Nobody's Business But The Turks
Reno awoke one night to the sound of breaking glass from downstairs. He sat up and rolled out of his bed, making his footsteps as quiet as possible. He snuck out into the main room, where Coryel was moving toward the stairs with a baseball bat in one hand and a semi-automatic in the other. He nodded to Reno, and they proceeded to the stairs together. Peering around the corner momentarily, Coryel signed to Reno, 'three men guns steal counter one door one shelves one.'
Reno nodded, and took the baseball bat from Coryel's left hand. Coryel stepped into the open and shot the man at the shelves; the shot was prepared and sure—the man went down like a trash bag full of vegetable soup. The bullet struck his spine and stayed. Reno leapt behind the counter with a snarl and proceeded to beat the shit out of the masked man. The man at the door turned, surprised, and hollered profanities. A man came out of the blind spot covered by the stairs and grabbed Coryel from behind, forcing the gun out of his grip and spinning him around, putting his captive between himself and Reno. Coryel slammed his elbow into the man's solar plexus, snapped his head backward into the man's nose, and was about to turn to do more meaningful damage when a gun clicked at his left temple. The man from the door had come to help, rather than staying on watch. Reno stood up with the baseball bat, but stopped when he saw the situation. He dropped behind the counter and rummaged around on the ground—as he had beaten the shit out of the man, he had knocked several boxes of ammo to the ground, and there were guns behind the counter—guns he knew how to use. He quietly picked out one known for accuracy and loaded it, then stood and aimed at the man with the gun.
The man with the gun moved behind Coryel as Reno shouted at him to freeze. The other man still standing recovered, wiping blood from his nose and wheezing. "Put the gun down, kid, or the old man gets it."
"Fuck em up, Reno," Coryel snarled.
"Shut up, grandpa," the man ordered.
"I'll shut up when you suck my cock, you lily-livered crust on the ass of humanity."
Reno aimed carefully over Coryel's shoulder, at the hand and face of the man with the gun; he stilled his hand, and squeezed the trigger.
"SHIT." The man's hand exploded into a mess of blood and bone fragment. The gun previously in his hand spun out of the way as it went off. The man's face went the same way as his hand, and he dropped. The shot from his gun ricocheted off the edge of the counter and struck Coryel in the left shoulder. Coryel grabbed his shoulder and bellowed curses, moving out of the way. Reno fired again, narrowly missing the guy with the bloody nose. The remaining man hit the floor, searching frantically for the gun his dead companion had. Reno lowered his aim as Coryel moved out of the way, but pain exploded in the back of his head. His vision swam wildly, and he dropped to his knees.
The man whom Reno had bludgeoned with the bat had recovered his senses and stood over the young man with the weapon in question, pulling back for another strike. Reno turned to look in shock just as the baseball bat descended, colliding with his right cheekbone with a resounding crack. He fell sideways, his head snapping against the counter, then forward, and Reno's memory went black.
I was there that night, too. Rude said, clearly feeling guilty. Coryel had to stop his wife from calling the police. He called me, and he called Shinra's medical staff. I got there first.
May I--? Toriko requested.
By all means.
During the gunfire, the front plate-glass window of the shop had been broken; not shattered, due to the laminate on the glass, but cracked and pockmarked nonetheless. Rude approached carefully, nightstick out and ready. He was confronted by Coryel at the door, who admitted him with an air of defeat.
"They busted up my shop, goddamnit."
"They did what we hired them to do," Rude observed passively. "Shinra will cover the repairs to your business and your medical expenses for your shoulder." He stopped, looking over the thugs on the ground. "Which ones are yours, and which ones are his?"
Coryel pointed to the man at the shelves in the back, then to the man with the bloody nose, then vaguely back at the counter. "Three are mine. Reno shot the one who's missing a face—it was a nearly impossible shot, I didn't think he'd take it, but boy did he fuck them up. Too bad they fucked him up, too."
Rude froze. He hadn't even considered that Reno could be injured in any serious manner. "Where's Reno?"
Coryel pointed vaguely back at the counter again. "Bastard got him with the bat before I could drop him."
Rude nearly tripped over himself in his hurry to get over to Reno. Coryel had turned Reno over and checked for vital signs, but apart from that had administered no care. Rude gently checked his neck for fractures, checked his pulse, then pulled up an eyelid and shone a penlight at him. "Coryel, his eyes aren't dilating at a speed that can be considered anywhere close to normal."
"Yeah, poor boy definitely has a concussion," Coryel clucked. "You'll have to have the Shinra doctors check him out."
Mrs. Thomas was standing at the stairway, distraught but mostly composed. "You didn't even consider that this could have happened, did you?" she bitched them out. "You Turks and your god complex. You and your stupid fucking profession. You almost get this poor boy killed!"
"It appears so," Rude told her calmly. He tucked the penlight back into his suit pocket, then gently lifted Reno. "I'll take him back to Shinra and have him checked out, but he's not coming back here afterwards."
"You're taking him now?" Mrs. Thomas shrieked. "He's so young! He's too young, you bald bastard, he's just a baby!"
"I'll look after him," he promised emotionlessly. "Thank you, ma'am, for keeping such good care of him while he was here. And you, Coryel."
Coryel shifted his weight to one foot, still putting pressure on his injured shoulder. "Ehh… Rude, he's only sixteen, I think that perhaps—"
"I'll look after him," Rude repeated in a tone that brooked no argument. "I will protect him, you can be sure of that." He stood and walked towards the door. "The company will be along shortly to dispose of the bodies."
Mrs. Thomas chased him out to the car, pummelling him mercilessly with her aged fists. "Put him down, you brute! You bring back my boy! You're either going to get him killed or turn him into a killer! Reno isn't a killer! Reno is a smart, talented young man! He doesn't need you and your stupid company! You shiny-headed freak! He failed your little test. The robbers got him, so he failed, and he can stay here with us!"
Coryel restrained her and nodded to Rude as he drove off.
"And don't you try and calm me down, you scheming monster," Rude heard her voice echo down the street.
Damn, Toriko said softly. Why did you take him, if he didn't pass that little test?
Rude sighed. The test was only to see what he would do. He kept his cool, but he just didn't pay attention to the details. And I… I was selfish. I wanted Reno close to me, but he wasn't. He was close to Coryel and Tabitha Thomas. I was jealous.
You cared for him like he was your child, Toriko wondered.
Yes and no, he responded gently. In a way I still do, but he's grown up so much. He's skilled and able, and he's fucking brilliant. I respect him as much as I respect Tseng.
That's a high compliment.
Reno awoke to a splitting headache, lying in a hospital bed in Shinra headquarters somewhere. He stayed quiet at first; his eyes adjusted to the light, and then he could see two figures at the observation window outside his room— both in dark navy suits, both polished and standing military-straight, talking to each other quietly. One, a tall man from Wutai with long, black hair, seemed to be somewhat annoyed. The other, an even taller man, completely bald, looked as if he was debating an extremely important point. Hot damn, dawg. Those are Turks. This is a Shinra hospital. I wish Coryel were here, yo, he'd know what to do. Better just lie low and pretend to be unimportant—Turks are a death sentence for sure. That bald guy is so freakin' cool, though.
After a moment, the first man looked over and noticed Reno's wakeful state. He nodded to Reno, then led the other man to the door.
"Good afternoon," the long-haired man greeted emotionlessly. "Your name is Reno, is it not? The young man from sector three?"
Reno shook his head. "My name is Reno, but I haven't lived in sector three for years, yo."
A tiny smile flitted across his lips. "We know. But when we first found out about you, you were from sector three."
"Yeah, I made the papers once," he acknowledged carefully. "Who are you?"
Rude set a case on the side of the bed and began unfastening the latches. Reno watched him carefully, trying to place where he had seen the man before.
"My name is Tseng, and this is Rude. We are Turks under the employ of the Shinra Corporation. For the last few years, Rude has been following your progress and guiding your education, and now he believes you are ready to begin training with us in earnest."
Reno stared mutely at them—Turks? Shinra? Following his progress? "You've been spying on me?"
"Not precisely, but you may use that term, if you wish," Tseng accepted.
Rude opened the case and removed a new black nightstick; he held it out, handle first, to Reno, who eyed it with suspicion.
"What do you want with me?" Reno asked.
"We'd like to offer you a job."
Reno stared at Rude for a long moment, ignoring the nightstick. Rude worked not to let on how nervous he was—did this man remember him? They met under extenuating circumstances, but it was only four years ago, and certainly wasn't in passing.
Slowly, Reno's eyes travelled over the starched white shirt, down the navy-sleeved arm, across the black glove, to the nightstick. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Is that a 'no?'" Tseng raised an eyebrow.
Rude winced. Shinra owned this boy.
If he didn't become a Turk or agree to enter university and work for the company as a scientist with research and development, he would be killed, Rude explained to Toriko mentally. And it would probably have been me to make the hit.
Reno considered, then glanced between the two men. "Can I… Can I talk to this guy alone, yo?"
Tseng studied Reno, then Rude, then nodded once. "Five minutes, tops, then I want an answer." He turned on his heel and went out of the room, closing the door behind him.
"He can read lips," Rude warned him courteously, facing away from the window.
Reno hunched forward slightly, putting Rude between him and Tseng. "Turks? You all want me to be a Turk?"
"Not right away. You'll be trained in several forms of combat, explosives, trap-rigging, bodyguard tactics, guerrilla tactics, crowd-control methods, the use of weapons from the knife to the rapier to the bazooka, poisons, hacking, corporate infiltration, first aide and field medicine, and the proper procedures for our paperwork system. Oh, and how to drive."
Reno shook his head, scattering his red hair everywhere. "I know most of that already, that doesn't sound too hard. Um… I guess I won't be living with Coryel and Tabitha, though."
"We'll provide you with an apartment during your training, and you'll be able to support yourself once you're on the payroll."
"I uh… I… wow…" Reno shook his head again. "Every time I end up in a hospital, weird shit happens, yo."
Rude chuckled in spite of himself.
"You do smile… I thought you were just some sort of soldier. Alright, I…" Reno crinkled his eyebrows together. His memory allowed both the Rude of the present time and Toriko to experience the wave of fear as a realization washed over Reno. If they don't employ me, they'll kill me
Toriko's eyebrows would have raised, if mentally they could. He knew.
I didn't know he knew, Rude thought, chagrined.
After a long moment, Rude pulled his glasses up to rest on his forehead, and made direct eye-contact with Reno. "This is going to be difficult. This is going to be scary. This is going to take every ounce of spirit you have. This job will try to take everything you love, everything you own, and eventually everything you are, but I believe that you are stronger than that. This job will provide you protection, a place to hide, a roof over your head and clothes on your back." Rude lowered his voice to barely above a whisper. "This job will provide you with a family and true friends." He offered his right hand to Reno.
Reno gazed up at Rude pensively, his heart twisting at the mention of family. "Family?"
"You'll have me. Right now that's all I can promise. Eventually, Tseng will trust you, too. We'll always look after you. The Turks take care of their own."
Tentatively, almost timidly, Reno placed his hand in Rude's larger hand, then squeezed it and gave it a good shake. Rude stepped back to show the handshake to Tseng; Reno turned and gazed at Tseng meaningfully, then looked back up at Rude. "I'm in, yo."
Tseng re-entered the room as Rude stepped back to make room for him in the conversational bubble. "You'll receive a uniform and keys to an apartment upon your discharge from the hospital. Proceed to your apartment—there, you will find all the supplies you may need during your training, and you will be provided a stipend for anything else you may wish to purchase. On the desk in your study, there will be a day planner with notes about your training schedule, a map of the training sites, and information about how to contact Rude or myself in case of any additional questions. Wear your uniform to all training functions. Keep it in good condition, and keep your shoes shined. While we will not require you to cut your hair, I would advise that you find some way to keep it out of your face. Especially during combat training. You will spend the next twenty-four hours in the hospital for observation due to your head injury, then you will have a week of written and computer study before you are expected to be back on your feet and free from the influences of any medication these people may have you on." Tseng gave him a respectful half-bow. "See you in a week." He turned on his heel to leave.
Reno bobbed his head politely as Tseng left, and gave Rude a lingering stare as he followed. What have I done?
Toriko gently released Rude's hand.
Rude sat on the ground, staring at Reno for a long moment, before looking to her. "Thank you, Toriko."
She looked far more uneasy than Rude. "I didn't expect… all of that."
"I wish I could say I was surprised by any of it, but…" he trailed off elliptically.
Toriko leaned over and hugged Reno's slumbering form—his mouth tipped up slightly in a fond smile. After remaining there for a moment, she straightened and stood up. "Now I know why he's so protective of me. Father must be like a walking nightmare for him."
"He is for a lot of people," Rude pointed out.
She bowed her head. I don't want to be that scary.
You don't have to be, a familiar but irate voice replied. But don't go poking around in other people's minds, Toriko. How would you like it if someone did that to you?
Toriko jumped a couple inches. Well, apparently you just did if you know what I was doing!
…Touché. Get to breakfast.
Yes, father. She bowed to Rude politely. "Thank you, Rude. And when Reno wakes up, tell him I'm okay. Tell him… if anything happens to me, I'll come right to him."
"Tell him yourself, yo," a familiar but hoarse voice called to her from the pile of blankets. Reno had his eyes cracked open and a half-hearted smirk plastered on his face.
Toriko blushed furiously, then nodded. "Reno, thank you for being protective of me."
He rolled his eyes, waving away the gratitude. "No worries, no worries. Just… take care of yourself. And… Toriko?"
"Thank you for caring."
The gentle look to his eyes told her there was no sarcasm nor malice in the statement. She smiled back and hurried out of the room. "I'm going down to breakfast. I'll see you both later."
As she slid the door shut and pattered down the hall, she pondered the strange feeling in her chest—almost as if a warm, fuzzy, squiggly little caterpillar had curled up in her heart, then decided to get up and do a flamenco dance. She skidded to a stop and stared in open-mouthed, unabashed shock for a moment.
I can't have a crush on Reno! Eww!