Our Weapons of War Are Mighty Chapter 3
By Gary M. Gandy
"Damn them!" Sephiroth shouted at his com-screen. He watched as the camera aboard the helicopter gave him a startling view as the huge WarBlade crashed to the ground. "One day Cloud, one day... I will be the one laughing at the end, I swear."
How could they have beaten it. The thing had nearly a foot of armor around it, the deadliest weapons systems available, and the thing had been over forty feet tall for God's sake! He had expected to be sending someone out to remove their bodies by now. Instead, he would need a clean up crew to gather the robot.
He watched as several Avalanche members emerged from various buildings, tiny dots of color on his screen. They swarmed around the large machine, all except one. He could see a pink colored dot standing alone on one of the roofs, looking down at the destroyed machine.
Hitting a button, Sephiroth was able to zoom in. He recognized the brown hair and petite frame.
"Reno," he said, flipping on the audio. The camera swiveled allowing him a view of the pilot handing the Turk some headphones.
"Yeah, I'm here," Reno's voice told him.
"You're going to earn some overtime. Get the pilot to lower you in the winch. I want him to do a flyby and you grab Aeris. She's standing alone on one of the rooftops."
Reno looked at the camera in disbelief. "You're kidding! Swing down and grab her? Jesus! Who do I look like? Tarzan!"
"Just do it. I'll make it worth your while."
Reno looked at him with half lidded eyes. "Oh, dont worry. You will. I'll be expecting a huge bonus for this one. Reno out."
Sephiroth watched the camera tilt around again as the pilot adjusted course. Suddenly, a tone informed him he had another call. He flipped his current view down to a small window in the right-bottom corner while the Colonel's image replaced it.
"Sir, Mr. Angston wants to speak with you. He says he has urgent news. Shall I tell him to call back?"
"No," Sephiroth said, a smile widening on his face. "Put him through." If Angston said he had urgent news, then he must have found it! Perhaps today was Sephiroth's day to laugh.
He glanced at his view out of the helicopter, Aeris' image growing larger every second.
Cloud stood at the hulking machine's feet, amazed at the sheer amount of metal on the creature. He wondered what powered something this big.
Looking around, he counted heads, making sure everyone was there. Two, four, six, eight, nine... ten. He looked up, seeing Aeris up on the roof, catching a good view of the entire behemoth at once.
"Aeris, you'd better get down. We need to get the hell out of here."
Aeris looked down, waving. "Be down in a minute," she shouted, turning and walking away from the edge.
Cloud turned back for a moment, taking another look at the Blade. Suddenly, a loud hum filled the air. He spun around just in time to catch sight of the helicopter racing low across the alley they were in, someone in tow on a winch.
Then he caught the sound of Aeris' scream over the stealthy rotors. He and the others raced up the buildings stairs, coming out on the roof. The only sight that greeted them was Aeris' dropped staff with all of her materia, and a helicopter, flying away.
"Cloud, you can't do it!" Tifa told him after they had returned home. "He'll be expecting you to come barging in there. All you'll do is get yourself killed or taken prisoner."
"I don't care, he took Aeris! What do you want us to do, sit her and do nothing!"
"Yes," Tifa said calmly, "until we can think of an idea. Otherwise, we're going to get nowhere."
"She's right Cloud," Barret told him. "You rush into that building, you're going to find yourself surrounded in Soldiers. The brute force method won't work this time."
Cloud sat down. He blamed himself, even though deep down, he knew it wasn't his fault. He hadn't expected Reno and the others to react that quickly. Reno had some balls to pull the stunt he had, whizzing right over the buildings like that.
Now, who knew what was happening to Aeris. He doubted Sephiroth meant to kill her, but he probably had something just as unpleasant in mind.
"Look," Tifa said, walking over and placing her hand on his shoulder. "We'll get her back. It'll just take some time."
Cloud wanted to believe her, but he wasn't so sure.
Her cell wasn't really a cell at all. The walls were lavishly decorated, with plants spread everywhere. She had a video screen, stereo, everything found in a normal home. Except for the locked door, nothing there would have reminded her of a prison. She looked out one of her many windows, staring out at the starry night sky. She could see the moon rising over the clouds.
