HQ16: Welcome to my third rewrite of my Prologue. I hope you enjoy this version as much as I finally do. Here's the result of painstaking hard work and dedication to the love of Final Fantasy and Zack Fair. This story is a Zack/OC story. Feel free to read on or even review.

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and all parts of the contemplation go to Square Enix. I own Evelia and that is all.

Words: 4,020

My brother... was gone. A year had gone by since he left, or maybe was kidnapped would be a better way to put it. They – Shinra - took him from me. He was the only family that I knew I had left… and they took him from me. They left me with nothing but a couple of swords in his memory. For a time, there was nothing I could, nor wanted to do with myself. I was barely twelve years old. I wanted to tear their building down and rip everything they owned to shreds just so I could find him.

However, my hands were barely strong enough to hold me up. I needed something... Something to make me stronger. I wandered the streets aimlessly, it was some months after he disappeared without a trace. That was when I noticed a boy with spiky black hair and a confident smile walk into the building, just like that. I stared after him eyes wide. How he managed to walk inside like that I never understood; not back then at least

In the following days I would learn about the SOLDIER program. I would hear all about it in the slums, the word of the people as they passed by would keep me informed and a kind man who often gave me free food would answer any questions I had. The program was growing in popularity.

I found with this new information, that I was left with a chance; a chance to find him, to get inside of their trust and find my brother. I needed to find him. He was all I ever had in my short memory. We had saved up enough gil together to purchase two swords. We had worked so hard to get them, but as I looked at them lying on the ground of the slums I cried, all that hard work throw away in a mere moment. We had been training so hard together, but they took him as if it was child's play.

I remembered his face, frightened, he yelled for me to run. Naturally I listened, when I came back to where I had last seen his soft blue eyes there was nothing. Except the two swords left there on the floor... barren of an owner anymore. The larger blade's glowing orange materia had rolled towards a nearby dumpster. I took a few minutes to retrieve our belongings; the larger sword my brother had owned proved more difficulty than the smaller and slimmer one that was for me.

After finding out about the SOLDIER program, I had decided then that it was time to get up and do something about my brother being missing and no one, in all of Midgar, even giving a damn about it. I started my own training, I'd do odd jobs in the slums to practice sword fighting and get some gil for myself to get by. Back then I didn't know that I was being watched, but I was. One of their people had been following me and watching my progress in that year I worked and trained.

By the end of that long, painful and sometimes unbearably hopeless year I had finally grew enough strength and confidence to apply for the SOLDIER program. I had never heard of a woman making it into SOLDIER but that didn't mean it was impossible. It was always worth a shot.

The worst part about having to go above the plate is that not only could you not run around in clothing that was much too small to be yours, but it couldn't be in anything except brand new condition. So I had spent money on getting a new pair of pants, shirt, and unfortunately a new bra. I had grown a couple inches too big for the shorts I had been wearing and too small for my shirt. I was fortunate enough to have a sales woman help me learn about bras in general. By the end of the day I had little more than 10 gil.

The day finally came for when I had decided to head above the plate and into Shinra. It was probably the stupidest idea I had ever gotten, but it was all I had. My stomach was fluttering painfully as I came up to Sector 0 and Sector 8.

I walked down a set of stairs leading into the same entrance the black hair teen had used a year previously. I gulped loudly, took a deep breath in hopes to calm down and wrangle the last of my courage together before I ran away. The threshold was much taller than I was expecting and the sight that welcomed me as I walked through the threshold caused a gasp to escape my lips. A moment later, I realized how quiet the place truly was and slapped my hands over my mouth. Fortunately, no one seemed to pay me any mind. I roamed around the building for a time without a single person so much as giving me a second glance.

I noticed a woman sitting behind a desk, looking busy and I walked up to her in hopes of getting some help. My gaze fell on her as I stood waiting for her to notice me silently, when she glanced up she seemed tempted to say something, but chose instead to smile politely and then speak.

"Welcome to the Shinra Electric Company, how may I help you?" she asked.

I paused, unsure for a moment, "Uh, could you tell me how to get to the SOLDIER director for a new recruit?" Her expression changed quickly and an eyebrow rose in question. Unconsciously, my hands rose to tighten my tail of midnight black hair with a look of solid determination.

