Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter Four
The End Of The Beginning
By Paul Nathans
"Why didn't I go see Marlene in Kalm again?" muttered Barret, pacing around his pyramid-cell once more, waiting for the Shinra to at least do SOMETHING more than slip food and drink in from the outside. They only had six more days, they'd only had what, two full days with no fighting whatsoever.
Six days until their execution, and NOBODY had any idea they were here, in a demolished Prison Cell on Level 54 of the Shinra Building, one level down from the floors Meteor had proceeded to demolish. "What the blazes was I thinking?"
"I don't know, man!" answered Cid. "Right now I've thought up 789 ways of giving Heidegger a slow, painful end to his life, and I'm still thinking up more."
"You mind sharing some with me?" asked Barret.
"Naah. I'll keep em' to myself! Its Scarlet's fault more weapons were designed, you think of some suitable payback for her!"
"I already have," said Barret. "Ever since that freak of nature razed North Corel to the ground and crippled my right arm, along with my old buddy Dyne's right arm! That was the LEAST of what that conscience-less lady did to me!"
"Here they come to give us breakfast, I think," said Cid. "I can hear someone coming up the stairs, so its probably them."
"I don't know what's gonna' get us first," groaned Barret. "The execution or the food they're feedin' us!"
"Is that anyway to speak to the new President of the Shinra Corporation!" snapped a slightly familiar voice. Barret whirled, and Cid glared.
A tall, black-haired figure strode forward, wearing the red clothes signifying he had once been the Junon Manager. Barret remembered all too well how the guy had complained about how he had been asked to help transporting Junon's Sister Ray, then had decided that he'd assume the new rank of President if the Sapphire Weapon had destroyed all the higher executives. He had also been placed in the 3-D Battler game aboard the Gold Saucer, the one that had nearly taken Cloud's life in the Gold saucer those days he was trying to purchase Materia to help them out.
"I told them, but they wouldn't listen," said the man. "I dealt with each and every single one of them, I complained, I looked for ways to do SOMETHING! When I heard of the Sister Ray Disaster I took advantage. Did you like my nice surprises?"
"Huh?" Cid looked confused.
"Scarlet and Hedeigger may or may not have survived the destruction of the Proud Clod. Using the same techniques that had been used in the creation of the Gold Saucer Fat Chocobo Robots, I created lifelike models of Scarlet and Hediegger. When I presented them to the emergency committee during the race for a new Shinra President, and explained that hiding behind the scenes, using others the people knew well, would keep our Iron Grip over Technology, the idea was accepted and I received FULL VOTE!!!!! Pretty good, huh?"
"Pretty clever on your part," said Cid. "But why the blazes are you telling us?"
"I'm giving you one choice," he responded. "You helped delay the Diamond Weapon as it approached Midgar, your friends, perhaps one of you, must've been those that destroyed the Ruby Weapon, saving the Gold Saucer and the North Corel Reactor, and must be the same that destroyed the Emerald Weapon, saving Junon's Underwater Reactor. For that you get light penalty, IF and ONLY IF you help with the reconstruction of all five areas that Makoro Reactors are at."
"DREAM ON!!!!!" screamed Barret. "And I also noticed you didn't make one mention about North Corel itself! Since we're refusing, you have no more science division, and since the remaining Makoro Reactors here lost all their power between themselves and the cannon, with the Mako from the North Corel Reactor, the Condor Fort Reactor, the Junon Reactor, and even the destroyed Gongaga Reactor given to the aid in destroying Meteorr along with the Lifestream and the essences of the WEAPONS, you've got nowhere to start, ESPECIALLY since you have no scientists."
"Really," laughed the man. "Palmer has been transferred to the Science Division of the Shinra Corporation."
"Palmer!" laughed Cid. "That idiot doesn't even know when to initiate lift-off on a rocket, he'd never make a scientist!"
The laugh was the new President's, now. "Not that fool. Ensa Palmer, the scientist who quit Shinra shortly before we began the Sephiroth Project. The Space Division Palmer has been fired, he's now in charge of Public Maintenance. The Shinra Building Secretary is involved in Weapons Manufacturing, as always, we're working on a replacement for Reeve, and have quite a few candidates, and with the firm cancellation of the Shinra Space Program, at least for now, no one is needed at that discarded line of research. The Turks are unnecessary to the Corporation as of now, but they may be, soon, and we have launched efforts to locate them."
"Braggart," muttered Cid.
"I'll give you one last chance to save your lives. The Shinra would like to utilize the Mako Process that destroyed Meteor in their next step towards the technology of the future. You will either describe EXACTLY how the Mako Energy did what it did, especially the large eruption in the Crater and the white discus it sent out, or your execution plans will go on."
"Go make a bed out of spikes!" snapped Barret. "We ain't tellin' you one tiny li'l thing about what you're askin'!"
"Then have it your way," said the Manager. He turned to leave. "Oh, by the way, the name's Kerem, and breakfast will be coming soon." He strode out of the room and down the stairs.
"If there's time for a third, and hopefully, final, shot at toppling Shinra, remind me to blast their Electoral Candidate Board into tiny little pieces!" grumbled Barret.
"You don't understand, sir! My daughter's been missing since last evening, and I've been asking around all night! I finally was able to find someone who said he saw a dolphin flip a girl up onto the top of the electric pole near the Secret Airport Escape Route! She has to be in Upper Junon! Now please, let me through."
"I'm sorry, but Shinra has ordered al of Upper Junon on Curfew until they have completed their secret project. The WarMechs and crew assigned to patrol various areas at specific times now patrol the streets. Don't worry, they'll only apprehend your daughter and take her somewhere out of the way, unless, of course, she attacks first!"
"That's just it!" he cried. "Priscilla is like that!"
"I'm sorry," spoke the Shinra Soldier. "I just work here. There's nothing that I can do to help. Now please leave, or I'll have to report you." He stood, unflinching, in front of the elevator to Upper Junon.
An idea came to him.
"I'll pay you half a day's work pay if you'll give me the PHS Number for the Highwind. I think I know someone there who might help!"
"I'm not THAT uninformed! That's stolen property, and if you're alleged with whomsoever the thieves may be, we have many good guesses, by the way, you may have to be taken in. Now be on your way!!!!!"
"Officials or not, I refuse to abandon my daughter!" He swung his fist at the Shinra Guard, who immediately drew his pistol and fired at the incoming fist. The man cried out in pain and drew it back, responding with a sweep-kick at the MP. He collapsed, and that gave him enough time to grab the rifle and hurl it up high onto one of the support struts.
The MP hit his Wrist-Communicator. "Uprising in L -" Priscilla's Father brought his fist down hard on the Communicator, smashing it, and proceeded to dodge a well-timed kick, responding by picking up the now-helpless soldier, slamming him against the wall, and connecting his fist with the MP's face.
He slumped to the ground unconscious.
Leaving Priscilla's Father to slap in the Doorway Access Code and rush into the elevator as the same doors closed behind him. The guard wouldn't have any phone numbers that would help.
Tifa stepped out onto the Airship Deck as it hovered above the nearby hills. The Crewmen had stopped working, which meant the ship was in moving condition again.
Tears came to her eyes as she remembered why they were in this position anyway. Where would they start looking for him? Mideel was too far up for them to enter the Lifestream, she didn't even know how they had survived it, they couldn't even risk entering. The Crater the Lifestream there only led one place, a place that had probably closed up from the earthquakes.
That didn't leave any other place they could enter the Lifestream.
Then it split through her senses again. The same cry of the Planet she'd heard in the Ancient Forest. Different from the cries Aeris had described to her, the cries Bugenhagen had showed them, the cry before Cid made his speech about what he felt about their world Different from all of them.
In the background she could hear
the approaching torrent of a Supernova, something that could rip apart the Lifestream before it could even heal the planet, closer, closer. New WEAPONS were needed, but, the Supernova had disappeared. Confusion. It almost seemed as though she could sense it. Aeris had told her that non-Cetra, if they listened to Planet Cries, could somewhat discern them.
There was something gathering at the Underwater Crater in Junon. She could hear the cries originated from there, and tried what Aeris had suggested. WEAPONS were asleep there, but the Planet was confused. The Supernova was coming.
Something else Mako Drainers, they had stolen the Emerald Weapon, the Diamond Weapon, the Sapphire Weapon. They were trying to repair the Emerald Weapon at Junon, someone had changed their minds, obviously, originally, they had only felt themselves losing the two latter. The Ruby Weapon was being gathered up, the place where the Ultimate Weapon had been destroyed was being searched.
Tension was mounting. For billions of years, now
The cry increased to such high density she couldn't listen anymore, covered her ears, and collapsed on the deck, then it faded away.
