Underground Empire Chapter 2
By Dan Schmidt
"Long way down," Reeve commented as the members of Avalanche gazed down the well in the center of Corel. They couldnt see the bottom of the well. Reeve picked up a small rock and dropped it into the well. They heard a very faint noise.
"It took that rock a while to hit the bottom," Tifa commented. "So, whos going down?"
"Im going down!" Barret exclaimed. "It was my home these earthquakes destroyed, so Im gonna find out why."
"If youre going down there," Red said, "youll need some rope. Do you know where some rope would be located?"
Barret sighed. "It was in the large storage shed, but that shed is gone. Well have to look around a little."
Barret, Tifa, Reeve, and Red spread out to look for some rope. The ground was littered with debris, and rope would be hard to find amongst the mess. Red stumbled as his paws kept striking rocks and other things. Finally, he spotted a coil of rope in between two wooden poles. Red grabbed the rope in his mouth and headed back towards the well.
"Hey, nice work Red!" Tifa said, spotting the rope in this mouth. Red nodded.. He dropped the rope next to the well.
"Ready, Barret?" Reeve asked.
Barret sighed and looked down the deep well. "Ready as Ill ever be." He took the rope and tied it around his waist. "Reeve, lower me down."
Reeve took the rope and put his feet up against the side of the well. "Go on down."
Barret began to repel down the well. The well smelled musty, but it also had a faint smell of something else. Barret couldnt put his finger on it.
"Geez Barret, lay off the pizzas, okay?" Reeve called down from above.
"Shut up Reeve," Barret said. "I do what I gotta do."
Reeve smiled. "I know, its just seems like Im lowering a truck down the well."
Barret muttered something profane and continued down the well. The well was deeper than Barret thought. He had gone down atleast thirty feet and the bottom was still not in sight.
The rope suddenly went taut. Barret was smashed into the side of the well. "What the heck is goin on up there?" he called.
"Thats the end of line, Barret," Reeve replied. "Well need a longer rope."
"That rope was forty feet! This well cant be more than forty feet deep," Barret said, annoyed. "Its only supposed to be twenty. Somethings definitely weird here!"
"Hold on Barret!" Reeve called back. "Tifa and I are gonna pull you up."
"You need Tifas help?" Barret called back up. "Reeve, youre pathetic."
"Hey, I can always just drop you!" Reeve fired back.
"Okay, okay, sorry. Pull me up."
Reeve and Tifa pulled the rope and hoisted Barret up. Barret grabbed onto the sides of the well and pulled himself back to the surface.
"Well, now what?" Barret said, gazing back down the well.
"Well need a longer rope, duh " Reeve said. He jokingly elbowed Barret in the ribs.
"Where are we gonna get that, you worthless comedian wannabe?" Barret shot back.
"Okay, okay." Reeve rolled hi eyes. "Im just joking with ya, big boy."
Barret eyed Reeve angrily. Reeve turned his head the other way and whistled innocently.
"We could go to Wutai," Red commented. "They must do a lot of climbing on the Dao-chao Mountains. Theyre sure to have some long climbing rope."
Barret frowned. "Normally, Id say thats a great idea. But going to Wutai also means a visit from Miss Im-a-stuck-up-annoying-ninja."
"Yuffie could be of some help to us, Barret," Tifa said.
"No, no, no, no!" Barret stomped his foot on the ground. "I will not have her come to Corel and screw up our investigation."
* * *
"Why am I here?" Barret moaned as he, Tifa, Reeve, and Red stepped into Wutai. "I never wanted Yuffie to come, she just gonna screw us all up. Probably will steal all our supplies anyway "
"Barret, stop mumbling!" Tifa said, angrily. "We havent even seen Yuffie yet. Maybe well get lucky and miss her."
They continued towards Lord Godos house. Godo knew the most about Wutai, so he was sure to know where they could get some rope good enough for their mission.
The town was abuzz, as usual. Merchants littered the streets, trying to sell things they found lying around somewhere. Yuffie was still no where in sight..
They turned down the street towards Godos house. The streets became less empty as they approached Godos house. People usually didnt come down this part of town. Barret stepped up to Godos door and knocked.
The door opened almost instantly. Godo stood in the doorway, studying them all for a few moments. Then, his eyes lit up and he grabbed Barrets hand and shook it wildly.
"My, my, my," he said. "Barret Wallace, I havent seen you in months. I think its actually been a year since you were last at Wutai!" He then saw Reeve, Tifa, and Red standing behind him. "Tifa, Reeve, Red, so good to see you! Please, come in!"
They stepped into Godos house, which was a truly marvelous place to live. Everything was polished, impressive tapestries hung on each wall, and the furniture looked very expensive.
"Please sit down," Godo said. "Can I offer you something to drink?"
"No thank," Tifa said. "We actually came here to ask for your help."
"Help?" Godo said, surprised. "I will do my best to render my services. Does this have to do with the earthquakes at all?"
"As a matter of fact, it does," Barret said. "We were attempting to go underground and see whats wrong, but we hit a snag. We need some supplies.. Rope, stuff like that."
"I see." Godo stood up. "I believe we have all the supplies you will need. Ropes, harnesses, pulleys, anything. Yuffie will help you. YUFFIE! Come here!"
"Oh no " Barret mumbled under his breath.
Yuffie came charging down the stairs and leaped into the room. When she saw who was in the room, she made a disgusted face.
"Whats wrong, Yuffie?" Tifa asked.
"Havent you ever heard of a telephone?" Yuffie replied angrily. "You guys havent talked to me in months! I was beginning to feel unwanted.
"Of course youre wanted!" Tifa said quickly, before Barret could say anything. "Its just been pretty boring since Waylon was killed."
"I thought we were supposed to do something every month together?"
"Look," Barret interrupted, "We came here to get supplies, not argue over whos fault whatnot is. If we could just get our gear, well leave."
"Im coming with you!" Yuffie said instantly.
"Yuffie, we dont really need any extra help, but thanks for asking," Reeve said.
"Im coming whether you like it or not. Nothing you can do can stop me from coming with you." Yuffie stomped her foot on the ground and folded her arms.
"Well, you certainly narrow down our choices," Tifa said. "Do you know where we can get the supplies we need?"
"Of course!" Yuffie leaped to her feet. "Follow me!" She raced out the door.
"Lets follow her," Reeve said. "Thanks for everything, Godo."
Godo nodded in approval and then walked up the stairs.
"Cmon guys," Barret said unenthusiastically, "Lets go find Yuffie."
* * *
"This stuff looks good," Yuffie said, picking up a large rope from a shelf. "1000 pound test, that should be enough to hold the plump grump over there."
Barret stared at Yuffie angrily and clenched his fist. "So help me Yuffie, if we werent in the town your dad runs, Id tie you to the hood of my car and "
"Barret, stop it!" Tifa said. "Lets just get our gear, okay?"
"What is this? Jokes on Barret Day?" Barret said as he walked over to look at harnesses. He picked up a fairly large harness and looked over it. "This looks good. Yuffie, how much can we spend?"
"Whatever you want," she replied. "Dad said this gear was on the house." Yuffie threw some rope at Barret almost dropped the harness while attempting to catch the rope.
"Its a 200 foot cord with a 1000 pound test. It could hold you and three other people, probably," Yuffie said. "You should get it."
Barret pulled on the rope and then hung it over his shoulder. "I guess this is it. Lets go back to Corel. Weve got a lot of work to do."
"Hey Barret," Tifa said, "Take this." She threw him a hard hat with a flashlight attached to the top. "You could use this," she said.
Barret grunted his approval and put the hat under his arm, along with the harness. "Back to Corel!" he said.
* * *
"I can feel it," Cloud said as they made theyre way through the forest. "Its close. Cant you feel it, Aeris?"
"I feel something strange, but I cant put my finger on it," she replied. "Its kind of like that feeling when you think someone is watching you, but you dont know who or from where."
"I dont feel crap," said the ever-uplifting Cid as they brushed past more overgrown vines. "All I feel is the itching of the poison ivy on my leg and the frostbite on my face."
The Sleeping Forest had become overgrown in the past year due to the fact that not a single soul had walked through in since they last did. The bitter coldness didnt do much for their morale, either.
"We should be approaching the City of the Ancients soon," Cloud said. "Well rest there for the night. Itll start getting dark soon."
They continued on through the forest, Cloud constantly chopping down stray vines with his sword. Aeris stayed in the middle, close to Cloud, while Cid stayed a little farther behind, mumbling profane things and talking about how cold he was. They were all cold. Cloud didnt expect it to be this cold, so they had kept their winter clothes in the bag Cloud carried over his shoulder. The bag contained food, blankets, and winter clothing.
Cloud chopped down a particularly large vine and then came into the clearing that overlooked the City of the Ancients.
"There it is," Cloud said. He then turned to look at Aeris, who seemed rather nervous. "Aeris, you okay about going back down there?"
Aeris suddenly snapped back to a state of attentiveness. "Yes, yeah, Ill be fine. Its probably warm down there. Itll be the best place to stay."
They began walked down the natural path towards the City of the Ancients. The path had become mildly overgrown, but it was much easier to walk through than the Sleeping Forest. They could see the City of the Ancients down below.
Suddenly, they were ambushed from both sides. Two fat, bouncing creatures leaped at them from each side. Cloud instinctively sliced at one with his sword. He sawed the creature neatly in half.
Cid ducked and the creatures leaped over him. He got back to his feet and drove his spear down into one of the creatures head. The creature squealed in agony and then lied still. Cid removed the spear and turned his attention towards the final two creatures, who were both attacking Aeris.
Aeris defended both creatures skillfully with her staff. But Aeris was slowly backing up towards the forest. Cloud leaped to her side and slashed wildly with his sword. He drew blood from one creature. The creature squealed and suddenly cast a fire spell on the team. Unprepared for this kind of attack, they were hit hard with fire. The other creature leaped into the air, teeth gleaming. Cid launched his spear into the air. The spear shot right through the creature. The creatures leap fell into a flop as it hit the ground hard and lied still.
The remaining creature saw his buddies had been routed and took off back into the woods where it had came from.
"That was a nice workout!" Cid said, retrieving his spear. "Not bad at all. A little pre-emptive, but fun nonetheless."
Aeris stared angrily at Cid. "Those guys double-teamed me! I didnt like it one bit!"
"Oh well " Cid returned to his slow pace down the natural path.
Soon after, they reached the City of the Ancients. It looked exactly the same since they had last been here one year ago.
"Well, we should head left," Cloud said. "Thats where that big conch shell was that we stayed in last time." They took the left path towards the larger conch shells. Once they reached them, it was dark.
"We should get some sleep," Cloud stated as he sat down on the first bed. "Weve got a big mission ahead of us." Cloud lied down on the bed and began to doze off.
"Well, goodnight Cid, Cloud," Aeris said as she lied down on the middle bed. "Cid?"
Cid was asleep in the middle of the floor.
"Cid, you are amazing," Aeris mumbled to herself as she dozed off.
* * *
Cloud awoke late that night. It was still very dark out. Cloud had another Jenova dream, but this one seemed so real, probably because it took place in the City of the Ancients.
Cloud felt as if he was being called somewhere. He climbed down the ladder and started across the natural path. Cloud stopped at the triple fork and took the center path down towards the passage to the real City of the Ancients. He saw footprints of the thin layer of mud. They were human footprints, but smaller than his. He stopped at the pond and looked down into it. This was the spot where he had set Aeris to rest. He looked down deeper to where Aeris had lied and saw nothing. Just water, no body. It made sense, since after Sephiroth was killed, Aeris returned body and soul to the planet.. Until he revived her.
Cloud entered the large conch shell. The path to the Ancient City was unblocked. Cloud walked down the glistening path towards the incredible city below. The city sparkled, even in the low light. The buildings rose up like towers. It was truly remarkable.
Cloud reached the City and saw Aeris standing in the small building where Sephiroth had once cut her down. Cloud ran down towards her and saw that she was just standing there, looking up at the sky.
Aeris turned around and saw Cloud. She smiled and beckoned him with her hand.. Cloud walked over and they both sat down against the wall.
"Cid still asleep?" she asked.
"Yeah, hes a heavy sleeper, especially after hes had a few drinks," Cloud said with a chuckle.
"Thats our Cid," Aeris said. "What a character."
"Yeah, he is," Cloud said. There was a moment of silence. Then, Cloud spoke again. "Aeris, why did you come here?"
"I dont know, I feel like I was summoned here," she replied. "Something was calling me here, but I dont know what."
"Thats the same reason I came here," Cloud said, looking around. "Something was calling both of us here."
"Cloud, this is place I was you know " Aeris said. "Could that have something to do with it?"
"I might. We fought a Jenova creature here, and that might be giving off some residual Jenova sensations."
"Cloud, when Sephiroth cut me what did you guys do?" Aeris asked.
"What could we have done? We were so shocked we didnt know how to react. It happened so suddenly, but we all cried," Cloud said slowly. "We set your body to rest in that lake outside."
"Oh," Aeris suddenly got choked up. "Sorry, this is hard for me to talk about."
"I know, its hard for me too." Cloud put his arm around her. "So, what do you think about this whole Jenova thing?"
"Oh Cloud, I wish I knew." Aeris leaned closer to him. "Jenova should be dead, but then Waylon still had a sample left, and now someone else may have one too. I dont think the threat of Jenova will ever be gone. You even have some Jenova in you."
"I know, its not exactly my best feature," Cloud replied, rolling his eyes. "But Ive learned to live with it."
"Its getting kind of chilly, want to go back?" Aeris asked.
"Yeah, we should get some sleep," Cloud replied. "Itll be light in a few hours and we should be alert when daylight comes."
Aeris smiled. "Thanks, you always know how to make a girl feel better."
* * *
Barret drove back into the wrecked Corel in his truck. Tifa was sitting next to him, Yuffie, Red, and Reeve were in the back, and the supplies were on the roof. Barret pulled up beside the well and opened the door. Sitting on the wall were three people in dark suits. Barret looked closer and saw three very familiar people staring back at him.
"Hello Barret!" Reno called out, "So good to see you."
"Oh great " Barret moaned. "The Turks."
"Aw, Im so disappointed!" Reno said sarcastically. "I thought youd be happy to see me!"
"Reno, seeing you is like seeing my mother naked," Barret said.
Reno scowled. "Yikes, you didnt have to be so graphic. Im sure your mother is a very ugly person. But, weve come here for other reasons."
"What would that be?" Tifa said as she got out of the truck. "Steal our supplies and money?"
"No, no, Tifa," Reno said with sarcastic affection. "How could you think that such a caring and innocent person like me would do such a thing?"
Tifa rolled her eyes. "What are you here for then?"
"Were here to help you," Reno said.
Tifa gagged. "HA! Reno, youre off your rocker."
"No, seriously. Weve had a bad earthquake in Midgar and we heard that you guys were trying to figure out what was causing these earthquakes. We really want to help."
"You can help us by unloading the truck." Barret walked behind the truck and began to unload the supplies. Once the supplies were unloaded, Barret put on the harness on and connected the rope to it.
"Im ready to go," Barret said. "Reno, Rude, you two lower me down."
Reno smiled. "Fine, I just hope you lied laid off the potato chips, chunky."
Barret growled at Reno. "Just lower me down, and youll be able to leave Corel with all your limbs intact."
"Tisk tisk," Reno said as Barret began to lower himself over the side, "When did you get so touchy, Barret?"
Barret didnt answer. Reno and Rude began to lower Barret down the well. With his headlamp on, Barret was able to see much more of his surroundings. The insides of the well was charred and blackened.
After about forty feet down, Barret smelt a faint scent of cordite.
"Hey guys!" Barret called up. "I smell cordite down here!"
"Cordite!" Reno exclaimed. "Cordite comes from gunpowder. You dont think these earthquakes are artificial, do you?"
"I dunno," Barret said. "How much rope I got left?"
Reno looked down at the rope. "Youve got about 150 feet left. Keep going!"
Barret continued to repel down the well. The smell of cordite grew stronger as he went down. The wells side became jagged edges that were charred and blackened. Barret touched his hand against the side of well. He quickly pulled it back. The side of the well was scalding hot! Barrets hand began to blister. The temperature grew hotter and Barret went down. After about 75 more feet, the sides of the well disappeared. Barret pointed his headlamp down. He saw a large cavern below. Barret looked down and saw the cavern was about forty feet below him. On the sides, the cavern continued to expand until Barret couldnt see anymore.
Suddenly Barret noticed a saw red light below him. The light slowly began to move up the cavern wall towards him. Barret looked straight ahead and saw a surveillance camera with a large rifle attached to its bottom.
"Guys! Pull me up! Quick!" Barret called back up. Nothing happened. "GUYS! Pull me up NOW!"
The red light was still slowly moving up the wall. It was only about ten feet below Barret now.
"GUYS!" Barret screamed at the top of his lungs. "Pull me up! QUICK!" The rope suddenly went taut and Barret began to move up. But it was too slowly. The red light was now only about four feet from Barret now and the wells walls were still about ten feet above him.
"FASTER!" Barret yelled again. He suddenly went up faster. He bumped his head against the top of the cavern. The red light was about one foot below him. Barret sucked in his stomach and put his arms to his sides. The rope pulled him up. The red light was now on his foot. Barret lifted his leg and placed it against the wall of the well. A bullet struck the dirt walls of the cavern a mere six inches below Barret.
Barret let out a sigh of relief. He took one last look at the cavern below and then began to repel up the well walls.
Once he reached the top, Reno and Rude pulled him back over the edges of the well.
"There was a surveillance gun down there!" Barret said. "And a huge cavern too! I knew these earthquakes were artificial! Thats why the walls were burning hot and the place smelled of cordite!"
"We should go to Junon," Reno said suddenly. The Avalanche members stared at him, confused.
"Why?" Reeve asked.
"Theyve just reported a major earthquake," Reno reported. "Theyve also reported that the Junon Underwater Reactor has been broken into."
"What?" Barret said. "Who?"
"Junon officials dont know, but we should investigate." Reno walked over to a small, black car parked near the well. "Shall we get going?"
* * *
"Sir! Camera number four just spotted an intruder."
The man turned around to face the soldier. "Good work. Was the intruder eliminated?"
The soldiers expression turned grim. "No sir, he escaped up the Corel well via cable. We assume he was being lowered down and then was pulled up shortly after the camera spotted him."
The man growled softly. "I knew the caverns were built too high. Now weve been discovered." He turned back to the soldier. "How is Tandens operation coming?"
"Very well," the soldier reported. "Hes broken into the Junon reactor and is currently in the process of loading the MonoA93 gas."
"Excellent." The man sat down in his chair. "Dismissed, soldier."
The man sat there, pondering. Could that have been Barret Wallace down the well? It was surely something he would do to protect his precious Corel. But it didnt matter. Corel had been destroyed. But if it was Barret, he was sure to return. And then, the man thought, I will finally exact my revenge on him.. Barret had ruined his life before, and now he would ruin Barrets. Everything was unfolding perfectly. Soon, he thought, A world that has caused me so much trouble and grief will be destroyed, and I will reign over the new Underground Empire!
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