Appointment With Destiny Chapter 31
The monster swooped in low, casting Demi on Vincent. The cloaked man staggered, but he'd gone through worse encounters with Shinra. Bearing the pain silently, he cast cure on himself. He kept his eyes on the monster as it landed in front of the group.
A clawed forearm reached out for Yuffie. She saved herself by rolling out of the way. Tifa dodged its second attempt.
"We're going to have to play rough with this guy." said Cloud.
"I'm way ahead of you!" Cid raised his lance, signaling the Highwind. "Take cover!"
Everyone scattered. The monster voiced its objection. Spinning about it cast Demi on Tifa, Cloud and Red. Combined with their momentum, all three went flying into the dirt on their faces.
The Highwind raked the creature's back with a missile attack. Howling in agony, it turned to attack. A beam of energy raked the side of the ship.
One of the Highwind's engine sputtered.
"No!" screamed Cid. "My ship!"
He turned on the monster with Big Brawl.
It crouched snarling, then flicked Cid away with a swipe.
Because he tried to dodge at the last instant, the monster hit him with its palm instead of its claws. Cid tumbled head over heels into a clump of bushes. He sat up spitting dirt and grass out of his mouth.
"Giga Flare!" shouted Barret.
The summon roared into life discharging its weapon in a burst of brilliant light.
The blast knocked the monster off its feet. Recovering quickly,i t rolled over and came up sending another charge at Yuffie.
She collapsed without a sound. Cloud cast a healing spell on himself. He felt revitalized as energy flowed through his body. He stood up, casting another healing spell on Tifa. She climbed to her knees, casting Cure on Red.
Running toward Yuffie, Barret gave the beast a taste of Catastrophe. A lucky shot seared the roof of the monsters mouth. Gagging, it clawed at its face.
Cloud summoned the Knights of the Round. While the creature struggled to defend itself and attack the multiple summons, the Highwind stood by ready to fire again. As soon as the last Knight struck, it fired.
Barret cradled Yuffie in his arms. Rising to his feet he ran with all his might to get clear of the Highwind's attack. While the monster shrieked in rage, Barret cast a healing spell on Yuffie. His worried look changed to relief when the young ninja opened her eyes. He helped her to her feet.
Tifa launched her Final Heaven.
Enraged by her attack and the searing pain in its mouth, The monster lunged at her. Cloud barely snatched her out of the reach of its deadly claws.
Yuffie used an All Creation spell to give the monster something to think about. Bleeding from numerous wounds, it gave up and took to the sky.
"Oh no you don't!" Cid signaled again.
The Highwind fired once and then again.
The monster crashed to the ground. It raised it head and glared at them.
"It's going to attack!" shouted Red. Whipping his tail, he braced himself and cast Cosmo Memory.
The monster was bathed in an eerie red explosion. Everyone shielded their eyes. When the glared died down, there wasn't an inch of flesh on the creature that wasn't torn, burned, or bleeding. It tried to raise its head. Thinking fast, Cloud cast Wall between the dying monster and the team. Snorting and gasping, it cast Shadow Flare, but there wasn't enough power behind it to do more than tingle their skin. The monster tried to rise, but failed. Sinking to the ground, it gasped once and died.
Everyone sank to the ground in exhaustion. Everyone . . . except Cid. Lighting a cigarette, the pilot walked up to the monster. He stared down at it. After a while, he flicked his ashes on its head.
"That's what you get for attacking my ship." He walked away.
The Highwind circled, then landed close by. Cid forgot about the monster. He hurried on board to find out the extent of the damage. When he came out again, his face was grim.
"It will take at least three hours to repair that damaged engine," he said.
"Do what you have to do," said Cloud. "It would a lot longer to reach the Ancient City by Chocobo. If there's going to be trouble, I'd rather depend on the Highwind."
Cid nodded and went back into the ship.
Cloud and the others sat down on the grass to wait.
* * * * *
The President was smoking a cigar when the phone rang. He grabbed it.
"Is Rufus safe?"
"Yes Sir," said the voice on the other end. "He's not taking any calls right now, but I assure you he came through the battle in excellent health."
President Shinra sighed in relief. "Leave a message for him to call me at his convenience."
The President hung up and sat back in his chair feeling his age. Now that he knew his son was alive, he could relax. For more than an hour he'd been undulated with tales of giant monsters roaming the land and sea.
Pushing himself out of his chair, the old man went to window. So these were the Weapons mentioned in the Temple of the Ancients. If it wasn't bad enough having problems with Hojo's mutants, now he had monsters with attitudes on his hands.
He sighed. Most of the people he wanted to consult the most weren't in the building right now. Reeve was in Costa Del Sol wrapping up a deal to provide more power to the lively resort town.
Fearing Midgar would be attacked by a Weapon, Hojo had taken Sephiroth and moved back to the mansion to wait for Aeris' surrender.
With one Weapon of the way and the others quiet for now, the President would have liked to spend a little time with his weapons specialist, but against his orders, Scarlet had gone to Junon to watch the testing of the Sister Ray. His lips tightened as he thought about the blonde. He knew what she was up to. Tired of playing footsy with an old man, Scarlet was after his son.
That was too bad really. With Rufus in Junon, they wouldn't have had to play down their affair for a while. He knew what Scarlet wanted. She wanted to marry into his family for the power and prestige it would give her. She'd never turned down his advances when he needed someone to keep him amused between his other "dates." Until she'd figured out he had no intention of marrying her, Scarlet had always kept herself at his beck and call. She was determined to get what she wanted by seducing Rufus.
The President smiled. He was surprised at how jealous he was when he caught her flirting with his son. It was even more amusing to think of how relieved he was when he discovered Rufus wasn't interested in her.
Conceited and selfish, Rufus wasn't interested in finding a wife and settling down, nor was he interested in monogamy. He had a string of beauties he used at his convenience. Hoping to be the girl of his dreams, women flocked to Rufus when he snapped his fingers. He always replaced them with new faces. The President chuckled. With that kind of competition, Scarlet didn't stand a chance. Maybe she was after his son, but she hadn't cut her ties with him completely. The President was sure she'd accept an invitation to spend the night in his rooms tonight. That's just the way she was.
He yawned. Aeris would turn herself in soon. She didn't have a choice. Not if she wanted to get Sephiroth "back." He enjoyed a luxurious stretch as he wondered how long it would take.
The Sister Ray arrived an hour later and was taken to roof of the building. A team of Scarlet's weapons experts assembled each part as fast as they were pulled out of their packing crates. The President was pleased with the Sister Rays test. If any of the Weapons tried to attack his building now, it were in for a big surprise.
He wondered why Rufus had sounded so strange when he'd finally reached him by phone. Questioning him about the Sister Ray was like trying to force a baby to pose for a picture. He'd tried to find out what was wrong, but Rufus was uncooperative. When the President finally hung up, he was convinced there was something son's mind but he would have to wait for Rufus to come home before he could get to the bottom of the problem.
* * * * *
Rufus sat at his desk filled with self loathing. How could have touched Scarlet like that? He looked at his hands and grimaced. He could still feel her lips on his face and her hands on his body. Shuddering he stood up and went to look out a window.
How could he have made love . . . done that . . . with Scarlet? He was tempted to take another shower. He felt dirty again. How he wished he could erase what had happened from his mind! He'd been with Scarlet! It was enough to make him sick. In fact, if he hadn't already thrown up everything in his stomach the first time around, he would have thrown up what was left.
He'd regretted his actions the moment it was over, but Scarlet hadn't known that. She clung to him chattering on and on about how much she'd wanted him and for how long. She'd even tried to kiss him again. Rufus shuddered. Running his hands through his hair, he tried not to think about it, but his mind was stuck on replay.
How long had it been since he'd thrown her out of his office with her clothes in her hands, not caring if anyone outside had seen her leaving his office nude? Thirty, forty minutes? He didn't know anymore. All the women in the complex, and he'd spend his time with Scarlet. Damn! Was he so afraid of dying, he had to turn to an overdressed heavily perfumed hussy for comfort?
Rufus had thrown his lipstick smeared clothing in the incinerator. He'd spent most of his long hot shower scrubbing until his skin felt raw. He'd made love to Scarlet! He'd actually touched her, and she'd touched him. He gagged, then regained control of himself.
Even after he threw her out, she'd asked when they'd see each other again. Rufus clenched his fist and groaned. Instead of sending her back to Midgar with the Sister Ray, he should have tied to her one of Sister Rays shells and fired her into the sun. Scarlet was sure to brag of her conquest to his father. That was the last thing he needed. All those times he'd told his father he wasn't interested in Scarlet had gone up in smoke, just because some damned monster had scared him.
Rufus paced the floor. Was Scarlet still young enough to get pregnant? She'd been fooling with his father for months and she wasn't pregnant yet. Was she using any kind of birth control? What if she was? What if this one time was all it took to change things? Would his father make him "do the right thing?" After all, it would be his first grandchild. Rufus put his head back and shouted in frustration. Wake up next to Scarlet every day for the rest of his life? He'd sooner turn back the clock and let the Sapphire Weapon kill him and destroy Junon. What was he going to do now?
* * * * *
Sometime much later, Scarlet walked into President Shinra's office with a smile on her face. He looked up at her and frowned.
"I've never seen you looking so radiant," he said. "What's going on?"
Scarlet fluttered her eyelashes and turned to look out a window. Memories of Rufus made her smile grow wider.
The President left his chair and came up behind her. He put his hands on her shoulders. "Is that smile for me?"
Scarlet thought about Rufus and blushed. So he'd thrown her out of his office and a couple of people had seen her in the rough before she'd stepped into her clothes. She could handle it. Rufus was just feeling guilty about their little encounter. She could take care of that. She knew what to do. Sooner or later, he'd come to her again . . .
"Oh-ho!" The President nuzzled her ear. "It is for me then."
He put his arms around her waist. Scarlet looked down at his wrinkled hands and forced herself not to slap them off. Old man Shinra couldn't hold a candle to his son. She sighed and thought of Rufus again.
"I've been lonesome here without you."
President Shinra nibbled her ear. Scarlet pulled away from him with more force than she intended to use. She went to another window.
What's wrong?" he asked. "Did you hear what I said? I've been lonesome."
"I heard you." Scarlet's voice was disinterested, but her eyes looked distant and dreamy.
The President came around and looked at her more closely. He frowned again.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say some young buck has taken my place," he said. "Is that it? Who's my rival in Junon?"
The President felt a rush of jealously. "Who is it?"
Scarlet turned and grinned at him, then turned her back to look out the window again. It's your son, she thought. I mean to drag Rufus to the altar within the year. He doesn't have the smarts to keep this company running the way it should be after you're gone old man. I'll help him. As his wife, I will bring this little empire up to the proper standards.
President Shrina came up behind her. "Who is my replacement?"
Scarlet opened her mouth then stopped. She moved closer to the glass.
"Damn it Scarlet!" The President's voice was sharp. "I asked you who you've seen today."
Scarlet pointed at something outside the window. "What's that?"
"Don't try to change the subject," he bellowed. "I asked you . . . "
"No," interrupted Scarlet, "I mean really . . . what's that?"
The President scoffed and looked out the window. He was just about to call her bluff when he saw what she was talking about. The Shinra Building was taller than the rest of Midgar with the best view in town. Someone in the penthouse office could see well beyond the city. In fact their view would go all the way to the sandy coast beyond. He squinted. There was something in the water.
He tried to make out what it was. His eyes weren't what they used to be. President Shinra went back to his desk and removed a pair of powerful binoculars from a drawer. He went back to the window and raised them to his eyes. Scarlet shaded her eyes. Her nose was almost touching the glass.
The floor shook beneath their feet. The President took the binoculars away from his eyes and looked down. The movement stopped. They looked at each other. Frowning, President Shinra raised the binoculars again.
About a mile or two from the shoreline, the water was rippling and bubbling. Something was rising of the of disturbance. Scarlet covered her mouth and gasped. The President leaned closer to the glass. It was gigantic. It was another Weapon. And it was coming straight toward Midgar.
* * * * *
"What the hell is THAT?"
Tifa looked down and let out a little scream. "It's another one!"
Everyone crowded onto the observation deck.
"It's another one of those big monsters," said Yuffie. "It's heading for Midgar!"
"Shit!" Cid reached for a cigarette. "How many of those things are there?"
"I don't know," answered Cloud.
"Do you think Aeris has anything to do with this?" asked Red.
"That's a thought," said Barret. "None of this started happening until she disappeared."
"If Aeris is doing this, how did she learn to use her powers so fast?" asked Yuffie.
"Shinra has her husband," said Vincent. "Aeris isn't crying anymore. She's fighting back now."
"Then maybe we shouldn't stop her," said Tifa. "Maybe these monsters are just what we need to make Shinra change its ways."
"And what that?" Cid pointed through the skylight. "What the hell is THAT?"
A angry red ball hung high in the sky.
"Oh my goodness!" Tifa stared upward. "Where did that come from?"
"We've got to find Aeris quick!" Cloud had a bad feeling. "Take us to the Ancient City Cid."
"Hold on," interrupted Red. He pointed downwards. "What about that thing down there?"
"It's going after Shinra," said Cid. "Let's go. We didn't see anything."
"That's not right and you know it." Red shook his head. "If we can help, we should."
"I can drop some flares and show it the way to the Shinra tower if you'd like," said Cid with a stubborn look on his face. "Is that helping enough?"
"We've got to go down there and stop it," said Vincent as the Highwind circled the monster again.
"Not if we don't see it," answered Cid. "We're flying pretty high you know. That could be a reflection of the sun on the water."
Everyone stared at him.
"Oh hell!" snapped Cid. "All right, all right! Let's go down there and stop the damned thing!"
Cloud slapped him on the back. "Thanks Cid."
Cid was muttering to himself as he brought the Highwind in for a landing.
* * * * *
President Shinra hurried back to his desk and picked up the phone.
"Is the Sister Ray ready yet?" he asked.
His face ceased into lines of anger as he listened to the voice on the other end.
"I don't give a damn about that," he growled. "Get that damned gun working. We're about to be attacked by another Weapon. What? It's coming out of the sea damn it! Put that gun together fast!"
Scarlet's eyes were full of fear. "Look at the size of that thing!"
The President went the window and looked. Unhappy with what he saw, he went back to his desk and called again.
"Get that thing ready NOW!"
Scarlet pointed. "Look! It's the Highwind! Cloud and his friends are going to challenge that thing to a fight!"
"Good." The President clenched his fists in agitation. "That will keep it busy until those idiots get the Sister Ray ready to fire."
"As much as I hate to admit it, Cloud and his friends are pretty good in a fight." Scarlet chewed on a fingernail. "Maybe they can stop it. What is it anyway?"
"That would be the Diamond Weapon." The President Shinra watched the behemoth walking toward the shore. "If it fires on us before the Sister Ray is finished, we're dead."
Scarlet glanced at him and looked back at the advancing creature. She couldn't die now. Not while she had Rufus on the ropes. Win Cloud, she thought. You won't like the reward I've got planned for you, but win this one for me anyway.
The Highwind settled to the ground. President Shinra watched AVALANCHE disembark and position themselves on the beach. Good, he thought. Why send my own men in to die? Just buy me enough time to destroy it you fools. Just give me enough time to prepare.
* * * * *
The Diamond Weapon stepped out of the last of the waves and put one heavy foot on shore. The sand sank beneath its weight. Ignoring the group waiting for it, the monster turned toward Midgar.
"Hey you!" shouted Cloud. "Over here!"
The Weapon ignored them. Red cast Comet to get its attention.
Struck in the back, Diamond Weapon turned around to face its tiny foes. The huge head swivelled down to look at the red beast. Without warning, its raised one huge foot and attempted to stomp Red flat.
Red leaped out of the way.
Tifa went straight to her Final Heaven attack. Barret followed up with Catastrophe. Cid ordered the Highwind to fire at the monster head on. All but six missiles hit. The rest landed in the ocean. Yuffie used All Creation, Vincent used Chaos and Cloud used Omislash.
The Diamond Weapon took their assaults then used a wide beam Diamond Flash on the whole group. Red was the only one fortunate enough to leap out of harms way. The monster turned its back on the people it left withering on the sandy shore and turned toward Midgar again.
"I barely missed that beam," said Red standing over Cloud. "We have to move fast. It's determined to get to Midgar!"
He cast Cure on all his friends. While they climbed to their feet, he cast a Bolt spell on Diamond Weapon. The robotic looking creature shuddered.
"That' it!" Red shouted. "Use Bolt 3 against it."
"And this!" Cloud cast Knights-of-the-Round.
Cid was reluctant to risk the Highwind being attacked again, but he ordered the ship in to make a pass at their adversary.
Yuffie used her Doom of the Living attack.
"He's not putting up much of a fight!"she complained.
"If you say so." Vincent attacked with Chaos.
The Diamond Weapon seemed indecisive. It's head kept turning toward Midgar, as if it wanted to keep going, but it was reluctant to turn its back on them.
"Come on!" shouted Tifa. "Fight or fall!"
She turned Meteor Strike on the monster.
Cloud took Red's advice, using Bolt 3 over and over.
Diamond weapon retaliated with Diamond Flash and a few half hearted Foot Stomps but it was clear the creature didn't want to spend much time with AVALANCHE.
"What's wrong with this thing?" asked Red, using Bolt 3.
"I told you it isn't fighting back much." Yuffie dodged another Diamond Flash and used Bolt 3.
Diamond Weapon sent another Diamond Flash their way, then turned its back on them for the last time. It pushed on toward Midgar.
* * * * *
"Damn it!" The President jerked his cigar out of his mouth. "They didn't stop it!"
He ran for his telephone.
"Is the Sister Ray ready yet? That thing is still coming!"
"Good, Good! Warm it up. Shoot to kill!"
Scarlet clasped her hands together and pressed them against her heart. "Can they stop it? Is the Sister Ray ready?"
"The Sister Ray is up and ready," said the President in a tight voice. "They'll blow it out of existence."
* * * * *
The Diamond Weapon kept moving.
Cid had a bad feeling. He signaled frantically. The Highwind landed nearby in response.
"Quick!" he yelled to the others. "Forget about this thing. Get on the Highwind fast!"
"What's wrong Cid?" asked Cloud.
"No time!" Cid shouted running for the ship. "Get on board or we're dead!"
"What's wrong?" Tifa glanced at the Weapon and back at Cloud. "Do you still want to fight it?"
Cloud shook his head. "I feel what the Weapon feels now."
"Tell us about it on the way to the ship!" Barret ran past them with all his might.
"Get your butts in this ship!" shouted Cid from the top of the ramp. "Run!"
"Get a move on you two," said Red running by.
"Does it feel like it can't win this battle?" asked Tifa. "Is it going to retreat?"
"No, it's . . . feeling something. . . . Yeah, it senses murder."
He grabbed Tifa by the arm and ran toward the ship.
"We've got to get out of here!" He said. "Something big . . . I'm talkin' REALLY BIG's comin'!"
"You won't get any arguments from me!" cried Yuffie, running up the ramp. "Let's go!"
Vincent was the last one aboard. The Highwind rose into the air and moved away from the Diamond Weapon.
"Why didn't we stay and attack again?" asked Vincent. "We could have stopped it."
"This isn't our fight," said Cloud.
"What do you mean?" asked Red.
Cid pointed at the monster. "Look."
The Diamond Weapon wasn't moving anymore. Large armor plates on its body were lifting to reveal hundreds of apertures from which poured bullets of pure white energy. They streaked with deadly accuracy across space toward Midgar.
Tifa and Yuffie gasped.
* * * * *
"Shit!" The President lost his cool. "Fire! Fire! Fire!"
The Sister Ray was already powering up. The Mako weapon began to vibrate and a blue light formed around the barrel.
Weapons bullets were slamming into the building now, tearing chunks of material out of the walls around the penthouse floor.
"I've got to get out of here!" shouted Scarlet. "I've got to get to Rufus! He's mine now. I can't die like this! Not now. Not after I've had Rufus!"
The President turned toward in shock. "What did you say?"
"I love Rufus!" shouted Scarlet. "Did you hear that old man?"
"You slept with my son?" President Shinra's face was a mask of fury.
"And I'll do it again!" Scarlet ran for the door. "I'm getting out of here!"
President Shinra was faster than he looked. He caught her before she could reach for the door knob. He spun her around to face him.
"Rufus is my competition?" he asked.
Up on the roof, the Sister Ray fired. The force of its discharge blew out all the windows in the building. Scarlet screamed and threw her arms around the President hugging him close. He pried her loose with strength born of rage and hurled her to the floor. She flew on her backside. She looked up with anger on her face.
"You chose Rufus over me?" he asked. "Why you . . . "
"You're just an old man with cold shaky hands," spat Scarlet. "I can do a lot better than you!"
The beam from the Sister Ray sped toward the Diamond Weapon.
"You're a no good . . . used . . . " said the President.
"And you're not going to be around forever!" shouted Scarlet. "Rufus and I can run rings around what you think you're doing now. We'll make this company bigger! Stronger! More powerful!"
A blast from the Diamond Weapon blew through a wall on the same floor a short distance away. One of the walls in the Presidents office crumbled. Scarlet leaped to her feet and ran toward the shattered window. The President joined her.
Up on the roof Heidegger and the Sister Ray crew watched the beam of their weapon rushing across the sky.
As the beam of the Sister Ray approached, the Diamond Weapon increased the outpour of its fire power.
Aboard the Highwind, everyone was frozen in place.
The energy burst from the Sister Ray found its mark in the center of Diamond Weapons chest. The huge beast slid backwards in the sand on its heels from the sheer force of the impact. The blast enveloped and punched through the humongous body. Gutted like an overripe melon, the Diamond Weapon fell on its back, bounced once and was still.
"Damn," said Barret.
"That beam went right through it," said Red XIII.
"It's not over yet," said Cloud quietly.
Every eye in the Highwind turned toward Midgar.
The phone rang. The President answered it.
"Sir!" said the voice. "Weapon's been defeated!"
"The Sister Ray got it!" said Scarlet. "It's dead!"
"Sir!" screamed the voice on the phone. "A mass of high density energy is heading toward Midgar! It's the monsters final attack!"
Down in the streets, people were trampling each other in panic. No one knew where to go or what to do.
Energy bullets from Diamond Weapon were still striking all over the city. Buildings crumpled, people died. In President Shinra's office, Scarlet's eyes were wide with horror.
"We're dead!" she screamed. "Rufus! Rufus baby, help me!"
The President forgot his phone call. He threw down the receiver and ran to Scarlet.
Seizing her wrists, he shook her angrily. "You slept with my son!"
Something made him pause. He stopped shaking Scarlet. At the same time, she stopped screaming. They both looked toward the window. Bullets flew over and under the Presidents office. Coming straight for them was a huge yellow ball. It was one of the monsters energy bullets, seen up close.
Scarlet opened mouth to scream. President Shinra let go of her and pushed back his hair. Standing with all the dignity he could muster, he clasped his hands behind his back and waited. The energy bullet flew over their heads and struck the wall behind them. In the brilliant flash that followed, the President saw Scarlet throw up her hands, back lit against the flames. His last emotion was the satisfaction of knowing Scarlet wasn't ever going to get her hands on Rufus again.
Up on the roof, Heidegger and his team shielded their eyes and screamed as an energy bullet came their way. The roof exploded. Heidegger felt his body flying through the air, his clothes were in flames. Before the everlasting blackness consumed him, he felt a pang of regret that he'd never been able to make Scarlet to know how much she meant to him.
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