Appointment With Destiny Chapter 28
"You're the reason Aeris left." Sephiroth slammed his hand down on the journal. "She wasn't talking about Heidegger . . . she was talking about you. My wife thinks you're my father."
"And rightfully so." Hojo beamed with pride. "I am."
"No!" Sephiroth shuddered.. "I don't believe you. You're lying!"
"The time for lies is over." Hojo smiled. "It's time you knew the truth."
"You wouldn't know the truth if it was sealed in a test tube!" Sephiroth pushed the book away. "How can I believe anything that comes out of your mouth when all you've done is lie to me for years? You told me Professor Gast was killed by terrorists. Did you kill him yourself or did you let your cronies do it? I've always known you were a mental case Hojo, but until this moment, I never realized just how sick and twisted you are!"
"Sephiroth you injure me," said Hojo in a mocking tone. "You read those notes. Heidegger isn't your father. I am. Your natural father. If you don't believe me, call in anyone you choose to perform a paternity test. That alone will prove me right."
"There's nothing natural about you!" Sephiroth shouted. "It wouldn't matter who performed a paternity test. Your reputation precedes you Hojo. An independent tester would have to be insane to go against your claim. He'd tell me I was your son no matter what the results say."
"All right." Hojo pulled a PHS out of his pocket. "If don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe your pretend father. I'll have him come down. Heidegger's known from the start, I would tell you the truth someday."
Sephiroth stood up. "Don't."
"Why?" Hojo paused in the act of pressing a button. "Do you believe me now?"
Sephiroth glared at him. "Why should I? For all I know, you're holding something over his head to intimidate him. If that's the case, he'll agree to anything you say."
"I must be very powerful indeed if I can scare the great Heidegger! Hojo laughed. "He's a general Sephiroth. Do you really think I have that much sway over him? You flatter me son."
"There's a drawer on that end of the table. Open it. Your mother put a mirror there long ago. I never took it out."
Sephiroth opened the drawer. A mirror in a silver frame lay among sheets of paper. He picked it up and looked into the silvery surface.
"Take a good look at yourself," said Hojo gently. "You have my eyes and the shape of my face. You took after your mother mostly, but there's still enough of me there to be noticeable. Look closely Sephiroth. You've seen pictures of Muanie. Do you see her features anywhere? Do you see anything that resembles Heidegger?"
Sephiroth examined his face with growing horror. He looked up at Hojo, then looked at his reflection again. With a cry of rage, he hurled the mirror against the wall. Glass scattered everywhere.
"My mother." Sephiroth griped the edge of the table. "What did you do to her?"
"She was of no importance to us." Hojo waved the question away. "She was merely the vessel used to bring you to life."
"Merely a vessel?" Sephiroth could barely contain himself. "She was my mother damn you! Didn't you care about her even a little? Didn't you ever love her?"
Hojo snorted. "She was a weak human female I was forced to have relations with until I could produce you. I could barely stand to touch her. The woman who should have been your mother got away from me. Your Lucrecia was nothing special."
Sephiroth stared at him in disbelief.
Hojo grinned at him. "I wanted to hide my true identity until I revealed myself to you. I didn't want anyone keeping an eye on the "loser" to see what he'd do next. We found Jenova's body shortly after I lost my battle. Gast and I discovered her mind was dead but parts of her body were still alive. I injected her cells into small lab animals. They couldn't absorb her cells without mutating into monsters, so I tried humans subjects next."
"They either died or mutated too. That's when I started wondering if a baby's body was pliable enough to absorb foreign cells. What better specimen could there be but than a child of Jenova? I was saved the trouble of kidnaping a female by meeting Lucrecia. She was a new employee then, and kept getting lost in the building. She stopped by my lab to ask for directions. I was just about to send her on her way, when it suddenly occurred to me, the perfect candidate for my experiment was standing only a few feet away."
"I pretended to overcome by her beauty. Lucrecia didn't take me serious at first. She thought she was too plain to interest a man of my standing. I courted her relentlessly. She tried to resist me, but I showered her with gifts and words of love. It took a while to accomplish, but I finally convinced her she was the light of my life."
"We started out with lunch and worked that into dinner. Three months later, she was hopelessly in love with me. I bought her a beautiful ring and begged her to make me the happiest man on the Planet by becoming my wife. She accepted."
"Once I knew for sure, she was pregnant, I had to find another woman who would give birth around the same time. Muanie couldn't have picked a better time to come to town. Her boyfriend abandoned her and her family couldn't face the shame of having a pregnant daughter. They gave her money and sent her away. I found her crying in front of the train station and learned her story. She didn't mind telling me when she was due after I told her I was a doctor of sorts. I put her in a cheap inn and called in a favor to get her a job as a barmaid. Once she was settled in, I went looking for a husband. I chose Heidegger."
"He wasn't very happy the whole thing, but he had a gambling problem at the time. I offered to pay off his marker on two conditions. He had to marry Muanie and stay with her until the baby was born. After that, he was to raise my child as own until I took it back. He turned me down flat. Heidegger is a man who prefers lovers to the thought of a having a wife. I'm sure you've noticed he's quite a charmer with the ladies. He was back in a week after a visit from a local loan shark. To save his life and career, Heidegger let me pay off his debt."
"He made contact with Muanie by making frequent visits to the bar where she worked. Muanie was desperate, scared and in need of a friend. Heidegger became that friend. An honest girl, she told him the truth about her condition. He swore not to abandon her in her hour of need. Charmed by his demeanor and rugged good looks, she finally accepted a date. One date turned into several. He proposed to her, swearing to love her child as his own and she accepted. The only problem I had now was the fact that Muanie's baby was due a month later than you."
"In the meantime, the injections were making Lucrecia sick. Every time I examined her, I found traces of tissue deterioration. From what I was seeing, I knew she wouldn't survive your birth. Even though she was weakening, you were healthy and strong."
"She went into labor late at night. That was good, because most people were asleep at that hour and there was little or no chance anyone besides myself and two assistants would know what was going on. Heidegger brought Muanie in at my request. She was sleepy and didn't understand why she was there. I told her there was a new disease going around that killed pregnant women and their unborn babies. She allowed me to give her an injection that would prevent her from getting it. She didn't suspect anything was wrong we strapped her to a table."
"The injection started her labor and poisoned her bloodstream. It forced her into the final stages of childbirth. Her body couldn't take the stress. It broke down. She died immediately after giving birth to a stillborn child. Heidegger retreated to his room pretending to be overcome by grief. I was dissecting her baby to find out how the drug killed it when you were born."
"There was such an uproar about your appearance, I dropped everything to examine you. You came through the whole experience like a champion. Only the doctor in attendance and my assistants knew what I had done to Muanie. They knew I switched babies and changed the story surrounding the events of their births. They were rewarded for their cooperation and silence by a large sum of gil from me. The President shook their hands, gave them account numbers to secret banks accounts with additional funds and put them on a plane to the Junon Training Center."
"They thought they were rushing to handle an emergency there before they started their new lives as wealthy men. Their plane exploded and crashed in the ocean. All of them were single, with no family to speak of. Including the pilots. The whole incident was covered up. I handed you over to Heidegger two days later."
"It was just that simple. The President played along with my idea because it would benefit him in the end."
"You sicken me!"
"You gave me injections from a corpse." Sephiroth looked at his hands as if he had never seen them before.
Hojo laughed. "Jenova is dead but then again, she isn't. She died of injuries inflicted during the fight with the Cetra, but her body doesn't decay like human flesh. It's been dying slowly all this time. By the end of the year, there will be nothing left of her. I harvested living tissue from her body and injected into you. Your body accepted her as I knew you would. I started enhancing you with injections from the time I knew your mother was pregnant until you were eighteen years old."
Sephiroth looked at him with pure hatred.
Hojo saw it. "Your hate doesn't bother me Sephiroth. I never wanted your love, just your loyalty."
"Loyalty?" Sephiroth's eyes darkened. "How dare you ask for my loyalty after the way you've treated me? After what you did to my mother?"
Hojo made a face. "She got the crazy idea that we were going to be an ordinary run-of-the-mill family, but I quickly cured her of that. When I told her what I intended to do, she tried to argue with me. She even threatened to leave! I had to slap her around a little to get her to change her mind."
