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Title: Subject: Just As I Thought
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Rating: PG13
Summary: There was a reason ShinRa sent the Army after Zack. Too bad they didn't take into account a prying Second Class.

Part One

What Was


Silence. In the early hours of the morning, which some people insisted were still night, silence in the halls of ShinRa Headquarters wasn't at all uncommon. Most people were asleep at this point, whether they were night owls who had finally gone to bed, or early risers who hadn't yet woken up. Only a few, the people who had to work this shift, were awake and alert, and they were generally at their stations, doing their jobs. No one really roamed the halls.

And so no one was really around to see a SOLDIER in the purples of a Second slip through the door of one of the communications rooms reserved for Army personnel. His face was grim as he pocketed a pass card - one with a picture that most definitely wouldn't match his description even if he took his helmet off. He'd need to get that pass card back to its owner before it was missed, or else the whole point in "borrowing" it in the first place would be lost, but at the moment he had a more pressing concern.

He needed to get back to his room. He needed privacy to use his PHS. He had a message to send that would land him on a Turk hit list faster than a Midgar Zolom on the hunt if anyone caught even a glimpse. ShinRa was especially paranoid these days of anything that even hinted of treason, especially in its SOLDIER ranks. Understandable, after Genesis and Angeal, but...

Even more so if they were doing what Kunsel thought they were. Something unpleasant tightened in his gut as he thought of the e-mails he'd just read, five of them nearly identical except that they'd been sent separately, creating the illusion that each recipient was independent, acting on their own orders. Trying to make it look like whatever was going on wasn't as big as it was. Trying not to draw attention to it.

Specifically the attention of SOLDIER, because if something needed that kind of manpower, why the hell wasn't the Army asking SOLDIER for support?

Easy enough to make a guess, especially coupled with the other rumors that Kunsel had heard, and that guess was enough to have him dodging every security camera he could as he made his way back to his room. The door had barely closed before he had his PHS out, flipping it open without a second thought for the treason he was about to commit. The touch of a button brought his list of contacts up, and another selected the first name on the list. First, always first, even after years without a single message from him.

Zack Fair.

Subject: Just as I thought

He wasted no time typing the message in. There was the chance that he may have already been discovered, possibly by the Turks, and if so he had no time to waste. Any second now someone could break down that door. He wanted to make sure he at least got a warning off before they did.

I hear two research samples have escaped from Nibelheim. And might you be one of them, Zack?

It could be coincidence. Kunsel knew that. But Zack had been declared dead on that mission to Nibelheim, and Sephiroth with him, too, and the company letter that came out afterward fairly stank of a coverup to him. If something out there had been nasty enough to take out the two top SOLDIER Firsts, the news should have been everywhere. Warnings should have been plastered all over the bulletins, missions to the area restricted, and Zack's and Sephiroth's deaths should not have been reduced to mere footnotes of text. The lack of any real kind of response was telling.

Then two "research samples" escaped from that place, and suddenly the Army was in an uproar. Kunsel didn't believe in coincidences like that.

If you are, watch your back, because now a whole battalion of infantrymen has been called in. They're coming after you in crazy numbers. Man, what in the hell did you do to deserve this? His fingers hesitated before he typed in the next part. Damning enough sending even that much, leaking information on ShinRa's movements that he shouldn't know, but he could leave it at that and pass it off as just rumors he'd heard around the barracks.

No.

His jaw firmed with determination. Zack deserved more than that from him. He jabbed the final keystrokes that would seal his fate if someone read them. I don't care if you've made an enemy out of Shinra. I'll always be waiting for you to come back. Just make it back alive, buddy. Promise me. There was no regret as he hit the button to Send.

Task taken care of and loyalty declared, Kunsel snapped his PHS shut and started moving. There wasn't any time to spare. He didn't know how closely his account might be monitored, but he'd be an idiot to wait and find out. Besides, he had to assume that any and all activity to Zack's account was being flagged.

(The fact that Zack's PHS account was still active, even five years after his "death," was another reason Kunsel had never been able to believe his friend was actually dead.)

Striding across his room, Kunsel quickly collected his broadsword from where it leaned against the wall by his bed, swinging it onto his back before grabbing the pack he always kept ready for missions when he was called on short notice. If he could afford the time, if he could afford the clues it would leave if he did, there were other things he would have taken, too, but on the remote chance that his message to Zack had managed to escape notice, he didn't want to give anyone any reason to suspect that he might be on the run. Taking more than the bare essentials would definitely tip someone off if they bothered to look in his room. Anything unnecessary had to stay.

Just on a mission. Nothing here to see at all.

The hall was still quiet when he exited the room, which both relieved Kunsel and made his spine prickle. He ignored the feeling, long since familiar with the paranoia that came from knowing he was behind enemy lines. Any moment could be his last if the wrong person saw him and realized that something was wrong.

So he didn't bother to sneak. His swift, brisk stride took him to the end of the SOLDIER floor, posture easy but determined, like a SOLDIER on a mission. He had nothing to hide, no reason for anyone to look twice. People rarely looked beneath what seemed normal and obvious. Just look at Wutai's spies for proof of that.

Unfortunately, most people weren't the Turks.

Kunsel froze when the elevator slid open to reveal a man in a dark suit, his hair slicked back and held in a ponytail's clasp.

Oh shit-

"SOLDIER." Tseng's dark eyes fixed on him, his expression cool and unreadable, and it was everything Kunsel could do to keep his breathing even. He tilted his head in greeting.

"Tseng."

There was no point in pretending he didn't know exactly who this man was.

Tseng returned the nod, stepping aside to let Kunsel on. "Going down?"

Kunsel sincerely hoped his heart wasn't pounding as loud as he thought it was. "Yeah," he said, offering a light smile, despite the fact that every instinct was telling him to run. He stepped on, knowing that if he obeyed his instincts, he'd be dead. Tseng was here. He had to have that contingency planned for.

Unless this was all coincidence. Which it could be. Turks kept all hours, and Tseng was no exception. He could easily be up late on other business. If that was the case, Kunsel couldn't afford to let his act slip an inch. If it wasn't, though...

Shit, he cursed again. I can't assume anything!

A trickle of sweat made its way down his back when the doors to the elevator closed.

"I wasn't aware," Tseng said after a moment, his eyes going to Kunsel's pack, then to his face, "that there were any missions assigned tonight." He reached out and hovered a finger over the button that would take them to the first floor, arching an eyebrow at Kunsel in question.

Breathe, Kunsel. Breathe! Funny how he'd worried about his heart beating too fast before. Now he was afraid it would stop in his chest!

"I'm not on assignment," he said as easily as he could manage, giving a nod in answer to Tseng's hand. He'd originally planned to sneak his borrowed key card back into its owner's locker, but that plan was going to have to be ditched. He'd just have to get rid of it and hope no one connected the missing card to him, at least until he was well out of here. Better that than the risk of Tseng following him.

Dammit, his chances of escape were already diminishing way too fast.

"But I couldn't sleep and thought I'd sign up for one," he went on. "Something local, if anything's available. I was about to check my PHS." Simple, logical, believable. Believable was the one he hoped for the most. Please buy it, he pleaded silently. Please buy it and just drop it.

"I would have thought it would be better to check the mission board before you made the trip downstairs. What if there are no local missions available?" Tseng's finger hit the button, sending the elevator into motion.

Kunsel blamed the sinking feeling in his gut entirely on that. "There's always something in the slums these days, if nothing else," he justified. "More and more monsters are managing to find their way into Midgar lately. It's getting to be a real problem."

"Indeed." The Turk tilted his head, conceding the point - and in doing so looked Kunsel in the eye. How he did that while Kunsel had his helmet on...

His next words wiped the mystery from his mind.

"If you're available for a mission, the Turks could use assistance from someone of SOLDIER caliber."

What. Getting shot at, getting arrested, even getting ignored - any of these were things he might have expected from the Turks. Recruitment for a mission hadn't even crossed his mind.

"We have reason to believe some sensitive information has been leaked."

Yeah, no kidding, but why-

"And that the leak originated in SOLDIER ranks."

Kunsel felt the blood begin to drain from his face. Tseng wasn't done yet, though. He clasped his hands behind his back even as his eyes bored into Kunsel like the drills ShinRa used to dig into mountainous terrain.

"With your help, I believe we can prevent further leaks."

Shit. He knew!

Kunsel's mind panicked and raced as he calculated his chances if he ran as soon as the elevator doors opened. Tseng didn't have a gun in his hand, though he probably had one on him somewhere. It would take him a precious second to draw it, and for a SOLDIER a second was a lot. Ground floor meant people, though. People he'd have to dodge. People Tseng would have to try not to hit when he moved to take Kunsel out. Shit. Kunsel didn't know if that would work for him or against him. He didn't want anyone else to get hurt!

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a moot question. The elevator stopped, the doors opening with a whoosh of displaced air and hydraulics, and standing in front of it were two more Turks. The redhead slouched, deceptively casual as he twirled a mag rod in his hand. The other, tall, bald and imposing, stood solidly planted at his side. There was no way Kunsel could make it past them both without a fight.

A fight the Turks would be prepared for. And Turks knew how to take a SOLDIER down.

Shit.

Sorry, Zack. I tried to help.

His one consolation was that at least he had gotten that single warning off. No matter what else happened, even knowing he’d reached the end of his luck, he had no regrets. Given the chance, he’d do it all over again.

Because that was what best friends did.

-End Part One-
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