The end of Shinra...a prelude to the final battle...
Raieyana saw the Airship floating above Costa Del Sol. Somehow, its appearance was all she needed to go that extra distance. She realized that people were staring at her. (I'm not exactly decked out in vacation clothes, but, then again, I'm not exactly on vacation.) She hesitated in front of the villa door. (Knock, or don't knock? I'm not a stranger...) She opened the door.
"Hey, Cid, is the Highwind ready now?" asked Cloud, his back to the door. "Cid? What's with y--" He turned around. "Raieyana?" he whispered. He ran to her side and gently carried her to the couch. "What the hell happened to you?"
"What is it, Cloud?" asked Legolas. "Oh my--" He ran into the next room. "Everyone...it's Raieyana."
Raieyana looked up at the circle of concerned faces. "I'm fine. It's not like it tried it tried to eat me or anything. I admit, I was afraid, but I think I handled it pretty well. One less thing we have to worry about, right?"
"What are you talking about?" asked Yuffie.
Raieyana laughed. Then she looked around. "Wait, you're serious, aren't you? I killed the...you know, the Amber Weapon. You could have heard it dying miles from here."
"Where's the body?" asked Red XIII.
"A few miles down the beach. It felt like a million on my ankle."
"Umm... Look, how 'bout I go get you something to drink," said Cloud, "and I bet Tifa can get you some clothes." He left, and Tifa went to her room.
"I...have my plans for the attack on Edinborough and the Shinra building," said Red XIII. "I'll go get my drawings and show them to you."
"I gotta go call Lia," said Legolas.
"I left my omelet and sausage on the table," said Barret.
Vincent and Yuffie exchanged looks. She shook her head and sat down next to Raieyana. "Why don't you go do something, Vincent," she suggested.
"Look, everyone else found excuses, just let me be the one to tell her. Your presence isn't going to help anything, believe me."
Raieyana looked at Yuffie. "Tell me what? Is it Reeve...is it..."
"It's just...after you left Lucrecia's...I guess she attacked Elena and took the baby. We think that Elena must be dead. We didn't get her message until yesterday, very late."
"The Reunion," said Raieyana. "She must be taking him to Shelding."
"How would she know where Shelding is? She's been living in a cave for over twenty years."
"Yuffie, wherever the Reunion is, that's where Shelding will be. Where would he go?"
"I honestly have no idea."
"Reno told me he was obsessed with Hojo. If you're obsessed with something and make a pilgrimage someplace, where do you usually go? The place that person died. But where did Hojo die?"
"Midgar," said Tifa. She walked into the room and handed Raieyana a tank top and a pair of pants.
"What's this?" she asked, holding up a pair of short daggers.
Tifa shrugged. "I figured you need weapons. They don't sell any crystal in this tourist trap. You're hard-pressed to find anything decent."
"I'll go get changed. So we're going to Midgar, I guess."
"I think it's fitting," said Tifa, "to end this where it began."
"We can't give you much support. The Gens are attacking our city. I think they underestimated us, though. We can spare you a little air support. Mostly transports, though."
"Thank you, Yorlain. It's just what we need," said Legolas, "Reeve left Junon in good hands with you."
"I guess, since we're not burning down yet. Where do you want them?"
"Do your pilots know where Mt. Crist is?"
"That's in the middle of nowhere..."
"Can you think of a better place for us to hide some support? Okay...yes, good luck to you, too." Legolas dialed a number. "Lia, get the warriors down to Mt. Crist. They'll be loading up into Alcor helicopters for the air raids on Edinborough. What? We're going to Midgar, I told you that. Raieyana? To tell you the truth, she looks better than she has been in a long time..."
"Set the machine on level twenty-five. Twenty-six." Lucas peered down into Reeve's eyes. "It hurts, Mr. Jordan, doesn't it?"
"Ahh...Reeve, lying doesn't flatter anyone's personality. Especially yours. And it isn't benefiting your appearance. Frankly, my good man, you look like shit."
Reeve managed a smile. "I'd been...trying to pull...off the Shelding look...for years...don't tell me...I finally succeeded...with no one...around to see me."
"TWENTY-SEVEN! Maybe if you learned when to shut up..."
"It seems to me if I hadn't...you wouldn't...need to go to...these lengths...for your...information."
A voice came over the intercom. "Professor Shelding, there's a lady to see you. Her name is Lucrecia. She says she has a valuable prize for you to take with you to some sort of reunion. She looks a bit..."
Lucas smiled. "Send her down."
"Down there, sir?"
"Martin, are you going deaf? I said down here, didn't I?" He turned to Reeve. "Lucrecia...has she brought me some sort of surprise? Do you know what it is?"
Lucrecia walked in with a blanketed bundle. "It is time, professor."
Lucas took the bundle in his arms. "I hold in my hands the future of Shinra. Would you like to see, Reeve? He has his mother's eyes."
"Where is she, Shelding? Where's Raieyana? She would have never left the baby. Where the hell is she?"
"Reeve, I honestly don't know. You yourself told her to leave the baby. She listened to you. That's the only thing you ever mutter besides 'marry me, Ray.' Really, it's all very sickening." He motioned towards the guards. "Prepare Mr. Jordan and Mr. Reno for the Reunion. They want to see their Raieyana so bad, and I happen to know she will be there...now, for this."
Lucrecia's face flinched. "Please, may I hold him? I waited...you promised..."
Lucas looked at her coldly. "Lock her up in the prisons. I have no use for such an old, inferior specimen."
Two guards grabbed her arms and started to lead her away. She fell to her knees. "I'm his mother...he should see his mother...this is wrong...don't do this..." The guards grabbed her roughly and started to carry her away. "HOJO! He's my son, too! Why can't I hold him...just once?! HOJO!!" She started weeping.
"On second thought," said Lucas, "just execute her. No need to waste taxpayers' money on boarding her. Old, useless, slightly crazy..."
"Sephiroth...I'm sorry...I should've... Hojo was wrong. It's not your fault... Vincent, I was wrong. Hojo was not a scientist."
"Didn't you hear me? I said take her away! Kill her...shoot her in the fucking head! Get her out of here!" Lucas set Patrick down on the lab table.
Reeve looked at the baby. (If I could only...get my hands free...) He struggled against the hold of the guards.
Lucas picked up a pistol and aimed level at Lucrecia's head.
"He never ran a sane experiment in his life. All his brilliance...was just a foolish attempt at immortality...like he needed to preserve himself...or his foul seed."
Reeve strained against the guards. (So close...just a little more...a little farther...) One lifted up the blunt end of his gun.
"Shut up, BITCH!" Lucas pulled the trigger.
Lucrecia's lifeless body fell to the floor, spraying blood on the lab's pristine white walls.
Reeve's body sagged lifeless in the guards' arms as one knocked him unconscious with the butt of his gun.
Lucas shuddered and wiped off his hands with a tissue. "Take him to the Gelnika," he said to the guards holding Reeve. He nodded at one of the guards who had been holding Lucrecia. "Take the baby to the sanitary compartment of the Gelnika." He nodded at the other one. "Call Laida. We're leaving. And tell the H Block of guards to get Jack Reno and prepare the Gelnika for flight. We're going to Midgar. To see...where..." (Where Hojo...
/ "where I died..."/)
(Just a little bit farther...so close...so close...)
Reeve opened his eyes. "Oh, my...Christ, my head hurts."
Reno grimaced. "They brought you on unconscious, man. I think you've got a pretty big lump. What the hell did you do? They never beat me. Just strapped me to that thing. Well actually once, Shelding had this rainstick, and..." He looked at Reeve. "Did you try to get away?"
He nodded. "Lucrecia came here with Raieyana's baby."
"The baby?! Where is Raieyana?"
"I guess," said Reeve slowly, "that Shelding has no idea. Otherwise he would have killed us already. So I think she got Elena's message."
"Elena... Lucrecia must've..."
"Lucrecia was crazy. She thought that Shelding was Hojo and the baby was Sephiroth. She did some Hojo-bashing and Shelding went nuts and shot her."
"So where we going now?"
"Reeve, I haven't ever been a religious person...but don't you think that this would be as good a time as any to pray? Slowly, one by one, every single one of our allies has went nuts or gotten killed. Or both."
Reeve nodded. "Poor Elena's probably dead."
"Dammit, why do I have to be the last Turk? I sure as hell wasn't the best."
"I don't know, Jack, I just don't know. And about praying...God hasn't answered any of my prayers lately... I think the only thing we can hope for is a swift death and hope against all hope that Raieyana is safe, far away from the Reunion."
"Aunt Lia, when's Mommy coming home? When can we go to Daddy's office again?"
Lia looked at Aeris with a pained expression. "Aeris, can't you see I'm busy right now? Your mommy is safe and so is your daddy." (I hope.)
"Where is she, Auntie Lia?" asked Ishmael, "is she going to the Re-un-ion?"
Tonia walked into Lia's house. "Ma'am? All of our forces are safely on board the Alcor helicopters."
Lia sighed. "Thank you, Tonia. Have you seen Marlene?"
"She's probably flirting with my fourteen-year-old brother again."
"She was supposed to have been back here an hour ago to baby-sit. Tell her that I'll tell her father about that skinny-dipping incident if I can't trust her to do what she's supposed to do. For god's sake, you'd think she was sixteen and horny, not twelve and ornery."
Tonia smiled. "Yes, ma'am."
"Stop that! I'm too young to be a 'ma'am!' Do I look old enough to you?"
"If you weren't the leader, Lia... I can't call you 'miss,' that would be like you were inferior to me... You do understand, right?"
"Of course I do, it's just that...I'm worried, Tonia. I'm so scared."
She nodded. "I think we all are. We've never sent our warriors outside before."
"We've never needed to. Just remember this day, Tonia. The day we dared to show ourselves to the world because the world needed us. And because one day we might need the world."
"Can't this Airship go any faster!"
"Raieyana, you sound like you're looking forward to this," said Vincent, "I for one, dread having to confront Lucrecia."
"You won't have to, Vincent, she's dead." She looked at his shocked expression. "She was out of her mind, Vincent. Hojo's experiments never prepared her for something as mind-revolving as this Reunion. Surely you must feel it, too."
"I just pushed it back and hoped I wasn't going crazy."
"And you were allowed to push things back because you never got that close. Are you strong enough?"
"Raieyana, are you?"
She looked at Vincent. "Look at me. What is there that I'm not strong enough for? I used to be so afraid... There isn't anything left that could hurt me. Nothing left to give me pain. I don't fear death. Shelding and types like him feed off fear. Everything he does is out of fear. All this 'experimenting?' It stems from his fear of his own mortality."
"The reason some of us fear it is not for our own sake. It is because we are needed by others."
"Vincent, don't you realize every day is a gift, and when your time is up, then everyone has to let you go? I'm not saying be apathetic and stupid and don't defend yourself; I'm saying give life everything that you've got while you've got it, because it's better to die young and have fought for what you believe in than to die at an old age and have been oppressed."
"It's just...Raieyana. This could be the last time we talk. You...or I..."
"Don't worry about me. I can't die. This isn't my time. I just feel it." She turned her face to the east. Midgar.
Vincent was silent. (I'm not afraid that something will happen to you. I just don't know what will happen if the rest of us cannot keep control of ourselves.)
"Whoa, Camilla! Where'd you learn to fly one of these things?"
She laughed. "Silly Blake, while you all languished in Undor-Hai, I was on the outside getting my pilot's license."
"Just in case?" asked Drake, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course. Sure is useful now, ain't it? Where's Quake?"
Blake and Drake exchanged glances.
"I see. Airsick. No biggie. You guys will be parachuting down into Edinborough in about five minutes."
"What about you," said Drake, "aren't you coming?"
"No," she said, a gleam in her eye, "I get to drop bombs on the Mako reactors. Just remember, if there's no call to retreat, I'll pick you up on the shore at 1800 hours. Kick some Shinra ass! For Raieyana and Lia!"
Blake shook his head. "Never should've let you, of all people, on the outside. Next thing, you'll be telling us about all the steaks you ate."
"Well, there was this one hamburger joint--what the hell are you doing? It's almost time. Get ready!"
Lavana peered out the Gelnika window. "Laida, what's that?"
Laida's eyes widened. "They're bombing Edinborough!"
"We have to go back!"
"We can't!" Laida glanced at Lucas. "He'll go nuts on you. On all of us."
Someone tugged at her shoulder. "Laida?"
He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I just got a message over the radio. It's the Gens. Junon's forces weren't as weak as Lucas estimated. Almost all of our Gens, weapons, everything--have been destroyed. There has also been an air raid on Edinborough--"
She waved her hand. "I know. I saw."
"--along with a massive ground assault. I have no idea where the hell we're going, Laida, but there won't be any Shinra left for us to go back to. So Lucas sure as hell better be leading us to the Promised Land, or I'm going to go get a position at Alcor."
"If you tell Lucas what you told me, he'll kill you."
"Notice that I'm telling you."
"Why do you think I'd have mercy, Martin? Just because I enjoy the sex? You should know it wouldn't be that hard to replace you...improve upon what I've got..."
"Laida, I'm telling you because you're not a fucking lunatic."
"I know Martin, just a poor attempt on my part to joke. You know that. It's just... Lucas did some experiment on himself...tried to turn himself into Hojo. I don't know if it worked, or he just drove himself nuts. Either way, we're all going to some little thing he calls the 'Reunion.'" She paused and put her hands to her head. (Damn...another migraine...
/"It's almost time...RAIEYANA..."/)
She screamed and fainted.
"Laida..." Martin caught her in his arms.
"What's going on?" asked Lucas, coming back to where they were sitting.
"I think...I don't think she feels well...I'll lay her down in the sleeping quarters."
"Be careful with her." (I wouldn't want her to...
/"miss the Reunion...it would be such a shame..."/)
"Is this seat taken?"
Tifa looked up into those blue eyes...those bright blue eyes... "No Cloud, go ahead. You're not sick, are you? We'll need you."
"No...at least not motion sick, if that's what you mean. I just don't feel well."
"Is it the Reunion?"
He nodded. "I don't hear a beckoning, or a calling...it just feels like occasionally a telephone conversation is switched on in my head. Between Hojo and Sephiroth and..." (I don't want to say it when I'm not sure. I don't hear Aeris' voice. I don't hear Raieyana's voice. But I can feel their strength. I don't know if they're protecting me...or if they're trying to stay Sephiroth and Hojo, keep them from our minds...from my mind.)
Tifa smiled sympathetically. "It must be hard. I guess I'm lucky." (What can I say? I don't know what it feels like to have voices in my head. All I ever had, all I have, is my feelings, my emotions. They give me strength, they can make me weak, they can give me empathy...but not for this. Because I have no idea what this is.)
"Tifa, I've been stupid."
"What in the world are you talking about?"
"I pushed you away, I pushed everyone away. Because I couldn't let go of the hope, that some way, somehow, I could bring Aeris back to me."
Tifa's face fell a little. "Oh."
"But I'm sorry. I pretended not to hear your words, see your eyes. I never tried to see your love. I never tried to love you."
"Cloud," Tifa said, putting her hand on his shoulder. "Love isn't something you try to do. It just happens. It's better for both of us that you never pretended, never tried. We would have tried to make love where there wasn't any. We would have ended up with what we started with. Nothing but good intentions."
"No, that's not what I meant. I never tried to comprehend what I felt for you. It was just like, 'There's Tifa. She's my friend. When she's around, it's good; when she's not, it's bad.' I never tried to understand it more than that. But I realize now that I care about you, Tifa. I don't know if I love you. But I hope you can let me try and figure out if I do or not."
"I don't know if I can..."
"Cloud, there was a time when I would have given you the world. I would have done anything to get you. That was a long time ago. I think I'm just finally starting to heal."
"I never wanted to make you unhappy."
"I know that...it's just... It's not that I don't still love you. I just don't know if I'm willing to open myself up to so much hurt again. Besides, this isn't the right time for any of us to make promises. We have no idea what the hell is going to happen to us out there."
"How far are we?"
"I can see the shore... We're almost back...back to Midgar."
"What do you want us to do, Captain?"
Cid looked up. "Some damn 'full-fledged pilot' you are. Land it outside the city ruins. I don't want to parachute down into a pile a scrap metal, that's for sure. It'll be easier to go it on foot." He glanced at Shera. "You know, I think the kid actually has a mind of his own. It's just so rarely used that I fear..."
She smiled. "He just wanted to double-check with his captain. I think it shows how much respect the crew has for you. They don't need you; they just want to do what you want, though."
"Shera, you do understand that this might be it?"
She looked at him, puzzled.
"This may be my last mission. I ain't no young little thing anymore, and this is gonna be some great unknown power we're messing with. I don't know if I can...if I will...hell, what I'm trying to say is..."
"I understand. You want to say good-bye, thanks for the laughs. I think I see what you're getting at. I'm touched, I really am, but aren't there a few more important people that you should be talking to? After all, I'm just your housekeeper."
"You're more than just that. Shera...you...I...you saved the Airship, for crying out loud!"
"Fine, I can shoot a gun. I don't see why you'd waste time on...are you practicing your 'last hurrah' speech on me? You should say it a little more emotionally, but overall, it's rather good."
"This isn't some speech, and if it was, this isn't me practicing. I've already waited too long to say it, but I'm not going to let it turn into too late. I don't care what I said before, what I thought I thought... Dammit anyway... Look, Shera, you may be a dumbass, but then, so am I. And you're the most important thing in the world to me. I'd never admitted it before because I was so afraid that if I let my feelings close, then when I would lose you, it would hurt too much. But when I heard...everything about those Gens attacking Rocket Town, I realized that it hurt just the same whether I told you how I felt or not. And I still would feel empty if you were gone."
Shera was quiet. "Cid? This isn't like you at all. I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. I haven't been blind for all these years. I was the one that had to speak. You have been so good to me after I have treated you so shitty... I just know that if everything ended now, I wouldn't want you to remember my facade--"
"Look, I read it a book. Anyway, Shera, I only want you to remember..." He lowered his voice and mumbled something so fast that Shera couldn't understand him.
"I... I love you." He leaned in and kissed her. Then he pulled back and scrutinized her face. "Why are you crying?"
"Because I'm so...happy."
Cid pulled her close and held her tightly. "I'm sorry that I was so bad to you...I'm so damn sorry... I never meant nothing I said to you before."
"I know you didn't mean it...I...couldn't have stayed otherwise. I understand completely."
"Cid? It's time to go."
Cid looked up at Barret. "Alright. See you later, Shera."
They started walking towards the deck. Barret gave him a bemused expression.
"What the hell are you looking at?"
"Damn, Cid, it's about fucking time, that's all I have to say."
Cid narrowed his eyes. "None of your business. Why d'you have to go and stick your nose in it?"
"Destroying the Shinra once and for all ain't my business? What the hell is my business, then?" He looked at Cid. "What did you think I was talking about?"
"Nothing...just never mind."
"Oh, you thought I was talking about that? Ha, Cid everybody else knew it but you. We were just wondering how long it would take your dumb ass to find out. C'mon, let's go destroy Shelding and get the former Shinra spy and former Turk back."
"Why couldn't you just say 'friends?'"
"Jus' a man of words, I guess."
"Maybe you could tell me what the point of all this is," said Reeve to the man who entered the holding cell where he and Reno were chained.
"Look, I just take orders. All I know is that you must be some sort of criminals."
Reno snorted. "Why don't you just come out and say you have no thought of your own so you swallow whatever shit Shelding throws at you."
"Could you can it for once, Reno?" asked Reeve, exasperated. "Look, buddy, I know you have to follow orders, but I'm going to tell you right now, we're not criminals. We surrendered ourselves over to Shelding because he threatened to destroy Junon."
"Junon? I just heard that..."
"What did you hear, kid?" asked Reno.
"We were massively defeated. We had grossly underestimated the Junon forces. Just so you two know, I don't follow Shelding's orders any more than necessary. The only person with authority over me is Laida."
"Let's reminisce, Reno, about the ol' Shinra-treachery-allegiance crap. I remember it well. Lowers were lackeys for people higher up. The higher ups promoted their lackeys when they got promoted. It was kinda like gambling."
"I'm sure that Laida doesn't give a damn if we keep you guys locked up or not, but in this case, I am afraid of Shelding. I heard he went beserk earlier today. So I really don't want to end up on his bad side today. So I gotta take Reeve to him now. Somebody else will come for Reno."
Reeve shrugged. "I won't struggle. I knew what I was getting into when I surrendered. I don't blame you, but I have a little advice for you. Get out of the Shinra mess as soon as you can."
The room was dark except for the crack of light that escaped between the two black curtains. Reeve squinted, trying to adjust to the sudden change of light. (Shelding, you would take the brightest room in a Gelnika and adjust it to satisfy your warped desires.)
"They all hear the calling, whether they realize it or not. They all feel the coming radiance, though they may not all come to see it. This child is a beacon to more than just one frail woman."
"I wouldn't call Raieyana frail," said Reeve hotly.
"What would you call her than? Sickly, weak, dying? Though you never betrayed her whereabouts to me, in your haze of pain you relayed many of your own fears. You truly believe that Raieyana isn't well."
Reeve was silent.
"Please don't blame Lucas Shelding. I think you know, perhaps, that he was little more than an empty vessel, anyway. He thought himself more than willing to allow me back into the physical realm through his body. Although he fought me when the time came just as much as anyone. As you fought my son when he possessed your mind."
"What happened that day was foretold centuries before. I could not have changed those events, even if I succeeded against Sephiroth's will."
"Well, Reeve, today was predicted at the dawn of time. If there is a creator, it intended for this to occur. And I, Hojo, intended it to occur from the day I created a child from my own son and that Ancient. Sephiroth was perfect; I planned to combine his cells with every successive offspring from Raieyana on, to build the perfect Ancient. With Sephiroth gone, though, there was a need to find another with almost as much strength as he. Isn't it a marvel, how even in the Lifestream, I could use the communication channels of the Jenova cells to reach Cloud Strife one night six months ago? I never intended the incident to be so violent, but in my desperation..."
"Shelding, did you call me in here just to prove you were insane?"
"The transformation is complete. Hojo's mind in Lucas' body. My legacy made it simple for him to create the super-Soldiers and then implant my DNA into his own body. I am just trying to explain to you why I have to call the Reunion. Many of my experiments have run far away. I need to call them back to me."
Raieyana turned to Barret. "Is this the way?"
He peered through the twisted metal and past the collapsed buildings. "We're in Sector 3, but near the center. We can get to where the power controls were from here. I sure hope we find Shelding there."
"I'm going to kick his ass!"
Everyone turned and looked at Shera, who had already passionately insisted on joining them.
"What, do you guys think I'm gonna be demure after what he did to Rocket Town with his Gens?"
"I don't know if this battle will be purely physical," said Red XIII.
"But part of it will be, Red," said Yuffie, "and that's where we come in."
"Are any of us strong enough for this, though. I'm just not sure..."
"Nothing in this world's sure," said Vincent, "nothing is completely trustworthy. Not when Hojo is involved in any way."
"Keep moving," said Cloud, "we have to find Shelding. We have to save them." (Reeve, Reno, and my son.)
Raieyana followed the group through the ruins of a floating city she had never seen, moving towards the death place of a creator she had cursed her whole life. To save the child she never wanted to have, and to make a decision she never wanted to make.
Darkness descends as I descend
Night creeps along the horizon
I see the distant oblivion
The monster creeps into the shell of a man
The world shudders in horror
Only the pure can see everlasting disease
Quietly I turn to my only dream
There was a time when the only time I was cured was when I healed myself
Then I was revived by hope
Now I know the only time I am injured is when I hurt myself
The pain can never be too much to bear
I have more to carry than my own
My eyes scan the clouds
The storm tears up the trees swaying to the gust of the wind
Patience is a virtue
I've been patient for an eternity
Now the time has come