This is the first chapter of my first fic in what I hope will be a series on ff.net. I've worked on Black and White for a long time now, and I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised if you stick with it and give it a chance. If you like it, let me know and I'll post more chapters. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
This introduction is rated PG-13 for violence and language, but future chapters may be rated R for more mature content.
Introduction: Sunny Days
It was morning, and it was raining. Hard. Thick. It poured down incessantly, muddying the poisoned earth. Rain can be so disheartening sometimes. It did nothing but accent the already depressing reality of a once beautiful land that had bled to death at the hands of greed and corruption.
In the middle of it all sat the industrial metropolis Midgar, growing like a weed and killing all that it touched. The mundane metallic city was the very zenith of industrialism, replacing all the elegance the world had been born with by cold, emotionless steel. The sky turned an unhealthy grey, green grass was burned, and oceans were polluted because of the sadistic desires of man that this abomination oh so accurately depicted. In the world of today, nature had been all but slaughtered for the sake of a few Gil.
Overseeing the contamination was Shin-Ra Inc., a by all means remorseless corporation that lead the disease that was capitalism. Feeding off of the very energy that once flowed so freely through the planet's veins, the company had come to accumulate absurd amounts of money and a virtual stranglehold on the economy. Once this was accomplished, it was fairly easy to overthrow any inconveniences that stood in its way, such as government or the majority population. For proof of money being the route of evil, all's one had to do was make their way past the closed doors at one of the organizations more 'strategical' meetings. Survival of the fittest was more than an appropriate motto
A couple of its more victimized ex-employees trudged along not far from the massive atrocity, hoping against hope for some sort of salvation inside the darkness of the slums. The stronger of the two dragged the other over his hip, his wet black hair matted to his head and exhaustion withering his otherwise handsome features. It was easy to see an unfaltering determination in the way he carried himself. This man had seen many things in his life, and he was very much expecting sunny days ahead. His weakening muscles, however did not agree. He submitted to his fatigue and fell to his knees, gasping deep breaths as he let his catatonic comrade sag to the ground.
The first of the pair was a twenty something year old who went by the name of Cloud. A shrimp by military standards, the First-class garb he wore practically hung off his somewhat skinny body. Despite being a full grown adult, he could have easily been mistaken for a teen, particularly due to the way his blonde hair stuck out in every direction. Just by looking at the kid it wasn't all that hard to figure out that he didn't think much of himself. The way he spoke and moved so nervously, it was hard not to take pity on him.
The man that watched over him now had come to be known only as Zack. Few if any knew his full name. He was a man of a fair build, not much more or less that six feet in height but appearing to be a few inches taller thanks to good posture and the disobedience of his normally thick black hair. Most had no idea he was a seasoned veteran in the ways of war at the seemingly tender age of twenty-three. A charming young man in his day with an ever-present smirk (a near polar opposite of the brooding Cloud), many questioned why Zack would take such an outcast under his wing. He never really bothered to explain.
Five years latter, here they were on the outskirts of Midgar, not far from where they had first met, one practically crippled and the other just about ready to faint from weariness. What progress they had made since their young lives...
Eventually, Zack made his way back to his feet, carefully surveying his whereabouts as experience had taught him. He stopped in place as his eyes fell upon the mechanical cesspool he had once called home. It had changed so much since he had left. Well, at least he thought it had. For one reason or another, he was seeing it in a completely different light now.
When he had first arrived here, he had thought the city was breathtaking, that in it lay endless opportunity and everlasting adventures. But today, although scarcely different at a brief glance, it seemed... well, nauseating was really the only word for it. He hardly knew why he was coming back here.
Well, that wasn't true. He knew exactly why he was coming back: a pretty young flower given the name of Aeris. Even after 5 years, her image was still burned into his brain. Her emerald green eyes... her chestnut brown hair... that cute little smile always etched on her face... He had seen the world and never came close to finding anything quite as pristine as her. She was an angel. The time that had passed meant nothing, he still felt he knew everything about her...
A pebble that skipped across the dirt cut through the thin haze of his daydreaming. He was being watched. Over the years, his instincts had been sharpened to a point of constant awareness, and even the slightest change in the ambience that surrounded him was enough to make him pay attention. That change had been the pebble, and just hearing it bounce along the ground was enough for him to sense that he wasn't entirely safe.
He waited patiently for his soon-to-be attackers to expose themselves, anticipating an ambush to fall from the endless ledges that loomed over him. He unsheathed the massive blade that hung ominously over his shoulder. It was an extremely generic sword, simply a ridiculously huge hunk of sharpened metal attached to a rubber stem a little bit more than two lengths of the hand. Almost too heavy to lift, it was laughable that anyone would even consider fighting with it. But as the dark haired man held it steadily in one unflinching gloved hand, the weapon known as the Buster Sword wasn't all that funny anymore.
The first shot was fired and sidetracked with a skillful block of the blade. Machine gun blasts quickly followed when the unseen group caught wind of the sniper's folly. It wasn't the cleanest way to assassinate someone, but with their invisibility gone, they were left no alternative. It didn't matter, they were as good as dead anyway.
Whether it be from a dodge, a deflection, or just flat out bad aim, each bullet missed. Zack knew very well he wasn't going to lose a dogfight, but he did not appreciate the stalemate in which he found himself. In the blink of an eye, he dug his rapier deep into the ground, tossing a thick screen of dirt into the air and hurriedly proceeding to teach the assailants a thing or two about stealth.
As the gunmen searched anxiously for the presumably evaporated menace, they didn't seem to notice the silenced screams of their fellow officers. After no more than a minute, there was only one of the original six left, and unfortunately for him, he was completely oblivious of that fact. He was cut down from behind before he even had the chance to comprehend what was happening.
Zack turned the last of his targets over and onto his back, carefully scanning the man's uniform. Shin-Ra Law Enforcement Unit, Security, Class 4. Even in five years, the attire hadn't changed much. Did they really expect these amateurs to kill him? Frankly, he was insulted.
His own petty squabbles were suddenly less important as he ducked a swinging saber, one that would have surely decapitated him if not for his foresight. As he parried and exchanged blows with his new foe, he flipped through the recesses of his memory. Shin-Ra Law Enforcement Unit, SOLDIER, Class 3. There were two more coming from behind a hill. He assumed they were answering the call for back-up the sniper had made when he had been uncovered.
Focusing once more, he caught his opponent's swooping arm and twisted it before kneeing him harshly in the gut. As the man doubled over in pain, Zack placed the back of his leg over the man's shoulder and under his chin, violently twisting and instantaneously snapping the miserable man's neck.
Unnerved by the death of their associate, but none the less ready, the remaining two moved in, customized blades held high and ready to attack at the drop of hat. The hat dropped, and our young master of warfare found himself competing with two men that collectively should have been capable of taking him out, especially in his relatively sluggish state.
But still he fought as well as his body would let him, moving at an implausible pace and never missing a beat, uprooting hidden weaknesses in the two SOLDIERs as he went along. Their big problem was efficiency. They were fantastic swordsmen capable of breath-taking feats, but their style was very boastful, using more energy than they should in each strike.
It didn't take long for a mistake in one of the two opposing warriors' strides to appear. Of course, Zack exploited it, kicking the man's overly zealous stab away and unflinchingly impaling him. He fell dead to the ground, but still the melee did not stop.
The last of the three SOLDIERs attacked furiously, contending to the best of his ability with an obviously advantaged warrior. Finding this rather admirable, Zack spared the man's life with a mind numbing shot from the blunt of his sword to the side of the head. The final fighter dropped to the earth, unconscious.
He stood there for a moment, trembling just a little as he tried to steady the speed of his racing heart, the mere thump of it deafening, blocking all outside sound. Unless SOLDIER had changed protocol, he had less than half an hour before the true professionals arrived, people which he didn't particularly want to have to deal with at the moment.
He walked hastily over to his companion, who still lay their on the ground like a traumatized child, fidgeting as though some sort of seizure were shaking him from the inside to the out. Sometimes, he didn't know why he bothered with the kid. Cloud had always been more trouble than he was worth. He supposed it was just the price he had to pay for friendship.
Bullets fired through the air and punctured skin. Zack dropped to the earth, screaming in wretched pain as he counted eight holes in his chest and gut. Out of habit alone, he tried to stand himself back up, but yet another round was emptied into him. It didn't take him long to realize he was being executed. But this couldn't be happening... not now... he was too close...
He watched helplessly as more of the miniature projectiles filled his body. They were blurry and fading, but still he could recognize the three silhouettes standing over him, proud smirks on their faces. Shin-Ra Law Enforcement Unit, Security, Class 2. Humiliating. He had been beat by a few lowly street cops. He guessed they'd brag about this for a long time...
It was getting darker, or at least that's what he believed. Forever passed in a few instants as he lay there unmoving, vaguely feeling the puddles in the ground mixing with his blood and flowing like a small stream from his torso. Was he dead? It was kind of hard to tell. He didn't really feel much of anything anymore. He very well could be finished. If he was, should he still be able to see the smog above him? He didn't know. No one had really told him what being dead was like.
Cloud stared down at him now, his eyes sort of glazed. Oh good. For whatever reason, they had left without touching him. He assumed they had simply dumped all their ammunition on his own body. Zack knew he might of been able to survive such a beating, but not the debilitated blonde.
"Cloud," He whispered, his calm voice unsteady for once. He didn't really feel like dying today. "Help me..."
The younger man paid him no attention, instead contemplating the infamous Buster Sword he now held in his hands.
"For god's sake..." He muttered, mustering a hint of chagrin into his voice towards his 'little buddy'. "Snap out of whatever the hell your problem is and help me..."
Still he did not bother to react, his shimmering blue eyes empty, absent from the world around him. An air of hateful recognition filled the poor boy's face. All his jealousy through years of being a shadow became evident as Zack felt his own blade tear through his insides. He tried to shout a million curses at what he had thought was his supporter but found he didn't have the strength. Instead he just lay there, his life escaping him as he grit his teeth in bitter agony.
He glared dreadfully as his brand new betrayer disappeared on his own into the bleak recesses of Midgar. He couldn't believe it. The useless prick had turned on him. After all the years he had spent saving his pathetic ass... After all the times he could have left the bastard behind but didn't...why was he dying? What had he done? No way in hell did he deserve this, so why was this happening? Why?
There was no one around to answer him. The solitude alone was enough to drive him mad. There he was, paralyzed by his shock, trying desperately to think of any coherent explanation as to why his only remaining friend in the world had just left him to die out here in the cold. Of course, there weren't any.
Bitterness filled his nearly extinguished soul. Worst of all, Cloud was going to get away with it. The only witnesses were the corpses surrounding his own. He could go ahead and make up some sob story about 'Zack died protecting me' or something like that. It was all bullshit. Cloud had barely lifted a finger since they'd met and he was gonna come out looking like some tragic hero. The fucking ingrate was going to pay for this someday, one way or another...
Tears from above poured into his mangled body, the gravity of his world crushing his spirit. He was actually going to die... He was a little bit scared, to be honest. It was that deep, crippling sort of fear that makes it feel as though the flow of your blood was freezing to a halt. But there wasn't much he could do about that, was there?
He was beginning to lose sight of his surroundings, only trying simply to live. He found the Reaper was once more clutching his heart in its hand. He tried desperately to fight back as he had so many times before, but already he could feel himself subsiding to the numbness of death.
Why was it so hard to accept? Probably because he had never had a chance to atone for all the wrong decisions he had made. Instead of feeling fulfilled as he thoroughly scrutinized his life, he was bare, hollow, ashamed...
He looked to the heavens above him, choking on the very air he inhaled. The rain had stopped now, and pale sunlight was beginning to peek out from behind the uninviting storm clouds. It was probably getting pretty close to time to go now....
He felt a subtle warmth caress his now pale face, and as he noticed a blue sky in the distance, something changed inside him. Acceptance was forcing itself down upon him with all it's weight, yet still he couldn't help but picture what a beautiful day it was going to be..
He wanted so badly to see it...