Appointment With Destiny Chapter 36

By T'Shael

Hojo frowned. Now where was that damned hypo? Blast those Turks coming in like that and disturbing his work! He was certain he'd dropped the instrument next to Aeris. He adjusted his glasses and peered through the sides of the chamber trying to see if it had rolled up close to her body.

Aeris sat up suddenly and rammed the hypo between his should and neck. Hojo inhaled sharply pressed the plunger. He jerked away from her with the needle still in place. His body shook with convulsions.

Still suffering waves of pain, Aeris climbed over the side of her prison. Dropping to the floor jarred her abdomen. She grit her teeth to keep from screaming. She had to lean against the glass until the pain subsided a bit.

Hojo dropped to the floor flopping around like a fish out of water. He wasn't gasping anymore, but the sounds he was making were terrible to hear. Aeris ignored him, concentrating on making it to the door. She was almost crawling when she made to Sephiroth's side.

"Sephiroth, wake up." Aries shook his shoulder. "Please wake up."

She leaned against and began to pray.

Hojo felt the darkness of the drug trying to drag him under. He fought it. He would not let it end this way, He wouldn't. His shoulder burned where the needle sat. He forced himself to concentrate on one hand. If he keep his mind on doing that, he could pull the needle out.

Aeris placed her hands on Sephiroth's body. She closed her eyes, raising her face to the sky. Her hands began to glow. Her hair danced around her in waves. She forgot her own pain as she tried to revive Sephiroth.

Hojo grunted in satisfaction as he yanked the needle free. He flicked it away. His vision kept winking out. The medicine felt warm as it moved through his system. He forced himself to stay awake.

Aeris opened her eyes and looked at her husband. Nothing. A jab blurred her vision. She sucked her breath sharply.

I'd better do something about these pains or I'm not going to last much longer, she thought. I can't help Sephiroth if I'm unconscious.

She put her hands against her stomach and tried to concentrate on a healing spell. She said the words correctly but it didn't work. If anything the next wave of pain was worse than the last. She rode it out, then slumped weakly against the still form in front of her.

"I'm sorry my love," she said, stroking his hair. "I thought I knew how to stop Hojo, but I was wrong. I've even made things worse by calling Meteor. I want to stop it, but its hard to concentrate because I'm hurting so much. I'm a failure Sephiroth. I'm so sorry."

She'd lost Sephiroth and now she was losing her baby. Aeris covered her face and broke into tears. One tear slipped through her fingers and splashed on Sephiroth's face.

Filled with a thirst for revenge, Hojo fought off effects of the medicine by thinking about what he was going to do to Aeris as soon as he was able to move. He was going to teach her a lesson she'd never forget. She'd probably go into shock and never recover, but so what? It wasn't her mind that made her valuable. Gritting his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut, Hojo kept fighting the darkness.

Another one of Aeris' tears rolled down Sephiroth face and crept beneath his lashes. The burning sting of salt caused his eye to twitch.

The next pain made Aeris feel like she was turning inside out. Holding her stomach, she closed her eyes and bit her lip to keep from screaming. The pain subsided then renewed.

"My baby." She moaned. "My poor baby."

Sephiroth's eye was on fire. His eyelids popped open. He blinked frantically.

Lost in agonies of her own, double over in pain. Aeris didn't notice.

"I'm losing my baby," she gasped. "My healing spells won't stop the contractions."

Eyes watering from the sting of her tears. Sephiroth heard.

He sat up suddenly. "What's wrong with the baby?"

His sudden show of life surprised her. She cried out and would have fallen backwards if he hadn't put his arms around her. His fingers pressed into her skin.

"What's wrong with the baby Aeris?"

"You're alive!" She stared at him in amazement, then clung to him as if she'd never let go. "You're alive! I'm so glad you're alright, I-"

She pulled away from him, trying to double over again.

"Aeris!" Sephiroth pulled her close. "What's wrong with you?"

"The baby is in trouble," she said through clenched teeth. "I'm losing him."

Sephiroth put his hands on Aeris' stomach.

The pain lost some of its sharpness.

Aeris looked at him.

"What happened?"

"Hojo put you to sleep and kept you in a special chamber so you couldn't wake up," she said. "He used you as bait to lure me here, so he could do the same thing to me. He was going to use us for his genetic experiments."

"Where is he now?"

Aeris glanced at the door. "He's across the hall. I stuck him with a hypo. I think it made him sick."

"Good. I don't have time for him now."

He touched another part of her stomach.

"What are you doing?"

"Sh-h-h." His eyes went blank.

It frightened her. "Oh my God, Sephiroth, what's wrong?"

Awareness came back to his eyes.

"I'm all right," he said moving his hands to a new position. "Keep talking."

"I went to the Ancient city to get something called black materia. I used it to summon a giant meteor and threatened to destroy this planet if Hojo didn't let us go free and leave us alone. I just wanted to frighten him."

Sephiroth's eyes went blank again.

Frightened and puzzled Aeris stopped talking again.

Sephiroth focused and looked at her. "I'm listening."

"It didn't work. at all. He told me he has the ability to leave the planet before the meteor hits. He tried to put him in a hibernation chamber like yours. I tried to fight back but all I did was hurt the baby. This is all my fault!"

"No. This is Hojo's doing."

Sephiroth's eyes went dull. After a moment, he looked at her.

"You're having contractions."

"I know." Tears spilled down Aeris' cheeks.

"Stay calm Aeris. I'm going to see if I can stop your contractions."

"I already tried," her voice was shaky. "It didn't work."

"Let me try."

His hands grew warmer.

She put her hands on his. "Do you think you can?"

"Trust me."

Aeris looked ashamed. "If I had done that in the first place. We wouldn't be in this mess."

"We'll talk about that later." Sephiroth hands were very warm now. "Just relax."

The adjourning beyond exploded into the room behind it. Sephiroth took his hands from Aeris stomach and pulled her head against his chest. He buried his face in her hair. A cloud of dust and plaster drifted around them.

"What do you think you're doing?"

Hojo stood in the middle of the room.

Sephiroth put his hand on Aeris stomach again. His hands were just short of being too warm.

"I'm merely greeting my wife . . . father." Sephiroth almost choked on the word. "After all, we haven't seen each other for a while."

"You're interfering in matters that don't concern you anymore Sephiroth." Hojo's smile was insane. "You gave up your right to the Cetra when you turned against me."

He pointed at Aeris.

"That creature is the key to a lifetime of riches and power, but you've turned your back on the opportunity."

"That "creature," as you put it, is my wife." Sephiroth said calmly. "I don't own her and I certainly didn't marry her for riches or power."

Hojo's face twisted. "You make me sick."

"The feeling is mutual." Sephiroth's eyes swept over his father. "You've changed since the last time I saw you, and I see you've done some work on your nose."

Hojo snarled at him.

"He's been injecting himself with mutated Jenova cells all along," explained Aeris. The pain was fading away. Her contractions were getting weaker. Taking her cue from Sephiroth, she pretended nothing special was going on.

"And those injections triggered abilities in my body that weren't passed on to Jerin by his mother. None of Jenova's descendants could take on her natural form." Hojo swelled with pride. "But I can."

"Little by little I discovered the changes. I kept them a secret. All those times I went off by myself, I was testing minor transformations. They were successful but I wasn't really planning on making a full change until much later on. In view of recent developments, however, I don't have a choice now."

"First you hide the fact that you're my father, then you hide the fact that you've been giving yourself injections." said Sephiroth. "Why?"

"I did it because of you, my son." Hojo moved closer. "Your powers are very impressive. I couldn't reveal my plans to you without having some sort of backup in reserve. I never thought you'd turn my offer to rule, but I wasn't sure about what you would do once the Shinra's were gone. What if you decided to get rid of me too? I had to be sure I could take you on in a fight!"

"You think you can do that now?"

Hojo's smile grew wider. "Most assuredly."

"So let me get this straight." Sephiroth looked thoughtful. "You're going to change your body, fly through space and find another world you can conquer sometime in the future. Is that right?"

