas to get to it. On the way he spotted Diego speaking with someone, Biggs to be exact. They seemed to be discussing something about the base because Biggs motioned to the security door and then across the room to the alarm system several times. What could they possibly be talking about? Ashe furrowed his brow, but the day had left him drained and he just didn't care. He entered the next hallway and soon enough was rewarded with his own door.

Upon entering the room, he flicked the light on long enough to kick his shoes off. He then shut it off and headed towards the bathroom. He showered in silence, taking special care to keep his bandages dry. After the careful shower, he walked out to the main room and crawled into bed. It was early morning, but at least he could sleep in. Soon enough his heavy eyelids won the battle and Ashe drifted off.

Elsewhere someone was wishing for sleep, but their persistent mind wouldn't allow it. Rufus ShinRa had taken to his father's office in the early hours of the morning. The room was dark except for the lone computer screen before him, his hands tapping lightly at keyboard. He had decided to search the mainframe for any former female employees that had access to the building's layout. And what better way than to use the President's access, he could see everything. Yet so far he hadn't found jack shit. He knew this search was going to take a couple days, a week at the most. But he was determined to find this woman, especially if it meant showing up the old man.

He stopped on a certain file, perhaps it was her? This woman knew the building's layout. But he stopped on seeing that she was one of the early technicians that had helped design the building over thirty years ago. Nope, not her. Rufus had already long decided that he would take it upon himself to find this girl and he was prepared to be here until the sun came up.


--End Chapter 1..