Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 21

ShinRa's Secrets

By Damodred

Sephiroth shook his head, picking himself up off the floor, "It was a ruse. He'd gotten what he came for and left." He smiled grimly, "It's fortunate that he did. He's very fast." He fell silent. Aerith walked up to him and laid her hand on his shoulder. He shuddered briefly, then turned to Tifa. "Put the ninja here," he said, indicating the lab table in the center of the room. Tifa gave up her burden gladly. Light or not, her shoulders were beginning to ache and cramp. Leaving Yuffie on the table, she stretched and wandered around the room, taking in the books and reports lying strewn across the floor, and the various lab equipment, including the two man-sized storage tanks. Sephiroth stood by one of them, his hand on the glass and his head down. She couldn't make out his expression, but he emanated sadness. He turned around and spoke. "I think it's time for an explanation." He walked over to the table and composed himself, gazing sightlessly down at the ninja as he began his story.

"I have always been told by ShinRa that Jenova was my mother, and an Ancient besides. When I arrived in Nibelheim and saw the Jenova being inside the reactor and the SOLDIERs being immersed in Mako, I immediately believed that I was created like them, cloned," he spoke the word with distaste. "Since I can only remember being with ShinRa, it made sense. I flew into a rage and rushed back to the Mansion's library, to see what I could learn from this massive library. After reading much, and learning little I admit I lost my temper and blasted one of the bookshelves with Bolt. Much to my surprise, the blast kept going through the wall and into the room beyond, overturning a coffin as it spent itself. I realized that this was what I assumed to be a storage shed next door, inconspicuous and always locked..."

Sephiroth took a cautious step forward, his rage subsumed by curiosity. What were these coffins doing here, in the basement of the ShinRa Mansion? He knew this used to be a scientific lab, but this? Stepping carefully over the rubble, he steadied himself on the side of the gaping opening. He froze as one of the coffins clattered and shook violently. He watched uncomprehending as some powerful force threw the lid of the coffin all the way across the small room. He heard a voice groan, and could discern a tall, dark form rising up from the coffin, a cloak covering its lean frame. He blinked as the cloak unfurled, becoming a pair of massive bat wings. He stepped back, wide-eyed as the form grew in stature, losing any semblance of humanity. A loose wall fragment clattered under his feet and the demon turned to face him, revealing a face that could be called aristocratic and proud, if it wasn't for the fangs, the glowing red eyes and pointed, upswept ears. The creature said something to him in a voice that sounded like rusted metal scraping on concrete and, receiving no response bellowed in anger, sweeping Sephiroth back into the library with its arm. As he fell onto the rubble, stunned, he could hear a whisper in his mind. It said, "Lucrecia, my beloved. I will bring you back to behold our son." As he faded into unconsciousness, he heard dull thuds and crackling timber. Then he heard nothing else.

Tifa found herself holding her breath as Sephiroth finished his story. He considered for a moment, then resumed, "The rest you know. Zack pulled me from the rubble as the creature - my Father - was destroying Nibelheim. I went back to ShinRa, determined to find out more about the matter. Each step of the way, I was met by bureaucratic stubborness, and unable to obtain any significant knowledge. In light of Nibelheim being rebuilt in secret, and the incident lost to the world, I believe that it was more than just bureacracy. Somebody went to great lengths to obscure this place." He paused, drifting into thought. Tifa spoke up, hesitantly, "How could you just assume it was really your father?" Sephiroth looked up and waved a hand dismissively, "It was obvious as soon as I saw him that there was a bond between us." Tifa nodded. Aerith spoke up from one of the chairs she was sitting in, perusing a file picked randomly from the floor, "Over the years, we've managed to find little data. We know that SOLDIERs are created by immersing normal humans in Mako energy for various amounts of time, and recently by injecting them with Jenova cells. It seemed that Jenova had astounding regenerative powers, making its DNA perfect for SOLDIERs. Hojo was the main power behind this, but I always believed that he stole the idea from someone else. That's mainly because he improved it little over a long period of time. A true scientist's work is never finished; he took it for granted that nothing better could be done. His only step was to immerse the prospective SOLDIERs in Mako for longer periods of time and see what happens." She looked at Tifa and added, "Like Cloud." Tifa nodded, but asked, "What does Mako energy do for a SOLDIER?" Aerith shrugged, "Well, since it's a form of the Planet's energy, it enhances a person's normal attributes. It makes the quick quicker, the strong stronger, and so on. Except Mako is the energy that was ripped out of the Planet, and can't be put back. I ask for the Planet's help, and it's given willingly." Tifa remembered Aerith's leap onto the top of the truck, and the various feats of magic she managed over their trip. She nodded, "I understand. But what would prolonged immersion do?" Aerith considered, noting Tifa's worried look, "Probably keep enhancing the person. Hence the monsters that were in the reactor were simply humans disfigured by too much power. Why Cloud was unaffected..." she shrugged, "there's no telling." Tifa nodded again, chewing her lip. She stood up decisively, "Let's look through these reports. They might be useful."

She picked up a report at random and glanced at it briefly. After browsing through a few pages, she put it back down and picked another one up - she wasn't interested in the applications of Mako energy in urban development. She read the title and blanched a little, but went on. This could tell her what happened to Cloud in Nibelheim, five years ago.

Aerith looked up from her report. She saw Tifa absorbed in a file folder titled "SOLDIER creation; secondary phase," and Sephiroth had an old and dusty one titled "Genetic alteration using the Jenova disease." She frowned briefly, and went back to reading a Personnel file on Professor Gast. She was eager to find out about her father, not matter that the source of information was ShinRa's intelligence service. They had all completely forgotten about Yuffie, still lying unconscious on the lab table.

Aerith perked up as a groan penetrated her absorption. She felt like groaning herself and stretched, cramped a little from reading for so long. Tifa was doing the same, and they exchanged rueful smiles. They turned to the source of the distraction, looking mildly interested as the young ninja walked into the library, holding her head. "What hit me?" she demanded belligerently. "I'll..." "Too late," interrupted Tifa. "Sephiroth already killed it." Yuffie stopped, disappointed, "Oh. Well, you might want this," she said, handing a folder filled with loose papers to Aerith. She accepted, looking puzzled, "What's this?" Yuffie answered, grimacing and rubbing the small of her back, "It's what I'd been lying on all this time, the stupid thing." Aerith nodded absently, already leafing through the folder. She inhaled sharply, and continued flipping pages at a faster rate. Walking over to the desk, she swept off the papers strewn there, sending them falling to the floor. She lay the folder in the cleared space, arranging the pages to her liking. Turning to the rest of the group, she asked, "Have either of you found anything pertaining to our current problem? I believe this," she indicated the papers on the desk, "will fill in a lot of the blanks." Tifa spoke up, slowly, "It's possible that prolonged Mako exposure weakens the mind, making it easily controllable. A perfect SOLDIER doesn't ask questions," her mouth twisted, then she continued, "Since Jenova pulls itself together when it regenerates, the person implanted with its cells has a hard time resisting. Maybe that's why the..." she hesitated, looking at Sephiroth. "Chaos," he supplied, looking grim. "That's what he calls himself in that form." Tifa nodded, pursing her lips and continued, "Maybe that's why Chaos took Jenova with him, as another means of controlling Cloud." Aerith nodded, and said, "That's one part. I also believe that he originally intended to use it to hurt the Planet, but he's found another way. This," she pointed to one of the sheets, "talks about the Black Materia." Everyone looked uncomprehending. Even Yuffie hadn't heard of it. Aerith continued, "I believe it's used as a means of massive destruction, but I'm not sure how, exactly. The report is very vague. I also don't know how it came into existence, but I'm fairly certain it was a mistake." She fell silent, communing with the Planet briefly, then looked up again, shaking her head. "I don't understand. There is definitely a sense of wrongness, but I'm not sure how or why. In any case, this," she pointed to another sheet, "tells where it is, and how to get there. It's probably what Chaos was after," she finished, looking at Sephiroth questioningly. He paced the room, expressionlessly and said, "From what I can tell from this report," he pointed at what he'd been reading previously, "the first Jenova injections were done on a young Turk, Vincent Valentine, and his partner, Lucrecia, last name unknown." Everyone nodded, aware of the Turks' allegiance only to themselves, the past forgotten. Very often a new Turk would take a new name and from that point be known only by it. Sephiroth continued, "The two were lovers, and apparently Lucrecia gave birth to me shortly before she died. Unknown to them, their food was being laced with various sleeping drugs and they were subjected to tests while unconscious. When Lucrecia died, Valentine flew into a rage and metamorphosed somehow, cause unknown. The report is unclear whether it was this form, or a lesser one. He was eventually contained and locked up in the coffin where I found him five years ago. From the date on this report it appears that he was captive in it for more than thirty years." Tifa's face was drawn tight and pale, and even Yuffie looked a little blanched. Drawing a deep breath, he continued, "During that time, I was taken in by ShinRa and raised under observation, to see if any ill effects occurred from the injections. After positive tests, the process was perfected, theoretically by Hojo." He threw Aerith a significant look. Tifa whispered, "Thirty years...what can he be after now?" Sephiroth answered, matter of factly, "After such a long time confined, his mind certainly snapped. From what I understand, and what we overheard earlier, he wants to bring Lucrecia back." Tifa and Yuffie gasped, simultaneously. Tifa spoke first, "Is that possible?" Sephiroth turned to Aerith, raising an eyebrow. She spoke haltingly, "Perhaps, for an Assembly of Ancients, working in concert with the Planet. And the Planet would have to be willing, otherwise..." she shrugged. "Chaos isn't an Ancient, and I do not believe he'd be willing to ask the Planet. The Black Materia he's after is a means of massive destruction, it really has no other use. How can he use it to..." she broke off, thinking. Absent-mindedly, she spoke, "Let's move on, while I think on this. We'll need a plane." Yuffie spoke up, excitedly, "Rocket Town! I hear the best pilot in the world lives there!" Tifa nodded, "Let's go."

On the way out, Aerith caught Sephiroth's arm, turning him around. She looked up and asked, "Sephiroth...Valentine?" He raised an eyebrow, looking back at her and his green eyes sparkled mischievously. "I have no ties to that name; I won't be taking it. Also, if I have a choice, I think I'd rather be Sephiroth..." he paused momentarily as he took her hand in both of his. "Gainsborough," he finished softly, pulling her closer.


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