"Correct." Hojo rocked on his heels. "Only I won't be leaving alone. I'm taking Aeris with me."

"Did it ever occur to you that I might object to your plans?"

Hojo shook his head. "Not at all. You're no longer a part of the equation Sephiroth. Aeris will be much easier to handle if you're dead. I can do as I please with her."

"Aeris is having contractions," said Sephiroth. "They have to stop or the baby won't survive."

"Good." Hojo ignored Aeris' astonished gasp. "I want that brat to die."

"This is your grandchild!" she cried. "How can you be so cruel?"

"What do I care?" asked Hojo. "I can see I've sired nothing more than a defective waste of flesh. Why should I waste my time on a child with the same traits?"

"You injure me Hojo." Sephiroth took his hands off Aeris' stomach.

"I intend to. Get out of the way vermin. I want to watch your child die."

Sephiroth stood up slowly. He reached down to help Aeris to her feet.

Hojo gloat turned to shock. "Why isn't the she writhing on the floor in pain? I want her to lose that abomination!"

"Then I guess you're going to be disappointed to know my son is alive and well." Sephiroth stepped in front of Aeris. "And I intend to see that he and my wife stay that way."

"So." Hojo's eyes were bright with malice. "It's a boy. What else to you know?"

Sephiroth's eyes were glowing. "I know he'll never meet his grandfather."

Hojo backed up slowly toward the door. Tips bent toward Aeris and Sephiroth, his tentacles rose straight in the air. Aeris heard a loud crack. Four powerful bursts of energy flew across the room. Aeris screamed and pressed herself against Sephiroth's back. There was an explosion. She closed her eyes against the light that seeped through her fingers.


Aeris looked around Sephiroth at the sound of Hojo's voice. Hovering in the air in front of them was a squirming mass of energy snakes. They hissed and struck at Sephiroth repeatedly but each time a snake attacked, it hit an invisible barrier that sparkled into existence, then vanished again.

Hojo scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I think I may have made a mistake in letting you live this long. I should have killed you the moment you brought the Cetra back and taken her by force."

"Is force is the only way you can get a woman to stay with you?" asked Sephiroth. "What did my mother ever see in you?"

"I didn't use force on your mother." Hojo brushed a strand of hair from his face. " Not at first anyway. All I needed was charm."

Sephiroth made a face. "Knowing you, it was more likely some chemical you cooked up. You wouldn't know how to charm a woman if you had an instruction book."

Hojo's face went blank. Then he glanced at Aeris and gave her an knowing wink.

"I'll bet I won't have any trouble "charming" your wife."

Aeris put a steadying hand on Sephiroth's shoulder. She needn't have bothered. He didn't take the bait. His smile turned just as cold as his fathers.

"How fortunate there's one group on this planet that is weaker than you." Sephiroth gave his father a sidelong look. "If you didn't have women to fight with, you'd spent lot of your time on the ground wouldn't you?"

Hojo screamed in rage. "Is THAT what you think?"

"That's what I KNOW," answered Sephiroth. "You don't have the guts to fight a man."

"You won't feel that way while I'm tearing your body apart!"

"Well if you succeed, at least you can say you beat ONE man in your life." Sephiroth watched Hojo's mouth drop open. "Won't it be nice to have something to be proud of?"

Hands spread like claws, tentacles thrust forward like spears, Hojo came at them in a blur. Moving just as fast, Sephiroth spun, swept Aeris up in his arms and leaped aside. Hojo hit the wall with such force, he plowed through the wall. He stumbled over a table in the next room and went down screaming in rage.

Sephiroth didn't wait around. He ran for the door carrying Aeris. She covered her face thinking he was going to run into something, but he didn't. Aeris found herself outside blinking in the dull red glow of the sky.

Sephiroth didn't stop there. He ran across the lawn, taking her right up to the mansion's wall. He stopped at the top of the stairs leading down into the village. He put Aeris down.

"Hurry!" he said glancing over his shoulder. "Run to the inn as fast as you can. Wait for me there. Don't come out unless I come for you."

