The Dark Fleet Chapter 2

The Kidnapping

By Dan Schmidt

"Reno, do you really think we should have told them?" Elena asked as they were leaving Nibelheim. "Shinra is our former employer, and they’re our former enemies."

"The key word there is former," Reno replied. "I don’t care about them or Shinra anymore. I thought I had made that clear on that space station two years ago. If Vervain comes looking for us, I’ll simply tell him ‘Sorry, we’re independent now’."

"Who says they can’t hire us?" she said.

"No one," Reno replied. "If they hire us to hunt down Cloud and his friends, than we will. However, doing that won’t come cheap. And knowing Shinra these days, they won’t be willing to spend that kind of money."

"So what do we do?" Elena said.

"We simply sit back and watch what happens," Reno replied. "If Cloud and his buddies beat Vervain, good for them. It doesn’t matter for us either way."

* * *

"What do you think we should do?" Barret asked. They were all gathered in Aeris’s house. The party was over, but the talk about Vervain was still going on.

"I think this situation deserves a little observation," Cloud said. "But, I don’t think we all should go. Having nine people walking around Midgar wouldn’t be the best idea."

"So… who should go?" Cid asked.

"I know Midgar well, probably more so than any of you," Reeve said. "I’ve got Vincent’s Outsider pistol with me, I think I should go."

"Okay," Cloud said. "So it’ll be me, Reeve, and…"

"Me," Aeris blurted out.

"No, I don’t wanna put you in…"

"Cloud, shut up," Aeris replied. "You were saying that when we went after Sephiroth, you were saying that when we were after Dran, and you doing it again now. I’ve been fine every single time."

"Umm… Sephiroth ran you through, remember?" Cloud replied.

"Ohh, but I’m fine now," Aeris replied.

"Cloud, she’s gonna argue until she gets her way," Cid said. "Shera’s the same way."

"Hey!" Shera shouted. She playfully pushed Cid off the couch.

"Besides, I know Midgar pretty well," Aeris said. "I lived there all my life. That is, until you flew through the floor of my church."

"Fine," Cloud said. He then turned to Barret. "Barret, I want you and everyone else to go to Cosmo Canyon."

"Why?" Barret asked.

"To pick up Red, and to look for some information about this Vervain guy," Cloud said. "Cosmo Canyon’s the best place to look this stuff up."

"Okay, don’t get yourselves killed," Barret said.

"We’ll try," Cloud said.

* * *

Cloud, Aeris, and Reeve stepped into Midgar. The city hadn’t changed much since their last encounter with Shinra. The city had been kept in good order by the local government. The Mako reactors had been shut down, but, unfortunately, there still were people living in the slums.

"Where should we start?" Aeris asked.

"Shinra Headquarters," Reeve said.

"Sounds like a good place to start," Cloud said. "But, the only way to get up there is that wire in Wall Market."

"Well, then that’s what we’ll have to use," Aeris replied. She hurried off towards Wall Market.

"Aeris, wait up!" Cloud shouted as he and Reeve chased after her.

They made it to Wall Market in about fifteen minutes. They quickly ran over to the wire that led to the Shinra building.

"I’ll go first," Cloud said. He grabbed onto the wire and began climbing.

"After you," Reeve said to Aeris.

"Thanks." Aeris grabbed onto the wire and started climbing.

Reeve sighed. "I hate heights." He began climbing. After a while, he realized it was easier than he thought it was. It wasn’t long before they reached the Shinra building.

"I don’t care how many times I come here, this is still the most imposing building in the world," Cloud said.

"Heh, you haven’t even seen half of it," Reeve said. "You’ve seen floors sixty to seventy. When you see all the floors, you realize how huge the place actually is."

"Well, shall we take the stairs?" Aeris asked.

"Nah, it’s just Vervain in here," Cloud replied. "I doubt he’ll have soldiers posted below him. Let’s just go in through the front."

They opened the front doors and walked right into a small squad of soldiers. There were only three of them, but Cloud, Aeris, and Reeve weren’t well armed.

"Who’re you guys?!" the lead soldier asked.

"We’re here to see the Admiral," Reeve said, thinking quickly.

"What’s your name?"

"Umm…" Reeve struggled to think up a name. "Jass. Mr. Hugh Jass."

Aeris chuckled.

"Hugh Jass, huh? I don’t recall the Admiral expecting any Hugh Jass. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave."

"You really are thick, aren’t you?" Reeve raised his gun and fired several shots at the soldiers. One soldier took a shot to the chest, but the others dove safely for cover.

"Great name to tell them," Cloud groaned. The three of them quickly dove for cover before the soldiers could return fire.

The soldiers popped up and started firing at the desk the three Avalanchers had hid behind. Reeve fired a few shots blindly over the desk to make them duck down again.

"Got any materia?" Reeve asked.

"I’ve just got cure and fire," Cloud replied.

Aeris smiled. "I prepared a little better. I’ve got cure, ice, lightning, and Ramuh. Which should I use?"

Cloud rolled his eyes. "Ramuh."

Aeris concentrated on the red orb until it began glowing brightly. Suddenly, the ground started rising up into a large podium. Ramuh appeared atop of the mountain of earth. He raised his staff high into the air and waved it down at the soldiers. Large bolts of lightning shot out of his staff and struck the soldiers over and over. By the time the attack was over, the soldiers’ bodies were charred remains of what they once were.

"Nice work," Cloud commented. "Now, let’s take an elevator to the top."

They stepped into the clear elevator. Reeve pressed the floor button labeled 66. "They’ll probably be in the conference room," he said.

The elevator ‘dinged’ at the 66th floor. The three of them stepped out.

"Where to now?" Aeris asked.

Cloud pressed his ear up against the door of the conference room. Sure enough, he heard voices from the other side.

"There’s some kind of meeting going on in there," Cloud said. "Let’s head to the bathroom."

"Why?" Reeve asked.

"You’ll see when we get there," he replied.

They ran over to the bathroom. Cloud opened the stall door and pointed to the grid. "This pipe leads to a spot directly over the conference room," he said. He then leaped up into the pipe and began crawling towards the conference room.

"You go first this time," Aeris said to Reeve.

"Thanks." Reeve leaped up into the pipe and followed Cloud, with Aeris behind him. Once they all reached the grid above the conference room, they began listening.

Down below, there were four men seated. The one at the head of the table wore a gray Admiral’s uniform. Two of the others had dark blue navy uniforms and the other had a green army uniform.

"Hmm…" Reeve said. "From what I know about the Shinra armed forces, the guy at the head is Admiral Vervain. The big guy to his left is Commander Syket Morreso, the guy to his right is Captain Lance Convarion, and the guy in the army uniform is Colonel Luke Zanov."

"We’re here today to discuss Avalanche," Vervain said, "who are quite possibly Shinra’s greatest enemy."

"Hey hey, looks like we’re famous," Cloud whispered.

"We have detailed reports about each member, such as appearance, location, etc., etc.," Vervain went on. "Commander Morreso, please discuss our current plan."

"Certainly Admiral." The big man stood up. "Our current plan to kidnap this member of Avalanche." Morreso held up a picture that Cloud, Aeris, and Reeve couldn’t see. "If you’ll open the folders in front of you, you’ll find a report about this member."

"Who are they talking about?" Aeris asked.

"I have no idea," Cloud replied.

"Our plan is simple," Morreso went on. "We’re going to take the Shinra’s Glory outside of Nibelheim. From there, we will lead a small team into this person residence and execute a kidnapping. We will then use the member as ransom for Avalanche’s unconditional surrender. It’s so simple, it has to work."

"What if Avalanche refuses?" Convarion asked.

"Then we execute the kidnapped member and move to Operation Mako Shell, which you all have been briefed about."

"Kidnapping? Mako Shell? What the heck is going on?" Reeve asked to no one in particular.

"There's kidnapping someone from Nibelheim," Cloud said. "It could be me, Tifa, or you Aeris."

"It's probably you, Cloud," Aeris commented. "You're the leader, you'd be the one they'd most likely kidnap."

"Agreed," Reeve said. "Now, let's get out of here before they notice us."

Just as his words had left his mouth, the grate beneath them snapped loudly. It then gave way completely and the three of them fell face first onto the conference table.

"What the hell?!" Convarion shouted as he leaped from his chair.

"Speak of the devil!" Vervain said, with a smile spreading across his face. "We were just talking about you. I'm Admiral Hyran Vervain, leader of Shinra's Armed Forces. These are my… associates. You'll get to meet sometime in the near future."

"Kidnapping scheme, huh?" Cloud asked. "Well, here we are. We did most of the work for you."

"Yes, and we’re very grateful," Vervain said. He turned to his officers. "Grab them and hold them."

Morreso grabbed Cloud, Zanov grabbed Reeve, and Convarion grabbed Aeris.

"Take them to the prison level," Vervain said. "I’ll decide what I want to do with them later."

Morreso, Zanov, and Convarion left the room with the three Avalanche members in tow. When they reached the 66th floor elevator, Morreso had to let go of Cloud to use his keycard and open the door.

Cloud saw his chance and jumped to it. He grabbed Morreso’s head and smashed it against the elevator door. Morreso slumped to the floor.

Convarion threw Aeris to the ground and leaped at Cloud. He caught Cloud with a punch to the chin. Cloud stumbled back against the elevator door. Convarion threw another punch, but this time Cloud ducked. Convarion’s fist slammed into the elevator door. He howled in agony as his fist hit the hard metal. Cloud grabbed his arm and flipped the Shinra officer over his shoulder.

Aeris had just now recovered. She snuck up behind Zanov and punched him in the groin. He released Reeve, who swung around and popped the Shinra colonel in the face.

Convarion had now recovered and ran to a telephone against the wall. "Security assistance required at once!" he shouted into the phone.

Cloud came up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Convarion turned around and Cloud slugged him. He fell to floor, unconscious.

"Let’s get outta this building," Reeve said.

* * *

Barret, Cid, Yuffie, Vincent, and Tifa stepped into Cosmo Canyon and were immediately greeted by Red XIII.

"Hello everyone," Red said. "Sorry I couldn't make it to Aeris's party. Speaking of Aeris, where is she?"

"She, Reeve, and Cloud took a little excursion to Midgar," Barret said. "You heard that Admiral Vervain guy on TV, right?"

"Yes, and I can't say I'm enthusiastic about his return," Red replied. "So Cloud, Aeris, and Reeve are checking up on him?"

"Yeah," Barret stated. "Oh yeah, we came here to dig up some info on this guy. You think you can help us out?"

"Surely," Red replied. "Cosmo Canyon probably has several books or references about Admiral Vervain. Follow me."

They walked towards a small building near the edge of the canyon. Inside, they saw a small elevator. The elevator wasn't more than a platform that could be lowered with a rope.

"Going down," Barret said. He began to lower all of them down into a dimly lit cave below. Once they reached the bottom, they saw what must have been miles of bookshelves completely stocked with books.

"This is our section about Shinra," Red stated. "If you have any questions about them, this is the place to come. We have info that even President Rufus wouldn't have known about. We should be able to find a detailed report about this guy."

They began searching the shelves for books about Vervain.

"Check this out," Tifa said. "It's a book about Shinra naval leaders." She skimmed through it some more. "Here's something about Admiral Vervain. He was promoted to Admiral about eleven years ago. He was the Shinra academy's most brilliant war leader. He was hand-picked by President Shinra to lead the Shinra Armed Forces."

"Hand-picked by President Shinra?" Vincent said. "This guy might be stronger than we anticipate."

"That's pretty much all it says about him here." Tifa closed the book and put it back on the shelf.

Within five minutes, another discovery was made.

"Woohoo!" Barret cried out. "Check this out! I hit the jackpot." He held up a book. "Biography on Admiral Hyran Vervain!" Barret flipped through the pages. "This tells us everything. Look here. He's 46 years old, stands 5 feet 10 inches tall. He joined the Shinra navy at age 17. He worked in Junon until he was moved to Wutai. By then, he was a captain and one of the youngest captains in Shinra history.

"In Wutai, he controlled a battleship and scored several decisive victory over Wutai forces. Was promoted to Commander after war with Wutai ended. When he was 35, he was made an Admiral. It was then that President Shinra picked him to lead all of Shinra's armed forces. He's said to have several right-hand men with him.

"Commander Syket Morreso, his second in command, Captain Lance Convarion, Captain Relsan Plattan, Colonel Luke Zanov, and Lieutenant Brunell Dormatier."

"Heh, so not only are we going up against Vervain, but we gotta deal with these Shinra jackasses as well," Cid said. "Fine with me."

Suddenly, the elevator behind them began to come down again. Coming down on it were Cloud, Aeris, and Reeve.

"Hey!" Barret exclaimed. "How was Midgar?"

"Not boring, that's for sure," Aeris replied. "We nearly got caught."

"We also found out that Vervain plans to kidnap one of us," Cloud stated. "He said it was someone who lives in Nibelheim, so it's probably me."

"Well, shouldn't we try to hide you?" Tifa asked, obviously concerned.

"Nah, I think I'll be okay as long as I have you guys with me," Cloud replied. "Now, did you find anything about Vervain?"

Barret and Tifa told him about the information they had found about the Shinra admiral.

"Good job," Cloud said to them. "Now, the next thing we have to do is get Vervain outta Midgar for good."

"Do you really think we can take on an entire Shinra army?" Yuffie asked.

"Vervain's little TV message got a very negative public response," Cloud replied. "We probably should be able to get help from the armies at Fort Condor, Junon, and Wutai." He turned to Yuffie. "Do you think your dad will stand up to Shinra again?"

"Of course!" Yuffie replied. "After I chatted with him during our Sephiroth chase, I got him back in the Shinra-hating spirit."

"Good, now let's see if we can get these armies together," Cloud said.

Suddenly, the elevator came down again. One of Cosmo Canyon's elders was on his way down.

"I've got some very bad news!" the elder said. "We've just received word that Nibelheim is currently under attack by Admiral Vervain!"

"Nibelheim? Why?!" Cloud exclaimed. "We aren't even there! Nibelheim's nearly defenseless!"

"We gotta get there," Barret said. "And fast!"

* * *

When they reached Nibelheim, Avalanche saw a large battleship parked outside the gulf near the town. The town itself was doing their best to defend themselves. Sharpshooters were in the highest buildings in town, desperately trying to pick off the seemingly never-ending barrage of soldiers.

"This isn't as bad as I thought it would be," Cloud said, surveying the situation. "But if we don't act fast, Nibelheim won't last long."

"Should we try rushing them from behind?" Red asked.

"Sounds like a good idea," Cloud replied. He then turned to Barret. "Barret, I want you to lead one team along the right side, I'll lead another team along the left. We'll meet at my house."

"Remember to be careful, Cloud," Tifa said. "They probably going to try to take you hostage, remember?"

"I'll be okay," he replied. "Alright, I want Aeris, Red, Vincent, and Reeve on my side. Barret, you take Tifa, Cid, and Yuffie along the left side."

"Gotcha," Barret replied. He turned to Tifa, Cid, and Yuffie. "Let's get going." They ran off towards Nibelheim.

Cloud turned to the remaining members. "Everyone ready?"

"Let's go," Reeve said. They took off towards Nibelheim.

They positioned themselves about fifteen yards behind the soldiers, hiding against a large boulder.

"Aeris, you wanna give these guys a little wake up call?" Cloud asked.

"Hmm… will Bahamut do?" Aeris said to him.

"Works for me."

Aeris reached into pocket and pulled out the small, red orb. She concentrated on it until it began to glow brightly.

Suddenly, the clouds ripped open and Bahamut appeared above a group of the soldiers. The troops were too terrified to move. Bahamut breathed in deeply and then shot a huge ball of energy down towards the soldiers. The ball hit the ground below the soldiers and exploded, incinerating several soldiers and blowing several others completely out of the battle.

"Nice job," Reeve said. "Now, let's move in." He leaped up and began firing on the remaining soldiers. He got off six shots, with all of them finding their mark, before having to duck down again.

Now it was Cloud's turn. He bolted up and was on top of the soldiers before they knew it. He sliced several down with his sword before any could react. Two soldiers fired shots at him, but he deflected them away with his sword.

Red leaped out from behind the rock and began slashing and clawing through a line of soldiers.

Reeve and Vincent stood behind the rock, firing away at any soldiers Cloud and Red missed. Aeris helped by healing all of them, and by casting magic.

Cloud slashed through several more soldiers. Suddenly, he was hit from behind. He fell to the ground and saw three soldiers standing over him. They raised their guns, but suddenly they were hit with a strong fire attack from Aeris. The flaming soldiers ran towards the ocean, but they would never make it.

Vincent picked off two more troops with his rifle. By now, the soldiers were rushing towards Nibelheim.

"We got them on the run, now let's finish the job," Reeve said.

The soldiers had turned their attention back to Nibelheim. They began firing at the sharpshooters in the buildings.

Cloud snuck up behind and soldier and thrust his sword through him. Another soldier saw this and turned towards Cloud, but Cloud caught him with a kick to the stomach. Red than finished the soldier off.

Aeris was now fully engaged in the battle. She would cast magic spells on groups of soldiers, and then finish off the survivors with her staff.

Vincent and Reeve helped the sharpshooters by taking out the soldiers closest to Nibelheim.

Everyone helped in the battle. They had taken down atleast 75 soldiers and not one of them was seriously injured.

"Let's get to my house," Cloud said. They now had a clear path to his residence. They bolted towards it and locked the door behind them.

"What kept you?"

Cloud turned around and saw Barret, Cid, Tifa, and Yuffie sitting on his couch.

"How'd you guys get here so fast?"

"The left side wasn't that difficult to break through," Barret replied. "We were just catching a breather."

Suddenly, there was loud banging outside the door. The banging came again, and then on the third try, the door came crashing down. A squad of Shinra troops entered the house.

Avalanche quickly dove behind the couch as the soldiers opened fire. Reeve, Vincent, and Barret returned fire and sent the troops diving for cover.

Cloud stepped over the couch and launched his attack. He chopped two soldiers down and then leaped back over the couch.

"Two down, ten to go," he stated.

Reeve let a shot go. "Make that nine to go."

Barret started firing at random and sent the troops back into hiding.

"Barret, this is my house, ya know!" Cloud shouted. "Mind not tearing it apart?"

"Sorry." Barret leaped up again and this time fired two shots. Both shots found their mark and two soldiers fell over dead. "That better?" Barret asked him.

"Yes, much better," Cloud replied. "Now we have seven to go."

A barrage of bullets struck the couch. They had to duck down low, because the shot went right through the upper part of the couch.

Vincent popped up this time and fired six quick shots. Each shot killed one soldier.

"Whoa, Vincent, nice shooting!" Tifa exclaimed.

"No problem at all," Vincent said coolly.

The last remaining soldier popped up, but was immediately silenced by Reeve's shot.

"We did it!" Aeris exclaimed. But their excitement was cut short. A large arm suddenly grabbed Aeris by the neck.

"Help!" Aeris shouted.

They turned around and saw Commander Syket Morreso holding Aeris firmly with one arm. With the other hand, he held a gun to her head.

"Sorry to interrupt your excitement, but I came here with a mission to accomplish," Morreso said. "Throw down your weapons or she dies."

Avalanche had to do as he said. Morreso wrapped his large arm over Aeris's mouth, preventing her from making any sound.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a boat to catch," Morreso said. He backed out of the house with Aeris at gunpoint.

Cloud immediately picked up his sword and ran after him. When he got outside, he saw Morreso put Aeris in a jeep. The jeep's driver tied Aeris's arms.

"No!" Cloud shouted as he charged at Morreso. Morreso calmly dodged his sword swing and grabbed Cloud by the shirt. He punched Cloud hard across the face. Cloud flew backwards onto the ground, but immediately leaped up again. He charged towards Morreso with his sword high the air. Morreso grabbed his arms and wrenched the sword from Cloud's grasp. He tossed the weapon aside. Cloud threw a punch at Morreso, but the Shinra commander grabbed his arm. Morreso twisted Cloud's arm and then punched him across the face again. Cloud fell onto his back with blood trickling from his mouth.

Morreso leaped into the jeep and it took off towards the Shinra battleship. He turned back to look at Cloud and smiled.

The rest of Avalanche now joined Cloud outside.

"No!" Cloud shouted as he stood up. "They were after Aeris the whole time! I should've known! I can't believe I lost her again!" He dropped to his knees and slammed his fist into the ground.

"Hey, Cloud, cheer up," Tifa said. "We'll get her back. Vervain isn't going to kill her. We'll find some way get her back."

"I don't know Tifa," Cloud replied. "Getting Aeris back might mean giving up to Shinra."

"If we gotta do it, we gotta do it," Barret said.

"No," Cloud said. He stood up and stared at the jeep, which had almost reached the boat by now. "We'll get her back."


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