A soft but loud tone announced someone was coming in. She turned to find Sephiroth followed by a short balding man in a lab coat.
"Your room is nice," Sephiroth told her, looking over their surroundings. "I hope it reminds you enough of home. We went to great lengths using your psychological profile to determine what would suit you best."
"It is nice," Aeris said, looking him in the eye, for a prison.
"Well, I would consider myself lucky if I were you. Most terrorists don't receive this kind of treatment. I usually execute them."
"I am not a terrorist. I don't scare the people into submission, like some people I know."
Sephiroth's expression never changed. "Neither do I."
"No, you lie to them. Feed them false information. Otherwise, they'd tear this whole building down with their bare hands."
Sephiroth laughed at that. "You always were melodramatic," he told her, pacing around her room. "Oh, I'm sorry. I don't think you've met Dr. Kaspin. He is our head biological scientist here. Replaced the late Hojo, if you recall."
"You mean your father," Aeris said haughtily. Sephiroth took it in stride, though he did shoot an icy glance her way.
"I see Cloud's talent for quick comebacks has rubbed off. Regardless, you should get to know the doctor here. He's a bit quiet, but he does good work. He will be operating on you as well as taking care of your special needs afterwards."
Aeris didn't like the sound of that at all. "What do you mean, 'operating.'"
Sephiroth walked over to a nearby couch, sitting down. "I'll explain, but won't the two of you please sit."
At first Aeris wanted to refuse, but she realized that it was useless. This wasn't some dramatic book where the heroine showed off her bravery. Common sense said that standing would get her nowhere. She sat down in a chair, while the doctor sat in another.
"First of all, let me explain. You see, I realize your predicament, being the last of your people. If something were to happen to you, then the Ancients would be wiped clean off the globe. That's partly the reason I want you here, to make sure you don't get yourself killed out there. But that's not the only reason. Doesn't it ever get lonely, having no one around, no family?"
"I have my family," she told him. "Avalanche has given me all the family I've ever needed."
"Perhaps, but none of them are the same as you. You can't tell me it wouldn't be nice to talk to someone with the same ancestors as you, for them to understand everything you've gone through. I should imagine it would be a great relief.
"Unfortunately, to our knowledge, there aren't any others. You are the last Cetra, and the only way this world will see another is through you having a child. Now, I'm sure given enough time, Cloud would settle that little problem on his own," Sephiroth said, noting the look of shock on her face.
"The problem is, I'm not that patient. Besides, it wouldn't do me much good. I wouldn't be able to get my hands on your children with him around. Of course I could clone you, but Hojo already tried it. It seems your little ability to summon Holy isn't transferable through that process. I fear it can only be passed from mother to child.
Aeris didnt have the slightest idea where Sephiroth was headed, but she knew she wouldnt like it.
"There lies the solution, he went on. Can you imagine what your genetic code, plus that of Jenova's could procreate!"
Aeris was horrified. "If you mean that you and I would ever--"
Sephiroth stopped her mid-sentence. "You dont have to worry about that, I assure you. My own dignity would never allow me to proceed down that course with an unwilling partner. Besides, that route doesn't allow me the option of tweaking the genetic code of the child. What I plan to do, or rather what the good doctor here plans to do, is artificially inseminate you with my genetic code, successfully blending the Ancients with Jenova. Even more promising, Hojo thought that if perhaps you took cells from the early stages of the child, you might be able to clone Ancients with their powers in tact. And besides, I could always use a son."
"I won't do it!" Aeris said, standing. "There is no way you could possibly make me!"
Sephiroth laughed again before standing. "On the contrary, you don't have much of a say in the matter. I plan to try, regardless of what you will or will not do." He and the doctor both started for the door.
"I guess you could attempt suicide," he remarked, stopping turning back to her. "But I also realize that it would be nearly impossible here. Remember, you are being monitored, by women of course. I would not put you through the disgrace of two male peeping toms. Don't worry though, this environment will be ideal for you and the child."
He walked out of the room, the silent scientist right behind him. As they passed over the doorstep, the huge metallic portal sealed shut again.
Aeris went over too the window, again starring at the stars. Right now, she felt more alone and afraid then she ever had before.
Sephiroth rode up the elevator, realizing he was late for his meeting with Manrick Angston. The man was notorious for his short temper, but no one else on earth had amassed as much information on his particular field of study as the archeologist.
The chime announced his arrival at the dining floor. He stepped out into the empty room save for a man sitting at a table alone and the bar attendant. Sephiroth crossed the floor, his quiet footfalls echoing in the large room's silence.
"You're late," the aging man said, never looking up from his paper. "I was beginning to think you were not interested."
"Oh I'm quite interested," Sephiroth told him as he sat down.
Angston was in his upper fifties. All of his hair was snow white, as well as his beard and mustache, though his eyes had lost none of their shine. His tanned skin combined with his shirt and shorts gave him an air of a beach bum.
Angston was a man who would never be intimidated. Sephiroth realized that he knew full well what his business partner was capable of, but the old man also knew he and his information were far to valuable. Sephiroth would just have to grin and bear it.
"I take it you found traces of it underground."
"No," Angston told him, looking up from his newspaper. "We found all of it, intact, about three hundred feet down. Looks like the planet rebuilds them and keeps them dormant until it needs them again. I assume it moves the laterally through the stratum through some unknown means until they pop up through the crust wherever the planet wants them."
"Intact?" Sephiroth said. "How is that possible. The remains should have been spread for miles around that forest."
"Evidently, the planet repaired it and put it back together."
"When can it be retrieved?" he asked, the excitement in his voice evident.
"Well, something that size will take some time. Also, I don't have all of my crew with me to help oversee. Some are north of Midgar, some in Saucer desert, and the rest are looking at the bottom of the ocean. I would estimate we can have it out of the ground and shipped on boat by two weeks if we try to keep it quiet, one week if we move as fast as possible."
"I definitely want to keep this one quiet. I'll take the longer wait. Besides, my men are still working on a way to power and control them. Not much use to wake the things up and have them destroy a city."
Angston nodded. "Well, after you have them, what you do is your own business. Payment for discovery and delivery is mine. I believe we agreed on ten million per find."
Sephiroth nodded. After all, he had the money and what Angston found was worth much more than a measly ten million a piece. "You'll have your money Angston, and the recognition of the find once all of the units are fully operational. Until then though, keep it as quiet as possible. I shall deposit the gil to your account as soon as the first one is in Junon."
The two shook hands and Sephiroth left the table. Today had been full of surprises, most of them good. As he rode up the elevator to his own floor, the only troublesome thing on his mind was Avalanche. Why hadn't they tried to rescue Aeris. Surely Cloud would have insisted. Then again, he would have realized that security would be up. The idea struck him as humorous, Cloud not being able to help her, unable to do anything. It reminded him of the City of the Ancients.
Later, as he undressed and got into bed, he lay awake in the darkness, marveling at how well the last few weeks had passed. He hadn't been going insane, as he feared, the voice had left him alone, and now he had Aeris, his WarBlades, and even more prizes were just over the horizon.
True, he didn't really understand who his twin was, and he was reasonably sure that the split had been a result of the other voice, but he had managed to outsmart Cloud and his double.
As he finally drifted off to sleep, he seemed to be laughing to himself.
Reeve stretched, trying to pop his back. His new body was amazingly flexible, but he couldn't seem to get a knot out of his spine. He yawned, having trouble believing that as a cat, he suffered from occasional bouts of insomnia. His moogle stood under him, snoring softly as his master listened in and perused the air waves, hoping to find anything that could help them get Aeris back.
The funny thing about Shinra was that for priority messages, they used an old signal known as audio. The transmission encode absolutely no video, only sound. Reeve suspected that it required less power and memory.
He had been searching for nearly an hour, and the only thing so far was several transmissions regarding Shinra's annual ball. He was just about to call it a night and try to sleep again when he caught something. The signal was faint, but his sensitive ears could make it out. It wasn't a conversation, as he had expected, but rather a series of beeps, some short some long. He grabbed a paper and pencil and jotted them down.
After the signal ended, he grabbed a rather large book. He remembered reading about an older form of signal, something like Morose or Morsel. He really didn't care about the name. Instead, he flipped to the translation section.
He pieced together the message, putting letters in for the beeps, until finally, he had a readable message.
"Priority one message to Junon base, stop. Require four hundred men, ten Blades, five WarBlades, stop. Head to 40 degrees by 60 degrees in six days, stop. Needed in excavation of Ultima Weapon, stop."
Reeve swallowed hard, a shiver running up his spin, finally popping the knot out. He decided he had better wake up Cloud. This wouldn't wait until morning.
Reeve had been correct. Cloud called an emergency meeting as soon as he was informed. The rest of the group stumbled out of bed, some dressed, some still in their sleeping clothes. They gathered in the briefing room around Reeve's equipment.
Cloud didn't look drowsy at all. He hadn't slept a wink. Instead, his mind had been racing around ways to liberate Aeris. He looked a little tired, but not enough to constitute a problem.
"Everyone here? Okay, good. Here's why I called you out of bed. Reeve happened to pick up a special transmit from Shinra. It seems Sephiroth has been searching for the Weapons, and now he has one of them. He plans to move it here."
The quiet chatter that had pervaded the room earlier stopped. No one liked the prospect of the dictator in control of the weapons.
"Now so far," Cloud continued, "all they have is the Ultima Weapon. It looks like they plan to use the large WarBlades to transport it by air during the night, and use the smaller Blades as escort."
Barret looked at Sephiroth. "How come we're just finding this out?" he asked, turning to the man. "You didn't know about this?"
Sephiroth's expression didn't change. "I've already told you, I don't remember much from before the Crater. All I have are bits and pieces, and this wasn't a bit or piece."
Barret snorted before returning his attention to Cloud.
"We have a serious problem here. I believe Sephiroth plans to study them and find some way to reactivate them under his control. I'm sure you all can imagine having to deal with those again, not to mention the leverage it would give him over the few free cities left. He gets those things operational, and we can kiss most of them goodbye."
"So what do we do then?" Yuffie asked.
"We go over and try to sabotage the operation before they can leave the ground. If they do become airborne, we chase them down. They'll spend the days traveling over sea, so we'll just have the escorts to deal with."
"Oh, that's really going to be fun," Cid said sarcastically, thinking about dealing with the robots with the Highwind.
"What about Aeris," Tifa asked.
Cloud hadn't forgotten about her. "The only thing we can do is leave some people behind in case a window opens up. Otherwise, we can't do that much to get her out."
"I'll stay," Vincent volunteered. Cloud agreed, realizing he would be the best candidate for getting in and out unseen should a chance appear. "The thing is, with all those men at the site, won't Shinra be easier to get into?" Vincent asked.
"No," Reeve said, explaining. "The annual Shinra dinner is coming up, so the place will be crawling with people. It's really too bad we couldn't sneak someone in who wouldn't be recognized. They could move through there with very little trouble."
"Yeah," Barret said laughing. "Makes you wish old Seph here was in charge of Shinra." Everyone turned to him as the light went on in his head.
"Wait a minute," he said. "Why not send Seph in. He's the other Sephiroth's twin. He and Vincent can get in, get Aeris, and get out. Seph can provide the diversion while Vincent deals with gettin' Aeris!"
The idea sounded risky, but for the first time Cloud felt a glimmer of hope. "You two think you can pull it off?" he asked.
Vincent and Sephiroth exchanged glances. "I don't see why not. He's going to have to get a tux though," Vincent pointed out.
"Not a problem," Tifa told them. Just give me your measurements, and we're in business."
"Okay then," Cloud said. "We'll leave tomorrow after Tifa gets back. The rest of us should get some sleep."
Cloud headed back to his room in high spirits, despite the impeding danger he would have to deal with over the next few days. He had really wanted to be in the rescue, but he knew that he would be more useful at the excavation site. It would probably be the more dangerous situation of the two, but he didn't care. Now he had hope that Aeris would soon be back with them.
The next morning, Tifa came back early, several bags in tow. Seph tried on the tuxedo, feeling very uncomfortable despite the correct fit.
Cloud walked up, looking him over. "Looks like you'll fit in just fine at that party," he told him. "Is this what Sephiroth got?" he asked Tifa.
"The shopkeeper said he bought one just like it four weeks ago," she said.
"Good job Tifa," Cloud said, patting her on the back. "You better get ready. We're heading out pretty quick." He headed back to where the others were gathering their gear as well as equipment for the upcoming mission.
Tifa looked back at Seph and Vincent. "You two be careful," she told them. "I don't want a funeral when we come back."
"Yes mom," Vincent said, grinning.
Tifa just looked at him for a moment. "I liked you better when you were the strong silent type," she told him, following Cloud.
She found Barret packing several small explosives and charges into their separate containers. "Those for the site?" she asked.
"Yep," Barret said, putting another charge in the canister. "We set these off in the dig and bring the whole thing down on top of the Weapon. They'll have to start from scratch basically, and after that, Shinra'll have the media and people watching their every move."
"I take it you know how to do that without blowing us up as well," she said, smiling. He gave her a side glance before resuming packing. Even though everyone looked content, smiling and talking idly as they each gathered up their equipment, Tifa could feel the tenseness in the air like a taught string ready to snap. Cloud gathered his own stuff quietly, not speaking to anyone. Tifa took her own bag of climbing gear and walked over to him.
"How are you holding up?"
He looked up, startled, as if deep in thought. "Okay I guess. I'll be ready to get going though. I just hope we brought enough explosives."
"That's not what I meant," she told him.
"Oh, you mean about Aeris. We'll, I'm feeling a lot better now that Vincent and Seph are going after her. I just hope everyone comes out all right. So far, we haven't lost anyone, but fate always has a way of catching up to you, and the law of averages isn't favoring us that much."
Tifa shrugged. "I'm not to worried about Vincent and Seph. If you ask me, they have a cake walk compared to us."
Cloud nodded. "It's going to be rough, but it'll feel good blowing up all that dirt over Shinra's equipment." He looked up as Seph and Vincent walked up.
"We're headed out," Seph told him. "We want to get there early and get a good idea of the security."
"Okay, but be careful. After you get Aeris out, meet us at the site. If you time it right, you might get to watch us blow the bastard up."
"Don't worry about us," Vincent told them. "Just make sure you don't blow yourselves up."
"Not a problem," Tifa told him, holding up a remote control. "I'm holding the detonator, so neither Barret nor Cloud get ancy and send us all to kingdom come."
"Take care," Vincent said, he and Seph heading out into the underground tubes.
"You ready," Tifa asked Cloud, slinging her pack over her shoulder. He nodded again and did the same, everyone making out a different tunnel than Seph and Vincent.
The tubes that rested underneath the city had been left from the previous Midgar, and most were unused. They crisscrossed and climbed in a hundred different directions, but Cloud and the other's knew the region enough not to get lost. Without any trouble they were soon outside Midgar, heading towards the mithril mine that allowed them access to Fort Condor.
Four days later, as they boarded the Highwind atop the peak of the singular mountain, most of the apprehension had passed from their minds. Now they were soaring above the clouds, the Highwind in top condition from the continual care of its crew.
In a little over sixteen hours they were cruising above the middle continent, aiming for the crash point of the Ultimate Weapon. It was Cid who thought he noticed an indention in the horizon, a break in the trees. The ship slowed before landing on a high cliff near it. They would have to scale down the cliff side, but they had no choice to avoid being seen.
As they got out the ropes and other items they would need on the cliff wall as well as at the dig, they watched the Highwind lift off and start its wide hovering distance from the site. The face of the cliff was slightly sloped, so they did not have too hard a time scaling down it. Before long and without incident, they were in the jungles surrounding the area.
They trudged through the undergrowth, pressing on as Yuffie complained about the giant mosquitoes that followed them. Tifa hoped Cloud was leading them in the right direction, because she really had no idea. She had lost her sense of direction long ago.
Shinra's sensors would have picked up the Highwind had it flown within twenty miles of the dig, so they were going to walk the rest of the way in. Unfortunately, the jungle's thick undergrowth seriously hampered their speed.
"This shit just goes on forever!" Barret said after he had tripped over a uncovered root. "It's going to take us forever to get in to the site."
Cloud didn't look like he liked there situation either. "At this rate," he told them, "we'll be lucky if we get near the Weapon any sooner than Shinra's troops." He looked up at the foliage of the trees. They could all see that night was coming fast. The didn't feel that the day had gotten them that much closer to their objective, but they all knew they were tired. Tifa felt that if she walked on much further, her legs would fall out from under her.
"Cloud, we can't go on much further today. It's getting dark, and we're all tired," she told him. "Let's call it a day and hit the sack."
She could tell he didn't like the idea, but she could also tell the journey had taken its toll on him as well. Finally he consented, and they each set up their small tents where they had stopped. In the center of them all, they built a small fire to cook their dinner on. They had brought several items to make a soup with and did so that night, the aroma of meat and vegetables rising into the air.
After they had all eaten their fill, most of them headed in. Tifa had volunteered to take the first watch. She was tired, but not enough that she couldn't stay up until someone came to relieve her at midnight. She sat tending the fire, watching as it slowly turned the wood they had gathered to ashes.
As she laid another log on the fire she thought she heard a rustling in the undergrowth of to her left. She froze, listening intently, but she couldn't hear anything else.
"Youre just hearing things," she told herself. When she had been little, she had been deathly afraid of the dark. Growing up had taken away most of that fear, but not all.
Suddenly, she heard the rustling again, but from another direction. A strange clicking noise filled the air around her. In the darkness, she thought she could see the firelight reflecting in rather large, bulbous eyes. She backed away carefully from the fire.
Then she backed into something. She whirled around, a scream frozen in her throat. She breathed once before she realized it was Red.
"I think something's out there," she whispered to him.
"A lot of somethings," he told her, "unless my ears are wrong. Did you see one?"
She was about to answer when something flew out of the bushes, moving with unheard of speed towards her. She didn't have time to turn, Red instead rushing between her legs, sending her to the ground. He leapt at whatever had came out of the bushes as several more followed the first.
Tifa could see they were a large type of insect, something resembling a cross between a praying mantis and a grasshopper. Five more came into the firelight as she shouted for help. Red was too busy trying to dodge one's claws to notice he was being surrounded.
Tifa realized that if she didn't do something soon, he would be killed. She concentrated, feeling one of her materia in her glove start to warm up. Suddenly, several of the bugs erupted in flame. Red managed to use the diversion to jump out of the closing circle. One of the insects tried to follow, but its head imploded from Barret's rounds. He had waken first and was now firing into the group of insects.
Everyone else in the group joined the fight, and soon the insects were dashing for cover. As Cid chased off the last, the rest of the group checked each other over. As far as they could tell, they had been lucky enough to avoid any injury.
"What the hell were those things, and why'd they attack us?" Cid said, walking back.
"I don't know what they were," Red said, "but most likely they were hungry. I suspect that was a pack of them, and we were supposed to be their dinner tonight."
"Then why didn't we see any earlier today?" Barret asked.
"I suspect they are nocturnal," was Red's reply. "Regardless, I believe they are gone, and probably won't come back. A watch might not be such a bad idea though."
"I'll take it," Reeve offered. "If I fall asleep, my moogle'll make sure nothing happens. You all can get some rest."
No one argued, and soon they were all headed back to their tents. Tifa still felt a tinge of fear, but she felt more sleepy than anything right now. Her pillow and covers felt especially wonderful as she got into her sleeping bag. Her thoughts turned for a moment to Vincent and Seph, but soon she was asleep.
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