Redemption Chapter 16
By Janet Monstwillo
"No, that's not an acceptable plan." Reeve tossed the papers down angrily. "The last thing I need to do is hand myself right over to them."
"I thought you entering the codes would be a good idea," said Ishmael defensively.
"What are the chances that these guys left the security codes as they are? And then, what are the chances...that Yorlain hasn't changed them since I was working there? Dammit, the guy isn't stupid!"
"He must have done something dumb to get his company taken over." Kati folded her arms across her chest.
"I agree," said Barret. "Reeve, you shoulda stayed with them."
"Excuse me for wanting to spend time with my family. And let them live in a peaceful place!"
"Well we have two basic options." Sean looked at him. "I know you've done this before, so enlighten me if I'm wrong. Are there any other ways besides either storming the building or sneaking in?"
"I'm not against sneaking in." Reeve sighed. "But there are extensive computer defenses set up, and I don't know if we have any way of getting around them."
"I told you I could hack into it if you could get me to the security room."
"Ishmael, can we afford to take that chance?"
"Dad. Can we afford not to?"
"If ya take any longer, I'm gonna get myself in there and get Marlene freed on my own!" Barret was finished arguing.
"Well don't go in the dead of night, that's just fucking stupid," said Cid, as he came down from the bridge.
"How d'ya think to do it, then?" he demanded.
"Uhh, how about daytime?" suggested Kati. "As long as we are properly disguised. Well, you guys, at least."
"Us guys?" Cid scratched his head.
"You're kinda famous for saving the world a few times and all."
"Oh yeah, that," he muttered sarcastically. "I hope this time goes fast, I promised to build Baker a damn airplane. Can't have a Highwind who doesn't know how to fly!"
"Okay," said Reeve, "any objections with this? Kati and Sean...plus Cid, go to the front desk area and create a diversion."
"What kind of diversion?" asked Sean.
"Don't worry kiddo," Cid reassured him. "I'm a pro at diversions."
"I bet," muttered the nineteen-year-old.
"While that happens," Reeve continued, "Barret, Ishmael, and I will head to the security room. There may be some forces to go after us on the way, but I think they'll probably all be deployed after Cid and company. Ishmael will hack into the system after we get rid of the personnel in the room."
"Oh yeah." Ishmael grinned at his fiancee.
"Hopefully it won't come to killing them, if they are my own employees. If they know me, they'll probably give up. Then after Ishmael's disabled security, the three of us will head up to the prison floors and release Yorlain, Marlene, and the others. If they're up there."
"What do we do during then?" asked Sean.
"Well, after you create your diversion, you'll probably be fighting security."
"It's too late now to go shopping, but first thing in the morning, a couple of you kids go buy some disguises for us in Junon. We head to Alcor..." Reeve thought for a moment. "Eleven a.m. sounds good, doesn't it?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Red XIII was keeping watch over Raieyana. (She's finally sleeping, peacefully too.) Most of the time, Raieyana had been awake, but unaware of her surroundings. (If I didn't know better, I would say she's acting like those Soldiers did about fourteen years ago.)
The problem with that diagnosis happened to be that no cure had ever been discovered for the Soldiers' ailments; they reverted back to normal after the Reunion. (Her condition may be a marker for events yet to come.) Some little voice within him hoped that maybe this was true, and also, when the time came, that these events could be handled without her aid.
Green eyes fluttered open and looked around the room, resting on Red XIII's face. "Hello," he said softly, expecting a nonsense answer, if any at all.
"How is he?" she whispered.
"Who?" he replied, wondering if his words were in vain.
"Pa'at Rich..." she murmured.
Raieyana nodded. "The son of the sun."
He was startled at her words, her seeming recovery, but he wanted to give her an answer that would not be upsetting. "He's in Undor-Hai, I believe."
She closed her eyes. "Good." Sitting up suddenly, she grabbed him by the mane and looked deep into his eyes. Hers were filled with worry. "He must not go to Junon yet. It's not time, he doesn't know what he has to do."
"I'll try to tell him that."
Casting a frantic look at the lion, she threw herself back down on the bed. A tear slid down her cheek. "He has to stay with the girl until she's strong enough..."
"What girl? Azura?" Red XIII was hit with a sudden awareness. No matter if Raieyana was better or not, she was revealing things that could become very important later. (The sick Soldiers muttered words about the Reunion. "Drawn to the beacon, she comes." And Raieyana called Patrick...son of the sun? There is some connection...)
"Asula..." Raieyana muttered. "Pa'at Rich...Kal'od..." A sniffle. "I miss them." She turned to him. "If you see them, tell them...that Riana wants to see them again."
He watched as she closed her eyes and fell unconscious once more. A knock came at the door. Startled, he turned around quickly. "Come in."
Marta stood at the door hesitantly. "You were talking to her?"
He nodded. "A little bit. She's sleeping now."
"Good." She looked at him with wide brown eyes. "She scares me sometimes."
"You must tell me what she says, then. But you are going to watch her now?"
"Yes. Mama told me to come get you. She said she found a scroll that you are going to find very interesting."
"Really." He stood up on all fours and stretched his legs. "I suspect our conversation will prove to be most informative."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"So you've been living away from it all for almost fourteen years?" Aeris looked at Cloud incredulously.
He was almost as surprised at their conversation. Sitting in the living room of Raieyana's house with the young girl, somehow he had wanted to open up to her. So there he was, cross-legged on the floor in front of the fireplace. Lia had removed the body that had been there and thrown out the carpeting. The cleaning had been done so well that the two did not suspect the events of two days before had occurred on the wood beneath them.
"I thought living here was like being away from it all. I get restless here."
He smiled at her. "I suppose everyone gets restless when they are young."
"Don't talk like you're some ancient sailor spinning yarns to your grandchildren. I won't allow it!"
"Why not?" He studied her pretty face. "According to you, and I quote, 'Cloud Strife is older than my mom.'"
The sound made his heart stop. Perhaps her family had been unaware--neither Raieyana nor Reeve had ever met Aeris Gainsborough in person--but this Aeris' laugh sounded like a carbon copy of the original's.
"Mom isn't old. Give me a few more years and people will think we're sisters. She barely ages at all. I think it's the Mako, or that Jenova, or something. Hope I inherit it." She grinned. "Looks like your Soldier treatment delivered the same favors to you. You look great."
"...for my age. That's what you're supposed to continue with."
She blushed slightly. "No, you just look great." She stood up, a little too quickly. "Do you want something to drink or something?"
"No, I'm fine. You go ahead though. I'm sure you got sick of listening to me talk." Cloud leaned back, stretching out his body before the warmth of the fire.
Aeris swore to herself that she knew it was rude to stare. But sitting right in front of her was a legendary hero, who looked better than she had ever imagined, and here was the kicker: she had never seen him before, so he wasn't "Uncle Cloud" in her mind.
He looked up at her. (Do I look that weird to her? Maybe she thinks I'm some strange crazy hermit, and she's thinking of the best way to throw me out.)
"I'm trying to be a good hostess. You sure you don't want a drink, cause I can go and--" she turned to leave.
Catching her arm, he looked up at her. "Do I bother you or something? 'Cause I can go camp out somewhere if you'd rather..."
"No, it's not that at all...it's just..." Aeris plopped down next to him. "I've never been just alone with someone before. I'm either with Ishmael and we're hanging out, or I'm by myself."
"So I make you uncomfortable." He shook his head and sighed. "I should have guessed."
"No, not at all." She smiled. "I'd love to sit and listen to all the wonderful stories you must have."
"Aeris." His mouth didn't even falter as it formed the name that once belonged to a flower girl, long since passed on to the Promised Land. "There are many, many horrible stories mixed in with those, too. I haven't been alone in my life without a reason."
"Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps you had to leave everything to get to know yourself." She reached out and touched his hand.
Cloud shrank back. "You're young. You don't know what you're saying."
"I'm not that young--"
"I'm twice as old as you. That should count for a lot."
She stubbornly grabbed his hand again. The words slipped slowly from her mouth.
"Tears of sorrow and pain, remorse and shame.
You see the curse of the damned, placed in your hand.
Time slips slowly by; transgressions hidden in a lie
Now you must let it go, learn what you need to know
That one deed not done in hate; but born of grace
All trouble will be gone, if the son of the sun
Is born this time...the Planet stays alive."
He was transfixed.
"I see an aura of sadness, shadowed in sorrow." Her hand reached up and softly stroked his face. "You hide from the light of day, because of him."
He turned from her. "Who?"
The spell was broken; her connection with Cloud and the power within her had stopped. "My father," she said in her everyday voice. "I saw it. Something...some trouble between you and him, because of..."
"What do you see, Aeris?"
"I need to ask you the questions, Cloud."
"No. You can see things, you have a gift...is this some thing given to you by the Cetra?"
"Perhaps." She looked into his eyes. "But this is important."
"So is the fact that you can touch me and start to utter prophetic poetry." He shook his head. "I couldn't believe it unless I heard it myself."
"Well you did. How do you think I feel?" She shivered. "I'm scared that all of a sudden I see things. It's more than voices. Half the time, I just realize something. Like I had been taught this in school and merely forgotten."
He placed a hand on her shoulder. "You have a gift."
"I don't like it." She placed a trembling hand on his. "Can you just try to see how terrifying it is?" She rolled her eyes. "And then, I get to have an emotional breakdown," she muttered, "in front of the sexiest guy I have ever seen. The last few days have been just so great for me."
(Me...sexy?) He looked at her with new eyes. It was true that he had noticed she was gorgeous...and he saw parts of Aeris Gainsborough in her...but he was too wise now to go after anyone he had interest in. (I just cause pain. Besides, the timing's terrible on this. It would have been nice half a lifetime ago.) If she had interest in him, however...could he...could they? Then he realized something very important. (I doubt I'd live through even sharing a kiss with her. She's Reeve's daughter.)
"There is one problem with this, though."
"With what?" Cloud asked.
She blushed. "My interest in you...see...I told you I've been realizing things."
"Yes?" he prompted.
"Well." Aeris looked him straight in the eye. "Don't you dare deny this, either. I know."
Suddenly, he knew what she was going to say. That he was--
"You're Patrick's father."
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