Chapter 12: Seven Sins
It takes a lot of courage for someone with a lot of pride to admit that they are weak. To know one’s limits and listen to them, or to continue to battle those limits while striving to become stronger. Though, when it’s a rivalry in question, no one would wish to back down. Neither would one even come close to admitting their weakness, especially when you’re a fierce Ex-SOLDIER or a skillful, self-proclaiming ‘Greatest Ninja in the World’.
Elena had no idea what Tifa was thinking, assigning her to do some physical training with Yuffie Kisaragi! Sure, Tifa was the leader of the current operation, so she supposedly knew best, but how would she honestly benefit from Yuffie trying to kill her? She didn’t even get along with the girl. She never did! Since they met at the Wutai Ruins under Don Corneo’s stupid plot to get back at AVALANCHE, Elena and Yuffie had not seen eye to eye. And now with both of them liking Tifa.. And Tifa choosing Elena.. Things were a little tense, to say the least.
Yuffie jumped forward in a zigzagging pattern, the look on her face determined to prove herself. She slid, feet first, towards the Ex-SOLDIER, feeling the grass of the Kalm Plains under her feet and hands. Then, once she was a foot away, she jumped and flipped, changing her downward momentum to an upwards one, spinning in the air and kicking towards Elena’s head.
Earlier, when Elena woke up from the blast of memories of SOLDIER, Tifa – The caring commanding officer she was – had already set up a training crash course for them. Tifa knew exactly how Elena’s body was feeling, and it wasn’t that her body was weak; it was her mind that was causing her to faint. Both of their minds were being affected by this, and Tifa knew that they had to overcome this if they were going to rescue Marlene and Denzel from those ShinRa bastards.
Plus, Tifa had to fight all of those robots and a SOLDIER X5 right when she woke up yesterday! She thought it was only fair that Elena do some physical exertion after the memories she was bound to have, whether it be to focus more on the mission at hand, or to simply get her mind off of the confusion that would arise.
Elena stood strong, hands balled into fists and feet firmly rooted into the ground. Her head moved a few inches backward to avoid the kick, and she merely felt the breeze of air from it, avoiding it completely. To counter the way that Yuffie fought, agile and quick, she had to focus her senses into detection and protection. She had to know where Yuffie was, where she was going to go, and what she was going to use to attack her. Normally, Elena’s fights consisted of quick elementally-enhanced attacks. Materia was her friend, after all. But why fight fire with fire? It just makes a bigger fire, after all. No, Elena liked to fight fire with water.
Elena ducked down as Yuffie attempted another jump, allowing the girl to pass over her before jumping as well into a backflip, kicking the airborne ninja in the back with one of Tifa’s signature moves: The Somersault Kick.
Yuffie was shot forward, barely able to turn and catch herself on her feet. Elena was good, she had to admit. She felt a tinge of jealousy at the fact that her rival for Tifa’s affection had just used one of Tifa’s moves against her! Yuffie couldn’t simply rush into this fight with flailing legs and arms. She had to think, she had to observe, and she had to plan and react in order to land any hits on the Ex-SOLDIER.
It was a mind game now - An enhanced, fast-paced game of chess that both players had to be aware of. To use a leaping knight or a steadfast rook to protect the king; or use the queen to conduct an assault. Or in both of their cases, to be pawns of Tifa, the mastermind behind this plan.
Jessie couldn’t understand Tifa’s mindset either. She knew that Tifa knew those two hated each other. She also knew that Tifa knew that both of them had too much pride to back down to the other, especially when it came to their two main ideals – Fighting and Tifa. And because of that, Jessie couldn’t help but think a little badly of her old friend. She had put Yuffie through so much pain, and now she’s pouring salt on the wound by making the two battle against each other.
‘Then again, salt does disinfect and make wounds heal faster..’ Jessie absently thought to herself.
Tifa, however, had her arms crossed, watching the two intently as they fought. She knew their strengths and weaknesses, both in battle and in personality. She knew what they must do in order to overcome the other, but if they both realized those things, they would simply cause another stalemate as it was now. She had confidence in both of them. Tifa had personally taught Elena how to fight all those years ago, and Yuffie was a naturally gifted ninja, trained from the moment she was born. With Elena’s SOLDIER enhancements, it made both of them virtually equal.
She and Jessie had been discussing the plans for the ShinRa invasion - How they would attempt stealth with the jet, who to send in first, the floor plans and the estimated time it would all take. Of course, to go over the full plan, they would need all four of them in the same room to discuss. So if that were the case, and the mission was going to be tomorrow, why was Tifa wasting time having the two fight each other?
“So... Why are they fighting, again?” Jessie asked with her eyes on the fight as well. She turned her glance to Tifa, worried about what kind of twisted sight she would see.
Tifa had been waiting for that question. She grinned with satisfaction at her own cunning and turned her head toward Jessie to talk to her, but her eyes remained on the fight, “There are a few reasons, Jess,” she began, “One is that they’re both probably rusty when it comes to hand to hand combat, no weapons or materia.” She smirked when she saw the Somersault Kick. Elena must have known she was watching. That also must have meant Yuffie knew too.
“Two is that in order for all of us to work well together without any tension, they have to let out their aggressions right now, before even planning for it.” It was clear that Tifa knew the two of them really well, Yuffie from recent, personal experience, and Elena from past, unchanging experience. “And I know they hate each other right now because of me. But the reason they stick around is also because of me.” Sure, Tifa felt a little bigheaded saying that, “But this mission isn’t about me, and I want them to get that through their heads.” She glanced at Jessie, who was listening with her analytical eyes, “It’s about Marlene and Denzel.”
“So why don’t you just have them argue it out, instead of physically fighting each other?” Jessie asked, obviously still not clear about the motive. Jessie was never a fighter, so she didn’t quite understand the frame of mind of these people.
“When you get to know them as well as I know them, you see a few things about their personality,” Tifa said, her attention on the more intricate details of the fight. Which kick was aimed where, which stance signified what.. She could see it all, so she was training her mind as well, trying to predict what each was thinking and what they were going to do next. “Both of them are so stubborn. Stubborn and proud.” She smiled and shook her head, “So they would never admit to being jealous or weak. So, of course they would accept the chance to prove themselves over the other.”
Jessie nodded. She could tell that trait right from the beginning, at least of Yuffie. Elena didn’t seem too stubborn from first glance, but she could see the determination and pride in the way she was fighting.
“But the two of them also have a great deal of respect,” Tifa continued, “Despite how disrespectful Yuffie may seem.” Remembering the ninja’s recent activity.. Getting thrown in jail, calling her and demanding she pick her up.. She eyed the marks on the jet’s windshield and assumed Yuffie did that too. “Yuffie has respect for people she can look up to or equal, and Elena’s the same way. They’re both way more alike than they think.. But that’s also probably why they dislike each other. They see characteristics in the other that they don’t like in themselves.”
She caught the bothered expression on Jessie’s face. Tifa knew when she saw a crush, and she knew that Jessie had one on Yuffie. Why else would she be so defensive for the ninja? That also probably meant that Jessie was irritated at the fact that Yuffie liked Tifa. She could also be jealous that Tifa knew Yuffie for a much longer time.. But Tifa wanted to make it perfectly clear that she wasn’t going to be competition over Yuffie’s affection. She would be glad for the two of them if Yuffie and Jessie got together!
“You should have seen when she first joined AVALANCHE,” Tifa said, a bit of a chuckle in her voice, “We fought her in Junon forest, then after we beat her, Cloud was his usual sarcastic self. Seemingly, it was because she was beaten, proud, and stubborn that she joined our party.. But in reality, she respected our strength.” Tifa uncrossed her arms and put on hand on her hip, “That girl is a lot more than meets the eye. If she can see that Elena’s equal to her in mental and physical power, she’ll respect her and they’ll be able to tolerate each other, at least for the mission.”
Jessie nodded in understanding. It certainly did fit their characteristics that a method like this would force them to understand each other. Perhaps Tifa was right and something as barbaric as fighting out their emotions would work on them.
Sparring was a deep form of communication between two people. It was on the opposite side of the spectrum from sex, but it still had all of the little games that sex entailed. Instead of knowing what the other person wants and doing it for them, one would do the exact opposite. Instead of bringing their counterpart pleasure, they would inflict pain.. One still would read their movements to see what they’ll attack with next, look at their eyes to see how tired they are mentally, and look at the expression on their face to get the psychological advantage.
And it looked like Yuffie and Elena had a stalemate in every aspect.
After ten minutes of continuous fighting, anyone would be tired. Their stamina wasn’t quite as good as it was during Meteorfall, but they still had a lot of gas in the tank. They could clearly read the other’s movements, and by trying to stay three steps ahead of the other, they merely read those three steps and built the pace of the battle. Their eyes were locked, fire and a passion for battle burning in both of their pupils. With their determination to overcome the other, they could probably go for another hour.
..But the most amusing part was the smirk on both of their faces.
They both looked confident, they both rivaled the other, but it also looked like they were having fun. It almost seemed like they were playing a game as they sparred.
Elena lunged forward and threw a knee to Yuffie’s stomach, but the agile ninja jumped and caught the knee with her hands, doing a pseudo-front-handspring over the blonde and landing behind her with a sweep, however, thinking a few steps further, Yuffie doubled up on the sweep with a spinning hook kick in the same direction, except towards the air.
Elena had expected either a sweep or a side-kick to her back, however because she couldn’t see the girl from behind, she had to predict one or the other. She chose the sweep by jumping over Yuffie’s sweeping leg, but she didn’t anticipate the spinning hook kick, which caught her right in the side.
The blonde was thrown a little ways to the side, but she grounded her legs again, sliding back into her stance. So far the score was tied, and they were playing shot for shot. Neither could get the advantage over the other..
‘Not bad,’ Elena thought with a smirk, ‘I can see why she was a part of AVALANCHE. And just like back then, she’s still trying to kill me.’
Yuffie landed, also in her own stance, bouncing on the balls of her feet and ready to react at any moment. She had one of her hands up near her chin, but the grin on her face could be seen as well, ‘She’s pretty good.. Fights just like Tifa.’ Yuffie’s malice had died down a little halfway through the fight. She could see that Elena was just as strong as she was, but she wanted to be better!
Elena couldn’t help but admire Yuffie’s stamina and technique. She really seemed like a ninja. Her technique was quick, practiced, and she never hesitated.. Elena had never fought the girl one-on-one before, but she was clearly a tough fight. She felt like she had a new found respect for the girl.
And despite what had happened between her and Tifa, Yuffie couldn’t help but feel that same kind of respect. Elena was calm, cunning, and had the reaction time of a cheetah. Every move Yuffie made was countered somehow, and only with luck could she land really decisive hits. She would never admit it out loud, but she was just as good of a fighter as the ninja herself.
But now, with both of them short of breath and weary of the next attack, they both had the opportunity to decide the winner with one last shot.
They were a bit of a distance away from each other.. Maybe thirty meters apart. For what felt like an eternity, although only a moment, they stood in their respective stances. They knew the next move would decide the winner and finally determine which of them was stronger.
They simultaneously took off using their last spurts of energy to sprint towards the other with a prepared attack.
“Stop!” A voice called, halting the two in their tracks so suddenly that they both almost lost balance. With wide eyes, they looked in the direction of the voice to see what caused their fight to stop before the winner was determined.
Both of them were dumbfounded. “..What the hell, Tif!” Yuffie exclaimed with frustration, fists balled at her sides and an annoyed look on her face, “It was getting to the best part!” She spoke shallowly, trying to catch her breath again.
Tifa just showed a fox-like grin and said, “If I left you two to fight out here the whole time, we wouldn’t get any planning done, now would we?” She knew she couldn’t let that fight finish. Determining a winner would have the opposite effect of what she wanted. Instead of an equal standing in the mission, and each others eyes, there would be malice again, as well as tension.
Elena could see through Tifa like a window, though. The Turk wanted to prove that she deserved to be the one Tifa chose and that there was no doubt in her abilities. Still, if she wanted to play it that way, then she’d let her.. One doesn’t defy their commanding officer, after all. After taking a moment to catch her breath, Elena followed the brunette into the ship, glad that Tifa still knew how to be a leader.
Yuffie rolled her eyes, pouted, then reluctantly followed suit, muttering to herself, “Just when I was about to win too..”
“You so weren’t,” Elena said, her back still to Yuffie and walking in the direction of the airship.
"I so was!" Yuffie exclaimed, light-heartedly feigning frustration. They were like quarrelling siblings, the respect was there, but they teased and joked as rivals should.
And Tifa was satisfied with that. At least they were talking to each other now!
It was a game of chess - Reading the moves, predicting what will happen next, and taking the right action towards the wanted result. Tifa was the chess master and she was playing against ShinRa Inc, and she knew that if there was still tension between Elena and Yuffie, the mission would fail miserably because of lack of communication, will and teamwork. Tifa knew how to be a leader, and she knew how to handle her comrades.. She was playing strategically, figuring out which move to make, which piece to use; The sturdy rook, the leaping knight, the calculating bishop, or the flexible queen.
Or perhaps they were all the unwilling pawns of ShinRa Inc.
“Ah.. My prodigies..”
A quiet, reminiscent sigh escaped from the older scientist’s mouth. She was daydreaming of a fantasy of the past reality, when life was good, work paid well, and she had two daughters to care for.
“You will return to me soon,” She uttered, touching the glass of the observation window, “You have to..” A twisted smirk appeared on her face, but her eyes remained half-lidded, her blonde bangs falling over her eyebrows.
And there sat Marlene Wallace, her image distorted by the aqua color of the observation window. The look on her face spoke volumes as she resisted - mentally and physically - the treatments from the biomechanics who attempted to work on her. She was forcefully held back while they put restraints on her arms and legs to the chair in the middle of the room, and promptly injected her with a fairly large needle in her arm. Over her head, the sign on the chair read, “Experiment LA-02”.
“Don’t resist, little one..” The blonde woman whispered, no one around to hear her, “Let mother take care of it..”
Marlene had tears welling in her eyes, her whole body tensing as the injections coursed through her veins. It almost seemed to glow a faint blue under her skin, and those around her could almost see her grow in front of them. It was experimental, but then again, what wasn’t experimental when it came to bioengineering?
Everyone reacts differently to different injections.. But this one was specifically made for Marlene.
Her strong spirit remained for just a little longer. Through the painful pulsing and tensing of her muscles, through the blinding pain coursing through her veins that she never knew before, she still tried to stay strong. She didn’t let the tears fall, more for herself, to convince herself that everything would be all right, rather than to convince the people she had to stand up against.
The small frame of the nine-year-old relaxed for a moment, taking the precious time to breathe, shiver, and finally, cry a little bit. She gave in for this moment of peace, a moment where it didn’t hurt and where she could hope that someone would come save her from this misery soon.
“It’ll all be over soon.. Won’t it, my little Elena?”
Boom. The touch of her skin. Boom-Boom. The taste of her lips. Boom. The smell of her hair..
It was all so tranquil, so lethargic, that it sent her into a kind of euphoria. That if heaven were a place, or a feeling, or a sensation, then heaven would be every spark of electricity that pulsed through her body when they touched. Heaven would be every chill that gets sent up her spine when she whispered into her ear. Heaven would be every heartbeat that echoed from her chest to her temples and back again.
“So once the grounds have been covered, Yuffie will move in to secure a route..”
In public, they had such a subtle approach to their affections. The sultry glances, the bump of their shoulders.. When she said something, sometimes her expressions would say something else. When she touched her here, she would feel it there. It was a bit frustrating, really - This game that they played. They could tease and play all they wanted, but no one would really win, until they actually..
“Elena, are you listening?” Tifa asked her, looking directly into her eyes with an intense gaze. Tifa didn’t have any underlying tone to her fixed gaze. It was serious, and the girl wasn’t playing around.
“Huh? I mean..” The Turk almost felt like she was being scolded, “Y-Yeah.. I mean.. Sorry, Tif. Could you repeat that last part again?” She asked. What was she thinking? There was a life altering mission against the company who killed her father, ruined their lives somehow, and kidnapped Tifa’s surrogate children! She had to focus. Focus, focus, focus.
“We don’t have much time to prepare, Elena. Pay attention.” Tifa returned to explaining the plan in detail, from the exact coordinates of their entry points on the blueprints to the equipment that Jessie prepared for them.