Sephiroth paled. "You beat my mother?"
Hojo ignored the question.
"Lucrecia was the only one I gave injections to at first, but when you were six weeks along, I gave them to both of you as a precaution. By the time she was five months pregnant, she was fighting me again. I had to get my assistants to hold her down so I could administer both your injections. It got so I had to have her brought to the lab by force. I had to take a couple of lab assistants home one day to wrestle her down in the kitchen once. That was the last straw. I brought her back my lab and locked her in a cell. A little something in her air supply would make her docile enough to handle. I had to force her to exercise though."
"I can't believe you're telling me this."
Hojo raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you tired of all the lies?"
Sephiroth looked sick.
Hojo raised his hands to the sky.
"Our descendants have been denied the glory that should have been ours for far too long. If that bitch Lascinda hadn't got away from Jerin, he would have had her with child. That child would have been the been the start of a new power in this world. Her powers and his combined in one! His descendants would have been the most powerful beings this planet has ever seen, but like me, he was forced to mate with a human instead."
He lowered his hand and shuddered.
"Inferior breeding stock. Regardless of what the legends say, I think that's why we couldn't beat the Cetra in battle. That's why our men weren't strong!"
He gave Sephiroth a shrewd look.
"You were the last hope," he said. "There was no way, I was going to send you into battle just so you could fail as I did, as my father did. I wasn't going to allow it! My son was going to face the Cetra and win! And you have. Now our dreams can come true."
"OUR dreams?" Sephiroth's voice dropped into a snarl. "You have no idea of what I dream of."
Hojo waved his hand impatiently. "Yes, yes. I know. You hope to raise a family with the Cetra and play with your children in the park on weekends. You're missing the point Sephiroth. The Cetra is having your baby. Your powers and hers combined. A new life form, a god! A god beholden to only to you and me. And you'll use her to make more. You and your children and I can push President Shinra and his son out of power and take over in their place. I shall stand by your side as co-ruler and advisor!"
"You're the one whose missing the point," interrupted Sephiroth. "You're talking about my wife. What makes you think I'm going along with your plans?"
Hojo went on as if he hadn't heard.
"The President is a fool. He's so busy dreaming of conquest, he doesn't see the potential of your child yet. He wants the Cetra to open the portal to her world, so he can rub elbows with a power on the other side. He intends to trade information and technology with them. He'll use what he learns to beat this world into submission, then he'll go after her world next. He'll put Rufus there as ruler then go on other worlds!"
"Your child could open the portal too. But we won't tell the President that will we? We'll let him believe he can't use it till it's older. We'll take control long before he has the chance to complete all the things he has in mind. I'm proud of you son for bringing the home Cetra to me."
Sephiroth blurted out the worlds before he could stop himself.
"Aeris isn't here because she lost the battle. She's here because her mother died before she was eight. She didn't know about the battle. She doesn't know how to use her powers. I won because she couldn't defend herself!"
Hojo stared at him. "What?"
"You heard me," snapped Sephiroth. "I snatched my wife out of her world because she didn't have a chocobo's chance in a red dragon pit. She doesn't know how to use her powers!"
Hojo scratched his chin.
"This is most unexpected."
"But it's wonderful!"
He beamed at Sephiroth.
"I was worried about her trying to stop us, but it turns out she's going to be no threat at all. She's more precious to me now than ever! We've got to find her and bring her back here as soon as possible. We don't want the baby injured."
Sephiroth's eyes darkened another shade. "Listen to me Hojo and listen good. My wife and I are going to raise our child in a home without any interference from you or President Shinra. "
Hojo narrowed his eyes. "I'm not working with the President. My plans are for you and me alone."
"You'll never use my wife the way you used yours," replied Sephiroth. "I don't see Aeris as a gateway to power. She's my wife and the woman I love."
"Love? What do you know about love?" Hojo's eyes filled with anger. "You and Jerin are almost equals. He didn't love the woman who bore his child. He just needed her to produce it. I didn't help you bring Aeris isn't here to be the love of your life, she's here to produce the strongest army ever seen!"
"Never!" hissed Sephiroth. "I'll never let any of you use my wife to accomplish your goals!"
