Up in the air, Reno was waiting.
He idly tapped his fingers against the cyclic, leaning back in his seat and watching the snowflakes pass by the cockpit windows. In his headset he heard Elena’s and Tseng’s voices going back and forth at each other about the object they were told to locate and secure. In the back of the helicopter, Rude crouched on standby, typing on his PHS to pass the time. Reno wished Tseng and Elena would hurry up.
He had a bad feeling about this and he did not even know why. And it was not about the wind making the helicopter sway dangerously or the fog and snowflakes blocking most of his sight – he had flown through worse conditions but there was a nagging feeling in his mind. Though Reno could not fathom what could go wrong, the mission was so simple compared to the sometimes gruesome things the Turks had done before. They had strong evidence that the desired object was at the Northern Crater which was uninhabited by humans or monsters. Tseng was the best man at disposal and Elena, though still green, was damn good as well. Reno glanced in Rude’s direction but the bald man seemed completely relaxed.
“Hurry up, yo,” he drawled into the headset’s microphone.
The boredom and impatience in his voice were deliberate, supposed to cover up his concern and hopefully irk Tseng enough so he would search faster to get a chance to kick Reno’s ass as early as possible. He would give his glorified goggles to have Tseng in the seat beside him giving him a long and tiring lecture on professionalism and Elena sitting in the back with Rude, complaining about the motion sickness those weather conditions gave her.
When Tseng’s voice in his ear finally ordered Reno to come down, he quietly released a breath he did not know he had been holding. Thank Shiva. About time. Rude shoved his PHS back into the breast pocket of his suit and nodded to let his partner know he was ready. As soon as the redhead started to let the helicopter sink, gunshots began to ring in his headset, cracking and blurring out the shouts of Tseng and Elena. What the fuck...? Reno’s eyes widened in surprise. Who the hell is shooting down there? He cursed the storm that prevented him from lowering the aircraft at a higher speed. It was not necessary to look at Rude to know that he was just as surprised as him as Rude tore up the helicopter door much earlier than necessary, granting entrance to the biting, unforgiving cold of the Northern Crater. The same cold seemed to wrap around Reno’s heart when suddenly, grunts and gasps of pain filled his ears – from the last voice on the planet he ever wanted to hear them from. Shit, Tseng. Reno’s jaw clenched in dismay, and he cursed his sense of foreboding.
After what seemed like an eternity, shapes emerged from the fog, adding visuals to the eardrum-shattering noises of bullets being shot in quick succession. It took another few feet until the shapes became distinguishable. The lump in Reno’s throat threatened to choke him. A group of three young men, all with silver hair and clad in black were approaching; two of them shooting at a lone, slim figure desperately dodging bullets and firing back at the attackers. The blond bob haircut did not leave any room for speculation. It was Elena who staggered towards a broader frame sprawled out on the debris. From the way she carried herself, Reno could tell that she had already been hit by at least one bullet and a pang of concern gripped him. Yet, it did not compare to the absolute dread that accompanied looking at the man on the ground: Tseng. Blood oozed down his forehead and face but he moved, trying to get up only to be pushed down again by Elena. One of the bullets must’ve grazed his face. Though Tseng down meant he must have been hit by several projectiles, blood on his forehead would not stop him. Reno craned his neck to keep watching the scene as he moved the helicopter sideways, pointing the open door at Elena. When the blonde Turk saw an opening in the relentless firing, she threw a black container with all her might into Rude’s arms.
“Go!” she yelled at Rude, her face determined though she was shaking.
Reno sensed Rude’s hesitation. The smallest of the silver haired men had caught up to her and grabbed her by her suit jacket, uttering cynical words in a sly voice that did not even register in Reno’s blank mind. At least Rude seemed to have been shaken out of his frozen state by the man’s voice. “Get going!” he called to Reno and slammed the door shut.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I’m sorry Laney…Tseng. The redhead’s face showed regret and fear as he accelerated into top speed to get the aircraft out of the firearms’ reach. The security of the box was paramount. The safety of Rufus Shinra was paramount. Even at the potential cost of two team members. If those three got their hands on the box’ contents, they would all be screwed. From now on, they could not leave Rufus’ side for more than a minute.
When Rude slid into the passenger’s seat, the cursed black case in his left hand, Reno wiped the fear from his face, forcing his normal, cool exterior into place instead. Still, he could not hide the small frown that turned his lips into a thin line and furrowed his brows. Rude wore the same expression and neither dared to break the pregnant silence. They had a mission to complete. They had to be calm and collected, putting the greater needs before their own. Just like Tseng trained us. Reno stared ahead, avoiding looking at his partner or the object that was responsible for the mess – the object that might have sealed Tseng’s and Elena’s fate.
Up in the air, Reno prayed to every deity on this godforsaken planet that the woman he treated like a little sister and the man he loved were not dead.