Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter 15
The Wailing Planet
By Paul Nathans
He strode forwards, angry, determined for the truth. Those who had lied to him would suffer, the others, they wouldn't be harmed! It would end! This wasn't a statement of determination, or what he thought to be fact, or both, this was a statement of truth. He was going to get some answers, and now!
"Where are you!!??" he shouted. "Lucrecia!!??"
She appeared in front of him. "Sephiroth " she whispered quietly.
"I've had enough, woman!" he shouted, sword pointed at her throat. "I don't have enough proof to believe you, but I have some! I'm sick of acting in roles set up for me by others, sick of constant lies and deceptions! You'd better be able to give me some truth, or everyone will perish!!"
He'd done what both of his self-claimed 'mothers' would've wanted him to do. There wasn't anything left.
Something shimmered to his left. He spun, and saw a black-haired, red-caped man step out of what appeared to be shadows.
Sephiroth spun, his sword in an attack-position now. "Vincent," he whispered.
Vincent held up his hand. "I couldn't return to the Planet. Not until I was sure that you understand. I can help you now, and I will. Sephiroth, I urge you, listen to what we have to say."
"I'll listen," he responded, coolly. "I may not like it, though."
"What she says is true," the Former-Turk said. He held up his left hand, it shimmered, to reveal the claw he'd had when he had been alive. "Look closely, see if you can recognize how this was constructed. And examine its energies."
He did, and pursed his lips. "That proves nothing. Nothing except you were taken by Shinra for some reason and used as one of Hojo's Experiments."
"Those monsters in the Jenova Reactor " the other began. " they were there in different capsules for different reasons. Most of Hojo's Bio-Freaks were conducted using different combinations of Cells, in his own Laboratory. Why, then, would he construct a separate laboratory? Why would it be kept secret from you?"
Sephiroth let out a low growl. "That fool doesn't have specific reasons for why he does anything!! If its convenient, he does it!"
"It was Professor Gast who constructed the Nibelheim Reactor," Lucrecia said softly. "Do you honestly think Hojo is capable of anything like that?"
He swore. "So the jerk's my father, I'd know if Gast was keeping it from me, and I'd have been told if it was someone else! That part may be true, he probably had to fertilize Jenova's body somehow, through whatever mechanics she was wired-up to! I know I'm the Jenova Project's Best Result! But that doesn't mean she isn't my mother!! You could be trying to turn me from her legacy, cause me to betray her!!"
"Was it you who thought what you did, helping her, was right?" Lucrecia inquired, also in a low tone.
"I I don't know," he whispered. "I thought so at least I think I " his eyes widened. "That *B-!!!!!*"
Vincent let him finish swearing.
He lashed out with his sword, the same animal-rage he'd possessed when he'd found out he might be a monster doubled now. "That double-crossing, back-stabbing, *MONSTER*!!!!!" He let the Masamune drop, before turning to the others.
They had to be telling the truth. He could sense Lucrecia had been exposed to a large amount of Jenova Cells, the same amount as he. If she hadn't, he might have thought her a liar, but now
He fell to his knees, clutching his head. "You took away EVERYTHING, you freak!!" he screamed. "Where are you, Ajora!! Any of the false Gods that roam this Planet!! Its all lies!!!!! Accursed-" he launched into another violent string of swearing, both at Jenova, and now at his new target. He stood. "WHY DID YOU LET ME HURT SO MANY PEOPLE!!!!! WHY DID YOU LET ME LIVE LIKE *THIS*!!!!!"
Lucrecia placed her hand on his shoulder. "Sephiroth "
He stiffened, standing up, clasping his sword again. "I'm sorry, mother, but there's more left." He let another growl escape his throat. "Those freaks at Shinra betrayed me, the Planet betrayed me, the Gods betrayed me!! I won't harm anyone else, but I will not rest until I avenge myself, and all those who have suffered because of me, on those monsters! The Shinra will SUFFER!!!!!"
"They're gone," a young voice spoke.
Sephiroth looked up as another form shimmered into view, that of the Ancient he had slain in the Forgotten Captial.
"Then upon who do I *HAVE MY REVENGE!!!!!*" He clenched his fists, raising them to the sky, screaming, the force of it tearing through his throat.
"Its over, Sephiroth," the girl, Aeris, he believed her name was, said, placing her hand on his shoulder. "Put down your sword. Its over."
"I will have blood for blood!!!!!"
"I'm begging you, Sephiroth, stop this, now," Vincent said.
"No one let you do anything, no one abandoned you. Jenova never let you stray far from her train of thought." That was Lucrecia.
"Because no one helped me!" he hissed in response. "They they " he smiled, causing both Vincent and Aeris to step back, Vincent chilled. The only other time he'd seen that look of pure madness
was right before they'd faced-off against him at the Promised Land, when he had first appeared.
" I'll destroy them!! This Planet has no need of Gods or Goddesses, *they'll* be the last vestiges of my wrath!! I'll rip them apart, make them suffer for every " each word was punctuated by a swing of his sword " last thing they have done to *US!!!!!*" He took two deep breaths, calming down. "Once again, I'm sorry," he said. "I say it to all of you. When they perish, when they've atoned, then maybe " he turned to Lucrecia " provided Non-Cetra can enter the Promised Land maybe we'll be able to live as we should've before."
He clenched his sword. "But now "
"No, Sephiroth, don't open that!" Aeris shouted.
" now, they will *SUFFER!!!!!*" He rocketed away from them, leaving behind a chorus of cries.
"No, Sephiroth, don't-!"
"My son, please-!"
"Whad'd'ya mean, you don't know!" exclaimed Barret. "You didn't know, just told us to wait, when Cloud got attacked while you placed him here, you didn't know, told us to wait when you couldn't retrieve Cloud, have hardly spoken to us! What the blazes kinda' idiot are you!!!!!?????"
Liukhan held up his hands. "Please," he said. "This time I mean it. I have n idea why this has happened, nor why the Zodiacs are reacting."
"Again!" shouted Cid. "I'll ask you one last time, old man, before I really do send this spear through your head! Are those freakin' Zodiac Materia really Materia, or something else, do they relate to the story you told us, why have you been evading us, and WHY THE DARN ARE YOU BEING SO BLASTED SECRETIVE!!??"
"Yeah, and what happened to Cloud the other two times," Barret added, shaking his fists. "Tell us!!"
"My guess is unfounded, I still cannot tell you anything until you tell me where you got the Holy Stones, and what you have to do with the Planet."
"You never stuck around long enough for us to tell you!" yelled Cid. "Sheesh!"
"You never bothered pursuing me," Liukhan responded. "Now, please explain, and I may be able to answer some of your questions."
Clutching his stomach, gasping for breath, a tired, ragged Palmer stumbled into the Kalm Town Bar, shoving through the crowd, and crashed on a bench.
"Do you mind!?" snapped the Barman. "Customers like you get thrown out into the streets a lot, you can join them in that experience if you'd l-!" He choked on his speech. "Public Maintenance Director Pamer!? I-I didn't notice that was you!"
"Well, ya' do now!" he growled, standing. "So serve me something good, or I'll shove this here-" he grabbed his gun out of its holster "-in your face! I've had a pretty hard two months, or whatever, I think its about that time, not much to eat, running from the Midgar Police, backtracking, evading, give somethin' good!"
"There's a warrant for your arrest," the Barman spoke. "And I won't be sad at the fact I'm the one who's gonna' be turning you in!" He slapped an Emergency Button behind the Bar
causing chaos to erupt.
Palmer's first shot sent out a streaking Bolt 2, causing those in the Tavern who hadn't already left to realize how mortal they were, and leave the area, one punching the Police-Call Switch on the wall, while the energy from the Mako Gun sent the Barman slamming back into the wall, the second shot sending the roof down on the man's head, leaving a gaping hole in the shops above.
He spun, blasting the fool who'd hit the Police-Call Switch, and ran, darting up the stairs as fast as possible., A group of Shinra Squads, already having sounded a general-alarm, pointed their guns at him.
"Freeze, and hands up!" one of them barked.
"Hey-hey, I was just joking, okay," he stammered, dropping his Mako Gun, letting it snag on his belt, and raising his hands. "No offense."
"Vicks, Sleck, go retrieve him!" another MP barked.
The two MPs who had been addressed saluted, and marched up the stairs. Palmer gulped, keeping his hands up
until one of them was in front of him. He lifted his gun and grabbed him, kicking his gun out of his hands, and blasted the other, who's badge read Sleck.
"Unless you want your buddy here to get shot " he spoke. "I suggest you remove yourselves." It wasn't a request, it was an order.
Vicks elbowed him, spun, and picked up his gun, blasting at him. Palmer used this distraction to race up onto the balcony and duck behind the buildings, as gunfire tore shrapnel away from the nearby-houses. He backed up against the door to the ClockTower, then spun and kicked his way in.
