Chapter 11: Another Version of the Truth

Just after midnight, Kess awoke to a strange sound. She cracked an eye open, straining to discern what exactly she was hearing. As she lay in the bed, the entire room gave a sudden jolt. Car alarms on the street below began to signal that she had not imagined the miniature quake. The wail of a distant siren in the night finally pulled her from the warm comfort of the bed. She moved to the door that led out to the living area and saw that Ashe was still sound asleep on the couch. Having no windows, Kess was clueless to what was happening outside the room. Was it another attack from Genesis? She picked up the remote and flicked the television on, but every channel showed the same static colored bar backdrop. "Why would they all be disabled?" she wondered aloud.

There was another rumble, the siren in the distance continued. The original sound that had caused her to wake up had grown louder and filled her ears. It sounded like the ground was opening up, yawning its great maw. She turned the television off, giving Ashe a quick glance as she retreated back to her room. She sat on the edge of the bed for a while, listening to the unearthly sounds beyond the walls of the Shinra Building. Eventually, after what seemed like forever, it ceased. Her eyes were growing heavy, each blink taking her closer to nodding off as she sat up. Eventually she laid back down and didn’t stir again until sometime near sunrise.

Ashe woke and discovered that he was stretched out on the couch with Kess nowhere to be seen. He yawned, wiping the drool from his lip and noticed he left quite a stain on one of the pillows. "Yeesh!" he gagged. "Who knows where that pillow has been."

A knock sounded on the main door and he craned his neck to look behind him.

Why would someone be knocking when they know I can't open the door?

He stood, walking to the door and saw a piece of paper on the floor. Stooping to pick it up, he blinked several times before the writing became legible. "Meeting at seven. It's five-thirty now," Ashe read aloud. "Well heck. At least I can get a shower in."

He crumpled the letter in his hand and tossed it over his shoulder, missing the waste basket once more. He went to his room to gather his suit and moved to Kess' room. He cautiously opened the door and seeing the lump still occupying the bed, he went to the bathroom to get ready. The door shut and he locked it. Moments later, Kess awoke to the sound of the shower. She peeked over the covers and saw a thin stream of light showing from under the door. "That sneaky bastard." She sighed before turning on her side to face away from the noise.

Ashe didn't take long and soon was exiting the bathroom dressed in his black suit. Kess rolled out of bed after he left the room and proceeded to get ready herself. She didn't even have to complain about the state of the bathroom. Ashe had wiped up any water from the floor, cleaned the mirror, and even put the toilet seat back down.

Kess was pushing it when she came out into the main room."I even hurried up," he commented.

"Yea, sorry. Still tired." She helped Ashe tie his tie again and then did her own. "I heard something last night.. It kept me up for a bit."

He thumbed towards the cell door. "Out in the hallway?"

She shook her head. "No, outside the building. It felt like there was an earthquake.. Car alarms were going off, there was a warning siren. It was really eerie," she recalled.

"Well, maybe that’s what this meeting at seven is about." Ashe turned to face the door. "So, are they going to come get us, or what?" he wondered aloud.

As if to answer his question, the door clicked and opened, swinging inward. Ashe was feeling defiant. He crossed his arms, knowing they were being watched. "Hmm.. show up or blow up. Tough choice," Ashe joked as he followed Kess from the room.

Less than five minutes later, they were nearing the familiar office. Walking side by side, the sound of someone coming their way made them both focus on the other end of the hallway. Ashe cringed on seeing that it was Scarlet. "Fuck me.."

"Oh Ashely! Fancy meeting you here! Kya-ha-ha!" She giggled, her eyes shifting over the young man's form.

Ashe sighed and spoke in a deadpan tone. "Oh look, it's Ms. Hargrieves."

Kess gagged from trying not to laugh out loud. She managed to hold back and act normal. The remark didn't even phase Scarlet. "Oh Ashely, stop acting like you hate me. After all the time we spent apart, I thought you'd be happy to see me." She pretended to pout, moving to push back bits of his hair.

Ashe jerked his head back suddenly to avoid her touch. Now he was pissed. "No, no. It was entirely too short a vacation. I've had zits on my ass that I miss more than you," Ashe scowled.

"Ho-How rude!" Scarlet cried.

"Now fuck off, or I'll tell security that I don't appreciate dogs being allowed to roam the building," he added.

Scarlet's face twisted in anger. "Why you—!" she shouted, reeling back to deck him.

Her hand stopped in mid air, grabbed by an arm from behind. Ashe and Kess looked over Scarlet's shoulder to see Lazard, a serious look on his face. "You may want to rethink that action. You could lose your hand." Lazard released the tight grasp he had on her wrist.

Scarlet's face flushed bright red and she pushed her way through them towards the elevator. Her bun bounced so hard as she stomped it unraveled all the way. Lazard bid them a good day before walking off. Puzzled, but otherwise fine, they continued on to the Turks' office. Upon entering, they were greeted by Tseng. "Ah, good morning," he said pleasantly.

Everyone had settled down when Veld left his desk and glanced around the room. Kess noticed right away that it did not seem like he slept well at all. Large bags circled his eyes and he seemed to be forcing himself to appear in good spirits. "Good, everyone is here." He shuffled some papers around in his hands and then began to delegate. "I've got new orders and some assignments. With Drake out of commission for a while, Marcus will be partnered up with Tonya and August."

He handed the three of them a piece of paper and then continued. "Kess, Ashe and Jale will be the next group. Jale is being put in charge of the detonator."

Kess’ eyes widened with the information and Ashe leaned in close to whisper sarcastically, "Didn’t see that one coming…"

"Becca, Samantha, and Shion will remain a group. As will Max and Cissnei. Reno and Rude, etcetera, etcetera.." He glanced around the room. "Any questions?"

Reno raised his hand. "Yes, Reno," Veld spoke tiredly.

"Yea um.. Are you ok? You look like you've been run over," Reno chuckled and kicked one leg on top of the other as he leaned against his chair, "by a bus."

Veld grimaced and rubbed his left temple. "I didn't sleep well."

Reno shook his head. "That's no good, sir. You should get some rest."

"Thank you. I'll take that into consideration. Now then, any real questions?"

He stared out into the faces of his subordinates and released a heavy sigh. "Well, I may as well tell you all now. Some of you may already be aware, but just so that we’re all on the same page… There was an incident in Sector Six early this morning.."

The light chatter that had fallen over the group stopped as all attention was focused on Veld. He continued, "Due to the damage at the train station and the structural insecurities caused by Avalanche using explosives on their vacated base, the support pillar gave way last night. Most of the center structure is now in the slums. Quite a few people were asleep when it happened, so at least there was that mercy for them. Unfortunately, they weren’t all that lucky." Veld’s voice was remorseful.

Cissnei’s hand covered her mouth in shock on hearing the news and the entire group was silent. August hung his head. "Poor bastards.."

Marcus shook his head from side to side. "How many..?" he asked.

"The last count was about three hundred and forty-five. They’ve still got search and rescue pulling out survivors. Mostly bodies."

"Minerva.." Tonya whispered.

Veld stood awkwardly before them for only a bit longer before saying, "Well, you’ve all got your assignments. As usual, things are always subject to change."

As the individual groups looked over their papers, Rufus entered and glanced around for Veld. "Sir, they're starting upstairs. The President asked that you and Tseng sit in." He remained near the door.

Veld acknowledged his words and Tseng moved to gather their paperwork. "Right, thank you Vice President. You are all dismissed," he spoke aloud as he moved for the door.

When he passed by Jale, he handed the detonator to him. "This is to be locked up in this office every night, you are not to take it out of this building when you're off duty, understood?" he whispered

Jale took the device. "Of course sir. I wouldn't think of it."

Veld continued on his way out the door with Tseng. Once in the hallway out of ear shot, Tseng asked, "Why did you put Jale in charge of the detonator?"

"President's orders."

After the room had cleared of the higher ups, Reno tossed his paper down and sighed. "Alright, who's got what?"

Everyone began to swap papers and look over the other team's assignment. After a moment Reno sighed and chuckled, "Sheesh, isn't there any one of these that doesn't entail hunting Avalanche?"



"Not a one."

The answers were quick and made the other's laugh. The tension eased a bit. "So let's see," Reno started. "My team, consisting of Rude and yours truly, are to scout out Sector's Seven and Eight. Jale and the other two are supposed to check the now ruins of Sector Six for any signs of terrorists. Bec, Sam and Shion are going to Sector's One and Two. Marcus, August, and Tonya are supposed to check Sector’s Three, Four and Five. Max and Cissnei are off right now, but have to come back in tonight to check the upper levels of the city for activity."

"Well then, let's get going," Rude replied, motioning everyone for the door.

"Time to shake down some assholes!" Reno shouted.

His comments garnered a few laughs, but for the most part, everyone was on task and in a somber mood. Jale smirked menacingly to Kess and Ashe as they walked over to him. "Hey, don't look so down. We're going to have so much fun today." He moved between them and draped both arms across each one's shoulder. "Let's get goin'!"

Each group took to the streets, some to the trains to get to the Sectors they were assigned to. The Turks were out in force.


Lazard leaned against the copy machine, tiredly looking towards the ceiling. He wouldn't have even come to floor 42 if the printer in his office wasn't on the fritz. He slapped his hand against the side of the device in agitation. "Why is the connection so slow?" he muttered, pressing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.

He heard voices and recognized them as belonging toTseng and Veld. They left the Turks' office and walked toward the lone elevator. He tried to listen, but they were soon out of earshot. With a sigh, he returned to waiting for his documents to transfer from his terminal upstairs. More voices were heard, more Turks. From the sound of it, the entire department was on the move. He never paid them any mind. His concern was with Soldier and not the clandestine missions the Turks participated in.

The hallways quieted once more. His documents began to print and stack on the side tray. "Finally.."

He picked up the papers, lining them up in his hands. He moved to leave the room but the Turk's office opened once more. "Alright, both of you walk ahead," a gruff voice commanded.

Lazard delayed his exit a bit longer so that he could avoid being on the elevator with the late comers. He idled on the other side of the cracked door, waiting for his moment.

Must be those two from earlier.

Footsteps were heard approaching. "So Diego. After you're done fucking around with this gig, where's your next betrayal?" the man asked.

"Oh.. Ashey, Ashey, Ashey.." The sound of someone being shoved into the wall reached Lazard's ears.


"Think you're so clever, don't you two? Detectives Reignheart and Kincaid. Because you figured out I was a Crescent," Jale replied. "Call me 'Diego' again in front of the others, and I'll make sure it's the last thing you ever say."

Lazard began to listen more intently. "It can't be.. He's supposed to be on house arrest," he muttered. "Reignheart.. Why is that name so familiar..? And why would Shinra reenlist two ex-employees as Turks?"

The footsteps passed by the door; Lazard ducking back inside to keep from being seen. He peeked out to catch a glimpse of the Turk and furrowed his brow in anger. Indeed, it was Jale Gerrick; the man that had gotten an entire squad of Soldiers killed because he reneged on his mission. Lazard thought that he had seen the last of him, but it seemed it wasn't so. They left the floor and Lazard ventured into the hallway. He knew that he had heard of Reignheart before.. He was almost certain a brother and sister who joined Soldier shared the name.

He decided that some research was in order and headed back to his office. Once there, he set the papers down and looked up the information he sought. Finding Grey Reignheart was easy enough. And as Lazard had suspected, he was one of the Soldiers that lost his life in Wutai due to Jale's negligence. "Second Class, Grey Reignheart. Sixty-fourth squad, killed in Wutai during a Turk led mission. Warehouse explosion." Most of the rest of the file was redacted as he lacked the clearance.

He typed in Reignheart and a few more names populated the list. Employees of Shinra, Gina and Owen Reignheart. Lived in Kalm and were killed when it was destroyed. Daughter, Kess Reignheart.. Adopted. Joined Soldier after Grey. Attempted suicide after the death of her brother and parents. Survived and joined—. More redacted information..

Lazard furrowed his brow in agitation and leaned away from the screen. "Alright.. Well let's see what Kincaid gives me."

Most of Ashe's file was hidden behind higher clearance levels as well. Lazard was able to see that he was once a Shinra scientist who worked on the Sister Ray but nothing more and was a part of the space program under Palmer. He tapped his fingers together before his lips in annoyance. Clearly there was more to these two than the readable files showed. But without the proper credentials, he was left without the juicy details. "Well, only one thing to do.."

He cleared the search information and locked the computer as he stood. It was obvious there was only one person who would be able to access the information he wanted..


While Shinra's personal task force was combing the city below, a very important meeting was called in the President's private office. Scarlet sauntered into the room. The sway in her step displaying her agitation with the humiliation she had suffered before arriving. She was followed by Heidegger. His hand stoking his bushy beard as he looked around for more than himself and Scarlet. They took their seats and then glanced around the table. Scarlet asked the obvious, "Is it just us?"

President Shinra nodded. "Yes dear, and a few more when they arrive." He glanced from the head of the table around the room to the two of them then his gaze fell to the door as Rufus entered. "Any sign of Tseng or Veld?" he asked his son.

"They're coming. They were giving the Turks their dailies."

They waited in awkward silence for a few more minutes. Scarlet began clicking her long, red fingernails against the table while Heidegger closed his eyes and seemed to be taking a small nap. Rufus swayed in his chair and the President had taken to tapping his fingers against his armrest. Footsteps could be heard echoing at a distance and low voices were discerned. Veld and Tseng came into view, stepping into the room. "Sorry to keep you all waiting," Veld apologized.

"Finally made it, eh?" President Shinra muttered. "Good. I'll start by asking the obvious, Veld. Any news?"

"No sir, but the Turks have their new assignments. Not a Sector of this city will be overlooked. They will sweep through the area and arrest anyone suspicious," Veld explained, not even a hint of nervousness to his voice.

"As I very well expected from that pack of miscreants you claim to be in charge of. What of those two rebels?"

"Ms. Reignheart and Mr. Kincaid have been set up with Jale Gerrick who has the detonator. Any offense and he'll make sure they're taken care of," Tseng replied.

"Might I add, that they have been cooperative thus far," Veld interjected.

"Noted," Shinra said, waving his hand dismissively. "They are rebel scum and after their usefulness has run out, I want them to be executed with the others."

An unsettling silence befell the group and no one said anything for a long moment. Rufus broke the tension. "Father, I believe there was a specific purpose for this meeting?" he pushed.

"Right, right." Shinra looked across the table to Scarlet and Heidegger. "I only brought you two in because this does not concern the other departments. And considering what it is about, Reeve would only get in the way."

Scarlet became interested in the conversation. "Oh? So this will involve some people getting maimed, I take it," she giggled and tossed her blonde hair back.

Heidegger straightened up in his chair, puffing his chest out to look more intimidating. "And of course the military and weapons divisions have the bigger budget and are more adept at handling threats," he grinned beneath his hefty beard.

"Precisely. Now, Rufus has told me he has a perfect idea for how to deal with our little problem. He said the idea came to him last night." He motioned to his son and leaned back in his plush chair. "Go on, son. The floor is yours."

Without even glancing upward and with little warning, Rufus spoke, "It's quite simple. We let them destroy a reactor."

All eyes were on Rufus. Scarlet sniffled a sudden laugh. Veld and Tseng tensed in their seats but seemed the least taken aback by the suggestion. Heidegger slammed his fist onto the table with a loud thud. "Destroy?! Let them destroy more of the city? Look what they’ve done to Sector Six! It’s going to take months to access all the damage, let alone rebuild," Heidegger fumed.

"Calm down, calm down. You’re starting to sound like Director Tuesti.." Shinra started. "Let the boy explain what he means."

"Not really destroy. But let them think they are going to destroy it," Rufus continued as he removed his hands from his pockets and placed them on the table. "They will jump on that idea. The prospect of ruining such a large investment is too tempting."

Silence ensued. This was usually the part where Reeve interjected and began to run damage costs in an attempt to change their minds. However, he was not here, Rufus making sure of that to avoid any dissension. Scarlet grimaced but soon turned it into a sly grin. "So, what sort of artillery will we be needing to outfit... say.. Fifty grunts..?"

Heidegger's face beamed. The two were always on board to suck up the budget for any given operation. "Yes, a hundred at least. Maybe more. Veld, what were the latest estimates for Avalanche's numbers?" he asked trying his best to sound inquisitive.

Veld removed a small tablet from his inner pocket and glanced it over, thumbing through the screens. "Estimates stand at 120 to 140 members, but please keep in mind, some of these individuals are leaders and suppliers. It would be careless to assume they would all be present and leave their base of operations unguarded.." He stopped as Heidegger waved dismissively.

"Details," he scoffed, "one hundred grunts will suffice.." He glanced coyly to Scarlet who readily agreed.

"So which reactor shall we stage our little welcoming party at?" Hector asked.

Scarlet extended her hand and looked over her nails idly. "Might as well use Six. It was damaged when the center plate gave way. Structurally speaking. "

"Scarlet, smartest thing you've said all meeting," Shinra smiled.

"What can I say. I've got a knack.."

"Good then, tomorrow night we'll close off the area for repairs. The entire sector is already being evacuated now," Shinra added.

Everyone agreed. He then said to Veld, "Have your men assembled for tomorrow night. Make sure those two rebels are put at the front lines. If they prove themselves, good. If they don't make it, just as well."

Heidegger and Scarlet wasted no time. They stood up and walked to the exit. Tseng knew they would gloat over being given the funds to execute this mission. He was already standing next to Veld when it came time to leave the room. "Sir, are you sure that this course of action is wise?" Tseng asked when they were in the elevator.

Veld cleared his throat a bit and straightened his jacket. "Our President has decided. Therefore we must obey," he spoke without even looking at Tseng.

Tseng knew that the orders bothered him. Even if they had the aid from Soldier, the Turks would be vastly outnumbered to the amount of rebels that would show up. It could turn into a bloodbath. "We should call everyone in tonight before the third shift. They need to be physically and mentally prepared for this."

In truth, Veld hated this idea. He cared about his team a great deal, and the President continued to treat them as cannon fodder. It was just as well from the man who had signed off on eradicating an entire town to control company secrets. He had indeed stayed up all night. Today marked the anniversary of the destruction of Kalm. He couldn't sleep, being plagued with nightmares of the deeds he had seen done.


After the meeting with President Shinra, Scarlet was sitting in her office on level 48 when she heard a light knock on the door. She had been reading a weapons magazine, but tossed it aside absentmindedly. "Enter!" she called out.

The door opened to reveal Lazard standing on the other side. His gloved hand pushed his glasses back into place and he peered over them to her. "Good afternoon, Ms. Hargrieves."

She glanced at her desk clock, noting that the time was 11:32 and smirked. "Close enough, Mr. Deusericus. What can I do for you?"

She leaned back in her desk chair, watching him as he stepped into the room and closed the door. "I wanted to apologize for grabbing your hand earlier. I was being overly cautious. Forgive me."

Scarlet offered him a seat in front of her desk. "Please.."

He took the seat offered and she stood up. "Can I get you a drink?" she asked, traveling over to her mini bar.

Lazard glanced over. "That would be acceptable."

His eyes rested to two very distinct file folders sitting near her computer monitor. Both were labeled with a large 'CONFIDENTIAL' stamp. He turned in the chair to read the names at the top, seeing exactly what he had hoped. The names of the two Avalanche members that now served as Turks. Now, how was he going to get her to give him the files.. His mind worked to form a plan.

She made them both a cocktail while at the same time closing the blinds around her office. Having obscured the room from the view of the rest of the offices around hers, she moved back to Lazard and handed him the drink. He thanked her and took a sip, noting that it was very heavy on the vodka. She rested against the side of her desk, sipping her drink. "Of course I know you had my best interests in mind when you grabbed me so.. violently."

He looked up to meet her gaze, the overhead light reflecting off his glasses. The lighting in her office did little to flatter her appearance. Crows feet crept in on either side of her eyes and permanent frown creases had formed at the corners of her mouth. The stress of being a Director for Shinra was apparent. "Of course," he replied, playing into her obvious flirting.

He took another sip and swallowed the stiff drink. "I wonder, what can you tell me about those two?" He pointed to the files on the desk. "Why has Veld shown such an interest in them?"

Scarlet leaned back, trying to unsuccessfully prop herself onto the desk. "They're both quite boring, honestly. Ex-Shinra employees that joined Avalanche, a gil a dozen."

"Oh, that's not true. Everyone is interesting in their own way. Reignheart was a Soldier for years. And wasn't Kincaid under your very own purview?"

She tossed back the rest of her drink and set the empty glass down. "I don't want to talk about it," she muttered.

She pushed away from the desk and moved towards the bar. While she was fixing another cocktail, Lazard stood and moved up behind her. "Sounds as though he wasn't man enough to appreciate what you could offer him," he whispered over her shoulder.

Scarlet turned back, a bit of color in her cheeks. She narrowed her gaze. "Why are you so interested in them?" she scrutinized.

"Well Reignheart mainly. But since they were picked up together, I wondered what their connection was. If there had been anything in their pasts with Shinra that had drawn them together."

Scarlet sighed, sipping at her new drink. "I want something in return."

He waited, the empty glass in hand. "Dinner, Director." She took his empty glass, setting it on the bar. "Antonio's in Sector Five, seven o'clock."

Lazard allowed a smile to spread across his lips. "I would be delighted to join you. I'll meet you there tonight, after work."

His cell phone rang. With mild annoyance, he pulled it from his jacket pocket and discovered the familiar voice of Wilhelm Heidegger on the other end. "Good afternoon, sir," Lazard spoke politely despite feeling agitated with the intrusion.

"Ah, yes. Director Lazard. We need to meet right away. Can you come to Sector Four? There are matters which need to be handled."

With a heavy sigh he agreed, "Yes. I'll leave now."

The call ended and Lazard snapped his cell phone shut, placing it back into his breast pocket. He sighed, "Well, duty calls."

Scarlet went back behind her desk and lifted the files toward him. "Bring these back tomorrow please. And don't forget, dinner at seven." She smiled as he took the files. "Close the door on your way out," she instructed.

Lazard did as asked and headed towards the elevator. That had been much easier than he anticipated. It didn't take much to butter her up either. Having the nickname of 'Ice Queen' didn't help her prospects of getting close with anyone, but he had been confident that he knew exactly what to say to melt that hard exterior. He glanced at the files in his hand and decided to take them back to his office before heading to Sector Four.


The afternoon found some of the Turks having lunch at Marcus' favorite Sector Five dive bar, The Spoony Bard. August and Tonya sat across from each other, laughing it up over their food. Marcus was busy buying another round when Reno and Rude entered. Jale, Kess and Ashe had joined them as well. Despite the tension of their situation, Ashe told them all about this morning's encounter with Scarlet. The retelling had them almost falling on the floor in hysterical laughter. Jale sat at the end of the bar, keeping his eyes on the group. He flipped a metal lighter meticulously between his gloved fingers while watching them.

Reno took a sip of the drink he had ordered and tried to calm himself. "I can't believe you did that, yo!" he howled with laughter.

Reno slapped Marcus' shoulder. "Hey hey, tell them about the time in Costa del Sol, when I was on vacation, yo."

Marcus burst out laughing before the story even began. "Oh man! Okay, so Sam and I were on assignment trying to root out Avalanche and I had just joined. Reno here was on leave after a particularly nasty beat down from—"

Reno interrupted, "Skip that shit."

"Oh yea. So anyway, we run into him on the beach at the resort. Well Sam was a newbie too. She started like two days before and she hadn't met Reno yet. So we're on duty, questioning people on the beach and Sam decides she's going to question this guy."

Reno jumped in, "I of course decided that I was going to mess with her."

Marcus coughed a bit and held back a laugh. "Okay, so I'd already met Reno. I see her walking over to this skinny red-headed bastard stretched out on a lounge chair and think 'What the heck is she doing?' But I'm too far away to say anything to her in time. She walks over, tossing her hair around and glares down at Reno."

Reno tried to hold back a snicker but almost choked. Tonya was listening eagerly as she hadn't heard this story yet either. Rude had heard it a million times from Marcus, but was still listening for humor sake.

"Reno's laying there, one of those foil tanning curtains up around his neck and she's standing there waiting for him to notice her. Truth is, he'd been staring at her the whole time, but she couldn't tell because of his sunglasses. She clears her throat to get his attention. He jokingly says 'Ah yes, my cabana girl. Fetch me some lemonade, will you?' Naturally, this pissed her off." Marcus was smiling the entire time as he recounted the story.

"So anyway, she got pissy and said something like 'How dare you!' like she usually does." He was doing his best to mimic her voice. "Reno, keeping as straight a face as he can manage, says, 'Chop chop woman, I'm getting dehydrated.' And starts clapping at her. To which she whips out her badge and shouts for all to hear, 'How dare you insult the Turks! You will pay for this!' or some such crap."

Reno could barely hold back his sputtering laughter. "So I finally get over there as she says this and I go, 'Oh, hey boss. Getting some good sun?' Well her face turned bright red and she looked between us. 'B-B-Boss!?' was I think all she could say. I go 'Yea, hey would you mind getting us some lemonade? I'm feeling parched and I'm sure Reno here is too.' Reno just smiled and her eyes got big. She looked like a puffed up frog. I thought she was going to explode. Instead she stomps off. Needless to say, we didn't get our lemonade, but we did get a good laugh."

By that point, everyone was laughing hard. Even Rude was laughing with as many times as he had heard that story. Reno was howling the loudest and started to draw attention from around the bar. "So if you want to mess with her, ask for some lemonade," he laughed. "But be prepared to duck."

The bartender walked over to refill everyone's glass. "Oh, no more for me, good sir. I've got to get going," Reno spoke, pushing away from the bar.

He moved to pick up his electro-mag rod and walked towards the door. "Hey, where are you going?" Marcus called after him.

"Back to work, yo," he spoke, tapping the rod against his shoulder.

He flicked his red ponytail and walked out of the bar. Rude stood with him and moved to follow. Tonya and Marcus sipped at their new drinks and leaned against the counter. August sighed, "I wonder how Drake's holding up?"

Tonya piped up, "I’m sure he’s fine. Probably hating every minute in that hospital though." She clasped her glass firmly, tapping her fingers on either side.

At the end of the counter, Jale's cell phone rang and he jumped up to take the call, turning away from the others. After a moment, he hung up and walked over to Marcus. "Marcus," Jale said, interrupting his conversation with August, "could you watch over this for me? I have to run a quick errand for Tseng."

He pulled the detonator out of his jacket pocket and handed it to the young man. It was the first time all day that Kess and Ashe were reminded of their position and it made them uncomfortable. Marcus tucked the device away. "Yea sure."

Jale finished his drink. "Thanks, it shouldn't take long."

