I Know What's Beneath the Snow Fields -Chp.85

"Y-YOU!!" exclaimed Reno the instant he recognized the gunman.

Davoren remarked dryly, "It's a good thing you two were arguing so loudly, otherwise I'd never have found you here."

By instinct, the hot-blooded Reno flipped his nightstaff into battle mode. Rude, helplessly confined within this crevice, drew the boy nearer as he tensed in place. Apprehension and equal hostility hardened their demeanor.

In truth, they'd thought Davoren long gone. Now to discover him alive, poised up there with the perfect advantage to snipe them all dead, set them both on red alert.

"You damn bastard! What the hell do ya want?" demanded Reno outloud.

Not exactly the warmest reception. The gunman addressed him, "You can put that toy away, sonny. I didn't just spend the last two hours or so searching for another fight. I've actually come to help you."

Had he dropped another one of his mini-bombs instead, the impact wouldn't have struck them as hard as this unexpected announcement. Help them? Rude's face darkened with intrigue, not least as he contrasted this demure man against the sadistic maniac they'd fought before. Of course, they couldn't just forget this was their enemy. Still, intuition told him something had changed. Whether he could bring himself to believe Davoren remained to be seen. For the moment, Rude kept silent.

Similarly, Reno's front had wavered to absorb the shock. To be honest, he had expected a full resumption of their battle, not a truce, *especially* from that ruthless lunatic. No. It had to be a trap!

"Bullshit!" he spurned Davoren's offer, "You try to kill us, come this close -THIS CLOSE- to blasting my head off, now you wanna save us? That's bullshit!!"

"I understand your suspicions," cried the gunman in earnest, "But given the current circumstances, I'd say it's wisest we set aside our differences and trust each other right now!"

In return, Reno flicked up a certain finger, accompanied by an unrepeatable string of cusses all directed at Davoren. He certainly wasn't buying those words.

Nor had Davoren the time to bicker. Hoping the other man would be more sensible, he directed his questions down to Rude, "Where's the boy? Is he alright?"

"..he..he's here," he complied rather uneasily, "I don't know how bad he's hurt. He blacked out a few minutes ago, but overall, I th-"

"Don't answer him, you dumb-shit!!" Reno attacked his traitorous friend below, "Who's friggin' side are you on anyway?!"

And Rude retorted at his brash stubbornness, "Well, I don't think we've any other choice, Reno!"

"Oh, okay!" he exclaimed sardonically at this choice, "So instead of just plunging to a horrible death, we *chose* to be slaughtered, THEN plunge to a horrible death!"

"But he's got a point! We'll just have to trust him for now!"

"TRUST HIM?! Am I the only one here who remembers this psycho using us for target practice?!"

"Then give him the benefit of doubt!!"

With such impudence, a new earthquake suddenly rocked the vestibule into disarray, thus cutting their squabble short. The metal meshwork keeled sharply under strain. Rude was jarred off coordination. His lower half had already slipped out into open danger before he managed to grab hold again. There he languished in a very unstable position, flustered and gasping, the unconscious Rufus still clamped tight against him.

"Rude! Goddammit!" boomed his friend in alarm. He teetered further over the edge.

"..R..Reno..," the poor man grunted, "I c-can't hold.. on.. much l-lon..ger!" little strength remained, and the agony gnawed deeper into his injured side. A second earthquake followed, cruelly jolting him further out. Below, the voracious pit howled in hunger.

If his anxiety levels rose any higher, Reno knew he'd suffer a heart attack. This time, he decided to descend the cliffside- consequences be damned! He couldn't just watch his best friend and the kid die!

Davoren perceived the same situation on an even wider scope. The Reactor was crumbling fast. Down there two lives hung at stake, a third soon to follow unless he devised a quick plan.

Spurred into action, especially by his concern for Rufus, Davoren scanned the rotunda bottom to top. Like any good tactician, he assessed the resources available, recognized his own abilities, and made the necessary calculations, all in one sweep. Finally, he decided. The gunman retreated some distance backwards from the window to make himself a runway. He dropped the assault rifle on the floor, then yanked up both sleeves and unbuttoned his collar more, urgency in his every move.

Indeed, the desperate Reno had just stepped forth to pursue his own decision when his attention shot straight up, only to witness Davoren, having charged full speed, hop onto the window ledge. From this "springboard", the gunman gracefully leapt forth across the wide vestibule in an arched path; he almost seemed to glide on air towards the opposite side.

The acrobatic stunt mesmerized Reno as it passed high overhead. At the end of his aerial journey, the determined Davoren landed vertically against a steep slope of junk. With all fours he steadied himself then immediately began to scale up this architecture better than any monkey.

"You there!" he paused to shout down at Reno, who gave a confused, "uh?"

"Don't just stand there, man!" Davoren cried authoritatively, "Move it! C'mon! We have to help your friends!"

He resumed his climb upwards. Meanwhile, Reno watched him at a loss. In truth, he knew not what to think: they'd spent the whole night battling that enemy, only to end up working alongside him? Was it really a change of heart? Or simply a ruse? Reno personally neither trusted nor liked the gunman, much less fancied an alliance with him, nevermind take orders from him.

The frustrated ex-Turk raked his fingers through his hair. Then again, what choice did they have? He either accepted Davoren or died.

"Aw, screw it!" he growled, defeated. Reno resentfully backtracked up the complex in pursuit of his new comrade.

Long after Vincent had left him to find the girl, Davoren had still languished alone in that dark room. For what seemed centuries to him, he'd sat there, thinking. If asked about what, he couldn't have remembered: his beloved brother? His own wrecked life? He'd felt so numb with misery, so lost in melancholia for so long one wondered whether he'd ever return to reality.

But he did, slowly, gradually. Much to his bemusement, for he'd been out of contact with the surroundings for quite a while, Davoren found the Reactor in a state of anarchy. He could hear vicious wars rage deep in the earth. However, their repercussions spread havoc on a greater scale; the entire fortress in fact.

He could never quite fathom what had happened down there or how fared Vincent since they'd parted ways. Yet as these tremors grew more belligerent, so did the certainty that something terrible had occurred somewhere, with disastrous consequences for them all.

His immediate thoughts had turned towards Rufus, who as he last recalled was left alone to confront Professor Hojo. Davoren didn't know what had happened to him either. Now with catastrophe at hand, the concerned gunman had finally mustered enough strength to climb onto his feet: he had to find the boy.

Upon leaving the room, Davoren had first headed for the weapons vault located in another section. There, extra firearms were stored. The stern-faced man had selected the best assault rifle, loaded it, then slung it over his shoulder. He'd also stuffed a handgun into one holster, after which he took off again.

He'd already spent about two hours on the hunt when by pure chance, Davoren discerned two familiar voices engaged in heated argument (though he couldn't hear them clearly- something about an ass and a dead squirrel...).

Anyway, he'd followed them until he reached the surveillance room, where he discovered his two former foes and the boy, thankfully still alive.

Back to the present. Even before taking that bold leap into danger, Davoren had set his mind on a specific target. He clambered up and up this grotesque, gnarled tree trunk to higher altitudes, his backside always exposed to the tense atmosphere below.

He ignored the Mako cascades. Nor would he allow the shaky terrain to slacken his pace. Instead, Davoren concentrated on conquering this hazardous mountain. The slope broke into crevices and irregularities as it arched backwards. Thus it formed the underbelly of a promontory, which pitched itself sharply towards the ominous abyss. Davoren had to crawl almost upside down until he found a ledge. He ascended to the top, where sat a battlement of machinery and pipes, mowed under an avalanche of more steel-infested rubbish.

Such a slanted wasteland offered nothing remarkable to the casual observer. Davoren, however, had in fact spotted something of potential interest. Secure on top, he now scampered further up the garbage hilluntil he stopped at his destination. It appeared to be a cubicle or some strange cockpit, chewed up and capsized into a terrible state. It was trapezoid-shaped, large enough to fit three men at most. Construction-wise, this compartment consisted of a sturdy metal framework and glass fašades, all smashed open. Only one tip jutted out at an angle. The rest, for whatever remained, was buried under trash. Out of all the wreckage mess here, Davoren had recognized this particular one solely by its cables; several wires and electronic vines, some of incredible girth, fed into its body.

In fact, this humble compartment had once formed part of a bigger control center, used to regulate Mako supplies in this section. The explosion must have literally ripped it apart. The cubicle had crashed here wrong side up. Thus, where there may have been a door, nothing remained now but a rectangular hole that gawked skyward. Davoren swiftly swept some severed cables out of his way. He slipped through the doorway and dropped inside onto both feet.

