Tarnished Side Chapter 10

By Janet Monstwillo

I've had a hard time leaving this town
I've been losing everything that I've found
I'm gonna search the sky
Kiss the ground
Build it up and tear it back down
–The Clarks, "Born Too Late"

Cool, wet. Rivulets of hope humbly fell from the sky, dancing on the blades of grass, sliding gently to the brown earth below. Lower lip slightly trembling, Jessie paused where she stood, eyes closed and face upraised to greet the children of the thunderhead.

A small pool gathered on the surface of Tifa's gloved palm. Liquid freedom was gathered. "It's amazing how easy it is to forget," she said softly.

"I used to call it a nuisance." A wry grin twitched at Zack's lips.

"You're gonna get soaking wet, Jess." Rude's voice was barely above a whisper, nearly blending in with the sound of the rain.

"I have a lifetime of this to make up for." Laughing a bit, she spun around, guiding her feet to any puddle she could find. Raising her arms, she nimbly twirled, beckoning to the sky.

Running up and grabbing her friend's hand, Tifa joined in the impromptu ritual to the rain spirit. With Jessie quickly taking the lead, the two girls danced round and round, as they were showered from above.

"Whaddya say, pal?" Zack extended his hand.

Shaking his head a bit, Rude simply sent out his "don't-even-try" look.

An inspiring chorus of laughter rose up in the air to greet the misty clouds as they rolled down from the mountains. Water began streaming down harder now, and the group became very thankful that the small village of Kalm was within sight.

"Damn, we better pick up the pace. I don't want to get caught in a downpour," Zack declared.

The others nodded their agreement. Luckily for them, they managed to get inside the door of the inn just as the very first bolt of lightning was tossed down by the thunder god.

* * * * * *


Ignoring Reno, Sephiroth continued his inspection of the monitors.

"There's blood all over the damn place," the redhead continued, ranting. "Some guy out on a whack-job is loose in this building, and you expect us to get out of here safely?"

Raieyana peered over their shoulders, on tiptoe. "Hey...there's something off in the lab."

Sure enough, there was a big, gaping, and slightly oozy hole in the side of a specimen tank. Sephiroth continued his scrutiny of the scene in front of him before sliding his hand over to punch a few buttons on the console beside him. Onscreen, the security tape rewound. Abruptly, he stopped the tape.

A figure was standing outside of the metallic dome. With a perfect imitation of the Masamune strapped to his back, a spiky-haired, slim male of medium height was hunched over.

Another click on the control pad and the tape began to play in slow motion. The man ducked behind some equipment around the corner of the corridor. Suddenly, in a burst, an explosion lit up the screen, leaving the hole that they had observed in the specimen tank.

The man leaned down with care, and he picked up something from inside. That something was glistening from a liquid-like coating, and feminine in form...

"That's that Jenova thing!" Reno exclaimed.

Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "How would you know of Jenova?"

"I don't know what it is, except that Raieyana an' I saw it when we were in the lab looking for Aeris."

The other man paced a bit, long silver hair swishing from side to side. "It appears the culprit here is that fair-haired man. Damn the president for disallowing cameras in his office."

"But that strange man said he watched everything happen in here," Aeris said, puzzled.

"Yes...but we'd only have entrances and exits to and from the office...because the only camera is in the hallway. Enough people enter and leave to where it wouldn't be an exceptional amount of evidence. Especially if the man still had a weapon after he left." He nodded to himself, apparently reaching an internal decision. "The hallways are cleared. Many of the employees have gone home. I'm sure many others are gathered in the president's office at this time. The code for lock-down has not been given...that is our cue to make a dash down to the helipad."

"Down?" asked Raieyana.

"You were just there, weren't you?"

She shook her head a bit. "There isn't one on the roof of the building? That would be the fastest way."

"It would also be the first place they'd look."

"But..." She exhaled in frustration. "The longer it takes, the better the chance we'll be found, regardless of where we happen to be at the time!" Her small hands balled into fists.

"I don't have the time to argue this with a child!" Sephiroth whirled around and strode towards the door, grabbing Aeris' arm on his way to the exit. "I don't have to concern myself with you and your criminal friend, anyway. Do as you please."

"Hold up!" Reno moved to block his path. "You know that if we're seen with you, we have the chance of making it past security. Alone, we'll just be blamed for that body up there. Besides, you had one of these girls brought in for the other. You're responsible for both."

"She had her chance to leave."

"I was only trying to do what you are." Raieyana's eyes glowed fiercely. "We've got to stick in this together. You're the one that got us all into this mess in the first place!"

"I was only doing my–"

She broke in. "Well, maybe you should actually do something having to do with 'security' for once. Keep the rest of us safe from the jerk-offs that hired you."

Reluctantly, the foursome headed towards the helipad located five floors beneath them.

Swiftly, he unlocked the cockpit door and swung it open. "In." Sephiroth gestured to the tiny interior of the blue helicopter.

Aeris swung her arms back and forth a little, in an attempt to gain momentum, then hopped inside–just barely.

"Great work, ol' metal head." Reno hoisted himself up with ease, then glanced back.

"I sense something off. Getting here was too easy," said Sephiroth.

Raieyana had her eyes directed on him, watching his every movement with concentration. She had both feet planted firmly on the floor.

"Hey." Reno leaned over and waved a hand in front of her eyes.

His only response was a glare.

"Need help?"

She looked at his outstretched hand with scorn. "Of course I don't–"

Sephiroth broke in. "Well...if you don't get in soon, I'll have to throw you inside."

Stamping her foot in fury, she stepped closer to the doorway, gingerly placing her hand in Reno's.

He yanked her up so hard, the force almost propelled her forward into the side of the helicopter. (Oh shit.) "Whoops," he said sheepishly, effectively catching her in his free arm. "Sorry about that."

"Oh, are you?" she demanded.

He shrugged a bit. "Maybe not," he said, lowering his voice, before giving her a quick smack on the behind.

Her eyes widened in shock. "Why you–"

"If you are done disgusting the women, Red, I'd suggest you sit down before my take-off throws you there." The Turk turned to the control console, starting up the engine.

"Not like we wouldn't love to see that," Raieyana muttered before carefully sitting down on the floor.

"Aren't they both terrible?" whispered Aeris sympathetically.

Propellers whirring noisily, the helicopter lifted off the Shinra building and began ascending over the city. In spite of himself, Reno couldn't help kneeling to look out the window. (The city almost looks...beautiful from this height.) The only time he had been away from Midgar was his stint in jail, and the trip their wasn't exactly what one would call scenic.

A voice blared over the two-way radio. "This is Midgar Air Traffic Control. Please state your business and destination."

The two girls exchanged nervous looks at this. Reno was still enthralled by the sights, nose pressed to the window like a child.

Sephiroth cleared his throat, then picked up the receiver, pressing the button for transmission. "Shinra security mission deployment to the city of Junon."

"A security clearance code is required for that destination."


There was a pause. The static hiss coming in through the speakers was a bit unsettling.

"Junon?" Reno hissed. "When did we discuss going to Junon?"

"Hey," Raieyana poked him in the arm. "You told my father you were bringing me home after this."

"Well if the Shinra is looking for us all, why would we go straight back to a place they occupy?"

The voice returned. "Code authorized. However, there is an extreme weather watch in effect for the Kalm/Mythril Mine area and it is not advisable for any aircraft to be out in such..."

Sephiroth interrupted the man. "Look, this is an urgent mission. We cannot be grounded at this point in time."

"We are not permitted–"

"Override code Three-Zero-Theta."

There was a pause. Reno could almost imagine the air traffic controller gulping in response to this. "Have a nice trip...but please be careful."

"I am always careful." Sephiroth guided the chopper still higher in the sky and speedily towards Junon.

Almost immediately, they were pounded by intense rain. The visibility out the windshield soon became next to zero as torrent after torrent hit the glass. Shakily, Raieyana stood and walked to the front. "We can't go through–" Before she was able to finish, she was cut off by a huge burst of lightning, followed almost instantly with the loudest crack of thunder anyone in the helicopter had ever heard.

Clenching his jaw, Sephiroth changed the direction a bit, so they were flying alongside the brunt of the storm instead of flying straight into it.

"Kalm has to be near here," she insisted.

An unruly gust of wind blasted against the side of the craft, and the two occupants on the floor were slammed into the side as the helicopter fought to stay in the air.

Flipping silver hair over his shoulder, he resigned victory to the heavens. This time. "We will stop briefly until the weather clears...enough for us to go on."

Chapter 11

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic