Chapter 2: Somewhat Damaged


The older man tapped at the thick glass that separated him from the outside world. Below, people flooded the street around the hole that was created over an hour ago. Several emergency vehicles crowded the area and barricades were in place. He sighed before turning away from the scene and continuing his speech. "You mean to tell me that Genesis Rhapsodos, the ex-Soldier renegade, attacked MY city and caused all this?!" he thundered.

The younger man he was addressing remained motionless in his stance, unwavering as the berating continued. "Not only that, but Hollander, the ex-head of my science department, broke in and tried to steal Shinra documents. Thankfully failing due to the Turks, at least something went right tonight.."

"President.. I am certain that Soldier would have handled the situation perfectly fine with or without the presence of the Turks.." the young man replied. He wore a gray suit with a cornflower blue tie and white gloves. His platinum blond hair was neat but also working its way into his gaze. He brushed it aside with a small gesture and peered over the top edge of his glasses.

The President moved towards his executive desk and sank into the plush chair. Dirty blond hair greased back, he wore black today which seemed to suit his mood just fine. He propped his arms up onto the desk and leaned into his hands. "So you say, Director Lazard.. So you say..." He grew silent and contemplative.

Lazard brought up a small rectangular tablet. Without looking up, he said "There were also reports of another sighting..."

The older man harrumphed. "Oh. And who or what might that have been?"

Lazard glanced up, pressing his glasses further up the bridge of his thin nose. He smirked. "Angeal Hewley."

President Shinra glanced up and he lowered his hands to the desk. "You're certain?"

"The report I received stated as much.. As reported by Zack Fair, one of our guys on the ground. He also helped beat back most of the monsters that Genesis summoned." Lazard glanced to the tablet in his hand, scrolling through the report with a gloved finger. "There's something else..." he began, still scrolling.

"And that is...?"

"The explosion.. The one that damaged the building.. It occurred right before eight o'clock."

"Your point, Director Lazard..?"

Lazard moved closer, glancing up from the tablet. "Genesis' forces were reported moments later, however, evidence suggests that they were not the cause of the blast. I believe Avalanche to be the culprits here."

Shinra settled back in his chair and undid the buttons on his suit jacket. "They wouldn't be so bold.. They're street skirmishers. Common thugs. Vermin. What motivation would they have to come straight to the building.."

"Perhaps to rescue one of their own. The woman that was captured earlier this evening.. She escaped." Lazard explained.

"Oh, that is just wonderful!" Shinra threw his hands up in a blatant display of anger. "First I've got Wutai descending into utter chaos over the Mako reactor deal, Angeal and Genesis going AWOL, Avalanche nipping at my heels every chance they get, and now prisoners are literally escaping the cell block. Next you'll tell me that Sephiroth's lost his mind and is rampaging through the building! Only a few weeks ago, some Avalanche zealot shot me at the environmental conference in Junon!"

He instinctively moved his right hand to cradle his left side, still sore from the surgery he endured recently. “Blasted thing is still tender..” he grumbled, trying not to show how much the yelling had aggravated it.

"Sir.." Lazard attempted to calm him. "I only meant to inform you. Not distress you. Please, before you give yourself undue stress."

President Shinra settled down, his bushy blond mustache twitching angrily with his grumbles. "It's ridiculous. When I started this company, it was to improve the quality of life. Easier said than done. Now I've got mass desertions and eco terrorists fighting me on all sides!" He spun his chair to the side and stared out the window again. The Midgar skyline greeted him and he shook his head. "And for what? Because I'm 'hurting the planet'?" He used a mocking tone. "Hogwash! I'm saving lives! Think of all the people who would be in darkness without Shinra Electric Power Company."

Lazard's gloved hand tightened into a fist out of sight. "Of course sir... You have.. helped so many.."

Shinra sighed and made a sweeping gesture towards the window then turned back to Lazard. "I want the Turks on Avalanche. You handle Angeal and Genesis.. But I want Public Security scouring every inch of Midgar." he straightened up once more. "Is there anything else?"

"There is one last thing.."

President Shinra sighed with a sense of resignation. "Let's hear it then."

Lazard brought the tablet up once more and read from its surface. "Nibelheim. Two more workers have gone missing at the mako reactor there," Lazard spoke grimly. "I think we should send in a team to investigate."

Shinra sighed and sat back in his chair. "Send a small security detail. Find out if they're even still alive. That makes five now." he mused. "Report back the findings. We may have to send a more skilled team depending on what they find."

"Of course, sir."

Lazard turned to leave the office. The door slid open as he approached and he was gone. President Shinra pressed a button on his phone and a voice came across. "Yes sir?"

"Annette, get me Veld."

"Right away, sir." she answered.


Veld Tengille was up to his elbows in reports about that evening's attack on Midgar. Between the surprise invasion and the busted air conditioner on the 42nd floor, he wasn't sure what was worse. He had rolled his sleeves up to alleviate the overbearing heat of the office. He was 'too old for this shit', but knew better than to complain. His place, along with that of the Turks in general, was turbulent at best with the President. They had failed thus far to squash the group known as Avalanche or bring those involved with the mass Soldier desertion under control. It wasn't too much of a surprise when his cell phone rang and he saw who it was. "Hello, yes?" he answered as if the caller was unknown. "I'm just finishing up my report on the attack."

He listened intently, his other hand pushing through sweat soaked hair that was already in disarray. His amber colored eyes narrowing in annoyance. "Yes, of course. I can be there in ten minutes. I'm on my way now."

The conversation ended and he hung up. Releasing a heavy sigh, Veld looked at the stack of papers to his left and the desktop computer before him. He was close to being done, but Annette was adamant that he arrive as soon as possible. He was certain he could hear the President raving in the background. Defeated, Veld locked the system and shut the monitor off. He stood and called out, "Li Feng, I'm headed upstairs. President Shinra has requested my presence. Care to join me?"

A much younger man appeared in the doorway to the right. He wore his jet, black hair in a high ponytail and looked mildly annoyed. "Sir, please don't call me that.."

Veld chuckled as he tugged a black suit jacket over his white dress shirt. "Sorry, Tseng. Old habits of an old codger," Veld apologized. "Shall we?"

Tseng crossed the spacious office to a nearby sink and dumped out the contents of a mug. Veld waited by the door and then they left the office, walking towards the elevator at the end of the hallway. It was the two of them now, the other Turks having left for the night. But he had a feeling he was going to be calling in Marcus, Drake, and Becca after this meeting with the President. Both Veld and Tseng began to feel the temperature become colder the higher they rose. "When do you think they'll get around to fixing the air?" Tseng asked.

Veld shrugged and frowned, the scar on his left cheek became more apparent when he grimaced. "Who knows.. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't for a while to force us to work harder. The President is not pleased with the Turks at the moment since the incident in Junon.. Which is why I wonder what this meeting is about."

He sighed and leaned on the glass wall, downtown growing smaller and smaller below them. Smoke rose from various points in the city and searchlights from two helicopters swept around the highways. "Still looking for insurgents?" Tseng asked.

"Almost certainly."

Tseng replied with a nod and the city disappeared from below as they hit the 59th floor. Soldiers greeted them there with disdainful expressions but said nothing. Veld was well aware that once they were out of earshot, the back biting comments would begin. "Cowards," Veld muttered once the second elevator was well on its way.

Tseng remained silent. He knew that Veld's loyalty was first to President Shinra and second to the Turks. They were his family. And as a father with his children, Veld was strict and sometimes harsh on his subordinates, but never reckless with them and he would never intentionally place them in harm's way. He was careful and calculating; to put his people in danger would be foolish. For this, the other Turks respected him greatly and trusted his judgment without question. Tseng was being trained to take over as Veld was approaching retirement. But he had a hard time giving Tseng complete control and was known to be over-demanding with the young apprentice. All the same, Tseng held a great reverence for his leader. It was Veld himself that had recruited Tseng to the Turks just over ten years ago.


The only child of Wutaiian immigrants who had moved to Delphini Port. The decision to leave Wutai came easily when whispers about the conflict with Shinra began. They would rather leave their home than allow their son to be dragged into an eventual war. Despite trying to put distance between themselves and the ever growing tensions in Wutai, they knew deep down it was only a matter of time before it would reach their doorstep.

The first sign was in the form of an anonymous note left on the counter of the restaurant they owned. It was ominous, nasty and warned of a fire at their home, which was above the restaurant, if they didn't leave town. Wutai had resisted the Shinra Company's offer, or order depending on who was telling the story, of having a mako reactor built. Now the Company was involved in a smear campaign against the entire eastern nation. It became so bad, that the Tseng family considered moving once more. By this time, Li Feng was seventeen. War was on the horizon and he felt that the only way to keep his family safe was to join the Shinra army. Maybe then the threatening letters, the graffiti sprayed on the downstairs windows, and the random acts of racism towards them would stop.

It was a shock to his parents when he told them that he had been recruited. He would be leaving for upper Junon at the end of the month, just after graduation. Though having done all they could to keep their only child from the cruelty of war, they accepted his decision. Three long months of training kept him from visiting his parents. But after graduating basic, he was able to travel back to under Junon. He hand delivered the invitation to attend the ceremony to his tearful mother. His father was silent and stern, but Li Feng knew they were proud of him. Due to his excellent skill in marksmanship, he had been given a recommendation to join the ranks of Third Class. The President himself, along with his family, would be in attendance for the grand event to welcome to newly minted recruits to the Company.

Li Feng had never seen President Shinra or his family in person before. Only in publications or the occasional black and white news reel talking about the importance of mako reactors and why the war in Wutai was necessary. He wasn't nervous as he sat straight and unwavering in his cadet uniform despite the June heat. President Shinra stood before the crowd at a podium and gave the opening speech. He talked about pride a lot. Pride in one's hard work and perseverance. Pride on the battlefield. And pride while at home. The President's wife and son sat behind him, their blond hair gleaming in the sunlight that streamed over the outdoor stage. Momentarily, Li Feng caught the gaze of Rufus, the president's fourteen year old son. The icy, blue stare from the youth kept him locked in place like a serpent's gaze. He nearly missed clapping for the President once his speech had ended.

After the stuffy ceremony concluded, a few of Li Feng's fellow recruits broke off to head up to the air strip for a more relaxed gathering. He was invited but declined the offer, instead deciding to join his parents for lunch. It was then that a wailing siren sounded loudly over Junon's intercom. Li Feng stopped a Third Class Soldier that was running by and asked if it was Wutai. The man hurriedly replied that it was the President's son, Rufus. He had been kidnapped by pirates but no one knew where they were. Li Feng left his parents in the street and ran after the Third Class. He broke off near the edge of the city street and looked over the railing to the sea below. Pirates, he deduced, would have a boat.

He removed the rifle from his shoulder and readied it, peering through the scope at the boats that lined the harbor below. Even if the Soldier units in the city took the lift to Delphini Port, it may be too late to stop the would-be kidnappers. If he could just get a visual on Rufus.. He spotted the shimmer of blond hair on the deck of a small blue yacht trying to leave the dock. The magnified lens of the rifle confirmed it was Rufus. He seemed unharmed so far, but the men around him were scurrying to make sail before Shinra's forces could stop them. Li Feng inhaled deeply and didn't release his breath until every single rogue on the ship's deck had been dispatched. The terrified captain grabbed Rufus to use as a shield after having just watched his entire crew succumb to Li Feng's superior aim.

He grabbed the young boy's face, putting a knife to his cheek. Li Feng knew he had two bullets left, but only one shot rang out across the harbor, a dead-shot to the forehead of the man. The knife graced Rufus' cheek only slightly, leaving a thin red slice, but he was otherwise unharmed. The rest of the Li Feng's squad who had been up on the airstrip could be seen boarding a boat below to retrieve the President's son. Apparently, the only words the boy spoke when help finally arrived were, "What took you so long..?"

Li Feng reported to his commander after the incident and was applauded for his efforts to save the son of the President. He thought nothing of it, all in the line of duty, he reasoned. He made his preparations to leave home to travel to Midgar for his Soldier training. But before his ship was to leave, a message came from the office of the Turks. When he arrived in Midgar, Li Feng was to report to the Shinra Headquarters at the center of the city. Puzzled by the request, he left Junon, unsure of what awaited him in Midgar.

When he arrived at the building that Friday afternoon, he was directed to go the 42nd floor. Veld Tengille was there and offered the young man a seat before his desk. Li Feng had dressed casually for the trip and felt slightly out of place in his fatigues while the sharp-dressed leader of the Turks lauded his rescue of the heir of Shinra. He listened on, still not quite sure why he had been summoned here instead of being allowed to join the other Third Class recruits in Sector Four.

"That said," Veld explained, "I'd like to extend an invitation for you to join the Turks instead."

Li Feng stared at Veld, dumbfounded by the words. "I, uh.."

Veld smiled. "Surely you didn't think your heroic actions would go unnoticed? The President and his wife owe the life of their son to you."

"But my Third Class training.."

"A pittance to what you will achieve as a Turk," Veld scoffed. "What do you say? Training starts Monday. Give you a little time to acclimate yourself with Midgar. It's definitely a different environment than Junon."

The wheels in Li Feng's head were turning. He had only heard rumors about the work that the Turks were involved with. They were originally designed to recruit the best of the best for Soldier. But over time, their function shifted more to operate as the President's bodyguards and personal assassins. By the time Li Feng had first heard of the Turks, all that remained of them was Veld Tengille, the others having either disappeared or died in the field. From the stories he had been told in the Soldier Academy, becoming a Turk would certainly afford him more freedom.

He glanced up, meeting Veld's serious gaze. "Alright. I accept."

"I knew you would."


Tseng was brought back to the moment at hand as the steel elevator slowed to a crawl. The pair exited, making the trek to the upper floor. Annette alerted the President and within moments, the pair stood before his desk. "Ah, Veld. And you brought Tseng. Just as well," He spoke somewhat indifferently to them.

"Sir, Vice President," Veld greeted both the President and his son, Rufus Shinra, the Company's Vice President who was sitting at the edge of the large desk.

Rufus nodded, bits of his strawberry blond hair falling into his gaze which he swept away. "Let's get down to business then," the elder Shinra began.

Tseng stood rigid at Veld's side, both of them had placed their arms behind their backs to stand at attention. Neither of them said a word and waited for the President to continue. "I can see that with all the current issues at hand, the Turks are going to need all the help they can get. I know you've stepped up recruitment but you need an experienced hand to.." he trailed off, looking at Rufus.

"To 'lay the smack down'," Rufus continued, using air quotes as he spoke.

President Shinra chuckled and scratched his mustache. "Yes, well said, son." He placed both hands on the desk and stood, moving away from his chair. He walked over to where Rufus was sitting and his son handed him a thick manila envelope that was labeled with a large red 'Classified' stamp on its surface.

"Which is why Rufus came up with the idea of reinstating a seasoned veteran, long since put on house arrest.."

Veld held his breath, knowing exactly who they were speaking of, even before taking the packet from the President as he walked around the desk to hand it to the old Turk. Tseng was intimately familiar with the story, but kept quiet as well. Veld took the classified documents and held them carefully as if they might detonate. He was less than happy about this order and with anger tugging at his heart, he couldn't stop himself.

"Sir, I think this will be a huge mistake," he blurted out.

The President had turned to walk back to his desk but stopped dead in his tracks. He craned his head back to the two Turks and then fully faced them. "Oh, you do, do you?" he asked rhetorically.

Veld stood his ground, holding tight to the packet but lowering his arm to his side. "Yes, I do. You know what this man is capable of," he continued.

"Indeed. Which is why I want him back working with the Turks because he'll get the job done!" President Shinra shouted. He was tired of insubordination, especially from Veld and his men. "And if you don't like it, I'll take your resignation right now."

Veld's expression hardened and he set his jaw in anger. The President was testing his loyalty with those words. But he knew in the end, he would do what he was told. Inside, his heart was hollow and cold. Without orders to follow, he would be left alone with his thoughts and that was a terror he could not abide. But he also needed to remind his leader why Jale Gerrick was under house arrest in Costa del Sol.

"Besides being reckless, he put the lives of his fellow Turks in jeopardy and got an entire squadron of Soldiers killed in Wutai. Jale Gerrick is where he is now because of his blatant disregard of orders," Veld spoke steadily, but Tseng could discern the emotion in his boss' words.

"Because of his actions, Avalanche was able to secure a massive amount of weapons after he destroyed the munitions factory. He also killed the weapon broker we were sent in to rescue. The explosion also killed a group of men and women who were working under Shinra's command in that factory. Tseng witnessed the entire thing," Veld said.

"But he ensured that the secrets of the Company were secured," Rufus spoke up from across the room. "Isn't that the prime directive…?"

Veld gripped the packet tighter. "Of course, sir." He knew any further arguing would put the Turks out of favor even more and he wished to avoid that at all costs.

The President waved his hand and turned away. "The Soldiers knew the risk of being in a war. Casualties happen, it's unavoidable. Gerrick's actions accomplished our goals, regardless of how he went about things." He faced them. "Do what you're told." He walked back to his desk and reclaimed his chair. "I want him on that woman who escaped, so don't send him out on any mediocre information gathering errands."

Veld felt that was their dismissal and he turned to leave. Tseng followed silently behind him. President Shinra retrieved a fat cigar from the stash box on his desk. He produced a small hand cutter from his inner jacket pocket and clipped the tip. He tapped the clipped end on a tray and then placed it into his mouth. Rolling it back and forth, he lit the other end with a silver lighter and puffed as a large amount of smoke obscured his face.

Rufus stood and moved to leave. He hated it when his father smoked those stinky cigars. "Rufus, m'boy. You're off?"

"I'm going to make preparations for the new arrival.." He left the office.


Fuhito stepped towards Kess and Morgan, motioning to a chair. "Please, have a seat here and we'll get you prepared for the extraction." He glanced up as another individual entered the room. "Ah, Shears. We're about to begin the procedure." He motioned for him and Morgan to take the other chairs.

Shears rubbed his hands together and sighed, "Let's get this started."

Fuhito grabbed a cable and then moved towards Kess' head. He worked at the side of her scalp for a moment, then stepped back to reveal the wires plugged in behind Kess' ear. Morgan stared for a moment before pulling her gaze away and glancing at the computer. In an instant, information flooded the screen. It looked like a waterfall of text and symbols. "Encrypted of course.." Fuhito said with an amused tone. "No matter.."

He went to work decoding the text and making it appear more like words. Soon, the information was as clear as crystal. Fuhito pointed to a few parts, using the touch screen to pull those pieces into groups. He then pulled the view back and the text on the screen shifted from words to a wire frame image. It appeared to be a building. Morgan was startled on hearing Shears gasp. It was the Shinra Building; every floor, every entrance, every room. It was all there. Morgan clapped loudly with a 'woo-hoo!'. Shears sat in silence.

Elfé opened her eyes and glanced around the room at the sound of Morgan's cheering. "I'm glad to see that you completed this task, Kess," she said with a faint smile.

"Indeed. Perhaps you will prove to be one of us soon enough," Shears said curtly.

Morgan shot her gaze pointedly to Shears and shook her head. "Despite her past with the Shinra, I can vouch for Kess. She holds no ties with them, same as Ashe, and hasn't he already gained your favor?"

"We'll see," was his response. But he glanced over to Kess who rested in the chair and nodded. She had earned his respect, for now at least.

He stood, muttering a few words and then turned back to the group. "Well, process the rest of that and then we'll hold a meeting. I'll be discussing things with Elfé until you are finished." He turned to leave and Elfé followed.

Fuhito remained at the screen as the rest of the information downloaded. Kess relaxed a bit, closing her eyes. Her mind drifted from the current situation to a time before all of this. As Morgan's words lingered in her mind, she recalled the path that had led her to this moment…

It started with the death of her family.


Kess grew up in Kalm, a small oceanic town on the eastern continent. Her parents owned the inn there and made a good business of it. She had an older brother by two years named Grey and he was the best brother anyone could ask for. In fact, Kess felt he made a better best friend than a brother. He was protective and kind, only teasing her occasionally. Never purposefully mean or hurtful. They spent their childhood building forts out of driftwood on the nearby beach and battled imaginary behemoths with sticks.

Their father, Owen, would come collect them before nightfall and they would 'play battle' with him on the way home. On seeing the sight of them, their mother Gina, would almost always comment that La Mer, the town's name for the sea, did a number on them that day. Sandy feet and bottoms, tanned skin and wet pant legs. They were told to wash up for supper and deposit their newly found rocks and shells in a tray for washing. They would tell their parents about the day, what the tide brought in, and other adventures. They were reminded to complete their homework and lay out their clothes for the next day. And most of the time, this was the routine.

Despite the fun times, Kess had a constant sense of feeling separated. She used to have dreams that were vivid and disturbing but fleeting. She tried to tell her parents about them, but they would always remind her they were dreams and couldn't hurt her. Grey was the only one who believed that they might be more than a figment. This came about when Grey had just bested her in a stick battle. As he moved to help her up, his appearance shifted from her brother to that of a strange boy with light brown hair and unnerving blue eyes. Before she could stop herself, she called him a different name.


Grey shrugged it off playfully, asking if that was her boyfriend's name at school. But on seeing that it really bothered her, he began to wonder if there wasn't something more to it. Once while glancing up at some trees behind the inn, she swore there were purple apples clinging to the branches. The feeling was like déjà vu and gone almost as quickly. Grey poked fun at her for a while about her 'purple apple tree', but stopped when he saw how upset the teasing made her. Their parents chalked it up to her imagination and laughed about it.

"Purple apples?" her father jested. "Banora White's don't grow this far north dear." He smiled, ruffled her black hair, and went about his business minding the inn.

Another time when she was nine, she was in the kitchen while her mother was cooking supper. Kess had come home early from school after falling and scraping her knees. She was propped up at the kitchen table, sliding an ice pack over the sore spot. Another woman's voice spoke from by the stove where her mother was and Kess looked up to see someone else there instead. She inspected the small room and was thrown into a panic that her mother was gone and this strange woman had taken her place. She turned to face Kess and she saw that the woman had short black hair and a thinner frame. She smiled at Kess and she felt a wave of calmness wash over her.

"Honey, what's wrong?" Kess' mother's voice broke through the vision.

The scene blurred and the woman faded, her own mother standing before her. The moment felt so surreal and Kess had to try very hard to keep from crying. The unsettling feeling would not leave, so she pressed the ice pack tighter to her knees in an attempt to flood her senses with pain and push the uneasy feelings away.

Sometimes when she stood on the cliffs outside of town, the thought of throwing herself into the crashing waves below was overwhelming. She never truly meant to think these thoughts, but the temptation was there if it would rid her of the relentless pulling she felt. What lands lay beyond the ocean? She knew that Banora and Mideel were to the south, she had learned as much in school. Something was calling her across those dark waters; as if she belonged somewhere else.

As Kess grew into her teen years, the dreams would fade and the instances grew less frequent. After she turned sixteen, she seemed to have forgotten them altogether, but the longing to leave the town only grew stronger. Grey had applied to join Soldier when he was eighteen and they wasted no time in getting him signed up, evaluated, and shipped out. They needed as many people as they could get in the preparation for the war with Wutai. The Wutaiians had refused the order to make way for the Shinra Company to install a mako reactor on their islands. They believed that extracting energy in such a manner would have detrimental effects on their environment. Hector Shinra saw things another way and began construction anyway. The site was attacked by a local resistance not long after.

Shinra responded swiftly, declaring war on the eastern nation. Many men and women were being recruited at high volumes to go to Wutai and fight for Shinra. Grey was sent to Junon where he would train for combat. Upon leaving, he asked Kess to 'keep an eye on mom and dad' and promised to write. The goodbye was tearful, Kess making her mind up to get a job with the Company so they could hopefully visit more often. Grey departed and it would be three long months before training was over and they saw him again.

Over the next few years, Kess worked hard at her studies. She wrote to Grey whenever she had the chance. During the final week of testing at school, a recruiter in a dark suit came and spoke to her graduating class about the prospects of joining Soldier. It was rumored that he was a Turk. Everyone filled out an aptitude test even if they did not wish to join. It was explained that this was not a forceful recruitment, but after seeing the benefits, they may choose to change their career decisions. Thinking nothing of it, Kess completed the test and put it to the back of her mind.

After graduation, she filled out many applications for jobs within the Shinra Company. One was for a security officer for the newly completed Shinra Building in Midgar, another was for a receptionist on the main floor and there were others. It was no wonder many people had moved to Midgar despite the city still being under construction. A week passed, then a month. No word came to the Reignheart's about Kess' acceptance into any position.

Until one rainy afternoon. Kess was reading on the couch, her father entered the living room, a letter in hand. He placed it on the coffee table before her with a smile. "This came for you just now. But it's not from Midgar, I think it's from Junon." he said aloud so her mother could hear as well.

Kess' mother came over to see what the news was. "Go on, open it!"

Kess took the envelope and ripped it on one side, tilting it to slide the folded letter into her hand. She opened it and read over the page, "It's from Soldier. It says I've been accepted for duty and to report in Junon on the 5th if interested." She skimmed the page, her heart skipping a beat. "This means I'll get to see Grey!"

Her eyes moved towards the bottom of the paper where a large Soldier insignia adorned the page next to a few illegible signatures. Without warning, her mind flashed to gloved hands holding an identical page, the name Kess Reignheart replaced with another.. 'Angeal Hewley'. She also saw the words 'Wutai' and 'Fort Tamblin' on the paper.

Her vision darkened as her ears seemed to fill with water and a sharp pain started in her temple. She became aware that her mother was holding her up. "There there honey, it is a shock! But no need to faint," she laughed, caressing her shoulder gently. "This is wonderful news!"

Kess glanced to her father who was smiling with approval. She wasn't underwater as she had thought and was still in the living room. She forced a smile, clutching the letter.

Who the hell is Angeal Hewely..?

A party was planned due the short amount of time Kess had to prepare for her departure. She packed what belongings she was allowed to bring and on the 5th, had a tearful goodbye with her parents at the edge of town. A truck had arrived not too long before and families were saying farewells as their grown children moved to the awaiting vehicle. "Write to us when you get there," her father stated.

She climbed into the back of the truck with the others and took a seat on a long bench, waving goodbye as the engine revved, and they were on their way. Despite her parents' wishes, the journey was nothing to write home about. Kess was jostled about in the back of the recruit truck like a sack of poorly packed vegetables. Some of the others that were in the compartment with her had taken this opportunity to nap. At least they appeared to be trying to. She wasn't sure how anyone could sleep through the bumpy ride. Kess' gaze wandered from the closed quarters of the compartment to the outside via a small window across the aisle. A vast landscape spread out in the form of green hills and dense forests. The area began to clear, becoming more barren. This meant they were approaching Midgar.

She overheard a conversation between a few of the boys sitting on the bench in front of her. “Think we'll get to meet Sephiroth?” one asked.

"Oh man, that would be so cool!” another lamented. “The Great Sephiroth."

A third spoke up, "I heard that they started a fan club for Genesis in Midgar. They've got trading cards and everything!"


She leaned up to ask, "Excuse me, who are you all talking about?"

The first one turned to her with a confused look. "You've never heard of Sephiroth or Genesis?"

She suddenly felt her face flush and she was embarrassed. "O-of course I've heard of Sephiroth!" she stammered. "But who is Genesis..?"

"Another 1st Class Soldier. He, Sephiroth and another make up the elite Shinra force fighting at the front," the second one said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, I see.."

She sank back into her seat, mulling over the name. How had she known this name for so long? The thought plagued her as the truck plugged along, driving into a shallow canyon. Midgar could faintly be seen in the distance, and a low, barely audible hum filled Kess' ears. It grew to a vibration the closer they got to the city. She was glad they would be going to the port on the coast and not entering Midgar proper. She wanted out of Kalm but also wasn't too keen on moving to the huge metropolis. Something about it didn't settle well with her. She faced the front of the vehicle as it turned and the coastline came into view. Expecting to see the same vibrant, blue waters and sandy beaches that Kalm was known for, she was somewhat dismayed to be met with a lack luster scene.

A large pier stood ahead, constructed of the most weathered wood Kess had ever seen. It appeared to have been damaged by more than the salty air over time, as if its very essence had been sucked from it. The water beyond was a dull gray mass that lapped at the shores with a sickly slowness. Kess' heart sank a bit, having hoped her send off would have been more memorable, but the atmosphere seemed to be warning her of her deepest fear; was this a mistake? She didn't mention the memory flash when she had gotten her letter to either parent, having long learned that they didn't believe her. Or maybe they wanted to ignore it. In either case, she was wondering about the name she saw on the paper that wasn't her own. When she thought about it, she was filled with both a foreboding feeling and a comfortable warmth. The conflict in emotions was starting to become too much and she closed her eyes until the truck came to a stop.

The boat ride was long and uneventful. She chatted with a few of her fellow Kalm recruits, all of them had been classmates with her. They joked and boasted about why they were chosen. Kess decided to remain on deck, watching the land pass by in the distance. She contemplated much, but came no conclusions. She decided for now to focus on getting settled and reuniting with Grey. Upon arriving in Junon, the new recruits were given their bunks in the barracks and then a brief welcoming ceremony was held. Wilhelm Heidegger, the Sergeant Major of the army, was in attendance long enough to give a small speech before disappearing off stage.

Kess didn't have to report for duty until the following morning and so set out to find Grey. She didn't have to search too hard, for as she exited the main assembly hall, she spied him leaning against a lamp post. Short white hair like their mother's and a new bulky build, Kess still recognized him right away. "There's my sister!" Grey called out.

She raced for him and the two shared a loving hug. After a moment, he pulled back and ruffled her dark hair, asking, "So..? Eh eh?" He looked around the area, as if to ask her what she thought.

"This place is huge! I haven't even attempted to find my bunk yet. I'm so hungry, where's a good place to eat?"

Grey laughed and gripped her shoulder, guiding her from the street. "Easy there, sis! Geez, you act like you're excited or something," he joked as they walked with the others who left the assembly hall.

He turned and opened a door to a small bar, motioning for her to enter. Once inside, he joined a group of individuals he was well acquainted with, introducing Kess. "Everyone, this is my little sister. Fresh off the boat, here to join the fun," he spoke lightheartedly and gestured around the table. "Ray, Adam, Renee, this is Kess."

They all greeted her as Kess shook their hands and took a seat. Food was ordered, the drinks were plentiful, and Kess pushed away the uneasy feelings. She was glad for her decision, excited to make up the lost time with Grey. But it was not to last. Kess had been in training for a week before Grey was shipped out along with several other units to the war front in Wutai. It would be the last time she saw him.

Kess continued her training, standing out in her unit as one of the top recruits. She received letters from Grey every week, but after she had completed her first year, the letters stopped. She soon received a letter from Shinra saying that they regretted to inform her of Grey's death. He was killed in an accidental explosion at the war front. Less than a month later, still reeling over the loss of her brother, she learned that a military accident had killed both of her parents and many of the townspeople of Kalm. Missiles intended for a strike 30 kilometers northeast of the town had been reprogrammed in a computer error to strike the town instead. Kalm was wiped out.

In less than three weeks, Kess had lost the most important people in her life. To say she was devastated didn't do the situation justice. In a very dark place, Kess resigned to take her own life so that she might join them. It was a moment that she didn't like to remember.. But still the memory came back of her standing at the edge of the Junon airstrip one rainy evening. She'd been drinking, her foot slipped on the slick runway, and she fell. She screamed, catching the attention of some Soldiers on the edge of the walkway near the barracks. They ran to help, but before they could arrive, she let go. She plummeted several hundred feet to the ocean below.

La Mer, take me..

She remembered hitting the water, the rush of the iciness filling the space around her. It enveloped her as she forced the air from her lungs and sank. She blacked out, either from the shock or the hypothermia. But when she awoke, a bright light was being shined into each eye, the blur of a man hovered above her. "She's still alive, thank Minerva," she heard him say. "Get her to the infirmary."

She lost consciousness once more. When she woke up again, she was in a hospital room.. Or at least she thought she was. There were machines everywhere, various wires and tubes hanging all around. She raised her hand and saw an I.V. taped to the back of her hand, feeding her a steady stream of what appeared to be mako. As she would come to find out, she had been pulled from the ocean moments after she passed out. She was no longer in Junon, but discovered she had been moved to Midgar. Taken to an infirmary hidden deep beneath the slums that had once been the forgotten town of Thrym.

After pleading with doctors for days to tell her where she had been taken, she learned that it was a place called Deepground. The facility acted as a hospital and rehabilitation center for wounded Soldiers. Kess found herself among others who had been injured, Soldiers from Wutai mostly. She wondered if Grey had been brought here after the explosion. Maybe Shinra was mistaken and he was alive, still here among the wounded. Her hopes dwindled as the weeks wore on. She was allowed to move about the facility and in that time, she had discovered that the explosion that occurred in Wutai didn't have any survivors. She was crushed.

It was at this time that she also met Professor Hojo. He seemed fascinated by her. Most of all by the fact she hadn't been killed by the fall that landed her here. Kess' first impression of the man never changed. She found him cold, but he also seemed very dedicated to his work. He was always asking questions, a show of concern? Unlikely. Kess wasn't able to put how she felt about him into words. He had an air of unshakable devotion.

A walking mass of complexes.

Kess learned that she had been assigned to a group of other recovering Soldiers and they were to become his latest project. The group was exposed to an array of tests designed to break them. They were over heated, frozen, put through rigorous training exercises, injected with refined mako, operated on to help boost their reflexes, and other physical capabilities. The mako doses would increase over time, making everyone sicker and less able to carry out their tasks.

Whether due to the constant near death experiences or the training itself, something awoke within Kess. She began to respond positively to the experiments and the various exercises. She grew stronger, more adaptable. She blew the scientists away with a new trick she had somehow gained. Through concentration, she had the ability to shift her appearance. The effects were mild; hair and eye color and some changes to her facial features. It wasn't drastic, but could be enough to trick a camera and allow her to avoid detection. Professor Hojo was very pleased with the results he was getting.

During one of the final experiments before her complete initiation into Deepground, it was discovered that she had an innate ability to perform what was called SND, aka synaptic net dive. Through touching a device hooked up to the Worldwide Network, Kess could sync her mind with it and glean information from the virtual world. She would be able to access anything that was stored there such as Shinra archive files, journals, messages, and some of the Companies highly sought after secrets. She was also fitted with a control chip to restrict what she could access and keep her in line.

Kess graduated the program with little ceremony. Others who were with her were forced to wear suits that injected them with a constant flow of mako to keep them stable. But for reasons unknown to her, this suit was not necessary in her case. This seemed to baffle the scientists assigned to oversee the project as well. All except Hojo.. And Kess took notice of this. Two years had passed since her family's demise.

Various missions were given those who had joined Deepground. Most of them were to retrieve wounded Soldiers from the front and bring them back to Midgar. Their numbers swelled and soon there were enough of them to be called a force in their own regard. Kess was put under the command of a woman named Argento and initially given missions to retrieve information. This kept her busy enough and as time went on the she was given more and more freedoms away from the facility. As she was not as reliant on mako as her peers, she started to be assigned assassination jobs.

One such mission led her to dispatch a man who had gotten his hands on some classified information and fled to the deserted northern town of Modeoheim. She was to execute him and retrieve the files. Once the job was done, she sent word that the man had been neutralized. The files would soon be back in Shinra hands. She was given her next assignment; to track and neutralize a rogue Shinra scientist who had blown his lab up a few nights ago and escaped with some classified tech. He was last seen near Gongaga and it was thought that he might be trying to meet up with Avalanche in Cosmo Canyon.

Kess began the process of removing the files from the computer. Normally she would be able to pull the files via synaptic net dive, but it was a closed system. She'd have to do it manually. The absconded files would be uploaded onto the drive implanted within her head via a cable. And as they were moved, a certain phrase caught her attention.. "Kalm Incident"

Once the transfer was complete, she accessed the terminal and searched the files before deleting them. She found the folder and tapped the touch screen with a shaking hand. Laid out before her were detailed instructions, not reports, instructions, on how to carry out a missile strike against the town. Headlined by the Turks' very own Veld Tengille.

Kess read in horror as she discovered the plan cooked up by the Shinra Company to silence a leak that had been traced to Kalm by staging a mistaken missile attack on the town. The report went on to say that any survivors would be taken to Nibelheim for treatment, but no one survived.

She had thrown her life away to serve a company that murdered her parents and the citizens of Kalm. Kess was furious and she had a breakdown right there. Her emotions overcame her and a burst of power shuddered out from her, shaking the entire house. She felt weakened and blacked out. When she came to, she felt as though the control chip no longer restricted her ability to disobey orders. She left the isolated shack and decided that she was going to sever her ties with Shinra for good. She made her way to Cosmo Canyon, deciding that maybe this Avalanche group could benefit from her skills; after all, she wasn't going to be using them to help Shinra any more.

She also discovered that shorting out the control chip unlocked her ability to access information across a broader spectrum on the Worldwide Network. Though closed systems still required direct interaction, she could reach further with her mind than before and was able to do so with any system that had a link. This was the angle she would use to get accepted into Avalanche. It was the ace in her sleeve and she knew they wouldn't be able to resist.

After traveling south for a week, she arrived in Cosmo Canyon. There she met Ashe Kincaid who had also recently told Shinra to 'fuck off', and was now seeking better employment. It was then that Kess realized he was supposed to be her next target. He was the scientist who had blown up his own lab. Kess kept this information to herself, deciding that he wouldn't want to be friends if he knew she had originally been sent to kill him, regardless if she followed through with the orders or not.

When she arrived in the Canyon, it was discovered that Avalanche had all but packed up and left the area, moving the operation to Midgar. While the first incarnation had been created as a means for planet study, the rebirth of the group after the death of its founder, Aldin Spears, was hell bent on Shinra's destruction. Considering they both owed the Company pay back for their woes, it seemed like the best place for them to go.

Though allowed to join, it took Avalanche a full year before they allowed Kess to go on any missions. Shears was still wary of her, but Fuhito reminded him that her abilities shouldn't be wasted. It was Elfé that finally convinced Shears to let Kess and Ashe work as a team under the direction of another ex-Shinra employee, Morgan Narshe. Morgan had been a Turk for about five years before deciding she could no longer sit idly by and watch the Company destroy lives. Like Kess and Ashe, she remained in hiding, hoping her former employers would think her to be dead.


Kess snapped awake on feeling a hand on the back of her head. Fuhito was there, removing the wires from behind her ear. "Well done. Except there seems to be some missing.. Namely information on other Shinra created structures.."

"Unfortunately I was interrupted," Kess began.

Fuhito waved his hand dismissively. "No matter. There will be other opportunities.. You may leave."

Kess stood up, still feeling a little disoriented. She gave Morgan a small wave before exiting the room. Her next stop was her quarters; she was in desperate need of a shower. Upon entering her dwelling, Kess began to strip out of her dingy clothes. She tossed them in a pile near the front door and then made tracks for the shower. The room was cold, but that changed as she grabbed the shower knob and turned it to hot. Within moments, the enclosed space was a steamy sauna. She stepped into the water and leaned against the wall for a long moment.

"What a night.." she muttered as she slid her head under the stream.

Red strands of her hair stuck to her neck as she ran her hands across the back of her arms. It felt good to be here and she didn't want to leave. But her stomach began to remind her that she hadn't eaten for almost the entire day. And so she was driven from the warm shower and into the comfort of a dry towel. She exited the washroom and headed over to her closet. As soon as she arrived, she tossed the towel onto her bed and searched among the clothes for something loose fitting. She flopped onto the bunk and flicked on a television that rested on a corner table. Digging around in a sack near the head of the bed on the floor, she pulled out a ration.

The program on the television was showing a report from earlier that evening about the incident at the Shinra Building. Hazy, blurred images showed a man in red attacking soldiers, a single black wing sprouting from his back. It looked like it had taken place on the highway leading to the center of the city and she recalled the vision she had had earlier in the night before she ran into Ashe. The footage was poor quality and stopped, the camera focusing on a woman in the news studio now. Images of the man in red flashed on the screen with the name Genesis Rhapsodos accompanying the mug shot. Another face flashed as well and Kess' eyes widened as the name displayed changed to Angeal Hewley. She almost fell off the bed trying to retrieve the remote control to turn the volume up.

"Angeal Hewley, Soldier First Class, is wanted for questioning. Having disappeared late last year in Wutai, it was believed that he was among those killed in action. But now reports have surfaced that he and the rogue Soldier, Genesis, are working with ex-Shinra scientist, Doctor Hollander. It is believed that they are behind this most recent attack on Midgar."

Kess couldn't believe her ears or her eyes. The name on the acceptance letter, the one that replaced her own; it was this man that was now one in a line up of three that also contained Doctor Hollander and Genesis as wanted men. The report ended with the usual "If you see these men, alert the authorities and keep your distance as they are considered armed and extremely dangerous."

The show changed and Kess was left with so many more questions that answers. But her mind was wiped and she sank back into place on the lower bunk. Genesis's betrayal, the wanted men Angeal and Hollander, and she had come face to face with the latter mere hours before.


His haunting words echoed in her mind. Did he know her? What was his connection to Angeal? Why did Angeal look so familiar? Not to mention the fact that someone had to be working with Avalanche from inside Shinra because she knew that under any other circumstances, she would still be sitting in the detention block.

What did it all mean?

--End Chapter 2..