With cool blue eyes, I scanned the ruins of a once great city that sprawled out in front of me. Adjusting the straps of my bag, I continued to walk. This was the city I had traveled so far to see. It had taken my three days to get here from the shattered remains of Kalm. I had been lucky to even find a place to rest in Kalm. Considering the state that the planet was in now.
The gates of the city had been destroyed during the Meteor attack. Now it was just a huge pile of rubble, like so many other parts of the city. The first thing I noticed about the city was the lack of people. So much for trying to find a friendly face.
A warm breeze kicked up, drawing my attention to a sign to my right. Brushing stray locks of brown hair off my forehead, I walked over and read the sign.
'Welcome to Neo-Midgar. You have entered one of the last safe sectors of the planet. Please state your business at the welcome center to your right, first door on the right. You will receive a slip of paper that states you have been allowed to pass. If you fail to report to the welcome center, drastic actions will be taken.'
I laughed lightly and walked away from the sign. I knew I should have gone to the welcome center but it would simply be a waste of my time. People peered out windows, watching me walk. I knew they hadn't seen me head towards the welcome center. But what where they going to do? The sound of footsteps behind me caught my attention.
Turning I found myself standing in front of an older woman with a very serious looking gun. Wasn't this supposed to be a happier section? Maybe I was wrong, or perhaps this woman wasn't aware of that. Either way I was very close to having my brains scattered all over the cracked blacktop. Thanks but no thanks; I happened to like my brain.
"State your name and business or get the fuck out of town," the woman snapped, waving her gun at me. "Or did you happen to miss the sign?"
"Jeez lady, calm down," I said, raising my hands. "I'm one of the friendly folk."
Piercing eyes glared at me through lowered lashes. "Your name and business."
Some people just can't take a joke. "I'm here because I heard it was a friendly place, one of the safer cities. The name is Conlan, no last name unfortunately."
Finally the gun lowered and the woman gave a faint smile. Now we're getting somewhere.
"I'm sorry Conlan. Here in the city we are very careful as to who can enter. As long as you aren't a spy you are welcomed," the woman said shoving her gun into her belt. "My name is Shera by the way."
"Nice to meet you," I said holding out my right hand.
Shera grasped my hand and shook it with a strength that surprised me. Her brown eyes traveled over my body and if she hadn't been so old I would have appreciated the glance.
"Welcome to Neo-Midgar Conlan," Shera said, releasing my hand.
At the mention of Neo-Midgar, my mind began to wander to it. Only three of the former eight slums still were functioning. Once people feared coming to the city, now it was one of the few safe refuges.
"What brings you to Neo-Midgar," Shera asked walking into the city.
Without a choice I was left to tag after the woman. "I've been trying to get here for weeks. I wanted to be somewhere safe. Somewhere where those damn general's aren't breathing down your neck."
Shera's shoulders tightened, her body visibly froze. With a quickened pace she continued to walk, not saying anything. Something I said?
"Even here we aren't safe from the general's. They can attack at anytime," Shera explained climbing over a car that blocked the road.
"Say Shera, just exactly where are we going?" The suspense, you could say, was killing me.
"To meet some people. You have the look," Shera explained going no further into details.
"What look are you talking about? Is it the sword? I only carry it for protection," I quickly explained.
With a look over my shoulder I could see the handle of my sword. Damn sword!
Looming in front of Shera and I was a crumbling building. Once it had been the headquarters of one of the overruling government. Now the Shinra building was half its once glory.
"The Shinra building? Why are we here," I wanted to know.
"Its not the Shinra building anymore. Shinra is long dead," Shera explained, knocking on the main door.
"Who goes," a deep voice called.
The door swung open on squeaky hinges. I would tell you that it was much different than before Meteor but I can't. This was the first time I've ever been inside the Shinra building.
People were scattered all over the place. Tabletops were covered with paper and different machines. Was this the headquarters of the resistance everybody whispered about? Outside Neo-Midgar walls it was famous, everybody spoke of it. But nobody had ever had the privilege of seeing it first hand.
"Welcome Conlan, to Kibo," Shera said.
"Is this the resistance faction Kibo," I asked, my voice filled with glee. Normally I don't sound gleeful, but its once in a lifetime you see something like this.
"Good to see the word is getting out," a voice to my right said.
Turning all I could see were people leaning over a table. If you wanted to be precise two women and four men. One of the woman looked up and a pair of green eyes locked onto mine.
"I thought everybody knew about it," Shera asked.
The green-eyed woman stepped away from the table and walked in my direction. She was tall, 5'10" easily. Long strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a tight braid. Her clothing was the standard issues fatigues for the former group SOLDIER shoulder armor included.
"Last we heard, people in General Yuffie's section were still relatively unaware of us," she explained stopping near us. "Who's this?"
Shera looked from me to the strange girl who was pointing her thumb in my direction looking at Shera. She didn't even bother to ask me herself, and here I thought I was handsome. I stood up straight, still feeling that my 6'1" frame was not as tall as I had hoped next to her.
"This is Conlan. I met him just coming into Neo-Midgar," Shera explained. "Conlan this is Trista, a very active member of Kibo. If you'll excuse me."
Shera left me with Trista to talk to someone summoning her from a table near the back. Turning to look into Trista's eyes was like looking into ice. In all my years of traveling I have never before seen such cold eyes.
"So Trista, what is it you do in Kibo," I asked, wanting to break the ice.
"I help plot missions and carry them out. I am one of the active forces of Kibo," Trista explained.
Simply nodding was the easiest way to keep myself from laughing. Everything about her was cold, but her voice. It rang high and clear like young child, although not as annoying.
"If you are laughing at my voice forget it," Trista said reading my thoughts.
"I'm sorry Trista. Its just your voice really doesn't go with your persona," I explained to her.
Before she could make some harsh comment a red haired man joined us. Everything about the man was sloppy, from his red hair down to his un-shinned shoes.
"Hello sir," Trista said, snapping to attention.
"Hey," was my simply response.
"I see you have meet our newest member Trista," the man said.
"What!" Trista and I yelped in unison.
"Yes. After speaking with Shera she says he is perfect for the job."
Trista whirled on the man and grabbing his arm walked a few steps away.
"I will not work with him," Trista hissed angrily.
"You do not have a choice Trista. Getting all the help we can is the most important thing. Personal feelings always take a backseat to the war," the man told her calmly.
"I don't care Reno! He doesn't care about us or anything," Trista insisted.
I clearly remember never mentioning anything of the sorts. But it was true, I didn't want to join Kibo. I'd rather live in hell under Sephiroth's control than join them. Between living and dying, living looked pretty good right now.
"Trista calm down," Reno said placing his hands on her shoulders. "Just explain the situation to him and let him make up his mind."
Visibly shaking Trista took a deep breath and nodded. Turning away from Reno gave me a clear shot of her face. I'd never seen a woman look so pissed before, but anger was beauty for her. With jerky motions Trista waved me over. The older man, Reno, was smirking behind Trista's back. What was I getting myself into?
"Come with us," Trista said turning on her heals.
With a determined step she walked up a flight of stairs and out of sight leaving me with Reno.
"Come on," Reno said. "I'd rather face a WEAPON than see that girl pissed off."
"That bad?" I'd never seen a WEAPON before but I've heard stories.
"You've never seen her wield a spear." And with that Reno was heading towards the stairs after the pissed off spear wielding Trista.
What a day this has turned out to be. Chasing after Reno and Trista took me up a flight of stairs and down a half light hallway. Finding the room the two had disappeared into was easy, just follow the angry voices.
"I'll explain," Trista said as I slipped into my seat.
Reno took a seat next to mine and Trista began to talk. Story time, gotta love it.
"Ten years ago a man named Sephiroth was reigning terror on the planet. Summoning a giant meteor he planned to destroy the world and become one with the planet. Facing him was-"
"I'm all too well aware of this," I broke in. "I didn't mean to ruin your story. So please, do continue."
Reno smirked and Trista fumed. "As I was saying. Cloud Strife and his friends, the group AVALANCHE faced off against Sephiroth. Supposedly killing him the group escaped. Meteor, Holy, and the Lifestream waged war over Midgar. Sephiroth, not dead, was able to achieve his ultimate goal and merge with the planet."
"He became god," Reno said with a sneer.
Trista nodded and resumed her story. "What was left of Meteor crashed into the planet, brining Holy and Lifestream with it. Causing more damage than good. Sephiroth rose into power, covering the sky blocking out the sun. Enslaving those that once fought against him. Sephiroth took control of AVALANCHE and now the former members work as his general's."
"They are spread out across the world. Each one rules over a different territory," Reno explained waving his hand to a map of the world on the table.
"Wonderful story. I know all about the general's and Meteor. I know that Sephiroth rules with an iron fist of power from wherever he rules," I explained un-amused by the story.
"The group Kibo is going to stop his rule once and for all," Trista said her voice high and cold.
I laughed, I didn't mean to but it was amusing. "You and Kibo? That's a laugh."
"I can tell," Reno said.
"I told you," Trista snapped at Reno.
"No, I'm sorry. I'll stop laughing."
Silence flooded the room, hanging over our heads. Shifting nervously in my seat under Trista's harsh glare was about all I could do. Reno was watching Trista, his right hand hovering close to what appeared to be a nightstick of some sorts. Reno thinks she's going to jump me?
"I'll help," I finally said.
Trista gasped so hard she choked. Beating on her chest Trista fought to breath, Reno laughed at her misfortune. Guess I still have that effect on woman.
"You'll help," she gasped, her eyes watering.
"Sure. I've lost a lot to those damn general's," I told her, fighting hard not to smile. "Tell me more about the general's. I really only know about Yuffie."
"Their names are Yuffie Kisaragi, Red XIII or Nanaki, Vincent Valentine, Cid Highwind, Barret Wallace, and Tifa Lockhart. Each one controls a different part of the world," Trista explained finally catching her breath.
"What about that Squall guy."
"You mean Cloud Strife?"
I shrugged, "Whatever. Squall, Cloud what's the difference."
"Cloud Strife is one of the most feared men on the planet. Squall is a passing storm that only annoys people," Trista snapped angrily. "Cloud Strife is Sephiroth's second in command. Sephiroth uses him as his own personal bodyguard. At the moment there is no way we could face against Cloud and survive."
For somebody with such a stupid name they sure did fear him. But the stories I had heard were pretty bad. Everything somebody heard about the general's was bad. The stories of what they did to people struck fear in the bravest of men. Either these people were really brave or just plain stupid.
"If we went against Cloud now, we would all die. Plus if anybody lived Sephiroth would crush them without a second thought," Reno explained. "I faced off against Cloud before he was brainwashed and he still kicked my ass."
That was not a reassuring thing to hear. "If he kicked your ass then, what's stopping him from kicking your ass now?"
Trista looked down at her hands then back up. "Deep inside of them they are still alive. Sephiroth keeps them that way to torture them. Makes sure that they know what they are doing to the people they once fought for. To him, that is worse that simply killing them. They wish for death."
Something in her voice got to me. Tugging on my jacket I looked around uncomfortably. She believed in what she fought for so much. Damn-it, it was getting to me.
"How old are you?"
Trista raised her eyebrows, giving me a funny stare. "Why?"
"I was simply wondering. Wondering how old you were."
She was seventeen and all ready she was willing to die for this planet. I was eighteen and I wasn't willing to die for anything. So why was I saying yes?
"Fine, I'll help you like I said before."
A tiny smile played over Trista's lips and Reno smacked me over the back.
"Welcome aboard," Reno said. "We leave in four days."
"Until then we will introduce you to the staff, fill you in on missions, and train," Trista explained.
"Why do I need to train? I know how to use my sword, I'm strong," I told them, miffed at the idea of training.
Trista clenched her teeth, narrowing her eyes. Thankfully for me, Reno came to my rescue.
"You must train with Trista and the others so you can learn their style. If you go into battle not knowing how your comrades fighting style it could be very dangerous," Reno said.
"Let's being already!"
Trista really doesn't appreciate enthusiasm.
Training began bright and early the next day. Too damn early for my taste, but when Trista pounded on my door I had no choice. Sweat trickled down my forehead as I faced off against Trista later that morning.
Holding her spear out in front of her body Trista nodded for me to attack. Holding my sword at my side I charged forward. The sword rose high to strike a deadly blow and she stepped aside. My momentum carried me right past her and she helped me find the ground. With a swing of her spear, the staff part slammed into my back and sent me flying.
Landing with my hands braised helped take away some of the pain, but the fall still hurt. Damn, I swore rolling onto my back. Trista looked at me, her eyes glowing with humor. Glad to know she found this so amusing.
"If you don't plan to kill don't attack," Elena called from the sidelines.
Elena and a man named Rude had introduced themselves earlier in this morning over a large mug of coffee. With Reno, they sat on the sidelines watching us.
"I can't kill her," I called only with half-truth. If given the chance right now, I would have thrown her body to hell and danced on her grave. Trista was not one of my favorite people in the mornings. Too damn chipper.
"Attack like you mean to kill. If I die facing you I don't stand a chance against General Yuffie," Trista said.
Her next move took me completely by surprise. She held out her hand to help me to my feet. And here I thought she was a cold-hearted bitch.
"Thanks," muttering, I let her pull me to my feet.
Grabbing her spear she retreated a few steps and took up a ready stance. "Attack when ready."
Picking my sword up I charged her again. Green eyes widened as the sword and the spear collided in a clash of sparks. After a few feverish minutes Reno yelled stop. I never loved another word more than that word.
"Better," Trista said wiping sweat from her brow.
Hey! A compliment, its about time. "Thanks. You aren't half bad yourself."
"Take a shower Trista and get some food," Elena said not even bothering to get to her feet.
With a slight bow Trista jogged out of the room, spear in hand. A shower wasn't sounding half bad right now.
"Food sounds good now."
"No," Rude said. That was the first word I had heard the man say.
"You still have three more people to face against," Reno informed him. "Somebody go get Mitsu."
As of this moment, I hate my life.