"Tmp… Tmp… Tmp…"Boots clicked their way across a pristine floor. Aeris' eyes shifted left, then right, keeping pace with her footsteps. Prisoners here resided behind thick, clear plastic walls, most of them sleeping or nibbling at their food. She rounded a corner and furrowed her brow, her sapphire eyes narrowing.

'Two years… Two Goddamned years and I'm still stuck here, on the newbie floor.'

"Floor A-1 is, for lack of a better term, a newbie floor." Her instructor had said. "The only prisoners whom reside there are mental cases. Docile ones, y'know?" He coughed gruffly, and continued. "You'll be residing there for a few months, just to get the hang of things. Security there is loose, so you'll have some room for error. SOME. I don't want reports of my recruits half-assing their duties. Just do your best, trust your training, and you'll be fine." The group of new recruits then saluted, and had been given their wapons.

Currently, Aeris' rifle rested uncomfortably on her shoulder. Sliding the offending strap of material into the crook of her elbow, she glanced at her watch.

"Five… four… three… two… one…" A bass-heavy electronic tone sounded throughout the halls emanating from several loudspeakers. After fifteen seconds the tone subsided, replaced by a blank female voice.

"Round Change, repeat, Round Change. Aeris Cole, please report to the Security Director's office."

Aeris inwardly hurrahed. A trip to the director's office meant a change in rounds, possibly even a promotion. Taking a left at the next corner instead of a right, she found herself walking down a small hallway leading up to a green door. Purshing it open, she blinked her eyes a few times to adjust to the light. The guards' quarters was a small, dimly lit maroon room with a dark green carpet. The slate grey metal lockers were the only things that were new, and the area around them was a little brighter.

She made a bee-line for her locker, and opened it quickly. Throwing her rifle inside and pulling off her grey security cap, she let out a relieved sigh and fluttered her ears above her head, shaking them out. 'Those caps are ungodly…' Aeris thought to herself. Closing the locker door with a soft click, she started as a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her waist.

"Hello, Love…" A voice droned softly in her ear.

"Leo…" She giggled softly and spun around, pecking the gray cat on the nose. "You know I don't like that."

"Yeah, I know…" He broke his arms grasp around her waist to rub sheepishly at the back of his head. "But I like to do it." He walked back behind her and rested his chin on the top of her head, forcing her to crouch just a bit, chuckling softly as he assumed the rather odd look of a living totem pole.

"So, how's the ninth floor?"

"Eh, s'okay, I guess."

"Oh?"

"Yeah… it's really, really boring. Nothing like when you and me used to do rounds together."

Leo was Aeris' close friend approaching eighteen months. They'd met a short while after becoming employed. They'd met during something called a 'Dual Round', moments when security measures were especially tight required patrols of two guards. They'd immediately hit it off.

This, of course, was the short version.

About eighteen months ago…

A shrill alarm sounded through the halls. "Alert, alert. All floor one guards to Sector Alpha."

Aeris readied her newly acquired rifle, the mechanized weapon settling easily into her hands as she broke into a sprint down the hallway. Other recruits soon followed suit, filing in a short distance behind her. When she'd reached the sector, she heard a large, metallic 'THUNK!' sound from behind her. A massive security door had slammed down behind her, sealing the other guards from the passage. Four figures stood, somewhat away, in the same room as she. Aeris walked forward with slow, deliberate steps as she aimed down her rifle's sights at the group, until the smallest of the four, a man in a black cloak, raised his hand in a motion for her to stop.

She immediately responded, slinging the rifle back around her shoulder.

"M-Mr. Evilguy." Eyes of acidic green flashed at her from underneath the shroud, but the slight figure turned his back to her and waved her off.

"It's alright, Aeris." His feet hidden beneath his cloak, the man seemed to glide silently back to the other three. The second of them was a huge, hulking male figure clad in uncomfortable looking leather pants, a leather vest of some sort, and a zippered S&M mask. Aeris immediately recognized this person as Major Payne, Johnny's assistant. The other, a grey and white cat clad in the same uniform as she. As for the fourth, he remained hunched over, his back turned to her in his drab white and blue prison uniform.

Aeris walked the long way around to Johnny and the cat, keeping a generous distance from the major.

"So, who's this yahoo?" She pointed a thumb back at the figure in prison drabs.

"I'll let Leo fill you in on this one."

"Well, his name is Prometheus…" at the mention of his name, the figure raised his head. He was a stark white cat with long, flowing white hair to match. Aeris didn't have specifics, but it seemed pretty damned long; waist length, at least. He threw a disturbing red eye her way, and she involuntarily shivered. Leo looked from her to the newly dubbed Prometheus, and gave a good-natured laugh.

"It's a little unnerving, isn't it?" She nodded sheepishly. "It's alright. First time that happened to me, too. I'm Leo, by the way." He stuck out a hand, which she shook firmly.

"I'm Aeris, nice to meet you, Leo."

Johnny very loudly cleared his throat, catching the attention of the newly found acquaintances.

"Now, then. The reason for our gathering here…" Johnny gave a wistful glance at the cat in white, and gestured in his direction. "This man, here."