Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 23

Shera's Pride

By Damodred

Shera was waiting for them on the edge of town, leaning quietly against a wall and smoking a cigarette. She wasn't a tall woman, being only slightly taller than Aerith or Yuffie, and her hair was cut short like a man's. She was wearing engineer's overalls, wrinkled and slightly grease-stained. Her hard, blue eyes appraised them from behind a pair of wire glasses. Finally she chuckled, saying, "I don't think I ever saw a more interesting group in my life. Who ARE you people and what are you doing crashing around my town, in a ShinRa helicopter no less?" Her tone of voice indicated amusement and curiosity, but had a firm edge that commanded respect and expected an answer. She added, "And don't give me that 'chartered chopper' moogle-crap, 'cause I ain't believin' it for a second." Aerith answered serenely, "Our friend was captured by someone. We are following both of them, but cannot go any further without better transportation." Shera shook her head slowly, measuring them, "No one came through here in weeks, sister." Aerith nodded, "Our friend's captor moves in an unorthodox manner; he's rarely visible, but always ahead of us. That is why we came here." Tifa stepped forward, looking at Shera intently. "We must move faster. Can you help us?" she asked directly. The other woman dropped her gaze, unable to withstand the need in Tifa's gaze. She stood for a moment, considering, then raised her head and said, voice filled with emotion, "I remember wanting something really bad, once. Come, we will talk in my home."

They helped with dinner after it was obvious that Shera would not be persuaded that they would be allright on ShinRa rations. She brushed off their offers of payment as well, laughing and saying that she had company rarely enough to be worth it. She also suggested that they repay her with their story, after she told hers. It seemed that she had the most authority in town, being ShinRa's top pilot and mechanic, but didn't want the responsibility. So, after the failure of the ShinRa 26 Rocket and the company's withdrawal from the space program, the residents of the rechristened Rocket Town made her Mayor. Everyone benefited from the arrangement; the people had an authority figure that could make an occasional decision for them, and for the most part governed themselves while Shera took leaves of absence for weeks on end, flying her planes. "Which is as it should be," commented Aerith, busily flipping the potato pancakes on the sizzling stove, and smacking Yuffie's questing fingers away from the food. Shera nodded, snickering softly and continued, "So I took over this ShinRa barracks, after they left. They don't mind; we don't have much contact with them anymore. It's perfect; it's big enough for it to serve as the Mayor's office and to keep spare parts, and the back exits to the old ShinRa airbase. There's a perfectly serviceable runway and hangar there, where I keep all my toys." Sephiroth looked up from where he was chopping the vegetables in a flurry of steel. "We should probably hide the helicopter there," he commented. Aerith nodded, staring at him for a second until her increasingly warm hand reminded her of the hot pan she was holding. She went back to watching the food, smirking slightly. She felt his question, and sent him the image of him she'd beheld. His reply was indignantly amused as he turned back, sending her a last thought. We've changed.

Tifa shouldered Aerith aside, taking the spoon from her. She said, "The two of you get the chopper, we can finish here with what he have. You should be back just in time." Shera raised an eyebrow, quizzically, "It will take them at least 45 minutes, even with my fastest truck." Tifa shook her head, grinning, "Nah. Only about 15, to get back." Shera decided not to argue the issue. She walked with them to the hangar, pointing out the spare fuel canisters and the fuel hoses, already set up on one of the maintenance trucks. Aerith eyed them proffessionally, finally deciding on a 20 gallon mini-drum and one of the hoses. Sephiroth picked the drum up from the truck effortlessly, placing it on the ground and drawing Aerith nearer. She looked at the wide-eyed Shera, smiling faintly, "We'll be right back." With a nearly blinding flash of light, the two disappeared.

"They do that," said Tifa with a slight smile, coming up behind the still staring Shera. "Who are you people?" stammered Shera, turning back. Tifa raised a finger in admonishment, "Story at dinner, remember?" Shera relaxed a little, smiling, "All right. I'm glad I demanded that payment, now. Let's go back in before Yuffie eats all the food." Laughing softly, they walked back towards the house.


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