Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 10


By Damodred

If they had looked back down the way they came, they might have seen a dark figure with what looked like a sword on its back, climb up after them, in a notably more agile way. If they looked closer, they might have been able to discern the flashing blue eyes, blond hair, and the uncanny way the intruder seemed to fly up the wall. Soon after they moved towards the small group of mechanics, the figure flowed up over the ledge, stood motionlessly for a brief while and then ran in the opposite direction, towards the base entrance. If they waited longer yet, they would've seen the air near the ledge shimmer and resolve into two figures, one held within the folds of the other's cloak. They would have heard a whispered word from the figures, and as they started to walk towards the base entrance, they could've seen a remarkable thing. The taller figure's hair turned short and reddish, its coat became immaculately white and it grew slightly shorter. The shorter figure became slightly taller, its hair curling savagely into a blond mane, its night blue robe became a vibrant red dress, the figure grew more voluptous and began to walk in a swaying manner. The two approached the entrance, where a pair of startled guards leapt up from their card game and threw them a crisp salute. The figures walked past, unheeding as the guards slumped back down, looking after the two nervously.

"Put them in here," Tifa hissed, motioning to a tool storage closet. "Hopefully by the time they find them, we'll be gone." she said, hoping that she was right. She checked out the others, and asked them to see if everything was all right with her disguise. After making sure everything was in order (Barret's overalls were a little tight, and Tifa's bulged in the wrong places, but it would do), they set off for the entrance, taking a last look at the airship. It was certainly a nice piece of technology, and it was a pity that a lowlife like Rufus owned it.

They walked casually by the guards, laughing and joking with an ease they certainly didn't feel. They hoped they'd just get waved through, but were prepared for other eventualities. They approached the guards, who looked up disinterestedly. They had just seen Rufus and Scarlet, and nothing could top that tonight, especially in nervous breakdown value. On the other hand..."Hey baby," leered one of the guards, a short fellow with a recently broken nose, "what's a pretty girl like you doing fixing dirty ol' planes like this?" He waved vaguely in the direction of the Highwind. "Earning twice as much as you, shorty," Tifa replied scathingly and walked on. Barret and Zack followed as the other guard exploded into laughter and smacked the short guard on the back with merriment. Tifa would allow herself a small smile under other circumstances, but there was nothing funny about tonight's mission.

They walked slowly through the thoroughfare, taking in the cannon with a widening of the eyes. They have all seen it before, but the presence of such a large structure and the knowledge that it was man-made had something awe-inspiring about it. They realized they weren't alone in this sentiment; most passers-by also glanced at the cannon with awestruck faces. Everything was going according to plan, when Zack hissed "Trouble!" motioning ahead with his chin. A large contingent of blue-clad ShinRa grunts was heading towards them, double-time. Tifa and Barret exchanged looks. Could ShinRa already be aware of the infiltration, or was there another reason? There was no time to waste; they may already have been spotted. They headed casually towards the nearest open door; it had a flickering neon sign above it, too dimly lit to be legible. They entered and blinked, letting their eyes adjust to the darkness briefly. Zack took in the dimly lit interior, the empty tables and the long bar and took a step forward. A slender, white arm flashed out from his right, grasping his shoulder and a voice whispered urgently, "Don't! This way." Zack jerked, startled and looked to the right, disbelieving. He knew that voice, even if the face was unfamiliar. "Aerith?" he mouthed silently. The figure nodded and led them to a dark corner, where another, tall figure was sitting silently. They sat facing the bar and the door while Aerith filled them in. "First of all, we're camouflaged by magic. We opted for that because both of our faces are too well known to most ShinRa employees. Secondly, Elena and Tseng of the Turks are sitting at the bar. That's why I pulled you here. You were about to step right into them...even though in her present state Elena isn't very observant, I think Tseng is much less drunk than he lets on...he's always been like that." Aerith sighed, remembering how she knew all this. The nondescript SOLDIER at her side, who Zack correctly assumed was Sephiroth, leaned over and whispered something in her ear. Aerith brightened visibly, gave him a grateful smile, and went on. "We also..." she was interrupted by the sound of shattering glass and a raised, high-pitched voice. They looked at the tableau unfolding at the bar.

Elena had had enough. Actually, in Tseng's unvoiced opinion, she had more than enough five drinks ago, but he stayed silent as was his wont. Also, he was curious how this would end. He cared for Elena, but he was a Turk first and foremost; he had to know if she was like that too. Currently, she was staring at the glass that exploded in her tightly clenched fist with a bemused expression on her face. She continued staring as blood welled from her cut hand and began to flow, covering her hand in crimson streaks. She looked up at Tseng with a dazed smile, "Look, I cut my hand..." she said and exploded into laughter. Tseng raised an eyebrow as she choked and began to sob bitterly. "Damn it Tseng, what the hell are we doing here?" she cried. "We should be chasing those, those...and...and..." she trailed off, confused and muttering. Tseng relaxed. She was vulgar at times, but definitely had her priorities straight. He motioned the barkeep, who stepped forward and gave him a towel. Tseng cleaned Elena's cuts tenderly, then stood up and straightened his suit. "Come on Elena, I'll take you home," he said softly. Elena looked up at him in wondernment and began to stand up, reaching up to him. Tseng caught her as her eyes rolled up and she began to collapse. Sighing softly, he picked her up and carried her gently out of the bar, feeling the warmth of her breath on his neck.

Aerith caught Sephiroth's arm as he began to stand up. "No. There may be hope for them yet," she said softly but firmly, and pulled him back down. Sephiroth relented, sinking back to his seat. His eyes flashed and he said softly, "You are entirely too forgiving, Aerith." She looked into his green eyes and said, "Yes. I am." This time it was Sephiroth who looked down, breaking the spell. Tifa cleared her throat uncomfortably and occupied herself with scanning the bar again. The emotions between these two were extremely intense, almost palpable, and transcended everything she knew. It seemed that a witness to these emotions must get pulled in, either to Sephiroth's cold gaze or Aerith's angelic, inhumanly calm eyes. Tifa looked back, reluctantly and met Zack's knowing eyes. She felt comforted as Aerith turned to them and continued, "As I was saying, I also saw Cloud in the base." All thoughts fled Tifa's mind as she demanded, "When? Where? What are we waiting for, then?" She forced herself to sit back down as she realized she was drawing attention by jumping our of her seat and shouting. Sephiroth answered quietly, "We have only seen him briefly. Whatever is controlling him has enhanced his skills to an unimaginable point. As soon as he sensed us watching, he disappeared. I have no explanation." He looked as if it bothered him, but continued, "He seemed to be heading for the ship. Perhaps the security on the reactor is too tight." Zack nodded, "Last time I remember it was." "We have to get on that ship," Tifa said grimly, compressing her lips to a thin line. Barret nodded, "Yeah, well, we're dressed for it, and so are they." he motioned to Aerith and Sephiroth. "What with Rufus hanging 'round, we'll sneak onboard, and no one will know," he finished, satisfied. Aerith nodded and stood up. "Then let's go. We'll join with some of the other SOLDIERs and persuade them that we're in their squad. We'll see you on the ship." Without further discussion, she and Sephiroth walked off, two nondescript SOLDIERs back on duty. Tifa exchanged looks with Barret and Zack and stood up. It was time to go.


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