Hojo stared at him. "Your actions, since you brought the Cetra through the portal has convinced the President and Rufus you're not going to cooperate. You don't want the Cetra to open the portal and she's not going to do it unless you agree."
Hojo folded his arms.
"Let me enlighten you. The President is going to use the Cetra's baby to force her to obey him. Near the end of her pregnancy, you're going to be sent on an emergency mission that will be created for you far away from Midgar. While you're gone, I'm to induce premature labor in your wife. The child was be taken away the moment it's born. If either of you tries to take action against us or if the Cetra refuses to open the portal neither of you will ever see your child again."
"I'd kill all of you," growled Sephiroth.
"Not if there was a chance your baby was still alive."
"You'd kill your own grandchild?"
Hojo shrugged. "Or something like that. That's only the first scenario anyway. In the second, you were going to be drugged and kept in suspended animation. The Cetra will be kept in confinement until her child is born. We'll give her visitation rights to you and the baby as long as she does as she's told. In anticipation of your victory, special containers were designed for you and the baby months ago. If they are opened by force, you'll both die. The only way the Cetra will be able to touch you is by the use of electronic arms. You and the child will be kept in different facilities. The Cetra won't risk her baby's life and she won't risk you."
"And when you let me up, I'd make you pay." Sephiroth tone was cold.
Hojo shook his head and spoke in a sorrowful tone. "I'm afraid once you're drugged, you'll never be allowed to awaken because of the damage you're sure to cause."
Sephiroth came around the table in fury. "I'll never let you do that to my wife!"
Hojo held up his hands. Sephiroth stopped.
"Those were the President's plans," said Hojo. "I, on the other hand was hoping to gain your cooperation by the time the Cetra gave birth."
"She wasn't supposed to know our plans," answered Hojo. "I can't imagine why she came down here in the first place. I certainly wasn't counting on having to track her down."
Sephiroth put his hand on the hilt of his masamune.
"I've ruined months of planning by telling you this," said Hojo quickly. "But just agree to two little things, and you and I can work this to our advantage. As a SOLDIER honor means a lot to you, so I know you won't go back on your word."
"What do you want?"
"Let the Cetra open the portal and the President will be happy," said Hojo. "If she does that, she can keep both of you and the baby."
Sephiroth eyes were murderous. "What's the other?"
Hojo grinned. "Let me harvest samples from both of you to grow in my lab. With those in my possession, neither of you will ever have to be bothered with me again."
"You mean you'll grow our children in test tubes to use any way you want," said Sephiroth trembling in anger. "Children who will be get the same treatment I got or worse. Children who will never know they have parents living nearby who would have loved them and treated them as human beings. All they'll know is the pain and agony of your touch. They will all grow up to be cold blooded monsters, with all your warped values burned into their brains!"
"What are you complaining about?" snapped Hojo. "You'll have a family with a neat little house with a white picket fence if that's what you want! Let me raise MY share of my grandchildren any way I wish!"
"Damn it boy!" Hojo gave Sephiroth an evil look. "If your wife hadn't come down here against my will and seen that journal, she'd still be here and we wouldn't be going through all this!"
"Aeris thinks I'm involved in your plot!" Sephiroth face turned red with fury. "That explains the look she gave me when I said you were coming here. She thought I was going to turn her over to you!"
"Now how do you like that?" Hojo put his hands on his hips. "Is that trust for you, or what? She didn't even give you the benefit of a doubt."
"Hypocrite!" Sephiroth drew his blade. "You're the reason my wife is gone. Because of you and your perverted plans, she's afraid of me now. I'm going to have to convince her she was wrong. One way to do that is to make sure she'll never have to worry about you again!"
He rushed toward his father, but Hojo was ready for him. While Sephiroth was talking, one of the scientist's hands had slipped off his hip into his pocket.
Sephiroth charged. Hojo pulled out his pistol and fired. A dart stuck his son in the right side of the neck, injecting its contents into his bloodstream. Sephiroth stopped short. He pulled out the dart. He looked at Hojo.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to go into suspended animation earlier than planned."
Sephiroth tried to speak but couldn't. The sword fell out of his hand, followed by the dart.
