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Shinra's Finest - Midgar's own boys in black
To Nibelheim. 
3rd-Aug-2005 12:25 am

Biting was really the only word to describe the wind that came screaming in off Mt. Nibel- buffeting hard speckles of freezing snow up to pelt across the windshield of the company truck. It seemed to possess teeth like icy shards; piercing to the bone through even the thicker fabric of an overcoat, despite the rest of the world heading into the beginning of summer. The entire universe had been a swirling, grey-white sea - the omnipresent static on a dead television set - for miles now; just the howl of the wind and the bend in the road to guide them to their destination. Zhi tightened his hands around the steering wheel and peered ahead into the nothingness beyond the headlights, glancing occasionally at the whirling air. They should just about be in Nibelheim by now. Still nothing. Still nothing.

He hated snowstorms.

There had barely been a pause in their travel when Zhi, Asher and Sofia had reached Junon- there was no choice really. When a mission was top priority travel was by Shinra's rules; so it was no surprise when - on the very second of their arrival at the tiny town's small company base, no less - they were immediately informed by the guards that travel was scheduled for the first ship out tomorrow- a Truck would be waiting at Costa Del Sol. There was no time to do anything but eat, file a report, sleep and wake again, the sun still far below the horizon, before they were boarding one of Shinra's special reserve aircraft from the upper platform in the dead of morning.

"Take a good look." He had paused just long enough to gesture to the beach far below and then sweep his arm grandly up the side of the mountain to where the jagged metal spires of construction were creeping tendrils slowly toward the sky. "The next time you stand here everything you'll be able to see will belong to Shinra Inc. All part of the President's plan to construct our newest and largest military training facility- based on the projected strength of our SOLDIER program."

He'd felt a small thrill as the image took hold in his mind. With even the pitifully small amount of information he was privy to on the discoveries… the miracles the science and weapons departments were starting to produce with Mako… the possibilities were infinite. It was pleasant enough - allowing himself to daydream about the kinds of things Mako energy might allow humanity to accomplish - that he had simply laid back and let it distract him as they made the trip in the tiny aircraft, glinting waters of the ocean a thousand feet below. They had touched down on the runway just as the sun began to dip out of the center of the sky.

True to the first guard's word a truck was waiting on the tarmac when they set in- another uniformed guard waiting with a set of keys. The drive to Nibelheim past North Corel would take at least another six and a half hours, and he had wasted no further time- wishing to arrive before the last of the daylight had completely faded.

By around hour four, minute twenty-seven, Zhi had begun silently cursing that he hadn't stayed long enough to catch a weather bulletin.

It could have been worse, he mused, as the howl of the blizzard whipped around the cramped cab of the military grade ‘personnel transport vehicle’. The last time he'd made this journey had been by Chocobo, just as autumn was beginning to set in. What was supposed to be a day or two of light, easy riding had turned out to be a week of blinding white misery- punctuated by scarce hours of calm in which to continue before being forced to camp; of using materia to stay warm and being confined to a tent with a spooked bird for days at a time. He’d been out of energy, out of greens, nearly out of food, and a day away from death when he'd ridden into town. It had taught him never to travel that late in year without getting word of the weather beforehand. This was different, though. It was nearly summer- and in Zhi's estimation these kinds of storms should have stopped for the season long ago.

Suddenly there was a sickening, weightless lurch - as if an unseen hand had lifted the entire vehicle off the road - veering the passenger door straight toward one of the icy banks of packed snow that lined the road. Despite himself he actually let fly with a low "Fuck!" before he could manage to correct it and, jostling, the wheels found traction again.

Apparently, snowstorms also hated Zhi.
4th-Aug-2005 10:36 pm (UTC)
Asher decided rather rapidly that long-distance car travel was increadibly boring, and was glad he'd never done it before. He did eventually manage to fall asleep, despite the bouncing of the car, and slept until they reached Junon, which mostly registered as somewhere to get food and then fall back asleep for another couple of hours.

Their departure, however, left a little more of an impression than their arival. He ignored little speech about the greatness of ShinRa - he was a little amazed that anyone actually believed in all that shit - and instead looked out across the ocean, which, in a word, was awe-inspring. He had seen pictures before, of course, but somehow a little badly-printed four by six image didn't quite live up to the real thing. There was so much water in one place, and the way the sky above it glowed with the before-dawn light gave him a greater appreciation for the beauty in nature.

This moment of internal reflection cut short, though, as as he soon found himself lead away to a rather precarious contraption of metal that he was told flew, despite what seemed to be evidence to the contrary. He climbed in anyway, though, and while he had a brief moment of panic at the feeling of the planing leaving the nice, solid surface of the earth, he was, for once, reassured by Zhi's total lack of emotion - if this thing was going down, he was going with it. The view from the windows was, if anything, more amazing - seeing the ocean several thousand feet below him, with the occasional cloud drifting underneath. If ShinRa can do this...maybe Zhi's got something there after all.

They landed, and Asher was again reminded of the many reasons he didn't like ShinRa as they were packed off in a cramped, if sturdy-looking truck. Half an hour's travel told him this was going to be as interesting as the first leg of their little adventure, and he made himself as comfortable as possible and tried to get a little more sleep - the plane flight had distracted him, but he'd been on edge staying in a new place the night before, and been awoken by any number of what turned out to be ordinary town noises. The car wasn't much better, particularly as this one didn't have fake leather upholstry, but it was better than nothing.

He was awoken fully some two hours later when they hit a particularly nasty bump in the road. He felt a little less tired, and decided to give the scenery another try. He noticed Sofia, who he'd pretty much been ignoring out of tiredness and thus a total lack of desire to deal with other people, was asleep herself, the pages of the case file spread out over her lap. He felt kind of bad for being such an ass to her when they first met, but that could wait until later.

Not long after, the first flakes of something white and fluffly drifted past the window, as the truck climbed higher into the mountains. Asher stared at it. Is this...snow? He had only seen snow once before - in Midgar, you were lucky to get rain underneath the plate, and both it and Kalm never dropped far below freezing, even in the winter. There had been one year, however, when he'd been very young, in Kalm, and they had a freak cold spell for a week or two. A storm had moved in off the coast, and the result had been drifts of cold white powder, taller than he was, all over the town. Everything shut down for a few days, and he and the other kids in town ran through the streets and had snowball fights.

He countinued to watch out the windows as the snow grew heavier outside, until he could barely see the landscape through the cloud of white. He wondered how Zhi managed to drive in it - and, predictably, a few minutes later he was startled by the truck skidding suddenly, right towards a snow bank. He heard Zhi say something angrily under his breath, before he straightened the truck out. The lurching had woken Sofia up, who was staring out the window in amazement at the storm. Now's as good a time as any... He turned in his seat to face her. "I know we didn't get off to a good start, but...hi. Name's Asher, as you know, but you can call me Ash."
7th-Aug-2005 03:35 am (UTC)
Something that fucking cold shouldn't be so pretty. Then again, Sofia could name a number of things too cruel to be as good-looking as they were, herself included. Well, maybe "cruel" wasn't the word for her, more like "beyond jaded". Which was two words, but anyway, who was counting? And the snowfall was gorgeous in its own way. She could almost forgive being woken up for the opportunity to watch it.

"I know we didn't get off to a good start, but...hi. Name's Asher, as you know, but you can call me Ash."

Sofia blinked, momentarily thrown. They hadn't gotten off to a good start? Guess you could say that (and he just had), but she had been relatively indifferent to the kid, to tell the truth. Probably not that great a thing to feel about a coworker you were going to be working with closely for the next several days. "Hello, Ash," she replied, deciding that talking to him would be better than giving herself another headache over the still-unfinished reading in her lap. She inclined her head in the direction of the window and grinned. "Nice weather we're having."
7th-Aug-2005 06:24 am (UTC)
Asher breathed a mental sigh of relief that Sofia hadn't told him off immediately. Ally would be overjoyed - she was always bugging him to go out and talk to people and make friends. He tended to ignore those comments, but having someone on his side up here would probably be a good thing. Especially with Zhi around.

He peered out the window with her, at the still-continueing snowfall. "Yeah, this storm is pretty insane. Ever seen anything like it before?" He knew the answer was probably no, but he couldn't think of anything better to say, and didn't want the conversation to die just yet.
8th-Aug-2005 11:36 pm (UTC)
Sofia caught herself before she could laugh at the question; she hadn't exactly picked the greatest conversational topic, after all. Was never much to say about the weather, even if some people thought otherwise. "Nope. Doesn't snow in Costa del Sol." There, she wasn't the only one who could give obvious answers.

Still, she should probably put the kid out of his misery. "So how'd you end up here?"
9th-Aug-2005 06:10 am (UTC)
Asher grinned at the question, loosening up a little. "Here? Because some god, somewhere, has it in for me, I think." He didn't know if any of his co-workers had been told why he'd been hired, but if they hadn't, he wasn't about to tell them. Her question did, however, give him an opening to satisfy his curiosity.

"How 'bout you? No offense, but you don't really look like the usual type for this job."
9th-Aug-2005 09:56 pm (UTC)
Sofia grinned, liking the kid more now. "What gave it away? The not fitting in a suit and tie? The earrings?" More serious, she continued, "Eh, never really questioned exactly why they wanted me. I accepted 'cause I didn't want to end up dead. You hear stories about Shinra." It really was kinda odd, now that she thought about it. Why had they hired her rather than just kept her as an associate or something? Knowledge of every side street in Costa del Sol wasn't going to help on this mission, that was for sure. She was pretty good in a fight, but they could afford to pay the best of the best. She'd like to know what the Turks saw in her. Or maybe she was just underestimating herself.

Then, realizing that her grim little statement might have killed the conversation: "Oh yeah, and I ran the best damn brothel in town. Have some business connections."
11th-Aug-2005 03:57 am (UTC)
Asher laughed a little at Sofia's reply. "The earrings, I think. There was some other woman at the meeting you missed, though - didn't catch her name."

"And...a brothel, really?" Somehow, he wasn't that surprised - she reminded him of a lot of people he knew back in Midgar, on the streets. Guess Costa del Sol has a rough side, too... "One of my friends works as a stripper - she knows a lot of people in the business. I could hook you two up when we get back, if you like." He was certain Naomi would love her - they had the same sort of air about them, that said they didn't take shit from anybody, which unfortunately sometimes included Asher.
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