Chapter 4

My chapters are getting longer, see??

Chapter 4: To 7th Heaven

                “Cloud never came…” Wedge said sadly.

                “Cloud… Wonder if he was killed?” Biggs asked worriedly.

                “No way!” Barret replied. “A tough guy like that, there’s no way he was killed!” There was no point in worrying for that one. He could handle himself. Barret hated to admit it, but in himself, he knew that the Ex-SOLDIER was stronger than him by a fair margin. He wasn’t as strong as he expected of a first class, maybe, but people like Sephiroth were legends, anyhow. A group of people only a bit weaker than Cloud as the enemies of AVALANCHE would be dangerous.

                But I’ll take them all down. Until Shin Ra doesn’t exist anymore!

                “Cloud…” Jessie muttered.

                Barret glanced at her. Poor Jessie. She seemed to have taken a liking to the guy after he saved her back in the reactor. Barret was surprised with that too. He wouldn’t have thought a person like him to help someone unselfishly just like that. Were all people from SOLDIER like that? It was worrying. Fighting guys with decency would be harder than if they were all just inhuman bastards…

                “Say,” Biggs interrupted his thoughts. “d’you think Cloud’s gonna fight ‘til the end for AVALANCHE?”

                A guy like that? He’s decent but not unselfish. But he was the best in them. If he joined… But he wouldn’t. Barret suddenly felt irritated.

                “The hell would I know!?? Hmph! If you all weren’t such screw-ups…”

                Everyone went quiet for a moment, then…

                “Hey Barret,” Wedge asked. “What about our pay?”

                He lost it. He slammed his gun-arm on a nearby crate and glared at Wedge lightly. He couldn’t do a fierce glare, it went against his otherwise peaceful demeanor.

                “Uh, nothing, sorry…” Wedge apologized.

                After a few minutes of peace, he heard a familiar voice.

                “Aaah…” Cloud said through the door as he opened it. From the looks of it, the idiot came from the ceiling!

                “What the hell did you do, jump on the train!?” Barret barked as a greeting. He was glad the boy was alive, though.

                “Cloud!” the trio exclaimed in unison, rushing at him like little kids.

                Thinking of them as boys and girls… I’m only 35! He thought.

                Cloud looked at Barret.

                “Yeah, Shin Ra troops chased me so I couldn’t come to the station.” Cloud explained. Then, in a cocky tone, he added. “Looks like I’m a little late.”

                Forget that he was worried about Cloud! The guy was alive and apparently alright if he could be this arrogant!

                “You’re damn right you’re late! Come, waltzin’ in here and making a big scene…” Barret glared.

                The blond ex-SOLDIER, as usual, acted cool. “It’s no big deal, just what I always do.”

                “Shit! Making everyone worried like that…” Barret slammed his gun-arm again. “You don’t give a damn ‘bout no one but yourself!”

                “You were worried about me!?” Cloud looked taken aback and he actually sounded surprised. The Ex-SOLDIER opened his mouth as if to answer and then closed it again. He appeared, for the first time, at a loss for words.

                Well, what did he expect? He was a part of the team! He might be a jerk but as long as he was a part of his team, then Barret would worry about him. He never wanted to lose anyone he was responsible for again.

                “Wha? I didn’t say nothin’ like that!” Barret answered. “I’m taking it outta your money, hot stuff!”

                He turned to everyone.

                “Wake up! We’re movin’ out so follow me!”

                Cloud let Barret and the other three pass through first.

                “Hey Cloud, you were great back there!” Wedge said.

                “Heh heh, we’ll do even better next time!” Biggs grinned at him.

                “Be careful, I’ll shut this.” Jessie said, shutting the door from where Cloud came from. “Oh Cloud, your face is pitch black!”

                She wiped his face with a handkerchief. Cloud felt uncomfortable, he wasn’t used to this. He must have showed it as Jessie suddenly blushed and took her handkerchief away from his face.

                “There you go!” she said. “Say, thanks for helping me back at the reactor!”

                After thanking him, she went through the door. Checking the compartment a last time, he followed.

<O><O>

                Cloud was a bit shaken by the compartment scene. That they’d be worried about him! That was surprising. Even Barret seemed a bit worried though pissed off at him as well. Biggs and Wedge looked at him with eyes that he hadn’t seen in a long, long time. More than a decade, in fact.

                I used to look that way when I talked about Sephiroth. Cloud realized. They were idolizing me?

                And Jessie seemed to blush near him for whatever reason. She was probably just embarrassed by what happened in the reactor a while ago.

                Anyhow, this was troubling. He should finish this up as soon as possible and move on. He was a lone wolf, and he couldn’t take care of anyone but himself.

                The conductor’s voice greeted Cloud as he went through the door.

                LAST TRAIN OUT OF SECTOR 8 STATION. NEXT STOP IS SECTOR 7, TRAIN GRAVEYARD. ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL IS 12:23 AM, MST (MIDGAR STANDARD TIME)

                He looked around. The other passengers were crowding around the door, trying to go to different compartments as Barret gave them a menacing glare. Cloud shook his head. Seriously, there’s no use trying to be inconspicuous with this guy around. It’s a wonder that AVALANCHE still hasn’t been caught yet. Then again, this WAS their first large-scale mission.

                Cloud didn’t know what to do so he looked at the digital map of the Midgar Railing System on the wall that Jessie was looking at.

                “Hey, Cloud. You want to look at this with me? It’s a map of the Midgar Railing System. Let’s look at it together. I’ll explain it to you. I like this kinda stuff. Bombs and monitors…you know, flashy stuff. Okay, it’s about to start. This is a complete model of city of Midgar. It’s about 1/10000 scale. The top plate is about 50 meters above ground. A main support structure holds the plate up in the center, and there are other support structures built in each section…” Jessie continued speaking. Her eyes were sparkling. She was really into this stuff, isn’t she?

                She lowered her voice. “The No. 1 Reactor we blew up was in the northern section. There’s also No. 2 all the way to No. 8. Together, they provide Midgar with electricity.”

                Her expression suddenly went sad and she looked at him. “Each town used to have a name but no one in Midgar remembers them. So instead, we refer to them by numbered sectors. That’s the kind of place this is.”

                He felt uncomfortable so he studied the Map. The train route spiraled around the main structure and there were ID sensors at every checkpoint. They were using fake IDs, of course. Barret alone probably was enough cause for suspicion, anyhow.

                A red light suddenly bathed the train. They were at the checkpoint.

                “…anyhow, we’re almost back now. That’s a relief.” Jessie finished. Seriously, long speech.

                Cloud turned to Barret who was unusually quiet and staring at the plates above.

                “Look, you can see the surface now… This city don’t have no day or night. If that plate weren’t there… We could see the sky.” Barret muttered.

                “A floating city, huh. Pretty unsettling scenery…” Cloud said thoughtfully.

                Barret turned around in surprise.

                “Huh. Never expected ‘ta hear that from someone like you- you’re jus’ full of surprises.” Barret said. “The upper world… The city on a plate… It’s because of that goddam’ pizza that the people below are sufferin’!!!  And the city below is full of polluted air! On toppa that, the reactors keep drainin’ up all the energy!”

                Cloud was now wondering about it. This wasn’t his first time in Midgar…

                “Then why doesn’t everyone move onto the plate?” He asked Barret.

                “I dunno. Maybe coz’ they got no money…” Barret went silent for a moment. “Or maybe.. because they love their land no matter how polluted it gets…”

                “I know… No one lives in the slums just because they want to. It’s like this train. It can’t run anywhere except where its rails take it…” Cloud replied. Well, that was unusually thoughtful of him. What brought that on..??

                They finally reached the station.

                “Yo!!” Barret shouted. “Get over here, all’ya!! This mission was a success. But don’t get lazy now. The hard part’s still to come! Don’t y’all be scared of that explosion! ‘Cause the next one’s gonna be bigger than that! Meet back at the hideout!! Move out!”

                Cloud walked out, taking in the views as he went on.  This was where he met Tifa again. Why was he out here again? He was looking for mercenary work, right? But where was he before that?

                His thoughts were interrupted when he reached the bar. Barret scared the customers away to make room for them.

                “OK, go on ahead!” Barret said.

                Cloud read the sign above the door. 7th Heaven! A piece of heaven in Sector 7! Cloud remembered Tifa telling him about the carpenter who made it. Apparently, a guy from SOLDIER gave the name. Well, he didn’t really say that but he had sky blue eyes, so yeah…

                Cloud entered with Barret behind him.

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