Author's Note: To start off with, there is some definite out of character-ness, but I figured since that would be over soon, I'd throw a bit more in. It just seemed like a good opportunity. I hope everyone is better in their character in this chapter.

Chapter 02 – Comrades in Arms

Reno kicked the apartment door open and stepped inside. Rude and Elena followed quietly. Without a word, the bald man crossed the blue carpet to the phone on the far wall. With unerring precision, he punched in his boss' number. He wondered briefly how the gruff man would react to his quitting. He quickly dismissed the idea as unimportant.

Reno wandered around the room, stuffing things into a plastic bag he had retrieved from the kitchen. "We have luggage for that, Reno." Elena eyed the red-head exasperatedly.

"Oh well." He bent to retrieve a small stack of magazines from beneath the corner of his chair.

Shaking her head, Elena walked into her bedroom, and after much thumping and banging, drug out several sets of luggage. Rude nodded and hung up the phone, then retrieved his luggage from the pile and retreated to his room, allowing the door to slam closed. Elena slid Reno's across the floor to him, seeing as how he was engaged in retrieving something from beneath the couch. She returned to her room, and closed the door firmly.

She slipped a CD into an old player on her nightstand and pressed play. The quiet piano music flowed through the speakers, and she relaxed somewhat, slipping out of her blue suit jacket and laying it across the bed. Opening her oaken dresser drawers, she began to neatly stack her clothes into the green luggage. Sadly, within a few minutes, the drawers were empty. Sullenly, the Turk began arranging her small collection of stuffed animals atop the clothes. She was surprised she was used to such a small collection of personal items. She had been born into a high class family on the Midgar Upper Plate. For nearly her entire life, she had been denied nothing. She eventually rejected that style of life, opting for the demanding position of Turk. It had been a major success, landing the job. She was the first, and last female Turk. Well, under Shinra, anyway. Even after giving up the life of a rich girl, she'd made more than decent pay. To have so little was a bit shocking.

She closed and latched the top of the piece of luggage and sat back on her heels with a sigh. Now came the fun part. She lay down flat on her stomach and stretched her arm underneath the bed, reaching about blindly. Her fingers touched cool metal, and she groped about for a way to take hold of the object. With a small cry of victory, she pulled on a leather strap that she knew would carry the gun with it. Sure enough, she pulled a leather shoulder holster from beneath the bed, and a pistol within it. Even from beneath the bed, a small layer of dust had begun to collect on the normally glossy surface. Elena pulled a soft cloth from her pocket and wiped it across the surface. She spent several seconds polishing the small material orbs fitted into the barrel, causing each to shine with an inner light. Smiling, she slipped the gun back into its holster and slung it over her shoulder, and with practiced ease, adjusted it to a comfortable fit.

Satisfied, she pulled her jacket back on and picked up the small luggage and grabbed her CD from the player. She regretted not being able to take the player itself, but it was not hers. She snapped the CD into its case and stuck it in a pocket and strolled out her door for a final time.

The first thing she noticed upon entering the living room, was that Reno's corner was relatively clean. He must have stuffed everything that wasn't trash into his luggage. She pulled her luggage over to wear Reno had piled his near the door. Elena turned to dial up her own boss, when she noticed the refrigerator door was open, bathing a small portion of the kitchen in pale yellow light. She strode towards the kitchen, but stopped abruptly as Reno's head popped into view over the top of the fridge door. He had half a sandwich hanging out of his mouth, lettuce drooping from the bread. His arms were laden with numerous brands of beer, and was balancing a bowl of Jell-O precariously on his head. Knowing he couldn't see her, Elena allowed herself a small smile.

Reno backed slowly from the refrigerator, straining not to dump anything. Carefully, he allowed the bottles and cans to roll out onto the small table. He reached up and removed the bowl of Jell-O from his head. As he placed it on the table, half his sandwich plummeted to the floor. "Shit." His voice was slightly muffled, but still audible. He bent to retrieve the fallen food, and smacked his forehead loudly against the table. With a small yelp, he straightened instantly, the rest of the sandwich falling from his mouth. As he raised his hand to his forehead, musical laughter rang through the small kitchenette. He glanced around, and turned red as his blue-green eyes fell on Elena.

She was nearly doubled over with laughter. Somewhere amidst the melodic sound, Reno thought he caught a choppy "I'm sorry, Reno," but he couldn't be sure. Trying to retain some his dignity, he bent under the table, avoiding the edge by as much as he could, and with a small crow of triumph, grabbed his sandwich.

Rude walked out of his room, luggage trailing along behind him, and once again allowed the door to slam shut. Reno jerked up in surprise, and smacked the back of his head against the table. The cans and bottles rolled from the sudden movement of the table, and clattered loudly onto the floor. A small thump told Reno that Elena had collapsed in a fit of laughter. Reno sat heavily on the floor beneath the table and stuffed the sandwich into his mouth. "Thank God we're leaving," he muttered.

The weather lately had been deplorable. First the snow that morning, and as dusk fell, so too did a cutting rain. Thankfully, the limo that Mr. Maxwell had sent for them was well heated. The sleek black vehicle turned a sharp corner, water cascading off the wheels onto a large cardboard box at the edge of the street. Reno barely spared it a glance. After Meteor destroyed most of Midgar, many of the survivors trekked through the plains to Kalm. For months, the small country town had been swamped. Under Reeve's skillful command, the refugees had built onto Kalm, although some of the more adventurous ones had sought a more familiar environment. Many of those from the plate had traveled to Junon. In Kalm, the citizens from the slums faired quite well. The houses they built went up fast and were quite strong. The people from the plate eventually hired the slummers to build their houses. By now, most had nice homes, and who didn't had friends who did. Those who had journeyed on to Junon weren't so lucky. By the time they had arrived at the port town, they hardly resembled the rich businessmen of Midgar's heyday. Those who survived where a scraggly bunch with few resources. They had no real skills, and ended up right where those who they'd pitied most had started at, on the streets, penniless.

Reno, Elena, and Rude had been hired by those from the plate to protect them on their way to Junon. Even the three assassins were unable to fully protect the group from the monsters of the plains. The Midgar Zolom had reduced their numbers by half, before they had managed subdue it. Once they left the Mythril Mines, the journey had been easier, but their charges spirit had been broken. Upon reaching the city, the Turks had quickly abandoned the poor bunch and pooled their money for their apartment. Life since then hadn't been easy, but that was life. You did what you could, and made the best of it.

The limo slowed as it neared the huge structure of Maxwell's dwelling. Reno woke from his reverie. Elena shifted uncomfortably beside him. "We've arrived." The driver exited into the rain, not seeming to notice the temperature of the liquid lances berating him. He opened their door and bowed low. Rude quickly stepped out. Elena moved to follow him, and promptly tripped over a protruding rock in the driveway. She reached out for the driver, but he avoided her and stepped to the side. With a small scream, she hit the gravely pavement.

Reno leapt out of the vehicle and hauled Elena to her feet. She glanced at him, and noted a worried look in his eyes. "Uh…thanks, Reno." He nodded and turned around.

He narrowed his eyes at the impassive chauffer. "Why didn't you help her, you bastard?"

The man stepped back a bit and sneered. "It's not in my job description." His sneer was interrupted by Reno's fist, lodging itself firmly beneath the man's nose. A very satisfying crunch was heard over the sound of the rain. The driver pitched backwards onto the pavement, blood trickling from his mouth. Reno pulled the keys from the ignition and shut the drivers door, slamming the door he'd exited from as well. He stepped around the stunned Elena and unlocked the trunk. With a smile, he tossed the keys onto the unconscious driver's stomach. Reno turned back to the trunk and pulled his luggage free from the stack. He turned towards the wing Maxwell had shown them earlier and began to trot towards it. Rude eyed him curiously over his sunglasses. Reno shrugged. "He deserved it." Rude nodded and pulled his luggage from the back as well.

Elena watched the two retreating men, then sighed, grabbing her own luggage and starting towards the wing that she shared with the AVALANCHE girl. This was turning into one hell of a day.

Reno collapsed into a chair and sighed deeply. His partner wandered into the first bedroom he found, and began unpacking methodically. Reno glanced at the doorway to Rude's room. "You at it already?"

A muffled grunt was his only reply, and with a shrug, Reno craned his head back to examine the room better than he'd been able to during Maxwell's brief tour earlier. His and Rude's wing consisted of some thirty rooms. The main living room appeared to be 60'x60' with nearly a 50' ceiling. A mural was painted on the high ceiling, and several chandeliers hung from thick gold chains. Dark mahogany furniture populated the rooms. On the end opposite the door was a huge entertainment system. Reno turned the chair in the direction of the expansive TV, and turned it on via the remote he picked up from the table to his right. The screen flickered to life, and slow music began to flow from the speakers hung about the room. A paragraph of white text floated across the otherwise black screen. Reno grimaced in disgust. "Who the hell listens to this shit?" He pounded the mute button, and called up the menu immediately after.

A low, cold voice spoke up from the shadows near Reno's chair. "I do."

Reno leapt out of his chair, scrambling around to face the surprise, and drew his gun. "Holy shit!" His presumed target shifted quickly out of line with the barrel.

The shadowy figure nodded. "You are, indeed, still fit for combat, Turk Sinclair." Reno suddenly recognized the low voice. He frowned and stuck his pistol back into it's holster.

"Oh. It's Vampy." Reno sat heavily back into his chair as Vincent lowered himself to a couch perpendicular to Reno. "I take it you live here too?" Vincent remained silent, merely gazing at Reno with his haunting crimson eyes. Reno shuddered. "Still not much of a conversationalist, I see." Vincent shrugged.

With a sigh, Reno returned to choosing another channel. After dismissing three cheap pornos, Reno settled on channel 192, an exposition of the latest weaponry. Approximately a year and a half ago, Reno's old mag rod had finally generated its last volt, and died. They'd not had the money to buy a new one, nor did Reno especially need a new one. What use had a civilian for such a weapon? Reno wasn't the best shot on the planet, and decided that as long as Maxwell was paying, he might as well pick up a new mag rod. So far, the program seemed to be mostly about guns. Reno sighed again and sank deeper into his seat.

Time seemed to pass slowly, and Reno found himself drifting into sleep. Seeing as how it was only ten something, it was hardly the time to be napping. Reno glanced over at the ever silent gunman and decided to try to strike up a conversation. "How'd you and the brat meet up, exactly?"

Vincent looked up and focused on Reno as Rude stepped into the room and took a seat at the other end of Vincent's couch. "I met up with Yuffie at Kalm. She…intervened with a small skirmish I was involved in."

Reno frowned. "Care to try again? I like details in my stories."

Vincent strode into the quiet town, his eyes on the ground, his metal boots clicking against the cobblestone pavement. The town was certainly busier than the last time he'd been there. He attributed that to the influx of Midgar citizens. That was actually the reason he was at the county town. After a year of wandering the world, attempting to make peace with himself, he decided he needed something to give his life purpose. Normal job's didn't suit Vincent, and Vincent wasn't fit for normal jobs. Despite his background in both Shinra and AVALANCHE, most refused him employment. Although he'd not yet stooped to fast-food service.

He was visiting Kalm in search of a friend. He'd met Alexander Maxwell during his prep school days, and the two had become fast friends, despite Vincent's general coldness. The two remained unlikely friends until Vincent decided to join Shinra, much against his parent's wishes, and Alexander decided to become a teacher. He'd not seen the man since joining up with Shinra, and after he was awakened by AVALANCHE, he wasn't exactly able to call up the second highest man in Shinra's Urban Development Department.

It wasn't until now that Vincent considered seeking out his old friend. Not only for employment opportunity, but because he hadn't seen him in thirty years. He hadn't been able to find Alexander in either Gold Saucer or Icicle Inn, so he decided to scour Kalm, the town closest to Midgar. Perhaps he'd settled down there.

Vincent reached the steps that led up the second level of the town, and climbed them quickly. At their top, he scanned the now longer row of bars and inns, searching for the busiest one. The best information was always at a premium at bars. Picking the one nearest him, he pushed through the door into the smoke-filled atmosphere. The smell of alcohol was strong, and smoke nearly caused him to break into a fit of coughing. Glancing through the crowd, he picked out a well dressed gentleman seated on a bar stool. Vincent weaved through the throng of people, his eyes not leaving his target.

Vincent sat lightly on the stool next to the man, flipping his long cloak over his shoulder. He placed both his arms on the bar-top and stared at the man. For several seconds, the two just stared at each other, until the stranger's eyes began to focus on Vincent. "Oh…hello there, shir."

Vincent nodded. "Hello. Can you tell me the whereabouts of Alexander Maxwell?"

"Alegzander Makshwell? That shounds familiar…" His face screwed up in a look of thought, although after several seconds he abandoned it. "Shorry, but I don't recollect the name too well." The drunkard seemed greatly saddened at not being able to help the gunman. "Can I buy ya a drink?" He asked amiably.

Vincent raised his hand and shook his head. "No thank you. Can you point me to anyone that might know of Mr. Maxwell?"

The drunk nodded and, turning on his stool, pointed at a group of people standing in the corner. "They's the Turksh. They kinda run the place. Got even the mayor scared outta his mayor-in'." The group looked up from their conversation to look at the guy with a sour expression. One stood and advanced through the people to stand before the man.

"What're you tellin' this man, Leonard? Nothing bad, surely." Vincent observed the man, and noted that the bulge under his left breast pocket was surely a gun.

The man, presumably Leonard, stood and set his drink on the bar-top. "I've been tellin' him the honesht to God truth. He oughta know 'bout you before he doesh anything." He defiantly crossed his arms over his chest.

The "Turk" turned to Vincent. "Listen now, there ain't no need to listen to this man. He's obviously drunk. You look like a competent guy. How about you come over here and talk to me and my friends?" He pointed over his shoulder at his group, who were watching the trio intently.

Vincent glanced at the drunk, then back at the goon, then back at the drunk. "Thank you for the information, sir." He flipped a coin from his pocket at the man, then stood. Even standing, the goon was still slightly taller than Vincent.

The goon sneered at Leonard, then turned back to his group and motioned for Vincent to follow him. The black cloaked man did so silently, weaving through the people with ease. The taller man sat heavily in his chair, causing it to slide back a bit, and knocked the person behind him. Vincent noticed that the man shrank forward in an effort to make himself invisible. "Stay outta my way!" The goon turned his chair and slapped the man across the back of his head, causing the poor soul to crack his forehead on his beer stein. A small river of blood dribbled into the frothy drink.

The "Turk" smiled at Vincent. "Sometimes ya just gotta knock 'em into order, you know?" He motioned at the seat beside him. "Have a seat."

Vincent frowned, but took the seat without hesitation. "What can you tell me about Alexander Maxwell?" He stared straight at the leader, his piercing gaze keeping the man's attention on him.

Grinning, the man lifted his mug. "Come on now, around here, we put pleasure before business. Have a drink."

"No. Now please answer my question, or I will find someone who can." Vincent's gaze never wavered.

With a frown, the man sat his drink back on the table. "Okay. Fine. Alexander Maxwell used to work with the Shinra. He was here for a little while after Meteor hit, but after a few raids on his house, we managed to drive him outta here." The man's eyes lit up with glee. "His sister didn't make it though. Last I heard, he was in Junon." He smiled in a self-congratulatory manner at the apparently gratifying memory.

Vincent stood. "Thank you. That is all I needed to know. Although now I need to punish you for attacking Mr. Maxwell. He's a good friend of mine." Vincent's low voice was suddenly the only sound in the bar. All eyes were turned towards him.

Shaking his head, the man began to laugh, and was soon followed by his apparent cronies. "'Punish us?' I don't think so. You see, we Turks don't take shit from no-body. 'Specially not some high-and-mighty stranger like yourself." He stood and drew his gun from his pocket. Four of his friends drew similar weapons, and each trained them on the dark gunman. Vincent merely nodded.

"Say "g'night,' Mr. Stranger." The man pulled the trigger, and grinned as the sound reverberated throughout the room. His shiny white teeth were bloodied an instant later as the butt of a gun was slammed into his upper jaw, knocking him against the front wall, sending chairs skittering across the bar. The bar's customers scattered, and within seconds, Vincent was alone in the middle of the room with nine "Turks."

After several seconds of stunned silence, gun's barked their loud retort throughout the room, sending small spheres of leaden death towards their shadowy target. With speed befitting a track-star, Vincent ducked the bullets, and unleashed three of his own, instantly felling the corresponding number of attackers. Not pausing to check his accuracy, he buried his claw in the next man's stomach, feeling flesh tear at the end of the sharp digits. Twisting his hand, he turned the man's stomach into something resembling ground beef, then delivered a kick to the chest that threw the man out of the large picture window near the door.

Instinctively, Vincent dodged a bullet aimed at his head, then spun and fired a shot at his attacker. A loud ping of metal upon metal distracted Vincent momentarily, and his eyes widened as he saw his bullet ricochet off of a humongous shuriken. The large weapon tore through the man's upper torso, and spun back to Vincent's left. He followed it's path with his eyes, and stopped as his gaze centered on a young woman.

"Hey, Vinnie!" She chirped brightly at the foreboding man, sending a wink his way. Vincent was still until a bullet flew past his ear, narrowly missing him. Nodding at the girl, he dropped into a crouch and let loose several rounds at the remaining four goons. Two bullets found their mark and the men pitched backwards onto tables. The ninja girl's bloodied weapon literally disarmed the next unlucky man, and a fountain of blood covered the final attacker. The injured man screamed and held his bloody stump, desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood.

"I don't think so, bub!" The brown-haired ninja leaped forward and caught her weapon. An emerald glow briefly surrounded the girl, then dissipated as lightning blasted through the roof of the building, frying the two men. The smell of cooked flesh filled the bar. A couple of whimpering cries gave evidence to the continued life of several of the attackers.

The ninja girl flipped over a table and landed lightly in front of the gunman, and grinned up at him, her grey eyes flashing happily. With a curt nod at the girl, Vincent began to stonily reload his gun. "Yuffie." To anyone else, it was a mere statement, but Yuffie Kisaragi heard the note of thanks within it.

Yuffie looked around the now shattered bar, and turned back to Vincent. "What got you in such a bad mood?" People began to creep out of corners, as they decided that the fight was definitely over.

"They acted against a friend of mine." With a click, he flipped the barrel of his gun up, apparently finished loading. He slid it with ease into it's holster and strode up to the bartender. Without a word, Vincent pulled several bills from his pocket and laid them on the counter-top.

Yuffie bounced up beside him, and surveyed the damage once again. "Eh…are you sure that'll be enough?" With a shrug, Vincent put down another bill. Yuffie frowned, but said nothing. Vincent spun on his heel and started out the bar, knowing without looking back that Yuffie would be hot on his heels.

"Do you need something, Yuffie?" His low voice floated along the cold night air eerily.

Shivering, Yuffie dashed up to walk beside him. "Not really." Silence reigned for several moments, until she poked him in the arm. "Where're ya goin'?"

"To Junon. I assume you wish to go as well." It wasn't a question. Vincent knew her too well for that.

"You bet!" I haven't done anything interesting lately." She grinned up at Vincent, then wrapped her arms around his arm. "C'mon, hurry. You walk so slowly," she teased the dark-haired man as they strode past the inn at the entrance of Kalm.

Reno sat in rapt silence, staring at the gunslinger. "So…you and the brat aren't involved, right?"

Vincent frowned. "No. Nor will she be with you." Reno held up his hands defensively.

"I wasn't saying I was interested. Just seeing if the stony vampire had warmed up a bit. Or warmed someone else up." He raised his eyebrows suggestively, then sighed as Vincent simply stared stonily at him with those crimson eyes of his. "Never mind." Reno reclined and slipped his hands behind his head and closed his aqua-green eyes. "So…how do you know Mr. Maxwell?"

Reno heard Vincent shift in his seat. "I met Mr. Maxwell when-"

A resounding knock on the door of their wing broke into Vincent's soft voice. Reno didn't stir, and Vincent simply stared at the plush floor. With a heavy sigh, Rude stood and walked to the door. It swung open as he neared it, and a rather normal looking, middle aged butler entered. He wore the typical suit of one of his station, and seemed almost like a carbon copy of the butler they had seen in Maxwell's library previously, except for the warm smile he wore. "Excuse me, sirs. Mr. Maxwell has requested that you meet him in his office for an initial debriefing."

"When?" Reno opened his eyes to look at the man with a critical eye.

"As soon as possible. He asked that I escort you. I am also assigned to be your personal assistants until you know the layout of the manor well enough. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. My name is Jacob." He grinned at each of them, despite not receiving any return. "If you're fit to go, we should leave now."

Reno sighed and stood up, straightening his blue suit importantly. "Sure. Let's go." He strode towards Jacob, who smiled and motioned him out the door. Rude followed quickly, leaving Vincent still in his seat. In complete silence, the gunman stood and exited the room, walking quite leisurely. Jacob bowed slightly as Vincent passed him.

"Nice to see you, brother." Jacob looked up at Vincent, hoping to see some glimmer of friendliness, but received only a curt nod as the caped man passed him. His eyebrow twitched slightly, anger welling in him at being so casually brushed off by his older brother. 'Who does he think he is?' His lip curled, Jacob closed the door behind the group, and together they walked under the wide eaves to the central part of the manor.

