Entire Fiction (2004)
Good fighter to work in ShinRa special divisions.
Long hours, but good pay. Many opportunities for corporate ladder climbing.
All enquiries to ShinRa HQ, ask for Tseng.
* * * *
"No!" Reno exclaimed loudly, thumping his walking stick on the floor emphatically. "The guy was a moron, not Turk material. Did you just see the way he loaded that gun? Cocky, like he had all the time in the world. He'd be dead. No. Just no."
Behind the ever-present sunglasses Rude rolled his eyes. As far as he could see the guy was well qualified, and handled a gun as well as anyone else they had seen. Besides, it wasn't as if Reno was the most modest of sharp shooters around himself. He knew how his partner was feeling though; they had worked together for enough years for Rude to know how he thought.
Since being injured in the 'incident' earlier in the week, Reno had milked the sympathy angle for all it was worth. He wanted compassion from all sides, lots of time off, apologies, compensation. Hell he wanted a holiday in Costa del Sol, but the sick pay just didn't stretch that far.
It was a routine he pulled every time he was ill; had a week or so off, generally took things easy. It was strange how he recovered so quickly during the first day, and then spent a fair amount of time frequenting the bars in the Midgar area. The whiskey was strictly for medicinal purposes of course.
Usually this course of conduct paid off, the Turks just continued with a member down. No big deal. But this time it was different.
This time the powers that be had decided that they couldn't afford to be a man down on whatever mission was coming up. Usually it would be a minor kidnapping, or a little forceful coercion for information. Something that those in the know didn't want to entrust to a SOLDIER grunt. Something that required a little tact.
But this time was different. Rude sensed something big was coming up.
This was why they were now interviewing potential Turk candidates, and why Reno was being so damn awkward about it. He couldn't just shake off his illness, a broken leg was just that, and he was mightily pissed about being replaced, albeit for a short time. The territory was his, and just like the wildcats that roamed the slums, he was marking it.
Which is why Rude was now sat in a stuffy, badly lit room in the bowels of the ShinRa headquarters, listening to Reno pluck non-existent excuses for rejecting candidates out of mid air.
It was fair enough, Rude reasoned to himself. He'd feel a little weird about working with someone other guy after all this time as well. He sighed inwardly, and put a line through the name of the last guy. The list of crossed off candidates was growing longer, and if this wasn't sorted soon he'd miss happy hour.
Things didn't bode well.
Reno shuffled his way along the wall, using the hefty cane for support, and peered over Rude's shoulder at the list of names that remained.
"Who's next then?"
Rude ran his finger down the now dog-eared list, and came to a stop on a name.
"A chick huh? Don't get many of them applying." Reno grinned. "Hope she's a looker! Send her in."
* * * *
She was pretty, Rude deliberated as he called her to the room. Young, sure, but there was something about the way that she held herself, some vibe she gave off that said she could take care of herself. She had come straight form the slums, that much was evident from the raggedy jeans, and the top that had seen better days. She was too skinny, collarbones protruding from beneath the thin material. She needed a few hot meals and a warm place to sleep, that was for sure.
Her eyes shone with intelligence though. Most slum rats stayed there all their short lives, never managing to get further than the next sector. Never seeing what the world had to offer. Somehow she had made it to ShinRa HQ, which wasn't easy. Most candidates came from SOLDIER, or privileged families. Her ambition was evident; it was up to them to test her skill.
The recruitment drive followed set rules- first the candidates tried their hand at the basic combat and shooting, if they got through that, then they got a spoken interview. As Tseng had put it, there was no point interviewing dead wood.
Reno was eyeing the girl suspiciously. Rude guessed he was wandering about her physical strength. Her diminutive figure looked as if she would snap if anyone tried to make a move on her. Too fragile for this kind of business.
Reno gestured for her to step further into the room, out of the doorway. She followed his finger to the crashmat placed in the middle of the floor.
"You have to fight hand to hand in this job," The remark was phrased sarcastically as he ran his eyes up and down her slight figure, "you think you can handle it?"
"Yes Sir". Her eyes seemed to light up in anticipation.
The ShinRa SOLDIER that advanced on her without warning soon found himself flat on his back, arms pinned to the ground by her knees while she sat heavily on his chest. The pseudo vulnerability worked with her Rude noted - her opponents underestimated her abilities.
Reno said nothing, merely nodded at her, eyes cold. He now hated her, Rude knew. He would never want someone like her to replace him; she had defied his expectations.
"Care to try the guns next Miss?" Rude enquired.
* * * *
Again she surprised, hitting every single paper target dead on centre, or near enough. The moving object targets projected onto the screenslide proved little trouble. The girl knew how to handle a gun.
"Where did you learn to shoot like that?"
She turned to Rude. "You pick things up quickly, or else you pay for it. It's the way of the sector."
Rude nodded. Slum life was hard, he had heard enough stories to know. He was big enough and scary enough not to be bothered by the lowlife that lived there, he frightened potential opponents into submission, but a pretty girl such as herself would have to be tough to survive.
Finally Reno spoke again.
"Rude, man, I think we should let her have a go at the last target."
Rude glared at him through mirrored sunglasses. This was a cruel trick. The girl had more than shown her worth, and she was going to be refused a job anyway. To give her the last target was just taunting her. Hell, not even he had managed to shoot that elusive last target. He knew for a fact that Reno hadn't.
"Reno, leave it out," he snapped.
"No. The last target."
Rude didn't know why Reno was being so damned mean. Perhaps he could see a little bit of his past reflected in her scruffy street rat style, and he didn't like it. Perhaps he was just toying with her because he could.
Reno got to his feet, and limped painfully over, until he stood inches from her. He leaned closer still, lips almost touching her ear, and sneered:
"Think you can handle it?"
"I'll try my best Sir."
A screen door slid open at the far end of the room to reveal a chair. Tightly bound to this chair was a child of about six, his face dirty, his hair unkempt. A street kid that had wandered into the clutches of ShinRa. A gag covered his mouth, but the terror in his eyes was easy to read.
"Shoot him." Reno said simply.
Rude watched for a second as the girl's face ran through conflicting emotions, trying to decide her options.
"What did he do?" She asked, eyes full of pity.
"Doesn't matter." Reno barked. "He's slum scum. If you want this job, you have to learn to follow orders. Shoot him."
Rude watched as her jaw clenched tighter. She clicked off the safety, and lifted her arm to aim the gun. She looked along the sights expertly, but wavered when her glance fell on the boy. She squeezed her eyes tightly together. It was part of the job, but he was just like her in many ways. Daring to go somewhere different.
Reno stood close behind her, mocking. He's being too harsh, Rude thought absently.
"You can't do it, can you? You're just too weak, why are you bothering. Why are you wasting our time? Go back to the slums where you belong, back to hole you call home. You're no more than one of the Don's whores are you..."
Her move was sudden, liquid, catching Reno by surprise, and cutting his tirade off in midstream. The gun spun in her fingers, until the barrel rested in her palm. She spun on heel, lifting her arm higher. The handle landed squarely on Reno's jaw, hitting him with such force that he was knocked off his feet, and landed on his rump several feet away.
"Nobody calls me a whore," she spat at him angrily, eyes flashing sparks.
Rude sighed once again. Not intent with rejecting every candidate, he had to make enemies of them as well. He was never going to get a beer at this rate.
The girl clicked the safety back on the gun, and deposited it back into Rude's grasp.
"Sorry for wasting your time." The stalked to the door, leaving immediately, and slamming it behind her.
The gun was full of blanks, but how was she to know?
Rude reached into his jacket pocket for the list of candidates, now limp at the edges, to find out who was next. Reno, behind him was still on the floor in silence.
"Hey Rude, she hit me."
"Yeah buddy, I know. Next guy's called Williams, you ready?"
Rude turned to help him from the floor, realising with a start that he was laughing silently, almost hysterically.
"Don't bother man, I liked her. She's got guts. She hit me fer god's sake! At least things wouldn't be boring with her around. C'mon, she has to live up to my reputation!"
Rude smiled uncharacteristically. Maybe he read the situation all wrong. He could work with the girl all right. Maybe they had finally found a replacement. And he could finally get a drink.
"What did you say she was called again?"