Tarnished Side Chapter 4

By Janet Monstwillo

Zack and Tifa stood on one side of the robot, Reno on the other.

"Nothing we try seems to slow this thing down!" Tifa shook her head and concentrated on a Bolt spell. A burst of electricity pulsed into the machine, stunning it for a mere moment.

"Damn, is it shielded against Lightning or somethin'?" Zack darted forward, putting all his weight into a swing of his broadsword. Unfortunately, this blow glanced right off the galvanized coating.

"That spell was supposed to crack through that junk!"

The robotic guard rolled towards them, dealing out a generous supply of bullets. "What the fuck are you doing over there, Reno?!" screamed Zack, hand covering a wound in his left arm.


Reno looked up from the device he had been tinkering with. "I'm done. One word, you two: run."

Tifa was shocked. "What?! Are you craz--"

"Yes, but you're not, sugar...so run."

As the two turned tail and fled, Reno attracted its attention with a few shocks from his nightstick. The counter on the trigger slowly ticked off the seconds. Eleven. Ten. Nine.

At the last second, Reno turned and dashed past the robot. After making a few strides past the bomb, he tripped, one of his shoelaces caught on a bolt. "Shit," he whispered as the entire walkway collapsed with the impact, and he fell several stories into oblivion.

* * * * * *

Aeris knelt by the waterfall beside her home, probably the freshest source of water in all of the slums. Humming an old tune happily to herself, she dipped a watering can into the pool, filling it to the top.

As she reached for the other can, she got the strange feeling that she was being watched. Quickly finishing her business, she stood and half-ran back to the old church that was her sanctuary.

"Oh dear." The sight greeting her eyes was that of the roof collapsed on most of her flower bed. "Might as well inspect the damage."

The wreckage moved slightly and groaned.

"Hello?" she asked cautiously.

"This is hell, isn't it?" Another groan.

Leaning over, she managed enough muscle to move the beam that had been pinning the man. "I hope I'm not the devil, then." She giggled.

"I've heard that laugh before." Reno slowly opened his eyes. "This doesn't count as our date--"

"Why not?" A wink.

"Because I can't officially ask you until I know your name." He struggled to sit up. "A little help here? I did fall off the plate, you know."

"Fell? You probably blew a hole in that pizza." She reached down and, grabbing his hand, pulled him up. "I'm Aeris."

He rubbed the back of his neck. "Now that I'm doubly indebted to you, does that make for two dates then?"

She had stopped paying attention to him. Her eyes were fixated on a place behind him, and she looked kind of frightened.

"Geez, don't be so scared-looking. I was kidding."

Aeris shook her head slightly. "I think you've gotten an opportunity to repay me," she whispered.

"Huh?" Reno stood up--slowly--and turned to see what she was looking at."

Green Mako eyes.

"Oh no, they've found me," Reno and Aeris said together. Then... "They're after you?!"

Sephiroth shook his head. "I hope you're not trying to be cute. Otherwise, you've failed. Aeris, a pleasure to see you, as always." He smoothed the blue suit of his Turks uniform.

"I don't think we've met." She backed away a few steps.

"No? I know you rather well, though perhaps you haven't seen me watching you. Anyway, our head of Science has a world of ideas. Trouble is, our prized specimen has flown off and we need it back."

"Let me get this straight then..." Reno looked back and forth between them. "I'm free to go?"

"You're no concern of mine." Sephiroth waved a hand.

He waved to Aeris. "I guess this is bye for now. Keep a Friday night open for me, all right?"

"You're just gonna leave me here?!"

"I've got my own business, doll, but hang in there. I know you're a trooper."

Aeris watched in disbelief as he sauntered out the door, her mouth open wide. "Of all the nerv--"

Reaching over and grabbing Aeris by the wrist, Sephiroth sighed loudly. "We don't have all day. There's a helicopter waiting outside. I'm sure you know the drill by now."

Reluctantly, she allowed herself to be led out of the church. She and Sephiroth were flanked on either side by a soldier, though the measure went off without a hitch. Even the helicopter take-off was flawless.

Flawless, that is, if you discount the disheveled man who had wedged himself in and was hitching a ride on the landing gear.

* * * * * *

Tifa picked at her dinner, staring up at the news being broadcast on the television screen. "I wish I knew what happened to Reno. Even if he didn't make it, the Shinra would be using him as a scapegoat, wouldn't they?" She banged her fork down in disgust.

"I hate the waiting, too," Jessie said sympathetically. "At least we are getting to the point where no news is good news...right?"

"We will as soon as the Rude-man gets back," Zack offered. "Geez, as much as I hate to admit it, we all owe the guy for his ballsy move back at the reactor. We were gonna be toast."

"Don't say toast!" Tifa sniffled.

Jessie put her hand on the girl's shoulder, comforting her. "Come on...my big cuz wouldn't die so easily."


They all looked up as Rude entered the bar. Silently, he took a stool and sat down. Jessie could swear, though, that she saw a smile twitching at the corners of his usually stone-set mouth.

"Well?" Tifa asked softly.

"Well," he said, "well, well, well. No news of Reno. Probably on his way back."

"That's good, right?"

"Of course," answered Jessie quickly. She eyed Rude carefully. "There's something else, isn't there?"

He nodded. "Found a rat. Said that a Turk was asking for our location. In Wall Market."

"Sector 6 is the next one over...dammit!" Zack slammed his fist on the counter.

"He spent time at a place called Don Corneo's. We need to find out what this Don guy said."

"So we just sneak in and bust the place--"

"Wrong. The man is looking for a bride. Only people allowed inside are women. Three a day, and one is picked to spend the night with him."

"Ah," said Jessie, "Teef and I could dress up and be sneaky girls."

"True. The only way to make sure we get to him, though, is to have a `girl' in all three positions."

Jessie saw his mouth twitch again, and met Tifa's eyes. The busty girl was suppressing a giggle. Then she glanced at Zack.

He gave the three of them a funny look. "Why is everybody looking at me?"

Tifa's giggle broke through, and she laughed out loud.

"Oh man." He shook his head. "Not that."

Rude finally grinned. "Yes."

* * * * * *

Two aircraft touched down on the Shinra helipad at the same time. One helicopter, one Gelnika. Sephiroth stepped out with Aeris, just in time to be face-to-face with Tseng.

Reno watched from beneath the helicopter. (Is the Turk guy gonna hand her over?)

"I see you did find her."

Sephiroth nodded. "As easy as plucking a flower. Makes one wonder why you never did it in the first place."

Tseng flinched. "Now, Raieyana. Before you take the other girl inside."

He nodded to his men. "Go bring the girl out."

"What is this?" demanded Aeris.

"He simply ratted you out," said Sephiroth sweetly. "Can't blame the man, though, we had something dear to him."

A brown haired girl came running out, blue skirt flowing behind her, slowly followed by the two men. She wrapped her arms around Tseng in a warm embrace. "Father."

Aeris' eyes widened. "I never knew he had a--"

"Now you do." Sephiroth jerked her arm and quickly forced her inside.

One of the men turned to Tseng. "We'll call the pilot to fly you back to Junon."

He nodded, and the two soldiers walked back inside the building.


Reno had been taking this all in very carefully. Then, when the girl pulled back from her father, he finally got a good look at her.

She appeared to be in her late teens. He stared in amazement as he realized this girl could have been a twin to Aeris, or at the very least, a sister. The only difference lay in a different hair style--shoulder length wavy hair, a little more in the curves department, and Mako eyes...though, on second glance, she did appear frailer.

"I tried to be careful. They got me when I stopped in Kalm for lunch."

"It turned out all right, this time. They just wanted to blackmail me for information."

She looked at him knowingly. "What information, exactly?"

"I told them where Aeris Gainsborough was." Tseng lowered his eyes.

"You did what? You wouldn't even tell me, and she's my--"

"It was for your safety."

Raieyana turned away. "Stop fooling yourself, Dad. Now they have her...of course they won't be satisfied without me. The last great thing Dr. Hojo did before they lost the war." Suddenly, she paused. "There's a man under that helicopter," she said, matter-of-factly.

Reno backed up a little, eyes still locked onto the green Mako ones. (I hope this doesn't get ugly. She's too cute to kill.)

Chapter 5

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic