I Know What's Beneath
the Snow Fields -Chp.16
Before the elevator door had fully withdrawn, both Turks dashed out onto the platform towards a gigantic, cylindrical generator. The two men crouched by this impressive machine, still not daring to speak a word.
Vincent had been told ShinRa Reactors consisted of basically three large platforms with the ground floor sandwiched in the middle, but he had never actually been inside one before. His keen eyes followed the magnificent pumps that arched majestically way up to the black ceiling. Countless metallic pipes of all sizes adorned the whole place; some sprouted out of the brick walls; others bent into tanks, or sometimes dug into big, complex machines.
Gaskets, valves, and colourful screen monitors were plentiful. The pungent smell of raw, uncompressed materia shocked Vincent's senses so strongly, he pressed one hand over his nose in disgust. He could still hear the dull hum of the pumping pipes filling the dark Reactor.
A rough tug at his sleeve immediately interrupted Vincent's observations. Davoren silently motioned for them to move towards the edge of this huge platform. Vincent obeyed his command.
Both Turks crept with their backs bent until they reached the railing that bordered the first platform. As they approached the brink, Vincent discerned loud, coarse mutterings down below on the ground floor. He assumed those were the terrorists.
The two men lay flat on their stomachs when they finally reached the edge of the platform; neither dared look over it. Vincent gripped his gun rigidly between his fingers. He felt hot and cold at the same time.
Davoren put his finger to his lips, meaning that Vincent was to remain perfectly still. He stole a glance over the edge, barely long enough to see below, then instantly pulled his head back.
"There're eight of them down there," Davoren whispered softly, "Three around the entrance, two by the stairs, and three at the pumps."
Vincent nodded his head in silence. He understood that the hostages were held at those pumps as well. Therefore, they would not attack the terrorists stationed there..for the time being.
Davoren looked hard at Vincent as he muttered, "If you're really as good as your CV claims, Valentine, you should be able to shoot the three men at the entrance. I'll take out the two by the stairs. We have to reach the ground floor before their reinforcements arrive. We attack in twenty seconds."
Both men automatically synchronized their watches, and waited.
As the seconds steadily passed by, Vincent could hear the men below chattering away, blissfully unaware of their ensuing death. One of them began tell a dirty joke, while his comrades roared with laughter.
Vincent glanced timidly at his leader, then tightened his grip on his gun.
It was time.
Both Turks sprang to their feet at once. without even looking, Vincent bent over the railing and fired at the three men by the entrance. He killed them instantly.
At the same time, Davoren flew down the metallic staircase, killing two terrorists who blocked his way. Vincent rushed after Davoren down the stairs, keeping his head low and arms stretched out. His mind had frozen completely; all his thoughts were focused on killing the terrorists.
Utter chaos broke out amongst the three remaining terrorists. No words could describe their shock on spotting Vincent and Davoren, already half-way down the staircase, with their guns blazing infront of them.
"SHIT!! IT'S THE TURKS!!!" screamed someone.
"SHOOT THEM!! SHOOT THEM!!" bellowed another.
Vincent nearly stumbled over as a mad torrent of bullets attacked the stairs, but both men only redoubled their speed. The iron balustrade rattled stiffly with the endless shower of bullets, trying its best to protect the two Turks. Many bullets whizzed over Vincent's head; one even snatched a lock of his hair.
His senses sharpened with every gunshot. He fixed his bright eyes directly on the foot of this staircase. Yet despite all that wild, crazed gunfire and the mad rush down those metal steps, Vincent never felt cooler in the head.
The instant the two Turks had cleared the battered staircase, they lunged forward to duck behind a large delivery tank just ahead. The angry bullets tore furiously at this barrier.
Both men huddled behind this stout tank, letting the terrorists bombard it as long as they pleased. Vincent could hear them screaming all sorts of curses over the loud bullets. But more importantly, he could discern their desperate fear...he did not even have to look at their faces.
A Turk; ShinRa's beloved secret service, sometimes humorously nicknamed "the Men in Blue". Everyone in Midgar, from the highest business executive to the lowest beggar on the streets, trembled at the mention of that simple word.
Yes..even those pathetic, untrained terrorists were afraid deep down in their hearts.
The gunfire suddenly ceased, shattering Vincent's thoughts. He turned to Davoren for any instructions, but his leader merely shook his head sternly: he wanted Vincent to stay behind the tank, and wait.
Vincent heard many scuffling and confused shouts over at the enemy's side. Obviously, the rest of their comrades had arrived to help.
"Reload your gun, Valentine," Davoren whispered without looking at him, "Always check your ammo whenever you find a shelter."
"Yes, Sir," Vincent muttered obediently.
"Hey! Hey! You turkeys!!" boomed a gruff voice from the terrorists' side, "Might as well waltz outta there and let us kill ya!! There's only two of you and seven of us!!"
Vincent silently reloaded his gun, ignoring the feeble challenge. When he had finished, Davoren pulled him closer by the sleeve. His eyes gleamed with agitation.
"Listen, there's a purple gasket on the left corner near the entrance," the leader murmured hurriedly, "It's just above their heads. On the count of three, you blast it. See that black furnace over there?"
He pointed to a round, sooty machine placed a few yards away. Vincent saw it.
"When you shoot the gasket, run straight for that furnace," Davoren ordered, "I'll cover you. Do you understand?"
Vincent nodded his head.
"C'mon out, you bastards!!" shouted another terrorist with apparent arrogance, to the amusement of all his comrades. They all began to jeer and hurl curses at the two Turks, thinking them helplessly cornered.
"Feh..amateurs," Davoren scoffed under his breath. He held Vincent's arm firmly as he counted, "one...two...three!!"
Vincent immediately rolled out into the open while Davoren opened fire on the stupid terrorists. He killed one man, and injured another in the neck. The rest of the astonished terrorists scurried behind any barrier, then blasted furiously at both Turks.
As Vincent dashed to safety amidst all the insane cross-fire, his eyes spotted the mentioned purple gasket. His hand automatically reached up to aim.
With one clean shot, Vincent blasted the lid off the gasket, causing the surrounding pipes to swell with unbearable pressure. Suddenly, the whole piping network behind the terrorists exploded. Hot, blinding steam hissed evilly out of the broken pipes. Soon, they were engulfed in the thick gas.
Maddened with panic, the terrorists began to shoot randomly in hopes one stray bullet may kill a Turk. But Vincent had already flew behind the furnace, and Davoren still huddled against the ever-enduring delivery tank.
Davoren pulled out the small timer he had programmed in the air duct. After cranking the dial, he flung it straight into the middle of the terrorists. The next second, a deafening explosion rocked the entire Reactor, causing more pipes and shattered iron bars to crush the enemy. Davoren had thrown a small time bomb.
Without another moment to waste, Davoren rushed towards the furnace as fast as he could. His sharp ears heard some terrorists swearing and shouting to each other about "a grenade". Davoren scowled: he had expected the bomb to kill all the terrorists.
On reaching the shelter, Davoren found Vincent crouching by the furnace, the sweat streaming down his face. He was not afraid, just hot with all the steam. When Davoren was assured Vincent wasn't injured, the two men glued their backs against the furnace wall. Vincent held his gun directly infront of his pale face.
"Two of those jokers are still alive," gasped Davoren as he looked solemnly at Vincent, "They're gonna throw a grenade at us."
Vincent stared blankly at the news, then decided to kill the remaining terrorists in one sweep. But before he could attack the enemy, Davoren yanked him back behind the furnace.
"No! No! No!" Davoren scolded. He spoke very hurriedly, "The purpose of a grenade is to drive you out of your shelter. They're expecting us to run out from either the left side of the furnace or the right. Now, to counter-attack a grenade AND surprise the enemy, you jump out from the least expected direction."
Vincent scratched his head in confusion. Davoren spoke too fast for his comprehension, and all his tactical logic only baffled the poor Turk further.
"When they throw the grenade," Davoren concluded, "We jump *over* the furnace, and kill the bastards. Understood?"
Vincent pushed his hair out of his eyes, muttering a respectful "yes Sir". After all, who was he to argue with the leader of the Turks?
Suddenly, a round grenade landed with a loud thud exactly infront of the two Turks. Its fuse sparked wildly.
"NOW!!" thundered Davoren.
In a flash, both men leapt on top of the furnace, each aiming his gun straight at the two remaining terrorists. Vincent shot one man in the head, Davoren got the other in the eye.
Vincent stared in wonder at the two dead bodies they had just shot: the mission was completed. He sighed in relief.
Suddenly, Davoren grabbed him and sprang away from the furnace, just as an ear-splitting explosion ripped through it. The strength of the blast sent both men sprawling against the ground, but Davoren held Vincent in such a way that his back alone took the full blow.
"And don't forget about the grenade, either," Davoren smiled as he struggled to get up.
Vincent instantly helped Davoren to his feet. The two stared silently at the burning furnace, with all sorts of wires and horribly distorted iron bars protruding out of it. It was destroyed beyond recognition.
"C'mon," Davoren ordered after a moment's pause, "We have to find the hostages."
Their quest ended very shortly. The two Turks discovered all the hostages stuffed into a corner next to one of the draining pumps, looking overwhelmed with horror. They had, undoubtedly, heard all the racket during the battle, and had huddled silently in their spot.
When they saw the two Turks walk up to them, the poor hostages gaped with mouths wide open, unsure who those two were. One man in a smart business suit dug his face in his hands to stop crying. There were two women trembling in each other's arms, and glaring suspiciously at the two new strangers. An elderly man, on spotting Vincent's gun, blurted out a prayer.
"We were sent to rescue you," announced Davoren in a clear, loud voice, "Everyone all right?"
He heard a faint "yes" murmured; some only nodded their feeble heads as an answer. The two women burst into tears, causing another young man to join them.
"They're all unhurt," Vincent confirmed after he had checked everyone, "Three have fainted, but no injuries, Sir."
Davoren ordered all the freed hostages to remain calm and seated until further notice. Reassured that everything was in order, Davoren propped the radio receiver into his ear, then tapped it once. Vincent lingered carelessly a few yards away, awaiting any further orders.
"Gerald? Come in, Gerald!" called Davoren into the radio receiver.
"What took ye so long?" laughed Gerald's happy voice through the receiver, "We finished three minutes ago. All eleven terrorists shot dead, Sir."
"Are all the hostages all right?"
"One got a grazed shoulder, Sir," answered Cindy instead, "Another man got a broken leg, but everyone's okay."
"And Professor Gast?"
"He's 100 percent safe, Sir. I'll evacuate all the hostages immediately."
"Right," Davoren agreed, "we just need to make sure we got all the terrorists. Give us a minute."
"Yes, Sir!" replied both voices firmly.
"Valentine, count the bodies by the entrance," Davoren instructed gravely, "I'll count the ones over there."
For the first time since he had stormed the Reactor, Vincent saw the actual faces of these terrorists One body was helplessly crushed underneath a large iron bar, so that only its dead hand appeared visible. Another man lay flat on his back, still clinging to his gun. Vincent noted a terrorist heaped into a corner, his empty eyes expressing genuine pain. They all lay lifelessly on the bloody floor, silently crying for any pity from a living soul.
But they found no such compassion in this Turk.
Vincent merely walked past them, counting them as though counting sheep. He felt no pity on seeing these dead men, nor did any guilt or sadness prick his heart. He felt nothing.
He trotted away to report the number of bodies: he had counted nine. He searched all over the place for Davoren until, much to his surprise, he found the man lingering over a dead body blasted against the wall. It was the last terrorist he had killed.
Vincent walked up to his leader, and patiently stood next to him, waiting for him to speak. He could hear Davoren muttering a prayer over the body in complete veneration. Thought Vincent did not bother looking at the dead body, he strained every nerve to hear the prayer.
"..Ye shalt find thy wandering soul at the end of thine pain...and may the Kingdom of Heaven embrace thee for eternity..amen..."
Vincent thought the words very peculiar and curious. They stuck to him for a long time afterwards.
"Sorry," mumbled Davoren without looking at him, "I didn't mean to keep you waiting."
Vincent told him he had found nine bodies.
"And I counted five," calculated Davoren thoughtfully, "..eleven..nine..and five...that makes 25.."
Both men looked at each other in sudden alarm: there should have been 26 terrorists.
"Gerald, are you SURE you counted correctly?" asked Davoren into the receiver. His face tensed in apprehension.
"Gerald, there's still a terrorist loose in the Reactor. He must've escaped before I threw that time bomb. Listen, you and Cindy evacuate the hostages. Vincent and I will hunt him down."
"As ye wish, Sir."
Davoren pulled out the receiver from his ear, his face betraying obvious agitation. He signaled for Vincent to prepare his gun: they were going to the materia reservoirs down below. That was the only place left to hide.
The two men crept as stealthily as cats down the black hallway. Each man held his gun near his face, ready for any sudden attack. As they edged near the foot of the stairs, Vincent could hear the noisy pumps churning the raw materia in the pool below. It took him a great deal of self-control to endure the pungent smell and sweltering heat.
The hall diverged into two paths: one led straight up to the delivery pipes above, while the other to the main bridge across the materia pool. Vincent motioned his head towards the direction of the main bridge. He would take this path. Davoren nodded his head in agreement, then took the other path up to the delivery pipes.
Vincent cautiously emerged into the main bridge. This large bridge stretched from one end of the Reactor to the other, straight across a pool of cool, emerald green materia. He noted with casual interest the thin metallic churners which monotonously revolved around the thick materia.
It was unnaturally quiet.
Vincent's sharp eyes darted all around the place as he stepped across the bridge. His gun was gripped tightly between his rigid fingers; hot sweat trickled down his tense face. He felt very tired.
"LOOK OUT!!!" shrieked a wild voice.
Before Vincent could fully turn around, a violent bullet grazed his arm, causing him to nearly stumble backwards with the impact.
He immediately aimed his gun at the source of the attack, but stopped short in alarm: his assailant had a young woman as hostage.
This terrorist, a bulky man with a bloody kerchief tied around his head, held this poor young woman infront of him, with his gun pressed against her throat. The woman, mad with fear, sobbed hysterically. It had taken her unimaginable courage just to warn Vincent.
"Okay, asshole!" bellowed the terrorist, tightening his grip around the woman, "Drop the gun!!"
Vincent's eyes narrowed sternly, but he kept his gun fixed on the terrorist. He said nothing.
"Drop it, I say!!" thundered the man. He squeezed his gun against the woman's throat, making her scream even more wildly, "Drop it, or I'll kill her!! I will!!"
Vincent knit his brows in contempt, then dropped the gun infront of him.
"Goddamn Turks!!" spat the terrorist, "Think you can friggin' do whatever you want! RAISE YER HANDS, BASTARD!! NOW!!!"
Vincent raised his hands obediently. His cool eyes shone with strange composure.
The terrorist gasper angrily as he glared at Vincent, his new prisoner. However, a cocky grin soon spread all over his sweaty face. This situation obviously amused him greatly: he had just captured an actual Turk!
"HAH! Not so tough without your goddamn gun, eh?" the man sneered with relish, "You Turks think yer so high 'n mighty, when you're nothin' but yellow-bellied wimps!!"
"At least I hide behind a gun instead of a woman," Vincent remarked calmly.
The terrorist blinked stupidly at the answer, then snarled, "SHUT UP, SMART-ASS!!! You sure got balls opening your mouth!!"
Vincent only rolled his eyes in scorn, which enraged the terrorist further. The man suddenly stepped forward, dragging the trembling young woman with him. His brawny arm still held her infront of his large body.
"What's your name?" the terrorist thundered, pointing his gun straight at Vincent's head.
"Huh!! And what's YOUR name, missy?" the man demanded. He tightened his grip on the helpless woman to force out an answer.
"..L..Lucrecia, sir...," she finally sobbed.
"Lucrecia, eh?" the brutal terrorist asked, "You ever seen a dead body, Lucrecia?"
"Where?!" he demanded savagely.
"Ah!! In..in the morgue..." Vincent glanced at something near the pipes above, but instantly riveted his eyes back on the terrorist's face. He seemed to grow more and calm and collected with every minute.
"But you never seen a body dying infront of ya?" the man scoffed. He glared ruthlessly at Vincent face.
"..n..no, sir..," Lucrecia wailed.
"Well, yer in luck, honey!" the terrorist laughed as he got ready to pull the trigger, "You can see Vincent die infront of you!!"
But three loud gunshots from above instantly interrupted the man. He shot his head up to the pipes high above the bridge, then spotted Davoren crouching unsteadily over one of the delivery pipes. Obviously, Davoren had fired those three shots into the air.
"SHIT!!!" roared the terrorist savagely. His gun immediately opened fire at Davoren. The assailant had been successfully distracted.
In a flash, Vincent lunged for his dropped gun, then fired one single shot at the stupid terrorist: the bullet missed the woman's head by an inch, but pierced straight through the man's skull.
Wild with pain, the terrorist twisted around as he tried to scream out loud. However, his clumsy body suddenly stumbled over the railing of the bridge, and he plunged into the pool of green materia below. He never emerged again.
"Valentine!! You okay?!" called Davoren from above when he had steadied himself again. He sounded very worried.
Vincent nodded his head at his leader.
"Hang on! I'll be down there in a minute!!" Davoren shouted. He began to backtrack from the huge delivery pipe.
Davoren, in truth, had went as agreed to check the delivery pipes above; but on hearing Lucrecia's scream and a loud gunshot, had immediately rushed to investigate the matter. He had seen Vincent being held at gunpoint, so decided to act quickly.
He had climbed onto one of the large delivery pipes, hoping that if he could distract the terrorist long enough, Vincent would use the opportunity wisely.
Much to his relief, Vincent had used it.
As he thrust his gun back into its holster, Vincent finally noticed poor Lucrecia standing rooted to her spot. Her wild eyes stared blankly at nothing. Her hair hung in loose strands all around her head, making her seem more shocked than ever.
Vincent glanced uncomfortably at the distraught woman, then walked over to check whether she was injured at all.
"Miss? Are you all right?" he asked concernedly. He stood exactly one step away from her.
The young woman started on hearing his voice so close, and gaped emptily at him. Suddenly, her eyes flashed with unmistakable fury.
"YOU JACKASS!!" she cried, slapping him clean across the face with all her might. The slap cracked like a whip against the man's cheek.
Vincent, with one hand over his cheek, stared in absolute disbelief at the infuriated young woman. Somehow, that wasn't quite the response he had expected.
"You could have killed ME with that damn stunt of yours, idiot!!!" the woman thundered, "You only missed me by a hair!! I can still hear the bullet whiz by ear!!"
Tears began to flood her eyes. Her hand trembled violently as she glared at the astonished Vincent. However, he only blinked confusedly back at her, as though he could not understand a word.
"God..of all the irresponsible...male-chauvinistic..," Lucrecia spluttered angrily. But she could not bear this man any longer. She stormed away from Vincent, beside herself with rage.
"Um..you're welcome," Vincent said after she had left.