Wasted Chapter 10

Delicate Matters

By Lila

The Turk staffroom seemed to be the site of many surprises today, and the new rookie was about to get her share. Elena was just settling down for her morning break when a red-haired man sauntered in, glancing about as if looking for someone. He saw her- she knew he did- but his eyes merely passed through her as though she didn't exist.

He was tall, but thin, with a laid-back stance that suggested a carefree persona; but there was an intensity about him, especially in his green eyes. Of course, twin scars under each eye may have accentuated the impression… Overall, he was surprisingly good-looking, but definitely dangerous.

He noticed her staring and raised one eyebrow, as though to say, “What are you looking at?” By now his degrading silence was grating on her. She would have to be the first to speak.

Elena cleared her throat self-consciously and stood up. “May I help you?” she said politely, thinking she sounded much too like a secretary. Maybe he needed help- he looked to be injured.

When he spoke, he sounded scornful. “I’m looking for Rude.”

“Oh!” she exclaimed suddenly, realizing who he had to be. “You’re Reno, aren’t you?” Rude had mentioned earlier his partner might come by, and had instructed her to make sure he didn’t leave.

Reno gave a single nod, a quick jerk of the head. “Yeah.”

So he was a Turk. That was surprising; with the state of his uniform, she would have mistaken him for a street punk. Compared with Rude and Tseng, who were always meticulous in their appearance, Reno looked like he’d slept in his clothes. Well, from what she knew of him, maybe he had.

“Well?” he said impatiently. “Where’s Rude?”

“He’ll be a few minutes,” she replied, sitting back down on the couch. “Have a seat.”

He ignored her offer and instead leaned against the wall, watching her carefully. He said nothing, and the oppressive silence began to make Elena uncomfortable. She started talking to fill in the quiet.

“I’m getting used to the job by now,” she began, trying to engage Reno in conversation. “It’s not that hard, really. Mostly paperwork, but Tseng says we’ll be tracking Cloud and the others, too. That’s why I was hired, because they’re getting too much to handle, with you out of work. But mostly we’re going after Sephiroth, because he killed the president and all-“

For the first time, Reno looked interested. “Sephiroth? Who saw him?” he demanded.

Pleased to have finally won a response, Elena said, “I think it was Palmer, head of the Space Exploration Department. He-”

“Palmer,” Reno repeated, sounding like he didn’t believe it. “That fat tub of lard? Everyone believed him?”

“Someone killed the president,” Elena pointed out. “Not to mention many innocent employees.”

“Rude didn’t mention this,” Reno murmured, more than a little pissed off. Elena, of course, didn’t know the cause of his obvious anger and assumed it was sorrow for those who had died.

“Yeah, isn’t it terrible?” she blurted, talking faster than before. “There was blood everywhere! They even had to get the Turks involved- this was before they asked me to join- to try and hunt them down. But it was useless. Cloud and his pals took advantage of the confusion and escaped-“

“You like to talk, don’t you?” Reno interrupted dryly.

Elena didn’t know whether he was angry or amused. “Childhood habit,” she admitted, busying her self with straightening her uniform. “It always happens when I’m nervous.”

Reno smirked. She and Rude would make the perfect pair- one talked too much, the other rarely said anything at all. “I make you nervous?”

Elena had the idea he was baiting her, and she didn’t like it. “I should think you’d make anyone nervous,” she snapped. “Just look at the state of your hair! And your uniform!” Good Lord, what had possessed her to say that? The man was dangerous!

Reno slowly looked down at himself, than back at her. His expression was blank. “Your point being?”

“You don’t look professional.” Elena folded her arms impertinently. “Not at all.”

Reno surprised her by laughing. “Don’t you try to talk to me about professionalism, baby,” he said languidly, leaning against the wall again.

Elena wasn’t sure how to react- no one had ever called her “baby” before. Was it an insult? A come-on? And she still had the impression he was laughing at her.

She suddenly decided she didn’t want to talk to him anymore. “I’ll…I’ll go find Rude,” she said hurriedly, stepping to the door. Just as she flung it open, Rude himself strode in.

“Hey, Rude,” Reno greeted from his position against the wall. His eyes flickered the Elena. “Just getting to know our new recruit.” He winked.

“Y’know, I think she kinda likes me. Sorry, babe, but I could never be a one-woman man.”

Elena glared at him, spat out, “You jerk!”, and stalked out of the room.

“I said I was sorry!” Reno called after her.

Rude ignored this and sank down on the couch. “I need some sleep,” he muttered, removing his dark lenses. It revealed for once the jagged scar that crossed over his right eye. None of the wounds Kaiser had inflicted- physical and otherwise- had faded or disappeared. They were simply too deep to heal on their own.

“Well, before you go beddy-bye, maybe you can explain something to me,” Reno drawled sarcastically, moving to lean on the back of the couch.

