Combat Diary Chapter 9
The group made their way to the stairwell, relieved to find it empty so far. Ifalna clutched her child in her arms, and an unnoticed tear found its way out of her eye. The companions made it down about three or four floors when Kamen spoke up...
"What's wrong?" Byran asked, a tinge of worry creeping in.
"I just remembered. Without the elevators, we're not going to beable to make it past the 60th floor!"
"We may have to improvise..." Zangan noted almost unnecessarily with a nod.
"D'you think they'll be waiting for us down there?" Dio questioned.
"Maybe... maybe not. It's standard procedure to evacuate the building and wait outside in a case like this..." Kamen replied, slowing down near the end. "..uh, oh. Damn..."
"It's okay, you didn't think of it before..." Byran assured the young man, knowing that Kamen felt stupid for not taking that into account and telling everyone earlier. Not that he had the chance, though.
"The elevators are out, though..." Dio reminded everyone, "How would we get out?"
No answer presented itself as the group jogged down the stairs in silence. Finally, they had reached the 60th floor, where the stairwell stopped. Kamen came to the front and held up his hand.
"This floor is usually guarded..." he warned in a whisper. The others nodded.
"Kam, stay here with the lady..." Dio said as he approached the door. Byran readied his Hyperlance, and Zangan hugged the wall near the door. Ifalna ducked around the corner as Kamen readied his machine gun. The door hissed open slowly as Dio pulled on it...
Nothing happened. Dio peered around, but the whole floor, save for a few pillars, was empty. He took a few experimental steps out, looking around, straining his eyes for any sign of movement. The floor was still well-lit, and he saw no one. Zangan peered around and stepped out.
The whole floor was one large lobby, with a few rooms hugging the walls. Pillars with gold statues were placed in two rows near the ends. The group could see the elevators at the other end of the floor, and no other alternatives presented themselves. Dio waved the others forward, and they went into a slow jog up to the elevator platforms....
"Well, if they ARE waiting for us..." Byran started "They'll reactivate the elevators, right?"
"Uhm.." Ifalna interjected, "You mean to tell me we're going to walk into a trap we know is set? That's not very logical."
"Nor is it logical to spend the rest of our lives in this building," Zangan pointed out. "And if we stay too long, they will find us and make out lives much shorter..." Zangan said softly, as to not alarm the child Ifalna held in her arms.
"Hey..." Dio was peering into the elevator shaft, "This thing isn't working.... BUT the elevator is stopped on the floor below us! We can jump down..."
"And take the stairs from there!" Kamen pointed out before Dio could finish.
"59 more floors of stairs?" Byran asked with a raised eyebrow and a slightly whining tone.
"There's other elevators, too. Those might still..." Kamen was interrupted when Zangan put his hand over his mouth...
"They're coming!" He said in a hissed whisper. Dio stretched his ears and could barely hear footsteps coming down the stairwell on the other side of the floor. Byran took Aeris and jumped down first. Dio scooped up Ifalna before she could protest and jumped down when Byran was clear. Zangan followed suite. Kamen dropped is gun down the shaft, and gently lowered himself down. His grip slipped, however, and he fell on his bottom onto the elevator. He let out a grunt and stood back up.
Byran was already at the alternative elevator by the time Kamen picked his gun back up and recomposed himself, somewhat embarrassed. Ifalna smiled at him reassuringly.
"It works!" He announced as the doors opened up.
"They're down there!" came a voice from the elevator shaft in response to Byran's cry.
"Aw crap..." Kamen admonished as he broke out into a run. Ifalna sprinted behind him as best she could. SOLDIERs started dropping in from the elevator tubes, and they spotted the companions.
"THERE!" One SOLDIER threw a giant sickle, but at no one in particular. It flew past Kamen and Ifalna, and struck the wall near Aeris's head. Everyone turned around in angry shock...
