Underground Empire Chapter 9

By Dan Schmidt

"Sir!" a soldier near Wedge said as he snapped to attention. "Colonel Tanden is here to see you."

"Send him in," Wedge said. Wedge was sitting behind the desk of a computer in the main control room. Tanden was already in room, but Wedge was used to saying 'Send whomever in' because he spent most of his time in his office.

"Good news Commander," Tanden said. "The last of the gas is here and is currently being put into the gas bomb."

"Good work Tanden," Wedge said. "Say, what's Avalanche up to? Did you manage to destroy them?"

"Well…" Tanden stuttered. Wedge knew then that Avalanche was alive and well. "We attempted to eliminate them," Tanden continued. "However, we underestimated them. We were successful in our gas stealing operation, and that's all that matters, right?"

"Destroying Avalanche was your #2 priority!" Wedge stated. "Although, I've noticed how cunning Avalanche can be. Barret Wallace recently escaped from our custody. He's hiding down here somewhere. It's only a matter of time before we capture him again. And this time, I won't hesitate to take his life."

* * *

Up on the second floor, hidden behind one of the large mainframe computer, Barret Wallace was listening to every word Wedge and Tanden said.

"Planning to take me out, huh?" he said quietly to himself. "I got other ideas about that. Wedge, you ain't leaving this place alive."

Suddenly, a blaring alarm went off.

"Sir!" someone said over the loudspeaker, "We've located several intruders in cavern 4B. They appear to be armed…. It's Avalanche!"

Barret felt a sense of joy and relief. He had no idea what had happened to his friends above the ground, and when he saw Tanden alive and well, he feared the worse.

"They're coming for me," Barret said to himself.

The next words Barret heard, however, were enough to take all the joy out of him.

"Take a whole squad out," Wedge said to Tanden. "I want them killed on the spot. Shoot to kill. Leave none of them alive. In fact, I want their bodies so decimated, I won't recognize them when I look over the corpses. Kill by any means necessary!" Wedge's face was full of rage.

"This isn't good," Barret said.

* * *

"Sir!" the same trooper ran up to him. "They've finished loading the gas."

"Very well," Wedge said. "Launch the bomb!"

A technician walked over the largest computer in the building and began typing. He then pulled out a large key and placed it into the keyhole above the computer screen. He typed in a password, and began to type in the launch data.

Suddenly, the whole room began to shake. In the bomb launch area, the main hatch was opening and the countdown has begun!

"15 seconds until launch," the technician announced.

"Very good." Wedge said. "Oh, yes, private?" He turned to the troop whom had just spoken to him.

"Yes sir?"

"Before Tanden kills Avalanche, tell him to tell them that the bomb has been launched, and in a matter of hours, billions will die," Wedge said evilly.

"Bomb launch in progress!" the tech said.

On the large screen in front of them, they saw the rocket's on the bomb blasting the bomb itself into orbit.

"One hour until detonation," the tech said.

Wedge chuckled. "For one more hour, the world is theirs. They should enjoy while it lasts, because in 60 minutes, they will cease to exist, and the world will be mine!

On his perch above, Barret looked on in horror.

Until he felt something poke into his back.

"Stand up slowly!" a soldier said from behind him. Barret raised his arms and stood up. "The commander's been looking for you. Let's go see him, shall we?"

The guard forced Barret down the stairs.

With a dejected look on his face, Barret sighed.

"It's over," he said to himself. "I've failed."

* * *

The Ultima began to glow a pale green. The bars to cell began to melt into a gray pile of slime. When he had made a hole wide enough for him, Aeris, and Cid to fit through, Cloud replaced the materia in his pocket.

"Time to put a hurtin' on Dran," Cid said, rubbing his spear.

"He'll probably be at the top of the Crater by now," Aeris said. "We should hurry before he calls up that WEAPON."

Cloud put his sword behind his back and the three of them ran up the stairs and out of Dran's building. When they reached the outside, Aeris stopped.

"Which way do we go?" Aeris asked.

"If I remember correctly, we should follow the green stone path," Cloud said. "There's a natural barrier up ahead. I don't believe that Dran would be able to carry his 'Materia Amplifier' past that barrier, so he must have stopped right in front of it."

The three of them hurried up the path and headed towards the barrier. Within minutes, they could see a large structure off in the distance. As they got closer, they saw it was a large box of some sort. It had a structure protruding from the top that was bent down towards the center of the Crater. It was about fifteen feet high and ten feet wide.

"That looks exactly like the laser from Goldfinger!" Cid said.

"Goldfinger?" Aeris asked.

Cloud and Cid both stood in shock. "You've never heard of Goldfinger?" Cloud said. "It was the best James Bond movie ever made, and one of the greatest movies of all time!"

"Well, when we get back, the two of us will have to rent it," Aeris said with a smile.

"Jesus, what were ya, living in a cave all your life?" Cid mumbled under his breath.

"I heard that," Aeris said.

"Enough, let's got to the task at hand," Cloud said. "There's three of us and one of Dran. Even without our materia, we should be able to handle him."

They snuck up towards the materia amplifier and saw Dran was busy placing materia gently into a compartment under the laser structure. There were hundreds of small holes where materia orbs could be placed.

"Geez, he's got a lot of materia in there," Cloud said. "That's not only ours. There must be hundreds of orbs there!"

Dran suddenly turned around.

"Good job Cloud," Aeris whispered. "He heard you."

Dran shrugged and turned back to his back. He finished loading the materia and slammed the door shut. He then stepped over to a control panel and keyed something in. Then, he reached into a large crate and pulled out the jar with the Jenova sample.

"Stop right there Dran!" Cloud said. "Give us that sample and our materia back."

Dran was startled, but regained his composure after a moment.

"Whatever do you mean, Cloud?" Dran said. "I have no intention of letting you ruin my plans."

"Your plans to destroy Avalanche because of a personal vendetta?" Cloud asked. "And what will happen to the world once the WEAPON is released?"

"What do you think will happen?" Dran replied.

Cloud's jaw dropped. "Of course. You're not going to use this WEAPON to kill only Avalanche, you're going to use it to blackmail the world. The thought of another WEAPON running around with put any government in fear. You could get money, power, anything."

"I was thinking along the lines of world ruler, but you get the idea," Dran said evilly.

"Son of a bitch…" Cid said. He then raised his spear. "Drop the Jenova!"

"Of course, Mr. Highwind," Dran said. He gently placed the Jenova sample on the keyboard next to him.

"Good, now step away from the amplifier," Cloud said.

Dran took a large step and suddenly reached into his lab coat and pulled out a large syringe.

Cloud saw the syringe and thought back to Waylon. The syringe could contain only one thing.

"Stop!" Cloud cried, but it was too late. Dran raised the syringe and shoved it into his chest. He removed it and began laughing uncontrollably.

"A little trick I picked up from my dear friend Hojo," Dran said. "Prepare to meet the most powerful Jenova creature you've ever faced!"

With that, Dran began to change. He didn't grow like Waylon did, but his body contorted and his skin began to turn green. His hands changed into large, claw-like structures. His legs combined into one large tail. Dran could now float in midair. He looked remarkably like the third form of Hojo that Avalanche had once faced.

Dran charged forward and gashed Cid across the chest. Cid was flung backwards into the snow. Cloud also noticed how weak Cid looked. Dran had poisoned him.

"Aeris!" Cloud called. "Cid's been poisoned!"

Aeris searched through her bag and found an antidote. She tossed it to Cid who quickly drank it.

When they turned their attention back to Dran, he was nowhere to be found.

"Where he get to?" Cid asked.

Suddenly, the ground beneath them exploded and sent all three flying into the air. Aeris and Cid landed in a snowdrift, stunned but unharmed. Cloud, however, landed sharply on a patch of ice. He got to his feet holding his shoulder.

Dran flew over to Cloud and began pounding away using one of his combos. Cid rushed over and jabbed at Dran with his spear, but Dran nimbly dodged out of the way.

"He's too freakin' fast!" Cid exclaimed. Dran leaped upon Cid and began unleashing another combo.

Cloud regained his poise and slashed wildly at Dran. This time, he caught Dran along the arm and drew some blood.

Dran grumbled and spat a cloud of gas into the air. The gas blew over Aeris, Cloud, and Cid.

"Argh! This stuff is like acid!" Cloud could feel pain shooting up and down every nerve in his body. He looked over and saw Aeris and Cid were feeling the same thing. Dran was right about him being the most powerful Jenova creature they had ever faced. He had given them each a brutal beating and they hadn't so much as scratched him.

Dran was now on Aeris, unleashing a brutal combo. Cloud was now filled with rage. He leaped from his back and launched his sword toward Dran. The spinning blade neatly sliced Dran's right arm off.

Dran hissed in pain, but to Cloud's dismay, the arm began to regenerate. But he had given Aeris enough time to escape from Dran's grasp.

Suddenly, all three of them were suddenly a by a glowing light. They felt regenerated and fresh again.

Cloud looked towards Aeris, who was concentrating on her spell.

"Thank you, Aeris," Cloud called to her.

But Aeris's spell did not stop Dran. The ground once again exploded under their feet and sent them flying into the air. This time, they all landed on hard rock and ice, but Aeris's spell broke some of their fall.

"This is getting ridiculous!" Cid yelled. "He's too fast for us, and he regenerates anyway. We don't stand a chance without our materia, and even if we had it, I doubt it's power would be enough."

"Wait…. Cid, that's it!" Cloud said. "Our materia may not be powerful enough, but what if we… amplify it!"

"That's crazy!" Aeris said. "We don't know how powerful that thing is! What if we kill ourselves while using it!"

"Then so be it!" Cloud said. "We can't have a Jenova-WEAPON running around, not even the Sister Ray would be able to stop it. Dran has to be taken out!"

"Cloud, I got a plan," Cid said. "You and Aeris gotta keep Dran occupied. I'll figure out how to work that amplifier of his."

Cloud and Aeris agreed. From out of nowhere, Dran leaped out upon Aeris. Aeris tried to fight him off, but it was in vain.

Cloud felt rage flowing through his body. He couldn't use his Omnislash technique with Aeris so close to his raging sword. So, he decided on his 'Finishing Touch' move. Cloud waved his sword around so fast it created a whirlwind. The whirlwind sucked up Dran and flung him high into the air. Dran fell to the ground hard and was stunned.

Over at the amplifier, Cid was having a bit of difficulty. "How does this damn thing work?" he said to himself. He saw two buttons, one labeled 'Energize' and the other labeled 'Fire'. He pressed the energize button and the machine roared to life. A pale green glow began to materialize around the laser.

"Oh crap!" Cid said when he realized that the beam was still pointed to the center of the Crater. He used a gear to crank the laser around so it pointed toward Dran. "Cloud, Aeris, get outta the way."

Cloud and Aeris heeded Cid's warning and leaped into a nearby snowdrift.

Cid smiled. "See you in hell, Dran." He pressed the 'Fire' button.

Dran was recovering from the affects of Cloud's Finishing Touch move when he saw the laser of the amplifier pointed directly at him. A pale green light had surrounded the laser and it began to spin around it. Suddenly, the light was sucked into the laser.

"Oh no…" Dran said to himself. A beam of energy exploded from the laser. It shot straight into Dran and he exploded in a wave of green and red energy. The explosion ripped a hole into the ground. Darker green waves appeared from the hole and began to pull the lighter green and red energy into the ground. With a final burst of light, the hole caved in on itself. But before it could, Cid chucked the last Jenova sample into it. The jar shattered and the Jenova dissolved away as the hole closed.

"I guess the Lifestream sucked up all that was left of Dran and Jenova," Cid said.

In the snowdrift, Cloud and Aeris watched the last traces of Jenova being dissolved away forever.

"It's finally gone," Cloud said. "We did it Aeris. The last traces of Jenova and Sephiroth are destroyed."

"Not bad for a days work…" Aeris said. They gazed into each other's eyes. Cloud moved closer and their lips met.

"Hey!" Cid called. "No time for that now! We gotta get back and help Barret and the others!"

Cloud ignored him and continued kissing Aeris.


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