Underground Empire Chapter 3
By Dan Schmidt
Cid stirred on the floor and slowly opened his eyes. It was light out and he could hear birds chirping in the distance. Light shined through a small hole in the ceiling directly above Clouds bed. Cloud was still asleep, and much to Cids dismay, was snoring incredibly loudly.
"Geez Cloud, did you eat a shoehorn last night?" Cid mumbled to himself. His clothes were rumpled and he snuck downstairs. He took a new set of heavier clothes out of the bag. He climbed down the ladder. He jumped down onto the floor and turned
Only to see Aeris standing near the back of the room only partially dressed.
"AHH!" Cid and Aeris both screamed in unison.
"CID! Dont you ever knock?" Aeris quickly ducked behind a corner.
"Where am I supposed to knock!" Cid covered his eyes with his hand. "Ill just wait outside." Cid walked forward still with his hands over his eyes. He accidentally bumped into the wall near the door. Mumbling an impressive amount of profanity, Cid felt around for the door. He tripped over a small crevice in the doorway and fell to the ground. He crawled out of view.
"Oy vey," Aeris said, putting the rest of her clothes on. "Cid certainly is a character." She walked out to call Cid back into the shell.
Cid was standing here the doorway. When Aeris walked out, Cid yelped again and covered his eyes.
"You can look now," Aeris said, rolling her eyes.
Cid lowered his hands. "Sorry," he said, smiling innocently.
Aeris rolled her eyes and chuckled softly. "Cid, you are a character."
Cid smiled and ran back into the shell house to get dressed. He immerged a few minutes later wearing unwrinkled clothes.
"Cloud still snoring away," Cid said.
"Ill go wake him." Aeris re-entered the shell house and climbed the ladder. "HEY CLOUD! WAKE UP!"
Cloud shot up out of bed and nearly fell onto the floor. "Wha ?" he mumbled with a vacant look in his eyes. "Who? Aeris ?"
"Its time to get up," Aeris said. "You were sure sawing some wood last night."
"Nevermind." Aeris tossed him the bag of clothes. "Get dressed. Well want to reach Icicle Inn by nightfall."
Cloud nodded and climbed downstairs. He dressed quickly and climbed back up the ladder. "Wheres Cid?" he asked.
"Outside," Aeris replied. They both climbed down the ladder and met Cid at the door.
"You two ready to go?"
Cloud nodded. "You know the way, right? Over that large conch shell and into the Corral Valley Cave. Icicle Inn will be our next stop."
Cid and Aeris nodded and they began to long walk down the natural path. Cloud was in the lead again, with Cid bringing up the rear, leaving Aeris in the middle. They reached the large conch shell without incident and quickly climbed it. They entered Corral Valley Cave, which was an incredible sight.
Corral Valley Cave was filled with crystals that glistened brightly, even though only small amounts of light actually entered the cave. The crystals acted almost like lightbulbs, providing much of the light Cloud, Cid, and Aeris used to climb the small crevices of the cave. The walls of the cave were moist and cool, which made climbing fairly difficult. But, they made it to the top without incident.
"Well," Cloud said once the reached the exit of Corral Valley Cave, "We should bundle up because were heading outside." Cloud reached into the bag and pulled out three sets of boots and gloves. He tossed a pair of each to both Cid and Aeris. "Lets get going."
They exited the cave only to entered a violent windstorm. Snow blew everywhere, making it impossible for them to see more than five feet in front of them. The wind whipped at their clothes and Cid could already feel frostbite forming around his face.
"We need to head west before we go north!" Cloud screamed over the raging wind. He could barely see Cid and Aeris from where he was standing but he thought he saw both give an understanding nod. They marched forward through the blizzard.
Cloud looked behind him and saw Aeris and Cid moving along at a slow pace. Cloud could feel his legs going numb. The cold wind bit at his face, but it kept going. He kept saying to himself that it was only a little further, that Icicle Inn was just around the bend.
"ARGH!" Cloud screamed into the wind. Even though he screamed loudly, Aeris and Cid heard only a muffled sound. Though the scream did little for their morale, it did warm Cloud up a little bit and gave him the strength to take another step. The blizzard suddenly began to die down a little, but it still was a fierce storm.
"HEY!" Cloud called out over the storm to Cid and Aeris. "We should stick close together until we reach Icicle Inn! This storm may have let up a little, but its still pretty bad."
"Cloud!" Aeris screamed his name over the raging winds.
Cloud turned and saw her pointing at something. Cloud saw a small indentation in the rock just to the left of them. Cloud nodded and followed Aeris over to the small cave.
When the got inside, they found Cid already there, lying down against the rock.
"Some storm " he mumbled. "Cloud, Im starved. It should be about lunchtime."
"Yeah, I think it is." Cloud reached into his bag and scrounged around a little. He eventually pulled out three very squished sandwiches.
"Are these pancakes or sandwiches?" Cid asked sarcastically.
"Hey, gimme a break, I was fighting off a heck of a storm there." Cloud dove into his sandwich. He was famished as well.
Aeris was just slightly nibbling on her sandwich. She seemed to be just gazing off into space.
"Aeris, you not hungry?" Cloud asked.
"What?" Aeris replied. "Oh, no, not really. I was just thinking about Icicle Inn. I havent been there since I was a baby. I wonder if my house is even still there."
"It was last time we were there," Cloud replied. "I even watched a few of your old baby videos lying around there."
Aeris blushed. "Oh Cloud, you didnt "
"Yep. There were also videos of Ifalna and Professor Gast." Cloud stopped and searched his memory to see it he ever met Professor Gast. Professor Gast played a big part in the Sephiroth experiments. In fact, if it werent for him, Sephiroth would never have been created. But, Cloud wished that Sephiroth had never existed, so that wasnt very good for Professor Gasts popularity meter. But then again, Professor Gast was also responsible for bring Aeris into the world, and Cloud cared for Aeris very much.
"Professor Gast, my father," Aeris said softly. "I hardly knew him. He died when I was very young, at the hand of Hojo. Hojo was so power hungry back then. I wish I couldve talked with him about the Cetra, about many things.."
"I never met him," Cloud said. "But, he was responsible for Sephiroth, you know."
"Yes, I know." Aeriss expression was solemn. "Professor Gast was a great man, but he wanted too much, and he got more than he bargained for with Sephiroth."
"But, Hojo was largely responsible as well," Cloud added. "Sephiroth was his son, after all. I cant imagine how a parent could offer their son to a professor as a test subject. Thats just awful."
Aeris nodded. "But, theyre both gone, Professor Gast, and Hojo. Hojo cant hurt anyone anymore. But, I wish I couldve talked with my father just once. I wouldve learned so much."
They were interrupted by a loud noise. They looked over and saw Cid asleep in the corner. And he was snoring loudly.
"Hey Cid!" Cloud yelled.
Cid awoke with a start. He nearly smashed his head into the rock as he jumped up from his sleeping position. "Whats goin on?" Cid asked once he got his bearing back.
Cloud looked outside and saw the storm had almost completely stopped. "We should get going again. The storms stopped."
"Oh, okay." Cid picked up spear and gloves and exited the cave. Cloud and Aeris soon followed.
The journey to the Icicle Inn was very easy now. With a clear view in front of them, Cid, Aeris, and Cloud approached the Inn just before nightfall.
"We should stay at the inn," Cloud stated. "Ill pay for our rooms."
"No, Cloud," Aeris interrupted. "Sleep in my old house. No one lives there, right? Besides, its probably better than some inn."
"Shes right, Cloud," Cid added.
Cloud sighed. "Fine. Aeris, you lead the way," he said, gesturing with his hand.
Aeris smiled. "Gladly." They trudged over the snow towards Aeriss house. The door was open. Cloud, Aeris, and Cid entered the house and were immediately greeted by a warm room temperature.
"Its nice and warm in here," Cid commented as he sat down on one of the beds. He kicked his boots and in moments was snoring again.
"Well Cloud," Aeris said, lying down on another bed. "Good-night."
Cloud lied down on the final bed. "Good-night Aeris."
"No Jenova dreams tonight, okay?"
"I hope not Aeris." Cloud gazed blankly at the ceiling. "I really hope not."
* * *
Cloud stood on the brink of a large cliff. Ahead of him, he saw Aeris beckoning him with his hand. Cloud stepped forward over some small rocks. Aeris now seemed more frantic, beckoning him faster and faster. Cloud broke into a jog and then started running.
Suddenly, the ground gave out beneath him. He jerked towards the wall and tried to grab hold of something up his hands found only air. Cloud began to plummet deeper into the endless pit below. Above him, Aeris smiled and suddenly began to glow brightly. When the light faded, Sephiroth remained in Aeriss place. Sephiroths laughed loudly and suddenly leaped off the cliff right above Cloud.
Cloud suddenly hit the bottom very hard. He heard a crack and felt a burning pain in his back. The pain was unbearable and Cloud was unable to move. Sephiroth landed softly on his feet next to him. Sephiroth silently unsheathed his sword and raised it high in the air.
Cloud screamed and Sephiroth drove his sword down.
Cloud shot up out of bed. He was breathing heavily. He looked around the room and saw that he wasnt at the bottom of a pit, but safely in Aeriss house. Aeris rushed over to Clouds bed.
"Cloud, you had another dream."
"I know, it was awful." Cloud looked over to Cids bed and saw him sleeping soundly, no longer snoring. "What time is it?"
"Its about 5 AM."
Cloud frowned. "Its still a little early, but I guess we should wake up. You getting any senses?"
Aeris shook her head. "Just that same sense that Jenova is near. I think we should head farther north."
Cloud nodded. He got up out of bed and walked upstairs. He changed his clothes and returned a few minutes later. Cid was now awake, although he still looked groggy.
"Ill go get changed." Aeris walked upstairs with a bundle of clothes under her arm. Cid yawned and walked over to the bag to grab a new set of clothes for the day.
"Hey Cloud, you remembered the snowboard, right?" Cid asked.
Cloud put his hand over his mouth. "Whoops! I forgot it."
"Great, just great," Cid moaned. "Now how are we gonna reach the Great Glacier? We certainly arent walking down."
Aeris returned down the stairs. "I heard the whole thing. Perhaps we can rent a snowmobile somewhere?"
"Good idea." Cloud headed towards the door. Cid followed, but Aeris remained, looking around the house one last time. "Cmon Aeris, lets go."
She nodded and followed them out of the house.
The temperature was still very cold, but it wasnt snowing or windy. Cloud looked over towards the inn and saw a snowmobile parked next to it.
"Theres one, lets go ask if we can use it." Cloud headed over to the inn,
Inside, they met with the inns owner. "The snowmobile? I dont even know whos it is!" the innkeeper explained. "Its been sitting out there for atleast a year now. If you can get it working, you can have it."
"Thanks," Cloud said. They headed back outside. The snowmobile looked slightly rusty, but overall looked to be bearable. Cloud searched around for keys, but found none.
"I could hotwire it," Cid said. He reached under the steering wheel and ripped down several wires. With precision, he ripped two wires down the center. He peeled down the edges of the wires and touched them together. The engine sputtered, but then quickly died.
"Its a start." Cid touched the wires once more. The engine came to life, but then sputtered and died. Cid groaned and jabbed the wires together again. The engine roared to life, sputtered, but then went back to full.
"All right!" Cloud exclaimed. "Nice work Cid!"
Cid smiled. "Told ya you guys would need me." He hopped onto the seat. "Cmon, get on!"
Aeris and Cloud hopped in. Cid hit the throttle and almost drove the snowmobile right through the wall of the inn.
"Whoops!" he said. "Heh, now I got it." He backed the snowmobile away from the inn and took off down the center of the town. Nearly smashing into a kid who was harmlessly sledding, Cid sped towards the snowboard trail. Driving recklessly, as usual, Cid drove the snowmobile over the bank and landed harshly on the snowboarding trail.
"Cid!" Cloud screamed. "Watch out for bumps!"
Cid smiled. "Oh, I will." He spotted a small ramp in front of them. Pushing the throttle all the way, Cid sped towards the ramp. As he hit the ramp, he pulled up sharply on the steering wheel. The snowmobile flew five feet into the air and landed sharply back down to earth.
"CID!" Aeris screamed. "Quit driving like a nut!"
Cid heeded her words by sharply hitting the brakes, almost causing Cloud and Aeris to fly off the snowmobile. "Dont tell me how to drive, okay?" he said. "Ill get us there alive!"
With that, Cid pumped the engine and took off down the trail. He saw a fork up in the trail. Trying to remember from the last time they were down, Cid slowed down a little. The left trail, he thought to himself. He sped up and took a sharp left at the fork. Shortly after the fork, a large cave appeared in front of them.
"Here we go!" Cid screamed excitedly as he sped up towards the cave. Large rocks appeared in the cave ahead. Cid jerked the snowmobile to the left and then back to the right.
Cloud and Aeris, meanwhile, hung on for dear life. Cloud knew that Cid enjoyed almost getting himself killed. He certainly was enjoying this frightful snowmobile ride.
"YEEHAW!" Cid exclaimed as he exited the cave off a large ramp. The snowmobile landed hard back on the ground. Up ahead, he saw a small forest. He sped up and began to weave recklessly in and out of the trees.
"CID!" Aeris yelled again. "Watch out for those trees! If you hit one, were done for!"
Cid smiled. "I wont hit one, but Ill come mighty close!" He pushed the gas pedal down all the way leaped off a ramp out of the forest.
Another fork appeared up ahead. Cid turned right at this fork. The path began to curve sharply and Cid drove dangerously close to the edges of the trail.
Soon, though, the trail dropped off ahead. Cid could only see white in front of them. He had forgotten about this part of the trail.
"Hold on to your butt!" he called back. "This may be a little rough!"
He pushed the snowmobile full throttle into the white beyond.
* * *
Barrets truck and the Turks car pulled up side-by-side into Junon. Junon was still a very busy city, although no longer a military one.
"Were should we go?" Red asked once they had all gotten out of their respective cars.
Reno started to answer, but was interrupted by the sound of a large motorcycle.
A red motorcycle appeared from around the bend and drove right up next to them. The driver was wearing a long red cape with a gold claw-glove on one hand. When he took of his helmet, they recognized him immediately.
"Vincent!" Barret exclaimed. He walked over and shook Vincents hand. "Good to see ya, old buddy. Its been a while."
"Yes," Vincent replied in his usual solemn tone, "Indeed it has. I heard about your predicament and thought that I could be of some assistance."
Barret patted him on the back. "We need all the help we can get."
"Ahem," Reno interrupted. "We should head to the underwater reactor. Thats where the break-in was reported."
"Why we investigating a break-in?" Yuffie asked. "Let the Junon Police Department handle it."
"This break-in has been one of several," Reno stated. "Several Midgar reactors have been broken into and reach break-in result on several missing kilos of MonoA93 gas, an extremely lethal substance used in reactor coolant. This break-in is probably on of them."
"Makes sense," Reeve commented. "Lets go."
Barret, Reeve, Tifa, Yuffie, Red, Vincent, and the Turks made there way towards the Underwater Reactor. The streets were full of people, even though it was late at night. They made their way quickly towards the elevator. They all tried to squish into the elevator at once.
"This is a tight fit," Reno said, who was squashed up against the button panel. Once everyone was on board, he pressed the R button, for Reactor. The elevator shot down. Instead of having to make several stops, the elevator add been lengthened so that one trip would take you to the reactor entrance.
The elevator "dinged" and the doors opened. The reactor entrance stood in front of them, sealed like a large vault.
"Reno, you know how to open that?" Tifa asked quietly. The door looked to be very strong. It didnt look like the kind of door you forced open.
"Yeah, theres a password to open it." Reno walked over to a small panel. "A lot of people know it, though. Including me." He punched in a code very quickly and the vault began to silently open.
"Nice work, Reno," Yuffie said.
"Heh, I knew the code all along," he replied. "Its not like I cracked it or anything."
The inside of the reactor was very dark. Small lights lit the walkway, but other than that, it was pitch black.
Reno pulled out a large flashlight and the rest of the Turks did the same. Reno clicked his on and shined it down into the reactor.
The reactor had a long steel walkway going across as far as they could see. Below the walkway was a large greenish pool of reactor coolant. Large girders rose out of the reactor coolant to the high ceilings. The ceiling was atleast twenty feet above them. The place smelled very musty.
"This is it," Reno said. "Lets get going." He entered the reactor, flashlight in hand. The rest of the Turks and Avalanche followed him. The long walkway creaked loudly as the Turks and Avalanche crossed it.
"Looks like this place could use a new polishing," Barret said. They went deeper into the reactor. Although it no longer produced Mako energy, the reactor still smelled strongly of Mako. The steel walkway took them into a large corridor. The corridor had walls that were about ten feet tall and pipes that ran across the ceiling. At the end of the corridor was a large automatic door.
"You remember this hallway, Barret?" Reno asked with a smile.
"Yeah, this is path we took when we were going after the huge materia." Barret smirked. "You sent that huge robot thing after us."
They went through the steel door and ended up on another steel walkway. This walkway was shaped kind of like a giant Z. At the top of the Z was a large furnace-like structure. When the team reached the furnace, they saw that it was busted wide open.
"Someones been here," Reno commented. "And they took the MonoA93 gas out of this furnace. I guess the gas was used to cool off the furnace." Reno looked down the end of the Z walkway. "There was more MonoA93 stored in the submarine docks. Thats just up ahead." Reno quickly ran to the end of the Z walkway. The others followed.
A bluish colored submarine was docked in the room ahead. About a dozen men were loading canister of gas out of a large storage closet onto the submarine. Standing near the closet was a tall man who seemed to be overlooking the operation.
"Hmm they are stealing the MonoA93 gas," Reno said quietly.
"We gotta stop them!" Barret said, a little louder than necessary. "That gas is deadly!"
The tall man turned around towards the entrance where the team was standing.
"Whos that?" the man said.
"Good job Barret," Yuffie whispered.
The man walked over towards the entrance. He was atleast six and half feet tall, with a large build and bright green eyes. His hair was cut in a buzz cut and he wore a commando outfit. He spotted the Turks and Avalanche. "Who are you?"
Reno stepped out into the light. The man and Reno stared eye to eye for a few seconds before screaming out in unison: "YOU!"
"Reno, you know him?" Elena asked.
"Yes, he used to be in the Shinra army." Reno scowled angrily at him. "He got his brigade lost on a recon mission and almost killed them all."
"Ha!" the man said. "I dont know what you are talking about. I am Colonel Tanden, 2nd in command of Project Nova. Now, you can either live of be killed."
"Colonel!?" Reno exclaimed. "What drunken warlord made you a colonel?"
"Project Nova?" Barret interrupted. "Whats that?"
"The bosss plan to rule the world," Tanden said. "But Ive told you too much already. Who are you? I know Reno the lousy Turk here, but who are the rest of you?"
"Were from Avalanche!" Barret said loudly. "And were here to stop you!"
Tanden sighed. "I somehow imagined you would try to. Oh well, now you must die. Guards! Eliminate these intruders!"
Twelve armed guards leaped from the blue submarine and approached the Turks and Avalanche.
Tanden smiled. "Good day Reno. Im afraid we wont meet again."
The armed guards opened fire as Tanden ducked out of the way.
"Oh fudge," Reno said as he dove behind the wall. The rest of the Turks and Avalanche took cover also.
More bullets ricocheted of the wall. It wouldnt be long before the soldier moved in.
Barret leaned out from around the corner and opened fire. The soldiers ducked behind some storage boxes.
"Barret!" Reno shouted. "Dont hit any of the gas canisters. If they break, were all dead!"
Barret nodded. "Those guys are taking refuge behind boxes of canister. I can shoot them without risk of hitting the canisters."
"Perhaps a magic attack would prove more productive," Red commented.
Suddenly a loud gunshot rang out. One of the soldiers fell to the ground.
"Vincent!" Tifa shouted. "Nice shot!" The team had almost forgotten Vincent was there. Vincent never was one to make his presence known.
"Just be careful of those boxes," Reno added. "We dont want it hit that gas. Now, we need to stop that submarine..."
"Reno, are you actually caring about the planet?" Tifa said.
Reno bit his lip. "Well lets just say that gas could be used to kill me, so we cant let them get away with it."
Tifa rolled her eyes. "Typical Reno answer."
Another round of fire struck the wall just to the right of them.
"I think we should do something about the eleven other guys out there," Elena said nervously.
"Leave it to me," Barret said. He stood up and ran out into clear view. "HEY!" he called. "Come and get me!" He took off towards the end of the dock.. Five of the troops took up pursuit behind him.
Seeing Barrets plan, Reno readied his pistol. When the troops ran past the doorway, he, Vincent, Rude, and Elena opened fire. The five troops fell after five quick shots.
"Half of the problem is solved," Barret called from down at the end of the dock. "Now we have six little problems left!" Barret suddenly got an idea. He quietly dove into the water.
Under the water, Barret saw the submarines propellers starting up. It wouldnt be long before the submarine was ready to do. Barret silently climbed back up on the dock and snuck up behind the six soldiers.
"Hey!" Barret called. The six troops stood up and turned around. Barret opened fire and quickly took down three troops. A bullet whizzed inches above Barrets head, telling Barret is was time to get out of there. He dove back into the water.
The three remained troops ran over to the water and tried to find Barret. One troop spotted Barret swimming close to the blue submarine. He raised his rifle and got Barret in-between his crosshairs.
Three loud gunshots rang out in the docking bay.
The three remaining soldiers slumped to the floor.
"Nice shooting," Tifa commented to the three Turks, who were holstering their pistols. "You guys mightve just saved Barrets life."
"Oh pity," Reno said nastily.
Another loud sound rang out through the bay. But this was the sound of an engine starting. The submarine slowly began to pull out of the dock and towards the exit to the reactor.
"CRAP!" said a very wet Barret as he climbed up the ladder near the team. "Can we stop them?"
"No," Reno said, kicking his foot into the floor. "We cant. Those doors open via remote control, and my guess is that they have the remote control to those bay doors."
"You mean they got away?" Tifa said.
"Yes," Reno said through grit teeth. "They got away."
The bay doors opened. The submarine slowly made its way through the doors and entered the ocean. The doors quietly closed behind it.
"But," Reno said suddenly. "We may be able to track them." Reno ran over to the stairway behind the last dock and entered a control booth. He flipped a couple of switches and a computer screen came on. The rest of the team had entered the control booth by now.
"Whats this?" Tifa asked.
"Sonar," Reno replied. "Well be able to track the direct theyre headed in, but thats it. This thing doesnt have a very long range."
A greenish blob appeared on the screen.
"Thats the sub," Reno said, pointing to it. The blob began to turn east on the screen. It continued east until it reached out of the range of the sonar..
"Well, they headed east," Red commented. "Do you think theyre returning to where this Project Nova has its headquarters?"
"No," Reno said. "Theyre headed to Midgar."
"Why Midgar?" Barret asked.
"Because Midgar has the largest supply of MonoA93 on the planet," Reno replied. "Get your submarine, quickly. This trip isnt going to be fun."
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