Adversary Chapter 17
Midgar, Sector 7, 0005 N.C.E.
Cloud was never a big fan of television. In fact, he usually avoided wasting his time in front of the set unless something extremely important was being broadcast on the news. Otherwise, he would much prefer spending time with his son, or his wife, or training his combat skills, or just about anything else besides watching normal television programming. It wasnt that he thought it was a stupid invention; it was just that he never found himself relating to the characters on the screen. Why should he care about some actor pretending to have a relationship problem?
Nevertheless, he somehow found himself seated next to Tifa, watching Burnt, a hip, drug-promoting, late-night, real life comedy show in which the lead character, stumbled around town incoherently, making a fool of himself to get a laugh out of his viewers. The only thing he found at all funny about it was the fact that some poor stoner, sitting glazed on his mothers couch somewhere was probably roaring with glee at the display of stupidity.
Wow since when did saying something louder make it funnier? Cloud mused, with his face leaning on his hand, mashing some of his words as the laugh track played in the background. This guy is such an ass. How does this crap stay on the air? Seriously
Aw, come on. Its pretty funny sometimes. Tifa said. He smirked.
Ive had funnier root canals.
Shh I wanna hear this. He squirmed, uncomfortably. Doing us time stuff like this never really appealed to him. He wasnt even talking to her, they were just sitting together, staring at a plywood box. He did his best to think of something
Im gonna go get a drink, check my messages, and maybe see how Truss is doing. He announced to her, standing up. Be back in a little while. He kissed her on the cheek, and out into the kitchen he went. He grabbed one of those drinks with the fruit juice and the shot of alcohol mixed into it from the fridge. He thought they were wimpy, but it was the only thing in there at the moment. Heading upstairs to his office, he flipped the switch on the wall, which literally gave life to the whole room. He liked his office. It was one of the only rooms entirely of his own design, and it was where he could sit and think quietly, in a productive setting.
The ergonomic chair was amazingly comfortable, well worth all of its price. It came straight from Wutai, and innovation of one of their top holistic doctors. Yuffie used to rave about how wonderful the technology was.
Oh my god, youve never been in one? Its sooo cool! I mean, its so comfy, you can like, do anything in one. Work, sleep, make out, whatever! Geez, first boyfriend I get, were so gonna make out in one I cant wait
He chuckled, with a sigh, remembering the times she used to ramble on about the craziest things just to keep her mind off the danger they were constantly in. Although sometimes he wished shed deflate or pop or something he, deep down inside, missed having her around. It hurt him to see his wife devastated by the loss of her best friend, just a few weeks before her twenty-first birthday last November. It hurt him even more when he didnt know what to do to help her get through grieving.
Even that guy Crono, the young, wild-eyed, sort of daredevil character he sometimes missed. At first Cloud couldnt stand the sight of him, but after some long thoughts about their very brief interactions with each other, he wondered if maybe the two of them could have been friends someday. Seeing Crono and Yuffie sheepishly falling for each other brought back feelings he hadnt experienced since he was a young boy, looking up at Tifas window. He saw the pain in Cronos face, the same pain he felt when he was cast out of the group by the in crowd as a kid, and the hopelessness Crono felt when she disappeared, the same hopelessness he had when Tifa was in a coma, expected to die in a matter of days.
Their fates were a mystery. They had both been targets of attack by Sephiroth and his two cohorts, both assaults in relatively close proximity. While Yuffie was seen being taken away, Crono had disappeared from his hotel room days later, without a trace. Only the worst could have been assumed for them.
I hope they can be together on the other side
Tifa had said to him, the night it was confirmed that further investigation of their disappearances was futile and not likely to turn up anything. The next day, Cloud furiously went to speak with President Kipling, and demanded that he be granted authority to destroy Sephiroth before the public panicked over his return at all costs, and requested government assistance in doing so. Not wanting to argue at all with a man of such reputation in such a mood, Kipling agreed, granting Strife an open-ended budget for the dispatch of Sephiroth.
A weeks worth of day-and-night planning produced enough information on Sephiroths next known isolated whereabouts to prepare a sabotage of the area. The scientist Lucca and the magician Magus combined their skills to infiltrate and rig with powerful explosives the warehouse, which was a black market Materia junction, under the table, that he was due to arrive at. Having police-raided the place an hour early, the warehouse was cleared out in time for his arrival, and as soon as the hidden cameras picked his image up on film, the interior of the building burst into flames, and the structure instantly gave way and collapsed, damaging little elsewhere on the deserted street. Sephiroth was confirmed dead after charred leather with DNA traces were found. No skeletal remains were uncovered, but it was stated that like the last time he had been destroyed, his body had completely disintegrated into the Lifestream. Nevertheless, Sephiroth was gone, and the Strifes slept a little easier at night.
The Guardian Kingdom was still standing across the plains, but it seemed to be growing farther and farther away, the space between it and Midgar expanding rapidly. Some suggested that a wall be built between the lands, preventing culture shock and violence, but the far majority was apathetic. They didnt much care about primitive civilizations, and had no real desire to visit their land. Besides, stranger things had happened to their world.
Strife was told that he had done all he could for his people, once again, and had saved the world a great deal of upset and danger. Yet still he felt empty inside, having lost two comrades to the cause. But five months time had passed, Cids birthday was only a few weeks ago, and friends, family, and moving on had helped ease the pain.
He hated scrolling through his emails; ninety-five percent of them were garbage. Rarely did he get something that was meaningful or important, like,
Whats crackin, whiteboy? You an the missus still bouncing off the walls? Heh heh. Jus playin. Cids party was a blast, man. We should hook up mo, like the old days. I know me and Marlene live a long way away, but come drop by Mideel sometime. Yo ass is always welcome round here. Tell the gang I said hello.
It was a pleasant surprise. His contact with his former boss had dwindled over the years, but occasionally they reached out. He kept scrolling down the list. One was from Sk8rDude19. It read,
Hey man, whats goin on? Its Leon, just checking in on you guys. We havent had much to do with each other since Costa Del Sol, but maybe we could get back in touch some time. I live way downtown, Sector Six. Give me a ring sometime. 786-247-7790. Adios, amigo.
He chuckled. He figured after what it mustve been like for an ordinary teenager to flung into such an ordeal, Leon wouldnt have wanted anything to do with them ever again.
I guess hes a pretty forgiving guy
He knew hed been rather inconsiderate of the young mans feelings, but in times of need, leadership outweighed tact by far. Maybe he and Tifa could pay him a visit sometime.
Ah, what the hell
He picked the cordless up off the desk, pushing the button that ejected the mouthpiece and activated the interface. Dialing in the numbers, he finished off the last of his drink, the alcohol relaxing him a little. The receiving line picked up. A young woman answered.
Hey, is Leon there? He asked.
Uh huh. Hes right here.
Yo? He picked up the receiver.
Hey, man. Its Cloud. I got your letter and figured Id give you a ring.
Cloud! Dude, whats happenin? Hows the gang?
Were good, just relaxing after a long day. You?
Ah, not much. Im hanging with Mel, watchin Burnt. Ever watch that show? Its awesome shit! Cloud rolled his eyes.
Yeah. Its really uh intelligent. Teefs downstairs now watching it.
Good stuff. Hey, if you guys arent busy tomorrow night, we could go make a night of it somewhere. I dont got any plans. He offered.
Hmm sure, I dont think were busy tomorrow. Teef has work hm hey, you and Melanie could come down to Seventh Heaven, then come back to our place after closing.
Sounds great! Hey, Id love to stay and chat, man, but the shows back on. Dont wanna miss a new episode. Call you tomorrow, okay?
Sure thing. Talk to you later. He pressed the off button, closing up the phone, and setting it back in the cradle. For a while he read through more emails, trashing the majority of them. He picked up the bottle from the open windowsill, and turned it upside-down, letting any sparse, remaining drops fall down his throat.
Damn shoulda brought two
Closing out of the electronic mail window, Cloud reluctantly left the chair, and opened the door to the upstairs hallway. Walking out, he checked on his son, whom was out, lost in the depths of sleep. Then he proceeded down the stairs, almost stumbling once, but catching himself. He chuckled; he didnt drink that much.
He headed back to the kitchen, this time grabbing a can of clear soda. He could still hear the television in the living room. A commercial for the upcoming eleven o clock news was playing right now.
Teef, guess who I just talked to on the phone? He called out, putting the unopened can in his pocked and closing the fridge door. He could hear her barely utter a grunt of a reply. Oh, come on, guess. At least try. Again, she just muttered something unintelligible. Frustrated, he walked toward the couch she sat on, and walked around the side. I just got off the phone with Teef? You okay?
She was lying slack on the couch, her eyes dazed and barely open. She looked up at him, and moved her lips lazily, but nothing came out but a feeble whisper.
Honey? Whats going on, are you sick? He questioned her. He began to panic. She nodded.
Im so tired I cant She faded out, her head falling to the side. He grabbed her shoulders.
What happened? You want to go upstairs?
No air Sweat poured off his head. The room felt so hot, yet he tried to stay in control.
Ill get you outside hang on He scooped her up, and ran to the nearest exit, the glass sliding doors in the kitchen. Throwing them open, he ran a few steps out onto the patio, and laid her down on one of the outdoor lounges by the garden. The air outside was a little chilly, but the house felt stifling.
Somethings not right
The outdoors seemed to be a relief for her, and him as well. He knelt beside her body, watching her open her eyes again, breathing somewhat deep sighs of reprieve.
What about Truss? she huffed. He jumped.
Shit Ill be one second He said, running back into the house. No doubt about it, it was like peak summertime indoors, and it was still winter outside! Nevertheless, there was no time for guessing games, as he bolted up the stairs to his sons room, grabbing his unconscious, sweating body from his bed, and ripping off some blankets to take with him. Within seconds he was back outside, setting Truss down on another lounge.
How is he? She asked her husband. Cloud felt his forehead. It was hot, but his son coughed, and looked around, almost in shock.
You okay there, sport? Hot enough for ya?
Yea Dad whats whats goin on? What happened?
Dont worry. Im taking care of everything. Ill get you two something to drink right away. He grabbed for the soda in his pocket, but decided against it. With all his dashing around, he must have shaken it to an explosive level. Rushing back inside, he grabbed all the cold drinks he could carry from the refrigerator, and bundled them in his arms.
Here, Teef, can you handle these? Ive gotta find out what the problem is. She nodded, and he handed her the drinks.
He approached his home with caution, not sure exactly what he was getting into. Scanning around the perimeter for any kind of clue as to the interior problem, he noticed something on the side of the house. The furnace was roaring in the basement.
Thats gotta be it
He walked through the sweltering rooms of his mansion, down to the hallway by the basement door where the thermostat lie, and saw that it was reading a temperature of one hundred twenty degrees.
How the hell didnt I notice?!
He slammed, almost maliciously, the off button down, and waited to hear the rumbling stop.
Again and again he pushed the shutoff, but no response came. Something was wrong with the machine. Looking down the hall at one of the vents, he could see a thin smoke, only visible in the dark, drift out of the vents.
He threw open the basement door, and charged down the stairs, determined to destroy the sabotaged furnace if he had to.
The light snapped on, and he grabbed a wrench from a workbench of his, and took after the machine, straining as it maintained its highest possible function. He looked around its surface for a way to shut it off manually, but was cautious not to come in contact with it. That might prove extremely painful. Sure enough there was a manual shutoff valve that he used the wrench to twist until the machine slowed to a grinding halt. Panting, he let himself relax just for a moment
He swung around, lashing out behind him with the wrench, the source of noise he thought hed heard dodging the swing. He could see her clearly. She wore a black assassins uniform, the only part of her exposed her eyes, those which were definitely Wutaise.
He held his weapon at the ready, and stared her down.
Who the hell are you and what are you doing here? He demanded, angrily. What kind of shit did you just try to pull? Come on, good think I caught your little ninja ass before you did something that really made me pissed at you. What the fuck are you doing in my house. Huh? She looked like she was ready to fight him, and in response to his question, threw a jab at him, which he slammed aside with his wrench, a cry of pain escaping her lips. No funny shit. Talk. He ordered. She looked around. He wasnt completely comfortable jumping at her. She might have a concealed weapon to stab into him. He needed another way to subdue her and get his information.
He slipped the unopened soda can out of his jeans pocket. Here. He said. Want some soda? Maybe that will make you talk to me. Her eyes widened. He smiled inside. Hed baited her. He held it up, her hand extending to take it. Nah, on second thought, youd just spray it in my face, wouldnt ya. Just like this. He popped the top off with his thumb, and let the stream of carbonated beverage explode into her eyes. She reeled back in shock, clutching at her eyes. Rushing forward, he grabbed her upper arms from behind, and forced her downward, face down onto the floor as she choked and spit liquid out of her mouth.
Securing her elbows to the tiled floor with his knees, he reached for her mask, pulling it over and off her head, her black hair falling loose. What he saw made his eyes widen in shock.
Yuffie? He said, astonished. She buried her face against the tiled floor, trying not to let him see her. Is that you? Youre alive after all? He asked once again, shocked. She breathed, heavily and with some difficulty.
Yes please let me up She whispered. He hesitated.
Yuffie, what are you doing? Why did you break into my house?
Please let me up. She repeated. Im sorry, I can explain. Just let me up. Please Im injured He frowned at the situation.
I have your word you wont try anything?
Yes. She insisted. He released the pressure on her arms, and kneeled to the side of her. He couldnt believe what was going on.
What happened to you? I thought you were
Dead I know listen its really complicated. I cant explain right now. I need some help fast. I had to knock you guys out with the gas so I could use your house as a place to rest. Maybe get these oh bullets outta me.
Im glad its just you, let me help you up. Talk to me about it later. Ill need to know everything though. Here He took her hand, and pulled her up carefully, helping her up the stairs. For a moment, she stopped walking. He stopped pulling her forward, and looked back. Whats wrong? You need to rest?
Sorry. She stated, blankly.
I understand. He tried to assure. She stared still, expressionless.
No. You never will. And she yanked his arm downward with such force that he careened down the staircase, sprawling out at the bottom. Goodbye. She said from the doorway, and she slammed it behind her. He could hear the locks on the basement door clicking shut. She had double-crossed him. With a groan of severe discomfort, he pushed himself up, and ran to the window that lay perpendicular to the soil outside in the front yard. He could see her run out the front door, and meet up with several other people, all black shapes.
He flung himself backward, bullets blasting through the basement windows. He rolled behind his workbenches, sliding into old paint cans and wallpaper from renovations, screaming out in mock pain after the first salvo halted. He knew they were trying to find out if theyd gotten him. Screaming wasnt going to be convincing enough. A crazy idea in his head, he rummaged through the paint, tearing the lid off the can of red. Not bothering to be aesthetic at all, he poured it all over his white t-shirt, and let a pool of it spill out onto the floor before pushing the can out of sight, and lying as still as possible.
It was silent for a moment, he then heard the assassins come around to another window, looking down at his crumpled, bloody body. He prayed theyd fall for it.
Okay, lets go one of them finally whispered, and he heard their footsteps leave the window.
A while later, he smeared the paint off his face, and stood up, amidst the puddle.
They were going to pay, whoever they were.
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