FF7: JIHAD Prologue
By Winter Weil
First Written: Wednesday, November 17, 1999
Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2001
Comments and constructive criticism welcomed and appreciated.
Flames get deleted. ^.^
All rights to Final Fantasy VII and its characters belong to SquareSoft. The characters of this series are used without permission only for the purpose of entertainment. This fanfiction is not meant for sale or profit.
All original characters are copyright to the author. Don't use these characters without contacting the author first.
/ / are character thoughts
How can one describe devotion?
No, not the devotion one feels for a fellow man. The devotion of a man for a god he worships. And not a simple devotion. More fanaticism, willing to kill, die, and make war in the name of their god. Of course, one like this would not see it as fanaticism. They would see it as acting upon the orders of their god, as being the hand of their god. They would call it devotion.
But what is the true definition of 'devotion'?
Junon is a busy place. People cram the sidewalks, making their way to home from bars, to bars from home, some looking for a good time, some just out enjoy the night-time affairs of the sea-side city. Lamps flicker on the darkened streets from every block, illuminating the cobblestone roads just enough that the shadows hide from the piercing light, and follow hesitantly behind their makers.
A figure made its way down one of those paths, making his way slowly through the loose throng of people that crowded the streets of his city. Many lingered in doorways and simply stared as he passed, most intoxicated, others, uncaring. Those few who recognized him gave him respectful nods, or small waves; he, in turn, ignored those silent ones and returned the gesture of greeting to others. And once past, he would pause and shake his head in a thoughtful way, before continuing down the fitfully lightedstreets to his destination.
Time made it's slow way around the clock, and he found himself staring up at the sign which hung over the entrance to a bar. It bore the carving of a pitcher and a tankard a beer, and in neat script painted above it was the name of the establishment: Tifa's Seventh Heaven. It always made him wonder why they named the bar that; the orginal was destroyed many years in the past, in the deserted city of Midgar. Perhaps it was because of emotional significance. Perhaps it was to honor those who had died in the past; and how everything that brought them together seemed to have started from that tiny bar. Perhaps.
He pushed open the doors and made his way inside.
The pub was well lit, better lit, even, than the streets outside; there were no darkened corners that could be hidden in, where illegal transactions could take place, or tiny booths that gangsters could have meetings within. It was actually quite large, with ten to fifteen six-seater tables scattered randomly in the open area of the room. One wall occupied the bar itself; a large cherrywood counter ran the length of that side of the room, with a shelf behind it that took up the entire wall, filled with beverages and liqours of all sorts to tantalize customers. Two television sets were set onto the shelves, and currently were broadcasting a football game, a sport that had recently come to the world's attention, and already had many devoted fans. A brief glance told the visitor that it was the Gold Saucer Moogles versus the Midgar Serpents; so far the Serpents were winning 18 to 6.
Another brief glance told him that the customers were not ones to feel easy around, and yet something about the vibes of the place indicated safety. He had no doubt that any barfights were quickly and efficiently contained, and were severely punished. Tifa, and her great knowledge of kickboxing and karate, no doubt had put it practical application in the past, teaching customers to mind their manners. And if the threat of Tifa wasn't enough, the threat of her ex-SOLDIER husband certainly was.
There was no one minding the bar when he first entered, but as he made his way through the crowd, a lithe young woman of elegant beauty appeared from a door between the shelves. She was clad in a slimming pair of blue jeans, overlaid with a white tank top and waitress apron, her dark brown hair tied back in a loose ponytail. With a small quirk of a smile, he advanced to the counter.
Her back was turned when he reached the row of stools, seemingly intent on a section of stock. Slipping into a seat, he rested his elbows on the counter and said with a smile, "Buy a drink for a pretty lady?"
She spun in surprise at the familiar voice and nearly dropped the bottle she held. Her burgundy eyes widened, and a smile spread across her face as she recognized her visitor.
"Reeve! I wouldn't expect you to come to a place like this on a work night! What brings you here?" She set the bottle on the counter and moved to give him a hug.
Accepting the hug, Reeve grinned at her wickedly. "Can't keep away from a pretty face."
She leaned back and laughed. "Better watch yourself, or Cloud will take you seriously. He's been telling me how he thinks his sword's getting dull- he might try out a new edge on you."
"I'll take my chances," he replied with a wink. "Speaking of which, where is Cloud?"
