Appointment With Destiny Chapter 22
"I did it!"
Aeris pulled the lock free and pushed the brackets aside. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and turned the door knob. A blast of cold air ruffled her hair. Cautiously, she stepped inside Hojo's forbidden library.
The automatic lights startled her. She was on the verge of turning to run when she realized her mistake.
"Don't be such a 'fraidy cat Aeris!" she scolded.
The library was much larger than she expected. Every shelf was filled to capacity. The overflow was piled on tabletops or placed in short stacks along the walls. Aeris glanced at some of them. There were novels, autobiographies, historical tomes and legends, but most of the volumes dealt with science.
She wandered in and out of the shelves wondering what she was supposed to look at first. For lack of a better method, she finally decided to start with the table closest to the door. She sat down and looked the nearest stack of books. it closer. Slowly she went through them. The third book from the bottom caught her attention.
Scientific Notes by Professor Thomas Gast.
Thomas Gast? Aeris frowned. Wasn't that the man who left Sephiroth the house in Icicle Village? Burning with curiosity, she opened the cover. It was a journal.
Professor Gast had beautiful handwriting. Aeris skimmed through the pages. The first part of the journal was about his experiments. The middle section was devoted to experiments he wanted to perform. Aeris was just about to close it when she noticed a change in the tone of his writing.
"Hojo should never be allowed near a lab. He's a menace to living creatures. I question some of those abominations he calls experiments. I've complained to my superiors, but they just ignore me. Sometimes I think they're actually encouraging his madness."
"I cringe whenever he starts a new experiment. Hojo doesn't care what he has to do or who he has to hurt to get the results he desires. I only hope he doesn't cause an environmental catastrophe in the name of science."
I guess I don't have to wonder if Hojo was ever a nice man, thought Aeris. She shook her head and kept reading. Gast tried to talk about his experiments for a few more pages, but he couldn't seem to keep his mind on what he was trying to say. His handwriting lost its beautiful loops and whirls, becoming spiky and rough. Underlaying pages bore the deep impressions of a pen pressed hard against the sheet above. The next entry was a month later.
"We exhumed the remains of the being named Jenova. An alien without a home, she was killed in a war with the Cetra. Remarkably after all this time, her body shows no traces of decay. I thought that was exciting at first, but then I examined her and discovered cellular activity in various parts of her body."
"Rumors persist that during the war, a virus was released into the air. Some believe the Cetra released the germ to kill Jenova. Others believe it was Jenova's way of killing the Cetra. The germ had no effect on humans back then, but we have no way of knowing if has mutated over long period of time. We're risking the lives of the human race if we don't move with caution."
"I wanted to isolate the body where it was until we could determine whether or not there were dangerous organisms present. It was the sensible thing to do, but Hojo threw a fit. He went over my head and called President Shinra. He was smirking when he gave me his phone. I knew I before I put it to my ear, I had been overruled. The President told me, in no uncertain terms, he was putting Hojo in charge of Jenova's body and I was to keep out of his way."
"If that wasn't shocking enough, when we got back to headquarters, workmen were setting up a separate new lab for Hojo. They were already in the process of moving his things out of the lab we shared. Jenova's body was taken Hojo's lab and locked in a vault. Hojo told me, his lab was off limits to me. Why? What's going on? Hojo and I are supposed to be partners. Why is the President doing this to me? What have I done to lose his trust?"
Aeris shuddered and turned quickly, expecting to see Hojo creeping toward her, but she was still alone in the library. She took a deep breath, and settled down.
Professor Gast stopped talking about Hojo and went back to talking about his experiments. A few pages later, he was talking about Hojo again.
"I've just heard some wonderful news. Lucrecia, Hojo's wife, is pregnant. I'm surprised it happened, considering he hardly ever spends any time with her. I hope a baby will put some stability in Hojo's life. Good things come in twos. It seems Muanie, Heidegger's wife, is pregnant as well. There must be something in the water! Heidegger is so happy he's practically bursting at the seams. It's good to see him in this mood. The girl of his dreams slipped away from him a long time ago. He was so broken up about, he swore he'd never marry anyone. He surprised us all when he went off on a three week vacation and came back with a pretty young bride on his arm. Now that he's going to be a father, he spoils Muanie constantly with flowers and trinkets. He's bought all kinds of toys the baby clothes on his own. Muanie jokes, the only thing her husband hasn't offered to do is carry the baby for her. Hojo would do well to take lessons from Heidegger."
The girl who broke Heidegger's heart must be the Cetra he lost in the battle of spells, thought Aeris. You were kind to phrase it so nicely, Professor Gast. She turned another page. The next entry took place months later.
"What started out to be a happy event has ended in tragedy. Lucrecia and Muanie are dead. It's horrible, just horrible! They both went into labor a few hours apart. Muanie was first, giving birth to a beautiful baby boy. She was holding her baby and talking to Heidegger when she took a sudden turn for the worst. She started losing a lot of blood. The doctor tried his best to save her with transfusions and emergency surgery, but the bleeding wouldn't stop. She died a short time later. Poor Heidegger has locked himself in his quarters and will not answer our calls."
"Lucrecia wasn't told about Muanie's death. She gave birth two hours later. She had a girl, but alas, the child was born dead. Lucrecia was devastated. It was heartrending to hear her cries. Hojo didn't even try to comfort her. He insisted on examining the baby's body immediately. His position with the President got him what he wanted. While the doctors and nurses tried to soothe his wife, Hojo was taking blood and tissue samples from his dead child. I wanted to strangle him."
"While Hojo was with the baby, Lucrecia started to bleed. It was the same malady that caused Muanie's death. Her did everything in his power to save her life, but there was nothing he could do. Lucrecia died weeping for her child. Two women and one baby dead within such a short time! Lucrecia and Muanie were the gentlest women I've ever known. The pain I feel is indescribable, and the anger I feel toward Hojo burns my soul."
"I tried to convince myself that he wanted to examine his child because it was the only way he could handle his grief, but I was wrong. The death of his daughter was nothing more than another mystery to unravel in his lab. When told of his wife's death, he shrugged and went on desecrating his daughters body."
"It wasn't until someone mentioned the appearance of Heidegger's son in front of him, that Hojo stopped what he was doing. It seems the child was born with silver hair and the strangest green eyes anyone had ever seen. Hojo rushed off to see the boy for himself. When he looked at the baby, his face lit up with the most hellish expression I've ever seen on the face of a human. To everyone's shock, he snatched the child out of its bassinet and walked out of the nursery with it. Security tried to stop him, but he told them if they didn't let him take the baby now, he'd come back with a squadron of troopers and take it by force. He promised those involved in stopping him wouldn't live through his second visit. They let him go. Hojo took the baby straight to his lab."
"I went to the hospital administrator. He was just as outraged as I. I waited while he put in a call to President Shinra. I don't know what was said, but the administrators face turned white. He walked right past me and went outside to tell his staff to get back to work. Ignoring my pleas for an explanation, he had security remove me from the building.
Angry, I went back to Headquarters
and demanded to see the President myself. I was shown into his office. Before
I could open my mouth, he told me if I liked my job, and my life, I was to
stay out of his business. Before he dismissed me, I made one request. He
agreed to make Hojo hire a nurse for the baby. I went back to my lab and
cried. Why is the President letting Hojo do this? I don't understand."
The next entry was dated three weeks later.
"I was never so grateful to the
forces that be as I was when after two days of grieving, Heidegger came out
of his quarters, and asked to see his child. Someone told him where the boy
was. Heidegger went straight to Hojo's lab. He came out carrying his son."
He took care of all the funeral arrangements himself. He gave Muanie a beautiful memorial service. Hojo on the other hand, didn't plan or attend Lucrecia's funeral. Her friends had to take care of everything.
After four pages of ranting about Hojo's cold-blood nature, the Professor stopped talking about him and went back to a few pages of his experiments, but it didn't last long.
"I don't understand it. Why is Heidegger turning his child over to that nut again? I tried to . . . "
Aeris put the book down. She raised her head, staring upwards as though she could see though the ceiling. Something wasn't right. She could almost see what it was, but she wasn't sure. It was . . ."
Panic gripped her. Aeris stood up quickly pushing her chair back so fast, it almost toppled over. She ran to the library door and paused. She stared upwards again.
Aeris ran back to the table and picked up the lock. She ran back to the doors. Pushing them shut, with trembling fingers, she pushed the lock through the rings on the brackets and closed it. She took the stairs as fast as she dared. She was out of breath when she reached the top. Sweat poured down her forehead. She closed the basement door behind her. There was no one in sight.
"Please let this work!" she whispered.
She hurried to a side door and peeked out. The sky was pale. The sun had yet to rise. There was a guard standing close by. Badly frightened now, she ran to another door. A second guard stood at attention. Aeris stopped to think. It was almost too late now. She hurried to a third door. Peeking through the window, she saw another guard in place. He was just as alert as the other two.
"Help me please!" she whispered. Dropping to her knees, she put her hands together, closed her eyes and began to pray. The words came to her without conscious thought. She stood up and looked out the window. The guard was still in place, but he was sound asleep.
Aeris opened the door and went outside. She touched the guard on the forehead. He collapsed in a heap. Aeris ran out the door to the garden. Quickly she ripped up a handful of flowers. She ran back to the door and brought her breathing under control. She opened the door, and stood drying her face and neck with the hem of her robe.
It was Sephiroth's voice. She didn't answer.
She glanced at the sleeping guard.
Sephiroth's voice took on a note of alarm. "Aeris!"
Aeris dried her face and neck again, then stooped next to the guard and shook him gently.
He opened his eyes blearily and blinked at her.
"Wake up," she said urgently. "You're asleep at your post!"
The guard looked at her as if he didn't understand.
"My husband is coming!" she said.
"Aeris? Where are you?"
The guard's eyes widened. He sprang to his feet looking terrified.
"I'm out here," she called.
Sephiroth's voice came closer. "Where?"
"Here!" Aeris glanced at the guard. "I'm out here!"
Sephiroth came through the opposite doorway. "What are you doing outside?"
"I know what you said," she answered quickly. "But I just had to have some of these beautiful flowers for the breakfast table. This guard was kind enough to keep watch over me. I'm sorry I disobeyed you Sephiroth."
She stepped inside and closed the door.
He shook his head. "You don't have to cook breakfast. I was a little short with you last night. I'm sorry. I want to make up for it by cooking for you this time."
"If you're expecting me to be noble and say no, forget it!" Aeris stepped inside with a grin. "I'm going back to bed so you can serve my breakfast on a tray!"
I hate not telling him what I've really been doing, she thought, but I think I'm on to something. If I confess everything now, he'll be so angry, he make sure I never get into the library again. He might even send me back to Midgar and post guards around the apartment. I can't let that happen. I have to find out what Biggs wanted me to know.
Sephiroth bowed "Breakfast in bed it its. This way Ma'am."
Aeris smiled. She opened the door and spoke to the guard. "Thank you for keeping an eye on me."
The guard smiled. "You're welcome, Mrs. Heidegger."
The door closed and the guard sighed in relief. He's been asleep on the job and Mrs. Heidegger hadn't told on him. What if the it had been the general instead? He shivered. He'd never gone to sleep at his post before. From now on, he'd be a lot more careful. Sephiroth was a good leader and a fair man, but he absolutely did not tolerate guards who went to sleep on duty. The guard counted himself lucky to be alive.
Sitting up in bed waiting for breakfast, Aeris wondered how she'd known what to do to the guard. She looked at her hands. She didn't feel any different, yet she'd known Sephiroth was coming home. If she hadn't had those feelings . . .
"He would have found me in the library," she said to herself. "How did I know?"
She searched her mind over and over but by time Sephiroth brought her tray, she was no closer to an answer.
* * * * *
It promised to be a beautiful
day. Sephiroth's mood had improved since the night before. He sat with her,
sharing her tray. There were no traces of the angry man she'd seen last night.
During their conversation she found out the worst of the damage at the reactor
was going to be resolved with a replacement unit Shinra engineers had tested
in the lab. If things went as planned, once the old parts were removed the
reactor would be fully operational in a month. Sephiroth was hoping to ask
for more time at the mansion.
When he left for the day, Aeris hurried back to the library. The lock opened as soon as she touched it. She sat down in front of the journal over where she left off.
"I don't understand it. Why is Heidegger turning his child back over to that nut again? I tried to talk to him about it, but he wouldn't listen to me. He told me Sephiroth was HIS son and he would do what was best for him. There was nothing I could do but go back to my lab and work. I feel sorry for Sephiroth. I see nothing but fear in his eyes whenever Heidegger gives him to Hojo. It's so horrible to that look in the eyes of a baby! Any sane parent would have cause for concern, but Heidegger is just going along with whatever Hojo says. Why? How I wish there was some way to put a stop to this!"
Poor Sephiroth, thought Aeris. What was Heidegger thinking? She shuddered. Being near Hojo made her skin crawl. What was Hojo doing to Sephiroth to make him so afraid? Did he ever strike him? Aeris turned the page and frowned. The rest of the book was blank. A thin ridge of rough edges were all that was left. Someone had torn the pages out.
Aeris closed the book frustrated.
"What a place to end!"
Disgusted, she put the books back the way she had found them.
"What kind of joke was this supposed to be?" she fumed. "That's like letting me crawling across the desert begging for water, then locking it behind bars!"
She locked the library doors behind her and went back upstairs.
"If that's all there was, I could have told Sephiroth the truth in the first place."
Resolving to do that just, Aeris shut the cellar door and went to the kitchen to decide what to do for dinner.
* * * * *
Sephiroth teased her about being
lost in the clouds as they sat in the living room after their meal. Aeris
gave him a warm smile but he wasn't sure she'd really heard him. He let it
go until he tried to tell her about an encounter with a dragon. Aeris didn't
react even when he said one of his soldiers had been killed.
He eyed her with concern. "Are you alright?"
Aeris' gaze was fixed on a lamp across the room.
"Aeris," he said in a louder voice. "Are you all right?"
She gave no sign of hearing him.
Sephiroth waved his hand in front of her face. She flinched and gave him a strange look.
"Why did you do that?"
"You were off in dreamland." Sephiroth turned all the way around to look at her. "I asked if anything was wrong and you never answered."
"Oh." Aeris felt her face go red.
Aeris gave him a blank look.
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "You didn't answer my question."
Sephiroth frowned at her.
Aeris jerked her mind away wondering how to tell Sephiroth about her trip to Sector 7 and the books she'd found in the basement library. She gave him her full attention. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Is something bothering you?"
She hesitated. She wanted to tell him the truth but under his worried look, her nerve fled.
"I'm sorry if I seem distracted tonight Sephy. I guess I'm just a little tired."
He looked relived. "That's understandable."
She jumped suddenly and touched her stomach.
Sephiroth reached for her. "Are you all right?"
"The baby moved."
"Really?" Sephiroth let go of her with a look of concern.
"Silly!" Aeris grabbed his hands and pressed them against her stomach. "Wait a minute."
The baby kicked again.
Sephiroth's face lit up with joy. "I feel it."
"That's your son," said Aeris happily.
He arched an eyebrow at her. "What makes you think it's a boy?"
"Girls have a daintier kick," she said in mock seriousness.
Sephiroth straightened and looked at her, then broke into laughter.
Aeris patted her stomach. "Yeah. This little critter is really tiring me out. I was making dinner tonight and all of a sudden, I just got so sleepy, I wanted to turn everything off and curl up on the sofa."
"Critter?" He stopped laughing. "Are you comparing our baby to an animal?"
Aeris laughed. "That's just a figure of speech Sephiroth. Speaking of which, I'll be losing mine soon."
"You'd look beautiful to me no matter what," he said.
"I wonder if you'd stay that if I was carrying quintuplets."
Sephiroth brightened. "What an excellent idea. I'm sure Hojo has an idea of how to produce more than one baby at a time. Why don't we talk to him about it?"
He looked at her face and broke into laughter. "Just kidding."
Smiling Aeris shook her head at him. "You'd better be."
"Say my name again."
"Not like that," he said. "Say it the way you did before."
"Say my name the way you did when you apologized for being tired."
Aeris look puzzled, then her eyes lit up and she blushed.
He smiled at her.
"That was a slip of the tongue," she said. "You don't mind?"
He shook his head. "No. I like it."
"I think of you that way, but I've never dared to say it out loud," explained Aeris. "If it really doesn't bother you, I want to call you that sometimes."
"Fine, but ONLY when we're alone," he warned. "Not in front of my men, or anyone else."
Aeris saluted. "Yes sir!"
He laughed as he took her in his arms and held her close.
* * * * *
Aeris went to the Village the
next day to buy fresh some vegetables for dinner. Her guards waited near
the door while she searched through the bins. The women shoppers teased her
about her pregnancy, gave her advice and offered to babysit if she was going
to stay in the village after she gave birth.
After filling her basket, Aeris took it to the cashier. An unfamiliar clerk stood behind the counter. She smiled at Aeris.
Aeris smiled back.
"Hello," she said. "Where's Roxanne?"
"Out sick," answered the woman. "Did you find what you needed today?"
"Yes thank you." Aeris touched a head of lettuce. "You have the best vegetable in the village."
"Why thank you Mrs. Heidegger!" The woman added up Aeris' purchases and gave her the total.
Counting out her money, Aeris wondered why the cashier kept glancing at the guards. She glanced at them herself to see what they were doing. Both men were staring at a pretty girl, who had stopped in front the shop to raise her skirt, so she could adjust her nylons. How brazen, thought Aeris. She gave the cashier her money.
The woman took the money and gave Aeris change. She put the vegetables in paper bags and placed them in the basket. Before she put the last bag in, she glanced at the guards, then dropped a packet of papers inside the basket and sat the bag on top of them.
Aeris opened her mouth.
"Take it! whispered the woman, glancing at the guards.
The pretty girl dropped her skirt and pulled one of her sleeves off her shoulder to adjust her bra strap. The guards were practically drooling.
Aeris looked at the basket uncertainly.
The woman glanced at the guards.
The girl dropped her purse, scattering the contents. She frowned prettily and stooped to pick them up. The guards rushed to help.
The woman knit her brows together. "Didn't you read the Professor's book?"
Aeris jumped in surprise. "Why yes, I did, but-"
"These are the missing pages! Don't give me away to the guards!"
Aeris stared at her.
"Are you deaf?" The woman looked desperate now. She shoved the basket at Aeris. "Take it and go! Get out of here!"
Aeris picked up her basket and hurried to the door. When she looked back, the woman was waiting on another customer. Her purse in order now, the girl smiled at the guards and walked away swinging her hips. The guards stared after her. One of them heard Aeris coming and looked around. He cleared his throat. His companion flinched. Trying to look as if they had been watching out for her all along, one guard took the basket from Aeris' while the other helped her into the car.
The first guard put the basket next on the seat next to Aeris. The second guard closed the door. Aeris wanted to see the sheath of papers, but she didn't dare pull them out yet. Back at the mansion, one of the guard insisted on carrying the basket into the kitchen for her. He started to unpack them for her, but Aeris stopped him.
"You've done so much already," she said. "I can handle it from here."
He nodded to her and left. Aeris was reaching for the first bag when one of the cleaning women pulled the basket away.
"Oh no, you mustn't lift heavy things, you know."
"But they're not heavy!" Aeris reached for the basket again.
The woman pulled it out of her reach. "We have our orders Ma'am. Your husband would skin us alive if we don't do our part!"
"But all you're here to do is clean," protested Aeris. "I can handle the rest of the work."
"No." The woman was firm. "I have my orders."
She began to unload the basket.
Aeris stood, trying not to wring her hands. The moment the sheath of papers was uncovered, she leaped forward and snatched them out of the basket.
"I met a few friends in the market," she explained to the startled woman. "They gave me some tips on child care. I wrote it all down in these notes."
"Oh." The cleaning woman smiled. "Old moms are always doing that to the new. You'll get more advice as time goes on."
Aeris smiled as she folded the sheets over and shoved into her pocket.
"I guess so."
"You really such get some rest, Mrs. Heidegger," said the woman. "You look a bit flushed."
"Do I?" Aeris touched her face. "I think you're right. I'm going up to bed now. I don't want to be disturbed. You'll all let yourselves out?"
The woman laughed heartily. "Of course we will. Just run on up to bed and we'll take care of everything. I'll even wash these vegetables for you, to save you the trouble later!"
"T-Thank you." Aeris smiled at her and walked out of the kitchen. She wanted to run up the stairs to her room, but she made herself to act normal. Once in her room, she shut the door and pulled the paper out of her pocket. Sitting on her side of the bed, she turned on the lamp and looked at the first sheet. It was a two page letter addressed to her.
"I'm sorry for all the mystery Aeris,
By the time you read this note, I will have been "kidnaped" by AVALANCHE and taken away. Please don't grieve for me. I am among friends. I was planted in Shinra as one of Hojo's assistants two years ago. My job was to monitor what types of experiments he was performing and find out what Shinra was up to.
I didn't learn as much as I wanted to. Lab assistants have no access to the places the President holds his meetings and Hojo is very secretive. He keeps the bigger project to himself. Assistants handle only small details. My mission was a waste of time until I overheard a couple
of technicians talking about the
surveillance equipment. I found out only executives could turn the cameras
in their areas on or off. One of them made a joke about Hojo. They gave me
the opening I was looking for.
I'm a fairly competent lab assistant, but my speciality is really computers. I learned how to hack into Shinra's system long ago. It was dangerous to stay on line too long or get on line too often and there was no way to get around the executive security codes without them knowing about it. The only way I was going to get information was to break into their offices. The camera's prevented me from doing that. "
"Traveling through the ventilation shafts at night, I set up a small system of my own. I used it to record the times Hojo's camera and those around his area were operational. I was also able to tape footage of those same areas when they were clear. During the times I was searching Hojo's office, my computer sent all clear signals and images to the Shinra security computer. All Security saw was empty rooms and halls, not me. A portable unit I carried on my person showed me the actual condition of those same halls and rooms. I could monitor anyone who might catch me snooping around."
"It was a good plan. I was able to pass a lot of information to my friends. I had to be careful. Hojo's office is a mess, but there was no telling what might tip him off about an intruder. It was during one of those trips, that I discovered Professor Gast's journal under a pile of books on the floor. I was stunned by what I read. I didn't take it right away. I discussed it with my friends. We decided if the journal was in the same place two months down the line, I would.
Two months later, it was still there. I was convinced Hojo had forgotten it was there, I took it out of his office and hid it with my equipment. The following night guards came and searched my apartment. They searched all of the assistants apartments. They said were looking for illegal drugs and paraphernalia, but I knew what they were looking for. I must have left something out of place, or maybe one of the guards in the surveillance room got suspicious. Whatever the reason, Hojo knew his book were gone but he didn't know who to accuse. Where as he used to give us our assignments and send us on our way, he started acting like he didn't want us out of his sight. He started letting us work on projects with him. Everyone had a part."
"Needless to say, I didn't go back into his office anymore. I toed the line all the way. Three weeks before your move, Hojo said he was taking all of us to the mansion to remove some valuable documents. He said you and Sephiroth were moving in and he didn't want his things disturbed. We've traveled with Hojo before, but that was the first time he'd ever brought along armed guards."
Aeris stopped reading. Three weeks before we moved? We moved a week after I told Sephiroth I was pregnant. How did Hojo know we were moving that far in advance? A chill settled over her.
"We packed everything he told us to, in boxes and the guards took them away. Hojo seemed more relaxed than usual and quite friendly with us all. Then it was time for us to go. All of a sudden he called in the guards to search us. He said one of us had stolen some very valuable items from his office. He was sure the guilty party wouldn't be able to resist stealing from the library as well. He said he was going to kill anyone with his property on their person."
"I knew I was a dead man. Before we came to the mansion, I sneaked the journal out of headquarters in my clothing. Thin as it was, I was sure I could pull it off. I thought if I could just leave it in the library among the other books, Hojo would be none the wiser. All I would have to do then is meet you in the building and tell you to do. Who would have thought Hojo would use a time like this to catch his thief? All I could do was stand there trying to look calm as possible while the soldiers searched the first man."
"Before they could finish, two of my co-workers ran for the stairs. Hojo and the guards went after them. I used the distraction to hide the journal I had in a stack of book on the table and ran after them. The fugitives didn't get too far. The first man they shot had one of Hojo's notebooks in his pocket. "
"The second man was killed at the edge of the ravine. Papers stolen from Hojo's lab were hidden under his shirt. I guess I didn't know my co-workers as well as I thought I did. They weren't with AVALANCHE and I never found out who they were working for. All I know is that their panic saved my life. Hojo was so convinced he'd found his thieves, he didn't even bother with the rest of us. The guards locked the library and we went back to Midgar. "
"My friends and I had already decided to get me out of Shinra on the day of your move. We weren't sure what you'd do with the information I gave you and I didn't want to be around if you blew my cover. That's why I told you what you needed to know, just before my friends arrived. You didn't come to the park as fast as I expected. You almost missed me."
"As for the pages you have in your hand, Hojo was reading them, when my friends broke into his office. He tried to put them in his safe, but Barret ripped them out of his hand and took him hostage. They took three more hostages before I was "kidnaped." Once we were outside, AVALANCHE pretended to release everyone but me. I didn't get to examine Barret's prize until we were safely away."
" To my surprise they were the very pages from the journal I wanted you to see. Hojo must have torn them out of the journal and put the book back where it was. Then for some reason he went back to look at it again. That's when he found the journal was missing. I never opened the journal once I stole it or I would have known what he had done. I don't know why he removed the last pages instead of putting the whole journal in his safe, but it's a good thing for us that he didn't."
If things go according to plan, you and I will meet in the market place in Nibelheim. I'll be in disguise. That's how I'll get these pages to you. Please read them and do what you have to do to save yourself and your child. Hopefully we'll meet again under happier circumstances.
Aeris frowned. Biggs was dead. Who was the woman in the shop? She put the letter aside, and looked at the rest of the pages. The edges were rough on one side. Aeris ran her finger over them. Why had Hojo torn them out of the book? And when had he done it? How did he know they were moving? Maybe reading would tell her the answer. The entry on the sheet was dated five years after the last one in the journal.
"I've tried to ignore what is going on between Sephiroth and Hojo. I've tried my very best, but whenever I see them together, Sephiroth gives me such a pitiful look, I can barely stand it. The best I've managed to do is spend as much time with him as I can. I've sneaked into Hojo's lab sometimes to see if he was okay. Hojo has ordered me out of his lab on more than one occasion. Heidegger sends Sephiroth to Hojo every day now. Hojo is giving the boy injections of some kind, but I don't know what they're for. He's still working on his Jenova project too. I was hoping, he'd get so involved with that, he'd leave the child alone, but he somehow he seems to have time for both of them."
"Sephiroth hates him. I can see it in his eyes. I tried to approach Heidegger again but he told me to mind my own business or he would see to it that I was fired. I thought he was bluffing until the President himself called me on the carpet and gave me an earful. After that I tried not to get involved."
"I've heard Sephiroth scream when I walk by Hojo's lab. I want to go in there and punch that bastard in the nose, but I don't dare. One of these days, I'm going to lose control and go after Hojo and Heidegger. If I could find somewhere to hide with Sephiroth, I'd take him and run for my life!"
The Professor didn't write again for another six months.
"I've bought a small house on the ice continent. It's right on the outskirts of town. I am going to find a way to kidnap Sephiroth and take him there. I have to make sure the cabin is stocked first. We should be safe for a while until I figure out what do. The people of Icicle Village are no friends of the President. He makes them pay more for their electricity than any other village, on the planet, simply because it never thaws out there. They are dependant on food grown elsewhere, but some of them grow vegetables in their cellars with heat lamps. The mayor is an old childhood friend of mine. He assures me, the villagers will hide me if Shinra comes looking for me there. Now . . . if only I could find a way to get the boy away from Hojo and his father. There must be a way . . . "
The final entry was dated four months later.
"I'm very much afraid for my life. I've got the house stocked and ready, but I think Hojo knows I have something up my sleeve. I sneaked in to see Sephiroth again. We were sitting on the floor in Hojo's lab laughing over a joke when Hojo came in. The minute Sephiroth saw him, his personality changed. His eyes got sullen and the smile left his face. The way he held his body and the way he looked at Hojo chilled my blood. Worse yet was the look on Hojo's face. He stared at Sephiroth, then he stared at me. It was a calculating look that I didn't care for. I swear it felt as if he looked into my head and saw my plans. I stood up, trying to think of something to say. When I opened my mouth to speak, he waved me into silence."
"He went to a cabinet where I know he keeps his Jenova samples and took out a small bottle. As I watched, he picked up a syringe and filled it."
"What are you going to do?" I asked him.
He grinned at me. "It's time for young Sephiroth's injection."
"You just removed a bottle from your specimen cabinet," I told him. "Surely you meant to pick up something else."
Hojo frowned at me, then looked at Sephiroth. "Come here."
Sephiroth started toward him. I grabbed the boy and pulled him back.
Hojo didn't like that. "Let go."
I asked him, "What are you going to do?"
He ignored me.
"Sephiroth! Come here at once, if you know what's good for you."
Sephiroth pulled away from me and went right to Hojo and gave him one of his arms.
I was just about to move forward . . .
Something in Hojo's tone stopped me. He gave Sephiroth the injection, then pushed him toward the door. "Go back to your father."
Sephiroth didn't look at Hojo, but he gave me a desperate glance as he left the room. It fueled my anger and I moved toward Hojo again.
"Approach me and you're a dead man," he said.
I stopped again.
"The President would have you killed simply because I asked him to, he told me."
I believed him. "Why?"
"You're interfering in something that doesn't concern you."
"You're hurting an innocent child!" I said. "Why are you injecting him with Jenova cells? Don't you care that you might kill him?"
"These injections won't kill him," scoffed Hojo. "He's a part of Jenova's line. He is next to claim the Cetra bride. He will succeed where his father failed."
"And how do you plan to accomplish that?" I asked. "What are your shots going to prove?"
"I'm convinced that Jerin's line has become weaker with time even though the legends say it hasn't. If the Cetra bride escapes this time, there will be no other chance. The Cetra belongs to the sons of Jenova. She must not be allowed to win. I'm injecting pure Jenova cells into Sephiroth's blood to strengthen his powers. He'll have a better chance of completing his task than the others."
"Giving the boy injections won't guarantee a win. It's his magical skills that count. For all you know, the next Cetra will be even more formidable than those before her."
"We have to try something," he said, dropping the syringe into a tray. "We can't let her get away again."
"What is it to you?" I asked. "Sephiroth isn't even your son."
"It's the Cetra that matters to me," he said. "She has the power to escape our world into another. Imagine what kind of powers she must possess! Imagine what she could do to advance our world! If we can capture her, she will be the key to this planet's future."
"You mean if Sephiroth captures her," I said. "You're acting like she'll be just someone you can use for your convenience. The Cetra isn't a doll you can play with then put her back into a box. She'll be Sephiroth's wife. HIS WIFE! Have you and the President forgotten that? What if he objects to your plans?"
"Sephiroth will do whatever his father tells him to do," answered Hojo. "If that means letting us use his bride, he'll do it."
"You're lying!" I was shaking with rage. "He'd never let you harm her. The fever will burn in his blood. He'll be protective of her. He won't let you hurt her Hojo! You have to be stopped!"
He stopped smiling then. "Maybe I'm not the only one."
My blood ran cold. Hojo didn't say another word. I left his office without looking back but I knew he was staring at me. I wondered how soon he'd pick up his phone and make a call to the President."
I can hardly write because my hands are shaking so bad. I'm in my lab now. Sephiroth was waiting outside the door for me. He wanted to know what happened between me and Hojo, but I couldn't talk to him then. I've asked him to meet me at a place outside Kalm in two days. I'm going to hide out in the wilderness until that time. I know of a cave where I'll be safe.
I told Sephiroth not to tell anyone where he is going. As for myself, I'm leaving as soon as I write these notes. I plan to leave them with a trusted friend. I packed a small bag. I dare not take anything else. I'm sure I've signed my own death warrant.
Just in case anything goes wrong, I've written a quick will and had it hand carried to my lawyer by one of my assistants. If anything happens to me, I want the house in Icicle Village to go to Sephiroth. If I'm not able to use it, maybe someday he'll find peace there whenever he can get away from Shinra and Hojo.
I plan to leave the building by a rarely used entrance way. I hope I make it. Hojo and the President must be stopped. Heidegger too. He must be as mad as Hojo to allow this to go on. May the powers that be forgive me for not helping that boy sooner."
Professor Gast's neat handwriting became a shaky scrawl.
It's too late! I was just about to step outside my door when I saw Hojo coming down the hall with a small platoon of troopers. I ran back into my office and locked the door. I pushed a file cabinet in front of it. I can hear them trying to break my barricade down. I must hide this book and hope someone will find it and save Sephiroth and his future bride. I'm so sorry I didn't leave without saying anything when Hojo came in. Sephiroth is all alone now and it's all my fault. I hope he doesn't grow up hating me.
There the Professor's handwriting ended. Below them were words written by a different hand. A tear rolled down Aeris' cheek but she didn't brush it away. There was no doubt in her mind the Professor had died when the troopers forced their way into his office. She wondered if Hojo had shot the Professor himself or if he'd stood by and watched the soldiers to it.
She thought back to her first meeting with Rufus, the President and Hojo. They had plans for her life. They were going to use her to punch their way into another world for technological advances. An insane giggle escaped her lips. Aeris pressed the back of her hand to her mouth to suppress it. What did she know about opening a portal to another world? And what about Sephiroth? Was Hojo right? Was all that talk of love just to get her confidence so he could help them use her? Was he ignorant of Hojo's plans? She read the new handwriting.
"I read my former colleagues notes with more amusement than I've had in a long time. How dare he criticize my experiments? He calls himself a scientist, but he doesn't have the guts to do the things I do. I see scientific value in things he deems too sacrilegious to touch. The hell with that! How can we learn if we let emotion get in our way? I don't carry that weaknesses."
"Professor Gast was a simpering fool. We could have been the greatest pair of scientists ever known on this planet, but he called me crazy. He tried to interfere with my work. He even tried to get the President to fire me. The President knows a genius when he sees one. My colleagues complaints were useless. I had that meddling bastard killed and I'm glad he's gone. It's just too bad he won't see the results of my greatest experiment ever. Very soon now, things are going to come together."
"The only thing I regret in my life is losing the battle of spells to that Cetra bitch. I practiced night and day, but she was too strong for me. I must admit she was a beautiful wench. I think for the sake of appearances, I could have given her a decent wedding ceremony and one night of pleasure before I locked her up in a specimen tank. "
"Mine got away from me, but I swear on my fathers soul the next one will not defeat my son. I have discovered a method I think will ensure him victory. He and I will kill the Shinra's and rule this world together. When Sephiroth brings his pregnant Cetra to me, our real work will begin.
Aeris' blood turned to ice.
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