Chapter 2: Into the Void

The sun sat low in the early morning sky. It rested comfortably amongst the thin clouds that spread out across the horizon. Long shadows stretched across the landscape, casting most of the area in shadow. In a nearby forest, the birds sang their morning songs to help rouse the rest of the sleepy woods. The sun eventually had to leave its comfort zone and rise higher into the sky; its rays of pure light falling upon the earth. A long, foreboding shadow spread from the grand city of steel and mako. It cast the nearby ruins of Kalm into darkness until at last the sun over came it and soon nothing could escape the light.

In the city, many shops were opening for a day of business. Fresh bagels and cinnamon rolls were in abundance at the local bakery on the main street. At another shop, they were just opening their doors to offer their customers warm coffee, just brewed minutes before. After grabbing their morning energy, many of the customers headed off to start a lengthy day at work. While they took to the trains and carpools, there were several individuals who were already working, but not towards the same cause.

The rebel base in the abandoned underground bunkers of Sector Six was bustling with activity. This was the day their newest plan would be set into motion: Infiltrate the ShinRa building and set up surveillance. This would help them keep up with what was happening on the inside, and thanks to the building schematics that Kess had obtained, they knew exactly where to set up.

Most of the rebels that were present were preparing the base for the possibility of having to move out. If the infiltrators were caught, there would be no telling how quickly the ShinRa would discover the rebels' location. So while the main attack group was being prepped by the leaders, the rest were preparing to pack up everything that wasn't bolted down. Kess was running slightly late to the meeting. She had been packing her belongings into two duffle bags. Once finished she could leave them in her room with a tag marked 'Reignheart' and they would be moved for her. The only problem was that she couldn't zip the damn bag!

"Well shit..", she muttered, kicking the bag with her boot.

She decided to try one last thing before heading out to the meeting she was already late for. She lay on top of the bag and while pushing all of her weight onto it, she fumbled with the zipper. "Come-on you piece of crap..!!! Urg!", she pulled the zipper hard and the bag was sealed.

She stood and dusted her hands on the back of her pants and sighed heavily. "That's right.. you better listen to me..", she then turned from the bag and its twin, grabbed her cargo jacket from the bed and moved to the door. She hopped they weren't angry that she was now ten minutes late. But then she figured that the meeting would start a bit late anyway. And so out the door she went and off to the meeting hall.

She took a shortcut through another section of quarters where she could see others having trouble zipping their duffle bags as well. "They just need to issue bigger bags.", she muttered with a smirk as she turned the corner.

She crossed the main area and waved to Biggs as he took over the post for his day shift. He saluted her with a stern expression, but then just laughed and waved. She shook her head and continued on her way. She took another sharp corner and immediately plowed into a fast moving woman. "Oh, sorry! Excuse me, I didn't see you.", she said quickly, her hands clutching some crinkled documents.

Kess stepped back and quickly said, "No, I should be the one to apologize. I shouldn't have cut the corner like that.", she chuckled a bit and looked the woman over; she was vaguely familiar. "Hey, isn't your name Jessie?"

The woman nodded and pushed back a bit of her hair. "Yea, I'm Jessie; one of the bomb techs."

"Ah that's right. You work with Ashe.", Kess smiled and extended her hand.

Jessie smirked and switched the papers to her left hand. "Yup, Ashe and I are bomb buddies.", she chuckled and took Kess' hand. "And you are Kess. I must say, you did a wonderful job last night. You've given Avalanche the ace card at most."

Kess' smile widened as she shook Jessie's hand. "Well thank you. I've gotta run for now. I'm actually late for a meeting."

Jessie fumbled with a few papers and nodded, "Ah I see. Well, nice to have met you in person.", she smirked. "Maybe after your mission, you and Ashe could join me and the crew for victory drinks in the bar."

Kess nodded and moved to walk down the hall. "I am so there.", she laughed and waved to Jessie. "See you later!"

And with that she started to jog down the hallway. At last she came to the door to the meeting room. She peeked in to saw Raven, Elfe, and Fuhito sitting at one side of a rounded table. A small audience had gathered in the little auditorium, but through the crowd Kess managed to find her way to Ashe. "Good morning.", he chirped while handing her a paper cup of coffee.

"Oh, you read my mind.", she smirked and took the gift. "I don't see Sears. Did he sleep late?"

Ashe laughed and shook his head. "Knowing him, he slept in on purpose, hahaa! You were a bit late, couldn't fit everything in those duffle bags?", he chuckled, taking a short sip of his coffee.

Kess nodded and then shook her head. "Yea yea yea, get off my back.", she sipped her coffee and as she glanced up, saw Sears walking out onto the short stage. "Hey, there he is." She pointed towards the stage with the hand that held her coffee and Ashe turned his head forward.

Sears glanced around the table, giving a slight nod to each individual. He then glanced around the room and addressed everyone. "Good morning. I trust that you are ready for this operation."

A few claps here and there and then Sears turned to Elfe. "Let's begin then."

Elfe nodded and stood up, pulling her hands from the table. "The ShinRa are hungry..", she began and took a short pause. "..they are hungry for power.. for money.. and for mako. That is why those before us formed this organization; to cut the ShinRa's hands off at the wrist. We must stop them, at all cost.. any cost!!"

Her stern gaze swept across the room, looking over the many faces. "If they continue this reckless and unregulated draining of Mako from the earth, there will be nothing left for our children.. or their children."

She paused, a few 'here-here's' coming from the audience. A group in the back of the audience was starting to chant the word Avalanche over and over. Elfe continued once she had picked her words.

"We are here to save the planet, to keep it sacred for all things. This group started out with a dream in Cosmo Canyon. But our leader became a victim to circumstance and so I took up the reigns. Sears, Fuhito and Raven joined in our fight, and now all of you have joined us."

She was getting louder, as were the people in the back chanting; soon others were joining in. "We are Avalanche!! And we will do whatever it takes to end the ShinRa's reign!!"

The crowed erupted into cheering and chanting. Everyone was clapping with the words, those powerful words. "Avalanche, Avalanche!!"

Suddenly someone shouted loudly, "Down with ShinRa!! Down with ShinRa!" The entire crowd joined in.

Soon Sears reached for a stack of rolled up plastic. He selected two and handed them to Fuhito who sat at his side. The crowd led by Elfe continued to shout 'Down with ShinRa' as Fuhito unrolled the plastic and spread it across the circular table.

Once revealed, he secured the edges with some flat metal weights and smoothed his hands over the surface. Raven reached under the table and soon a low hum filled the room. The table's surface glowed gently until it finally lit up, illuminating the map. It reflected off of a circular disk that was on the ceiling and projected onto the wall behind the stage.

The crowd quieted down and Elfe smiled as she took her seat. Fuhito placed his hands on the now visible map and spoke loudly. "As you can see, we've printed out building schematics for the ShinRa Headquarters. These maps would not be possible if it was not for Kess Reignheart who risked her life to get into the building and obtain this information."

The crowd responded with applause and whistling. Ashe glanced over to her with a smile and nodded. "Good work.", he praised.

Kess smirked and nodded to Fuhito who was looking directly to her. He continued, "This particular map shows the left wing of the building."

He slid his finger across the page towards the left. "Here is where the team will enter, the outer stairwell. It will take you all the way to the 59th floor. It will most likely be lightly guarded since the stairwell itself will be guarded at the bottom. It will also most likely only have two guards since they will be guarding the hole that Mr. Kincaid blasted into the building."

A few more cheers and whistles, Ashe smirked and waved his hand around to the crowd. He suddenly shouted out, "Hey! Mr. Kincaid is my father! Hahahaha!"

The crowd joined in a laughed loudly, Raven and Sears trying hard to keep their stern faces. "The team will have to take care of the guards on the 59th floor and then split up to three designated areas. Once there, one person will act as a look out, the other will attach one of these to the surveillance cameras."

He reached down to the table and held up a small device about the size of a bottle cap. "These are cameras of our own. They record audio and video and they can be attached quite easily. This wire..", he held up a thin wire coming from the device. "..must be attached to the power source on the ShinRa's devices."

He set the camera down and Sears handed him another map. He laid this one out, displaying a bird's eye view of the 59th and 61st floors side by side.

"The team will have to place the cameras in various areas of the upper floors.", with each location he pointed to the map. "Here, at the entrance to the stairwell leading to the 60th floor. On the next floor in the stairwell that leads back down to the 59th floor. You will skip the 60th floor and move to the 61st. Since this will be in the middle of the night, the upper lobby should be locked up for the evening. Using the keycards we've obtained, enter the lobby and place two cameras on either side of the room."

He switched the maps once more, displaying the 66th and 67th floors. "The 66th floor is where the president's meetings take place. There is a restroom to the north where you can access the room by using a vent in one of the stalls. For that camera, we have a special battery pack so that it can be powered on its own. Place the camera in the vent, pointing downward towards the room."

He then pointed to the cell block. "The last camera is to be placed here on the 67th floor. This way if anyone is captured, we will be able to send in a rescue team and know how heavily guarded the area is. Once all cameras are in place, make your way back down to the 59th floor and get out of there. During this time, Raven will have hacked their mainframe and can shut their cameras down. This all needs to come together in under thirty minutes. She can only have them deactivated for forty-five minutes before the back up power kicks in and reboots the system."

The light on the table started to dim and Fuhito rolled the plastic back up. He set it to the side and Sears stood. "Elfe has already selected the team to be sent in and I will name them now.", he looked out across the crowd, searching for the certain individuals. "Kess Reignheart and Ashe Kincaid will go. You know the building as you've been inside several times as it is. Ben Rekrab, Nigel Higashi, and L.B. Dias will accompany you. Meet in the cargo bay after sundown, precisely nine-thirty p.m.. You will be briefed once more and outfitted. Do not be late. That is all, you are dismissed."

He immediately turned and left the stage, Fuhito, Elfe, and Raven in tow. Kess and Ashe glanced around to the others that were named. "What do you think, Ashe? Good team?"

Ashe nodded and shrugged at the same time. "Eh, I suppose. Higashi is an ex-ShinRa guard, so he knows about the shifts and protocol. Dias is a pretty good sharpshooter, so she should keep us covered. It's Rekrab I'm worried about. He's newer than you are. He might crack under pressure. Not sure what his specialty is."

Kess nodded and with Ashe, they headed for the exit to get some breakfast. They didn't even take notice of a certain someone who was also near the door. Diego leaned casually against the wall, waiting for the room to empty a bit more before leaving. He had arrived after everyone else, but had heard what the whole plan was.

He pushed himself away from the wall and began to saunter over to Ashe and Kess who were near the exit. Diego's eyes wandered over Kess' body a little bit and he licked his lower lip instinctively. His eyes remained riveted upon the back of her neck as he closed in. As he appeared behind the pair, Diego leaned slowly down and breathed in her scent. He gritted his teeth with a sly grin and pulled away just as Kess craned her neck backwards to see him there.

She raised a brow and stopped on noticing who in fact it was. She said nothing, taking notice of his expression. Ashe however was oblivious and turned to see why Kess had stopped. "Oh Diego, morning man.", he greeted amiably.

Diego simply nodded and took his animalistic eyes away from Kess. "Good day Ashe, Kess.", he glanced to her once more before looking away.

He suddenly moved forward, placing an arm around their shoulders. He then began to walk between them from the room and down the hall. "So where's a guy get a bite to eat around here?", he smiled smugly, looking between Ashe, and then to Kess; his eyes wandering down a bit.

Kess pulled his arm off of her shoulder and walked ahead of the two. "The bar, where else? It's not like this is the ShinRa Day Inn.", she grumbled, having noticed the looks she was receiving from Diego.

A smile spread across his thin lips as he and Ashe walked down the hall after her. "You sure are lippy today. Nervous about your mission?", he narrowed his eyes a bit.

Kess turned back ahead and tossed her burgundy hair over her shoulders. "It's not like Ashe and I are new to this, like you. We're used to danger.", her words were cutting and to the point.

Diego's eyebrows narrowed in anger; she had actually pissed him off. He grimaced and pulled his arm back from Ashe's shoulder. "I can handle anything this place throws at me. And don't you forget it, sister.", he pushed his way passed her and slammed his shoulder against hers. "I've just lost my appetite. I don't' feel like I need to be lectured during my meal."

He walked further down the hallway away from the two, his long coat swaying as he moved. "Diego wait, Kess didn't mean it!", Ashe called out after him.

Diego didn't even turn around. "Don't worry about it, I have to go to that newbie meeting anyway, remember!?", he waved his hand nonchalantly in the air and disappeared around the nearest corner.

Ashe walked up besides Kess and nudged her shoulder. "What's up with you today, huh?"

Kess didn't say anything; she just moved away from Ashe and continued on her way towards the bar. "Kess, wait!", Ashe called out after her.

She stopped, and sighed before turning to him. "What, Ashe? Should I not be so hard on poor little Diego?"

"No… I just want to know what's the matter.", he frowned slightly, his hand reaching up to flick away some strands of hair.

"I don't trust him, that's what.", she crossed her arms and they continued down the hallway. "He is way too casual about everything."

Ashe shrugged and chuckled slightly as they crossed the main room. "Maybe that's just the way he is."

They both waved to Biggs who was doing his usual thing at the entrance. He happened to be reading something, and so he placed the paper in one hand to wave back. For a while, nothing was said. They entered the bar and found their seats amongst the small crowded room. "Who knows… I just… it just feels like he's using his casualness to hide something.", Kess replied finally.

Ashe shrugged and turned towards the small bar that had breakfast food set out across its top. "Well I guess we'll just keep an eye on him.", Ashe muttered. "You want the usual?"

Kess glanced up and nodded. "Yea, thanks Ashe..", she smiled.

He smirked and tightened the red bandana he was wearing around his forehead. "Anything for you Kess."

The morning was starting to press into early afternoon. The sunlight reflecting off of the ShinRa building certainly was a marvelous sight but it was a little blinding. The employees behind it's thousands of tinted windows hardly noticed the bright sunlight. They continued on with their work load into the afternoon and soon it was time for the first lunch shift.

At the top of this illustrious building stood its creator; President ShinRa. He gazed out across his city, pleased to an extent with its sight. However, one nagging thought kept his smile at bay: those damned vermin rebels. He frowned and pulled a smoking cigar to his pudgy lips. He inhaled the refreshing taste and lowered it once more. Those bastards had even attacked his building. His building! He shook his head and pulled his lower lip over his mustache. He had the Turks combing the streets from early dawn and he would keep them out there until they discovered their base. He wouldn't let these little impudent bastards slip through his fingers just like they had in Cosmo Canyon.

He turned slightly on hearing footsteps and noticed Rufus coming up the stairs. "Ah, Rufus my boy. You've come to visit your old man, eh?", he smiled wide and turned to walk towards the young man.

On hearing the words from his father, Rufus' lip curled instinctively. How he despised the old man.. So greedy; so afraid that his little empire might come crashing down. He quickly adjusted his expression and took a sip from the large cup he was holding.

"Good afternoon, President.", he said slowly as he moved towards the mainframe of computers in the middle of the room.

"President? Haw haw haw! You can call me dad, you know. It's no secret around here.", ShinRa laughed as he sucked on his cigar a bit more.

He crossed the room and stopped at the computers. "So, you're going to continue the search for that red-haired she-devil?", ShinRa's words displayed his distaste for the woman.

Rufus merely nodded and set down a small bag that he was also carrying. He pulled out two small boxes and a fork. President ShinRa looked on for a bit, but seeing that Rufus was taking forever to unpack his lunch, he sighed and flicked the cigar ashes into a nearby tray. "Well then, I need to be off. Lunch meeting with those damned Makato bastards.", he walked towards the stairs. "Don't work too hard now!"

He laughed at his joke and disappeared down the stairs. Rufus watched him walk away and then turned towards the computers. "Crawl into an early grave, old man.", he growled as he flipped the screen on.

He had already covered the entire ShinRa employee list. It was now time for the Soldier documents to be picked through. With a heavy sigh, Rufus reached for one of the boxes and removed the lid. He took a few bites of the food inside and then relaxed into the high back chair. It was going to be a long afternoon.

* * *

The day progressed, the sun reached its peek and then began its slow decent into the horizon. The wind picked up slightly and filled the air with the sweet smells of autumn. The rain from the previous evening intermingled with the scent and created a serene atmosphere. It seemed that nothing could ruin this evening.

At a quiet corner cafe, two individuals seemed to be relaxing after a hard day at work. One man, sporting a dark blue suit, brown hair, and a slight mustache sipped at a small tea cup. The other man, obviously older than the first, flicked his dark hair from his view as he spoke in a low tone. The latter seemed very excited as he continued on, the first man still casually sipping at his drink. A piece of paper was set upon the table and pushed to the center and a few more words were said. The calm man glanced down momentarily and then reached over, pushing it back with a smile. "Why is it you never accept the payments? We are more than willing to pay anyone that will help us.", the energetic man asked.

"It is unnecessary. Don't worry about it. You'll need that money later I'm sure.", he replied and took another sip of his tea. "All I ask is that you keep civilians out of your conflicts. I don't much care for the people of this city having to suffer more than they already do."

After a few more moments, the eccentric man picked up a satchel and zipped it shut. "You're doing a great thing, sir. We wouldn't be able to do most of this without your information.", he praised, preparing to leave.

The man with the blue suit nodded and finished his tea. "Please, say no more. I am glad to be of service for your cause. I just hope that you and your group succeed in their endeavors.", he said quietly, still trying to remain secretive.

The conversation ended, both men parting ways and returning to their different worlds. The older man hailed a taxi to escape the scene, while the other one headed for the train station. He stepped through the turn style and entered the nearest train car; the sign above reading that it is bound for ShinRa HQ. He entered the somewhat crowded car and took a seat.

He relaxed back, hoping that his presence would go unnoticed, and still a bit wary of being spotted at that café. After a few moments, an elderly woman entered the car and he immediately stood to give her a place to sit. She smiled and said, "How kind of you, such a nice young man."

He nodded to her in a friendly manner and smiled. "Not a problem ma'am. It's a long ride and I wouldn't want you to have to stand.", he said kindly as he found himself standing instead.

He grabbed one of the overhead straps as the doors shut. Soon the train started up and began the long trip towards its destination. He looked out the window and took in the view of the city's upper plate. After releasing a sigh, he glanced to the left; the large building at the center is slowly coming into view. Back to the grind, working with the people he couldn't stand.

Releasing a heavy sigh, he glanced down to his shoes and thought, "Reeve, you're doing the best you can for these people." He must never forget; he was doing this for the people of Midgar. In truth, the only reason he had taken the job was to help the people of the city. As long as he had a voice, he would speak up for them and their rights. ShinRa could care less about who used its power or bought their products. Just as long as they were making money, they didn't give a care about anyone. The man's thoughts shifted to the elderly woman who he had given his seat to. It made him think of his own mother, living on her pension in this lonely city.

The train stopped at the next station on the upper plate and Reeve found himself stepping off. He was well off from the ShinRa building, but the thoughts of his mother pushed him to visit her. His feet tugged him forward and soon he was walking towards her place. It wasn't far from the train station, but it was a few blocks. Reeve passed by various other cafés and shops still open. He stopped at a flower shop and decided to pick up a bouquet for his mother.

After browsing over the lilies and roses for a few moments, he picked up a pre-made bouquet with purple irises, yellow daisies and a few pink roses. He paid and continued on his way, reaching the residential area of upper Sector Five. He moved along the quiet street until he came to a familiar house.

Nestled between two larger apartments, his mother's home looked so small; small but comforting. He immediately began to feel better as soon as he laid eyes on the front door. Reeve walked up the small steps and reached out to knock on the door. Minutes later, it opened to reveal her; Ruvie Tuesti.

"Reeve! My, what brings you here?", she smiled, throwing her arms around him.

She was so surprised that she didn't even notice the bouquet until she nearly crushed it. "Oh dear, and flowers for your mother? Such a thoughtful boy.", she smiled and pulled him inside.

He stood in the entry way as she hurried off to find a vase for the flowers. "So my dear, what brings you out of that stuffy building?", she called out fro the kitchen.

Reeve began to look around the familiar home, nostalgia filling his senses. "Just came by to see you, it's been a while since I last visited.", he murmured as his feet moved to the kitchen.

She had put the flowers into a vase and was fluffing them up a bit. "My, these are so pretty.", she mused. "Can I get you some tea?"

"No, I've just had my fill actually. I just wanted to come talk to you about some things.", he smirked.

Ruvie pulled out a chair and sat down. "Well then, have a seat, son.", she pat the other chair gently. "What's on your mind?"

Slowly, Reeve took a seat across from his mother and leaned back into the chair. "I am just wondering if I am doing the right thing.", he began. "I took this job to help the people of this city. But there is only so much that I can protect them from."

Ruvie nodded, looking between her son and the beautiful flowers. "Well, Reeve. I know that you will do whatever you can to do your job. So many people think highly of you. You've done so much for this city. Much more than the bastard that's in charge.". she smirked.

Reeve nodded. "Yes, President ShinRa is not well liked these days.. But I.. I just hope that I am doing whatever I can to help the citizens."

Ruvie reached out her hand and placed it over Reeve's. "Son, you are the only thing these people have. And I know that you'll do the right thing."

He nodded and released a sigh, "I just hope that I know what's right."

After an entire afternoon and evening of searching, Drake and Marcus arrived back to the building to report their findings. Absolutely nothing… They searched high, they searched low. They searched until it was time to return for the shift change. They didn't feel too bad though. Reno and Rude hadn't found anything and neither had Samantha and Becca. They entered the main office of the Turks, Veld and Tseng were no where to be seen. Jale however was resting comfortably at his desk, his feet on the top of it as if he had all the time in the world to relax.

Marcus grimaced and suddenly said loudly with a sarcastic hint, "So, any luck… Jale?"

Jale turned to Marcus and raised a curious brow. "No…? And I don't think you had any either… heh." He returned to flicking an ink pen towards the ceiling in an effort to get it stuck.

Drake moved from his rooted position and stopped at the edge of Jale's desk. "What the hell do you think you're doing?", he said rigidly.

Jale shrugged and replied by saying, "Relaxing while the rest of you run around the city, trying to find someone that's trying not to be found."

Drake shifted his stance and crossed his arms. "Look, I don't know what you did in the navy, but in this business, we assist each other. We have been ordered to find this woman and the rebel base along with it. If you think you can sit there and throw pens at the ceiling, expecting your job to do itself, you will be finding a pink slip on your desk before you know it."

Jale suddenly cut him off before he could continue and said quite calmly, "She'll turn up; probably sooner than you think." He smirked and returned to his task. After a few more flicks, the pen sank into the soft ceiling. Jale leaned up and glanced to Drake with a wry smile.

Drake shook his head side to side and walked away towards his own desk, tossing back, "Well, you can be the one to explain to Veld why you're not getting any work done."

Drake pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his desk drawer and placed them in his jacket pocket. Without a word, he left the room and moved down the hallway. Marcus sighed loudly as he watched him go, but then the door opened back up to reveal two more individuals.

Becca Pierce, the 'serious about her work' Turk entered along side of Samantha Baines. Becca crossed the room towards her desk and Samantha split off to her own desk. Jale eyed them both and smirked a little. Even though Drake and Marcus constantly bothered him, at least he had pretty things to look at while he was stuck here.

Becca was a stern girl, always worried about doing a good job, and getting it done efficiently. But her partner Samantha was a more 'fly by the seat of her pants' kind of girl. She did her job, but she would never form up a plan or a back up plan for that matter. She would go in head strong and surprisingly come out on top. Surely her shot gun and sassy attitude had something to do with that. She flicked back her long, light brown hair and started back over to Becca. "I've got to head to the armory before we start the shift. Seems I used up all my ammo.", she giggled and turned tossing her long hair over her shoulder.

Becca merely nodded and clicked a new clip into her hand gun quietly. She would never understand Samantha's happy attitude about everything. They had a job to do and they needed to focus. Samantha spotted Jale at his desk, haphazardly flicking another pen towards the ceiling. "Wow, you look so busy Jale!", Samantha suddenly interjected.

Jale glanced forward suddenly, the pen hitting him in the head. "Ow..!", he rubbed the spot quickly and raised a brow. "And what do you want?"

Samantha placed her hand against her hip and jutted her stance to one side. "Why do they even keep you around?", she shook her head and waited to see what his answer would be.

Jale smiled slightly and picked the pen up from his lap where it had fallen. But he just stared at her without saying a word. Samantha huffed and moved towards the door. "Useless… ", she muttered on the way out.

Becca followed silently, giving Jale a cutting glance. They left, Jale was alone again. "Sooner than you all think.", he muttered with a malicious smile.

He suddenly thrust the pen into a stack of papers, shoving it though the whole stack without a problem. He stood up and grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair. It was time to talk to his man.

The time was drawing near for the mission. Night was creeping over the city and in due time, the group of five rebels would be outfitted in their gear and dropped off in various points. They would then take different routes and meet at the outer stairwell to gain access to the building.

However, that was still about two hours off, and so to kill time, Ashe was poking around the armory. Since the techs had been busy creating a new device, he decided to check out some of the old ones and others that they would be using on this mission.

The new device was something inspired by the building plans that Kess had acquired. It was a small hand held device that when pointed in a direction could pick up the heat signatures of objects up to 100 feet away. It wasn't very practical to work in such a small radius, but it could give the user time to get away.

Among the other devices Ashe looked over, he found the night vision goggles that they would be using. Since Raven was planning on shutting down the camera system, there was a chance that it would also knock out the lights. Kess entered the door across the room and made her way over to Ashe. "Shouldn't you be getting ready?", she chuckled, her arms holding onto her change of clothes and as well as another pair.

She walked over and set her things down on a nearby crate. "What are you doing down here anyway?", she questioned, her hands moving to brush her burgundy hair from her shoulders.

"Oh, just shopping.", he snickered as he tossed down the pair of goggles he picked out for himself.

She laughed and glanced to her clothes. "They're handing out the gear now. I decided to bring yours to you.", she started to separate the clothes into two piles. Among the two piles were two pairs of pants, two long sleeve shirts, utility vests, bandanas, two short brimmed hats, and two pairs of combat boots. All in black and very SWAT-like.

She finished separating the piles and took a seat on a set of crates that was behind Ashe. He turned to her and slowly moved there, taking a seat next to her. "So are you going to avoid the cell block this time?", he joked, nudging her shoulder with his own.

Kess chuckled at the comment. "I'm going to try, might be hard though, hahaha.", she nudged back.

Ashe nodded and then thought for a moment. He suddenly questioned, "How did you manage to get out last time?"

"You know, it was weird.", she glanced askance to him and then leaned back onto the crates behind her. "I was sitting there, my back to the door, and suddenly I heard a little noise and when I looked back up, the light was green."

She shrugged and looked to Ashe. "I waited but the door didn't open to anyone, so I stood up to check it and sure enough it was unlocked."

Ashe's hand found his chin and he rubbed it for a second. "Maybe we've got someone on the inside looking out for us."

Kess shook her head and threw her hands up to stretch. "I'm not sure about that. But you never know. A lot of ex-ShinRa employees are among the rebels. Maybe there's just one that's not ex yet?"

Ashe nodded and suddenly slapped his hand to his head. "Oh god… I hope we don't run into Scarlet…"

"Scarlet? Why?", Kess asked, her legs swinging a bit.

Ashe shuddered and winced a bit. "So you want to know, eh? Very well, but I will not be responsible if you get sick to your stomach.", he managed a smile, but Kess could tell it was forced.

"Before I came to work for the rebels, I was a ShinRa employee in Junon. I was one of the main technicians that worked on the Sister Ray. Well, Scarlet was the official overseeing the project, and she would constantly flirt with me. It was incredibly noticeable. But she just… urg, makes my stomach twist in knots, what with her dirty reputation and all. ", he shuddered again.

"One night, after a particularly hard day, I was tired and returning to my apartment. I discovered that the door was unlocked. This was odd, because I remembered locking it when I had left that morning."

Kess looked on as Ashe went on to explain. "So I went in, grabbed the nearest defensive object, a marble book end, and ventured into the apartment. Suddenly I heard a very distinctive laugh coming from my bed room. At which point I knew exactly who had entered my apartment. And so rather than confront the perpetrator myself, hehe.. I went for back up."

Kess raised a brow, watching the smile form on Ashe's lips. "When two heavily armed ShinRa soldiers burst into my bed room to find a nearly nude Scarlet stretched out on my bed, let's just say I was no longer on her flirt list. Hahaha!"

Kess suddenly burst out laughing, her heels kicking the crate. "Ahaha! That's hilarious! So what happened after that?"

"Well, I finished my work on the Sister Ray and returned to Midgar the following month.", his face suddenly grew solemn and he looked down.

"What is it, Ashe?", Kess asked quietly.

He reached up towards his eyes and wiped away the tears that were forming. "Before I had been sent to Junon, I had been taking care of my dad. But when I was selected, I had to leave him in the care of a retirement center in Mideel. I sent money home every two weeks to pay for his bills and wrote him letters, and even got responses. I thought everything was fine."

"Well, I went to move back to Midgar when my six months of work was finished, but then the company offered me another job. Since I had pretty much helped develop micro-technology, they wanted to put me to work in their demolitions department. So I took that job, it offered more money that I could send to my father. Well, after a couple of weeks working there, developing some great ideas, I decided that I wanted to see my dad. So I slipped out of the building and took a boat to Mideel. Only to find out when I got there that he had died only two months after I had left for Junon!"

Ashe paused, his voice began to shake. "No one had contacted me to tell me his health was failing; no one had said a damn word to me. They withheld the information to keep me in Junon. And then they said nothing even when I had come back to Midgar. Meanwhile, some ShinRa ass was replying to my letters and the money I had sent just disappeared. They didn't tell me because I was too 'valuable' to not be there. Those ShinRa bastards lied to me when I could've been there to save my father. He died alone in that retirement center, probably thinking that his only son deserted him."

Kess leaned over and hugged his shoulder tightly. "Ashe, wherever your father is now, he knows that it wasn't your choices that kept you away. Your father loves you and I'm sure he's looking out for you everyday.", she smiled and turned to embrace him in a hug.

Ashe nodded, his tears staining Kess' shoulder. He suddenly choked out a laugh and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "Well I'll tell you what I did… I went right back to the building, right up to the research lab, and I set the timer on one of the explosives. Grabbed what I could and made tracks for the door. I got about half way down the street when about 800 feet up there was this massive explosion. I guess ShinRa considered that my resignation, 'cause they haven't come lookin' for me since. I joined the rebels and I intend to get back at those assholes. I'll make them pay."

"Ah, so after that is when I met you in Cosmo Canyon.", she smirked.

Ashe chuckled and nodded, "Yea, that was a quite a long time ago. We both wanted to get in, but I was let in first. How come it took so long for them to let you in?"

Kess turned away and then let go of Ashe to stand. "We should get ready, it's nearly time for briefing..", she muttered a bit and turned away towards the clothes stack.

"Kess?" She froze in her spot, but didn't say anything. "Is something wrong?", Ashe added.

She turned back to him slowly and returned to her seat on the crates. After a few minutes she spoke. "No, it's just that I don't like to remember my past with the ShinRa."

She said nothing more for a moment, her red hair falling against the side of her face. Ashe was quiet, giving her the space she needed. Slowly, she drew in a shallow breath and began. "My brother was in the Junon army. He was sent to the front during the war, or at least that's what my family was told. In truth, he was never at the front. I know this from documents that I uncovered when I was doing covert work for Soldier. The documents were in fact a journal that was kept by one of the men in my brother's squad. According to the journal, my brother refused to kill innocents in Wutai, so he was executed."

Ashe frowned and released a heavy sigh. "At least I know my pop is dead and resting in peace. But to die like that. Kess I'm sorry.."

She shrugged gently and sighed, "His name was Grey. I joined the rebels to 'exact my revenge', which was only even more solidified when they destroyed Kalm and killed my parents.."

"I couldn't imagine why it took them so long to let you in. Soldier or not, you've gone through some interesting things and they could've really used your intel in the beginning. Especially that head thing of yours.", he smiled.

"Yea the head thing. They implanted a computer into my head.", she held her hair aside and showed him the jack behind her ear. A small retractable wire was burrowed inside. "The ShinRa screwed up by making this. It can jack into any ShinRa Company usb port. And guess what is standard with every computerized device, that usb port. I guess that's one reason Sears 'trusts' me, I've given them a great advantage."

Ashe nodded while whistling and smirked. "Who would've thought that two ex-ShinRa employees would be the ones to help take them down.", he chuckled.

Kess nodded slowly and moved from the crate towards the clothes once more. "I'll be up in the bar in a bit. I think I'm going to stay down here for a while."

With a nod, Ashe got up from his crate, taking the hint that she wanted to be alone. He grabbed his stack of clothes and then turned back to her. "If you ever need to talk, I'm here.", he offered with a kind smile.

She turned her head towards him and nodded with a weak smile. "Thanks Ashe."

On that note, Ashe turned to leave the room and get ready. He was sure he'd hear more of her story soon; he just had to wait for her to open up.

Elsewhere, Rufus ShinRa had just about finished sifting through the gigs of worthless Soldier files. Nearly done with this section, he began to give up hope that he would ever find this woman. He clicked on another file and discovered a zipped up file. Interesting… it is the first of its kind that he'd run into throughout this hellacious search. It took a few moments to unpack the enormous file, its contents being vastly compressed.

Soon enough, Rufus realized he'd stumbled across Soldier's top secret projects network. "Well this ought to be interesting.", he thought to himself.

He began his search, and surprisingly didn't have to look for more than five minutes. Staring him straight in the face was a woman: short black hair, pale complexion, and vibrant blue mako eyes. The document section was titled 'Void Construct'. But several of the key words and even entire sentences had been blacked out. Rufus placed his hands on the keyboard in front of him and typed a string of code into a little box that sat above the document. Within minutes, the missing parts were filled in and he read on.

Name: Kess Reignheart
Alias: Cerise
Code: Void Construct
Status: Failure, Deceased

Void Construct: A process in which the subject is showered with high levels of compressed Mako energy. The results vary and are most of the time fatal. Each Construct has been implanted with mako treated muscles in addition to their organic ones. This has resulted in faster moving subjects.

xx/xx/xx: A single test subject has survived the initial treatment. Her code name is Cerise and she has come out of the Mako sickness without dying.

xx/xx/xx: The procedure to implant a processor, micro hard disk, and 10 terabytes of space into her skull was a success. A small jack located behind her right ear allows access to the 'mind computer'.

xx/xx/xx: Cerise has failed to return after her mission on xx/xx/xx. A search will be done of the surrounding area of where she was sent.

xx/xx/xx: A body has been found matching the description of Cerise. This case is closed.

"Dead, eh?", he stopped and scrolled up and down the screen.. nothing else.

He pulled up another window, displaying the red-haired female's picture. He studied her image, then flipped to the project's photo. The hair may have lengthened and changed colour, but the eyes. They were mako eyes and they were the same. "I've found you."

--End Chapter 2..