"Putting Celia to bed. Sometimes I swear I can hear her hollering all the way down here."
"She's still going through her tantrums?"
Tifa smiled. "Yes. The Terrible Two phaze. But I've heard that the worse they are now, the less rebellious they are when they're teenagers. I hope, anyways."
"Sometimes I wonder how Cloud's going to make it through life being outnumbered by women. Its probably bad enough with just you around, but when Celia becomes a teenager..." He shuddered, teasing.
Now four years after Meteor and the mega-corporation Shinra had fallen, Cloud and Tifa were married with children- or only one child, to be exact. Celia Aeris Strife was a delicate three year old girl, with her mothers hair and features, and her father's intense blue eyes. For a time, it had seemed she was to inherate her name-sakes mild temperament, but at eighteen months old, the terrible two's had arrived, and apparently weren't letting up anytime soon.
Tifa simply pinned her friend with a stare that would have melted snow. "Oh, I'm sure he'll survive somehow..." she replied dryly.
"Survive what somehow?"
From the doorway between the shelves, a man stood with hands on hips, his sharp blue eyes surveying the scene in the bar. Not tall, nor big, he wasn't an imposing man, with an unruly mess of blonde hair that seemed to defy gravity. It wasn't until he was looked closer at that the slight mako-green glow to his eyes was seen, the confidence in himself, and the ease with which he used his weapons, that Cloud Strife would be seen as a dangerous man to mess with.
"Nothing, honey," Tifa replied with a deceptively sweet voice. "Just talking with Reeve."
Reeve just smiled cheekily and waved.
Cloud blinked and took a closer look at his friend. "Do you feel sick?" he asked after a moment.
"What?" Reeve asked. "No... why?"
Cloud shook his head, and made his way about the bar to sit beside his friend. "I just never thought I'd see the Mayor of Junon in a T-shirt and jeans."
"Hey," Reeve protested, "I have my casual fridays."
In the four years that had passed, the brain behind Cait Sith had done everything within his power to gain control of the remnants of Shinra and repair the damage that had been done. First, by relocating the survivors of Midgar, then, with much persuation on his part, by shutting down all the remaining reactors in the known world. Protests were wide-spread, of course, and many attempts had been made to oust him from power, but with majority support behind him, Reeve had managed to create altenate energy sources that hadn't been used in years.
Taking the initiative from Cosmo Canyon, many of the small citys like Kalm and Nibelhiem reverted to gigantic windmills and coal-fed reactors, which completely reversed Corel's position and brought prosperity back to Barret's people. And, for the largest city, Junon, he brought together the most mechanically inclined people he could gather, and created the first power sources of their kind: hydroelectric generators. Of course, being new technology, they were prone to break-downs, and black-outs were not uncommon, but on the whole they created more than enough power for the entire city.
And in the creation of these generators, Reeve, once the Urban Development Planner of Shinra, Inc., became the unanimously elected Mayor of Junon. Unable to decline graciously, he was rarely ever seen in anything other than a suit and jacket these days, if he was ever seen in town at all.
"But you still haven't told me why you're here," Tifa remarked.
"Oh, the usual. Business."
Cloud raised a pale eyebrow at him. "With what, a bottle of beer?"
"No, actually. You've heard about JEC, the Junon Educational Center?"
His friend nodded. "Yeah. It's a school for all the grades, including college."
"Right. Anyway, I've scheduled a meeting with the director of JEC- well, maybe not the REAL director. She's more of a..." He paused to find the word he was thinking of. "...supporter of the school. She wants to talk about bringing in more funds for the school, since it's been in real bad shape since the Meteor dropped."
"So why are you here?" Tifa asked. "This is hardly a place for a meeting."
"Yes, well..." Reeve shrugged slightly. "I've been feeling the need to get out. Spring fever and everything. Everyday, it's home, office, home, office, cafeteria, home, office.... she said she had no difficulty in a casual meeting, and I knew there was no place I could trust better than this one. I've haven't met her before this, though..." In a thoughtful voice, Reeve added, "Kinda like a blind date."
Cloud snickered. "Since when have you ever been on a date?"
"I have a life, thank you, unlike some people I know."
"Was that supposed to be an insult?"
"Depends on which way you look at it."
"Boys, boys," Tifa admonished, and they grinned sheepishly at each other. To Reeve, she asked, "When are you supposed to meet this mysterious person?"
He checked his watch. "About a half an hour. Probably a little later, since we politicians are not renowned for being early."
Husband and wife exchanged brief looks, and Tifa smiled as she handed a beer to their old friend. "You'll just have to sit back 'til then, yes?"
Reeve happily accepting the drink.
A good forty minutes later in the hour, yet another group of merrymakers entered, intent on a night on the town. With them came a young woman, slight of stature, who blended perfectly with the night-time crowd. She stopped within the door to look about her, silently taking in the strategic entrances and exits without consciously meaning to. As she stood there, one of the more regular visitors laid eyes on her. Being roaring drunk, a bit near-sighted, and not seeing a simliarity between this new-comer and the barmistress Tifa, he took it upon himself to become better acquainted with her.
Quickly coming up beside her, the drunk man placed a commanding arm around her shoulders. She nearly disappeared beside his bulk.
"Hey, doll, wus a pretty thang like yoo doin' in a place like thish?" he asked in what he probably imagined was a seductive voice. Instead, all he accomplished in doing was spreading the funk of his breath.
The woman wrinkled her nose, attempting to guard herself against the man's offensive breath. Trying to disengage herself gently from the drunk mans grip, she remained silent.
In his inebriated state, the man took this as an insult. Grabbing her arms in a grip of steel, he thrust his face into hers and growled, "Yoo'd best be watching yoorself, bitch, er I'll haveta teach ya a lesson." She averted her head to avoid his breath, and kept her silence.
At the table where the man had been sitting, one of the sitters called out to the persistent man. "Danny, quit worrying about her watching herself. You better watch YOURself, or Tifa'll whup your ass good!"
This seemed to be enough to deter "Danny" from his target. With a muttered curse, and a glare at the woman, he lurched back to the table and resumed his drinking.
She took a moment to adjust her jacket, keeping tight reign on the temper that had threatened to break free at his words. Ignoring the rest of the silently leering bunch, she set her gaze forward, and moved for the bar.
"You thinking maybe your visitor won't show?" Cloud asked. He had been helping Tifa about the bar as she worked on requests, and stopped for a moment to check in on Reeve.
"It's only 15 after. I'm not going to worry till she's an hour late," he replied genially. "Even so, it's better to wait out here for a no-show then in that damned office. I swear, I'm going to destroy that room one of these days." Tilting his head back, he finished off the last of the beer he had been nursing.
Tifa peeked her head out of the kitchen, a platter of food on one hand and drinks in another and began distributing them about the counter with help from her husband. "You want another?" she asked the mayor as she gathered up the gil.
"No, that's fine." He shook his head. "I want to be able to discuss whatever it is I'm going to discuss with a fairly clear head. I'm sure that one beer would be nothing to you hard-core drinkers, but I was raised on the fake stuff."
She just smiled and took the empty bottle from him. "Whatever you say, Reeve."
He couldn't help but think she was teasing him.
Watching her move down the length of the counter and take new orders from the customers, he leaned his elbows on the counter and reexamined the crowd. Some new people had come in, and some older ones had left, but so far none had approached him. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
While he was somewhat interested in the meeting with this Ms. Davis, on the other hand he wasn't so sure he should have agreed to it. He had encountered some of the education nuts around Junon, and they were as obsessed with the school system as Hojo had been for Jenova.
He grimaced slightly. /Well, maybe not that obsessed. But this time I'm wondering if I should have let my claustrophobia talk for me. No doubt this is going to end in disaster..../
He heard someone come up behind him.
"Lovely lot, ain't they?" a low, husky voice asked.
Reeve turned. To his right stood a young woman, her hand resting casually on her hips. While she wasn't exactly beautiful, with a high cheekbones and a jaw that was too strong, she could be defined as 'pretty', with dark blonde hair was brought back in a tight braid and smokey gray eyes that focused intently on him.
He nodded slightly, not really wanting to engage in conversation. She was dressed conservatively, in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, overlaid with a tan leather jacket, but with the voice she had, he wasn't about to get caught up with one of the many ladies of the night he'd seen come and go from the bar this night.
She motioned with a slender hand at the stool beside him. "May I sit?" she asked.
/Damnit.../ he thought to himself, but smiled and nodded graciously. "Of course," he replied.
The woman smiled and seated herself, resting both hands on the counter before her. Reeve couldn't help but take a close look at them, at the rough nails and calluses on the fingers, and wonder if maybe his first asessment of her was wrong.
Those gray eyes glanced sideways at him, and a sly smile appeared on her lips. "I know you..." she said softly, a mischievous air about her. "You're famous."
/Oh, great.../ he thought sourly. /The last thing I need is a whore from the streets saying she's met the Mayor of Junon.../
/You're too suspicious, Reeve,/ another part of him chided. /Shinra rubbed off on you a little too much./
He pasted a polite smile on and raised his eyebrows. "Oh?" he asked innocently.
She laughed softly. It wasn't an unpleasant sound; in fact, it was almost musical. "Relax," she replied. "No need to get all political on me. In fact, that's the last thing I need right now." She shifted slightly and held out a hand to him. "All I need right now is someone who'll listen with an open ear, Mayor Allens."
His eyebrows raised slightly, and he paused a moment before shaking her hand. Her grip was firm. "Listen to what?" he asked.
"To my ideas for JEC, of course." She withdrew her hand and winked teasingly at him. "You didn't think I was here for something more carnal, did you?"
Reeve felt himself flush slightly, and mentally cursed himself. This was the woman he had been waiting for, and all he'd been thinking of was sex. /Bad performance on your part, Reeve.../
"Of course not," he replied quickly. "But these days, you can never be too safe. You must be Ms. Davis?"
"Karri, please," she said. "No need to be so formal. This is supposed to be casual, isn't it?"
"Yeah..." he conceded. From the corner of his eye, he saw Cloud returning from the kitchen, and look at Karri with a small frown. He could only wonder what was going through his friends mind. "About JEC... what was it you were interested in?"
"More funding, of course." The woman waved a hand idly in the air. "We're falling apart. Right now all we're running on is private contributions and donations from the families who's children attend there. All our funding from the government was cut back when Shinra fell, and the current director was stupid for thinking he could run the place on piece meal. So I'm here to try and rectify a few of his more obvious mistakes."
Reeve nodded slowly. "Do you have the authority to do any of this?" he asked. The last thing he needed was to strike a deal with some con artist.
Her reply was surprising. "Of course not," Karri said brightly. "Director Derricks believes I'm nothing more than a meal on wheels, with air between my ears and peanut butter for legs. However, I do have the majority support of the school board, thank goodness, and they've given me the word that if I come up with anything, they'll give me the go-ahead, with or without Derricks' permission."
His eyebrow's fairly went to his hairline at her words. Such straight-forward candidness was something he rarely came across in these days, even among the more common crowd that he dealt with. He couldn't help but admire her for that.
Just at that moment, Tifa reappeared from the kitchen and moved straight for Reeve and Karri.
"Excuse me," she said softly, and as one the two looked up at her. "Are you old enough to be in this bar?"
Karri blinked, and then grinned widely. "Of course I am," she replied, and reached into her jacket pocket. Pulling out a card, she handed it to Tifa and winked widely at Reeve. "So difficult, looking young these days..."
The barmistress took a quick look at the identification card, before nodding and handing it back to the woman. "Just needed to make sure," she said in apology. "I like to keep up the twenty-one and older rule here."
She only shrugged and tucked the card back in her pocket. "No big deal," Karri replied. "Happens all the time." With that, Tifa gave the woman a nod and moved back down the counter.
Reeve stared at Karri during the encounter, surprised at the fact he had not noticed how young she looked from the very beginning. "How old are you, anyways?" he asked when she turned back to him.
She shrugged idly. "Twenty-four," was her easy response. "Not that age really matters these days. Well... not in most places, at least," she added with a side-long glance at Tifa, down at the other end of the counter. "Does it matter?"
He smiled wryly to himself. /You've got such bad perception on first impressions, Reeve,/ he mentally chuckled. /I'm beginning to like this girl more and more./
"Not in the least," he replied immediately. "Now, tell me exactly what you hope to get done."
\Four Hours Later\
Darkness crept over the land with velvet paws, sweeping in like a silent vulture as the last rays of the light died away. A crescent circle of light brightened a small section of the sky, with wispy clouds occasionally trying to blot it out and bring completely darkness to the land, not succeeding, and not failing. At this time, Tifa finally managed to shoo the remaining drunks from the bar, and watched them from the thresh hold of her tavern as they stumbled across the road to their respective homes. Her husband appeared behind her and wrapped his arms about her waist, nuzzling her neck. They stood in silence, enjoying the small amount of free-time they got.
"You know," he started softly, "you don't have to keep this bar open by yourself. If make more than enough money pushing paper for Reeve that you could close this place. Or hire help."
The burgundy eyed woman sighed softly, and leaned back into his strong arms. "I know," she replied. "But I can't make it as a house-wife. I have to have something to do... and something that keeps me close enough to home to keep an eye on Celia. I don't want to get a job where I'd have to get a babysitter- and I don't want to knit, either."
Cloud chuckled at the wry tone in her voice, resting his chin on her shoulder. "I know. I guess peace just isn't for people like us."
"I wish it were..." Tifa shook her head. "It isn't fair, how we have to keep so busy... If only we *could* slow down, and live like normal people..."
"I thought we did live like normal people," he replied teasingly.
She laughed. "Oh? Then why do we own a bar?" She sighed and shook her head again, and answered her own question. "Because we need it, I think. We both do."
"Need it for what? The beer or the excitement?"
Tifa spun in his grip and punched him lightly in the shoulder, laughing gaily. "Both!"
At that moment Reeve and the woman he was scheduled to meet with showed up behind them, fatigue from the late night plain on their faces. They both turned to look at them.
"I didn't introduce you earlier," the mayor said as he approached. "Tifa, Cloud, this is Karri Davis, a student at JEC. She's also a volunteer on the school board." He motioned to the couple at the door. "They own the bar."
The woman grinned widely, her gray eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. She winked at Tifa. "Yeah. I kinda figured that when you asked how old I was."
Tifa smiled faintly back. "It's a habit."
"What exactly do you do at JEC?" Cloud questioned.
"Oh, lots of things. Mostly put up with the teachers, and with the students. I'm a songwriter, you see," she explained, "and I both attend and teach classes. I don't have that much of a life outside of it. And since that's the case, I figured I might as well try getting a few more pennies into the account while the getting's good. It's not entirely self-less."
"While the getting's good." Reeve shook his head with a wry smile. "Keep talking like that and things are likely to get worse."
Right about then the streetlights began to flicker again.
Cloud chuckled and shook his head. "You've got great timing, Reeve," he said.
Reeve shot him an evil glare.
The blond woman grinned and shoved her hands in the pockets of her jacket. "Well, good or bad, I need to be off," she said. With a nod at Cloud, Tifa, and Reeve, she stepped off the sidewalk. "Great meeting you guys. And thanks especially for the meeting, Mayor Allens. You've no idea how much that means."
Surprisingly, the mayor felt himself blush slightly. "It's no big deal," he replied. "Any time."
With another grin, she turned and headed down the road. They watched her go. Reeve couldn't help but admire her as she left. A good looking woman like that who was as intelligent as she was was actually a hard find these days.
He all but slapped himself out of those thoughts, now finding it not so surprising at his blushing. /Way to go, Reeve.../ he muttered internally.
He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise slightly, and he turned to see both Cloud and Tifa watching him with small smiles on their faces. He blushed even further.
"What?" he snapped.
They glanced at each other and grinned more. "Nothing," Cloud said, not trying hard to hide his amusement. "But speaking of bad times, would you like an escort back to your apartment? Junon wouldn't want their favorite Mayor getting mugged on his way home from an obscure meeting."
"Bad publicity," his wife murmured, mischief glimmering in her eyes.
"Oh, shut up," he muttered. "I'll be fine."
"Famous last words," his friend chided.
Reeve chose not to respond. Stepping off of the sidewalk, he took the road back to his apartment. And to the very moment he stepped into his home he tried to beat back a furious blush of embarrassment.
Two other pairs of eyes spied upon the exchange. One pair was interested mostly in Reeve and slightly in the bar-owners. The other was interested mostly in the bar-owners and slightly in Reeve. Neither paid the slightest bit of attention to Karri's departure.
The spies were from two entirely separate corners of the world, and yet fate had brought them to be interested in the same people. This interest would end up clashing in the weeks to come.
First Written: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 (5:44:40 PM)
Revised: Monday, November 26, 2001 (6:05:56 PM)
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic