Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Leaving

“Good morning Cloud!” a voice said brightly.

“Huh?” Cloud said groggily.

“C’mon, we’re gonna be busy today!” The voice continued. He felt something shove him.

“Just five more minutes…” Cloud muttered sleepily.

“Fine.” The voice became irritated. “Suffer the consequences!”

That woke him up. He rolled away from the voice just in time to avoid a punch from Tifa.

Like hell he would let himself be hit by that thing again! He already experienced it once and it wasn’t a nice thought, knowing your childhood friend could beat the crap out of you whenever she wanted. It was a good thing he was from SOLDIER though. She could never hit him again, not after the first time.

He opened his eyes and looked at his surroundings. The others were preparing for the mission- The Sector 5 reactor. Barret was complaining about no breakfast. Tch, can’t stand a little while with no food- no wonder they needed people like him…

20 minutes later, they were all ready, equipment and weapons at hand. Cloud picked up his Buster Sword and placed it on his back.

Barret took charge.

“Our next target’s the Sector 5 Reactor. Head for the station first, I’ll fill you in on the train.” Barret said calmly. “Move out!”

The others ran. Cloud made to follow them but Barret stopped him.

“Uh..” Barret looked uncomfortable.

“What?” Cloud said curtly. The next mission was waiting.

“The thing is… I don’t really know how to use Materia! I’ll give you that Materia you found. Just teach me how to use it!” He said in a rush. It was fun seeing his face go red from embarssment.

Cloud sighed. He had to teach him, though. He wouldn’t survive otherwise.

“Let’s talk on the way, it’s not that hard.” Cloud made for the door.

“Yes, let’s go!” Tifa said.

Wait, she was going? That was dangerous!

“I’m going.” Tifa said in a voice that said you couldn’t argue. “Even if I have to break your bones one by one, I’m going this time.”

Cloud sighed. Barret looked at him sympathetically.

“Fine, let’s go!” Cloud agreed reluctantly.

<O><O>

“And then you just concentrate, using the materia as a sort of channeling device. It kinda bridges the gap between you and what you want to do so long as it’s within the scope of that materia.” Cloud finished. He explained it well, if he did say so himself.

Barret did not look enlightened though.

“What?” Barret asked. “What was with that ‘It’s not that tough’ crap? I don’t get it!”

“You have to.” Cloud insisted. “We’d face dangerous enemies later and I don’t want the rest of us dying just because you don’t know how to use materia.”

Surprisingly, Barret seemed ashamed and kept quiet.

Now what will I do? Cloud wondered.

“Cloud, you just handle the materia for now, okay?” Tifa intervened, giving him a dirty look. “Barret will be able to, eventually- it’s instinctive once he does it once.”

Now Tifa was angry. What did he do?

Cloud sighed.

“Fine.” Cloud said. “But I’m not helping him if he gets in trouble because of that.”

“Marlene,” Tifa said, ignoring him completely “you watch the store while we’re gone, okay?”

“All right, good luck!” The little girl said with a wave as they went out of the 7th Heaven.

Does she know where they were going? Nah, probably not. Barret’d probably not like his little girl to worry about them and it’s just as well!

Damn you Strife, Cloud chided himself. You’re getting sentimental, get a hold of yourself! You were SOLDIER!

“Okay, now that we’re out here, let’s go to the shops- we need better equipment if we’re going there since there’d be tighter security now.” Barret said in an annoying commanding voice. “Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, you go ahead and make sure we won’t get no trouble on the way there.”

“Got it,” Jessie answered “we’ll be waiting in the train. Biggs, Wedge, let’s go!”

“Oh Cloud, that reminds me,” Tifa exclaimed suddenly. “The man in the weapon shop wants to see you.”

“Well, best not keep him waiting, right?” Cloud asked. “You go to the materia shop- I’ll catch up in a few.”

Cloud walked to the weapon shop quietly. Would the man be up? It was too early in the morning- the sun had barely risen. But Cloud told him to have them ready so he’s probably awake.

If not, Cloud thought. I’ll give him the waking of a lifetime!

The light inside was open when Cloud knocked on the door and opened it.

“There you are!”the old man said gruffly. “I’ve got to tell you, it was hard getting these-”

“I don’t care.” Cloud cut him off. “Do you have them or not?”

The man surveyed Cloud.

“I have them.” He said quietly. “These were the best I could get in short notice- better than what’s in Sector 7, at least.”

He handed Cloud a brown bag with the bangles inside.

“What are they?” Cloud asked, checking them absentmindedly. They weren’t much, sure, but they were better than what he and the others had for now. How did he get by before on such basic equipment?

“Titan bangles.” The shopkeeper answered. “Now, for my money. They’re 280 gil each.”

“Here.” Cloud forked over the money.

As he turned to leave, the shopkeeper stopped him.

“What?” Cloud asked, annoyed. He really had to be going.

“Be mindful of how you treat people, boy.” The man said sharply. “You’ll be using them to fight Shin Ra, yes? So I was planning to give them for free but the way you were changed my mind.”

Why would the man say that? They weren’t friends. He picked up his Buster Sword and pointed it at the man.

“I don’t need charity, old man.” Cloud said in a dangerous voice. “I was SOLDIER and you better remember that!”

He murmured his apology, looking dissatisfied but cowed. Good. They’re below me, I shouldn’t make them think of me as a friend.

Cloud left the store, his new bangles around his wrist and the others on the leather satchel he carried.

“What’s taking them so long?” Cloud wondered, looking at the sky. Dawn was breaking and the sky was slowly turning the shade of blue that his eyes were. He leaned on the wall of the weapon shop, keeping his eyes on their meeting place. He would wait. He would…

“Cloud!” he heard Tifa’s voice.

