Our Weapons of War Are Mighty Chapter 2
By Gary M. Gandy
The mornings always proceeded slowly before a raid. Everyone was anxious, usually just pacing around with nothing to do and the mission on their minds. Tifa, however, had decided to occupy herself for a while.
She was sitting by Reeve while he explained about his newest Cait Sith model. The cat and moogle sat patiently beside them both.
"You see," he explained, "this model's entirely organic, the cat that is."
"What, you mean he's alive?" she asked, curious.
"Well, yes. He's still a robot, but built entirely out of organics. Real tissues, bone, even real fur. It's the new wave of mechanics. He still has his own personality and everything, just like the previous models, but now he's a little more realistic. Of course his moogle's still the stuffed variety brought to life."
"And you can still control him?" she asked. She was genuinely intrigued at how they could create a robot out of living material.
"Yeah, that's the nicest part. The old robots were remote control, but this one's control is materia based," he said, handing her his special handset. She noticed it looked just link a com-set, but embedded into the side was a small yellow materia gem.
"That's the little devil that does it all," he said, noticing her rubbing the stone. "It's sort of like a manipulate materia, but a different variation on the theme. It took a while to get it to work. The first attempts put to much force into the materia, and the test subjects suffered some ill effects."
"What ill effects?"
"Well, like their minds being drained into the terminal they were hooked up into. Turns out if you put to much into it, your mind gets sucked out right with the signal to the other materia, which in this case is embedded inside the new Cait Sith."
"That's horrible!" Tifa exclaimed, her hand coming up to her mouth.
Reeve laughed. "Don't worry. They were able to reverse the process just as easy. It was just an unexpected side effect."
Just then Cloud came up. "Tifa, have you seen Barret? We're about to head out in a little bit."
"Um, I think he left early this morning for Shinra H.Q. He wanted to make sure the place was clean since we already met there once. We're supposed to meet him there just like planned."
"Oh," said Cloud. "Good idea. And you say Barret came up with it?" he said jokingly.
Tifa shook her head and rolled her eyes. "He's not as dumb as you think he is," she said.
"I never said he was dumb," Cloud said, walking away. "He just doesn't use his common sense. Anyway, I'll see you up at the target. Don't be late."
Tifa waved as he walked away. "Well, I better be going," she said, turning to Reeve. "I guess I'll be hearing from you soon."
"Yeah," he said, sliding on his headset. "Be careful," he yelled after her as she walked away. Then he turned back to his screen, turning dials in hope of catching a stray Shinra signal.
"You sure about this?" Barret said outside the Shinra H.Q., as they waited to make sure all the security had been lessened. He looked to make sure the subject of their conversation was well out of hearing.
Cloud nodded. "I trust him. I think he wants back at Sephiroth as much as the rest of us, maybe more."
"Yeah, the problem is, he is Sephiroth. Even if there are two of 'em, how can we be sure he'll go along with our plans?"
"We can't," Cloud said, shrugging. "We just have to trust him."
Barret only looked at Cloud, offering no more arguments. He turned back towards the fence that separated them from the compound grounds and waited for Yuffie's signal.
They really believed he couldn't hear them. That was humorous. The Jenova cells that still survived in his body allowed him to hear things most people couldn't, including their conversation. Then again, Cloud probably knew. He would have had the same abilities.
Perhaps that was why Cloud had spoken well of him. Or Cloud really did trust him. Sephiroth believed that Cloud was the only one who did. Except for the blonde, he was without friends. Not that he hadn't been that way before. He remembered when he and Zack had been close. Then, they had gotten to Nibelhelm. Damn Hojo and his experiments. He might have had a normal life without that sick scientist. Cloud might have as well. He wondered how many lives Hojo had ruined or tainted with his interpretations of science.
Suddenly, the wrist PHS he had been given crackled to life with Yuffie's voice.
"All sites check out clean. Normal security, nothing too strange. We can move in whenever you are ready."
Cloud switched off his PHS and gave the nod to the others. Cait Sith had already planted the feeds that would drain off the charge from the electric fence, allowing them to climb over.
Just as Tifa was about the be the first one across, all of their PHS's flashed to life, this time Reeve's voice breaking the silence.
"Cloud," shouted Reeve, his voice urgent.
Cloud cursed, wincing at the loud signal.
"Bad news," Reeve continued. "Real bad. Sephiroth, the one in Shinra, knows where Aeris is, and he knows it's only her and Red."
"What!?" Cloud said, not believing his bad luck. "Shit! How long before they go after her?"
"Already on the move," Reeve said, "but they aren't doing it in the usual manner. I caught a transmission saying something about using some hush-hush equipment to get her. No word yet on what it is, but they moved out this morning from Junon on ship."
"Damn!" Cloud cursed again. "We've got to get there first."
"We can use the Highwind," Cid said, realizing that if Shinra used their ships, they could beat them by flying.
"But we'd have to get it from Fort Condor first," Tifa said, climbing down. "Would we still be able to get their in time?"
"The hovercraft," Vincent said. "We could use the hovercraft to get the Little Bronco and the rest follow up in the Highwind."
"Are you kidding?" Cid said. "That piece of crap won't make it across the mountains again. It'll break down just like before. And then it's speed advantage is gone."
"We don't really have a choice in the matter," Cloud said. "I'll take the hovercraft. Who else is coming with me? She's got room for two more."
Sephiroth stepped forward. He had no reason to go with anyone else. The real surprise came from Reeve.
"I'll go," he said over their transmitters.
"Reeve, are you sure?" Cloud asked.
"Listen," said Reeve defensively, "I can get there before any of you and have the sucker ready to go with everything we should need. Cait can go with everyone on the Highwind. It'll get us there sooner."
Reeve's logic made sense to Sephiroth. He figured that Cloud probably would agree to any idea that offered more of a chance of reaching Aeris before Shinra.
"Alright Reeve," Cloud said. "Have the hovercraft ready. We'll be there as soon as possible." He shut off his PHS. "We'll meet the rest of you in Cosmo. Come on Sephiroth."
The two ex-Soldiers rushed off as the others scrambled in different directions, heading back towards base to find their transportation to Fort Condor.
Cloud and Sephiroth had met up with Reeve at the hovercraft and, over the course of next three days, had passed through the Midgar mountains. They took turns driving, not stopping until they reached the fort.
Shinra's new high speed ships would take about a week to cover the distance to Cosmo, but the Little Bronco could do it in about five days. They would be arriving in Cosmo Canyon while Shinra would have to port in Costa Del Sol and then travel to Cosmo from there, over land.
Just as planned, five days later they were stopped at the base of the canyon, Cloud jumping out and racing up the slope that led to the entrance to Cosmo.
Reeve hoped that they had beaten Shinra here. When he had gotten the chance to leave the base, he had been ecstatic, but now he wasn't so sure. He was unarmed, and even worse, unarmored. He'd have to be careful if Shinra did show up.
As he and Sephiroth ran up the slope and then stairs, they could see Cloud already inside the town, making his way up the stairs to Red's loft.
"Jeez," Reeve said as they climbed the stairs, his breathing heavy. "Doesn't he run out of air." Sephiroth didn't answer, but Reeve noticed he didn't seem to be showing any signs of tiring either. Reeve wasn't pleased. He realized he was just out of shape. "Got to get out more," he said to himself quietly.
They finally reached Red's home and entered the building to find Cloud explaining something to Red and Aeris. Reeve had always found Aeris stunningly beautiful, and now was no exception. Her reaction as well as Red's at seeing Sephiroth in front of them, not trying to cut them in half, were shocked to say the least.
Cloud had explained their present threat as well as informing them of the newest member of Avalanche. Right now, he wasn't wasting anytime letting them ask questions.
"Red, let's take the back route out of the canyon. I'd rather deal with undead than Shinra right now," he explained.
"Okay," Red said, the large cat turning to head down the stairs. "The door was should--" He stopped short, testing the air with his sensitive ears.
"What is it?" Reeve asked.
"Do you hear that?" Red said. "It's like some sort of engine, but real quiet."
Just then, Cloud noticed something floating just outside of the cave. "Down!" he shouted, everyone dropping as whatever it was outside fired two canisters inside the room. The containers exploded, covering the room in a greenish-gray gas.
"Everybody out!" Cloud ordered. He charged out to the balcony, his sword drawn. He was greeted by some sort of machine, standing at seven feet, with a humanoid shape. It was totally covered in armor, it's arms each containing a large, high-speed cannon. It's head consisted of a large dome with holes containing several sensors. On each of its shoulders rested a large box, one of them having just fired the gas canisters.
Cloud leapt high in the air, coming down with all of his weight behind his sword. The Ultima sword's blade cut cleanly through the robot, despite its thick armor shell. The robot fell neatly in two halves and just remained that way, Cloud having missed its power source, avoiding an explosion.
His job was just beginning though. He could see three more dropping down from a high altitude, their foot jets burning to slow their decent. One's arm cannons span as it opened up on its target. Huge shells pounded into the ground where Cloud had stood a few moments ago. He was already indoors again, not wanting to see whether or not his armor would be enough to stop those shells.
Cloud raced downstairs, but saw Red and the others had not entered the room leading out the back of the canyon.
"There are two more coming up the side of town," Red explained. "If we don't stop them, they'll probably kill some of the townspeople. I can't let that happen."
Cloud realized Red was right, but that didn't make it any easier. He turned to look back the way he had come. The robots were small enough to negotiate through the passages, and would be down in the room in no time.
"Alright, outside, everyone split up. I think they have explosives. Keep apart and maybe they won't hit all of us with one shot. Reeve, you hang back. You too Aeris." In truth he wanted her as far from the fray as possible, but also she could add a bit of backup with her magic.
An explosion above announced one of the robots had blown through a door. The group raced out of the room and into another narrow passage. Finally they emerged out to the front of the town.
They were greeted at the Cosmo Candle by two more droids. Cloud and Sephiroth mounted a frontal assault while Red circled behind. Sephiroth started with a charge, pulling a running slash at the mechanical warriors feet. The huge metallic object crashed down, it's legs severed from its body. He didn't wait for it to try and get up. He leapt upon it, and stabbed the Masamune right where the head connected to the body. With all his strength, he pulled the sword sideways, effectively beheading the monstrosity. It's huge arms flailed uselessly before its power finally drained out.
Cloud was busy weaving in and out, slashing at his bot's thick armor. Already the robot's hull was covered in slashes, sparks flying from some of the deeper ones. As it concentrated firing at Cloud, Red came from behind, his claws and teeth tearing into the robot's innards. The robot fell forward with a crash.
"Is everyone okay?" Cloud asked. Aeris and Reeve waved from behind a rock. Sephiroth looked unhurt as well.
"Where are the other ones?" Red asked, looking around.
His question was answered as the other three bots floated over the canyon wall, opening up with the rocket launchers located on their shoulders. Cloud and the others scattered as the rockets impacted and exploded, showering them in pebbles.
Reeve saw Aeris grasp her staff, her eyes closed. In her capable hands, her lightning materia flared to life. A bolt struck the nearest robot, knocking off one of its arms. It fell from the air, its sensors trying to recuperate from the outside electricity. It stood up, whirling around, and picked up the nearest target, Reeve.
Reeve, dived for the ground just as the rocks around him were bombarded by large bullets, ricocheting off the earth and whizzing around randomly. He got up to run and found another robot coming down directly in his path. He turned to find the first one adjusting its aim.
Except in a person committing suicide, all people always have an intrinsic survival mode. We always believe we'll make it out somehow, whether through our own means or by someone else's help. Perhaps that was why Reeve thought his friends would have stopped the machine before it fired, and also perhaps why he was so stunned as the shells from the arm cannon tore through his unarmored body.
As the robot fired, Reeve was jerked backwards, his body picking up some of the bullets' momentum as they passed through him. The robot stopped firing, Reeve dropping to his knees then to the ground, already blood beginning to pool beneath him.
"Reeve!" Aeris shouted. Cloud turned to see her dash from behind a rock and run to Reeve's prone body. He also saw the robot behind Reeve float up in the air above her as she cast a cure spell on the fallen man. It's cannons retreated into its arms to be replaced with large claw-like appendages. The machine dropped with startling speed as Cloud ran towards Aeris and Reeve.
Cloud wasn't seeing some machine dropping down to capture Aeris and take her back to the ship at the coast. All he saw was Sephiroth in the City of the Ancients, dropping down, sword poised to pass right through Aeris' body.
Except this time, he wasn't under that Sephiroth's control. He was able to move, to do something. And he would. Somehow, he managed to close the distance before the robot. He leapt high in the air, meeting the droid midway through its fall. He stabbed the robot right where it's heart would have been had it been human, shattering the green materia located there.
When the Ultima blade connected with the gem, the rock released it's pent up energy, exploding in a huge green fireball. The blast was enough to knock Aeris down. Cloud was not so lucky. He was engulfed in the fireball for a few seconds before the shockwave sent him flying thirty feet through the air. He fell to the ground, his clothes and face covered in soot.
Aeris screamed, running as fast as she could to him. Sephiroth saw the one-armed robot following. Summoning and collecting his energy, he released it in a horizontal wave from his sword. The energy contacted with the machine, destroying it. Then it was Sephiroth's turn to feel the bite of the last robot's cannons. It opened up, spraying Sephiroth from behind.
Fortunately, the bullets missed his head, instead hitting him midsection. His armored shirt saved his life, although the pain was staggering. Red started to charge, realizing he would end up the same as Sephiroth before he reached to machine.
But then, the robot exploded in a giant fireball. The Highwind's missiles had utterly destroyed the large metallic droid.
Sephiroth rolled over, casting a cure spell on himself in the process. He flipped on his PHS and informed Cid and the others on their situation. He sat up and saw Aeris, tears streaming from her face as she rocked Cloud's unconscious body. She had tried every heal and cure spell she knew, but he hadn't waken up. She just sat there, holding him, until the others came down from the airship. For all that Sephiroth knew, Cloud was dead.
Cosmo Canyon had a surprisingly advanced hospital. It had been Red's first request as the city's protector. The white walls and shiny metallic instruments contrasted highly with the orange caves and wooden ladders. Tifa and the others sat outside the operating rooms, waiting for any word from the doctors that feverishly looked over their two patients.
Aeris had cried herself to sleep and was lying across Tifa's lap. Tifa stroked through her hair in an almost motherly fashion. She herself was worried about Cloud and Reeve, but she hadn't allowed herself the relief of crying. Deep down, for some strange reason, she didn't want to release the tension.
Red sat near Tifa, watching Barret pace back and forth, his heavy boots making a constant beat. Cid and Vincent sat in the chairs, neither one speaking much. She realized everyone was wrapped up in their own thoughts, even Yuffie, who for once wasn't grinning. Cait Sith sat calmly, his signal from Reeve gone.
Tifa was tired. More tired than she had been in a long time. It was amazing how much an emotion drain could take out of you. She had just resolved to get herself some sleep when one of the doctors came out. He was dressed in the same garb as most of Cosmo's residents.
Tifa looked up at him hopefully, gently shaking Aeris.
He smiled, although she wasn't sure whether it was genuine or just a way to ease her anxiousness. "Your blonde friend is pulling through quite nicely. The blast he received was bad, but he stood up to it rather well. Any small wounds he had were healed up by the lady here," he said, indicating Aeris. "He was in a coma however. That was why he wouldn't respond. Fortunately, he didn't stay under long. He should be fine now, although we want to keep him her to make sure everything is all right."
"Can we see him now doctor?" Aeris asked, sniffing and wiping her eyes.
"Yes, he's awake now. Just go easy with him."
Tifa put her hand on Aeris' back as she walked out. Tifa stayed beside the doctor. Some of the others had gone in as well, but Red, Vincent, and Barret stayed with her.
"Your other friend wasn't so lucky I'm afraid," he said, his tone much more somber. "He sustained massive injuries to his chest and abdomen. He's bleeding internally and most of his organs are damaged beyond repair. We're doing everything we can, but, I'm afraid that it's probably only a matter of time."
Tifa's couldn't believe it. She didn't say anything. The one time Reeve had come along and now, this? It just wasn't fair.
"I also understand another of your group was shot, but I was informed he was wearing body armor at the time. Where is he? We'd like to check on him as well."
Tifa looked around, and noticed for the first time Sephiroth was no where to be found. "Sephiroth, he was just here. Well, never mind," she said, turning her attention back to the doctor. She was sure Sephiroth could take care of himself, and right now she was more worried about Reeve. "So there's nothing you can do for Reeve?" she asked.
"I'm sorry," he said. "It's just a matter of his body not being able to handle the injuries."
Tifa turned and looked at Cait Sith. She knew it was impossible, but she could have sworn that the android cat looked at her, pleading for her to do something. Then, it was that cat that gave her an idea.
"Doctor," she said with new hope. "Do you still have his headset he was wearing?"
The doctor looked at her quizzically. "Yes. We took it off of him to operate, but it should still be in the room."
Tifa was getting more hopeful by the minute. She looked at Cait Sith. That little cat was going to save Reeve's life.
An hour later, as he opened his eyes, his vision cleared. He could see the white ceiling and walls. He tried sitting up and found it not near as painful as expected. He looked around and saw Tifa, Barret, and Red looking down at him, along with one of Cosmo's residents. The strange thing was, they all looked so tall and big.
"What happened?" he asked, his voice unusually high. "Wait, I remember. I was shot. Then I blacked out."
"Take it easy Reeve," Tifa told him. "You need to take it slow."
Reeve? Why had she called him Reeve. He wasn't Reeve. No, wait a minute. Yes he was. What was wrong? What had happened?
Tifa looked concerned. Then the Cosmo Canyon guy said something that really disturbed him.
"If what you said was true, the two personalities will have to mesh together. It could be a while until he has one identity."
One identity? What the hell did that mean? He was getting scared.
"Reeve," Tifa said, seeing the fear growing in his eyes. "Look, I'll explain."
"You better sister!" he said, stopping short. Why did he say that? He never called anyone sister.
"You were shot up pretty bad. The doctors, they couldn't help you. Your body just wasn't able to handle your wounds. We, well," she said, trying to find the right words. "We had to find a substitute."
The realization hit him like a ton of bricks, hard and fast. "OH GOD!!! You put me in Cait Sith!?"
Tifa grimaced. She had been expected this, not that it made it any easier.
"You put me in a three foot tall CAT!?" he yelled again.
"We didn't have a choice," she tried to explain. "You would have died. We couldn't even use revive magic."
"I don't care!" he said, looking at his new fur covered hands. They were like paws with fingers. He felt his head, noticing the fur, whiskers, and ears. "How!?" he demanded. "How did you do it?"
"We just hooked you up to that materia in your headset and ran a lot of power through it. You transferred over just fine."
"You have to find it!" he said again, his hysteria getting the better of him. "You don't understand. Only that materia in the headset will work with the one in my, no his, body! It's the only way to get me out."
Tifa looked very uncomfortable.
Reeve looked at her, his eyes narrowing. His tail twitched in unwanted anticipation for the bad news.
"What? What happened? Come on, my day can't get much worse, lay it on me."
Barret told him. "It busted up," he said.
Reeve started hitting his head on the rail along the side of his bed.
"I guess we just ran to much juice through the sucker and well, it kind of blew up."
"Blew up," Reeve said, laughing with a crazy look in his eye. "Blew UP! You blew my only way out up! Great! Perfect! Why not? What else can go wrong?"
Just then, a large white creature bounded in the room, ending up in a comic salute to Reeve.
Reeve was not amused at all. "What do you want? What, come to tell me something worse?"
His moogle just shook its head and handed him a large gold megaphone. Reeve took it not looking very pleased but at the same time holding with the same grace Cait always had.
"Reeve," Tifa said, "it doesn't matter that the materia shattered."
He turned to her, not understanding. "How can it not matter. I might have had a chance to get back, to be human again."
Tifa just shook her head. "You aren't listening. The doctor's couldn't help you. Your body died."
Reeve just stared at her. She couldn't tell what he was thinking. His feline eyes just kept the same hopeless look in them. Then, suddenly, he just sighed.
Tifa had never really felt so sorry for anyone, except maybe when Aeris had died. She realized that in a way, Reeve had died too. He wouldn't be the same person he had been. He wouldn't be able to do the same things he had always done. All because of Sephiroth and Shinra.
Reeve finally looked up. "Thank you," he said, quite surprising her. His tone was somber, but sincere. "I know you didn't have a choice, and I'm sorry I blew up at you. You just did what you had too. And I appreciate it."
Tifa tried to smile. Not realizing what she was doing, she scratched him behind the ears. At first he nuzzled up to her hand, then, it donned on him how he was behaving. He backed off. "This is definitely going to take some getting use to."
"Help me down," he said to his moogle. The white moogle picked him up and set him on the ground. He looked up, noticing everyone towering over him.
"Well, this isn't going to work," he said. His moogle picked him up again, this time placing him on its head.
"Much better," he said, noticing he was now the highest head in the room. "I guess I just need a little time alone," he said to her. He and the moogle headed out the doorway, Tifa and the others just watching. They heard him bound down the hallway.
They caught a "Outta' the way, sister" followed by a feminine voice saying "Oh, what a cute little kitty. The last thing Tifa heard as she walked towards Cloud's room was a "I got your cute little kitty right here."
Cloud was sitting up in bed, eating some soup. Tifa walked over and hugged him.
"How you holdin' up man," Barret asked.
Cloud smiled. "All right, I guess. The hospital food sucks though."
"We were all worried about you," Tifa told him. "First thing we here coming in was Sephiroth telling us you were in an explosion."
"No little explosion's going to do me in," he said, his usual bravado quite evident. "Hey," he said, "where is Sephiroth."
Tifa had forgotten all about him. "I don't know. I haven't seen him since, well since we landed," she said, looking around the room. She noticed something else as well. Now Vincent was gone.
"Cid," she asked, "where did Vincent go."
Cid looked around. "Oh Jesus, I wasn't even paying attention."
"Well duh!" Yuffie said. "Even I know where Sephiroth went."
They all turned to her. "You guys are so slow," she said, her smile back in effect. "Okay, number one, who is our Sephiroth's only friend? Answer, Cloud. Number two, what did Sephiroth probably think happened to Cloud since he never came to the hospital to find out? Answer, he thinks Cloud's dead. Number three, who does he think killed him? Answer, the Sephiroth at Shinra.
"Now, if you only had one person that you considered a friend, and the someone you hate most in the world killed that person, what would you do with a six-foot long katana?"
Mostly, everyone was amazed that Yuffie had put it all together instead of someone else.
"Then where did Vincent go?" Barret said. "He was in the operating room with us when we went and saw Reeve."
"I think he went after Sephiroth," Cid said. Everyone turned to him as he explained.
"Vince told me that he had always felt sorry for Sephiroth. Hojo had his own son in a position where Sephiroth really hadn't wanted to be. Sephiroth never had a chance to have a childhood, or even a real life for that matter. He was just expected to follow orders and fight. That's why Vincent blamed himself for letting Hojo do his experiment. I think he intends to atone for that."
"So do we go after them?" Tifa asked. Barret looked at her as if she had just asked him if he wanted to shoot himself in the head.
"No," Cloud said, sitting up on his elbows. He grimaced at the aches and pains that his body informed him of. "Sephiroth is probably in Del Sol right now, waiting on whatever those things were to bring him Aeris, if he doesn't already know that they're busted up. I don't think he can afford to send more, even if he has them. Most people are pretty sure that it was Shinra's equipment, but they can't prove it. If he sends more robots to attack a free city, he'll raise a lot of questions."
"Well can't we take what's left of those things and use 'em as proof?" Barret asked.
"How do we prove they are Shinra's," Tifa said. "They don't have any insignias or any other markings identifying them as Shinra gear. We just don't have the hard evidence. Besides, Sephiroth's flunkies would just cover it up in a news blitz."
"But what about Vincent, and our Sephiroth?" Cid asked. "Are we just leaving them high and dry?"
"We can't do anything right now," Cloud said. He could see that this answer wasn't what Cid wanted to hear. "Look, right now we just don't have any other options. I'm not in the greatest of shape, Reeve's definitely not..." He stopped. He had totally forgotten about Reeve.
"How is Reeve?" he asked, turning to Tifa.
She looked down at the floor and breathed in before telling them what had been done.
Everyone was quiet for a long time, before Aeris broke the uncomfortable silence. "He understands you had no choice, right?"
Tifa nodded. "I don't think it mattered though. Really wouldn't to me if I was three feet tall and a cat."
"Well, with that considered," Cloud said, shaking his head, "we really have no choice. We just have to hope Vincent can bring Sephiroth back."
Three days latter, Vincent arrived in the port town of Costa Del Sol, having arranged for transportation in the same manner as Sephiroth. He hoped he wasn't too late. The enigmatic man had been slippery, leaving very little traces, but Vincent had prided himself on his hunting skills, and they hadn't let him down so far.
It was hard trying to slip through the town, his dark garb not fitting in with the rather brightly colored swim wear prevalent on the beach. He stayed mainly to the alleys until he was left with no choice but to cross the town square to get near the docked boats.
As he entered the docks, he stayed behind several containers, out of sight. Soon, just what he was looking for came around the corner. A quick blow to the head with his pistol was all that was needed to knock the guard unconscious. Vincent quickly slipped on the Shinra uniform and hid the guard. He strode out from his hiding spot as if nothing had happened.
He made what he had thought the guards rounds had consisted of, then silently slipped aboard the docked Shinra ship. As he climbed stairways to reach the captain's and president's rooms, he noticed several guards unconscious at their posts. He assumed Sephiroth had been here not long before. As he came near the ships stern, his suspicions were confirmed. He could hear the two Sephiroths shouting at each other.
As he climbed to the window allowing him a glimpse into the room, he was greeted with a very different sight. The two stood facing each other, swords drawn, one dark, the other light.
"You killed him you bastard," the Sephiroth with the light sword yelled. He made a quick dash that the other parried.
"Killed him?" said the other, smiling. "Well, that was better than I hoped. If my little creations can kill Cloud that easily, they were well worth the development time." It was his turn to attack. He leapt into the air, coming down in a diagonal strike.
His target dodged nimbly out of the way, summoning his energy again and cutting loose with the same horizontal wave he had used in Cosmo Canyon. His twin barely managed to avoid the widening blast as it shattered the windows on the port side. Vincent was glad he had chosen starboard.
Both Sephiroth's were summoning their energy. The one wielding the dark Masamune released his first, using it to boost his speed as he jumped and dived at his opponent, aiming to stab his sword through his chest.
His quarry rolled under him just as he came down. He turned to find that he was the hunted now. The Sephiroth with the light blade released his stored energy, bringing his sword down in a vertical sweep. A green, crescent beam followed the swords path, extending far beyond the blade's reach. Vincent watched as the other white-haired swordsman dived out of the way of the rapidly expanding beam. In an instant, the wall opposite them now had a large gash through it, as if some giant knife had sliced through the room.
Sephiroth dropped his stance, his opponent having lost his sword while trying to dodge the blow. The dark, glittering blade lay far from his foe's reach. The second Sephiroth stood up, keeping a small desk between he and his twin.
Vincent was surprised. He couldn't believe the composure on the face of the man who had just lost his weapon. It looked to him as if he was even smiling.
"You are good," said the unarmed man. "A exact replica, down to every detail except one." The man held up his hand, showing his tattoo. Sephiroth looked at his own, noticing for the first time that there was no mark upon him. "Who ever sent you did a good job making you up like me."
"No one sent me. And I don't know why I don't have the tattoo, but you and I are or were one. You know me. And you know that you've lost," said the other, staring at his copy across the table. "You don't have a sword, and you will not leave this room alive."
His only answer was laughter. Laughter that Vincent had heard before. Laughter that had even chilled his bones. It was the laughter of someone who knew they were going to win.
"Really," said Sephiroth, slowly reaching into an open drawer. "Well, don't be too sure about that." He whipped out the gun he had kept in the drawer, firing off a shot. The electric charge hit home, sending his twin to the ground, paralyzed and unconscious.
One Sephiroth walked around the table and stood over the other, gloating. He placed the gun back on the table.
"You see, I always have a back up plan. That is why you lost and I won. I don't know who you are, or why your here, but its over. You failed."
He reached down to grab the Masamune nearest him, its blade glittering brightly, his twin's sword. As he grasped the handle, a sudden bolt of energy flew from the blade to his hand, knocking him across the room.
Vincent made his move, smashing the large window and diving in. He holstered his pistol and ran over to the Sephiroth that had been shot with the stun gun. He picked him up as well as the bright sword beside him.
The other Sephiroth shook his head, trying to clear the bursts of light from behind his eyes. He stood up, picking his own sword up in the process, before noticing one of his guards helping out his enemy. Except it wasn't one of Shinra's guards, it was Vincent Valentine. He ran at the dark-haired man as he stood up, carrying his twin's prone body.
Vincent heard Sephiroth rushing up behind him. He pulled out his shotgun, whipping around and firing at near point blank range.
Sephiroth had no choice but to bring his sword in front of his face. The blade repelled the shot that streaked toward his head, but the rest hit him in the chest, lifting him up and backwards. He fell to the ground, out of breath. His mail shirt had stopped the metal pellets from entering his body, but not the impact at that close range.
Vincent took advantage of the situation, running to the large gash in the wall. He jumped out the opening and headed around the front of the boat, firing his pistol at the few guards that had heard the skirmish and were now chasing after him. He dashed to the front of the boat, not having time to look before he jumped. Fortunately, he landed on some soft packing material on the dock. He rolled off, picking up Sephiroth and his sword again, and ran off as fast as he could carrying the other man. He hoped the chocobo that he had left just outside of town would be fast enough to get him out of the area before Shinra could catch him.
That night, after his double, or whoever he was, and Vincent had escaped, Sephiroth flipped on the light inside his personal lavatory. He walked over to the mirror above the sink, taking off his shirt. He could see the dark-blue bruise that had formed over the area that the shotgun's blast had hit him. Damn Vincent and his guns. At least he had the foresight to wear that mail shirt.
He took a quick hot shower before dressing again and heading down to the briefing room. There, a tall, lanky man in a white suit was standing over a display, analyzing the readouts he was getting. His black dreadlocks and colorful shirt underneath his lab coat looked out of place in the largely military room.
Sephiroth walked over to the man, looking down at the readout as well.
The scientist looked up from his display. At twenty-two years, he was one of the youngest engineers in the Shinra corporation, but his affinity with robotics had impressed Sephiroth, and he had been hired on as assistant to Director of Projects. When his predecessor had retired, the man had been moved up.
"Well Mr. Silverstein, did we get any response?" Sephiroth asked.
"Don't call me that, please. Every time you do I think you're talking to my father," said the young man, looking up. His eyes were tired from staring at the numbers on the screen. "Reese will do. And no, we haven't. I think its safe to say that the 'Blades were destroyed."
Sephiroth nodded. "Yes, the small prototypes didn't catch my prey as I had hoped, but they accomplished another task I've been meaning to tend to for quite a while."
"And what task is that, if I may ask?"
Sephiroth only smiled at the thought of Cloud, killed by a machine. "Personal vendetta. Nothing of real consequence. Your WarBlades have proven their usefulness, even if they didn't catch Aeris. Besides, they weren't designed for that purpose. Even still, I didn't expect them to hold up as well as they did against Cloud and the others, especially the small ones. I can't wait to see the new design specs."
"Well, I had hoped that they wouldn't be destroyed. I designed them to deal with the threat of a terrorist situation, including the removal of hostages. I guess this little terrorist band of yours, Avalanche, must be real bad news."
Sephiroth nodded. It still amazed him how much people would believe, as long as it was on the news. "A true pain in the ass," he said. "Hopefully, with the new 'Blades, we can get rid of them." He turned around.
"We'll be moving back to Junon soon, and from there to Midgar."
"Yes sir," Reeve said. "I expect the plant to have the new models out by the time we get back."
"Very good," said Sephiroth as he left the room. He didn't let anyone see it, but he was smiling.
A few days latter, back in Cosmo Canyon, Cloud was on his feet again. He, Sephiroth, Barret, and Red were walking through the town, discussing what to do next.
"So he thinks Cloud is dead?" Red asked.
"Yes," said Sephiroth, looking straight ahead.
"Who thinks Cloud is dead?" Barret was confused.
"Sephiroth," Red explained.
"Whoa, wait up," Barret said, pointing at Sephiroth. "I'm just gettin' confused trying to tell the difference between him and the one at Shinra. From now on, he's Sephiroth, and you're Seph. Makes it a lot easier to say the weird ass name of yours anyway."
Sephiroth neither acknowledged that he liked or disliked the new reference. He just stared ahead.
"Anyway," Red continued, "we can move out whenever. I've told the elders what is going on, and that I would be gone until it clears up. So, I'm free for whatever you need."
"Thanks Red," said Cloud. "I guess we can leave today. We just head back to Midgar and do what we always do."
Red nodded and he and Barret walked off to inform the others. Cloud turned to find Sephiroth walking towards the Candle.
He followed and they both sat down, staring at the dancing flames.
"What's bothering you?" Cloud asked.
Sephiroth said nothing at first, but then he told Cloud about the fight on the ship. "The funny thing ," he said, after he had finished, "is that he wasn't the same. You would notice the difference. He's darker now, more uninhibited. When you knew us at the crater, we were insane, but in some small way, we thought everyone's lives would be better with us in charge. Let us make the decisions, and everyone else bask in the fruits of our labor. I know, not exactly the most charitable way to solve the worlds problems, but we were insane.
"Now, he doesn't care. He just wants power, nothing else. No, I take that back. He wants one thing more. Domination. He wants to hover over everyone else and soak in their inferiority compared to him."
Cloud stared ahead. "What about you?" he asked after a while. "Have you changed?"
Sephiroth looked at him. "Me? I don't know who I am anymore. I just know that I'm different from before."
Cloud laughed. "No offense, but is that such a bad thing? I mean, think about how you were."
For the first time since he had been with Cloud and the others, Sephiroth laughed.
"You see," Cloud said. "That is the second time I've seen you laugh at something that was funny. You never used to do that. Only other time was at Nibelhelm, before, well, you know. Maybe change isn't so bad. Painful, but not bad."
Sephiroth stopped laughing. "The question is, will I like the end result."
For that, Cloud didn't have an answer.
"This sucks!" Yuffie yelled out to no one in particular.
Reeve looked up from his Tarot Cards. For some reason, he couldn't put them down. In fact, he actually liked trying to read fortunes. Not that he could do it very well. More of that blending of personalities he guessed.
"What sucks?" he asked.
Yuffie turned to him. "This, riding back to Midgar," she said. They were on the airship, flying towards Condor. "Back to work as usual."
"What else would you do?" he asked. "Be bored?"
"Hell no. I'd be finding materia to hock."
Reeve rolled his eyes and turned back to his cards. "Just be happy you're over your motion sickness."
Tifa walked into the cockpit. She came up to Reeve and scratched behind his ear. That was something else he learned that he liked, although it did seem a bit awkward.
"How are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm okay," he said, looking at her. "Look, I never told you thank you."
Don't worry about it," she told him. "I just did what I had too."
"Well, thanks anyway."
"Your welcome," she said. She was looking for Aeris, but hadn't seen her up on deck either. She left the cockpit, and headed to the lounge that had been added in. There she found the young woman sitting alone with her drink, as if listening to someone.
"You seem to be doing that more often," Tifa said as she sat down beside her.
Aeris was startled. "Oh, well, you know, just listening in on the planet." Her face gave away the impression that she was embarrassed.
"What does it say these days?"
Aeris smiled her usual smile. "Not much really. Just the usual stuff." She took a drink of her water.
Tifa noticed Aeris' glass. She was suddenly thirsty. "I think I'll fix some ice tea," she said, getting up. "Do you want any?"
Aeris shook her head as Tifa went behind the bar and got out the bags and teapot. "So how was Cosmo, for the one day you spent there," she said, starting to boil the water.
"Oh, it was nice, and a lot more helpful than you'd expect. I talked a lot with some of the elders and what not. It was interesting to find out what they knew about my people. One day I'll have to go to the City."
"Of the Ancients? You haven't gone there yet?" Tifa asked, walking back to the table. She casually brushed some hair out of her face.
Aeris looked uncomfortable. "Well, it's just that, I don't know, I'm kind of scared. With what happened there, I just, well..."
"Don't know if you can go in without freaking out," Tifa finished her sentence. "Don't worry, I was like that about Nibelhelm too. Sometimes you just have to go in and see for yourself."
Aeris smiled again. "Yes, your right. And I know that there's nothing to be scared of, but after seeing him here with us, it's just too creepy."
"You mean Seph," Tifa said.
Aeris couldn't help but laugh. "That name caught on quick, didn't it. Yes, him. I know he wouldn't do anything, but still. He is Sephiroth."
Tifa chewed her lip thoughtfully. "Have you tried talking with him yet. That might help."
Aeris took another drink as she nodded. "I thought about that, but I just don't know. God, I must sound so goofy, talking like this. I guess I'm just chicken."
Tifa walked back to the stove and moved the brewing tea of the burner. "It's perfectly natural. Aeris, most people don't die and come back. It's understandable that you have your demons about this. Everyone has them. Some are just a little bit scarier than most."
"Like Cloud's," Aeris said.
"Exactly," said Tifa, pouring the tea into her glass and throwing in a couple of ice cubes. She walked over and sat down. "I swear, the moment you bring something up personal with him..."
"He shuts everything down," Aeris said, finishing the statement. They both laughed.
"I've seen you though," Tifa said, looking at Aeris. "You get through to him sometimes."
"You give me too much credit," Aeris said, blushing.
"No, I'm not. You get him to talk about how he feels. He never would with me."
Aeris took Tifa's hand. "Tifa, you two are the closest thing to brother and sister I've ever seen. He loves you. Don't ever forget that. He may not always say what he is feeling, but you have something of his that no one else, not me, not Sephiroth, not anyone, has. His utter and complete trust."
Tifa looked up and smiled. "Well, if this whole thing with Shinra ever blows over, you definitely have a job in therapy."
"No thank you. Too depressing. And remember, I wasn't the only one who listened to someone in here today."
"Well, your welcome too then," Tifa said getting up.
"You know, I think I will have some tea," Aeris said, following her to the galley.
Fort Condor was truly a boon to Avalanche. It allowed them a landing spot for the Little Bronco relatively close to Midgar, as well as a landing point for when the Highwind needed to be on the ground for repairs unable to be completed in the sky. Besides keeping them hidden from Shinra, the fort also kept anyone discovering the location from sabotaging the vehicles.
As the Highwind was in working order, it lifted off. The 24 hour crew would see to it that it stayed afloat and out of harm's way. The group left Condor, most of them on chocobo's, with the hovercraft bringing up the rear. It did not take long before they were safe and sound, hidden deep under the city.
The next few days offered little in the way of excitement. Reeve had been unable to find any information about where the mechanical weapons they had fought had been created at. Cloud kept him searching though. The location had become their next target, and the sooner they found it, the better.
Sephiroth had adjusted relatively well to his new surroundings and company. While still not on more than speaking terms with most of the group, he and Vincent had become a bit closer. And, due to the fact Vincent and Cid seemed inseparable, Cid was more acquainted with him than most.
Cloud was watching them, as they sat arguing about how, if Shinra ever did fall, they would run the government. A democracy was the general idea, but the implementation varied between them.
Cloud laughed to himself as he polished his sword. Right now, he just wanted Shinra out of commission. The next government would have to be someone else's idea.
"What's so funny?" Aeris asked, sitting down beside him.
"Them," Cloud said, nodding in his friends direction. "You'd never have guessed we have the next three presidential candidates sitting right there."
Aeris looked quizzically at the trio. "Why do you say that? Have they decided to replace Sephiroth as head of Shinra?"
Cloud noticed that Aeris had been picking up more and more sarcasm lately, probably due to the company she kept. "They're just arguing over how to run a government. Vincent wants a direct democracy, fat chance by the way, Seph wants federalism, and Cid really just wants a government that leaves him alone."
"Okay, I'm going to pretend I understood everything you just said. What about you? What would you do if you could choose?"
He looked at her. "Right now, Cid's is sounding the best. But as long as Sephiroth isn't in charge, I'd be happy with just about any of them."
Aeris smiled. "Sounds fair to me. Have you ever considered the possibility that when this is over, you could help decide what replaces Shinra?"
Cloud stopped smiling and got up, sheathing his sword. "I'm more worried about the possibility that this will never be over. When we beat Sephiroth back at the crater, I thought 'We got it made now. We're in the clear.' I was wrong. He was back, strong as ever. I'm beginning to think I won't see the end of him, or Shinra, in my lifetime."
"Then why keep fighting?"
"Because if I don't, who will? It's no good complaining about something if you don't do anything about it. I have to try, otherwise, no one else might."
She stood up and kissed him. "I believe in you," she said, and walked away.
The man sat there, waiting on hold, as he brushed his orange, unruly hair out of his face. It was Sephiroth's way of intimidation, leaving you waiting. His little way of showing superiority. Not that he minded it so much. Anyone was better in charge of Shinra than Rufus. True, Sephiroth scared the shit out of him, but at least he didn't act as arrogant as Rufus had.
Another voice came on the line. "You understand the instructions?" Sephiroth asked him, his voice cool as usual.
"Crystal clear. You're responsible for them following us, and we're responsible for getting them to the site. You take over from there, while we get the hell out of Dodge. Did I miss anything?"
"No. Payment as usual?"
"Just credit us and we're in business." He watched his computer screen as the group's electronic bank account increased twenty thousand dollars.
"Nice doing business with you. Especially since you seem to have slacked off on the amount of jobs. Avalanche not giving you problems anymore?"
"Hardly," Sephiroth told him. "Rather, not many occasions have required your special services. This time however, your high profile is just what we require. Besides, this could be your last task involving this matter. It appears Cloud is not with the group anymore. That should make the job easier."
"We'll do the job, and do it right, as always," the man said. "Hope to speak with you again soon."
Sephiroth didn't answer. His only sign of acknowledgment was the dial tone that followed. He put down the PHS and smiled at his monitor. Twenty thousand gil, and they didn't even have to fight anyone!
He twirled his nightstick in eager anticipation. Without Cloud, maybe the group wouldn't be quite as tough. He did feel slight pangs of want though. He had wanted another go at Cloud one more time.
Just then, a beautiful woman in a suit with short, cropped blonde hair came in the room. She walked over and hit the bald man who was napping in his own chair.
"Rude, I swear. We are indoors, not a speck of sun in here, and you wear your damn shades."
Rude offered no rebuttal. He merely spun around in his chair.
"We have a job offer," he asked, running his hand over his shaved head.
Reno nodded. "Sephiroth was kind enough to offer the Turks a small little job for a large sum of money."
"What do we have to do," Elena asked.
"Nothing really. Sephiroth's arranging for Cloud and his friends to find us. We lead them in a chase to a construction yard, and then we leave."
"That's it?" Elena asked.
"Yep," Reno said. "Easiest twenty thousand we ever made."
"What happens at the construction site."
"How would I know Elena. The man just said lead them there, then we can leave. We don't get paid to ask questions."
"Okay, okay. Jeez, why are you in such a bad mood? We got paid didn't we?"
"It's his time of the month again," Rude said, cracking a smile. Elena hit him again.
"You are disgusting," she barked, before leaving the room. "I can see why you're still single," she yelled, a parting shot before she was out of shouting range.
"I can see why you're still single," Rude mimicked her, mumbling the words. Reno had already turned around, not paying any attention to the usual bicker.
"I just haven't found the right girl yet," Rude explained. "I'm looking for Mrs. Right, you know."
Reno didn't answer.
"I mean, there's plenty of girls out there, so one of them has to be right for me." He thought for a moment. "Maybe I need a beard or something. What do you think Reno, maybe a goatee or something."
Reno turned around. He had been trying to do some figuring on their accounts, but now he couldn't concentrate. "Rude, I don't know. Grow a beard if you want. Hell, grow a freakin' six foot long one, I don't care! Just let me work!"
Rude cringed. He got up and left the room, mumbling about how no one understood him.
Reno turned back around. He picked up his pencil and started his addition over again.
Barret hated waiting. He was ready to roll, and here they sat, waiting to find that damn machine factory. He was pacing anxiously, as usual, behind Reeve as he fiddled with some dials. The cat had a single ear piece in his ear, trying to listen in on any transmissions he could find.
"You know," he said, the annoyance in his voice quite evident, "I could probably work much better if you wouldn't hover over me."
"Just keep workin'," Barret told him, "cause I ain't gonna stop hovering over you until you find something. It sucks just waitin' here on Shinra to make a move. I'm ready to shoot something," he said, adjusting his gun arm.
"Well, just be ready then," Reeve told him. "The only thing I've picked up even similar to the machine plant is some job the Turks are doing."
"Turks?" Cloud asked, coming up. He leaned on the moogle's shoulder to get a better view of Reeve's equipment. "What kind of job?"
Reeve looked at the ex-soldier. "Some kind of delivery. Nothing on just what they're moving yet."
"Must be pretty important if Shinra would hire the Turks just to move some equipment," Barret said, trying not to sound to over anxious. "Might be worth checking out."
"Probably right," Cloud acknowledged. "Well, since we aren't to busy here, I guess we can go. You can keep hooked in out there, right Reeve."
Reeve nodded. "I just use my modem and I can go anywhere you can and still listen in."
"Alright then," Cloud said, turning to Barret. "Guess we get busy."
"All right!" Barret said, pounding the barrel of his gun into his open palm. "I'll get the others." He ran off towards the bar, humming something about whooping some Turk ass.
That day, near sunset, Reno and the others headed towards the construction site, dummy boxes under they're arms. They had taken back roads to make it look like they wanted to avoid attention. The idea had worked, except now they knew they were being watched. Reno didn't have any concrete proof, Avalanche was good enough to keep hidden, but he knew deep down that they were being trailed.
They entered the site, the metal still giving off the noon day heat it had absorbed. A tall structure, lacking anything but its support beams, climbed into the deep orange sky. The only other things present were a large crane and piles of more beams.
Reno and the others stopped. This was where they waited. He turned around, looking patiently into the deserted buildings they had just passed through.
His suspicions were confirmed when he caught a glimpse of someone moving through a shadow in the distance. He acted as though he had seen nothing and was merely checking to see they were being followed.
"Okay, we head on up," he said. Rude and Elena nodded before following. They stepped into the elevator, and started up to the highest point on the uncompleted structure. There was a make-shift floor up there, constructed of wood panels. As they reached the top, they stepped out of the elevator into the wind. This high up, it blew by them quite strongly. In the distance, they could make out Shinra H.Q., it's peak also rising high above the fifth level of Midgar.
They sent the elevator back down. Sephiroth would provide they're ride off the structure. Reno looked up at the clouds, illuminated in the deep sunset, as they swept by. He hoped it wouldn't be a long wait.
Cloud didn't like the way things had turned out. As far as he could tell, the only way up to where Reno and the others were was the elevator or some ladders that were scattered around the beams. The elevator was out of question, so it looked like they would be climbing up the twenty or so stories.
"Well folks," he said to the group who had assembled at the base of the building, "looks like we climb. They'd hear us in the elevator."
There was much grumbling as they started up the first ladder, one by one. Cloud knew this was going to be one of those missions.
Reno knew the others were coming. He had snuck a peak over the edge and glimpsed them climbing up. Right now they were already up eight stories. Twelve more and they would be up with him. He hoped Sephiroth would get here soon. He had noticed two things that he didn't like. One was that Cloud was still alive. The second was there had been some white-haired man he didn't recognize. From this far off it was impossible to tell for sure, but it had looked like Sephiroth.
He ran over to his business partners. "They're coming up. They've already covered eight stories. We better hope that Sephiroth gets here soon, or we could be in deep trouble."
"I don't think we have to worry," Rude said, pointing towards Shinra H.Q. There Reno could make out what looked like a helicopter, followed by two smaller shapes. Then his eye caught something coming in from another direction. He couldn't make out just what it was, but it was big.
"No," he said, "I don't think we have to worry at all."
The first ten stories had been long, and Cloud had stopped on a plank, catching his breath. The others came up as well, all of them huffing and puffing, except Reeve. His moogle had done all the work.
"How much farther," Yuffie whined from the back.
"Ten more stories," Barret said between breaths. "Now shut up."
Cloud looked up. The wooded level looked a lot farther than ten stories, but he had counted before they came up, and he knew Barret was right. He looked over at Aeris, who was trying to smile despite her side stitch.
"Well, we'd better go on," he said.
"What's the hurry," Cid asked. "No one can get up here without going the same way as us. The Turks are still up there, waiting on someone to come by elevator."
"Or helicopter," Vincent added, pointing at the approaching aircraft.
"Plus two more robots," Sephiroth told them, noticing the smaller machines moving towards their location. "We've been set up. Those 'bots are headed for us."
"Scatter!" Cloud said. "Get behind any cover you can find." He really hated the prospect of fighting those machines up on the structure.
It didn't take long for the robots to cover the distance to them. They were all well hid, waiting for a chance to cut loose on the droids. Strangely though, the robots halted about twenty feet from the structure, hovering.
Barret was just about to jump out from behind his cover and open fire when one of the them spoke out. Except it wasn't the robot's voice, it was Sephiroth's, via communications link.
"Well, since you've already been acquainted with my little WarBlades, I'll save the formal introduction. I'm sure you are all quite aware of their capabilities. The name is quite fitting, if I do say so myself."
"I take it you thought that one up," Tifa yelled from behind a steel beam.
"Quite correct," Sephiroth said. "The cutting edge in weaponry, but I will say this though. You managed to handle them reasonably well. Although that humming noise foretells a different story."
Cloud and the others now noticed what he was speaking of. A loud drone filled the air, increasing in intensity by the second.
"But, we'll get to that later. I had assumed that they had taken you out at Cosmo Canyon, Cloud. I see now I received some garbled information. My double seems to have left without getting the whole story."
Cloud looked over at Seph. They exchanged a nod, and without any warning, both releasing their stored up energy. The two energy waves demolished the machines, sending their hulks falling to the ground.
Cloud breathed a sigh of relief. They were lucky Sephiroth had only sent two. Sephiroth always had a back up plan however, and Cloud imagined that the loud hum would explain exactly what he had up his sleeve.
He didn't expect what did come down however. As the legs of the monstrosity came into view, Cloud realized why the two smaller droids hadn't attacked. Another WarBlade, but well over forty feet tall, a gigantic replica of the smaller Blades.
Sephiroth's voice thundered out this time from the huge machines speakers. "Nice try," he said, his voice sullen. "Well, since you feel like fighting, maybe this will keep you occupied."
"Everyone, jump for it!" Cloud shouted, as he watched the huge mechanical device lower it's arms. The cannons on each appendage started to rotate as a deafening roar shook the building. Cloud had just enough time to leap before the shells from its weapons flew through the beams around him, sending metal shrapnel flying dangerously through the air.
The steel beams splintered under the enormous impact, shaking the entire structure. The ones left in once peace groaned under the increased weight.
"Aeris, we need a landing pad," he said, realizing that if they didn't jump, they would be crushed. She nodded, gripping her staff. "We've got to get out from under here," he told the others.
"And how do we do that?" Barret asked. "Sprout wings and fly?"
"No," Cloud said, going to the edge as the gigantic WarBlade started to descend. "We jump again." He grabbed Barret, pulling them both over the side. Everyone else followed suit, watching as the ground rush up to meet them in their deaths. Except they didn't hit.
A large updraft rushed up to meet them, slowing their descent and keeping them hovering right off the ground moments before impact. As they finally touched down, Cloud looked at Aeris, her wind materia slowly dimming.
"Thanks for the lift."
"Anytime," she said, winking.
They jerked back to attention as the WarBlades cannons fired again, this time burying their armament deep into the ground. The group dashed to the nearby buildings, dodging this way and that as enormous bullets plowed through the walls around them.
The droid finally ceased firing, no targets visible. It landed and began to walk in their general direction, through a wide street. The group knew what to do. They split up, heading to different levels of the buildings, all getting ready to hit the machine at once.
As it entered between the buildings, Barret let off the first rounds, his bullets bouncing off the machines outside. Cloud followed, charging out from a doorway. He swung at the Blade's feet, hoping to send it tumbling, but his sword only cut a few inches into the robot's thick armor.
Sephiroth emerged from another doorway, swinging at the other leg. His sword caught as well, not going any farther than Clouds.
"This is going to take forever," Cloud said as they scattered out of the way. The robot tried to smash them under its feet, but they were too quick. "The armor's too thick, try for the head," he shouted to whomever was listening.
Aeris fired numerous times with lightning, the bolts slamming down on the machines head. Seemingly unaffected, it turned to her and decimated the wall she had just been behind. Her ducking prevented all but pebbles from hitting her.
Vincent looked down from his and Cid's perch on the ceiling of a building. They could make out the Blade's head, the glass dome covering its sensors, only a few feet below them. Vincent jumped first, landing directly in front of a camera lens. He watched as it adjusted to the blurry form directly in front of it. He drew back and rammed his bionic arm through the dome, shattering its visual sensors. The Blade stumbled around, blind and staggering, before Cid threw his spear down into the other sensory items located in its head. The Venus Gospel slammed through, the sensitive equipment erupting in sparks. Vincent grabbed the weapon and leapt off, moments before the whole upper torso exploded into flame and smoke.
"Holy shit!" Cloud yelled, realizing as the hulking mass began to fall backwards that he and Sephiroth were directly in its path. They took off, running as fast as they're legs would carry them, but they were on the loosing end of the race. The Blade's huge frame was looming closer and closer. They finally found an open door. Jumping at the last minute, they both passed through to safety, just as the broken behemoth slammed into the pavement.
Cloud leaned back, propping himself against a wall as he tried to regain his breath. He could here his friends calling out for him and Sephiroth.
He swallowed, trying to wet his voice box. "We're in here!" he shouted, looked over at Sephiroth. The ex-Soldier seemed unhurt. "We're both okay!"
Sephiroth looked up over his knee, kneeling and trying to catch his own breathe. "You do realize, this probably wasn't the only one," he said.
Cloud looked up at the ceiling, laughing. "Screw it," he said, turning back to his friend. "I can worry about that later. Right now I just want to be able to breathe."
Sephiroth smiled, a ray of sunshine on his normally unyielding features.
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