Underground Empire Chapter 10

By Dan Schmidt

"Mr. Wallace, you've been a thorn in my side for far too long now," Wedge said as the soldiers brought Barret before him. "I think it's time I put you out or everyone's misery."

"I wish I could do the same to you," Barret said.

"I sure you do," Wedge replied. "But, I've prepared a special execution chamber for you. You see, I've been expecting to use it on you for quite some time now. It's a special gas chamber, filled with the same gas that will be used to kill everyone on the planet in 53 minutes and 46… no 45 seconds. I hope you enjoy a slow and painful death."

Barret sighed. This truly did seem like the end. Unless a miracle happened, it looked like Avalanche would fail to make it in time to stop the bomb, much less save him from Wedge's death chamber.

"Walk this way, Barret," Wedge said as he ushered Barret out the door. They turned down a hallway Barret had never been down before. He memorized a few landmarks just incase, by some miraculous intervention, he escaped.

"Trash storage area," Barret muttered to himself as he looked at a sign that pointed down another hallway. "Great, not only will they kill everything above the ground, but they kill things that live below because of Wedge's carelessness."

"What was that, Barret?" Wedge said sharply.

"Nothin'," Barret muttered in reply.

"Let's keep it that way," Wedge replied. They continued down the hallway until they reached a large room. Inside it were two smaller rooms, one that controlled the gas, and one that dispersed it.

"Barret, please step inside the gas room."

"Make me, you coward," Barret replied sternly.

Wedge growled. He then turned to the guards. "Leave us!" he said to them. "I can finish this worthless waste of human flesh myself.

The guards promptly turned and left the room.

"Mind if I go first," Wedge said. He suddenly slugged Barret in the stomach. Barret fell to his knees, but glared up at Wedge with clenched teeth. Wedge smacked him and sent sprawling into a corner of the gas room.

"Come and get me, Wedge," Barret said, shaken, but still ready to fight.

"Gladly." Wedge charged at Barret and threw a punch at Barret. Barret blocked it with his gun-arm and grabbed Wedge by the collar. He slammed Wedge against the wall and then threw him to the ground.

Wedge leaped immediately to his feet and connected with a sudden uppercut. Barret felt two of his teeth fly from his mouth as Wedge's punch connected to his jaw.

Barret slid into the chair in the center of the room. He saw a cable connecting into the chair. Wedge came charging towards him. Barret ripped the cable out and used it to trip Wedge. Wedge flew into the wall. Barret raced over and wrapped the cable around his neck. He gave a quick tug and Wedge slumped to the floor.

"Now, to get outta here." He ran out of the room and headed down the hallway. He heard troops coming towards him and immediately ducked down the hallway where the trash storage area was. He opened the door and entered a large cavern.

The cavern was the biggest he has seen yet in Wedge's underground domain. It was about 75 feet wide, and he couldn't tell how deep it was, as he couldn't see the bottom. A platform extended into the middle of the room, where it was connect to a large pole. Wrapped around the pole was a small walkway. The pole was connected to the top of the cavern and presumably went all the way to the bottom.

"Must go down pretty far," he commented.

Suddenly, he heard a sound near the door. He whipped around, but saw nothing. He turned back to look down the cavern.

He heard another noise. This time it was… clapping?

"Well done, Barret," came Wedge's voice from behind him. Barret turned around and saw Wedge standing behind him, clapping.

"You've found the trash area!" Wedge said. "Unfortunately, this is the last place you'll ever see." He pulled out a small handgun and pointed it at Barret.

Barret saw the gun and bolted down the platform. Wedge fired eight shots, but all missed, if not by very much. Wedge had only one clip with him, so he took off after Barret down the platform.

Barret reached the large pole and hid on the other side of it. He looked back on his right side and saw nothing. He looked back on his left side and caught a boot to the face. Barret staggered dangerously close to the edge, but regained his composure.

"C'mon Barret!" Wedge said. Wedge threw a punch, but Barret blocked it. Barret countered by socking Wedge in the stomach. He then gave Wedge an uppercut to the nose. Wedge stumbled back and fell to one knee. He was bleeding from the nose.

"Well, I made you bleed from the mouth, so I guess it's only far you make me bleed," Wedge said. "But I'll do worse than that." He charged forward and plowed into Barret's knees. Barret fell over him and landed hard on the platform. Wedge began laying rights and lefts into Barret's forehead. He then pulled Barret up and slammed him against the wall of the pole. Barret was now bleeding badly from his forehead and blood was trickling from the corner of his mouth.

Wedge smiled as his observed his work. "Am I too much for big Barret, the leader of Avalanche? You know Barret; I was always better than you. When we were fighting, devising strategy, whatever, I had always one-upped you. And now, I'll get the better hand by killing you. Doesn't that just make you steamed? Doesn't that piss you off?"

Barret lifted his head to look at Wedge. "It sure as hell does." Barret shot his leg out and connected with Wedge's stomach and sent him staggering backward. Barret leaped up and clenched his fist. "This one's for Avalanche." He blasted Wedge with a punch to the face the sent Wedge staggering back even more. He teetered on the edge of the platform before falling over. Barret leaped forward and grabbed onto his hand.

Wedge was now bleeding from the mouth and nose. He looked up and Barret and smiled. "I always knew… that you'd try to be… the hero."

Barret smiled back. "Not today, Wedge. I'm no hero today."

The smile on Wedge's face faded.

"Today," Barret said, "I'm finishing something I started a year ago. Getting rid of everyone who tries to kill the planet.

He let go of Wedge's hand. Wedge screamed and fell down into the blackness of the large cavern.

Barret sighed. "Goodbye Wedge."

He rested for a minute before heading back towards the control room. He still had a bomb to destroy.

* * *

"Hey, commander Tifa," Reno said sarcastically. "Do you happen to know where we're going?"

"Of course," she replied. "We going to the operations room. That's probably where Barret and the controls to that bomb are."

Tifa, Red, Reeve, Vincent, Yuffie, and the Turks had been walking down a deserted corridor for almost twenty minutes and they had seen no signs of life.

"See?" Tifa said as she pointed to a sign. "The operations room is further down this corridor. We probably don't have far to go now." She continued to lead them down the corridor until they reached two large double doors.

"This must be it," Tifa said. She opened the door, only to see a familiar face halfway across the room.

"There they are!" Tanden shouted to a squadron of troops. "Get them, kill them, don't leave any of them alive!"

Tifa immediately shut the door. She heard bullet clang of the metal from the other side.

"Very smooth leading," Reno said. "We're never lost with fearless leader Tifa around." He sighed and pulled out his nightstick and a revolver. "Time to pay back my buddy Tanden."

The doors suddenly burst open and about a dozen troops poured into the hallway. Reno jabbed his nightstick into one soldier's stomach. The soldier doubled over, holding his stomach, and Reno gave him a knee lift to the face.

The Avalanchers got into their normal battle routine, with Tifa, Yuffie, and Red up front and Vincent and Reeve in the back, picking off troops with their weapons. The Turks, however, charged through the double doors.

"Where are they going?" Yuffie asked.

"Probably after Tanden," Reeve replied. Reeve fired a few shots and took down another soldier. But they just kept coming. For every soldier they took down, two more burst through the doors.

"They're hitting us with everything they got!" Reeve shouted as he loaded another clip into his pistol.

Tifa gave one soldier a punch to the face. "How about we try using materia?"

Yuffie smiled. "That's my department." He reached into her bag and pulled out a red materia orb.

"Which one is that?" Tifa asked.

"Umm… I'm not sure. Leviathan, I think." Yuffie concentrated on the materia until it began glowing a bright red color.

A large serpent appeared in front of the double doors. It sent a wave of water through the doors that took out most of the troops and continued crashing down the corridors.

"Yuffie, what if you hit the Turks?" Red asked.

"I don't think it'll be that big of a loss," Yuffie said with a smile.

"That's rather cruel," Vincent replied.

"Enough talk," Tifa said, taking control. "Let's head for the control room and stop that bomb. And hopefully find Barret."

The Avalanchers took off down the hallway. They saw bullet marks sprayed all over the walls as they ran down.

"Looks like Reno was here," Reeve said. He thought he heard gunshots off in the distance. He shook his head. Had to concentrate on the mission at hand.

"Here's an elevator!" Tifa exclaimed.

"Can it hold all of us?" Vincent asked.

"Looks like it," Tifa replied. They began to pile into the elevator. Tifa eyed the buttons and pushed the one labeled 'Operations Room'.

"Ouch!" Yuffie exclaimed. "Someone's on my foot!" It was a tight fit in the elevator, with no one getting more than a few inches of space.

"Just deal with it," Tifa said. "We're almost at the top." The elevator dinged and the doors opened.

Directly in front of them, they saw a large spinning door guarded by a sleeping soldier. The soldier's gun lay carelessly at his feet.

"How can he sleep when his base is under attack?" Yuffie said.

Tifa walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. The guard awoke suddenly. Tifa smiled at him and punched him across the face. The guard slumped back down to the floor.

"Now he won't wake up," Tifa said. She then charged into the Operations Room.

At the exact same time, on the other side of the room, Barret entered. They stared at each other for a second before running towards each other. Barret scooped up Tifa and gave her a big bear hug.

Tifa gasped for air and Barret released her from his grasp.

"Barret, I'm so glad you're safe!" Tifa said. "We had thought the worst!"

"I'm glad to see you too," he said. "But I have to diffuse that bomb Wedge launched."

"Speaking of Wedge," Reeve said as he and the rest of Avalanche entered the room. "Where is he?"

"He took a nasty fall." Barret said dryly. He raced over to the main console. He checked the status of the bomb. There should be atleast 20 minutes before it exploded.

"What!?" Barret shouted as he looked at the monitor. There were now only 58 second until the bomb exploded. "That damn Tanden must've fast forwarded the countdown." He turned to his friends. "I hate to tell you this, but we've got about 55 seconds before the bomb explodes."

Barret set to work at the console. He began typing faster than he ever had in his life. Finally, the 'Abort' screen appeared.

"Level 5 Password needed," the computer's monotonous voice said.

"Level 5 password?" Barret said aloud. "You guys got any ideas?"

"Try Project Nova," Tifa said. "That's what Wedge called this operation."

Barret typed in 'Project Nova' and pressed enter. It was denied. "Any other ideas?" Barret said. "40 seconds."

"Try MonoA93," Vincent suggested.

Barret typed in MonoA93 and it was denied. He typed in 'Barret Wallace' and pressed enter. That too was denied.

"25 seconds," he mumbled to himself.

He tried 'Biggs and Jessie'. That too was denied.

"20 seconds," he said to himself. "Think, Barret, think!"

He tried 'Tifa'. It was denied. It tried 'Avalanche'. That too was denied.

"12 seconds," Barret said to himself. He tried 'Midgar'. It was denied. He tried 'Shinra'. It was denied.

"5 seconds," he said to himself. Time for one last try. He tried in 'Cloud' and pressed enter.

"Password Accepted," the computer said. "Bomb detonation cancelled. Have a nice day."

"You did it!" Tifa said.

"Yeah, who would've guessed that spiky-headed dude would be saving us here," Barret said. "I can't believe Wedge used his name as the password. I can't even believed he remembered Cloud from our missions over one year ago."

"5 seconds left?" Reeve said. "Hardly exciting."

"I'm sure sweatin', ya Shinra manager!" Barret yelled at him.

"Hey," Yuffie said suddenly. "What happened to the Turks?"

"Who cares," Tifa replied. "Let's go home."

* * *

Tanden bolted down the hallway and turned sharply to the left. He looked back and saw Reno still following him. He ducked into the trash storage area. He slammed the door shut behind him. He ran down behind the pillar standing up the middle.

The door to the trash area suddenly opened. He heard footsteps coming down the platform.

"Tanden, I know you’re here somewhere," Reno said.

Tanden took a deep breath. He leaped out from behind the pillar and threw a punch to Reno's face. Reno stumbled back and bit, but quickly regained his poise. Tanden threw another punch, but Reno blocked it with his nightstick. He then kicked Tanden the stomach and smacked him across the face with his nightstick. Tanden fell to his knees, but he punched Reno in the groin from there. Reno dropped to his knees now, and the two stared eye to eye. Tanden threw another punch, but Reno blocked it and jabbed Tanden in the chest with his nightstick. The electric shock shot all through Tanden's body.

"A shocking revelation, huh Tanden?" Reno said sarcastically.

Tanden teetered back on the edge of the platform. He snarled at Reno. Reno stepped casually up to him.

"Colonel Tanden? I don't think so," Reno said. He punched Tanden across the face. Tanden flailed his arms frantically and fell off the pillar. He screamed loudly all the way down.

"Good-bye, Tanden," Reno said.

Although Reno didn't know it, Tanden had now joined Wedge in a permanent residence among the garbage in the trash storage area.

Reno left the room and ran into Rude and Elena.

"Where's Tanden?" Elena asked.

"He took a nasty spill," Reno said. "Now, let's go home."

* * *

The rest of the Avalanchers found Cloud, Aeris, and Cid waiting for them at Corel once they returned.

"How was your trip up North?" Tifa asked Cloud.

"Well, it wasn't boring. You remember Hojo's lab assistant Dran?" Cloud went on to explain their whole encounter with Dran, but he left out the part him kissing Aeris. Tifa then explained what happened to them with Wedge.

"Wedge was behind the earthquakes?" Cloud asked. "The same Wedge from Avalanche last year?"

"Yep," Tifa said.

"And you'll never guess what his computer password was," Barret said.

"Hey!" Reeve called. "They're about to christen the new mayoral building."

They all headed over to the new building. Barret was supposed to stand up on the podium and give a speech. There was a crowd of about one hundred people around him.

"Umm…" Barret began, "I'm not really good with these, so bear with me. As you all know, a little more than two weeks ago, Corel was struck with a terrible earthquake that decimated the entire town. We had just begun rebuilding from Shinra's damage when Wedge, former Avalanche member and friend of mine, began his own crazy world domination scheme and destroyed Corel again in the process. I later found out that Wedge did indeed worked for Shinra. So, in a way, Shinra once again ruined the lives of the people in Corel.

"But today, we christen the rebirth of Corel. We've defeated the Shinra once and for all. President Shinra, Rufus, Heidegger, Scarlet, they're all gone and the world is free from their tyranny. And as mayor of Corel, I swear to raise this city up to the level it once was at, to restore the class that Corel was held.

"Now, I couldn't win the battles against Shinra alone, and I'm sure not gonna be able to restore Corel by myself. I'm gonna need the help of my fellow Avalanche mates, Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockheart, Aeris Gainsborough, Cid Highwind, Vincent Valentine, Nanaki, Yuffie Kisaragi, and yes, even Reeve, the former Shinra manager. But, I also need the help of all of you, the people of Corel! Cause without you, Corel doesn't exist!

"So, I ask all of you for your help in bringing back Corel to the level is once was at. Together, we'll make Corel the greatest city on the southern continent!"

They crowd erupted in cheers. Everyone got to their feet and applauded. The Avalanchers stormed up on the podium and cheered for Barret's great, albeit impromptu, speech. Barret snipped the ribbon and christened the new mayoral office of Corel. And over the horizon, the sun was beginning to rise, and it glistened on the reborn Corel for the first time.

The End


Authors Note: Ahh… book 2 is, well, in the books. I hope you enjoyed the story. It took me longer than I expected to write this, even though it's six pages shorter than Shinra Reborn is. Well, just a few things now: Wedge makes his return! I likened Wedge to Alec Trevelyan in the Bond movie "Goldeneye". Trevelyan isn't an intimidating villain, but he has a reason to want James Bond dead. Same with Wedge. I threw in that thing about him working for Shinra to add a twist to Barret's reactions towards Wedge, so that I wouldn't have much remorse in killing a former good guy. Dran is another guy I wondered about during the game. After your first attack on the Shinra building, you never saw him again. Also, I did enjoy creating the character of Tanden. I had always wanted to create a cowardly villain, and he I think he worked out well. We also saw Aeris and Cloud get closer, and saw Cid in more of those accidental comedy scenes I enjoyed from the original game. And finally, the Turks. I thought having a connection between Reno and Tanden would make for a good rivalry throughout the book. I'm particularly fond of their scene in the final chapter, where Tanden joins Wedge in a death from heights. Also, in the first chapters, I named one of Barret's workers Dallas, after the 1999 Stanley Cup champion Dallas Stars. Hopefully, this year my Flyers will bring the cup home. Well, book 3 of the Aftermath Series should be finished during the summer of 2000. It's called The Dark Fleet. Here's a small spoiler: Shinra isn't completely gone yet.

Dan Schmidt, February 7, 2000


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