Not much remained of ShinRa’s biological research center. Located in Junon, it had been the site of various experiments for nearly twenty years. There was a time when the facility had been shut down, with the relocation of Sister Ray to the company’s main headquarters in Midgar, but the doors had once again been opened in recent months under the orders of President Rufus Shinra.
Despite the fact that the center was now being used to conduct experiments that – if successful – would assist the Planet and its people in healing the wounds caused by the catastrophic events in Sephiroth’s wake, there were still those who vehemently opposed ShinRa and everything they stood for. Many found it hard to believe the president’s change of heart, and considered the reopening of the facility to be a sign that another catastrophe was merely waiting around the corner.
Several anti-ShinRa groups formed, seemingly overnight, and began sending threatening messages to the company’s young president. At first, Rufus simply laughed off the threats, saying that the people would come to realize soon enough that he was a changed man, and ShinRa a changed company. Things only continued to steadily grow worse, however, even despite a signed agreement between himself and Reeve Tuesti, head of the World Restoration Organization.
So when ShinRa employees began complaining about receiving similar threats at their homes, Rufus had no choice but to seek out the perpetrators and put an end to the fear that was fast becoming a plague within his newly built empire and the lives of the innocents who worked for him. He called upon his most trusted employees, the members of the Investigation Division of the General Affairs Department – his beloved Turks. With their help, he was able to locate and eradicate the source of all the problems… but not before it was too late.
Shortly after the call came in that the last of the terrorist groups had been dealt with, Rufus received an anonymous tip that a bomb had been planted in the research facility in Junon. Thinking fast, he ordered the entire building to be evacuated. Thankfully, all one-hundred-fifty-two employees were safely accounted for when the explosion occurred a scant three minutes after the evacuation order had been made.
This successful evacuation was precisely why Reno was so annoyed with his current assignment. He and Rude had received the orders before even making it to their office, and by ten-thirty they were landing the company helicopter just outside of the perimeter set up around the ruined building to keep curious passers-by out.
“Remind me again why the hell we’re here?” the redhead asked his partner, stepping carefully over a pile of rubble as he shined the beam of his flashlight about.
“We’re looking for survivors,” Rude replied, running a gloved hand over his bald head to remove the layer of dust that had settled there. While he enjoyed blowing things up, he personally hated scouting the site of an explosion because there always seemed to be a permanent wave of dust floating in the air, which inevitably would settle on top of his head, making it itch something terrible.
“I know why Rufus said we should come here,” Reno continued, stopping to move aside a door that had only come half unhinged in the blast. “That doesn’t tell me why we are here. I mean, isn’t this just a waste of our time? They said everyone got out safely. Even if they didn’t, what makes him think anyone could have survived that blast, huh?”
“Would you rather be sitting back at headquarters, bored off your ass?” Rude asked, turning his perpetually shaded eyes toward his companion.
Reno threw up his hands in exasperation. “All I’m saying is, this is a fucking waste of our time, yo.”
Rude shook his head, but kept his mouth shut as he turned away from Reno and made his way to the opposite side of the room. They had handled each of the facility’s expansive laboratories the same way, splitting up at the door and meeting in the middle. He could still hear Reno complaining even with all that space between them, and knew he was in for a headache caused by the younger man’s incessant bitching. Trying to keep his mind on anything other than how much he wanted to punch Reno just to shut him up, he began humming a little song to himself as he scanned the area with his flashlight, once again reaching up with his free hand to wipe the dust from his head.
“Find anything?” Reno called from across the room, his back still turned as he continued his own search.
“Nothing,” Rude called back over his shoulder.
“Of course you haven’t,” came the reply Rude had been expecting. “We’re not gonna find anything in this shit.”
Rude’s grip tightened slightly on his flashlight. Reno was his partner, had been for over eight years now. He loved the kid like a brother, but sometimes he could just be so damn annoying…
His thoughts were interrupted as the beam of his flashlight came to rest on something in particular amongst the rubble.
“Reno!” he shouted, setting his flashlight down on the ground with the light pointed in the same direction. He moved closer to the rubble, discovering it to be one rather large piece of the wall between the room they were in and the one next door.
“What is it?” Reno asked as he approached, shining his light in Rude’s face.
“Get that out of my eyes,” Rude ordered, holding up his hands to shield himself from the offensive glare. “Look,” he added once Reno had lowered his flashlight, pointing toward the fallen wall.
Reno took a few steps forward, leaning down over the rubble. His blue eyes squinted at the spot Rude had indicated, but all he saw were pieces of sheet rock and plaster dust.
“Man, what the hell are you oh!” he exclaimed as he finally saw what his partner had noticed. Among the debris surrounding the fallen wall, the tips of three fingers were barely visible.
“Help me get this wall up,” Rude told him, gesturing to the opposite end of the fallen wall with a nod of his head. Reno remained fixed to the spot, his mouth hanging open slightly in disbelief.
“Reno!” Rude yelled, finally getting his attention. The redheaded Turk tucked his flashlight into the pocket of his navy blue blazer and moved to stand opposite his partner. The two men bent down to grasp the edges of the wall, and with Rude’s signal they lifted. At first, it refused to move, but on the second try it finally gave way and began to shift.
“Careful,” Rude warned as the wall began to slip from Reno’s fingers. He shifted his grip and with a loud grunt they managed to finally lift the fallen slab of plaster and sheet rock enough to move it aside.
“I’ll be damned,” Reno managed to say through gasped breaths as he turned his eyes to what or, rather, who had been lying beneath the wall.
She appeared to be fairly young, though given her current state he really couldn’t attempt to make an accurate estimation of her age. Like everything else in the building, she was covered in dust, but he could still make out that she was wearing some sort of hospital gown. Her hair was ashen with the plaster coating it, but appeared to be dark underneath, and her skin was pale. That could have been due to the dusty residue, as well, but he had a feeling she was naturally fair-skinned.
“Damn shame,” he muttered as his attention shifted from her physical appearance to her injuries. Aside from a few superficial cuts and bruises on her legs and arms, her body appeared to be mostly free of any signs of injury. On the other hand, she had a pretty bad scrape down the left side of her face, and a nasty gash at the top of her forehead disappearing into her hair.
Reno squatted next to her to better look at the head injury, and winced in pain as he cut open the palm of his right hand on a shard of glass lying on the floor.
“Son of a bitch!” he shouted, lifting his hand and pulling the glass from it. Rude tossed him a handkerchief and he tied it around the wound to help stop the bleeding. His eyes traveled across the floor around them, and he discovered the entire area was littered with pieces of glass in varying sizes and shapes.
Reno had been paying so much attention to his own injury that he hadn’t noticed Rude checking the girl for signs of life.
“C’mon,” he drawled in disbelief. “How is that possible? She was crushed under a wall.”
Rude shrugged. “She has a pulse, Reno. It’s weak, but it’s there. I’m not saying she’s going to live, but she’s alive right now.”
Reno sighed and used his uninjured hand to root around in his pockets for his mobile phone. Once he located it, he hit a button on his speed dial and brought the phone to his ear.
“This is Reno,” he said once someone answered on the other end. “Inform the President we’ve located a survivor, and send a medical team to the site immediately.”