Chapter 1: The Becoming


The word was definite in its meaning as it resonated against the thick concrete walls that surrounded her. She sat propped up against the door, her knees drawn to her chest. Chin resting on her hands, she glanced upward to the red light, reassuring herself that it was indeed locked. Lowering her head, she released a heavy sigh and rubbed her right palm. It was still tender from where electricity had entered her body and thwarted her escape from the building. If it hadn't been for that bastard Hollander, she'd have made it out.


What he said in the record room still haunted her here. The way he had said it, as if he'd known her his entire life but hadn't expected to ever see her again.

"Asshole," she muttered.

She pressed back against the cold, steel surface and looked towards the ceiling once more. Despite her incarceration, she had gotten the information Fuhito sent her to retrieve. Now she just had to escape with it. After being with Avalanche for just over a year, they had decided to give her a mission at last. Her ability to access contained Shinra mainframes and hard drives was something of a godsend to them. Kess was used to these types of information retrieval missions from her time as a Shinra operative. The hardest part was getting in undetected, but Fuhito had given her a homemade employee key card. And with her disguise, she looked like any other employee. She entered the lobby from the street and made her way through the building. She was almost finished when the door to the archives on the 45th floor opened.

The door slamming shut was what had actually startled her. Kess ducked to keep out of view while trying not to pull the wire that trailed from the computer to her head. She eyed the front of the room, listening for signs that someone else was there. The lights were not brought up and the room remained quiet. But then she could discern mumbling beneath heavy breathing. Her eyes darted back to the screen where the download had just started, mentally urging it to hurry. Whoever had entered the room was moving between the shelving that blocked her most direct exit. It seemed like they were looking for something.

She glanced back, the download far from finished, but what she got would have to do. She pulled the cable from the machine and the jack behind her ear where it was attached. Jamming the cable into her pocket, she turned off the monitor and waited. In the silence, a faint ring had settled in her ears and she strained to listen for his location. She glanced up to the second level balcony but there was nothing. Perhaps in her paranoia she had imagined the entire thing?

No.. There was definitely someone in here with her. Long shelves filled with boxes and totes of paper files stifled her view, but she could sense she wasn't alone. She felt the other presence almost as strongly as if he were right beside her. Her heart thumped heavily, preparing her to run if necessary. She knew the longer she stayed the less of a chance she had to get out. Urging her feet to move, she crept towards the exit.

Peeking around a corner, she saw the door in sight. The vivid red 'EXIT' sign flickering above was a warm greeting to her and she quickened her pace. Rows on either side of the long corridor spanned out across the large, darkened room. The ones beneath the balcony touching the low ceiling, others beyond extending to the second floor. It caught her off guard when the door was flung open once more, a deep voice proclaiming from outside "I'm going to check the city records! He might be in here!"

Kess threw herself into one of the side aisles as the large form of a Turk stepped into the room. His dark suit betrayed his profession and she knew that escape rather than confrontation would be ideal. The light from the overhead sign reflected off his clean shaven head and sunglasses. Kess cursed silently and pressed herself against a bookcase. Across the aisle in the parallel row, she made eye contact with the man who had entered earlier. He was peering through the shelving directly at her. His appearance was haggard, a mess of unkempt hair. His gaze widened on seeing her. He reflexively spoke in disbelief.


The Turk by the door snapped his head towards the voice. Kess pushed herself from the shelf and dodged left. The man in the next aisle followed the suit, knocking over the box of files he had been digging through. Folders and tapes spilled across the floor and scattered; some sliding under the shelf and into Kess' aisle. "Reno! He's in here!" the large Turk shouted.

Kess' heart pumped fast, pushing her to outrun the Turk. Her limbs tingled with anticipation as she raced ahead, looking for something to climb. She arrived at the end of the row and discovered a metal staircase leading to the second level. The man from the next aisle was behind her as she made it to the stairs. She was able to get a better look of him and saw that it was the Shinra scientist, Doctor Hollander. She pressed on, her eyes scouting for a way out. The door downstairs opened again and a voice called out, "Oi, Rude! Where ya at!?"

"Stairs, Reno!"

Kess caught a glimpse of Rude rushing up behind Hollander, the spilled folders slowed him momentarily but he was nimble and cleared the obstacle easily. She wasn't even sure if he'd seen her yet as she was outpacing the both of them. No doubt her footsteps from above would not go unnoticed. She moved across the open space trying to put distance between herself and the Turks in pursuit. Hollander clamored up the stairs less gracefully and chased after Kess, his lab coat fluttering behind him. The sandals he wore slapped clumsily against the tiled floor and kept him from gaining any real ground.

"Give it up, old man! You've got nowhere to run!" Reno called from downstairs.

Kess spied another door across the balcony and it became her primary target. She glanced back as Rude arrived on the second level and she knew in that moment he had seen her. Though sunglasses obscured his eyes, she could sense his surprise. "Reno! We've got another!" he shouted.

"Woo! Must be our lucky day!"

As Kess reached the door, a red haired man leaned up from below, sticking his arm through the railing and jabbed an electrified rod into the metal frame surrounding her escape. It was too late to pull back and Kess took the full voltage from the weapon. Electricity arched through her body and she cried out in pain. Hollander stopped in his tracks and ran towards the railing. "Don't even think about it!" Rude threatened.

But he was over the side, falling to the floor below with an exasperated 'oof!'. Rude followed after Hollander, jumping to the first floor and continuing the chase. Kess crumpled to the floor, incapacitated by the blow. Reno finished pulling himself up onto the balcony, having scaled a shelf to cut off her escape. "Headed you off at the pass, didn't I?" he laughed.

He latched the now dormant electro-mag rod onto his belt and leaned over her still form. At first, he was worried he had attacked an employee, but then he noticed the I.D. tag clipped to her lapel. He pulled on it to get a better look and saw in the low light that it was an older design. The retractable cord zipped it back as he realized it was still attached. Annoyed, he gripped the card at its base and removed it from her jacket. "Ingenious little fuckers…" Reno mused as he tucked the fake I.D. into his pocket.

He hauled her up and put her across his shoulder then made his way to the stairs. Despite his lanky appearance, he hoisted her with little effort and made it all the way to the main door before having to shift his weight in order to grab the handle. The hallway was empty, void of any noise except the low hum that constantly filled the building. "Geez, that old fool booked it outta here.." Reno said aloud.

His cellphone rang and he pulled it out with his free hand. "Yo."

"Reno! Where are you and Rude? Did you find Hollander?" a man's voice asked.

"Yea, we found him. He was in the city archives on forty-five."

"Did you apprehend him?"

Reno pulled Kess up a bit to keep her from slipping. She groaned at the movement. "Rude's on him. We found someone else snooping around though.."

He glanced to Kess' direction before finishing his statement. "A woman. I'm going to run her up to sixty-seven since I lost Rude and Hollander."

"Very well. Report to me when you're done."

"You got it, boss."

Kess woke up not long after Reno dumped her in the isolation cell. Had she gotten away, the orders were to get to the outer stairwell and take it to the street. There would be a distraction that would allow her to escape, but she wasn't told the particulars. She'd gotten most of the information, all she had to do was get out. Her fingers moved to the small nook behind her ear and she touched the skin. It was undetectable to someone who didn't know what they were looking for. Her hand moved away and she once again rested her chin upon it. She was about to nod off when a chime emitted from the door. She glanced upward again and was surprised to see that the light above the exit was no longer red. It was green.

"Green means go," she smiled.

She gathered herself from the floor and stood before the hulking steel door that had moments ago barred her from freedom. Reaching out, the sensor reacted and the door automatically slid to the side. She poked her head out into the hallway just enough to look around the corner.


She left the confines of the cell. Though unarmed, she was not helpless and she readied her fists in preparation for combat. However, on turning the corner, she saw that there was no one. She strained to listen for footsteps, breathing, anything that might allude to the identity of who had opened the door. But there was not a single sound. She stood alone in the hallway for a moment before deciding that it was now or never. With haste, she made her way from the detention block. After a few feet, she remembered to look for cameras. She shot her gaze up toward the ceiling, but saw that the camera placed there appeared to be powered down.

The door opening remotely, the camera turned off, and no one to be seen. Someone had to be helping from the inside, she reasoned. Fuhito had been right; getting caught was only a minor setback. She ruffled her red hair, cool air rushing over her otherwise sweat streaked head. "Alright, Kess. Get moving," she urged herself.

She made her way toward the building's inner stairwell. The door was unlocked and she wasted no time in descending to the 60th floor. This area was void of people as well. Used by the guards as a break room, it was surprising to see no one around; even at this hour. She needed to make it through here to the elevators at the south side. Then it was one quick trip to level fifty-nine and she would be able to use the outer staircase to reach the street.

She left the vestibule and walked to the elevator, keeping her head down. Once she was inside, she pressed the button to go down one floor. It was now obvious that her luck was due to the help of someone in the building. There was no way she could have made it this far without a key card. The doors opened, the exit to the stairs was ahead. She darted from the elevator and toward freedom. The concrete box echoed as the door opened, cold wind rushing upwards through the twisted myriad of stairs. A heavy hum filled her ears. She strained for a long moment, trying to hear if anyone else was with her. Perhaps a guard patrolling the area, but she could discern no other sound at the moment.

One foot in front of the other, she descended to the street below. As she neared the middle, other sounds began to fill the hollow stairwell. Shouting, the whir of helicopter blades, gunfire in the distance.. Lots of gunfire. Without windows here, she was blind to what was going on outside. She still had a ways to go, at least thirty floors and her feet carried her there as fast as they could.


The night sky was clear over the massive city as sunset glimmered on the horizon. Cars packed the main highways, full of citizens trying to get home to their families. Several businesses were closing up for the evening while the nightclubs sprang to life with bright neon signs and loud music. They welcomed the regulars and other workers that wanted to kick back and have a tall smooth one. Many people made use of the sidewalks, making their way to bus stops and the train station that serviced the entirety of downtown. As the city skyline grew darker, the night life began to shuffle out from the shadows and into the bars. Indeed, the city of Midgar never slept.

The output of the eight Mako reactors never once ceased. Mako pumped from the depths of the earth beneath the city was processed through the reactors and then used in businesses and homes across the city as a seemingly limitless source of energy. Even the vehicles used Mako. So it was no surprise that after twenty-five years, the Shinra Electric Power Company was still quite the monopoly. A constant, low drone filled the city with the comfort that the power was still on and not likely to go out.

Construction of the city began twenty years ago when the founder, a middle aged Hector Shinra, stumbled upon the untapped potential of the lifestream and saw dollar signs. He hired a team of scientists and engineers to create a system that would drain energy from the planet itself. Once a move seen as genius, the draining of lifestream had since come under scrutiny from environmentalist groups and those wishing to protect Gaia's natural resources. This did little to slow the march of progress and Midgar sprang up from the landscape, burying the prior town of Thrym beneath a massive plate that kept the city above elevated. It was a testament to how far ambition and greed could take a man. In the center of this impressive city, stood the illustrious Shinra Building; a monument of steel and glass; its mere size overwhelming to gaze at. Several flood lights swayed around the structure, only adding to the surreal spectacle that it created.

However, that was effectively cut short as an eruption of fire and metal spewed out from the side. A good portion of the entrance and the streets were filled with a choking cloud of smoke, pulling everything into darkness. A few cars collided into one another with the unannounced outage of the nearby traffic lights. A blackened mix of soot, steam, and green vapor poured from a substantial hole in the side of the building; several electrical wires hung like tendrils in the hollow passage. The Shinra Building lobby visible just beyond the exterior for anyone who was looking that direction. Helicopters could be heard and seen by those on the streets below. Someone shouted "Monsters!" and a panic ensued. People scattered as several creatures burst through the smoke of the recent explosion. Public Safety arrived on the scene and began firing into the chaos, giving the scared citizens little time to scramble out of the way.

During all the commotion, no one took notice of a figure that dashed away from the building and into an alley. It didn't take long for Public Safety to beat back the onslaught of creatures and they took to crowd controlling the area. Crashed cars and frightened onlookers were the least of their concerns. One officer took charge and started belting out orders. "Alright! All of you from 'A' division secure this area and keep everyone away from the building. Genesis' attack has only begun!

He paused, pressing a finger to an earpiece, listening to the officer on the other end. "Understood!" he shouted as he turned to the group behind him. "New orders, reinforcements are on their way. Five men are to stay here to secure the blast zone. The rest are to search the area! Cars, businesses, residential homes, you got that?!"

Five men stationed themselves in front of the gaping hole which was now collecting more attention from wary civilians. A cadet approached the leader and asked, "Why are they splitting us up? Wouldn't it be in our best interest to keep this area guarded from the rogue Soldier, Genesis?"

"Look, I'm just taking my orders and you will too! Seems like someone made it out of the detention block. A woman. And she needs to be retrieved, asap!" he grumbled.

"But she could be anywhere!" the grunt argued.

The leader turned toward an alley and shook his head. "There's no way we let anyone slip by, only one way for her to go. Let's move out!"

The men moved as instructed and started towards the target's escape route. They crept into the ominous backstreet, keeping their guns leveled and ready. Without warning, a ragged alley cat raced across the pathway, narrowly escaping a torrent of bullets from a rifle. The shots pelted the ground with a few ricocheting off a dumpster. The commander turned to the subordinate and slammed him against the nearest wall.

"She'll be able to hear us coming from a mile away! Pay attention." He released the lackey and they resumed on their way.

Several yards ahead, a lone shadow cursed while keeping close to the dingy wall. The sounds of pandemonium growing fainter to her ears as she put distance between herself and Shinra headquarters. She passed under a flickering lamp, her hair showing a deep burgundy in the light. They were getting closer; it would be a matter of time before they caught up if she had to keep sneaking around like this. She needed to get off the street and rendezvous with the others. A dull headache began to form in her left eye and she rubbed it with cool fingers. The pain spiked and she winced. "What the hell..?" she muttered.

Her vision tunneled and she leaned against the lamp post to steady herself. She hadn't felt this sensation in years.. the familiar pull.. That she felt like she was somewhere else; that she was someone else. Her vision went black and in her mind's eye, she saw a highway before her. She was floating down to it, someone on the street below. When she landed, she looked back, the building she had escaped from was within walking distance.. Turning back around, she looked down and saw the familiar uniform of a member of Soldier. She felt the heavy weight of a large weapon on her back. Just out a view, a white, feathered wing hovered over her right shoulder. Someone was standing to the left, he wore the black trappings of the First Class Soldier as well and had black shocks of hair falling near his shoulders. She said something to him, but it wasn’t her voice that spoke.

"Zack, join my battle.."

A trash can tipped over, spilling its contents all over the squalid ground. Kess snapped back to reality and the vision faded. She discovered that she was on her knees, both hands gripping the sides of her head. The pain subsided, her eyesight returned. She was overcome with the fear that she had been caught and looked up expecting to see the squadron that had been sent to retrieve her. But to her relief, a familiar man emerged from the shadows. He wore the brown uniform of Avalanche, a red bandanna was wrapped around his forehead. He kicked the trashcan away, grumbling about Midgar's public waste disposal. He turned to face the startled woman and smirked, his green eyes gleaming in the dim Mako lamp light.

"Ashe! It's about time you showed up!" the woman gasped as he walked over.

Ashe smirked and flicked back a few light-brown bangs. "Hey, I'm sorry Kess. It took me long enough to set up the explosion."

He gave a smug grin. "Besides, I had to time it right so you could escape without getting caught in the blast. You alright, there?" He took hold of her elbows, helping her to her feet.

She grabbed his arm and tugged him forward. "Yea, just a headache.. Might've been from the explosion.. Let's get out of here."

"Up ahead, go into the restaurant and head to the back. We're taking a short cut."

A single gunshot rang out through the alley; the unseen bullet whizzing by Kess' head and ripping straight through Ashe's left shoulder. Blood streaked across the filthy wall and bespattered Kess' right cheek. "Shit!" he cursed, stumbling forward.

"You there, halt!" called a gruff voice from behind Kess.

Kess gripped Ashe by the waist and hauled him back to his feet. Blood seeped from his shoulder, staining the jacket and trickled from the cuff beneath. He grimaced and withheld more curses. "Urgh... good to have you back Kess," he groaned as she steadied him on his feet. "Never a.. dull moment working with you."

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

Kess stumbled with Ashe, his hand wrapped around his right shoulder. Another shot caught the brick wall near Kess' side, chunks of red clay danced into the air and scattered in a dusty shower. "New plan," Ashe instructed as clearly as possible. "Take the alley, get to the train station. Morgan said she'd be there if we couldn't get to the barbecue place.."

Kess gave a quick nod as the two picked up the pace and ran towards the train station in Sector Six. Ashe had regained his composure, but was having a difficult time keeping up with his partner. She had to slow her pace a few times to not lose him in the twisting back streets of Midgar.

"Y'know," he spoke as he caught up, "the point of having a partner is to not leave them behind."

"Well if you did more running and less bitching, maybe you could keep up," she teased.

Ashe pushed himself to run ahead of her. "Harsh man. Harsh."

They reached their destination, emerging from a narrow passage into the train depot. Bits of paper trash fluttered through the quiet station, a sign that the train had already come and gone. Ashe came to a halt and leaned over to catch his breath. "Holy hell, I am so out of shape.." he groaned, leaning up and arching his back to pop it.

He glanced to his wounded shoulder as Kess stepped over to his side. "How is it?" she asked with genuine concern.

"I think it's a graze, but it fuckn' stings and is bleeding pretty bad," he cursed, trying to pull at his collar to get a better look.

Kess attempted to help, but his coat was in the way. She motioned for him to remove the jacket. "Hey Ashe.. How did you know when to set up the explosion?" The question had plagued her since she made her escape.

He shrugged while grabbing the cuff of his jacket. "Morgan said you were clear."

"Yea, but how did she know? When I left the cell block, the place was a ghost town. There was no one there, the cameras were all off," Kess explained. "And Ashe, the door unlocked itself."

Having pulled his arm free of the jacket, he began to roll his blood soaked sleeve up to inspect the wound. "Well most of the doors in the building are able to be opened remotely.. I would assume they have someone on the inside. But it's not my job to assume," He looked up with a smart ass smirk. "It was my job to get you out. And it was with a bang, if I do say so myself."

She shook her head with a smile and sighed, "That it was."

She wondered about the other things she saw when she emerged from the building. What was Shinra security firing at and why were there helicopters circling the area. She shook her head and focused her gaze back on Ashe's injury. "You're right. Looks like it was only a graze. Still, better to wrap it."

She began to rip the edge of his shirt sleeve and made a tourniquet to help control the bleeding. After a few moments, she was satisfied with her slapdash job and tugged his coat back over his shoulder. "Right, let's move," she instructed.

They stumbled across the elevated platform that ran under the station's arched entrance. Once arriving at the loading area at the end of a long corridor, Ashe glanced over the side while Kess scanned for signs of Shinra troops. Empty benches and colorful vending machines lined the waiting area. Some of the machines were for drinks and Ashe made his way over to one while Kess scouted the area. He fed it a couple gil and pressed his selections. Two cans appeared in the bottom tray and Ashe retrieved them. He walked back over to Kess and tossed her one which she caught easily. "Couple of Heroes. A little boost, in case we gotta run again," he said.

He popped the top on the fizzy drink and drank it in a few gulps. Kess did the same. "It's not going to take them very long to figure out where we went," he commented, taking a few steps ahead of her.

