Tarnished Side Chapter 3
By Janet Monstwillo
"The train is about to pull out, Teef," muttered Zack.
The locomotive engine groaned as the train began to lurch forward.
"We need him for the mission--"
"Like hell we do! Stop trying to make our mission, which is business, into something personal."
"We do need him this time though," said Jessie softly. "Rude and I need to guard the doors. We're the only ones that know the technology. That leaves Reno to set the bomb, and you two to watch his back."
"No use for any of us if we can't get there." Rude paused, then nodded towards the entrance of the station.
The man walked up to them hair mussy, clothes disheveled, and eyes ablaze. Reno also happened to be ten minutes late.
"Thanks a lot! Another train doesn't come for at least an hour!" Tifa crossed her arms.
He shrugged and turned towards the tracks. "Where we going... Sector 5?"
"Yeah," said Zack. "Not much service there--"
"Good thing I don't rely on others then." Reno jumped onto the tracks and began walking towards the tunnel.
"Stupid." Rude adjusted his sunglasses.
"No, he's onto something. It'll be empty if no trains are coming, and we should be able to bypass the security checkpoints." Jessie followed behind him, then she waved.
"If this fails, and we live through failing," Zack muttered, "I want a new leader."
* * * * * *
Getting past the robots and ducking the security cameras had been hard. Judging how much farther the group had left to go, though, turned out to be harder.
"Dammit, I thought you said we were close!" Zack snorted derisively.
"Hey, I said I thought we were close," protested Reno. "Don't forget last mission was my first time in one of these things, too."
"Just come on, then." He was unable to think of a comeback. "What's eating you, Tifa?" He placed a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Nothing," she said quickly, startled. "Nothing at all." Her heart skipped a beat. (Only memories.)
* * * * * *
The small band of Shinra troops had descended onto Nibelheim, using the tavern to get drunk and the inn to sleep off their hangovers. When they awoke, this process was repeated.
This wasn't the celebration of a hard-earned victory; this was the drowning of a shameful defeat. Five years after the war, a surprise second assault had failed miserably.
Their leader hung back, not joining in with his men. Green Mako eyes haunted the memories of anyone who had seen him. He had decided to lock himself up in a private room for awhile, and the townspeople were very thankful.
One day, chance dictated that he head out to the tavern for a hot lunch. Just outside the entrance, a blond boy collided into the commanding figure.
One glare of the Mako eyes set the child into trembling, but that was not enough. "Where is your father," he demanded, "that he couldn't manage to teach a snot-nosed brat like you to watch where he walked?"
His blue eyes filled with unshed tears, but the boy managed to speak. "He died in Wutai--fi...fighting the Shinra scum!"
The general grabbed the child by the collar. "Come." His voice was filled with fury. "You will see why a child should be seen and not heard."
A girl had watched this encounter in quiet fear. Noticing that the man was heading up the trail to Mt. Nibel, she hesitated before following behind.
He tossed the boy to the floor right outside the core of the new Nibel reactor. "We build you a shiny power plant, treat your simple village with more respect than it deserves, yet...you peasants side with the barbarians against us!"
"You guys try to control--"
A long, thin sword swung, leaving a large, ugly gash on the left side of the boy's face. The man didn't seem to hear the soft gasp coming from behind a barrel near him.
The girl watched in terror. (How can this man use his sword on a kid?!)
"Their children proclaim our `worthlessness' in the streets...yet we hold their entire existence in our hands!" Flipping back silver hair, he challenged the boy with his eyes. "You, who dare to mock us, speak your name, so I can figure out to which mother I should deliver the pieces."
He stood. "Cloud Strife." Something showed in his eyes; this was not complete surrender. "This is for my father," he said, wielding a dagger.
The man was taken completely by surprise, but Cloud wasn't tall enough to reach his throat. The would he left on the chest bled enough, but wasn't critical.
Stumbling on the catwalk, Cloud fell to his knees. Gasping, he turned in time to see the shadow fall over him.
"No!" screamed the girl, barreling into the Soldier, sandwiching the man between herself and Cloud.
The man yelled in rage and pain as Cloud took the opportunity to lay into the general with his dagger. With a burst of energy, the man threw the girl off of him and swung hard at Cloud.
For a brief moment, the boy held onto the catwalk, refusing to let go and give up. He noticed the girl who had helped him. "Tifa?" he whispered.
Then the soldier kicked Cloud, who let go, falling hundreds of feet into the Mako pools below. "The Lifestream will drown him," said the man, emotionless. "But what shall I do with you, little girl?" he sneered.
Tifa slowly backed to the railing, stealing a glance down into the Mako.
"In some ways, you're lucky. I have no use for your body, and I don't feel like killing you. I shall teach you a lesson. Kneel."
She slowly did as she was told, a tear slipping down her face.
"Heed my words, child. I leave you today so you live to suffer...and never forget how powerless you are. Lest your memory become unreliable..." With one stroke of his blade, he left a wound on the right side of her face, mirroring Cloud's. "I'll let your reflection remind you."
She was left as she was, on her knees...and bleeding.
* * * * * *
Tifa gazed at the core of the Sector 5 reactor. (These all look the same, even like that little one back in Nibelheim...all those years ago.) She couldn't remember having ever liked the Shinra, but her vendetta against them had begun about ten years ago--after a classified attack on Wutai was aborted, making the company's prized general a failure twice over.
His name could be heard along with mocking laughter on the streets of Midgar. The Shinra had built a city filled with inhabitants nearly as ruthless as they themselves were. In Tifa's head, however, the name only echoed along with hopes for vengeance. It streamed through her head like a mantra during her teen years, when she trained with a master martial artist named Zangan.
Her life in Midgar, her true mission, only existed for revenge. In every thing she did, she heard his name.
"I've got it!" Reno hopped back from the time bomb, admiring his handiwork, and disintegrating Tifa's reverie.
"Shouldn't we get going?" Tifa raised an eyebrow.
"Sure," he said. "No huge rush, though."
The three of them had made it out of the core room and a little ways down the hallway before they were interrupted. By the loud whirring of a helicopter.
A tall young man dropped down onto the walkway in front of them. "Greetings from Shinra, Inc."
"Look who's playing errand-boy for Daddy." Reno laughed.
"Tsk, tsk." Rufus Shinra shook a finger at him. "You don't leave yourself much room for mockery. After all...you refused a job with us to take up with a group too inept to even name itself."
He snorted in return. "I think that's more a reflection on your company."
Ignoring Reno, the vice-president fixed his eyes on Tifa. "Now you, sweetheart, don't look like you're so worthless you need this crew."
She turned her head, revealing her scar. "I have my reasons," she said, burgundy eyes alight.
"Yeowch. Y'know, there are doctors who can fix that."
"Can they bring back the dead?" Tifa asked bitterly.
"Some of them can. Shinra is on the brink of breakthroughs in technology and medicine!"
Zack rolled his eyes. "Well la-dee-fricken'-da. Can you do us a favor and kill us before you bore us to death?"
Rufus shrugged. "I'm just supposed to deliver a message. If you guys make it outside, remember that we will find you, nameless or not. Shinra only has one more mess to clean up, and that is you!" He climbed into the helicopter and flew away into the Midgar gloom.
"Why did he say `if you guys make it'?" Zack wondered out loud.
He was answered almost immediately by the sound of gears turning and a robotic voice. "You are not authorized. I must terminate you." A whir and a click. "Have a nice day."
He shook his head. "I just had to ask."
"Hey," said Reno, "on the bright side, at least we'll die knowing we've met the Shinra's politest employee."
* * * * * *
"Get me Amine on the phone, pronto."
"Yes sir!" The secretary quickly checked the database, dialed, and handed the phone to the commander of the Turks, batting her eyelashes and not so subtly displaying her cleavage. "Anything else, Sephiroth?"
"Yes," he said coldly. "Privacy."
"Hmph." She got up and made a big display of sauntering to the door and closing it behind her.
Someone picked up on the other line. "Hello?"
"What do you want? I took my leave of Shinra years ago for a reason. There was nothing left in it. I decided to take the right path, be responsible..."
"And the president has allowed you your stupidity. You don't sound too grateful."
"I can't be grateful, not when you keep hounding me about my--"
"Well, the director of Science thinks he can work the late Dr. Hojo's Promised Land theories into a viable enterprise for the company."
"Damn your needs to hell! You will not have my daughter...or my niece."
"Ah yes, Ray-something. She must be nearly of age now. Tell me, do you happen to know where she is at the moment?"
"Of course." Tseng paused. "She went to a private training school..."
"Oh, sir. I wish for your sake, that she was there. But, if you would kindly turn the screen on your PHS to the Shinra video feed..."
Only a whisper was audible over the line. "Dear god...no..."
"We here at Shinra are not completely unreasonable. Favors are bestowed onto former servicemen such as yourself."
"What do you want from me?"
"Although we both know the girl was created by mixing your DNA with that of an Ancient, making her suitable for our plan...that's not the most favorable subject, as the original Ancient still lives. Rumor holds that you know her whereabouts."
"Is this a trade?"
"Certainly." Sephiroth smiled to himself. (At least the good man knows what he's dealing with.) "You come here and aid the Turks in finding Ms. Gainsborough, and we will release Raieyana to you, provided we can be allowed a DNA sample."
Tseng's voice was strong. "I will do it. My loyalty to the girl exists because of Ray...but I am a father above all else."
"Though we wish to have your help in person...if you give me a lead now, we could find her, and be able to release your daughter as soon as you arrive from Junon."
"The only one I can think of is a church in the Sector 5 slums. She used to grow flowers there." A bit of pleading entered the man's usually cold voice. "Please don't harm my daughter."
"Thank you Mr. Amine. A Gelnika will arrive for you shortly, in the usual place." Hanging up the phone in disgust, Sephiroth made a promise to himself.
(I will never be controlled by something as irrational as an emotion. Only the strong withstand it, and can dictate their own lives.)
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic