Through the Looking Glass Chapter 20

Moving On And Backing Down

By Lucrecia Marionette

The heavily cloaked figure moved easily through the crowds shrouded so heavily that only his eyes were visible. Those who dared to meet the shadowy gaze were startled to see aqua points glowing vividly from the darkness. A chill crept down their spine and they turned away hastily in the futile hope that they hadn’t been noticed. Too terrified by the sight, they said nothing to those around them and so the figure pressed on silently.

Taking a final glance behind him, he pushed open the tavern doors and stepped through. His eyes darted over the crowd and narrowed in satisfaction as they fell up a group of four people who were also cloaked but to a lesser degree. Coughing nervously, he pushed through the mass of bodies and towards the dark table in the quietest corner of the room. As he neared his destination, bright blue eyes turned up towards him and a gloved hand motioned towards a chair. He sat without a word and the remaining three pairs of eyes turned to him.

"Did you get them?" asked a low voice, the owner of the bright blue eyes.

Sephiroth nodded. "Yes; the shop owner was not overly willing to make a sale this late at night. But after I showed him the Gil he seemed to be falling over himself to get what I needed."

Cloud gave a chuckle and shook his head in a pitying fashion. "As terrible as the greed is which drives so many people now, I can’t help but be thankful for it at times."

Tifa nodded beside him in agreement. "A little wealth goes a long way," she commented quietly.

Cid lifted his glass and gulped down the rest of the tepid liquid in it, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and grimacing. "That’s gotta be the worst beer I’ve had for a while," he announced grimly.

"You should be happy for it," Yuffie said from his side, the member of the group tucked furthest away in the corner. "It’s probably the last one you’ll have for ages."

Cloud agreed wordlessly with an aura of solemnity. "True," he murmured. "Now that we have the supplies we need, whatever Gil we have left goes towards paying our way. I have a feeling that the medicine storeowner won’t be the last person we’ll have to bribe along our journey."

"Who said we needed money to persuade people?" Yuffie retorted with an impish grin and Cloud observed a glint of light reflected off the metal of her shuriken.

"We want to make as few ripples as we can," Sephiroth stated in a low tone of voice. "If we start threatening people then they’ll want protecting and stories will spread. Money and a little charm can silence the loudest mouths."

Yuffie sniffed. "I still like my idea," she mumbled childishly and Cid gave a snort of laughter.

Tifa looked up warily to see if any attention had been drawn to them through Cid’s exclamation. Fortunately most of the patrons at the bar were too intoxicated to care or too involved in conversation to hear. She exhaled thankfully and unconsciously drew her hooded cloak around her tightly.

"We look like a bunch of monks," Cid said after silence fell upon the group for a few minutes.

Yuffie laughed this time and smiles touched the faces of the remaining group members.

"You shouldn’t really be joking with the situation we’re in," Sephiroth said icily to break the slightly relaxed atmosphere. The laughter died on their lips at his statement and they swapped curious looks.

"A few laughs won’t kill us, Seph," Cid argued and Yuffie gave a reassuring smile but the silver-haired man pulled a face.

"My name is Sephiroth. And making too much noise will be the death of us. I’m certain I saw that man over there lurking in the shadows outside of the medicine store when I went in."

The members of AVALANCHE followed the general’s line of vision as his gaze flicked subtly over to a thickly built man leaning on the bar. He had clearly been looking in their direction, but as four pairs of eyes glared at him he averted his sight hastily.

"I think he’s been watching us," Cloud said once they all turned back to the table. "He seemed more than a little flustered when we looked at him."

Sephiroth said nothing but gave a thoughtful nod. "If that’s true then we should think about leaving here as soon as possible."

"But why would he just be observing us?" Tifa asked curiously. "I mean if you’re right and he did follow you to the item store, then why didn’t he just alert the MPs of our presence? Why is he still just watching us?"

Yuffie glanced over to the man who had found sudden interest in a dent on the bar counter. She narrowed her eyes, before glancing down at her half-finished glass of orange juice. She held it between her hands and idly swilled the warm fruit drink around the glass. "That’s a good point actually," she stated eventually. "I’ve been followed once or twice by bandit look-outs and thieves who want my materia. They don’t take the risk of discovery, and as soon as they find out where I am then they go to alert the others."

"Maybe we should question him?" Cid piped up with a glance around the other’s faces. "Y’know, we could just ask him what he finds so damned interesting."

Sephiroth shook his head. "No, that’s the worst thing we can do. If whoever he works for realises that we know of them then they’ll make their move and we don’t get to find out anything. If we remain natural and seemingly unsuspecting then we can probably work out a lot more by his actions and habits. We can get away and hide when they least suspect it if the worst comes to the worst."

Cid gave a grudging grunt of agreement. Although the pilot had grown used to Sephiroth’s presence he still found himself disagreeing with it. Deep inside he still mused whether or not his companions were indeed insane for even considering to allow the general to join them on their quest. Stuck in a busy bar with more people per square metre than there were books in a library he had little choice but to stay quiet. He made a mental note to bring it up with Cloud the next time he and the ex-SOLDIER were alone. However he realised that the blonde-haired warrior and Sephiroth had become disturbingly close and trying to make Cloud see sense would be virtually impossible. Still, it was worth a try wasn’t it…?

"What’re you thinking about?" Asked a voice and Cid turned to look at Yuffie.

"Nuthin’," he shrugged, but eventually another grin found its way onto his features. "I was just wonderin’ if that guy over there was considering coming over and asking us where our monastery is."

Yuffie laughed into her hand in an effort to muffle her mirth. That was so typical of Cid to remain light-hearted in the direst situations.

"Seriously," she pressed gently when she had calmed down.

He lit another cigarette and leant back on his chair blowing a stream of smoke into the humid, heavy air of the tavern. The wispy smog hung in the almost solid heat for a few seconds before dissipating hesitantly "It wasn’t important," he lied nonchalantly. "Just about what we’re doin’ next." Although Cid had made his feelings towards Sephiroth clear it was unfair to keep them on the surface. They had gone too far together just to be caught by a grudge he bore. Mentioning his loathing would prompt a heated discussion which wouldn’t end peacefully and that was the last thing he wanted. Lying was the most convenient response he could think of and the ninja seemed happy with his answer.

She nodded in understanding and looked over at Cloud who was staring contemplatively at a spot on the wall just above her head. "Where next, oh Great Leader?" she asked with a bright, optimistic smile.

Cloud gave a smile in return and rubbed his neck thoughtfully. "We’ll leave here tonight and go on toward the Chocobo farms. We get our birds and head on over to Junon. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and from there I think we should go to Costa del Sol and Correl."

"It’s like the Meteor Quest all over again," Tifa commented with a sigh. "Are we making a stop at the Gold Saucer this time around?"

Cloud shook his head. "Although we haven’t been recognised yet we don’t want to push our luck by going someplace like that. We’ll go from Correl straight to Cosmo Canyon."

"Yay! We can see Red again!" Yuffie beamed happily.

"Why are we missing out Gongaga?" queried Cid.

"It would be a pointless diversion and we should only go there if we desperately need supplies. The Midgar Offices have done a lot of good-will work over there and so they’re all linked heavily to the mayor and Reeve. If we’re gonna be recognised anywhere on the Western Continent it’ll be there." Cid nodded at the logic and Cloud continued. "Although of course keeping our necks in one piece is our main priority, we still have to find out about this damned ‘Vigilante’."

"I have had no more visions nor dreams concerning it," Sephiroth announced. "But I’m convinced that it was real and still very much a threat. When I spoke and fought with it, it was within my own mind. It is possible that it may have been biding its time and preparing to make itself known in the real world now."

Cloud pulled a grim face. "That’s why we need to go to Cosmo Canyon. If there’s anywhere on Earth we can find out about it, it’s there."

"I agree," Sephiroth confirmed. "We still have no idea about what it is but judging by its obsession with the Earth we can guess that it has strong links with it. Cosmo Canyon devotes itself to Planetary Study and life and if anything bizarre is going on then your friend will know."

"It’s at times like these I wish that the PHS systems were still online," Cid muttered irritatedly. "I could just call up the Highwind and have us flown all the way there."

"Maybe its good thing we can’t use the Highwind," Yuffie started. "I mean at least sneaking around we won’t be noticed. But if we get that great big bucket of bolts zooming everywhere then we’ll be caught in a few days."

"Bucket of bolts??" Cid exclaimed loudly and Tifa’s stomach lurched as a few of the tavern occupants turned over to them. She flashed the pilot a warning glare and he fell silent, the patrons soon turning back to their conversations and drink.

"I think we’ve out-stayed our welcome," she commented softly. "If we stay any longer then we’ll look even more out of place among this bunch."

Cloud stood and the others followed suit. Taking a final glance around his companions, he pushed his way through the crowds without so much as glancing at their unwanted observer. He opened up the exit and felt a rush of freezing air wash over him. Pulling his cloak even closer around himself he strode out and waited by the disused reactor in the Town Square. The others gathered around him quickly and huddled together for warmth aside from Sephiroth who leant up against a pipe a metre or two away from them.

"It’s supposed to be gettin’ warmer with spring, not colder," Cid shivered, his breath making puffy clouds in the air.

"It’s far too cold," Tifa trembled in agreement. "I wonder if the chocobos will be alright?"

"We took them all the way up to Icicle, remember? You can’t get much colder than there," Yuffie pointed out.

There was a short period of silence as the group of five shuddered into the coarse brown shrouds which covered them from head to toe. As stupid as they knew they looked, they were ironically thankful for the protection that they offered. Cloud opened his mouth to order them on when a he felt his stomach lurch and his heart fly up to his mouth. A troubled look around his companions showed that the same peculiar feeling had overwhelmed them also as they stared in stunned silence at the ground beneath their feet.

"What the hell was that?" Cid gasped, his cigarette now lying in with an angry amber glow on the slippery cobbles.

"It felt like a tremor!" Tifa exclaimed. "What on earth could it be?"

Cloud’s frown deepened and he shook his head in sheer puzzlement. "I have no idea," he admitted eventually. He looked to Sephiroth in the hope of some kind of explanation, but the general seemed considerably more concerned with the tavern they had just exited. "What’s wrong?" he asked Sephiroth and awaited an answer.

"That man is watching us through the window," came the reply, and in a not-so subtle fashion they forgot the previous event and their eyes unanimously darted to the glass pane. Their stalker was indeed observing them but as before at their attention, he turned away quickly to occupy himself with something else.

"Maybe he’s just a weirdo."

"Well why isn’t he watchin’ anyone else, then?" Cid contended and Yuffie gave a shrug.

"He knows we’ve left the inn and may even try to follow us out here," Cloud stated in a shivering whisper. "We should get out of here as quickly as we can so not give him the opportunity. He’ll want to stay as inconspicuous as possible and he won’t do that by running after us down the grasslands."

He was met with silence, and taking that to be some form of agreement he made a gesture with his hand and the group followed him as he walked as quietly as possible across the cobbled street.

Kalm had grown dramatically since the original downfall of Midgar. Being the nearest habitation to the old mega-city it was chosen by many to make their new lives in. As a result it had expanded dramatically West towards the Grasslands. Although the old part of town had remained as quaint and beautiful as ever in its old fashioned style, the new blocks of housing were considerably less so. Fortunately however they were built a few miles away from the town. Although still regarded as being a part of Kalm they were well out of sight. Many had even given them their own name of ‘Slumsville’ for that was exactly what they were. Row upon row of shoddy apartments made for those too poor to move further away to more desirable places such as Mideel and Costa del Sol. With Midgar’s resurrection though, most of these people had moved back to where they had previously lived leaving the ‘Slumsville’ deserted. Now it simply stood as yet another edifice to Meteor’s brief reign.

There were still tall walls built around Kalm, enclosing it and emphasising the point that it was in fact separate to the blocks of housing near the open grasslands if that wasn’t clear enough to any visitors. The group of five walked out through the town gates and directly onto the frosty grass. They’d spent a day in the old town attempting to catch even the slightest rumours as to what was happening back in their home city. Not daring to speak to anyone or draw attention to themselves however they discovered little. After a short sleep in an old stable they had awoken barely an hour before and prepared to depart. And so with bags full of medical equipment and food, they set out into the unknown.

"If we keep on travelling by night then we’ll be safer," Cloud commented as they marched a mile away from Kalm.

Yuffie nodded in agreement from the middle of the line. "Yeah. And when we decide to make camp we should try and find some trees or a cave. That way any light or noise we make will be contained or at least muffled"

"Hell, you know more about keeping under cover than I think you healthily should," Cid commented lightly and the ninja looked at him questioningly. "Somethin’ tells me you’re used to hiding from people!"

"Quit it, Old Man," Yuffie said quickly and Tifa smiled to see a wash of self-conscious scarlet brush over the young woman’s cheeks.

"Would this have anything to do with a certain young Wutaneese man by the name of Silvan?" She grinned and Yuffie huddled further into her robes as though hoping they would swallow her up.

The others looked at her expectedly until she finally snapped. "Alright, alright!" she cried. "Yes I hid from him! Happy now?? And his name is Silvas, not Silvan, okay??"

The others burst out laughing and even a smile twitched at the corners of Sephiroth’s lips. "Am I to presume he is an admirer of yours?" he inquired softly and Yuffie spun around to face him, pointing an accusing finger at his chest.

"And you can shut up too!" She yelled before storming off ahead of the four who were now helplessly in hysterics and almost having problems with standing up straight. Tifa glanced over at the silver-haired general and found herself even happier to see that he had released his glacial front and was smiling as much as the others were. She flashed him a grin before wiping a tear from her eye and staring into the darkness to locate her friend.

"I think one of us should go after her," she mused once they had become quiet once more.

Cid shook his head as he lit a cigarette. "Nah, don’t worry about it. We’ll walk for a few more hours and then set up camp. As soon as she smells any food cookin’ she’ll wander over."

Cloud gave a chuckle before turning back to their route and trudging on.


"So what do you think?" Cloud asked in a low tone of voice in fear of detection.

Sephiroth said nothing from by his side for a long time and Cloud wondered if he was all alone. He looked askance at the general for a few seconds, not bothering to turn his head or rush an answer. In return, the silver-haired warrior narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and stared over the horizon. "I’m not sure," he stated unrevealingly after a while.

Cloud pulled a face although whether it was due to the anti-climax of the response or the uselessness he wasn’t sure. As he opened his mouth to speak again there was a soft tremor beneath his feet. His eyebrows raised but he pressed his lips together tightly in a white line. For the past hour of their hike the ground had begun to shudder gently and erratically. Every odd movement was unexpected and it was only the two ex-SOLDIER’s reactions which prevented them from stumbling.

Eventually the trembling ceased and the men straightened themselves once again to look out over the ghostly Slumsville.

The vast, thin blocks of apartments stretched skyward in an accusing fashion from the dark Earth. It was said that those who were too poor to even move back to the new Midgar had remained to haunt the modern ruins. Over the past year or so they’d been forgotten until now the area was viewed with the same scepticism and dismissal as the Temple of the Ancients. No one could quite bring themselves to admit that they existed. The thought that, if even for a short while, people had lived in such squalor made them blanch and change the subject. Those who had indeed lived in the temporary housing denied it. They were part of the Midgar’s new elite and didn’t want to soil their reputation with the admittance they had lived in such a hellish place.

The crumbling structures fell just a little bit more with the minor earthquake. Chunks of concrete and plaster tumbled from the upper floors and smashed open on the ground with a loud crack on top of already disintegrated masonry. Holes which may have held windows at one point in their brief existence now stood agape, staring darkly into to the night. Cloud inwardly thought that the whole place would look much better in the daylight. But not by much. It was impossible to even think that anyone could have lived here. Let alone the thought of an entire city’s worth of humans.

Let alone the thought that people still did inhabit the place.

He felt a chill creep up his spine and gave a shudder. "We were right not to go here for our camp, " he commented emotionlessly. Despite the obvious danger of the unstable buildings, a greater threat came from the population themselves. AVALANCHE would probably be lucky to wake up the next morning with their lives if not their Gil he’d realised. Having made a temporary base in a clearing in the woods behind him he felt reasonably safe. It was night and very hazardous; monsters still roamed the land meaning that the thieves and beggars of Slumsville wouldn’t come out to investigate if they saw the glow of a fire in the middle of the local forest. Being in the Special Patrol it had been part of his job to deal with the hideous beasts of the area and so he knew exactly how dangerous it could be.

He’d saved many lives and homes in his work and when all his troubles had begun a few weeks ago they’d turned their backs on him. Reeve had only reiterated his unpopularity by stating that the SP’s were run by the public, for the public and it was their choice to kick him out. Cloud snorted. There’s gratitude for ya, he thought ironically.

Sephiroth glanced questioningly at him but said nothing and merely adjusted his grip on the hilt of his sword. "So why did you come back here?"

Cloud turned his head to face his old superior. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"If you knew we were not going to sleep here tonight then why did you want to come and look at it?"

Cloud gave a deep sigh and rubbed his neck. It had been aching badly since his unceremonious drop into the train carriage in their escape from Midgar. Now it had subsided to a numbness which was just as irritating and he hoped on an unconscious level to once more encourage some kind of feeling in it. He thought long and hard for a few minutes. The only sounds breaking his musings were the howling of the wind as it blew through the hollow windowpanes and the rustling of the branches behind him. No human sounds came from Slumsville before them.

"I don’t know," he replied eventually.

Sephiroth opened his mouth to speak but quickly thought better of it. As Cloud stared in his direction he gathered the will to make his thoughts known once more. "Do you know what I think?"

Cloud shook his head.

"I think that recently you’ve lost all faith in humanity. The only people you have come into contact recently have either been baying for your blood or one-another’s. You have a city and soon a Planet wishing for your death and friends around you who still hold hostility for each other no matter how hard they try to hide it. It is not hard to tell that you have all argued at some point in the past," the general said and Cloud’s frown deepened.

The leader of AVALANCHE seemed about to object when his hands slipped to his sides and his head bowed in a reluctant position. "I won’t argue with you there," he responded quietly. Sephiroth remained silent and folded his arms across a muscled chest. "We’ve all almost come to blows recently. Cid, Tifa and I virtually have." He paused and gave a forceful swallow, now touching the cheek Tifa had slapped so many weeks before. "Vincent and Yuffie are the obvious ones. But then there are others too… . Cid hasn’t entirely forgiven Vincent for what he did to Yuffie all those weeks back and although Yuffie misses Vincent I think that deep down she’s terrified of him. I’m not even sure if I need to say this but…I don’t think that any of us are completely pleased with having you join us," he ended hesitantly, not daring to meet his companion’s aqua gaze. "Especially not Cid."

The world was still again save for the continuous wind which seemed to roll over the treetops and down the side of the cliff they were perched on. It ruffled through their clothes and hair. Every now and then Cloud noticed a few strands of silver waft in his peripheral vision. They were quickly scraped back by a deliberate, black-gloved hand and tucked back behind the shoulders of the man who had been leader of the Shinra army in one life, and the saviour of his enemies in another.

"I don’t blame Cid and I don’t blame you. I never have," Sephiroth answered eventually. "As I said the night you took me back to Tifa’s bar, I would have to kill you if you ever considered forgiving me for my crimes. It is the last thing I want. Although I know I have no right to ask for anything, all I wish is for me to carry out my ‘destiny’ and be allowed to return to my suspension in the Lifestream. Perhaps then, and only then, I will allow myself to slip into the unconscious the universe wishes me to do so as a release. But that is more of a personal thing; a battle that only I can triumph in and reap the rewards. As for my past actions and present existence, they are the only things that you and your friends have to gauge me on. The picture I have painted is not a pleasant one."

"You saved our lives back at the reactor."

"And you saved mine. We are even for that." There was an arduous pause before both Cloud and his past nemesis turned to face each other. "Do not take your sights off me, Cloud," the general said firmly in a tone of voice Cloud recognised from his days in the Shinra army. His nose wrinkled in grim remembrance. "As grateful as I am to you for everything you’ve done, in this life there is no Jenova nor scientist controlling me. It is completely Fate and I am now the puppet of the Universe. That is a greater master than science or any alien and I am bound to it. Rest assured, when the time comes for me to act upon my orders then I will do it without hesitation… no matter what it asks me to do. If that is to save your lives, then so be it. If that is to end your lives… then so be it."

Cloud blinked slowly and turned over to the horizon once more. "Do what you have to," he said quietly. "By telling me that… you just let me know how much like the man I once knew you are. Following orders without a question and sacrificing yourself for your men if you feel it’s necessary… .But this isn’t the army any more. We’re not your men and while you follow your destiny, so will we. Our purposes are not as obvious as yours are but we will find them as we always do. We’ll help you as much as we can and I expect you to do likewise. Until the time comes when, and if, we have to go against one-another or separate, no grudges can be bared. We know the call better than any other men on the planet and when the Fate summons us, we’ll do what we’re told. For now our paths are intertwined and when they separate I know you’ll follow the laws set down for us both with the same zealousness as you followed orders as a general. You know I’ll do the same. That’s why, although I don’t forgive you and I don’t know if I ever can, I’ll trust you with my life."

"And I shall do likewise," Sephiroth ended quietly.

A smile touched the lips of both men and they turned to each other and shook hands. They clasped each other on opposite shoulders and gave satisfied nods.

One feud down, a lifetime’s worth to go Cloud sighed inwardly as he began to walk back into the forest.


"So you’ve decided to come back, huh?" Cid grinned as the slight figure slunk into the ring of light thrown out by the campfire. A black pot sat on top of the flames suspended on a frame of sticks. A greeny liquid inside bubbled in a subdued fashion with occasional bits of meat or vegetables floating to the surface and bobbing along before sinking again.

Yuffie held her head high and looked at the Captain over the end of her nose. He sat opposite the blaze to her with his elbows resting on his knees, his bomber jacket draped over his shoulders. She sniffed dismissively and slumped down on the grass after arranging her brown robes, picking up a stick and prodding the fire nonchalantly. The others present, Cid and Tifa exchanged amused looks before laughing to themselves and turning back to the stars. Minutes of silence later, Sephiroth and Cloud entered the clearing quietly and sat down beside the fire. Cloud slipped an arm over Tifa’s shoulders and Sephiroth sat on a rotting log which only just peeked into the circle of light.

"Everythin’ okay?" Cid asked eventually with hesitant suspicion. He cast his gaze between the two warriors who had just come to them from the forest and attempted to read their expressions. There was an odd tone of peace on their faces which puzzled him and frightened him to a lesser degree. As happy as he was that Cloud seemed to have made some kind of inner peace, it hurt him to think that it had been shared with their old nemesis.

Cloud gave a slight smile and nodded. "Yeah, everything’s fine," he answered and Cid found himself genuinely believing it. It was an oddly good feeling and he smiled in response despite himself and lay back on the grass with an unlit cigarette between his teeth.

The cold bliss held itself well for about half an hour as the five travellers lay back and looked at the stars or simply stayed content with their company. It was softly broken as Tifa shuffled forward from Cloud’s grasp and stirred the soup in the pot. She took a sip and began ladling it unprompted into five bowls which looked as though they’d seen better days. With a contented smile as she cast her mind back to similar times five years before, she handed out the food to all present. Without spoons they resorted to drinking from the bowl, but all were so hungry after a night’s walking they didn’t complain. Cid complimented her on it heartily and proceeded to help himself to more much to Yuffie’s amusement.

They conversed quietly, Cid teasing Yuffie about her admirer whilst Tifa and Cloud chatted excitedly about how wonderful it would be to see all their friends together once more. Sephiroth leant back on the log and took occasional drinks from his bowl. A slight smile played upon his wan lips as he observed his companions and his aqua eyes gleamed warmly from the light of the controlled blaze in the centre of the clearing.

The first wave of pain hit him however as he raised the bowl to his mouth for the third time. Brushing it off as a relapse of his previous illnesses he simply rested his head on the pulpy wood behind him and concentrated on suppressing any aches.

The second distress gripped his mind as a minor earthquake started to rock the very ground they sat upon. All chatter ceased immediately and AVALANCHE glanced around full of expectation and puzzlement. As the tremor faded away, noise gradually returned to the group.

"It feels like they’re getting stronger."

"I wonder what could be causing them?"

"Damn man, I dropped soup all over my jacket!"

"I hope that everyone back in Midgar’s safe… ."

After their brief outcries, they once more fell silent. There was an unbearably long pause as they found themselves either waiting for an explanation or a repeat of the event. It was starting to get even more worrying as each tremble brought more panic and unfounded fear into their hearts. Earthquakes only occurred in unstable places such as Mideel and Mount Correl; certainly not in the middle of the Eastern Continent.

"Does anyone else notice something… weird?" Yuffie asked eventually and the rest of AVALANCHE looked at her with puzzled expressions.

"Apart from the earthquakes you mean?" Cid responded sarcastically and Yuffie shot him a glare before looking in a dazed fashion up at the stars.

They followed her gaze, and unable to find anything out of place in the heavens exchanged silent questions among themselves.

"No, what?" Cloud queried eventually.

"Listen," was his only answer, and with brows knitted together he held his breath and did as he was told. After a few seconds he exhaled and Yuffie gave him a knowing look.

"What is it?" said Tifa to dispel the atmosphere of secrecy.

"There’s… nothing!" Cloud exclaimed and Cid’s eyebrows raised.

"Oh… Kay then," he acknowledged dubiously. "I didn’t know that nuthin’ was so damned interesting."

"That’s the point!" Yuffie stated with a degree of obviousness. "No noise! No insects, no wolves and no wind! The whole place is silent."

Cid and Tifa took their turns to listen out and gasped in surprise as they discovered the fact for themselves. "That’s creepy," Tifa shuddered as her burgundy eyes darted warily around.

Sephiroth rubbed his temples and straightened his neck, his eyes closed tightly.

"What’s wrong?" Yuffie asked worriedly but he shook a gloved hand dismissively.

"It’s all right," he replied quietly. "Just a headache."

Cloud stood up and looked around the clearing. "This is beginning to worry me," he breathed cautiously as though fearful of what could hear him. He altered his stare to look down at Sephiroth. "How bad is it?"

"It’s getting better. It just came on when I felt the tremor."

Cloud’s eyes narrowed in thought. "And you didn’t have one before then?"


"That doesn’t mean they’re linked," Cid said suddenly to interrupt his leader’s thoughts. "If he’s only just got a headache then that might mean nothing. There’ve been quakes all evenin’."

"True. But the tremors just then were a lot worse than the ones before," Tifa retorted logically and Cid nodded in reluctant conformity.

"I don’t like it here," Yuffie shivered as she stood up and walked hastily to stand beside Cloud.

"I don’t either," the ex-SOLDIER agreed. "Maybe it would be a good idea if we moved out."

Tifa gave a sudden yelp in alarm and Cloud’s muscles tensed as he grabbed his sword from the floor and raised it so that the vast blade was parallel to the ground. Yuffie somersaulted back to lift her Conformer and assumed a throwing position. The proprietress leapt up and spun back to look into the trees which had stood behind her. Her frame trembled in fear and her eyes were alarmingly wide.

"I, I felt s, something…!" she stuttered in obvious terror. "Something was looking at me!"

"I don’t seeing anything," Yuffie frowned but Cloud kept his position.

"In the forest?" he asked her through gritted teeth and she nodded frantically. He took a few long strides forward and with a sudden swing, his sword ploughed in a neat arc through the vegetation. The blow would have either injured severely or killed any creature in the immediate vicinity but nothing revealed itself.

He dropped his position and walked over to her. "Still feel it?"

Her eyes looked suspiciously over the dark, shadow-filled mass of branches and she eventually shook her head. "No," she answered quietly. Although she still shook from unfounded fear she attempted to pull herself up tall and scraped a few strands of hair back off her face. "I’m sure it was nothing. I’ve been on tender-hooks all night."

Cloud tried to accept her dismissive explanation but noticed that her eyes continued to bore into the foliage a few metres away as she spoke.

Cid was the last to stand as Sephiroth brushed himself down opposite the pilot in the clearing. "Suddenly I’m not tired any more," he muttered, lighting the cigarette he’d almost bitten in half in Tifa’s sudden fright. Despite his efforts to remain calm, his hands were shivering as he lit the end of the cylindrical object. "Anyone else feel like movin’ on?"

"I think it would be wise," came Sephiroth’s response as he holstered the Masamune and glared with gleaming aqua eyes in the direction of Slumsville. It seemed more than happy coincidence that the old city was in the direction Tifa had felt a gaze on her and it was in the same area as the epicentre of the earthquakes appeared to be. He began to talk once more but a muted rumbling interrupted his speech and he inhaled sharply, grasping his head with clawed hands. "Damnit," he hissed behind gritted teeth as a jab of pain seared through his mind.

Cloud watched him worriedly but made no move to help knowing that he’d be shoved back if he attempted to aid the general. "Will you be all right to travel?" he asked once the source of his interested pulled himself up again, his face pale and lips almost bloodless.

A silver-haired head nodded and the group silently gathered their belongings and doused the fire, burying the remains to disguise any signs they had been there.


Reno jerked awake as the very cot he lay upon shuddered so hard he was almost thrown to the floor. He leapt to his feet in a surprising state of awareness despite the little sleep he’d had and ran to the cell door. He peered out through the small, barred window and attempted to see down the corridor to his right.

"Yo, Rude!" he called in a loud whisper. "You there man?"

As he watched, a hand waved out through the bars in the door next to him. A smile touched his face at the gesture but slipped away quickly as another tremor rocked the floor. "Do you feel that?" he asked. "Only I fell out of bed and wondered if I’d been snoring too loudly again. I’ve done that before… thought a damned demolition ball was trying to knock down my apartment and I was just making so much noise…!"

"No, I felt it. Like an earthquake?" came the response and Reno nodded in grim satisfaction to himself.

"Yeah, that’s right. I wonder what they’re doing up there."

"I doubt they’re moving furniture around," said a weary yet sarcastic female voice and Reno grinned as Elena’s dishevelled face appeared opposite him.

"Lookin’ good," he commented and she snarled, narrowing mascara-smudged eyes.

"Don’t piss me off, Reno," she growled. "I’ve had about five minutes sleep in the past two days and waking up to your face isn’t helping. Have you any idea how loud you snore…?" Reno muffled a laugh but the sight of his jesting eyes angered Elena enough and she shook her head in disgust. "When we get out of here, I’m gonna-"

There was another, more subtle quake and she looked around worriedly. When it died down leaving only vibrations in their feet, Reno once more tried to look towards where Rude and Reeve were. "Hey, Reeve?" he hailed quietly.

There was a loud groaning and he saw a pair of hands grip the barred window two doors down from him as the executive pulled himself to his feet. "What?" came Reeve’s reluctant response.

"What’s goin’ on? Why are there earthquakes?" the Turk leader asked immediately.

"Yeah, is this something to do with the Offices?" Elena piped in.

"Uh, I… don’t know," Reeve answered eventually. "I don’t see why it would be. The building is beautiful certainly, but here in the middle of the Eastern Continent it wasn’t made to withstand such movements from the ground. I should know; I virtually designed it. It doesn’t have to be stable because there’ve never been shudders like these in this part of the world before."

Reno pulled a grim expression. "If it’s nothing to do with the Office execs, then it can be one of two things."

"And what’re they?" Elena asked curiously.

"One, those morons in AVALANCHE are setting off bombs or making a ruckus so that we can get out. And Two, it’s something weird."

"I’d go for the latter," Rude commented impassively. "If we are getting rescued, AVALANCHE would know to be a little less obvious than that."

"Do you really believe they’d blow the building up in order to rescue us?" Reeve asked the fiery Turk with undisguised curiosity.

Reno snorted in response. "I wouldn’t put it past them," he replied with a bark of laughter. "They never were the subtle type."

"I think you underestimate them, Reno," Reeve added thoughtfully. "Perhaps its time you started to realise that when we fought against you during the Meteor Crisis, our victories had nothing to do with just luck."

Reno’s face darkened as he began to realise what direction the conversation was taking. His boss had been pressing him during regular intervals of their capture in order to find out the cause of the sudden conflict between the blue-suited trio and the Eco-warriors without avail. The Turk leader had been holding back the truth for so long now that he felt as though his head was about to explode. But as he felt anger creeping up his mind he began to wonder whether there was any point. Trapped, defenceless and without a hope in hell of escape he had passed tense and was considering tearing his cell bars out with his bare hands. Was this a time for pleasantries and hurt feelings? He almost laughed aloud; he was damned if he was about to continue tiptoeing around people any more. It required far too much thought and quieting the ravaging images racing through his brain was hard enough already.

Fuck that he decided crassly as he bided his time and listened to Reeve’s words.

"If you really did think they’d be setting off explosions like that in order to let us out of here then maybe you need to re-evaluate your allies. Not only would causing such large devastation alert their presence to any of the military police, think of all the civilians that would be hurt."

"Look Reeve, you’ve been my superior ever since I joined the Shinra and I’m not about to go against that in any great hurry. But now the tables have turned and you’re just another ‘Joe’ like us. I still respect you an’ all, but don’t start sprouting any ‘my-gang-is-better-than-your-gang’ crap on me otherwise you’ll become just another punk to me," Reno responded with restrained anger.

"I’m not stating any kind of loyalties, Reno," Reeve retorted with a mature firmness. "But whatever has been going on between the Turks and AVALANCHE recently should be sorted out."

Reno rolled his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh. You’re so damned predictable, Reeve he muttered mentally.

"I have a feeling that our ends aren’t going to be met in these dingy cells," the Vice-mayor continued. "And our lives are going to be far from easy from now on. If anything we’ll all end up in the same boat, and when that happens I don’t want anyone rocking it and drowning us all. I’m not getting on your back, but its obvious from your beliefs of how my friends would act that you don’t have a very high opinion of them."

"I don’t, and I never have," Reno answered matter-of-factly.

"Well that’s your problem then," Reeve ended as he turned back to the darkness of his cell and sat down on his bunk, utterly exasperated with his counterpart’s lack of interest and obvious aloofness.

Elena cleared her throat nervously and gave a peculiar look to Rude who took it emotionlessly and simply sighed in response. "We still haven’t worked out what is causing all the noise and rumbling," he stated eventually. "Maybe we should be putting arguments to one side until we get out of here."

Elena looked to her boss for some kind of response, but his gaze was fixed on the wall opposite him and he didn’t even acknowledge her presence. Turning back to look at Rude she drummed her fingers along one of the bars. "They feel like earthquakes, but that wouldn’t make any sense."

"Sephiroth coming back from the dead didn’t make any sense either so maybe we should keep open minds," the bald Turks answered and she gave a pensive nod.

"True. So what do you think?"

"There was a lot of instability during Meteor’s reign, wasn’t there?" he asked rhetorically and she nodded. "These quakes might just be relapses of that."

"That simple, huh?" she smiled and he gave a slight nod. "Well if that’s the case, why here in Midgar? What’s so great about this dive?"

"I don’t appreciate my life’s work being referred to as a ‘dive’," Reeve objected moodily from the shadows of his room and Elena’s smile became a grin.

"I thought that would get you talking again," she apologised warmly. "Sorry."

She heard a quiet chuckling and the goateed visage of the vice-mayor once more appeared in the window of his door. "All right, all right. Sulk over," he mumbled with forced cheerfulness. "I agree with Rude. Tremors have never been common on our Planet, even during the time of the Cetra and it was only during Meteor’s time when they were frequent. Thinking about it more carefully…" Reeve stopped and his eyebrows raised as his eyes glazed over in a familiar gesture. Elena stared at him patiently as his lips moved and muttered words that she knew would be inaudible even if she were standing next to him.

"Care to share those thoughts with the rest of us?" she inquired and he gradually surfaced, a look of frightening calmness set in his brow.

"There were a lot of quakes when Meteor was around, but that was only when the WEAPONS were present," he relayed to her but her expression of puzzlement remained. "I’ve told you about the Vigilante, right?"

The past day or two had dragged by for the four only occupants of the Midgar Office Prison. Tempers had waned and waxed with startling contrast and Reeve's minor argument with Reno had not been the first, with even Rude losing his disposition at times. The only breaks in the monotony time had to offer came in the guards as they dropped off food and left rapidly, not even making eye-contact with the captives. Talk had been slow but often and Reeve told the Turks in depth what he had heard about the mysterious onyx serpent Sephiroth and Vincent had encountered in their shared vision. Reno’s continued contempt for anything relating to AVALANCHE however had lead to the first in many blazing rows ending in sullen silence until the next meal was dropped off through the hatches at the base of their doors. While Rude and Elena listened with baited breath and chatted about the many different things the Vigilante could be, Reno persisted in trying to sleep or totally downsize the entire event.

Many theories had come to the trio, each as bizarre as the other until now it was little more than a source of amusement to tired, lethargic minds. That was why, at Reeve’s question the male and female Turks nodded wearily.

"Well perhaps the Vigilante is a WEAPON of sorts!" he exclaimed excitedly but Elena turned her nose up at the idea and gave a somehow worried look to her bald counterpart.

"How do we know that these earthquakes are anything to do with this monster?" she asked to gently disprove his theory, clearing her throat nervously. "Besides, I thought you and your Eco-friends killed all the WEAPONS years ago?"

"I don’t think that a creature of that size and power could have been created in half a decade," Rude pointed out hesitantly to Reeve’s further dismay. "And Elena’s first idea is valid. How do we know the tremors have anything to do with a dream?"

"Oh don’t tell me you think it’s all nonsense do you?" Reeve cried in grief, but he was unable to read Rude’s expression as the Turk occupied the cell next to his own.

Rude shrugged. "As I said before, with Sephiroth around we have to be open-minded. But-"

"What he’s thinking is that maybe the Vigilante is a little… well… too open-minded," Elena interrupted coyly and Reeve looked at her in horror.

"Am I the only one who believes this any more??"

"The more we’ve talked about it, the less likely it’s existence has become," Rude sighed apologetically. "We’ve talked about it being everything from a figment of an overactive imagination to a space alien! Right now, ‘imagination’ seems the more likely."

"Sephiroth and Jenova were the only things able to induce dreams like the ones your friends shared… probably ever," Elena continued. "You guys turned that bitch-alien to sushi five years ago and now Sephiroth’s apparently on our side."

"We know nothing about the Vigilante though. Maybe it also has telepathic powers?" Reeve objected hopelessly.

"Reeve, stop hanging onto something just because your friends told you it," sighed a dejected sounding voice to the vice-mayor’s left. Elena looked over to Reno’s door and saw that her boss had snapped out of his morose trance. Now a haggard expression occupied his face and he seemed to become more tired by the second. Whenever the Vigilante was mentioned by Reeve as he sought to come up with new theories, Reno quickly developed a way to disprove them.

Although both Rude and Elena had tried hard to keep the executive’s hopes alive it was becoming gradually harder as they found themselves swaying to their boss’s side in increasing amounts. They swapped anxious looks and inwardly hoped that Reno wasn’t going to completely destroy what little faith Reeve had left. Elena swallowed forcefully as she realised such dreams would be futile. Reno no longer cared about what he said any more it seemed. If anything, the thought of getting out if only to prove himself right was one of the few things keeping him sane. Picking sides had always been so easy in the past. Why is it so hard now? Elena questioned herself brutally.

"If they told you night was day you’d probably believe it."

"Don’t be so ridiculous! I believe it because I trust them. Why the hell would they tell me something if it wasn’t true?"

"As an excuse for their psycho friend. I know that if either of these two went nuts I’d make up any whacked-out story to keep them safe," Reno replied emotionlessly.

"Gee, thanks," Elena mumbled dryly under her breath.

She looked over to Reeve and watched as the ex-executive’s mouth opened and shut like that of a fish she’d once seen as a girl when it was dragged out into the air and left to die on the floor of a boat. She remembered wanting to get a knife or something to cut off its head or end its suffering and being too much of a wimp to do so. Watching a close friend floundering so badly with all the blood from his face drained she almost felt like a helpless little girl again; unable to pull her eyes away from the suffering of a creature, but unable to stop it as well. For an overwhelming second she felt the incredible urge to run over and hold Reeve. To push her hands over his ears in order to stop Reno’s spiteful words cutting into the innocent and trusting soul of the man but being unable to. It’s just like that damned fish all over again she thought angrily to herself.

Blushing furiously at the realisation of what she had been thinking about she turned suddenly and sat on her bed with a dazed expression.

There was a long period of tense, polluted silence between Turk and executive as Reeve found himself utterly confused and overcome with a tumultuous rush of emotion. Swallowing hard he ran a hand through his hair and narrowed his eyes. "Vincent is not a psycho," he growled firmly with an anger and determination which surprised even Rude.

"Come on Reeve! You’ve read those personality reports as well as I have! And you know-"

"-More than you do because I’ve had the pleasure of travelling with that man for two years of my life! It is not my problem if you are only able to see one side of the coin but do not carry your prejudices out into the real world. What Vincent did must have had a cause; he would not have killed those people for the hell of it no matter what you and I have read in the past. Something triggered those emotions in him and the only way to explain that is in the dream he and Sephiroth had. Sephiroth has admitted that they had an argument which will have caused the fit and nothing more was involved. Vincent has changed-"

"-Into an unstable freak with no more control over what he does and becomes than a bomb does over when it’s going to explode! The capacity to be what you deny he remains is becoming greater and has been since Hojo did all that science shit on him in the Shinra HQ. I never liked the guy when he at least resembled something human but I admired his emotionlessness and ability to get on with the job in hand. I knew something was different when I saw him as that fucking demon in the HQ when he’d found Cloud. I knew that something was even more different when I saw him in the Sector Three Reactor. Whether you want him to be or not Reeve, he’s a cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch who’s more of a threat than any phantom snake no matter what your AVALANCHE friends will have you believe.

"These earthquakes are probably nothing more than disturbances in the Mako because of the Reactor explosion, you know that as well as I do," Reno stated angrily, and despite himself Reeve felt a guilty expression swamp his blotched face and wipe off any signs of his previous rage. He felt glad for the fact that Elena, the only one able to see him, was not present otherwise she’d realise that he knew what Reno was saying was true. "I’ve been killing myself in my head over and over again for all the shit I did when Shinra was in charge. Call me a cliché, but I want to do whatever I can to make some kind of apology to the world. That’s why, when I get out of here the first thing I’m gonna do is find Valentine and nail the bastard. I’ll stick a stake right through his vampy heart, decapitate him and shove garlic down his neck if that’s what I have to do."

"Reno, please-" Reeve began sorrowfully but once again he was cut off without difficulty.

"While we’re stuck in here talking about freaky dreams and big snakes he could be out there tearing whole towns to pieces. When I fought AVALANCHE in the past he changed into that thing and had hardly any control over it. He almost tore me to pieces and probably would have if Rude hadn’t cast barrier just in time. I escaped with a broken arm and scratches down my back and sides; I still have the scars now. I had only enough blood in my body to keep conscious and nothing more. Turk Vincent was with the cunning and ruthlessness of something evil in a human body. It makes me want to vomit to think what he’s like now.!" Reno yelled with a vicious vehemence.

"Is this all about some personal vendetta because he almost killed you in the past?" Reeve asked softly with a futility he knew was more than apparent in his voice.

Sensing the fact that Reeve knew he’d been defeated, Reno calmed himself and drained his words of their venom and fury. "It’s not, and you know its not.," he sighed. "As I said before, I want to somehow make amends and I know it can be done by getting rid of one more bad-guy in the world. I’m sorry if that person turns out to be one of your friends, but he certainly ain’t one of mine. I’ve told that moron Cloud that by keeping Vincent around he might as well be pressing a loaded gun up to his temple and pulling the trigger in the chance that it’ll misfire. None of your AVALANCHE friends will listen which makes them fools for not accepting what could happen. It looks like I’m the only one prepared to act on what I know to be right. By ignoring what I know as you and your friends are doing, I’ll be the biggest loser of all. I realise that he’s your friend, and if Rude or Elena started to lose themselves I wouldn’t want anyone to start dishing out euthanasia as some kind of fantastic cure. But… with or without your consent I need to do this. I know right from wrong as well as the next guy; I simply chose to not care in the past justifying myself with my work. There’s no excuse for him any more and even if it is just to help me deal with my conscience I have to stop him."

For a long time Reno could only hear his heart thumping in his chest and the laboured sound of his breathing as he attempted to calm himself. Instead of feeling better for his fury controlled outburst as he evacuated all hidden rage and hatred, the weight on his mind became heavier. He wondered if he could hear sobs coming from Reeve’s direction, but as he held his breath and focused his ears he discerned words from the executive’s mumbling.

"I take it this is why you’ve been so distant around them… ." A sigh. "Just… give him a chance, Reno," a whispered voice beseeched lightly. "I’m begging you not to kill him. He’s so screwed up right now he doesn’t know a target from an ally. You wouldn’t even let him know it was coming. Just wait a while and see him for what he is. Give him a chance."

The plea was so quiet that the flame-haired Turk barely heard it, and when he did, his eyebrows shot up high on his head. He started to object, but swallowing his pride he narrowed his eyes and walked back into his cell, perching on the bed and holding his head in his hands.

A rush of unfamiliar emotions and thoughts gushed through his soul. In the past, life had been so much simpler; his conscience could be silenced with a few shots of whiskey and a swig of vodka. But now, not all the alcohol in Midgar could numb his brain to the acts he’d committed. Now he was certain that whenever he closed his eyes he could hear the screams of the civilians of Sector Seven as the plate was cast down onto them from above.

It had all been his fault. He had faced more turmoil over that single event than most others (Yes, most others…) but he had coldly reasoned that if he hadn’t done it then someone else would have. The pay was too high for him to walk away from and let some other idiot step in and press a button.

‘Cause that’s all it was right…? Pressing a button? I didn’t make the bomb for Christ’s sake. I didn’t come up with the plan or say I agreed with it. I pressed a button… that’s all.

Anyone can press a button; anyone at all… .


Vincent Valentine, the legendary Turk who had disappeared on a mission to Nibelheim which resulted in the creation of a God. Vincent Valentine, the legendary Turk, who previous to Reno, had held the highest death count and took a silent pride in his achievement. Vincent Valentine, the man who would have been Reno’s superior had circumstances and time been different.

And Reno O’Mahony, the head of a battered trio of Turks who stood among the sole survivors of Shinra’s elite. Reno O’Mahony, murderer of over a million people at the touch of a button. Reno O’Mahony who, if circumstances and time were different would have served under Vincent Valentine.

Reno pulled a grim face.

Killing Vincent, the ‘God of Turks’ would be as though he were killing any trace of the Turks organisation; erasing their deeds and very reason for existence. He sighed. Killing Vincent would be like erasing his own deeds…

His line of thought stopped with a jolt however.

And destroying my very existence and reason for living he reminded himself glumly.

Elena and Rude were like family to him. Rude the brother he never had to talk about women with and get drunk with even if it was only for the sight of the bald Turk slumped in a chair with a swirly moustache drawn on his top lip with permanent marker. And Elena, the caring and argumentative sister he never had the chance to know and love with a reluctant heart as though having any feeling for his younger sister would give him cooties. Without the ‘Turk’ name what would hold them all together? Sure the comradeship and family-like ties were powerful, but the sudden exposure to a life they’d forgotten involving bills and doing the dishes; meaningless rituals which normal everyday people experienced seemed so unreal and terrifying to him. He realised then how much he needed them near him and understood on another level that they felt the same.

Maybe the Turks meant more to him than he knew. It had been fun to uphold all the laws and play ‘spy’ like in the movies. But when it came down to it, it was a way of life to him now and one he couldn’t live without.

Perhaps killing the Turks wasn’t such a great idea. Murdering Vincent would be a way to keep his mind at rest, but destroying what he was would devastate his heart. It was time for him to see that what was in the past had passed and only the future was ahead. AVALANCHE, as much as he hated them, had pushed their prejudices aside in order to lay their arms down and accept him as one of them. They gave you a chance he heard a voice deep inside tell him and guilt began to rise once more. He had been given a second try to make amends and recreate his life without the destruction of those closest to him. Who was he to deny that of another?

Numbly twirling his scarlet ponytail around a finger he blinked slowly and looked in the direction of Reeve’s cell as though he could see through the walls. Clearing his throat, he spoke.

"I’ll give Vincent a chance," he said eventually. "But I swear Reeve, one slip-up. One tiny mistake and I’ll-"

"Thank you Reno. You’ll see, I’m sure you’ll see."

Reno’s lips pressed together to prevent himself from retorting in any form and he cradled his face in his hands once more. His head was beginning to pound and his mouth was increasingly dry due to the little he’d had to drink. There was far too much time to think and he just knew it was damaging his brain somehow and felt inwardly determined to prove someday how thought was detrimental to health.

He grinned to himself and lay back on the bed with his feet still planted on the steely floor. As he did so, there was the sound of laboured footsteps approaching and he looked up at the small window in his cell door idly. Looking at Jarrad’s grinning face as he roughly kicked a plate of mouldy food through the hatch at the base of the door had grown tiresome quickly. Especially when the ex-SOLDIER and Reno’s tormentor when he’d first been captured, decided to taunt in his crude and unintelligent way. Being called ‘carrot-top’ and ‘Jerk of a Turk’ was not only childish it was damned annoying Reno had decided and he made an indifferent mental note to ‘stick his nightstick up the bastard's ass’ the next time he had time in his busy schedule.

He was then surprised to not see the heavy set jaw and bull-like neck of the MP fill the rectangle of light but a quite different sight. A young man peered in at him perhaps only his early twenties with long blonde hair pulled back tightly in a sheer ponytail and a goatee on his chin. The young man’s lips turned upwards in one corner into a lopsided smirk and above the somehow emotionless expression glittered startlingly cold blue eyes.

Reno’s face crumpled into a frown as he sat up suddenly.

"Hey, you’re the superior of that idiot Jarrad aren’t you?" he asked in a rhetorical manner, so certain of his knowledge that he didn’t require an answer. "You stopped him from kicking the shit out of me when I was tied up. I owe you one."

The commander said nothing and continued to stare in with his emotionless and yet expressional face.

Reno’s eyes narrowed however as he gazed back with intense scrutiny, examining every detail of the visage present to him. A flash of realisation flickered in his mind and he attempted to grasp it without avail and it slipped through his fingers like a formless mist. His mouth opened and shut quickly as he felt as though he was about to say something but found himself unable to dredge up the words. Finally swallowing hard he stood up and walked to the barred entrance to the cramped prison cell.

"I… I know you, don’t I? I’ve seen you somewhere before; I’m certain of it," he murmured. "What’s your name? Where do you come from and how did you manage to be a commander when you’re only young?"

The meaningless smile slipped hastily slipped off the soldier’s face at Reno’s questioning, and without a word he turned and started to walk away.

"Hey! Hey come back here!" Reno cried. He pressed his face up against the bars in order to tilt his face and get a view of the man as he moved away. As he caught sight of the commander’s back as he disappeared around a corner at the bottom of the H-Wing, he almost screamed out in frustration. "I do know him," he hissed between his teeth. "But who the hell is he…?"

The stilted sound of the commander’s footsteps echoed through the tunnel, his prominent limp making quick progress through the metallic labyrinth of the prison difficult… .


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