Elena was still.. Distracted, though. She had to be serious! She had to focus! She had to stop imagining some of the lustful images that appeared in her mind..! ‘Tifa’s hot when she takes control like that..’ Ack! She felt her cheeks burn from the thoughts that were running through her mind, and she knew Tifa noticed it. And the other two probably did too. Elena saw them glance at her, Yuffie’s eyebrow quirked up in questioning while Jessie just looked at the blonde from above the rim of her glasses. She suddenly felt self-conscious. As if they knew what she was thinking, and she was probably making it obvious by the color of her cheeks and the suspicious responses.. “W-What?” Her blonde eyebrows furrowed in annoyance, her head turned to the side with a glimpse of the old, proud Turk Elena shining through in all her glory.
‘Since when have I been such a..’ Elena’s train of thought began, ‘Such a..’ Her face scrunched together in frustration, and she suddenly stood from her chair looking flustered, “I’ll be right back..!” She stated with her volume a little louder than intended, and the tone of her voice a little more rushed and irritated than usual. She semi-stomped out of the room, her body tense and her joints almost rigid. The door slid shut behind her automatically and she pressed her forehead against the nearby wall for a moment, “Ugh! Since when have I been such a hornball?” She whispered to herself in frantic aggravation, praying no one inside the meeting room could actually hear her.
Yuffie’s raised eyebrow remained raised and her eyes tossed a shrug and a bit of a smirk towards Jessie. Although the two younger girls hadn’t heard the blonde, Tifa heard her loud and clear. Her serious demeanor wavered for a second and she snickered to herself softly through her nose, “I guess it’s about time we took a bit of a break, huh?” She thought out loud. It’s been a while since she held a briefing meeting led by herself that she almost forgot to have a break.
“Sounds good,” Jessie agreed. The four of them were probably in that room for a few hours, going over each possible detail, every possible entrance and everyone’s objectives. It was dark, save for the light in the middle that outlined the holograph of the ShinRa building. Each of their dimly lit faces was a blue hue in that light source, until Jessie flicked the lights on.
The ninja stretched lithely, like a cat, as she let out a yawn that she had been holding back. She sat up and kicked her feet onto the table, leaning back in her chair with her hands behind her head, “It’ll be a piece of cake!” She said with a grin, “In and out and we’re gone!”
Tifa left the two to their own devices as she stepped out of the room to check on her second-in-command. By now, Elena had made it to the washroom and was rinsing her face off with cold water.
‘Cold water..’ Elena’s brain flashed images from one of the first memories she recovered. The two of them during SOLDIER.. In the shower.. Cold water beating against their backs while Tifa..
‘No no no!’ Another splash of cold water on her face. Stop that! She put her hands on the side of the sink and stared at her own dripping face in the mirror. Ever since they left Midgar, she hadn’t taken a good look at herself. She looked like the same old Elena, short, blonde hair reaching to her chin, same brown eyes. Except now, there was something different.. A kind of knowledge that wasn’t there before.
The blonde dried her face and let out a sigh. She had to recompose herself before she went back to that briefing. If Tifa knew she was hot and bothered, who knows what the brunette would try.
Then, just as Elena was about to press the button to open the door to the bathroom, the door slid open. “Huh?” Came the surprised noise from the blonde.
Tifa rushed in, grabbing the blonde and kissing her fiercely, cutting off any following words from her comrade. Elena was completely caught off guard, but she didn’t resist at all. The Turk’s eyes went wide and she staggered back slightly. Tifa guided her back against the sink, taking in her scent and kissing a trail down to her neck.
Elena, in reaction to Tifa’s advances, semi-sat on the sink’s edge. Once her mouth was free, though, “T-Tifa! What’s gotten..” She couldn’t even finish her sentence, because Tifa’s lips had already interrupted her again, kissing her, then trailing down her jaw line again, her body pressed against the blondes with as much leverage and pressure as possible. Tifa was like a lion, seeking out her prey and hunting it down for the kill.. And it looked like Elena was the prey.
“I want you..” Tifa whispered heavily into the girl’s ear, her eyes half-lidded as her hand slid from the blonde’s short hair, down her cheek to her neck, along her shoulder and resting against her breast with a firm grope. Even Tifa couldn’t explain the sudden lust that came over her.. It took over her and took control of her.. All she could think of at that moment was Elena. Elena’s body, Elena’s heart, and Elena’s damned seductive brown eyes.
Electricity pulsed through the blonde’s body in the form of a shiver as she heard Tifa’s needy whisper. She writhed, her head tilted up in ecstasy while Tifa said and started to do everything she had wanted her to. It was as if the brunette had read her mind and was acting specifically to please her.
She loved it. She loved every moment of it. And--
Tifa pulled back for a moment, a look of, ‘What the hell is going on?’ written on her face. Elena, however, had a look of dread. Not only dread for the fact that the person who’s calling her PHS was interrupting possibly the most action she’s had in how many years, but that Tifa heard her embarrassing ringtone. And not only that.. But if it was that ringtone, that meant it was Reno, and it was probably important.
“Damn it, Reno..!” Elena whispered in a hot frustration. She dug her hand into her pocket and pulled the small, high-tech PHS from it. Of course it was Reno, ruining one of the best moments yet again. Even when he’s not around, he’s still imposing himself. Should she answer it? That would be rude to Tifa though! She looked at the PHS again and rolled her eyes, “I can call him back.” She pressed the ‘end’ button to send a busy signal to the redhead.
Tifa just laughed, the mood only a little killed by that PHS. She was glad that Elena would rather focus on her and the rare intimate moment they had, so it wasn’t hard to get back to the way they were. Tifa leaned in once again, caressing the blonde’s face with the back of her fingers. However, right when her lips were about to make contact with Elena’s once again..
That same damn song cut through the air, killing the mood entirely. Tifa rolled her eyes, clearly frustrated at the second time. One time, she wouldn’t have minded. If it was only once. As a matter of fact, it was funny the first time! Twice, though? It must be important, and it was also annoying. It was also completely killing the mood. The fighter could almost see Reno’s either confused or grinning face on the other side of the line, and that just frustrated her even more. She snatched the phone from the blonde’s hand, rolled off of her body with her backside against the sink, and answered it, holding it up to her ear, “Hello? Reno?” Tifa attempted to mask the annoyance in her voice.
“Who is this and what have you done with Elena!” The muffled yelling of the redhead could be heard from where Elena was standing.
“Reno, it’s Tifa. Elena’s fine. What’s up?” Tifa rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling, tilting her head back with a bored look on her face. She probably should have been waiting for this call, but hearing Reno’s whiney voice wasn’t exactly her favorite thing in the world. She knew it was selfish, but for a split second in her mind, she wanted to forget about the mission and just focus on Elena for the next few hours. Of course, the ex-SOLDIER couldn’t forget such a responsibility, though, so she patiently listened to the fiery redhead.
Elena took the moment to catch her breath, idly wondering what the hell just happened.. She should have been eagerly listening to the status of Midgar, the Turks and the kids, but she was just too dazed, hot, and bothered to give a damn about anything except Tifa. She sent a sidelong glance over to Tifa and let out a soft sigh at the missed opportunity, ‘Dammit..’ Her mind complained.
“No, Reno. With that kind of drink, you have to use Vodka,” The bartender explained over the phone in near disbelief. She thought it was something important, but it was just the redhead asking his idiotic alcoholic questions. It seemed like he and Rude hadn’t been able to find a decent bar, after all. “No.. Just.. Hey, no! Ren-..” Tifa sounded like she kept on getting interrupted, “Dammit, Reno, listen to me! I said Vodka! Using Tequila would just make it.. Yes, exactly.” She rolled her eyes, then shot Elena an apologetic look. She definitely should have just let the blonde screen the Turk’s call.
“Alright I got it now, Tif! Thanks! Can I talk to ‘Lena?”
Tifa handed the phone to the blonde, resting both of her hands on the sink’s counter and shutting her eyes. They should probably have gotten back to the briefing room by now, but..
“Hey Reno, what’s up?” Elena said into the PHS. She had a feeling he’d just ask her something stupid like he did with Tifa.. But if the reason he called was for his alcohol problems, then why didn’t he call Tifa’s PHS? No, it would have to be something important.. And it was probably something he didn’t want Tifa to know, so he masked it with that pointless question. ‘Clever, Reno.. But Tifa probably figured it out,’ Elena thought to herself. She discreetly tapped the volume button on the side of the PHS to lower it to a volume she could barely hear.
“Look, ‘Lena.. You can’t let Tifa know what I’m about to tell you.” The rarely serious voice of the Turk rung in Elena’s ear as clear as a bell, “It’s about Marlene, yo.”
Tifa’s eyes were on Elena’s expression, examining the minute changes in her eyes and the muscles on her face. She couldn’t hear Reno, so instead she listened to the tone of Elena’s voice, trying to find the change of tone to seriousness. The Tifa from SOLDIER knew when the girl would try to hide something from her, and she also knew that some things never change.
“Oh, her?” Elena spoke, trying to mask her voice with a casual air, “That girl you told me about the other day, right? How is it going with her?” She also attempted to speak in code. Maybe Tifa would misinterpret Marlene for some nameless date of Reno’s.
Reno must have caught on, so he continued, “She and Denzel are being held in different divisions, yo.” He paused for a second, “Denzel’s in the normal containment cells.. But Marlene.. They took her to the labs.”
Elena’s eyes grew wide for a quick moment, but quickly reverted to its nonchalant state, “No way, are you serious?” She forced out a laugh, “What’s she doing there?”
Tifa could practically feel Elena’s nervousness. She decided to end the girl’s misery and leave the room. She knew there was something that she was hiding about a ‘girl from the other day’ and ‘how she’s doing’. Tifa wasn’t getting jealous, but she had a feeling she knew what it was about.
“I’m gonna resume the meeting soon, so don’t take too long, kay?” Tifa said, kissing the blonde on the forehead with a bit of a grin. She then directed her voice towards the receiver of the PHS, “Bye Reno!” And with that, Tifa stepped out of the bathroom.
Elena smiled softly at the retreating figure. Although the circumstances in which they were brought together were pretty rough, she couldn’t have been happier. She felt that as long as she was around Tifa, she wouldn’t really have to care or worry about the rest of the world. But of course, that was a selfish way of thinking. She waited until the footsteps of the dark-haired Ex-SOLDIER were gone before speaking into the receiver again, “What have they been doing to her?” She asked with a worried tone.
“I don’t know, yo.. But whatever it is, it ain’t pretty.” The soft and almost reluctant voice of the redhead responded, “News travels fast, though.. Last I heard, the head scientist was a bit off her rocker, if you know what I mean, yo.”
Elena shuddered at the thought of what they could be doing to the poor girl. Unwillingly going through the ordeals of biochemical tests and other kinds of freaky ShinRa business.. What if Marlene ends up like that SOLDIER X5 they fought? Or worse, like those monsters in the Mako pods on Mt. Nibel. “Is there anything you could do to stall for time?”
A sigh of deep thought came through the line, “They won’t even let me into the lab.. There’s not much I can do, yo. Or else I would have tried it already.”
Elena nodded. Reno definitely would have rushed in head first into something like that, “I’m sure Rude would have some connections. Try to stall for more time.. And if you can, prevent them from injecting her with anything.” Elena cast her eyes towards the floor, “She’s only nine years old.. Too young to go through that.”
“I’ll do my best, yo.” Reno replied, hanging up with a click.
Elena let out a soft sigh as she hung up the PHS. Her blonde hair fell into her face as thoughts of the pain that the young girl was going through coursed into her mind. Little did she realize that the footsteps had returned not long after they had left, and Tifa had been listening in on the conversation. She knew it had to do with Marlene, and from the information she just received.. They needed to succeed on this mission. Tifa wouldn’t accept a failure.
Then, Elena felt a small rumble in her stomach, “Ugh, I’m hungry.”
“LA-02?” Marlene sat on the plain white bed of the quarters designated for her. Her mind felt fuzzy. She didn’t know any other way to explain it. A mind filled with thoughts, but no particular thoughts stuck with her. No faces, no names, no pictures, no words.. But for some reason, that combination of letters and numbers was clear. It must have been the last thing she saw before she blacked out. She definitely had a headache, but she had been awake for at least 20 minutes, bored out of her mind, but not really minding because she felt too incapacitated to move.
“It means ‘El-Ay’, I think,” A soft voice came from the other side of the wall. Despite there being a glass wall (probably for observation), and a door, the rest of the walls almost seemed office-like. Not like cubicles, but as if it were an actual office turned into a bedroom or quarters. They didn’t seem very sturdy, but going through any direction would lead to more rooms just like this one. Still, if two people were close enough to the walls, they could probably hear the other one speak.
“Who are you?” Marlene asked, her eyebrows quirking up. It wasn’t much of a hope, but if she could have some other form of comfort than hugging her legs to her chest, then it was welcomed with open arms.
“They call me TA-01 in the labs,” The other feminine voice replied. She sounded teenaged and bitter, as if she was also forced to be there. “I don’t quite remember my real name.. But the scientist calls me ‘Tifa’. Whatever that means.. Or whoever that is.”
Marlene’s ears perked up again, as if she were a puppy hearing a whistle. The name triggered her senses, “Tifa?” Her memory was still in tact, so she clearly remembered who Tifa was. Marlene looked around, probably thinking that if she heard the name and recognized it, she would find Tifa somewhere in the room. Sadly, her hopes were shattered in only seeing the white walls and hearing the mysterious voice again.
“Yeah.. I think I heard it on the news sometime a while back, so the head scientist must be a fan or something.” A small laugh, apparently trying to conceal whatever emotional or physical pain they were going through. “So what’s your story? You seem to have just gotten here, so you must still remember what it’s like out there.” A bad joke, but still an attempt at a joke at least.
Marlene smiled a little, finally a source of comfort and companionship in this desolate place. She needed a friend right about now. “Well, I’ve lived in Midgar for as long as I can remember.. I’ve been living in an orphanage with Tifa and Denzel, while Papa’s away rebuilding Coral,” Marlene explained. “Then.. I’m not sure how long ago this was.. But some scary ShinRa guys kidnapped Denzel and me.. And that’s the last thing I remember before coming here.” Marlene turned a little more towards the wall, as if turning towards her faceless companion would comfort her some more.
“Tifa, huh?” The girl on the other side almost laughed, “Well that’s ironic, isn’t it?”
Marlene grinned proudly, “Yeah! She was a part of AVALANCHE, the group who saved the world!”
A silent realization came over the girl with no name, “So that must be it..” Some rustling could be heard on the other side of the wall, “What’s your name?”
Marlene had to think for a second on that one, “..Marlene.” She looked upwards in thought. Marlene still didn’t know anything about this girl! “So what’s your story, then?”
The girl on the other side was silent for a moment again before speaking again, “Hm?” Silence again.
“I asked what your story was,” Marlene repeated.
“Oh, sorry.” The girl sounded distracted.
Marlene blinked, “What are you doing over there?”
Just a few more seconds and the girl finally responded as she did before, “Sorry, I was writing down your name and some of the stuff you said.” The girl sounded happy to be making a friend, but sad at the same time, “I’ve been losing my memory, so I want to keep this journal so I can remember stuff.”
Marlene nodded, “So what do you remember about your life before this place?”
The turning of pages could be heard faintly, then a few seconds to read over the precious words on the page, “I used to live in Junon. I came here about a year ago, when I was about eight-years-old, because my parents sold me to ShinRa. I was an only child, but I wasn’t lonely because I had the townspeople take care of me.. And I think..” She thought hard to remember, “I don’t know what it is, but I keep remembering a dolphin.” She smiled a little, “I love dolphins.”
The small bartender was shocked, “Eight-years-old? You don’t sound like you’re nine-years-old now.” She tried to imagine what this girl would look like if her voice was that tone. She sounded at least fourteen or fifteen.
The girl on the other side of the wall smirked a little, “I know. I don’t look nine either. You know those painful injections they gave you when you came here?” She clearly remembered her first few days, but tried to push the thoughts of the pain away, “They’re called EVA cells. I think they mean Electro-Viral Antibodies or something like that.” She crossed her arms as she recited what her caretaker had told her, “They are enhancement cells mixed with stabilizing cells and some other wonderful junk.” The girl could tell from Marlene’s silence that she was confused, “Anyway, it basically means your body, brain and skills grow five times faster until you reach a certain level. Then once you reach that level, the cells work to keep you there for as long as possible.”
“Oh..” Marlene said softly. So that’s what they were injecting into her.
“It hurts like hell at first. It almost feels like your body is being pulled from the inside.. Expanding and stuff, right?”
“Yeah..” Marlene shook her head as the memories of the blinding pain were remembered.
The faceless girl said, “Don’t worry. It gets way easier.” Marlene couldn’t see her face, but she knew from the tone of her voice that there was a reassuring smile on her face, and just that was enough to bring her some comfort.