The Fallen Chapter 4
The old white lab with the weather beaten Shinra Inc. logo painted on the side was in ruins, merely a broken and burnt out shell slowly collapsing in Sector 2- the last sector still untouched by Reeves reconstruction plans due to the fact that is was only a part of the city set aside for Shinra research and testing facilities, and it gave the Midgar population great satisfaction to tramp through the wreckage of the old company much like it had once tramped over them. The devastation wrought by Meteor had indeed been halted at the core of the city, but a shock wave rippling with energy had flown on, leveling any and everything in its path. Only people on the very outskirts, those lucky enough to look out even one window and see grass and blue sky instead of cold concrete and billowing pillars of smog, had survived it, and no one had managed to leave the city completely unscathed.
And this lab was no where near the outskirts of the city.
The frame of the building was still in tact- barely- and three of the four walls still stood, but cluttering the inside was a mess so potent, such a complete and chaotic disarray, that it was nearly impossible to imagine the place as the anal retentives wet dream it had once been. Machines were toppled, their fusings to the floor had been ripped completely up, steel bars jutting out from their metal shells, dripping chemicals and more then a little blood onto the floor where the two pooled and spiraled into a sickening mix of the two. Every beaker, vial, and window had exploded, littering the floor with glass and even more toxins.
Only a couple of mechanisms even remained upright amidst the hurricane hell storm of debris. A massive metal pod was simply an extension of one of the remaining walls, and thus had been impossible to capsize, although it was thoroughly beaten and dented so that it appeared now as a crushed can of beer and not the ovacular egg shape itd once held. In the center of the room there was a lowered section of the floor that formed a pool sized vat. The pod was still sealed off to the surrounding air, its contents a mystery, but the tub lay wide open for all to see.
The final purpose was to store and contain mako so various objects could be dipped in for a certain amount of time and then retrieved, which was only a half hearted adaptation of a failed attempt to force Huge Materia into existence. It was a purpose that the vat had been fulfilling for many years before the downfall of Midgar... but now, even now, chemicals ran in both turrets and drips from every side, mingling with the life essence of the Planet, as the scientist who had run the lab had called Mako. Oil had sprayed from snapped pipes and malfunctioning machines, not only feeding the then raging fires but also dipping into the vat and turning the volatile mixture a shiny black. Elements of the scientists own creation, foreign metals, specimen atoms, even new types of materia in virgin states of growth peppered the surface of or littered the bottom of the pulsing and churning goo.
The vermin of Midgar has learned long ago to avoid the lab completely, due to the radioactive pulse and strange effects the conception had even at long distances. Any living organism that got within 10 feet would begin to notice significant physical changes, hardened muscles, liquefying fat, accelerated bursts in growth that brought them almost a foot closer to the ceiling. But that was only the original change, the real effect, however, was on the gray matter of the brain. The sheer mass of it doubled, even as their capability to use that brain tripled and then tripled again. The first and last sentient thought the rats and mice and insects had before their brains ruptured and burst through undersized skulls was the knowledge that their brains were about to explode through their undersized skulls.
But there was something else in the vat, besides the blood and the mako and the acids, besides the metal and the oil and the grafted DNA of a thousand different experiments in one spilt drop from a beaker. A body. The body, specifically, of the scientist who had used to run the lab, who had crawled, painstakingly, on his hands and knees as well as his last breath- back to the place hed spent more time in than his home. He had been barely conscious, let alone coherent, but in his stupor caused by losing a long, drawn out fight, he knew there was a chance. His body was beaten, bloody, and broken, but his soul was as resilient as the day he was born. He knew he needed mako to heal wounds that a Restore materia would be useless on, and damn the side effects. Hed managed to stumble to his feet, and to the vat, and had just straightened up in time for the shock wave to hit him, just in time to die on his feet. Itd bent him backwards, cleanly folding him up but not snapping his transformed spine. Dead instantly, hed collapsed into the vat, into what then was simply mako.
The scientist, however, was no longer in his original form. The corpse hed left behind could not have been recognized by his own mother- even if she had seen him grow up instead of leaving him wrapped in a lab coat on the footsteps of Shinra when he was only 5 weeks old, but now hed been warped further. The mako-mixture, so highly concentrated, both covering and filling him, on him and inside him, churning inside his body like the bright red blood hed left on the then shiny tiles of the floor. It repaired him and changed him as one and the same, sewing skin back together even as it turned it hard and stiff, regrowing tendons out of steel rather then muscle, setting bones with materia cores. The scientist, was rebuilt, whole, infinitely better than new... in the first few moments after the shock wave.
And then he simply ceased to be. His body melted away, dissolved into the mixture in one flowing movement, cells simply sliding apart and drifting away in the mako, mixing and scrambling around, before fusing back together, all at the will of the scientist. Hed advanced beyond what he was, beyond what anyone was, beyond the god themselves. He could change himself, change and move the basic building blocks of life, manipulate his own cells. He ruled his body to the most extreme degree possible.
And the mako didnt even ripple as Hojo, human- or at least appearing so- once more, rose steadily to his feet, and opened his eyes.
"Its too... freakin... c-cold," Rory complained through chattering teeth, pulling her thin jacket even tighter around her even thinner frame as she slowly marched through the filthy Midgar streets and the howling wind ripped against her and flung her coat tails wildly. Normally she could get into this, falling back into her imagination and letting her jacket fly free, and imagine herself as some mighty warrior, with a league of men at her disposal, who never had to answer to anyone, could do whatever they wanted, and never had to have her older brother cut her arm in order to get a roll- a roll for fucks sake- from the local bakery. Normally shed get into this, but beneath her jacket she was only wearing a bra, and the below freezing temperature made the entire image less champion hero and more pedophile fantasy fuel.
Gabriel jerked beside her when shed started to speak, hand making it halfway to the gun holster hed strapped around his waist before realizing it wasnt one of the thousands of lowlifes in the slums, but only his companion. She had only said a few words since theyd started out to find her brother, and even then she was just pointing out a turn they had to make or someone with especially wild eyes, at which point Griffon would change his walking to get between the targeted person and her. Looking sheepish, he lowered his hand and spared her a glance, "Its better than usual, actually," he said, gazing over her head and meeting stares with a homeless person , who then settled back under his cardboard box and tucked away the shard of broken glass bottle hed had gripped in a fist black with dirt. "And did I just hear you admit a sign of weakness? My god... its about time. I was developing a severe inferiority complex over here..."
Rory wrapped her arms tightly around her shoulders and privately vowed to shiver and suffer in silence, it was after all better than giving Gabriel the satisfaction of thinking she was weak and actually needed his weak attempt at protection. Shed lived here her whole life, he was the one whod just shown up. Slowly, their strides fell into pace with each other, and Rory started to scan street signs, which was Gabriels first and only sign that they were getting close to the house her and her brother stayed in. He looked forward to meeting Reno, it would be nice to see what kind of person it took to raise a girl like this. Not to mention it was always nice to know the local gang leaders around town in case you ever needed to make a business deal with someone that involved 6 figure sums and flying bullets.
A moment later they came upon a trio of men standing in the middle of the street, huddled around a barrel of trash theyd set alight that cast massive, flickering shadows in all directions. They were setting directly in Rory and Gabriels path, and even if the broken glass all around didnt prove an adequate weapon, the glimmer of steel against the light was more then obvious; and with a curse under his breath Gabriel prayed that these men were either friendly or immobilized. Neither of the two dared to breathe as they walked so fast they were almost running, but they managed to pass by without incident, even though Gabriel made a point to watch them closely over his shoulder as they walked away, until a rounded corner interfered with their view.
Gabriel leaned over to take one final look around the brick wall, and was so focused on making sure all remained in the light he didnt notice when Rory finally found the street she was looking for and turned into it. He kept walking for about 10 yards until he realized the young redhead was no longer by his side. He rolled his eyes and spun around, almost tripping on the loose gravel that now replaced the paved road, before starting in the direction shed gone on to in his usual slow, slouching walk.
And then he heard a loud, shrill scream cut through the night, and decided in was time to hurry the fuck up.
He ripped his weapon from its holster and sprinted in the direction the scream had come from, grabbing a street sign as he went and used it to spin as hard as he could around yet another corner, only to feel his feet catch on something and he went sprawling, not even managing to swear as his face raked against the ground and his cheek was shredded in a dozen different places. He rolled over slowly, groaning in pain, to see what he had hit, groping in the darkness to find his dropped gun. Suddenly he felt something strike his arm so hard it almost broke, and looked up to see a dark figure emerge from the shadows, features hidden in the depths of a filthy set of rags the person obviously called clothes. A foot long steel pipe protruded from either end of the mans tightly clenched fist, and was tilted to point directly between Gabriels eyes.
Instincts and training from over a year ago but that seemed only a day old to Gabriel kicked in, and a clamor of gun shots rang out as in one fluid motion he lashed out with a kick to send the pipe flying away, spun to his feet, snatched up his gun from the ground and leveled it at his assailant. A dark red dotted line laced straight up from the bottom of his targets ribcage until they stopped right below his jawbone, the hail of bullets spraying brain and lifeblood back into the streets and mingling with the trash and filth of those whod preceded them in the streets. Gabriel had reloaded his gun and holstered it before the body thudded dully against the ground, running again in the direction hed last heard Rory from. He reached another corner and took it hard, almost tripping again, and drew in a painful breath.
And the wounds on his cheeks stopped bleeding as all the blood rushed from his face and his complexion faded to a sickly pale. A group of men- at least 10- stood in a wide semi circle pressed against a wall, including the three men from the barrel fire who had probably exited the area as soon as Gabriels gaze had left them, and between them and the wall, was Rory.
The group had her surrounded, and before Gabriels eyes sent her off her feet with a hard shove from four different directions at once. One quickly reached down, and thwarting Rorys attempt to get to her feet and run, clamped his massive hand over her face with the intention of covering her mouth but more or less containing half her head in his grip. The man visibly twitched a second later as blood began to seep through his clenched fingers and dripped to the street below, and Gabriel was awed at how steady the man stayed while someone literally tried to chew through his hand.
Most of the men held knives or some other makeshift kind of weapon, and all of them appeared to be at least twice Gabriels age, and almost had that much over him in size ratios. Ignoring both of those facts, Gabriel slowly straightened up and held his gun behind his leg, the least visible but most easily accessible place he could think of. "Hey!" he screamed down the street, using the echoes to mask the evident signs of fear in his voice.
The group of men turned around as one, and the man who held Rory released her and clutched his torn up hand, glaring daggers at his former captive and the blood that was now running down her chin. She slumped to the ground for a moment, then seemed to recover her senses as she crawled backwards away from them on her hands and knees, and when she reached a safe distance, slowly rose to her feet. One of the men, the leader despite his lacking of both size and a visible weapon, spit in the street and took a few steps in Gabriels direction. "Beat it son," he growled in the typical street persons rasp, and Gabriel could almost smell the cheap whiskey on the mans breath from 20 paces away, "we aint above putting a lil pretty boy in a wig if ya get me!"
Gabriel couldnt recognize the accent, but figured it was probably Wutain - the only continent on the Planet he hadnt been to in his brief time of training, apparently there was something about traveling that was supposed to toughen you up- but he got him, and he didnt like what he was hearing in the least... and decided to let them know it. Deliberately he pulled his gun out and pointed it between the leaders eyes, pumping back the hammer. "Im thinking not," he snapped back at him, wrapping his finger around the trigger.
The leader didnt speak for a moment, but Gabriel could tell the rusty and caustic gears inside his head were turning, and with a simple beckon he signaled for two men to seize Rory again and force a blade up to her throat. She growled at them and kicked out, twisting around, even as Gabriel heard the voice of Vincent Valentine play in his head, a message from day one of his training. "Always call their bluff." Simple as that.
He remembered asking his teacher if someones life was enough to amend that rule, and could still picture the blank stare Vincent had fixed him with as his only answer, and mirrored that stare towards the gang leader. "Go on," he said as quietly as he could for the leader to still hear him, praying Rory didnt, "kill her. Then we get to see how fast you can run."
In response the man reached into his jacket, and Griffin tightened his grip on the stock of his pistol, but all that was pulled out was a small green ball that seemed to shine with its own light, flickering in a strange green glow. Gabriel peered closer, uncertain. "What the hell is that?" he murmured.
The other man smiled, but didnt answer at first. Instead he held the orb out in front of him like he himself did not recognize it, and then his grip tightened. "Comet," he said simply.
Any further questions Gabriel might have had was cut of as something unbelievably heavy struck him in the back, and for the briefest second the world came into total focus- and then everything went black.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic