The Dark Fleet Chapter 1

We Are Taking Over

By Dan Schmidt

It was pouring rain outside. Inside his office, a man looked out at the water pouring down off his building. He was dressed in his gray uniform. It had been a long time since he actually needed it. It had been nearly 2 years since his last contact with President Rufus.

"Sir," a man in a green cadet uniform said with a salute. "It's been 2 years to the day since our last contact with President Rufus. It's official Shinra procedure that we return to the mainland."

The man scratched his chin. "Very well. If it's been 2 years, Rufus is either running things smoothly enough that he has no need for armed forces, or he's dead. We move out in 12 hours. I want to bring the entire fleet with us. Prepare the Shinra's Glory for departure. Contact Commander Morreso, Captain Convarion, and Colonel Zanov. Tell them to get their men ready for departure."

"Admiral, do you think such force is necessary? Perhaps Rufus has everything under control."

"And perhaps Shinra has fallen apart. It's been 2 years. He should have realized to contact us. I'm fearing the worst." The Admiral stood up and walked over to the window. The rain was beginning to let up.

Admiral Hyran Vervain had been assigned Randonia, or as it was commonly known, the Lost Continent. It was Shinra's last stronghold in case of war, but it had never been used. Shinra's primary armed forces had lied dormant since the war with Wutai. Vervain had read about a small rebel group known as Avalanche trying to topple Shinra, but in Rufus's last message, he has assured Vervain that Avalanche would be crushed by the new Sister Ray cannon. But, that was the last he had heard from Rufus.

Shinra's Armed Forces consisted of 12 battleships, just under 100 aircraft, 200 small ground vehicles, 24 submarines, and just under 10,000 soldiers. Vervain, however, only had control over 2000 men. The other 8000 were based in the mainland, whether it be at Shinra Headquarters in Midgar, or Rocket Town. It took about 100 men to operate each battleship, so that left only 800 men for ground or air combat. But the 12 battleships could topple most large armies without firing a single shot. Shinra's battleships were huge and could blockade cities and ports for years. They had enough supplies on board to feed 100 men for nearly 2 years. And that was how Shinra defeated Wutai. The Shinra fleet created a blockade around Wutai and starved them into submission. It was how they won nearly every major battle.

Randonia was a desolate place. It was suitable for the 2000 men Vervain had, but it could never supply an entire city. That's why no one really bothered with it. In fact, only high Shinra executives knew about it. A common citizen would have no idea about it, and most likely never would.

"I'll contact Morreso, Convarion, and Zanov right away," the cadet said. He saluted and them left the room.

Vervain had several high-ranking officers with him. Commander Syket Morreso was his second-in-commander. He was a talented leader with good combat knowledge. Captain Lance Convarion was the captain of the Shinra's Glory, the fleet's flagship. He was definitely the best captain in the fleet. Colonel Luke Zanov was in charge of the ground forces under Vervain. He was a tenacious fighter with great leadership qualities. He also had Captain Relsan Plattan, who was captain of the Devastator, the second most powerful ship in the fleet. And finally, there was Lieutenant Brunell Dormatier, who was second-in-command of ground troops. He was just as tenacious as Zanov.

The 12 ships in the Shinra Navy were the Shinra's Glory, the Devastator, the Shockwave, the Destructor, the Omnipotence, the Annihilator, the Resonance, the Violator, the Executioner, the Retribution, the Immolator, and the Imperialist. They were all fully equipped battleships with enough firepower to take down a city the size of Midgar.

Vervain smiled. It had been a long time since he had been to the mainland. He almost hoped to find Shinra in disarray. It would be great for his reputation if he single-handed restored Shinra to power.

He turned away from the window and back to his desk. The first city he would go to would be Midgar. He needed to gather as much info as he could from the Shinra building. He turned the lights out in the office and walked out. He had decided to get some sleep. He had a big day tomorrow, and an army to lead.

* * *

Vervain stood at the edge of the Shinra's Glory's deck. He had gotten a good night's rest and it was time to move out. All 2000 men and equipment were on board the battleships.

"Admiral Vervain!"

Vervain turned around and saw Commander Syket Morreso coming up towards him. Morreso was a tall man, about 6 feet and 4 inches tall, which was about 6 inches taller than Vervain. He had big build and was easily the strongest man onboard the ship. But he had a very good sense of loyalty and would follow Vervain's orders to a T.

"Supplies are loaded and all men accounted for," Morreso said. "We're ready to move out with your order."

"Very good," Vervain said. "Contact the captains of all ships. Tell them it's time to regain Shinra's lost glory. Tell them I'm going to lead them to victory."

"Umm... sir?" Morreso had a puzzled look on his face. "What if nothing's wrong on the mainland?"

"Tell them that anyway," Vervain said. "It'll inspire them and make them work harder." He turned back towards the ocean. "Now, let's get this show on the road."

Within the hour, all 12 ships were making good time towards Midgar. They would reach land within 3 hours.

And the people of Midgar had idea what they were in store for.

* * *

"Shh... she's coming!" Cloud whispered excitedly. He quickly flipped the lightswitch and ducked down.

The door opened and Cloud flicked the lights on.

"SURPRISE!" everyone screamed in unison as Aeris opened the door.

Aeris's jaw dropped. "How did you... I... Cloud...!"

"Happy 25th birthday, kid," Cid said as he put his cigarette in the ashtray. "Now, since everyone's here, let's drink to this celebration. Drink A LOT."

"Happy birthday Aeris," Cloud said. He kissed her on the cheek. "Have a seat, we got a cake, presents, and everything for you."

"I'm gonna get you all back for this some day," Aeris said as she sat down on the couch next to Barret.

"Let's open present before Cid gets too drunk," Barret said.

"Hey!" Cid exclaimed.

Shera took Cid's beer away. "Sit down and watch Aeris open her presents."

Tifa handed Aeris her first present. It was from Cid. Aeris tore open the box and lifted the lid. Inside was a six-pack of beer.

"Oh, um, how'd that get there," Cid mumbled.

"Thanks Cid," Aeris said rolling her eyes.

Aw, you know you love me," Cid said as he gave her a hug. "Oh, if you're not gonna use that, mind if I...?

"I mind Cid," Shera said. "I'm not driving home with you drunk in the back seat."

Aeris grabbed the next box. This one was from Barret. It was a big, heavy box.

"Aeris, remember last month when I kinda, um, blew up your microwave?" Barret asked. "Well, happy birthday."

Aeris opened the box. Inside was a new microwave. "Thanks Barret," she said. They hugged and Tifa handed her the next box.

"This one's from me," Tifa said.

Aeris opened it. Inside was a dartboard with a picture of Sephiroth plastered in the middle. "Ooh, I'm gonna have fun with this," Aeris said.

"I want dibs on that too," Cloud said.

Aeris opened the rest of her presents. The gifts ranged from a hibachi grill to gift certificates. Finally, she reached the last gift. It was in a small box and from Cloud. She opened it. Inside was a beautiful gold necklace. On were nine different colored gems.

"Each gem represents a member of Avalanche," Cloud said.

"Oh Cloud, this is beautiful." She got up and gave him a hug and a kiss.

"Cid, get away from that cake!" Shera called from the kitchen. Cid walked out of the kitchen with his hands in the air and an innocent look on his face.

"Time for cake!" Yuffie said enthusiastically.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"Who could that be?" Aeris said. "I know nine people and there all here." She walked over to the door and opened it.

In stepped the Turks. Reno looked around the room and frowned. "You're having a party without us?" he said.

"Who invited you?" Reeve said.

"The question is, why didn't we get invited?" Elena replied.

"Oh yeah," Reno said to Aeris. "Happy birthday, sweetheart." He reached into his pocket. "Here's 20 bucks, now why don't you give me a present?"

Aeris slapped him across the face. "How rude! And at MY party!"

"What do you guys want?" Cloud said.

"We've got some news from Midgar," Reno replied. "And it's not very good news. Have you ever heard of Randonia?"

"No," Cloud said. "What or where is it?"

"Randonia is where Shinra's armed forces were based," Reno began. "Shinra's armed forces are lead by Admiral Hyran Vervain. He's a brilliant battle leader and was a major part of why Shinra conquered the world. After the war with Wutai, Vervain and his forces were sent back to Randonia, or the Lost Continent as its common name is. They were never called on again. President Shinra basically forgot all about them, since Shinra was in full control.

"After Rufus took over, he decided to use the fleet to instill fear, but in actuality never needed too. The world was completely under Shinra's thumb. That is, until you guys showed up, and took down Shinra without using brute force. Basically, Rufus was too cocky and really could've used the fleet."

"Why are you telling us this?" Vincent asked.

"Because Vervain's fleet landed in Midgar one hour ago," Reno replied. "And it's only a matter of time before he finds out about you guys and comes after you."

"Why are you trying to help us?" Aeris asked.

"We're not really trying to help you, as you'll get no support from us against Vervain unless you pay, but we just felt it was necessary to warn you," Reno said. "You've been good to us recently, and a small favor seemed in order."

"Reno, it's three 'o clock," Rude said.

"What happens at three?" Reeve asked.

Reno smiled. "At three, Vervain is going to interrupt all radio and television signals and deliver a message to the world using Shinra's emergency broadcast system."

As if on cue, the TV station was interrupted. A medium sized man, who looked to be about 40 years old, was sitting at a desk in a gray Shinra admiral's uniform.

"Meet Admiral Vervain," Reno said.

"People of the world," Vervain began, "It's time to rekindle our lost glory. For the past two years, Shinra has been in a state of collapse. Reactors were shut down and living became a struggle."

"Who does this guy think he's kidding?" Cid mumbled in-between sips of beer.

"It's time to celebrate Shinra's return to world power. I will instill power very similar to the way President Rufus did."

"Great, he's gonna use fear to control the world," Reeve said.

"Surrender your local governments to Shinra or else you will face the wrath of Shinra's armed forces. I leave the choice up to you. Cities officials, you have 24 hours to respond with your unconditional surrender."

With that, the TV returned to it's normal programming.

"Oh boy, this doesn't look good," Barret said. "I know one thing for sure, I ain't surrendering Corel to this jerkoff."

"Vervain's already taken Midgar," Reno said. "I don't think it'd be a good idea for you to go back there anytime soon, Reeve."

"Do you guys mind if I crash here in Nibelheim for a while?" Reeve asked.

"Not at all, Reeve," Cloud said. "You can stay in the guest room at my place."

"Well, we need to be getting back to Midgar," Reno said. "We've got a little espionage work to do with the Admiral."

"Can't we stay for cake?" Rude asked.

"Nah, I don't think we're welcome here." Reno turned and walked out the door, followed by Elena and Rude.

"What do you make of this, Cloud?" Tifa asked.

"I don't know," Cloud replied. "But I've got a bad feeling about this."

* * *

Admiral Vervain stood looking over the desk that used to belong to President Rufus. About 2 years ago, after WEAPON attacked the building, it had been refurbished by Heidegger and Rufus. Since then, it hadn't been destroyed, it just began to decay. The wood in the desk was rotting away at a rapid pace.

"Sir, I think you might want to take a look at this," Commander Syket Morreso said to him. In his hand, he held a large folder loaded to the brim with documents.

"What's this?" Vervain asked, taking the folder from Morreso.

"It's the complete history Avalanche has with Shinra," Morreso replied.

Vervain flipped through the folder with much interest. "Hmm… it begins about 2 years and 1 month ago with the bombing of Mako Reactor #1. The next day, Reactor #5 was bombed." He flipped through some more pages. "Avalanche invaded the Shinra building to rescue Aeris Gainsborough, a Cetra survivor under the research of Professor Hojo. Later that day, Sephiroth attacked the building and killed President Shinra." Vervain flipped through some more pages.

"Sister Ray cannon approved for use. Its new location in Midgar allows it to fire Mako powered shells. Used cannon to destroy Sephiroth's barrier around the North Crater. WEAPON attacked Midgar, nearly killed President Rufus. Avalanche defeated Sephiroth several days later."

"These guys seem like formidable opponents if they took down Sephiroth," Morreso said. "We should be prepared."

Vervain continued reading. "Three weeks after Sephiroth's defeat, President Rufus found alive in Shinra building along with Heidegger. Shinra space station approved for use. Neo-Midgar planned for Solack. Avalanche revives Aeris Gainsborough, who had been killed by Sephiroth. Avalanche defeats Waylon, Hojo's brother. Rocket launch to Shinra space station ready for departure..."

"Any more?" Morreso asked.

"Nope, that's the last entry."

"So..." Morreso looked sadly at the floor. "It's safe to assume Rufus is dead?"

"I'm afraid so," Vervain said. "Wait... here's some info about Avalanche's members." He flipped through more pages.

"Cloud Strife, 21, leader of Avalanche. Skilled with sword, former Shinra soldier, main factor in defeat of Sephiroth. Current residence: Nibelheim."

"Barret Wallace, 35, founder of Avalanche. Largely responsible for destruction of Reactors #1 and #5. Current residence: Corel."

"Tifa Lockheart, 21, childhood friend of Strife. Owned 7th Heaven bar, which served as Avalanche's former hideout. Current residence: Nibelheim."

"Aeris Gainsborough, 22, last surviving Cetra. Captured by Tseng and Turks, but rescued by Avalanche. Formerly deceased, revived 3 weeks after defeat of Sephiroth. Current residence: Nibelheim."

"Reeve, age unknown, former head of Shinra urban development. Quit Shinra to join Avalanche. Used robot as former Shinra spy. Current residence: Midgar."

"Cid Highwind, age unknown, former Shinra pilot. Was supposed to be first man in space, but launch was cancelled. Current residence: Rocket Town."

"Red XIII, age unknown, former lab specimen of Hojo. Real name Nanaki. Member of tiger-type species all but extinct today. Current residence: Cosmo Canyon."

"Yuffie Kisaragi, 16, ninja and expert thief. Daughter of Godo of Wutai. Current residence: Wutai."

"Vincent Valentine, age unknown, formerly of the Turks. Went against Jenova Project, but soon after went missing. Reappeared after Avalanche recruited him. Current residence: Unknown."

"Biggs, Wedge, Jessie (all ages and last names unknown), had hand in bombings of Reactors #1 and #5. Currently deceased."

Vervain closed the folder and looked at Morreso for his opinion.

"Well, they apparently only have 9 members," Morreso said. "They shouldn't be that hard to take down."

"You're forgetting how much support they have with common folk. They're basically heroes. The common people will support. Besides, my announcement over the return of Shinra was not very well accepted by the public." Vervain gazed out the window at the city of Midgar.

"Which means we're basically going to have to take the world back by force," Morreso said. "Conquering this continent will be easy, with the exceptions of Fort Condor and Junon."

"Conquering isn't what I'm concerned about," Vervain said. "It's Avalanche. I doubt we'll be about to take them down by brute force, since we can't use the entire fleet to simply blow them away. We have to make them submit to us."

"How so?" Morreso asked.

"Simple," Vervain said. "We take one of them. Either Cloud Strife, the leader, himself, or someone whom he cares greatly about. We'll then force Strife to surrender. It's quite simple, actually."

"What if he doesn't surrender?" Morreso asked.

"Oh, he will," Vervain replied with a smile. "Especially if we kidnap the person I have in mind."


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