Chapter 14: March of the Pigs

The stench of raw Mako was strong here. From their perch high above a bubbling pool of the glowing liquid, Kess and Ashe had a perfect vantage point of the main controls below. Samantha was a few feet away from them, leaning against a diagonal beam. Across from them, Tseng waited, sniper rifle at the ready. Once they had donned their disguises, the Turks converged on Mako Reactor Six and took their places within. Marcus, Max, and Tonya were in the upper levels of the reactor, appearing as maintenance workers. The remaining Turks wore security uniforms to blend in for when the ambush went off.

For now, all was quiet. Ashe wondered who they would be sending in, if anyone did show up. Kess' eyes focused on the platform below in anticipation. Samantha was silent for the most part as well except the shuffling of her boots as she readjusted her stance against the beam. Most of their noises would have been drowned out by the reactor itself, but the machinery had been halted to make the repairs seem authentic. A low hissing noise from the cooling vents below rose through the hollow shaft around them.

Kess had been inside a few reactors during her time with Soldier, but never any of the ones in Midgar. And they were definitely larger than the ones in Nibelheim and Gongaga. They were in the heart of the structure, close to the utility access. The area they had ducked into was near the ventilation intakes, a narrow ladder was the only way to get to this out of the way nook. Below them was a wide walkway that led to the core on a circular platform. The path wound around giant pillars that rose from the mako pool and acted as condensers to keep the evaporation to a minimum. Kess looked at Ashe and noticed he seemed lost in thought, perhaps mesmerized by the swirling pool of mako below. He caught her gaze and glanced back, then looked around her to Samantha.

Kess inclined her head towards Tseng's position and Ashe turned in time to see the scope glint their direction. "Pretty sure he's keeping an eye on us," Kess whispered.

"Hmm.. Yea," Ashe replied.

Kess leaned over, looking over the railing. "Who do you think they'll send in?"

Ashe contemplated her question then replied in a hushed tone, "Well, they don't exactly have a surplus of tech savvy people. I think it'll be a small team. Probably Rasberry.. Maybe two more to act as lookouts."

Kess stole a glance back at Samantha who was picking her teeth with a fingernail. "Think we can warn them before they get to the controls?"

Ashe shrugged and leaned closer to Kess. Even in this dirty reactor, she still managed to smell nice. He looked puzzled, as if trying to remember what they were talking about. "Ashe," Kess snapped. "What do you think?"

"Shhh… Both of you," Samantha warned, turning to look at them. "Scoot back, you're too close."

Kess moved back to her original spot and Ashe sighed, turning his attention back to the area below.


On arriving at the bus depot, the cab Morgan had called was waiting. The closer they got to Sector Six, the more anxious she became. Finally the ride ended at the edge of Sector Five where a blockade was keeping people and vehicles from entering. Signs warning of the dangers in the area littered the sidewalk where several Public Security guards had gathered. The reactor was a few blocks away and the ride had given her time to rest and gather her wits. Shears still wasn’t answering his phone and she worried what was keeping him from it. She paid the driver and hopped out of the car. Without a second thought, she sprinted past the checkpoint and dodged into an alley before the guards at the blockade could stop her.

Reactor Six loomed overhead in the night sky. Green steam rose from the top in a thick mist that obscured the starlight. It was almost time, the mission was supposed to kick off at midnight. Morgan headed to the staging point where she knew that Shears and Elfé would be waiting. The back streets were unusually quiet here, and Morgan realized that the reactor itself was silent. She had never thought about the level of noise pollution that was produced by the reactors. They were such a constant in everyone's life that most had grown accustomed to the background disturbance. Something else that Morgan noticed was the lack of any Shinra employees. She saw a few low level guards as she moved, but they were easy to avoid. Reactors were heavily guarded structures, and the fact that this one wasn't should have alerted her team to the danger.

She continued on, moving in the shadows towards her destination. The staging area, an unfinished strip of rail that split off from the main line, came into view. For a moment, she wasn't sure if anyone was there, but then she heard Shears' distinct cough in the darkness. She peered around the corner and saw him and Elfé leaning against some crates. Beyond them stood a few dozen Avalanche members, milling about in the lobby of the unfinished depot.

