"Goddamn!" Barret fell to the ground as a laser beam tore up the ground in front of him.
Red XIII sighed and cast the fifth Cure3 spell of the battle. (Once again, Cure3 for Barret. Why isn't he more careful? One of the many virtues of a good fighter is an awareness of one's surroundings. I couldn't say this to Barret's face, though. If only I hadn't lent my Enemy Skill materia to Legolas. Then I could just cast White Wind on Barret. It uses less MP, and would be of more help, considering I still haven't been injured.)
Red XIII shook his head and cast Cure3.
Cid came running up. "I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner, but I needed to go buy some more cigarettes." He raised his Sepulchre Lance and prepared for battle. "Ah...what the hell...Bahumet ZERO!" While the summoner occupied the Amber Weapon for awhile, Cid lit a cigarette. "So Red, why'd you name it the Amber Weapon?"
"Well, for one thing, it's yellow."
"So call it the Gold Weapon."
"All the other Weapons were named after precious gems, with the exception of the Ultima Weapon."
"So call it the Penultima Weapon. Or the Golden Topaz Weapon. Why 'amber?' What's so great about it? It's just another name for yellow. I thought you were smart, Red? Why amber?"
"Amber is rare. Amber is used in jewelry."
Barret looked at Red XIII. "But what the fuck is it?"
Red XIII sighed. "Fossilized tree sap."
Cid snickered. "You named the monster after tree sap? What's next, the Maple Syrup Weapon? The Sassafras Weapon? The Root Beer Weapon? The Cinnamon Weapon? The--
The Amber Weapon landed, looked at Cid, and shrieked.
"--Oh shit! Red, help me!"
Red smirked. "But it's just fossilized tree sap. Can't you handle it?"
Cid glared at him. He jumped back and eyed the monster. He rammed his lance straight into its neck. He pushed the button and shot some poison into it. The Weapon reared and slapped Cid. He fell to the ground with a dull thud.
Red XIII threw some Dragon Scales at it. The Weapon screamed, took one last swipe at Barret, and flew away.
Cid jumped up, screaming. "You get back here, you good for nothin', motherfucking, sappy, fossilized piece of shit! I'll fix you good! Little Weapon can't take a little magic? Get back here so I can kick your ass!"
Barret groaned. "Can I get a little Cure over here?"
Red XIII sighed and cast Cure3. (How are we ever going to defeat this Weapon?) "How soon do you suppose Legolas will come back?"
Cid shrugged. "He left two days ago. Shouldn't take too long. After all, Junon's on the same continent as we are."
"Do you think he can get any help?"
"Dunno. But I don't think Reeve and Raieyana would leave us ailing over here. I s'pose Leg might have to go to Wutai if they can't. But Vincent would come. And he turns into vicious beasts."
"What about Yuffie?"
"Well if he came, I guess she would have to, too."
"She would be a great help."
"Sure. If you say so... Just too bad Ruther can't help. He could kick some major ass. And if Lia wasn't so damn..."
"Pregnant?" Red XIII smiled.
"Don't interrupt me... Paranoid, then she could help. But she's too afraid to let anyone else watch her kid. So she's no use."
"She's pregnant. She shouldn't fight."
"It's a nice excuse. But we're busting our asses off down here. We need some back-up."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The clinic in Mideel was slowly filling up with sick ex-Soldiers. They had high fevers, and all muttered in a sort of delirium. Elsie bent over Ruther.
"...see...light...I...see it... Hojo...is near... ...reunion...reunion... the sun... ...emerges...reunion..."
Suddenly she was aware of the patient on the cot next to Ruther's.
She didn't understand. But she finally noticed that every man in the clinic was now muttering the same words, over and over. She turned to leave. (I must tell the others about this. I wonder what it means. Reunion.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The PHS rang. Lia got up. "Hello?"
"It's Elsie. Something weird is going on here in Mideel."
"You mean something weird wasn't already happening?"
"Lia, you know how Ruther was kind of...saying things in his sleep? Well, the other Soldiers in there had been too, and now... They all are saying the same thing."
"You're serious... What are they saying?"
Barret, Red XIII, and Cid walked into the room.
"So what? Reunion? That's a little strange, I guess."
Red XIII frowned. "Lia, who are you talking to?"
He reached out a hand...that is, paw. "May I speak with her?"
"Be my guest." She looked at Barret. "I still don't think it's that big of a deal. A bunch of sick guys have been together so long they mutter the same thing. It doesn't sound too odd."
"Alright, Elsie. Call back if the situation changes. Good-bye." Red XIII set down the PHS. "That was Elsie."
"No shit, Einstein," said Cid.
Red XIII ignored him and continued. "All of the patients--Ruther included--at the clinic there suddenly all have been talking about a 'reunion.' She also said she heard Ruther mention Hojo. I don't know exactly what this means, but it can't mean anything good."
Barret patted his gun-arm. "I say go storm the Shinra right now. They have something to do with this."
"I agree, they must have something to do with it. But until we figure out exactly what..." Red XIII shook his head. "...it would be best for us to remain here, at least until Legolas returns. We have to keep that Weapon in check, and frankly, I don't think we can handle any other problems at this moment."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Laida glanced around her office, then locked the door. She picked up the phone. "Martin? Make sure I am not bothered for a couple of hours, okay? Can you handle it? Yeah, thanks." She opened the bottom drawer of her desk. She reached under the bottom of it and pressed a button. The back of the drawer slid down to reveal a hidden space. She removed the box from it and shut the drawer.
(I can't wait any longer. Lucas has some plan of his own, I know it. Now is the time. I can't trust anyone any longer.) She opened the box and removed an object wrapped in a piece of black fabric. Unwrapping it, she let the cloth fall to the floor. (Sephiroth's medallion. All I need is an object belonging to a person to contact that person--if the spirit hasn't already been assimilated into the Lifestream.)
Laida concentrated very hard. A yellow orb on her desk started to glow. Channel Consciousness--enables any non-Cetra to establish contact with a soul that has returned to the Planet.
She looked down. Her hands felt warm. The medallion was radiating heat of its own. She studied it carefully. (This isn't any ordinary medallion...
She shook her head. (Get yourself together.
"...so long in the darkness have I watched. Waiting? How long have I waited? Five, six, seven years. All for her. To see her again."
He has no power over me. Laida, girl, get a grip!
"Can I see her? Can I tell her? What I can't forgive, what I can't forget? Will she pay for it? Will she feel pain?"
Shut up! I called you, not vice versa! Stop trying to control me.) Laida toppled over to the floor with a crash. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. She began to speak with a voice that seemed to come from far away.
"It's time. The reunion. The sun reemerges. Drawn to the beacon, she comes. Raieyana." Then everything was black, and Laida knew no more.
Lia looked up as she put down the PHS. "That was Legolas. He's coming back with Ishmael and Aeris."
"What the--" Barret looked at her. "I thought he was going for help, not more baby-sitting charges!"
"All the others will be coming. Except Reeve and Reno, they're needed in Junon. And Raieyana."
"What about Raieyana?" asked Cid.
Lia looked down. "I guess someone from Shinra tried to kidnap her. Vincent's hiding her with Lucrecia until we can solve that problem."
"Those damn Shinra," muttered Barret.
"Wait a minute," said Red XIII, "isn't Reno with the Turks?"
"I don't know, we'll have to ask Vincent or someone to explain it. It's not like Legolas tried to or anything."
"Hey Lia," said Cid, "isn't Cloud off somewhere acting loony or somethin'? Is he coming, too?"
She shrugged. "Yeah, but I don't know whether or not he still isn't loony. We'll just have to wait until they come."
Red XIII looked at her. "When are they coming, Lia?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Vincent looked around the room. (We're together, but missing so much. Ruther, Reeve, Raieyana.) "She's in Lucrecia's cave. Raieyana has a PHS. Someone has to stay here on call 24-7 so she can get a hold of us. If she gets sick, we're her only hope. The rest of us need to try and destroy this Amber Weapon."
"What can we do? We just gotta fight the damn mother," said Cid.
"There's more at stake here. What about the Reunion?" asked Cloud.
"Didn't that happen already? I mean, I'm not the most observant person in the world," said Yuffie, "but I definitely remember some little get-together Hojo called the 'Jenova Reunion.' What do we have to fear about this thing of the past?"
Tifa shook her head. "Something must have happened to trigger all this 'reunion' talk again. Something triggered another Reunion."
Barret leaped to his feet. "Y'all know it was the fucking Shinra. I say we bomb Edinborough tonight! You'd be a foo' not to!"
"No," said Legolas, "we have to be discreet. If we move too fast, we won't know what they did. And then we'll be powerless to stop it."
"I agree," said Vincent, "we can't move in haste. Our anger will cause us to be reckless. We must wait for a sign, perhaps wait even for the Reunion itself. Or wait until the sick Soldiers move."
"What?" said Tifa.
"When the time comes, they will head for the Reunion, just like the Sephiroth clones. Maybe even some of us will have the urge."
"Don't worry about it," said Cloud, "I'm stronger this time."
"I'm not just worried about you, Cloud," said Vincent, "if this affects the Soldiers, there are few of us that it doesn't affect. This is going to be bigger than the first Reunion."
"And," said Red XIII, speaking for the first time, "I think it has a clearer purpose. The first Reunion gathered to set Sephiroth's plans in motion. His decisions were marred by the deception of Jenova. This Reunion is for Jenova's purpose. It affects the Soldiers because this time, the summoning isn't being done by Sephiroth. It's being done by Jenova."
"What's the purpose, then?" asked Lia.
"I'm not certain. But I've read some books that were left behind by Professor Gast when he came to Cosmo Canyon. I've learned a few more things from Ancient legend. I've been trying to piece them together."
"So what's the puzzle look like now?" said Tifa.
Red XIII sighed. "It's complicated. Jenova fell from the sky. She was an alien and carried alien microbes with her. The Ancients had a nomadic lifestyle, and on the average, were rather weak. They easily succumbed to the foreign diseases. They had not developed antibodies to a disease from another planet. Your race, modern man, along with a few Cetra exiles, hid from Jenova. Jenova was enraged at having become an outcast so she lashed out and killed any Cetra she could find. The very few Cetra that were left succeeded in burying her in an avalanche and thought their problem solved. That was 5000 years ago. The Ancients slowly died out until Ifalna was the only one left."
Vincent shrugged. "Although this is interesting, it hardly explains why--"
"Vincent, I'm not finished."
He sighed. "Continue, Red."
"Gast thought Jenova was an Ancient at first, and so eventually it was Sephiroth who believed that he himself was an Ancient. He hated the new race. Your race."
"But he killed Aeris," said Cloud softly.
"She had rekindled the old grudge. In a way, Jenova didn't care who she killed. I suppose being frozen for 5000 years could do that to you. Jenova has to be the link. Many things, from Turks to mutant wolves have tried to attack Raieyana--Aeris' daughter. The one thing they have in common--enhancement with both Mako and Jenova. I believe Mako enhances Jenova cell multiplication. Each subsequent showering leads to the growth of Jenova's hold on a person--or a monster, as the case may be. If there is another Jenova Reunion, Raieyana--and her children--probably have little chance of survival."
"Shit," said Barret, "this is worse than reactors. Shinra had no idea what the hell they were doing."
"They should've stuck to terrorism and burning down cities," said Yuffie.
"But, they unwittingly hit something," said Red XIII. "The Jenova/Mako combination is like an intensely risky live inoculation."
Cid gave him a strange look. "Say what?"
"This treatment is a vaccine against weakness with heinous side effects."
Barret snorted. "Heinous? Man, you livin' in the past!"
Red XIII ignored him. "The Jenova can cause physical and mental breakdown. But the individuals that withstand it have phenomenal strength--even if they end up slightly crazy. You could say that it is the ultimate price for the knowledge of strength. The Jenova gives the power and it can take it away. Fight it, and you could lose everything. If you don't, it will kill you eventually anyway."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Reno, welcome back!"
Reno smiled and nodded at the small group of people who had gathered around the door for his arrival back at Alcor. "Hey, is this a company or the 'Welcome Wagon?' Get your asses in gear, folks, if you want to be better than the Shinra!" He glanced at Reeve. "Man, you let everything go to hell while I was gone, didn't you, buddy?"
Reeve glared at him. "As a matter of fact, for once I was able to get some work done. Except for the period of time Ray was missing, but I can hardly be blamed for that."
"So, where's my office?"
"You don't have one."
He raised an eyebrow. "What the hell? You said--"
Reeve grinned. "Next week main operations are moving back to the old building. Your office has been remodeled. No signs of the fire whatsoever. But you don't have an office here, so deal."
"For a second I thought Reeve Jordan was actually holding a grudge against somebody."
He shook his head. "Only two people on this planet do I hold a grudge against. One is Cloud Strife. The other..."
Lavana stepped in their path. "I see the company asshole has dragged his sorry butt back."
Reno nodded. "And I see the company whore has not gone out of business."
"You're wrong. I guess you haven't heard. I'm leaving. I have bigger and better things to be doing."
"What, you've exhausted the supply of horny men in this company? I must have missed the going-out-of-business sale!"
She snickered. "There is no amount you could pay me to make me fuck you!"
"Shut up Lavs. You'd do the dog in the alley if you thought I'd pay you a nickel."
"Jack, I really wished you hadn't told me that. Now you've messed up my innocent little mind by telling me what turns you on."
"That's one point I agree with you on. Your mind sure is little."
She shook her head and turned to Reeve. "Only three more days... If you don't hurry up, you'll miss your chance, Reeve. You name the time, the place--I'll be there." She leaned into his ear and whispered loudly, "I'd get on all fours for you, Reeve." She sauntered away, with a self-satisfied smirk.
"She definitely makes me want to get on all fours," said Reno, "so I can say hello to the toilet bowl without getting anything on my favorite tie!"
"She has completely overstepped her boundaries with that one."
"She's not even that attractive. She has little going for her. She's easy. That's it. Her breasts aren't even that big. Compared to--"
Reeve bristled. "Compared to who?"
"Just say it."
"What do you think I was gonna say?" Reno asked.
"Reeve, you can't let it get to you."
"I'm sorry, I can't help it. Maybe it's easier for you because you don't give a damn."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? I'm not sitting here saying shit like that about you."
Reeve looked him in the eye. "Stop pretending that you care about her."
"If this is pretend, I hope I never feel the real thing."
"It's not all it's cracked up to be."
"Look, Reeve, this whole mess started out and I thought it was a one-way street. I decided then that I was going to have to learn how to accept it. Well, you've gotta accept it, okay? I'm in love with her."
"So am I, Reno."
"I know that. But she didn't make me love her, and I didn't make me love her. There isn't anything to place the blame on. So the only thing you can do is accept it. Or let it eat you alive."
"Damn it, Reno. I want to be mad at you. I have to have anger at something, but I come up blank. It feels like I'm betraying myself not to throttle you right now."
"It wouldn't solve anything."
"Well, does it look like I'm throttling you? I know that's not the answer."
"So what is the answer?"
Reeve smiled sadly. "'E'...None of these."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Laida grabbed the bottle of aspirin from her desk drawer. She lifted her coffee cup and swallowed five at once. She touched her swollen lip. (I don't remember exactly what happened the other day, but I find it a little frightening. I wish I could talk to Lucas about this, but he's been acting so damn strange lately...)
The speaker phone on here desk rang. She pushed a button.
"Laida, it's Martin."
"What is it?"
"Elena Roberts is here to see you. You didn't tell me she had an appointment..."
"I called her yesterday and told her to come. Send her right on in."
She stretched her arms above her head and rolled her head around her shoulders. (I'm just so sore. What the hell happened to me?)
Elena walked into Laida's office. "You wanted to see me?"
"That's right." She motioned to a chair. "Sit down."
"Well, what is it?"
Laida sighed. "Since Dr. Shelding hired the Turks for Shinra, I feel it's my duty to inform you about your associate, Rude. His body was found in Gongaga. To be exact, in the basement of a house he owned. There was a sort-of holding-cell there. I was deeply saddened when I read it in the newspaper. Here's the article." She handed a newprint clipping to Elena.
She examined it closely. "Why, this is from several days ago!"
"Well, we sent Shinra investigators into the area immediately. This is probably the only copy of the article that wasn't destroyed. Bad press must be eliminated, you know. And our team there found out some intriguing information on the crime scene." She pulled out a report. "'The victim bled profusely from a gunshot wound in the shoulder before he was instantly killed with a bullet to the back of the head. The gun was found at the crime scene; it was registered to Rude.' See, Elena, there's weird stuff all around this case. He had a broken nose, and it seems someone had emptied a whole bottle of iodine--you know, disinfectant--onto his shoulder wound. Our workers checked the bottle for fingerprints. And so now we know, whatever happened there, Raieyana Amine was there and she got away."
"She couldn't have fought Rude off by herself," said Elena. "And what about Reno?"
"They found some of Reno's blood inside the holding cell. There was also some blood from a fourth, still yet unidentified person."
"You know our payment for getting the Amine girl was quite a hefty sum of money. If Reno had wanted the money for himself, they wouldn't have ended up at Rude's house. The Reno I know would have killed him in the copter as soon as they were alone."
Laida shrugged. "I just wanted to let you know that it's in your best financial interest to find out what went on there."
"What is wrong with you?" asked Elena. "Three of my colleagues died and one disappeared on that mission. I don't want anything to do with it anymore. Don't you realize that I may be the last living Turk?"
"So I plan to keep it that way. I quit this mission, I quit Shinra, have a nice life. Because of this company, a hell of a lot of good people have died. I am through with you." She stood up.
"Elena, where are you going to go?" asked Laida in a patronizing tone.
"I'm going to find Reno. And Raieyana Amine."
"Raieyana? I thought you were done with us."
"I'm going to find her to protect her from you. Shinra destroyed Tseng, and I'm not going to let them have his daughter as well. I can't believe I was too stupid before to see what I was doing." She flung the door open. "The Turks are now officially separate from Shinra."
"The Turks are nothing without Shinra."
"You've gotten mixed up, Laida," said Elena, "Shinra is nothing without the Turks."
"If you weren't so trustworthy, Red, I'd swear that this whole 'Amber Weapon' thing was a figment of an overactive imagination," said Tifa.
"Look over there and see where it tore up the ground," said Barret, "it's real, all right."
"I wish it was a figment of my imagination. It would be one less thing to worry about." Red XIII sighed. "And we haven't seen the blasted thing in days."
Tifa smiled. "Don't let the third watch get you down."
"Midnight to 8 A.M. would get anyone down. Even though I'll live a lot longer than you, I hate to feel that any part of my life is a waste. I think it is a waste to wait for the Amber Weapon here. It's just simply moved on. And with all of us here, it's roaming unhindered..."
"What the hell are we supposed to do about it?" asked Barret. "It's not like we know where it is or anything."
"Maybe we should send someone to Kalm and see if there's been any news," said Tifa, "maybe see if we can catch a clue in the newspaper."
"No, if it's in the papers at Kalm, Junon would have heard about it by now. And if Junon's heard, Reeve would've called." Red XIII laid down in the grass. "The Weapon is biding its time while we wait. And the longer we wait, the closer it comes to being time for the Reunion. The Reunion can't wait forever."
Tifa sat down next to him. "Neither can we."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Dr. Shelding walked up and down the rows of his laboratory. One by one, he checked the pods in which his Soldiers had been developing in. He grimaced and turned one off, then he finished his check. (Of two-hundred and fifty, only one failure. That may be a better success rate then you, Hojo. But then, without you, Hojo, I would be nothing. This is only the products of your labors; the inevitable result you would have come to, if only you had not been taken away so long before your time...)
He walked over to his computer and began the final check. Finally, the time had come. The time that had been nearly five years in the making. The next generation of Soldier, far superior to the first, more powerful than their predecessors. (My Gens will do the hard work. The time is so close.)
He looked up from the moniter. "Yes, Laida?"
"The Turks quit."
He smiled. "It doesn't matter. The Gens will get her for me. Unfortunately, I fear the Turks would have been a little more gentle with her."
"Then, you're releasing them?"
"I just have to start the program to awaken them."
Laida frowned. "I still don't get it. What are you 'awakening?'"
"I've spliced parts of their DNA with that of Sephiroth's," said Lucas, "and by using a combination of Jenova and Mako energy, and some additional nucleic acids, I can awaken the memories of Sephiroth inside each and every one of them. It's more than cloning, for each Gen will have a distinct and separate personality from the other. But they will all have part of Sephiroth inside of them."
"What about the other Soldiers we still have in service?"
He shrugged. "Severence pay, maybe a small pension. Laida, this is the future. Didn't I promise you that we'd never have anything obsolete? If I could do this with some orphaned children nobody wanted, imagine what I could do if we...our child?"
"I will never have a child so you can experiment on it. You'll have to be satisfied with that Ancient when you get your hands on her. Besides, you're so brilliant, any offspring of yours couldn't be improved on."
He scrutinized the screen, typing in several passwords. "Maybe my precautions are a little excessive, but this is years of work. It shouldn't have been able to be destroyed with the click of a button. So here we are. With this, Shinra once more controls the planet."
The lights in the lab dimmed. The pods each had a low buzzing sound. Then suddenly, each one beeped. Lucas walked over to a panel on the wall. He gestured to a lever marked "Release All Pods." "Laida, would you have the honor?"
She smiled. "It would be a pleasure."
One by one, each pod cover blasted open. From each pod, a Gen stepped out. On the average, one was five feet eleven inches tall, and they were all muscular, mostly around 195 pounds. Each had the glow of Mako in their eyes. Finally, every Soldier had exited their pod.
Lucas smiled at them. "I know you all must feel like you've just been born, but I have job for most of you. I need you to go to Rocket Town. All of you except...you five. You come with me. Laida can explain the mission to the rest of you, right?"
He glanced at the five Gens. They were staring at him intensely. Lucas chuckled. "You guys should thank me. You have the easy job. I need you to find a girl for me."
"Why?" asked one of them.
"I need her. And don't worry, you'll find the job very rewarding," he said emphatically. "You can do whatever you want with her as long she comes here alive and fairly healthy."
"Anything?" asked another.
"Find her, that's all. I have a picture and some info to show you. Follow me. I think you'll appreciate the job more once you've seen her."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Reeve turned on the television, bored out of his mind. (Ah, the news. Bound to hear something cheerful here.) He opened a beer and took a sip. He was flipping through the TV Guide when he heard something interesting come on.
"It seems that these warriors are next-generation Soldiers sent by Shinra to reclaim the Highwind Airship. Most all of Rocket Town has given up, with a few rebels still holding on to the struggle."
The camera closed in on a shot of a woman with a rifle. Reeve studied the face. (Shera. Cid's gonna flip.) All of a sudden the view was obstructed by the smoke and debris of an explosion.
"In other news, a large monster similar to the Junon Weapon has been terrorizing Costa Del Sol ever since about dusk last night. With the Shinra forces in Rocket Town, things are beginning to look hopeless for that resort town."
Reeve took a deep breath. (Okay, I have to call everyone and tell them what's up. I have to stay here, so I can't do much...)
"We're going to leave you today with a shot of Fred, the water-skiing moogle."
He shook his head. "After all that, they end with a fucking moogle?" he muttered. "The media really must be the spawn of Satan." He pulled out the PHS. "Hello? Red?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Red XIII nodded. "You're right, Reeve. We have to do something. But just what that something should be is escaping me at this particular moment."
"You'll have to split up. Cid will have to go to Rocket Town, we both know that and we need somebody at Costa Del Sol. It's a resort town. It could not hold up at all under an attack by that Weapon, or any Weapon for that matter. And really, we wouldn't just be being nice...we have real estate there, remember?"
"Perhaps we could lure the Amber Weapon away... I'll call back once we've decided what to do. Good-bye, Reeve. And thank you." Red XIII turned to the group that had formed around him. "That was Reeve."
Barret groaned. "No shit, Ein--"
Tifa placed her hand over Barret's mouth. "Please Red, continue."
Red XIII gave her a small smile. "We have some serious problems. Problem #1: It seems Shelding has released his new Soldiers into the wild, per se. He's sent them to Rocket Town."
"Rocket Town?! You sure?" Cid looked worried. "But Sher--I mean, the Highwind's there all alone! The whole place is unprotected!"
Red XIII nodded. "Reeve said that he saw on the news a few of the residents making a last stand against the...the...Gens, I think they're called. Shera was one of them."
"Last stand?" whispered Cid.
Vincent put a hand on his shoulder.
"If those motherfucking Gens think that they're gonna lay on fucking hand on Shera, they've got another thing coming." Cid jumped up into his battle stance. He glanced around. "And they ain't gonna so much as touch that goddamn Airship, else I'll chop off their goddamn heads!" He swung his lance around. "Any questions?"
"Problem #2," said Red XIII, "the Amber Weapon has made its cheerful path of destruction and it leads to Costa Del Sol. So we need to go in two groups, one to fight the Gens, and one to fight the Weapon."
Barret glanced at Cid. "I'll go to Rocket Town. I'm sick of that damn Weapon."
Cloud shrugged. "I'll go with Cid."
Legolas began to open his mouth. "I guess I'll go too," said Tifa quickly. Legolas shut his mouth.
"The rest of us should go to Costa Del Sol, then," said Red XIII.
"Call Reeve back so he can keep us posted," said Yuffie.
Elena glanced around the outside of the Alcor building. (It doesn't seem like much security. After Reno, after the fire, after everything, does Reeve still have this much faith in people?) Then she noticed one of the cameras was following her movement. (It must be an infra-red or a motion dectector camera. It knows I'm a living thing that needs to be tracked, that's for sure.) She walked into the building.
A security guard peered at her from his post. "What're you doing here?"
"Ummm..." Elena stammered. "I'm, I'm dropping off a few things for Lavana," she said quickly.
A crooked smile played across the guard's face. "You a friend of Lavs'?"
Elena gave him a sly look. "That's right."
The guard's smile went down a little. "Any friend of Lavana's is welcome everywhere here, if you get my drift. It's just too bad today's her last day..."
"Well, thank you very much, Mr., Mr..."
"Just call me Louis." He licked his lips. "I'm awfully sad Lavs is leaving. Say, maybe you could make it up to me..."
Elena raised an eyebrow. "Louis, I'll take a rain check. This is important business."
He reached out and caressed her inner thigh. "You know where to find me..."
Elena turned and power-walked to the elevator. She tried to will away the feeling of nausea that had come over her. She pushed the button for the top floor. (What did Lavana do for that security guard? Wait, I don't even want to know...)
Elena stepped out of the elevator and glanced around the floor. She spotted Reeve's office and walked straight towards it. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. She heard a loud exclamation of "damn, I need a secretary" from the inside, and she crossed her fingers that Reeve wouldn't pull out a gun and kill her when he saw her.
"What is it, I'm busy... Elena, what the hell are you doing here?" Reeve glared at her. "You should know that it would be a stupid idea for you to come here."
She glanced around. "I know," she whispered, "you're right. But I
have to talk to you. I needed to so bad that I risked everything by coming
here. Now please, doesn't that get me a few seconds with you privately
in your office, at the least?"
Reeve glared at her. "I've already given you more than you deserve. But unlike most people, I have a little compassion. Step inside, for this brief moment you requested."
Elena followed him inside, silently. He closed the door behind her. She swallowed. "Please, Reeve...I need your help. Reno's gone, he may be dead. I know he must not be your favorite person in the world right now, but he's all I have left. You must know where he is. I know Raieyana got away, so they must be together, somewhere. Do you know, Reeve? Please tell me where Reno is." A tear slipped down her cheek. "Everything else is gone. All my illusions I had, of what it takes to make it in this world, and of power and of morals, what's right and what's wrong, they've vanished. I learned about the real world and I have nothing to replace my dreams with. Not even nightmares."
Reeve suppressed a smile. "Look, first things first, congratulations for quitting the Shinra."
Elena looked at him. "How'd you kn--"
"Second, if you want to see Reno, you should check his office. I don't think he's left for lunch yet."
"I'm confused, how did you know I quit--"
Reeve smiled. "That's almost the same paragraph Reno gave me word for word, when he quit. And I thought a few of the same things myself. Ex-Shinra are all in the same boat, I guess."
"Reno was in his office and you let me go through that whole speech?"
"Just because I let you in the office doesn't automatically make us friends, Elena. Besides, I was finding this whole situation mildly entertaining."
She threw her hands up in the air. "What, do you think I'm some kind of show to watch?"
"Just go talk to Reno, or he may leave for lunch."
Reno opened his office door and found the last person he expected--Elena. "Elena? How've you been?" he asked politely.
"Reno, you can let down your guard. I'm here for me...I mean, I quit Shinra. Quit the job."
Reno raised an eyebrow. "Well, Elena--"
"Reno," she interrupted, "I thought you were dead. I came here as a last resort."
"Elena, do you think I'd die so easy?"
"Laida said they found your blood all over the cell."
"Laida," he said firmly, "is full of shit. I bled a little, but it wasn't all over. Raieyana cleaned me up really well."
"Raieyana saved my life."
"I owe her an apology. For everything," said Elena. "Reno, can we go inside and really talk?"
He shrugged. "Sure, why not?"
Elena glanced at Reno, who was standing in his "give me the assignment, chief" stance. (He'll always be a Turk, even if he quit. He'll always be a Turk, even though the Turks are dead.)
"What do you want Elena?"
"I want to know... Why'd you come back, Reno? To the Turks? The only good thing about the Turks died when Tseng died."
"But the Turks completely died when Rude pulled a gun on me."
"What happened back there?"
"Shit happened, Elena. What else do you want me to say?"
"Reno, I don't need you telling me that."
"Elena, you held on to the dying gasp of the Turks and I moved on."
"Then really Reno, why the hell did you come back?"
"What else could I do? I thought I couldn't make her love me."
Reno sighed. "It doesn't matter, I've made things worse."
Elena looked at him. "How?"
"I made her love me."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Cid steered the now-functional Tiny Bronco into a soft landing in the fields outside Rocket Town. Even from ten miles away, he could see that the flames flared higher than the height of the old Shinra #26. (Shera's in that fucking inferno. She could be dead by now. It's been all this time, and she'll still never know what I think. Everything I'd been too damn chicken shit to say. All the apologies I should've said, all the things I could've done to help her out. I never told her "thank you" for saving my life. I never told her that I--)
"Cid?" Barret interrupted his thoughts. "Are we gonna stand here in horror, or are we gonna go and kick some goddamn Shinra ass?"
Cid squinted at the blaze. "Do you even think there could be anything left?"
"I don't know," said Tifa, "but Cloud and I both survived the Nibelheim fire. Shera's tough, she's not going to go very easily..."
Cid took a drag of his cigarette. "What the hell are you talking about? I meant the Airship. And as for Shera, don't worry, I don't think for a minute I could get rid of her stupid ass so easily."
"Why don't we just go," said Cloud, "or everything will be gone by the time we get there."
(I don't understand what the problem is. I don't even see that many Gens.) Tifa looked around, with an uppercut to a Gen here, a kick to another one there... (The four of us will take them out in a matter of minutes.) She saw Barret spraying five Gens with bullets, and Cid skewering three more to her right. Cloud was sliding his sword through Gens like a warm knife through butter.
Cloud removed his sword and glanced around. "Are there any more?"
Barret glanced over at the airport, his eyes widening. "There's about fifty of them attacking the hangar over there. That must be where--"
"Shera is!" Cid glanced around. "Well, she must be trying to protect the Airship. C'mon, get your asses in gear. We gotta go save the Airship before those Gens get their grubby paws on it!" He ran off towards the Airport.
"Ummm, Cid..." Tifa shook her head. "They'll kill him. Four versus fifty is impossible. And since he didn't wait for us, it's one against..." She stopped short when she heard Cid's yell.
"KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND!!" Cid was now essentially invisible in the cloud of colors that enveloped him and the army of Gens.
Tifa closed her eyes. "I hope that works."
About half of the Gens fell to their knees or the ground, critically wounded. The rest began to laugh, and Cid found that rather unnerving.
"What's he doing now?" asked Barret.
Cloud raised an eyebrow. "It looks like he's doing all of his Limit Breaks."
"All of them?" asked Tifa incredulously. "Is that possible?"
He shrugged. "Now he's doing them all over again. I think it's quite possible he'll keep going like that until either all the Gens are dead or he sees Shera is all right."
"Shera? He doesn't give a damn..." began Barret.
"It has to be Shera," said Cloud, "because I've never seen him quite this mad about anything before. Not even tea."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Yuffie shielded her eyes from the hot, midday sun. (Why in hell's name would a metallic Weapon come here? I'm gonna get a sunburn.) She glanced at Vincent. (Oh dear, if he doesn't have any sunblock, I'm going to hear some whining from him tonight.) She heard a loud bang.
A group of tourists ran screaming from Costa Del Sol. "Well, I guess the Junon News was right for once," said Legolas, "I'll bet those people are absolutely terrified of our Amber Weapon."
Vincent shook his head. "Don't say 'our Amber Weapon' like it's our fault it's here. We can blame the Planet. How is it, Red, that these supposed 'guardians' of the Planet end up going on rampages of destruction, with little heed to what they're actually destroying? You'd think something as omnipotent as the Planet could give its protectors brains larger than walnuts."
"You've forgotten," said Red XIII, "that we are the enemy."
"For christsakes, Red, the thing could at least go destroy Edinborough first. The thing is so stupid. And that's why we were able to kill the other ones. But this one's tougher."
"We can do it," said Yuffie, "we have to. Because we're good enough, and we're smart enough, and, doggone it, one-eighth of that villa's mine!"
Legolas smiled. "Well then, kids, what are we waiting for? Let's go!"
Vincent looked up at the Amber Weapon and sighed. (We've fought it so long. This time, we have to go all out.) He closed his eyes.
Yuffie turned around. "Oh, Vince, no..."
"What else can I do?"
She shook her head. "At least give me your materia so I can use it while you're Chaos."
"Fair enough." He handed it over. (Focus now. All my concentration. Chaos...)
Legolas aimed at the Weapon and shot his cross-bow. It was a direct hit, and the Weapon was now preoccupied with removing the arrow.
Red XIII arched his back, and cast Flare. The Weapon snarled in retaliation and swiped at him.
Yuffie winced as Red XIII fell and decided to do something big. She stared at the pile of materia she had laid at her feet. (What the heck did Vince have in there, anyway?) She picked up a red summoner. (This better be good...) She stuck it in her weapon, and it began to glow. "NEO BAHUMET!!" The Weapon and the chunk of earth beneath it slowly ascended higher in the sky. "God, Vince," she muttered, "did we end up with all the sucky materia?"
All of a sudden there was a crash and pieces of earth flew all around. Legolas squinted at the spot as the dust cleared. "The Weapon's gone."
Vincent resumed his normal form. "What do you mean...damn it, the Weapon is gone."
They heard a distant roar. "Running away?" suggested Red XIII.
Yuffie shook her head. "No." She pointed. "I can still see it. It looks like it's stuck."
"I don't believe it," said Legolas, "the Amber Weapon is caught in the frickin' jet stream. And we all know what that means."
"Let's pretend we don't," said Yuffie, "and you tell us what that means."
"We can't attack it from here."
"We need the Airship."
"So we go to Rocket Town," said Vincent.
"So we have no way of getting there. How'd we get here?" Red XIII sighed. "We'll just have to wait until Cid and the others finish. We have nothing, no buggy, no chocobos, no helicopters, no anything. We could walk to Corel, but that does us no good."
Yuffie shrugged. "There are worse places to be stranded."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Cid crawled through the hangar on his hands and knees. The smoke inside was so bad he knew he couldn't stay inside much longer. (But if I leave, Shera may...) He coughed hard. (Damn it, why the hell do I have to smoke so much! This would be hard enough with healthy lungs.) Then he saw a slender form down the corridor, coughing hoarsely. "Shera!" he called.
"Cid?" Her voice was weak, and he could see she was slightly convulsing.
"Shera, I'm comin'!"
When he reached her, she looked up at him. "I...I... They didn't get far enough..." She coughed. "...the...the Highwind's still there..." She smiled weakly. "...I knew how pissed off you would be...if I let them take it. Did you kill them all?"
"All I could see. I was so damn pissed."
"Nobody could ever mess with the Captain's Airship."
Cid looked into her eyes. (She did this all...for me. I don't even deserve...) "Umm...well, what the hell are we doing here? Let's go get that damn Airship before we die of smoke inhalation!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"We can't go nowhere, Reeve. Those Gens are in gelnikas, helicopters, you name it. We gotta lay low and then go after that Weapon. I mean, I'm sure that Yuffie, Vincent, Red, and Legolas are even sick of paradise after what, two-and-a-half months?"
"So you're all stuck?"
"Basically, yes. Well, Cloud wanted to go to Mt. Nibel and we let him. We're basically in that range of mountains, anyway. We look for a clear spot, and then go to Del Sol and blow that fucking Weapon so hard the crater he makes won't know what hit it. Then we find Shelding."
"I'm coming when that time comes. I gotta get my hands on that Shelding, I..."
"Don't mean to cut you off, man, but this connection probably isn't the safest. Don't want to leave it open too long..."
"No problem. I wasn't thinking. Just play it safe. Bide your time. We need you to do this, so don't rush. I'll talk to you later, Cid." Reeve put down the PHSand looked at Reno and Elena. "That was Cid."
Reno raised an eyebrow. "No shit, Sherlock. God, those Gens have all this info on Raieyana."
"I wonder who gave it to Shelding?" Reeve muttered.
"Not me," protested Reno, "I've been saying it for months, there's gotta be a spy here."
"But who? I trust everybody."
"Lavana was the spy," said Elena. "You trusted her? How could you be so blind?"
Reeve shrugged. "I thought she must have been trustworthy because she quit the Shinra."
"It was all an act, Reeve, a sham. I know, I was there. She was affiliated with Shinra still the whole time. I suppose you're right in a way, though, Reeve. It seems that you can trust anyone who realized their stupidity and quit Shinra for real. We were all deceived."
"However, a few of the best," said Reno, "died as Shinra."
Elena sighed. "Tseng and Gast never escaped...they should have, though. They deserved it, more than anybody. They were better than the Shinra."
"We were all misled too far to back out," Reno mused. "Too far to leave."
Reeve fidgeted, and stood up. He looked out the window. "With Shinra, it's back out or check out."
"Poor Tseng," said Elena.
"He couldn't take the chance," said Reno, "I know that now. He had more than himself on the line. He did everything for her."
Reeve nodded in agreement. "And she has never forgotten." (Raieyana.)