Aeris clung to his arm. "Sephiroth-"

He took her by the shoulders.

"Don't argue with me Aeris." She'd never seen his eyes so bright. "Hojo is more dangerous than he ever was before. I have to stop him once and for all, or we might as well give up now."

"I'm scared," she said. She tried to hug him, but he held her back. "Let me stay. I won't get in the way."

"I can't fight Hojo and keep an eye out for you too," he said. "Do you understand? I can't defend myself if you're not safe."

Aeris relaxed in his grip. Sephiroth kissed her on the forehead.

"I love you Aeris."

She looked up, tears forming in her eyes. "I love you too."

"Then do as I say," he told her.

Something in the house exploded. Sephiroth glanced back, then looked into her eyes.


"She nodded, her lips trembling. "Be careful."

His gaze was tender. "Go."

Aeris turned and hurried down the stairs, resisting the urge to look back. Trying to swallow around the lump in her throat, she headed for the inn.

Sephiroth looked after her, wondering if he'd ever see her again. Another explosion drew his attention back to the mansion. The front door was gone. So was part of the wall. Hojo stepped through the ragged edges. He wasn't the man he was before.

His legs were shorter now. A huge ball of flesh was expanding out of his back like an obscene balloon. Sephiroth frowned. It almost looked as though the ball was absorbing Hojo's body.

"A Cetra is prime breeding stock." Hojo was drooling. Saliva sprayed as he spoke. "And you want to waste her on a simple family plan. You're a fool Sephiroth, but not me. I'm going to succeed where you failed.

He raised his tentacles to the sky. "I'll crush worlds under my feet!"

The ball of flesh was so big now, it was scraping against the mansion. Hojo looked almost comical as he waddled away from the building on legs without knees. He stopped. Sephiroth was amazed to see the hideous bulk rise a few feet off the ground.

Hojo's feet turned gelatinous. His body absorbed them with a bubbly sound. His arms turned into blackened twigs that crumbled into flakes and fell away from his body, He rotated slowly. With a horrible smacking sound, the ball split into four sections, spewing gooey matter everywhere. One glob landed on one of Sephiroth's shoulder plates. It smelled like warm oatmeal.

Sephiroth had to clench his teeth to keep from gagging. Kneeling, he pulled up a handful of grass and wiped the mess way. When he finished, he looked up to see each of the open plates had curled slightly inward like the petals of a demented flower. Between the gapes in the plates, Sephiroth could see thick cables of flesh around a insect-like body. All that remained of Hojo was a human torso attached to a scaly ball with four long tentacles ending two rope-like fingers. Hojo stopped rotating. He looked down at Sephiroth and exposed his sharp teeth in a grin.

"Look at the sky!" he said in a reedy voice, "Your wife did that! The power to call down a meteor! One can only imagine how much power she has yet to release. With the right kind of guidance and a very firm hand . . . the things I could do . . . this is glorious! How could you be so stupid as to give up all this up for something as insignificant and moronic as . . . love?"

"You'll never touch my family as long as I'm alive." Sephiroth reached for his masamune, then blinked as he realized he hadn't seen it since his father drugged him in the library.

Hojo laughed. It was the sound of leaves blowing across a paved surface. There was no warmth or humor in it.

"Oh. Are you looking for your blade?" Hojo turned around and glanced back at the mansion. The building was on fire. Flames were breaking through the roof. "I'm afraid, it's beyond your reach now son."

Sephiroth stared at the burning door, gauging his chances.

Hojo took advantage of the moment, swinging a tentacle with a force meant to shatter bones. Inner senses screaming, Sephiroth threw himself aside. The tentacle whistled by ripping a rut in the ground.

"Damn it!"

Dropping lower, Hojo went after Sephiroth fast and furious. Tentacles snapped like whips as he tried to beat his son to death. Leaping, rolling and dodging, Sephiroth's agility was pushed to the limits. Try as he might, Hojo couldn't land a blow on his target. He backed off, giving Sephiroth a look of pure hatred.

"You're a lot faster than I thought you were, but that won't save you!"

He raised a tentacle. The tip of the appendage sparkled, then fired a burst of energy.

Sephiroth dodged it . . . barely.

Hojo swung again. Panting slightly, Sephiroth couldn't get out of the way fast enough. The tentacle struck him a glancing blow. It sent him spinning into the ground. Stunned, he lay there trying to catch his breath. A pair of tentacles pushed their way under his body. He tried to push himself clear, but the tentacles wrapped around his body and snatched him off the ground.

Hojo raised him until they were eye to eye. Sephiroth looked down. He was at least sixty feet in the air. Any moment he expected to be dropped or crushed. Keeping a straight face, he stared back at his father, but his mind went back to the chest he'd been given long ago. Sephiroth remembered everything he read. Somewhere in that chest was an answer to his dilemma.

"It's too bad you don't have your sword," said Hojo with a pitying smile. "You might have been a real challenge."

Sephiroth said nothing, his mind on the packet of papers in the chest. He flipped thorough them mentally as fast as he could. He grabbed one idea, then discarded it for another. There had to be a way to save himself from his fathers madness!

Hojo shook him roughly.

"And I thought you were most like Jerin," he said scornfully. "You're a weak pathetic excuse for a son."

Sephiroth closed his eyes. Something was coming to him.

"Wake up!" Hojo shook him angrily. "I want you to see how you die. Don't get faint on me now!"

The tentacles were wrapped around his waist. Sephiroth's hands were free. He rejoiced in that knowledge. He raised his left hand above his head.

"You're waving bye bye?" Hojo broke into genuine laughter. He waved a tentacle at Sephiroth. "Bye bye baby, bye bye!"

Sephiroth's palm began to glow.

"Ooooooo!" said Hojo, feigning fear. "Are you going to use a Bolt spell on me? I'm so frightened!"

He gave Sephiroth a squeeze. Sephiroth groaned as the air left him. He couldn't draw his breath. He dropped his hand and struggled to free himself. Hojo laughed and loosened his tentacle. Sephiroth gasped for air.

Sephiroth closed his eyes and raised his hand above his head again.

"Are we playing "bye bye" again?" Hojo laughed merrily. "Bye bye baby. Bye bye."

Sephiroth ignored him and the ache in his chest.

"Come to me!" he said out loud. "Come to me now!"

Hojo stopped laughing and frowned. "What's that?"

"Masamune, come!"

Leaning against a wall in the basement library, the masamune quivered.

Hojo looked at the burning house and grinned. "Is this kind of like walking a dog?"

He gave Sephiroth a light squeeze.

Sephiroth opened his eyes. They were glowing like lanterns.

"Come to me now!" he shouted. Energy flared in his palm.

Hojo wasn't sure what to think. "Just like that?"

Sparks crackled down the length of the masamune. A mouse gnawing on the leg of a chair froze. The blade flashed, bathing the room in light. The mouse ran squealing for shelter. The blade flashed again, then winked out of existence . . . and reappeared in Sephiroth's hand.

Hojo's eyes went wide with shock.

"Just like that."

Sephiroth swung the blade cutting through the tentacles holding him.

Hojo let out a blood curdling scream.

Sephiroth fell.

* * * * *

Aeris knelt near a window in the lobby of the inn. The innkeeper was cowering in his office. Most of the people in Nibelheim had left, seeking a safe place to hide from Meteor. She prayed for a while, then looked up at the sky. Instead the blue she expected, there was nothing but red. Meteor looked even closer than before. Aeris gasped.

She closed her eyes and said her prayer again. When she looked up through the glass, Meteor was still there.

Fighting back panic, Aeris closed her eyes and said her prayer for the third time. She repeated herself just to be sure. She looked skyward. Nothing had changed.

Aeris said her prayer out loud, imploring the meteor to return to space. She called on the spirits of the Cetra to help her. She prayed so hard, she felt a headache forming. She checked the sky again. The meteor was still on course a collision with the Planet.

"Oh no!" She rose to her feet. "What am I going to do? I can't stop it!"


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