"Here you are, sirs." Jacob opened the door to Maxwell's office, and the three in blue stepped in, instantly noting a difference in the carpeting. It was much softer and thicker here than anywhere else in the manor. "I'll be waiting outside when you're done." He closed the door on them, leaving them stranded in a dark room.

"Well that was smart." Reno remarked as he searched the wall for a light-switch

"Hey! Dammit! Get your hands off of me!" A girl's voice rang through the room, and a smack resounded in the darkness.

"What the hell was that for?" Reno looked at the source of the sound and squinted. As his eyes slowly adjusted, he could make out a small female form. "Ninja girl? The hell you doin' there?"

"I'm waiting. And I DON'T appreciate you grabbing me there." She retorted, raising a hand to shake her index finger in his face.

Vincent's eyes had long ago adjusted to the darkness, and he noted that Yuffie was blushing heavily. Not that he was surprised. Despite all her talk, she seemed rather naïve, although he'd never dream of telling her that to her face. "This room appears to have no light-switch, Turk Sinclair. I suggest you give up looking for one." In the darkness, Vincent's voice was downright spooky.

"How can you tell?" Elena's voice floated through the dark for the first time.

"I can see that there are no switches on the wall, nor a cord on the chandelier."

"Oh." She sounded surprised. Elena leaned back against the bookcase and stared at Maxwell's desk. They hadn't been there much longer than the men, but her eyes were fairly adjusted, yet she couldn't see how Vincent could see for sure that there was no light switch. 'Oh well. It doesn't matter. At least Reno won't be fondling me'

Reno lapsed into silence, staring at the shadowy form that he was beginning to see was Rude. His drinking buddy had been more silent than usual. For several moments they stood there in comfortable silence, with Reno stirring every now and then.

Elena looks longingly at her two friends, then at Yuffie, and her spirits dropped. Thus far she had had to endure little contact with the peppy ninja, but she knew the time would come that they'd have to associate, and she dreaded it. 'I wonder how Reno and Rude are doing with Valentine.' She pondered, gazing curiously at the ebony-haired man. Out of all of AVALANCHE, he seemed to be the most…bearable. He wasn't loud and annoying, he didn't curse at every opportunity, hell, he hardly spoke, he had once been a Turk, and he wasn't half bad looking, if you could get past his stoic-ness. But Elena dismissed the thought. He wasn't the kind of guy she was after. No, that was someone else….She shook her head, attempting to clear the errant, inappropriate thoughts. It just wouldn't work out…

Across the room, Vincent was also deep in thought. 'What is Jacob doing here? I didn't think he'd survived the raid…' Vincent's crimson eyes narrowed slightly as he tried to puzzle it out.

His family had been some of the first to invest in the Shinra Corporation in it's infancy, and when the discovery and harnessing of Mako had occurred, the Valentine family suddenly found itself rich. Many of the family's neighbors and friends resented what seemed to them to be a rather unfair card deal. As a result, Vincent's family's country home had been raided by enemies of the family, and was burned to the ground. He had believed that he had been the only survivor, and was carted off to live with his uncle in Junon.

His uncle had been an irrepressible drunk, and had abused Vincent rather regularly. For years, Vincent had had long scars from his Uncle's lash criss-crossing his body. In order to escape his uncle's wrath, Vincent began joining gangs, and soon adopted the cold and stony personality that was now the norm for him. Through these gangs, Vincent experienced his first true feeling of family, as most of his memories of his parents and brother had died under his uncle's ministrations.

It was these gangs that had led to Vincent's joining the Turks. He was caught by the Shinra one day in a raid on a bakery on the plate. He'd been taken to the then small Shinra building, and held captive for nearly 3 days before a man in a blue suit had confronted him. He'd introduced himself as Tseng, a cadet in the special assassination and protection agency called the Turks. He talked quietly with Vincent for several hours in his cell. As it ended up, they had rather a lot in common, and despite himself, Vincent found that he rather liked this Tseng fellow. At the end of the "interrogation," Tseng had offered him his hand to shake, and a job.

Vincent had stared rather dumbly at the raven-haired Wutaian, processing his request. 'Join the Turks? Why me? I'm a nobody.' For several seconds he had stood in silent thought, then, seemingly without reason, hesitantly accepted Tseng's hand. From there, Tseng had personally trained him in the art of the gun, allowed him to room at his apartment until his salary kicked in, and became Vincent's first true friend.

Vincent found himself smiling involuntarily at the memories. The click of a door-knob interrupted his internal musings, and he turned to look at the door as a sliver of light fell across Rude. The sliver of light widened, and Rude stepped back into the darkness as Alexander Maxwell walked into the room.

"Good evening, everybody." He smiled at them, and closed the door, plunging the room back into darkness.

"Dammit, pops, why don't you have any lights in here?" Reno's disembodied voice echoed throughout the room.

"Reno, hush." Elena's soothing voice floated about almost immediately after Reno's outburst.

Maxwell chuckled low in his throat. "That's perfectly okay, Elena. His question is a good one." He grunted slightly as he lowered himself into his creaking chair. A rough scratching sound broke the silence, and light suddenly flared atop Maxwell's desk. His match did little to illuminate the room, but threw fascinating shadows on the walls, and cast such a light on his face so as to make him appear twenty years older than he was. He quickly lit a candle on his right, then one on his left. Warm, gentle light flooded the room as he continued lighting candles. By the time the match had burned down, no less than ten candles burned quietly.

"Sometimes I think humanity relies too much on electricity and machinery. Candle-light was fine for our forefathers, and it's fine for now." He grinned at them. "I'm sorry, but that's just he way I feel about it. Anyway, please have a seat."

Everyone did as ordered, finding the seats to be much more comfortable than the ones they had in their rooms. Reno reclined as far as he could and slipped his hands behind his head contentedly. "You wanted to see us already?" He grunted as Elena elbowed him roughly. He cast her an angry glance and looked back at Maxwell.

"Er…yes. I'd like to go ahead and brief you on your first mission. I'm sorry if it seems too soon, but I need it done immediately." Everyone nodded, giving him unspoken permission to continue.

Their leader nodded in return. "In two days, the five of you will be transported to Kalm. There, I want you to infiltrate the "Turk's" base of operations. They've made their base of operations the Chimera's Paw pub. From there, the Regional Director has been dictating law to the local shops and inns. That includes both my chocobo rental service, and material store. It's been three months since I've received word from either of them. Once you've found the regional director, I'd like you to kill him." He smiled at the assembly before him. "Understood?"

Yuffie's mouth hung open in some amount of shock. He sure didn't seem the type to so casually speak of killing a man. He reminded her of her grandfather, and he sure wasn't the killing type! "You want us to kill him? Isn't that a bit extreme?" Her voice rose with surprise, making her sound younger than her eighteen years.

"Precisely. You can't turn him into the police. They "Turks" run the town," he stated simply, shrugging as if it weren't his problem. "Besides, you don't have any idea what they're like."

"Yeah we do." Yuffie protested. "Me and Vinnie fought some when we were in Kalm, didn't we, Vinnie?" She looked to her dark comrade for support.

Vincent nodded, his ebony hair falling from his shoulder to pool in his blue-suited lap. "Yes. I believe I've already told you what happened, sir."

Maxwell nodded again. "Yes you have. Because of that, they're on a higher alert level than normal. They won't be so lax this time. Last time you caught them off guard and likely drunk."

Yuffie sank deeper into her seat. He had a point…

Rude cleared his throat, and immediately all attention focused on the normally reticent man. "I suggest to avoid confusion that we refer to these False Turks by a different name."

With a nod, Elena seconded the idea, and was quickly followed by the rest of the Turks. "Alright then, Rude. How about simply calling them the FT?" No-one expressed an argument, so Alexander went on. "How you will infiltrate their operation and take them out is up to you, I just want them gone. That's it. Although I'd like you to leave something behind to the effect that the real Turks are back. Perhaps it'll scare them a bit."

"Mr. Maxwell, I'd like to request a replacement for my Mag-rod. It's…less than operational." Reno frowned at the thought of the defunct weapon.

"Already done, Reno. It should be waiting for you in your living room." The room went silent, and no-one ventured any further questions. "Alrighty then. It's settled. You are dismissed."

The Turks rose, and as a group, left the room.

Author's Note: I'm sorry it was actually shorter than the last chapter! I hadn't intended for that to happen, but it did. The next chapter will be longer, I promise! And the characters will be more in character as well. Again, please review as harshly as you can.