Disclaimer: I don't own any of the FFVII characters, places, etc.
Chapter 1: New Toy
"How fast do you think it'll go?" asked one boy peering at a gauge on a motorcycle. His pale face was streaked with oil while his hands twisted a wrench nervously. "I did the best I could but I'm not much of a rider…I just know how it gets put together. How fast do you think, Jay?"
"Cool it Cam," the red head grinned, his hair shaved back into a Mohawk. His stormy eyes ran over the bike as he set a rough hand down on the seat. "She'll go plenty fast. This baby's Shin-Ra made, ain't she?"
"Best parts I've ever seen. Ain't been nothin' like her 'till now," Cam nodded eagerly. He was small but upon closer inspection he looked to be right about Jay's age, maybe fifteen or so.
"Good thing Jay ain't scared a' Shin-Ra. This baby'll rake in the doe." A third boy, also red headed, jumped spryly into the seat. He was younger, probably only eight, missing his last baby tooth in a wild smile. It left a pink gap where his tongue pressed through, filling up the absent space on the upper left side of his jaw. "Ain't scared, are ya Jay?" he taunted.
"'Course I ain't," Jay replied shoving the boy off the bike. "Now get outta the way Reno or I'll scalp ya and put that pretty red hair on as a streamer."
"That'd make you a fairy," Reno wrinkled his nose smiling hugely. Both red heads were lean, Reno bordering on scrawny.
"Shaddap. You scout out the competition like I told ya? See Gordon or Eden out there?" Jay demanded.
"Seen 'em both," Reno nodded sauntering up to Cam and holding out a couple of tickets. "I went double or nothing like you said. Watch it though. There's soma them bright eyes out there tonight. Think they'll know her?" Reno knocked on the front column of the bike and Jay's smile widened.
"Those knuckleheads won't get a chance to see her she'll be so fast," Jay smirked. Reno wasn't so sure, scowling contemplatively at the airbrushed flames and skulls scattered over the military bike. He'd had a weird feeling about the bright eyed man from which they'd stolen the bike.
"Ain't nuthin' to it kid," Jay sneered pulling up the goggles over his eyes. "They can't do nuthin' if they can't catch me. This here is a secret so I bet not even they know about her. Hell, might sell her off to one of the bone heads for a handy profit too. Gets us outta hot water."
"What if they come lookin'?" Reno demanded.
"They can't find nuthin' down here in the slums that don't wanna be found," Jay answered.
"Your kid brother's such a whiner Jay. Why'd we bring him again?" Cam snorted examining the tickets Reno had given him.
"He's a sweet talker and that Cassie likes him. You know, the gal runnin' the tickets," Jay explained swinging a leg over the bike. His new skull tattoo stood out on his shoulder, bright and tender from finishing it this morning. Reno couldn't help the feeling of foreboding.
"I don't think you should go," he voiced and Cam knocked him upside the head.
"Ain't gonna be no troubles if we do her right," he said. "And you better stuff yer noise hole or we're gonna get caught," he added. Reno glowered up at Cam, his brother's eternal partner in crime, while rubbing his injured head.
"Don't be such a girl Reno. Y'ain't never gonna get anywhere with a face like that. People'll always know what yer thinkin'. Stuff it under that smile ya got for Cassie," Jay mocked.
"Reno likes Cassie? The ticket hooker? That's Dane's territory. You better watch yerself Romeo," Cam laughed punching Reno.
"She ain't a hooker," Reno argued shoving Cam. Cam shoved back and the smaller boy hit the exhaust pipes on the new bike.
"Watch it," Jay warned kicking the bike into life. It roared angrily scaring Reno and making him shy away. Rumbling in a loud purr the engine idled comfortably while Jay's face split in two. "Smooth as silk Cam. Too bad you're too scared to ride her."
Cam and Jay fell into posturing and haranguing as Reno's eyes swept the lot around them. It was choked and noisy, filled with bikes and people. There was always lots of noise out here in the scrap yards, surrounded by the greasy iron cast offs of Midgar's upper crust living on the upper plate.
Reno examined the curious looks Jay got and saw the gossip and excitement spread like some of the Mako leaks that could poison entire sectors. That had happened over in sector three just two years ago. Reno didn't remember much about it, only that there'd been a big to do about the whole thing and his parents had been at the forefront of the protests against the Shin-Ra. That's why he and his brother were here now, sent off to the work houses in sector six after mom and dad had been carted away for terrorist activities.
That aside Reno felt an unusual friction in the air. He spied one of the men with glowing eyes passing by them, looking over the bike like he was getting ready to fight. It looked like the man recognized the design but he didn't give in one way or the other.
Jay pulled away before Reno could say anything else. He took off down the cleared dirt ground, shouting for people to move. Cam loafed off to get better seats but Reno was determined to catch up with the gossip, determined to find out about the men with glowing eyes.
He slunk though the bikes, grateful he was small and unnoticeable. People didn't look twice at him and let him scramble between them and around their bikes or cars. He listened in but heard only the boasts and gloating of the racers trying to impress girls, punctured with threats and occasional blows.
"You sonova!" someone shouted curling their arm around in a vicious jab. Reno skid to a halt, hopping backwards as a burly skin head slammed into the ground, blood oozing from a split lip and broken nose. He spit out gravel and teeth, shoved himself up, and wheeled on the angular biker who'd knocked his teeth loose. Reno back pedaled and left them to it as the angular kid struck an old blue racer, denting the side of it.
"Hey puke! That's my car!" a bearded man in leather snarled, studs protruding all over his face. He slid across the hood and jammed a boot into the angular boy's face while crashing his skull into the burly one. Reno had seen brawls like this before and didn't care to get sucked in with the surge of a crowd. The bouncers would be by soon to break it up anyway not wanting to attract attention from any sort of police, secret or otherwise.
He shouldered past the excitable populace wishing he could stay and watch a good brawl, but more interested in finding the bright eyed pow-wow. He clamored between groupings until at last he came upon the men with glowing eyes, all of them lined up silently, leaning against their military issued bikes. They were impressive motorcycles Reno admitted. Not as flashy as the one Cam had refitted and customized but they seemed to ooze prestige and superiority.
All the men present were somewhere in their twenties, none in uniform, but all seasoned veterans by the looks of them. They had a dangerous way about them, something in how their eyes took in the surroundings or how their soft spoken words were directed only at each other. Without getting in closer he'd never hear anything. He took a cautious step forward and five pairs of razor sharp eyes landed on him. They were eyes without feeling or remorse and he felt a growing sense of hostility directed at him. What had Jay said?
"You guys gonna kill me for curiosity?" he smiled recalling that Jay had told him to hide his feelings under his charming grin. "That against yer Shin-Ra rule book too?"
"You're the kid with the punk who's got a fancy new bike," said the brunette who had been examining Jay earlier.
"Came to see the competition," Reno shrugged his shoulders innocently. "I wanted a good show. So whattya call these things?" he sauntered up, ignoring the wolf gazes penetrating him. He was scared clear through, down to his bones, but he wouldn't let that stop him.
"This model's the Anthem," replied a different man, this one with glowing brown eyes and an auburn burr of hair. Reno approached him as he seemed the most conversational.
"That like a national anthem?" Reno drawled looking the bike over. "Clunkers ain't they? I mean Anthems are like…three years old. Don't they have somethin' new?"
"These ones are the most reliable and versatile. New ones are faster, but these handle the most terrain. That's what you need in a battle," the man answered. Reno nodded recalling just how often he used the terrain to his advantage in dog fights in the back alleys. It made sense he supposed.
"So you guys are soldiers huh? What's with those glowy eyes? Is it like some mercenary club or something?" Reno asked inviting himself to hop up onto the bike beside the auburn haired man leaning against it. The soldier glanced at his friends, conveying some sort of message, while Reno made himself comfortable. He was beginning to fool himself out of being scared.
"We're military, boy," the auburn haired man said. "New division being formed up, one called SOLDIER."
"Soldier huh? That's a way original name. I'd join the Fenrirs myself," Reno said swinging his legs. "So what's special about being a Soldier, huh?"
"We do all the thing the Fenrirs are afraid to do," the auburn smirked.
"Like laundry? Cooking?" Reno jibed and the Soldiers laughed. "Hey, god only knows how bad those Fenrirs smell after climbing out of whatever Hell Hole they just owned. I'd be scared too."
"You'll hear about us soon enough runt," the auburn headed one said smiling in spite of himself. "Aren't you a little scrawny to join up with the Fenrirs?"
"I got my aces," Reno assured him and more laughter ringed him.
"You got spunk kid," a blonde Soldier smiled, gray-green eyes crinkled at the edges. "What's a smart punk like you doin' down here in these god forsaken slums?"
"Ain't been much else since the Shin-Ra kicked up and got goin'. I remember when there were skies over sector three," Reno retorted, perching his heels on the exhaust pipe, balancing his elbows on his knees, and thumbing his nose. "Gotta get what I can."
"Shin-Ra could use a smart kid like you, you know? Those Turks are always lookin' for smart kids," the blonde suggested. "Pay pretty well from what I hear."
"I ain't interested in hand outs," Reno answered surprised by his own honesty. "One day I'm gonna make it big, all the way up to the Plates."
"Everybody's gotta have his dreams. You got a better shot of becomin' a Fenrir, slim Jim," the blonde laughed.
"Smart kid could probably claw his way up to the Plates," the auburn headed soldier replied. His luminescent eyes ran up and down Reno, gauging him. "Face like that could keep all sorts of secrets, couldn't you boy? Bet you don't mind a little grit either."
"Smart kid wouldn't fess up," Reno answered. The auburn Soldier cracked a toothy grin, letting it spread across his clean shaven face and bring out the dimples in his cheeks, while the others whistled and laughed.
"You claw your way up on the wrong side of Shin-Ra and the Turks will come for you. Claw your way up on the right side and they'll give you anything you ever wanted. What're they saying about Shin-Ra down here anyway?"
"What? Can't imagine what poor garbage-eaters say 'bout the rich garbage-makers?" Reno taunted.
"And what do you say about the Shin-Ra?"
"A smart kid would say they give us power and technology, make our lives easier," Reno answered.
"Smart kid," the auburn Soldier smirked. He pulled his goggles up over his head and dropped them around Reno's neck. They hung heavily down on Reno's chest and he lifted them for inspection. They were plain, already well worn.
"What're these for?"
"You'll need 'em for what you're planning," the auburn Soldier answered. "Your eyes will be your best weapon. You'd better keep them safe." He plunked them down on Reno's face and adjusted the band behind so they held fast. Afterwards he swiped Reno off his bike and swung into the seat. The other Soldiers were already pulling ahead.
"You done with your little heart-to-heart?" called another Soldier, his gray-streaked hair standing out.
"Why? You jealous for the attention?" the auburn asked. He smirked and tossed a last glance at Reno who stood out of the way as the Anthem roared into life. "Grit, kid. I'd wish you luck but you need grit."
"Grit huh?" Reno mumbled watching the man pull away, wearing the gifted goggles that had been adjusted to his skull. Shaking his head he decided these men weren't up to no good and made his way towards the small betting booth carved out of scrap metal.
Cassie sat on her bent up old stool, her chin perched on her rough fingers. She was a good looking girl, painted too brightly in makeup with blonde curls cropped around her heart-shaped face. She dressed in a worn out pink dress, the double buttons meant to look elegant except for the cheap gold paint chipping off of them. She always smelled like cheap perfume and expensive cigarettes and always had her three inch heels kicked off at work. She leaned against the rotten tin that served as a counter, the green accountant's visor shading her baby blue eyes.
"Hey there Landon," she smiled using his first name. Cassie was the only one who called him by his first name, the name he hated. But somehow when Cassie said it he didn't mind as much.
"At least don't say it so loud," he glowered.
"What's that you've got there? You already off to the races? You're barely eight aren't you?"
"Almost nine," he corrected her, touching the goggles absently.
"I always forget with that cute little face of yours," Cassie smiled sliding her ash tray out of the way as Reno vaulted onto her counter for a seat. There was a good view of the races from here and Cassie always saved his spot.
"I'm not cute," he argued, flustered and worked up over the auburn Soldier's words. He'd need grit not cute.
"Oh, too proud to be cute now. Don't you know the ladies like a cute man more then a brute?"
"How would you know? You've got that Dane guy hangin' around all the time," Reno answered. Cassie just smiled at him.
"He ain't a brute, just so damn cute he looks like a brute."
"You know you could be a rapper,"
"Why's that?" Cassie offered him a cigarette while Reno fished in his dirty old cargo pants for a lighter. "Fancy light." He'd stolen it earlier today, picked it right out of a suit's pocket. Jay had said it was a fine catch while Cam just sneered that he should have swiped the wallet. Reno's defense had been that he was more interested in the stylized lighter but it made his ears burn when Jay agreed that Reno's affinity for gleaming metals obscured his better judgment.
"It's a sorry rapper who rhymes about being cute and a brute," Cassie smiled, watching Reno's new lighter flash sparks and a healthy flame. Reno's green eyes studied the shimmering flame as it lit the tip of his cigarette and drew in a deep breath. "I'll stick to scamming real rappers out of their hard earned cash."
"How's it looking tonight?"
"Great. I think those soldier boys will give most of the punks a run for their money. What's this I hear about your brother's new bike?"
"Beats me. I don't know much about it. That's Cam's baby," Reno shrugged, blowing out a plume of smoke. Cassie's Sol Sunburst cigarettes were always the best, a thousand times better then the crap Jay and Cam smoked. Sol Sunbursts were the only things he would smoke and only then once a week or so. He didn't have the money for them himself and Cassie couldn't spare much.
"You always try to sound so old when you talk Landon," Cassie snickered. "Better watch out or you won't be a kid anymore."
"The sooner the better," Reno sighed, smoke curling out of his nose. He leaned back against the wall as he and Cassie fell silent, both watching as the first races of the night began.
"Think you'll make any money?" Cassie asked.
"I hope. Kinda hungry y'know?"
"You're always hungry Lan," she pinched his thin arm and Reno only smirked.