Wasted Chapter 6
The days, the weeks, the months melded together. Reno wasnt aware of the small changes within him, but they came about. He grew physically stronger, and much more tolerant of pain. With time he could endure the nightsticks power on the second level without crying out. (Although he didnt think hed ever get used to the highest level.) Overall, Rude was right- you did kinda get used to it.
Reno and Rude grew close quickly. They talked often about what they would do when they got out of Death Row- idle prattle, both knew, but still fun to dream about. Rude seemed to rise up out of the grim lethargy hed been sinking into before Renos arrival.
Lynn, on the other hand, grew steadily more detached and despondent. Rude had been right about her, too- the place really did seem to be killing her. Dark circles appeared under her eyes and didnt go away. She lost weight and her skin grew pale. Even Wat seemed to notice.
"You seem to be down lately, Lynn," he remarked one day. He grinned. "I think I know just where to put my nightstick to cheer you up."
She gave him a look of blank indifference before sweeping away.
Reno still played dumb when it came down to his uniform. Every day he was beaten severely for the lapse in discipline, but he doggedly kept up his obstinacy. He considered it a matter of pride.
Roughly eight weeks after Renos arrival, Kaiser took Tseng somewhere out of Death Row. Wat wouldnt tell them where they had gone, saying only that it was "for the good of Tsengs raining." Then he had promptly smacked Rude on the head with the nightstick for asking.
"All right." Wat pretended to be surprised as he observed the three lined up in front of him. "Reno! Youre not dressed properly again!" He shook his head in mock sorrow. "Rude, go spar with Lynn while I remind Reno why his life sucks."
Tseng and Kaiser didnt return all morning, in fact, it was dinnertime before the two marched in, Tseng shivering a little. Reno watched in fascination as Tseng peeled off sleet-soaked garments and threw them in a corner of the mess hall before sitting down to eat. Hed almost forgotten there could be such things as rain or snow.
Tseng picked at his food, not really eating. He appeared so deep in thought that he didnt even respond to Rudes question when asked, making the bald man repeat himself.
"Where did you go, Tseng?"
Tseng didnt look up. "There was a town called Corel opposing Shinra. A rebel group tried to sabotage the reactor."
Reno and Rude waited. Even Lynn forgot her black mood momentarily to ask the obvious: "Whatd you do?"
Tseng picked up his glass of water, taking a long drink. When he at last put it down, he wiped his mouth and said, matter-of-factly, "I took a squad of men and crushed the group."
"What!" Lynn sounded shocked. "You killed them?"
Tseng glanced at her, annoyed. "It was part of my last test. To become a complete Turk. Kaiser was there, evaluating me. What was I supposed to do?"
Wat and Kaiser appeared to be in deep discussion. "You kids go on to bed," Wat called. "Ill be down in a minute to tuck you in."
On the way down the stairs Reno stopped. "Go on ahead, Rude," he said when the other looked back at him. Shrugging, Rude continued down the stairs, followed by Lynn. Reno grabbed Tsengs arm when the older man moved past him.
"Wait a minute, buddy. I want to talk to you."
Tseng looked at him blankly. "What do you want?"
"I want to know what really went on with you today." Tseng opened his mouth, but Reno added, "And dont give me that bullshit you fed the others. I want the truth. The whole truth."
Tseng gave him a quizzical look. "What makes you think I didnt tell the whole truth?"
Reno rolled his eyes. "You? Meticulous, precise Tseng, giving an obscure answer?" He leaned against the cement wall of the stairwell. "My guess is youre hiding something."
Tseng sighed, leaning against the wall beside him. "If I tell you, will you leave me alone?"
Reno shrugged. "Probably."
Tseng didnt look at him. He didnt speak. Reno waited patiently, knowing he would come out with it eventually.
When Tseng did speak, his voice was scarcely audible. "Kaiser took me to this mining town, Corel, to meet the Shinra managers. The residents allowed Shinra to use their meeting hall when necessary. I met all of the big suits- Scarlet, head of the Weapons Development Department; Heidegger, our boss; the Vice President, Rufus Shinra; even the President himself. Kaiser told them all I was on my first mission.
"The President informed us how the town housed a small rebel factor that resisted Shinra. He gave Kaiser strict orders to take care of it in a way that showed Shinras power. When we left, Kaiser told me that what the President really wanted was for us to destroy the town. Then he looked at me real hard and said, This is part of your training, Tseng. Lets see how much of a Turk you can be. He gave me a squad of men to use under my command and told me to get to it.
"I burned the place down. The entire town."
Tsengs hands were trembling. "The survivors were rounded up and shot, under my orders. The bodies were placed in the local trash pit, where they were soaked in kerosene and torched, as a message to all who oppose Shinra. Kaiser stood there with his arms folded, watching the whole thing. By the time we left, Corel was nothing but ashes."
Tears were sliding down Tsengs face. "I can still hear the screams," he whispered. "Oh, God. I dont think Ill ever forget the sound of those screams."
Reno was taken aback. Hed always thought of Tseng as a cold, faceless yes-man. He hadnt expected the man to feel. To hurt.
"Whyd you do it, Tseng?" he asked quietly. "Why didnt you just tell Kaiser to fuck off? Even dyings gotta be better than killing all those people."
Tseng wiped away the tears with the back of his hand, regaining his composure. "This is why." He pulled a small picture from his jacket pocket, allowing Reno to take it.
It was a faded, ripped photo of a slender teenage girl with soft brown hair and big green eyes. She was smiling at the camera, with her mouth open as though she was speaking. In her arms she held a bouquet of flowers.
Reno looked up. "Who is she?"
Tseng reached out to take the picture back, running a finger along its surface.
"A very dear friend of mine," he said softly. "Her names Aeris." He slipped the photo back into his pocket. "She never even knew what happened when Kaiser took me away. We werent together in the usual sense, but shes special to me."
"They let you keep this?" Reno asked, indicating Tsengs pocket, where the picture was tucked away.
Tseng shrugged. "I demanded it back. Kaiser was going to get rid of it, but Wat convinced him to let me have it, saying something about false hope." He swallowed with difficulty. "She keeps me going, when Im ready to give up and die." He looked hard at Reno. "Thats why I torched that town. If I make it to full Turk rank, I get out of here. I can see her again."
Reno nodded slowly. Tseng had something to live for. Lucky guy.
The door slammed open. Wat glared. "What are you two doing?"
"Discussing the best way to send you to hell," Reno snapped. "Get out of here, Wat."
Snarling, Wat socked him in the jaw. Reno fell back, tumbling down the last of the stone steps. Wat jumped down the rest to kick him in the side. "Get up!"
When Reno didnt budge fast enough to suit him he clouted him on the head with the nightstick. "Move!"
Reno stumbled as Wat flung him into his cell. He turned around just as the door clanged shut behind him.
"One way or another, youre going to learn discipline," Wat told him softly, peering through the bars. "I think I know how. I think I know just how to crush you."
Reno scowled at him. "You think youre so bad-ass. Lemme tell you something, Wat. You arent going to make me sink to your level. Because the only person who can make me do that is me. Not you, me. Im the one who can decide what to do with my life. You think you can make me a Turk just because you want me to be one? Think again."
A blast of energy shot from the end of the nightstick, throwing him against the wall. His head slammed into cement. Reno struggled to breathe as he slumped to the floor.
Damn, I didnt know that thing could do that.
Wat only stopped to give him a vicious stare before locking the other cells and storming upstairs. Reno got to his feet, rubbing his head. There was silence, until Rude finally broke it.
"Shit, Reno. You gotta stop pissing him off like that."
Tseng surprised them all by laughing. "On the contrary- its really very amusing. Someones got to tell Wat like it is. Keep it up, Reno."
Reno grinned, even though he thought his face might crack. "Thanks. Ill try."
The next day was Tsengs final test before becoming a Turk.
They met in the training room. Tseng looked calm, if slightly uncomfortable. Lynn watched passively, as though she didnt care what happened one way or another. Rude stood close to her, with Reno by his side.
Tsengs eyes widened when Wat produced the nightstick. Since he wasnt one of Wats personal favorites, like Reno or Lynn, he hadnt been expecting to be beaten with the electric rod today.
Wat smiled nastily, flipped the nightstick with a strange kind of grace, and held it out, handle-first, to Reno. Reno stared at it stupidly, not knowing if it was some kind of trick.
"Take it." Wats voice was soft, almost gentle, completely belaying his hard eyes. "Unless youd rather be feeling it."
Hesitantly Reno took the weapon. It was switched off, so he felt nothing when he ran a hand over the smooth finish that had given him so much pain. It seemed deceptively harmless, now.
"Switch it on," Wat instructed. "Youve seen me do it enough times. You know how its down."
As if by reflex, Renos thumb found the hidden switch beneath the handle. He jolted with the shock of the powerful currant running the weapon. The rubber handle absorbed most of the shock, but there was still a numbing, prickly response under his hand. Before he had come to Death Row, he might have called the feeling pain, but his hardened senses felt only a pleasant tingling sensation compared to the very real pain the nightstick could induce.
"Train Tseng using high power," Wat ordered.
Reno looked at him in scorn, snapping out of his odd trance. "What do you think I am?"
He didnt see Kaiser move, but suddenly found himself against the wall, the big man leaning over him.
"Youre a Turk," Kaiser informed him coldly. "You will act as such." He grabbed Reno by his open collar and flung him to the floor.
"Do it, Reno." Wats voice was still quiet.
Reno slowly got up. Dimly he wondered if he could take out both Wat and Kaiser with the nightstick before they could react. He made an experimental move toward them, but Kaiser gave him a warning glare beneath his heavy brow.
Okay. Not trying to get out of this that way.
"I wont deliberately hurt a friend." Tseng, his friend? It was strange to think of him that way; even after all this time, he barely knew the guy. Still, in a strange way, he, Tseng, Rude and Lynn were all allies. They were all united against Wat and Kaiser.
Kaiser clouted him across the mouth with that black armor-backed glove he always wore. The blow nearly knocked Reno off his feet again. His mouth filled with the coppery taste of blood. "Do it."
It was surprisingly exhilarating, directly disobeying Kaiser like this. It was the certainty of the situation, the knowledge that, as he had told Wat the previous night, neither of the two could make him do what they wanted. He was in full control over what he chose or chose not to do, and they couldnt change that. Nobody could change that.
Wat seemed to be miffed that Kaiser was taking over his show. "Tseng!"
The dark-haired man looked up. "Yes, sir?"
Wat indicated Reno, who was wiping blood from his mouth. "Show Reno what needs to be done."
Tseng stepped over him, hand out for the nightstick. Reno was so shocked he let him take it. He was still standing there numbly when Tseng tripped his legs out from under him and forced him down. He felt the weapon pressing against his shoulder blade, filling him with the mindless delirium of pain. He could only think one thing:
Damn you, Tseng! Youre supposed to be on my side!
The pain didnt let up; the pressure only increased as Tseng leaned forward. "Reno, you idiot," he growled between his teeth. "Do it. I have no qualms about training you."
"Tseng-" He couldnt get any more out.
"Its the only way Ill ever see her again." His voice was pleading, even though he was the one in control. "Reno, I didnt make it this far to be let down now." He took away the nightstick, stepping back. Reno lay on the floor, gasping as he tried to think. What Tseng was asking was too much. Tseng didnt understand what the nightstick meant to him. It was more than a weapon; it was an instrument to punish, torture, humiliate. He wouldnt do it. He refused.
At last he got to his feet, not about to wait for an impatient kick from Wat or Kaiser. Tseng handed him the nightstick silently. As he did so, he mouthed something. Please.
Hes begging me, Reno realized. Damn, hes actually begging me.
Begging Reno to torture him so he could become a Turk.
It was madness. Hell, it had always been insane.
Who was he to argue with a man who wanted to be tortured? Who begged?
He felt Rude and Lynn watching him as he turned the nightstick on once again. He found himself liking the feel of the weapon, enjoying the power that came from being on the good end.
All right, Tseng. You asked for it.
Closing his eyes, he brought the nightstick down.
Tsengs first scream was intoxicating. Rather than thwarting Renos resolve, it only served to strengthen it, making him intensify the punishment. When Tseng tried to crawl away Reno put his foot down on the mans back, just how Wat liked to do it, and held the nightstick to his neck. The acrid smell of burning flash reached his nostrils. Tsengs desperate cries were only annoying him, like a fly that wouldnt stop buzzing in his ear.
Dammit Tseng, you asked for it. You asked for it!
"Reno, stop!" It was Rude. "Cant you see hes had enough?"
Rudes voice finally penetrated the madness. Reno stepped away, the arm holding the nightstick trembling. His whole body was trembling.
Tseng was a bloody mess on the floor. Where had all the blood come from?
He tried to swallow but couldnt. Rude and Lynn were staring at him as though theyd never seen him before. As though theyd never see him the same again.
Kaiser was helping Tseng to stand. "Congratulations, Rookie. Youre a Turk."
Tseng, who was shaking on his feet, made no comment.
Wat slunk over to Reno, holding his hand out expectantly. Reno stared blankly, not understanding what he wanted.
"My nightstick, Reno."
Realizing he still clutched the hated weapon tightly, Reno shoved it into Wats waiting hand. Wat slowly hooked it to his belt, his eyes on Reno the whole time. There was an expression on his face that Reno could not read.
"Well done," he said softly. As if it could no longer be suppressed, a vicious grin crept onto his lips. "I knew you had it in you." He tapped Renos forehead with a finger. "Its all in there. Right there, waiting to be applied."
Reno stood numbly as Wat strolled away.
Rude stood outside the bar quietly, smoking a cigarette. Several more littered the ground at his feet. He'd been outside for a while, thinking. The smoking was a nervous habit, empty movements born from his absent frame of mind. His thoughts raced everywhere, trying not to think of the one thing he couldnt keep off his mind. It was harder than hed expected.
The face kept resurfacing in his mind. The face he had successfully buried for years was suddenly back and he couldnt make it go away. He wouldnt be able to simply shove this incident to the back of his mind. Renos earlier comment about training hadnt helped either.
No matter how hard he tried to fight, the ghosts kept coming and before he could stop it, he was back.
Back in his own personal hell.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic