The Cry of the Planet Chapter 32
By Edyn Cross
"Sorry," Aeris said still looking at the figure standing in the doorway.
"Bad timing on my part."
Cloud narrowed his eyes and began to move towards the man, but stopped when he felt a tug on the back of his shirt.
"Cloud," It was Aeris. "Don't let it get to you. Now that I think of it, have you ever been a bodyguard? You said you do a bit of everything, right?"
Cloud looked over to the Flower Girl and subconsciously ran his hand through his spiky blonde hair, "Yeah, that's right."
Aeris looked towards a hallway leading out the back of the church, "Then take me out of here... Take me home."
Cloud stared into Aeris' green eyes for a few seconds, glanced at the figure standing in the doorway, and then back to Aeris again and nodded, "Okay, I'll do it... But, it'll cost you."
Aeris brought a delicate hand up to her chin, "Well then, let's see... I don't have anything, really... Living in the slums is tough sometimes. How about if I go out with you once?"
Cloud raised an eyebrow and studied Aeris' face searching for any sign that would suggest that she was kidding. The woman just looked at Cloud with her strange green eyes staring deeply into his own awaiting a response. A few strands of her chestnut brown hair danced in front of her eyes as they darted quickly over to the man in the doorway and then back to his eyes again.
Knowing this man had something in for her that wasn't all hugs and snuggles, Cloud gave her a nod and began to walk towards the figure in the doorway who was staring intently at Cloud. The man did look like he could be dangerous, but he wasn't the only reason why Cloud agreed. There was something. different about this woman Cloud couldn't quite put his finger on. That she was somehow special.
"I don't know who you are, but..." Cloud said approaching the man.
"You don't know me...?" The man replied in a smooth voice still staring at Cloud.
Cloud studied the man a bit more, "Oh yeah... I know you. That uniform..."
"Hey," Another voice called from outside as three armed Shinra Guards entered the church and stood behind the Turk who was still looking at Cloud.
"This one's a little weird," a Shinra Guard said looking at Cloud.
"Shut up," Cloud said getting irritated. "Shinra trash."
"Reno," The guard said looking at the man in the blue suit. "You want him taken out?"
The Turk looked at Cloud appearing to size him up, "I haven't decided yet."
Cloud's hand moved slowly, but instinctually towards the sword on his back as the Shinra Guards looked at each other and at Cloud.
"Um," One Shinra Guard whispered looking at the other two. "The guy's wearing a SOLDIER uniform... Isn't he one of us?"
Another Shinra Guard who was on the heavy side shook his head, "Sure don't look like it. Man, I knew I shoulda called in sick today. I'm not in the mood to be endin' up in the hospital cause I got assigned the shit job to fight a SOLDIER."
The other two Shinra Guards nodded in agreement as Reno just stood staring at Cloud with his lips tightened into a small smirk.
Aeris looked around and gave Cloud another tug on the back of his shirt, "Don't fight here, you'll ruin all the flowers!"
Cloud looked at Aeris, back to the Turk, and then at Aeris again. She gripped lightly on his arm and pointed towards the back of the church, "There's an exit back there."
Cloud nodded, took Aeris by the arm and quickly ran with her to the back of the church away from the Shinra employees. As the two fled, Reno slowly walked towards the back exit and stopped when he stood right in the middle of the flowerbed. He looked around his feet and saw that he destroyed a good number of delicate flowers.
The Turk stood thoughtfully for a few seconds and looked towards the exit, "They were... Mako eyes."
A moment later Reno looked back towards the Shinra guards and muttered to himself, "Yeah, all right. Back to work, back to work."
Reno continued to walk towards the exit where Cloud and Aeris escaped and the Shinra Guards began to follow, "Oh! And don't step on the flowers..."
As Reno exited the Guards followed him passing the flowerbed and mocked sarcastically.
"Hey Reno!" One Guard called, "But, you just stepped on them!"
"They're all ruined!" another laughed.
"You're gonna catch holy hell!" The heavyset one snickered as they went out the back exit.
The last guard through the door entered just in time to see Reno pointing towards the far wall where the SOLDIER and the girl were trying to escape.
"There they are," Reno announced. "Over there!"
Cloud and Aeris were running up a large flight of stairs towards the attic a second level that lead towards the attic. There was a hole in the back wall of the church the size of a large truck and lodged through the hole was a giant rusted old rocket pointed nose-down into the floor of the church. The large metal rocket sat ominously in the holy scene. A soft light came in through broken stained glass windows shining directly on where Reno and the Shinra Guards had entered the back room.
After making it up the staircase, Cloud and Aeris stood on a wooden walkway about four feet wide that wrapped around the wall and lead to the attic stairs. Aeris looked in horror as about half way to the attic stairs, the rusted rocket protruding through the outside wall had obliterated the walkway leaving a section about five feet wide that they would need to jump to reach the attic stairs. They stopped in front of the large gap and immediately looked around for another route.
"Cloud..." Aeris said nervously looking down on the approaching Shinra Guards.
"I know," Cloud said examining their situation. "Looks like they aren't going to let us go."
"What should we do?" Aeris asked worriedly.
"We can't let them catch us, can we?" Cloud grinned as Aeris shook her head. "Then, there's only one thing left."
Cloud took a few steps back and without hesitation, took a short running leap and made the jump flawlessly across the gap landing with one knee on the wooden walkway as it shook and creaked tiredly under him.
"Aeris," Cloud beckoned Aeris. "This is the only way."
She looked down through the hole and seeing a good thirty foot drop. She quickly took a step back, gulped, and then shook her head at Cloud.
"Alright," Cloud said knowing she wasn't in the condition to make the jump. "I'll hold them off."
Aeris nodded, "Right!"
A moment later, Reno's voice came echoing from below, "The Ancient is getting away! Get her!"
Two Shinra Guards stood examining their situation as one Guard immediately aimed his weapon up towards Aeris and fired. Aeris screamed after a bullet flew by her ear as several more blew pieces of the wall off behind her and splintered the wood beneath her feet. While trying to avoid the bullets, Aeris lost her balance and fell off the walkway and slid and rolled down the old rocket until she hit the hard floor with a thud.
"Aeris!" Cloud called after her as she fell.
The Shinra Guard who fired his weapon only got off about a tenth of the rounds he had intended before Reno produced a small rod with a small switch on the handle and stepped towards the Guard. The Turk snapped his wrist jerking the metal rod towards the ground extending it into a three-foot long nightstick and knocked the Guard's weapon out of his hands sending it smoking to the ground. The Guard looked at Reno with an expression of utter stupidity on his face.
Reno narrowed his eyes at the Guard, "He said he wants the Ancient alive, so pick that goddamn thing up and get her."
The Shinra Guard nodded dumbly, picked up his fallen gun, and ran towards Aeris who was still recovering from her fall.
Aeris opened her eyes and saw the church spinning in a dirty haze. She pulled herself to her knees and dusted her pink dress off and looked up in time to see the Shinra Guard who fired at her charging straight towards her.
"Cloud!" She called looking towards the attic. "Help!"
"Damnit," Cloud hissed under his breath.
He looked up towards the support rafters, which were all that was left of the attic. He saw a good-sized hole in the ceiling and a few old wooden barrels. He looked at the barrels and then looked down towards the Guards and grinned. He quickly ran up the attic stairs and carefully approached the barrel closest to him. He looked down through the rafters and lined up his target. With a shove, Cloud pushed the barrel and watched as it fell heavily to the bottom floor.
Aeris shrank against the wall as the Shinra Guard approached her. She was ready to go kicking and screaming when something above the Guard's head caught her eye. Before she could even begin to think of what it may be, the Guard got off a muffled scream before being pushed to the ground. Sand exploded from a barrel and kept the Guard pinned to the ground, as he lay unconscious.
Aeris jumped quickly to her feet, clapped in happiness, and sprinted towards the large staircase leading to the wooden walkway again. She made it about halfway up the stairs when a large hand grabbed her ankle pulling her face down on the stairs. She looked behind her and saw a heavyset guard grinning at her while pulling him towards him. Before she could even scream out, another large barrel landed on the guard and exploded sending sand flowing over the side of the stairs.
After pulling her leg out from under the pile of sand, Aeris dusted herself off and cheered up towards Cloud. She jogged the rest of the way up the stairs, ran down the walkway and stopped at the five-foot hole in the wooden walkway and started at it with a determined look in her eyes. She scooted back as far as she could and stood for a moment collecting herself. After seeing the third Shinra Guard running up the stairs, Aeris had all the time she needed. She sprinted towards the gap and jumped as far as she could and it was just enough. She landed on the other side uttering a small yelp as her left foot slipped off the ledge. She pulled it up quickly dusted herself off as her heart pounded madly in her chest.
The third Guard was about to make the jump when another barrel of sand fell from the attic rafters. As the third guard was engulfed into the exploding barrel of sand, Aeris climbed the attic stairs as Reno stood on the bottom floor shaking his head and muttering something about alcohol and being underpaid.
Aeris followed Cloud as they carefully crossed the old wooden rafters and towards a worn hole in the church's A-Shaped ceiling. Cloud climbed out of the hole and offered his hand to Aeris who gladly accepted it as he helped her through. They now stood in the stale air of the slums looking down from the roof of the church into the surrounding Sector.
Aeris chuckled while catching her breath, "They're looking for me again."
Cloud looked at her in surprise, "You mean this isn't the first time they've been after you?"
She shook her head, "No."
"That man in the suit," Cloud said. "He's from the Turks."
"Hmm..." Aeris didn't appear to know what the Turks were.
"The Turks are an organization in Shinra that scout for possible SOLDIER candidates," Cloud explained.
"This violently?" Aeris said appalled. "You would think they were kidnapping me!"
Cloud nodded, "But... They're also involved in a lot of dirty stuff on the side. Spying, murder, you know..."
"They sure look like it," Aeris said solemnly.
"But, why were they after you?" Cloud asked. "There must be a reason, right?"
"No, none that I know of..." Aeris said softly looking at the ground and then looked up. "I think they believe I have what it takes to be in SOLDIER!"
Cloud laughed, "Maybe you do. You wanna join?"
"I don't know," Aeris said. "Either way, I don't want to get caught by THOSE people!"
Cloud nodded and smiled, "Then, let's get outta here."
Aeris followed Cloud as they slowly climbed to the edge of the church roof and made a small jump to a small house with a metal roof next to it. Cloud quickly ran across the buildings jumping expertly from roof to roof as Aeris lagged behind.
"Wait!" Aeris called from far back. "Wait, I said!"
Cloud turned around and watched in humor as Aeris slowly jogged across the building behind him and delicately jumped onto the roof where Cloud was standing.
"Funny," Cloud chuckled. "I thought you said you were cut out to be in SOLDIER?"
"Oh," Aeris said breathing heavily. "You're terrible!"
Cloud laughed out loud as Aeris took a step closer. "Hey, Cloud. Were you ever in SOLDIER?"
Cloud raised an eyebrow, "I used to be... How did you guess?"
Aeris stepped even closer about a foot from his face, "Your eyes... They have a strange glow."
Cloud nodded thinking that Aeris was one to talk. Her strange emerald eyes seemed to glow as well, but not like Mako eyes... They were something different.
"That's the sign of those who have been infused with Mako, a mark of SOLDIER," Cloud explained. "But, how did you know about that?"
Aeris looked surprised, "Oh... Nothing."
Cloud was confused, "Nothing?"
"Right, nothing!" Aeris said happily taking Cloud by the arm. "Come on, let's go, Bodyguard."
They finally reached the edge of the houses and this time Cloud made an effort to go slow for Aeris. He helped her down a large pile of metal panels and old car parts on the side the house until they were both on solid ground.
"Phew!" Aeris said happily. "Finally made it off! My house is down there, not too far. Let's hurry before that Turk gets here!"
This time, Cloud followed Aeris as she led him past a sign that read "Sector 5" and towards her home. Cloud thought that this was a particularly dirty Sector and it wasn't just the streets that were unclean. Run down small buildings were the Sector's main business location and someone even appeared to have made a home in a large sewage pipe. Cloud couldn't even begin to imaging how Aeris would be living in a place like this until they reached her home.
A nice, two-story house that looked like it should belong in a nice town like Kalm sat on the edge of the ground where the earth had given away forming a small cliff side beside the home. A small wooden bridge had been built connecting the house side and the other across the cliff and on the other side was a large garden that consisted of nothing but what seemed to be an infinite number of flowers. To Cloud, this place and the church both had the same ethereal feel and for some reason he had no trouble understanding why flowers only bloomed in these two places. It just felt... Holy.
Aeris reached into her jacket pocket and fumbled out a key ring with only one key on it and slid it into the lock. She opened the door, stepped inside and beckoned for Cloud to follow.
"I'm home, mom," Aeris called to the kitchen.
A plain, older woman but still very pretty walked over smiling at her daughter. She looked at Cloud and then looked expectantly at Aeris.
"This is Cloud, my bodyguard," Aeris introduced.
"Bodyguard..." Aeris' Mom looked upset. "You mean you were followed again!? Are you all right, you aren't hurt are you!?"
Aeris' Mom lovingly hugged her daughter and inspecting her to make sure she wasn't hurt.
"I'm all right," Aeris assured. "I had Cloud with me."
"Thank you, Cloud," Aeris' Mom said sincerely. "My name is Elmyra. Excuse me a moment, I have laundry to do upstairs. Please make yourself comfortable."
Elmyra went upstairs leaving Aeris and Cloud alone. Aeris looked into Cloud's eyes for a whole minute before she said anything.
"So..." Aeris said. "What are you going to do now?"
Cloud looked at his watch and thought about the mission. He needed to get back to the AVALANCHE headquarters, not just to let Tifa know he was okay, but to get his money.
"Is Sector 7 far from here?" Cloud asked. "I need to get to Tifa's Seventh Heaven, it's a bar there."
Aeris looked at the ground, "Is Tifa a... girl?"
"Yeah," Cloud responded a bit confused.
"You know," Aeris pushed. "A girlfriend?"
"Girlfriend?" Cloud asked and let out a chuckle. "No, nothing like that."
Aeris laughed politely, "Well, that's... nice. Let's see... Sector 7? I'll show you the way."
"You gotta be kidding," Cloud said. "Why do you want to put yourself in danger again?"
Aeris shook her head and smiled, "I'm used to it."
"Used to it!?" Cloud exclaimed and then thought for a moment. "I don't know... getting help from a girl..."
"A girl!!" Aeris said putting her hands on her hips. "What do you mean by that!? You expect me to just sit here and do nothing now after hearing you said that!? Hah!"
Aeris went to the bottom of the staircase and called up, "Mom! I'm taking Cloud to Sector 7. I'll be back in awhile."
Elmyra came down the stairs looking concerned, "But dear..." Then Elmyra shook her head. "I don't know why I even bother, you never listen once you've made up your mind. But, if you must go, why don't you go tomorrow? It's getting pretty late now."
Aeris checked the small clock on the wall, "Yeah, you're right, Mom."
Elmyra motioned towards the staircase, "Aeris, please go and make the spare bed for Cloud."
"Sure," Aeris said and started up the stairs. She glanced at Cloud just before she was out of view and Cloud felt a sinking feeling in his stomach and honestly didn't know if it was god or bad.
Elmyra approached Cloud and looked at him directly in his eyes. She looked tired, but still very strong. Her beautiful brown hair tied up would be the same color as Aeris' if it weren't for the strands of grey.
"That glow in your eyes..." She said. "You're from SOLDIER, right?"
"Yeah," Cloud thought and then shook his head. "Rather I used to be."
"I worry about my daughter leaving the house and you probably know why," Elmyra said sadly. "I don't know how to say this because Aeris seems so fond of you but... Would you please leave here tonight? Without telling Aeris?"
Before Cloud could respond, he heard Aeris call for him upstairs. He followed Aeris' voice upstairs feeling Elmyra's pleading eyes on him every step of the way. He reached the top and went to the furthest bedroom at the end of the hall where Aeris was just finishing up making the bed.
"You need to go through Sector 6 to get to Sector 7 from here," Aeris said. "Sector 6 is a little... tricky, so you'd better get some rest tonight."
Cloud nodded and looked at the perfectly made bed and smirked when he saw the little stuffed Moogle she put by the pillow.
"Cloud..." Aeris said so softly it was almost a whisper.
Aeris took a step close to Cloud and laid a small soft kiss on his cheek. When she stepped back he could see a million thoughts behind her strange green eyes, but all went unsaid when she turned towards the door.
"Good night," Aeris smiled.
Before Cloud could say anything, Aeris stepped out and gently closed the door behind her. Cloud sighed and sat on the edge of the bed taking off his boots. He turned off the lamp and let his mind wander from Tifa, to AVALANCHE, to Aeris, to Shinra, to Barret, and back to Aeris. Aeris and her flowers. Aeris and her green glowing eyes.
And Cloud slept...
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic