Failed electrocutions, witticisms, personal revelations and realisations. A man can learn a lot about himself conducting an interrogation. Warnings: Swearing and mild violence. Arguably cracky.
"A job for you." Knotch repeated, head bobbing up and down.
"Yes. A job for us." Rude replied, his tone terse. He threw the envelope onto the table, in front of Reno. The redhead pulled himself out of his slouch, reluctantly ceasing his picking at that little raised lump of metal. He tore open the envelope. He never quite mastered the knack of opening sealed letters in a neat and orderly fashion. He never wanted to in truth, the sound of tearing paper made his ears tingle in delight. He extracted several photographs from the remnants of the envelope, and, with a cursory glance and a flick of his wrist, sent them sliding across the table where they skidded to a halt in front of Knotch. Reno watched his grey brows furrow, confused.
"What kind o' haircut do ya call that?" He muttered to himself, peering down at the photo of the blonde haired mercenary. "Fuck sake, you could attract lightning with those spikes."
"His name's Cloud Strife." Said Reno. "A mercenary for hire, recently started working for the eco-terrorist group Avalanche. Claims to be an ex-SOLDIER, First Class."
Knotch's head shot back up to gawk at Reno, his expression twisting into a look of complete incredulity.
"I'm not doing any job that involves pissing off a SOLDIER. Do you think I'm a fuckin' lunatic?"
"Relax, you aren't dealing with him, not directly at least. We need him out of the picture, and we think that this woman here…" He pointed to the photo of a brown eyed, pretty yet fierce looking brunette. "…is the key to doing that."
Reno arranged the photos in front of Knotch so that the photo of the brunette and one of a frightening man with a gun-arm sat to Knotch's left, and the photos of the spiky-haired SOLDIER and another, pale skinned brunette with bright green eyes sat to his right. In the middle and placed just above the rest of the photos lay a picture of Knotch's former employer, Don Corneo.
"Okay…" Reno began; pointing to the pictures on Knotch's left. "This scary looking guy right here? That's Barret Wallace, leader of the terrorists. And the girl is Tifa Lockhart, proprietor of a bar in Sector 7, a bar that doubles as Avalanche's base of operations." He glanced up at Knotch, seeking affirmation that he followed thus far. The man gave a brief nod and, to Reno's surprise, remained silent, lips set in a pensive frown.
"Now, obviously these guys existing aren't in the best interests of the public, or the Shinra Corporation. So, we're planning to launch an attack on the terrorist hideout to stamp them out, once and for all. But…" Reno said, with the raising of a finger which he then placed on the ex-SOLDIER's photo with a flourish. "We need to ensure he isn't present at the time of the attack."
Knotch's frown twisted into a smirk.
"Afraid of the big bad SOLDIER are ya?"
Reno didn't look up from the photo as he replied.
"Could ask you the same question." A tingle of satisfaction rippled through Reno as he felt the mood of his captive change. No sarcastic quips this time. This was better; the balance of power starting to shift in their favour.
"But no. In actuality this man is of particular interest to the company. He fights like a SOLDIER, looks like a SOLDIER, but…he never was one, despite what he claims. As you can imagine, such a case would greatly concern my superiors and so we don't want to get rid of him just yet."
"You mean you don't want him there to fight you, son." Knotch snapped. Reno shrugged.
"Well, it's certainly beneficial for us that we won't have to fight him during the attack. But the company does want him alive. Now, at the moment, he's travelling with this girl here." He pointed to the picture adjacent to the SOLDIER's, the green eyed woman. "But he's looking to make his way back to the Avalanche base, by tomorrow according to our Intel. Which is unfortunate for us as tomorrow is when we plan to launch our attack."
Reno took the photo of the Lockhart girl in his hand, and flicked it around so that the photo faced Knotch, grasping it between his index and middle finger. In his other hand he did the same with the photo of the Don.
"This is where this lovely looking lady, this fat piece of shit, and your snarky ass come in." He fanned each of the photos as he referred to them. "This Lockhart chick is an old friend of our not quite ex-SOLDIER, and we have it on good authority that he's very protective of her. Promises tender looks and all that crap. Now, as I'm sure you know –"
"The Don's looking for a wife." Knotch interrupted, sounding bored now. "And you want me to get her to the Don's place to draw away pinhead here?" He nodded at Cloud's photo.
"Essentially, yes. We want you to go to the bar that Lockhart runs, and get her and Wallace interested in the Don. Say he's got a spy. That he's looking to sell Shinra secrets, that he's got Strife, we don't care. Just make sure she heads to Wall Market so Strife follows suit. Odds on she'll volunteer to go under the guise of one of the Don's would-be brides. We'll arrange transportation for her so we can ensure Strife finds out."
"You're trying to kill the Don too, then." Knotch stated in a matter of fact tone, straining to scratch his chin with his cuffed hands. A moment of silence passed in which Reno scrutinised the man opposite him. It didn't surprise him that Knotch guessed their intentions with the Don, but his nonchalance at the prospect caught him off guard.
"Why do you say that?" He asked, at last. Knotch rolled his eyes again.
"You Turk's, you really think nobody knows your secrets." He grumbled, before speaking to Reno, voice clear this time. "You're trying to get an ex-SOLDIER out of the way for your mission, you could send him damn well anywhere, yet you pick the Don's place. And send this SOLDIER's sweetheart, who you've said he's very protective of, into the Don's place to pose as a potential bride to the biggest sleaze in the Slums. And you're asking me why I say you want him killed?"
Reno's lip pulled into another grimace as he tried to mask the sheepishness that crept through him. Though his partner remained silent, he rather felt that Rude was experiencing a similar sensation. This entire debacle wasn't going the way it was supposed to. Knotch seemed to cut them off at every pass.
But they still had one more card up their sleeves…or rather around his neck. Although he couldn't quite dismiss the dread that Knotch would have a response for that too. Still, if they could throw him off his groove, make him comfortable, let him have control of the conversation just a little bit longer, then maybe the shock of their final revelation would be enough to make him more compliant.
Time for a different approach.
He took a breath, raising one hand in a sign of appeasement to the man opposite him.
"You're right, you're right. That was a stupid question."
"Really? Was it?" Knotch snapped, sarcasm all but leaping from his tongue.
"You're a little smarter than what we're used to dealing with. A little more in the know."
"You mean I'm not afraid of you." Said Knotch, smirking. Reno raised both hands this time.
"You caught me…us, I should say. Yes…the Don needs to be eliminated. He's become…untrustworthy. With Strife, we see an opportunity to destroy some problematic nests, but keep the eggs we need intact, so to speak." The line was as cheesy, secret-agent talkie as Reno could muster and it was with some relief that he watched Knotch again roll his eyes.
"Fuckin' eggs he says…Thinks he's fuckin' Detective Joe." Knotch muttered. Reno pulled his best embarrassed face but stayed silent.
"You really think I'm going to do what a couple o' numbskulls like you tell me to do? You guys haven't got a clue." Knotch said, a dismissive arrogance permeating his tone. Exactly what Reno needed from him; still, he continued feigning defensiveness. He folded his arms across his chest and sat back in his chair, trying to contain the grin of triumph as he delivered his next line in their little power game.
"Guess this hasn't really gone liked I'd hoped it would."
The remark earned him a wide-eyed look of condescension from the grey haired captive.
"Do you reckon so?" His sarcasm practically bounced off the walls and back to his tongue. Rude pushed his glasses closer to his face, a little involuntary motion that only Reno and their boss knew to be a sign of the silent man feeling flustered. He needed to act now, and wrest the control of the conversation from their captive for good. He leaned forward again, folding his arms in front of him on the table, shifting his weight onto them, and morphed his expression into one of the utmost sincerity.
"But I think you're still gonna do what we say."
Knotch sneered, unimpressed.
"Am I now? And what makes you so sure? Can't be your expert coercion and intimidation, that's for sure."
Reno smiled and pointed at the collar enveloping Knotch's neck. They grey haired man reacted only with a confused frown at first, until their came a moment so satisfying Reno rather felt he'd achieved Nirvana, as realisation and, dare he believe it, a hint of anxiety trickled onto Knotch's face, progressing downwards from widening eyes to his mouth contorting into a small, stunned 'O'. Reno sat back again, grinning from ear to ear.
"Rude, explain to Knotch here what exactly that collar is."
Rude cleared his throat.
"That, Reno, is an explosive collar, packed with a small plastic explosive, enough to take a man's head clean off his shoulders." He spoke.
Reno relished the utter anxiety that now gripped their captive, watching with sadistic glee as the man's weather beaten, tanned skin paled and he fidgeted just a little in his seat. The eyes told the bulk of the story though, laden with fear, the man's gaze darting around the room, looking for anything, desperately seeking something that wasn't the smug expressions of his captors.
Oh this was sweet. All the taunting and being outwitted and playing the role of the defeated, all of it was worth it just to see the man's expression as his experienced self-assurance crumbled around him.
"So what's it gonna be Knotch? Do as we say or we'll have to kill you. And I think neither of us wants that." Reno said. Knotch's eyes stopped dead in their sockets, gaze fixed upon him as the anxious expression on the man's face slowly gave way to a smile. Reno frowned.
"What are you smiling about?"
"You don't want that…" He said, another laugh following the statement. "You don't want that…" He repeated. "Of course! Hah hah hah! You don't want to kill me!" He slapped his cuffed hands palm-first down on the table, beaming all the while. He looked like he could radiate fucking sunshine from every orifice, Reno thought sourly. This was not good, whatever the man had planned. Knotch sat back in his chair, palms still pressed to the tabletop, and continued to smile the most sickening, triumphant, shit-faced smile that Reno ever witnessed.
"Go ahead there cue-ball." Knotch spoke to Rude. "Pull out your detonator or whatever and blow my head off."
Rude gave an agitated grunt, looking over to Reno, who returned a look of equal perplexity. The redhead turned back to face Knotch.
"You want us to…blow your head off?"
Knotch nodded, still grinning. Reno's expression shifted into one of sheer incredulity.
"But…that doesn't make any sense…"
"Exactly." Knotch replied.
Reno's brow furrowed.
"It doesn't make any sense for you to kill me! You aren't going to. You've got nobody else who can do this for you, can't do it yourselves, you've got an attack to focus on, can't get one of Corneo's guys, they're way too close to the Don. I'm the only guy you've got. You blow my head off, and you have to risk taking on this SOLDIER guy, and the Don…keeps being untrustworthy, for a while." The grin never left that weather-beaten face for the entirety of his explanation. Reno just gawked at him. Rude shifted about, nervous and uncomfortable.
"Great…" Rude muttered. "Just great."
Reno shot his partner a scowl.
"Well, I take it I'm free to go, boys?" Knotch asked in a pleasant tone.
"You get out of that chair and I'll blow your damn head up anyway, no questions asked." Reno growled, a threat he very much meant.
"Oh I know you Turk folk enjoy your killing, almost as much as you like presuming things about people…" The man replied, directing a knowing look at Reno, whose frown grew even more prominent. "So, I think it'd be nice for all involved here boys if we could come to an agreeme – "
"We're not negotiating." Rude interrupted. Knotch appraised him, eyebrows raised.
"I don't think you have much choice sunshine. And dismissing me before you even hear my requests? That's just…rude." He said with a snicker.
Reno ground his teeth together. Closing his eyes he pressed two fingers to his right temple, massaging it in a slow, circular pattern.
"What do you want?" He forced out.
"First off, I want my Adamantite bangle back, with the materia." He said, holding up his arm and nodding at his wrist, bare but for the handcuff ensnaring it.
"And?" Reno asked, steeling himself for some ludicrous demand.
"And…I want a golden Chocobo."
Reno's eyelids may as well have been spring loaded with how quick they shot open. Knotch smiled.
"What…pray tell, is a golden Chocobo?" Reno asked, reluctant though he was to hear the answer. "And don't say a big bird that's gold."
Knotch chuckled. "A very rare breed of Chocobo, said to be capable of crossing any terrain, land or ocean. They're extremely difficult to breed, very few in existence, and most of them owned by you fine employers. Not being put to much use though, poor things." He clucked his tongue.
"Shinra has gold Chocobos?" The redhead asked, disbelief evident in his voice. Knotch nodded irritably.
"Course they do. All the shit your company does and you're surprised about a flippin' Chocobo? Most of the wastelands are crawling with genetic freaks of nature your people throw out. You guys don't do a great job of covering tracks from anyone who's more than little inquisitive…or as wise in the ways of the world as me." He quipped with an aggrandising little point of his thumbs towards himself. "Shinra used to breed Chocobos for military purposes, including gold ones. But like I said, they're hard to breed and mako powered vehicles were easy to make, they never saw deployment. But a little diggin' and it isn't hard to find information on them. Monopoly breeds laziness, and Shinra, they have monopoly over damn near everything. They don't hide shit well, because nobody looks. Why would they?"
Reno continued to massage his temple, narrowing his eyes into a scrutinising glare. He licked his tongue along the back of his teeth, placing it between his canines and biting down just hard enough for it hurt a little bit.
"Call the boss." At last he spoke, eyes never leaving the man across the table, but his statement directed at the man to his left. He felt Rude's confused gaze, radiating out from behind those sunglasses.
"Call the boss." He repeated. "I want to see if he's bullshitting us."
A moment passed wherein Rude stared at his partner, until, with a low sigh he walked towards the door, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a phone before disappearing through the frame and shutting himself out of the shack.
Knotch kept smiling.
Shithead, Reno thought.