Appointment With Destiny Chapter 34
"Bolt 3!" whispered Aeris under her breath.
Lightening streaked toward Hojo flinging him away from her.
He landed on his feet, aiming a tentacle.
"Ice 3!" he snarled.
Struck by freezing shards of ice, Aeris fell back against the front door shivering.
"It doesn't have to be this way," said Hojo with mock pity in his voice. "Come. It'll be warmer in the hibernation chamber. The temperature is always constant."
"Never!" Aeris cast her strongest fire spell. Hojo swung a tentacle at the same instant. She was forced to leap to the right. The tentacle stopped short of where she'd been standing, but the damage was done. Her fire spell hit the opposite wall. It burst into flames.
"That's a good way to kill your husband," said Hojo. "Roast him alive!"
"No!" Aeris cast an ice spell on the flames to quench them.
Hojo cast Tornado. Aeris was caught in the spell and snatched off her feet.
She flew across the room toward a wall. Dropping her staff, she put out her hands and feet to absorb the impact of the hard surface. She dropped to the floor trying to protect her stomach. Rolling on her side, she glared at him.
"I've been called worse." Hojo walked toward her. "I'm tired of playing with you Aeris."
"I don't remember laughing, so this can't be fun." She struggled to her feet and backed away from him. "Leave me alone, Hojo."
He narrowed his eyes and kept coming. A tentacle whipped out and wrapped itself around her waist. The other one wrapped around her left wrist. Moving closer Hojo grabbed her right wrist in his hand. He waggled a finger in her face.
"I got you my dear," he said.
Aeris kicked him where it hurt with her knee. Hojo went down groaning.
"I don't think so," she said. Stepping over his quivering body, she ran toward the door.
"You bitch!" Hojo moaned behind her. "I'll get you for this!"
She didn't doubt it. It was only a matter of time before he was back on his feet. Aeris ran straight to Sephiroth. She looked at the tubes and monitors but none of them made any sense to her.
"If I'm wrong, forgive me my love," she whispered to him. She grabbed a pair of tubes and ripped them out of the machine.
A red light came on, and an alarm went off.
"Please don't let me kill him!" Aeris snatched out another pair of tubes and heard a hissing sound.
Sephiroth didn't move.
Aeris snatched another tube out of the side of the container. Sephiroth gasped in his sleep and was still. Panicked she stopped and stared at him, but he didn't move again.
"Don't die Sephiroth!" she pleaded. "Stay with me love. I'll get you out!"
She was just about to yank another tube when Hojo's tentacles wrapped around her body and raised her off the floor. He supported her weight, careful not to crush her baby.
Aeris looked down at his face.
"You've sealed his fate!" he hissed. "I was going to let him live, but I've just changed my mind."
He raised his hands toward Sephiroth.
"No!" screamed Aeris. "She cast Bolt 3.
Hojo stumbled back dropping her.
Aeris hit the floor on her feet, feeling the impact in her abdomen. Holding her palms out toward Hojo, she hit him with the beams from her palms.
He countered with Barrier.
Aeris turned around. Pulling as fast as she could, she tore the plastic tubing out of Sephiroth's chamber.
Hojo waved his hand.
Aeris felt an invisible hand give her a shove that sent her sliding into a wall. Snarling in triumph, Hojo cast Comet 2. Destruction rained down on Sephiroth's chamber. It flew off its base and slammed into the far wall. Glass and metal parts sprayed everywhere. Sephiroth's body flopped onto like a rag doll and rolled into a heap. His fingers twitched a few times and stopped.
"Sephiroth!" screamed Aeris. "No!"
He didn't respond.
She tried to ran to him, but Hojo was fast. His tentacles whipped out and grabbed her. He raised her off the floor again. She beat his tentacles.
"Let me go!" she cried. "Let me see if he's hurt!"
"Can it Aeris." Hojo looked indignant. "I told you I had every intention of keeping him alive, but you went and made me angry. Sephiroth doesn't matter anymore. I've got a better idea. Why don't I just take his place?"
Aeris was trying to unwrap his tentacle. She didn't hear him at first.
"I've probably got more to pass to a child anyway."
She heard him that time.
"You heard me Cetra." Hojo turned toward the door. "I don't have time to chat with you now. I've got to get you in that chamber and get off this planet before that meteor hits.
"That's impossible," Aeris tried to scratch him but the surface of the coil was too tough."You're trapped like everyone else."
Hojo carried her into the next room before he answered.
"You forget. I'm a mutant too."
His shirt bulged again. Aeris stopped fighting. Her eyes widened in horror.
"I've got Jenova's abilities and more," said Hojo.
A pair of new tentacles sprouted beneath the first set. Now there were two on each side. He waved them gently.
"Jenova didn't come to this world in a space ship," he said. "Her body made that crater on the northern continent."
Aeris kicked at his coil with no effect.
"None of us had the ability to transform the way Jenova did," explained Hojo, ignoring her actions. "Just some of her powers. Since I've been giving myself mutated injections, my body has been changing. Now I can transform myself in a form very close to what Jenova was before began she imitated a human. I've done it on occasion when I could get away from prying eyes. I even have the gift of flight, but I don't know if I can travel through space yet. I guess we'll find out that today."
"I'm going to put you in your chamber and carry you. I guess it's just as well Sephiroth is dead or dying. Until I get used to keeping my body in its alternate form, I don't think I can handle more than one of you once we're airborne. We'll find a planet where you and I can continue my experiments. If we're lucky, we'll find a humanoid planet with advanced technology."
Aeris shook her head. "I'm not going with you."
"What you want doesn't matter." Hojo pointed at the empty hibernation chamber. "That's your new home for a while, Aeris . . . my love."
"Don't you dare call me that!" Aeris struggled to free herself.
Hojo laughed as he carried her toward the unit. He lowered her just above it.
"Sweet dreams Aeris." He leered at her. "You'll wake up to a better life."
Aeris tried to brace herself against the sides, but Hojo used all of his tentacles to force her inside. He reached for a hypodermic needle and a sealed packet he'd hidden among the machinery before Aeris' arrival.
"I'm going to give you something to help you relax," he said. "Once you're resting, I can prepare the machine for you. We don't have much time my dear."
Hojo held the needle in his teeth while he ripped open the packet. He removed a pad drenched in alcohol. He swabbed a patch of her skin then tossed the pad over his shoulder. He took the needle from his mouth and pushed out the excess air. He smiled down at her.
"Just a little prick, and you'll be in dreamland."
Aeris suddenly gagged and stiffened. Her eyes rolled back. Her head flopped from side to side. as if her neck were boneless. Her tongue lolled out of her mouth.
Hojo was alarmed.
She began to drool and shake.
Hojo dropped the hypo. He raised her out of the container and laid her on the floor.
"What's happening to you?" he asked. "What is it?"
Aeris made a mewing sound and rolled over on her side. Hojo backed away uncertainly.
"Are you ill?" he asked. "What's wrong?"
"YOU!" Aeris pulled herself up casting Fire 3.
Hojo screamed as he was enveloped in a blast of flames. He fell on his rear. Aeris tried to dart away, but a tentacle whipped out and grabbed her ankle. She landed on her stomach. Pain shot through her body. Rolling over she cast Bolt 3 at Hojo. He slapped it aside with a wave of his hand. The second tentacle wrapped around her waist. Pain shot through her body again as it pressed against her abdomen.
"You won't get away from me!" roared Hojo.
"That's what you think!" Aeris cast mini on herself.
Hojo gasped in surprise as she shrank out of his grasp and dropped to the floor. She jumped over his tentacles and started running.
"I'll get you!" he shouted climbing to his feet.
Aeris ran under a table and cast Quake spell. Hojo let out a stream of curses as he lost his footing the rolling floor. He landed on his face. Aeris ran back to Sephiroth and knelt beside him. She cast Breath of the Earth on herself. She regained her normal size. Before she could touch Sephiroth a sudden cramp made her grimace in pain. It passed quickly. She waited till it passed, then reached for Sephiroth and shook him.
"Sephiroth, can you hear me?"
He moaned. Aeris felt a rush of relief. She brushed his blood stained silver hair out of his face. The glass had cut him badly. Feeling dampness against her knees, Aeris looked down to discover he was lying in a pool of blood. Tears filled her eyes.
"Sephiroth my love, can you hear me?"
He didn't respond this time. Aeris put both of her hands on his body and closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes. Tentacles waving, Hojo was coming toward her. Aeris looked around. A piece of metal from the hibernation chamber lay chose by. Aeris raised her hand toward it. The metal rose in the air. She swung her hand toward Hojo. The metal flew at him at. He slapped it away with a tentacle.
"You're going to have to do better than that!" he growled. "Much better!"
Aeris tried to stand, but she doubled over in pain. Clutching her stomach, she glared at Hojo.
"You hurt my baby!" she said through her teeth. Another pain, worse than the first raked its way through her body. "It's not due to be born for six months!"
"I can stop your labor with the same injection that will put you to sleep." One of Hojo's tentacles flew toward Aeris and wrapped itself around her ankle. "But you're going to pay for putting me through all this trouble."
Laughing to himself, he began dragging her across the floor toward the door.
"Sephiroth!" Aeris tried to grab her husbands shoulder and missed. Hojo dragged her through a patch of broken glass. "Stop Hojo! You're hurting me!"
"I know." He gave her a sharp jerk. "As long as I keep you alive, nothing else matters."
"You're hurting my baby! Stop it!"
"The injection will stop your labor," he repeated.
Aeris gasped as glass cut into her palm. "Sephiroth!"
"He can't hear you." Hojo walked out the room still dragging her.
Aeris grabbed the door frame and held on. "Sephiroth!"
Hojo gave her another sharp jerk. Spots swam before her eyes and cleared. Wet with blood, her fingers slipped a little.
"Sephiroth!" begged Aeris. "Please wake up!"
Another tentacle wrapped itself around her and pulled. She was losing her grip on the door frame.
"Help me!" Aeris closed her eyes. Please help me!"
Hojo opened his mouth to speak. Aeris' staff picked itself up from the floor and rushed after her. Swinging itself in the air, it struck Hojo on side of his head. Stunned, he released her and collapsed.
Groaning in pain, Aeris held out her hand. The staff came back to her. Using it to stand, she stumbled back to Sephiroth.
On the floor behind her, Hojo moaned.
Aeris put her hands on Sephiroth's body, closed her eyes and began to pray. The words came to her unbidden, but she had to keep stopping as blackness threatened to claim her. She finished the prayer and opened her eyes. Sephiroth lay just as still as before. She sagged in disappointment.
"It didn't work did it?"
Aeris leaned against Sephiroth too deep in pain to answer. Hojo stood behind her with a vicious smile on his face.
"There's just you and me now, Aeris." He pointed at her stomach. "If you had just gone into your chamber peacefully, THAT wouldn't have happened. All these delays are making it worse. If you don't come with me now, you're going to lose your baby."
Aeris dropped her head on Sephiroth's body and wrapped her arms around him. Her sobs brought a look of disgust to Hojo's face.
"It's time to go now." He reached for her.
Aeris tried to fight him, but she was hurting so much she couldn't put up much of a fight.
"My baby," she moaned.
"I can save it," said Hojo, lifting her body. "Let me get you into your chamber and we're home free."
Aeris reached out and raked her nails across his face. Hojo howled then slapped her. Aeris went limp.
"It's time to go," Hojo said to the unconscious girl. "I can feel it in my bones. That meteor getting too close. I'll have to hurry if we're going to leave in time."
He carried her into the next room.
* * * * *
The parade behind him. Rufus walked into his office feeling tired and triumphant at the same time. He sat in his chair, leaned back and placed his feet on the top of his desk. He sighed. Sooner or later, he was going to have to go back to Midgar and find out for himself how much damage Headquarters had suffered.
His lips curled as he wondered whether of not there was anything left of his father to see. By all reports, the worst of the damage was concentrated at the top of the building. Every window would have to be replaced.
Rufus yawned. That was a job that could wait for later. Right now, he was just going to rest on his laurels and feast on the thought that HE was the new president.
He looked at the phone. He'd already sent the Turks to fetch Aeris. Surely Hojo had her by now. He yawned again. Maybe he should leave Headquarters like it was for a while. Once Aeris opened the portal between both worlds, he could generate sympathy when he told his future allies about the horrible monsters who'd attacked his city and killed a lot of people, including . . . his dear departed father.
Rufus laughed out loud.
"Let us in on the joke."
The young President's head snapped up. His feet dropped to the floor. Cloud stood in the partially opened door staring at him.
Rufus stood up. "What are you doing here?"
Cloud moved into the room. The rest of the team followed him.
"We came to ask you, real polite-like to resign your position in Shinra," said Barret in a friendly tone.
"Yeah," added Cid. "Now that the old man's dead, you're free to find something else to do with your life."
"You could be a shopkeeper," chipped in Yuffie. "Or a farmer."
"You're a young man," said Tifa. "You should get out of this stuffy office and see the world."
"Travel is good," nodded Red. "How much of this planet have you really seen?"
"Especially if you travel like a tourist instead a spoiled rich boy." Vincent folded his arms across his chest with his weapon pointed up. "Traveling on coach rates, never hurt anybody."
Rufus leaned back with a smirk on his face.
"You people are mad," he said. "You waltz into my office like you own the place giving me orders . . . how did you get this far anyway?"
Barret tapped his gun arm against his palm. "We had to hurt a few people."
Rufus eyed him distastefully. Then ran his eyes over the rest of the group.
"Well you found your way here, now you can find your way out again."
"We wouldn't dream of that," said Tifa. "We haven't passed out the party favors yet."
Rufus looked her up and down. "You're the bar maid without a bar, right?"
Tifa flushed an angry red.
"You sent your goons out to destroy her bar," said Cloud. "That wasn't very neighborly of you."
Rufus leaned forward giving Cloud a sour look. His fingers located a button under the edge of his desk. He pressed it, then smiled at his visitors.
"I think a trip is a great idea," he said. "Especially if it's one way."
"Does that mean you're leaving?" asked Yuffie.
Rufus shook his head. "You are."
The door behind the group opened. Three Laser Cannons floated in.
"I decided to bring a few things from Midgar to beef up security around here." Rufus looked at the lead cannon. "Kill them!"
The cannon swung its barrel around and fired on Vincent. It missed. Shouting in alarm, everyone scattered. Rufus jumped up and ran for the back of the room. Yuffie followed him. He slapped a fixture on the wall. A secret panel slid open. He rushed through. It slammed shut in Yuffie's face.
"Rufus is getting away!" she shouted, striking the panel in frustration.
"That's the least of our problems kid!" Cid ducked a laser blast.
Red cast a bolt spell. One of the cannons exploded. Cloud dived behind a chair. A piece of metal sliced the top of the backrest off.
Yuffie yelped in surprise as Red knocked her to the floor. Another piece of metal punched through the wall where she'd been standing.
"I think I've had about enough of this," said Vincent calmly as he emerged from behind the desk. Aiming at the nearest Laser Cannon, he gave it a few rounds from his death penalty. He ducked as it exploded.
Barret rose from the other side of a lounge chair and took out the remaining cannon.
Tifa rose from the other side of the desk and pushed a strand of hair out of her face. "I guess that takes care of that."
She walked up to the smoking ruins, just as a section of the wall blew inward. The concussion knocked everyone off their feet. Precious moments were lost as they lay stunned on the floor. The Hundred Gunner rolled into the room.
Tifa raised her head trying to focus on the shape closing in on her. She blinked a few times. Her eyes cleared. The Hundred Gunner's barrel was aimed at her, preparing to fire. Tifa opened her mouth, unable to make a sound.
A bolt of lightening struck the huge machine. From Tifa's point of view, it looked as though the Hundred Gunner was surrounded by a halo of light. She pulled herself into a sitting position. The Hundred Gunner's barrel swung away from her and jittered. The lightening bolt stopped and it swung back to into her face
A second bolt struck, but this time, the barrel didn't waver. She heard a humming sound. Tifa's life flashed before her eyes. A second, then third bolt joined the first. Tifa raised her hands to protect her eyes from the light.
Strong arms wrapped themselves around her waist and pulled her to her feet. She tried to stand but she screamed in agony when her right leg touched the floor.
"Don't worry, I'll carry you." Vincent picked Tifa up and carried her to safety.
Barret, Cid and Cloud broke off their bolt attack and dived to the floor as the Hundred Gunner raked the room with automatic fire.
Vincent dropped to the floor with Tifa. Her right leg thumped against the floor. Holding in a scream, she passed out.
"Sorry Tifa." Vincent cast a healing spell on her leg.
Yuffie sprang up from behind Rufus' private bar and hurled her Conformer at the Hundred Gunner. The weapon bounced off ineffectively and came back toward her. The Hundred Gunner swung around. Yuffie hugged the floor as it fired over her head. The Conformer sailed over the bar and dropped beside her.
The Hundred Gunner advanced on the bar firing as it came. Glass and wood exploded all around the trapped ninja. Yuffie lay flat as she could, as bullets tore through the decorative wood only inches above her body.
"Yuffie!" Barret rose and fired repeatedly on the huge machine. His powerful weapon left pockmarks in some places and penetrated others. Smoke poured from some of the holes.
The Hundred Gunner tried to turn toward Barret, but the big man fired a blast that knocked it back a foot.
"Help me kill this thing!" he shouted at the others.
They responded by giving the big machine bolt spells and whatever they could throw at it. They thought they were getting the upper hand but the Hundred Gunner changed tactics. It fired a bolt of energy at Barret. It struck him before he knew it was coming. He flew backward over a chair. Red flew to his side, casting a healing spell.
Determined to kill them all, it fired bolts randomly at maximum power. Awakened by Vincent's spell. Tifa dodged a bolt, but Vincent cried out in pain as one passed his shoulder so close, it burned through his clothing. Cid cast a healing spell on him before he drew his next breath.
Tifa jumped to her feet, testing her leg. It barely ached now. A bolt slammed into the floor behind her.
"Watch out!" shouted Cloud, aiming another bolt at the Hundred Gunner. "Be careful Tifa!"
She didn't have time to acknowledge him. The Hundred Gunner had homed in on her. It was only a matter of time before it fired. The Bolts they were using made her hair stand out with a life of its own. Her ears were filled with the roar of Barret's Catastrophe.
Putting out her arms, Tifa summoned Ramuh. The Hundred Gunner paused in its attack to swing toward the summon as it formed in the center of the room. The Hundred Gunner prepared to fire, then went into a quaking frenzy as Ramuh turned its power on the killing machine.
"Yeah!" shouted Cid. "That's got him!"
Bathed in the summons power, the Hundred Gunner let out a metallic squeal and began to glow.
Barret was helping Yuffie off the floor. She was bleeding from numerous cuts and shaken, but otherwise okay. Barret aimed at the wall Rufus had vanished through and fired. The wall blew away revealing a secret hallway. Barret picked up Yuffie and tossed her over his shoulder.
"Run!" he shouted. "That thing is going to explode!"
"I think you're right." Red raced for the hole. "Let's get out of here!"
Cloud rushed up to Tifa and took her hands. He looked into her eyes anxiously.
"Can you make it?"
She smiled at him. "After you."
"With me." Cloud held hand as they fled the room.
Ramuh gave the Hundred Gunner an extra blast of energy and twinkled out of existence.
The Hundred Gunner, vibrating like jackhammer, exploded, setting the room on fire. Whether or not the fire systems would put out the flames was not a concern of AVALANCHE. They went after Rufus.
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