Kamen lowered his eyes and felt around his belt until he found it. His hand grasped the small round object as his thumb ejected a pin from it. He let fly a grenade at the SOLDIERs, some of who dove for cover, but a few others were still in the shaft... where the grenade landed and exploded! The elevator was shook from its hinges and soared all the way to the bottom in a ball of flame as the SOLDIERS screamed for the remaining 12.3 seconds of their lives.
The two remaining SOLDIERs got back up and charged. Kamen stood to fight but found a large arm pulling him into the elevator. The doors closed just as the SOLDIERS reached it, slashing at air where Kamen had been only moments before. One SOLDIER let out his frustration by punching the wall and kicking the elevator doors...
The group took a moment to catch their breaths as the elevator descended seemingly slow.
"Okay, we're walking into a trap. We better be prepared..." Byran noted. He removed some of his Materia, and gave Poison and Elemental to Kamen...
"Put these in your Gun. You'll beable to poison people when you shoot them. So even if they don't die, they won't feel good enough to fight." He then handed Ifalna Restore. "Use this on us and keep us covered. We're going to be taking a lot of hits, and I won't have time to use it... Also, here..." he said, handing her ChocoMog "If a bunch of guys get through, use this. But that shouldn't happen." He looked at his companions, letting what they were about to do sink in. "Dio, you and Zangan take the front row. Kamen and I will take the middle, backing you up with spells and ranged attacks while protecting Ifalna..." As he said this, he saw Kamen checking his ammo and equipping the materia. "And Ifalna, like I said, stay in the back, okay?"
Ifalna gave a curt nod. Aeris looked up at her, noticing the bit of sadness that went unnoticed by the others... "Mommy?"
"..It's nothing, sweetheart." The woman said, taking her daughter's hand. Aeris shook her head, knowing that something was wrong. Very little got past the seven-year old.
With a ding, the elevator doors opened at the first floor lobby. The group marched forward to the main entrance...
A battilion composed of about two dozen MPs stood outside the main entrance, and saw the small party approaching them.
"There they are, sir..." A troop said to his superior, "Should we open fire?"
"No..." Mylard said, wiping mayonnaise off his chin. "President Shinra does not want the doors damaged. Wait till they are out here..."
A nasally voice came over a radio Mylard had, "And don't you dare harm my specimens, either!"
"Re-LAX Hojo..." Mylard said with annoyance. But before he could continue....
Several magically created rockets filled the air, assaulting the several dozen troops who stood outside the building. Byran had his hands outstretched as the missiles flew from his back. Kamen opened fire with poison-powered bullets, and Zangan let loose a volley of lightning, throwing many of the troops off their feet.
Mylard, the largest target of the bunch, remained unscathed. "ATTACK!" He proclaimed, shooting forth his finger. His response was a wave of blue-clad troops rushing forward, nightsticks raised and poised to strike. Fists and weapons flew as Zangan and Dio went toe-to-toe with at least half a dozen troops a piece. A few more broke the first row, and charged at Kamen and Byran.
Dio swung madly with his fists, almost enjoying the chaos. However, four troops grabbed his arms, and he raised his eyes in surprise. The other two troops began punching and kicking at Dio's washboard stomach. Two of the troops who had his arms began punching Dio's head unmercifully...
Two troops tried to hit Zangan at once. He responded by grabbing both of their arms and was about to twist them when another troop ran up, and clubbed him in the head. Zangan's grip loosened, and the aging ninja found more clubs and fists wailing on his person. He attempted to recompose himself and set up a defense, when suddenly one troop decided to play dirty and kicked Zangan in the crotch. Zangan jerked forward and doubled over, and was rewarded with more blows....
Kamen let loose a volley of bullets, most of which hit their marks. The troops fell and stayed down. One vomited. Suddenly, a new rush of troops caught Kamen by surprise, and before he could fire, he found himself on the receiving end of a bullet which caught him square in the chest. His armor dulled the blow some, but he still flew to the ground, his body screaming in pain. A few troops came over and kicked at him, yelling out such things at "traitor", "jerk", etc...
Byran twirled his Hyper-Lance in an attempt to threaten the opposition. Some stopped charging, but two kept coming. Byran made a wide-slash at them both, catching one square in the chest, but the other one ducked. This one came back up and clubbed Byran in the head. Before he could recover, though, the other troops charged in and attacked him as well. Byran tried his best to put up a defense, but they continued to swarm in. A few troops picked the smaller man up and threw him hard into the ground, breaking his armlet and scattering his materia...
Ifalna watched all of this transpire and was frozen in shock. By the time Dio and Zangan were down, she started coming back to her senses. She kept trying to cast Cure, but it seemed to have little effect. She looked at the tiny materia orb in disdain, wishing that it had more powerful cure spells on it. Then she heard shots ring out and saw Kamen hit the ground. She shrieked in terror, and started concentrating on the ChocoMog materia to hit all the troops that were assaulting her benefactor... But found herself getting tackled. A few more troops went in to subdue her, at least one of them taking the opportunity to place his hands where they didn't belong. Ifalna screamed out in defiance, and was thrown to the ground...
Aeris's eyes went wide at the horror. A small, yellow materia orb rolled near her feet... it was Byran's E-Skill materia. She picked it up, and was not noticed concentrating on it...
A red glow emanated from the child, and a few troops turned their heads. Mylard marched towards her...
"Sir..." A troop tried to warn his superior.
"Relax, she's just a kid, she can't possibly..."
Aeris looked up, her green eyes glowing with clarity.... "beta" she whispered...
The whole area darkened further than it already was. Aeris's body shot forth a white light, replaced by a mushroom cloud of crimson fire. A few troops screamed in pain while many did not have the chance. Mylard was one of them.
The area returned to it's normal quasi-darkness. No one moved for a while. Aeris bowed her head, ready to cry. She held her hands near her head, and did not realize at first they were beginning to glow. She opened an eye, and refused to breath in fear that it may cause this phenomenon to cease. She followed her instincts, and warmth surrounded her body. She concentrated harder, and noticed that the wind had picked up. It was almost cool, and most certainly soothing. It swirled around her new friends, mother and herself. The four men were surprised to of found themselves rejuvenated, and suddenly sprang back up to fight....
Only to noticed the burnt remains of the opposition. They looked around in confusion for a bit...
"What happened?" Dio inquired.
Aeris walked up to Byran, "Here's your materia back." She said with a smile. Byran looked down at her in shock.
"You did this?" He said, looking around, "With this?!"
Aeris nodded proudly. Byran looked at the young girl, then the materia orb. "What did you use?" he asked.
"Beta..." Aeris replied. Byran blinked.
"But... I never... this doesn't have..." Byran said, perplexed. He suddenly narrowed his eyes and looked at Dio...
"I don't suppose you ever borrowed this..." Byran said holding up his E-skill materia, "and went into the Mythril swamp, did you?"
Dio looked away and scratched his head and replied "...I might've..."
"YOU DOOF! WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME! WE COULD OF USED THAT SPELL ONCE AND BEEN OUT OF HERE!" Byran screamed, more annoyed than angry.
Zangan's head shot up, and he looked in the distance... "The police..." he noted, seeing the blinking red lights of the Midgar Police Department's patrol cars coming around several blocks away.
Ifalna picked Aeris back up and smiled, if only shallowly. The group broke into a run, west towards the train station. Just then, Ifalna felt it. Something near the base of her skull clicked, and hummed for a brief moment. Even Aeris did not seem to notice. Ifalna repressed a tear, and kept moving. The group continued to the train station unopposed, unaware that a pair of emerald eyes watched them from the shadows...
The patrol cars never saw the fleeing group, as they had stopped at Shinra Headquarters. The group ducked through alleys and side streets to avoid possible detection. Kamen lead the way, knowing this area of Midgar well. Soon, the group saw the last train to the Sector 7 slums just over 100 yards away. The group broke into a run, Ifalna finding the strength to break to the front, leaving Kamen in the back. Dio altered his course and bought tickets as Ifalna entered the train. Byran stood at the train door, but then Zangan walked off a bit...
"...something... is wrong..." he started to warn. Everyone looked around, but no one saw anything. The train whistle blew, and everyone started towards the train...
Everyone's heads shot towards where Kamen was standing. The first thing the three other men saw was the life fading from Kamen's eyes. Then the long sword plunged through his gut from behind. The sword found its way out through the back, and Kamen fell forward with an undignified "thud".
"YOU!?" Zangan cried with anger.
"KAMEN!" Ifalna shouted from the train. Suddenly the doors shut.
Sephiroth took a cloth and wiped the blood from his blade. The three men took positions to attack. The youthful warrior simply looked at them.
"I have no fight with you..." he said nonchalantly, waving his hand. "This man betrayed the Shinra, and has paid for his lack of judgment. The Woman will die, too, because of an implant in her neck..." he informed the trio, pointing at the train, which just started moving. Zangan dared to look... and saw that the silver-haired young man spoke the truth. Even from a distance, he could see Ifalna glowing an unhealthy green... Sephiroth had said something about saving her or fighting him, but Zangan paid no attention.
"STOP THAT TRAIN!" Zangan yelled, charging at the train. The other men followed without a beat. Sephiroth simply turned and walked away, a smile almost forming on his lips... almost.
The train increased speed, as though ignoring Zangan's pleas. Dio was the only one who could keep up, but that only lasted a few seconds. He made a daring leap, and with a yell caught onto a rail! The train sped forward, the momentum throwing Dio up and down into the ground as he refused to let go. He continued to bounce and tried pulling himself up... However, one speedy bounce broke five of his ribs and with a scream, he let go just as the train entered a tunnel. The momentum caused the large man to continue bouncing forward until he was stopped by the tunnel wall, leaving a sizable indentation in it.
"Dio...!" Byran cried out, looking at his friend's unmoving form while running up to him. Dio grunted a bit in response. "You okay?!"
"...Not me... I'm worried about.." Dio said between breaths. He found it hard to either speak or breath with broken ribs. "...Kamen..?" And as if on cue, Zangan walked over with Kamen in his arms.
"How's he?" Byran asked with concern etched all over his face. Zangan set the young man down against the faded yellow stone wall.
"ugh... g-guys..." Kamen started. The blood gathering in his mouth began to impair his speech, "fuh-find her... and... my fam'ly..." The young blonde-red haired man began to heave, and whisper to himself... "Raine... cl'd... 'm s'rry..."
"Hey..." Byran said, lightly shaking the young troop, "This isn't the end, we can get you to a hospital... hey... hey, Kay..."
Kamen simply closed his eyes and simply felt himself return to the planet.
Dio looked down, the entirety of the situation sinking in... "damn."
We found out that Kamen's last name was "Strife" because of his dog-tags. But we couldn't find any "Strifes" in Midgar who knew who he was, so we were never able to contact his family. I rested for a few days while Byran and Zanga-guy searched the slums for Ifalna, where that train was going. They found her body at a train station, but no Aeris.
The Conductor said some woman took the child in, but we never found her. I guess if we couldn't find Aeris, the Shinra won't, either. That's good... I hope.
We had a funeral service for Ifalna and Kamen, just outside of Midgar. Zangan went back to Wutai to tell Godo what was up with the Shinra. Incidentally, since we freed Ifalna, Shinra was able to cut its science budget, and ended up winning that damn war (took 'em a few years, though).
So no, I can't call this a win. Not at all.
But, if the Strifes are out there and reading this, know that your husband/father/Brother was the epitome of the word hero. The Shinra may have tried to convince you otherwise, but here is the truth. Kamen Strife died a good man.
Epilogue & Author's Rambles
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic