Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 4


By Damodred

Tifa awoke, feeling battered. As she got up, groaning, she realized it was because she was battered. She remembered the events of the previous night with fearful clarity, right up to the ground of Sector 8 rushing up to meet her entirely too fast. She suddenly looked around, fearful. "Barret?" she said, her voice cracking. "Barret!" She stood up, shakily, like a newborn deer, just learning to walk, and took a look around. She spotted a large lump near the slide and made her uncertain way toward it. It was Barret. He looked terribly bruised, until Tifa realized that she must be in similar shape. She grabbed his shoulder and shook it. "Barret! Wake up!" Barret groaned, muttered "Lemme sleep, ma..." and tried to roll over. He sat up with a groan of pain instead, muttering "Aw man, who kicked my ass..." Tifa watched as the events reasserted themselves in his memory as well "Shit...." Barret trailed off and looked at Tifa "Now what?" Tifa sat there for a moment, thinking furiously, and occasionally staring at the ruins of Sector 7 visible through the crack in the wall. Barret got up and started walking around, trying to work out the kinks out of his muscles and checking on his gun. He stood opposite the crack in the wall and finally burst out "Goddamn ShinRa's got a whole lot to answer for!" He whirled around to face Tifa "I don't know 'bout you, but I wanna kick ShinRa's ass right now!" Tifa nodded, "I'm afraid I agree...I see no other option available to us." Barret stopped short and looked at her in surprise "You serious? I wuz kinda hopin' you'd stop me." Tifa smiled sadly and said "They have Cloud." Barret nodded. "Yup. I can't do nuthin' 'til I get some replacement ammo for my gun tho'. We need to stop at Wall Market first." Tifa nodded. "I need some supplies as well." Barret grinned and bowed to Tifa, imitating her tone "Shall we then, madame?" Tifa laughed, the first joyful sound from her in hours. She linked her arm with Barret's and they walked off, supporting each other.

On her way to the comm room, Elena wondered briefly if Rude got out of Sector 7 before it was destroyed. She didn't really care about anyone else there, they were all vermin that needed to be exterminated anyway, but Rude used to be a Turk before he got fired for drinking on the job. She frowned, remembering his sense of duty and wondered once again if he was set up. He never protested however, only acquiesced and walked out of ShinRa, to take up residence in the Sector 7 slums. She shrugged, dismissing the matter. She had no use for the acquiescing type. She preferred them to put up a bit of a fight before submission. She only thought of Rude now because another Turk would be handy in a fight, no matter his track record. She walked into the comm room, still musing. She snapped out of it, seeing Cid standing in the dark with his arms crossed, watching the monitors and smoking another cigarette in silence. She knew that if anyone in Avalanche survived, they would be trying to spring Cloud. They would have to be on alert.

Tifa bought some medical supplies, food, and a sharpening stone for her Mythril Claw. Mythril held an edge very nicely, but the recent events blunted the Claw a bit, and it was in need of sharpening. She sat outside the weapon store for half an hour, sharpening the Claw, while Barret checked out all the goodies. She smiled, thinking about him. He was just like a baby with a new toy. Tifa held the Claw up for inspection, and tested the blades by touching her finger lightly to one of them. Sucking on the cut, she looked up to see Barret with a different gun on his arm, grinning like a fool. She said as much, but he was too happy about it to take offense. He said "Yeah, but wait 'til ya see the guy on the other side of this baby!" Barret looked with pride at the gun and a strange look came over his face as he recited, "Solid clip of 27 9mm shells, capable of firing at a rate of 4 per second, adjustable to single fire. Holds 8 clips, auto-clip advance, laser targeting and of course, able to fire armour piercing shells." He grinned mirthlessly. "We'll need that where we're going." Tifa looked at him, wonderingly. This didn't sound like Barret at all. Barret added "Oh yeah, I got these, too." He held up a couple of bracelets. Tifa said, distracted "They're very nice, but I don't think they're you, Barret." He answered, smiling, "Naaw, Tifa. Here, check this out. They don't know how to make these things anymore, but they're pretty neat." He put one on his arm. "Now hit me," he invited. Tifa, surprised, exclaimed "What?!" Barret grinned. "Go on, hit me. Not too hard, I'm still bruised all over, but put some muscle into it." Tifa shrugged and smacked him on the shoulder, or tried to, anyway. About a foot away from his shoulder, her hand started slowing down, and by the time it reached Barret's shoulder, it was nothing more than a light tap. She tried again, thinking her eyes were deceiving her, with the same result. "What the hell?", she exclaimed. "I mean, I've seen Materia generated magic, but this is actually useful!" Barret grinned. "Yup. No one knows when these were made, but they turn up from time to time." His grin faded. "Since we ain't exactly goin' on a picnic, I figured, well....they cost a bit, but I betcha they'll repay fer themselves a hundredfold." Tifa nodded, and put the other bracelet on. She didn't feel any different, but she asked Barret and he assured her she's not meant to feel anything. She was opening her mouth to ask Barret if he was ready to go, when he suddenly grabbed her hand and dragged her behind the corner of the gunshop. "Barret, wha..." "Shh!" Barret motioned for silence, looking tense. He whispered "That's Rude over there, the bald dude. He's like this with Tseng of the Turks." He held up two fingers, intertwined together. Tifa nodded. She didn't particularly feel like being recognized by anyone with ties to ShinRa, and particularly the Turks. On the other hand...her eyes narrowed and she whispered back "If we can grab him, maybe he'll know where Cloud is." Barret grinned, "My kind of girl."

Sauntering through Wall Market, looking much more relaxed than he really felt, Rude wondered what else he needed to get into the ShinRa tower. All entrances were watched, and he didn't feel like dismissing his cover just to have it easy for a change. He ticked off his list one more time, mentally. Grappling hooks, pitons, some monofilament, and some extra 9mm clips oughta do it. He made sure they were armour piercing this time, not like that cheap, soft crap the gun dealer sold him last time. He grinned, thinking of the holes in the back of the gun dealer's shanty, proving that the bullets were legit. Fool me once...well, he made sure that cheapskate wouldn't mess with him again. The monofilament he bought from that loon that kept scrounging through ShinRa's refuse. Who knew the old fart would actually find something useful. He apparently wasn't as much of a fool as Rude thought. He winced, thinking how much that set him back, but considering his options - or rather the lack of them - it was worth it. Next he would...strong hands reached out of the alley, pulling him into the darkness and slamming him hard against the wall. The breath knocked out of him, he stared into Barret's grim face. The pretty little thing next to him gave him a hard look and said "Where's Cloud?" Rude grinned, then thought better of it when four sharp blades dug into his throat. He swallowed and stammered, "Who or what is Cloud?" Barret looked at him silently, then turned to the girl and said "He don't know, Tifa." Tifa refused to give up and asked Rude "Do you know where ShinRa keeps their prisoners? Important prisoners?" Rude nodded, "Sure. But I ain't tellin' Avalanche nuffin' unless ya promise to let me go." Tifa stared at him and thought that he had guts, and apparently was smarter than he looked. Her smile made Rude back up against the wall. "Oh, you don't have to tell us. You'll show us."

Barret looked up at Tifa's legs above him, barely visible in the dust cloud still churning above the Sector 7 ruins. "Damnit," he wheezed, holding on to the pipe. "You sure dis a good idea? I'm a miner, not a friggin' mountain climber. Depths I don't mind, but heights freak me out!" Tifa chuckled, keeping a wary eye on Rude, above and to the right of her. Her Claw was coming in handy, sinking into the metal pipes and keeping her firmly anchored. She reached up and stabbed the pipe, pulling herself up with smooth, firm motions. "Can you think of another way to get to ShinRa tower? Besides, the way should be clear all the way there. They'd never expect this." Barret muttered, "Yeah, that's what Cloud said, too," but he muttered this quietly, knowing that Tifa probably knew that and was trying not to think of it. Tifa looked down briefly, "Oh yeah, and stop staring at my ass," she added, grinning. Barret turned red, "Damnit! I wasn't...! That is, I...Aw, man!" They moved on. They were climbing the remains of the Sector 7 plate and the sector wall. The view from up here was breathtakingly devastating. Through the swirling dust, Tifa could occasionally glimpse tangled or shattered steel lying on top of what she knew used to be a thriving community. Nothing at all was moving in the desolate semi-darkness. They agreed to keep Rude in the front, in case something unpleasant was waiting for them ahead. Also, from behind, Barret could get a better shot at him if he tried anything. Rude used his climbing tools to make his way, while Tifa used her Claw to cut out handholds for Barret. She grumbled about having to resharpen it, but there was no other way. Barret simply counted on his strength and agility to hold him up. So far, it seemed to be working.

Rude pointed to the front doors to the ShinRa megalith, "There it is. What now, fearless leader?" he sneered. Tifa looked sharply at him and said "Now we go in. You'll get us past the receptionist and as far as you can. Then we'll let you go, as agreed." Rude spat contemptuously, "Promises from murderers, just what I need." Tifa's face paled, but she motioned him to go on. He said, "I can only go up to 66th floor. Everything beyond that is high security, top brass only. I will leave you then." He smirked, as if he had a choice. Tifa looked at Barret and shrugged, "We'll find a way," she said, hoping she sounded much more confident than she felt. Rude smirked again and led them towards the back entrance.


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