To Hell and Regroup
Vincent Valentine considered his duty to ShinRa Corp a debt that had long since been paid off. That didn't mean he didn't remember what it was like to be in his suit and holster, and all the obligations that went with it. Even in his day, there was a kinship among Turks, and a reason why now he knew more about ShinRa's comings and goings than others of his coterie. Cloud and the others were always addressed with an ever-so-slightly too-familiar first name; Vincent was always Mr. Valentine.
If Turks respected little else, there was an implicit nod to seniority at all times.
Shining crystalline branches stirred slightly with the passage of Vincent's feet, and his rueful smile was lost in the high collar of his cloak. Sometime he would have to ask if that meant he was entitled to thirty years of back paychecks.
He passed, a blur of tattered red smoke, from treetop to treetop until he had reached the heart of the ancient city. The camp was empty, seemingly deserted, motorcycle tracks leading away from the great shell by the spring. They had been gone a whole day now. Vincent had been there some time, watching their comings and goings, listening in the shadows to the ringing sounds of their unnatural voices.
He had been watching the day they returned, triumphant, two limp prizes slung over the pommel of their motorcycles like game caught on the run. Vincent had seen the silver glint of a custom watchband and broken jacket zipper.
Debt or no, they were his comrades still.
The smooth inner chamber of the shell was eerily silent, spiraling upwards above him. Time had punched holes in the ancient sea-house, and moonlight filtered down on scattered weapons and technological debris; no food remains, no sleeping places, no sign of true life as Vincent knew it.
Except for the two dark shapes huddled in the corner, slumped and bloody, but still breathing.
They had been bound with whatever had come readily to hand, electrical cords and automotive wire, strips of shredded cloth and broken chain wrapped around their wrists and throats and anchored in the sharp shell-wall. There was little room for Vincent to insert the gleaming point of his claw armor and scissor the mismatched bindings open, but he managed. Tseng fell forward against his shoulder with a faint noise of pain.
"Help Elena," he said, with faded urgency. Vincent nodded.
The female Turk was unconscious, white to the lips with pain. Vincent raked the tangle of bindings away from her bruised neck, but she did not wake.
"Take her out of here," Tseng said, in a voice that was little more than a ghost of itself. "I can't walk, and you can't carry us both. Tell Rufus--"
"I wouldn't want to answer to Rufus without you," Vincent demurred, gathering Elena up in one arm. "It's just as well I wasn't planning on walking."
Red weightless fabric swirled around them and over them, pouring upwards through the largest of the shell-roof's openings. When it had gone, the room was empty.