The Second Incarnation Part 15

A Contest of Wills

By Shelly Ichishita

The cold greenish liquid chilled Vincent to his marrow. With a considerable effort he managed to lift his head and unglue his heavy eyelids. Lucretia's face was the first sight he set his eyes on. Her forehead was pressed against the glass and her lips moved as if she were silently praying. Vincent drew back and raised his arm, but his claw was gone and blood trailed from the remains of his arm. She was pure evil and the moment he got out of this damn test tube he would put an end to her miserable existence, even if it meant killing a part of himself. He couldn't live with what he had done anyway. How could she have done it? Reeve hadn't deserved to have his head lauded as a trophy by that traitorous whore.

He studied the room. There was a large reinforced steel door and a number of coaxial cables and Shinra network drops emanating from the white plaster ceiling, Vincent turned his head and looked to his left. Reeve! Reeve was in a tube next to him. Vincent stared at his friend. Admittedly he looked awful but his head was still attached to his neck. Vincent felt a surge of elation; I didn't kill him! He shouted to himself. I'm not a murderer! His eyes fell on Lucretia again. Now he didn't know what to make of her presence here, was she an ally or was she still with Hojo? How had Hojo made him believe that he had killed Reeve?

The movement in the tube alerted Reeve that Vincent had come around. Reeve smiled weakly and gave his friend a truncated wave. Vincent nodded back and resumed his scrutiny of Lucretia, who remained unaware of his awakening.

A computer screen flickered on. "I see that the bait is alive and squirming," Hojo paused, "but I haven't caught anything yet. Maybe I need to make the bait more enticing?" he snickered nastily and a surge of electric current went though the tubes.

Reeve screamed as the current flew though his body; Vincent held his lips shut. There was no way Hojo would obtain a cry of pain through him. He could smell his hair burning and the pain was excruciating but he refused to scream. Reeve had passed out and the electricity stopped in his tube, but Hojo relentlessly sent the current into Vincent's tube.

Lucretia ran over to the computer and slammed her fists into the screen on the console. It shattered as she screamed at Hojo to stop. Vincent's eyes rolled back in his head. "Stop it, stop it you bastard!" She tried to turn the console over but settled for kicking it. "I won't let you hurt him!" Tears were running down her face as she started pulling at cables. "My father let you hurt me but I won't let you hurt Vincent. I won't let you!" She kicked and screamed as someone picked her up from behind.

"Oh shut up you stupid bitch." Scarlet said as she threw Lucretia over a metal table. The electricity had stopped and Vincent and Reeve were floating, unconscious, in their respective tubes. The smell of their burnt flesh permeated the air. Scarlet bent to reattach the cables Lucretia had pulled out. The speakers crackled and the shattered computer screen blinked back to life.

"Did my bait catch anything?" Hojo cackled.

Scarlet laughed, "Hojo you are one sick son-of-a..."

Hojo interrupted her quickly. "You should be more careful with your tongue. Unless you want to end up like Elena."

The door facing the tubes crashed open and Cloud went flying into the glass. Ellie followed dragging an insensible Tifa by her hair. "Careful, we can't have you damaging my specimen." Hojo admonished her.

"You were always one for grand entrances Sephiroth," Scarlet shook her head.

"My name is Ellie now." Ellie strode forward and slammed Tifa on the metal table. Cloud was beginning to stagger to his feet so she reached for something in her jacket and he fell back to the ground.

"So you let them name you like a pet dog?" Scarlet taunted not missing a beat.

"No, I just let you call me Sephiroth so that you would remember where I came from and to keep you where you belong in this food chain." Ellie responded coolly.

"And just where is that?"

"Below me."

Hojo chortled. "As much as I love these conversations we really must get down to business ladies."

"Whatever." Scarlet walked over to the table. Tifa moved slightly; Scarlet hissed as she grabbed Tifa by her shoulders and knocked her head into the table.

"I have plans for her. Go play with your machines." Ellie said in a cold voice as she pushed Scarlet away.

"Scarlet, go find Elena. Make sure that she has completed her mission." Hojo ordered. Scarlet sniffed and walked out though a small oak door. "I'm going to check on my experiments. Clean up the mess my cousin made and stick her in the tube with Vincent." The computer screen went blank.

Ellie turned her attention on Lucretia's rumpled form. She used a strong gust of wind to open the glass cylinder that contained Vincent; she concentrated and used another gust to lift Lucretia and slowly place her in the now crowded tube. She replaced the lid and wiped the sweat from her brow. It was hard for her to concentrate the flows of air in two places at once but a voice inside her head told her that she had once done it in eight places simultaneously.

She rested before using a gust to lift Cloud and press him against the only empty wall in the room. Ellie waved her hand and the air around him thickened and swirled around his body. Cloud's eyes popped open and he opened his mouth to speak. Ellie thickened the air around his mouth and forced it into his mouth like a gag. She caressed the emitter that Hojo had given her. Cloud had a corresponding chip in his cerebral cortex and she had used it to knock him out in the hall earlier. The only indication that he had felt anything at all was a slight tightening at the corner of his eyes.

"So you want to be a tough guy?" Ellie came over to Tifa's side and started strapping her down. She brushed Tifa's hair back and turned to see Cloud wince. "Don't worry," she gave him a comforting smile, "she'll be alright as long as you cooperate." She removed the gag from his mouth. "Will you cooperate?"

"Yes," Cloud swallowed; his mouth had never been so dry. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," Ellie said in a gracious tone.

"Why are you doing this? If you really are Sephiroth reborn, why bother with us? Why aren't you trying to call Meteor again?"

"I have a score to settle with you Cloud. And I'm not really Sephiroth. I was just imbued with his life essence. Hojo created the shell and he needed to fill it with something. He used Professor Gast's immense knowledge of the lifestream to draw out Sephiroth's life energy. Professor Hojo has really become more efficient since he lost his body."

"Efficient? Hojo's a sadist not a scientist." Cloud spat out vehemently.

Ellie stroked her fingers along Tifa's jawbone, stopping at her neck. Ellie's slender white fingers tightened around Tifa's outstretched throat. "You said that you'd cooperate," she chided Cloud in an absentminded voice.

"I will. Don't hurt her," Cloud hesitated before beseeching, "please don't hurt her." She drew her hand back. Cloud let out the breath that he had been holding. "You don't need her to keep me in line. Let her go. I'll do whatever you want."

"But it's so much more fun this way," Ellie pouted, as she freed her fingers from Tifa's throat. Cloud stared miserably at the angry red marks that remained. Tifa began to cough; she tried to sit up and discovered that she was restrained.

"What's going on?" she blinked and turned her head to face Ellie, "thank god. Ellie help me up." Her face grew puzzled, as Ellie made no move to release her. "Are you hurt?" she asked worriedly.

"Not at all," Ellie flashed her teeth and remained where she was.

"Then help me get out of this." Tifa squirmed and tried to find a way to unbuckle the leather straps.

"It's no use Tifa," Cloud told her resignedly, "she won't help you. She's one of Hojo's creations."

Tifa's eyes widened in shock. She shook her head emphatically not wanting to believe that this woman that looked so much like her dead friend was who Cloud said she was. She struggled with her bonds again. The heavy brass buckles dug into her skin and the leather refused to give.

"Stop struggling, I'll unbuckle it for you." Ellie calmly told her. "But first I want you to hear the agreement I've made with Cloud for your release," she paused and touched something in her jacket pocket. "Cloud," she prompted.

Cloud's eyes grew hazy with the pain inflicted by the emitter Ellie held but he managed to get the words out, "I will do whatever you want me to do as long as you let Tifa go." As soon as he finished his statement his head slumped to his chest.

Ellie removed her hand from within her pocket. "Agreed." She unbuckled Tifa's restraints, "There. You are free to go now," she removed her jacket. "That is unless you want to watch."

Tifa laid there in shock. This had to be a nightmare, she thought. But even if it was just a dream there was no way she was going to leave Cloud to suffer whatever Ellie had planned for him. She leapt off the table and immediately formed her fighting stance. Ellie was prepared for her; she had whipped the Princess Guard out and held it in front of her. She surprised Tifa with a few glancing blows to her side. Tifa tried to protect herself but Ellie fought with all of Sephiroth's skill and knew her every move. She had managed to score a few hits to Ellie's midsection but so far she had been kept on the defensive. Ellie stabbed the end of the staff into Tifa's chest and laughed when she fell.

Cloud came to in time to see Ellie raising the Princess Guard above Tifa's head. The pain he was experiencing was evident in his voice as he yelled for Ellie to stop. He fought and struggled with his bonds but the staff had already begun to descend.


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