Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter Two
Ancient Forest, Super Sweeper
By Paul Nathans
It wasn't very hard to navigate down the mess of pipes, buildings, and vehicles that had once been the Sector 7 Plate Support, and was now even more damaged as a result of the Meteor's recent unleashing of tornadoes, lightning, and firestorms.
"Who the darn made this thing into a pile of scrap heap!" snapped Cid, jumping from one area of the pipes and landing on another.
"Give the Shinra that compliment," retorted Barret, making the jump, and landing next to them. "At least, if any of those freakin' life-takers are still alive!"
Cid spun. "You're talking to a former one! Let's get to the darn rocket, pal!"
Barret took a deep breath, concealing the retort he'd wanted to dish out. "It should be in the Sector 5 Slum Church, but your dumb Ex-Shinra Crewmen ended up with a malfunction in the rope! Now hurry up!"
He took another jump, and nearly got his head taken off by a car that had just snapped free of a group of supports, and ended up crashing nearby.
"Watch your step, and your tongue!" laughed Cid, jumping down after him.
That was when the trains began to fall. Barret grabbed Cid and hurled both of them down under a selection of pipes as it was followed by another hailstorm of motorcycles, cars, and destroyed houses.
When it was over, Barret took a deep breath.
"I don't think that was done by any wreckage-support snapping!"
"Probably a bunch a Shinra mechanism's who need a bunch of reprogramming!"
Barret's retort had more force than he'd intended it to have. "I don't think any Shinra Machines have ever been in this area since the collapse! More likely it was a loose support from above, and if I'm right about that " he grabbed Cid, who had started to crawl out of the hiding area. " get back in here NOW!!!!!"
Sure enough, a section of Midgar's highways proceeded to follow the collapsing debris, smashing into the pipes they were hidden under and jolting them loose, while reducing the column's direction to vertical. Barret leapt out and shoved his gun-arm into a group of pipes across from the area, still holding onto Cid.
It was only after the collapse of the area had finished he realized moving up might be a problem.
"Great! Just darnin' GREAT!" he spat.
A faint breeze, coming from the opposite direction they were from, began to stir.
"Now what?" asked Cid. "I hope that doesn't mean something else is falling."
"I dunno, but I hope not!"
Both of them noticed the breeze seemed to be picking up in intensity. He began to hear more rumblings, drawing closer and closer. "If that's what I think it is "
He attempted to swing his feet up and implant them in a firm section of the wall, flattening himself against it, while Cid seemed prepared to do so, but that wasn't necessary. The wind increased to such a high force that it blew them forwards since they weren't standing on anything, and since Barret's gun-arm was in a chink in the wall, he was flattened where he planned to be. As for Cid, his body was pushed the other way, outwards, and he had to wrap his legs around Barret's to stay put, while a group of very heavy junk was blown past them. When it all appeared to be in a pile, it was sucked backwards, and Barret and Cid felt themselves being drawn that way too.
"This hold ain't gonna' break!" he grated, tightening both holds.
Cid did so too, as the junk whizzed past them again, both of them turned their heads to see it enter something that was totally unexpected!
The junk-heap was entering what looked like the vacuuming section of an enormous Shinra Sweeper. Shortly, the wind shut down, and both pilot and AVALANCHE Member felt gravity tugging on them once more. The Sweeper began to trod upwards, pipes cracking under its weight.
"Shinra Super Sweeper," muttered Barret. "I thought the plan for building it had been trashed."
"Apparently not," stated Cid.
"I guess this means we've had a change of plans." He chuckled, and Cid's eyes widened. "Yup! We're climbing up 'till we can get back to the main climbing path, when we can, we jump on one of its legs and see where the blazes its goin!"
Cid sighed. "I'd been hoping for a 'bit more excitement, but I wished it'd wait 'till after we'd salvaged the rocket!" He sighed again. "Oh, well. Let's go!"
He found a handhold, and the Former-Miner and Former-Airship Captain began the long climb back up.
'Yes, yes, now I see.'
'I knew you would, dear sister. Continue to watch, please.'
'Watch what? You've shown me how the Planet gave birth to the Atma Weapon during the War of the Magi, and Phunbaba and Doom Gaze during the Second War of the Magi, although at those times it was too severely damaged by the goings on to make sure the WEAPONS would be protectors.'
'At the time of the Second War of the Magi, Phunbaba and Doom Gaze weren't even given the honorary title of WEAPON, and both became warped beyond repair. We'll never be able to compare our abilities with those the planet brings forth to protect it in its great needs. We'll mess up, any we manufacture will turn on us.'
'You aren't grasping the obvious. Remember the Supernova Comet, followed by the Grand Supernova itself that shattered Plutonestra, Saturneyi, Jupitersen, then Mercuryske, and finally Venusendra, before Sephiroth channeled it into his destructive power. That was right before it would've destroyed the planet, when he channeled it into his energies.'
'If he had used that in the first place, he could've succeeded and we could've shifted our attention to another planet.'
'Negative. It had to be done just right so the shockwave would only come with the channeled energy, the star's explosion would be faster, plus it would rip apart the Lifestream before it had a chance to heal itself, and our Sun would be gone. Used the way he did, the channeled energies gave a backwards effect and restored our star.'
'Then can't we just cast the spell and have done with this world?'
'And ourselves as well? No. Besides, the Black Materia was destroyed when Spehiroth exploded at the planet's core, and its ashes melted when Holy activated. Our method of using the technology of the Planet-Mergers to destroy this planet failed. Using the Planet's way of protecting as our way of destroying will.'
'We can't create WEAPONS from scratch. We have no way of doing so even if we knew they wouldn't turn on us. We have no place to begin.'
'I'm getting to that. The Supernova came close enough to the Planet to give it reason to fear for its safety, even with Holy. What do you think that message gave to the Planet, my sibling.'
'They're being created even now. When they're done, we wait for the newly created ones to rise, the Supernova threat should've been so great they should rise at the slightest problem, which can easily be arranged, and since we'll watch how they're formed, the message is just contacting with the Path of Sprits, and how they awaken, even if all of them go down, we'll be able to keep the blueprints and manufacture more as we please.'
'We don't have enough strength for many.'
'That's why the second step will be completely ours, so there can be no possible margin for error.'
"This thing is very fast for such dangerous navigation, Barret!" panted Cid. "We've been following it for nearly a day, and we still can't reach that blasted thing!"
"Its slowed by its constant pausing to clean up more damage. It'll be dangerous walking getting out of this huge Sector 7 Plate Ruin, then, we leap!"
Cid muttered something very nasty under his breath, but proceeded to follow the Avalanche leader, stuffing the last part of the food they'd been eating into his mouth. Barret ignored him and strode forward.
They had to been moving through the destroyed Plate Support so long without incident, now being very far from the only known exit, onto the highway near the Shinra Corporate Tower, that it was totally unexpected when the machine stepped onto a girder section too weak to support it. It snapped, and the machine crashed downwards, bringing the whole section, including Cid and Barret, down with it.
"WHOOOAAAAHHHH!!!!!" cried the immediately frightened Ex-Miner as they plummeted down to what looked like the center of the destroyed area, nothing to grab on in sight. "We're in a lot of trouble now!!"
"Shut up, ya' wimp!" retorted Cid, yanking something on his backpack and doing the same to Barret's. Strands shot out of them, and it wasn't long before he realized what they were.
"All right, Cid!" he cheered.
Their descent continued, then the parachutes snapped open, and it ended. The Super Sweeper landed right below and near where they were going to land, facing the direction they were headed.
"Oh no," moaned Barret.
Cid caught on and withdrew his Venus Gospel.
They landed right in front of the thing as it began to regain its mechanic senses, and its sensors went on full alert. It strode forward
And Cid stabbed forward, his Venus Gospel connecting with the thing's foot as Barret leapt out of the way of a near-perfectly timed laser blast. Grenades were launched from the thing's face, impacting into him and sending him sprawling backwards. It opened its blowing cannon, seeking to use forces of nature to shove the threats away.
"Oh, shoot!" snapped Cid, planting his feet down firmly, as did Barret. He was met with the full impact, and didn't notice the bullets headed towards him until they'd knocked him back several steps, their force lifting him off the ground and opening a gash in his chest. The spear was thrust into the ground, a handhold until he could position himself again. The air suddenly headed inwards, and feet stayed on the ground. Barret was blasting bullets out of the sky, and finally got an impact, searing through his armor, as the suction ended.
"All right, you, its time for the SCRAP HEAP!!!!!" He leapt up, his anger concentration allowing him to blast a huge yellowish beam of energy from his Missing Score. It impacted into the Sweeper and began to tear into it. Sparks flew, machine parts fell off, as the energy beam swept over it. When it dissipated, and Barret landed, the thing was still standing.
Cid unleashed his own anger by signaling the Airship's own auto-attack systems, surprised when it didn't respond, which meant someone must have it on Complete Manual Pilot or a very high speed. The Super Sweeper seemed to give an amused look before it let loose with another barrage of missiles, sending him tumbling, bleeding, with almost totally-demolished armor.
"Fat Chocobo!" He shouted, raising his Venus Gospel. The Choco/Mog Summon Materia glowed bright red, and the duo shimmered out of existence, replaced by a baby, and very overweight, Chocobo, which fell on the Super Sweeper, crushing its roof-like head in before disappearing.
"That should've at least embarrassed the thing!" Cid crowed as he and Barret shimmered back into existence.
In response, a group of Graviballs were blasted at him, and he felt himself weakened to the point where he was barely able to stand. Rotating turrets let loose with large, destructive lasers that ripped through the ground, and nearly through Barret, if he hadn't had experience with massive burns before. Even so, he could hardly stand, if those burns had been calculated for precise elimination, he'd be ashes.
"Tera Flare!" he roared, raising his Missing Score. In response, they both shimmered out of existence again, while
Up in the starry skies, a huge, black beast, only Semi-Sentient, heard an unspoken, yet known, command. It swooped around until it was positioned directly above Midgar. Wings spread, making a grating noise. The beast's mouth opened, and it let loose with a huge blast of energy that sailed towards the planet, the Ozone Layer deflecting the radiation that came with it.
It could be seen descending from the skies, then it was there. The enormous column of energy impacted into the Super Sweeper, exploding in a large, marble-like orange cloud that nearly made a crater in the ground and pushed the dust from the explosion outwards as it expanded, then shimmered out of existence. The huge dragon also shimmered out of existence
leaving Barret and Cid to watch and practically all of the outer coating of the Super Sweeper fell off.
The machine strode forward, stumbling, and kicked at Barret, opening fire at Cid and felling him with a single missile blow. He was on his hands and knees now, and movement was close to impossible. It strode forward again, explosives launched from pipes sticking out from behind its roof. Barret blasted them apart, activating a MBarrier in the process, protecting himself from the incoming laser blast, and affecting Cid as well, being channeled through an All Materia.
"Now you're mine, punk!" snapped Cid, unleashing the furry of a Lightning 3. The machine crackled with electrical energy and nearly collapsed; the rest of its metal coating fell off. It lunged forward again, about to open fire with its burning lasers, when the electrical overload caused the cannons to explode.
"Ha!" laughed Cid, throwing, slamming an X-Potion at his head, and hurling one at Barret. As he felt his strength being replenished, he followed up with chucking an 8Inch Cannon at the huge machine. The explosion was satisfactory, as it not only caused part of the WarMech's sides to fall off, but it destroyed another group of recently-fired missiles.
The next group impacted with Barret, leaving him free to hurl himself at the thing, using his Venus Gospel as a polevault to take him up to the frontal cannon, the one that fired the Grenades, Graviballs, and was now blasting normal lasers, ripping it apart, before landing. He was kicked at, and flew backwards, rolling awkwardly before he came to a stop, noticing another chunk of his Imperial Guard had been ripped off.
Barret unleashed a second Catastrophe beam, tearing off more and more of the machine's parts as it moved across the thing's path, before it dissipated. When he landed, it looked hardly recognizable as a Shinra Device, and parts of its front fell off. That was strange. It almost looked as if someone was piloting the thing.
He chucked a Graviball in that direction, and his suspicions were proved when both small figures ducked, leaving the thing to eat away at the device. It staggered, and it was quite obvious the thing was on its last legs. A breeze began, and was immediately silenced when the Suction Turret exploded as a Flare Spell impacted into the machine, the concentrated energies tearing into its circuitry.
"And this is hooked up to a Quad Magic!" laughed Barret as the heatwave centered itself again, and again, and again, each followed by another explosion. After the last one the thing began to crackle with energy again. The two figures leapt out a side hatch on the vehicle's left side, hitting the ground running, as the thing's crackling became more furious.
It shook, again and again, then was ripped apart from the inside by a series of expected, and anticipated, explosions, that left mechanical pieces strewn all around the area in which they had fought the thing.
Barret didn't let exhaustion from the previous battle get him down. He hardly ever let that happen.
"After those two people!" he shouted, swinging his gun-arm in their direction.
"Roger!" shouted Cid, already beginning to pursue them. Barret was by his side, if not farther ahead, but the other two had a head start, and Cid was able to make out the fact that one seemed to be keying something in on a Cell-Phone.
Although they really were battle-weary, a long time of experience doing this kept them from tiring just yet, and both ignored the rumbling, hovering sound that seemed like it came from the north, and was descending towards them.
They did stop, however, when they found themselves surrounded by twelve GrossPanzers, all battle-ready. And from the looks of it, one false move could mean instant elimination for them.
"Oh, drat!" Cid swore.
"You can do more than just swear, you can shut up and stick your hands up!"
Barret and Cid did as they were told, and only then recognized the female voice that had given them orders. Barret opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, two familiar figures stepped into view.
"Gwa ha ha, Gwa ha ha!" The overweight, Director of Shinra Maintenance, Heidegger, stood next to Scarlet, the Director of Board Operations. "Surprised!? You honestly didn't think we wouldn't evacuate the Proud Clod while it was overloading, and before it erupted!"
"I'm in charge of Shinra, now!" snapped Scarlet. "I'm the new President of Shinra, Incorporated, and with no one else belonging to this corporation but Heidegger, Palmer, and the traitor, Reeve, who's whereabouts are unknown, well, its not too large, but just as powerful!"
"And you plan to do something to us, you idiotic, blasted, FREAKS!!!!!" shouted Barret, aiming his Missing Score.
Immediately Heidegger had his Mako Gun out, and had fired two Golden Pyramids at them, special energies that solidified around their targets, effectively trapping them. "I doubt if you'll be the first to break those pyramids from the inside! We've canceled Reeve's speech, although the traitor fled, but the crowd is beginning to doubt us! So we're going to show your videotaped attack on the Shinra Super Sweeper, something Reeve had supposedly activated to clear this city of debris, and since you so conveniently attacked it, we video-taped it! You'll get executed in a week, and Shinra can go back to how it was before, but my way!"
"Shut up, Scarlet!" retorted Barret.
Heidegger snapped two Stun Shots off at them, and both blacked out. When they were on the pyramid's floor he began to roar with laughter again, and as their consciousness fled, they could still hear it for a few seconds.
"Gwa ha ha, Gwa ha ha!"
Then, there was only blackness.
He sat on the grassy arch-like hill in the Ancient Forest, the River/Mountain Chocobo Wenli grazing patiently outside. The explosion of the Ultimate Weapon, which had nearly enveloped the airship, and had been large enough to reach the land and cut a crater into it, so bright they had experienced a brief period of blackout, too, had caused the creatures in the Ancient Forest to panic and attack things without being warned. Now, all of the forest's residents, except for the Snapping Flowers, which were obviously vicious by nature, had settled down.
His legs dangled down over the side of the hill, and he let the breeze ruffle his hair. There was nothing for him, here, but he figured the Chocobo he had taken needed a rest, and he needed someplace that was probably peaceful to consider what he would do not. He was still upset about the fact that he had probably hurt Tifa emotionally, but it was for the greater good.
He didn't hear the quiet footsteps as they approached, or hear someone sitting down. When a hand fell lightly on his left shoulder, he looked up.
"Tifa!" he gasped.
"I followed you here," she said. "I'm not letting you be alone while you're going through this, Cloud."
He hopped up, and backed up. "And I can't let you be in danger, either. I don't know where I could end up."
She got up and reached for his hand, but he withdrew it. "I'm sorry, Tifa, but I can't let you come. I was helping you by leaving you then, because I thought you couldn't follow."
"Cloud," she said, smiling ,"I know your heart was in the right place, but I know what you're going through. You can't be alone right now, you're the one who's in the most danger, maybe from yourself."
This took him back. "Tifa, I can't " he began to repeat.
That's when the earthquake struck, sending them both crashing to the ground, hearing familiar screams of anguish, vibrating through the ground, through the air. Cloud caught a glimpse of the Airship outside the forest, nearly teetering on its side. The trees began to collapse, and he threw himself under the hill, pulling Tifa with him. The cries grew louder, so much that Tifa had to cover her ears, while Cloud forced himself to endure the beating, not knowing what was coming.
Then, just as suddenly, it stopped, part of the trees from the upper levels of the forest having crashed down on the airship, tearing into the rocket, and effectively grounding the thing.
Tifa slowly uncovered her ears. "What was that?" she asked in a quiet tone.
"The cries of the planet " he said. "But why, how?"
Before they could answer the forest ground, in particular, began to shake again. Vines coiled up from the snapping flowers, each rising from the ground. Other ones from in the forest seemed to be gathering together. Then they leapt up, each one on a separate stalk, a large, blue Molboro-Head on the highest one, and advanced
"Watch it, we don't know what this thing is!" warned Cloud, jumping out of the way as one of the four Snapping-Flower Arms were waved at him.
In response, Tifa's Sense Materia glowed brightly, five times.
"SleepingMolboro, Arm Stalk Annihilator, Arm Stalk Tearer, Arm Stalk Crusher, Arm Stalk Destroyer. Unknown Weaknesses."
One of the Arm Stalks, the one that was the Annihilator, caught her in the midsection and sent her flying backwards, landing in a crumpled heap. Equipped with a Counter Attack Materia, it immediately gave her the response needed to punch the thing, followed by an uppercut, before collapsing on her hands and knees.
Another stalk, the Tearer, seemed to focus on her, while the Crusher and Destroyer focused on him. They began swinging, each unleashing blasts of a particular element, the Annihilator, Quake 3, the Tearer, Ice 3, the Crusher, Bolt 3, and the Destroyer, Fire 3, while the SleepingMalboro bent down and bit them both.
Tifa began to focus, and Cloud grinned as he realized the thing must've pushed her to her Limit. She followed with a Beat Rush to the head, sending the thing staggering. Two of the stalks moved towards him, and she Somersaulted into the middle of them, nailing both, and causing them to reel backwards as well. She hopped backwards, performing a Waterkick to the two stalks that were attacking her, then grabbing them and throwing herself backwards, dropping them with a Meteodrive. She charged up to the SleepingMalboro, and used the energy concentrated into a Meteor Strike to deliver an incredible uppercut that lifted the thing up before it smashed onto the ground again, finally focusing her right fist into a Final Heaven punch that caused the whole flower to sprawl. Just as fast, it had picked itself up and was swinging at them again, as Tifa cast a Cure 3.
Cloud paused a moment to let the healing energies wash over him, then let loose with an Ultima hooked up to a Quad Magic. Both blasts of greenish energies sailed up to the thing, then unleashed in a fury of type-less destruction, tearing into the flowers, leaving them lifeless.
"Regen!" shouted Tifa, and both felt their strengths slowly begin to build up again, their wounds begin to close.
The thing releaseed a Magical Breath followed by Trine as Cloud attempted to cast a Big Guard. Instead, spots appeared before his eyes, and he found himself barely able to stand, what was more, annoyed. He let loose with an Omnislash, and a torrent of blows fell upon the stalks, shearing them loose, before landing a finishing blow on the SleepingMoloboro.
The SleepingMolboro fully awoke.
As its cut-off armstalks began to puff out, making weird noises, each which culminated in four more Snapping Flowers bursting free, then the thing let loose with a Pandora's Box.
"Eyaaaaaggggghhhhh!!!!!!" screamed Tifa as they both found themselves facing incredible amounts of galaxies and stars all around them, basically, just stars. A huge, metal, question mark appeared, rolled around, before letting loose with incredibly dense energies. Cloud's legs gave way, and his instincts automatically caused him to counter with a Phoenix hooked up to a Final Attack
a tear-drop fell onto the ground, a tear-drop of flames, which spread outwards. The flames continued to spread, each taking shape, until a firey bird emerged from them. It made a cry of idignation, opened its beak, and let loose with a blast of flames, and the nearly-lifeless Cloud and Tifa felt full strength returning. All but the Destroyer wavered under its blow, the Destroyer simply perked up
and both of them were standing again.
The SleepingMolboro settled back, confident it could go back to being half-asleep once more.
"Concentrate your attacks on the SleepingMolboro!" shouted Cloud.
Tifa didn't oblige immediately, first casting another Regen on them in case they had to deal with more injuries. Then she leapt into a straight-on attack at the thing. It shrieked, as did the armstalks, and they opened, converging on her, one of them chomping onto her and lifting her up.
"Tifa!" he screamed, realizing by the time he could destroy the stalk she'd be beyond the help of even a Life 2 or a Phoenix. Red appeared before his eyes, and he held up his sword.
"Ultimate End!" He screamed, and his Knights of Round Materia glowed brightly in response
this time no one shimmered out of existence to make room for the blast, as the targeted beast was simply taken into some sort of magical lair pulsing in incredible energies, and usually appeared out of it in pieces. The exceptions had been when he had faced the Gold Saucer Model Proud Clod, and during the battles with the Emerald Weapon and the Ruby Weapon. He hurled himself forward and grabbed onto the stalk holding Tifa, pulling it against the tug of the spell.
It snapped off and opened, and a barely-alive Tifa was released.
He grabbed her and tried to support her, letting loose with a Angel Whisper. Energies appeared around her, and he watched, to his relief, as the wounds closed. He helped her up, and turned to face the area where the SleepingMolboro and its armstalks should appear, in pieces, now.
Instead, long before they should have, there was a white explosion, and the thing appeared, twelve huge knights and a enormous commander held in its grasp. It continued to hold, and hold, until the thing choked them all, causing each to explode, along with the Knights of the Round Materia, which sent him flying backwards, and impacting on the ground, semi-conscious. Tifa was in the same state.
The explosions of the twelve knights and the commander sent the SleepingMolboro and its stalks into spasms, all of which slowly began to fall apart, followed by the thing, which disappeared in a deafening series of thunderclaps, followed by a slow, ominous rumbling. Then, it faded out of existence with one last thunderclap of energy.
And he lay there, too weak to even move for the time being.
Tifa made one brief attempt to cast a Cure 3 spell before she, too, fell into a semi-conscious state, too weak to move.
"Stay here, Chocos," ordered Vincent, disembarking from the Sea Chocobo. What was Lucrecia going to do now when she found out the truth, if she already hadn't. He braced himself for a verbal beating, then strode forward to enter the cave.
He could hear sobbing from the moment he entered.
His pace immediately quickened, and he raced into the large, cavern-like room to Lucrecia sitting in front of her organ-like table, sobbing on the desk. He took a few steps forward, before speaking.
"Lucrecia?" he asked quietly, tentatively.
The figure whirled around and rose, anger blazing in her eyes.
"You!" she screamed. "You lied to me!" Vincent had expected this, but nevertheless, winced. "You told me that Sephiroth had perished, when he really was still alive! You lied to me!"
"Lucrecia," he began calmly, "The Sephiroth, the real Sephiroth, the one who was your son, perished that day he found out what he thought was his past in Nibleheim." He paused to let this sink in, then continued. "The Sephiroth that replaced him was different, beyond reasoning."
"I could've tried to reason with him! I could've given him the proof about his past, I would've saved his life, saved his soul!" She was nearly frantic now. He grabbed her wrists and held them, trying to steady her.
"I didn't want you to suffer from the truth," he said. "You'd been through too much already. That's why I said he perished."
She began to relax, and moved out of his grip, taking several deep breaths, but the tears didn't stop coming. "It doesn't really matter. I'll be joining him in the Lifestream soon, for good!"
"WHAT!?" he gasped, totally taken aback by this.
"The Jenova Reunion Theory, Vincent," she stated, stopping the flow of tears momentarily. "Don't you remember?"
He gasped. "Oh, no."
"Right," she said. "There are still Jenova Cells inside me, inside all the members of SOLDIER in Shinra that are still alive. Jenova has perished, but unless something is done, she'll be reborn again. When Sephiroth was pumped full of Jenova Cells, I ended up with the second-highest amount. She'll be gathering around me shortly, and seconds later I'll no longer be able to control my actions. In that brief period I'm going to take the Jenova Cells from everyone injected with them, then completely obliterate myself, destroying her completely."
"NO!" he gasped.
"Its the only way, Vincent. You should not have come here, and you might not have ended up having to endure this! If you don't wish to see me perish, leave now." Her tears were beginning to slow.
Vincent opened his mouth to reply, but before he could a bright flash lit up the cavern from ceiling to floor.
"No!" she gasped. "Its beginning, and I've delayed myself too long! Stay away from me, if you care for the planet at all!"
A lighter, spiritual form of her body seemed to be struggling with her real body, gripping it, being shoved out, then in. The real Lucrecia cupped her hands, and a ball of white light formed, energies gathering into it. Lightning crackled throughout the area, and Vincent attempted to move forward, only to be blasted backwards.
"DO NOT INTERVENE!!!!!"
"I can't let you do this, Lucrecia."
In response, she simply blasted him with a bluish-pyramid, which solidified into energy once around him, preventing him from moving.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But its the only way."
The energies began to build in intensity
and within the Ancient Forest, Cloud was jolted painfully awake, feeling himself beginning to lose control of his body again as his Jenova-Spirit fought for Predominance.
"No!" he gasped. "Not again, not AGAIN!"
This jerked Tifa awake. "What?" she gasped, sitting up.
The pain increased to an intensity he'd never before experienced, and he began to scream in anguish. "Cloud!" Tifa shouted, concerned now.
He didn't answer, just continued to scream, now on his two feet, and clutch his head. She got on her feet and reached for him, almost nailed by his elbow.
"CLOUD!!!!!" she shrieked, tears beginning to stream down her face.
In response, the screaming stopped, as his Jenova-Spirit burst out of his body. Because of what had happened in the Lifestream when he had found his True Self, his body began to be dragged along with it.
"NO!" shouted Tifa, jumping upwards, grabbing his body, and placing her feet underneath the upper section of the arch-hill. Immense energies began to transfer themselves between Cloud and an unknown place, and she screamed continuously, feeling as though her arms were being torn from her sockets.
"I won't let go!" she gasped. "I won't let go!"
She continued to scream in pain
while in Midgar, hundreds of Jenova Spirits simply passed through and out of the bodies of the SOLDIERS without them even noticing
and Lucrecia began to scream.
"Whoever is preventing the contact, whatever is causing part of Jenova to remain alive, stop! Do you have any care for the fate of the planet!"
Tifa heard the voice, and gritted her teeth to withhold a gasp.
"Lucrecia?" she managed.
"I don't know what you're doing, but unless you want no, too late! Er-AUUGGGGHHHHH!!!!!"
The spirit seemed to rip free from Cloud, and she could see through the energies his body would be torn apart if she didn't release him. Instead, she removed her legs, allowing herself to be taken along for the ride.
"I'm not letting you end up somewhere you may perish in," she whispered, gripping onto Cloud as tightly as she could.
As for Lucrecia, the Jenova Spirit gained predominance. The energies crackled in the area, and she and Vincent were drawn out of the room as her spirit began to take the shape of Jenova, flickering, merging with the Jenova Cells of all those who had become one with the planet, with the Jenova Cells of all those she had tried to withdraw the burden from, also shattering the pyramid Vincent was in.
They automatically ended up hovering in the air above the North Crater, the place where the Planet's Energies were strongest, another eruption of Holy surrounding them, but only hurting Jenova. Cloud and Tifa flew into the place, disrupting its effect, and the real Lucrecia was ripped apart, the true form of Jenova filling her place. Cloud began to scream again, as he felt his own body begin to separate
"Cloud!" Tifa cried. "What's happening to you!"
He couldn't answer, just continued to scream. Finally, his eyes widened in realization, and he handed a Phoenix Down to Tifa before proceeding to slash at himself, negating the effects of the Final Attack Materia and collapsing.
"NO!!!!!" Tifa shrieked, not understanding, and dropping the Phoenix Down into Holy, where it dissipated, failing to notice the Jenova Spirit in Cloud flew free and into the body of the monster, making it whole. Cloud's body flew into the place as well.
"Lucrecia " began Vincent.
"FOOLS!" boomed the voice of the Calamity from the Skies. "Because of the disruption, not only am I whole once more, but Holy's Power's, Sephiroth's Powers, the Cell's Powers, Lucrecia's Powers, the Planet's Powers the Black Materia was merged with Sephiroth I control it all! The objective of over 2,000 years ago has been achieved! Destruction will I am whole once more!"
"Lucrecia, I'm sorry," said Vincent, closing his eyes, then throwing himself forward, nailing Jenova in the torso with his Lost Penalty. SYNTHESIS-B responded him by swatting him backwards across the makeshift landscape.
Tifa shook her head, not really knowing what was happening, but knowing something had to be done now. She charged forward, uppercutted the monster in the head, then punched her in the torso. SYNTHESIS-C swatted her backwards, and an Ultima blast was released, searing through them both, causing her to fall to her knees.
"That's ALL you can do!?" was the questioning response.
"Something isn't right here," stated Vincent, throwing himself out of the way of a hand slap, and activating the transformation process that would change him into the Chaos Beast. He was grabbed, his neck snapped, and thrown to the ground.
"Life 2!" shouted Tifa, and while the energies began to revive him, jumped forward, kicking SYNTHESIS-C in the palm as it slapped at her, rolling out of the way of SYNTHESIS-B, which had compacted into a fist.
"Comet 2!" screamed the thing.
Tifa ducked for cover, throwing herself out of the way of the oncoming comets in a series of quick tumbles and jumps. The revived Vincent fired at SYNTHESIS-C again and again, leaping out of the way of a Ruby Beam followed by an Emerald Shoot
right into the path of a Shadow Flare. It fixated on him before exploding, once again sending him into a near-lifeless state.
"Life 2!" shouted Tifa again, rolling to the side as the thing activated a Big Swipe, then brought SYNTHESIS-B down where she had been. This was followed by blasts coming from both hands, then Materia-Shattering Blasts, both of which she barely managed to keep away from.
"Why is she suddenly acting like the Ruby Weapon and the Emerald Weapon?" she asked herself quietly, before realizing she was about to be impacted with the twin force of an Emerald Blast and a Ruby Flame, causing her to collapse, clutching her chest. She attempted to call up a Cure 3, and the two SYNTHESIS Hands swiped at her with a Materia Break, then lashed down at her, weakening her to the point where she could barely move.
Vincent fired at the hands again, and they were brought down on him once, then again in a manner similar to a Revenge Stamp. This time he managed to remain standing, and thrust his gun down on SYNTHESIS-C while Tifa cast a Full Cure on herself, then allowed a momentary relaxation as the healing light spread through her.
"Aire Tam Storm!"
Jenova's shriek brought her head snapping up, and she watched as she extended her head over the group. Energies begin to electrify under her, and Tifa threw herself out of the way as Vincent did, dodging the energies that smashed into the ground, which immediately erupted in an ultra-powerful blast of blue energy.
"Whirlsand!" was the next shriek.
She felt her feet caught in the ground, which had suddenly begun to whirl, drawing her closer and closer to a pulsating vortex of energies, just as she had seen the Ruby Weapon do to Barret, only he hadn't been able to grab onto anything, his Gun-Arm catching in the sands too, the only one he had been able to reach firm grounds with. She managed to grab onto the ground with her Premium Heart, and yanked herself out of the whirl, wondering why it had used the Emerald Weapon's, followed by the Ruby Weapon's, trademark attempt to dispatch opponents.
Vincent's eyes immediately widened. "Holy doesn't work on its own, so it didn't rise! You may be Jenova, but you don't have the powers of the Planet, so you shouldn't be able to use Weapon Abilities! What are you!"
Tifa whirled, casting a Full Cure on Vincent, and jumped forward, preparing for a defensive stance. Instead, the thing screamed in anguish, and she made an experimental kick at the creature's torso. She felt the connection, but looked at her hand and realized it had gone right through the beast.
"Its a Physical-Illusion! Its powers can only harm you if its cloak isn't shattered!" As soon as he said this, he fired a few experimental shots at the rapidly-dissipating SYNTHESIS-B and SYNTHESIS-C. The Jenova-SYNTHESIS began to fade from existence as well
and they found themselves in Lucrecia's Cave, a nearly-lifeless Cloud in spasms near a Lucrecia that seemed to be battling against intense waves of magical energy. Vincent was still in the Energy Pyramid, something Tifa immediately tried to break, and found that it was like hitting a brick.
Then she noticed Cloud.
"No!" she gasped, racing over to him and trying to pull him away from the strange battle going on.
"You'll break the connection!" shouted Lucrecia. "He may survive, but if you don't let him stay here, he won't survive for sure!"
"How can I believe that!" Tifa cried, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"You really have no choice!" was the response. She found herself trapped inside another Energy Pyramid, and frantically began beating on it, getting nothing accomplished but bruising her fists. Her cries became more frantic, until finally she sank to the floor, sobbing, unable to tear her sight away from what was happening near Lucrecia and Cloud.
"I am not Lucreci-ERGH!!!!!"
"You won't destroy anymore lives, monster! Over 2,000 years of suffering will end now, dark goddess!"
"I am neither," came the utterly calm voice from her spirit. Both spirit and body seemed to be lashing back and forth within an enclosed space, each becoming wounded when the other was hurt, Cloud sharing their wounds. With the one he had given himself, she was almost certain he wouldn't survive.
"Life 2!" she screamed. The spell did not penetrate the barrier, and she could see both Master Magic Materia and Revive Materia dimming. Though they had divided their inventory up equally before parting, Ethers and Turbo Ethers had gone mostly to Barret and Cid, since Midgar could still have dangers in it. She didn't have any of those items in her inventory, the same for Elixirs and Megalixirs.
The energies began to grow more fierce in intensity, and the whole cavern began to shake. Lucrecia, the real Lucrecia, made a gesture, and both pyramids, still occupied, were thrown out of the cave, despite Vincent's cries and Tifa's screams. She tried to move them further away, but the Jenova-Lucrecia cut her off.
"It can't be ended!?" roared the Jenova. "Our task our meaning we've never lost before we never will!!!!!"
"Save it for all those Cetra that you've destroyed, and the people and other Cetra your actions have had a fatal effect on over the last 2,000-Or-So Years!" Lucrecia snapped back. Explosions began to center around them, and parts of the cavern began to collapse. The Jenova, however, seemed to be gaining predominance, this time, for real, though.
"You took my son from me, your poisoning of the Lifestream has taken too many lives!" Lucrecia was nearly screaming now. "Its ending now, for you, whatever you are, whatever thing you might be!"
He own spirit's will began to lash back, and now it was the Jenova who seemed to be panicking as more and more of the cavern fell apart. A distant whirring could be heard coming from the direction of the Ancient Forest, growing steadily louder.
"You can't destroy me! I AM you!" The Jenova's cries were more pleading now.
"I knew all along I'd go down with you, but you're not taking anymore lives!" Spirit and body merged for one, brief instant, and she brought together an untargeted blast of pure Lifestream Energy in that instant
as the Airship, which had taken off when she had been yanked from the Ancient Forest, apparently having not sustained damage after all, extended a ladder, one which wrapped around the pyramids, breaking them in the split second it weakened them, and drawing them up to safety
"NO! CLOUD!!!!!" Tifa shrieked.
"Lucrecia!" cried Vincent, as they were yanked onto the deck, and one of the crew began to hastily explain what Tifa had guessed as the airship sped away, although she didn't even hear him
and the cavern erupted with one thunderclap of energy, small, compared to what the Planet had dealt with earlier in its history, but seeming like the end of the whole universe to Tifa.
She blacked out.
Reeve was pacing worriedly around a small, underground shelter below the back room of the Sector 5 Slum Church, special technological devices set up nearby. It was too risky for him to abort Cait Sith's current programming and bring him into a state of absolute control again, he'd never actually had to switch on and off, anyway, but the simplicity of the task of observing Wutai had matched the robot's sensors well enough he hadn't thought he needed to keep a personal control over the thing.
And now, because of the risk of being tracked down, he couldn't contact him at all. "I was a fool to ever agree to join the Shinra," he muttered, shaking his head. "If I could just get control over one Shinra WarMech "
He stopped, smiled, and snapped his fingers.
"Of course! This'll make it easy to find out what Heidegger and Scarlet are up to, and how best to counter them!" He raced over to another section of machinery and began to search through it, totally unaware of the far more dangerous happenings.
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