Read and finished the House of Hades. I haven’t read a Riordan in months and some books just had awesome writing styles, so I kinda had low expectations for this one, but damn- this was great!
The thing was fast-paced and a lot of things were happening all at once, plus, the character development, though little, was great! I hope Blood of Olympus will top this one…
Might do a review this week if I’m not bored..

Chapter 10: Flowers in Midgar

Well, wrote this chapter up when I was supposed to be reviewing for Physics. This is now officially more updated than the one in fanfiction.net
Anyway, A lot of Cloud and Aerith interactions here that I added, but it somehow seemed to fit (Tifa fans, pipe down! I’ll make a Tifa scene like this too when the opportunity comes!)

Chapter 10: Flowers in Midgar

Are you all right? Can you hear me?

A voice was in his head.

“Yeah…”

Back then, you could get by with just skinned knees…

                “Huh? Back then? What do you mean?”

Don’t worry about me. Just worry about yourself now.

“…I’ll try…”

Hello? Hello?

                The voice changed. It was now feminine. He could have sworn it sounded real…

“Hello?”

Cloud opened his eyes and blinked. A pair of emerald eyes looked back at him.

This is a dream. He thought. I died and went to heaven, huh? He stared at the face in front of his. It seemed kinda familiar… He was just inches from her…

The girl blushed and moved back. Cloud sat up, confused. And then, he realized that their faces were really close just then.  His cheeks reddened a bit too.

“You okay?” She asked as she turned her back to him. “This is a church in the sector 5 slums. You and a bunch of other things suddenly fell down here. It was a bit scary…”

“I came crashing down?” Cloud asked, trying to make sense of what he remembered last.

A red robot, fire, the president…

“The roof and the flower bed must have broken your fall- You’re lucky.” The girl said, bending down and lightly brushing the flowers with her hand.

“So this wasn’t heaven, huh?” Cloud muttered. “And these were your flowers? Sorry…”

“…Seriously, do guys have a speech about heaven prepared for when they fall down?” She mumbled as she turned to him. “Anyway, it’s all right. The flowers here are quite resilient because this is a sacred place. They say you can’t grow grass and flowers in Midgar. But for some reason, the flowers have no trouble blooming here. I love it here.”

The girl smiled as she said that.

“Oh, I remember you!” Cloud said in remembrance.

“Haha!” The girl laughed. “Fancy meeting again so soon huh?”

“You were that scary flower girl!” Cloud said without thinking. He prepared for the worst…

“So, you remembered, huh?” The girl simply smiled that sad smile he saw before.

“Ahh.., yeah.” Cloud responded, unable to think of an answer.

Was she really that girl from before? She seemed so… peaceful here. Like this was her world. With a pretty girl in a paradise within Midgar… Life could be worse, right?

“But, am I really that scary?” The girl pouted at him.

“Sheesh, you ruined the mood.” Cloud laughed a bit.

“Eh?”

“Nothing.” Cloud smiled bitterly again. What was he doing here? Thinking a girl was pretty…

“Hmm, but you were staring at me.” The girl mused.

“I-” Cloud looked at her, trying to find an excuse.

He looked closer. He couldn’t help it. She really seemed familiar, yet he knew he didn’t know her. But still…

“Hey, what are you doing!” she stood with her staff out, looking alarmed.

Cloud went out of his reverie. He didn’t realize that he was already reaching out to touch her face.

Damn! Now she’s swinging the staff down on me!

                “Hold up! I wasn’t gonna-”

THUMP.

Cloud heard a painful sound as he felt his consciousness slip away for the second time.

<O><O>

“Ugh, wha-?” Cloud muttered as he woke up. He felt traces of magic around him. Restore, maybe?

“Umm, let’s start again, you just fell down from the sky and was rescued by me.” A brown haired girl was kneeling beside him, explaining the situation. “You should be very grateful since you might have died otherwise. As proof of your gratitude, you can just treat me to the 500 gil eat-all-you-can here at sector 5.”
“Oh…” Cloud shook his head, trying to recall. “Thanks, I guess I could have died, but I don’t have too much, so maybe a 50 gil bread would- Hey!”

The girl looked anxiously at him and then the door. She was sweating now.

“You hit me with that staff of yours! THAT’s how I was knocked out!” Cloud cried indignantly.

“Ugh, I got found out!” The girl puffed her cheeks childishly.

Ugh, is she a kid? She’s bloody older than me!

“Oh well, see ya!” The girl said brightly as she stood to leave.

Cloud grabbed her hand to stop her.

“Hey now, you just attacked me, you know.” Cloud stared at her.

“Well, you were sexually harassing me!”

“Just when did I do that!?” Cloud put his face on his palm. He really had to clear this up.

“Before I knocked you out!” The girl retorted. “You suddenly tried to touch me. And not exactly on a place comfortable for a girl!” She added, putting her arms around herself protectively.

“I was trying to touch your face! Not- well, there!” Cloud began.

“That’s almost the same!” The girl said, though she seemed to relax a bit. “Besides, why would you do that in the first place? It was so sudden, any girl would do what I did.”

Any girl would run and scream, not hit the guy with a bleeding metal staff! This was getting nowhere.

Cloud sighed.

“I reached out to touch you because you seemed kind of familiar AND because I just woke up. Sorry, but I don’t go around holding girls like that. Cloud explained.

Her green eyes studied him.

“Even if they looked as pretty as you.” Cloud added, somewhat lamely.

The girl gave a start at that. Then, she suddenly laughed- no, giggled! Was she seriously 22?

“Oh, that was funny!” The girl said, trying to stifle her laughter.

What was funny with what he said? Girls are seriously confusing.

“Was there anything funny with what I said?” he frowned.

“Nothing, nothing!” the girl said, finally managing to stop laughing. “Thanks for the compliment, I guess. But you don’t have to say it with a face that serious and a voice that grouchy.”

The girl smiled again.

“Sorry. Was I really that bad?” Cloud scratched his head.

The girl’s smile faded a little.

“Yeah, you’re even like that right now.” She frowned now. “Would it kill you to smile or something?”

Cloud froze. Huh. I rarely smiled these days. He realized.

When was the last time he smiled before he saw Tifa back at Sector 7 a few days ago?

He shook his head.

“That’s probably just because of the fall.” He said stiffly now.

“I hope so.” The girl said in a flat voice now, with a flat expression to match. “I don’t want to be stuck talking to Mr. ‘Even if they looked as pretty as you’.

Cloud turned his head and hid a grin. That bad, huh? I’d laugh at me too.

They sat in silence for a while after that.

Then,

“Say,” Aerith started. “I feel like talking, are you up to it? After all, this is the second time we’ve met…”

“Well, I have nothing better to do right now and you did save my life. Sort of.” Cloud turned to her. “So, yeah, I guess.”
<O><O>

“Wait, just let me finish tending to these flowers.” Aerith said as she watered the ones on the center. “There, done!”

She sat next to the moody guy who was looking at the flowers silently.

“Say, do you have any materia, mister er- moody person?” Aerith asked playfully, taking a small white stone from her hair somewhere.

The guy looked annoyed.

“I have a name, you know.” The guy said. “It’s Cloud Strife. And I have some.”

Cloud raised his materia-equipped bangles. “Nowadays, you can find materia anywhere.”

“Yeah, but mine is special.” Aerith said, rolling the white stone on her hands. “It doesn’t do anything.”

“Huh. You probably just don’t know how to use it.” Cloud said carefully, looking like he was trying not to piss her off again.

She frowned. Was she really that scary?

“I used the Restore materia on you earlier, remember?” She looked at him. “It just… doesn’t do anything. I just feel safe having it since it was my mother’s.”

“I see.” Cloud said, then went silent again.

“Oh, and since you didn’t ask,” she said, somewhat miffed. He’s not your usual guy, but at least ask my name! “It’s Aerith. Aerith Gainsborough.”

“Er- the materia? It has a name?” Cloud asked stupidly.

“No, you idiot, it’s my name.” Now she was annoyed.

“I know, I know, I was just teasing.” Cloud yawned and stretched out his arms, looking at the sky through the hole he made. She caught a half-smile on his face.

Suddenly, he turned to face her again.

“Nice name you have there, Miss Aerith Gainsborough.” And winked.

She laughed a bit. So he did have a sort of a personality. There was just a hint of it, like he was suppressing it, but it was there.

“You, on the other hand, have a remarkably suitable one. So, Mister Strife,” she asked, taking the bait. “if I’m a flower girl, what things do you do?”

“Me? Hmm…” Cloud wondered. “I guess I do a little bit of everything.”

She glanced at the entrance of the church. A man was leaning against the church door. She couldn’t see his features from that far, but he was wearing a black business suit.

“A jack-of-all trades, huh?” Aerith asked. “A freelancer who does odd jobs?”

“I suppose you can call it that, though I lean more towards the mercenary work kind of things.” Cloud said, his voice starting to lace with tension now. So he noticed it, too.

“Well Mister Strife, have you ever been a bodyguard?” She looked at Cloud, trying to tell him to relax. It’d be bad if someone like him fought seriously here. “You do a little of everything, right?”

“Hmm, I probably have, at some point.” Cloud answered, only relaxing a bit as the man just stood there.

“Then I’ll hire you as one.” She said simply, trying to catch him off-guard. “Get me out of here and take me home.”

He finally relaxed enough to look at her with those blue eyes.

“I can do that for you, I guess.” He suddenly grinned mischievously. “But it’ll still cost you, you know?”

She smiled now. Oh, he’s enjoying it now, huh? Is that a challenge?

“Let’s see, how about I repay you with… one date?”

“Huh,” Cloud said thoughtfully. “well, I can hardly say no to that now, can I? But I have a condition.”

Pressing his advantage, huh? And I thought he had no personality… Aerith smirked. “Hmm, if it’s something perverted, you’ll be needing an ambulance in a bit.” Now what could it be….

His eyes widened at that.

“Nothing like that!” Cloud said indigantly.

“So, what is it? I’m listening…” Aerith smiled at him. Her heart was starting to race now. She hadn’t felt this way in a while.

“You start calling me Cloud.” He said, grinning at her.

“Only if you start calling me Aerith.” She answered back.

Cloud stood up and put his sword in its place behind his back. Heading towards the man in the suit, he turned his head around, looked at her in the eyes and said:

“Fair enough, Aerith.”

Chapter 9

So it’s now updated with the ones I’ve put on fanfiction.net. Damn, I’m still getting used to this interface in wordpress. Anyway, feel free to comment what you think of this stuff. (Once you read it, anyway..)

 

Chapter 9: Falling

“Why is the President Shin Ra here?” Tifa asked in an incredulous voice. She already knew the answer, though: It was just as Cloud said, a trap. But that raised the question of how. Even if they increased the security in all the reactors, for the president to be in the one they actually planned to bomb- it was too much of a coincidence. The only answer was-.

“A traitor.” Cloud said like the calm before the storm, tense and prepared.

“No way!” Barret shouted. “No one apart from AVALANCHE knew of the plans, no one!”

“But…” Tifa cut herself off. That only meant that one of them was the traitor.

The president seemed to be looking at them in amusement.

“Ahh.. So you must be that… What do you call it?” he asked with mocking eyes.

“AVALANCHE!” Barret said defiantly. “And don’t you forget it!”

Jeez Barret, no need to antagonize them further. But that was fine- distraction had its purposes. Now how to escape…

“Long time no see, President.” Cloud said, his eyes unblinking.

The president gave a start at that.

“Long time no see…? Ahh…” He looked at Cloud’s eyes. “You’re the one who quit SOLDIER and joined AVALANCHE. I knew you’d been exposed to Mako from your eyes.”

“Tell me, traitor, what was your name?”

“Cloud. Cloud Strife.”

“Forgive me for asking but I can’t be expected to remember every SOLDIER’s name”, the man said, as if not really interested. “Unless, of course, if you become another Sephiroth. Yes, he was brilliant, perhaps TOO brilliant..”

The president seemed to be muttering to himself more than talking to them but he got Cloud’s interest. Sephiroth? What was it about him? He disappeared years ago…

“Don’t give a damn ’bout none of that! This place’s goin’ up with a big BANG soon! Serves y’all right!” Barret seemed to have gotten over the confusion of the moment and was all fired up again.

President Shin Ra sighed.

“And such a waste of good fireworks, just to get rid of vermin like you…”

“VERMIN!? That’s all you can say…VERMIN!” Barret was now enraged. Not good. “Y’all Shinra’re the VERMIN, killing the planet! And that makes you King VERMIN! So shu’up jackass!”

“You are beginning to bore me.” He did sound bored. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner I must attend. I’ve arranged a playmate for you all, though, so don’t worry.”

“Dinner!?” Barret exclaimed, incredulous, as the president started boarding his chopper. He aimed at the president. “I ain’t even started with-”

“Tch.” Cloud muttered in distaste as he casted an intense flame to counter the beam headed towards Barret.

“What’re you playing at!?” Barret glared at Cloud. “I almost had him!”

“Idiot. That THING almost had you.” Cloud corrected, pointing at what seemed to be a red robot with fans and vents around its body.

“What is that thing?” Tifa shouted as she dodged a barrage of bullets from the robot.

“Meet AIRBUSTER, a techno-soldier!” The president’s voice seemed to be amplified. “ Our Weapon Development Department created him. I’m sure the data he’ll extract from your dead bodies will be of great use to us in future experiments. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

“This is from SOLDIER?” Tifa looked incredulous as she watched the helicopter ride away on the night.

“No way! It’s just a machine!” Cloud said angrily.

“In any case, we have to do something about it!” Barret ran on the platforms, narrowly avoiding a another laser.

Well, it seems that he talks sense sometimes. But…

“SOLDIER? This thing? It’s too early for you to be challenging a real SOLDIER!” Cloud said as he jumped, his mako enhanced body helping him reach the Airbuster’s height.

For those few seconds, it seemed that time slowed down. The robot’s arm was glowing and it was absorbing air slowly. Air compression?

Cloud brought up his bangles and crossed them, green and blue materia pulsing in unison ever so slowly…

Bolt…” Cloud whispered. “ALL!”

Time sped up.

A hundred lightning bolts came from all directions and targeted the Airbuster. Originally a technique for attacking multiple enemies, Cloud modified the process a bit, allowing a focused attack to the enemy.

“Hah!” Cloud spun as he got down.

“Tss.. Show-off.” Barret snickered.

“Got a problem?” Cloud glared.

“Stop!” Tifa said in a commanding voice. “It’s still not over.”

Cloud looked over his shoulder and saw the robot levitating a bit. Damaged but definitely far from destroyed.

“Well, it looks like it won’t be able to fly up now.” Cloud pointed at the fried parts. “Let’s surround it. I’ll go around!”

Surrounded in front and behind, the robot had nowhere to go.

Self-destruct sequence activate

Tifa was like a human weapon, sending a flurry of kicks and punches which passed through the metal and backed up as Barret fired a Big Shot.

Seriously, what was Tifa doing all this years? Cloud thought, incredulous. In any case, time to wrap this up!

“Guys, move back!” Cloud said as his blue eyes glowed in sync with the area around his hands and the Buster Sword.

“Heehhhhh” Cloud groaned for a moment as the mako gathered in his arms. He let it burst. “Cross Slash!”

The Airbuster exploded as a fiery glow of a cross remained on the air, taking the parts of the platform around it.

“Damn!” Cloud cursed. Cross Slash didn’t make things explode.

“Hey, you all right!?” Barret shouted as Cloud held on the edge of the destroyed platform.

He could have made it but another explosion started.

“The bomb! We took too long!” Tifa moaned.

Barret’s eyes met his. Cloud nodded.

“It’s gonna blow, let’s go Tifa.” Barret said quietly.

“But Cloud… Barret, can’t you do something?” Tifa looked at Cloud. Damn, his hands were slipping.

“Not a damn thing.” Barret growled. “Hey, you gonna be alright?”

“Don’t worry about me, idiots.” Cloud said grimly. “Worry about yourselves! I’ll be fine.”

“Cloud! Please don’t die! You can’t die! There’s still so much I want to tell you!” Tifa had tears on her eyes.

“I know, Tifa…” Cloud smiled at her. Then he glared at Barret. “But, will you guys please stop talking like this is the end? It’s making me more bloody nervous! It’s irritating!”

“Okay. Sorry about this.” Barret said gruffly as he carried Tifa into the other building to safety. Odd, he sounded sincere…

                The platform was starting to get too hard to hold. Everything around was already ablaze.

                He could let go and fall or get his hand burned and STILL fall.

                “No brainer!” Cloud said mockingly as his hands let go.

                Hero, huh?

Chapter 8

I added quite a bit of stuff here, though the monster names are canon. I think.

 

Chapter 8: It’s a Trap!!!

                “Yaah?” Barret asked Cloud as he jumped, snickering.

                “Oh, shut up.” Cloud said tightly. “Look around you, we’re in no position to be making jokes yet.”

                Sheesh! You say one thing… Barret thought. That guy really can’t take a joke huh.

                He was right, though, this was no time for games. He walked quietly behind Cloud and Tifa, checking the rear every so often.

                “Where are we?” Tifa asked, frowning slightly on the slime-covered walls.

                “Midgar underground railway system.” Cloud said. “We’re still near sector 5, we just overshot it a bit.”

                How did Cloud know that? Even the sector area they were in itself! He thought only grunts and low Shin Ra infantry were made to go here…

                “Umm, Cloud, how do you know that?” Tifa asked his unvoiced question.

                Cloud stopped for a moment and frowned, as if trying to remember something. Then-

                “SOLDIER work. I don’t exactly remember but I think we were made to put down a monster infestation here.” Cloud said hesitantly.

                Barret gulped. A friggin’ INFESTATION? Here? And Midgarders just take the trains passing here? Damn, that’s freaky.

                “Don’t worry,” Cloud added, probably from seeing their faces. “It’s been put down now, only a few mutations remain…”

                “Mutations?” Barret asked in a decidedly uncomfortable voice. He wasn’t scared, just… uneasy, that’s all… “What kind?”

                “I dunno, animals, usually?” Cloud said, resuming his pace. “Shin Ra experiments a lot.”

                “Erm, Cloud?” Tifa asked in a voice that could only be afraid. She was looking above them. “Were there scorpions there?”

                “Yeah, Grashtrikes*, we called them.” Cloud said absently, looking for something. “The mutation hives actually consisted mostly of them.”

                Barret saw what Tifa was looking at.

                “Blue-green scorpions?” Barret asked, panic starting to lace his voice. There must be hundreds of those things!

                Cloud stopped.

                “How do you-?” He began then stopped, staring at the ceiling. They were stirring.

                “Whatever you do, don’t turn on your lights.” Cloud said, turning off his own light stick.

                They were plunged in darkness.

                “They can’t see well without light and might sleep again.” Cloud explained, moving faster now.

                Barret grabbed Tifa and followed after the footsteps.

                He was sure he heard a few go down behind him already. But it’ll be all right as long as he-

                “Oh, shit.” Barret swore. He stepped on something.

                Then, the world seemed to explode with scorpions.

                “Run!” Cloud shouted, suddenly encased with a green glow.

                He didn’t need telling twice. He carried Tifa on his back, with her, sending wisps of fire on the scorpions on front of them. Behind him, Cloud was going all out while running backwards, columns of flame incinerating the grashtrikes behind them.

                “Damn bloody scorpions!” Cloud swore as he sent an arc of flame to the jumping scorpions.

                JUMPING?

                “Shit, shit, shit…” Barret muttered like a litany. “There’re too many!”

                “Of course!” Cloud shouted. “We stumbled on a small hive pocket!”  

                “A SMALL hive pocket?” Barret exclaimed, incredulous. “How’d hell did you manage to bring down a whole bloody infestation?”

                “Forget that!” Cloud said. “We’re near the chute! I can block them from there.”

                Barret ran. They lost the monsters for a minute but he could still hear them following.

                “Here!” Cloud said triumphantly as they reached a laser barred doorway.

                “And how” Tifa asked. “exactly is this going to help us? We’re on the other side as well!”

                Cloud pointed at a small chute on the ground.

                “That’s one damn tiny hole!” Barret said, looking down. How was he going to fit here!? “You tellin’ me to squeeze into that to get under the Plate? No, way!”

“Well,” Cloud said scathingly. “You could try the mercies of the grashtrikes. I could kill them all here but the explosions’d probably alert Shin Ra to our presence. So, you with us?”

“Fine.” Barret spat. “But damn, man, that thing gives me the chills! You guys go along first.”

A leader always stays behind!

“Hurry!” Barret said as Tifa was jumping down. They were here! “I can see them aready!”

Ten seconds before they reach him. He held the cover of the chute and prepared to jump. He pointed his new gun-arm at them.

“See ‘ya suckers!” Barret fired then jumped, closing the hatch.

<O><O>

“Rocket Launchers.” Cloud explained. “that’s how we destroyed the infestation before.”

It’s been two minutes since they’d escaped the grashtrikes. He wondered why a SOLDIER like him had to put the infestation down- it was a job for grunts!

They ran faster since the regular rounds for the reactor were only two hours away.

The sooner I finish this, the better. Once we’re done, I’m outta here!

They met up with Jessie and the others who apologized for the train fiasco. It seemed that there were problems on their IDs that Jessie forgot to address…

He went to the elevator with Tifa and Barret, who was still grumbling about the grashtrike incident. Idiot.

Cloud sighed and straightened. He looked at the other two and began.

“We’re in the reactor now. Security here is way tighter because of the insect incident and probably even more since we blew up the Sector 1 reactor yesterday-”

“Hell yeah!” Barret interrupted.

Cloud gave him a piercing look.

“Uh, sorry.” He muttered. “Continue.”

“The rocket launchers used before are now here as security details, always fully armed and fully automated.” He looked at each of them to see if they understood the implications.

“We can’t make it without causing a commotion.” Tifa said.

“We have to get in by stealth since even if we somehow destroy the missiles, the cameras making them automated would show us to Shin Ra and bring reinforcements. We’ll be surrounded in no time.” Barret said with interest, checking their D-map** of the reactor.

Interesting. They were smarter than he thought. Even without him, they could probably pull this off, it would just take longer.

Cloud nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” Barret’s eyes narrowed.

“Because the plan was for us to go through here.” Cloud pointed at a spot on the D-map. “From here, there is a line of blind spots that we could follow and the only place we’d be seen is on the reactor itself, from where they wouldn’t be able to stop us anyway and the recordings’d just blow off at the same time as the reactor.”

“I see.” Barret said, still studying the D-map.

The elevator stopped. Cloud pressed close again before the doors’d open. There was a camera right outside, he had to tell them the plan first.

“We’ll go through this room.” Cloud said, pointing at the rest room sign on the D-map. “No cameras inside and the way up to the reactor is clear except for one or two cameras.”

“But how do we get there?” Tifa asked shrewdly. “There’s too many areas from the elevator to there.”

“We go up.” Barret said quietly. “Up the elevator and then the vents until the bathroom.”

This guy… He acted roughly most of the time but when he thinks…

Barret pressed the vent area and the holographic view of the floor zoomed in on the vents.

“The other paths all lead to rooms with cameras and the one leading directly to the reactor core has lasers blocking the way.” Barret continued. “Of course, I’m assuming that’s the plan, Cloud?”

Cloud nodded.

“A thing you need to remember, though, the missile launchers can go into mobile mode.”

Barret’s eyes widened.

“Then how do you propose to get past the two of them remaining on the way?” he asked.

“Bait.” Tifa said. “They won’t fire unless they focus on something identified as an enemy. I’ll run fast enough to distract it and it’ll follow an unidentified movement then you guys take it from behind and take it down before it fires.”

Cloud smiled grimly. If there were more of these guys, they might actually take down Shin Ra.

“Just one thing wrong.” Cloud said. “I’ll be the bait.”

“No.” Tifa argued. “Jessie said the robot focuses on unauthorized weapons first. You’re not fast enough and it’ll attack the second it sees your sword.”

“But, Tifa, the danger-” Cloud interrupted.

“No.” Tifa said calmly.

“I could be-” Barret complained.

“No.” Tifa said. “you’re even slower than Cloud and you have a gun-arm.”

Tifa opened the elevator from above and started going up. Cloud sighed. So much for that.

“Fine.” Cloud said. “Just be careful.”

Tifa looked down on them and said in a dead serious voice:

“I’m always careful.”

<O><O>

Something’s wrong Cloud thought as they raced to the reactor core. The Rocket Launcher didn’t attack or move. It was almost like it was turned off.

Except that the red light blinking said otherwise.

Cloud jumped down the platform to the core area. The other two followed silently.

The only opponents they faced were Blugus*- mutated flying fishes which actually flew. There was even one big Blugu there. Chuse Tanks which were flying seahorses and a few Grashtrikes. No Shin Ra soldiers or weapons. Something was wrong- reactors weren’t just that empty…

“Argh!” Cloud screamed, a blinding pain assaulting his head.

Tifa was kneeling beside a man bloodied. It was her father and he was dead. She was screaming, “Papa…Sephiroth!? Sephiroth did this to you didn’t he!? Sephiroth… SOLDIER… Mako Reactors… Shin Ra… Everything! I hate them all!”

“Cloud?” Tifa’s voice said. “Are you all right?”

“Damn man, get a hold of yourself!” Barret’s voice said.

He opened his eyes. He was lying on the ground, still on the reactor.

“Tifa-” Cloud began.

“Mm?”

He looked at her. She didn’t need reminding about that. He stood up.

“I- nothing. Forget it. Let’s hurry!” Cloud

“All done!” Barret said, going back to them. “Enjoyed your sleep?”

“It was only for a minute!” Tifa scolded.

Cloud shook his head.

“Only an hour ‘til the rounds begin and ten minutes ‘til the reactor blows.” Cloud muttered. “Let’s run!”

They climbed up the ladder and ran to the raised platforms above the reactor.

“What about Jessie and the others?” Tifa asked Barret as they ran.

“They’re already out. I told them to go once I’d set the bomb.” Barret said, holding up his phone.

“Come on…” Cloud said tightly. He had a bad feeling about this… No security bots? Easy access in and out? Something was wrong…

“This way!” Barret yelled as they reached the platforms outside. The winds whipped up Barret’s jacket as they ran across.

“Careful now,” Cloud said. They weren’t very high but it was high enough for them to break their neck if they fell…

The sound of footsteps from the door in front stopped them.

“Shin Ra soldiers?” Barret asked in confusion. “What’s going on!?”

They ran to the other side but soldiers were piling up there as well. Too many for a guard patrol. A helicopter came and hovered in front of the doorway they just went through, blocking all escape paths. A big man in a red suit came out of the chopper and walked. He was a familiar man.

“President… President Shin Ra!?” Barret looked incredulous. “What’s going on here!?”

Cloud put his hand on his sword. This’d be a dangerous battle.

“A trap.” Cloud said grimly. “It was all a trap.”