A small girl and a woman were seated at the table, having an afternoon snack, having been looking at the door. The lady backed away, clutching the girl to her. "Stay away!" she spoke. "I'm warning you, stay away!"
"Oh, yeah, sure." He walked up to the table, pausing to munch on a cookie, and turned to face the door as the MPs walked in.
Vicks was at the head, and clenched his fists. This would be a problem for sure, the two females were civilians, he doubted they knew how to defend themselves, and there was a toddler there.
"Come on " he spoke. "I'm sure we can work something out."
Palmer smirked. "Sure, you give me some food, let me back in Shinra, and I don't blast their heads off, or use them for 'entertainment.'" He chuckled, wondering how his opponents would respond to that.
"You you " the girl growled. "YOU LEAVE ELMYRA ALONE, YOU BIG BULLY!!!!!" She ran forward, and punched him in the stomach.
"You little brat!" he growled, pulling the trigger.
She dodged, kicking him in the stomach again, while a few other MPs cocked their guns, ready to shoot the overweight male.
"No!" snapped Vicks, reaching his hand in front of their guns. "You might hit the girl!" He turned to the infant, trying to figure out how he could get her away from the danger-zone.
"Comm'ere', you little-!" Palmer grabbed her, only to have his hand bitten. He howled and kicked her, causing her to fly across the room, head connecting with the wall with a sickening *cra-ack!* She slumped to the ground, unconscious.
He picked her up, holding his gun to her head. "Try and hit me now, Shinra." He turned his back to them, still holding the girl where she could be hurt, made a rather-rude gesture, then began backing up the stairs.
"MARLENE!!!!!" shouted Elmyra.
By now Palmer was at the top of the stairs, grinning like a maniac, and raced to the side of the ClockTower. "Up here, you morons!" he shouted, sticking out his tongue at them. He looked down at them
and down, and down
and stepped back, gulping.
"Ohboy," he spoke. Then he looked straight-ahead, and grinned, leaping to the other side of the roof. For a moment it looked like he was going to fall, but he managed to keep his footing, and moved down the fire-escape, before bolting north, out of Kalm, and towards the mountains
while Reeve, watching this through a viewscreen taped to the front of one of the MPs, frowned and reached for the PHS that accessed Cait Sith.
"They have Marlene," spoke the gold-and-red mesh of wires and connected robotic-parts that was Cait Sith Model 3, without its 'skin.'
"WHA-AT!!!!!" screamed Barret.
They'd just finished relating a brief summary of what had happened the Liukhan, only explaining thoroughly the parts he asked for more information on.
"Who has Marlene!?" asked Tifa.
"Palmer," answered Cait Sith. "'Shinra' finally tracked the overweight reject down, they sent a visual of the encounter to me in case I needed to know anything, or, at least, one of them did. He knocked out Marlene, maybe maybe even " he hesitated before saying the next words ,"took her life and used her as a hostage to escape to the north of Kalm."
"Why that-" Barret started creating different types of swear-words and stringing them together for what could've been almost a minute, after which he growled. "He's taking her to the hills, I bet."
He slammed his gun-arm into his left hand. "I'm gonna' gun that overweight freak of nature into the ground!!" He let out a burst of bullets into the wall, at which Liukhan raised his hand in protest.
Barret had already turned to face him. "Can you teleport me there?" he demanded.
"Well, yes, but " he threw up his hands in exasperation. "I'll have to make this exception for her sake."
"If I may ask, why is that?" It was Nanaki.
"I can't answer that right now." Liukhan waved his right hand, and a glowing portal opened. For once Barret didn't ask for another explanation, he just turned to the others. "Who's with me?"
"I " Tifa looked longingly at Cloud, then turned back to Barret and sighed. "Marlene knows me," she said. "I'll come."
"I suppose I should come too," Nanaki put in.
Barret nodded. "Awright then, let's move!" He stepped through the portal that had formed. Tifa shrugged, and followed him, Red XIII too.
As soon as the portal snapped shut, Yuffie's voice rang out.
"That went fast."
Out in the vacuum of space, the thing approached. They'd discarded their name for this thing, and picked up another, then discarded it. They'd kept it up, finally deciding they'd wait and see what this thing really was.
They'd examined its power, fed it knowledge, watched as its course slowed, sped up, slowed, sped up, as it gained in power and incredible knowledge. A product of both science and sorcery, even as Sephiroth had been, yet possessing powers beyond those of Creator, this...thing...it would be a welcome guest.
As for their WEAPON, they'd kept up the draining of energies from the very essence of the Planetary System, and were done with its outer-framework, which was bendable into eight different shapes, its 'crouch-shapes,' the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh they'd crafted into the thing, accessible only after the WEAPON had shifted into another shape, were like avenging scorpions, the real shapes, like a striding monster with twelve horns and features, plus colors, as outlined by the framework.
Currently, it resembled a twisted bein with bended legs, long, twisted arms, with interconnecting shoulders twisted around a hexagon that bended up, twisting back behind its neck. The bending legs extending behind the real legs, which were now twisted to intersect with the tail of the thing, one on each side, but not touching, and the sturdy shoulders and outer-framework were bronze-gold. Large tentacles whipped from its shoulders, its right-leg, the real one, now at a kneeling position, too, the length of the support-leg, which would attach to the back of the real one, the same being for the lef-leg, was orange-red, the left pure-white, the opposite with the arms, a mixture with the tentacles and framework of the body, the shoulders interconnected, the chest broad, a black-gold orb pulsating in the center of what would be home to many shields. Its tail, also white and orange-red, extended back between the four legs.
Behind the back of the main thing, a small section, twisted around the chest and attached to the feet, extended up, holding two other tentacles, multi-colored, holding the colors of the other parts of the WEAPON, except Bronze. The snake-like cord, multi-colored, too, attached to two peering, extra, eyes, and the face behind, which could see through the rest, twisted around and bended above the tail, above its intersection. As for cybernetic parts, turrets could open around the Orb, which had eight attachments in an octagonal pattern, in the arms, and in the legs, and rotate with them. That was how the legs connected, and they held rotating turrets, as well, while the tentacles could deliver electric shocks.
It would take probably 200-years to complete this thing, no turrets were in place, but the electricity had been supplied to the tentacles. The Infinity Weapon would be their last stand, something that they should've thought of before, each of its lasers could destroy Planets by piercing their cores, as fast as Supernovas, Lifestreams couldn't save them now, while the Orb, if charged up, could tear into stars, damaging their Mass, causing them, whether Blue Super-Supergiant, or Black Hole, to Supernova, collapse into a combination of a Neutron Star and Black Hole, then shatter into pieces. That was only a risk-situation, Stars had Lifestreams. The Orb was mainly-fit to pierce through Planets, not stopping there, but rip through those in alignment, or send out projectiles similar to large versions of their Meteor, which would destroy Planets upon contact. It would be able to command all Magics except the Ultimates, they might be able to fit in Meteor, the Planet's Holy, and the Ultimate Time Magic into the Orb. This Planet's 'victory,' ironically, was key to what they should've used before. Meteor and Jenova would be useless compared to this thing.
And that was what worried her.
"Its here!?" shouted Aisha.
"Open Craxyold!" responded Ceile, extending her senses to encompass that of the Orb they were in, that kept intruders out, allowed them to project themselves, although only one thing to do a bidding, nothing that could damage or destroy, let those in who they wanted to let in, while its fabric, the Whorlex, kept them in, and gave the sphere strength to form a 'pocket-dimension' in which they could exist. She latched onto the composition of the thing...
Aisha joined her will with the task, and slowly the Craxyold, and the Whorlex began to open, blue, red, orange, and purple energies flashing, along with a myriad of various colors.
The shuddering cry of the Planet rang through Elslumina Haven, through all Five Portions of the Lifestream, causing the place to shake, energies rippling through the walls, the floors, energies of of the screaming Planet. Energies that were joined by the rest of the Planets in the Planetary System, their Star.
Having emerged from the portal at the foot of Kalm Hills, Tifa grabbed her hands and fell, clutching it, moaning, while Nanaki howled. The light of their Sun blacked out, and they could see the Planets, illuminated by the lights, brighter than the Suns, that collided. The Planets could not be seen, but the huge, pulsing sphere that was the Whorlex was, while the rainbow of energies crackled back and forth, even as it opened. All those around the Planet who could see, all those who looked up, could feel the chill of the thing, not knowing that it would stay this chilly. The light of their Star was blocked off, eternal night now awaited them.
In Elslumina Haven, Liukhan swore and opened a viewing-portal, not even noticing the Celestial Globe behind him begin to spark, while Yuffie cltuched her head.
In the Lifestream, Aeris could see what was happening, could feel summons coming from that 'Goddess' that had spoken to her, and disappeared. Sephiroth, still rocketing through the 'Void' between the Spirit Plane and All Plane, could see this thing for a moment, and took a deep breath.
Pulsating in the emptiness of the Loophole, a sphere that flew around Eslumina Proper, and in the double-sphere of Sunken Murond, the outer preserving the destroyed Precincts, the city, the entrance, and the destroyed temple to the west of the entrance, the inner keeping the Sunken Airship locked within its own 'Void,' a dark being smiled. He was in place, now all the rest of the puppets were moving into place.
Far away, the being named the Dark Star could sense what was happening. There were only two times the Whorlex would be opened, and that was if something was being launched, or some sort of thing was entering. It would cast the Planetary System it was in into Eternal Night, but the Planets and Stars, over the millions of years, would freeze slowly, even if all life was cut off within the next century.
In the vastness of the Mu, the Mu, not its thousands of hosts, although they were included, from Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All, down to Reiztrez, roared in the vastness of the chaos. The Central Card had been played. They would be one side, the Dark Star the other, the final this 'thing,' perhaps the Whorlex, or maybe Aisha and Ceile, but probably Xagor. Ceile and Aisha were to be the supporters here, or maybe the 'thing,' or maybe the Whorlex.
The Lifestream of the Dark Star sighed. She'd wished he wasn't approaching, she wished the Whorlex had never crossed the path of Artesta. The Dark Star was as much a father to her as she was to Aisha and Ceile, but his attention would've been attracted. Why did the Universe's speed of Reproduction start to reach the Danger-Zone now? If it had happened 3,000-Years-Ago, Meteor wouldn't have been much to contend with, but now...
...she sighed again.
In the vastness of Pureland, Xagor thrashed. He could feel the calling, the chance for a final vengeance The body of his True Self was reconstructed by now. He grinned, growled, and injected himself into it. Whoever had done this would have his thanks, provided he would get to destroy, eventually.
It smiled. The Combined Sephiroth hovered above the Reverse Meteor, which pulsated in the center of the Pureland Universe. The Mu, Xagor, those with the Whorlex, and the Dark Star could be moved into place at anytime. He'd lost DEATHGYUNOS due to its absorbtion by a fool, but he had been the test. His two servants, Lucavi, and the other, would deliver unto him what they'd really wanted the 'Bloody Angel,' and the 'Void Angel' for. The conduit would begin, and it would finally be as it was meant to from the beginning. By its order it would exist, nothing else.
Nothing but what it wanted.
"Not while I draw breath!" Liukhan roared, extending his energies out as far as they could go. "Planet, Artesta, help me!!!!!"
Wisps of Lifestream-Energy emerged near his hands, while the others backed up, Yuffie clenching her teeth in pain.
"What the darned is goin' on, man!" Cid shouted over the cacophony.
"I dunno'," Cait Sith replied. "But I have a feeling we're gonna' get a real mob situation. The Supernova Sephiroth used was invisible to all within the atmosphere, besides us, except for the brief moment it struck, which was seen as lights flashing in front of probably all. I know, because I, Reeve, did. Meteor caused panics, but the Lifestream Discus saved us then, although there were mobs, in other places. I doubt that the people anywhere will respond anymore-differently than when Meteor appeared in the skies above us."
The whole room became flooded with bright light as Liukhan reached out to the LIfestream-Orb that had formed above the Underwater Crater, connected, and sent it hurling at unfathomable-speeds towards the Whorlex.
"Don't...let...it...open!" he grated, before collapsing, his staff clattering to the ground nearby.
"Liukhan!!" shrieked Yuffie.
The green energy raced through the Planetary System with the speed of the Sun Comet that had ignited Sephiroth's Summon, drawing closer to the Whorlex, which was by now pulsating, onfolding like some sort of globe being sliced in half with the speed of a snail and in several places, each in opposite directions, all vertical. Blasts lanced out, piercing asteroids, slamming into nothingness and detonating.
The orb approached, even as the ocean began to rumble, then crashed down into the gap of emptiness that had prevented it from falling, kicking up huge tidal waves that rushed towards the coasts like ripples caused by a stone being dropped in a small puddle somewhere.
A sharp blast came from the Celestial Globe as more energies discharged from it. Yuffie spun.
"Cloud!" she shouted.
"We have incoming!" called Ceile.
Aisha swore loudly. "Whatever is incoming will have something incoming at them, something very painful!" She diverted some of her concentration on the gateway, letting one of the blasts lance out at the orb that was approaching, doing nothing but bounce off of it.
"Big mistake," she growled. "Ensetya calumni orgen resto!!!!!"
"Sir, we've got reports of a small group of people trying to gun their way onto one of the Midgar Highways!" Reeve covered his eyes and slammed his elbow on the desk, letting out a sigh.
"Sir, there are reports of several threats raised in Sector 2 if passageway isn't-!"
"Sir, there's been an explosion at-!"
"Sir, we've got an angry group of people-!"
"Sir, there's been another explosion in the-!"
"QUIET!!!!!" Reeve's voice rang out over the group of startled messengers. "Follow Standard Procedures, but take down with minimum force!"
He sighed. How much longer before they could finish shutting down the Shinra Corporation and transfer it into a small group of interconnected businesses, one run by Shreelin, another by Ensalin, another by Brezni, and maybe another by Hart, placing Mayor Domino back where he belonged?
After witnessing the chaos Kerem had brought to the city, most of the general populace had started demanding for Shinra to fall, workers began strikes, and fights broke out. After disposing of the few who might cause trouble, who were now locked up, Ensalin and Domino had helped him set up here, since he'd worked for three Presidents. Domino could get the attention of the people if necessary.
He hadn't delivered any speech about AVALANCHE yet, he'd get to that soon. Right now, though, he was wishing he'd declined the offer for Neutral Commander. He switched back to his controls of Cait Sith 3, checked its Memory Banks, and was settling down to watch the happenings when another messenger broke in.
"Sir, the Mako Globe above the Underwater Crater has disappeared, rocketing up through the atmosphere, and the collapsing waters have kicked up large waves!"
"What the darned blazes is goin' on here!?" growled Barret.
"I...don't...know," grated Tifa.
Behind them, the flickering lights above the Planet cast large shadows in the Kalm Hills. They didn't know much of the terrain, they only knew the middle-area, where they had parked the Highwind twice before, and Barret was glancing around for traces of Palmer, guessing the portal had moved them close to where he was.
He hoped it had.
"Our 'guest' is entering outer layers of Whorlex!" called Ceile.
"The Energy Pulse is nearing!" retorted Aisha. "Do something, Ceile!!"
She muttered something under her breath and began unleashing huge burst of Magic, yellow streaks of electricity that whirled and slammed into the Orb, rainbows of power that split and exploded, many other Spells.
None had any effect.
The beast began to enter the Craxyold/Whorlex.
Aeris Gainsborough, also known as Esen-Brenia, observed.
While rocketing through the Stars, she could not only witness the conflict of wills going on between the huge black orb and Artesta, but the threads of various energies itself. Off in the distance, she could see reddish-orange strings that seemed to be tying the Zodiac Constellations together, small lines that rocketed down towards the Planet.
There they attached to similar stones, which in turn were connected to a small 'Pocket Dimension' floating around another, interconnected with portions of the Planet, all leading to Elslumina, the Celestial Grounds. Another 'Pocket Dimension' existed south of Gongaga, inside it yet another, the inner keeping a destroyed Airship inside, the latter keeping a destroyed city inside, also attached to the Stones and Constellations. Energies from the Makoro Reactors were seen as bright dots, while she could see the Five Forms of the Lifestream, and the Promised Land, along with a glowing golden altar, now underground, above Elslumina. There were dimmer ones on other Planets, too, what had been the Fourth, what had been the Ninth, what had been the Tenth, what had been the Eleventh. They were destroyed, but provided Links, Links to whatever Generator kept Elslumina separated from the rest of Artesta. When there had been seven, the Six had provided Equal Links, now the strongest with only one link, as it had been before, when there were Nine with an Altar. Wherever Elslumina was, if on a Link-Planet, one place then had been devoid of a Link. So that wasn't a problem.
Where the Asteroid Belt was, she could see two other 'Pocket Dimensions,' one hiding a Planet, the other, a 'Pocket Dimension' within that one, hiding another Planet, which had been part of the first, until they shifted to give more life to stop destruction. They were linked to where the Third Moon of Artesta had been, too. Their Second Moon was near the Ninth Planet, while some sort of Fortress was near where the Sixth Planet had been. The Moons glowed green, the Fortress, purple. Elslumina was a shining white-and-aqua, the orb, and the part within it, were just as black as their true sights. She watched as something approaching it entered, while an orb following after it collided into its energies and exploded. She found the pathway she needed to take billions of Light-Years away, and followed it.
'What is going on?'
Cloud groaned. That voice again. "Wh...where am I?" He tried to blink, but couldn't see a thing. "Ramza...?"
He could remember it all. How the Globe had been triggered by an Unknown Event as the Currents of the Lifestream tried to remove Lucavi's Curse, shifting him somewhere, a place that he thought he'd heard of before, but he couldn't really understand. At least, he didn't know that yet. He'd thought he'd felt Sephiroth, he couldn't think, he wandered.
And he found a Cetra. A few things had clicked in his mind, telling him he was in a different Time-Period. He remembered Aeris telling him during their trip through the rivers after the Wutai Incident, before they'd stopped to rest at an old cottage and had heard more of the Black Materia, that she'd been named after someone who was said to have lived during the time of a great crisis. Then, more memories.
He'd needed to fight, he couldn't really remember, yet he had accepted the help of that Ramza, he'd heard what the thieves had called him in Zarghidas, how they'd shifted his attention, laughing as they attempted to take the life of him and his friends, of how they'd get a big reward for bringing in the head of the 'Heretic.'
He'd found himself in tune with Limit Abilities in a way he hadn't before, had tried to help out Ramza, who seemed to be a wanderer. He'd found out that was a guise to evade Pagan Examiners, he occasionally moved from town to town, pretending to be an adventurer, either until he estimated he had an opening, found nothing else to do, at which case he opted for doing what was necessary, or sometimes just tried to continue on his quest. The Zodiac Brave Story had held his attention, he'd granted them passage to...Murond...by pretending to have captured them.
Cherry Blossom, the High-Point Limit. At the gates of the Chapel he'd executed it, while keeping up the facade of a mercenary, pretending to be on the side of that Church, perhaps keeping guards off, perhaps not. They'd taken them down, he could remember the Bright Sunlight as the electricity had been channeled through his Materia Blade, then changed shape into a huge, two-pointed, pyramidal-obelisk of ice, before crashing down on all those in the area, detonating in a burst of fire.
In the Main Hall, one where they probably held a Mass, where he'd encountered that Vormav character, and while he and his daughter engaged in battle, the others holding off the attacks of the Divine Knight Rofel, he'd faced Kletian. They'd all fled when Vormav had been defeated, they'd pursued him.
In the Chapel, where he'd met Zalbag, the Archaic Demons, and an Ultima Demon. How he'd dealt with them as he would a Dragon Zombie, he wouldn't forget the Ultima Demon exchanging words with him, wondering how Jenova could be gone and yet still alive, its attack, claws ripping through him, causing him to black out. The familiar touch of a Phoenix Down, then the crushing energies of a Dark Holy. The others had dealt with the two Archaic Demons, they were now battling the huge, green, Ultima Demon, as Ramza tried to reach Zalbag, who implored them to take his life. His thoughts had finally returned to normal, he'd tried to get through to Zalbag, but couldn't. He could still see the flashing lights of an Ulmaguest, as the rainbow-energies tore through the room like a galaxy gone wild, nearly taking the lives of Orlandu, Meliadoul, and Beowulf. How they'd finished off the Ultima Demon, cornered Zalbag, and continued trying to get through to him. He'd detonated a Cherry Blossom as the unwilling body attacked Ramza, Zalbag had fallen.
The Deep Dungeon, where he'd tried to serve as a guide to Ramza and his friends, used to labyrinths like this from his experiences. How he'd first felt the blast of a Midgar Swarm as the crazy, gigantic demon, his second taste of a Zodiac Beast, leapt around the bottom level of the labyrinth, a curving staircase, the passageway that led them down there from the cavern above had twisted around in its usual manner, but them had twisted again, having at first taken them down into the passageway leading to the chamber, the same, actually, instead of curving below directly to another chamber. Once where the passageway reversed its twist, it lead them to the bottom of its descent, had had curved around like normal then so they'd emerged in the vast chamber. The searing pain of Zodiac, raining down cosmic energies, was nothing compared to the exploding green snake. Such pain, greater than what he'd endured when facing a Supernova, he'd been unable to fight on.
The nine 'sections' above had been something he was used to, but not the bottom chamber. The huge ray of starlight had sent him to the ground, just so much pain. He didn't black out until the explosion of Elidibs made him even-more-dizzy, but he couldn't fight on.
And Orbonne Monastery. They'd fought their way through, he hadn't been much help when they dealt with Rofel, he'd tried to finish off Kletian, but had been unsuccessful, Ramza had taken him out, perhaps saved his life. As they'd headed southeast, and encountered Balk, he and Ramza had entered their first duo-attack, charging through the Dark Behemoth and Hydra while the Orlandu, Levian, and Meliadoul took the bridge, ending with a dramatic duel between him and the Engineer, who had been deprived of his Blast Gun.
And then the showdown on the Sunken Airship, his third encounter with a Zodiac Demon. Hashmalum, the Regulator, who had been Vormav's Transformation using the Leo Stone. The battle had been one with a ferocity that matched the one against Zalbag and his Ultima Demons, and the battle with Elidibs, as the beast had sent down Meteor after Meteor, held them in Stasis with its Spell, blasted them with Melts and Quakes, sent them staggering under the attack. Meliadoul, acknowledging that her father was gone and this beast prevented his spirit from returning to the Planet had mortally-wounded him, which resulted in the fool taking his own life to reincarnate something that Sephiroth, with the Black Materia and Jenova, would probably have a hard time standing up to.
He wouldn't forget that dramatic battle either, more-ferocious than when he and his friends had faced Sephiroth. He'd thrown an Elixir to Alma just before the chaos began. Four Ultima Demons attacked them, ripped apart by Orlandu and Ramza's combined efforts, not before they'd already been nailed by Hurricanes and Ulmaguests, pelting them back. They could've used Megalixirs then, but they'd managed to finish off the Ultima Demons and close their wounds, just as Altima launched into action. He teleported around the battlefield, delivering Anomalies and ultra-powerful Ultimas as fast as Alma could place them up. The scene became a healing-zone, he'd been the first to feel the bite of the thing's blades as they'd tore through his shoulders and into his upper chest, before the thing resumed warping. He was back in thanks to another Phoenix Down, they tried to lure the thing to one position, but it stayed ahead of them, until finally it could take no more of the attacks that it was nailed with occasionally.
He had transformed, becoming larger, more-aggravated, and resumed teleporting, bringing down those ultra-powerful Ultimas, sucking away the speed-boosts and protection Alma gave them, delivering Illnesses and anomalies, slashing at them, becoming a wild force of nature. Beowulf had caught him with a Drain, while Ramza's Ultimas also kept on targeting him. Then came the All-Ultima, the monst-destructive blast of power he'd yet been hit with in his life, if not for Alma's Barriers, he wouln't have been very-badly-burnt, he'd have been cinders. Ramza and Meliadoul came through, and the thing had exploded, igniting the ship. Alma had barely managed to get them on a sturdy piece of driftwood, almost losing her own life, and they survived.
And after their recovery, the travel to Zeltennia, and the resulting conflict. Around a year there, yet he only felt as if he aged two months, meaning he was now 22. Why had he ?
The detonation reverberated throughout the entirety of the Loophole.
"It...is...time!" came the voice of Ralyon. "Our master has given the order. You and Ensconce are to ensure nothing will interfere with the rebirth! I've already spoken to him, he is taking the Twelfth Colony System, then expanding to any others! As for you..." he paused, grinning. "Anxious to avenge yourself on those of Artesta for good!?" Lucavi nodded. "Begin!"
"Begin," Lucavi passed down the order. "You there!" he snapped to a Star Demon. "Set up a contact with Ensconce!" Then he turned to another. "Zack, get going, now! If the Stones are anywhere, bring them to Cosmo Canyon, do NOT try to take them for your own! then hunt down anyone the Planet can sense has special abilities, fights in a way that would interfere with us, you get the hint! Move it!"
Yuffie, Cid, and Cait Sith 3 backed up as sparks shot out of the Celestial Globe, and seven figures formed out of it in blasts of white energy.
"W-What?" That was Cloud.
The sound of warps and shimmering blasts caused all conscious heads to turn. At the other side of this section of the library, at the top of a group of Stair-Like Bookcases, stood five figures. One was almost a twin of Cloud, yet with dark hair, while the other four. An Iron Man, a Dragon Zombie, and two huge creatures with green skin, blue wings, and other dark figures.
The black-haired man waved his hand and a glowing stone appeared in it. "That's far enough! The Rebirth begins now! The pieces are now in place; Embodor, known first as Reiztrez, now Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All, the Dark Star, Xagor, and their Gateways: Lucavi, Esconce, and Ralyon, along with The
Replacement, and the Fallen of the Holy! All that remains is to relieve anyone who could threaten our cause of anything they could do to us! In other words, your lives!"
Cloud was gaping.
"Zack!!" he shouted out. "Zack, is that you!!!!!????"
The other crossed his arms and grinned. "I haven't seen you, nor heard you, for a long time." He paused and grinned maliciously. "Yes, its me. Sagittarius Zodiac Brave." He grinned again. "Remember what happened at Midgar!? I think I'll repay you for that!" He snapped his right hand down. "Ralgon, Clopsek, slay them all!!!!!"
The two green-skinned, blue-winged 'things' leapt forwards, sending out sprays of blasts which transformed into blue-white domes upon impact with the ground, exploding. Cloud shoved Cid out of the way, while Cait Sith and Yuffie leapt for cover, as did the new arrivals, still trying to take this in.
"Sir!" shouted the MP as he burst into Reeve's Office. "The Sagittarius Zodiac Materia has vanished!"
Reeve rolled his eyes before switching Cait Sith into 'Evasive' and turning.
"Zodiac Stone...here!?" gasped Ramza. "When he said they'd been recovered...I never thought that...that this group had tapped into its powers so quickly."
"You abandoned me, you self-absorbed freak!!" the armored man screamed. "Left me to perish, then stole Aeris and left her to perish too!!!!!" He motioned with his hand again, and electricity blasted into Cloud, grabbing him even as it tore into him, tearing apart his Thief's Hat and ripping through his Black Costume, while burning him. Then it deposited him in front of the 'person.'
"No I didn't, Zack!" That was Cloud. "I thought you perished, by circumstance I met up with Aeris, and I DID NOT abandon her! I don't know if you're being controlled by Lucavi, or even truly remember yourself! Are you gone yet, Zack?"
"Zack, what does the stone do if accessed correctly?"
"Commences Teleportation," he answered. "Lucavi is the name of the Holy One, the name of the one who guides the ones who saved me to where I was, to where all are in need. He wouldn't use me!!!!!"
Ramza tried to look for something, anything, that showed he wasn't human, but could sense nothing. All he could sense was that something was maintaining the Magic they used, nonexistent elsewhere, as well as his, but was struggling.
"I think he's telling the truth, Cloud!" Ramza shouted, before hurling himself behind another bookshelf to dodge another spray of Ultimas. "I don't sense the dark presence that was there when I faced Celia and Lede, the Ultima Demons, or when we faced the transformed Rofel, Kletian, and Balk!"
"Sky Demon Back!" came Malak's voice, before six resulting explosions forced one of the Ultima Demons into a corner. It leapt out, allowing the Ninja he'd briefly-glimpsed to throw a shuriken into its heart. The thing fell, and the shuriken returned to the Ninja Girl.
The Bookshelves exploded, Ramza flying backwards into the wall, destroyed by a Flare 2. Another was targeted where the others had moved to, blasting them back.
"Eat 'em!" spoke Zack. The dragon-scorpion and the huge, silver-bronze thing moved towards them, while the Ultima Demon turned towards the three unknowns. "Ulmaguest!"
While the rainbow-colored energies moved in, swirling and colliding like a tornado, only of plasma and Solar Flares, then tearing apart in another rippling blast of colors, which also served to send the guy with the javelin to the ground, groaning, Ruass was up, slowly clawing his way towards Zack.
"Demolish weapons with fury!" As Meliadoul finished the spell, a huge sword shot up around the gigantic thing, and through it, before fading. It still held its sword, though, demonstrating it was part of its structure.
"Grand Sword!" it mouthed, before swinging.
The huge energy-waves it created sent the Divine Knight spinning, smashing into the Celestial Globe behind them and shattering it. It advanced on the helpless girl, and raised its sword again. Large blasts of Lightning leapt from the hand of the Ninja, striking the monster. It turned, and crackled.
"Adrenaline!" it spoke.
A barrier ripped into existence around the behemoth. Ruass diverted his attention towards the thing. "Strength of your Magic, become a flashing strike! Difference!!" The energies that blasted into the behemoth sent it flying into the wall, crashing, sword-arm off. Ramza unleashed an Ultima on the dragon-scorpion, who had moved far enough away from Cloud so he wouldn't be caught in the detonation, while Alma cast a MegaBarrier on Meliadoul.
"Zack, Lucavi isn't a God!" Cloud began. "Neither is Xagor, or the Mu! They're evil spirits bent on destruction!"
"Mu is, because its his nature, and Xagor is a raving madbeing!" Zack retorted. "Those who follow Ralyon explain that they are used for a greater balance! Mu balances this Universe already, anyways! That's why we know they can be used for balance!" His eyes hardened again. "Even if you were ally I'd rip your throat out! You...traitor!!!!!" He blasted Cloud in the face with a streak of purple energies, sending him to the ground. "Why!?"
"Do you honestly think I wanted to hurt you, or her!?" he shouted. "I felt no pulse in Midgar! Do you know how much grief I felt, and how much when I lost Aeris!!??"
"Thanks to you!!" his adversary snapped back. "If you hadn't entangled her in this mess she'd still be alive! And if you'd moved faster when Sephiroth attacked-"
"If you saw, why didn't you do anything!" Cloud retorted. "I've gone through enough sadness! I've berated myself constantly for not moving faster, for not figuring out about the Jenova Cells first, thousands of things! Besides, she'd have left Midgar anyway! The Planet calls to the Cetra, if she hadn't been with us at the Temple of the Ancients, the Planet probably would've given her the knowledge she needed!" Then he paused. "And if you serve Lucavi, wouldn't you have to take her life anyways!? She's Cetra, Zack! Or did you not know that?"
"I don't serve any long-forgotten Gods!" he responded. "I have only-recently communicated with him personally, all he said was to seek out and destroy threats to the rebalance! How could someone who wishes something better want to destroy!? Why would the Priests of Kalm save me! They said it was in honor of him! For what he stood for, for how he's helped others! His Master doesn't want anything like destruction! They only want to begin again, recreate things from what they were before! People don't accept change, so we result to violence! Its the nature of people to hate change, they'd rebel against it even as you rebelled against Shinra!"
"Barret went against Shinra for the sake of the Planet!"
"His vengeance wasn't the sake of the Planet! Without Shinra introducing change, he wouldn't have started his crusade against them, found out what they were really doing! If they hadn't taken Aeris, you wouldn't have raided Shinra and found out about Sephiroth! Its the only way!"
"And yet you hate me. I still see no reason why!"
"Because you weren't good enough! You should've come up to Aeris with them all, but you thought she wanted privacy, you yourself wanted to bring herself out alone, to be the hero, to do it yourself! You let emotions cloud your judgment! A fitting name, ha! I don't hate you, I've just learned! I purged myself of all emotions, I simply do what is necessary for all! What would you do if your precious Tifa was captive, and in order to save the Planet you had to run her through!?"
Cloud took a step back, before shaking his head. "You knew what was going on, you saw, you could enter my mind, but you've purged yourself of all emotions! What would your parents think of you now! Or do you think they're wrong, too!?"
"Shut UP!!!!!" Zack was now screaming. "I've finally found peace in life, and what do you do!? Don't make me question it!!!!!" He roared and charged forwards, whipping out a slender blade, red-orange in color, similar to the Masamune, yet different by far.
"Chijiraden," he mouthed.
Ramza didn't have time to ponder the contents of the conversation. He'd figure out later. Right now he was in another fighting situation, and, as usual, was at the receiving end of it, only his opponent wasn't pressing his attack. The giant was up again, and was now chasing after the strange machine, which was performing evasive maneuvers. Ruass was locked in a struggle with the Ultima Demon, no one coming out ahead, leaving the rest of them, weakened by a blast of starry energies with a huge question mark in the middle, to fight against two large beasts they doubted they could take down easily.
The giant tore down another bookshelf, and threw it at him. He dodged, and more of the Upper-Library they were in, wherever, was torn apart. He leapt back again, dodging an explosion of white-and-gray energies, giving Malak the chance to bring his staff down on another of the dragon's 'claws.' He hissed and spun, letting the Ninja slash at him again. The thing retaliated with another blast of grey-and-white energies, causing her to duck behind a table, which was smashed.
A large burst of superheated-energies slammed into the dragon-thing, tearing it apart, and Ramza risked a glance over at the robot.
"Sorry about that, Yuffie," he spoke. "I had to convince one of the MPs that I knew of the location of 'Sagittarius' without actually giving it away, so Cait Sith was in Evasive Maneuvers."
Zack broke off his attack on Cloud and turned to the machine, blasting it with a Lightning 4, before turning and parrying one of Cloud's attacks, then whipping around and slashing him across the face with it. The machine launched forwards, obviously annoyed, and brought his hands down. Yellow rays tore out of them and followed them down, whirring towards Zack. He ducked, causing the Ultima Demon to get torn apart, the burst knocking Ruass backwards, stunned, as well.
"I call that my Cat Slash Limit Break," the thing announced proudly.
Ramza leapt to the side, aiming an Ultima at the giant. It clenched its fist and clawed at him, causing him to leap back and smack into a pole. The juggernaut moved forwards...
...an Ultima burst under it, causing it to fall.
Ramza looked up at his sister. "Told you I could help!" she spoke proudly.
Meliadoul was on the thing, and stabbed into its brain with her Save the Queen. It exploded, hurling her backwards, this time to collide into a strange cylinder with writings on it. It wasn't damaged, but she was stunned.
Ramza turned towards Zack, and prepared himself for entering the fray.
Cloud blocked another blow, and was slashed in the right leg with the Chijiraden. He attempted to execute an Omnislash, each blow was parried, another given to him in turn, before the attack concluded.
He gave up all pretense at his usual style of fighting and punched Zack in the nose. When he staggered backwards for a moment, Cloud slapped the hand that held the Chijiraden with the flat of his blade, then knocked him to the ground with a bodyblow.
"If you can see my thoughts, didn't you know that was coming?"
"I was shown portions that were necessary for me to see, not through your mind directly, sometimes through guesses. If not, I'd know why you know so much about Lucavi, which I don't know."
Cloud cracked a smile. "That's classified. Make your own guesses, as Eurodertlana told us."
Zack simply clenched his fists, and Cloud was blasted backwards by a
Melt. The Chijiraden came down towards his face...
...to be parried by Ramza's Ragnarok.
The Sagittarius Stone growled, a combination of surprise and anger.
"Who the blazes!?" Zack began.
"Our own world was threatened by the Zodiac Stones, your world doesn't need to suffer the same fate," Ramza said. "Trust me, destroy the stone."
"Okay," he said, before spinning and slashing Ramza's hand with the Chijiraden. He gasped and stumbled backwards. Cloud moved in, and Zack blasted him with another Melt, this one making him see stars. His body was used to things like this, he knew that, but he still couldn't take this much.
"I don't know where this is, who you really are, or what else is going on that surrounds the Stones, but I cannot have them entering this conflict!" Ramza had his Ragnarok sword back up, and swung at Sagittarius, embedded in Zack's breastplate. Zack growled and tried to stab forwards, then barely-managed to reverse his momentum and leapt aside as a huge sword ripped up through the air.
He started sending out wild Lifebreaks, backing up, looking around for survivors. When he saw none, he brought his hands together to teleport away, it was obvious that the odds were against him...
...when a pike-sized icicle ripped upwards, smashing his breastplate and sending the Zodiac Stone into the air, falling to the ground. Zack tried to draw air, found it wouldn't come, and fell forwards, a large wound open in his chest.
Cloud looked down at his friend, successfully holding back tears, but letting his grief be evident.
"Wh...why?" Zack gasped. "Why harm a friend for destroying one stone capable of teleportation?" He gasped, then began coughing. Alma was at his side, trying to close his wound. "Its not logical."
"I...I didn't mean to hurt you," the green-robed lady spoke.
The blonde-haired male to whom the stone had growled at, for no apparent reason, was also looking at him with sorrow. "Just like Rofel, Kletian, Balk, and Wiegraf, not to mention all the others who believed Glabados' lies." He sighed. "They move like a poison, even through another world."
The Javelin-Wielder was with them, too.
"Glabados..." Zack's eyes widened. "You don't even know where you really are, Beoulve! Or for that matter, when...you..." his eyes began to close.
Cloud slammed an Elixir on the wound, and growled.
"I thought I'd purged all my emotions, too, Zack," Cloud stated. "When you perished and I became a mercenary. "But I didn't."
Zack's face snapped taut. "I have nothing to lose by explaining this to you, I suppose its penance...you were...my..." He coughed again. "They support each...other...the stones...they must be destroyed at...once."
He gasped again. "If...there...was...one...way...to...continue...to live...I'd take...it. I...think...I can understand...now...Cloud. Yes...I..." His eyes shut all the way, and he sank to the ground, unmoving.
"No," Cloud spoke. "Please, just spare me this grief. Please..." He collapsed, shaking, not sure if he could hold back the tears any longer.
Ramza's sword was out in seconds. "Zack said...'If there was one way to continue to live I'd take it...'" He jumped back a step. "Get back!!!!!"
"What?" Cloud looked up.
Sagittarius flashed again.
"Oh, shoot!" He leapt away. "Everyone, get away!!!!!"
Sagittarius floated above Zack, and began to shimmer.
Then a huge circle of light formed around him, just as Ensalin had sensed when Kerem became Eurodertlana, and large wisps of energy began shooting into the ray, black-red, which was engulfing Zack, again and again.
Then Zack seemed to glow a blinding-white, to change, even as a dome of energy erupted from him. And when it exploded...
...a sleek black-and-red creature stood there, two large horse-hoofs, attached to large, bulky legs, keeping balance on the ground, grinning, with a mane, horse-like, as well, of red hair cascading down his back, clad only in a loincloth. The black-red body was filled with muscles, seen nearly-everywhere, two claws, other horse-hoofs above and below, were all hanging from the broad shoulders of the beast. A horse-tail extended from 'Zack's' posterior, while portions of his body were like a WEAPON's, they could unfold. The thing was four times their size, and resembled both Eurodertlana, Velius, and, in a strange way, Sephiroth.
Ramza darted forwards, seeking to impale the beast, and was swatted backwards.
"Keep your distance, boy!" the thing grinned. "You now face Sliyonog, reborn once again!" He lifted his head and roared, a cross between a whinney and a bellow. "I am not like Adramelk and Eurodertlana, I do not plunge into a dangerous situation! Like Hashmalum and Velius, I know when to fight!"
He looked over his shoulder at Liukhan. "Protectors of power, break through the opposition! Ultimate End!!!!!" Ruass, quiet before, sprang forwards and grabbed Liukhan just as Zack/Sliyonog clapped his hands together and disappeared in a flash of white energies...
..."Well, darn!" was all Cid could think of to say.
"He can't be much farther!" groaned Barret. "My feet are starting to hurt!"
They were now at the top of the cliff, and were facing a plateau, which faced south. Tifa was looking northeast, Red XIII back the way they'd come, but there was still no sign of him. Either he'd eluded them, was past them, or had doubled back.
The PHS beeped.
Barret picked it up.
"Have you found Palmer yet?" It was Reeve.
"No," growled Barret. "And I don't think that we will for a while, what with all those eerie flashes and wierd shadows!"
"I'm getting back to Cait Sith shortly," Reeve answered. "We just finished off a bunch off smarties who decided to make Elslumina their den, or something like that, I didn't really catch what they were doing there. Palmer's probably shadowing you."
The PHS clicked, and was silent.
Barret placed it back on his belt and spun, looking for something that would give away they were being shadowed, anything...
He swore and started firing into the bushes, then spun at hearing a startled cry. sure enough, Palmer had dashed from the bushes, and was making a run.
Tifa snatched Marlene out of his hands and tripped him, then felt for a pulse. "She's alive."
Barret let loose a sigh of relief, and turned to Palmer, who was up and holding his Mako Gun, pointing it at the group. "Unless you can draw on me fast, I wouldn't do anything funny."
Barret growled, and began reading off what was probably an invisible repertoire of insults for the overweight, incompetent man.
"Hey-hey," he said when the AVALANCHE Leader was finished. "No offense. I was just trying to keep alive." He backed up, fooling around with something in his pocket, eyes darting to the side at various intervals.
"Uh, I believe he was said to have been holding one of those Zodiac Stones," spoke Red XIII. "Unless we want trouble, I suggest that we..."
"Darn right I am!" Palmer held it up. "Do something, you blasted Materia!!!!!" he growled, still keeping his gun pointed at the trio.
In response, a pillar of light flashed down to his side, producing a huge, dark-green thing with blue wings, a skull-white face, and a dark demeanor. Palmer gave a squeal of fear and backed up, right into another of the same, still managing to keep his gun aimed at his adversaries. He screamed as two more pillars behind him produced two more of the same, only grey-white with black wings. He gave Barret a pleading glance, who had stopped swearing way back when the Ex-Shinra had interrupted him. "Help me," he whispered.
Instead, the four things formed defensive positions.
Palmer smiled. "I...I control you things?"
"What are you?"
His mind was filled with the knowledge as the four growled. Palmer smiled maliciously. "Then take their lives!" he screamed. "Oh, and after that, since they threatened me, eat their hearts!" As an afterthought, he added ,"But don't make it so I loose my food while you're doing it!"
The two Ultima Demons and two Archaic Demons simply moved forwards, while Palmer ducked behind a rock.
Barret's gun was cocked and spraying out bullets within seconds, blasting into the four things, while Tifa's Sense Mateira crackled to life. "The two in the back are Archaic Demons, the two in the front are Ultima Demons!"
Red XIII leapt forwards, growling as he unleashed a Lightning 3.
"Aurora, exhale bloody air!" chanted one of the Archaic Demons. "Dark Holy!"
Nanaki found himself engulfed in a moaning blackness which suddenly erupted in a column of dark light and a series of incredible explosions. Another leapt forwards, brushing aside Tifa's kick as if it were nothing, and slashed at Barret, leaving a nasty gash in his chest.
He growled and activated a Satellite Beam. The demons were quick to react, tucking and rolling, sending out a stream of energies which would blast from them and explode, the Archaic Demons in a blue-white blast, the Ultima Demons in a starry blast. Red XIII managed to leap aside from one, only to be gunned in the chest by Palmer.
He let out a howl and collapsed on his side.
"Beat it, Shinra!" growled Barret, blasting at him. An Archaic Demon leapt forwards and slashed at him again. Tifa flipped forwards and punched it in the face, ducking under a blast of energy beams, and sweep-kicked the thing. It fell, flipped, and chanted something under its breath before screaming ,"Lifebreak!!!!!"
Once again energy beams came at her. She ducked and executed a Beat Rush, elbowing the thing to the ground. It lashed out at her, and she began to back up, turning and blasting Palmer with a Comet when he tried to open fire. He began rolling aay from the meteorites, and ended up with a singed coat, but was stunned, for the moment, at least.
A large tornado ripped into existence around her and spun, flinging out razor-sharp blades of air. She activated a Shield before rolling away, then was blasted in the face by a blue-white done of energy. The Archaic Demon after her lunged, and she ducked and tripped it. The thing toppled, and she snapped its wings as it fell off the edge of the cliff, screaming.
She screamed when rainbow-energies crashed around her, spinning like stars and rainbows, tearing through her skin, trying to crush it and pull it apart, and fell to the grass, clutching her chest.
"Brush off vanity and show reality! Ultima!!!!!"
She found herself flying backwards, crashing at the edge of the cliffside, thrown there by another blue-white dome. Nanaki was up again, but busy dodging, trying to focus Cosmo Memories, while Barret was letting out a steady stream of bullets. One of the Ultima Demons targeted him with another starry-blast; Barret reacted by ducking to the side and letting loose with a Quake 3, before blasting the thing in the head.
More rainbow stars burst into existence, this time tearing through Barret. Nanaki was lunging forwards and snapping at the Archaic Demon, who was backing up, letting loose with more Dark Holys, and running back, not having connected yet. Barret, free for the moment, gunned the thing down, one hand clutching his chest; in turn blasted by Palmer, and fell.
Tifa cast a Cure 3 before being smashed in the face by the fist of the remaining Ultima Demon. Up close, she could finally measure its size. Two times her size, muscular, and leering, she doubted even Hojo could've produced anything this bad. She punched at the thing, which teleported away, and collapsed to her knees, nailed by icicles shooting from Palmer's Mako Gun. The Ultima Demon slashed at her again, and she barely managed to block, before punching again.
"There!" shouted Vicks.
They'd pursued the Ex-Shinra up into the hills, through the winding pathway to the group of ledges, plateaus, and foliage that made up these hills, and southwest towards the cliff at the south end of this section of the Kalm Mountains. AVALANCHE and a creature that had been seen with them at various times were nearby, the girl was unconscious, near the edge of this plateau, there were two large, lifeless bodies, monsters, obviously, and one remained, fighting with the girl. A sheer precipice, the southern edge of all of Kalm Mountains, highest at near where the foothills began, was behind AVALANCHE, bushes and small cliffs jutted up to the side. They were behind the monster, and could see Palmer aiming for a shot at the big man.
"Freeze!" Vicks shouted, turning and pointing his gun at the man.
The monster leapt into the air and unleashed two large rainbow-colored blasts at them, taking out at least half their group. Vicks let loose a shot, destroying Palmer's Mako Gun, at the same time he was hit with a blast from it. He swore and picked himself up, shooting the green beast in the right wing. It crashed and spun, blasting the big man, Barret, he believed his name was, who was about to shoot him, and tripped another Attack Squad Member with his tail.
"Oh, go jump off a cliff!" Vicks shouted.
The monster turned to him in amusement, before raising his hand to strike. The red-orange thing darted in, biting it in the chest, and he unleashed a hailstorm of bullets, while Barret unleashed a strange ray that resulted in beams hitting the thing from behind. As it burst apart, one of the MPs, ho had been after Palmer, fired his own Mako Gun, trapping the criminal in a pyramid.
Palmer slammed his fists against the side, then swore.
Barret was at Marlene's side in an instant, cradling his adopted daughter.
Tifa, still clutching her ribs, was administering cures, as usual, while the Shinra moved towards Palmer.
Barret looked up at an MP with the name-tag 'Vicks' on it. "Yeah?"
"We'll now be removing Palmer and taking him into custody," he stated.
"The heck if I care!" Barret snapped. "Just don't hurt us!" He lowered his head. "I didn't think I'd actually be glad to see Shinra," he muttered, before frowning. "Last thing I need is ta' owe some o' them thanks!!"
The other MPs were keeping away from AVALANCHE, talking nervously, still others were delivering retorts to Palmer, who was delivering one insult after another to them, still trying to get out of the Pyramid.
Vicks broke the silence again. "If that's all..."
"It is!" answered Barret. "And thanks for the help," he said curtly, before sitting down against a tree, not wanting to say anything else to this Attack Squad Member.
He saluted and turned away.
Palmer beat against the cage again. The Attack Squad had finished setting up the supports to move him away, and were keeping away from AVALANCHE, who was right now clustered around Barret.
He clenched his fists yet again, and felt the Cancer Zodiac Materia in his pocket once again. "You there!!" he barked.
"You can speak!!??" Palmer had now caused several of the Shinra to turn towards him. One of them glared and pointed a rifle at him.
"Quiet down!" he/she snapped.
(Yes, I can. Use your mind, you incompetent little man!)
Palmer muttered several words about the probable ancestors of whatever was inside the stone before doing so.
'Get me out of here, you stupid rock!!' he ordered.
(That isn't as easy as it may seem. You'll lose the Stone if I activate my powers, they'll take it from you, AVALANCHE is good at fighting, and we're outnumbered.)
'Then summon more of those things!!!!!'
The Stone let out a low growl, only heard by Palmer.
(Would you like to listen, and gain access to my powers so when they try to remove me you'll be able to harm them, or would you like to perish? I can always find someone else!)
'What in the heck is that supposed to mean, rock!?'
(If there is a body that can help us, we use it. With the exception of Adramelk, who insisted upon finding one just right, so it could activate if its 'host' was about to perish. That way it would be free forever. It alone was willing to take the risk, the rest, we remained silent. It wouldn't have done any good to have thousands of troops on us, or that freak-lady!)
(You want the knowledge, merge with me when I say so! Queklain, Velius, Zalera, Adramelk, and Hashmalum are gone! That would've been the end to us, for the rest of us ended up in a tight manner, only those four, excluding Hashmalum, didn't! Altima was needed to open the gate! It took someone willing to let Hashmalum out! That has changed, thanks to Ensalin! Sagittarius helped us, now we, too, can roam in the way they did! Loophole is a domain too-complex for you to understand, so I won't bother explaining further!)
'Then merge,' Palmer said. 'Gimme' a hand! Hey-hey, you helped me, I'll help you! And we can help each other!'
(You're too inept for that.) It was a simple, dry statement.
'If you'd help me with my flaws, maybe I wouldn't be. Come on!'
(The Master will be pleased if I can help with flaws. Follow my lead and I'll get you out of here. Proposal accepted.)
"What is going on up there!?" Tifa finally got out.
Barret looked up. They were heading eastward to a larger-plateau, to meet up with a group of SOLDIERS, in case Palmer was able to pull anything with that Zodiac Stone. It was supposedly right at the centerpoint of the mountains.
"How the heck am I s'pposed t' know!!??"
Tifa grimaced. "Its just..." her head snapped up. "Ohmygosh! Its...its...-!"
"Well, Palmer, we've arrived at our destination!" said Vicks, interrupting them. Shinra Motorcycles had certainly helped them, and Barret felt it was his duty to make sure the freak stayed imprisoned. He'd grudgingly handed Marlene over to Vicks, who had looked at her strangely, but only for a second. Barret hadn't noticed that, and Tifa had been about to mention it when the flashes of light had become even-faster and more-ferocious, as if in a battle.
"Any last words before you're taken away?"
Palmer looked up at Vicks. "Sure. Why do you think someone like me is asking you this insane question at this time?"
Vicks looked at him, questioning.
"1. Because I've given up on life and freedom.
"2. Because I know I'm going to rip your head into pieces.
"3. Because I'm a fool trying to buy time for a miracle."
Two voices came out at the same time.
Vicks' "I dunno'. 3, I guess." and Barret's. "He's trying to pull something! Shoot the stone NOW!!!!!"
"WRONG!!!!!" Palmer shouted back, standing triumphantly. "ALL WRONG!!!!! NOW, CANCER STON-!!!!!"
A blast of gunfire ripped through the pyramid, followed by another one that blasted Palmer in the head. Several more tore through his Lungs, his Heart, any vital organ, as he gagged and fell to the ground, blood spraying.
"Grab the stone!!" Red XIII barked.
Vicks raced forwards, and was slammed backwards by a white-purple glow, falling to the ground, unconscious, as the red stone rose into the air.
"Too...Late," another menacing, dark voice, similar and different from that of Eurodertlana's, whispered. "I am Schrisorz, Tainted Emperor! Your bane!!!!!"
A white-purple glowing circle enshrouded Palmer, pulsating with unholy energies. Cries and screams of pain resounded as wisps shot into the lifeless man and the stone, arcing into a dome before exploding outwards.
When it cleared, the newest in the chain of ten-times-human-size, ugly, grotesque monsters Tifa had encountered stood before them. It was whitish-purple, with a leering, growling face with a red-hot fire burning behind. Its arms, slim at where they extended from the shoulders, like those of Lifeform-Hojo-NA, came down, brancing into huge, crablike claws, easily the size of humans, with other tentacles dangling from their backs, and four claws above each. The feet were insectlike, and a crab-like body extended backwards from the insect-like legs, forming tails that went up and curled around the large stomach, with a crab's face leering out. The head, a combination of a goat's and Bizarro-Sephiroth's, was supported above this thing.
"You'll make a nice meal, you stupid humans!"
It lunged forwards. "Time has come, crash down on the wicked, Meteor!!!!!" A huge rock appeared above them and slammed downwards, glowing with fire, ripping apart the rest of the Shinra and the Attack Squad Members there.
Its arm extended, snapping at Nanaki, who quickly jumped away. Tifa flipped into the air and chopped at it, the monster only laughed and flung out whirling spheres, followed by horizontal columns of light it wielded like bars.
"Time has come, crash down on the wicked! Meteor!"
Tifa looked up and gasped as another of the huge things descended towards her. Barret and Nanaki flipped out, but she was caught under, unable to move, petrified with fear, as a small replica of her worst nightmare came true.
...descending upon the helpless Planet...it will give me the chance to become God!!!!!...
She did, narrowly-escaping the enormous thing, which had to be twice the size of their opponent, and just managing to duck under the claws of Schrisorz, and retaliate with an Ultima. Almost-instantly, her Materia flickered out, and she was backhanded with one of the huge things, pinned to the ground.
"Holy Dragon, bring down justice from above us! Tera Flare!!!!!"
(Grab his claw, Lockheart!)
As the others shimmered away, she did so, and ended up in some strange, featureless plain, extending for as far as she could see.
She ducked under a white streak of Magic and leapt up, only to be blasted by a Comet 2. She managed to crouch and roll away from the other Comets, and soon appeared back with her friends, Nanaki, who was down, Barret, who was grunting.
"You're the last of the Shinra, punk!!!!!" He growled. He turned to Tifa. "Like it should be, just us AVALACHE!!!!! We took an oath to bring you down, and so we will!!!!! Prepare for the smothering green of the Lifestream!!!!!"
'So this is how it ends,' he thought. 'I survive losing my right arm, the collapse of the Sector 7 Plate, countless other disasters, not least WEAPONS, Jenova, Sephiroth, Meteor, those three freaks, Exor Ra, and Eurodertlana, and perish fighting another gigantic monster!'
He blocked a swipe with his Maximum Ray, and was in turn slashed again. The blasted thing hadn't hesitated in launching itself into a group of fast slashes, Tifa was on the defensive already, and he, he was worse.
'So foolish...' he blocked another attack '...to think that...' he blocked another and was stabbed in the chest '...this would work. I don't have anyone to help now!' He blocked again and was slashed in the face with a dangling claw, reached for his Item Sack, which burst into flame and detonated, not the slow, painful flame Xagor had delivered to them.
A large, sweeping-blast came from the Crab-Like Mouth, and punched into his left rib, breaking it. He groaned and fell, aware that Tifa had lost her Item Sack too.
"Yes, of course, Barret, I know your thoughts! Pitiful miner, you'll see your daughter, Dyne, and Myrna very shortly!"
'Marlene! Where th' darn-!'
"She is the passage! Sometimes even Lucavi is a fool, but he's BloodMaster!"
He tried to dodge another beam and ended up getting a twisted ankle, as a flailing tentacle from behind the thing's arm shot out and yanked him upwards, constricting his lungs. He wouldn't even go out with a bang, like Vincent...'
"Don't you things have any care!?" he growled.
"We would if you'd just let us set things back to the way they were! Naive, arrogant, freak!! All of you can go!!" He twirled his claw and swung Barret into the cliffside. He groaned, the area spinning as he was twirled around, before being released and landing on a rock. His last thought before blacking out was ,"Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, I'll see you shortly..."
Tifa ducked and was slashed at again, before getting rammed in the face. She launched into a quick Beat Rush, only to get grabbed by a hanging cord from behind an arm. She chopped free and fell to the ground below. Her legs were used to this, Zangan had trained her.
"How much longer will you be a survivor!?"
The two clas swung and lashed outwards. She darted between, and jumped up, grabbing a now-useless All Materia and throwing it. It sailed horizontally, yet upwards, and slammed into the beast's face. It didn't even blink an eye, and grinned. "Lede was right about your resemblance to Maitreya!"
Schrisorz growled, a guttural sound, and pointed at the Whorlex. Why, he didn't know. He'd merged with the human, had tried to help it overcome its flaws so it could fight in human-form, then found something very strange. No one had ever done this before, he was feeling some kind of sympathy.
"Up there, in the Whorlex! They created Jenova, they created Meteor first, sent down Jenova to retrieve it, and started this blasted cycle!!!!! They travel from world to world, destroying it, while we, we fix chaos, our Loophole orbits those who we've entrapped, anything considered Gods, while trapping us. Lucavi merged with us, in a way, to try to get us out, and thus confined himself to what is known as the Hades Loophole! He used the Wizard Ajora for our freedom...but...look, I can't tell you their mission, or ours! I really can't permit you to live now, but something..."
She wasn't fighting now. "So you do understand!?" She looked at Barret, unconscious, probably thinking his wounds were mortal, when they were only superficial, he was more of a survivor than herself or Cloud.
"Arrgh!! We were supposed to perfect, stop the suffering, start a rebirth, our Master wants that! Seek the Shards of the Crystals for the rest of the answers, you'll hear nothing else from me!! I won't become a traitor to my family!!!!!"
She sighed. Their perception of human emotion was somewhere, but it had to be on terms, momentarily, with her thoughts, because of something else. Not that it mattered, they'd have gone to Elslumina one way or the other, she was certain where the crystals were now.
"I won't harm you," she stated. "Go!"
He growled and attacked. She blinked back a tear that had suddenly come to her eye, and countered, before blocking again. She hoped that this spirit would be welcome in the Lifestream, unlike others not of this world, and could almost hear Aeris' voice telling her so, telling her Exor Ra was there too.
She kicked at the monster's Crab-Hand and executed a Somersault Limit. Cloud had once, and only once, shoved his Omnislash to an extreme-length and jumped farther than a mile, the concentrated-energies of that ultra-powerful Limit gave him that strength, just for now. But she could execute something near it, actually managing to reach this thing's shoulders, and chopped downwards as hard as she could, remembering a four-stack Concrete before she'd won her first tournament, then concentrating whatever energies she had in Final Heaven into that chop.
Schrisorz roared as his arm was severed, crashing to the ground, setting off a few quakes in the cliffsides around the area. She fell again, and for once, was purely in fighting. She'd worked, honed her skills, changing from a normal girl to a fighter, in style, in ability. She hardly-ever wore anything but her simple Karate-Vest above her waist, she was ready for things like this. Years of training...
...it didn't really matter, as her leg was snatched by another claw, and she found herself dangling before the huge chest-face. "I won't make it painful," was all he said, beginning the phrase that would cast another Meteor Spell.
She ripped off the useless glove on her right hand, shoved another All Materia in it, hoping that it would lessen the impact, and threw it with all her might.
It entered the burning mouth of the thing, as always, open, never moving to speak, the upper mouth moved to breathe, but didn't speak.
"I'm sorry," she said, before the thing exploded in a dome of bright light, hit in the center of that inferno. She managed to plant her feet on the ground as she watched a tiny stone fall to the ground, run forwards, and cup it, needing to ensure nothing else came out, before falling to her knees.
Above, in the skies, Ceile slammed the Whorlex shut just before the Lifestream Orb crashed into where the opening had been, erupting into nothingness, while the lights played across the Planets in the Planetary System, like a snake hissing at its pray shortly before it would strike.
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