Break for It
That’s the airbase!
She forced her eyes downward, forced her feet onward. She had to be good. She couldn’t afford to be caught as much as looking back in ShinRa’s direction. But she knew the bright red logo and calligraphy that set apart the building from the identical complexes stretching down as far as the eye could see. It was all she needed.
But he kept going. And every step they took was a second more that it would take her to return. The less they strayed from that point, the better, but they had only just entered the city, and the docks were much further in.
It’s right there! Every nerve in her body was screaming with the tension. Each step away from there was agony, and it took all her reserve to keep from bolting then and there.
What if they’re not open? What if no one’s there? What if no helicopters are ready to go? Reason was a poor weapon against her raging instincts, but the energy it took to maintain the excuses diverted the energy away from her limbs, at least, or she surely would have been off already.
Stop! She wanted to scream.
It was too much.
If she took another step, she swore she would lose her mind.
“Nii-chan,” Hana said too strongly as something in her snapped, jerking to a stop. Her brother looked at her in confusion. It was only after a moment and thanks to sheer dumb luck that an excuse came to her in time. “I’m really getting hungry.”
“For bean soup?” he asked. He was in bright spirits, smiling brilliantly down at her. As far as he knew, he’d just successfully rescued his sister.
“Anything, please.” She put a hand over her stomach for effect.
“Hmm…let’s see what’s nearby….”
The movement had exposed the long sleeve of her yukata from under her cloak. She stared at it, colors bright against the billowing blackness. It was bound to draw attention, and she knew all too well that she had been instantly famous since her marriage to the Silver General. Just yesterday her face had been all over every television channel – maybe it still was.
She weighed her chances on if that attention would help or hurt her case. The wrong kind of commotion, or a poorly timed encounter, would raise her brother’s guard, and she needed him as blissfully oblivious as possible.
Not that there were many people on the streets this early in the morning either.
Her heart began to beat fast. What am I doing?
“Hey, sis, what’s wrong?”
She looked up at her brother, who was looking at her in concern.
“N-Nothing.” She bit back a curse. Not now! Focus! “It’s cold,” she said. “My feet….”
“Hana, why in the name of the Goddess are you wearing sandals in the winter?”
“All I had,” she said.
“We’re going inside. Now.”
Yes! That had worked much better than she had anticipated. She was one straight shot away from the airbase, though it was too long for a dead sprint. She’d need some time still.
The first building they encountered was some kind of small business suite. A receptionist read a magazine at a desk, overseeing an empty waiting room with plush red velvet chairs and chipped gold décor. As they entered, a small bell jingled, and Hana’s feet started to burn. She hadn’t realized how cold they were until the heat from a small heater over the door had made her skin burn electrically. The pain made her wince and shuffle from foot to foot.
“Martin and Selsby Law Offices, how may I help you?” she asked, deadpan, not looking up from her reading. She smacked her gum as she spoke, blowing a pink bubble until it popped.
Hana gripped her brother’s arm as she saw her own face on the cover of the magazine the receptionist was reading. He immediately left to stand before the receptionist, at least partially hiding Hana by placing himself in her line of sight.
“So I’m new to town, and I was just wondering if there are any places nearby where I can get a good breakfast. We’re headed to the docks so something in that direction---“
Is this my chance? As soon as she turned back to run, the sight of the tiny golden bell stopped any attempt. He would hear her the second she opened the door. Hana grit her teeth, tucked the sleeve of her yukata back into her cloak, and resisted the urge to scream.
I’m only going to get farther away from here! And nothing is on the streets to provide any distraction or cover!
Things looked bleaker by the moment. She was so close and yet it was out of her reach.
The door was just to the right of the receptionist’s desk. Likely only a single stall in such a cozy office, and maybe there would be something…?
She didn’t ask questions, just made a dash for it. Her brother would probably just assume that she urgently had to use the bathroom.
“Hey, who’s that?” she heard through the door as she locked it. She winced. Had she been recognized?
It didn’t matter. The bathroom was home-style, decorated with vases of flowers on the vanity and plush coverings on the floor and toilet seat.
And framed by curtains of gold, her salvation shone brightly right in her face.
Frosted to allow privacy, but large enough for the sunlight to light the whole area. Just large enough for her to fit through, with a little tricky maneuvering. She couldn’t believe it – it was too perfect! She stared at it dumbfounded for several seconds until she realized that she was wasting time.
The window was locked with a small latch, which she flipped open easily, but when she tried to push the pane up it didn’t budge. Hana tried again, grunting with the effort, and was rewarded only by the tiniest slip upwards, just enough to slide a finger though.
That was when the alarm shrieked.
She wasn’t thinking about how to cover up her escape, but instincts took care of that. In what she though was blind, desperate rage, she threw the hand soap container at the window, shattering the glass. Outside, looking at her in confusion, a sketchy looking man in too nice of a suit was in the alley rummaging through the law office’s garbage can. Upon seeing her and hearing the alarm, he took off, sheets of paper flying abandoned behind him.
This was the second time that her blind reactions had saved her skin. Maybe Sephiroth was right about her having something of use in a pinch.
Vance kicked in the door immediately and grabbed her, spinning her behind him as he brandished a small handgun. “Sis!” he cried. “What happened?”
“There was man in the alley and---!”
“Sicko,” her brother hissed, looking out the shattered window. The alarm finally shut off, and Hana could hear how heavily she was breathing and feel her body quiver with the rush of adrenaline. But she wasn’t afraid. Not this time.
It felt almost…thrilling.
“He got away,” her brother said. “I’ll report him for that! Did you see him at all?”
“No…” she lied. “Just a shadow, it all happened so fast!” It was easy to believe, and he fell for the act, hook, line, and sinker. He was so blinded by his anger that he didn’t even notice that the glass shards were outside, not in, and the soap dispenser was still lying in the middle of the alley.
“ShinRa troops are coming,” the receptionist said, still sounding bored despite that being the most action she was likely to see in a long time. “The security system summons them automatically.”
“We have to get out, then.” Her brother took her by the hand but Hana pulled back.
“Can we rest somewhere nearby? I’m…shaken.” She wasn’t, but she was going to milk this little fiasco for all it was worth. It would buy her some more time, at least.
“As soon as we can, I promise. But let’s put some distance between us and those ShinRa goons.”
“Okay,” Hana said, and let him take her away. She scuffed her feet and wavered a little for effect.
“Hey, are you---?” Vance slammed the office door shut behind them before the receptionist could ask.
This will be interesting, she thought. The receptionist had most likely recognized her, and ShinRa troops were coming straight to her to investigate. If word made it back, maybe they would come for her. It would certainly make her job easier, but she knew better than to push her luck. It was strained enough as it was.
“There!” Hana said, pointing across the street at a small diner before they had made it even a block away. “I can rest and eat.”
Vance bit his lower lip in thought. It wasn’t as far away as he liked, she knew, but by the looks of things there was a good sized group of people in for breakfast. Hana swayed and held his arm. The act convinced him.
“The receptionist did say this was the best place this side of Junon,” he said with a shrug. “Apparently they have thirty varieties of pancakes to choose from.”
“Mmmm,” Hana sighed in delight. That reaction she didn’t have to fake. Her stomach growled its appreciation for the decision as well.
She pulled the hood of her cloak over her head and tucked her yukata under its black cover. It didn’t make her look any less suspicious (probably more so), but the action appeased her brother.
Vance arranged for a private booth in the corner, partially enclosed, as well as close to the bathroom. “If the troops come, you make for the restroom, okay?” Hana nodded but was far more interested in the menu than anything he had to say.
The place was cozy, and she felt securely hidden among the buzz of morning chatter. But the longer she was there, the more the conversations turned to whispers, and many people were looking her way.
So much for remaining hidden. Whether or not they knew who she was, she had attracted attention. For a while, she thought she might still make it out, but as the whispers and stares grew in intensity, she lost that hope.
She sighed and sat back. She’d done all she could. Now she just had to wait for the action to unfold.
She just hoped it would all happen after she got her pancakes.
The troops came just as the waitress hesitantly refilled their water glasses the second time, not-so-subtly trying to get a good look at Hana under her hood. Vance shooed her away, but could do nothing about the troops.
“Hide in the bathroom,” he mouthed silently. His back was to the troops, so he turned his head and sipped his water, casually as he could muster.
Hana didn’t even have to get up. She could see the red sign on the door from her seat. It read “Occupied”. Vance’s face turned livid as she pointed to it, but there was nothing he could do.
The troops didn’t appear to be particularly alarmed, but they did stop at several tables to ask questions. The lump in Hana’s throat became bigger and bigger as they made their way slowly back to where they sat. She didn’t have to wait too long. One of the customers pointed her way and the two men came straight to them.
“Morning, gentlemen,” Vance greeted. “Can I help you?”
“There was a break-in at a law office not even a block away from here. Have you heard anything?”
“Not a clue,” he said with a shrug. “We’ve been waiting on our pancakes for a good half-hour, haven’t seen a thing.”
One of the troops looked at her, but she could read nothing from his expression and his eyes were hidden by the helmet. “Forgive the intrusion, but you are dressed suspiciously. I must insist that you remove the hood.”
“Oh, no, sirs, it’s really nothing out of the ordinary. My sister was assaulted in the alley about a week ago, and she’s still very ashamed of the wounds on her face.
“Hm,” the taller trooper said, looking at his companion. “Can you verify his story, miss?”
Hana’s breath stopped. She could call him out now. Surely her brother wasn’t strong enough to take two armed men…right?
Except they weren’t really armed. She was appalled to see that neither carried a gun, only short stun-batons. And she knew her brother had at least one gun, and who knows what other weapons were tucked away on his person.
“Miss? Are you all right?”
The opportunity was staring her in the face. She knew better than to expect another chance as good as this one. Drawing up all her courage as she filled her lungs with air, she leapt up to stand on the table and flung her cape away – showing not only her face but her unmistakably Wutaian clothing.
“I am Hana Kazehawa!” she screamed in both thrill and panic. “I am Sephiroth’s wife! This man is abducting me!”
The diner exploded with noise, but she didn’t stop to see any of it. She kicked her sandals away as she leapt from the table; they would only slow her down. With a surge of speed and energy she never knew she possessed, she took off through the front door at a dead sprint, barefoot flying so fast across the pavement that they barely registered the cold.
Please! she cried in her heart, calling upon the images of every Wutaian deity she had ever been taught of as she breathlessly fled toward the airbase. Please let it be enough!