I slept? He opened his eyes. The sky was just a bit brighter. Maybe 10 minutes?

“Come on sleepyhead, we have a mission to do!” Barret barked.

Damn. He slept! Only for a few minutes, yes, but still! He was a SOLDIER 1st Class, this shouldn’t have happened! Damn it, he was getting soft!

He stood straight.

“What did you guys get?” he looked at them. They weren’t carrying anything. No, wait, Barret’s gun-arm looked different. It wasn’t the old gatling gun.

“Huh,” he observed. “That’s what took you guys so long.”

“Yep.” Barret said proudly. “This baby’ll kick Shin Ra’s asses out to the sky. Or blow them off, whatever.”

“What about you, Tifa?” Cloud asked. She was still wearing her regular battle leather gloves. As if they weren’t enough when it came to Tifa.

“Materia.” She said simply, holding out 3 emerald green stones. A Restore, a Fire and an Ice. “Take only one, Cloud!”

Cloud took fire. He already had the others equipped on his gear.

“Thanks.” he said. “What about Barret?”

“He already has 2. And he knows how to use them.” Tifa said- was that smugness in her tone? “I taught him.”

Oh yeah, definitely smug. Well, whatever.

He changed the topic.

“Here.” he said as he removed the gear. “Titan bangles for the two of you.”

Tifa smiled as she put them on. Of course. Things like those would be important to her fighting style.

“Thanks.” Barret said gruffly.

Wait, what was that on his gun-arm? Blue materia? Which one? And how did he get that?

His questions must have showed on his face as Tifa explained.

Elemental” she said. “paired with Fire. The shopkeeper had them equipped for free on the new weapon. Apparently, he didn’t know what to do with them as he doesn’t really go out to fight so he just gave them to Barret.”

Interesting. That gun-arm’s more dangerous than I thought. It’d certainly blow regular Shin Ra infantry caught unguarded.

Of course, I have my own trump card. Cloud thought, holding the sapphire blue stone on his pocket.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Cloud asked them.

“For you to stop staring at my gun-arm.” Barret said, grinning.

Tifa laughed. Cloud flushed.

“Let’s go then!” He walked to the train station.

Behind him, he heard Tifa giggle.

<O><O>

“Hey guys!” Jessie’s voice said.

Cloud looked around the train but she wasn’t there. Then, he saw one of the train conductors smile.

He ignored her and moved with Barret and the others in the train. Barret was telling them something but he wasn’t listening. He looked out and saw the Midgar slums around him.

Really, Shin Ra messed things up in Midgar. They ought to be pulled down but he wasn’t doing that- he was no hero.

Say Cloud, do you think I was a hero? A voice came unbidden into his mind. Who was that? I know him. A hero… He was…

*BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!!!!! BRIIIIIIIIIIINGGGGGG! BRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGG!!!*

Cloud stood up. Funny, he couldn’t remember sitting down. A red light was blaring. The ID check zone! It found their fake IDs!! Shit!

Type A Security Alert!! Unidentified passengers confirmed… A searchof all cars will be conducted! Repeat!! Type A Security Alert!! Unidentified passengers confirmed… A search of all cars will be conducted!!!

The intercom blared.

UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS LOCATED IN CAR#1! PREPARING FOR LOCKDOWN!

“Let’s go!” Barret yelled. “Keep it up!”

CAR#1 LOCKED DOWN! UPGRADING TO LEVEL 2 WARNING!

“Hurry!” Biggs said.

“They’re gonna lock the door, sir!” Wedge said.

“Just run!” Jessie yelled. “We’re changing to plan 2!”

UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGERS LOCATED IN CAR#2! PREPARING FOR LOCKDOWN!

They ran.

CAR#2 LOCKED DOWN! UPGRADING TO LEVEL 3 WARNING!

“Awright! We’re clear!” Barret hooted.

“Not yet,” Jessie said grimly. “They’re starting another check. If we’re caught, we’re done for! But, don’t worry. If we move up the train, car by car, we should get past it!”

Unidentified Passengers: Moving to front of Train Currently tracking location.

“Run to car 4!” Cloud growled at the others.

CAR#3 LOCKED DOWN! UPGRADING TO LEVEL 4 WARNING!

“Almost…” Biggs muttered.

They made it to the car before the first.

CAR#4 LOCKED DOWN! UPGRADING TO MAXIMUM SECURITY ALERT!

“All right!! We made it!” Barret yelled triumphantly. “Yo!! This way!! Let’s go!! We’re gonna dive outta here!!”

Barret pointed at the door. Wait, they were jumping off the train when it’s on alert? It was moving twice as fast!

“Scary, huh.” Tifa muttered to Cloud.

“Too late to be saying that now.” Cloud muttered back. “Why’d you come along anyway?”

“Because…” Tifa looked uncomfortable. “I-”

“Hey, you two!” Barret screamed at them. “There ain’t no time for that!”

Tifa blushed.

“Right, I’ve made up my mind!” she said. “Watch closely.”

She stood at the edge, her back outside and somersaulted backwards, much as he did before. But this was different!

“Tifa!” He looked out and saw her land and roll, minimizing the impact.

He sighed then looked at Barret.

“You don’t care if I go first?”

“A leader always stays till the end.” Barret grinned. “Don’t worry ’bout me, just go! Yo! Don’t go gettin’ your spikey-ass hurt! It’s only the beginnin’ of the mission! Later! You take care of the rest!”

Cloud looked out. Too risky to roll with a sword behind him. He drew out his sword and channeled into his ice materia for about 10 seconds. It didn’t have to be long, just a thin layer of ice to break his fall… A SOLDIER fears nothing!

“Yaaaahhh!” He jumped.

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