Lyria froze as Dr. Lewiss voice resounded throughout the room. "Thank you! Now, as a child my mother taught me that one should never go anywhere without a gift for the host or hostess of a party. Therefore, I wish to present to you, Mr. Palmer, a small token of my esteem for this company and contempt for those who stand against ShinRa. As we all know, renegade Turks are punished severely for their lack of fidelity to their mother company. What would one do with a renegade Turk, turned Avalanche member?" there was a murmur of dissent from the audience and Dr. Lewis smiled as he continued. "Here is my gift " Dr. Lewis was cut off as Vincent pulled Lyria through the door.
"Was he talking about you?" Lyria asked fearfully as Vincent loaded a clip of ammo into his gun.
"Yes. We have to go."
"Now. Were both in over our heads."
"What about you? We cant just leave without "
"We have no choice. Come on, were wasting time."
Lyria followed as Vincent headed quickly down the staircase, stopping as he did to look around the corner. With a sigh he turned to face her. "You have to get out of here."
"What?" Lyria was thoroughly confused.
"Go. Theres an elevator just down that hallway." Vincent gestured down a long hallway of offices with his handgun.
"You cant stay here!" Lyria exclaimed in a whisper.
"They arent after you. Or at least most of them arent, if its a choice between you or me, Lewis will take me."
"You could be killed!"
"So could you. Get out of here; its dangerous for you to be around me. If itll help him track me down, hell make me change."
In spite of herself, Lyria started to head down the hallway he indicated. "Please dont get hurt "
"Dont worry, just go."
Lyria turned and ran down the hallway, tears in her eyes. She reached the elevator and turned to look for Vincent, but he had vanished. Almost in a daze she pressed the button and the doors opened, revealing Elena.
"Lyria! Hey, are you all right?" Elena asked, seeing the tears streaming down her friends cheeks.
"Oh Elena no, no Im not " Lyria sank down on the floor and Elena crouched down beside her.
"What is it? Is it about that guy who was pretending to be your husband? Dont worry, Lyria, well catch him. He had absolutely no right to use you like that "
"No! No, Elena its not that dont you understand?" Lyria pleaded. "I I love him, Elena. Now all of a sudden everyone wants to hunt him down and kill him "
"But hes a renegade," Elena said the last word with a trace of revulsion. "He joined Avalanche and "
"And helped stop Meteor and kill Sephiroth. Elena, please havent you ever loved anyone and lost them?"
Elena fell silent, trying to stop the painful memories Lyrias words resurrected.
"Hello, Reno?" Elenas voice crackled as a wave of static interrupted her phone call.
"Hey, Elena. Whats up?" Reno asked casually, waving away the confused look Rude gave him over his glass of brandy.
"Umm is Tseng with you?"
"Are you nuts? Were on our break, were drinking, and were trying to pick up women. Does that sound like the sort of thing Tseng would be joining us in?"
"Oh do you know where he is?"
"I thought hed be with you."
"Hes supposed to be he said we could go out for dinner after he was done at the Temple of the Ancients "
"Bet that pleased you."
"Shut up Reno, this is serious. Ive called him six times and hes not answering his cell phone, or his office phone, or his home phone."
"Maybe he has caller ID. That would explain it."
"Reno this is serious! Im worried."
"Elena you worry too much."
"Cmon, can we please just go to the Temple and check on him?"
"Elena, were on our break "
"Please Reno? I promise Ill never bug you ever, ever, ever again "
"Dont make promises you cant keep."
"Then youll come?"
"Yeah, yeah. Where are you? Well be along in a bit with the chopper."
"Im at my apartment."
"Well be on the roof in about fifteen minutes. Be ready, ok?"
"All right, thanks Reno."
"Hes going to resent it if we show up and he doesnt need us. Tseng is perfectly capable of taking care of himself."
"I know. Ill take full responsibility."
"You bet you will." Reno hung up the phone. "Come on, Rude, we have to hurry."
"Why? You didnt make it sound like that big a deal."
"I didnt want Elena freaking out. Ive got a really bad feeling about this one "
"You think hes in trouble?"
"He wasnt answering his cell phone, he didnt meet Elena for dinner, and he hasnt reported to headquarters on his mission. Does that sound like the dedicated, responsible Turk we know and love?"
"No I guess not lets go then." Rude quickly downed the last of his drink and stood up. Reno dumped a handful of bills on the counter and wove his way through the crowd in the ShinRa lounge to the elevators. He punched the button for the top floor and anxiously drummed his fingers against the elevator door. Rude came up behind him and pointed to the digital panel that indicated the elevator was only at the fifth floor.
"Oh damn it " Reno muttered. "Come on Rude, well take the stairs." Reno pushed back through the people to the stairwell and ran up the first flight of stairs with Rude close behind. When they reached the top floor where the helicopter was waiting Reno was breathing heavily while Rude was barely winded.
"Getting soft?" Rude asked as Reno climbed into the helicopter.
"Lay off, Ive been drinking and I dont spend half my breaks in the training room, beating the crap out of punching bags."