“Such as?” Rude didn’t look at him.

“Such as why you never told that Sephiroth came and annihilated half our staff!”

“Because I didn’t think you’d care.” Rude stopped rubbing his eyes and replaced the shades.

“I didn’t until I talked to Hojo.”

Rude stood and turned to face him. “And?”

“I think he’s a psycho.” Reno yawned. “He was going on about lab rats and the Lifestream and dead guys walked around stabbing people. Why’d you want me to talk to him, anyway?”

“To figure something out.”

Reno didn’t buy it. “What do you care?”

Rude hesitated. Whether what he suspected was true or not, he had the gut feeling Reno shouldn’t know about it. It wouldn’t take much to set his friend off, he knew, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to see Reno’s reaction.

“…I can’t tell you just yet,” he said at last. “Just take my word for it. I swear, Reno, I would tell you if I could.”

Reno sighed. “You don’t trust me?”

Rude said nothing. He wasn’t going to lie.

“All right, man.” Reno shook his head. “Can’t really blame you, I wouldn’t trust me, either. Just don’t do anything stupid, okay?”

“Okay.” Rude sat back down. “Now tell me about Hojo.”

Elena stalked down the hall, still fuming about Reno. Just who did that jerk think he was? She couldn’t believe she would have to put up with him- and every day at work! The others were okay: Rude was kind of quiet, but very nice. Tseng was…she didn’t know. He seemed to be waiting for her to prove herself to him. He was firm in his expectations, but basically a nice guy. He emitted the kind of aura that made her want to live up to his standards. She was desperate to impress him, to make him see she was right for this job. She knew they all doubted she could handle it, although Rude and Tseng were both too polite to say so. Reno was scornful of her, and had made it plainly obvious. And now she had him to impress as well as Tseng and Rude! She sighed irritably and ran her fingers through her blond hair. It was already hopelessly mussed, and it wasn’t even noon yet. Come to think of it, she hadn’t really done anything all day. A little paperwork, some filing, but nothing that made her feel especially useful. Was this all that the Turks were about? She’d have to ask Tseng if there was something she should be doing.

“Excuse me, Miss?”

She whirled around to face a little man in a white labcoat. It was only then she realized she’d wandered so far down the halls she no longer had any idea where she was. In fact, she was lost.

The man made a sweeping bow. “I am Professor Hojo. You are a Turk, correct?” She hated it when people introduced themselves like that, as though she was too inferior to need to know their first name. Patronizing, that was what it was.

“Yeah, that’s correct,” she said cautiously. “What’s it to you?”

Hojo smiled politely. “I have an assignment for you, if you’re interested.”

“I take my orders from Tseng,” she retorted, turning in another direction. Maybe she could find someone to tell her the way to the staffroom…

“I bring orders from President Rufus.” Hojo folded his hands and awaited her response.

Elena blanched. She didn’t know much about Rufus- who refused to be called “President Shinra”, as it had been the title his father went by- but had heard he could get very nasty if he wasn’t obeyed. But why her? Tseng was the leader; why hadn’t Professor Hojo gone to him?

“What’s this all about?” she said suspiciously.

Hojo glanced about, nervously, she thought. “Perhaps we should go to my lab,” he said. “We can discuss the details-“

“No.” Elena folded her arms. “We discuss the details here.” It felt good, taking a stand. This was what being a Turk was all about. Charge, authority. “Is there a problem with that?”

Hojo coughed softly. “It’s a rather delicate matter, Miss Elena.”

“Why’s that?”

He seemed to decide something and looked her in the eye. “I’ll be blunt,” he said. “We suspect criminal activity within the company. Specifically, among the Turks.”

“Among the Turks?” Elena was shocked. “You must be mistaken.”

“I hope I am, my dear, I hope I am,” Hojo said gravely. “But I need your help. We believe there may be treachery involved.”

“Treachery!” Now Elena was angry. “Tseng and Rude are not traitors!” Reno, on the other hand… “And regardless of whether they are or not, I won’t be your spy.”

“Please understand, Elena,” Hojo said calmly. “I’m not asking you to ‘spy’ on your fellow Turks. Just…keep an eye on them. Especially that red-haired one. Keep me informed.”

Elena bit her lip. “I really think you should discuss this with Tseng.”

“But you see, I can’t!” Hojo exclaimed. “If there was a plot, say, to overthrow the president, do you think your fellow Turks would share it with their leader? Assuming he himself isn’t in on it. But you, Elena, you are a rookie. They'd be eager to impress you, to boast of their daring exploits-“

“Th…this is ridiculous!” Elena sputtered, starting to turn away again. “I won’t have any part in it.”

His voice stopped her cold. “This is your job on the line, my dear. I have authority over Heidegger. Your boss. If you don’t do as I say…” He stopped, leaving the threat hanging in the air.

