Chapter Two

Cloud arrived at his apartment, his steps sure footed yet silent. The door was open, and Cloud sneered, walking right into his home.

"It's a bit late, don't you think?" a feminine voice said as Cloud casually shut the door behind him.

"Well, of all the places, Jasmine, I'd never thought I'd find you here."

"Shut up."

"Thanks for getting me fired today," he said, turning to her. She was sitting in the one and only armchair in the house, beneath a halogen lamp.

"Anytime." She said, standing. "You start tomorrow, and don't be late because the Director won't like that." She brushed past him, handing him a small business card and another with a magnetic strip on the back.

She smiled, and met his eyes.

"And wear something black… it suits you…" She whispered as her eyelids fluttered.

"Jasmine," Cloud said, pausing. "That twisted ankle thing took it a bit far."

"Thanks for ruining the atmosphere."

"What atmosphere? Did you mean the one where you were trying to make a move on me?"

Jasmine blushed.

"Okay, goodnight Cloud," she said, showing herself out.

Cloud slammed the door shut and locked it. Sighing, he turned around, and saw a black leather hand bag. Picking it up, he turned and opened the door again, to see Jasmine standing there.

"Oh," she said. "I was going to come back and get it."

"Yeah," he said. "Whatever you say. Are you sure you didn't leave anything else? Keys?"

She blushed again, murmuring another good night, and left.

Cloud sighed, and turned the cards in his hands. Tapping them against his palm, he slipped them in his wallet and went to sleep shortly after.

------

Cloud approached the inconspicuous building in the eastern district of Midgar- it was still the business area, but it was not as busy, and well known.

Spotting the payphone, he dialled four numbers and waited until the count of three, and hung up, then walked to the 34th door on the left, turned in and swiped the card at the blackened glass door while placing his hand on a small panel beneath it. It opened with a hiss and he stepped into a completely pitch black room save for one glowing square in the middle. Standing on it, the room flashed white, blue then red, quite vividly, and a door opened at the far side of the room. Once he walked through, there was an impressive corridor with hidden ceiling lights- it was composed of black and white marble that created a stark contrast, imprinting their design into his mind. At the end of this corridor, there was a silhouette of a young woman- he recognised her as Jasmine.

"I see you got here alright." She smiled. "Wearing black, I see."

"…"

"Never mind. Here, we're starting a briefing in a few minutes, and you need to meet the Director of the ISO U3."

"ISO U3?" he repeated.

"Intelligence and Special Operations Unit 3. We're the only unit, though- I don't know why there's a three at the end."

"So who's the director?"

"You'd be surprised."

They walked through the open plan office- everything was white and glass and metal, and the hum of conversation was, as yet, absent. The desk agents looked up and nudged each other, and stared openly at the pair. They walked to one of three offices in the building, and the glass panels slid back to reveal a steel grey desk with a computer on it, and paperwork neatly aligned. A black leather chair with its back facing him contained, obviously, the director, who was none other than…

"Zack?" Cloud said in disbelief as the chair swivelled around.

"That will be all, Jasmine." She turned, and the doors shut behind her, the glass tinting immediately until they were black.

"Of all the people, Zack- I never thought it would be you."

Zack grinned.

"What's the story behind ISO U3?"
Zack shrugged.

"I didn't come up with it. It was formed three years ago by Midgar Intel to perform covert missions which were not associated with them as their main body. We take care of the jobs like assassination, espionage-"

"So it's just a cover so that we have clearance to do all of the dirty work that Midgar Intel don't want to do?"

Zack sighed and nodded. "In a way, I guess so." He glanced at the digital clock on his desk, and stood. "We have to get to a meeting now."

"Meeting?" Cloud echoed. "For what?"

"Your first mission."

----

The meeting room was very similar to Zack's office- with the exception of one thing- one wall was comprised of LCD screens, and the circular table in the centre of the room had panels on them for both viewing and scanning.

Seated around the table were Jasmine, and a few other ex agents who had quit a year ago- Cid Highwind, Vincent Valentine and Barret Wallace.

"Cloud Strife?" Cid asked, standing up.

"Cid," Cloud replied, shaking his hand.

Everyone nodded a greeting, and Cloud nodded back, and Jasmine sighed, crossing her arms and tapping her nails against the glass table.

"Let's get this show on the road!" Zack said, pressing a few buttons on the keyboard. The screens on the other side of the room lit up with an image of a fierce looking man with a hooked nose. His eyes were yellow, his mouth twisted in a snarl.

"This is Noah Cerulean, now known as 'Lightning Hawk'. He's the most famous, or infamous, trader on the black market and is one of the richest men in the world. He's number six on our most wanted list for the assassination of several politicians and Midgar Intel agents, as I'm sure you'll all know the story of Asuka Hideaki and James Orson."

He paused, and Cloud remembered the two young agents who had been sent to track down Cerulean- and had ended up dead a few months later, in the most brutal fashion after being tortured horrifically for months.

"We have received a tip from a source that he will be moving to a new location in exactly three days. He is apparently on his way to a new property he purchased a few months ago in Costa De Sol… and we hope to overtake him take over the house; so when he does move in, he will be open and vulnerable." Zack checked his notes. "So, I am assigning everyone at this table a role in this mission. Here are your mission statements, and make sure that you know everything on that inside out before you arrive. The airship will arrive in half an hour, and Cid and Barret will kit everyone up with the necessary gear."

Everyone filed out of the room, except for Cloud and Zack.

"Are you coming?" Cloud asked Zack.

"I can't." Zack sighed.

Cloud rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever." He smirked. "See you on the airship."

He left the briefing room, and Zack smiled. It was a kind of ritual of theirs- even if one was not allowed on a mission, the other had to go as backup; even if it was off the record.