Elfé saw Morgan and a sense of relief washed over her face. She pat Shears' arm who glanced down to her and then to Morgan when Elfé looked towards her. He did not look as pleased to see her. Morgan walked over and Shears began to speak, "About time you decided to—"

"Shears, it's a trap," Morgan interrupted.

His expression screwed up and he growled, "What?"

Elfé turned away from the people shuffling behind her and whispered, "Morgan, how do you know this?"

The three formed a tight conversation circle and Morgan continued. "Before you interrupt, hear me out," she began. "Yes. I did go see Drake again.."

Shears crossed his arms and looked away in annoyance. Morgan put her hand out. "He was asleep. But then Diego showed up."

"Diego?" Elfé said in slight surprise.

"I hid under the bed when I heard someone coming and when I saw that it was Diego, I knew something was up. He mentioned working for Rufus Shinra before trying to kill Drake," Morgan finished.

She realized that she had been in such a hurry to get to her friends that she had forgotten all about Drake until that moment. His fate was still unknown and her eyes began to well up with tears. Shears shook his head and Elfé glanced at him. "So there was a double agent," she surmised about Diego. "Why would Rufus Shinra want Avalanche to win? He's the President's son."

Shears answered, "Easy. He's trying to take over.. What better than to use us. The enemy of your enemy is your friend." He turned away and looked towards the entrance to the reactor. "Who knows how far Jessie, Biggs and Alex are already. We've got to warn them."

He reached for his cell phone, but discovered that it wasn't in his back pocket as usual. He searched inside his vest but still came up empty handed. "Figures.."

"About that," Morgan said, noticing he was searching. "I've been trying to reach you for the past hour."

"Must've fallen out at the base.." he grumbled. He looked to the group behind them and then to Elfé and Morgan. "Well, let's head in. Quietly. Morgan, I want you to—"

Before he could finish, she was off like a shot and already sprinting towards the entrance. "Dammit!" he hissed, turning to the small group. "New orders. Follow Commander Narshe. We're heading in!"


Marcus adjusted the collar of the uniform again. He was annoyed, uncomfortable, and growing warmer by the minute. He had taken up his position with Max and Tonya near one of the ventilation ducts. But with the reactor being shut down, all that escaped from the cooling system was hot, stale air. They huddled together for the moment, trying their best to remain out of sight. Veld would give the order soon to move in and appear as though they were 'working'.

Tonya was busy prepping her throwing knives, the chosen weapon she was proficient with. Sweat was beading up on her forehead as well and she pressed the billed cap to her skin to soak it up. Her hair had been tied back into a short ponytail after arriving, but it was also damp with sweat. Max stood nearby, the back of his jacket showing a few wet areas from the moisture build up. He removed his hat and fanned himself. This was hands down his least favorite job so far.

Marcus leaned his head against one of the concrete pillars, the last surface that offered a bit of cool relief. He closed his eyes momentarily when he felt a heavy hand clamp on his shoulder. Giving a sudden start, he jumped up and turned to see Jale standing behind him, still dressed in his Turk's uniform. He gave Marcus a slight grin, yellow teeth from his cigarillo habit peeking out. "Sup, cupcake?" Jale said.

Marcus scowled at the nickname and shrugged his shoulder out from under Jale's grip. "What the hell are you doing here? You're supposed to be up with the others," Marcus replied. "You're not even dressed.. What’s wrong with your eyes? Are you blitzed?"

Marcus was taken aback by how red the man’s eyes were. One even appeared to have a burst blood vessel. "Probably allergies.." Jale deflected. "Veld sent me to get the detonator."

Marcus glanced over to Max and gave a small 'psst' to the boy. He inclined his head towards Jale. "Yo Max. Give this clown the detonator."

Jale looked to Max and ruffled his short hair, the heat of the area starting to get to him. "Make it snappy, Blondie. I ain't sticking around here to sweat my balls off with you guys longer than I have to," Jale laughed in a hushed tone.

"Language…" Tonya chided him.

Max produced the detonator from his hip pocket, handing it over to Jale. He took it and glanced to Tonya, mocking her 'language' as he tucked it into his jacket. "Where are the two jail birds anyway?" he asked.

"Below with Samantha near the ventilation intake over the mako pool," Marcus replied.

"Right. Later, losers," he tossed back as he left.

Marcus turned back around and shook his head to Tonya and Max. "What a dick," he said aloud.

Tonya agreed with her expression. "Should be about time.." Max reminded them both.

Tonya glanced at her watch and sighed, "Five more minutes.."

"Five more minutes til we die of heat exhaustion more likely," Marcus sighed. "What is he up to anyway..?"

"Who, Gerrick?" Tonya asked. "He's never taken this job seriously, you know that."

Max leaned back on his heels but had to catch himself on the railing to keep from falling backwards. "Good one," Tonya chuckled.

"Can we just go, what's three more minutes.." Marcus whined.

Tonya shook her head and grimaced. "No, just because Gerrick’s is a rule breaker doesn't mean that the rest of us fall out of line." She checked her watch again. "Two minutes, thirty seconds. Get ready."


Jale left the upper level of the reactor and descended to the area Marcus had indicated. All around him, steam vents released a slow moving trail of vile smelling mako fumes. It hugged the floor, billowing away from his feet as he walked. He rubbed his eyes with the balls of his hands, trying to alleviate the pain that Morgan had caused. With luck, the nurses hadn’t gotten to Drake in time, but he knew that his cover with Avalanche was now fully blown.

Hopefully Samantha would be easier to take out. He came to some metal stairs and took them upwards towards the ventilation intake above. He could discern voices coming from a walkway below and on looking over the side, he saw the bomb team with Biggs leading the way.

"Right on time.."

He ducked out of sight once off the staircase and continued upward, trying to beat them ahead before they reached the control platform. He needed to ensure that the bomb was placed before any of them were picked off by the Turks. He scaled a ladder and arrived in time to see Samantha looking down. She had heard the voices too and was preparing her careful aim with her hand gun. Jale stepped off the ladder with a small grunt, fully intending to distract her. "What are you doing here?" she hissed.

He pat his jacket and then thumbed over to Kess and Ashe who were sitting off to the side. "Veld sent me. I've got the detonator, remember?" he whispered.

Samantha turned back to survey the ground below, but didn't see anyone yet. "You think you've got a chance of hitting someone with that pea-shooter from up here?" Jale chuckled as he made his way over to her, pulling a cigarillo from his inner pocket.

He put the unlit stick in his mouth as Samantha glared, answering him by cocking the hammer back on the gun. Ashe looked over the railing but no one was in sight. He was certain he had heard familiar voices, but there was no one below just yet. Jale closed the gap between them, shoving into Ashe's shoulder as he passed and sided up next to Samantha as she scanned the area.

As he got into position, Biggs came into view with Jessie and Alex in tow. They crept against the bridge railing towards the platform that contained the controls for the core. Samantha gave a start on seeing them and prepared her aim once more. Jessie glanced over the railing to the green mako below, then turned to wave Alex closer as he was lagging behind. The group edged closer to their destination, a bundle in Biggs' hand. "They've got a bomb," Samantha whispered.

Kess and Ashe weren't sure what they could do to stop the assassination of the three below. Overpowering Samantha was out of the question since Jale decided to show up. Maybe a shout, a warning would be enough. Ashe glanced at Kess as if to signal her, but it was Jale's surprise action that he hadn’t anticipated. He grabbed Samantha suddenly and pulled her backwards. Yanking her to the ground, he grabbed the gun from her hand and before Kess or Ashe could react, he pistol whipped her in the back of the neck. Samantha cried out as she went down, hitting the floor hard. "Jale, what the hell!?" she shouted.

The group below was alerted to the presence of the skirmish going on above and took evasive maneuvers to guard themselves. Jale leveled the gun on Samantha with a sadistic grin, rolling the unlit cigarillo to one side. "Nothing personal, love."

Ashe leapt to his feet, shoving himself into Jale, the missed shot ringing out. Samantha rolled to the side and kicked herself up onto her feet while Ashe and Jale fought over control of the gun. Kess looked below to see Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge fleeing the scene. Biggs still carried the bundle in his hands as they ran across the platform back towards the stairs. Tseng had delivered a few shots, but Biggs was faster and managed to evade the bullets. Kess turned back to the fight in time to see Jale elbow Ashe in the ribs and toss him to the side. Ashe gasped for air, unable to catch his breath while Jale stood up and cracked his neck, looking annoyed. "After I even saved those three from getting killed," he scolded. "Ungrateful."

The gun had been knocked from his hands and he walked over to pick it up. Kess moved, throwing herself at Jale as he brought up the gun to fire at Ashe. She grabbed Jale's shoulder, moving to knee him in the gut, catching the bullet intended for Ashe right below her right breast. "KESS!" Ashe cried out.

Kess pressed the wound as blood oozed between her fingers and stained her uniform. Jale tossed her aside causing her to crash onto the metal grating. Another shot rang out, the bullet so close that it clipped the tip of his cigarillo. He spit out the burnt remainder and turned to see the flash of a sniper scope as another shot was prepared. "Ah, Tseng." he sneered. He'd have to take care of him as well now..

Ashe had moved to Kess' side where she was having trouble breathing. Blood pooled from the fresh wound and dripped through the grating to the platform below. Jale glanced at them as Samantha's boot landed in his back, sending him towards the railing. "What the fuck are you doing, Jale!?" she cried.

He caught himself before going over and turned around to fire the gun at her. Unable to react in time, she was hit and fell over. Jale was sure that this time he'd finished her off. Now he just had to get to Tseng.. His hearing was becoming garbled and his vision swirling, the adrenaline of the fight starting to get to him. Samantha didn't move and no more shots came from across the way. Behind him, he heard Kess sputtering.

"Shot in the lung.. Rough way to go, Reignheart," Jale chuckled, wiping a bit of spit from his chin. "Getting blown up in a warehouse like your brother would have been better. Nice and quick."

"W-what..?!" Kess wheezed.

"I suppose they never told you what really happened to him." He walked over to see if Samantha was actually dead, looking down at her still form. "Almost lost a few Turks too. If they’d have just stayed out of the way, I wouldn’t have had to blow the place to smithereens."

Anger brewed within Ashe on hearing the confession. "You bastard!"

He stood and turned to Jale, plowing into his middle. He pushed them both into the railing and together they fell over the side to the platform below.


Morgan heard gunfire in the distance and picked up the pace. She was too late; her team might be dead for all she knew and it pushed her to run faster. She almost collided with Jessie as she turned a blind corner and shouted in surprise. She noticed Biggs and Alex a few steps behind her. "Oh thank Minerva!" she cried out.

"Ambush," Biggs informed her.

"Not like it was completely unexpected." Jessie growled.

Morgan looked them over, seeing that they still held the bomb. "Everybody ok?" she asked.

"Yea, just shook up, is all," Alex replied.

A rush of heavy footsteps filled the hallway and they were on guard again. "We're not out of this shit yet," Biggs reminded them.

They pressed against the walls as Public Security began to flood the area. "Quickly!" Morgan commanded. "Back this way."

They moved, following their leader through the twisting hallway. They emerged onto another platform as Avalanche forces led by Shears and Elfé poured into the reactor. Security guards spilled from various entry ways around the room and an all out battle began. Morgan caught a glimpse of two guards in particular, recognizing them as Reno and Rude in disguise. They fought their way to the forefront of the brawl to engage with Avalanche. "Damn! The Turks are here too," she warned the three at her side.

"Also not unexpected," Alex replied.

She glanced at Biggs who still held the bomb tightly. "We've got to get that thing out of here," she instructed.

All around them, Avalanche members fought off the mixture of security guards and Turks, but Morgan knew it was not going to remain in their favor for long. She spotted a hallway to the right which was still clear of the skirmish. "Quick, follow me!"

She knew that somewhere, Kess and Ashe were still inside, but right now, her responsibility was to the cause and she needed to get her team out of harm’s way. They moved, keeping away from the fighting and soon were in the clear. She pushed them ahead and followed up the rear.

Kess.. Ashe.. Survive this.. We'll get you out…


Veld watched as the fight broke out below him. He had taken up a position in the guard room that looked out over the main entryway. From here, he could watch his Turks in action and was proud to see them overtaking the rebels with ease. Reno and Rude, as usual, were at each other's sides; their technique of watching out for one other worked well. Reno's electro-mag rod sparking out as each person it came into contact with was stunned long enough for Rude to finish them off. He saw Marcus' team enter the room and split off to take care of the outliers. Max was a skilled master with his nunchaku, each foe he encountered going down before they could react. Marcus joined in with his own electro-mag rod and blue sparks of wild energy flared up from both sides of the room now.

Pained shouts arose as Tonya's throwing daggers pierced the crowd, none missing their mark. Becca fired from a vantage point, very few were able to escape her trained hand and fell victim to her rapid gunfire. August worked alone as usual, but even when Veld watched a group of Avalanche cronies dog pile on him, they were tossed away like rag dolls. Cissnei and Shion cut down those that stood in their way. Her skill with the shirken was unmatched and her moves appeared as graceful as a ballet as she moved through the skirmish. Shion raised his sword reflexively to protect a guard as the gleam of another sword was stopped.

Veld looked to the owner, a woman with short, brown hair wearing a cream colored cape. She pushed Shion's blade away with an unnatural strength, making the Turk stagger in his stance. Turning around, she slashed at another guard, catching him across the chest, a spurt of blood sprayed out and splattered across her face. Shion slashed at the woman once more, but she evaded him. She spun around, slinging the blood from her blade and glanced upward. Veld's heart was caught in his throat. Brown eyes widened in a sudden realization when he saw her face.

Below him, fighting on the side of the enemy was someone whom he had thought had died long ago. His voice cracked and didn't sound like his own. "Felicia…?"

But she had been killed in Kalm.. With her mother. The Company had told him there were no other survivors.. Yet there she was; cutting through Shinra's forces while the Turks tried in vain to stop her. The Avalanche numbers were dwindling and a man shouted above the fighting to retreat. Veld recognized Shears, one of the leaders, and the Avalanche members began to fall back. Felicia turned and began to follow, pushing her way through the brawl. He had to pursue them. He had to know if it was truly her. Veld quickly left the guard booth and took to the stairs, chasing after the retreating Avalanche forces as a cheer rose above the remaining guards. Many gave chase, a few stayed behind to help those that had fallen. The Turks were among those that were in pursuit.


Fuhito hadn't bothered to check on the mission in the last half hour. As long as Jale hadn’t been lying to him, Avalanche would be successful in planting the bomb, some casualties on both sides would occur, and in the end they would be the victors. But Fuhito didn't care about any of that. It would be less to deal with once all the materia was gathered and Zirconiade summoned. He fiddled with Shears' phone, having hooked it up to his equipment, it was working through the sequence which would break the encryption.

There was a great deal he chose not to share with his Avalanche companions. Such as how every day he wished for their demise and for their energy to return to the Planet. Among all things, he wanted to hit the intangible reset button and just end it all. Put the Planet back on a level playing field without humans to harm it. Bugenhagen may have thought his motives were too extreme, but the truth was, Fuhito felt driven to achieve this goal. No more Shinra Electric Company, no more Avalanche, no more anything. This he vowed would come to pass. As long as Rufus held up his end of the bargain. The bomb was much more destructive than the others were aware. It would rip the reactor apart like a tin can in a hurricane. It would create a chain reaction, igniting the mako within the pipes and damaging much more of Midgar than he originally let on.

It would be the beginning of the end.

Several other plots had been put into place, unknown to Shears and Elfé. He had been in contact with other independent Avalanche cells that were set up throughout the world. Once the remaining materia for Zirconiade had been located, the mako reactors at these sites would be eliminated as well. Coral and Gongaga would fall, the loss of life at the locations may even be enough to charge the materia, thus speeding up the process of calling upon the 'World Burner'.

"Once the reactors fall there will be no more need for Rufus Shinra and his ridiculous plan to overthrow his father.. They will all fall at the feet of Zirconiade.."

His laughter was interrupted by a chime on his computer. Shears phone was unlocked and ready for his prying eyes. He tapped his fingers together with a gleefulness he hid from the others. Spinning in his chair, he snatched up the phone and unlocked the screen. He thumbed through Shears' contacts, looking at all the numbers. Nothing too out of the ordinary here. He moved on to his incoming messages and saw quite a bit were to Morgan. He moved onto the voicemail section, noticing that there were a few there that hadn't been listened to. He saw Morgan's number on the list as the last message, but there were also quite a few from a number he recognized as Shinra issued. He played back Morgan's message, which was identical to the one he had received from her about the reactor being a trap and Diego being a spy.

"Oh yes.. I'll need to alert the Ravens to have her dealt with.." he sighed.

He deleted the message and moved to the ones from the Shinra number. The familiar voice of Lazard Deusericus being heard for the first time in a long while.

Oh… now that is interesting.. Getting information from the inside as well, eh Shears? No wonder he wasn't too eager to share his contact's identity..

Fuhito listened to the various messages, also trying to warn him of the reactor being set up for an ambush. "Oh dear.. Seems I'll be sending the Ravens after two targets.." Fuhito picked up his own cell phone and sent a message to the Ravens' leader, Kanos.

After sending the message, he noticed that he had a missed call himself. Listening to the voicemail, the voice of the man in charge of the Coral infiltration, Barret Wallace, came over the phone. "Everythin's in place here at the construction site. We're on schedule for Tuesday night."

Fuhito smiled and sent a reply via text. Next week, phase two of his plans would begin; to collect the support materia to complete Zirconiade. He set the phone down as a man stepped into the doorway. "Ah, Kanos. Are Kyneugh and Tierce with you?"

"Yes sir," Kanos replied with no emotion.

"Excellent. I've got two former leaders that need to be relieved of their duties.." Fuhito turned in his chair to face the three men as they entered the room.

All were dressed in black uniforms similar to the regular Avalanche garb. Hats with visors obscured most of their face. "Ms. Narshe and Mr. Albrook have abandoned their posts. Remove them. And bring Elfé back here once you separate her from Shears. No need for her to be privy to this.."

The three men saluted Fuhito with fists to their chests and Kanos spoke, "At once sir."

They left his presence and he turned back to his computer screens in silence. The monitors gleamed off his glasses as he pressed them back up the ridge of his nose. "Very soon.. This will all come to fruition.."


Ashe pushed himself up with some effort from the place he had fallen. He was almost certain he had messed up his left leg in the fall with how much his knee burned. He gripped the railing and attempted to pull himself into a sitting position, hoping the burning would cease long enough for him to stand. Kess lay above him, blood still dripping in a thin pool next to where he had landed. He called out her name, but she didn't move. Samantha didn't stir either and Ashe was sure that Jale had managed to cap her in the head. He then remembered that mad man and looked over to where he had landed, but he was no longer lying on the ground.

Without warning, Jale grabbed Ashe by the collar and hoisted him up, shoving him into the metal railing. Ashe heard his back crack uncomfortably before the pain shot through both legs. "And then there was one," Jale sneered.

"Don’t forget about my guardian angel," Ashe laughed through the pain.

As if on cue, another bullet from Tseng fired from above just as Jale threw Ashe with all his might. The injured man slid across the platform towards the opposite edge, his maintenance uniform getting ripped up in the process. He lay still for a moment, the pain in his left knee growing more intense. "Oh Jale.." he managed to say, gritting passed the agony. "Playing Avalanche and the Turks? Your real boss must be someone very important."

Jale started making his way to Ashe once more. "Well seeing as it's the President's own son, yea, I'd say so," he revealed. "But now I'm going to finish you off and then Tseng.. And it'll be business as usual. In fact, with half of the Turks dead, President Shinra will practically be begging for Rufus' Soldiers in Junon to come in and restore order."

Ashe held his side and winced as Jale closed in. It felt like his fractured ribs had returned. "Good to see you don't give a rat's ass about your fellow Turks," he spat as Jale pulled his leg and kicked him in the head.

Ashe fell onto his back, blood began to pour from a fresh wound on his lip. Jale placed his snakeskin boot on the man's chest and raised the reclaimed gun. "Why would I suddenly give a fuck about them now when I didn't give a fuck about them in Wutai?" he admitted.

Before he could pull the trigger and send Ashe to meet the maker, a bone spike erupted from Jale's right shoulder and he shouted a confused "What the fuck!?"

