Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 35
Cloud could feel the wrongness in the sky; the object wasn't large as yet,
but he could feel the inherent malignancy in its pockmarked face. He found
his fear of it was an echo of the Planet's fear, and this frightened him
even more. If the Planet could feel fear over this thing, when there was
only a faint ache because of Midgar, then he wasn't sure what they, mere
humans, could do. He was determined to try however. He found that he was
slowly becoming aware of the wind; the spell was wearing off. Nodding to
Aerith and Sephiroth, he moved back inside the plane. The overly dramatic
shriek of irritation behind him almost made him reach for his blade. Fortunately
for Yuffie, who was fed up with all these people coming and going as if solidity
was simply a temporary state for them, he wasn't wearing his sword. He frowned
briefly, then shifted his attention to the re-solidifying Aerith and Sephiroth.
"I need a blade," he stated, curtly. Aerith nodded, and said "We need to
make a few stops along the way; maybe we'll also manage to find out where
Chaos is at one of them." She turned questioningly to Sephiroth. He said
musingly, "His power is greater where the Planet is wounded..." Aerith's
eyes widened and she said, "Midgar."
Cid stared uneasily at his boss, wondering if he had finally cracked. He seemed so in control when his father died, when Avalanche kept slipping through his fingers, and even when Scarlet died. But these orders made no sense! Nevertheless, until proved otherwise, he had to assume Rufus knew what he was doing. "I will dispatch Rude and Reno immediately," he said, and listened, his eyes growing wider. "Y, yes, I'll send Elena and Tseng." The last one was the most interesting, and he pledged to complete it himself. As he left, Rufus walked to the window and smiled grimly. He knew what Cid suspected, and realized it might be true, but he didn't care anymore. He would rid the world of this abomination and at the same time erase one of ShinRa's greatest mistakes; time would tell who was the insane one.
Barret yawned and stretched, feeling the aches of the previous day still in his muscles. These past several months of honest work were doing him good; he wasn't as massive as before, but now his entire body was composed of muscle, and he was stronger than ever. There was enough work here for everyone now, even a one-handed man. He currently sported a power winch on his arm; it proved a helluva more useful than any of his weapons. He had a hell of a time trying to convince everyone to restart the mines; everyone was still afraid of ShinRa coming in and taking over. Besides, they couldn't see any reason to start over, since what they could produce wouldn't sell anyway. Somehow he managed to talk them into it and almost instantly it paid off. Once the rubble of the old reactor was cleared and the mines were reopened, it turned out that the explosion had fractured the old tunnels and new ones had to be dug. When digging began, however, the miners found something incredible; the Materia explosion and the incredible pressures and temperatures had fused the soil, the reactor and the rock around them into motherlodes of Materia! Within weeks, word had gotten out and now the area was full of researchers, self-styled miners, all types of mystics eager to explore the untapped potential of fresh Materia, and mercenaries eager to add some combat Materia to their arsenal. Business was incredible and life was good. The small town had virtually exploded overnight once the news leaked and now they were doing business to rival the Golden Saucer. Well, almost, Barret silently amended just to be honest with himself. But he couldn't help it; he met every new day with a wide grin on his face, and who wouldn't? Lately he began to wonder however, how Tifa was doing and feeling somewhat restless. His friends saw it and knew that he would be moving on soon, but they figured he would know the time better himself. He had accomplished what he came back for; he was ready for some action. Yawning again, he walked out into the sun.
The sad figure on the outskirts of Junon, huddled against the hard rain driving inside its hood and trickling down its face, posed a very miserable picture indeed. Only the hilt of a sword barely poking out from its cloak told a different story; but a casual observer would have to have very sharp eyes indeed to spot that little detail. Walking slowly east, it looked like a lonely vagabond with nowhere to go. It tensed silently as headlights played on the hills ahead of it. Coiled for action, it turned casually to wave its thumb at the approaching ATV. Much to its surprise, the vehicle slowed and stopped next to it. The window slid open. "Midgar bound?" asked a young, feminine voice. "Indeed I am," answered the figure slowly. "Well hop in, it's a beastly night out there," the woman said. The figure opened the door, quickly scanned the interior and was about to get in when he fully saw the driver. What's more, he saw the way the inordinately huge gunbarrel the blonde woman was holding tracked his eyes. "Throw that monster blade on the back seat, slowly and get in," she said and the man noticed for the first time the other occupant of the car. "Oh, stop gawping and get in," she said impatiently, "I'll explain on the way." He got in, slamming the door shut and the car peeled out, fishtailing in the driving rain. The figure settled back. He knew the Turks well, and if they wanted him dead they wouldn't waste time for explanations. Also, they were going where he wanted to go so he'd play along. For now.
Author's note: Yes, the incredible vein of Materia in Barret's old town is a bit of a stretch but hey, it could happen. Sorta. Maybe. Tee hee.
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