Going to go find the woman I love and tell her how sorry I am for being such an asshole - good idea.
Taking a jet and not telling anybody where I’m going – bad idea.
Surveying the area from above, looking for the Avalanche base from a safe distance – good idea.
Landing the jet as close as possible to the base – bad idea.
Unloading my entire arsenal on the first jeep they sent – good idea.
Not saving any ammo for the three other jeeps – bad idea.
Running – good idea.
Getting caught – very, very bad idea.
That’s essentially what happened. I don’t really remember much else, nor do I particularly care to. I mean, really, it’s sort of an embarrassingly stupid thing to be captured by the enemy almost immediately upon reaching your destination and not really something you want to go into too much detail about.
I stopped running when they caught up and surrounded me. I didn’t really have much choice, being that they were in jeeps and had machine guns pointed at me. They hadn’t shot me yet, so evidently they wanted something. I nodded politely at the nearest jeep. “Afternoon, gentlemen. Pleasant day for a stroll, isn’t it?”
It was rather nice out. Cosmo Canyon’s an incredible place, all red stone and blue sky. It was a beautiful, clear day with little wispy bits of cloud hanging in the sky. It would’ve been just lovely for a walk or a hike or whatever, if it weren’t for all the terrorists. I took out my nightstick, though, more for my own comfort than for any hope of actually fighting.
“Oh, please, Turk. We were lead to believe you were confident, but not quite as stupid as that.” I knew the voice. There are two people in the world who I want to strangle with their own intestines. One is Rufus Shinra, the other is Fuhito. And right about then, anybody’s intestines would’ve sufficed.
“Fuhito.” I turned to face him, unintentionally sending a jolt of electricity sparking into the ground. “What do you want from me?”
Fuhito laughed and climbed down out of his jeep, still in his neatly pressed khaki, absolutely immaculate. I wonder how he managed that. I’d barely been on the ground for more than five minutes and already there was red dust clinging to my shoes and pantlegs. “I don’t want anything from you, Turk. You’re foolish to imagine you could ever offer me anything.”
“Oh well, now. I don’t know about that. If it’s your thing, I’d be more than happy to plug you in the ass with my EMR.”
Maybe not the best remark to make to a hostile terrorist.
Fuhito flushed and drew a gun from his jacket, leveling it at me. “You are no use to me dead, Turk, but do not try my patience. Disarm yourself.”
“Never on a first date.”
He hissed at me. Fuhito’s weird. “You,” he barked as one of his men. “Disarm him.”
“You seem to have developed a slow leak, Fuhito. You should see a doctor about that,” I remarked, allowing the terrorist he’d chosen to disarm me. There really wasn’t much sense in putting up a fight. What with all the guns pointed at me, and all. “What’s Avalanche’s medical plan like? Ours is just great.”
Fuhito growled and ignored me, snapping orders at the rest of his men as I was relieved of my nightstick, the handgun in my jacket, several knives I had concealed in various places, all the grenades I had, the brass knuckles in my jacket pocket, and the few pieces of materia I’d brought. Talk about leaving a guy naked.
“Bind him,” Fuhito ordered, sparing a moment from giving orders to one of the other jeeps, which then roared off towards my jet.
The terrorist obeyed, accepting a coil of rope and roughly binding my arms in front of me. I noticed his hands were shaking. I wondered why. I was defenseless and his comrades had their weapons trained on me; I wasn’t going to do anything. Though I suppose it’s kind of flattering that he was actually afraid.
And then my jet blew up. It was one of those huge sorts of explosions that leaves a crater at least four times the size of whatever was blown up. Cid was going to kill me. I’d already been out with one of his “daughters” for what bordered on four times the amount of time I’d told him I’d be, and now I’d gone and blown her up. “Hey!” I yelled, whirling around to stare at the huge column of flame and smoke. “That was a rental! D’you have any idea how much trouble I’m gonna be in when I get back home with no jet?”
Fuhito smiled coldly, motioning towards the back of his jeep as the guy who’d bound my arms pushed me forward. “My apologies, Turk. I shall endeavor to spare you that trouble, then. I suppose I will simply have to ensure that you don’t see home again.”
Well, I’d set myself up for that one, and I couldn’t really respond, because he did have a point. A cold, heavy feeling settled in my chest as I acknowledged the fact that I wasn’t in the greatest of situations. Unarmed, alone, and captured by merciless terrorists. I’ve been in tight spots before, but this was about the tightest.
But, part of being in the Turks is the whole “never say die” thing. Even when things look bleak, it’s important to maintain the attitude. You just have to. Whether you’re suave and dignified, like Tseng, cool and professional like Rude, or, as in my case, mouthy and exceedingly obnoxious, you have to be like that to the very end. So as soon as we got started, I began kicking the back of Fuhito’s seat.
He whirled around and glared at me. “Turk, I have warned you,” he snarled.
I jerked my head at the terrorist sitting beside me, the barrel of the rifle he carried jammed in my ribs. “It was him.”
A few moments of silence passed. “Are we there yet?”
He seemed to think that I’d shut up if he ignore me. People’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. “How ‘bout now?”
I wish I’d had more of a childhood. I would’ve been a very good four-year old. Though the fact that I come to this realization in my mid-twenties is somewhat depressing. “Now?”
“Why’re all the rocks around here red?”
“Why don’t jeeps have seatbelts?”
“Are you wearing your grandma’s glasses, Fuhito?”
“Fuhito, you’re going bald on top of your head!”
“I’m bored. Can we play travel bingo?”
“What about I Spy?”
“I think I’m getting carsick. Can we stop?”
“I’m hungry, too.”
“And a bathroom break probably wouldn’t hurt either.”
“Are we there now?”
I continued to pester him as we drove towards a smudge of khaki on the horizon, presumably the Avalanche base. That unnerved me a bit. It was huge. I think Fuhito sensed my uneasiness, because he ordered the driver to go faster, kicking up a huge cloud of dust as we roared along over the terrain. Must’ve been murder on the suspension, especially since the jeep we were in looked like it was probably a decade or so older than me.
I was on the twenty-first verse of “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall” when we reached the camp. The jeep wove through roughly made “streets” of canvas tents, the various Avalanche members who were sitting around outside stopping to gape and stare at me.
“C’mon, take a picture,” I called. “Close as you’re gonna get to a Turk and still be living, I’ll tell ya that right now.”
The tents they’d set up were pretty sizeable and it struck me as we drove past one with a little girl peeking out from behind the long, khaki skirt of a woman standing at the entrance of one of the tents that these wasn’t just a camp of militant insurgents. This was a camp of militant insurgents and their families. And that had to be about the most irresponsible thing I’d ever encountered. Or, on the flipside, one of the smartest. Shinra wasn’t going to attack a camp that was half-full of innocents. And, I suppose, if I were a terrorist and going to be blowing up cities, I’d want my family where I could be fairly sure they’d be safe.
Fuhito drove right through the camp, to a small rise, set apart from the rest of the tents, overlooking the rest of the camp. Set up in the center of this rise was a larger tent, with two flaps drawn back to create something of double door. I got the feeling that this was their HQ. There were no guards or anything, though. But I guess there are enough people wandering around their camp with automatics that any sort of intruder would’ve been taken care of in relatively short order.
Fuhito stopped the jeep and got out, motioning to his driver and the guy with the gun in my ribs to bring me along. I wasn’t about to cooperate. First I refused to get out of the jeep. Just sort of sat there, until they rather forcefully removed me. Then I refused to walk. So they had to drag me into the tent. I didn’t make that easy on them, either. I kicked and yelled and thrashed and cursed. I think I sort of ruined Fuhito’s grand entrance, because when he stepped into the tent with me, all the people in the tent, who were gathered around a large table with a map spread out on it, glared at him.
They were evidently having some sort of strategy meeting. It suddenly occurred to me that these were the Avalanche muckity-mucks, the driving force behind all these terrorist attacks. I would’ve given my right arm for some high explosive.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion, Fuhito?” a woman, who was standing across the table from Fuhito, demanded.
Fuhito cleared his throat. “I didn’t wish to disturb you, Elfe. But I have captured a Shinran.”
Elfe arched an eyebrow. “Really. Cut his bonds, so I might get a better look at him.”
The two terrorists who had me by the arms yanked me to my feet. One took out a knife and sliced through the ropes around my wrists. I scowled darkly and kept my head down.
Fuhito stepped over beside me, pulling his gun out, pressing the muzzle against my lower back, and squeezing the trigger. For a half second I thought he was just going to shoot me. Then a painful, buzzing sensation shot up my spine and my legs gave out. Essentially, so did the rest of my body and I crumpled to the ground. This was the same paralysis he’d used on Rosalind, way back in Junon. I could still move my head and my hands a little, but nothing else responded when I tried to move.
“A little extreme, don’t you think, Fuhito? He doesn’t look dangerous,” Elfe commented dryly, as my two guards hauled me into a half kneeling position in front of her. She sighed and waved a hand in front of me, her fingertips glowing. All of a sudden I could move again. I knew the deal with materia, but I’d never seen anyone that powerful with it. She hadn’t even needed to touch me.
Then she reached out and caught my chin in her hand, tilting my face up and staring at my eyes. So this was Elfe. For the head of a terrorist faction, she was rather pretty. She was probably ten or fifteen years older than I was, with shorter dark hair, strands of it beaded and hanging down in front of her face. She had green-gray eyes and they surprised me. They were emotionless, and so cold they should’ve been ice blue, instead of the almost warm sage color that they were. I shivered as her eyes suddenly darkened with anger. Elfe was a woman with a lot of power. “Fuhito, this is not a SOLDIER.”
Elfe’s eyes glinted dangerously as she folded her arms across her chest. “He is not a SOLDIER! He is no good to me!! Why have you brought him before the council?”
“I…I just thought…”
“This is a Turk, Fuhito, and unless he has been treated with their Mako, I have no use for him,” she snapped, roughly catching my chin again. I jerked my face away and bit her. Hard. She shrieked as I broke the skin of the back of her hand, then pulled away, reeling back and clutching her hand, leaving me spitting out her blood.
Taking advantage of the sudden distraction, I wrenched free from the two guards who had my arms, grabbed the sidearms holstered on either side of me before they could react, and shot them both in the ribs. St. Andrew would’ve been proud. Fuhito yelled and went for his own gun, but I shot him in the thigh and he went down before he had a chance to take aim at me. It was close range; I couldn’t have missed if I’d wanted to. Then I opened fire on the rest of their “council,” hitting those who hadn’t had the chance to dive for cover.
Jumping to my feet, now that everyone in the tent was fumbling around in confusion, I turned and bolted out of the tent, praying Fuhito’s driver had been enough of a dunce to leave the keys in the ignition. However, I hadn’t exactly counted on Elfe recovering quite as quickly as she did.
People don’t often run headlong into brick walls. Brick walls are not typically found in places where people will be flat out sprinting, and even if you happen to be sprinting in a place where there are brick walls, people usually see them soon enough to avoid running into them, or at least to slow down a bit. However, when the wall in question was not there a minute ago, is invisible, and is not made of bricks but of a barrier spell, created by the force of someone’s mind, it’s a lot easier to run into. Which I did.
Now, that’s the sort of thing that puts a person out of commission. I woke up a few minutes later to the sound of Elfe’s boots crunching on the red stone gravel as she approached, nudging me in the ribs with the toe of her boot. “You have caused more trouble than anticipated, Turk,” she told me, a grudging note of something that might have been respect in her voice.
Fuhito limped up, a hand pressed against his leg, still glowing as he healed himself. “You will pay for this,” he hissed.
I didn’t really care about what he was going to be doing to me, my head hurt too much. Actually, most things hurt. My shoulder in particular, which I was reminded of as there was a buzzing in my breast pocket; my cell phone vibrating. There was nobody calling—I’d been out of range for hours now, but my battery was probably dying down.
Elfe paled suddenly, bending down and plucking my phone from my pocket. Cursing, she whirled on Fuhito and slapped him in the face. “How did he get here?” she asked, eyes blazing.
Fuhito blinked. “W-well…”
“You say you captured him, how did you capture him?” she demanded, a note of urgency in her voice. “Tell me everything.”
Lowering his head slightly, Fuhito cleared his throat. “He came in a jet, Elfe. Our scouts spotted it and I led a squad to where it landed. We captured him, and destroyed the jet.” Fuhito lifted a hand and pointed westward, where smoke was still billowing from the wreckage.
Elfe spun around and gaped at the towering gray column. “You idiot!” Elfe struck Fuhito again. “That was smoke will be visible for miles around! And this,” she held up my cell phone. “This contains a GPS locator. It’s relaying his location back to the Shinran base as we speak!” She threw the phone to the ground and crushed it beneath the heel of her boot. I was vaguely upset about that. I’d just gotten a new faceplate and all. “This means they know where we are, Fuhito,” she hissed. “And what you have done borders on the edge of unforgivable. I should kill you for your incompetence, here and now.”
It’s lucky I was the enemy and that this wasn’t my fault, because I would’ve hated to be on the receiving end of Elfe’s anger. I didn’t doubt for a second that she was actually considering killing him. And Fuhito was one of her allies. For all her power, she didn’t have much control.
It was almost pitiable to see the poor bastard squirm, too. “E-Elfe…I beg your forgiveness. I was overzealous. I did not stop to consider the consequences of my actions…I thought merely of the equinox and the fact that I…”
“Your excuses do not matter now, Fuhito,” she interrupted icily. “Two of the council lie dead because of your foolish need to take a prisoner, and we shall have to dismantle the entire camp and move on. I have much to attend to. Kill the Turk.”
“No!” Fuhito exclaimed. I never would’ve thought I’d see the day where Fuhito was bargaining for my life. I wondered if I might’ve had a concussion. “Elfe, please, we are only a few days from the equinox. A sacrifice to the Planet is demanded and…”
Elfe spat contemptuously. “Cease this foolishness. For your want of a sacrifice to the Planet, the Shinra may visit destruction on our entire force!” Shaking her head, Elfe made a dismissive gesture. “I do not care what you do, Fuhito, so long as you cause no more trouble. If you do, rest assured I shall end your life myself. I have a militia to mobilize. You are dismissed.”
“Yes, Elfe. I do apologize,” he muttered, as Elfe stormed away.
After their little catfight there wasn’t really anything interesting enough to merit my remaining conscious. Besides, my head was really hurting and I was dizzy. And I wasn’t in any condition to give Fuhito any more trouble anyway. So, for the time being, I just quietly passed out, wondering briefly what he was referring to when he said “sacrifice.”
I’d been expecting I would wake up in some sort of prison. Though I suppose that was a bit of a stupid thing to expect, being that Avalanche wouldn’t really have anywhere to put a prison. At the very least, though, I thought they might’ve stuck me in a tent. I’d been expecting to have been tied up, but even though they’d had the sense to do that, they hadn’t done it terribly well. There’s a difference between binding a conscious person and binding an unconscious person and you can’t really do it effectively when a person’s out cold, because you have no idea of the kind of movement they can manage with their arms.
Actually, I didn’t a hot clue what the hell was going on. When I came around, still groggy and decidedly cranky, we were back to the whole “a terrorist on either side of me” thing. I wasn’t entirely clear on where I was, either. It didn’t look like the rest of the Avalanche base camp; it was sort of set apart, the same way as their HQ tent had been. As near as I could tell, it was a supply depot of some sort, with several heavy trucks around and tents that looked to contain crates and stuff.
Fuhito was talking. I wasn’t quite aware enough to catch everything he was saying, but from the distinctly snotty tone there was to his voice, he was probably giving some sort of speech. “…Turks, the honorable commander Veld.”
I forced myself to focus when I caught that last bit and looked up, to see Fuhito, dictating something to another Avalanche goon, this one with a camera. “It is possible that this video may even reach your President, though…as we know from his previous reactions to hostage takings…it is likely he will do nothing to negotiate. Do not blame him for this. Anything he would offer would meet nothing but scorn from my comrades and I. This situation is not to be remedied.”
This was confusing. It sounded like a message to Shinra, which explained why I was there, but if it were, I would’ve expected him to be making demands. Which he hadn’t done. But if he wasn’t going to use me for bargaining, there really wasn’t any reason for me to be alive.
“You must forgive me my ramblings. I can ill afford to waste this time. You see, Shinra, we are aware of your knowledge of our location. We hadn’t expected you would discover us in such short order, but being that the possibility existed, we were prepared. My superiors have given the order to move on and even as I speak, our base is being dismantled. Knowing the nature of your organization, you will probably come to search for the remnants of our passing. But we shall leave you no trace.”
The video wasn’t being transmitted live. Not even Fuhito would be so stupid as to announce to Shinra that their base was being broken down, so our people had better come quick before they missed their chance to strike. He was also talking about the Shinra looking for what remained of the base, so he probably intended this to reach the company by the time they’d left.
I heard Fuhito walk over and managed not to curse as he grabbed a handful of my hair and yanked my head back. Evidently he was going to be making a point. “However, we will leave you one thing,” he conceded, grip tightening. I winced and closed my eyes tightly. No sense in showing any weakness. “A body is merely a vessel. A vehicle, galvanized by the life force of the Planet, the Lifestream. This energy…the very same that your vile and disgusting corporation has been sucking from the core of our mother Planet…with death, this energy is returned to it rightful place. The body is left an empty husk. We will leave you this, though you have not done the same with our fallen comrades, whose essences, even now, are healing the wounds you inflict upon the Planet. We have transcended your level of understanding, to the point where we understand that clinging to this shell is the pitiable and wretched gesture of those who will never reach beyond mortality.”
And then he hit me, probably because he didn’t think I was quite conscious enough to pay attention, and leaned close. It was probably right about there, when I got a look at his eyes, that I realized that Fuhito isn’t exactly in his right mind. I’ve seen insanity a few times in my life; in addicts on the streets who’d gone past the point of no return, in soldiers with nothing left to lose…hell, I’d seen hints of it in the eyes of the head of Shinra’s science department. There’s something about the eyes that marks crazy people and Fuhito’s eyes were the perfect indication that he was Grade A batshit insane.
“Come, Turk. Do you know who we are addressing? Your friends and comrades, Turk. Let me see you beg and plead for your misappropriated life, like the coward you are. Offer up your prayers to the Shinra, that they might deliver you…”
I don’t like the phrase “the gift of life.” I don’t believe that life is a gift. Maybe it’s my background or my job or maybe it’s just who I am, but I believe that life is earned. I think you have to fight to live through every single day and only then have you earned the right to a shot at another one. So someone telling me that I don’t deserve to something I’ve fought for the rights to for as long as I can remember is gonna get me kinda riled. And someone trying to coerce me into getting my friends to throw away their lives, walking into what could only be a trap got me really riled.
Part of being a Turk is always seeming like you’re worse off than you really are. Or remaining capable, regardless of how badly off you are. I wasn’t really all that hindered by the cords around my wrists, and the guards who had a hold of me apparently still thought I was only semi-conscious and therefore didn’t have much of a hold of me. Fuhito had straightened up and stepped away to let me face the camera, so I took advantage of this to wrench free of both the guards, stare straight at the camera and tell my colleagues, “Do not come here.”
That short little message was not what Fuhito had wanted from me, and consequently earned me a forceful shove to the ground, a terrorist’s knee pressed against my back, a gun to my neck, and a sharp kick in the ribs from Fuhito. “I warn you again and again not to press your luck, Turk!” he snapped. “Do you want your comrades to watch you die, now? I can end your life quickly, and with far less pain than you deserve, but all energy returns to the Planet by the same route, and the manner in which it is ripped from your body matters very little. I assure you, you will pay for this. Take him away.”
I was hauled roughly off the ground, still winded from being kicked, and dragged away. It was a fairly short trip and it culminated with one of the guards cutting away the ropes around my wrists and then throwing me forward into a pit.
It was probably about ten feet deep and probably about the same across. Despite my surprise at being thrown in, I managed to throw my hands out to break my fall, landing a little painfully, but not injuring anything. This was the first time I’d been unbound and awake since I’d arrived and, despite everything, I felt a lot better for it. I stretched a few times and rolled my shoulders, sprawling in the dirt and massaging my ribs, where Fuhito had kicked me. It would probably bruise, but that was okay. Bruises heal.
I glanced up. Reds and oranges were starting to stretch across the sky above me. I rubbed my eyes. I hadn’t expected it was quite that late. Arching my back, I looked up at the walls of my “prison.” They were rough, hollowed out of the dusty red earth, though I couldn’t imagine for what purpose. I hoped they hadn’t gone to the trouble just for me.
Pushing myself to my feet, I staggered slightly and stumbled against the wall. It was also the first time I’d been on my feet for a while. I was a little dizzy and not quite walking straight, but I did feel better after I gave myself a few minutes to get adjusted to being vertical again. And then I gave the hole they’d stuck me in a really good look.
It wasn’t so deep. Standing, its edge was probably only about three and a half feet above my head. Which is a negligible distance, when you’ve spent half your life traversing urban obstacle courses. I was fairly sure I could climb out, if I got a bit of a run at it. And, being that there was only one way to be sure, I got myself steady, stretched a bit, ran at the wall and jumped, pulling myself up and out quite easily.
I’ve mentioned before how my colleagues don’t think. That’s probably not the best way in the world to phrase that. What I probably should say is that my colleagues don’t question. Which they don’t. Not often, at least. And I suppose that’s okay; it’s sort of what you’re looking for in a Turk or any military type person; that there the type of person who doesn’t question orders. I question things a lot. I don’t really think so much. I sat in my apartment for half an hour one time, trying to get a hold of Rude, wondering why the hell his phone line was busy, if he wasn’t talking to me. I kept at it for half an hour, getting absolutely bewildered as to who the hell he was talking to, until I realized I’d been dialing my own phone number the entire time. So maybe there is some stock in the ADD theory.
Getting to the point, I hadn’t exactly thought things through when I scrambled up out of my little prison pit, quite pleased with myself, until I realized it was still daylight, there were hostile terrorists all over the place, and that I hadn’t really been very covert about the whole thing. So, while I maybe shouldn’t have been surprised when one of the aforementioned terrorists yelled and attacked me, smashing me in the ribs with a rifle and knocking me back into the hole, I kind of was.
And being that I’d been surprised, I didn’t have time to brace myself for the fall, so when I landed, I landed on my right arm. I heard the distinct, stomach-wrenching crack that bones make when the break. I’ve broken bones before. I know what it feels like, and no matter how many times you do it, you never get used to the next time. It’s very painful. Remarkably so. And it spreads throughout the entire limb in question, a pain that burns without being hot. And inside your arm, not like a surface burn. It’s a tricky sort of pain to describe.
But, being a Turk, that’s also the sort of pain you have to learn to take without making any noise. Besides the little gasping moans of pain they allow you, if you’re quiet enough. Painfully, my muscles trembling from the pain I was in, I pushed myself up and very slowly, very carefully eased myself back against the wall. Well, now things were bad. I wasn’t going to be getting out of this hole of my own volition. I couldn’t. Having one of my arms out of service was a very big problem.
It was starting to get dark. I suppose the sun sets quickly in Cosmo Canyon, because there was already darkness spreading across the sky above. I sat for what felt like a very long while, just coping with the amount of pain this was generating. I settled into a numb, dull sort of state where the only thing your conscious of is the fact that you’re hurt. I could hear the sounds of the Avalanche camp coming down around me, but they didn’t really register.
Eventually, though, I got past that, to the point where I could handle the pain of the probable fracture in my arm and still think straight. It didn’t hurt any less, I’d just gotten used to it. It was really dark by then, probably a few hours had passed. I didn’t have any way of measuring the time that had gone by. But the stars were out. A billion stars, even the tiny little dim ones that you can’t see anywhere where there’s even the slightest amount of light to drown them out. No wonder they call it Cosmo Canyon.
Beautiful as the night sky was, though, the fact that I was aware enough to be thinking wasn’t really such a great thing. At least the pain had been a distraction from all the really lousy stuff I had to think about. I was trapped, captured by the most deadly enemy I had, in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from home, no way of letting anyone know where I was, no idea how much longer I was even going to be alive. There wasn’t exactly much hope for me and I knew that.
And, what made the whole thing infinitely worse was that I still didn’t know where Rosalind was. She could be anywhere. I hadn’t done her any good coming out here. Just thinking about it, I didn’t know what the hell I’d been trying to accomplish. I hadn’t thought things through. The jet I’d taken only had room for one person, and by the time I’d landed, it was almost out of fuel anyway. Even if I had found her, in the miles and miles of sunblasted canyon that I would’ve had to cover without food, water, or shelter, I wouldn’t have been able to take her home. Any way I looked at it, it seemed like I’d come out here to die.
But that’s a depressing thing to think about and I didn’t really have the energy to devote to depressing myself. I was sore and tired, and now that I could disregard the pain in my arm, I might as well do the moderately smart thing and try to sleep. Thankfully I’m good at sleeping, so for a few hours that’s exactly what I did.
I think it must have been a few hours, because when I woke up it was starting to be dawn. When the only view you have is of the sky, you sort of have to make your judgments based on that. What woke me were hushed, whispered voices at the edge of the pit. I didn’t open my eyes, just sat and listened for a few minutes.
“Izzat a SOLDIER?” It was a male voice, a younger guy.
“Nah, he ain’t a SOLDIER. He’s too scrawny to be a SOLDIER,” someone else, another guy, answered.
“I thought Elfe didn’t want anyone who wasn’t a SOLDIER.”
“Yeah, well, he ain’t Elfe’s prisoner, he’ Fuhito’s.”
“What’s Fuhito want with a prisoner?” one voice, yet another young male asked incredulously.
“Who knows? Fuhito’s crazy. Mebbe he just wants to get information out of him.” There was a pause. “I think he’s probably a Turk. Lookit the suit he’s wearin’.”
“That’s a Turk? That’s one of Shinra’s famous Turks? He doesn’t look so tough.”
“Well, duh. He’s sleeping, a’course he’s not so tough,” another interjected, evidently of the opinion that I was a lot more dangerous than I looked. Which is true enough. “But ain’t you heard what he did? He’s the guy who caused that big ‘splosion yesterday, an’ shot two of Shears’ men with their own guns, and killed two of Elfe’s council. He’s the reason we’re leavin’.”
The first boy snorted. “But lookit ‘im! He’s a mess! Maybe he did all that stuff yesterday, but he sure as hell couldn’t manage it today. I ain’t scared of him. Stupid Turk.”
Unlettered hicks, these guys sounded like. I probably hadn’t been much better, when I was young. But working around the Shinra, you learn to talk properly or be looked at like something so low on the social ladder you’d be better off dead.
Keeping my eyes closed and moving very slowly, I closed my left hand around a rock on the ground beside me, got a feel for its shape. Then, opening one eye, I quickly took aim, flicked my wrist, and pegged the fellow in the middle right between his eyes.
He reeled back, yelping and collapsing in a little heap in the dirt. There’d been four of them and I hoped I’d hit the one who called me a stupid Turk. They were older than I’d expected, too, probably in their late teens, not so much younger than I was. For all that, though, they yelled and ran away like children. I was rather pleased about that.
I shifted and pressed my back a little more comfortably against the wall, yawning and rubbing my eyes. It was definitely getting nearer to dawn, looking up at the pale, pinkish gray I could see at the eastern edge of the sky above my little hole, across from where I was sitting. It was really rather pretty.
It got decidedly less pretty as Shears came crunching up to the edge of the pit, folding his arms and glaring down at me. “Well, now. Hello there, Turk. What’m I hearing about you giving my recruits trouble?”
I scowled, then covertly picked another rock and threw it at him. He caught it. Easily. Plucked it right out of the air and spun it between his fingers, laughing. “Always gotta be a problem, don’t you? Fuhito’s being too delicate with you…he doesn’t wanna damage his precious sacrifice. I figure you can probably take one hell of a lot, Turk. He isn’t doing enough to punish you. So maybe I oughta come down there and learn ya a thing or two.”
He jumped down. I forced myself to scramble to my feet, keeping my back to the wall. My arm was throbbing again, maybe in anticipation. This did not bode well. And there really wasn’t much of anything I could say or do to stop him.
“God, Turk, look at you squirm,” Shears grinned, watching me with nothing but pleasure as he approached. “I think I’ll enjoy this.”
The first time hit me wasn’t actually so bad. It was more of a shock than anything, a blow to the stomach that winded me and sent me to my knees. Everything after that was pretty bad. Shears wears heavy combat boots and is remarkably proficient at kicking. Most of his blows landed across my chest and back, cracking a few of my ribs, but he wasn’t above driving his heel into the back of my knee or nudging my broken arm with his toe.
“I have to admit, they were right when they told us you lot were stoic,” he remarked candidly, letting up for a few moments. “You haven’t made a sound throughout all of this.”
I couldn’t have responded if I’d wanted to. He’d left me lying on my left side on the ground, bruised and bleeding. I could feel that I was bleeding as the fabric of my shirt clung to the deep abrasions he’d torn in my skin. This hurt. This hurt so much there were tears in my eyes. I wasn’t about to let him know that, though. There was no way I’d let him have the satisfaction of making me break.
Shears chuckled. “No snappy comebacks, Turk? It’s a different game now, isn’t it? Not so tough when you’re down, are you?”
I heard a familiar sound, but didn’t believe what I was hearing. A series of three, metallic clicks, and then a low humming. I swallowed and forced myself to roll over onto my back, because I couldn’t bring myself to believe what I heard.
He had my EMR, extended and charging as he held it in his right hand. And that scared more than just about anything he could’ve done.
There aren’t many Turks who use the EMR. I only know of two others in my district, one of who is Rodney, the other is the instructor who taught me to use it. It’s a tricky sort of weapon. It’s basically a sword without the cutting action. Being that this is the way the EMR works, just slashing at people isn’t going to do anything but bruise them, at absolute best. That’s where the electrical part comes in and you have to time your shocks with your strikes, base the type of shock on the type of strike and vice versa.
When you start with the EMR, the first thing the instructor I mentioned above (his name is Mulligan) does is give you a hundred and fifty thousand volts in the ribs. And that hurts enough to make you wonder why the hell you got involved in this business with its crazy Turks and high-tech weaponry. Then he explains to you, as you’re lying there in pain, wanting to kill him, that the EMR has the capacity to do two things. It has the capacity to kill people quickly, cleanly, and with a relatively small amount of pain, and it has the capacity to put them through a kind of agony they never knew possible. The latter reason was why Shears having my EMR was so frightening to me. Also because he didn’t know how to use it and could very probably kill me without meaning to.
“Don’t do this.”
Shears laughed and took a step towards me. “Oh, you’re scared now. Why, Turk? It’s just your little sparky stick, nothing to be afraid of…”
I pushed myself up, fear overcoming pain and tried to get away from him. “For the love of god, Shears…”
“What would you know of god?” he spat, grinning manically. “Not so stoic now, are you? Have I found a chink in your armor?”
I didn’t care about pride or stoicism or losing face in front of Shears. I just wanted him to stay the hell away from me. They’re all crazy. Shears, Fuhito, Elfe, every single one of them are beyond humanity, to do the things that they do to people, or to believe what they believe, or to wield so much power with so little control. “Please…”
Laughing coarsely, Shears advanced, slashing my nightstick downward in a brilliant arc of electricity and hitting me in the ribs a final time.
I may have screamed. I can’t remember. I think I probably must have. It hurts so badly, all the way through your body, to the very tips of your fingers. Your hair feels like it hurts. That’s how bad it is. Things were dark after that. I think part of me was still conscious, though, because for a while I could hear what was going on.
“Turk? Hey, are you dead, Turk?” That was Shears.
“Did you kill him?” That was one of the guys from before. “If Fuhito finds out…”
“Shears!” This was Fuhito, finding out. “What are you doing!? What have you done!?”
“Aww, Fuhito, he’s not dead. I was just messin’ around with him…I owe this guy a thrashing.” I heard him grunt as he climbed out of the pit. “Who’d have thought this little sticky thing’d pack quite such a punch, eh?”
The scream that followed was probably Fuhito demonstrating to Shears just what a “punch” my EMR could pack. “Get out of my sight, hideous wretch! How dare you interfere with my devotions! If he is killed before I can offer him up to the Planet, I will take you in sacrifice! Begone!”
I don’t remember anything else for a while after that, but whether that was because things had gotten quiet or because I’d blacked out again, I really couldn’t say.
What I remember next was probably the only good thing that came out of the entire affair. I woke up to stare at a soft blue sky, the golds and pinks and oranges of dawn starting to stain the clouds above me. It was a shame Cosmo Canyon was so pretty. It made you forget what horrible people there were living there.
“You be careful down there, Jess,” I heard a man saying as I closed my eyes again. “There’s stories ‘bout him all over camp. They say he killed two of the council with his bare hands and blew up a jeep full of Shears’ men and that if he gets half a chance, he’ll radio back to his HQ to send bombers to attack us.”
Oh, if only.
“I’ll be okay, Biggs,” a girl answered reassuringly. “Fuhito said he’s in fairly bad shape, so he can’t hurt me.”
Well, she was right about that. I could barely move.
“Hmph. All the same, I’ll be standing right here with a rifle pointed at his head. If he looks like he’s gonna try anything, you get outta there sharpish and I’ll let him have it.”
“Biggs, Fuhito almost killed Shears for just hurting him. If you kill him, he’ll do far worse. So please, just let me handle it.”
Biggs grunted noncommittally and I heard a sigh from the girl, Jessie. Then she climbed down into the pit.
“If you’re down here to beat me, I think I should warn you that another round’ll probably do me in.”
I think she was surprised to hear me speak. I know I was sure surprised to hear me speak.
“Oh. Just here to stare, then? Close as you’re ever gonna get to a Turk without dying.”
Biggs growled. “Don’t be afraid to kick ‘im, Jessie. Fuhito wouldn’t know.”
“Quiet, Biggs,” Jessie said shortly, coming closer and crouching down next to me. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
I opened my eyes again, curious in spite of myself. She wasn’t pretty. Not like Rosalind is pretty. She was just sort of plain, with mousy brown hair and eyes, and a bit of a squarish cast to her jaw. She wore khaki, like everyone else in Avalanche, and she was probably in her early twenties. She looked like the sort of person you’d find leading environmental protests outside the U of M in Midgar. There was a canvas bag slung over her shoulder. She also had a handgun in a holster across her chest and a hunting knife sheathed at her waist. That made me nervous.
“You look like you’re here to hurt me. I’m of the opinion that everyone in this camp is here to hurt me.”
“Well, I’m not. My name’s Jessie. I’m a medic,” she answered a little bit defensively. There was something in her eyes, though. I think she was a little stunned by the fact that she was actually talking to a Turk.
I didn’t believe her. “You don’t look like a medic.”
She slipped the strap of her bag off her shoulder and showed it to me, displaying the red cross emblem on the front. “See? Just the same as your medics.”
“Our medics don’t carry automatics.”
“Your medics aren’t expected to provide cover fire in raids.”
“Touché.” I’d have pressed the point, but I’d remembered I was in screaming agony, so I just shut up and tried to refrain from passing out again.
Jessie set her bag down and flipped it open. “Fuhito says I’m supposed to make sure you don’t die.”
“That’s thoughtful of him.”
She busied herself getting out various bottles and bandages and things. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t, really, what with the rifle trained on me.
“Sit up, please,” she instructed absently, unscrewing the lid of one of these bottles and rubbing a clear liquid all over her hands.
I lay still for a moment, contemplating the suggestion. I even went as far as to try and push myself up, but it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to be happening. “I can’t.”
Jessie glanced up. “You can’t?”
Biggs cocked his rifle. “Don’t you be short with her, Turk, or I’ll pump you full of lead so fast…”
“Biggs,quiet,” Jessie snapped over her shoulder. “You aren’t helping.” She returned her attention to me. “Just how badly are you hurt?”
Looking slightly puzzled, she leaned over and pulled my jacket open, then undid the buttons down the front of my shirt. I grimaced as she opened my shirt, the cuts and abrasions covering my chest stinging as dried blood pulled away with them. “O-oh my god,” she gasped, her brown eyes widening. “I didn’t…I didn’t think…”
She moved to touch my right arm, probably unconsciously meaning it as a gesture of comfort, but sending pain shooting up my arm from where it had broken. I cried out weakly and tried to pull away.
Biggs laughed. “That’s got him, Jess, you show him!”
Jessie whirled around. “Biggs, go away! You’re interfering! I’ll call you if I need you, but for now, just leave!”
He turned and left, dragging his rifle on the ground, muttering sullenly to himself. Jessie looked back down at me, remorse in her eyes. “Sorry,” she apologized. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know your arm was hurt.”
“S’okay. ‘Least you didn’t kick me. Or shoot me, like your boyfriend was gonna.”
Jessie shook her head hastily. “Oh, no. Biggs isn’t my…well…he’s not really. I just think he likes me, is all.”
“But he would have shot me?”
“Oh, no! Well…maybe. I couldn’t really say what he’d do if he thought you were dangerous. We met about a year ago, back at school and…” She stopped and blushed suddenly, blinking and staring at me, as though she’d just remembered she was talking to the enemy.
I managed a grin. “Wonder why you’re telling me this, dontcha?”
“It’s ‘cause you’d don’t perceive me as a threat. I remember learning about that in the Academy, how if you’re non-threatening, people’ll tell you just about anything.”
“You don’t get much less threatening than you are.”
I laughed a bit weakly. “If I get any less threatening, I could probably get you to tell me your measurements.”
Jessie blushed and cleared her throat a little awkwardly, changing the subject. “I didn’t think they’d hurt you this badly. I didn’t expect…well, I’ll do what I can.”
“Hey, I wasn’t expecting anything. Someone who doesn’t seem like they’re going to kill me is more than enough already.”
“I’m a healer. I’ve never killed anybody,” Jessie said quickly, popping the top off a bottle of something. “This’ll sting a bit at first, but it should keep these from getting infected.”
“I’m a Turk. I can take it.”
She smiled slightly and scooped a bit of some sort of salve onto her fingertips, rubbing it over the places where the skin had broken. It did sting, but it also made things feel a bit better. Her expression became concerned and she gently pressed her fingertips against my chest. “I think a few of your ribs might be broken.”
“Yeah, I could believe that. Shears wears steel toed boots, am I right?”
Jessie winced. “Oh, I’m sorry. I wish I could…I wish I could do something to fix that. But…well, Fuhito has told me not to waste any bandages on you, unless it was absolutely necessary.”
“Ahh. Well, that’s all right. Thanks anyway.” In spite of myself, I kinda liked her. She was Avalanche, but she wasn’t “bloodthirsty, wicked cruel, insane terrorist type Avalanche.” She was nice.
“I could…” she paused and glanced up, as though to make sure there was no one watching. “Hold still.” Reaching out with both hands, she pressed her palms against my chest and closed her eyes. Her skin grew warmer against mine and I felt the pain in my chest receding slightly as her hands started to glow. “There,” she whispered, smiling. “I didn’t fix them, but they shouldn’t hurt as badly now. Not much more than that, though, because if Fuhito catches me that would be it.”
“Jessica.” Well, speak of the devil. I didn’t know the devil wore weenie glasses and khaki, but there he was, so who was I to argue?
Jessie jumped up. “Fuhito, sir.” She bowed to him respectfully. “I was just following your orders, sir.”
Fuhito nodded. “Yes, Jessica, and I thank you. I would request that you remain behind with the contingent I have selected, to ensure the Turk survives until the equinox.”
“I would be most honored, Fuhito.”
“Thank you, Jessica. I shall have Biggs fetch a rope, so you can get out of there. I apologize for having you sully your hands with the wounds of the Turk.”
“By service I am made clean, Fuhito,” she murmured, inclining her head deeply. I swear, the crazy must rub off on people. Crazy by association. I hoped I wouldn’t catch it.
He nodded again, evidently satisfied, and left. Jessie watched him go, then crouched down again, rummaging in her bag. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” she said, suddenly sounding distracted and a little upset. “For now, I’ll give you something that should help with the pain…”
“Ahh, no, you don’t have to. If you’re in trouble already…”
Jessie unstoppered a bottle. “No, no. This is no trouble. I make tonics like this from the herbs that grow around here, there are loads of them.”
“W-well, all right, then…”
She helped me sit up and handed me the little vial. “Here, come sit on this side. The sun’s going to be coming up soon and today will be quite hot, I think. You’d better stay in the shade.”
“Okay.” I got settled down on the eastern side of the pit, as comfortably as I could be, sighing. I was already tired and I’d barely been awake for any time at all. But then, I was pretty rundown. I hadn’t been eating or sleeping regularly, I’d been rather consistently injured in the course of the past twelve hours, and being fairly certain of your impending death is the sort of thing that’ll drain anyone’s spirits.
“I think people will probably leave you alone, after what Fuhito did to Shears…and what with how busy we are getting everything ready to leave,” Jessie explained, carefully repacking her bag.
“That’s good, I guess.”
“Jessie!” Biggs was back and he’d thrown a rope down into the pit. “Get on up outta there, Jessie, c’mon.”
“Yes, I’m coming.” Jessie stood up. “Drink that, it’ll make you feel better and help you rest,” she encouraged.
I nodded and did as she asked, grimacing slightly. The stuff was pretty vile, but I believed her when she said it would help. “Thanks, Jessie.”
She looked back and blushed slightly before she climbed up the rope, probably a little surprised that I’d thanked her. I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t have; hers was the only kindness anybody had shown me in this hellhole.
And then she was gone and I was left alone again. All by myself, stuck in a little bit of space, probably less than a hundred feet square. I’ve often wondered how people cope with prison. I don’t think I could do it, if only because I’d go absolutely mad with boredom. I need to be constantly stimulated, always occupied, or else I’ll be unhappy. Though I suppose my happiness probably wasn’t among Avalanche’s top priorities.
I tried to remember what Shinran prisoners did when they were captured. I then came to the conclusion that the facilities that Shinra prisoners are kept in are the approximately equivalent of a five star hotel, when compared with what Avalanche can muster. I’d have given anything for a ten by ten cell with a bed and a light and air conditioning and food and water. And no crazy prison guards or officials. And (not to knock Jessie’s efforts) proper medical care. But, of course, there are stringent guidelines regarding how Shinra can treat the prisoners they take. Avalanche were not quite so hindered.
But anyway, whatever Jessie had given me made me feel better, if kind of drowsy. So I spent most of my day dozing in the shade, crawling over to the western side of the pit and sleeping there after the sun reached its zenith at noon. I had to spend an unpleasant hour in full sunlight, but it passed fairly quickly. For the most part, I was left alone, with the sounds of their camp breaking down around me. It was probably the high point of the time I spent in captivity.
When the sun went down, things weren’t so great. I hadn’t noticed the previous night, but now that I had a little less pain to concentrate on, I realized that Cosmo Canyon is one of those places that gets really, really hot during the day, then drops to near freezing at night. Not the sort of place you want to be sleeping in only your standard uniform. But, chilled and shivering though I might have been, I tried to make the best of it.
Around midnight, someone came creeping up to the edge of the pit. There weren’t guards around; apparently they’d realized that I wasn’t going to be going anywhere. Whoever it was didn’t say or do anything, they just stood there, watching me. It was too dark to see anything, and even so my eyes were clamped tightly shut anyway, but I could feel a pair of eyes on me. It was creepy, to say the very least. Especially because I don’t know the sort of stuff these Avalanche bastards are into. Scared the hell out of me. I hoped desperately that it wasn’t Shears or Fuhito.
So, except for the shivering, which I couldn’t really control, I just kept still as whoever this was stood there, watching, reasoning that if I didn’t react, they might not decided to do something more interesting.
Then there was a soft “thwump” sort of sound in the dirt beside me. I opened my eyes at that. I’d been wrong before; there was light. Not much, but just enough to see the old, thick, and neatly folded quilted blanket that had been tossed down into the dust beside me. That was kind of surprising. I looked up, wondering who I was supposed to thank for this, and met Jessie’s eyes.
I took the blanket and shook it out as best as I could, tugging it over my shoulders and kicking it out over my legs, giving her a bit of a nod of acknowledgement as I got myself comfortable again. She flushed slightly, in the light of the lamp she carried, and nodded back. Then she left.
It was an awfully thoughtful thing of her to do. I mean, sure, a night out in the cold like that wasn’t going to kill me, so technically it wasn’t her business, but it had been nice of her to take the fact that I’d be cold into consideration. It was funny. The last place in the world I’d expected to find compassion was in the Avalanche base camp.
I didn’t see her again until the next day. Mid afternoon of the next day. The next day was approximately one of the hottest I’ve ever experienced in my life. And that wasn’t just because I spent most of it lying, half-conscious and suffering from sunstroke, in a pit in the middle of one of the most extreme climate zones in the world. It was because temperatures in this area reached what must have been a record high. If I could remember anything of the hours I passed, I’m sure I could say they’d been agony.
Thankfully, Jessie did come back. She came around four o’clock and was apparently surprised to see me in the state I was.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, climbing down again. “Are you all right? I didn’t know you’d just been left like this, I’m so sorry…”
It was funny that I was glad to see her. Also funny that she was concerned about me. I suppose it was just funny that there we were, two members of opposing organizations, who, under different circumstances, wouldn’t have found it any kind of task to kill each other, and yet there wasn’t any hostility. Not on my part, at least, and I didn’t feel anything of the kind from her.
“Here, let’s get you in the shade.” She helped me over to the opposite wall and wiped her forearm across her brow. “God, I’m sorry. When Fuhito told me to do this, I hadn’t expected it would be very hard, but I also hadn’t expected that no one else would pay any attention to how you were doing. Though I guess there’s not really so many people left to keep an eye out…”
“Uh huh…” I wasn’t really up for much talking. Sure, I was glad to see her, but all ethical triumphs of humanity over ideology aside, that was mostly because she might be able to make me feel like I wasn’t going to shrivel up and die.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” she cried suddenly. “Here I am blabbering and you’re probably half-dead of thirst. I brought a few things…”
Jessie rummaged through the canvas bag she carried, taking out, among other things, a canteen, a brown parcel of something, and another of her little vials of tonic. “Drink up, but not too fast,” she cautioned, pressing the canteen into my good hand. “You’ll make yourself sick if you go too fast.”
I stared at the canteen for a few moments. “Uh…cap?”
“Oh! Yeah, sure. Sorry, I forgot.” She quickly and deftly unscrewed the cap and handed it back to me. “Not too fast, now.”
I nodded and drank gratefully, clearing my throat as soon as I felt well enough to talk. “Thanks. Wow. Still cold. Some service you guys get out here, hey?”
Jessie shrugged. “It comes from an old reservoir, a few miles out of camp. They pump it into water trucks and then cast ice spells on it until it freezes solid. Then they park the truck in the sun and let it melt. It’s just like putting a water bottle in the freezer overnight and then having cool water all day.”
That was clever. “Huh. Neat trick. Where does the reservoir service?”
“There are aqueducts that lead to Gongaga, but I don’t know if they’re still in use. Do you want something to eat?”
“Oh, hell yeah. I haven’t eaten in days.” Which I hadn’t. A person can go a couple weeks without food, but all the same, I was getting pretty hungry.
Unwrapping the little parcel she’d brought, Jessie passed me a small roll of bread, something that looked like beef jerky, and an apple. “It isn’t very much,” she apologized. “But it’s better than nothing, I think.”
“It is that, yeah.” I practically inhaled the apple. I was pretty damn hungry.
She just sat there watching me, a bit of a smile on her face. “Not so fast,” she cautioned again.
“Sorry. Hey…aren’t you gonna eat anything?”