"Alright, well if we get kicked out for being too rowdy, we'll meet ya at the building." Marcus was only partially joking.

Tonya snorted as Jale walked out the door leaving the group behind. With the detonator having been visible, Kess and Ashe settled back into their prisoner frame of mind. Marcus noticed their uncomfortable silence and glanced to Tonya and August. Tonya shrugged a bit, unsure of how to proceed. August with his strong but silent demeanor was little help as well. Marcus turned to Ashe and asked, "Got any more compromising stories about Shinra executives?"

Ashe smirked. "You ever hear the one about Heidegger and the Gold Saucer?"


When Jale left the bar, he hurried toward the train station. In truth, it had been Rufus that had called him. He had some news that he needed delivered to his cohort in Avalanche. Once he boarded the train, it was about fifteen minutes before he arrived at the location Rufus requested; a military warehouse in Sector Four. When he arrived, Jale was asked for identification from a guard stationed at the entrance. No one else was allowed inside except Shinra personnel with high security clearance. After flashing his Turks badge, he was allowed to pass. He entered a vast warehouse filled from floor to ceiling with Junon issued equipment crates, uniforms, and vehicles. The warehouse was deathly silent except for Jale's heavy footsteps that echoed against a metal grate that stretched the length of the building.

He walked passed several motorcycles in what appeared to be various states of repair. Some were covered with large, dark green canvases while others had parts strewn about. However, no workers were seen and this puzzled him. "They're on break.. So we'll make this brief," Rufus' voice came from the right as he stepped into view.

Jale stopped in his tracks on hearing the voice and looked around. "Quite an arsenal the Company has," he spoke as if impressed by the surroundings. "So why’d you bring me here?"

Rufus walked closer to seal the gap between them. "Director Hargrieves, Heidegger, and myself have collaborated on an operation. Tomorrow night, Mako Reactor Six will be scheduled for maintenance. The idea is to lure Avalanche into an ambush. We're broadcasting on the news about this, but I need you to make sure that they find out about the closure and react accordingly. Our mutual contact will no doubt jump at the chance to take down a reactor. And that is what I want."

Jale listened to the man's words, leaning on a pillar. "So who's going to be the victor in this fight?" he asked.

Rufus tossed some of his blond hair back and narrowed his gaze. "Obviously, we want Shinra to win. But that's not what I brought you here to tell you."

He leaned in closer. "I need Avalanche to win this one, but lose just enough that they won't be an issue after the fact. Can't have terrorists on the loose once I take over. But it needs to look organic, so make sure they bring enough people."

"How many?"

"At least a hundred. More if they can spare. The Turks will be there as well."

Jale chuckled. "What about Veld's new pets..?"

"Of course they will need dealt with, lest they expose you.." Rufus sighed. "Have they been a problem thus far?"

"Nah, I think they're too afraid to even piss, let alone blow my cover."

"Best to keep it that way. I'm pretty sure when they see their friends getting slaughtered, they may act out.. Cause you to have to resort to desperate measures," Rufus hinted.

Jale snorted back his laughter. "Understood. So I assume Shinra will be evacuating the area beforehand?"

Rufus fiddled with his hair momentarily. "What hasn’t already caved of the upper plate, of course. But we want the slums to feel the aftermath.. Robbing Avalanche of their support would be a good way to undermine them down the road."

Jale glanced behind Rufus on hearing voices from the opposite side of the warehouse. "Seems like the break is over," Rufus said, craning his neck to look behind himself.

He looked back before leaving. "See if you can thin the ranks of the Turks as well. Having a few of them meet an untimely end will no doubt rile up Veld and Tseng. Make them even more adamant at destroying Avalanche."

"Anyone in particular?"

"Whoever happens to present the opportunity."

He turned to walk away, leaving Jale standing alone. Jale took that as meeting adjourned and walked back the way he came. It seemed to both that the chat had occurred without any intrusions, but careful ears and prying eyes had indeed witnessed the entire encounter. Lazard had been below speaking with the inspection crew when break time arrived. He sat on a workbench, waiting for the crew's return when he heard the voice of his half brother from above. And in that, he heard every word of the plan Rufus wished to execute. A huge betrayal of the Company, he could excuse. It had been in the back of his mind for some time now, since he started funding Hollander, the mass desertion efforts, and what he passed to Shears Albrook. However, blatant destruction of the city without a care for those who lived in the slums below he could not abide.

Once he was sure both Jale and Rufus had left the area and the workers arrived back on the scene, Lazard ventured up from the maintenance pit. He needed to contact Shears and warn him of the dangers. But he knew that with the recent drive containing the reactor blueprints, the temptation would be too great, despite the risk. He also knew that he needed to keep Jale from carrying out his plan to kill Kess and Ashe. He hoped that an idea would present itself soon.


After Morgan's sudden departure the night before, Fuhito insisted that he meet with Shears to discuss her behavior among other items. The two convened in the warehouse that was the newly designated armory. Shears figured he could take an inventory while Fuhito chewed his ear over viable mission options. But so far, most of Fuhito's ideas were flops. In a corner of the room, a television they had set up to keep an eye on the news was turned on, but the volume muted.

Fuhito was shuffling through some papers he had spread across a table, his eyes and mouth busy as ever. "So where did you find her last night?" he asked Shears who was inspecting the contents of a large crate.

"Sector Eight. Near the square," he replied without looking up.

Fuhito tossed a few papers to the side in disgust. "Really Shears.. You give the ex-Turk too much leniency," he hissed.

"Aren't you an ex-Shinra scientist?" Shears asked, turning to him.

Fuhito smirked and crossed his arms. "There's a clear difference. Anyway, what do you think about some of these ideas? We could always attack Junon again."

"No. It'd be suicide to attempt that. They've moved almost all of their troops there after the last thing we tried. Any operation we would plan would end up with our forces dead."

Fuhito sighed, "Or captured and turned against us."

"Morgan is pretty certain that those two are being forced into this," Shears replied.

He turned to face Fuhito who disagreed. "They must now be treated as turncoats. We don't know what they are thinking. Hell, they could have fabricated everything, lies they told us to get in, learn our secrets, and have now ran back to Shinra with them. They cannot be trusted." Fuhito was beginning to get flustered when his cell phone buzzed.

He pulled the device out to see a message from his mutual contact. "Watch the news."

Shears' eyes rested on the television across the room, grateful that Fuhito was silent for the time being while he stared at his phone. An image of Mako Reactor Six was displayed prominently on the program. He picked up the remote and turned up the volume and a woman's voice filled the room. "A red alert goes out tonight to those living in Sector Six. For anyone still residing near the reactor, Shinra Electric Power Company has issued a statement. Due to the damage sustained in last night's train station bombing by Avalanche, the structural integrity of the area has become unstable."

"That’s an understatement.." Shears commented.

The report continued, "Shinra urges anyone living in the area on the upper plate to evacuate their homes and businesses. They will be quarantining the area tonight and beginning repairs tomorrow evening. Again, those living in the area are asked to leave in an orderly fashion. You will be instructed by this news station when it is once again safe to return."

He muted the television once more, tossing the remote to the side while Fuhito fussed over his papers. "What did you do with the drive I gave you..?" he asked Fuhito.

"Hmm? Why?"

Shears pointed to the television. "Well, they contained reactor schematics.. And according to what we just heard, they're going to be quarantining the area around Reactor Six. We can hit them where it hurts. Taking out a reactor would be a huge loss for Shinra, and it would stop the draining of Mako."

Despite the message urging him to watch the news, Fuhito was wary. "And who did you get that drive from, hmm?" he asked accusingly.

Shears glanced up and frowned. "I already told you, I have a source. A reliable one.."

"But how can you be so certain? He very well could have given you the information with the hopes of luring you into a trap." Fuhito feigned caution. "Besides.. It would take weeks to design a plan.."

Shears looked to the mess of papers before the man and raised a brow. "Surely you've got something in that stack of shit that is viable. Plus.. With the schematics, you'll be able to put the explosive right where it would impact the most. No running around trying to find a spot. The schematics will show you the perfect place to create a chain reaction, won't they?"

Fuhito narrowed his gaze. He removed his glasses and cleaned them on the corner of his shirt. "In theory. I suppose that it is true," he admitted. "Still. How can we be so sure that Shinra wouldn't catch wind of this? Then we have public security to deal with, or worse, Soldier and the Turks."

Fuhito's phone buzzed once more and he glanced at the screen. "Bring all the spares you can muster." the message read.

Shears crossed his arms. "We send in a small team. Disguise them as maintenance workers. They'll blend right in with the work crew. They can break away from the rest, plant the bomb.. In and out. As long as they stick to the plan."

"No, a small team can go into the reactor, but we will bring the full fury of Avalanche to deal with whomever shows up." Fuhito sneered.

The end results were right in line with his eventual plans to eradicate Shinra. Midgar would fall to ruin after the loss of a few reactors. People would be too afraid to live in the city and flee in droves. The plans he had with Elfé would come to fruition..

"Alright. I'll look over the schematics and see what I can come up with. You get the explosives team to throw something together."

Shears accepted his answer and moved around Fuhito to leave the armory. "I'll let Elfé know of the plans.. I'll send her your way to coordinate who to pick," Fuhito added before Shears left.


The Turks had begun to regroup at the building. Everyone gathered in the office on the 42nd floor, curious about the impromptu meeting. Kess and Ashe stood off to the side near Jale’s desk, watching as he sunk into his chair and kicked his snake skin boots up onto the tabletop. Veld stood to address his team as the door opened revealing Director Lazard. "Ah, there you are, Lazard. We were just about to begin," Veld greeted.

Lazard waved with a white gloved hand. "Sorry that I'm late. I was hashing out the details with Director Heidegger," he explained as he hurried into the room.

He moved to stand by Veld who began the meeting. "Good evening everyone. We will be taking part in a very important mission tomorrow night. We will be supporting Soldier with a potential run in with Avalanche at the Sector Six Mako Reactor."

He looked over the group and folded his hands behind his back. "It is being presented on the news that Shinra is evacuating the area to close the reactor down for repairs. It is our hope that Avalanche shows up to do what they claim to do best and that’s when the trap is snapped shut on them." Veld clapped his hands together with a menacing smile. "Now, we're not for certain that anyone will actually show up. But this operation is being set up in such a manner that they will not be able to resist striking us."

Ashe nudged Kess’ side gently and she gave him a sideways glance. Yes, she had heard everything that had been laid out. And no, she didn’t know what the hell they were going to do about it. For now, she held her face stern, keeping her azure eyes glued to Veld as he explained the mission.

"You will be split up into two groups. Half will be disguised as workers. The others will be supporting the efforts of Soldier. Details will be given tomorrow to avoid any confusion. You will also be given tomorrow off to prepare for this. Lazard has graciously offered to have Soldier take over the streets for a day so that you all may prepare." He cleared his throat again. "Please have a pleasant evening; I will see you all in the morning. Dismissed."

Veld turned to Lazard to discuss some logistics.

"This will be a piece of cake," Reno gloated, pushing away from his desk.

Rude added, "Just the same. We should all be up early to train and prepare."

He looked to Reno who shrugged. "I gotcha, buddy. No late wake up calls."

The pair walked out. "Think they'll take the bait?" Tonya asked Becca and August as they also left.

"Probable," Becca replied.

"Yea, I think they'll jump at the chance to destroy a mako reactor," August added.

Samantha rubbed her aching arm and pouted. "So what am I supposed to do during all this? The train station was just too much.."

Tseng placed a hand on her uninjured shoulder to reassure her. "Don't worry, Miss Baines, everyone will have a role."

He smiled as he stepped around her to leave, falling in line behind August. Shion and Cissnei hung back for a moment, waiting for Max who was talking to Marcus. He turned to see his friends waiting. "C-coming guys. Sorry. Marcus was asking if we'd like to join him tomorrow when he goes bicycle shopping." He moved to catch up.

"Motorcycle! Geez!" Marcus cried. "Why does everyone think it's bicycles I'm talking about?"

"Because you don't fit the hardened, street thug image, frendo," Jale piped up from his desk where he was still sitting, feet resting on the desktop.

"We aren't friends," Marcus snapped.

Jale pretended to pout, sitting up from his relaxed position. "Oh, come on now. You're gonna be pissed off about Wutai forever? It was nothing personal." He undid his watch, tossing it onto his desk. "You knew the risks going in. Sometimes people get hurt. Be thankful you weren't one of those Soldiers that got trapped inside."

He opened a drawer, pulled out a pair of sunglasses and tossed in the detonator as well as his watch. He slammed the drawer shut. Veld gave a short start and paused his talking. He glanced up to see Lazard eyeing the arguing pair; his brow knit in frustration. "Let's continue.." Veld interrupted his brooding.

"Yes. Of course.."

Kess and Ashe were also still standing, waiting to leave. Jale spotted them and chuckled, "Oh yea. Forgot about you two. You're both so quiet!"

He stood, shoving into Marcus' shoulder as he walked around him and headed for the door. "Let's get going," he ordered.

They arrived at their quarters without incident and were locked inside. Upon entering, they erupted into hushed commentary. "Holy fuck, how can we possibly warn them?" Ashe cried

"I don't know, I don't know!" Kess exclaimed. "Would they even believe us!?"

Ashe fell onto the couch, his head pressing into his hands in exasperation. "This can't get any worse.." he groaned. "And I know that they've been flashing our images across the news, saying that we are ex-employees who have renounced our Avalanche ties and rejoined the Company. I mean, it's cheesy as hell, but Fuhito is going to use that to turn Elfé against us, no doubt.."

Kess sank down beside him and loosened her tie. "There's got to be a way to get a message to them. Somehow.. " she wondered aloud.


After the meeting with Veld, Lazard moved to the elevator. He was irritated with Jale's commentary and callousness towards the Soldiers that had died due to his negligence. He had also been unable to reach Shears earlier and thus unable to deliver the warning about the reactor being prepped for an ambush. He decided that his next best avenue to get the mission canceled would be with the Director of Urban Development, Reeve Tuesti. He wasn't much for confrontation, nor did he want to be directly involved, so an anonymous email would have to do.

There was also Jale to consider.

Lazard wasn't much for revenge, but what Jale had done to the Soldiers trapped in that warehouse in Wutai was inexcusable. Plus, with him out of the way, it would be easier for him to finalize his own plans for departing and siding with Hollander. He needed to take care of him from a distance; make it look like an accident..

He arrived back at his office, his eyes catching the files given to him by Scarlet on his desktop. He crossed the room, deciding to take this time to finally see what Shinra’s interest was in those two. Free from blacked out information, he read in depth about first Kess and then Ashe. An hour passed quickly and as he read about the pair, he felt remorse for what the two had gone through.

Kess lost her entire family through Shinra’s negligence and desire to keep Company secrets buried. She had tried to kill herself but when it failed, she was sent to Deepground. No wonder the Company had been so interested in reclaiming her, she was a huge investment. She was also, much to his surprise, part of Project G, headed by Dr. Hollander and Gillian Hewley. But her file gave no more indication of what her connection might be and ended abruptly with her going missing.

Ashe had pulled himself up by his bootstraps with the help of a father that died in Mideel. He worked on several projects and with an array of research teams over the years. From Scarlet’s Sister Ray to Palmer’s space program, to the Junon and Midgar science labs, there didn’t seem to be an area that he hadn’t assisted with. Prosthetics, micro tech and… explosives..

Explosives… Lazard mused over the word, remembering the detonator Jale had tossed into his desk drawer. Though not told explicitly, he knew that those two were test driving bombs in their necks to keep them in line. That meant that they had to be small enough to put just under the skin’s surface.. Maybe, small enough to fit into a watch.. Like the one Jale had also put into the drawer. Then if the detonator was used, the bomb in the watch would… Yes, it was perfect..

"I could make the trash take itself out.." he chuckled.

He glanced to his wall clock, wondering how long Veld intended to stay in the office. He may have enough time to head to the research labs and pick up a spare bomb. No one would miss one this late in the evening. All the techs had gone home for the weekend. And it wasn't outside his normal area, so when he was caught on camera, it could be explained. The email to Reeve would have to wait for now.

--End Chapter 11..