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Shinra's Finest - Midgar's own boys in black
End of the road. 
5th-Sep-2005 05:33 am
Predictably, the lurch of the truck as it skidded on the ice was enough to awaken the vehicle's other two passengers. It was a blessing in disguise, in some cases, that the Turks were such a lightly staffed outfit; any more bodies than they already had would have forced Zhi to strongarm someone into riding in the canvas-covered, but woefully uninsulated, back bed- where SOLDIERs normally rode. Not a delightful prospect given the bitter cold and steadily worsening conditions. As it stood though, it was surprisingly comfortable- with their collective body heat just enough to bring the atmosphere to a bearable humidity that allowed the two rookies a few hours of sleep; and Zhi a few hours of silence in which to concentrate on driving. He had an open thermos of coffee at his side, and two more stowed away in the glovebox to last the trip- and so far hadn't even had to finish the first, resulting in a peaceful, introspective mood that left him grateful for the silence.

It wasn't terribly unfortunate that they had stirred when they did either. According to his watch they would be arriving at their destination any minute now- and he doubted any of them would be pleased having to be woken up groggy from a nap only to stumble out into what had by now turned into a full-blown blizzard. The rise of casual conversation wasn't entirely unexpected either - and he listened to it offhanded as he navigated the sharp, downhill bend in the road - but in a moment he was practically mystified.

Upon hearing the mini street rat's disbelieving reaction to being informed of Sofia's past 'career choice' he utterly failed to contain a snort and rather snide, "You've never met anyone who's been to Costa Del Sol, have you Haring." followed by a dark chuckle.


Truth be told, for decades there had been barely anything to the place but a few seaside villas supported by a scant fishing industry. With the advent of an industrious Shinra executive's startlingly bright idea to solicit the townsfolk for a port of travel- a private dock had been built, and Shinra Inc. had begun using it as a means of easy intercontinental travel. Quick, inexpensive, and confidential- because no one else shared the rights to the port but whomever the corporation saw fit. As the influx of foreign power, foreign decadence, and above all foreign money took hold- the townspeople quickly saw the best way to take advantage of the exclusive class of business and political elite that began to frequent the tiny Inns and hotels that Costa Del Sol had to offer. They simply started to offer more.

There had never been any laws in place to govern a sex trade before Shinra arrived- and when the people of Costa Del Sol began to offer just that to the wealthy patrons that graced their indigent community, mayors and council members were expediently furnished generous bribes so that none were ever passed. The heads of Shinra Inc. saw immediately the inherently massive fiscal opportunites in the remote, secluded town - known only to those who ranked high enough to be considered associates to the company - and wasted no time in spreading the word amongst Midgar's A-list VIPs. The once-quaint town of Costa Del Sol had become an exclusive resort destination almost overnight; open only to the most priviledged of the world's upper class, and with its main attraction the ability to obtain whatever you could possibly desire. Reputation held that they would cater to any taste, and from what Zhi had seen of it when he visited years ago, the reputation was by no means falsified. The district of brothels, inns, and drug dens ran the entire length of the city- and Zhi was certain some of the girls and boys on display in the windows had been no more than ten or eleven years old.

Like all celebrity secrets, however, the existence of Costa Del Sol had not long ago finally begun to permeate the lower classes. Shinra - with the assistance of the Turks - ran an extremely successful damage control operation as soon as it got word, and consequently managed almost seamlessly to mask it with a positive image. The sex trade was immediately sent underground and the company went public with a campaign that heralded the construction of an 'exotic, sunny, family resort destination'.

They set to open luxury cruises and all-inclusive vacation packages to the city in the next two months. He allowed himself a private smile- Zhi couldn't possibly have dreamed of a better cover up himself.

The inclusion of Sofia as the newest member of his team cemented the understanding that the people of the new city would work in cooperation with Shinra Inc. in keeping the town's history totally classified. All of the Turks, of course, were privvy to the information, and many of those who worked in the brothels in the slums knew of Costa Del Sol's sordid past, but once the money began to roll in from the new tourism industry Zhi was sure no one would feel the need to say anything further on the matter. He had hoped to be able to travel to the city one last time before it was overrun with commerce - and due to their involvement in the cover-up all of the Turks had been offered a first class voyage to the place any time they wished - but given the new mission he doubted it would be possible. Such was the life of a Turk.


So caught up was he in his thoughts on Sofia's homeland- that when his focus returned to the road he was frozen instantly by the sight of headlights appearing scarcely twenty feet away, like a twin ghosts emerging from the swirl of white, barelling directly into the path of the truck. Simultaneously, both vehicle's horns blared their warnings - Zhi slamming his hand onto the middle grip of the steering wheel to yank it desperately to the right, throwing them all to the side with a dizzying skid of tires. There was a terrifying few seconds of vertigo, all sense of weight and direction lost as the truck spun out of control, but his grim expectations of glass-shattering- screech of twisted metal - and lancing pain of the inevitable, violent crash never came; their movement slowing gently to a halt at the bottom of the hill.

Slowly, he sat up and looked around. They'd spun full circle - maybe several times - and had come to rest in the center of a large, clear square surrounded by houses. Stark buildings framed by black, impenetrable howling and snow, as familiar as the day Zhi had left. They were here. He let out a bitter laugh.

Welcome to Nibelheim.
Comments 
5th-Sep-2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
Asher, annoyed at Zhi's comment, was about to reply with something equally snide, when he was interupted by the blaring of the truck's horn and it's stomach-lurching movement as it skidded off the road. He panicked and grabbed the edge of his seat, convinced that this was, in fact, going to be the end of his existance in this world. But it didn't happen - instead, the truck slowed down and finally came to a stop in the middle of what he assumed was Nibelheim.

He grabbed his bag and got out of the truck, forcing his legs not to shake. Nibelheim was about the dingiest collection of little houses he'd ever seen, and that included Kalm. Right now, he didn't care, though. They weren't moving, and if he was lucky, there was a pot of coffee waiting for him somewhere.
7th-Sep-2005 01:34 am (UTC) - The typist is not awake.
Stopping. Finally. Sofia was tempted to simply leap out of the truck and kiss the ground. Riding around for long periods of time, for any period of time, was simply not her thing. But fate could be teasing her, and they could have stopped for some other reason. Best stay put until told to get moving.

Plus, her leg had gone to sleep anyway.

Of course, then Haring got out of the truck, the bastard, so she groaned and grabbed her own bag, trying not to fall out.
7th-Sep-2005 02:49 am (UTC)
He noticed the movement of the other two a few moments too late to stop Asher from his rather expedient exit- but came out of his meditative calming quickly enough to lean over and take hold of the other rookie's sleeve before she could slide all the way over to follow suit. Though they were finally in Nibelheim, they hadn't quite arrived at their destination. And it would be dangerous to try to walk from here to say the least, given the blinding flurry of snow that stood between then and their lodging. It would be all too easy for any one of them to turn in the wrong direfction, wander past the houses... if they were lucky, maybe miss the cliffs...

Even then- with no knowledge of their surroundings, and likely inadequately prepared, the two even stood a chance of never making it. Taking flack from his boss for allowing the two newest recruits to wander off and freeze to death was not at the top of Zhi's list of priorities today.

Well... maybe if he only let the street rat... No. Drake wouldn't be pleased. Pity.

Shaking his head, he caught the crook of Sofia's elbow to guide her firmly back into her seat and leaned past her to call out the open door, "Just where did you assume to be going, Haring? Have a date with an icicle that I was unaware of- or would you like to get back into the vehicle so that we can actually get to our destination?" He tapped the gas impatiently, though the truck had long since been set in neutral, to remind the youngest Turk that the engine was in fact still running.
7th-Sep-2005 03:07 am (UTC)
...Goddamnit. The last thing Asher wanted to do was get back in that truck, but he had no idea where he was, at least in specifics, and Zhi would probably make him walk through the snow if he didn't get back in. And the cold was already whipping through his not terribly warm suit coat, which made the much warmer truck a more bearable idea.

He muttered 'Yeah, fuck you too' under his breath, just quietly enough that Zhi wouldn't hear, and climbed back in with his bag.
10th-Sep-2005 09:19 am (UTC)
The white noise of the wind roaring past the open door of the vehicle may have been enough to effectively drown out any sounds that would have otherwise carried past Asher's lips; but nothing could have hidden their movement from Zhi's perceptive gaze.

Briefly he contemplated coming back with a sharp, ominous "What was that, Haring?"- but a look at the youth's face made him decide against it. While it technically constituted insubordination - not something Zhi usually took lightly - he knew all three of them were exhausted right now, and the street rat looked blatantly shaken by the near miss they'd just had. He would do him the favor of allowing him one perfunctory strike before ruining his record, and hopefully some of the tension would ease by tomorrow morning. Zhi would have a private word with him once they were safely situated in their lodging- let him off this once without calling him out in front of Sofia.

He waited until the door was closed to ease off the brake, and once again make their way through the drab town square to the road at the end of it that lead to their destination. Completed only a year before Zhi had become a Turk, the presence of Shinra Mansion was relatively new to Nibelheim and not something he had had the pleasure of seeing firsthand yet. Very few missions actually caused the Turks to travel far outside of Midgar, and his vision of the mountain town had, as such, remained unchanged since leaving it so many years prior; so the sight that rose toward them out of the blowing curtain of ice and snow was as startling to him as it was to the other passengers.

Shinra Mansion loomed over the dwellings that made up the rest of the town- miniscule in comparison to it's imposing presence. The sharp spires and terraces - reaching for the sky like claws into the whirling storm - seemed dark and threatening against the gloom. It was easily five times the size of any of the other buildings that thronged the road, stopping some distance before high, pillared stone walls- which ringed the courtyard to shut out any outside access. As far as Zhi knew it had been all but uninhabited for a few months now since the incident that had temporarily halted construction of the planned Nibelheim reactor- the solitary presence of the superintendent that had been hired for its upkeep all the life the grandiose building contained.

Having had word of their arrival, the gates had been opened and the light was on in the guardhouse- the glow from the tiny building revealing the form of a man inside, who waited until Zhi pulled the truck up to the steps to press the button that swung them shut automatically behind him. In the next few moments the door opened and shut, and a figure raced out over the icy ground- slipping and sliding in his hurry to catch the passenger door and yank it open; a young, thin, dark haired man - cheeks red with the cold - who slipped again on the ice as the door swung out and leaned in to greet them.

"Welcome to Shinra Mansion! I'm Derrik Striyen- can I get your bags?" Not waiting for an answer, having spotted the luggage resting on the floor of the vehicle, he dove to retrieve it and make off up the steps to the huge double doors of the main entrance.

Zhi shook his head in wonderment for a moment, then gestured to the door- opening his own and dropping neatly out.

"Well, now we're here."
11th-Sep-2005 05:03 am (UTC)
Asher was in awe as they approached the mansion, which was somewhat of a shock after the tiny, dirty village they had just passed through. It was huge - closer in size to most factory buildings he'd seen, rather than a house. Kinda like home. Nicer, though. And more house-like.. The automatic gate completed the image - this was ShinRa, alright.

He was a little bewildered at the young man who popped up to greet them, and then made off with their bags. ...Shit. Hope he doesn't look in those. His lockpicks were right on top, and while the Turks might not care so much, he wasn't sure the rest of ShinRa felt the same. Besides, seeing his stuff in someone else's hands without his permission drove him crazy. He was almost tempted to run after Derrik and grab it back, but that was bound to make someone ask questions, and he was about ready to throttle anyone who tried that right now. He settled for hopping out of the truck after Zhi and following Derrik up the stairs, making sure to keep his bag in sight.

The room that greeted them after passing through the doors was almost impressive as the outside. There was a huge expanse of finished wood, with a large carpet in the middle. Along the far wall a huge staircase split and went up to a balcony around the top of the room. Crystal chandeliers hung down for the ceiling. Wow...ShinRa doesn't do anything small, do they...

He stopped to stare for a bit, until he realized that Zhi and Derrik had gone on ahead, and walked a little faster to catch up.
20th-Sep-2005 08:51 pm (UTC)
"This way, this way!"

The young superintendent Derrik was already heading up the stairs in bounds, taking them two at a time, when Zhi stepped into the building. He was practically forced to give chase just to keep up - his legs complaining after having the luxury of sitting still for nearly a day and a half - but he did so somewhat gratefully; the rush of blood back to his extremities was welcome, if somewhat uncomfortable.

There wasn't much time for him to examine the decor, but it immediately struck him as somewhat odd. Each of the Shinra branch offices that Zhi had visited in his time with the Turks had looked much the same- clean, professional lines, modern furnishings... whereas this place was full of rich tones and antiques, a gilded sort of opulence that was too traditional for the cutting-edge persona of the new corporation. He couldn't help but wonder whether or not Shinra had actually designed it, or had simply commandeered it when it was decided that Nibelheim would be the first foriegn reactor site. Derrik didn't provide much insight on the matter, too busy calling off the rooms as they passed and giving him the layout of the place; no history involved.

The back of his dark hair bobbed a little as he turned briskly to the right and walked down one of the twin, wrap-around balconies that edged the top of the stairs and lead off into the hallways and ballrooms of the upper level.

"So! You all have rooms up here in the east wing. The bell tower's up here too but I don't really know how you get to it... not that I think we'll be needing to ring a bell for anything, but you know- thought I'd mention. The west wing's got mostly conference rooms and the ballroom and the first floor has baths and the kitchen and some storage. Bathrooms are at the end of the hall on all the floors... and... Oh! Here we are!" He rounded the corner of a confined hallway, dimly lit by oil sconces, to where three doors hung open to reveal one large and two smaller guest rooms. He dumped Sofia and Asher's things inside the doors of the latter - then must have noted Zhi's warning look and walked sheepishly into the last to carefully set his bag at the foot of the bed.

"Here's where you'll be staying, Mr. Zhi... uh... Sir."

He knew it was bordering on uncivil, but he continued deconstructing the youth with his eyes - inwardly wondering just how he came to have this job; was he a native of the town or had he been shipped in from Midgar's upper crust? With the nondescript accent and mannerisms it was impossible to tell. Derrik began to fidget nervously. Zhi simply looked over his shoulder, waiting for the other two.

"Is there anything else you'll be-?" At the raise of Zhi's hand he fell silent automatically, allowing him to interrupt.

"Wait a moment for my associates to arrive, please. I'm sure they'll be interested in getting something hot to drink- at the very least." With that he tapped his foot impatiently, already dubious about the details that seemed out of place - minor as they were - and already composing a report to Drake in his head.
21st-Sep-2005 12:00 am (UTC)
Asher was lagging behind, mostly as an attempt to keep out of the line of Zhi's glare - he looked like he was growing increasingly more irritated with Derrik by the minute. Ash didn't entirely blame the guy - he was used to Ally's near incessant chatter, but in the mood he was in after the trip here it was getting on even his nerves.

It also gave him a chance to inspect the building a bit more, too, though. Most of the decor seemed in line with the main room they entered into - old-fashioned, but in a way that radiated power and prestige. Most of the construction was fairly new, though. As they passed doors, he surveyed the locks out of what was now habit - they were definitely top-of-the-line. Shinra didn't fuck around with security. Something to remember for the future, I think

He caught up a bit as Derrik came to a stop and tossed his bag into one of the two smaller rooms. He was happy to see that each of them had their own room - the thought of staying with Zhi was just short of horrifying. The rooms looked pretty nice, too - basic furnishings, but plenty of warm-looking blankets on the bed. Better than what he had at home, anyway.

He was just in time to catch Zhi saying "I'm sure they'll be interested in getting something hot to drink- at the very least." and decided now was a good time to make his desires known.

"Yeah, I could kill for some hot coffee right now."
14th-Oct-2005 07:36 am (UTC)
The sight of Asher appearing in the doorway wasn't an unexpected one, in fact, Zhi was privately pleased that the boy had actually managed to keep up with the spry, dogged pace that seemed to be the mark of their host. Especially since the waning look in his eyes and the tired sag to his shoulders that loudly proclaimed that the rookie Turk was not at all used to this kind of punishment. In truth he looked just about ready to topple over unconscious in the next few breaths. Just one more exciting perk of working for Shinra Inc. that he would have to grow used to or burn out in the attempt.

"Marvelous idea, Haring. If you would Derrik?" He agreed aloud, turning an expectant - if polite - look on the eager groundskeeper. It was, in actuality, a much practiced expression- designed to leave little to no room for comments or questions, while still appearing entirely within social boundaries.

It worked, of course, and with a quick open and shut of his mouth, the younger man hurried off to appropriate his request. He gave a simple, satisfied nod to himself... then without any forewarning he rounded slowly on the new hire- the former pleasantness dissolving rapidly from his features.

"I presume," he started, the deliberate weight of his words blatant in his precise tone, "...that it is simply your lack of experience in working for organizations such as this - and the sometimes trying conditions involved - that are causing your lapses in judgment tonight, Haring?"

It was no mistake that his voice sounded more than a little threatening. There was no way in hell he was going to let any boyscout on his first day on the job get away with mouthing him off.

To clue him in to what he'd just referred to he kindly elaborated, "Although I certainly can not hear you telling me to fuck off through thirty mile an hour winds, I assure you, my eyesight is more than adequate to accommodate where auditory means fail."

With a few scant moments pause to allow the revelation to sink in - in a manner that blatantly displayed that he was not making idle threats - he added, "If I catch it again, I will not hesitate to write you up for insubordination. This is your first and last strike- and I am letting you off this time only because I can relate to the difficulties of being broken in on top priority cases. Make no mistake Haring, if I have to tolerate this sort of behavior from you..." He narrowed his eyes, dropping his voice to a menacing depth,

"Write-ups will only be the beginning. Do I make myself clear?"
16th-Oct-2005 06:31 pm (UTC)
Asher tried not to collapse in relief as Derrik left, hopefully for the coffee. He needed caffeine, and he needed it now. He also needed a hot shower and possibly a nap, but got the feeling neither of those were coming any time soon, so he'd settle for coffee and being left alone for five minutes.

Unfortunately, Zhi didn't share this feeling, and decided to tear into him for something Asher had figured he hadn't even noticed. God...he's like some sort of fucking stalker. Watching everything I do. It was the latest on the growing list of things he didn't like about this job. He briefly contemplated punching Zhi in the face - it would make him feel better for the moment, and get Zhi to shut up, but it would only get him into more trouble later on. And he couldn't up and quit. Even if that option was available to him, he was stuck in the god-forsaken middle-of-nowhere, with no way out except on foot, and in this weather, he'd probably freeze to death before getting anywhere. So Shinra it was, even if he got the feeling that things were only going to get nastier between him and Zhi.

Zhi finished his little tirade, and Asher forced down any number of rude replies and settled on a careful "Yes, sir. Perfectly clear." He was going to have to step carefully if he wanted to avoid any more trouble. He didn't like Zhi one bit, but Archer wasn't so bad, and Ash knew if Zhi passed along any of these little encounters to him, he'd be the type to use the 'I'm very disappointed in you' look that was infuriating because it worked.

He heard approaching footsteps and prayed that it was Derrik, and more importantly, his coffee. He needed something to go right for him today.
3rd-Apr-2006 12:53 pm (UTC)
The grinding rumble of twin engines - audible even over the howl of the wind - would have nearly been sufficient to wrest his attention from the gratifying sight of the Haring's grudging apology. As it stood, he had turned halfway to the window in curious surprise at the unexpected interruption by the time the insistent pulse of his cell going off in the breast pocket of his blazer snapped him instantly to attention.

He pivoted the rest of the way; half in order to stare down at the approaching transport vehicle with interest, half out of ingrained etiquitte. There was no mistaking the unique tri-toned buzz that signaled that this was a call from Drake. He answered before the ringer even had a chance to go off.

"Sir?"

To the younger Turk it must have been confounding. All of a sudden the ubiquitous silence building's aged walls erupted into a flurry of movement as a team of three SOLDIERS hailed Derrick from the entryway, and just as quickly Sofia was herded out the door. Above her and behind a frozen windowpane, he watched as they moved her with militaristic efficiency into the truck- which waiting for her with the doors open and the engine still running. Beyond the distraction it was all he could to do keep his attention focused on his boss' brief, clipped explanation. More orders from the top, urgent and preempting involvement in the current endeavor. Not his jurisdiction. Need to know basis.

It was an inevitability of this job he supposed. Having worked for Shinra this long bore the realization that his automatic response; 'Of course. I understand, sir.' wasn't required to actually imply understanding; some things you were required to simply accept as out of your clearance. Nonetheless, he gave it at once and nodded his assent to empty air absently- the social gesture coming unbidden, as they do, despite the older man not really being present to see it.

Seven seconds later, a click as his reception dropped off, and he'd just lost half of his team to bureaucracy. Wonderful.

It was with no small measure of sarcasm that he turned back to the newest Turk - he had to imagine that the smile on his face must look more like a sardonic grimace at this point - and he couldn't help but give a bitter little chuckle as he intoned, "Well Haring. Looks like today's your lucky day. Sofia just got served a one way ticket to Costa Del Sol for the remainder of her term... so it's just you and me now."
4th-Apr-2006 04:17 am (UTC)
Asher could feel his heart sink as Sofia left, and the nasty expression on Zhi's face didn't alleviate the impending sense of doom one bit. He was a little confused as to what was going on, still not entirely awake and with the rest of the world, but the end result was clear enough - it was him and Zhi now.

Well, fuck. It wasn't really that he was going to miss Sofia's company - she was nice enough, but he wasn't enough of a people person to want her around just for that. The real importance was that she was someone to take the heat instead of him, when it came to Zhi. And now...well, he was royally screwed, pretty much. Middle of nowhere, in a blizzard, with no way back to the city, and a boss that hated him and nobody else to take it out on. Definitely screwed there.

At this point, though, he didn't even have the energy to be properly irritated about the whole mess. He gave Zhi a half-hearted glare, trying not to betray how much he didn't want to deal with any of this - no sense in giving him any more ammo. "I noticed. If you don't need me for anything, I'm going to go take a nap. Or something." Not waiting for an answer, he slipped into the room that his bag had been thrown into, and closed the door.
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