Elena considered, weighing the facts. She didn’t like the idea of doing the president’s dirty work, but he was the president, after all. And it wouldn’t really be betraying the others if she kept an eye on them, would it? It was her job, after all.

Besides, she could always change her mind, let this jerk do his own dirty work. But if he got her fired…

What would Tseng do if he was in her position? She didn’t know for sure, but she was nearly certain he would do it. Tseng was a devoted, loyal man- he would follow the president’s orders, no matter how unorthodox they seemed at the time.

It couldn’t hurt to agree, at least. She could always back out if she needed to.

“All right,” she said at last. “I’ll look out for…anything.” Specifically, Reno doing anything, she added silently. She did not trust that man!

Hojo gave a small smile. “That’s all I ask, my dear,” he said. “That’s all I ask.”

Reno threw his nightstick up in the air and caught it in his right hand.

“Just an hour alone with him,” he said, half to himself. “That’s all I need.”

“Hojo’s too powerful in the company,” Rude reminded him. “Besides, he’s told us a lot.”

Reno tossed his nightstick in the air again. “Yeah, I know. He just pisses me off.” He paused for a moment, then began to grin. “Let me show you something.”

Oh boy… Rude thought as Reno switched the weapon on. The redhead paused to flash one more cocky grin as he did something with the rod, sending a blast of power from the dangerous end. The ball of electricity smashed into the outside wall, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the building. Rude stepped to the huge opening and looked outside. Passerby at the street were staring up at the Shinra building with horror.

“That wasn’t the smartest move you’ve ever made, Reno,” Rude said to his friend.

Reno shrugged. “Oops. If anyone asks, it was Elena.”

Rude turned around, eyeing the rod. It had never been that powerful; Wat hadn’t been able to blow chunks out of buildings. At least, Rude didn’t think he had. “What happened to it?”

Reno switched it off. “You know those bastards who busted me up?”

Rude nodded. He meant AVALANCHE- specifically Cloud, Tifa, and a man named Barret.

“I was thinking maybe I could upgrade this baby.” Reno’s fingers slid over the weapon with a peculiar sort of affection, and a small, tight smile graced the corners of his mouth. Not for the first time, Rude wondered if his friend really remembered everything that had transpired in Death Row. Sometimes it seemed like the Turk had forgotten everything, put it out of his mind.

Reno looked up, and Rude saw a flash of half-crazed mirth in his eyes. It was then he realized Reno had forgotten nothing. Instead of putting the trauma and grief behind him, he had merely carried it all back with him.

“You know a lot about wiring?” Rude asked, trying to draw Reno’s attention away from the weapon. It worked; Reno looked up and shrugged a bit.

“Not really,” he admitted. “But it wasn’t that hard. Just took some messing with the little switchgrid inside-“

Rude was already lost, but pretended to be listening intently. Reno had a habit of making the most complicated things sound easy. Of course, he was so skilled at playing dumb no one knew how intelligent he really was. Rude suspected his partner preferred it that way.

“What did you think of Elena?” Rude suddenly asked. Reno paused in his technical ramblings and thought for a moment.

“Naïve,” he said at last. “You can tell she’s the kind of girl who’d smile at the homeless guy in the street and ask his name. She’s got a bit of backbone, but it won’t make a difference when the homeless guy starts getting too friendly, you know?”

“I hope you didn’t freak her out too much,” Rude commented. He knew Reno had probably tested her a bit, maybe seen how far he could push her.

“Nah.” Reno grinned. “Well, maybe-“

He stopped speaking suddenly as the door to the staffroom opened. Tseng came in, looking more or less alert since his coffee. His eyes strayed to the destroyed wall. He stopped dead, then stepped to the wall and surveyed the damage.

“I don’t suppose,” he said quietly, “that either of you…” He abruptly whirled around, glaring at both Turks. “…have any idea what happened?!” Reno, realizing he still held the nightstick, quickly hid it behind his back. Rude rolled his eyes behind his dark lenses, but said nothing.

“A bomb went off, Sir,” Reno said gravely. “Lucky we got here in time to put out the fire.”

Tseng sighed. “Knock it off, Reno.” He grabbed the redhead’s wrist and twisted until Reno reluctantly relinquished the nightstick. Tseng inspected the rod for a moment, then handed it back. “This is coming out of your pay. What are you doing here, anyway? You’re still on leave.”

Reno glanced to Rude, who said nothing. The Turk cleared his throat. “Missed you all too much to stay away,” he tried.

Tseng gave him a long stare. “Why were you bothering Professor Hojo?”

“Sir!” Reno looked shocked. “Are you suggesting I’m not scientist material? I’ve been hanging around the lab every chance I can get. Hojo and I really are great friends now.”

