Appointment With Destiny Chapter 27
Aeris came downstairs yawning and rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. She stopped when she saw the grim faces.
"What's going on?"
Tifa pointed at the television. "Sephiroth is making an announcement."
Up until then, Aeris assumed the voice she was hearing was one of the men in the room. Now that she was paying attention, she recognized Sephiroth's voice. She moved closer to the screen. Vincent moved to make room for her.
" . . . You have no quarrel with my wife." It almost looked as if Sephiroth was looking right at them. "You have no reason to hold her prisoner. Your fight is with me. I want you to release my wife close enough to a village so she can reach it safely. Once she's home, I will meet you anywhere you wish to settle our difficulties."
"Aeris . . . if you're listening, call me as soon as you can. I'll come for you personally. Don't be afraid and stay calm."
Aeris looked surprised. "He thinks you kidnaped me?"
"That's what it sounds like." Cid inhaled and blew out a stream of smoke. "He's willing to meet us for a show down."
"I repeat, the terrorist group AVALANCHE has kidnaped my wife Aeris and taken her to parts unknown. Their actions pose a threat to her health. She's pregnant and should not be subjected to stressful situations. If you are listening AVALANCHE, don't punish my wife for any gripes you have against me."
"That's all I have to say. There's a number at the bottom of the screen. Call me AVALANCHE and tell me what your intentions are. You have my word as a SOLDIER your call will not be traced."
Sephiroth walked out of the picture. The announcer took over. "There you have it folks. General Sephiroth has sent a challenge to the terrorist organization known as AVALANCHE. If you're watching this broadcast AVALANCHE, we're awaiting you call. This broadcast will be repeated at thirty minute intervals for the next twelve hours. Please call the number on the screen."
The flashed on the screen for a few seconds before the broadcast changed back to the regular program. Cid's movie was going off.
Red inclined his head. "Well that was interesting."
Cloud turned to Aeris, and grinned. "So now we can add kidnaping to our list of charges."
"That's not funny Cloud." Aeris ran her hands through her hair. "I've got to call him."
"WHAT!" Every who wasn't standing, rose to their feet.
"I don't want AVALANCHE held responsible for something I did on my own." Aeris looked around at each of them. "I'm going to straighten this out by telling him why I left."
"What makes you think he'll take that news any better?" asked Tifa. "I say we shouldn't contact him at all."
"Why don't we just fight him and get it over with?" asked Yuffie.
"Get what over with?" Aeris looked at Yuffie in alarm. "You're not talking about killing my husband are you?"
"He was going to give you to Hojo!" snapped Yuffie. "What are you defending him for?"
"I don't want him dead!" Aeris looked around again. "I know you have to stop Shinra, but I don't want you to kill Sephiroth!"
"I understand how you feel, but what if we have no choice?"
Aeris looked at Vincent.
What Sephiroth gets so angry, he does the same thing Hojo's father did? What if the only way to stop him is to kill him?"
She dropped her eyes under his gaze.
"I don't want him dead," her voice broke a little. "I left him, but I never said I didn't love him."
"You didn't answer my question," Vincent moved close enough to rest a hand on her shoulder. "What if we have no choice?"
Aeris stared up at him for a moment then broke into tears. Vincent, who normally avoided physical contact surprised his friends by putting his around Aeris. She cried against his shoulder.
"I don't want him dead," she repeated. "If it comes to a fight, stop him if you can, but please don't kill him."
Everyone looked at Cloud.
Tifa voiced the question. "Well?"
Cloud scratched his head. AVALANCHE had known all along it might come down to killing those highest in the Shinra hierarchy, but their original plans had been based on destroying the company before Sephiroth could add the Cetra to their forces. Circumstances and mini skirmishes had blown away their deadline.
He looked at her damp green eyes. Was THIS the creature they'd expected combine her powers with Sephiroth's and threaten the world? All he could see was a frightened pregnant girl who knew nothing of her powers. She broke into tears at the first sign of stress. He almost wondered why they'd bothered to save her from Shinra at all.
He was immediately ashamed of his thoughts. Could he handle it any better if he was in her place? How would he feel if he was snatched out of his world and put in the middle of something he wasn't prepared for?
Once Hojo found out Aeris didn't know how to use her powers, he'd either torture her into learning them or dissect her to find out why she couldn't. Maybe both. After he'd harvested her baby of course. A powerful entity or no, Aeris still needed their help.
"Aeris," he said in a gentle tone. "We'll do what we can to avoid killing him, but you know Sephiroth better than anyone. He may not leave us that option."
Aeris lip quivered, but she nodded.
"Let me call him," she said. "The least I can do is not let AVALANCHE take the blame for my decision."
"All right." Cloud pointed. "There's the phone."
Aeris shook her head. "I want to talk to him privately."
"There's a phone upstairs." Tifa took Aeris by the hand. "Come on, I'll show you."
"You know . . . "Barret shook his head. "I always thought she'd be stronger."
"That's what I was thinking," said Cid. "Still you can't really blame her. She's had time to get used to him. Would you let someone kill you wife?"
"Shinra did." Barret's gaze darkened. "They're going to pay for that and what they're doing to this Planet."
"Aeris is all right," said Red. "It's not her fault she wasn't prepared for her life here."
Yuffie flopped down in a chair. "Why don't we just give her back? We could use her to get Sephiroth. We might not get a better chance."
"I'm not sure we're ready for Sephiroth yet." Red looked worried. "No one has ever gone against one of Jenova's descendants and come out of it alive."
"Well, we will." Yuffie stood up and pretended to throw her weapon. "Bonk! Right up side the head. I'll knock him out and you guys finish him off."
"Stop it." Vincent eyed each of them. "So what if Aeris isn't what we think she ought to be? We still don't know what she's capable of in the future. We can't leave her out for Shinra to take. Sephiroth will be hard enough to beat alone. If we hurt him, we might have to face Aeris too."
"As if." Yuffie yawned. "Aeris doesn't have any powers!"
"You don't' know that for sure," Vincent frowned at her. "And don't forget Sephiroth. He's been referred to as the one most like Jerin. That rumor came straight from the Shinra building. We don't know what he's truly capable of."
"All the better to take him out as soon as possible." Cid crushed his cigarette out in a tray.
"Taking out Sephiroth won't be that easy." Red dropped his head. "I don't know if I could face Aeris again if we did."
"You've gone sweet on her haven't you?" Barret waved his hand in irritation. "You're too soft for your own good."
The debate went on.
* * * * *
Tifa left the room. Aeris hands were shaking as she punched in the number from the television screen. Sephiroth answered on the first ring.
"Sephiroth, it's me."
"Aeris? Are you alright? Did they hurt you?"
"No. I'm okay."
He sighed in relief. "Good. "If they'd harmed you, I would have . . . "
"They didn't kidnap me."
Aeris took a breath. "AVALANCHE didn't kidnap me. I left on my own."
"I left on my own Sephiroth."
"You left . . . Why?"
She couldn't form the words.
"Answer me Aeris!" Sephiroth crushed the phone against his hear. "Why did you leave me?"
"I heard you on the phone last night Sephiroth."
"Did you hear me?"
"I heard you. You weren't supposed to hear that conversation."
Aeris laughed bitterly. "So I gathered."
"You know what I was planning?"
"Didn't I say I heard you?" Aeris brushed at her eyes. She would not cry!
"Maybe I'm missing something here." Sephiroth's voice took on an edge. "What does that have to do with you running away to AVALANCHE?"
"Like you don't know!" she cried. "Did you really think I was going to hang around and let you give me to your father?"
The door opened. Hojo walked into the room. The camera crews had left their equipment and gone outside for a break. Hojo picked his way over the cables. Sephiroth didn't notice him, but Heidegger did. He signaled Hojo to be quiet.
"I know your plans with Hojo!" shouted Aeris. "I'm not going to let either of you hurt my baby!"
"What are you talking about?" Sephiroth's voice rose. "Why would I let Hojo hurt the baby?"
Hojo and Heidegger looked at each other.
"Oh. So it's me who gets strapped to the table!" Aeris laughed hysterically. "As long as you get the baby, that's all that matters, right?"
"What's the matter Sephiroth? Did I strike a nerve?" Aeris brushed at her eyes again. "Is your father there now? I'll bet he just can't wait to get his hands on me!"
"What's wrong with you Aeris?" Sephiroth was angry now. "You're talking nonsense. What does any of this have to do with my plans?"
Hojo's jaw dropped.
"Your plans?" Aeris was crying now. "You've been planning to get me pregnant so you could give me to your father! I read it in the journal Sephiroth!"
Hojo jaw dropped lower.
Aeris was crying too hard to answer.
"What journal? What do you mean I was waiting for you to get pregnant?"
Heidegger and Hojo looked at each other again.
"You sent the Turks after me that night didn't you?" she asked. "Were they supposed to take me to the lab?"
"Aeris . . . what have the Turks got to do with this?"
Heidegger inclined his head toward Sephiroth and frowned.
Hojo motioned with his hands. Okay.
He crept across the room to the basement door. Heidegger stared after him. Hojo saw him watching and gave him a silent snarl. He motioned frantically, working his mouth. "Turn around you fool!"
Heidegger reddened and turned around to watch Sephiroth.
"It's all in the journal," wept Aeris. "That's why you didn't want me to go into the library."
Sephiroth was suddenly still. "You've been in the library?"
"That lock didn't stop me Sephiroth."
Sephiroth turned and glanced at the basement door. His eyes widened. It was slightly ajar. He was sure it was closed a minute ago.
"Goodbye Sephiroth." Aeris' voice was barely a whisper.
"The sad thing is, I still love you."
"Don't hang up!"
The line went dead. Sephiroth stared at the receiver, then looked at the cellar door. He slammed the receiver down. Heidegger moved into his path.
"What happened?" he asked anxiously. "What did she say? Where is she?"
Sephiroth looked at Heidegger without really seeing him.
"She's not coming back."
Heidegger shook his fist. "They brainwashed her. Is that it?"
Sephiroth wasn't listening. He was staring at the cellar door.
Heidegger shook him to get his attention."Where is your wife Sephiroth?"
"I don't know." Sephiroth brushed the general's hand aside and took a step toward the door.
"Snap out of it! Talk to me!" Heidegger dug his hand into Sephiroth's shoulder. "Let me make you a cup of coffee and we'll talk about this."
"I don't want any coffee." Sephiroth pried Heidegger's hand off his shoulder, oblivious to the pain on the older man's face. He stepped around him and headed for the basement door. "I want my wife."
Heidegger followed him. "Sephiroth you're upset. Let's sit down and discuss what we should do next."
"We'll talk later. Sephiroth turned the knob.
"Where are you going Sephiroth?" asked Heidegger. "We need to talk, about this! AVALANCHE has Aeris!"
Sephiroth turned around and touched him on the shoulder. "We'll talk later. Aeris was saying a lot of things that didn't make any sense to me. Something scared her away and I need to find out what it was. Go on and have your coffee. Maybe I'll join you later. "
Heidegger ran his finger around the edge of his collar as he watched Sephiroth descend the winding stairs. Hojo was down there. He had to do something, but what? A burst of inspiration hit him. He leaned out over the stairwell.
"Sephiroth!" He shouted. "Be careful! Those stairs can be slippery!"
Halfway to the bottom, Hojo looked up and snarled. Sephiroth was coming down? His soft soled shoes made no sound as he picked up speed.
Sephiroth didn't hear anything but something made him pause. He peered over the edge of stairs. He caught a flash of movement far below. He drew his sword quietly and rushed down the stairs.
Hojo heard him coming. He had to get the journal before Sephiroth reached the bottom of the staircase. He gave up caution for speed.
It paid off. He reached the foot of the stairs and stopped. The lock was gone and the door was open. So! The Cetra had been down here! Hojo ran into the library. He spotted the journal right away. He only wondered why it was there for a second. He grabbed it. Loose pages scattered on the floor.
Swearing to himself, Hojo snatched them up one by one. He picked up the last sheet but it slipped out of his fingers. Trying to snatch it out of the air, he dropped another. Both sheets slid under the table. Frantic now, Hojo got down on his hands and knees to go after them. He crawled out and stood up just in time to hear Sephiroth's footsteps on the bottom stair. Turning his back, he crammed the sheets in the journal and slid it inside his jacket.
Sephiroth walked into the library. "What are you doing here?"
Hojo turned around and looked at him.
"Oh! It's you Sephiroth," he said, running a hand over his brow. "I wasn't sure what I was hearing behind me."
"I asked you a question."
"Oh. Well . . . " Hojo waved toward a stack of books on the table. "There's two reasons really. I came to see about Aeris, but I didn't want to disturb you while you were on the phone. I also left some books here I needed back at the lab. I decided to get my books first and talk to you on the way out."
Sephiroth put his masamune back into its sheath.
Hojo picked up his books. "I can see by your face, there's no good new yet. Since I know you don't really want me here, I'm going to get out of your way. I'm leaving for Midgar immediately. He cradled the books in his arms and walked past Sephiroth. Sephiroth turned and snatched the books out of his hands.
Hojo tried to take them back. Sephiroth turned away, blocking him with his body.
"What kind of experiments are you cooking up now?"
He read the cover of the first book.
"Cloning: Dreams of the Future."
He looked at Hojo.
"The thought of you producing clones, is terrifying to say the least."
He dropped the first book and looked at the next.
"Improving the human body"
He gave Hojo the once over. "It hasn't done you any good."
He looked at the third book. A strange look crossed his face.
"This isn't one of yours."
"They're all mine," said Hojo reaching for them again. He kept one arm close to his body to hold the journal still. "If you'll just give them back, instead of dropping them on the floor, I'll be on my way."
"I remember this book." Sephiroth read the cover. "Reaching The Neglected Child. This was one of Professor Gast's books."
Hojo made a grab for his books again, but Sephiroth pulled them out of reach.
"I want to read it." Sephiroth stroked the cover remembering his long lost friend. "I haven't seen anything that belonged to the Professor, since he died. You told me he left everything to his sister and brother. I was very . . . disappointed. I would have been happy just to have one of his pens."
The longing look on Sephiroth's face wasn't lost on Hojo. His lips tightened.
"That neglected child was me." Sephiroth looked at him.
Hojo put his hand on the book. "Perhaps you can read it later, after I'm done with it."
Sephiroth snatched it away. "I'll give it to you later."
"Nonsense," Hojo snorted. "It's all scientific gibberish. You wouldn't understand it anyway. Give it back Sephiroth."
Sephiroth loosened his grip, for a second, then snatched the book away. "You'll lock it away in your lab. You'd never give it back to me."
Hojo tried to pull the book away with both hands. The journal slid from beneath his jacket and struck the floor spine first. The loose pages scattered in all directions.
Hojo dived after them. His hands flew like lightening as he gathered up every sheet. He threw them inside the journal and stood up . . . only to have Sephiroth snatch it out of his hands.
"Give them back!
Hojo threw himself at Sephiroth only to end up on the floor from a powerful shove in the chest.
"Damn you!" Hojo's eyes blazed with anger.
Sephiroth read the cover of the book. His eyebrows rose. "Why were you hiding this?"
"I wasn't hiding it-" Hojo began, but Sephiroth seized him by the collar with one hand and pulled him off the floor.
"Liar!" he hissed. "You were hiding it!"
He held the journal up to Hojo's face. "Is this what Aeris read?"
Hojo stared him in the eye refusing to speak.
Sephiroth let go of the scientist and shoved him away.
"Since you tried to sneak it out under your jacket, it must be worth reading."
Hojo didn't try to stop him as he walked toward the table.
Sephiroth sat down. "That's why I'm going to do just that."
Hojo straightened his clothes with as much dignity as he could muster. "Do what you want. I'm leaving."
"No you're not." Sephiroth's tone left no room for argument. "I may have questions for you later, and I don't want you getting lost."
Hojo frowned, then shrugged. "All right. If that's what you want."
He walked toward a back room. "There's still an old coffee pot around here and some excellent blends from around the planet. I'm going to make a pot while I wait. Shall I bring you a cup?"
"No." Sephiroth opened the journal.
"Are you sure?" Hojo paused. "Its no problem, really."
"I said I don't want anything," snapped Sephiroth.
"Fine." Hojo held up his hands. "I won't force it on you.
There was a small kitchenette in the room. Hojo used it when he wanted to use the library for long periods without having to go back upstairs. He put the stopper in the sink and turned on the water. Using the water to cover any sound he might make, he reached into the small refrigerator and took out a grey plastic box. He sat it on a counter and opened it.
Six small vials of colored fluid lay on a foam bed. Hojo took out two and put the box back in the refrigerator. He turned off the water and washed the coffee pot, making sure he banged it on the sides of the sink so Sephiroth would hear. When he ran water to rinse it, he left it running while he used a key to open another drawer.
Pulling out a black case and opened it. Hojo removed an odd looking pistol from a bed of foam. He snapped the vials in a pair of special holders. Lifting the foam, he removed one of several darts and loaded the weapon. Finished now, he put the case back and locked the drawer. The gun went into one of his pockets.
Hojo finished rinsing the pot and filled it with water. He put a filter inside the basket and filled it with aromatic coffee beans from North Corel. Sitting the pot on the tiny stove, he turned on the burner. Making plenty, of noise as he looked for a cup, cream and sugar.
When the coffee was ready, Hojo poured himself a cup and stirred in the cream and sugar. He tasted it. Perfect! He finished the first cup, thinking of what had to be done. He was almost done, when he decided to see how Sephiroth was coming along. The young generals head was still bent over the journal. He was holding it so tight, his knuckles were white. Hojo smiled.
Going back into the kitchen, he put his cup down. The coffee pot looked inviting. He would have loved to have a second cup, but there wasn't time.
Sephiroth was staring at the door as Hojo came back into the room. The journal was closed in front of him. His face was a mask of horror and revulsion.
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