.1.

Thaddeus Reno, known to the rest of the world simply as Reno, was on assignment. He stood at the corner of Eighth and West Main, leaning with a casual arrogance against the mortared brick wall of a small and crowded pub. Bathed in the dirty wash of light from an overhead street lamp, he held loosely in one hand a smoking cigarette. His other hand was in his pocket, toying with a switchblade no one else could see. Clad in a wrinkled business suit, jacket carelessly unbuttoned and hanging loose, he seemed like many others in this run-down district of Midgar: an ordinary man looking for a good time. Taking a long drag from his cigarette, he allowed himself a slight smile. Truth was, he was looking for a good time … but there was nothing ordinary about him.

"Any plans for the evening, Red?" A nearby voice drawled. Reno turned his head to find a bombshell of a woman standing a few feet away. If there were any doubts as to her occupation, her attire assuaged them immediately. Her voluptuous form was encased in a tight, glossy red shell of PVC that covered –barely- the parts that decency required be covered. She came closer, walking with an aggressive strut on black knee length stiletto boots; Reno watched her approach, smile never fading. He may be on duty, but that didn't mean he couldn't take some time to appreciate the view. As she came to a halt an arms length away, he replied to her question, "Yes."

At the answer, her full crimson lips turned into a pout, and watching with rapt attention he added, "Unfortunately."

That earned him a smile, and with a flick of her head she tossed her layered mass of blonde hair over her shoulders. She sidled closer in order to run one long violet fingernail lasciviously across his shoulder. Blinking her large, heavily lined brown eyes up at him, she whispered conspiratorially, "You've got time for something quick, don't you?"

Shifting his weight to reduce the burgeoning stress in certain areas of his anatomy, Reno said, "Not really."

"Ah, come on …" She'd moved in front of him now, and her hand, shielded by her body, had slowly and purposefully found it's way to the aforementioned area of his groin. Flexing her hand, she smiled as he gasped quietly. She continued, "You'll never have anything quite like me, Red."

Unable to think for the magic her hand was working, Reno opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again. Shuddering, he dropped his cigarette and pushed her away. "Alright," he said breathlessly, "but we've got to make it quick."

"Your wish," she purred, sliding one long finger into her mouth and withdrawing it slowly, the moisture encompassing it gleaming in the light from the lamp above, "is my command."

Coherent thought fled, and as she strode confidentially into the beckoning shadows of the alley, he followed quickly after.

The only sounds in the alley soon after were those of pleasure; the grunts and moans of Reno and the breathy sighs of the prostitute. Sex in an alley was never romantic; Reno braced the woman against his own body and pressed her against the wall. It was an animalistic position, and one that apparently brought great pleasure to both. So involved were the two of them that they didn't realize they had company. At the mouth of the alley, just beyond the reach of illumination from the street lamps, a woman stood, observing silently. She didn't stir as Reno shouted exuberantly, "Yes!", nor did she move as he entangled himself from the prostitute, who in turn took a moment to close a zipper in a rather intimate area of her cat suit. Reno dug from his pocket a wad of cash and gave it to her; she pecked him on the cheek with a whispered compliment that made him chuckle before turning to leave.

And thus came face to face with the observer.

The prostitute gasped, and then said angrily, "What the hell? You been watching the whole time?"

A smile, unseen for the shadows, crossed the observers face, and she nodded. "Yes."

The prostitute eyed the other suspiciously, and then with a snort brushed by her. "Pervert," she muttered as she passed.

Reno, hurriedly refastening his pants, strode to the mouth of the alley. "What kind of creep stands there and watches—"

The observer moved back a step, into the light, and Reno's expression altered from anger to unease. "Oh."

The woman was not tall; she came to Reno's shoulder, and her body was cloaked entirely by a dark, flared coat that fell to her feet. Her hair, chestnut in color, fell over one shoulder in a long, thick braid. Evergreen eyes set beneath arched brows regarded Reno serenely. She seemed delicate and fragile, but Reno knew she was anything but.

"What do you want?" he demanded, striding past her, careful never to present her with his back.

"To watch you fornicate, obviously." She replied, following him and noting his caution with an amused expression.

"Cut the bullshit." Reno snapped, digging another cigarette out of his pocket and then fishing for a lighter.

"Allow me," the woman said, and placed the tip of her finger upon the cigarette. And instant later a small flame went up; as the woman let fall her hand Reno gaped at her over the rising smoke. Struggling to maintain a cool composure, Reno took a drag and said again with makeshift calm, "What do you want?"

"I want you," she said quietly, watching him steadily with unnerving, unblinking eyes, "to tell me some things."

Reno swallowed; he knew this woman, most in his line of work did. She was one of the wild cards; a hunter who worked for employers both unknown and highly speculated about. Her reputation was much the same; no one knew fact from fiction but the same was said every time; she was ruthless, she was tireless, and she was ceaseless in her pursuit. Several times she'd come to the Turks for information, and every time she'd received it, for who knew more about the seedy underbelly of the cesspool that was Midgar than the Turks? Reno himself had spoken to her before, but there was something different this time, something in her eyes that told him this encounter could go the way of unpleasant. With all this in mind, he asked slowly, "What kind of things?"

"I need a location for someone."

"Ah." Reno took another huff, glancing away from the woman to survey the street. Thankfully, his contact hadn't made an appearance yet. "And this someone would be …?"

"Sephiroth."

He choked on his next drag; he couldn't help it. This was something he couldn't tell her, this was something classified … and besides, Sephiroth was legendary, with power enough to rival a god, or so the rumors said. He'd only caught a glimpse of the pale haired General once, in ShinRa headquarters, and even that split second had been enough to create the impression that you simply did not fuck with Sephiroth. When Reno had gained enough breath to speak adequately, he wheezed, "Are you out of your goddamn mind, Aeris?"

Perhaps it was the use of her name, seldom said for reasons obvious that persuaded her to become absolutely still. She stared at him, eyes a glittering mirror that reflected his own harried visage back at him. Unnerved and feeling a little edgy, Reno hastily went on, "You do know that he's the General of ShinRa's forces, right? And that he's amazingly, insanely powerful? And that he's almost impossible to get to?"

She nodded, her face an impenetrable mask. "Yes."

Reno shook his head. "You are crazy."

A sigh escaped her then, a slight sound, but enough to let him know she was becoming impatient. "Reno." She said quietly, "Tell me how to find him."

"No goddamn way." He shook his head again, wildly. If he told her, and she went on her insane mission and failed, Sephiroth would want to know who sold him out, and he did not want that coming after him.

"Reno." She said again, and there was a cold certainty in her tone that let him know that to deny her this would mean pain. "Tell me. Now."

"No," Reno spat, and in a blur of movement he dropped his cigarette and lashed out at her. His fist connected solidly with her jaw; as her head snapped back he followed through with a kick to the midsection. She went down heavily, stumbling into the street, and then Reno was running. He didn't want to take her on out in the open; he wanted to be somewhere safe, somewhere familiar, where he knew every crook and cranny. Her reputation as a fighter was ferocious, and he so did not want to get his ass kicked by a girl. Besides, Turk was synonymous with badass; if he lost, how would he ever live it down? He bolted past the pub, past another bar, past the crowd gathered outside. He shoved and pushed without discrimination to get through them; angry cries followed him as he swept around a corner into another alley. This one was well lit, however, by the lights attached to the wall. It was empty but for the dumpster in the far corner. Three doors attached to three buildings, and as he drew to a halt Reno smiled.

All three doors led to a building held by the Turks.

"Come on, you whore," He muttered, eager for a fight now that he was certain his ass was covered. He was in the middle of turning to face the alley mouth when a sound rang out. His brain registered it as a gunshot an instant before pain ripped through his leg; in stunned realization he looked up to find Aeris standing still in the street, an automatic pistol in hand. He then looked down to find that his right knee was now a bleeding red ruin; she had shot his knee joint out. Searing agony swept through him, and unable to stand for the intensity of it all he crumpled to the ground.

"Bitch!" He screamed as he clutched at his wound. He heard her footsteps drawing nearer, and he rolled his eyes back to see her looming above him.

"Tell me what I want to know, Reno." She said gently, crouching by his side. His eyes focused through a tortured haze on the grey pistol she held, acutely aware of the fact that she hadn't put it away.

"Fuck you," Reno gasped, rocking unconsciously back and forth in an attempt to alleviate the agony of his shattered knee.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" She said, her voice friendly. "Please tell me, Reno. I don't want to hurt you more."

"B-Bullshit," he spat.

Her answering smile wasn't pleasant. Very deliberately she laid the muzzle of her gun against his other, whole knee. "Tell me. Or you can discover the wonder of the wheelchair."

"Bitch," He moved his hand from his knee and raised it; blood dripped heavily from his fingers. The look he cast her now was desperate. "I-I can't just tell you …"

He knew it was the wrong answer. He saw the shadow slide behind her eyes and knew that she was going to shoot him—just like that—again. He closed his own eyes tightly against what he knew was coming—

"I can tell you." Another voice interjected, and the weight of the gun was lifted away from his leg. Breathing a silent prayer, Reno opened his eyes to find his superior watching from one of the three doorways.

"T-Tseng," he gasped, trying as best he could to scuttle away from Aeris, "I couldn't tell her—"

"Be quiet, Reno." Tseng said, and the authority in those three words was sharp enough to bleed by.

"But, she wanted to know—"

"I know what she wants to know." Tseng was moving, striding towards them both. He was attired similar to Reno, except that his clothes were impeccable. His fall of glossy black hair was draped over his shoulders and down his chest, and his dark eyes were inscrutable as he regarded them both. "And I told you before, Reno, that you are always to give her the information she wants."

Reno opened his mouth to reply, but one glance from those ebony eyes silenced him. Tseng continued, "We have nothing to fear from Sephiroth."

Racked by agony and still clutching his wound, Reno whispered, "We do if she fails."

"I won't fail." This came from Aeris, who had risen upon Tseng's approach. She slid the pistol into a holster slung low across her hips, and drew her long coat closed again.

"Indeed." Tseng said. "Which is why I say to you this: Sephiroth is in Nibelheim, and will be for quite some time. There seems to be a problem with the reactors there; they are producing powerful monstrosities, and the General is needed to deal with them."

"Thank you, Tseng." Aeris said. She glanced down at Reno, sitting in a growing pool of blood and glaring at her with the utmost hatred. "I am sorry, Reno."

"Bullshit."

"Yes." She said. With a smile in Tseng's direction, she turned and left the alley. Tseng watched her go, a speculative gleam in his eyes. When she had passed beyond his vision he turned to Reno with a disgusted sigh. "Idiot. You've ruined another suit." He cut off Reno's heated response with a wave of his hand. "I don't want to hear it. I'll send Rude and Elena out to bring you in."

"That bitch," Reno whispered as Tseng left through the door he had entered from. His leg was numb now, and he was feeling rather faint. "I'll fucking kill her."