Hojo shook his head. "Now I'll have to lock the Cetra in the lab and force her to be good until the baby comes. This is all so unfortunate. If you'd agreed to my last plan, none of this would be necessary. Now you'll never see what your baby looks like. I'm truly sorry about that."
Sephiroth dropped to his knees.
"It looks like Aeris is with AVALANCHE of her own free will. I wonder if she'll come back to Midgar save your life?"
"Looks like the President will have to wait." Hojo moved closer shaking his head. "Damn. If the Cetra is as strong willed as you, I may end up raising the child myself. How do you like that Sephiroth? How do you like the thought of your child calling me father?"
Sephiroth groaned in response. He could barely keep his eyes focused. Another shape loomed over him. He barely recognized Heidegger's voice.
"I'd guess I'd better call the President."
"Do that," replied Hojo, "And get some men down here. I'm going to give him another injection to keep him out until I rig him up in his hibernation chamber. It's a good thing I followed my first impulse and brought it along with me in the helicopter. We would have had our hands full with him. I want Sephiroth taken to Midgar immediately after my broadcast."
Hojo grinned. "The one I'm going to make when we get him upstairs. Aeris has to come back to save his life, or watch him die on national television."
Heidegger shuddered. "But he's your son."
"He's less than useless if our plans don't work," said Hojo. "If Aeris won't save him, we'll bring her back some other way."
Heidegger frowned. "She may hate him now. What then?"
"If she won't save her husband," said Hojo slyly, "Maybe she'll save Elmyra. If I were you General, I'd have Elmyra picked up right away."
Heidegger was grinning as he went into the library office to use the phone.
* * * * *
Aeris rinsed her face in the bathroom. When she thought her eyes were looking better, she went back to her room and lay down for a while. The thought of AVALANCHE killing Sephiroth made it hard to get any rest.
He wasn't always the easiest person to get along with, but she'd adjusted to his constant moods. Remembering the warmth in his eyes made her smile. She wished she'd finished eating the breakfast he'd made for her. She pictured him scurrying around the kitchen trying to make sure everything was perfect, just to make her happy.
How could he turn her over to Hojo as if she was a toy he was tired of? How could he make her feel so loved, yet reject her so thoroughly? Aeris felt the sting of tears but refused to give into them. She lay where she was a while longer, then decided to forget about sleeping and go downstairs.
The others heard her coming. That ended the debate about whether or not to go after Sephiroth. Cloud felt another tug of guilt as Aeris smiled and greeted everyone.
"I thought maybe you would be resting about now," he said.
"I tried, but there's too much on my mind," said Aeris, sitting down. Maybe there's something on TV that can help me relax.
Right on clue an announcer cut into a comedy show.
"This is a special announcement directed at Aeris Heidegger," he said. "If you're listening Mrs. Heidegger, please stay tuned. I'm directed to say, you'll be most interested in a statement by Professor Hojo. It is extremely important that you stay near a television."
The screen faded back to the program in progress.
"Looks like you timed it just right." Cid wanted to light another cigarette, but decided against it. That wasn't fair to Aeris as an expectant mother. He kicked himself mentally for not thinking of that before.
"Now what?" Tifa put her hands on her hips and frowned. "Why is Hojo making a special announcement?"
"There's nothing he has to say, that I want to hear." Aeris stood up to leave. "I'm through with Shinra and anyone associated with it."
"Maybe you should listen Aeris," said Vincent. "Hojo wouldn't go through all this fanfare just to make noise. Hear him out."
"He's right." Cloud looked worried. "I don't like the sound of this."
"All right." Aeris sat down again. "I'll listen, but If I'm not going to listen to Sephiroth, I'm not going to listen to his father either."
Red padded over to Aeris on silent feet. He laid his head in her lap.
"I may be young," he said, "But I'm old enough to know people don't fall out of love just like that. You're angry with Sephiroth and I don't blame you, but can you honestly say you don't feel anything at all for him? Even after all this?"
Aeris tried to look away and failed. "I can't trust him anymore. It doesn't matter how I feel."
Red stared up at her. "Why not?"
"What do you want me to do?" she asked bitterly. "Turn myself and my baby over to Hojo?"
"No." Red sighed. "But I wish I knew what to do to help you."
Aeris stroked his head. "Me too."
"Sh-h-h!" Barret pointed at the television. "He's coming on now!"
Hojo was standing in the livingroom of the mansion. He stared into the camera with a mocking smile.
"Hello Aeris," he said. "It has come to my attention you found information that led you to believe someone close to you was involved in a plot against you and your unborn child. I'm here to set the record straight. Sephiroth found out about the plot for the first time today. The same way as you. It was a terrible shock to him. Now he understands that you were only thinking of your child when you left. He was very angry. He tried to protect you. I'm sorry to say . . . well . . there was a little . . . accident."
The camera panned over to a group of men strapping a limp and unconscious Sephiroth to a stretcher. They checked the straps, then carried him out the door. The camera went back to Hojo.
"I'm afraid his condition is . . . serious. I don't think he's going to survive without you. Please come home. Everything is under control now. He needs you. As a man of science, I can honestly say, I've seen cases like this before. Sephiroth's life is in the balance. Without you by his side he may die. His last words expressed his love for you. Come home Aeris. Perhaps if you sat by his bedside and spoke to him, he might pull through. Call us and we'll come and get you. Please come. We're waiting for you."
The screen faded to a commercial.
Aeris' face was a white as marble.
"That bastard!" said Cid. "That sneaky conniving bastard!"
"The nerve!" said Yuffie indignantly. "He's going to kill Sephiroth if Aeris doesn't turn herself in!"
Tifa gave Yuffie a dirty look.
"Well it's true isn't it?" Yuffie pointed to Aeris. "SHE knows it!"
"Stop it Yuffie!" Tifa knelt next to Aeris and Red. "Oh Aeris, we were wrong about Sephiroth. I'm so sorry!"
Aeris buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook under the force of her sobs.
Cloud knelt next to Tifa. "Aeris?"
"How could I be so stupid?" Aeris' voice was muffled. "How could I believe he was a part of Hojo's plan?"
"You didn't know," said Vincent. "None of did."
"You know what they're going to do if you go back there don't you?" asked Barret. "You read what he did to Lucrecia."
Aeris nodded. Tears slipped through her fingers.
"If she doesn't go back, they'll kill him," said Cid. "And this is Hojo we're talking about. Going back isn't a guarantee it will save Sephiroth's life."
"He's right," said Red. "Hojo said Sephiroth was angry about the plot. They took him away unconscious. What do you think he'll do when he wakes up?"
"IF he wakes up," said Cloud.
Aeris raised her tear stained face. "What d-d-do y-you mean?"
"You know Sephiroth's temper Aeris." Cloud held her eyes with his. "They can't risk it. Hojo isn't that crazy."
"I just wanted to get away." Aeris covered her face again and wept. "I never thought it would put his life in danger. What am I going to do?"
Exchanging exchanged helpless looks, no one answered. Aeris continued to cry. Tifa finally stood up. She touched Aeris' shoulder.
"You don't have to think about it tonight Aeris," she said gently. "Let me take you upstairs. This can't be doing your baby any good. You've got to get some sleep. We'll try to think of something in the morning."
"I-I don't t-think I c-c-can." Aeris dropped her hands. Tears dampened Red's fur.
"Sooner or later, they would have done this anyway," said Yuffie. "If you hadn't left, you'd still end up in Hojo's lab. They would have found a way to keep Sephiroth from stopping them."
Everyone except Aeris stared at the young ninja.
Yuffie took Aeris' hands in hers. "I don't know how we're going to help you Aeris, but we've been in tough spots before. We'll put our heads together and think of something, but none of us can think if our minds are exhausted. Please come upstairs and get some sleep. Think of your baby."
Aeris looked up at Yuffie, then slowly stood up. Yuffie put her arms around Aeris' shoulder and led her up the stairs.
Cid scratched his head. "I guess I'll have to stop thinking of Yuffie as a fruitcake. That girl has more brains than I gave her credit for."
Tifa nodded. "I guess I've been wrong about her too."
Cloud stood up and helped Tifa to her feet. "Yuffie's right. We'd all better get some sleep or we'll never come up with anything."
The others agreed. Vincent was the last one to go to his room.
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