The Cry of the Planet Chapter 30
Mako Reactor No. 5
By Edyn Cross
When Cloud woke the next morning, he was the only one left in the basement.
He yawned and scratched and then walked to the lift flipping the lever sending
the pinball machine down to carry him up. Tifa and Barret were standing together
talking amongst themselves and little Marlene was behind the bar and appeared
to be mixing drinks for customers. Cloud standing by the pinball machine
caught Tifa eye and she offered him a warm smile.
"Good morning, Cloud," Tifa greeted. "Did you sleep well?"
Cloud thought for a moment and then shook his head, "Barret's snoring kept me up..."
She poked Cloud in the arm and whispered cautiously, "Keep it down, he'll hear you... Barret's always edgy before a mission. By the way, I'm going with you guys this time."
Barret looked over at Cloud, "Our next target's the Mako Reactor No.5. Head to the station first and I'll fill you in on the train."
Cloud nodded as and he and Tifa began to leave the bar, but Barret grabbed his arm stopping him. What now? Was Cloud's first thought.
"Um, Cloud..." Barret started quietly. "I found some Materia in the No. 1 Reactor while we were there and... I don't really know how to use it. If I give you the piece I found, would you just teach me how to use it?"
Cloud sighed, "Okay, I'll explain it... Basically, Materia is just condensed Mako energy making it as a substance very powerful. Each weapon and arm guard made in weapon stores is designed specifically to be able to insert Materia into it for combat, which is really just a convenient way to have access to Materia while in battle. There are several types of Materia: offensive and defensive magic, others that will make you feel stronger or smarter, and there are even some fabled to be able to summon the protectors of the Planet to help you with a very difficult battle."
Barret just stood there with a stupefied look on his face.
Cloud shook his head, "Now keep in mind, not everyone is able to use Materia effectively. If you haven't had any experience with it by now, I really suggest not using it. Usually those who practice physical hand to hand combat can't handle Materia very effectively in battle, but there others who research and practice the use of Materia making them very, very powerful. Like any art there are some people who have the ability naturally and some who don't, you just need to find out where you stand."
Barret thought there deep in thought with his jaw slack, "I'm clueless..."
"Big surprise," Cloud said sarcastically.
"Well, you handle the Materia then," Barret said and then looked at Tifa waiting for them by the doorway. "Are we ready?"
Tifa nodded, "Marlene! You watch the store for me while we're gone!"
Marlene peeked her eyes over the bar, "Alright, good luck!"
"You're going to let her watch the store?" Cloud asked as they left.
Tifa nodded with a smile, "Of course... Hardly anyone shows up at the place when I'm away... I wonder why?"
As they entered Sector 7, Cloud saw a group of people gathered around a young man with brownish red hair dressed in dark suit with a white unbuttoned dress shirt underneath.
"I'm leaving," The young man announced. "Goin' faraway. But, when I come back, I'll be a better man. This is goodbye!"
The man looked over at Cloud, "Hey, Mr. Childhood Friend... You better take good care of Tifa!"
"Don't worry, Johnny," Tifa said giving the young man a hug. "You take care of yourself. After spending your entire life here in Sector 7, I can't believe you're leaving."
"I'll see you again, Tifa, but I just can't put up with my parents any longer," Johnny said giving Tifa a wink and then slowly walked out of Sector 7."
"Les get goin'," Barret said impatiently. "The other are waitin' for us on the train."
Cloud, Barret, and Tifa made their way out of Sector 7, past the support pillar and back towards the train station. Chatter was light as Barret and Tifa were anxious and nervous at the same time about the upcoming mission. Cloud just hoped he would get some stick action. It was mid morning, but outside it looked as it did before the previous evening. No sun or moon, no day or night, just the plate looming ominously over the Sectors and the sick glow of fluorescent bulbs lighting up the streets.
When they reached the train station, the engineer was announcing the final boarding call.As they entered, there were a few passengers and a familiar dark haired man dressed in a maroon color suit.
"Yo," Barret said to the others. "Looks like this ain't no private car for us, so split up!"
Cloud sat by the homeless man who previously spoke to him the night before while Tifa went to the rail system terminal where Jessie showed Cloud the Midgar rail system. Three passengers took one look at Barret's size and the gun grafted onto his arm and then fled to the front car leaving the three AVALANCHE members, the homeless man and the dark haired man in the maroon suit.
"Hoodlums again," The man in the maroon suit muttered. "God, don't I just have all the luck."
Barret spoke with his back to the man in the maroon suit, "You say somethin'?"
The man in the maroon suit offered no response.
Barret turned his head to the side with his back still to the man, "I said, 'You say somethin?'"
The man in the maroon suit again offered no response. Annoyed, he turned around and walked over to the man. Barret looked around with a confused and surprised look on his face.
"Yo, look at that!" Barret said sarcastically. "The car got empty alluva sudden... What's goin' on?"
"It... it's empty," The man in the maroon suit stuttered. "because of g... guys like you..."
Barret rammed his gun arm into the pole connecting the man's seat to the ceiling putting a large dent in it.
The man in the maroon suit yelped in fear, "You should take it easy on me... You...You've seen the news, right? AVALANCHE says there'll be more bombings. Only devoted managers like me would go to work on a day like today."
Barret looked at the man closely and cocked his gun, "You workin' for Shinra?"
"I won't give in to violence..." The Shinra Manager said stuttered.
"Barret!" Tifa shouted. "Leave him alone!"
"Damnit," Barret said looking at Tifa and then back to the Shinra Manager. "You lucky dick."
Tifa walked towards Cloud grabbing Barret's arm pulling him to the back with her in the process.
Cloud shrugged, "So what now?"
"What the hell you so calm about?" Barret said looking at Cloud. "You bustin' up my rhythm."
Cloud just shook his head as the train rumbled and shifted into gear. The engineer announced their departure as the train began moving at a steady pace.
"Finally," Tifa said nervously. "We're leaving."
"After the train," Cloud said seriously. "What's next?"
"Hah!" Barret bellowed. "Listen to Mr. Serious-About-His-Work! Awright... Jessie's probably already told you about the regular checkpoints, but there's the security checkpoint as soon as the train reaches the upper plate that checks all trains to and from the plate. They installed the security check at the plate since last night's bombin'."
"Which Shinra is very proud of," Tifa added.
"The problem is, we can't use our fake ID's anymore," Barret said softly. "Jessie didn't have enough time to modify the ones we have for the new security check..."
"Good morning to the Midgar Lines," The engineer on the intercom cut in. "Arrive time at Sector 4 station will be 11:45."
Tifa gave Barret a worried look, "That means we've only got about three more minutes to the plate ID checkpoint."
"Awright," Barret said. "In three minutes, we're jumpin' off this train, got it?"
Tifa and Cloud nodded as sat firmly on a seat and relaxed.
"Cloud, come over here..." Tifa said by the rail system computer terminal. "Let's look at the railway map monitor."
Cloud shrugged and stood up.
"Hmm?" The homeless man said as Cloud stood. "You're the only ones that'll talk to me or come to my house... I'm impressed."
As Cloud passed the Shinra Manager shaking in his street, he heard him mutter something about bragging to everyone at work about his train incident. As Cloud approached the monitor, Tifa offered a warm smiled and moved over a bit.
"Hmm," Tifa said thoughtfully. "It looks like you've seen this already. It's all right, I can show you some neat stuff. Come a little closer."
Just as Cloud began to move closer to the monitor, the lights in the train car dimmed and flashed red with a security alarm going off.
"What the...!" Tifa shouted over the alarm. "The ID checkpoint was supposed to be further down!"
"TYPE A SECURITY ALERT," An automated voice announced into the car. "UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS CONFIRMED. A SEARCH OF ALL CARS WILL BE CONDUCTED. REPEAT. TYPE A SECURITY ALERT. UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS CONFIRMED. A SEARCH OF ALL CARS WILL BE CONDUCTED."
"What's happening!?" Tifa shouted.
"What's goin' on!?" Barret yelled running up to where Tifa and Cloud were standing.
A moment later, the front car opened and Jessie poked her head in looking at the group.
"We're in trouble!" She shouted. "I'll explain later. Hurry! Get into the next car!"
"Fuck," Barret hissed. "Someone blew it..."
"UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS LOCATED IN CAR #1." The automated voice announced. "PREPARING FOR LOCKDOWN."
"Let's move!" Barret said following Jessie into the front car.
Cloud and Tifa quickly followed Barret into the front car. There were no flashing red lights and the alarms they heard were only coming from the car behind them. Biggs, Wedge and Jessie were all in the car looking wide-eyed and panicky.
The automated voice came from the car behind them, "CAR #1 LOCKED DOWN. UPGRADING TO LEVEL 2 WARNING."
"Shit, Hurry!" Biggs shouted sprinting for the car in front of them.
A second later the lights dimmed and the red flashing light filled the car that they were in and the automated announcer's voice returned.
"UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS LOCATED IN CAR #2. PREPARING FOR LOCK DOWN."
"Just run!" Jessie yelled running after Biggs to the next car. "Changing to Plan B!"
Various complaints came from the passengers in car #2 about the group causing so much trouble. Even an elderly woman waved her walking cane at Cloud telling him to behave as he followed the others into the next car. The lights were normal and all the noise and alarms still came from the car behind them. An instant later the red flashing lights returned as the automated announcer returned as well.
"UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS: MOVING TO FRONT OF TRAIN. CURRENTLY TRACKING LOCATION."
"Just keep running to the front of the train!" Jessie yelled weaving in and out of passengers.
The AVALANCHE made it to the front car before the engineer car and stopped.
"All right! We made it!" Barret said forcing open the outer door. "Yo, over here! We're gonna have to jump out!"
Tifa had her hands over her ears trying tone down the alarms, "Scary..."
Cloud looked at her in mild annoyance, "Too late to be saying that now. Why'd you come along anyway?"
"Because..." Tifa started.
"Hey you two!" Barret interrupted. "There ain't no time for that!"
Cloud and Tifa ran to the front where Barret had the outer door open. On the way, Cloud bumped into a Shinra Guard and prepared to unsheathe his sword.
"It's me, Jessie" The Shinra Guard said quietly. "How do I look, Cloud? Do I look good in a Shinra uniform?"
Cloud chuckled, "Yeah, great... Just like a man."
"Great!" Jessie said and then added. "... I think?"
"Okay!" Tifa yelled from the open door. The wind from the moving train was whipping her hair around and pushing her already short skirt up a bit higher.
A moment later Tifa made a small leap into the passing scenery and Cloud watched through the train windows as she landed hard and rolled to a stop. Relived, Cloud watched as she slowly stood up and dusted herself off. Cloud stepped up to the open door and looked out at the moving ground and grinned. Child's play.
Cloud looked at Barret, "You don't care if I go first?"
Barret shook his head, "A leader always stays till the end. Don't worry bout me, just go! And don't go gettin' your spiky ass hurt, this is only the beginnin'!
Cloud nodded and then jumped towards the ground, landed hard on the pavement and rolled to a stop. At little dazed, he slowly stood up and checked himself for injuries. After finding none, he looked back to where Tifa had jumped just to see her running towards him.
"Hey!" She called. "Are you hurt?"
Cloud shook his head, "No... You?"
"No," She replied. "Just a few scratches is all. Let's head up and meet the others."
Cloud and Tifa jogged along the tracks after the train passed until they caught up with Barret who was grabbing at the top of his left leg in pain.
"Barret!" Tifa said concerned. "Are you okay?"
"Sure," Barret said gritting his teeth. "Just landed on my keys is all... Biggs, Wedge and Jessie have already gone ahead to secure the route through the Reactor."
Barret looked around for a moment at their location and stood thoughtfully. They were in a long enclosed tunnel made mostly of metal and illuminated by a flood lights every ten or so feet. The walls, ceiling and floor were all rusted metal and in terrible need of maintenance. The train tracks seemed to stretch on forever down a long tunnel.
Barret rubbed his beard, "We're actually inside the plate right now... We need to move in case Shinra's got security up in here."
Cloud looked up at faded black printing on the wall that read, "Sector 4."
The three AVALANCHE members jogged hurriedly beside the tracks in the direction of Sector 5. A cool wind blew down the tunnel carrying with it the faint sound of the train and it's horn. Every now and then, the plate itself would ache and groan still settling even after so many years of being in place.
"Here," Cloud said pointing to a hallway with an old sign above it reading, "Sector 5."
Down the hallway about ten feet was a row of brilliant blue lasers blocking the doorway.
Cloud shook his head, "Those light beams are the Shinra's security sensors. We can't go any further."
Cloud panned his eyes around the immediate area looking for any alternative route. Where the left wall meets the floor was a small ventilation duct with a handle on the lid. Cloud pulled on the handle until the lid gave with a loud clanging sound echoing through the tunnel. The three members held their breath expecting it to trip an alarm, but all was silent.
"That's one damn tiny hole," Barret said looking down the duct. "You tellin' me to squeeze into that? No way."
Cloud looked deep into the duct and after a moment Tifa joined him.
"There seems to be nothing that'll get us stuck in there," She said.
"Yeah..." Cloud said thoughtfully. "But if we go down this duct, we won't be able to come back up here. One way trip."
"We're wastin' time," Barret said impatiently. "Just go."
Cloud stepped into the duct and the slick angled metal caused his boot to lose traction making him slide feet first down the duct. Soon after, Tifa followed with Barret bringing up the rear. After about twenty feet, the inclined duct gave way to one parallel to the ground and Cloud landed in a crouched position with a loud thump. He immediately moved out of the way as Tifa fell through the duct behind him landing on her rear end with a muffled thump followed by a small yelp.
Quickly, Tifa scooted out of the way allowing Barret some landing room. She and Cloud heard thumps and clangs as Barret slid and bounced down the duct and right as the sound came from right above, Barret's legs, but nothing else came out of the duct as Barret got his massive upper body stuck leaving his legs dangling below.
"Ugh," Barret grunted. "Pull me down or somthin'... I'm stuck."
With a giggle, Tifa grabbed onto one of Barret's legs as Cloud grabbed onto the other pulling him down from the duct and landing Barret on top of the other two with such force the impact shook the entire ventilation system.
"Goddamn," Cloud muttered standing up.
"Shut yer hole," Barret said rubbing his bottom. "It's not my fault."
"Over here," Tifa said pointing down a ventilation tunnel. "Looks like this leads to the Reactor."
The three AVALANCHE members hunched down the air duct, as it was only about five feet tall towards an opening leading into a large room filled with ladders and hallways used for plate maintenance. Tifa was the first to exit the air duct dropping onto a metal platform with a light clang. The other two followed close weary of any plate technicians who may be working in the area.
Across the room was a very tall ladder with a small, round figure standing next to it. The team jogged to the ladder and as they got closer, they noticed that it was Wedge standing next to the ladder.
"This way, guys," Wedge said pointing up the ladder. "The Reactor's up there."
"Thanks, Wedge," Tifa said as Wedge gave a small salute and then jogged back the way they came.
Cloud climbed the ladder first followed by Tifa and then Barret. As they reached the top they followed a small tunnel that lead to a few more air ducts with Jessie standing next to one of them.
"I'm sorry," Jessie said looking at Barret. "The ID scan problem on the train was all my fault."
"What do you mean?" Tifa asked.
Jessie looked over to Cloud, "I made your ID card special. I thought that I would be able to make one that would pass the new plate security check just in case... but I ruined it by not making sure it would pass the regular checkpoints first."
Jessie shook her head in frustration, "I put my heart into making it, but I failed. Next time I'll give you something more decent."
"Hey, Jessie," Tifa said sympathetically. "Don't beat yourself up over it. We all made it out okay."
Jessie nodded, "I'll be back at the hideout in the research room workin' on it. Go through that duct there, it will take you to the Reactor."
Before Tifa could get in another word, Jessie jogged off into an air duct and out of sight. The three crawled through the air duct for about three minutes until it ended into another open maintenance area. Biggs was standing next to a ladder obscenely chewing on a piece of gum and greeted them as they came out.
"We're gonna pull out now," Biggs said. "We'll meet up at the hideout after the mission's over. That duct there leads straight into the Reactor... Good luck!"
And with that, Biggs went back the way the other three came leaving them to complete the mission. The remaining AVALANCHE members crawled through the duct at a steady pace towards the light on the other side. The heavy smell of Mako accompanied with a teal cloud of haze flowed through the vent letting them know that they were very close to the Reactor. As the duct ended, the three climbed out and took the same familiar route to the Reactor core as they did the previous mission.
"You notice anything odd?" Tifa asked the other two as they walked.
"Yeah... "Cloud said looking around. "No guards, no security, no nothing."
Barret nodded, "I figured they would have this place sealed up tighter than a drum."
Cloud shook his head, "Something isn't right here..."
"Never mind," Barret said impatiently. "Let's jus' get this over with."
After descending a large metal staircase, the three approached the long catwalk where the Reactor core was located. Like the previous Reactor, under the catwalk was a bottomless pool of Mako silently and endlessly flowing. The catwalk creaked and groaned under their weight until they reached the core platform. As Cloud approached the core, all he saw was red as his legs collapsed and a high pitched whining sound filled his ears, his head, and echoed through his soul. He laid on the core platform clutching his head with his hands watching consciousness fade away and unconsciousness take control.
When Cloud opened his eyes, he was still on the Reactor core platform, but it wasn't the right Reactor. This one was smaller and of a different design. He looked forward towards the core and Tifa was there, but... she wasn't old enough. This Tifa looked younger and was kneeing beside a man lying on the ground. But the man wasn't Barret who was with her, this man was white, and this man was dead.
"Papa..." The young Tifa's voice echoed in Cloud's head. "Sephiroth!?"
The young Tifa sat up, "Sephiroth did this to you, didn't he!?"
Young Tifa looked towards the ceiling and clenched her fists, "Sephiroth... SOLDIER... Mako Reactors... Shinra... Everything!"
Young Tifa stood up with rage in her eyes, "I hate them all!"
She looked beside her and saw a long sword lying beside her dead father. The sword itself was taller than a man and the normal shining metal was dulled crimson with blood. Young Tifa looked towards the core was a door leading to a room beyond it and then heaved the sword off of the ground and carried it through the door. As Young Tifa was going through the door, Cloud's vision blurred and went white as he tried to gain control.
Cloud shut his eyes as tight as they would go and when he opened them again, he was laying on the Reactor platform while fuzzy and unfocused Barret and Tifa looked over him with horror on their faces.
"Damn man," Barret said looking at him. "Get a hold of yourself!"
"Cloud," Tifa said touching his face. "Are you alright?"
Cloud stood up slowly and unsteadily with his left hand still clutching his pounding head, "Tifa..."
She looked at him concerned, "What is it, Cloud?"
"No... Forget it..." Cloud said getting most of himself back. "The Mako fumes... I get dizzy sometimes... but I'm okay now. Let's just hurry and get this done."
Barret nodded handing Cloud the time bomb. He took it, placed it on the core platform and set the timer for twenty minutes. As soon as the bomb was armed, the three AVALANCHE members looked up expecting the security alarms to go off, but all was silent and the only sound was the hum of working machinery.
"This is too weird," Tifa said as they made their way out of the reactor. "Where's all the security?"
"I wouldn't say weird is the word..." Cloud said.
They made their way near the exit with a steady pace until they reached the T-Bridge intersection connecting the No. 5 Reactor to the plate itself. Suspended below the bridge wasn't Mako with this Reactor design, but the entire Sector 5 slums. Just as they were about to make it across to the Sector 5 exit, a squad of about thirty SOLDIER members entered through the doorway blocking their path.
"Shinra SOLDIERs?" Barret yelled. "What the hell's goin' on?"
"What we suspected the entire time," Cloud said drawing his sword. "...a trap..."
The three AVALANCHE members double-backed down the T-bridge but another group of about thirty SOLDIERs blocked that entrance as well.
"This way," Tifa said pointing to the last remaining exit making sure her gloves were on tight.
"Wait!" Cloud shouted. "Listen."
All was silent except for the hum of machinery until both Tifa and Barret heard it. Footsteps. The sound of men's dress shoes walking on metal tapped rhythmically one by one getting closer and closer to their location. The three AVALANCHE members had their full attention focused towards the middle path on the T-bridge from where the footsteps were coming from... not on the sixty SOLDIERs surrounding them from both sides. Coming out of the darkness from the middle path doorway was an older man dressed in an expensive maroon suit with thinning blonde hair, a moustache, and a cigar in his right hand.
Barret gawked, "President Shinra?"
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