Revamped Chapter 2
By Tadhg Looney
The sights and sounds of modern-day Junon were overwhelming. The traffic was dense, lights flashing past at high speed. Neon lights proclaimed the existence of various nightclubs and casinos. Vincent was reminded of the Gold Saucer when he visited briefly. He recalled that, while Cloud was earning cash for weapons by riding chocobos he had raised (Vincent suspected that Cloud was really just having a good time, and kind of respected him for that), Vincent had sneaked off and, for the first time in thirty years, had some fun. He had entered the Battle Square Tournament, but lost to a SOLDIER in the semi-finals, gambled two hundred gil on Cid's chocobo in Chocobo Square (and won), and watched "Loveless" in Event Square. The evening was one of the best he'd ever had... His friends joined him later, but Vincent had not felt any need to revert to his usual gravitas. He was liberated, could forget, just for one night, the dreams that plagued him.
Now, however, he was alone. But the night still called to him. The night was his territory. That's what they called vampires, right? Children of the night? Vincent didn't crumble to dust in daylight, but found that his skin would burn if exposed for only a few minutes, which he countered by wrapping a cloak around himself, although it got very hot and made him irritable.
A sports car swept past, sending a spray of water over Vincent, waking him from his reverie. The young man behind the wheel laughed and gave Vincent the finger.
Vincent smiled. Fun starts now, he thought, and ran up the street after the car.
Dante laughed again as he turned up the volume on the car stereo. He just couldn't resist soaking that guy, to see the expression on his face when he woke up from his daydream. And what a result! The guy's face was priceless. His eyes had bulged out of that pale face of his, making him look like some sort of fish.
Dante reached up to adjust his mirror and fix his hair which was getting messed up in the wind, when he saw the guy again, this time running after the car!
"What the fuck does he think he's doing?" he laughed. "Hey shithead! Catch me if you can!"
Dante pressed down on the accelerator as the needle slowly moved past fifty on the speedometer, and looked behind.
"Huh?" he gasped, the guy was gaining! What the hell was this? Could he be one of the monsters from outside the city? He couldn't be human; the guy was running almost sixty miles an hour!
Dante turned to face the road again, pressing harder with his foot. When he looked back again, the man was gone. Dante breathed a sigh of relief.
"Don't celebrate too soon, asshole." a voice whispered in his ear. Dante slammed down the brake and swerved into a vacant parking lot, scraping the side of the car along a signpost. Sparks fell to the damp pavement and winked out. He kicked open his door and jumped out of the car, tripping over the step and stumbling to the ground. With a swift movement, Dante spun over onto his back and brought his feet up to kick off any attack to come. None came.
After what seemed like hours, but probably couldn't have been more than a minute, he scrambled to his feet and, taking one last look at his empty car, ran across the lot, heading for the closest building. When he got about halfway, a dark figure dropped down from a lamppost in front of him.
Dante reeled back in terror, hands flung in front of him, as the figure advanced. Sharp fangs glinted in the artificial light. He opened his mouth to scream, but the figure was suddenly beside him, with a hand clasped over his mouth.
"How long do you think you could live without blood?" it hissed. Overcome with fear and adrenaline, Dante passed out, falling to a heap on the concrete. Vincent leaned over and pulled the man's wallet from his pocket, removed the money and dropped the wallet on Dante's prone body. Vincent turned back to the town and, cash in hand, went to find a bar.
Ai was not having a good time. She cursed herself for allowing Amy to pressure her into this. She hated nightclubs, and this one seemed to be the most crowded one in town. Amy must have done some searching to find it. Amy herself was snoozing gently, her head propped against Ai's shoulder. Ai sighed and lowered Amy so she could sleep on the seat. How could somebody sleep in a place like this anyway? The noise was deafening, the sound of music at full volume and a hundred conversations shouted at once. Amy had brought them here to celebrate something, but wouldn't say what. "You'll find out tomorrow morning", she had said. Ai had pointed out that it was now four am, and neither of them would be able to get up in the morning if they didn't get some sleep. Advice which Amy was taking to heart now, it seemed.
Ai looked around the club. She couldn't see any other Fenris around. Not that she got on well with the creatures anyway, she preferred the company of scholars, few of which the wolf-like species ever were. This always confused her, since their greatest hero Nanaki was rumored to have been an elder at Cosmo Canyon's observatory. Now the Fenris are separated into warring clans, doing battle in far-off countries for territory nobody should really care about. Amy doubted that any of the humans in this hellhole were particularly well educated either. It was now half four and Ai could spot a few of the students from JU passed out on the floor. She recognized them as students she would often spot wandering the corridors when they should be attending a lecture. Students she would never, ever see in her library.
There were others, of course. Unemployable low-lives drowning their sorrows, party animals who didn't know when to stop and a minority of people who for some reason or other drank at this time, such as night-shift workers or various nocturnal weirdos. Like that guy in the corner, cherishing a drink like he hadn't had one in centuries, wearing a "Junon Fencing Championships" T-shirt and faded jeans. He looked like he was having the time of his life, staring at anything that looked vaguely interesting as if he'd never seen it before. Right now he was gaping at the mini-phone the man beside him had placed on the counter.
Thinking no more of it, Ai shook Amy awake, lapped up the rest of her vodka and tonic, and they went home.
Ryan was doing what he did best at a time like this... he was panicking. It was almost seven am, and he still couldn't find Vincent. Amy had called an emergency meeting of all the Department heads, and they were due in twenty minutes. Amy hadn't called yet, but when she did and found Vincent gone, Ryan was sure to get the blame. Which meant no money.
There was a knock at the door, two knocks, pause and two more. It was Amy. Swallowing hard, Ryan opened the door, to be confronted by a haggard-looking Amy. Her eyes were drawn, her clothes hastily selected, and she was still running a brush through her hair. She looked like she had had an all-nighter. Either overworked or hungover, it seemed that she was still tired and shouldn't be here under any circumstances.
If she's bad now, Ryan thought, wait until I tell her the news.
"Hi Ryan," she said, "you all ready?"
Ryan was dressed for the occasion, just on the off-chance that Vincent might come back. He was wearing the best clothes that he could find, and since that meant whatever he had brought along with him to the jungle. He was wearing a white T-shirt, black jeans and a black shirt he found in the wardrobe of the room.
"Yeah, but..." he began.
"Oh, shoot. I forgot that Vincent hasn't got anything else. Damn. Would you have any spare clothes?"
Ryan opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a voice from behind.
"Don't worry about me, I went out last night to buy some clothes."
Ryan spun. Vincent was fastening a red cape around himself, having a little difficulty because he couldn't see any reflection of himself in the mirror. His new attire looked almost exactly like pictures Ryan had seen in various books related to the Legend. Vincent was wearing a single black glove with the fingers cut out on his right hand, one red band keeping his hair out of his eyes, another tying his hair into a ponytail at the back, a black T-shirt, grey trousers and gold-colored boots which looked like they were taken from a suit of armour. He had wrapped a scarf loosely around his mouth, and was now putting the cloak on over it. His voice was muffled slightly by the scarf, but still carried authority. He finally finished clasping the buckle on his cloak and turned to Amy and Ryan. Ryan noticed a holster attached to the belt, and wondered if it was just for show, or had Vincent acquired a gun without having any ID or papers.
"Oh." Amy was obviously impressed by the new clothes. Vincent just hadn't looked like hero material when he was wearing Ryan's old duds, and certainly not when he had been covered in dirt in the tomb. "Shall we go then?"
As the group wandered through the corridors of Junon University, attracting not just a few stares from early-rising students, Amy whispered to Ryan.
"You let him out last night?!"
"Don't worry. I was keeping an eye on him. Like you said, he didn't have anything to wear." Ryan hoped that she wouldn't pick up on the fact that he had no new clothes himself for this. Amy shook her head and stopped talking. Ryan slowed, letting Amy go on ahead until he was walking alongside Vincent.
"Where the hell did you go last night?
"I was scouting the city. It's very impressive."
"I was pissin' myself with worry, y'know."
"Oh. I am sorry. I'm glad to see you had a change of trousers."
Ryan laughed in spite of himself. "Just a figure of speech. But I want to know where you got the money for those clothes. You better have not stolen it from anybody."
"Not from anybody who didn't deserve it."
"That'll have to do, I suppose. But for God's sake, don't scare me like that again."
The University Council originally consisted of a single representative of every department, from Academia to Zoology. However, given the wide range of subjects JU now taught, the council had to be reduced to five members, each representing the group of departments below him or her. Amy hastily briefed Vincent on the five.
First was Alison Honeywood, Science departments. She was highly regarded among her colleagues, and took her work very seriously. She was highly skeptical, and would play devil's advocate in this scenario.
Secondly, Stephen O Neill, Art and Archeology departments. The man Amy had to answer to, despite his imminent removal from the Council as he took little interest in the affairs of the Council, normally content to go with the majority.
Third, Brian Norman, Business and Academic departments. An authoritative man, Brian was the unofficial chairman of the Council and led them in their meetings.
Fourth, Sericida An Colosrosa, Language and Literature departments. Quiet but wise, the enigmatic Mr. An Colosrosa's opinion was highly valued in meetings and often used as a deciding vote when necessary.
Finally, Monica Bell, Medical and Social Sciences departments. As her title would suggest, Ms. Bell was an outgoing person, easy to get on with. If she had any fault, it would be her tendency to be too trusting, which would come in handy for convincing the Council that Vincent was, in fact, Vincent. Amy was going to go in ahead and explain to the Council her reasons for calling them here. After about ten minutes she would call in Ryan to re-relate her story. Only then would she call for Vincent, who was to answer any questions the Council would have. She hoped that if the meeting achieved its purpose, Vincent would be accepted and the media would take over from there.
Vincent and Ryan stood outside the double doors leading to the Council's offices, each lost in their own thoughts. Ryan was leaning on a head-high radiator to keep warm, Vincent was, to Ryan's discomfort, sitting on top of the radiator, his feet dangling alongside Ryan's head. The perch must have been less than three inches wide, but Vincent was staring into space, apparently oblivious to the fact that he seemed to be half-sitting, half-floating.
Ryan wondered if Amy realized that she had scheduled the meeting so that Vincent would have to be left unsupervised in the hallway until he was called. Judging by how she looked this morning, it was probable that she hadn't been thinking straight. But foremost on his mind was his impending speech to the Council. Ryan was not great at speeches. He had made a few in his life, but only to people he felt were inferior to him, like underlings accompanying him on a job. Even then it was more like a briefing than a speech. Ryan had faced a lot of monsters in his time. Once he had even slain a dragon near Nibelheim, but nothing really compared to this. His palms were sweating, his face red and he was sure, absolutely sure, he was going to stutter when he talked. To Ryan, his image was more important than his safety, and this was just going to kill his image.
He had been obsessed with his appearance to others since he was a child. He had been an unlovable, spotty weak kid, and attracted few friends. He didn't remember his childhood with much fondness, which had been made a living hell by the people he grew up alongside. He didn't mean his brothers and sisters, who loved him very much, and he them, but local kids in the slums. Gangs had been a common way of life for kids then, games which had gotten out of hand. A group would split into two or three factions and arrange competitions pitting each group against each other. As the children grew older, the games became more competitive, and arguments caused more than a few all-out wars between factions. Eventually the groups formed according to territory, until it became dangerous to wander too far over "enemy lines". Ryan had heard of a boy caught in the wrong zone one day, found dead on the beach the next morning by some tourists. His legs had been broken in seven places, four fingers removed, most of his ribs broken, and his head split open with an axe. They had tortured him before killing him, a fourteen-year-old boy, for Christ's sake!
One particular gang in his area had reveled in teasing Ryan over his slender frame and lack of muscles. The leader, a bully nicknamed Spit, regularly beat seven kinds of crap out of Ryan, simply because he could without running any risk of Ryan hurting back. Ryan had loathed him with all his soul, but he supposed now that he had Spit to thank for his current success. Ironically, Ryan might be working in a factory for Regen Enterprises on a salary barely enough to keep him alive only that Spit had gone too far when Ryan was sixteen, and put him in the district hospital for several weeks in intensive care. The treatment had cost the Williams family more than they could possibly afford, and had to borrow the money. Two weeks after Ryan got out, he was approached by Spit, who -far from apologizing- had given Ryan his trademark spit in the eye, and flattened him with a punch to the face. Still laughing, Spit told Ryan how his family had gotten the money for his hospital bills. They had borrowed from the Slumlord, and were going to have to pay it back within three years with four hundred percent interest. Spit leered as he told Ryan that his sister Anne had raised money by prostituting herself in the city.
Ryan refused to believe Spit, but worry set itself into his mind. He eventually went to see for himself, and hid himself in the shadows of Junon's red light district one night when he overheard Anne saying that she would be working tonight. She said that she was working in a twenty-four-hour launderette, but everything about her suggested that she was lying and didn't like it.
Hours passed with no sign of Anne. Ryan had just about removed all doubt that Spit had been lying when she walked past. Ryan was horrified. He watched as his fifteen-year-old sister was paid off by a middle-aged drunkard for her "services". His knees felt weak, and he slumped to the ground. He loved his family, and couldn't bear to see his sister ruin herself like this. There and then he vowed to repay not just Anne, but his entire family for his weakness.
Ryan apprenticed himself to a local martial artist, helping around the dojo for a salary while learning various methods of self-defense. He turned out to be a natural swordsman, and combined Kendo with his own sword skills to gain the upper hand in a battle. He hoped to become a mercenary or soldier to finance his family, but won his first tournament when he was nineteen, earning more than enough money to repay his family's debt to the Slumlord, and was encouraged to go professional by the competition organizers, who also offered to sponsor him. He had gladly accepted and began training, regularly sending a large percentage of his sponsorship money home. He won many competitions, and was selected to represent Junon in the International Fencing Championships. The day he received news of his selection was one of the happiest in his life, and celebrated with his friends and family by taking them all to a high-class restaurant. Within two months he was selling his services as a fighter from a dusty apartment in the city, scraping jobs wherever he could find them, all because of that damn tournament. He hadn't lost any fight, but quit before the end when...
"Hsst! Ryan! Get in here, I said!"
Ryan shook himself awake. "Huh? Amy?"
Ryan was dragged in by his sleeve to the Council's offices, all rehearsed speeches completely forgotten in his reminiscences.
"Good luck." Vincent called after him. Ryan bitterly thought he would need it.
Left alone once again, Vincent walked over the double doors and pressed his ear up against it. Ryan was stumbling over a summary of the trip to Midgar, his grammar punctuated by "um"s and "er"s. It was painful to listen to, so Vincent returned to his position over the radiator. The University was cold, and the radiator offered warmth not available elsewhere in the draughty corridor. He could function just fine in sub-zero conditions -his body would adapt- but the heat made him feel safe and more... human than the cold warrior he was designed to be.
After a while he became aware that someone was watching him, a pair of eyes that had not left him for quite some time. He looked around, but could see no-one save a disease-ridden rat scurrying across the tiled floor. Vincent trusted his instincts, they were a much a part of him as his artificial hand, both created by science and thrust upon him to make him an ultimate warrior. He stepped down from his perch and crept along the ground as stealthily as he could (which was very stealthily, his golden shoes making only the slightest whisper on the tiles) over to the corner. He stopped and listened. Vincent could hear low and scared breathing coming from someone around the corner. Taking time to match his breathing with the could-be assailant, he placed both his hands against the wall, then his right foot. Vincent concentrated, and lifted his left foot from the floor and placed it next to his right. He was now scaling the wall without the aid of any foot or handholds, another gift from the notorious Professor Hojo.
Working slowly and methodically, he crept up the wall and onto the ceiling, tucking his long cloak into his belt. The lintel over the adjoining corridor was an old-fashioned arch, decorated with carvings (Vincent noted with some humour that one of the carvings depicted Meteor raining down on Midgar) and hung down about a foot from the ceiling. Vincent pressed his torso against the ceiling and stretched his arms out from his sides. In this crablike position, he scurried along the ceiling, no part of his body exposed below the arch. Reaching the other side, he flipped upright and dropped to the floor again. No sound was heard when his feet hit the ground.
Confident that he now had the element of surprise on his side, Vincent peeped around the corner to see who was there. A uniformed man was pressed up against the wall, his head pointed to where he believed Vincent to be. Vincent did not recognize the uniform, but the man's badge declared him to be an officer of the Junon Police Department.
Unconvinced of the man's legitimacy, Vincent slipped his real hand under his cloak and gripped his newly-bought gun. It was a relatively old pistol, with a longer barrel than most. He had found a man in the inner city who traded in illegal firearms, using an antiques shop as a front for his business. The gun was marked as an antique, so was freely available on display, but ammunition was rare for this model, and it cost Vincent a lot of money to acquire a fair amount. He didn't expect to use as much as he did when he was a member of AVALANCHE, but deemed it prudent to have at least five magazines at twelve bullets a go. The trader, a young man in his twenties, was reluctant to let the gun go since it belonged to his grandfather and he never expected somebody to actually buy it. He eventually relented, and Vincent holstered his new purchase and left. He had examined it on the way back to campus. Someone, presumably the man's grandfather, had taken good care of it. Etched into the side was what was presumably the name of the gun, "Alexandros". The defender of men. Vincent remembered seeing Alexander being summoned by Cloud's magic once. The name seemed appropriate, somehow.
A small hiss emanated from the policeman's hip, presumably his radio, and Vincent ducked back out of the cop's sight. The man uttered a small curse and ran stealthily back along the corridor. Vincent was considering following him when the door opened behind him, and Amy called him in.
"It's your turn." She was red in the face and obviously harassed. She had probably been worrying whether Vincent had done a runner while he had the chance.
Vincent was led into a high-ceilinged lecture theatre. The lighting was low, but Vincents keen eyes quickly adjusted. The five council members were sitting around a low table, with a pitcher of water in the middle. Ryan was sitting with them, his hands covering his embarrassed face. His speech had obviously not gone well. He was sweating, and Vincent could smell him from the centre of the room. He wished he couldn't.
Alison Honeywood was looking at Vincent with raised eyebrows and a look of scorn on her face. The rest were examining him closely, leaning over in their chairs and squinting in the darkness. Finally Brian Norman stood up and extended a hand towards Vincent. He seemed nervous, but covered it splendidly.
Uh welcome to Junon U uh sir. he said, shaking Vincents hand limply. Vincent felt terribly sympathetic towards this man, who had no idea how to handle a situation like this. He wasnt sure what exactly he was supposed to be doing himself. He opened his mouth to reply, but a reverberating crash silenced him as the oak doors behind him were kicked open. Two JCPD officers flanked the doorway and a third stepped over the threshold with a handgun pointed towards Vincent.
Vincent Valentine! he shouted Youre under arrest for murder!
Tadhg Looney's Fanfiction