Chapter 6: The Way Out is Through


Reeve had been sitting in his office for nearly the entire evening.  He knew he had to stop Jale from sabotaging the Turks, but how could he stop him?  There were a few ideas scribbled onto a notepad, but nothing he had written so far was a plausible idea.  Finally, he stopped his pacing and pressed a hand to his forehead.  There was one certain way to make sure Jale was stopped.  However, it would be up to the person in charge of the detonator to enable the plan.

Reeve stroked his chin for a moment, deep in thought.  Jale was currently in charge of the device.  Perhaps there would be a way to get him to inadvertently activate one of the explosion codes..?  Reeve suddenly snapped his fingers.  “Of course!”, he said aloud.

He smirked at his genius and wrote a few notes.  “Get those two rebels to act out, possibly forcing Jale to detonate their bombs.  But instead… yes, it’s perfect.  But how to get those two to act out.  If I tell them, it will be too obvious and they might start something that would result in the loss of lives.”

He began to pace again, his dark eyes focused on the floor.  “However, I’m sure faced with the prospect of running into the rebels tomorrow, they will probably do something drastic.”, he continued to plot.

He suddenly stopped and glanced over to Cait Sith who stood in the corner of his office.  He’d have to activate the kitty again to get a hold of the three things needed for this operation.  He moved over to his desk and took a seat, pulling the controls out of his top desk drawer.  He flicked a few buttons and slowly, the kitty came to life.  Reeve placed a device over his head that resembled a helmet with goggles and an earpiece microphone combination.

The electronic cat began to walk towards the door.  He opened it and began walking through the executive floor.  Luckily, at this hour, everyone had either gone home or was sleeping in their designated quarters. Reeve moved Cait about the floor with ease, coming to stop at the elevator.  Pushing the down button, he waited and then entered the empty elevator.  Within moments, he had arrived on the floor containing the weapon department.  Having enabled Cait to with every necessary keycard, the kitty easily entered the demolitions department.

The room was only lit by one distant green light.  Quickly the kitty moved across the room, looking here and there for something.  In truth, Reeve wasn’t’ sure what he was looking for; just something small enough to be undetected.  “Hmm.”, he thought as Cait wandered around the large room.  “I wonder where those bombs are that they put into the rebels.”

He moved to the back of the room where there was a glass sliding door.  Moments later, he was moving about that room too.  It appeared to be an operating room; large hospital like equipment was littered about.  A few IV racks were standing in one corner near several hooks that held staff clothing.  The kitty moved around and finally came to a glass display case containing some small disks.  They looked like large watch batteries and even seemed like they’d fit into one nicely.  Slowly, Cait opened the door on the display case and plucked one gently away from the others.

He carefully held the device in his hand and made for the door.  Leaving the department just as he’d found it, minus the one explosive, Reeve controlled Cait to return to his office.  He had to keep Cait’s grip on the device firm, but do his best not the squeeze it too tightly.  Once back in Reeve’s office, he took the device and placed it on his desk.  He glanced over the small device and noticed a row of numbers on the back.  “Must be the detonation code.”, he realized.

He set the device gently aside and took up the controls once more.  Now for the last two items.  Just as before, he moved Cait to the elevator.  This time he was going straight into the Turks’ office.  Using the elevator, he arrived in no time.  As if an answer to his prayers, the room was empty.  The lights were on, but it seemed that everyone had gone for the night.  Cait scurried into the room and began looking around for Jale’s desk.  Reeve doubted that Drake would take the detonator home with him, and so figured it would be somewhere in his desk.

Finally finding Jale’s name plate on a plain desk, he moved to it and took to looking through the drawers.  All of which were locked.  Suddenly, the door to the office opened.  He moved the kitty to duck under the desk but peeked out quickly to see that it was Jale who had entered.  Jale moved over to his desk where Reeve heard him tossing a few things down.  Luckily for Reeve, at the angle Cait was standing, Jale paid no attention to him.  Jale unlocked and opened the bottom drawer, pushing everything he had dumped onto his desk inside.  He slammed the drawer, it locking instantly.

Jale shuffled about a little more before finally leaving the office in a huff.  Slowly, Cait peeked out to make sure he was alone.  Satisfied that Jale was gone, he finally walked out from under the desk.  He moved over to the bottom drawer and using his lock picks, popped it opened.  Among the items were Jale’s watch, his id tag and the detonator. 

He picked up the detonator gently and thumbed it on, the little screen lighting up.  The device asked for an access code and he thought for a moment.  He figured it meant the number and individual was assigned once joining the company, but he didn’t want to use his own.  Reaching for Jale’s id tag, he punched in the code and was soon greeted with the control panel.  He chose to change the detonator codes and looking to the bomb on his desk, changed both of the current codes to that number.  He then saved the change and grabbed Jale’s watch; it would be perfect for his plan. 

Cait put the detonator away and locked the drawer. Then with the watch in hand, he moved hastily back to Reeve’s office.  Reeve had already prepared a dull gray envelope.  He packed the small bomb into a cotton ball and once Cait arrived, he added both items to the envelope with a note.  He sealed it and then handed it back to Cait.  “Be quick, my little friend.”, he smiled, putting the control helmet back on.

Ashe couldn’t sleep.  No matter how hard he had tried, his eyes refused to shut.  While they were at the bar earlier, Drake had gotten a call from Veld.  A special meeting was to take place once they had returned to the building.  But he and Kess had been cut off from the group and escorted to their room.  The call worried him and he wondered if they were planning something against Avalanche.  Especially with the several news casts about shutting down Reactor Two.  Something wasn’t right.

Kess had gone to bed not too long ago and Ashe had begun to feel his eyes getting heavy.  He stood from the couch and stretched with a groan.  When he was relaxing, his eyes caught something near the door.  It hadn’t been there a while ago when he had stood, yet there it was now.  He heard a light knock as he gazed over the object and so moved over to the door.  He casually walked over, taking notice that it was an envelope which was the same color of the floor.  Slowly, he craned his neck back to look at the mounted camera above the tv.  Then glancing back to the floor, he guessed that its color was to keep the camera from picking up on it.

He crouched down easily and pretended to tie his shoe, then grabbed the envelope and slid it up his leg.  Pressing the item to his pants, he moved over to the couch and snagged a pillow.  He placed the pillow in his lap and then moved the envelope up and looked it over.  He pretended to be watching tv, but kept glancing over his find.  Popping the paper open, he dumped the contents into his lap.  A digital wrist watch, some small screw drivers, a note and what appeared to be a watch battery.

He looked the battery like object over and suddenly realizing what it was, he had to stop himself from dropping it.  It was the finished product of his prototype.  He reached back and felt his neck lightly, sensing the same flat, circular design.  “So, they did go with the original model.”, he mused quietly.

He then glanced over the note.  “At 3:15 you will have 5 minutes.”

He furrowed his brow, glancing over the watch.  He thought he had noticed Jale wearing this watch, but he wasn’t certain.  Perhaps..?  He turned the watch over and noticed the time was 3:14.  “Well, no guts, no glory.”, he thought.

He quickly picked up one of the screw drivers and set to removing the back.

Reeve had left his office as soon as Cait returned.  He quickly moved to the floor containing the cell apartment and made his way to the security room that was just around the corner.  He wasn’t exactly sure what his plan of distraction was going to be; but he knew he had to think fast if he was going to give Ashe the time he needed.

As Reeve approached the room, he saw the new shift guard walking towards the door with a cup of coffee.  He began to formulate an idea, and realized that this was about to hurt a lot..  He quickly moved towards the guard as if he didn’t see him.  Suddenly he bumped into the man, the coffee spilling forward all over Reeve’s suit.

“Oh!  Mr. Tuesti!!”, the guard suddenly cried out.

Reeve grit his teeth as the hot liquid soaked into his suit.  “Oh.. dear me.  I didn’t even see you.”, he cringed.

The security door suddenly opened and the guard inside stepped out.  “Hey, what’s going on out here?”, he questioned.

The new guard looked sheepishly to the second guard and then to Reeve.  Reeve suddenly spoke up, “Oh, this was my fault.  I wasn’t paying any attention when I was walking.”

He pulled out a handkerchief and began to dab the coffee from his suit.  He glanced beyond the guard into the room and noticed a large display of television screens against the left wall.  There were so many that he couldn’t pick out Ashe.  He just hoped this ‘accident’ had bought him enough time.

“Well, I’m keeping you from your jobs..  I’m so terribly sorry that this happened.”, Reeve explained, trying not to sound in a hurry, but knowing that it was well after 3:20 by now.

He began to stagger off, leaving the two guards bewildered in the hallway. They eventually went into the room and Reeve made a pass by the cell apartment.  There on the ground, just outside the door, was the gray envelope.  He scooped it up and made his way to the elevator; first to drop the watch back off on Jale’s desk, then to go home and take a shower.

The next day arrived with much anticipation.  The Turks were pulled from the streets today to specifically devote all of their attention to the night’s mission.  Becca and Samantha were stationed in the building’s shooting range where many a Turk had practiced over the years.  Samantha sat idly by, twirling her shotgun against the ground.  She would have been practicing too had Kess not shot her in the arm.  She sulked and sighed loudly while Becca perfected her aim, her long honey brown hair swaying to the side.

Luckily, she wouldn’t be completely useless tonight.  Tseng had given her something else to do that was just as important.  Instead of putting her shotgun skills to use, Samantha would be in charge of making sure Ashe and Kess did what they were supposed to.  She couldn’t hold a two handed gun, but she was still well equipped to handle a pistol.

She suddenly grabbed a handgun from the tray at her side and whipped it upward.  Four shots rang out, hitting the paper target beyond Becca with surprising accuracy.  Becca stopped and turned to see Samantha exiting the shooting range, her long hair bouncing as the door slid shut behind her.

Elsewhere, Reno, Marcus, Cissnei, Max, Tonya and Shion were sharpening their close combat skills.  Each wielding their weapon of choice, they dashed about the training room, taking hits and dishing them out just the same.  Reno and Marcus were experts with the electromag rod; so much in fact that they had to pull their hits so as not to hurt anyone they hit.

Cissnei demonstrated her martial arts abilities while using her giant shuriken, mostly as a shield.  Once in a while, she would move to slash at another Turk, but pull her hit and avoid the contact.  Max whipped about his nunchaku with ease.  A few times he nearly clubbed Marcus in the head, but was able to pull back in time.  The others found it strange that the ‘rich kid’ had such skill with the weapon.  But then again, everyone in the Turks had their niche.

Tonya and Shion were facing off on the opposite side of the room.  He displayed perfect stance when attacking with his katana.  But most of the time he looked distracted, as if entranced by Tonya and her sudden attacks.  She too had skills in martial arts and put them to good use when flinging about her throwing daggers.  Shion glided easily out of the way whenever she threw one, but he seemed to be more engaged in the beauty of the fight rather than the fight itself.

Tonya stopped suddenly and gripped her side.  Her expression tightened and she fell to one knee.  “Urg..”, she growled, not wanting the others to see her.

Shion moved to her and helped her to her feet.  “Still hurting, eh?”, he questioned.

She nodded, her black hair falling into her face.  “I probably shouldn’t push myself so hard.  But I need my paycheck.”, she smirked.

“Well, just take it easy.  We have a very important job tonight.”, he murmured.

He pat her shoulder and sheathed his katana.  He moved over to Rude, whom he had just noticed off to the side of main floor.  “When did you get here?”, Shion asked as he stopped before the man.

Rude glanced up, his sunglasses obscuring his eyes.  “Just a moment ago.  I decided to wait here while you all finished.”, he replied.

Shion nodded and glanced back to the floor where Reno, Marcus, Max and Cissnei were still sparing.  The main door slid to the side and Jale entered; his fingers fumbling to attach his watch.  “So, this is where everyone is.  Practicing for tonight?”, he chuckled, taking a look around.

Shion nodded, “You should join us.  I’m sure you could brush up on your skills.”

Jale just laughed.  “Man, I don’t need to ‘brush up on my skills’.  Just tell me who to pummel and it’s done!”

Rude, coughed lightly.  “It’s always a good idea to be on top of your game.  Otherwise someone could surpass your abilities and you’d lose the fight.”

Jale only scoffed as he buckled the watch into place.  “Whatever man.  I was part of the Junon Navy before I was recruited.  I am the best there is.”, he glanced up with a smile.

Rude just shook his head.  “Very well then, spar with me.  And we will see who is the best.”, he brought up his hands, tugging his leather gloves into place.

Jale’s bottom lip stuck out as if to pout and he looked around to the others who had stopped their sparring to listen to Rude and Jale.  “Ok, I’m the best besides you.”, Jale chuckled, trying to change the subject.

Reno walked over and flicked back his red hair.  “What’s the matter, Jale?  Afraid Rude will trounce your ass?”, he beamed with his cockiest smirk.

“If anything it will be a draw.”, Jale spoke, crossing his arms before his chest.  “Rude knows I can match him in skill level.”

“Then what is the problem?”, Rude replied with a straight face.  “If you’re sure we’ll draw, what are you so worried about?”

Jale remained ridged in his stance, glancing around to the others.  “You all want to see us fight?”, he said, taking into account that Becca and Samantha were missing from the group.  “Alright, fine.  Let’s do this.”

He pulled out a pair of fingerless gloves and pulled them onto his hands.  Everyone moved off of the sparring floor and to the sidelines to watch the face off.  Reno walked out to the middle of the floor with Jale and Rude.  He stood between them as they took stepped a few feet away from each other.  “Alright, I want a good clean fight.  Nothing below the waist or in the face.”, Reno smiled, doing is best announcer voice.  “Begin!”

He jumped back as Rude and Jale just stood there staring each other down.  “I don’t want to hurt you, Rude.”, Jale snickered as he cracked his knuckles.

Rude turned his head side to side to crack the joints.  “Don’t worry, you won’t.”, was all he said.

Putting one foot behind himself, Rude brought his fists up near his face and eased his weight back.  As anticipated, Jale leapt quickly towards him, his right arm swinging through the air for a hook.  Rude leaned slightly to the right and avoided the obvious move.  Jale flew by and Rude took the chance to punch him square in the side.  He then turned on heel to face the left, surprised to find that Jale had already recovered and leapt from the ground towards Rude once more.

This time, however, he changed his swing at the last minute and caught Rude in the shoulder.  The bald man stumbled back slightly, grabbing his shoulder in pain.  “What’s this??”, he thought, looking to Jale’s fists.  “Metal lined gloves, huh..  I’ll just have to make sure he doesn’t hit me again..”

Rude regained his stance just as Jale leapt for him again.  He waited until Jale couldn’t change his mind again and suddenly slid down to the floor, kicking Jale in the leg.  The kick stopped Jale dead in his tracks and he flew forward, slamming into the hard floor.  Rude stood back up, the other Turks cheering out with Reno being the loudest.  “You go Rude!”, he shouted out.

Rude had only begun to brush his suit off when he felt a sudden rush of air from behind.  He turned to see Jale rushing towards him quickly and before he could react, Jale’s fist was in his back.  Rude lurched forward in pain, his teeth grit to keep from crying out.  Falling to one knee, he looked up to see Jale turn and suddenly jump into the air; his elbow was on a direct course to his head.  Rude quickly recovered and jumped up, landing his fist hard just below Jale’s ribcage.

All action ceased at that moment.  Jale went limp and began gasping for breath, still hanging on Rude’s fist.  The other Turks weren’t sure what had just happened and silence hung in the air.  Rude pulled his arm back letting Jale fall to the floor where he coughed a few more times.  “Good… fight…”, he managed to growl between trying to breathe.

Rude left him on the floor and moved towards the door.  “We should report, it’s nearly noon.”

The others followed after him, Jale maintaining a good distance. He rubbed his side and grimaced at the pain, all the while thinking, “Just you wait until tonight…”

Kess and Ashe had already been released from the cell apartment and were having a sit down with Veld.  He had both of their files spread out on his desk, but there were several black lines throughout the paperwork.  Veld being inherently curious, decided to ask them about the missing parts.

“So it says here, Mr. Kincaid, that you worked on the Sister Ray in Junon.  But it doesn’t explain why you left the company or why you blew up your lab.”, he tapped the paper where the black lines were.  “Mind explaining?”
 
Ashe was still sucking pieces of breakfast from his teeth.  Finally, he said, “Not at all.  I left because the bastards above me kept me from finding out that my dad had died when I was in Junon.”

Veld looked puzzled.  “But, why would that have any real effect on anything?  You had good pay and prime housing.”

“They kept me from seeing him ever since I had gone to work on the Sister Ray, and then lied about his death to keep me from losing precious research time in the demolitions department.  That doesn’t sound pretty shitty to you?”, Ashe snapped back.

Veld leaned back and nodded, “Well, I supposed when you put it that way, yea, that’s pretty shitty.  But why blow up the lab?”

Ashe scoffed, “Yea, I leave and ShinRa gets the credit for my work?  There was no way I was going to leave any of that technology just lying around.”

A little smirk creased on Veld’s lips.  “Ah, but as you see, some of your research and projects were not destroyed.”

Ashe tilted his head side to side mockingly.  “Well hoity toity.”

Veld’s pen moved to scribble some notes under the blackened bars of text.  “And now Ms. Reignheart, your sudden disappearance from the company launched an all out search.  Seeing as you were a member of the Soldier’s Special Projects team.”

Kess remained silent, her gaze fixated upon Veld’s face.  “Care to share the details of your departure?”

She crossed her arms and exhaled deeply.  “I don’t see what the point would really be.  You might just kill me because of what I know.”

Her paperwork was now Veld’s prominent focus, having a considerable amount of blackened lines.  “Well, let’s start here, when you became a special project of Hojo’s.”, he pointed to a large brick of blocked text.

“What do you care?”, she spoke.  “This company ruined my life and my family. Why would I possibly want to share that with you, for your own sick enjoyment…”

“Ms. Reignheart, I assure you this isn’t for my ‘own sick enjoyment’.  I keep detailed files on all my Turks.  It is more or less a way for me to analyze how you will react if put into certain situations, nothing more.  Plus, I’m just curious.  So please, for the record, off the record, what happened to you?”

Kess took a deep breath and closed her eyes, “Well for starters, my brother was executed by his squadron at the Wutai front for refusing to kill civilians.”

Veld just sat there quietly as she continued to recount her story.  “I joined Hojo’s special projects team, because I figured what was the use of being a regular Soldier if my brother was no longer around to hang with.”

Ashe tensed in his seat a little on noticing that Kess’ tone was getting harsher.  “Hojo chose three of us to undergo mako showering and each of us had a hard drive implanted in our heads.  While doing recon, I discovered a journal of a Soldier that had been in my brother’s company which explained all that had happened.  Having been lied to, I didn’t come back from that mission.  On the way home, I heard tale that Kalm had been destroyed and all its inhabitants were dead.  My hometown, decimated.  Of course I still went to see if my parents had survived, which was not the case.”

Ashe looked to Veld, on noticing him grow uncomfortably rigid.  The pen that was between his fingers suddenly snapped under pressure, ink flinging all over his desk.  Kess glanced to his hand and then to his face.  His expression was pinched and his eyes were beginning to turn red and watery.  No one said anything for a long moment.  Finally, he took a few tissues from a box on the edge of his desk and began to clean up the mess.  “Sorry, you’ll have to pardon me.  Someone I loved very much died in the Kalm incident..”, he did his best to hide it, but both Kess and Ashe knew he was greatly upset.

He took out a new pen and scribbled down his notes.  “Well then.  Yes, I suppose that is everything.  Please have a seat by Drake’s desk until the others arrive.  I’ll be briefing you all on tonight’s mission.”

Kess and Ashe moved quietly, looking to each other as if to ask, “What was that all about…?”

Veld continued to rub the ink from his left hand, but found that it was stained.  The main door opened to reveal the Turks arriving for the meeting.  Veld turned to see them and stuffed his left hand into this pants pocket.  “Great, you’ve arrived.  Please everyone, find a seat and I’ll make this short and simple so you can go back to your training.”

Everyone filtered throughout the room and all attention was on Veld.  Tseng came in after everyone had sat down and stood off to the side.  He nodded to Veld and the meeting began.  “Very good.  You’ve already been assigned to your groups and been given your objectives.  The operation is set to begin just after midnight and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch some rebels in our trap.”

He looked directly over to Kess and Ashe.  “Samantha will be in charge of making sure Mr. Kincaid and Ms. Reignheart do what they’re told.  Jale will be in charge of the consequences should they renegade.”

Jale grinned and placed his hand into his jacket pocket, touching the detonator.  “Since the reactor may be under surveillance, you will all be going in with disguises.  Dressed as workers and grunt soldiers, you will enter the reactor from the main door and take your places.  Lazard will be directing Soldier to enter five at a time at different times between six o’clock and eleven thirty.  This is to build up our forces with little suspicion and confuse the enemy on our numbers.”

“Well, that should be all.  Oh, and yes, Drake is fine.  He will be returning in a week after some bed rest.”, Veld concluded.

Jale’s gaze narrowed momentarily.  He had forgotten about Drake laid up in the hospital.  The plan was to eradicate all the Turks… he had to make sure to drop by the hospital before the mission tonight.  The smirk returned to his face and he grasped the detonator tighter.

“Please continue your exercises until tonight.”, Veld said as his gave his dismissal.  “I want you all in tip top shape.”

The group rose from their seats and made for the door.  Once everyone had left, Veld sank back into his seat and stared blankly at his desk.  Tseng moved over to him and placed a careful hand on his shoulder.  “Sir, is everything alright?”, he aked.

Veld snapped back to reality and glanced upward to his young apprentice.  “Yes, Tseng..  However, are you ready to take over for me should something happen?”

“Sir?”

“I think I may come along tonight.  Just make sure you are ready.”, Veld sighed.

Tseng furrowed his brow and nodded, “Yes, of course sir.”

Having left the stuffy room, the group of Turks were now tossing around ideas of what to do with their day.  “I’ve practiced enough.”, came Reno’s voice over everyone else’s.  “It’s time for some drinking.”

“Reno, it’s eleven o’clock in the morning..  Don’t you think that’s just a bit early?”, Marcus questioned, his mag rod bouncing on his shoulder.

“Nonsense.”, Rude said from the back of the group.

Tonya chuckled lightly and added, “While I have to agree with Marcus, I do think we’ve practiced enough.  We don’t want to wear ourselves out.  Who wants to go shopping?”

“Oh me, me!”, Cissnei chimed in.  “Want to come Sam?  How about you Becca?”

Becca nodded and said, “Sure, I could use some new gloves.  This pair got a little ripped up during the train station encounter.”  She held up the tattered gloves.

Samantha tossed her hair to the side and said, “Yea, I’ll come.”

Marcus lit up.  “Shopping!  Great idea!  I can get a new bike.  I think I heard something about Crazy Johnny’s Motorcycle Emporium having a sale.”

“Crazy Johnny’s..?”, Max started fearfully.  “But isn’t that in the Slums?”

“That’s right, Max.  The best place to find the best kind of motorcycle.”, Marcus grinned.

Jale followed along behind the group, lost in his own thoughts.  He glanced between Kess and Ashe and then to the others.  There were still a few things needing to be completed before the night arrived..  And he couldn’t very well bring them along.  Marcus suddenly found the detonator level with the side of his face.  “I hope you wouldn’t mind doing me a favor and watching these two for a few hours, would you?”, Jale suddenly interjected into their conversation.

Marcus stopped and looked to Jale.  “Why can’t you do it?”, he spoke gruffly, a little perturbed that his plans were going to be disrupted.

“Tseng asked me to do something before tonight and it’s a one man job.”, Jale smiled coolly.

Marcus rolled his eyes, “Yea, whatever.  Just make sure you’re not late tonight.”  He snatched the detonator and continued with the others.

Kess and Ashe glanced between each other as Jale moved away from the group and down a separate hallway.  Marcus sighed, “He did that on purpose..”

They all filed into the elevator and rode to the lobby.  There they split into their groups, Reno and Rude for drinking; Tonya, Samantha, Cissnei, Becca and Shion for shopping and Marcus, Max, Ashe and Kess for slumming.  “We’ll meet up at the usual bar in Sector Five before the mission, alright?”, Reno remarked on his way out the main doors.

“Agreed.”, replied Marcus and Tonya.

Kess and Ashe moved along with their chaperones to one of the company vehicles.  After they were all situated, Marcus leaned over to Max and whispered, “You do realize that you’ve going to be in charge of them if I find a bike.”

“What!?  Why me!?”

Marcus hissed, “Shush!”  He glanced to the back seat where Kess and Ashe had both raised a brow.  “Yes, you..  Time to toughen up, flower.”

Max looked nervously behind him and smiled slightly with a wave.  Both Kess and Ashe waved back.  He looked to Marcus as the car started, “But I don’t really feel comfortable with that thing…”

He pointed to Marcus’ jacket pocket as the car pulled away from the curb.  “You’ll get used to it.  Besides, it’ll just be for the trip back to the building.”, Marcus replied with ease as he drove the car to the lower plate.

Music filled the car as Marcus fumbled with the radio and both rebels were somewhat happy that Jale had ditched them.  But there was always the frightening thought of what he was up to.  The drive wasn’t too long and soon they were on the outskirts of the slums.  Marcus pulled the car into a guarded garage and took one of the reserved spots.  “We’ll walk from here.”, he spoke, hopping out of the car.

“Walk?!”, Max exclaimed.  “Are you crazy?”

Marcus rolled his eyes.  “You really are upper crust, aren’t you Max.  Don’t worry.  I grew up in the slums.  They’re wonderful people with a good sense of pride.  You don’t need to be so damned afraid.  Now come on.”

Max nodded and opened the back door to let Kess and Ashe out.   “Alright, you two know the drill.  I don’t want to, but will if I have to.”, Marcus spoke, patting his jacket pocket.

Both Kess and Ashe nodded.  “Good.  Now, let’s go shopping.”, Marcus turned to leave the garage.

The slums never seemed to change.  Piles of twisted metal were heaped all around, some having been used to create dwellings and businesses.  Kess had never been to the Midgar slums but remembered the stories her brother had told her.  Marcus was right to some extent.  The residents had a sense of pride, but that wouldn’t stop them from swindling, cheating or killing you for all your money.

They moved past several piles of scrap metal and damaged buildings.  Most of the places they passed looked like rundown versions of what you might see on the upper plate.  The place was illuminated in an unnatural light due to there being no sunlight to speak of.  Most of the lights were dimmed with a tinge of green from the use of raw mako, most likely siphoned from the main transport pipes.

Ashe followed along, taking in the scene around him.  He had been down here a few times on dares when he was a kid, but he too was from the upper plate society.  He didn’t recognize the area they were in until they crossed under a bridge of garbage into an open area.  All around were shops and homes, huddled together amongst the trash and refuse.

“Here we are, Sector Five’s shopping district.  Stick close kiddies, a sucker’s born every minute and it’s not going to be one of us.”, Marcus mused.

He moved to the back of the lot where a hole in the wall led them to yet another small area, the floor space littered with vehicles of all kinds.  “Hey, Marcus!”, called a voice called from the back. “Be right with ya!”

“No rush, Johnny!”, Marcus waved back.

Kess and Ashe immediately recognized the customer that was being assisted as a rebel.  He finished his business and moved to leave, eyeing Kess and Ashe suddenly.  He looked to the two Turks and then moved to the door.  “Shit… “, Ashe whispered quietly.

Johnny moved over to the group and spoke, “Well my friends, what brings you in today?”

“A new bike.”, Marcus said as he looked over one that sat nearby.  “Last one went boom.”

“All in a day’s work?”, Johnny laughed.

“Something like that..”, Max chuckled.

Johnny smirked and elbowed Marcus.  “Who’re these other ones with ya, eh?”, he asked.

“Oh, right.”, Marcus turned back to the group.  “This is Max, he’s been on assignment ever since he was hired about two months back.  These other two are Kess and Ashe.. uh, new recruits..”

Ashe nodded and Kess waved very slightly.  Max just smiled and danced from one foot to the other.  Johnny nodded and then leaned over to Marcus as they walked away, “Them other two look alright, but if ya ask me, that blond kid looks scared out of his wits.”

Marcus glanced back and laughed a bit, “Oh, hahaha!  Yea, I was thinking the same thing.  So about a good deal…?”

The two walked off to look at the rest of the stock leaving Max, Kess and Ashe alone by the door.  “So, what other shops are in this place?”, Ashe grinned.

Max blinked, checked his jacket and then suddenly ran after Marcus.  Seconds later, he returned, tucking the detonator away. “Um, let’s go see?  Marcus might be a while.”

Raven was busy going over the night’s plans, when Sears entered and took a seat before her.  “Got a minute?”, he questioned.

Raven glanced up and spoke, “Of course.  Having second thoughts?”

“Not at all.  Just wanting to discuss with you some information that I received.  Kess and Ashe were spotted with the Turks in the Sector Five slums.”, Sears said, crossing his arms.

Raven stopped her work and looked directly to Sears.  “Which Turks were with them?  What were they doing?”

“Marcus Kraten and Maximilion Kirsch.  And they appeared to be shopping.  In fact, they are probably still there.”, Sears replied.

She shot up from her seat and moved to leave the room.  “Raven, be careful.  And be back in time for the briefing…”  It was his way of saying come back alive.

Raven wasted no time; she was sprinting through the makeshift hideout and only slowed down for Bigg’s to open the main door for her.  She was soon out in Sector Seven, making fast tracks for Five.  She needed to talk to them, before Fuhito got a chance to off them.  She hoped she could somehow pull them away from the Turks.. but wasn’t sure how.

Kess and Ashe stood by the open doors of a material shop while Max glanced over the wears.  “Did they outfit you two with any material?”, he asked suddenly.

Ashe scoffed, “Yea, so we could blast our way out of captivity.  They haven’t even let us touch a weapon.”

Max nodded, “Oh yes.. How silly of me to assume..”

He turned away from the materia display and looked around.  Spotting a young girl selling flowers not too far away, he began to walk over to her.  Kess and Ashe glanced over to the bike shop as Marcus began to wheel out his new toy.  “Alright, you guys ready?  Let’s go meet up with Rude and Reno.”, he called out to Kess and Ashe.

His expression turned to one of confusion suddenly.  “Uh, where’s Max?”

Both Kess and Ashe pointed across the way where Max was buying a flower.  “Yo, Max!  Time to roll!”

Max turned after handing over some gil.  “Sorry, just uh..”

Marcus wheeled the bike to the entrance.  “Come on man, you’ve gotta drive the car.”, he reminded him.

“Oh right!”, Max moved away from the cart.  “Oh, thank you for the flower.”

The girl nodded, her light brown hair falling around her shoulders.  Kess and Ashe followed after Marcus with Max bringing up the rear.  “Why did you buy that, and how much did she charge you?”

“She let me have it for only one gil after I told her it was for someone to help them get better.  But all I had was a five, so I let her keep the change.”, Max explained.

Marcus just laughed.  “Well that was nice of her.”, he chuckled.  “Who is it for…?”

Max blushed slightly.  “Well, I thought that is might make Sam feel better; what with her injury and all.”

They walked along towards the garage.  Footfalls were heard behind them and Marcus turned instinctively.  However, on looking no one was there.  “Something wrong?”, Max asked.

Marcus looked around for a moment then turned and continued to push the bike along.  “Just thought I heard someone.”

A few piles of trash back, Raven had ducked just in time.  She has missed them, but at least she got to see that they were fine.  She peeked out as they disappeared into the garage.  “Kess… Ashe… I hope you know what side you’re on..”

She pushed away from the heap and made her way back to the base sullenly.  The briefing would start soon and she promised herself that she wouldn’t be late.

Reno and Rude had planted themselves at their favorite bar for the moment.  It wasn’t the usual one they slunk into in Sector Five and that way, they could avoid the other Turks for the moment.  As Reno sipped at a beer, he took notice that there were actually quite a few people here for it only being a little after noon.  Rude sat quietly by his side at the bar, though the two rarely chatted while they drank.  Rude once commented that too much conversation made the booze taste bad.  Reno’s wiry fingers gripped at the icy glass slightly to make the exterior feel less cold in his hand.  Taking another sip, he glanced over to Rude and broke the silence.

“So, what do you make of those two..?”, he spoke aloud, not really saying who he was talking about.

Rude was in the middle of a drink and waited a bit even after taking the glass from his lips before answering.  Finally, without glancing to Reno, he shrugged and gave his answer, “What about them?”

Nonchalantly, Reno pursed his lips together and replied, “You know.  Do you think they’ll stick around after Avalanche has been wiped out?  Not that I was hoping or anything.  I’m just curious what Veld and Tseng have in mind.”

“You mean, you’re wondering if their past with ShinRa will make them last a little longer.”, Rude said matter-of-factly.

Reno thought for a moment, tilting his head side to side, then answered, “Yea, I suppose.  I mean, an ex-demolitions tech and an infiltrator.  I wonder if they’ll just throw that away.”

Rude didn’t say anything for a while, his gaze fixated upon his nearly glass.  Reno spun around in his seat and looked around the small bar.  Across the room, he spotted his reflection in a large wall mirror and proceeded to adjust his suit and red hair.  “I guess, that depends on what they plan to do.  I don’t think they have really shown any of the potential they truly possess.”, came Rude’s voice from behind Reno.

“Eh, I’m sure we’ll see some fancy footwork tonight.  After all, you tend to listen a bit more with a hand gun pressed to the back of your noggin.”, Reno said as he spun back around.

“True.”

“In any case, I’m just looking back at some of the background to our comrades.  Marcus used to steal bikes and race ‘em.  Drake was a body guard for that creep Corneo.  Raven was a mercena—“

“Raven joined the enemy.”, Rude interjected.

“Yea yea, point is, we’re not all angels.  I mean, you and I did some shady things before joining the Turks.”, he gave Rude a side glance who was in the middle of drinking again.

“I had no other choice.”

“Exactly.  Point in case, did they really have a choice in joining the rebels?  I took a peek at Veld’s notes on their files.  ShinRa dealt them a pretty bad hand in life.”, Reno hailed the bartender for a refill while waiting to Rude’s response.

“Of course they had a choice.  Raven had a choice, Kess and Ashe had a choice.. even… she had a choice..”, Rude grew silent, his sunglasses clad face staring straight ahead.

The bartender wandered over during this awkward moment to refill Reno’s drink then stepped away once more.  Reno reached over slowly and pat Rude’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry man.  I didn’t realize we were treading into touchy territory.”

Rude didn’t say anything for a long time.  Nearly five minutes passed before he could bring himself to say anything.  “Don’t worry.  It’s past.  I’m fine.”

Reno nodded slowly, his green eyes taking in the vision of his saddened friend.  “I know Rude, I know..”

They both returned to their drinks without much else to say.  Finally Rude held his mug up to the air.  Reno thought he was going for a toast and so lifted his glass in response.  But quickly Rude set it back down.  “Taste bad now?”, Reno questioned.

Rude just nodded.

Raven arrived just in time to slide into her seat.  Luckily, Fuhito arrived just after her and so there was no need for excuse.  Sears glanced over to her and turned his hands over in question.  Raven just shook her head with a grimace.  Sears nodded as Fuhito stepped between them and looked out the gathered crowd.  “Good afternoon everyone.  As you all know we’ve come up with the next plan that is to be implemented tonight.”, Fuhito began.  “We’ve already assembled the team to infiltrate…”

He trailed off when looking around the main table, then glanced to Sears.  “Where is Elfe`?”, he asked.

“She’s resting for tonight.  She was not feeling well.”, Sears came back with.

Fuhito raised his head in understanding.  “Ah, well one would think that the leader would be present for the briefing.”, he replied harshly.

Sears just shook his head with a grimace.  He despised the way Fuhito treated Elfe` and was beginning to wonder why he was here at all.  Fuhito turned back to the group, raising his voice once more.  “As I was saying, we’re already assembled the team.  Jesse, Biggs and Wedge will manage the bomb that our people have assembled.  It is to be attached directly to the controls in the heart of the reactor.  Once detonated, a chain reaction will destroy the computer system, sending the reactor offline and destroying it in the process.  Raven, Elfe` and Sears will each be leading a group of four individuals.  That makes three groups of five that will have to sneak in.  We’ve managed to get our hands on some uniforms.  Some of you will be Soldiers and some of you will be maintenance.  If someone tries to stop you or talk to you before you are inside, direct them to speak to your team lead.”

He took in a deep breath and glanced around the room.  “Biggs, Wedge and Jesse are in Raven’s group; Alister, Steven M. and Dainen will be with Sears and Ray, Towns and Steven B. will be with Elfe`.  Suit up in the supply shed and then meet your team leader in their designated spot.  Each group will enter the reactor from different entrances and then set up defense.  Raven’s group will go to the main control center to attach the bomb.  It’s on a timer, so once you’ve been radioed, you need to leave within ten minutes.”

Several nods were seen about the room.  “The rest of Avalanche will remain here and pack up should we be found out… again.”, he gave Raven a side glance.  “Be on the lookout for the Turks, they are usually not far and could very well be using this as a means to lure us out.  However, we are more than prepared for their numbers.”

Fuhito noticed that Elfe` was now standing at the end of the platform just beyond Sears.  Her eyes looked tired and her body weak.  “Anything to add, fearless leader?”, Fuhito said.

Elfe` nodded and stepped forward.  “Yes actually.  I know our last mission was a failure… lives were lost and two were captured.  If the Turks are there, they may try to use Kess and Ashe against us.  If at all possible, avoid hurting them.  But I understand if you must take their lives to save your own or this mission.  That is all.”

She took a seat next to Sears and leaned back in her chair.  “Right then.”, Fuhito continued.  “You have your orders.  Suit up at 9 o’clock sharp.  We go in at midnight.”

He turned and walked from the stage, leaving the others glancing between each other.  A hardy, “Down with ShinRa!” came from the crowd as everyone dispersed.

 

--End Chapter 6..