The Second Incarnation Part 13
By Shelly Ichishita
The sound of dripping water woke him. Cloud blinked his eyes. Today they would be heading back into Midgar. Please let them be all right, he pleaded. A quiet purring made him aware that Tifa was still sleeping next to him. Carefully as not to wake her he extracted his arm from its position under her neck. Cloud propped himself up on his elbow and looked down on her, she looked positively angelic. Her lush jet-black eyelashes fanned out on her cheek and she drew her breath evenly through her moist, slightly parted lips. Cloud leaned over and kissed her forehead. She turned towards him, mumbling incoherently. He took his windbreaker and gently covered her before walking out of the room. Everyone was sleeping; he removed the wrapper from an energy bar and chewed in silence.
Soon Barret and Red crawled out of their room. Barret and Red stretched and yawned. "Morning sleepyheads." Cloud said cheerfully. They both growled menacingly at him. Their frightening growls didn't phase Cloud at all, but they did scare Yuffie. The ninja girl came running out of her room.
"Wolves, wolves," she screamed, brandishing her Conformer. She looked around warily. "Did you guys see anything?" she questioned Barret and Red.
Cloud chuckled, "Yuffie those are the wolves you heard."
"Huh?" Yuffie remained on guard. "What'd you say Cloud?" Barret and Red growled again. "Oh," Yuffie replied in a small voice.
The commotion Yuffie caused did have its benefits. The whole group was up and about now, courtesy of Yuffie's big mouth.
"Let's clean up and secure our gear," Cloud doubted that anyone would touch their things. Nobody had been in Midgar since meteor struck, the gruesome memories were still fresh in the people's minds. Still it was definitely better safe than sorry.
They walked through Wall Market. Yuffie bent to touch the good luck cat that lay on its side in the street. The restaurants and the inn were scrap now. Cloud wondered how the dressmaker and his daughter were. A yellow banner flew into their path as they walked by Don Corneo's ostentatious mansion.
Finally they reached the pile of machinery that they had used to reach Shinra Headquarters before. More trash had rained down on the pile; they didn't even need the batteries anymore. Shinra Headquarters was less than a twenty-meter walk from the opening and they covered ground fast. In a few minutes Shinra HQ loomed above them. Meteor and Holy had decimated the city; few buildings were left intact. Cloud and the others climbed up the rubble that had previously been the stairway to the headquarters of the most influential company on the planet.
The once pristine lobby was encrusted with filth. Cloud turned, "we'd better head for the stairs, I doubt that the elevators are running." As if to prove him wrong an elevator to the group's right stopped with a ping.
Barret and Cid ran to the elevator. "Can't look a gift horse in the mouth now can we?" Cid exclaimed happily, he was relieved that he didn't have to climb the stairs.
"If you stopped smoking like I told you, you'd have no problem climbing those stairs." Shera said smugly, she folded her arms over her chest. "And as for you Barret..."
Cloud cut her off. "I think that everyone's in agreement here," he looked at Barret and Cid. "We'll take the stairs. The elevators are too risky."
"Dictator," Cid grumbled beneath his breath.
"I heard that old man," Cloud retorted.
After a lot of huffing and puffing, they made it up to the sixty-seventh floor. "Let's split up," Cloud suggested. "We can cover more ground that way. Barret you take Nia and Yuffie and go that way," he pointed right. "Cid take Shera and Red and head up the middle. I'll take Tifa and Ellie. We'll meet back here in three hours. If someone doesn't show up, wait here until the other group joins you then search in the direction they left in. Any questions?"
They split up and headed in the directions Cloud indicated. The building had suffered a lot of structural damage so they walked gingerly, staying alert for any sign of Vincent or Reeve. Luckily the monsters they had encountered in their previous visits didn't put in an appearance.
"It's been two hours and we haven't found squat," Yuffie whined. "Maybe we should head in another direction."
"Let's just search this room and then we'll look somewhere else." Barret pointed to a set of heavy metal doors. He kicked the steel doors open. "Shit, just more computers."
"Wait." Nia rushed forward. "What's this?" she reached down and picked up a gleaming gold claw.
Barret tried hard to keep his voice from breaking. As creepy as Vincent was, he was still a good buddy. "That's Vincent's."
"Oh, no." Yuffie looked like she was about to cry.
"Now let's not go to pieces okay?" Barret put his good arm around Yuffie. "We seem to be heading in the right direction. We'll find them yet."
They tried to walk out of the room. Without warning the room went wild, the doors slammed shut, the lights flickered and the computer monitors lit up. The monitors all displayed the same disturbing message. "You will never get out. You will never get out."
Barret swung his Missing Score around. "Like hell," he yelled. "I'll get out. And when I do, you'd better hope that I don't find you." He shot the monitors.
Nia grabbed him from behind. "Get a hold of yourself. Don't waste your ammo."
Barret stopped firing and looked at the ground uncomfortably.
"We have to get out and warn the others," Yuffie looked around and stopped talking. "Can you hear that?" she whispered. "It sounds like..." Yuffie didn't get to finish her sentence. She barely had time to jump out of the way as a huge metal and wire leg crashed down where her head had been.
Barret looked up at the creature. It was Elena-sort of. She didn't look like she was alive; she didn't even look human for that matter. She was decomposing-fast; her flesh seemed to give way to bone almost instantaneously. The lower half of her body had been replaced with some kind of mechanical spider body and her arms were replaced with knifelike metal claws.
Barret braced his arm to shoot, Yuffie was already right in the thick of it. She threw the Conformer and landed a direct hit on Elena's midsection. Elena grunted and headed for Nia. The ancient was standing still; she was so focused on her materia that she seemed unaware of the creature's approach. Barret fired his Missing Score in hopes of slowing Elena down but the undead monster was not deterred from its goal. Nia raised her head and called out, "Tetra Flare!" It was already too late. Elena grabbed her in her razor-sharp claws and scurried out through a hole in the ceiling.
Barret raced to the hole they had disappeared into. Without hesitation he and Yuffie climbed up after Nia.
Tifa stepped around the body of a Shinra trooper. The blue uniform was torn and stained with excrement. She gagged and moved faster down the hall.
"Wait up," Ellie jumped over the body to catch up with Tifa. "Find anything yet?"
"Not a thing," she told Ellie. "How long have we been searching?"
"Around two hours now." Ellie walked a little faster. "Why is Cloud so far ahead?"
Probably avoiding me, Tifa thought. "I guess he's just really eager to find them."
Cloud stopped abruptly. He turned around to face the girls and held a finger to his lips. "Do you hear that?" he asked as Tifa and Ellie moved closer. "I think it's coming from over there." He pointed to a bend in the hallway. "Let's go check it out."
The voices he heard rang though his head. Their footsteps sounded deafening to him and he could feel his adrenaline pumping. Was it because of his Jenova cells? He would be grateful to Hojo for pumping him full of that shit if it meant that they'd find Vincent and Reeve soon.
Shera checked her ammunition. She thought that she had enough, it was hard for her to tell. She tried to calculate exactly how many shells it would take to kill a monster but she had never fought anything besides the simulated monsters in Battle Square.
Nanaki sniffed the air; "it seems pretty stale in here. I don't think Vincent or Reeve have been this way."
Cid grunted. "Then let's head that way," he pointed to the left with his spear.
"Doesn't it seem different to you somehow?" Nanaki sniffed some more.
"It doesn't matter what those crazies did to the building as long as they didn't do anything to Vincent and Reeve."
Shera touched Cid's arm, "it may matter a lot. It always helps to know exactly what you're dealing with." Nanaki nodded in agreement.
"Okay, okay," Cid sighed. "But we're still going that way." He turned on his heel and started for the exit. Shera shrugged and followed. Nanaki tagged along grumbling about "impulsive humans" under his breath.
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