The interior demonstrated technology smashed topsy-turvy. Davoren needed a moment to orientate himself in relation to this capsized chamber. Everything was slanted. Computer consoles outlined the cubicle's parameter. All around he found panels of buttons and levers, gauges, fuse boxes and broken monitors, one which emitted grey smoke.

As he stood uncomfortably askew to maintain balance, the gunman scanned the room. He seemed to search for something specific. Indeed, he approached one of the fuse boxes. Davoren tore the lid open to find numerous switches.

He flicked some on. He repeated the task on another box. That done, he squatted in place to attack the console beneath him.

By now, Reno had reached the site. He poked his head upside down through a smashed window, his pigtail dangling free. He watched Davoren from behind as he opened the rusted cover, then began to operate on the wires inside.

"W..what're you doing??" Reno asked in bewilderment.

"I'm opening every channel this Connection Station has," spoke the demure man, too busy to even turn around for him. "Some of the cables have been cut. A great percent of the computer equipment has also been destroyed. But the station overall should be able to provide enough."

"Enough what?"

"See that crane up there?"

Reno looked up. He spotted the crane, entangled in other trash, its anchor gently swaying loose.

"It's run on electricity," Davoren stated as he worked along, "Everything here runs on electricity. And every section in the Reactor has a Station like this one. It used to (and hopefully still does) relay power. If we can feed that crane enough energy from here, we should be able to reactivate it."

Reno didn't see where this was leading. He swung into the cubicle and crouched down beside his assiduous ally. "But.. I thought this place had no electricity," he argued.

"That is true," affirmed the latter, "The transformers and main cable links were permanently shut down when they abandoned this place a year ago."

"Then how the heck are ya gonna 'reactivate' that damn machine without-"

"I won't. That's your job."

The blunt revelation caught Reno by surprise, more so when the somber gunman abruptly stopped to look him straight in the eye. "It was you, wasn't it?"


"Back there while I was fighting Vincent in the delivery system," Davoren reminded, his tone tight as a knot, "*You* were the one who booted up the security program and had me blasted out."

Reno's face paled. Suddenly, he became too, too aware of his position: here he sat next to an armed psychopath- yes, the same he'd splashed beer on; the same he'd electrocuted; the same he'd ambushed thanks to his technical skills.

Oh, very bad. In fear of retribution, Reno tried to dispel any remaining enmity between them before things got hairy. "Ah! H-haha! C'mon, Davoren! Buddy! Pal! Chum!" he laughed nervously, "Let's not dwell on the past right now! We gotta-"

"No. That's not what I meant," interrupted the gunman, "I actually want you to do it again."

"Wha? Again??"

He nodded, dead serious, "Dunno what trick you used, sonny, but I want you to do it again: restore the electricity to this station, just like you did with the security program, and relay all power to the crane. I'll use it to save your friends. After that, you'll have to move us over towards the surveillance room," his eyes narrowed in significance, "It's our only ticket out of here."

He'd given clear and concise instructions. NOW if never again was the time to trust each other completely. Davoren awaited a reply. His keen gaze remained fixed on the young man, whose expression had darkened to grave contemplation. Reno understood his plan. Quite clever too, he had to admit.


After a long pause, Reno pronounced his judgement, "It ain't gonna work."

"Why not?"

"One: my nightstaff is running low on energy. Two: even were it fully charged, it couldn't supply such a huge machine. See, a computer program is okay 'cause *it* does the hard work. I just feed it electricity. But shit! Operate a station and a crane? By direct input? You'd need a voltage amplification of at least a thousand-fold to work something that massive!"

Davoren fell silent, inside gutted by this obstacle. He deliberated within himself for a way around it. Sure, he knew basic electronics, but remotely enough to meet such demands. How then could they procure so much energy?

Similar thoughts preoccupied Reno. The plan was good, yet on a technical side, impossible. His jaw stiffened to contain his frustration: they hadn't sufficient power, nor had they much time either.

Just then, like a flash of light, Reno got an idea.

"Wait a minute!" he started, gripping Davoren's shoulder to regain his attention, "You said this cubicle is a 'Connection Station'. What's that mean?"

Puzzled, the gunman nevertheless explained "Like I said, a 'Connection Station' receives a given percentage of the Reactor's output to run its own section. The Professor needed electricity to operate essential laboratory equipment. He'd positioned many generators all over the place. And they're linked to each other through these stations. The generators give the power; the stations distribute the power. That way, he could regulate where it goes and how much to which machine."

The attentive Reno dissected every word upclose. "And these generators are still operational?"

"I'm not sure. The whole place is falling apart. Many of them have probably been destroyed by now."

"Then that's a chance we'll just have to take."

Indeed, he immediately scrambled deeper into the capsized chamber, followed by the eyes of an amazed Davoren. Reno sifted through debris and busted machinery until he exposed what seemed to be the master computer console underneath. There he squatted down to a hunched posture and wrenched the lid open. Reno paused to assess the nightmare inside: shelves of circuit boards, microchips, plugs, resistors and capacitors, plus God knows what else entangled in a jungle of colored wires. Undaunted, the young man flicked his jack-knife out of his pocket, then began fiddling with the system.

"My nightstaff's got enough power to boot up the control program in this station," he explained during the surgery, "If I can keep it running long enough, I can hack into the central database from here and rearrange the circuit pattern."

Tight for space, Davoren had to stand behind and, with one hand gripped around an overhead rung, leaned forth to look over Reno's shoulder. He watched those dexterous fingers cut wires and tie them to different partners, flip switches and alter circuit boards. "But... what good will that do?" the gunman inquired.

Intensity strained on his face, Reno answered while both hands worked their skill to the bone, "Every generator... well, every functional one will pour its whole reserve into the database at once. Provided I get the pattern and frequencies right, then all their energies will sum up to one big value. THAT should give this station enough electricity to operate the crane," he wiped the sweat off his face, "In fact, this entire shit hole- Reactor, lab, whatever- should light up for about..oh.. twenty minutes? Half an hour at most. After that, total darkness."

Davoren beheld the ex-Turk, quite bewildered. "And you... can do all that?"

"Yeah, in theory," the latter emphasized. In truth, he'd simply expanded upon the original plan: they would still use the crane; Reno left the channels as Davoren set them. However, rather than he directly provide power, he'd manipulate the central database to obtain supplies. It was worth a shot.

In the end though, Davoren had to say, "..wow."


"Gotta give you credit, son! You're a lot smarter than you look!"

Reno glanced askance, unsure whether to consider that a praise or an insult. "Of course I'm smart!" he scoffed, "Electronics are my specialty. From toasters to time bombs, I know 'em all. Furthermore, Sir," he informed him with majestic relish, "as proof of my high intelligence, I will have you know: I've received distinction honors on the International Examination for Advanced Electro-physics & Applied Mathematics."


"What's with the big shock?"

"Well, it's just..," Davoren hesitated, but then declared good-humouredly, "I sorta thought you were a dead-beat punk or some brainless alcoholic off the streets!"

The confession stabbed Reno's dignity so hard he almost lost balance. He snapped his head around to bark pure outrage, "HEY YOU!!! Just because I dye my hair and enjoy a good drink doesn't mean I'm STUPID!!!"

"Okay! Okay!" the amicable man reconciled with a wave of the hand, indicating he'd only meant to tease him, "Heheh, guess it's just another generation gap thing I'll never understand... kinda like your 'Bottle Song', eh?" he winked meaningfully.

Reno kept his frown, though his eyes did betray a small twinkle of amusement. Pleasantry aside, the gunman's demeanor soon sobered back to calm authority. He said, "You just concentrate on accomplishing this task. I will take care of the rest."

They regarded each other a moment, as if their eyes sealed the pact, after which Reno coolly turned around again and resumed work. Likewise, Davoren had his own job to do. Leaving his comrade at the console, he backtracked through the wrecked chamber. He climbed up a garbage mound, from which he gained access to the exit above. Yet before he could haul himself out, he heard Reno call, "Hey, Davoren!"

Davoren paused. He directed his quizzical eyes towards the young ex-Turk. Though Reno remained crouched in his same position, he'd peered over his shoulder to look back at the gunman, on his face a big, crooked smile.

"You're actually alright, man!" he gave him one thumb's up approval, "If we make it outta here alive, I'll buy ya a drink."

Davoren blinked. Finding himself thus inaugurated into Reno's favor, he could only return the honor with a smile. "Okay!" he accepted," As long as you don't splash it in my face."

-End of Chp.85