"It's alright, I'll take her myself," my head snapped around to see a young man, he was a bit taller than myself. He was wearing a black suit and had his hair slicked back into a tail lower than my own. He smiled a bit and I returned it weakly. His hand motioned towards the stairs and after a moment, I followed his directions. We walked up red carpeted stairs together towards an elevator. It was silent between us, for obvious reasons. I had no clue who this teenager was and we were in an elevator alone.

I was uncharacteristically silent as I watched his hand reached out to press a number. Of the seventy or so floors the number '51' was lit up.

My eyes widen at the sight, I had never seen a building with so many levels to it. I took another deep breath naturally, definitely reconsidering this idea.

A voice interrupted my thoughts, "Any second thoughts will get you nowhere in SOLDIER. Only those with strong levels and undiminishing confidence will make it through." My brown eyes snapped to him and I noticed his posture in comparison to my own. I was slouching against the railing and he was standing as straight and as tall as his form would allow.

With a soft sigh I nodded, "Who are you anyways?"

"A Turk," he replied simply. My face fell some. Okay... that tells me absolutely nothing.

"Well... Turk, do you have an actual name?" he paused momentarily, deciding on his answer.

"Yes." I blinked slowly.

"Are you planning on telling me or is that part of the great mystery that is you and your fancy suit?" he smirked, clearly amused but shook his head saying nothing in response. "Oh okay." I nodded in fake satisfaction. Finally the elevator doors opened to reveal a large room with books lining the shelves and a couple of desks. I noticed the two men standing in front of the desk and a man with blonde hair in a green suit sitting behind the desk.

My gaze fell to the back of the man with black hair, on his back was a massive sword, it wasn't hard to recognize his attire either. The sword reminded me of Harpenger in full transformation My brother's old sword; I had named them both. His sword however was noticeably larger and heavier in comparison from the muscles lining his arms. The other man was a few inches taller and had lengthy silver hair; I recognized him the instant my eyes landed on him. I walked in the direction of the desk, my footsteps quiet from the suddenly small and pathetic feeling swelling inside of me. In comparison to the two in the room with me, I was nothing; it was sending waves of second doubts running through my head.

"Lazard, you have a new recruit." The three turned, their powerful gazes falling on me. I blushed, my gaze in return faltered before I took a deep breath and stared at the man clad in green with fierce determination. He gave me a once over and I could see how he paused at my chest once. He looked away, clearing his throat and spoke.

"We've never had a female for SOLDIER before... or none that could survive the surgery," the very thought was a scary one. "Are you sure you want to risk that? Your parents would be upset to find that you left and died over a dream."

"I have nothing else in life to lose, except maybe my pride," I retorted, never breaking eye contact.

"There's a history file that's available for upload from your computer about her," The director nodded and suddenly I was very confused. I spun on my heel quickly as the teen clothed in the black suit walked away.

"Wait! Have you been stalking me?" a smirk crossed his features but as usual he said nothing as the elevator doors closed. "Damn Weirdo," I muttered with furrowed eyebrows. I turned back to the man behind the desk just as he stood up; my eyes flickered to the name plate.

DIRECTOR LAZARD. He was reading something intently and I chose this moment to look around the room. Instead I noticed the two other men staring at me a bit. My attention shifted to them with raised eyebrows.

"Yes?" The silver haired man looked away and the other smirked a little glancing at his silver haired friend, clearly amused. "Exactly, I figured." I said turning away and waiting with an air of confidence I didn't feel in my heart.

"What's your name?" I turned back to the man with the massive sword on his back.

"Evelia Reinhardt. May I ask yours?"

"Angeal Hewley, SOLDIER 1st Class," he smiled a bit.

I frowned a little, "Oh... well I don't have a title..." I paused hoping for the conversation to continue or at least a new to spur up; however, none did. So I added, "My name's spelled with a d-t. The d is silent so most people don't know it's there." The silver haired one didn't seem too interested in anything I had to say. Though Angeal seemed to regard me with a quirky look for a few moments. "I don't know; it was something to say. It's quiet and awkward in here." I paused for a moment, regarding the other man with a curious gaze. "May I ask your name?" he nodded, hesitantly after a moment. "What is your name?"

"Sephiroth." I nodded; short, sweet and simple. There was no beating around the bushes as they say.

"Alright Miss. Reinhardt, we have a paper application of sorts that we would like for you to fill out before we head over to your test. Females generally have a different test than males."

I gave a short nod, "How many women have tried out for SOLDIER?" I asked curiously.

"They say curiousity killed the cat," mumbled Sephiroth in my direction. I turned to him with my light brown eyes and stared harshly to the point of glaring, nevertheless he didn't seem to notice.

"And I say, Satisfaction brought it back. Cats don't have nine lives for nothing." I was silent for a minute as the older silver haired man had a staring contest with me until Lazard coughed and I spun to look at him. He handed me a clipboard with a piece of paper on it. Good thing I knew how to read.

I don't remember exactly when I learned how to read, but it was sometime before I turned ten. At least that's what I had assumed.

"If you must know, since SOLDIER was started some year ago, only six have tried. Two couldn't pass the first test and four died from the surgery. Three of the six were approved and suggested by Turks to be good candidates." Lazard spoke softly as if regretting giving them a chance and starting to regret even speaking to me.

"They say seven is a lucky number." I tried hopefully. It earned me a smirk and I turned back to the paper. I frowned, "I don't know many of these things, I've never been to a doctor before." Lazard seemed surprised. "I did tell you that I had nothing to lose." I shrugged easily, turning back to the paper and attempted to answer what I could, which wasn't much. I handed it back to the director; he smiled already standing and leading the way out of the office. The two SOLDIERs seemingly decided to come along.

It was quiet as we traveled down inside the elevator and I took the time to think to myself, to mentally prepare for what could possibly happen next. The elevator stopped and opened the door to the SOLDIER floor. There wasn't anything interesting in particular about the people there. Some wore different colored uniforms, but generally everyone looked the same due to the helmets they wore. Only 1st Class SOLDIERs weren't required to wear standard uniform it seemed.

There were some in light blue, some in dark blue and as we walked by they all instantly stood at attention. One helmeted head in light blue turned to me curiously as I flicked my gaze at him. It seemed that our eyes even locked from the way he followed me as I walked by, but it wasn't until we were turning the corner that he started to remove the helmet. Just as I saw a tuft of black hair fall out, I was pushed through a doorway.

They doorway we walked through had the word training on it. Inside there was a bunch of controls and machines running. I stood watching it all in pure awe as Lazard moved to the controls to do something. He motioned to me after a few moments, "Walk inside." I nodded and did as I was told to do. Walking through another clear doorway I gaped at the sight, reflective panels were surrounding me.

Everyone was ordered out except for the few that I had originally walked inside with. Suddenly I heard Lazard's voice around me, almost in front of me, but around me at the same time. I walked inside the room a little farther in curiosity. "Alright Evelia, what you're going to do for me is fight for as long as you can." I nodded a little then raised my hand tentatively. "Yes?"

"Is it never-ending or does it have an end and you don't expect me to get there?"

When he spoke again, I could hear his surprise, "Um, yes, it has an end." I snorted and nodded. "This may just be a simulation, but to you, it will feel very real. If you get hurt in there you will feel it." I nodded once more and waited, almost impatiently. The room started up silently and a beautiful field filled up around me. I was distracted at how by the time it was finished generating, I could feel a natural breeze, hear the sounds of the wind ruffling the leaves and smell the aroma in the air.

I was in awe to say the least, but my thoughts came back to me quickly as I noticed fiends popping up around me, my senses recognizing them in every way. Down to the texture of their very exoskeleton. I swallowed deeply, hoping that not only would I swallow my saliva, but my fear. I could feel it welling up inside of me. Fear that I would not survive this test. That I would not make it into SOLDIER. Fear that I would not be able to save my brother. Fear that all of my hard work would amount to absolutely nothing.

I took a deep breath and spun my sword in anticipation before engaging the fiends. There weren't many, and they weren't very strong. Though, as I sliced through the last one a new group materialized; this time there was more of them and as I fought them I realized they were a little stronger than the last batch.

This continued for a long time and by the time I heard the Director's voice ringing around me, I was choking for air and sweating profusely. "The next opponent you will face will be on SOLDIER level. This is a simulation of a 3rd Class SOLDIER, but a SOLDIER all the same. Be prepared," his words fell on my tired ears, I stepped back pulling to my full height and cringing as a light blue form materialized from the feet up. Its stance was confident, bordering on cocky.

A shaky breath escaped my lips, he or it was much stronger than me, but I refused to back down. I wasn't sure if it was done to scare me or to prove some sort of point, but I raised my swords, pointing them at him in an open challenge. His lips curved into a smirk and he charged at me.

I had no idea how long it had been after all the spinning, slicing, dodging, ducking and parrying I had done, but the man in blue flung both of my swords from me with little to no proof that we had even encountered each other. His sword stopped before my neck and I sat, silently, glaring at the image until it dematerialized and the director walked in.

My head fell and I took deep breaths to calm myself as he spoke again, "That was the information and battle style of a SOLDIER 3rd Class. He was recorded into the system not more than two hours ago. While we were not expecting you to win, you did hold your own very well. You're tired, let's get you some water. Grab your things." I ripped my swords up off the floor in an angry huff. Outside the one named Angeal had water waiting for me. I drank quickly, nearly choking.

After I drank my fill, the four of us headed into the elevator and went up. I was too tired to even pay attention so I chose instead to lean against the wall and wait to be guided. I was nudged and followed silently as we entered a science lab with a group of people walking around in white lab coats moved rapidly.

An image flashed through my head, I couldn't make it out very well, and my eyebrows furrowed curiously just as an odd looking man with a huge forehead walked up to me. I was silent as he looked me over, circling me as he did so. He turned to Lazard and spoke to him; Lazard mentioned something and his eyes flashed to me almost in a greedy manor. His hand reached towards me, his eyes interested as I could see his mind was reeling with ideas of the sort.

I turned to look at them and they nodded for me to go with him. My eyebrows furrowed in disbelief. "No! Don't leave me with this weirdo!" I mouthed to them. A round of smirks and chuckles erupted from them, however none moved to save me from what I was being pulled into. A woman led me into a room where I removed my swords, carriers and any materia I had.

She motioned me to lie down, and soon after I did a flutter of scientists entered and left quickly. Nothing happened for a time, but they whispered amongst each other quickly, moving and working at a pace I simply couldn't follow.

The man from before continued to look me over curiously, my jaw clenched fiercely at his gaze; I was tempted to open my mouth and say something but I held it back. I opted instead to glare at him harshly, he quickly noticed the change in my demeanor and sneered back almost viciously. I gasped at something pricking in my arm, but before I could even complain I was feeling sickeningly tired.

I wasn't sure how long after that last moment of consciousness it had been, but the only thing I registered was white all around me. The room was engulfed in that single color. I took a deep breath, pain pulsating through my limps in a tired fashion.

"Who knew that death could hurt so much?" I muttered to myself, pulling my hand up to my head before slowly pushing myself up on my elbows and eventually my hands. I looked around sluggishly, feeling my hair hit my back; my hand rose to touch it gently. It had been cleaned, brushed and taken care of. Someone had released it of its iron hold at the back of my head. "At least they take care of your hair after you die." I smiled softly before noticing my two swords leaning against a wall. I moved to sit up properly as Lazard walked in; he seemed to be shocked to say the least.

"So seven really is a lucky number." I tilted my head in pure confusion.

"What are you talking about? Wait... was Shinra blown up? Are you dead too?" I asked with wide eyes, he laughed almost in relief. I noticed faintly that I could see the creases in his suit, the smell of his cologne hitting me, the sounds of his laughter echoing and even the itching feel of the cloth against me. I was suddenly hyper-aware of every one of my senses in every way. I could… sense the director. I could feel his very essence.

"No," he paused for a moment, "you've survived the surgery. The Mako has finally mixed properly and you're a SOLDIER. Welcome, SOLDIER 3rd Class Evelia Reinhardt." I grinned brightly and a childish feeling welled up in me.

"Woo! Let's do it!" I shouted energetically.

"How do you feel?" he questioned as he walked towards my side.

I clenched a fist, feeling the blood rush through me, "Amazing actually, never better."

"Alright, let's get you released and we can get you dressed and ready for your first day as a SOLDIER. The press will have a fit hearing a woman made it." He seemed pleased with this.

"How long have I been out?" He turned to me just as he was walking out of my room and paused, thinking about it.

"A little less than a week," I nodded, that same grin still flaming across my features.

I could feel the difference in my strength, there was something coursing through my veins. All that work, exhaustion and determination finally paid off. I looked down at my hand with a smile. Seven really was a lucky number.

I did it Eric. I'm here, and I'm gonna find you. I don't know where you are but I know Shinra has you. I'm going to find you. I can... almost feel you. Where are you?

I looked around in hopes of finding an answer but I realized that the feeling came from below, far below me but I couldn't say exactly where.

I'll find you. Soon I promise.