Below the Plate, it was never like this – that wet-earth smell coupled with the sulphur scent of a lightning storm.
Below the Plate, down in the slums, rain dripped through drainage holes in each Sector, filtered and muddied by steel and grime.
Below the Plate, Reno never felt the rain hit his face straight on, never felt the electric crackle of lightning make the hair on his arms stand on end. Growing up in one of the poorest Sectors, Reno heard and felt the thunder of Midgar’s summer storms. When he was quite young it terrified him; huddled together with his family in a sheet-metal shack, a perfect conductor for a stray fork of lightning, had it not been for ShinRa’s carefully designed system of lightning rods, built right into each main support column, safely conducting deadly strikes of lighting directly into the ground.
Minerva bless the President! Old Lady Cawley would cry during a lightning storm. He had them put those lightning rods in to protect us, you know! Praise be to Ramuh! Even then, as a child, Reno knew it was bullshit; President ShinRa had made a big song and dance on ShinRa News Network about ‘protecting the citizens from deadly lightning.’ No, Reno realized, as he’d watched the ShinRa troopers on their patrol, securing each reactor prior to a storm. It was done to protect his investments. The reactors. Not us.
Eventually, Reno outgrew his fear, harnessing Ramuh’s gift to the world into his mag-rod. The childhood fear had transformed into an affinity for lightning, one that almost bordered on obsession. Above Plate, outside the city gates, Reno would chase storms in his old beater of a car, much to his partner’s chagrin. Rude doesn’t get it, he’ll never get it. The lightning, it’s a part of me.
Now, standing on the helipad atop ShinRa Headquarters, Reno noted with some irony that now it was he who was the investment – and, as a Turk, an expendable one at that. He heard the rooftop door open and did not turn around; Reno already knew it was Rude.
“S’up, partner?” Reno took in a deep lungful of air scented with the oncoming storm, and smiled. Rude pushed his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose – still wearing them despite the clouds rolling in – and grimaced.
“Storm’s coming. You know, this might not be the best place to hang out, Reno. You can watch the storm from inside the President’s office – “
“Nah, s’fine. You know I’d rather be out here, man.” He inhaled deeply again. “I love this shit. Want to experience the whole thing.”
“You might experience a bolt of lightning to the ass,” Rude grumbled. “Shut up and get inside. Boss is looking for you, anyways.”
“Give me a few. I’ll be back inside in a few, just tell Tseng I’m having my smoke break.”
Rude sighed audibly. “Fine. It’s probably your ninth one today, but whatever.”
Reno laughed, grinning at his partner as he retreated back into the building. He stood stock still, tilted his head to the heavens with his eyes shut, and smiled. He felt it coming, felt the air suddenly warm, felt the thunder rumbling in the skies above.
His smile grew wider, and he laughed joyfully, the rain pelting down; gentle at first, then the cloudburst gave way, and the rain came down in heavy sheets. Lightning forked in the purple-grey sky, striking one of the lightning conductors on the edge of the building, on Reno’s right-hand side. He patted the mag-rod hanging off of his wrist with his free hand, and waited.
Here it comes…it’s coming closer. Come on, baby!
Another loud CRACK, and lightning hissed through the sky, hitting a metal toolbox left out in the rain, not far from Reno. He could smell the smoke with this one, but remained rooted to the spot, wanting more of this, it was the thing he lived for.
Reno knew damned well it could very well kill him, but part of him wanted to get hit by lightning, just to see what it felt like. He took his mag rod in hand, pushed the button to let out a little juice, and held his arm upward.
He knew the storm was abating, it was starting to cool down even more, the winds were blowing clouds eastward; it would be passing over the chocobo grasslands next.
It was stupid probably, and he’d never admit it to another living soul, but Reno was mildly disappointed that the storm left, and he still couldn’t brag that he’d been hit by lightning.
He turned the button off on his EMR, smiled ruefully at the sun peeking through the clouds, and sighed.
“Maybe next time, then.”