I apologise for such a long wait between chapters, but I am afraid that it has been difficult to get hold of a computer to use recently, and even more difficult to find time to write. But here I am! And here is another chapter.

Reno had never experienced anything like this. Not when he had been a slum rat; stealing to survive and fighting day in and out to create a life for himself. Not when he had made the mistake of trying to steal from the rich-looking Wutian man… Well sure, the last one had gone well in the end when he had impressed Tseng, but getting caught by the man had been freaky as hell!

But this? A helplessness that he hadn't yet experienced; an anger that he could find no outlet for; a situation where he was completely locked down while his 'charge' was harmed before him…

No, Reno of the Turks had never expected this; he had always pictured quickly climbing through the ranks, finding a cool partner that would put up with his antics, and becoming a Turk that would be among the best. Now he had to wonder if he would walk out of this room alive…

Reno didn't even want to think about the blond that was still strapped down in the middle of the room. He had watched as the crazy fucker of a head scientist had cut into the blond as though he was nothing more than a corpse. The Turk had no idea why they wanted Cloud, but he did know that the one who had brought them here had to have been the cause of the blood bath at the party. And yet through everything Cloud hadn't even made a noise during his harsh treatment.

Now that Hojo and the other guy were gone, Reno was trying to see if Cloud was ok, or more accurately; if he was even alive. There had been quite a bit of blood after all. There was complete silence for a long while with Reno watching closely for any signs of movement from the blond. After what felt like an age Cloud finally shifted against his bonds and Reno let out a sigh of relief around his gag.

Cloud felt like shit; there was no other way to put it. Whatever drug it was that they had used to bring him here had been very potent; had to be to have worked on him at all, and it was only now starting to clear from his system, and then he had to add that to the dull ache that ran the length of his body from Hojo's little exploration.

A lot of things made much more sense now; it seemed that Razor had contacted Hojo some time ago, something that would explain Hojo's disturbing interest at the party, and had obviously imparted some information that had interested the scientist enough to gain his alliance, however, it also raised more concerning questions as to what else Razor had been up to, and just how much he had revealed of future events. Hojo had certainly taken to muttering several things about what he would "have to modify in future experiments" while he had prodded around.

Cloud could only take a small amount of amusement in the fact that the mako in his system had fully risen to fight off the damage being done to him and had annoyed the scientist to no end when wounds closed almost immediately.

Now Cloud would just need to figure out a way to escape, something that is no small feat when reinforced bindings are in play. That and the constant flickers of movement from the shadows at the corners of the room worked to remind him that he was being watched at any given time. He doubted that Razor would let him go easily.

And then there was Reno to worry about; the Turk could move for sure, but he was no match for the enemies he would face here. So Cloud would have to play it by ear and hope that Razor would let his guard down just enough to give him the chance he needed to get himself and Reno out. Cloud set his mind to thinking of what he could possibly do in the meantime to ensure not just Reno's safely, but also the safety of everyone else as well...

It was about an hour later when the doors to the room opened and Razor walked in, a contemptuous smile on his face as he looked at the prey that was finally in his grasp after far too long of evasion. The Master would be very pleased. Sauntering over to stand next to Cloud he looked down at the challenging eyes and laughed. He couldn't help it; even now the blond was hoping to escape; to win. It was beyond amusing to the man of shadows.

"Well Cloud, how did you like the trip down memory lane?" Razor asked with a sneer. His only response was silence and a heated glare. Razor knew that using the foolish scientist would wear against the blond's defences quickly, he had done his research after all and he knew about Cloud's four years and subsequent mako addiction that had eventually led to the easy breaking of his mind.

"Well fear not dear prey, we will not be here for too long. This is simply a small stop for the moment." Razor droned, watching closely for any response and sadly receiving none. "Of course the little scientist will have some more fun first, and I need to deal with the problem of two snooping SOLDIERs before they get their hopes up…" Now that got the response he was after; the already stone-cold blue eyes turned positively icy and Razor knew that if looks could kill he would currently be burning in agony.

"You will not touch them." Cloud's voice was calm. Deadly calm. It was a warning of pain, and a promise of death.

Razor smirked.

"Oh, but I will. I was content to leave them whilst they sat around and moped, but they have a strong sense of where things are not quite right and have already forced my hand."

"If you have hurt them…" Cloud pulled against his restraints, the leather creaking dangerously for a second before Cloud's already diminished strength gave out.

"Relax blondie, it was not them. I'm just talking about that secretary again." His smirk widened as he watched the anger and caution below glowing blue eyes that were not quite able to hide a stab of guilt.

"Well, you can relax now Cloud." Razor mocked, running a hand through blond spikes in faked affection, "Once you have submitted to Master, then you will no longer have to fear for the number of defenceless, innocent people that have been killed in the attempt to obtain you."

"Fuck you." Cloud spat, hiding the harsh effect such words had on him behind a blank mask. The hand in his hair tightened almost painfully as Razor grabbed a small knife from his pocket and held it dangerously close to one of Cloud's eyes.

"Let's see if I can achieve what that fool of a scientist failed to do and make you scream."

Cloud grit his teeth and glared at the man before him. Razor simply smiled and brought the blade down.

From his position on the wall Reno screamed behind his gag and pulled against his own bonds. If this kept up, then surely… Cloud would die.

XxXxX

An urgent knock on the door to his room dragged Zack out of his scrambled thoughts. He hadn't slept yet; fear for Cloud preventing his eyes from closing. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was just after 4 in the morning. Frowning, Zack pulled himself up from where he had curled into a ball on the bed and walked groggily over to the door.

Angeal was on the other side, and he looked absolutely livid. Zack hadn't seen his mentor looking so angry before and for a moment he was stunned that the usually calm and placid man could look so completely dangerous when not in direct combat.

"'Geal? What's going on?" Zack asked, his mind having already jumped to many conclusions, and none of them were good.

"It looks like we were close to the mark in our search last night." Angeal said as he moved past Zack into the apartment, "The secretary we spoke to was found dead an hour ago."

"Dead!?" Zack yelped, closing the door with more force than intended. "H-how?"

"Run through with a sword." Angeal responded darkly.

Zack was stunned; it was hard to believe that the enemy was moving so quickly against them. So far, that lady had been their best and only lead in the search for Cloud, and to find out she was dead… Well that didn't bode well at all. It showed just how much they were willing to risk to prevent them from being able to save Cloud. Although, it didn't sound like there had been an effort to hide the body if it had been found already.

Angeal watched the different emotions pass over Zack's tired face and hated that he had needed to bring the bad news, but he refused to keep things from him in this matter; it was too important to them both.

"What are we going to do 'Geal?" Zack asked, his eyes hardening against both his tiredness and feelings.

"Tseng has asked us to aid in the investigation." Angeal said simply.

"Tseng? Asked us to help?" Zack repeated dubiously. Angeal had to admit that it had surprised him at first as well; it was odd for the Turks to seek aid outside of their group, but further thought into the matter revealed that it was too much of a coincidence with Reno and Cloud's disappearance earlier, and that meant that both groups were going to be involved.

"Yes. Us." Angeal confirmed, "So get ready; we will meet Tseng in the Science Department."

So it was that not even half an hour later, Angeal and Zack pushed through the doors of the Science Department to find the whole area in chaos. Irate scientists stood arguing animatedly with a group of stoic looking Turks. Tseng stood at the front waiting for a gap in the insults and accusations to explain why they had been sent down; however it seemed that none of the rowdy group wanted to believe that anyone had died in their area and they wanted everyone out.

With a sigh Angeal shook his head and walked towards the group. He was in no mood for secretive nonsense right now.

"Is there an issue?" Angeal asked, his voice firm and his arm folded across his chest as he towered over the group. In that moment he was the perfect model of one of the elite three of the SOLDIER program. Many of the scientists shrunk back upon turning; to argue with the Turks was one thing, but to argue with elite of SOLDIER was a whole other bucket of nuts. Apparently one brave scientist decided that he would have to answer.

"Well Sir, a-as you would know, the Science Dept. is closed at the moment. But… Uh… These men are refusing to… to leave…" Whatever bluster the man had begun with had well and truly deserted him by the end; leaving him to stutter into silence.

"I am sure you know who 'these men' are?" Angeal asked shortly.

"Y-yes Sir."

"And I would assume that you have heard, from them, their reason for being here at such a time then?"

"Y-yes…" The man at least had the decency to look sheepish as he found an interesting spot on the floor to study.

"Then excuse me if I fail to understand what the issue is. You are all dismissed. If there is any more interference from any of you, the person or persons involved will deal with me personally." Zack knew that Angeal was serious as well.

"B-but our work!" The voice had come from a young woman at the back of the nervous group. Zack rolled his eyes at the complaint; of course they would harp on even further. Stupid scientists.

"To be frank; none of us gives a damn about your work." Angeal growled, fixing the woman with a glare, "We are here to find out how a woman was killed. Nothing else."

It didn't take long after that for the group to disperse, all muttering amongst themselves about a range of things that neither Zack nor Angeal could be bothered listening to. It never ceased to amaze people how one section could get away with so much secrecy and not attract suspicion from the higher ups, especially when it was no real secret that many of the experiments done were not exactly morally sound.

"My thanks." Tseng said, shaking his head ever so slightly at the retreating men and women. "They were almost obscenely stubborn."

"Not an issue, I was just not in the mood to play nice." Angeal replied simply.

"Of course." Tseng agreed with a nod, "Shall we?"

Angeal made a motion of consent and soon the small group were heading down a small series of hallways. Zack knew that the light greeting was simply a way of lifting some tension. It was not very often that SOLDIER and the Turks worked together on anything, and when they did it was not uncommon for arguments to happen. Zack felt that this time there would be more of an effort than usual; simply because the two members from each faction that had gone missing earlier that day, and they were all protective of their own. That and the personal interest for their friend and the knowledge of the real danger the two were in.

Zack could only really hope that there would be some kind of lead for them to follow.

The smell of drying blood hit Zack's nose before they even turned into the correct corridor. The first sight of blood was that of four thin trails leading out of the room, almost as if someone had pushed a cart or trolley through it, the trail slowly ran out further down the hall. Upon seeing it Zack wanted to look the other way.

Inside the room was worse. Much worse.

There was no mistake about the identity of the lady; Alyson lay crumpled in a large pool of her own blood. Her face was beyond pale; her features frozen in a wide-eyed stare of fear and confusion. Zack felt his heart constrict in his chest at the sight.

She had been stabbed just below the rib-cage, and the blade had been pulled out with the intention to harm further; opening a large gash down to the woman's lower stomach. The spray of blood that made a splattered trail away from Alyson was the biggest indicator of the force behind the attack. It was a scene that so far Zack had only seen the likes of a few times and it was still just as hard to look at as the first time.

The small group of Turks began moving around the room, examining everything that caught their attention while Tseng and Angeal both crouched by the body, just beyond the pool of blood and looked her own for anything telling. Obviously nothing came to either of them because they both stood back up not long after.

"This is too much of a coincidence Tseng." Angeal said, his sad eyes staying on the body before him, "We spoke to her only hours ago about Cloud. Apparently all his files had been 'lost' on the systems, so she was going to look into a few things for us… And now this…"

Zack could only silently agree with the weight of Angeal's words; and he wondered if maybe they should tell Tseng at least a small amount of what they knew. If the Darkness already had Cloud, then everything may already be lost. Would it really harm anything to try and get some more help?

With a sigh Zack turned and left the room, his mind was a mess and he found himself not waiting to hear what the Wutian Turk might have to say; he needed to be away from the sight and smell of blood for a moment so that he could think clearly.

This was the most personal case he had ever investigated; even if it was not an official case. None of the people he had ever cared about had ever been in such danger before and he couldn't even raise a finger to help. It didn't help that Zack's nerves were currently frayed and torn; and patience had never been his strong point either, but right now he also knew that doing anything brash may just end up putting others in danger.

The halls were empty as Zack wandered around a little bit, and he was thankful for that; it gave him some time to pull his thoughts together and to put his mind to thinking of practical ways that he could help, or failing that; ways that they could possibly find some more answers.

Zack only just registered that there was movement behind him and managed to throw himself to the side in time to watch a blade slice through the air where he had been seconds before. Coming up in a crouch Zack turned to see the source of all their problems standing there smiling at him. Drawing his sword, and being more than thankful that he had thought to grab it, Zack launched himself at the freak before him with a snarl of rage.

Razor moved back out of range and watched the large sword go through the wall that was next to him as though it was butter. Zack pulled it out easily and sent a furious glare towards him.

"Where is Cloud?" Zack demanded, almost surprising Razor with the similarity of the calm deadliness in his voice that was so close to how Cloud had spoken earlier.

"And here I thought I would have some trouble taking on both you and your big friend. Then I find you wandering around like a lost puppy all by yourself." Razor taunted, not bothering to answer the question.

"Where. Is. Cloud?" Zack repeated, lowering his body into position to launch another attack. It didn't matter to him that this was an opponent that had held him at sword point once, or that he had nearly killed them on several occasions. All that mattered was that he had taken Cloud and so far he could be the only way to find him. He had to win.

When he received no answer he sprang into an attack putting as much speed and power into a series of attacks that he could.

He would find Cloud, even if he died trying.

XxXxX

Cloud's body felt like it was on fire.

There was no doubt that Razor knew how to handle a knife and the obsidian-eyed man had definitely put it to good use. While Cloud had managed to keep his silence against the pain he sure as hell hoped that he would be able to get the hell out of there before a second round.

Razor had only been there for an hour or so before he took off, and Cloud had a bad feeling that his captor wanted to make good on his promise to hurt Zack and Angeal.

Things were certainly happening too fast now and not for the first time Cloud wanted to return to the simple nights of training on the field or in the VR room, even if he had been lying to his friends at the time and feeling that there was far too much to do.

The only good thing so far was that Cloud was regaining his strength slowly as the drug further faded from his system; even if it was slowed by his newest wounds. When Razor had left he had decided that if he didn't get out soon, he would lose any opportunity to do so.

Taking a few deep breaths, Cloud gathered all the strength he could manage; drawing upon the power that ran through his veins as well, and he pulled against his binding with everything he had.

Reno watched from his position on the wall as Cloud moved around and his eyes widened to almost comical proportions as he watched what looked like pale blue flames flicker softly around the blond as he strained against reinforced leather.

Muscles and veins standing out in his effort, Cloud finally cried out as his arms pulled free. Many of his wounds were re-opened in his effort and small rivulets of blood ran down his arms and chest as he quickly moved to undo the remaining straps. Swinging his legs over the side of the table Cloud had to take a second to breathe as his chest heaved with exertion and his sight swam with dizziness. He had a feeling that this was an achievement even for him, but there was no sense of fulfilment to accompany it.

Looking down at the tattered remains of his shirt Cloud sighed and simply ripped the rest away. It would only hinder him more in a fight if he had to worry about the frayed edges snagging on edges, or providing easy grabbing holds for enemies. Especially since he had no sword.

Standing up on legs that were weaker than he cared to admit, Cloud walked over to the sectioned off area where Reno was. Quickly finding the opening trigger for the glass wall he opened the area and moved to release a shell-shocked Reno. The shadows at the edges of the room were starting to move already and Cloud wanted to be out before they decided they needed to attack.

He knew from Reno's face that there would be a hell of a lot of questions and for a moment he considered trying to find a way to gag Reno whilst still leave his arms free to fight if need be.

Sure enough, the moment Cloud undid the restraints on Reno the red-head ripped his gag off and looked at Cloud with wide eyes.

"How the fuck did you just do that, Yo!?"

Wow, chapter 21… I hope everyone enjoyed. And I will try to get my computer fixed ASAP so that there are no more crazy waits for chapters.