She didn't know how much time passed before she became aware of the silence around her. It couldn't have been much, because the Sun hadn't moved very far in the sky. She pushed herself to her feet. "What is happening?" she wondered out loud, not noticing Red XIII approach.
"You heard it, too?" he asked.
She spun, then nodded. "What does it all mean?"
"I don't know, although I'm willing to bet its nothing good."
"We can't just leave Cloud!" cried Tifa in desperation. "He has to be alive, we have to find him again!"
"Where?" asked Red XIII, sighing. "We don't even know where to begin looking. I want to find him, too, but " he didn't want to risk saying the worst, so he switched his sentence ," what will happen to the Planet if the threat to it isn't really removed?"
"We find Cloud," stated Tifa. "I tried what Aeris taught me, the Planet is just confused about why it hasn't been incinerated by the Supernova Spell Sephiroth cast during our battle four days ago."
"Two days of peace," sighed Red XIII. "And even then most of our activities reminded us of what sorrows we had endured, or we were parting company."
"You and Vincent were right!" she said firmly. "I'm not standing against my fears, dealing with them, like I did before." Red XIII gaped. "I was coming up to the deck when I heard you two speaking! We find Cloud, and I don't give up hope! We find him, and I don't make the same mistakes I've been making!"
"Very well," was the return sigh. "Where do we go?"
"The only person I remember who knew about the Lifestream Eruptions near Mideel was Priscilla! She might know of other places the Lifestream Erupts. We're waking up the others, then we set course for Junon!"
The Turk's Tiny Bronco zoomed forward towards Midgar.
"Hurry it up!" snapped Cait Sith. "There are a group of Repairmen approaching the destroyed section of the Skyscraper I'm at! I'll have to move down to the Science Research Lab, since no one's using it, but I might get caught on the way!"
"We're coming, Reeve!" snapped Reno. "Just shut up!"
Elena typed in a code on the controls for the Tiny Bronco, causing it to speed up. "We're coming in through the Sector 8 Slums, blasting open the sealed doorway into its subways, then heading around to the ventilation that should take us from the Sector 2 Plate to the Shinra Skyscraper Entrance! Rude, Reno, take the subways to the Sector 6 Plate Support, the Sector 5 Plate Support, and the Sector 3 Plate Support. No, on second thought, take them one at a time! That should give some confusion, if there are any WarMech's and SOLDIERS on guard duty!"
"Roger!" Rude saluted.
"Will do!" Reno nodded.
Elena moved up the speed another few notches and headed straight towards Midgar. Yuffie shrieked, no longer able to keep from becoming airsick, and stuck her head out over the side. After she could compose herself, she noticed they were zooming right under the Sector 8 Plate Support. Elena punched in the deceleration code and the Tiny Bronco snapped to a shut. Yuffie performed several more airsickness symptoms, then jumped out.
Elena, Cait Sith, Rude, and Reno, followed.
"Move it!" she shouted.
The three Turks raced towards one of the nearest blast doors, Cait Sith and Yuffie following, scattering a group of startled populace. They blasted through, then ran into the subways.
"South, now!" snapped Elena.
Rude and Reno did as ordered.
"I doubt anyone got around to clearing Hojo's Mutations out of this area, so we'd better stay on our toes!" stated Cait Sith. Yuffie nodded and they all ran north.
On floor 41 of the Shinra Skyscraper, one of the few that hadn't been scratched, was the other of the two Shinra Chief Scientific Research Facilities. Kerem stepped in, and walked through the area, looking around and marveling at the intricate setup Miss Palmer had managed to come up with. If he didn't know better, he'd say Hojo was still alive, miraculously.
A brown-haired lady wearing a white labcoat, scientific-style, strode around the corner of one of the capsules, noticed his presence, and saluted.
Kerem nodded back. "You called and announced you had deduced a way to make sure if we gathered all the parts of the WEAPONS that are in pieces, and sent out Shinra Soldiers to do it, closing down Junon."
"Indeed," she nodded. "Junon is closed down because its Airport Base may be the only platforms large enough to support and reassemble WEAPONS. I've even got expert Explorers searching Cosmo Crater on the Off-Chance the Ultimate Weapon fell into pieces, crashed, and the explosion took place where the destroyed Planet Energy was, causing the crater to be formed, also caving in over the parts."
"Any luck on the Mako Research?"
"It was not fully Lifestream Powers that caused the eruption and the hurling of the discus from the North Crater. Close calculation of the readings show that Materia, stronger than even Huge Materia or the Master Materia some give birth to, according to our estimates, would have. As for the Lifestream Eruptions that came from the places the WEAPONS fell, our Reactors, and the Planet Itself shortly after the discus appeared, I am unable to discern what caused them. It does seem, though, as there is some faint readings of the same Materia there, almost as if its actions were but a channel for the Planet, and its being there allowed the Planet to give out those Pure Lifestream Energies."
"Have you sent out Exploration Teams to search the area where you got the largest reading of this "Strange" Materia?"
"Yes, I have. I was fired in the past for acting without requesting permission, even though my estimates of what results Shinra would want have not yet failed me. I am ready to be fired again, sir."
He chuckled. "Shinra, at least for now, needs those type of minds. You're staying here."
"Thank you, sir!" She paused, then continued. "The Sapphire Weapon and the Diamond Weapon have been delivered, I have kept the news of my Materia Discovery away from those who might broadcast it, we can't have people thinking someone wields Crystallized Mako stronger than Shinra out there, so the people should hopefully continue to believe Meteor was destroyed by pure luck, as the broadcasts have stated since they began talking about its destruction. There was a small difficulty in delivering the Diamond Weapon, one Shinra Pilot was shot, and his plane went down, courtesy of stolen craft Highwind."
"Did anyone see glimpses of the thieves?"
"The rumors have been proved true, sir. Its part of, or maybe all of, the AVALANCHE, that remains. I can't be certain, but it seems as though one Master Materia was sighted on several of the scanners."
"Locate the Turks and get them back on duty," was the response.
"I already tried, sir. I got the answering machine, and was told that they're already working for someone else again. They did not name the price, so I didn't attempt to trace the phoneline connections and barter with them. Two Miscellaneous Reports as well, sir."
"Which are?" He was starting to become annoyed.
"A minor disturbance was reported in Lower Junon but a half-hour ago. Palmer and our Secretary, Shreelin, have ordered all WarMechs placed on destroy, in case its a possible AVALANCHE Raid. There also seem to be abnormal Mako Uprisings from the Underwater Crater near Junon, so I took the liberty of dispatching several of my trainees to figure out precisely what is going on there. Finally, whenever you're ready, we will begin researching the two destroyed WEAPONS in our custody. They've been placed in the large tanks set up in the Ruins of Sector 7, and in the cleared-out Mutate Disposal Area on the Sector 8 Plate. At least, that's where the Sapphire Weapon is, since its roughly the same size as Junon, as is its storage location, the Diamond Weapon is in the former area, it barely fits."
"Then how will any of the other WEAPONS, especially the Ruby Weapon, and with the exception of the Ultimate Weapon, be able to be assembled on the Junon Airport, since its quite smaller than them?"
"That's where pieces like, for instance, the Emerald Weapon's legs, one at a time, are being shipped for repairs, even then, extensions are needed to be set up, extending, probably, above Upper Junon's seaport. Therefore, the spare Sheet Metal Fabric used to support the Large Rufus Banner is being remodeled in the Underwater Reactor. I'm expecting results two days from now, by the end of two months, everything should be set up."
"Make that factor into 1 and ½ Months, if possible. Biomonster Construction has been one of our chief manufacturing experiments, if we can succeed in this one, we might finally be able to mutate all dangerous creatures into calm, peaceful ones, and start up biological sales."
"I'll try," she stated.
"That will be all for now. Good day." He turned around and strode out of the room, deciding he'd have to check into EXACTLY how Rufus Shinra had managed to hook up the Sister Ray to the Reactors after it had taken almost a week of disattaching it. He'd have to check his reports on how they'd gotten that done so fast, as well, since it was very much a large part of Junon, and they'd had a Crazy Time Limit.
No sooner had he exited the room than he felt a pistol pressed to the back of his head. "Hands up," whispered the voice of Reeve. "And don't move. I heard your closing remarks, and its not too hard to guess what it really going on. Move ONLY when I tell you to. We're taking a trip to meet allies of the AVALANCHE!"
"Double-agent!" snapped Kerem. He'd given Dio exact specifications to program all his strength, agility, and other abilities into the Gold Saucer 3-D Battler, so didn't even hesitate to jerk his elbow back, sending Reeve sprawling. He whirled, kicked the gun out of his hand, picked him up, and slammed him against the wall.
"Besides Tseng, I was the only one Rufus entrusted the information about your Cait Sith Models to. That explains EXACTLY how AVALANCHE ended up returning to Midgar but a half-day after they'd squared off against the Diamond Weapon. They were pretty good, taking down Hojo in such a fashion he crashed on the cannon controls, demolishing them! That must be how, and who, took the Huge Materia from us, or stopped us from taking it. That confirms AVALANCHE did indeed steal the Highwind, and why you didn't take the Highwind to the Promised Land, and proves Heidegger's and Scarlet's suspicions about you accurate! You'll be stripped of your Cellphone, and be thrown in the same cell as Barret and Cid!"
Reeve's eyes widened, and he swore.
"Forgot to turn on your PHS to record this, did you!? Thought you could explain it yourself in person, did you!? Nice try!"
He ripped Reeve's PHS out of his pocket, snapped it, and proceeded to punch the Ex-Director of Designing Management in the face, knocking him unconscious.
Down in the Sector 8 Slum Sewers, Cait Sith immediately shrieked. "Reeve's down!" came his voice, before he fell silent.
"Hoo, boy!" gasped Elena. "That guy always made sure we received fair pay, and he's been captured!" She keyed something on her comm, and grinned. "Let's hurry! No more Mutations are going to be causing us grief! I just called our reserve Carry Armor down here, it should catch up fast, then stick around to protect us!"
"It still gonna' take a LONG time to get where we're going!" answered Yuffie.
"Let's just go!" shouted Elena. "My Blaze Materia is starting to dim, and I'm not ready to waste any Ethers, Turbo Ethers, or stuff like that! We're providing too much of a target by standing still! Let's move!"
She began to race forward, and Yuffie slapped the auto-movement device Cait Sith had told her about, and where it was placed. The robot's fighting and survival systems snapped to awareness, and when Yuffie raced after Elena, it followed.
Two hours later, Tifa, Red XIII, and Vincent stepped into Lower Junon.
"Priscilla's immediately?" asked Red XIII.
"Right!" responded Tifa. She raced forward, her two companions hurrying after her, but stopped when a huge rumbling noise sounded from the direction of the water. She spun that way, and noticed a group of Shinra Planes lifting the Emerald Weapon's Face Section up towards the Upper Junon Airport.
"What in the darn do they think they're doing!" barked Nanaki.
"Probably the reason they sealed Upper Junon off," said a strange, but friendly, voice of a local town gossiper. "Just this mornin' Priscilla's Father was around asking about where she was! According to the gossip that spread when he learned her whereabouts, she climbed to Upper Junon for some mysterious reason, and her father tried to follow, in the process beating the living heck out of a Shinra MP!"
Tifa clenched her fists. This was going to make their search a lot harder.
"Any speculation as to why Priscilla headed uptown?" asked Vincent.
"I dunno', but it might have something to do with that pokey-headed guy who saved her life before." Tifa gasped. "Someone with that description washed up on shore last night, on the brink of perishing, and "
Tifa wasn't paying anymore attention. Knowing exactly where he must've been taken, she started off towards Priscilla's House, allowing the tears to fall again. 'We couldn't have gotten this lucky again!' her mind was telling her, although her heart wasn't listening, telling her over and over that it had to be Cloud.
She burst through the girl's front door, ignoring shouts of surprise from the townsfolk, and raced into the guest room, stopping, and nearly screaming.
It was definitely Cloud, and she recognized the symptoms of another infection of Mako Poison, because he kept tossing and turning, yet in the way a puppet does when its collapsed from its strings! However small the chance had been they'd find him, the chance of getting into a place of the Lifestream where he could be healed, which had been COMPLETELY due to luck, were nil.
But that wasn't what worried her.
His face was pale, almost completely drained of blood, and he seemed to have no color at all. If she didn't see weak breaths beneath the sheets, she might have given him up for having perished then. But she could see he didn't have much longer to live.
"No," she whispered, shaking her head, disbelieving. She was unable to say another word, and collapsed on his prone form, lost in heartwrenching sobs again.
" and a doctor's supposed to be headed down here," finished the citizen. "Or something like that. But with the Curfew imposed upon the city shortly after the rumors started one was coming down, I don't know if one will make it or not!"
"Thanks," answered Nanaki, turning towards Priscilla. Vincent nodded to show his thanks, then followed his friend as he headed towards the house. The citizen shook his head, wondering why Junon seemed to be becoming Ground Zero for strange folk.
Both Red XIII and Vincent could tell that something was wrong as they entered the house. Quiet sobs were coming from the guest room, and that meant Tifa had either found Cloud and something was wrong, or he wasn't there, and her hopes had crashed. They entered the room to find the former.
"Why?" she asked Cloud's form. "Why did you have to do that to yourself?"
"Tifa?" Nanaki asked questioningly.
She didn't look up. "Mako Poisoning again. I should've expected it."
'And there isn't any way we can cure it this time.' Red XIII had been expecting something like this.
"But that isn't the worst of it. Remember, I told you what happened. He had to stop the link, he figured if a near-lifeless body was drawn into the Jenova Annihilation, he might survive. I realize that now. But " unable to continue, she just sobbed. After a while, she looked up. "Its too late for even a Life 2, or a Phoenix." She collapsed once more, continuing to sob.
"A doctor was supposed to get down here, but the Curfew may have prevented it," stated Nanaki. "Do you want us to ?"
"Yes! If you think that'll help, hurry! We'll worry about the Mako Poisoning next! Go!" She gestured wildly at the door, then collapsed again. This time her sobbing was almost completely uncontrolled.
"She's in no condition to travel," stated Nanaki. "And this isn't like before, either. Even if she wants to leave, I'm not letting her! She's probably on the very edge of breaking down completely! Someone has to watch her!"
"I know Turk Access Codes, and could probably imitate one," said Vincent. "I'll go alone. You stay here."
Red XIII silently nodded, and Vincent strode out of the room, and out of the house. What worried him even more than Cloud's predicament, or Tifa's, was the fact that he might have to choose who to save. Priscilla, her father, or Cloud. Taking a deep breath, he headed in the direction of the elevator to Upper Junon.
"Yo, you awright!?" came Barret's voice.
Reeve blinked, and opened his eyes, finding himself in a Golden Energy Pyramid. He leapt up, using Shinra Techniques of fighting back dizziness, and looked around. Barret and Cid were in similar pyramids on either side of him.
"What the blazes ya' doin' here!" shouted Cid.
He recited what he'd heard and pieced together.
Barret began a long string of very nasty swearing, all the time blasting bullets from his Missing Score at the walls of the pyramid. When he finally stopped he turned to Reeve. "WHAT THE DARN ARE THEY THINKING!!!!!?????"
"Some people get so caught up in trying to achieve something they don't look at what is effected around them. I didn't until it was nearly too late."
"I guess you'll be executed with us six days from now, at the start of the following week," muttered Cid.
Reeve swore. "And I've lost all my tools to communicate with Cait Sith. Yuffie and Cait Sith are on their way here, I originally tried to hire the Turks, but circumstances brought them along as well."
"I don't need help from the Turks!" swore Barret. "And I don't want Yuffie endangered, as much as I hate her! I don't endanger any lives, never have, since I joined AVALANCHE!"
"Oh, yeah!" retorted Reeve, glaring at him. "Tell that to-"
"DON'T EVEN START!!!!!" shouted Cid. "And by the way, we're on Level 54 of this darn building."
"Weren't you listening!" responded Reeve. "I can't access Cait Sith! The only thing we can do is shout if they get here!" Then he grinned wickedly. "Never mind that plan, there's probably something else we CAN do. When they come to give us our lunch, it doesn't seem very late in the day, I can deduce that, we "
He continued to whisper, and Cid began to grin wickedly.
Vincent ducked into another alley in Upper Junon. It had been easy bypassing the Soldier's Exit from the elevator, but the streets were hard to bypass, especially with WarMech's and Soldier2nds striding by every other minute.
He did notice a few interesting things, such as the right leg of the Emerald Weapon, easily viewable on the Airport Area. That had to be why all the steel sheets were being removed from behind the huge banner of Rufus on the city. It was being guided towards the water, obviously to be remodeled and attached to the runways so more parts of the Emerald Weapon could be stored in the city, probably over the docks.
"I wonder where they'll put the face," he muttered.
"Hey, you, Curfew's up! Orders are to take anyone down in the streets if they don't get inside, so do so, immediately!"
He whirled around, hoping he was far enough in the shadows that if he snapped out his gun like another SOLDIER, he could fool the man. He did, holding it menacingly.
"You that crack Ex-SOLDIER who can't control his body, and walks around wearing a Black Cape, now babbling about an impossible Reunion and vengeance?" laughed the Soldier2nd.
Vincent gasped, immediately firing.
The SOLDIER slumped, and all patrols in the section immediately turned in that direction. As they did, Vincent thought he saw a little girl wearing a starfish necklace hurry by, clutching a whole group of Restore Materia to her chest. That had to be Priscilla, so he'd need to keep the Soldiers and WarMech's distracted.
"Intruder Alert!" droned one of the WarMech's, whirling on her.
"Leave her alone!" Vincent shouting, throwing himself onto the highway and rolling towards the WarMech, snapping off several shots in its direction, causing it to explode. The little girl was so startled that she dropped the Materia, and they went rolling down the road towards the edge of the area, under the railing.
"NOO!" she gasped, hurling herself after them, under the railing. She realized she'd lost her balance, shrieked, and began to fall, Vincent leapt over the railing, grabbed her with his right hand, and shoved his left claw into the wall. It connected when they were far below any viewpoint from the street, almost at the bottom of any holds. The SOLDIERS above them were fooled, but the ones below
none were below, just the Warship Docks.
"Let me go!" shouted the girl. "I have to get the Restore Materia or Cloud will-!"
He muffled her screams with his right elbow. "Calm down, Priscilla. Those won't help him, I know."
She moved her mouth into speaking distance. "How do you know my name?"
"I " he began to explain
They were interrupted by a scream of pain. The figure of a Lower Junon Citizen flew backwards over the railing along with the unmistakable sound of a gunshot, then began to fall downwards, his left leg bleeding.
"Daaaaddddyyyy!!!!!" screamed Priscilla.
Vincent hurled himself downwards, and Priscilla closed her eyes, clinging to him, obviously too scared to look. He'd taken more than this, as long as he didn't break his neck, a 50-foot-drop would give him the chance to be healed by a Cure 3 or a Life 2. Priscilla's father, however, wouldn't be able to take the landing.
But he wouldn't be able to grab her father unless
He turned headfirst towards the pavement, when he was close enough so the 7-year-old wouldn't be dropped, threw her as gently as he could onto the pavement, then extended his cyborg left-arm, hoping it would take this. He used it as a catapult, and barely managed to snatch the falling man out of the air, who took one look at how Priscilla had been saved, and decided he was in safe company.
As soon as they were near the ground he threw his passenger there, flipped off his arm, and landed safely.
As he got up, he could hear the sounds of an angry father scolding her daughter, and was about to interrupt, when he heard several distinctly-familiar sounds. "Watch it!" he shouted, grabbing both father and daughter and throwing himself into a sheltered incline below the street as the Highwind whizzed by, pursued by a group of Shinra Fighter Jets. Both were exchanging fire.
"What about Cloud!" wailed Priscilla.
"Don't worry about him," Vincent lied. "He'll be okay." Inwardly, he knew he wouldn't be able to do anything in time to make a difference, but he might be able to save Priscilla and her father. He knelt in the incline, away from the firefight, and waited for the right moment to make his move.
Her sobbing hadn't decreased in intensity, nor had anyone arrived to help. Red XIII was beginning to wonder if that would change. Beginning to wonder, the scene before him beginning to look hopeless.
"Oh, Cloud!" Tifa shouted suddenly. "If you do recover, what if this happens again! Am I really helpful, or a burden!" She went back to sobbing.
That's when the door burst inwards with a clap of thunder. Tifa jerked upwards, facing the area, as did Red XIII. Nanaki allowed a low growl to emanate from his throat before inching forwards. Footsteps could be heard, coming closer, coming closer.
A black-robed figure stumbled into the room, focused on Cloud. "Reunion impossible revenge." It gasped before continuing forward. "Must get revenge."
Tifa gasped. "No!" she raced to block it, as did Red XIII.
The house's roof burst into flames and crashed down upon him.
"Jenova's powers the mind all must end!"
"Leave him alone!" Tifa threw herself against the Spehiroth-Clone, obviously the last in existence, the Junon Weapon Seller who'd been an Ex-SOLDIER and had been losing control of himself after the Reunion had taken place.
To her surprise, a Stigma Blast came straight from the palm of the Clone's Hand, slamming into her and causing her to collide with Cloud. Electric energy sparkled between Clone and Failure, and both bodies began to draw closer, Tifa trapped between them.
She let out a shriek
and found herself in a prostrate position, in the center of Cloud's subconscious again, seemingly merged with a likeness of the Lifestream. Instead of his consciousness overhead, she saw
"Oh my gosh!" She stifled a shriek. Fading in and out of existence, crackling with energies, was the combined forms of Sephiroth, attached to Jenova's midsection, in his Safer Form. Floating around the torso-destroyer, attached to it like beasts to a clock, were several beasts.
At the top, 12:00 Position, in front of Jenova's hair, was a multicolored male, wearing nothing but old, burnt lower garments, the same as Sephiroth had been wearing in the crystal in the Crater. Blazing energies crackled around the beast, its legs extended out angelic floats, the same Sephiroth had possessed, a sharp wing for a right hand. Legs formed out of the lower bottom-wings extending from the waist, and the thing's eyes were burning. Horn-like crowns were around its head, loose hair dangling in shreds.
Below Sephiroth, between her two SYNTHESIS-Arms, was a golden beast of raging destruction. Demonic horns, a capped skull, a face of immense power and destruction attached to its torso, huge wings, strange clothes. The wings continued to flap, making this thing an incredible spectacle to behold. All body parts moved, occasionally looking brick-like, but only for seconds, and its eyes glowed with power, immense power.
Superimposed onto each of their images, and those of the waving, unfortunate souls attached to the glowing parts near the bottom of the huge torso, was the form of the black-robed Weapon Shop Owner. It faded away, as she glanced around frantically for Cloud, looking everywhere.
"Don't bother," came a combination of four voices, one, familiar and cold, another, icy, with an undertone of steel, another, strong, booming, the final, menacing, carrying a hint of madness. She glanced at the thing.
"This vessel was exceptionally strong," continued the "thing." "Its mind was, at least. It completely resisted the mind loss, didn't even look in the direction of the Reunion when it happened. That's what shattered it, giving room for my Cells to take effect. When Sephiroth perished, it began to lose consciousness, when Lucrecia nearly annihilated me, the madness set in. I am now but a shadow, but the destruction only needs a little more time. A little more time, and my purpose will end."
"Where's Cloud!?" retorted Tifa.
"His spirit hovers near the Planet, that's why his mind is once again imposed upon the Lifestream." She trailed off. "Just a little more time "
"For what, Jenova!" shouted a very unfamiliar voice. Tifa whirled, and for a moment thought that Aeris stood before her. But no, she had to be older, the figure was the same as how Aeris' Foster Mother had described her real mother
"Ifalna!" shouted both Jenova and Tifa.
"You still attempt to stand, like a virus, like a spreading disease! That's what you are, creature of destruction! You won't fall until every last part of you goes down! Sephiroth, Chaos, Creator, their vessels, they've all perished!"
"You and your daughter, both of you don't even have a clue, you fools!"
Tifa clenched her fists, but before she even indicated she was going to lunge forward, which she wasn't, a blast of energy, the likes of which she'd never felt, coursed into her, sending her screaming in pain onto the ground, limbs flailing, completely out of control, at least for several intense seconds.
"You ARE a disease, Jenova! How many times must parts of you be destroyed! You can't accept defeat even when you're on the edge of destruction! You cannot be held to this world! And Sephiroth is not part of you, he was an unwilling vessel! You wounded the Planet, you came for the Black Materia! Its gone, there's nothing left!"
She waved her arms in response, and an image appeared nearby.
Millions of Light Years away, it came.
Shooting straight towards the galaxy, enormous in size, burning with the energies of a billion, trillion Suns, the comet came. It traveled at speeds unthinkable, thousands of times the speed of light. Right towards their planetary system. It collided with one of the far-out planets, it shattered into pieces, while the comet kept going. It collided with the rings around one of the middle planets, unstabilizing its gravity, causing it to explode, continued straight through the core of a nearby planet, causing it to erupt apart, passed through a belt of asteroids, picked up speed
and collided into the Planetary System's Sun, destroying the core, tearing even itself apart as a huge beam of radiation burst outwards in a ray of light, shrieking away even faster than the comet. Parts of the star pulsated outwards, then the Sun exploded, sending a circular plane of radiation away as fast as the huge Light Beam. It began to expand outwards at speeds slightly slower than that of the comet, smashing into and incinerating the closest planet, doing the same for the second planet. Then it reached the third planet.
Sephiroth's energies grabbed it, focused it into one huge blast while the backwash of energies restabilized the not-completely-destroyed Sun. The full force of the energies flowed past him, around him, rocks and debris being forced away from it. It finally collided with Cloud, Tifa, and Barret in a spectacular blast of multicolored light.
And, just like that, disappeared.
"Apparently there was an aspect of his own power, my own power, Sephiroth never knew of," said Jenova as the image, too, disappeared. "The comet collided with planets, but, it was too large, too strong to be real, why use Meteor when that could be used, because its destruction was just seconds slower than the Supernova's, allowing Lifestreams to heal themselves. But they were confused so badly, they gave the coemt birth at that moment, allowing it to destroy themselves. The Light Blast, the Radiation, the Backwash through the channeled energy, recreating a Star Core, all were real, but the illusions of the comet prevented any other than the final part from having real effects, not that the Light Blast would have anyway. But the Supernova itself, that was a product of the Star's Lifestream being disrupted by confusion, no one knew it could have the same effect on a planet. The Supernova was real, but, alas, this Planet was no confused enough, not even for it to react accordingly."
"So you expect to finish that, Illusion!" answered Ifalna.
"Don't start with me, Cetra! Centuries of words cried in defiance at destruction, what has it done. Words won't restore the billions of planets taken away from this universe! Why and how, maybe those Illusions beget life out of extreme circumstances, maybe myself, and Meteor, were accidents, the others were begotten by the illusions surrounding the planetary destruction, and the destruction of the Meteor. Or maybe not! No one shall find out, and even if anyone does, how will they know what they find isn't an accident, that there isn't a real truth waiting to be ferreted out!"
"I won't waste words, I won't make profound statements, I won't repeat the past! You are merely a Destroyer clinging to life, your own Illusions and your Will are the only things that hold you alive, you will not confuse the Planet! Illusions hold no sway when they are known for that! You're shattered, Jenova! Admit your end, or don't! You know in whatever semblance of a heart you have you were finished below the Crater, or, at least, when Lucrecia destroyed your Cells, although I say the former!"
"Your husband unearthed me, you won't send me back!"
Ifalna was unswayed. "Your words will no longer hold sound! You are an Illusion now, perhaps you had some semblance of life when Lucrecia took you out! I cannot hear what is not real, I cannot see what is not there! You have perished!"
Jenova shrieked for the final time, as Tifa arose, she could almost feel the pain of every wound inflicted on her in the past. On and on and on then, finally, the silent explosion, a blackout, at least in her eyes, as it faded away, followed by a spectacular view of colors, more brilliant than the Supernova, no less powerful, and the real thunderclaps of destruction.
One last one, the apex of the destruction
and anything pertaining to the Destroyer was no longer in existence. Body, spirit, all, destroyed, obliterated.
Both just stood there, Ifalna shimmering, Tifa taking deep breaths.
When she finally turned to face Aeris' mother, she had vanished.
"Wha-!" she managed to get out.
Then she noticed Cloud.
He had collapsed on the platform in front of her, Lifestream Energies swirling around him, shimmering. Whether he was being healed, or something quite different, she wasn't sure, but a spark of hope seemed to leap up inside her.
"I really don't understand this," she spoke, seemingly to nowhere.
The energies continued to glow, not responding, just flowing. Flowing, and, as Tifa's hand went to her mouth, and she gasped lightly, cleansing Cloud of all his wounds. She could see his spirit take place, and Jenova Cells gently change into Pure Lifestream Energy, which caused the Cells to shimmer away, becoming real parts of Cloud, not some outside force, yet, nothing related to Jenova. She could see through the Lifestream, see she wasn't the only one.
Someone else, a form vaguely familiar, was undergoing the same process.
Then the vision vanished, the Mako Poison seeped from Cloud's body, and the wounds completely closed. The part of his mind that was merged with the Lifestream began to fade away, and she realized that they were now completely in the Lifestream. And, finally, Cloud moaned again, looking normal, completely normal.
"Wha where am I?" he gasped weakly, his eyes opening.
He sat up. "T Tifa, what happened?"
He got up, hardly standing for a second, when she threw her arms around him. He silently did the same thing, drawing her close. She just placed her head on his shoulder and sobbed, and Cloud, not knowing what else to do, was completely silent.
The Carry Armor grabbed another group of Shadow Makers, holding them in front of it as it emitted a beam from its chest, vaporizing the Mutations.
"Hurry!" shouted Yuffie. "Sector 1 Slum Sewers is here, according to the 1/10,000 Hologram Map Elena had presented her upon various complaints on how much farther they had to go. It was nearly lunch time, and Elena had told her to get ready to eat on the way.
As if it didn't take long enough traveling through Midgar, once they reached the connecting ventilation shaft they'd be Pipe-Scaling. It must've taken Reeve long enough to do this, probably close to a day. She remembered how long it had taken them to pass through Midgar before, nearly a day, the Sister Ray had been up to 83% by the time Cloud, Tifa, and Vincent had confronted Hojo.
Of course, he could've gone at night, partially.
"Unauthorized Entrance Detected!" snapped a monotone voice.
A group of Grenade Combatants, Special Combatans, Proto MachineGuns, and Rocket Launchers charged out of the gateway from the Sector 1 Slums, only to be gunned down by the Carry Armor.
"Come on!" shouted Elena. "Those guys had attack formation Fifth-Day Charge! That's supposed to be some sort of Turk Code that something's happening in five days, not six, whatever that means, the date was messed up, whatever that means, and we're wanted! Move!"
Yuffie swore, but followed after the Turk Lady and Cait Sith.
"Your lunch, young fellows, you've got five days left!"
"Look who miscalculated about the date!" grumbled Cid.
The tray was thrust through the three Pyramids
and Reeve proceeded to place a Grenade inside the milk slot, while he made some comment about whether any collapses on the upper floors were expected soon.
"The elevators are very unstable, they're going down, too. Modifications for rebuilding the higher floors of the Shinra Tower have begun, by the way "
The Grenade exploded, incinerating the Mighty Grunt and destroying the Pyramid Walls. "Move it!" shouted Cid, gesturing towards the elevator.
"The Tubes will probably be safer, they're wider!" answered Reeve, rushing down the hallway, but turning in the opposite direction from Cid and Barret. Barret swore, spun around, and followed him through several hallways to the tubes.
"Voice Override 8-69-4." Stated Reeve calmly.
The Tubes opened, and he stepped inside, followed by Barret and Cid. They slid shut. "Voice Override 8-69-4-Level 41." The tubes began to descend.
"What's that for?" asked Barret.
"We have to cancel their operation, and they won't be expecting it just yet! If they are, they'll figure we'll figure that, take that to the logical extremes and we end up with an odd number, add one more choice, they'll be expecting us, but since they'd guess we'd think that, they'll have Trap-Type Reinforcements! That's why " He drew his Mako Gun and set it to Golden Pyramid Blast " We put a new meaning to the phrase ,"What goes around, comes around." And I also need to see if I can salvage any part of my communications with Cait Sith."
"Uh, whatever," said Barret, scratching his head in confusion.
Cid just nodded.
Then the elevator froze.
"Oh, boy!" said Reeve. "That must mean the Elevator Demolition's starting soon. We're going to have company within the next few hours.
Instead, what happened was a Bomb Blast at Floor 45. The Tube unattached from the building, then began to topple towards the ground, all three of the Tube's occupants crying out in surprise as the Tube fell towards the Sector 7 Ruins below, or, looked like it would end up near there.
"I'm Hungrrryy!!!!!" wailed Priscilla.
"Don't worry, this can't last much longer," stated her father.
Vincent wasn't so sure. The Highwind had been holding up well for a full hour, nothing happening besides more Helicopters and Planes entering the fight except for an explosion sounding like it came from Lower Junon a half-hour ago.
The Highwind swooped past another ship, proceeding to blast another group of Laser-Missiles out at its targets. The Shinra swerved, firing again, and the Highwind snapped to the side, tore through a nearby propeller with one of its wings, and sent the whole thing crashing to the ground.
"Why can't it just get a bit closer!" exclaimed Vincent.
Roulette Cannons were being added to the streets above, at least, they had been, now they opened fire on the Highwind. Vincent expected it would force the Airship farther out to sea, but instead, it swooped towards the area Vincent was at. He fired a short shot from his gun, alerting the Highwind to his presence.
It veered towards them, and dropped a rope, then was forced to move away as shots hit the areas near it. Up above, another portion of the Emerald Weapon was being moved towards the landing pad, this time, part of its conical-right-shoulder. Fire increased, and Vincent gritted his teeth.
"Hold on," he said.
He grabbed Priscilla under his real arm, her father under his left arm, and sprinted forwards, dodging the fire crazily. Priscilla clenched her eyes and pressed her face to his side, wailing. The Highwind saw them and circled towards the area they were at. Vincent leapt
reached for the rope
and grabbed onto it. It was immediately extended upwards, and Vincent pulled himself aboard, dropping his two passengers and rubbing his aching arms. The Highwind veered towards a safer place, and Vincent let loose a group of Fire 3s, being close enough to Enemy Aircraft to do so. They exploded, giving the Highwind a clear passage away, and out to sea.
"Circle around to Lower Junon, and now," ordered Vincent. "We'll have to pick up Cloud, Tifa, and Red XIII, then lose our pursuers.
"Yes, sir!" shouted the Pilot, whipping around and making a daring flight straight towards Lower Junon. He let down the ladder and handed a Megaphone to a crew member, who immediately raised it to his lips.
"Board the Highwind, immediately!!!!!"
As the Airship swooped by, only Red XIII grabbed on, and as Vincent opened his mouth in surprise, he shouted up ,"Tifa and Cloud ended up in the Lifestream, again, I think! The Underwater Crater's closest, let's go there!" He climbed onto the deck, and the rope was brought back up, the Megaphone placed back in a storage compartment
just as the Airfleet that had been attacking them zoomed in a point-blank range, weapons at the ready.
"Oh, shoot!" swore the Pilot, maneuvering the ship down towards the water, then bringing it up at nearly the last second.
"Bogeys on our tail!" shouted one of the Crewmen, running to a Rear-Gun, and opening fire. Another Crewman took his place at the area, the shots missing the Aircraft and colliding with the Roulette Cannons.
"Uh, guys, I just thought of something," stated Red XIII. "Remember how much firepower was unloaded at the Sapphire Weapon when it attacked?"
Vincent gasped. "Evasive maneuvers, NOW!!!!!"
Full firepower had been added to the military base. Roulette Cannons, Shinra Attack Squads, small cannons, all of them unloaded their firepower, determined to prevent possible sabotage of the Emerald Weapon.
Blasts began to smash into the deck.
"Cid's gonna LOVE this!" swore one of the Co-Pilots, cranking up the speed so the ship was cruising at an incredible speed. Vincent increased the Firing Range on his gun and blasted back at their opponents, scoring only a few hits, knocking but two Aircraft into the ocean.
The Highwind dived, skimming just above the ocean, heading towards the Underwater Crater at top speed.
"What?" asked Cloud, surprised by this sudden change in her actions.
"Something " Her mouth dropped open. "We have to get out of here, now!"
"How?" asked Cloud. "I can feel my mind's no longer linked to the Lifestream, so its not as simple as acting like we're leaving a dream!"
The area began to shake, followed by a clap of thunder that sent them both sprawling backwards.
"Something's coming," gasped Cloud. "Something NO!"
He grabbed Tifa and raced towards the globe near the northwest area of the Lifestream Section they were at. She clung to him tightly as he leapt onto the globe, then up, onto one of the white pillars, climbing upwards, out of that section of the Lifestream, and into its pure energies.
"Eyaaaagggghhhh!" screamed Tifa, clenching her eyes and pressing her face against his left side as the Lifestream's Voices, along with the quakes, assaulted her full-force. Cloud gritted his teeth and tried to find some possible way to make his way upwards. It was impossible to swim in the Lifestream, seemingly. Far across the chamber he spied a group of floating stones, each looking like a portion of something that had collapsed from higher up.
He leapt for them
grabbed onto one, and forced himself onto it, then leapt to the next one, his head feeling like it was about to be torn apart by the chaos around him. A few more jumps, then he was surrounded by an Air Bubble by his Underwater Materia, and found himself above the Lifestream, but at the bottom of a crater, probably the one above where they had battled the Emerald Weapon.
Tifa opened her eyes and looked up again.
"We climb," stated Cloud, beginning to run towards the edge of this particular section of the crater, a small room. He scrambled up, and found himself in the larger section, which he realized was half the size of the North Crater.
"No way to swim fast enough in this armor," he gasped. Already his arms were sore, and there appeared no way out. Even the north section of the Crater, which had collapsed when the Emerald Weapon was ripped apart, was too far away
There were Shinra Submarines working around the area, and around the ground. "I think we've found our ticket out of here, for now," said Cloud.
He sprinted towards one of the closest submarines, hoping he'd get in the sensors of one of the ones working near the top. They shouldn't notice the small section of the cave he'd had to duck out from under, dismissing it as another fissure worth ignoring, for now.
Sure enough, they registered on the sensors.
A group of the lower-down Submersibles turned towards them, and Tifa dropped to the Ocean Floor, getting into a fighting stance.
"Right!" said Cloud. "We take one of their submarines, and move away from this area as fast as possible!"
The Submersible came close to them, and its cargo hold opened. A green robot, looking like another version of the Proud Clod, with rocket launchers on the shoulders, the black areas being replaced by turquoise, charged
and stopped short. The same size as the Proud Clod, the large Gelnika-Size Submersible hovering above it, the thing aimed its Chest Cannons and opened fire. Tifa gasped, stumbling backwards.
"Unathorized Personel are under orders to be ELIMINATED!!!!!" came its metallic voice. Tifa activated the Sense Materia, and seconds later, turned to Cloud. "Clad Terminator, and C.T. Armor." The thing launched a group of rockets, which cloud leapt away from, and Tifa destroyed with a Bolt 3, before proceeding to nail the juggernaut with another one.
Its back-hands swiveled, and it launched laser blasts from both. He barely dodged where they hit, and was sent sprawling as the left hand clawed him. Tifa blocked the claw, straining as she attempted to keep it in place for just a second, then responded by punching her Premium Heart at the fist. It backed up, and nailed her with Knee Fire from both knees.
Satisfied the Clad Terminator could handle its opponents, the Gelnika-Submarine turned and began to swim away.
"You aren't going anywhere!" shouted Cloud, unleashing an Ultima Blast, directing it to wherever the Crew Members might be. The C.T. fired another succession of Missile Apocalypses, and began a complex series of karate blocking and attacking Tifa. She had barely gotten up.
And now the Chest Blasts and Knee Fire were aimed at her, and she was at Point-Blank Range from Wrist Lasers.
"Shield!" he shouted, gasping as the rainbow energies encircled Tifa, then snapped onto her body. He sent an another Ultima Blast from its Materia, damaging the C.T. Armor. It unfolded, revealing a large Orb-Type Cannon, which immediately sent out a Burst Blast.
He crashed to the ground. If his Knights of the Round Materia was still intact, he might be able to destroy the Juggernaut, but now, he didn't have that option.
Weak, barely able to stand, he wondered if there would be any possible way to destroy this thing. The Proud Clod had been stronger, more devastating, had blasted at its opponents with precision, Dio's Proud Clad, a Proud Clod Prototype was able to withstand more blows, but did not know how to fight very well. This one was obviously stronger than the Proud Clod itself, but it might not have much resistance to attacks, hopefully.
Tifa managed to send one of the claws backwards with a well timed kick at its wrist's center of balance, and the Wrist Laser activated, slamming into her and acting like it had hit a brick wall. If only he hadn't given Vincent the Knights of the Round Materia that had been born from the original.
The Gelnika settled to the ground behind the C.T., and Tifa unleashed a sortie of Bolt 3s, smashing one of their last Turbo Ethers on her Master Magic Materia as it dimmed. Its head-cannon glowed, and the pulsating Materia Jammer beams smashed into them, causing their Materia to crackle and dim completely. It followed by jumping up and leaning forward, blasting out a Cannon Ray. It wasn't aimed at them, but at the seafloor, though.
Cloud activated his last Megalixir just in time, the Healing Item sprayed them both with restorative energies, closing their wounds, at the same time energies smashed into both of them from the sides. The Materia began to glow again.
Tifa launched into her Limit Combo, her Beat Rush, Uppercut, and Waterkick sufficient to cause the C.T. Armor to explode. Her Meteo Drive, Dolphin Blow, and Meteor Strike caused the Clad Terminator itself to reel, and her Final Heaven caused it to crackle, then explode
reopening their escape route.
"Attention! You are in unauthorized territory, in possession of Unknown Materia, and both of you seem to be members of AVALANCHE!" Another formation of Submersibles, Yellow Gulls, cruised downwards, two Grey Crabs following them, and lead by a Red Shark.
"Hurry up, Tifa!" gasped Cloud, feeling the heat and energies from the Lifestream as its pressure gauge seemed at its limit. He grabbed her hand and raced towards the Gelnika, using an Ultima to blast open the doors. He raced into the Sub, and headed towards what was probably its controls.
"How's this thing going to surface!" gasped Tifa.
"Full Downwards Ballast!" responded Cloud, taking a quick glimpse at the Piloting Instructions and punching in the one code he needed. The submersible blasted upwards, the Underwater Materia keeping the pressure from destroying the section around the doorway, which would start off a chain reaction if it happened.
"Look!" shouted Tifa.
Cloud glanced out the rear monitor
below them, the Lifestream Energies burst outwards, destroying the Submersible Formation even as it turned to them. Shockwaves blasted outwards as the main column rose upwards, one impacting into the area below the Submersible and damaging the engines
Cloud struggled frantically with the controls, and saw them nearing the rim of the Crater. A group of Helicopters had been in the process of gathering up all the other pieces of the Emerald Weapon, and began to soar into the sky, their cables coming upwards. Almost
The Submersible exploded!
Or at least, the part behind them. The Gelnika was sent in a downward spiral, and the Underwater Materia began to dim. Tifa fell towards the radioactive waters, and Cloud grabbed her right hand with his left, holding onto the controls, trying to aim them upwards, but to no avail.
They bounced off another shockwave, and went upwards, over the rim of the Crater. Cloud set the Torpedo Tubes to AutoBlast, and hurled himself into one of them, dragging Tifa behind him.
"What?" she gasped.
"Just hope," he responded.
The blast went off, the Torpedo Lock shoving them forwards with incredible force. They sailed upwards, higher, higher, towards the water
the Highwind, cruising along, noticed the two familiar figures shoot up in front of them. The Pilot jerked to the side and Red XIII kicked down the ladder.
"Climb up!" he gasped.
It was only when they had, the ladder had been rolled back up, and the Airship had soared skyward, when he realized that Cloud was conscious again. "How ?" he asked, confused.
"The Lifestream worked its magic again," answered Tifa.
Before she could continue, there was a blast of energy from nearby.
"What!?" she gasped. The Highwind halted, as did their pursuers, focusing on the area above the Underwater Crater, and they watched.
"The Lifestream " said Cloud.
Immediately afterwards, the greenish energy exploded upwards out of the water, the shockwaves tearing through the area, this time just missing them, but taking down the Shinra, as they were at a lower altitude. The WEAPON Carriers, however, were completely unharmed.
At the top of the Blast, all the energies gathered, and the wind began to pick up, swirling towards the area.
"If that's what I think it is !" The Pilot swore, whirled, and sent the Highwind Full-Speed away from the area. Below them, the waves began to swirl towards the column of air, and Tifa was nearly shoved backwards. Parts of the wing began to snap off, and the Pilots had to fight for control.
An incredible typhoon was building around the area near the Underwater Crater, and the water began to gather up to it, being dragged upwards to the huge, crackling Lifestream Energies. The parts that weren't destroyed in the winds, that was.
"Hit the deck before the railings hit us!" screamed Cloud, throwing himself to the ground and pieces of the railing sailed by overhead, into the vortex. The Airship began to strain between two opposing, moving forces, each as powerful as the other, and the back-deck was sucked clean off. For now, the engines seemed to be moving the Highwind away from the Vortex, but the winds were still increasing. They were nearly out form under the Lifestream Bubble when the ship finally began to move backwards.
"No!" shouted the Pilot, noticing the wings were nearly in shreds.
Cloud dug his fingers into the deck, feeling himself beginning to slide backwards. He could get up and use his feet, but risk being decapitated by railings. He kept his hands in the metal noches under the boards, seeing everyone else had taken hold of something firm, choosing to risk the wind.
A piece of the railing smashed into the boards, hanging inches away from tearing loose, taking off Vincent's head, and maybe Tifa's. He raised his left hand and smashed the thing. Still the winds were increasing, and whole parts of the airship were flying out. The Gunners began to crawl towards the front of the ship, while one of the Co-Pilots blasted missiles out of them at full force, hoping it would force the ship forward a bit farther. The Typhoon had spread to an unimaginable size, seemingly as large as it was going to grow, but they were just outside part of it.
The Airship moved forward a few inches, and finally, the winds increased to maximum intensity. The whole back of the airship was torn off, and Tifa screamed as her feet were in midair now. She began to crawl forwards, when parts of the computers rose. One smashed into the area below her, sending her towards the edge of the Highwind. She grabbed onto a jagged edge, while Red XIII, suffering the same fate, dug his claws in one of the uncovered staircase parts.
It was too dangerous for them where they were, though. Vincent began to crawl for Red XIII, Cloud began to head for Tifa. Priscilla and her father had been in the hold ever since the battle began, with one half of it open to air, Priscilla screamed and grabbed onto the nearby computer, closing her eyes and huddling against it. Her father braced his feet against the floor.
Cloud began to pull Tifa to safety, while the staircase holding Red XIII tore loose, and caught itself in an area of the lower deck. He grabbed onto the top of the airship and moved forwards.
"I don't think we can take much more of this!" gritted the Pilot.
He transferred all power from every other areas to the rear-engines in one last, desperate gamble, one which paid off as the airship tore forward, breaking free of the wind with surprising speed.
Cloud's grip was torn apart from the sudden movement in the other direction, and Tifa was sucked, screaming, towards the vortex. He was up, leaping upwards, entwining his feet in the jagged metal, and grabbed her hand again.
"You seem to have this thing for Mako Poisoning, while I seem to be falling off places wherever its convenient," she joked.
"Just hold on!" responded Cloud.
Her eyes widened. "Cloud, look down!" she gasped.
He did, and gasped himself. Almost all of the ocean had been sucked away from the Crater, forming a huge area devoid of water in the center of the ocean. It was freezing over with snow quite quickly, the Planet's energies were gathering there, for what reason, he didn't know.
And the Airship was being pulled backwards again, staying in place.
His grip was no longer enough, her arm slipped free of his hands.
"TIFA!!!!!" He screamed.
He leapt off the ship, and Vincent, seeing what he was doing, grabbed on with his left hand as Cloud managed to grab Tifa's hand again, she was screaming.
"I'm not letting go!!!!!" he gasped. "Not like Nibleheim!!!!!"
The ship burst apart, and another of the Emergency Levers was pulled. A Jet Tail snapped outwards, catching all three on its surface, while more engines snapped out from below the old wings as the others were torn off. The ship, flying backwards, arced down, then away. The Pilot managed to hit it to a frequency so it was circling around with the wind, but staying on the outer arc.
Just then, the wind stopped.
The Pilot changed the setting to Hover. "I think we better see if there's a Typhoon Coming up in the opposite direction before we keep on heading on our previous course."
Red XIII leapt up to his three comrades. "What was that wind for?" he asked, breathlessly.
Cloud had barely heard. "I did it!" he told Tifa, smiling. "I managed to hold on, I didn't falter, like in Nibleheim!"
Tifa just smiled warmly, her expression almost as shining as the snow on what had used to be the sea floor.
Snow. Crater. Unusual Lifestream Energies.
It all clicked together.
He spun. "Get us OUT OF HERE!!!!!" He screamed.
But it was too late.
Blasts of cataclysmic proportions were loosed from the Underwater Crater. Something huge, ominous, raised its head, letting out a roar that could be heard reverberating throughout the whole area. Cloud activated his Master Command-Sense, as did Tifa, Vincent, and Red XIII, activating their Sense Materias.
The first of the huge beasts to rear its head out the crater in an explosive concussion, then the rest of its body, was named Aquamarine Weapon. Bluish-white skin, in the same pattern as the Sapphire Weapon, the same type of coated skin. Arms pulsating with energy, one ending in a Shield, the other ending in a Sharp-Weapon-Like-Hand, the latter being the left one, having a shield in front of its chest, arched spikes, and a long tail, plus the same build as the WEAPON that had attacked Junon, it could easily match the very same Sapphire Weapon, in size, in features, except its color, its blue portions were quite clearly Aquamarine, as was its substance.
But there was more. The beast clearly had added spikes to its shoulders, conical ones, like the Emerald Weapon had possessed, spread out from Diamond-Weapon-Like areas. They ended in arched curves, each with spikes at the edge, and there was clearly something behind the opening areas. The most profound feature was probably the double-shield above the other one, it looked sectioned, as if it could split apart with the lower shield to reveal something beneath.
Blasting out of the area, rearing by the Airship, emitting a scream of anger and annoyance at the nearby thing, was the Topaz Weapon. Mid-blue, and crystalline, it seemed to have different types of Arsenals in every section of itself. It had great wings, like that of the Ultimate Weapon, only more batlike, and a cat-like tail, along with a monstrous, dragon-lion head. Its tail dangled down below, and several orbs were around its others, bonded together by whitish bands circling from chest to sides.
The Onyx Weapon was next. Black, with gold colors, the huge, monstrous beast just showed up, towering up to tremendous heights, standing on the SeaFloor, the airship was up to the thing's shoulders. It was also a walking arsenal, with a red orb at its midsection, Diamond-Weapon-Type Plates connecting to it. The thing's hand alone had to be big enough to pick up Midgar's Sister Ray and wield it like a Bazooka. Its roar was nearly deafening, and Cloud found his head spinning.
Up next was the Peridot Weapon. It burst through the snow, taking out a section of the area as large as the one the Diamond Weapon had taken out of the area surrounding the Crater to emerge, which had also taken down Gaea's Cliff. Two claws gripped onto the surrounding area, and a green head, like that of the Diamond Weapon, emerged. Bony structures attached to its back, as did another tail, near its batlike wings, wings that were sectioned in various areas. Ruby-Weapon like heads swiveled about its face, and when it opened it to roar out, they could see its large teeth. Portions of its body were twisted, its tail was malformed. Sapphire-Weapon-Like shoulders jutted out, and the thing had Ruby-Weapon-Like-Claws. Its orb could plainly be seen, and it proceeded to lash up at the airship.
"Yaaagggghhhh!" screamed the Pilot, setting the thing into a run at last, panic and pressing the wrong buttons finally taking place into sharp sense. It moved away with lightning speed, but it still wasn't fast enough.
Pearl Weapon blasted out. Looking almost exactly like the Alexander Beast, except a difference in color, another area of the glacier was torn apart, the seafloor collapsing in that area, too. Alexander and the Champion of the Round had enlarged in size when faced with opponents larger than them, a.k.a Emerald Weapon, grown even LARGER when faced with the Diamond Weapon, so the Champion of the Round was double the Ruby Weapon's size. This Alexander-Look-A-Like was the same size as the Daimond Weapon, slightly taller.
Zirconia Weapon just, appeared, in midair. Its legs were like the Diamond Weapon's, it had several sections of Breastplates and Chestplates that were around its large orb, and above it, at the shoulders, were parts of it that could clearly unfold to reveal parts beneath. Just below the neck, something seemed to be attached to it. With claw-like hands, each outfitted with blast-like places, arms with turrets and unfolding parts, this Half-Biological, Half-Technological Beast seemed VERY complex. Its head was monstrous, as was expected, and its tail looked like it had Scorpion Parts coming from near a Sapphire-Weapon-Style Tail.
Seventh up was the Citrine Weapon.
The ground rumbled around the area it would come up, the sky crackled with great energy. The thing just smashed through pieces of the torn ground as easily as they were paper, twice the size of the Pearl Weapon and the Zirconia Weapon, just as the Peridot Weapon and the Aquamarine Weapon were the size of the late Sapphire Weapon, just as the Topaz Weapon had been the size of the Ultimate Weapon, just as the Onyx Weapon had been COLOSSAL! It had Diamond-Weapon-Like-Shoulders, arsenals sticking up from them as they became bulkier farther out, sticking down to its waist, almost, tails, other sections coming down from it to the waist, on both sides. The head was another mass of Ruby-Weapon heads surrounding the beast's true head, like that of the Ultimate Weapon, only the correct size to match the body. Chestplate over Chestplate, Breastplate over Breastplate, piled around its large orb, pieces of clearly-unfoldable sections attached to its neck. Its tail was spiked at the end, with arsenals sticking off it, and it once again came with Diamond-Weapon-Style-Legs and Feet.
It roared out, jumped up, using its many fingered, turret-attached claws and legs to tear through more of the ground as easily as if it were paper. Explosions tore apart that area of the Ice-SeaFloor, and whole areas collapsed in on themselves. The Citrine Weapon let loose with another earsplitting roar afterwards.
The Amethyst Weapon appeared next, blasting out of the ground near where the Citrine Weapon had emerged. It was the same size as the Diamond Weapon, too, and had another group of Breastplates and Chestplates surrounding a red orb, along with a spiked tail, unfolding areas attached to its neck, and had Ruby-Weapon-Like Claws along with a Sapphire-Weapon-Like Head. Its spiked tail had bits and pieces of Scorpion-Like Parts on it, and its legs were the same as the Zirconia Weapon's. An unfolding area with an orb in-between was attached to the neck and Chestplates, parts of those looked like they could fold out. The thing had a Diamond-Weapon-Type Tail above its other tail, too.
The Opal Weapon, the same size as the Peridot Weapon and the Aquamarine Weapon, also appeared in mid-air. Pale-White in color, it consisted of a group of Chest Areas surrounding another red orb, blue ribsections, and a head-tail. It had coned shoulders, and scales like the Sapphire Weapon's, along with spiked feet, and another Diamond-Weapon-Type Tail. Its head was like that of the Pearl Weapon, with shoulders like it, too, but its arms and claws were a cross between Ruby-Weapon-Style and Diamond-Weapon-Style. Turrets also jutted out from parts of the thing's shoulders, and parts of those shoulders looked like they might be able to unfold and/or open up.
The Garnet Weapon was around the size of the Topaz Weapon, too, a large orb in its midsection, but surrounded by several others that linked to it. Violet bands linked to them, attaching to parts of the chest, and the thing's arms and legs were once again Diamond-Weapon-Style. The thing had no tail, and seemed to be in some sort of crouching position, Back-Plates extending from it, some circling the sides, parts probably hidden behind them. With spiked shoulders, this thing looked somewhat Catlike, a predator just waiting to pounce.
The Jade Weapon blasted through another section of the ice, most of it having been destroyed by the WEAPON eruptions already. It was the size of the Onyx Weapon, having Pearl-Weapon-Type Arms, each another arsenal of destructive spikes, elbows, with turrets. It had a Diamond-Weapon-Like Tail that folded around, just below its Central Orb, which made it look remarkably like the Champion of the Round at that part of the body, except for the color. With spiked, shell-type shoulders that could clearly unfold and another cat-head, this WEAPON was also intimidating, they hadn't yet seen one that wasn't. However, it looked more like the rend-and-tare-apart-type WEAPON, contrary to the Onyx Weapon.
The Lapis Weapon was the same size as the Topaz Weapon and the Garnet Weapon. Light-blue in color, with another lion-like face, one looking hungry, actually, starving, and towering high in the sky as it lifted up, Orbs were on its Leg-Wrist, its Hand-Wrists, its elbows were Many-Spiked, and an Ultimate-Weapon-Type Tail dangled behind it. Legs and arms dangled, claws the sharpest they had seen. It let out a screech-roar seconds after appearing.
Thirteenth, and last, to appear, was the Malachite Weapon. Pure blue in color, the size of the Aquamarine Weapon, the Peridot Weapon, and the Opal Weapon, it was a fury of clawed, spiked limbs, scales like the Sapphire Weapon, a tail like the Sapphire Weapon's, above it, a tail like the Diamond Weapon's, and shoulders like the Emerald Weapon's, the Sapphire Weapon's Right Shoulder, and the Diamond Weapon's, with unfoldable sections as well.
The last section of the Ice Glacier on the Ocean Floor had been torn apart by the Malachite Weapon. All had appeared within two minutes, and the Highwind was just barely moving away when the WEAPONS began to bend and stretch, yawn, and test their limbs to see what they were capable of. The Highwind darted away from the limbs, while Cloud, Tifa, and Barret clung to the Tail-Engine to avoid falling off by losing their balance. The Airship was starting to get away, but it was only a matter of seconds before the WEAPONS would probably begin to move. It was only a matter of seconds, and that proved true.
The Thirteen WEAPONS shot outwards, swiping around. Red XIII made the jump back to the main deck, narrowly missing a claw from one of the Colossuses as they began to glow with bright light, ready to shoot away in blasts of energy.
"Come on, Tifa!" urged Cloud as soon as one of them passed. "This may be our only chance to jump!"
He saw another WEAPON Claw approaching, and without even thinking, grabbed her and made the jump. Midway through, the claw slammed into the back of her neck, tearing her loose, and sending her flying forwards at incredible force in an odd position.
'I have a knack of falling off places wherever its convenient.' For some reason those words reverberated in his mind as he threw himself forwards again as the WEAPONS blasted upwards into the sky, out of sight, one at a time, each in a thunderclap of explosive energies.
Her limp body had caught on a railing.
He stopped short, inhaling sharply.
Limp. Like Aeris' body had been when Sephiroth had eliminated her.
He approached quietly, yet as fast as he can. He had no evidence, he couldn't believe anything until he had the evidence.
He reached her, and saw she was breathing. He proceeded to cast a FullCure, then moved her onto the deck, taking a deep breath of relief.
"Get us out of here," he said. "This place may no longer be safe."
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