The Cry of the Planet Chapter 4
By Edyn Cross
A low rumble followed by an ear-piercing clang made Professor Gast jerk his head up from the briefing table at such a force that he almost strained his neck. He looked around dumbfounded wondering where the hell he was and how he got there. The clear plastic envelope where the picture of the Ancient was stored stuck to Professor Gast's forehead from hours of sleeping with his head rested on his documents. He finally figured out where he was, he realized that they had arrived at their destination as the Airship wasn't moving. He unstuck the picture of the Cetra from his forehead and carefully placed it on top of his documents, slid the file back into his briefcase, and snapped it shut. As he was gathering his overcoat off of the chair, the Airship captain's voice came through the PA system announcing to the few passengers that they have arrived at their destination: The Northern Crater.
Professor Gast made his way down the Airship halls towards the exit and was greeted by the two members of SOLDIER, who both gave him a courteous nod as they met. They had both been dressed the same as before, the typical SOLDIER uniform, but Gast saw this time that they were armed. The SOLIDER uniform consisted of zip up combat boots with navy blue pants tucked into them that bagged at the bottom and narrowed at the top. The pants were held up by a wide brown belt that latched in the back with two thin, brown suspender straps strung over each shoulder. The shirt was also navy in color, but sleeveless with a turtleneck and on the front of the belt was an emblem that proudly displayed the logo of SOLDIER. Thick brown gloves covered the hands with metallic cuffs covering each wrist, the left one larger than the right as it wielded a defensive arm guard with small open slots that equipped Materia. The left shoulder was covered by a larger defensive arm guard, but held no slots for Materia. The typical weapon used by a SOLDIER was a large two-handed sword, but the make and style of the sword was entirely up to the individual SOLDIER and what he felt the most comfortable with.
The Professor and SOLDIERs made their way down the ramp towards the exit until they saw the large cargo door of the Airship opening with a mechanical groaning and a dark teal glow filled the entire room as the surface of the Northern Crater was revealed. The sharp wind blew dust from the ground into the air where the sky was no longer blue, but a dirty teal color from all the debris still settling from the impact so many years ago. There was no night and no day on the surface of the Northern Crater, nor a direct light, but a constant glow that seemed to emanate from the surface rock and airborne debris.
When Gast and the SOLDIERs stepped out of the Airship and onto the surface, they were promptly greeted by a scruffy looking man about Gast's age wearing a baseball cap.
"You guys from Shinra?" The man asked.
Professor Gast nodded.
The man picked lifted his cap, ran his hand through his hair and put the cap back on. "It's about damn time you guys got here. My workers have been going ape shit since they uncovered that thing and now my project has fallen even more behind schedule because of it. My name's Shane, I head the dig here."
"I'm Professor Gast," He motioned towards the digging equipment above a large neatly cut hole in the wall of the crater about 50 yards away. "It's down there, correct?"
"Yeah, sure is. I gather that you want to have a look at it?" Shane asked already knowing the answer.
"Absolutely," Gast said with a smirk.
Shane took the lead walking towards the start of the excavation followed closing behind by Professor Gast and the two members of SOLDIER. As they entered the tunnel, the wind seemed to stop, but somehow the noise of the wind grew louder. The walls, ceiling and floor were the same color as the surface, but were glowing much brighter and Gast could see no end in sight. They trekked their way down cavern walking for at least ten minutes before the tunnel finally gave away to a large catacomb area where the workers had set up camp. As the Shinra employees passed through, the archeologists gave Professor Gast and the SOLDIERs curious, but mistrustful glances as they pretended to go about their daily duties. The small group passed the camp and approached a tunnel that had two tired looking diggers standing on either side of the entrance each with a firearm ridiculously tucked inside the front of their shorts.
"These are the men President Shinra sent to inspect the creature," Shane told the sentries. "We'll be back in about twenty minutes, you guys just wait here."
The two guards nodded, then looked worriedly at each other knowing that no one had gone down that tunnel since the first time they found it. Then, for the first time, the guards felt a cool breeze from the tunnel creep up their legs, tickling the back of their spines making a cold sweat seep out of their foreheads.
As they passed the guards, Gast looked curiously at the walls, which seemed to be getting brighter the deeper they got, and the bitter stench of Mako filled his nose.
"There," Shane pointed. "Right there, lodged into the rock. The bottom of the creature almost at the base of the wall, but the head is located all the way up top there by the ceiling. About fourteen or fifteen feet, I'd say."
"What the ?" Professor Gast was speechless for one of the few times in his life. The two SOLDIER members stopped dead in their tracked with their jaws hanging.
What he saw in no way resembled the picture of the Ancient Iflana he had in his briefcase, at least she looked Human. The only things that resembled a human form were the female torso and the face, and even that smile didn't sit right in Gast's stomach. After staring at the creature for a few minutes of not blinking, Professor Gast knelt down and opened his briefcase. He took out a hand held computer unit from one of the pockets under the lid and turned it on. Gast went through the ID verification process, logged on, and pulled then a single cotton swab in a sterile packet from another pocket. He took a pair of latex examination gloves, put them on, opened the sterile packet with the cotton swab, and then approached the creature slowly, but without fear. He reached out and rubbed the cotton swab firmly across the tent-like portion of the lower body. He looked up at the creature's face, at the pinkish-glowing eye and watched it blink.
"Did you see that!?" Hawkes, asked in a loud whisper. "The God damn thing blinked! Is it alive?"
Pulling away from the creature after getting what he needed on the cotton swap, he pushed a button on his hand held computer and a slide opened from the side. "I saw it, too. I guess we'll find out in a few minutes, won't we?"
Shane and the SOLDIERs watched as the Professor generously rubbed the cotton swab on the slide allowing enough bits of the creature's genetic material in the computer to be analyzed. He closed the slide back into the computer and pushed a button.
"This may take a few moments," Gast said looking at no one.
While Gast's computer was gathering as much information as it could on the genetic sample, Gast couldn't seem to bring his gaze away from the creature's smile, a smile of dissolution, but soon enough his computer began to beep steadily announcing that its research is done. Gast almost had to force his eyes away from the creature's face to see the results of test. When he was done reading, he looked up and saw Shane and the two SOLDERs switching their stares from Gast's eyes to the computer, and back to him again, silently begging for the test results.
"The creature is a confirmed Ancient," Gast began. "The age that the computer placed the specimen at is WAY too old to be human, and in fact, resides in the same time frame when the Ancients walked the Planet. I had suspected that all along which isn't surprising to me, what DOES surprise me is that somehow this Ancient is still alive Barely."
"That's ridiculous," Shane scoffed. "NOTHING could live that long, even a Cetra, and ESPECIALLY trapped in this geological stratum. How do you explain that, Professor?"
"I can't," Gast looked at the creature again. "Not at the moment, anyway. I'm going to request an emergency team be dispatched here to transport the Ancient back to the mainland for further experimentation."
"Thank God," Shane said. "This damn thing has put my project almost another week behind schedule and quite frankly, Professor, that bitch freaks me out. Just let me know what you need me and my workers to do to help get that thing the hell out of here."
Gast turned the computer off and put the cotton swab back into the sterile packet. "I don't think anything will be requested of you or your workers, I would just continue to do what you've been doing until we get the Ancient secured." He looked up at the Ancient's face again. "You guys head back to the camp, I'll be there shortly."
Shane let out a healthy sigh of relief then took off at a speedy walk, and the SOLDIERs both took one last look at the Ancient before leaving. After they were gone, Gast studied the Ancient's smile again, but he didn't feel the fear or the uneasiness that Shane and the SOLDIERs felt, what felt was the giddy anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. Looking at the Ancient made him grin as he though of the upcoming work the Science Division had ahead of them and how Lucrecia and especially Hojo will react to the recently acquired specimen. With that, he remembered the PHS in his briefcase and dialed his laboratory line. The phone rang nine times and Gast decided to let it ring until someone answered, as he was excited to spread the news of the Science Division's upcoming research. After Gast counted the seventeenth ring, someone finally decided to pick up the phone.
"What is it?" Professor Hojo's voice hissed.
Gast ignored Hojo's attitude. "Hojo, this is Professor Gast, how are going things in my lab?"
"Oh, uh, hello, Professor." Hojo's attitude turned complete 180 hearing his boss' voice on the line. "Much more smoothly now that your other mentally challenged assistant located the specimen that she lost. She would be utterly intolerable if it weren't for the exceptional lab reports she contributes to the experiments."
"You shouldn't be so hard on her, Hojo, she's an excellent scientist, and you should be grateful that she's working with us." Gast said trying to defend poor Lucrecia.
Hojo scoffed, "Where have you been, I haven't seen you all morning?"
"I'm at the Northern Crater," Gast switched the PHS from one ear to the other. "Now, before you ask why, let me explain. I received a call from President Shinra yesterday requesting that I go to the Northern Crater to investigate a life form that was found by archeologists in a geological stratum."
"Why the emergency?" Hojo asked.
Gast smiled. "I told you not to ask any questions, Professor. President Shinra informed me that the life form could quite possibly be an Ancient."
Hojo didn't say anything, which means Gast knew he had the scientist's full attention. "After running a sample of the creature's genetic material though database, the creature was confirmed to be an Ancient."
"I can't believe it," Hojo said in a hush and took a few moments gathering himself. "This is most excellent! When will the experimentation begin?"
"Hold on a moment there, Professor," Gast laughed heartily. "After we get off the phone, I will be making a call to the President directly to request a team be sent to retrieve the Ancient and transport it to the mainland."
"Shall I prepare the lab for its arrival? What do you need me to do?" Hojo asked excitedly.
"Actually, Hojo, I believe the laboratory at the Shinra Headquarters will be too small for our work as the Ancient itself as it stands almost fifteen feet tall. I'll speak to the President about finding an alternative laboratory location and will let you know as soon as I find out," Gast didn't want to waste any more time gabbing with Hojo. "Go ahead and give the news to Lucrecia and await contact form me or the President as to what our next step will be."
"Absolutely, Professor," Hojo replied knowing that Gast wanted to wrap things up. "Will there be anything else?"
"Not at the moment." Gast said. "Take care of the lab until I return. I should be no later than three or four days. Good day, Professor Hojo."
"Goodbye." Hojo disconnected the line.
Gast tucked the PHS back into his briefcase, smiled and gave the Ancient an approving look before retiring to the camp.
Back at the Science Division at Shinra Headquarters, Professor Hojo hung up the phone after saying his goodbye to Gast. He put a hand of long, gangly fingers up his mouth, thinking in awe of the Ancient and of what experiments lay ahead, but not Shinra's experiments or the overrated Mr. Gast's HIS experiments. He thought of how Professor Gast was always holding him back, not allowing him to show his TRUE potential that he could be contributing to the Science Division. His eyes moved sharply over to where Lucrecia at her desk filling out lab reports and licked his lips while his other hand moved up and down, toying with a pen. Now that an Ancient has finally been discovered, he will be able to get his own projects underway, with or without Professor Gast. Lucrecia on the other hand, will play a vital role in his work, and decided that it was time to take initiative.
Hojo got up from his desk, pushed a few long strands of greasy hair out of his face, and quickly walked over to the front of Lucrecia's desk and peered down on her like she was a petty animal. A few moments passed before she even noticed him standing there and when she did, she dropped her pen in fright.
"Professor Hojo!" She shrieked. "I didn't see you standing there! I, um, I'm very sorry."
Hojo walked around to the side of her desk, retrieved her pen from the floor and handed it to her. She reached out to take it and Hojo's long finger brushed delicately over her own and she looked up at him curiously.
"That's quite alright, my dear," Hojo hissed. "You have been sitting at your desk writing lab reports for seven hours straight now, you must be exhausted! Why don't you take a break and let me take you out to dinner. It looks as thought you are starting to be another piece of equipment here the lab."
"Oh, no, I don't think so. I need to have these reports ready by the time Professor Gast gets back. I really do have a lot to do. Thank you, but I'm sorry." Lucrecia's first thought was wondering why Hojo was being so nice to her in spite of recent events. Her second thought was wondering if he was actually asking her out to dinner.
Hojo looked at her desk and at the stack of reports. "By the looks of it, my dear, you will be done here shortly, anyway." He pointed to the three remaining lab reports forms not filled out.
Lucrecia stared at the forms for a few moments, not realizing how fast she had worked this afternoon. Although she didn't particularly like Professor Hojo, she thought it wouldn't be such a bad idea having dinner with him just this once to get back on even terms after the lost specimen mishap.
"Well, I feel like I could relax a little bit. Thank you very much, Professor," Lucrecia said getting up from her desk.
"Excellent! I know of a very lovely place," Hojo said handing Lucrecia her coat. "I hope you're wearing your dancing shoes."
Lucrecia took her coat and looked up at Hojo, giving him a timid smile. He returned the favor, stretching his mouth in a very queer smile. Had Lucrecia been with Gast in the Northern Crater, she would see that Hojo's smile wasn't much different from the Ancient's.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic