The Second Incarnation Part 17


By Shelly Ichishita

The room was a dead end. Cid punched the wall in front of him in frustration. "Take it easy Cid," Nanaki advised as he walked around the perimeter of the room.

"Alright," Cid agreed and made his way to Shera's side. "Let's head back." Nanaki suddenly jumped as the wall that Cid had hit began to move. "What the... You okay Red?"

"I'm fine." Nanaki began to investigate the new opening in the wall. He moved to the left to make room for Shera.

"It's a passageway. This room isn't a dead end." Shera stuck her head into the dark recess.

"Hey! Don't do that," Cid ran up and pulled Shera back by her shoulders. "You don't know what's in there."

A piercing scream echoed to them through the hidden passage. Shera pulled away from Cid and retrieved a large blue flashlight from her bag. "I may not know what's in there but I'd wager my metric wrench set that we'll find the guys at the end of it."

Nanaki started down the passageway without them. "Are you two coming?" he asked in an exasperated tone.

It was a short walk and Cid cursed when the end proved to be a solid wall. The wall was covered with a mural depicting Rufus as the god of creation. The redhead wore nothing but a small fig leaf. Nanaki grimaced, "how tasteless."

"I don't think that tasteless accurately describes it." Shera scrutinized the painting and began to pry at the fig leaf.

"Whoa." Cid exclaimed, "do I have reason to be jealous?"

Shera got the fig leaf loose and quickly averted her eyes. "Of course not." She placed the leaf into a similarly shaped indentation on the mural. "You think I'm doing this for the entertainment value?" The mural began to slide into the sides of the wall.

Cid squeezed her hand. "You're a genius!" Nanaki complemented her. They walked out of the passageway, but they didn't get too far. A number of cardboard boxes blocked their path.

"This isn't a building it's a freaking obstacle course." Cid pushed the boxes down and stepped over them.

A draft of cold air ruffled Nanaki's fur. He traced the source of the draft to an open air conditioning vent. The vent looked as if something extremely large had crawled out of the opening. Nanaki hoped that whatever it was hadn't found Vincent and Reeve.

To Cid's dismay Shera insisted on scouting ahead. "Come quickly, there's something here you should see." Cid and Nanaki ran down the hall to meet her. At her feet were two rotting human torsos grafted to mechanical spider bodies. Shera pointed to the misshapen metal, "remind you of anything Captain?" Shera pinched her nose shut; the stench reminded her of the time her sister's cat laid it's litter in-between the walls of their bathroom. It had been a few weeks before her Dad realized the source of the smell and the minute he broke open the wall the disgusting odor grew even worse. Shera never could understand why Ginger had left her kittens there to die.

"That looks like the schematics for my lunar lander." Cid moved in to get a closer look. "Damn Shinra. I can't believe they used my ideas for this."

Nanaki tried to stay as far away from the dead things as he could; his nose couldn't take it. "Take a look at the marks on the creatures. The slashes match the Conformer's markings." His eyes began to water.

A wrenching thud tore Cid's attention away from the bodies. Two undead mechanical spiders filled the hallway. The spider zombies moved closer. Shera released the safety on her rifle and braced the butt against her shoulder while Nanaki readied a few phoenix downs. She took a deep breath and aimed for the control panel on the underside of the monster. Shera held the breath and gently pulled the trigger, the bullet screamed through the air before tearing into the metal. The first spider crashed to the ground and Nanaki tossed a phoenix down on it to kill its upper half. Shera readied herself to shoot again and Cid leapt into the air with his Venus Gospel. The second monster looked remarkably like Elena. Red covered it in phoenix downs but it didn't seem to affect it. The creature determined Shera and her rifle to be the real threat and she swung her head down to bite her before turning and fleeing.

Cid landed where the spider stood a few seconds ago. "Shit. I knew that I shouldn't have tried that new dragoon jump. Great shooting Babe."

Shera smiled and wiped a trickle of blood off of her thigh. Nanaki tried the door behind the dead spider zombies. It opened only to hit a bloodied and disheveled Scarlet. Cid rushed over her unconscious body when the tortured cry hit his ears. "That's Cloud." He raced for the solid oaken door and threw it open. He saw Barret, Yuffie and one of the girls standing above the prone bodies of Cloud and Tifa. Directly opposite them Vincent, Lucretia and Reeve floated in their tubes. "Vince!" Cid cried as he ran towards his friend.

"Wait!" Barret tried to hold him back but Cid broke through, his momentum carrying him to the cylinders in a matter of seconds. Cid immediately drained the tubes and released his friends. Because of the shocks they had received Vincent and Reeve remained unconscious but Lucretia coughed out the mako and sat up.

Barret, Yuffie and Shera joined Cid; Barret immediately stepped behind the empty cylinders. "Son-of-a-bitch!" Barret swore when he spotted a small gray box; he lifted a small rock off of its dial. "She tricked us." He was about to throw the emitter to the ground and stomp on it but Shera grabbed his wrist and took the emitter away.

Shera opened the box and disconnected a few wires. She handed it back to Barret, "go ahead." Shera took a moment to wipe the sweat from her brow; she was burning up.

Barret jumped on the emitter and crushed it beneath his feet. Now that it was destroyed Cloud's thrashings subsided but he was still pale and immobile. Aeris gently brushed his hair back and took his pulse. Cloud grabbed her slender hand, his voice cracking as he asked, "Tifa?" Aeris shook her head sadly as he drifted back into unconsciousness.

Aeris stood and healed Tifa, Vincent and Reeve. A tear traveled down her face, so many wounded friends. It hurt her even more now that she could remember their friendship. At least everyone would be all right. The thought cheered her as she helped Tifa to her feet.

It didn't cheer her for long. Shera stumbled towards them; sweat rolled off her face like rain and her right leg had turned an ugly shade of black. Cid rushed forward to catch her as she slumped to the ground. "What's wrong with her?" he asked Aeris.

Aeris inspected her leg. She gingerly pressed the sides of a small puncture wound on Shera's thigh. A clear liquid squirted out. "She's been bitten." Aeris tilted Shera's head back and poured an antidote into her mouth. She waited a few minutes but Shera's condition didn't change.

"That won't help." Lucretia left Vincent's side. "Did you kill the Necro-Arachnid that bit her?"

"The what?" Cid asked desperately.

"The spider zombie thing. I assume that's what bit her. Did you kill it?" Lucretia took Shera's hand and explained. "I'll need its venom gland to heal her."

Nanaki answered, "no, the one that bit her ran away. Are you sure that you need the venom gland from the exact same Necro-Arachnid? There are plenty of dead ones in the hall."

"Hojo developed a different venom for each spider. The anti-venom won't work unless the gland is from the spider that bit her."

Vincent eyed her suspiciously. "How is it that you know so much about Hojo's pets?" he stared at her through cold eyes. His gaze penetrated her and she flinched at the implied accusation.

Reeve's eyes widened in shock. How could Vincent treat her so badly after all she's been through? He opened his mouth to defend her when Lucretia cut him off with a shake of her head. She faced Vincent. "I helped Scarlet to create them. She developed the mechanics and I formed the organic half."

Cid's face contorted into a mask of anger. "You did this to her?" he snatched Shera's hand away from Lucretia.

Lucretia was faced with a sea of hostile faces, only Reeve looked at her with a tinge of sympathy in his eyes. But Shera's pasty, white-lipped face stood out the most.

Nanaki's voice rumbled low and threatening in his throat, "if she helped create the venom, she must be able to create the anti-venom. Tell us what to do to save Shera."

Lucretia's eyes brimmed with tears and she stared at the floor to avoid Vincent's stare. Cid took a hold of her shoulders, "tell us what to do dammit. I won't watch her die. She has to live." Cid pushed her away as if she had the plaque and buried his face in his hands. Yuffie stood behind him and stroked his hair to comfort him.

Aeris tried to diffuse the situation before Cid did something rash. "You told us that we needed to get the venom gland from the Necro-Arachnid that bit her right?" Lucretia nodded. "Do you know where we might be able to find it?"

"Nibelheim," she said weakly. "Hojo programmed them to assemble at the old Shinra mansion if anything happened here."

Aeris asked one final question. "How much time does she have?"

Lucretia looked at Shera's leg, "two hours." She undid her scarf and fashioned a tourniquet around Shera's leg. "There isn't much time. Hojo will regroup and prepare for your arrival."

Cid rushed to pick Shera up. He started for the exit. Barret quickly heaved Cloud over his shoulder and the group ran for the elevators. Aeris wanted to make sure that Scarlet wouldn't starve to death in the deserted building but there was no time to check.


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