Underground Empire Chapter 8

By Dan Schmidt

Barret heard footsteps outside in the hallway. Wedge's men were looking for him. He heard the footsteps approach the storage closet.

"We'll look in here," a voice said, presumably one of the soldiers, "You guys look down that way."

Barret heard the door to the storage closet open. He crunched himself up as small as he could get behind the desk. He hoped it was enough to keep the soldiers from finding him.

But the soldiers were being very thorough with their search. They tipped over chairs and trashcans and opened cabinets while looking for him. The soldiers came dangerously close to Barret's desk. Barret was seconds away from leaping up and firing before one of the soldiers spoke.

"Doesn't look like he's in here," the soldier closest to him said. Barret could here the soldier breathing he was so close. "Let's head back down the hallway. He couldn't have gotten very far the way he was limping."

Barret let out a sigh of relief as the soldiers left the room. But he was still stuck. Wedge would surely have put guards on duty in the control room. And those earthquakes were set to go off in a matter of hours. Barret had to think quickly. He ruled out going back to his cell and going through the piping tunnel. He didn't even know how to get to his cell from where he was.

"Think Barret, think," he said to himself. He suddenly got an idea. The control room had two levels. He would sneak in through the upper levels and pick off the guards one by one. It also gave him a chance to use a new invention he had created for his gun-arm right before Corel was destroyed. It was a silencer for his gun-arm. The silencer also had a scope on it.

"This'll turn me into a walking sniper rifle," Barret said with a smile. He might pull this off after all. One problem with the silencer, though, was that it slowed down Barret's rate of fire tremendously. It also made Barret's gun-arm single fire, rather than automatic.

"I can pull this off," Barret said to himself. He limped towards the door and peaked out. No soldiers to the left, none to the right. Barret stepped out into the hallway and started to head down the opposite way of which he had come. He limped down the hallway, ducking behind every corner. Down the hallway, Barret finally saw what he was looking for.

"An elevator…" he said quietly to himself. He limped over to the elevator. He pressed the button and waited. He pressed the button several more times, although it wouldn't help the elevator get there any faster. Finally, the elevator chimed and then the doors opened.

"There he is!" a guard shouted from down the hallway.

A bullet smashed into the wall inches above Barret's head. Moving as fast as he could, Barret got inside and closed the elevator doors. He was about to pressed the button labeled '2nd Floor' when another button struck his eye. This button said 'Surface'.

"I could escape," he said to himself. "No, no. I have to finish this with Wedge now, down here." He pressed the 2nd Floor button. Barret sighed in relief when the elevator started moving up. The guards would probably think he went to the surface and search up there. Although, he couldn't imagine where an elevator to the surface would be located. Probably in an abandoned warehouse or something like that. The elevator chimed again and the doors opened to the 2nd floor. Barret didn't see any guards and stepped out onto the floor. He was about twelve feet above the 1st floor of the control room. He spotted several guards patrolling the area. Barret pulled the silencer out of his pocket and attached it onto his gun-arm. It was the first time Barret had ever used the silencer, but he expected it to work.

Suddenly the elevator began to come back up. Barret took a deep breath and waited to see if it would stop on the 2nd floor. Barret guessed it was the guard from the hallway on board the elevator and they were looking for him. Barret let out a sigh of relief when the elevator past the 2nd floor.

Now, he had to get down to business. The 2nd floor was little more than a balcony above the first floor. It went around three sides of the control room, with the exception of the wall with the projection screen. In each corner was a large mainframe. Also at the end of each corner was a spiral staircase that led down. The edge of the balcony was surrounded with a two-foot high safety rail. In front of Barret was a large pillar that connected from the floor to the ceiling. Barret knelt down behind the pillar and activated the scope on his silencer. He lied down on his stomach and put his eye behind the scope. He aimed at one of the guard who was walking slowly near the torn projection screen.

"Just hold still for one second…" Barret mumbled to himself.

Suddenly, the guard stopped and turned back the other way. Barret decided now was the best time. He waited until the guard was right in the center of his crosshairs before he fired.

With little more than a whisper, the shot went off. It struck the guard in the head and he fell down in a heap. Barret quickly looked around at the other guards. They hadn't noticed their fallen comrade.

"Now for the rest of ya," Barret said quietly to himself. There were two more guards in the lower level of the control room now. Barret picked the one closest to the spiral staircase on his left as the next target. The guard was walking towards Barret, but was not looking up. Barret aimed his crosshairs right at the guard's head. Barret placed his finger on the trigger.

Suddenly, the guard looked up. He spotted Barret lying down next to the pillar. Barret quickly pulled the trigger and shot the guard in the head, but the guard had a chance to shout before he went down.

Barret sat up and hid behind the pillar. The remaining guard surely heard the scream of his fallen comrade. Barret peeked out from behind the pillar and was greeted with a round of gunfire. The guard had spotted him, but Barret still didn't know where the guard was.

"Keep your wits, Barret," he said to himself. "Keep your wits." Barret ruled out firing off a round to scare the guard into hiding. With the silencer on, the guard probably wouldn't even have known he had fired. Barret decided to peek around the other side of the pillar quickly and then go back in hiding. Barret counted to three and then peeked around the other side. He saw a flash of green before he moved back in hiding. He was pretty sure the guard was hiding behind one of the large computer terminals.

More gunfire struck the pillar. Barret jumped a little, but continued to think of a way to take down the last guard. The guard had the advantage in firepower, as he had an assault rifle, while Barret's gattling gun was now reduced to single fire. Barret didn’t want to take the silencer off because he was afraid the noise his gattling gun would make would attract more guards. The assault rifles the guards had were surprisingly quiet.

Barret decided to take a chance. He would run across the 2nd floor to the other pillar to his right. It would leave him in plain view, but it would most certainly draw the guard out into the open.

More gunfire struck the pillar. Barret took and a deep breath and counted to three. The pillar looked very far away from where Barret was sitting.

"Here goes nothing," he said. Barret leaped to his feet and bolted across the 2nd floor. He could feel bullets whizzing all around him, but none found the target. Concrete fell from the ceiling as bullets struck it and knocked large chunks of it loose. A fairly large chunk struck Barret in the shoulder, but he kept running. Finally, he reached the pillar. But instead of stopping and hiding, Barret dove and rolled behind and the pillar. He came up firing as fast as his gun would let him. Suddenly, his gun clicked. His magazine was empty. He looked around for the guard and saw him, lying on the ground, a large red stain on his chest. Barret had apparently struck the guard several times in the chest during his firing barrage.

Barret sighed in relief. "Now, I gotta do something about those earthquake bombs." He hurried down the spiral stairs and ran over to the computer he had nearly smashed earlier. He pressed a large red button on the side, which he guessed activated the computer. He was right; the computer came right on.

"Now, how do I disable these bombs?" He clicked on a file labeled 'Earthquake Timetable'. Inside the file was the schedule of when the bombs were to go off.

"These are set to go off in less than an hour," Barret mumbled. Barret saw that he could set the timetable back, but there didn't seem to be anyway to delete it. Barret closed the file and looked in the disk drawer in the side of the computer. He flipped quickly through them.

"Gas Location, Atmospheric Conditions, MonoA93 Components, Bomb Defuse…" He stopped at Bomb Defuse and pulled it out. He put it in.

A large screen of numbers came up. The bombs were number and their locations were given. Next to each bomb was a checkbox. At the bottom of the screen was a clickable icon labeled 'Defuse'. Barret checked off every single bomb and then clicked defuse. A message appeared saying 'Bombs Successfully Defused'.

"Gotcha, Wedge," Barret said. He pulled out the disk and placed it in his pocket. He suddenly heard footsteps coming from the hallway outside. Barret hobbled up the spiral staircase and ducked down behind the mainframes.

Wedge walked into the room along with the guard he was with earlier. Barret smiled.

"You're next, Wedge," he said quietly.

* * *

Reno stood before the Corel well and looked down. "So… who wants to go first?"

"How about you, Reno?" Tifa said with a smile. "You've been lacking like the leader of this operation. I think you should go first."

"Well…" Reno said, stalling. "As leader, I, um, I make all the primary decisions for the group." Reno looked around. "Any volunteers?"

"You're going first, Reno," Reeve said in a commanding tone.

"Fine," Reno said. "You people would be lost without me anyway." Reno tied the rope around his waist and then tied it to a large nearby tree. "When I tug on the rope sharply, you can send the next person down."

Reno climbed over the side of the well and began to lower himself down. The rope was the same one Barret had used on his first trip down.

"Reno!" Reeve called down from above. "Watch out for those surveillance cameras Barret told us about after his first time down the well."

Reno remembered. He lowered himself down more slowly. After about fifty feet he began to get very cautious. The end of the well couldn't be very far below him now. The temperature began to rise steadily and Reno began to sweat. The walls of the well suddenly disappeared and Reno found himself in the large cavern. He immediately looked around for the surveillance camera. After a few seconds, he spotted it. It was on the wall opposite of him. The red beam it gave off was pointed at the wall about twenty feet below him.

"Time to take out this little problem," Reno said as he removed his pistol from its holster. It would be very hard to fire in the dark, but Reno had no other option. He aimed at the steadily moving camera and fired.

He missed. The camera now began to move up towards him. Reno fired again and again missed. The camera was now only about ten feet below him. Reno took a deep breath and aimed again. He fired, and missed. He now had only five shots left in his clip. The red light was only five feet below him. Reno fired off four frantic shots, all of which missed. One shot left.

"You can do this," he said to himself. The red light was less than two feet below him. Reno aimed his pistol steadily and pulled the trigger.

The bullet struck the camera directly in the lens and it exploded in a small fireball. Reno let out a sigh of relief. He continued down into the cavern until his feet touched solid ground.

He tugged sharply on the rope.

"There's the tug," Elena said. "I'm going down next." She climbed over the edge and began to climb down the rope. She was followed by Rude, then Reeve, then Yuffie, then Vincent, and then Red XIII. Red had the hardest time climbing down. His paws weren't meant for this sort of thing. He made it down without injury, although he took the longest time.

Tifa was the last person to climb down. She made sure no one was around the see them and then began to climb down.

"Well, looks like we're all here," Reno commented as Tifa touched the ground. "Now we have to find a way into this base of his…"

Reno was cut off by a load roar.

"That doesn't sound very good," Reeve commented. They all looked around the room for the source of the roar, but saw nothing.

Suddenly, the ground exploded out from in front of them. Several large creature burst from the ground. The creature looked like a giant spider, much like the ones they had fought in the Cave of the Gi, under Cosmo Canyon. This spider, however, was much larger.

A shot from Vincent's gun sent the creature stumbling backwards. It was only stunned though, as it charged towards Vincent with uncanny speed. Vincent dove out of the way, but not before the spider slashed one of its legs into Vincent's midsection. It drew blood, but Vincent got right back up.

Reno leaped at the creature with his nightstick. He jabbed into one of the creature's legs, only to be sent sprawling when it had no effect.

"Something has to be able to hurt this thing," Reeve shouted as he fired a few rounds with his Outsider.

Suddenly, the creature screamed as it was struck with a fire attack. Reeve turned around and saw Tifa holding a fire materia orb. "Looks like magic is more effective than physical attacks."

Elena struck the creature with a fire attack, which caused it to scream out in pain. "Fire magic looks to be especially useful."

The magic had apparently weakened the creature, as Vincent and Reeve were now visibly causing damage to the spider with their weapons.

"Let's finish this thing," Reno said. He pushed a button on the bottom of his nightstick and a large blade shot out from the top. Reno ran forward towards the creature and drove the blade into the creature's stomach. It howled in agony before it collapsed into a heap. Reno kicked the creature a few times to make sure it was dead.

"Nothing to it," Reeve said as he put his gun away.

"I'm still hurting a bit," Vincent said. His bleeding had stopped, but now that his adrenaline had stopped flowing, he was beginning to feel the effects.

"So… " Rude said to no one in particular, "this is Wedge's underground empire."

"I wouldn't live here," Reno commented. "It's dark, dirty, and it reeks."

"Ahem…" Tifa had decided to take charge of the mission. "I suggest we try to find Barret and stop Wedge. Anyone agree?"

Everyone mumbled a yes.

"Alright, let's head down this corridor," Tifa said. "Reno, I'm going to relieve you of your 'leadership' duties."

Reno began to protest, but a glare from the rest of the Avalanche members silenced him. He mumbled something profane.

"Now, let's go stop Wedge," Tifa said. "And hopefully, find Barret."


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