Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 3

The Fall

By Damodred

She woke up from a dream of her mother. She could remember very little, but what she remembered was all bittersweet, tinged with the finality of death. She sighed, remembering her adopted mother...a victim of ShinRa's casual brutality and relentless pursuit of money and power. Stepping into the shower, letting the cool water run over her body, she dismissed the clinging remnants of the dream and prepared for the day's work. She knew that today could be the day she's been waiting for. She corrected herself; the day they'd been waiting for. Perhaps, after all these years..she didn't let herself get carried away by foolish hopes. Time will tell. She smiled. Yes, time would tell.

Cid stalked through ShinRa tower feeling exceptionally pissed off. Not only has he taken a liking to the kid, he also recently found out about the plan to drop the plate. He was partially hoping that Avalanche could stop ShinRa but officially, he had to prevent them. This problem has been gnawing at him all night and he didn't get any sleep. His scowl turned fiercer by the minute and his cigarette glowed a brighter red as he took a drag. A lesser ShinRa lackey was about to point out the "No Smoking" sign to him, but realized who he was looking at, turned pale and quickly walked the opposite direction. Cid didn't even notice. He dropped his cigarette on the floor, ground it out on the spotless marble, and pushed open the door to ShinRa's office. ShinRa spoke in a rumbling voice, without looking up from his papers "Ah, Cid. I wanted to talk to you, have a seat." Without checking to see if he was obeyed, ShinRa continued "As you know, I am planning to eradicate the terrorist group Avalanche once and for all. They cannot possibly get away this time, and if they do, we will blame them for the ah, " he hesitated momentarily, "incident. So, you will make sure they don't leave sector 7 alive." He finally looked up from his desk and fixed Cid with a steely gaze "Am I understood?" Cid answered immediately "Of course, sir." ShinRa looked at him for a few more seconds then looked back down at his desk "Dismissed." Cid turned around and walked out of the office, feeling somewhat shaken, yet somewhat reprieved. He had a feeling that ShinRa, like a tiger, could smell fear. He wondered about disloyalty. Shaking his head, Cid walked down the hall and out to the hangar, where Tseng and Elena were already awaiting him.

Barret was getting winded from running so much around town. He knew he wasn't in great shape, but ever since he stopped drinking, he's been working out, and improving his aim. He was a pretty good shot by now, and not to shabby in the muscle department, either. But the years of slumming and boozing have taken their toll, and he was getting a serious stitch in his side. With a perverse satisfaction he noted that the rest of Avalanche weren't doing so great either, with the exception of their statuesque leader. They all slowed and Tifa said, her chest heaving from exertion "It's not much should be right behind this..." she trailed off as they rounded the corner and the support pillar was revealed. Her sharp eyes spied the form of a helicopter, approaching from the center of Midgar and her doubt evaporated. She cried out sharply "They're coming!" and ran on towards the pillar. Barret and the rest hurried after. Tifa ran through the gate before the half-asleep guard realized what was happening. "Hey, you can't go in there!" the guard shouted, leaping from his chair and reaching for his gun. Barret ran up behind the guard and swung his flesh arm. The guard dropped like a sack of potatoes. Barret spared a second to congratulate himself and ran on. He stopped at the bottom of the pillar and gave it a cool look of appraisal. He turned around as Jessie, Biggs and Wedge skidded to a stop beside him. "Listen up! I'm going up with Tifa. The three of you provide cover fire for us, 'cuz those dudes up there got the advantage. They can just pick us off as we go up. So don't screw up! All of sector 7 is riding on this, ya dig?" Vicks opened his mouth to protest, realized there was no time to argue, and just nodded. Barret grunted, satisfied, and ran off to catch up to Tifa. Behind him he heard Jessie yell out crisp orders to set up three positions and grinned. He knew those kids could do the job. His grin turned sour when he realized they damn better, or they were all dead.

Barret caught up to Tifa just as she reached the top. He felt some bullets fly by him, but he did not worry about it. If one got him, then he'd worry. He didn't expect Tifa to feel the same way though. She must really care about this place, he thought. Well that, and a chance to find out where Cloud is, he amended. He joined her at the platform. "Looks like the gang's all here," he commented grimly. Elena and Tseng looked up from the console in surprise. "Well, well, well," Elena put her hands on her hips "if it isn't the slut and the one-armed fatman. We took care of your friends downstairs," she added with a twisted smile. Tifa went pale, but refused to be distracted. She knew that if she lost her concentration, the Turks would not hesitate to take advantage of it. She took a step forward "Where is Cloud?" Tseng answered, in a deep voice, "Safe." Elena blinked, ignored Tseng's sudden comment and sneered "You're too late, we already set it off. You can't stop the countdown unless you're a ShinRa top-exec!" She exulted. Tseng frowned and took a step away from the console. "It's time to go," he said. Elena pouted briefly, but went along with Tseng. Tifa and Barret watched with horror as the two leaped off the platform.

The helicopter's blades minced the air as it rose from below the platform with a roar, Tseng and Elena riding on the side rail. Elena threw a mocking salute as the heavy machine began to rise. "No!" yelled Barret and raised his gun arm. Tifa moved towards the console as Barret's machine gun spat out bullet after bullet towards the helicopter. They watched helplessly as sparks flew from the armoured surface of the ascending chopper. Tifa turned to Barret and yelled "That's enough! They're gone, and that thing is too well armoured. Help me with this thing! We only have a few minutes." Barret ground his teeth in helpless rage, but lowered his arm and walked towards the console. He gave it a cursory glance and said "No go. Not only is this thing protected by passwords, it's also rigged to blow if anyone even starts to punch in the wrong code." He noticed Tifa's look and raised his hands in defense "Sorry darlin'. I didn't make the friggin' thing!" He continued, "I wasn't a drunk all those years, you know...and when yer a miner, you learn about explosives, even fancy ones like this monster. In any case, I think it's time for us to leave." Tifa tensed, then relaxed, "You're right...I only wish we could have warned more people. As it is...this Sector is doomed. ShinRa is responsible for a lot of deaths." Barret nodded "You got it. And if we're to stop them, we better get the hell outta here." He pointed, "this cable oughta do it." Tifa followed him, puzzled. "What do you mean to..." She broke off as a barely perceptible tremor rocked the pillar. "Shit," she breathed. "We have less time than I thought. Barret, whatever you were thinking, now's the time." Barret nodded tersely and said "I was thinking of a piggy back ride, so hop on." Tifa climbed on Barret's broad back and held on. Barret stepped up to the railing, took hold of a gantry cable swinging from the plate, aimed at the Sector boundary, closed his eyes and leapt off the platform as the pillar disintegrated behind them.

Teala looked up from the baby's carriage. She noticed the power went out again as a strange rumble shook the city. She shrugged and went back to feeding the baby. She only had a few seconds to realize that the shock was not a thunderstorm as the first fragments of the plate demolished the house right outside her window.

Deir got up from in front of the TV to get himself another beer. He'd be damned if he'd do any housework. After all, he brought in all the money, measly as it was. He shrugged and went back to the TV, cursing it and ShinRa as the power went out. He pounded it a couple of times but to no avail. Through his haze of anger, he felt a rumbling and looked outside. His mouth opened and the beer can fell out of his hand as he took in the sight outside. His last thought was of his wife.

Nyrta chewed her gum, wondering if she'd be able to get any clients tonite. What with the destruction of Reactor 1 and all, she figured a lot of people would actually stay home tonight. She shrugged and decided to head home as well. She needed the rest. She blew a bubble and froze. She caught a motion out of the corner of her eye and glanced quickly in that direction. She dropped her purse, her mouth opening in terror as she witnessed the destruction of the support pillar and the beginning of the fall of the plate. As the plate dropped, she was glad she wouldn't have to see Don Corneo ever again.

The bald-headed man stared open-mouthedly from the window of the Honey Bee Inn at the falling Sector 7 plate. He understood now why Tseng called him tonight sounding somewhat frazzled and suggested that he stay somewhere other than Sector 7. He frowned, not liking the implications of this. The destruction of Sector 7 he could accept. People die. But that it was planned, especially by someone he...well...if not exactly trusted, at least respected...he shook his head. He had to get to the bottom of this, his cover be damned. Suddenly decisive, he dropped a 200 gil note on the table and left.

The destruction of Sector 7 was absolute and merciless. The several mile long, thousands of tons of metal and concrete transformed the slums below into a nightmarish portrait of destruction. Precious few people got away, some visiting friends in neighbouring sectors, some late night shopping or enjoying other, less legal activities at The Wall Market. Those that survived counted their blessings and thanked Avalanche for spreading the word early. Most blamed Avalanche for setting the bomb off in the first place. Midgar was all astir as, within a few hours, the whole city was awake and aware of the tragedy. President ShinRa made a televised appearance, looking as presidential as ever, making a short, moving speech and laying the blame neatly at Avalanche's feet. Cid Highwind, head of the Turks, also appeared, urging lawful citizens to be aware of their surroundings, and watch out for suspected Avalanche members. Photographs of Tifa Lockhart and Barret Wallace were distributed throughout the city. If Cid appeared slightly less enthusiastic about his speech, people attributed it to the late hour. In her apartment by the ShinRa tower, the delicate, beautiful woman wept silently for the thousands killed, and for the innocents still living under the shadow of ShinRa's omnipresence. When her lover appeared in a gentle flash of light, she threw herself into his arms and cried. He sat with her, holding her in his arms through the long, fiery night, murmuring meaningless, comforting words which served their purpose. She finally slept, exhausted, towards the dawn. He maintained vigil at her side.


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