Kess replied in monotone as she finished the beverage, "I know."

She pulled his jacket up to keep it from slipping off his shoulder, bumping his wound. He cringed, his other hand moving instinctively to grasp it but the can kept him from following through. "Shit.. graze or not, that hurts, ya know," he growled.

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

Ashe tossed the empty can into a trash bin and crouched to follow behind. He jumped to the lower level, his boots crunched on the gravel that surrounded the tracks. As he steadied himself against the concrete wall, an amiable voice called out, "I just about gave up on you two."

A tall woman with long, dark hair appeared. Ashe smirked, his hand still pressed against the concrete. "Geez Morgan, we could've used your help back there."

They both moved to meet her halfway. Morgan noticed the blood stains on Ashe's left shoulder as she approached and made a tsk-tsk noise with her tongue. "Took a hit, eh? How did you get shot?"

"With a bullet.. from a gun." He rolled his eyes teasingly. "All the guards got 'em."

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


Both women laughed aloud as they walked the trail into the train tunnel. After a few steps, Morgan looked over to the other woman. "Welcome back, Reignheart. I take it you were able to get what Fuhito requested?"

Kess tapped the side of her head. "Most of it. I trust that he will want to download it right away."

"Yea, they've already set up the equipment. You did good," Morgan praised.

Nothing was said for a moment as the three continued through the tunnel, careful not to trip over the electrified rails. Morgan spoke again, "I'm glad you came this way instead of the restaurant. It's less risky."

Ashe signed and leaned on the wall. "Well, can we please hurry..?" he groaned. "Contrary to popular belief, getting shot does not make you cooler. It just hurts."

"Stop complaining!" both women shouted in hushed voices at once.

Overhead, rumblings and heavy mechanical sounds could be heard. Steam gushed from a few of the pipes and filled the area with a thick haze. Ashe kept muttering about his injury while Kess took in her surroundings. Despite having been with Avalanche for just over a year, she had never used this entrance. She knew of three, but used the one located in Sector Five behind the row of shops. Midgar had many secrets within its worn walls. Passages and underground areas long abandoned. Places created for a purpose, but never used by the Company; this particular location being one of them. The framework of the tunnel groaned and Morgan glanced back at the other two. "Best hurry, train's coming. The entrance is up here, let's move."

After a few more steps, they came to a portion of the wall that looked suspicious. Morgan pressed her hand against one of the bricks and it sank back with her touch. A small panel slid from above and Morgan tapped a number sequence on the pad. Once finished, the piece of wall seemed to fall backwards, and then slid to the left. An empty hallway extended for several yards before another door was seen.

They entered the empty hallway, Morgan turned back towards the wall and shut the door by pushing the brick back into place. The aforementioned train sped by in a blur, sending a gust of wind into the chamber as the doors shut. Their hair whipped into their view, blinding them momentarily. When Kess had tossed her hair from her face, she saw Morgan moving towards the door. She followed suit, Ashe bringing up the rear, his left hand clasped around his injury. Morgan pulled out a badge and pressed it to a plate near the door. It shot open to reveal an armed Avalanche grunt, his rifle leveled at the ready.

He wore brown pants, a dark green t-shirt, and a black canvas utility vest covered in many pockets. His brown jacket was tied around his waist. Spiky brown hair was pushed back from his view by a red bandanna like Ashe's. At first his gaze was stern, but on recognizing the group, he greeted them. He waved and spoke into the mouthpiece attached to the headset he wore, "They're back. Right."

Morgan led the way into the base. "Biggs, any news?"

He nodded, letting his rifle hang from the strap across his chest. "They're ready. Fuhito is waiting for you in the computer room," he indicated to Kess.

Kess straightened her jacket by tugging on the ends. "Well, I better not keep them waiting," she turned to Ashe, "will you be alright?"

"I'm not sure. Might need to take a few sick days," he joked, moving to scratch the back of his head.

He stopped short on realizing his hand was stained with blood. Morgan shook her head and crossed her arms with feigned annoyance. "Are you going to be okay to get yourself to the infirmary, man?" Biggs asked.

Ashe flashed his usual cocky smirk. "No sweat, Emery." He moved ahead, turning back for a moment to speak to Kess and Morgan, "I'll see you guys once they've patched me up. Good luck, Kess!"

He winked to her before turning and trotting on his way. Morgan chuckled and said to Kess, "Well let's not keep them waiting."

The base was large and there was no issue accommodating the men and women who resided here. It was Fuhito who had discovered the place, an abandoned bunker beneath the city proper but still in the confines of the upper plate. He surmised that the structure had been intended as a fall back barracks in the instance that Midgar came under attack in its early years. The location had all the necessities of a proper base. The main floor, the entrance where they had come from, was large and had a staircase that led to the other parts of the site. Avalanche members were bustling about giving the area a sense of urgency. Near the entrance was the security office where a rotation of men and women could monitor the various hidden entry points and most of the interior.

There was a conference room where the four commanders held many of their meetings. Shears spent the most time here by far and had set up a small corner of the room as a living space. Fuhito's lab, where Kess and Morgan were heading, had enough equipment and tools to almost be a real Shinra science facility. It didn't hurt that most of the items were pilfered from the Company either. The armory was well stocked thanks to Shears' previous raids on Shinra transports with his men before joining forces with Elfé and Fuhito. Weapons, gear, and the brown uniforms they all wore were acquired and modified to suit their needs. The uniforms were intended for the Shinra army in Wutai, but after a few changes and the addition of a red band around the upper left arm, they were now recognized as the garb of Avalanche.

Upstairs, there was an infirmary run by ex-Shinra physicians. Most of their supplies had been indefinitely borrowed which was just as well because it allowed Avalanche members to receive quality care for their injuries. There was a lounge that had been turned into a bar and thanks to the generosity of the Wutaiian barbecue owners, the place was well stocked with food and beer. This was the main area where the off duty Avalanche members gathered as their pod-style rooms weren't large enough to do anything except shower and sleep. As the base was intended to house a small army, there were sixty individual rooms outfitted with a few necessities. These included a small living space, fold out bunk beds, and a wash room complete with shower, sink, and a toilet. Seven by twelve feet was small, but the privacy was nice.

Kess and Morgan rounded the corner of the hallway leading to Fuhito's lab. Upon entering the room, the sound of various pieces of computer equipment crowding the small space was overwhelming. Every inch of the room held some stolen piece of Shinra lab tech. Kess spied Elfé, the leader of Avalanche, sitting in a chair. Her light brown hair obscured her view but then Kess realized that her eyes were closed. The young woman had a gentle look about her. Her uniform was different from those worn by the regular Avalanche members consisting of olive colored cargo shorts with a black and olive top. A short cream colored cape descended from her shoulders and heavy brown work boots adorned her feet. Her signature long sword was strapped across the back corner of her chair. She looked frail, but Kess knew that like herself, the appearance was deceiving. Within Elfé resided a great power that no one understood except for Fuhito. Elfé's eyes were closed as if she was resting, her gloved hands folded in her lap. Without opening her eyes, she spoke, "Hideyaki, they're here."

Hideyaki Fuhito was standing to her left. As usual, his eyes were glued to a computer screen. Dressed in a modified version of the Avalanche uniform, his outfit consisted of a brown jacket with suspenders in addition to the usual brown pants. His rolled up sleeves gave him a casual appearance, but Kess knew that he was strictly business. He was young, ambitious, and his fervor was hard to match. His dark hair was swept back and seemed to defy gravity at times, never getting in his way. Thin framed glasses adorned his face but he was usually caught peering under them to get a better look at papers or the computer screen. He turned to greet Kess and Morgan as they walked over. "Ah, made it back in one piece I see," his voice was lighthearted, but also condescending. "Well done, Ms. Reignheart. Please, have a seat."

--End Chapter 1..