“Really,” Tseng said, sounding skeptical. “Then what’s his first name?”

Reno knew he was caught, but he still didn’t miss a beat. “Lucifer.”

“Wrong.” Tseng didn’t look amused. “Ten points for creativity, but still wrong.”

Rude and Reno looked at each other. “Sir?”

“Never mind.” Their leader covered a yawn. “Okay, Reno. I don’t know what you’re up to, and I’m not sure I want to know. But unless you’re seriously considering a change in profession, you’ll remember our priorities are Sephiroth, then Cloud. You don’t have time to pursue scientific interests.”

Reno pretended to look disappointed. “All right, sir.”

“Go home and get some sleep,” Tseng ordered. “You’re back with us when you’re completely healed, otherwise you’re useless. Understand?” Reno’s jaw clenched angrily, but he merely said, “Yes.” He didn’t add “sir” this time.

“Good.” Tseng turned to the other Turk. “Rude, we’ve received word that Sephiroth is heading for Junon. We’re going to try to intercept him and end this.”

Rude nodded, but at the words end this he felt a quiver of fear. Sephiroth was the most powerful warrior that had ever lived. He had once been a member of Shinra, but apparently held no love for the company. On top of all that, he was supposed to be dead.

Tseng was still talking. “I want you to go tell Elena. You two prepare to leave. We head out tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir.” Rude saluted quickly, then left to find her.

Tseng nodded to Reno and was about to leave when the latter’s voice stopped him. “Hey, Tseng?”


Reno gave a slight smile. “For future reference, what is Hojo’s first name?”

Tseng shrugged. “The truth? I have no idea.” With that, he walked out, leaving the gaping redhead alone in the room.

Reno took a moment to close his mouth. “I bet it really is Lucifer,” he announced to the empty air.

Despite Tseng’s orders to leave immediately, it was late afternoon by the time Reno started home. He took Shinra’s private train down to Sector 8, then got off to walk home from there. He lived in a rundown condominium located in Sector 6. It was a good few miles’ walk from where he was, and until he got his car back, that was what he had to do: Walk. In fact, he had to go out of his way and take a roundabout route to skirt the remains of Sector 7. “Remains” was a loose term- the sector was now little more than a gigantic heap of rubble. Sometimes, a few of the poorer folks would rummage around in the ruins in hopes of finding a bauble to sell. But not many ventured near there. It was, after all, a graveyard of sorts. Setting off that bomb had killed more people at once than Reno ever had in his entire lifetime.

As he stepped past the crushed mound of metal and debris, a weak little crying sound caught his attention. Reno paused and listened, then his expression turned to one of puzzlement. The sound was coming from the ruins of Sector 7. Reno hesitated a second longer, then ran over. There was no way anyone could be alive under that mass of refuse and destroyed lives.

But someone was.

With the sudden, half-crazed image of a person buried alive under the rubble, he dropped to his knees and began to dig frantically with his good arm. The cries got louder as he moved heavier pieces of metal aside, and it seemed to him they had a childlike quality. How a child had gotten trapped under the ruins he didn’t know, but he had to get it out.

At last, he’d uncovered a sizable hole in the debris. As he moved one last piece aside, a little snow-white head shot up and looked around with bright green eyes. It was still mewing pitiably. Reno sat back and stared stupidly as the kitten crawled the rest of the way out of the hole. Its white fur was matted with blood in places, but for the most part it appeared to be uninjured. The little animal sat on its haunches and appraised him silently before letting out a loud, decisive yowl.

“You’re welcome,” Reno told the cat, still wondering how the hell the thing had been trapped in the first place. It merely looked back at him with that piercing gaze, and Reno suddenly felt uncomfortable. The blood-matted white fur reminded him of another cat, one whose life he’d cut short so many years ago…

He stood up quickly and started walking. He needed to get home; a few drinks would help him relax. A few stiff drinks.

A sneaking glance behind his shoulder proved the worst: The thing was following him. He whirled around and shouted at it: “Get away! Go home! Don’t you have a home?”

It stopped and looked at him, mewing plaintively.

“That’s not my problem,” he snarled, starting to walk again. “Go bug somebody else. I’m sure Tseng would love to have you around.“

Even though he was certain it was still following him, Reno didn’t dare look behind him again- maybe it would go away if he ignored it for a while. It was worth a try.

Unable to stand it anymore, he looked around again- and there it was, still trotting after him.

“Go away!” he yelled, bending to grab a small rock. “Get out of here!” With one well-aimed throw, he sent the stone skittering at the cat. He wasn’t sure where, but he must have struck it, because it gave a yelp of terror and sprinted away. Reno continued walking, feeling justified but not quite alleviated. He couldn’t shake the annoying feeling that he was still being followed, and not by the cat.

He later discovered he was right.

Chapter 11

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic