Rain...and a sheer drop. Talk about taking him out of his comfort zone.
They'd put him in a spot beneath the still-unfinished Sector 5 Plate to patrol the underside maintenance area...which was exposed to the weather. Home base was concerned of the possibility that these monster complaints were not unfounded, and that a serious infestation could lead to the overrun of a Mako Reactor by dangerous creatures, thus making it impossible to use and provide energy to the city of Midgar. Eh heh... They weren't so much concerned for the wellbeing of anybody, but rather the loss in profit and resources. Joe took to the lighter side of it, though. As a result of his work, people would be protected, be able to work in safer conditions, and life goes on. The truth is, the complaints were quite justified, though. He'd already carefully executed about a dozen Grashstrikes, and they did indeed infest. They had queens and hunter-killer breeds, a dangerous mutagenic species brought forth by extreme Mako exposure to a species previously more benign. Mac had told him that in the early days of Midgar an Shinra, the reactors were far less efficient than they are now, that huge clouds of the residue in the air would gather like clouds and rain down in the mountains. That was how that massive swamp to the East was formed. That was how the Midgar Zolom was born.
"Proceed to the target."
He was coming across a less-than-sturdy area of catlwalks now. Probings into this area revealed heavy web content in this area, as well as signs of large movement, but no heat. Well, the Queens were like any of their kind: Insectoid reptile-things. The wouldn't show on thermal. They'd be nothing but-
Wait! That noise!
Lots of rotorblades suddenly...and a spotlight!
"What the hell?!"
"GYAA HAH HAH HAH!"
He took off, running along the catwalk as the Shinra robot opened fire. He was an armored and helmeted silhouette in its sights, trying but not quite locking on. Dammit, he'd done it to him again! Sent him on another wild chocobo chase so he could set some death machine on him! Last time, it was a prototype for the new Custom Sweepers, now this! The Valkyrie was an air support unit of great speed and decent firepower, definitely not something he should take on alone, even as a SOLDIER. The thing flitted into view over his path, gunfire pinging against his oversized blade and the metal grill under his feet. He had to get under the plate proper so it couldn't bring so many of its weapons to bear. He had nothing on him that could immediately attack it without taking...a substantial leap of faith.
Despite the loud laughter in his radio, he proceeded on. He couldn't linger anywhere too long, as the machine would simply reposition itself and make whatever cover he found worthless. Only with a big overhead 'ceiling' would the machine fall back, as its rotors would easily get damaged there. The Queen leapt out of cover to attack him, suddenly, and he just leapt past it, letting the ugly creature take the damage intended for him.
"Get out of the way, you worthless beast..."
"The Valkyrie is currently on 'Search And Destroy Mode', sir!"
"Then, give me manual control."
A'say what? The flying robot suddenly arced overhead and slammed down, breaking catwalk and platform rather than operating its guns. Joe leapt high, grabbing the lattice-work and structure holding some of this stuff up, and began climbing.
"I have you now."
KZZZANK!! Too late. They were just under the undamaged part of the Sector 5 Plate now, and Heidegger had pushed the Valkyrie too high, causing the machine rotors to hit the effective ceiling and ricochet tha machine downwards. Seeing this as a prime opportunity, Joe flung himself down at the thing, arrow-headed sword first down at the middle area between all rotors. With a scream, he struck, jamming the end of his blade in and causing all rotors to lock up, depriving the robot of flight power. They fell...
FINAL FANTASY VII REDONE
He hit the ground with a grunt, surrounded by images rapidly fading into darkness.
"Simulation ended! SOLDIER, report to Director Heidegger immediately!"
This is Midgar, the city of Mako, jewel off the Eastern Continent, the most advanced human settlement in the world. There are many towns and other cities, but none quite so grand and humungous as this. If you're a citizen here, you're in luck...unless you live down in the slums, that is. The Plate structure making this a two-level city makes it a massive metropolis on top and a heap of squalor beneath. The man leaving the simulator area now, Joe Hockner, tends to favor a guards barracks so he can be ready to act as need-be. He is engrossed in the security aspect of running the city, but there are many other way to live by, in and out of this place, for...and against Shinra Inc. For instance...
The voice penetrated the silence like a bullet after the dooor had been opened. Whatever she had been doing here down in the office of the Turks, whatever assignment she'd been busy on, it was interrupted by the red-headed man suddenly bursting in with a smile on his face. Reno... Out of all the Turks, he was the loudest and quite possibly the most boisterous. He was still good at what he did, of course, but you wouldn't be very well inclined to put him on a stealth mission, say. How he got along with Rude, who would just cough politely when getting your attention, was anybody's guess. Strangely, Rude wasn't even with him, this time, as he walked over and held up a disk.
"Boss man wanted me to give you this while he's busy investigating something. Rude and I will be breaking in a new recruit, so it's all on you, for now."
He handed off the disk and left the room. New recruit? Okay, granted, the Turks were spread a little thin, as of now, but really? In any case...yeah...new assignment.
Upon inserting the disk into a computer and open the file, a video of Tseng, head of the Turks, would begin to play.
"Greetings, Agent Lovell. I understand that you may be busy on your current assignment, but this is of some importance, as well, and may or may not be linked with it. Lately, there have been reports of a number of cyber-attacks, acts of aggression committed using the World Wide Network. Some of these would include sabotage of programming while others would be the unlawful acquisition of data. For security purposes, this message will be self-deleting, so that the perpetrator remains unaware of our being onto them. Unfortunately, I cannot give a great deal of information on this hacker, because they have gone through a long list of pseudonyms to cover their trail, employing a number of programming tricks worthy of the Turks in this area. I wish for you to pin down this person's current WWN handle, if not their actual identity, and find out where they are operating from. Memorize the list of network handles now appearing on your console screen, and find out which one your opponent last was, and is using currently."
Once she hit confirm, the entire file would be deleted to prevent the hacker from ever finding it. Likewise, even closing the file out by any other means, including just ejecting it or unplugging the computer would cause the self-erase to occur. Security meant that much.
The sounds of something made of flesh dragging itself in the dark.
The area was dark, always dark and always metallic.
The voice called out, pleading for aid...
...and the horrible flesh-on-metal sound would continue.
Let me out...please...
It...couldn't be human...could it?
Wha...? What? Oh, she must've dozed off for a second. It happened every now and then, especially when she was at low power. Naturally, she always made sure she wasn't at risk of running out, sometimes...just sometimes...she would doze off...and the dream would return. Naisha did not always dream this dream, but it was most-certainly one that reminded her of the years she had lost to Shinra's experimentation...and yet this dream only started some years back, the same year - in fact - the Gongaga Reactor exploded. The voice was a woman's, but it was neither her own, nor that of her mother's or anybody she knew, so...what was it, then?
More to the point, though, what was she doing right now? Right now, while...
...Aiko got another goddamn message from those two bastards that ran the Corneo Colliseum. Let's be clear here: There wasn't anything wrong with the money. That was never an issue. They paid up if you won, hands down. However, there were other considerations to be made. As a pro rollerblade racer, her focus was in the races, and in supplimenting the gil she earned from those with a series of jobs that had not included that place for certain reasons. Oh sure, she could probably compete, but to be perfectly honest, you never knew would would happen under Scotch and Kotch's roof, 'cause it was really Don Corneo's roof. There were no rules, and no guarantee that the injuries you got wouldn't be potentially crippling. You took your life into your own hands in that place. That was a damn good reason alone for someone who lived for speed and acceleration. The other reason was, of course, that the Don was scum, and you don't want someone like that looking you over. Don Corneo's other habits were well-known... Still, it was up to her, whatever she was doing right now. After all, she made a living as is, did she not?
And these were but a few off the lives to be found in Midgar, but now...let us focus our attentions external to the greay city...and instead focus on...the boat. Here, on Shinra Transport #18, were some people of certain interest. They were all bound for the same location and had boarded this boat to get there. West to East, they were on their way from continent to continent, their purposes all different, yet all aimed in one particular direction.
For Tace Delviro, a mercenary he! He was looking to take some bounties or hunt some monsters, the likes of which even Shinra high-rollers may pay to be rid of.
For Ezekiel Cross, answers doth he seek! He returned to his home to find it no longer his to live in. Someone, probably Shinra, had taken everything from him, right under his nose!
And for Kanade Toragami, it was the Avalanche meet! At last, word had come down. They wanted her in Midgar, but there was a problem to handle before that: Junon.
They were all passengers on this boat, perhaps aware of each other in the capacity AS travelers, but not as what they truly were underneath that. Would you know that the bounty hunter was a Wutai sympathizer not attached to Avalanche? Would you know that this Wutai girl WAS a part of that anti-Shinra group? Would you know that the man with a partially-burnt face had avoided death in his hometown by nearly dying to a rare breed of Northern Dragon, the Dark Dragon? Even HE didn't know about that! Kanade would meet a pair of agents in Junon. Ezekiel and Tace might be on their own, assuming they hadn't spoken to anyone else who could possibly help them out. They were now coming into the port at Junon, Shinra's naval and airforce base.
Nobody here is on any wanted posters or anything...right?
Lastly, a briefing room in Fort Condor...
He had been here since his mother dropped him off to infiltrate Midgar, searching for his father, who had been taken by Shinra for reasons unknown. It was supposed that it was due to his - their - heritage as a Cetra, one of the Ancients, that this had occurred, but it wasn't exactly something you could ask about. Not without exposing oneself. No, Akira Ayumu remained hidden here, in a Shinra tower fortress that had gone against Shinra. Their reason for such was perhaps the kindest one of all: To save lives, rare lives even. Sitting atop the reactor-laden fortress was that of a giant - and we mean bloody massive - condor, a creature which could cause windstorms by its wingbeats alone. In fact, this was the very reason Shinra couldn't just send in some kind of air support to remove it from their precious reactor, which it used to warm its eggs. The beast was so powerful that any air vehicles would simply be flung far away, crash into the ground, or...it would actually get off its perch and wreck them immediately. The avian beast seldom moved, but after the first few attempts to bring a plane or helicopter over failed miserably, Shinra gave up and tried to attack the fort itself from the ground. Difficult going, of course. Apart from the denizens who lived here defending the tower structure, they hired mercenaries whenever they could - paid by the fight - to handle things. Akira himself was always welcome to earn his keep that way or in other ways, and was thus able to sit in on meetings like this one as the Commander began to speak.
"We've received information ahead of time that another Shinra attack is incoming. We weren't expecting it, but since you who are here are here, it's pretty much all hands on deck, as they say. Everyone will be compensated fairly, of course, and we are fortunate to have an agent of Avalanche with us, who brought the information herself upon learning of it. Avalanche has, as you know, always tried to send a little money our way, if not support. Young lady?"
The gathering of mercenaries and Akira would watch as this young lady stepped before them now, giving them a quick wave and a smile.
"Hey there. I'm Jessie. Let's get started, shall we?"
"Right! So, this is our layout...ish. It's not drawn to scale, but basically this is how it is. As some of you already know, the area leading up to the fort has a number of chokepoints that have been used to protect the area from Shinra forces. Now, normally, they've been just sending in the troops and a commander to try and handle things. Unfortunately, that's not the case here."
The next slide was inserted and...oh crap. That's not good. It was a Shinra mech-unit, a Sweeper.
"These have been used primarily in Midgar, but they're coming out with new ones that are programmed to operate outside of Midgar and handle more-extreme conditions. This is a Custom Sweeper Prototype, and I saw these being loaded on a heavy transport. Could be just a few, but they don't call 'em Sweepers for nothin'."
No, they call 'em Sweepers because they sweeper their guns around and kill everything in sight under a hail of gunfire.
"Fortunately, I've been uhh...wandering 'round your battle grounds and planting a few surprises for them. Just look for the sign of the cartoon dog and you'll know where they are and how 'splodey they get. And don't worry about tripping them yourselves. The bombs are set to go off with a reading of heavy weight. Just don't get too close! Oh, and I'll be joining you this time around."
With that, she went back into her chair as the Commander of the place took center stage, once more.
"Alright then, you all know the situation. The attack could come at any time. Take your positions and keep a sharp eye out."
Get prepared and get out there... It's gonna be a bumpy night with alot of booming!