A jagged bone pike suddenly penetrated his right shoulder and he was jerked backwards instantly. The spike ripped out of his shoulder, shredding his jacket and he cried out in agony. Ashe watched as he flew several feet away, still not registering that someone now stood a few paces from where Jale had just been. Ashe fearfully glanced to the winged being and to his amazement saw that it was Kess. "Oh.. That's new.." Ashe breathed uneasily.

Kess stood before him, most of her uniform stained with blood. Behind her, large skeletal wings had emerged from her back, ripping through the jacket to escape. They hovered in anticipation, rising and falling with each tense breath. Her hair had changed as well, the red had lengthened past her shoulders and her roots were a silvery white. Her eyes completely turned a deep crimson, but Ashe saw no recognition in them. She heaved as if it took all of her energy to perform that move on Jale. Ashe's eyes widened on noticing the very obvious changes. "Kess.." he murmured as she seemed to become aware of his attention. "Love the new look.."

Ashe fell backwards again, too weak to keep his head up. The pain was overwhelming, but through it, he saw Jale get back up and level the gun on her. "Kess, behind you!" he tried to shout.

Lightning fast, she moved from her spot and had grabbed Jale's hand. "Urgh!" he grunted as her strength overpowered him.

She crushed his fingers, ripping the gun from his gloved hand and threw it over the railing. Her other hand grasped his throat and she raised him a foot off the ground. His hands free, Jale punched at her chest injury causing her to drop him. Once on the ground, he kicked his leg out, sweeping her legs out from under her. The wing tips planted themselves into the floor, crushing the concrete with the weight. She managed to stay up and kicked out at Jale. Her feet were no longer clad in boots but instead clawed talons. Kess wasn't even sure herself what was going on. But after gloating about killing her brother, she felt a driving need to end Jale's life.

Jale dodged her moves and jumped up onto the railing. He kicked at her face, but her hands were now talons as well and she raked them across his leg, shredding his pants and embedding them in his calf. He lost his balance but launched himself at her to keep from going over the side. He pulled out a knife from his left boot and plunged it into her neck, narrowly missing the bomb still implanted there. Kess reeled back and unleashed an inhuman shriek that echoed throughout the reactor.

She felt drained.. Weak. She needed to recharge.. The mako. Just like those in Deepground required, the mako would revive her… But the power was leaving her, the transformation had happened too fast and she couldn't sustain it. She was on her back, the talons were shrinking leaving bloodied fingernails and toenails in their wake. The drive to kill Jale was fading as he stood above her to pull the knife from her neck.

"Well that was surprising to say the least.. You really were a special project, weren't you…" Jale growled through grit teeth. "More like a lab freak!"

The pain in his leg burned as if he'd been stabbed with pure fire. He pulled up his tattered pant leg and saw that his veins were a deep purple in color. "What the fuck are you?" he questioned.

He pulled back to stab her once more, but a gunshot ripped through the silence, impacting Jale in the chest. He had forgotten Tseng.. The force sent him tumbling backwards and over the railing. He disappeared, falling to his end in the mako pool below. Kess' bone wings detached from her back as she rolled over onto her side and she cringed. She coughed, blood sputtering out across the floor. She sensed Ashe crawling over to her before her vision blacked out.

Ashe managed to get to Kess' side, dragging his injured leg uncomfortably behind him. He reached her, pulling her up to hold her close. Her hair was still a strange, silvery hue but her eyes had gone back to normal. He was so concerned with her that he didn't notice that Jale had heaved himself up onto the railing, holding on with one hand, fumbling with the detonator in the other. Once he had the device ready, he whistled. "Yo, Kincaid," Jale taunted.

Ashe shot his head up to see Jale dangling on the railing, holding on with his right hand. He held the detonator up in the other with a menacing grin. "See you both in hell, Ashey boy!"

Ashe winced and held Kess close as Jale pressed the detonator, ready for the end but nothing happened. He opened his eyes moments later when Jale screamed, "Oh shit!"

Ashe saw the man staring at his watch as it lit up in a brilliant ball of light and exploded. Jale's hand was blown clean off at the wrist, thanks to the bomb Ashe had forgotten all about. His hand remained clutched to the railing while the rest of him was sent falling to his death. An audible splash reached Ashe's ears and all noise ceased as his strength finally gave out and he fell over at Kess' side.

--End Chapter 14..