A young Scarlet and her father visit one of the Shin-Ra weapon manufacturing plants prior to the Wutaian War.
Of course, she was rich and young and could get away with it.
"Scarlet! Come look at this, over here!"
With a slight huff, the girl turned back from the overlook and away from the view of hundreds of workers operating the machines and assembly lines below. The final stage was completed in another portion of the plant, but she did not have to see it to know exactly what model of assault rifle they were making. Or how many rounds it held. Or its maximum range under typical conditions. Or that she had shot it with deadly precision at the fifty yard mark just beyond that range.
".. and with the new Mako Pulse technology, it not only fires faster, but is also capable of piercing a steel plate six inches thick at up to five hundred yards. That's over four times as powerful as our gunpowder-based artillery at the same caliber."
The technician who was speaking with Scarlet's father seemed very pleased with himself as he rattled off the various specs of the new weapon being worked on. And even Veld, who the President had asked to escort them during their stay in Junon, was politely watching with the ghost of a smile on his lips. That meant that he was very interested in the topic at hand. No doubt he had plans for his Turks to benefit from this, too.
Scarlet looked at the gun that the tech was holding. It was /huge/, like some souped up armor piercing weapon designed to give tanks a run for their money. She couldn't imagine it being very useful like that if it were not intended to be mounted on a vehicle - not if R&D weren't able to cut down its bulk. Even the tech was visibly straining from holding it for just the verbal demonstration.
"Fascinating," her father said, leaning closer to get a better look at the more visible housing for the Mako lines that coiled from forearm to barrel. "How reliable is it? I expect to see my investment in this company to continue to produce tangible results."
"Ah - yes, sir! Of course!" The tech stammered, trying not to drop the gun outright. Although both Veld and Scarlet's father were standing right next to him, she knew that it was absolutely out of the question for him to ask either man for assistance. Apparently, he knew it, too. "There is still an unsatisfactory failure rate: twelve point two percent chance of jamming, and three point eight percent chance of Mako flow reversal." Which was a polite way of saying 'catastrophic failure'. "It is still a prototype. The prototype for Mako-firearms. But we are working on reducing that margin of error ASAP, I can assure you. That we finally were able to make it work after three years research is incredible! And with tensions in Wutai at an all-time high, this might be one of the new technologies put on the front lines if we really do go to--"
"I want to try it," Scarlet said, interrupting his nervous rambling. When the tech just stared at her, mouth agape, she said it again. "I want to try it! Daddy, can't I? If he holds it steady, I know I can shoot the blasted thing."
She politely ignored the way that Veld was trying not to laugh at the tech's increasingly incredulous expression. He was used to her mannerisms by then. But the tech was new.
"Ah, Miss, I understand that--"
"So it's settled, then," her father interjected with a broad grin. Cutting into other's conversations was apparently an inherited trait. "I had wanted to see a little demonstration of what it can do myself. The.. what did you call it? The MP-01 prototype?"
Looking for all the world like he would rather just find a rock to crawl under and die, the tech just nodded and mumbled confirmation of the new model designator.
"Are you sure that it's a good idea to make this young lady put herself in danger firing that with the way that you are about to drop it at any minute, now?"
Even though the Turk head did not have any obligation to do so, he had brought up his one hand in a crisp salute to the newcomer. And his own calm greeting to the man - if he even were a man instead of a boy, as he didn't look but maybe a year or two older than Scarlet herself - was contrasted starkly by the tech's stammered, "S-sir! Colonel!"
"Here, let me take that," the young man said, easily relieving the tech of his burden. What he had barely been able to hold up with both hands, the Colonel did so easily with just the one. And he was rather attractive, too, even if his features were sharp. Maybe it was the silver hair. (How many men actually kept theirs long, anyways?) Or maybe it was the intense green of his eyes. Or maybe it was just that he was really tall and strong. Scarlet smoothed down her skirt needlessly.
"Sephiroth, my boy!" Her father clapped the young man on the back, though Sephiroth looked about as unappreciative as Veld had at the uncalled for familiarity. "You've really grown since the last time I saw you! That must've been what.. three years ago now? When Shin-Ra finally changed its name and decided to do more than what my little hobby encompasses. I heard that you enlisted in the Soldier program. And look at you now - a Colonel! Pretty soon you'll be General and putting my money to good use on the field!"
"It's good to see you again, too, sir," Sephiroth replied coolly. Scarlet almost thought that he was just humoring her father. Well. If all of the stories about the boy-wonder were true, she couldn't blame him in the slightest. "Now, I understand that the two of you would like a demonstration of Mako Pulse technology? Mr. Warner, if you'd lead the way to the outdoor range.."
Whatever the tech stammered in turn, Scarlet didn't hear it. Alexander above and Ifrit below, but this Colonel was hot - especially how he just took charge of things with his cool demeanor and smooth words. She suddenly wished that she had worn her white suit instead. It made her tan look all that much better, especially since it was still late winter and few people had the luxury of staying in Costa del Sol nearly every weekend.
By the time that they had made it outdoors to the range, she was thoroughly enamored with the way he spoke, and the way he moved, and the way he could effortlessly lift something that she never could, and the way his mere presence evoked an unquestioning authority even over men who were at least twice his age. She definitely needed to come out with daddy to visit the Shin-Ra weapons plant more often, even if it meant that she would have to put up with the President's little snot-nosed brat. Mr. Shinra was always trying to get her to play nice with Rufus whenever she came to Junon.
But it would even be worth that if it meant that she might see more of Sephiroth, she decided.
There was only a little bit of snow, most of the area a dull brown with the bared earth and rock and dead grass leftover from the year before. The droning ratta-tat-tat of hundreds of rounds being fired off in an adjoining range was muffled for the hearing protection that they all wore. But Sephiroth's voice, low and unwavering as it might be, was still readily audible to her ears when he finally stopped by one of several vacant marker points set up on the high plateau that Junon was built against. "Here should work well enough."
Warner seemed nervous, but that was no surprise. It was as if he either wanted to make one last check or adjustment to the gun himself, or simply go elsewhere in the case that the three point eight percent catastrophic failure reared its ugly explosive head while he was around.
Veld was overlooking the proceedings with a calm detachment; another Turk who she didn't recognize, some man with short brown hair, had somehow joined up with them by then, and he and his senior conversed in low tones off to the side. It might not look like it to the casual observer, but Scarlet knew that both men were ever on the alert should the safety of their two guests be compromised. Warner wasn't standing too far from them, either, which left her and her father by the Colonel's side to get a close up look of the whole preliminary charging process.
It didn't take long for the battery to ionize the Mako stored within its oversized fuel cylinder. Oddly, once it had, there was a high pitched whining sound accompanied by the acrid scent of ozone. Certainly not a covert ops type weapon, what with all the preparation time and ways to detect the thing from even at a moderate distance.
".. and now that it's fully charged, I suggest that the two of you step back," Sephiroth finished in his same calm tone. The older man immediately moved back to join the Turks and the techie, but Scarlet was not so easily swayed.
"I'll have to get a good look at just what you're doing if I'm the one who's going to fire it next," she proclaimed, doing her best to offer the young Colonel what she hoped was a disarming smile.
"Well, then," Sephiroth began, before her father spoke up. "Now, Scarlet. Step back this way. Let's see what it can do first, and then maybe afterwards you can have a turn at it if there's enough time."
"I'm not scared," she said, turning to face him. "That's it, isn't it? You're worried that Mr. Warner's little gun is going to explode and kill us all, right? Because that's just what would happen if the Mako flow were reversed in a dual system like this. Every second-rate hack chemist knows /that/. Stepping back ten feet isn't going to do a thing when it's going to wipe out half this range in the blast." And she smiled just ever-so-smugly. All the money that daddy dearest had put toward her ongoing education was definitely paying off.
It also only made Warner fidget more.
"Well, no, Scarlet.. It's just that I would rather you stand back at a reasonable distance for now. At least for the first shot."
"I don't mind if she wants to help me with this one," Sephiroth offered then - likely guessing the same thing that she had, that after the first shot her father would say that one was plenty for the day and then make up some lame excuse as to why they did not need to waste another round.
As for Scarlet, she could feel her heart fluttering in her chest at his words. They'd only just met! And already he was standing up for her against her own father! Who had only been the wealthiest and most influential investor in Shin-Ra back when it was called Manufacturing Works and still was one of the key supporters now that the company had gone beyond just weapon production.
"See?" She gave her father the most saccharine smile that she could manage before moving to Sephiroth's side. "/Colonel/ Sephiroth says that I should help him. It's perfectly safe. Besides! You said that I would get to try out one of the new prototypes if I came with you this time!" And put up with that sniveling blonde brat all of the day beforehand. "Please, daddy? I promise I won't ask for anything else the rest of the trip!"
It was probably better that she couldn't see either of the Turks' faces right then, or she would have been outraged at their expressions. They had turned away when Veld had pointed out something to the junior that was going on at the adjacent range. Likely just a bird had flown by. Or maybe there was a bush. If even that.
"Well," her father began, and as soon as she heard his tone, Scarlet knew that she had won. "Alright. But I am holding you responsible, son, if anything happens to my little girl."
"You won't need to, sir," Sephiroth replied with a formal tone and just the hint of a nod. "She's in good hands with me."
And at first Scarlet didn't think that she could properly say anything coherent after that even if she tried/. It took all of her willpower to multitask positioning her hands where he indicated while he held the weight of the gun. And to work its sight over towards one of the targets set up several hundred yards away. And to try not to shake with the way she could feel him right against her back and with his one hand guiding her own. And, belatedly, she realized that she should have told him that she wouldn't mind being in his hands whenever he wanted, except by then it was a bit too late. Plus, having her father overhear /that probably wouldn't fly very well.
".. and just like that," he said as she shifted to steady its fore-end grip with the one hand, her other already held poised over the trigger. "Looks like you don't need me to show you what to do, after all," he added with a chuckle.
"Well, I did grow up with these things," Scarlet heard herself say. "So I've had a bit of practice. Um, not with this one, but with other models. I haven't used an MP before."
And, frantically, she tried not to blush when she realized what she had said, and when Sephiroth just had to reply with, "I'd be surprised if you had, considering that this is the first ever made, and it wasn't even finished until eight days ago."
It took another ten seconds before she realized that he had asked if she was ready to fire.
Even though she didn't trust her voice, she said with a nod, "I'm ready."
Taking a deep breath, Scarlet slowly let it out. Then she took another. It was on the third that she squeezed the trigger right as she finished exhaling all of the air from her lungs.
Nothing in the world could have prepared her for the recoil, and had it not been for Sephiroth standing right behind her and actually being the one who took it, she knew that her shoulder would have been dislocated very abruptly. And that she probably would have fallen right back onto the ground with the gun on top of her - to add insult to injury.
Thankfully, he had been there, and so she only felt a slight jolt to her own shoulder with the way it had been just barely resting on top of it.
For his part, Sephiroth had hardly budged an inch.
But Scarlet didn't even notice if he was still behind her or not, if he was still touching her hand or not, or even what he was saying. Or what her father was saying. Or what the tech was stammering, or even what that other Turk had started to go on about. All of it was muffled, and this time it wasn't because of her hearing protection or even the report from the shot.
Because the target she had been trained on - a massive steel plate that was likely as large as a bus and positioned some four hundred yards away - had a crater large enough for her to jump through almost dead center.
And she could still feel the way that the charged Mako had lept out of the barrel, could still see that ball of pale green light shoot straight ahead, could still feel the way that the static electricity in the air had made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She could still taste the ozone in the air that came with the report - /ozone/, not sulpher - and her whole face tingled from the way the air had been compressed and expanded in a split second.
Her heart was no longer fluttering. It was beating loud and fast and hard in her chest, and it even echoed in her ears.
"I want to do that again."
Alexander above, this was a hell of a lot more fun.