"Maybe you should start," Rude suggested mildly.
"Go to hell."
Elena waved to the helicopter pilot from the roof of her apartment building on Midgars upper plate. The late evening darkness was deeper than the perpetual gloom that normally covered Midgar due to the smoke and smog that blocked the sky. There was an answering wave and the chopper swerved around towards the top of the high-rise. The helicopter hovered above the roof and suddenly a rope ladder dropped down. Elena grabbed one of the rungs and climbed up even as the helicopter began to rise again. She reached the top easily and Rude offered her a hand up.
"Thanks. Couldnt you have landed?" Elena asked, sitting down beside Reno.
"I thought you would have appreciated that we didnt, what with the rush to get to the Temple and all."
"Oh. So are you worried too?"
"Nah. I just want to get this over with and get back to happy hour," Reno answered, maintaining a calm attitude.
"Am not! If I were selfish, I wouldnt have come at all."
"Fine do you think Tsengs ok?"
"He wasnt answering his phone "
"Maybe there are enemies in the temple and hes got it turned off because hes trying to avoid battles," Reno said, casually buffing his nails on the front of his jacket. He was thankful that Elena was such an airhead or she might have come to the logical conclusion that Tseng could very easily have switched his cell phone to vibration mode.
"Were almost there, sirs and maam," the pilot said, glancing back over his shoulder.
"Thanks, Dale. After you let us down, you can just circle for a bit, if we arent out in an hour, send for back up," Reno instructed, pulling out an extendable metal rod with several buttons on the end.
"Yes, sir." The pilot brought the helicopter down in front of the temple and the Turks jumped out. Rude had pulled on a pair of black gloves with steel knuckles and Elena had a small handgun.
"All right, lets go, and dont let your guard down," Reno said, heading across the rickety looking bridge to the temple. Elena and Rude followed, both wary and ready for a fight. Reno looked distastefully at the steep flight of stairs at the other side of the bridge and sighed. Elena smiled and raced up the stairs ahead of Reno, with Rude close behind.
"Hurry up, Reno!" Elena called jokingly as she neared the top of the stairs.
"Shut up Elena," Reno panted, stopping to rest near the middle of the staircase.
"Why dont you come up here and make me?"
"Because theyre too damn many stairs!" Rude grinned and turned to wait for Reno as Elena continued on.
"Oh, all right." Elena reached the top of the temple and decided not to wait for Rude and Reno to catch up. She carefully loaded her gun and held her finger to the trigger, unsure what to anticipate when she entered the temple. For a moment she deliberated waiting for Reno and Rude, but instead half stepped into the light from the doorway, holding her pistol in front of her. Her eyes swept the room from right to left before coming to rest on the body slumped against a pillar in the dark corner of the small room. Elenas hand shook and the gun fell from her grasp as she ran forward.
"Oh no " she whispered, stopping a few feet in front of the pillar. "Rude! Reno!" she yelled over her shoulder, kneeling down and shaking Tsengs shoulder. "Come on wake up please dont be "
"Elena? Whats wrong?" Rude asked, coming through the doorway. "Oh god is he "
"No no, he cant be Tseng, wake up please " Tears were streaming freely down Elenas cheeks as she kept up her fruitless attempt to wake her colleague.
"What is it?" Reno said, gasping for air as he got to the top of the stairs. "Oh no "
"Reno, do something!" Elena ordered, gently slipping an arm around Tsengs shoulders and holding him tightly.
Reno crouched down beside her and touched the back of his friends hand. "Forget it Elena, were too late," Reno sighed, shuddering at the feeling of Tsengs lifelessly cold body.
"No no, please Reno, you have to do something "
"I cant do anything!"
"Rude? Rude, help me " Elena pleaded.
"He cant do anything either. Nobody can do anything. Hes dead, Elena." Reno stood up and looking sadly at his friend.
"Who? Who would have done this?"
"Isnt it obvious? Look at the goddamn hole in the middle of him. Who do we know with a sword big enough to run right through a guy and kill him like that?"
"Cloud " Elena gasped. "How could he?"
"Keep in mind weve been running around for the past while trying to get rid of him " Rude said.
"Well worry about this later, we have to get back to headquarters god I dont know what to do " Reno said, anxiously running his fingers through his hair.
"Elena, run outside and signal the helicopter " Rude ordered Elena who had started weeping hysterically.
"Oh great Elena! Snap out of it! Get the helicopter!" Reno shouted. Elena deliberately ignored him and held the inert form in her arms tighter.
"Rude would you " Reno sighed.
"Yeah, hang on." Rude ran out the door, pausing for a few seconds to pick Elenas gun off the floor. As Reno turned to lay a comforting hand on Elenas shoulder there were three shots fired in succession and the whir of the helicopter blades got louder. Rude re-entered the temple and stood uneasily by the doorway.
"Rude, gimme a hand." Reno gently pulled Elena away from Tsengs body and she sat down on the floor and buried her face in her hands.
"We cant just leave him here. Were taking him out to the chopper."
"Oh, all right "
"Come on Elena, its going to be a hard ride back."