I'll never be your beast of burden

Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be.

             ---Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

City of Dreams, the City that Never Sleeps, City of Lights--All names for one place, a city that represents hope to so many but in it all they find is despair. Midgar, it's lights an ever-burning fire that shines to the heavens how man has triumphed over god. And people, moth like, are drawn to its bright lights, only to be eaten alive by a city with no soul. Most of its nicknames were ironic, created by people who knew the true nature of the place they lived in.

In the dead of night, Midgar was quite quiet or at least it had been for the past few months. In lieu of all the terrorist activities that plagued the city, a nightly curfew was set. All inhabitants were to be in their homes by 9 p.m., lest they risk being arrested. This citywide curfew was devised by the proud and wise city fathers, who only wanted to keep the city operational enough to service their needs. Still, the rippling waves of violence never seemed to stop, only getting worse as more people beneath the plate suffered.

Something those who lived in pleasant comfort on the very top of the plate could never understand. Underneath Midgar's gleaming exterior was a hidden city, something the tourists never got a glimpse of. Beneath Midgar lay its slums, overfilled with the city's unwanted. The homeless and the poor. The drug addicts and criminals. All of them shoved under the carpet to be forgotten or die in abject squalor. People were not meant to live like those in the slums of Midgar. It was too crowded, too removed from the things that people need. But you couldn't tell that from the outside, no. On the outside, it looked like a perfect shining beacon.

The blinding glass town of the ShinRa building looming over all of this with unparalleled grace. A temple dedicated to the city's founding father, President Shinra himself. It was a proud sentinel in the midst of a moral graveyard. Normally the picture of tranquility, its employees filtering in and out of it in quiet splendor. Never questioning what it was they did in that building. Whether or not who and what they worked for were right. Their goals were simple. Go to work, do their job and go home to their nicely furnished apartments on the upper plate. Never mind the fact that they created horrors on a daily basis. Never mind the overwhelming poverty that they crushed beneath them. This was progress and it couldn't be denied.

Within the once placid building there was a flurry of activity this night. Sirens wailed on the 67th floor and the sharp rapport of gunfire could be heard echoing through the normally stoic corridors of ShinRa's Research and Development facility. The ShinRa Regulars had been called into patrol the corridors. Running from floor to floor, hall to hall, all in search of one thing. Had any of them known what they were hunting for, perhaps none of the newly minted SOLDIERs would be so eager. All they had been told was that one of the specimens had escaped and they were under orders to capture it alive. What they were not told was that the specimen they hunted was exceptionally dangerous killing machine. They had designed him as such. But this of course, was information no regular grunt needed to know. Nor did they need to know they hunted a man who had just been hailed as Midgar's hero, because in the eyes of ShinRa Inc. Sephiroth was an experiment, a specimen and not a human being. They gave it a name but refused to even regard its humanity.

He was the first in a line, a grand experiment on ShinRa's part to create the perfect soldier. They'd already had some success with the SOLDIER program, an effort to enhance regular soldiers to make them more effective in battle. The process was simple, exceptionally strong subjects were chosen from the regular guard and given Mako injections. Mako, the lifeblood of the planet, enhanced the soldier's speed, strength and ability to cast and defend against magic. An achievement any military power would have been pleased about, but ShinRa was not satisfied. The SOLDIER program was a great success, yet those volunteers were still human, still fragile and easily killed. And for every SOLDIER killed, ShinRa lost millions of dollars to train and enhance a replacement. Then there was also a problem with some SOLDIERS having sudden attacks of conscience. Meaning more money had to be wasted in eradicating those subjects who turned traitor. Something had to be done.

So the began the great quest to create ShinRa's perfect soldier, coded named Sephiroth by Professor Hojo. With this project, Hojo hoped to genetically engineer a warrior. In the beginning, it seemed like everything was moving along smoothly. His mother was thought to have been a human/cetra hybrid, and this boded well in the research team's eyes. She would provide a strong lineage for the child, as cetra were known to be adept in the use of magic. To enhance this further, the specimen had endured daily mako baths and injections during fetal development. It meant inevitable death for the mother, but that hardly mattered to anyone involved. Nine months later, the first specimen was born. 01 and given the name Sephiroth by Professor Hojo.

As the child grew, it was clear he was exactly what ShinRa was hoping he'd be. From the day he was born, Sephiroth was superior in strength, speed and intelligence. By the time he was six months old he was up and running, literally. It was joked that he never really learned to walk, but run. By nine months he was speaking in full, coherent sentences. By two he was able to read, and able to understand complex theorems and equations that it'd take most adults years to fully comprehend. By age five, they'd begun his military training.

He was an adept fighter, able to best those twice his height and ten times his weight. His speed was such that it was hard for most human eyes to keep up with it. At age eight his training with magic began, astonishing his creators by mastering Ultima--materia that took the boldest SOLDIER recruit a year to master. For Sephiroth it took less than a day. At age twelve, he was a master swordsman and finally enrolled as a regular ShinRa soldier. At 16, Sephiroth had been promoted to general. He was a credit to those who'd created him and though there was pride, they also feared him. Comparing their yearly figures, his power had grown beyond what they thought was possible. Nothing on the earth could compare to him. He was a killing machine, full of raw power. There were some executives within ShinRa who feared he was too powerful and much to the dismay of all those at ShinRa, he was uncontrollable.

Hojo's team had made a possibly fatal mistake. They allowed the specimen to retain his free will. It was thought that he could learn more naturally this way. Their thinking had been to raise the child with military discipline; he would simply learn to obey without question. And if the specimen dared to question, he would learn that questioning one's role in the world was met with swift and brutal repercussions. They had not counted on his frightening intellect. He was too smart. And the scientists debated whether it was due to their genetic manipulation or his natural heritage. It was a surprising quirk of the specimen's birth. His eyes saw too clearly, made connections that he was not expected to make and he began to question things he shouldn't have.

Professor Hojo had devised a way to fix this...flaw. It was surmised injecting him with an unknown alien specimen, coded Jenova. Tests had already begun, and it was found the alien's cells when injected into a human host acted to suppress the will of the subject. Allowing them to be extremely susceptible to suggestion. It was hoped by all involved that if Subject 01 were injected with Jenova he'd become more compliant to orders.

Once again, the scientists underestimated their subject's intelligence. He understood very well what they were trying to do. His hearing was more acute than most humans and the research assistants paid very little attention to whether or not he was listening. Most of the time he was ignored. Treated as if he wasn't even in the room with them. They'd chitter back and forth while he was locked in his cell or an experiment room. Reading off facts and figures with no thought that the specimen might just understand what they were babbling about. Sephiroth never, ever, let on that he did. He let them think what they wanted to. Indeed, what did they have to hide from him? Sure, he was intelligent but he couldn't possibly understand all that they were talking about.

And from his cell, Sephiroth strained his incredible hearing to listen. He comprehended what they wanted to do to him and he did not like it one bit. Hojo and the ShinRa thought him a fool and a less than human one than that. He was tired of the endless, painful tests. His arm ached from all the injections they gave him daily. He was tired of being peered at, measured, and analyzed. Most of all, he was tired of being a nothing but a subject. A thing, with no rights of its own. He wasn't fully human, but he was a sentient being and in his eyes that deserved a measure of respect. It also, in his mind, meant that he was entitled to the same basic rights as all thinking beings were afforded. Freedom.

At first, he had thought that if he played their game, they would eventually see him as a person. That with his accomplishments he could buy his freedom. So, he had done everything asked of him and more. He had won them Wutai, with minimal loss of life on both sides, at the age of seventeen. In public, ShinRa hailed him as a hero, but every night he still went back to his laboratory cell. And in the morning he was poked and prodded with little regard for his feelings.  It was then that he realized he'd never be free. Never. They'd keep him in this box as long as they thought he was useful and when they were done, they'd toss him away like a used tissue.

Freedom was apparently something he'd have to actively fight for. And as he paced his cell liked a caged tiger, he thought about his options. He could stay here and let them continue to do whatever they pleased with him. Continue to be a pawn in their pathetic little game....or.....he could attempt an escape and make a bid for freedom. That would take a great deal of effort on his part. ShinRa was unlikely to let something so valuable slip through their fingers without a fight. They'd rather see him dead than free. And I'd rather see them all dead, he thought grimly. They feared him that much. Feared his power. That's why they had gone out of their way to make him feel less than human. He'd make them all pay for their arrogance. Make them pay dearly.

His jade eyes narrowed imperceptibly as he continued to pace, watching the assistant researchers as they began their day. They flicked on the lab's lights and Sephiroth squinted a little at the sudden illumination. The researchers talked amongst themselves, giving him a cursory greeting and continuing on with their own conversation. Sephiroth nodded at them coolly, trying not to feel the bitter sting of resentment that ate at his soul. He couldn't wait to twist their heads off with his bare hands. The intercom rattled to life, the voice on the other end speaking in crackled tones to him.

"Morning, Subject 01. Ready for today's tests?" the little researcher asked him.

The boy's name was Marvin, Sephiroth had taken the time to remember it and it nettled him that none of the researchers bothered to remember his. Sephiroth snorted lightly to himself, because he knew using his name would require that they become attached in someway to him. And they were all required to maintain their clinical detachment when working with humanoid subjects.

"Subject 01? I ask again, are you ready?" the boy asked again, pushing up his thick glasses over his nose. His greasy little face peering at Sephiroth through the triple paned observation window that separated subject from scientist.

Sephiroth turned, looking directly into the assistant's beady eyes and nodded, his expressionless face the picture of calm reserve. Slowly, he raised his arms and placed his hands on his head, fingers intertwined. In the past few weeks, it seemed ShinRa Inc trusted him less and less. Researchers were no longer allowed to be alone in the room with him. They sent in an armed guard to pull him forcibly from his cell at gunpoint. Shackling him to make sure he wouldn't try anything. It was insulting. The door to his cell opened with a soft fwish and the guard stepped in, gun trained on the subject within. Cautiously sidling up to Sephiroth, the guard made his way behind the general. Holstering his gun, the guard pulled out his handcuffs, just as he had every morning for the last month.

"You know the drill." The guard said, through his facemask, which muffled everything he said.

Sephiroth smiled secretly to himself, he unclasped his hands as if to let the guard cuff him. The minute he felt the guard's hand on his own writs, Sephiroth acted. With unnatural speed he shot out and grabbed the guard by the wrist, his other hand pulling out the pistol. Pushing the guard backwards with a palm heel shove, he leveled the weapon and shot the guard point blank in the skull. Sephiroth looked impassively at the mass of blood and brains that was splattered all over his cell. Dropping the gun, he calmly strode out of his open cell. Regarding Marvin for a moment before summoning his masamune. The weapon appeared in his hand instantly, a little talent he'd purposely failed to tell his captors. Before the boy had time to think, his body had been separated into neat halves by one arcing stroke.

"Hey Marvin we're all out of  analg--" the other research assistant appeared out of nowhere, her face blanching at the bloody scene laid before her. Looking from Marvin's body to his murderer, the girl seemed beyond comprehension. Wetting herself in fear. "P-p-p-puh-leese...duh-ohn't...."

Sephiroth gazed back her, face splattered with blood, curling his lip in disgust. She was begging him for mercy, something she and the rest of them had so little of themselves. Still, he wanted someone left to alert as many people as possible. He was out for blood this night and before he left he wanted to take as much as he could. Leaving the researcher in a pool of her own filth, Sephiroth left. His bare feet padded wetly across the smooth floor of the lab. Behind him trailed his own bloody footprints. Sirens wailed as he strode out of the laboratory, his gait slow and deliberate.

The first wave of regular soldiers made it to the 67th floor, unable to believe who strode towards the, bloody sword in hand. It was the legendary general, Sephiroth. This pause was long enough to seal their death warrants. The general swept through them like so much refuse. Eviscerating the nearest soldier with his massive blade. Spinning around, he struck the man next to him, cleaving him in half. He pushed through, burying his sword to the hilt in anything that got in his way. Very soon, everything became a bloodied blur. Body covered head to toe in gore. His normally snow-white hair stained pink. Awareness took a backseat to the love of the kill. By the time he reached the top floor, there was a sickening amount of carnage, which he left wake-like behind him.

At the top floor was the President's office, and it was there that Sephiroth was headed. The full force of his fury was realized, his jade eyes glowed an eerie angry green. The walls buckling as he let loose his rage with a physical demonstration of his power. Blowing the President's door off its hinges because he willed it to be so. The piggy little man stared back at him with surprise. Sephiroth didn't want him to get a chance to beg. He wanted the man gaping at him over that desk to stop breathing, immediately.

Switching his grip on his sword, Sephiroth held it like one would hold a spear and with fluid grace he threw it at Shinra. The seven-foot blade impaling the man in his chair. Evenly, the silver haired warrior retrieved his blade, intending to find his next quarry. Hojo. Before he could do so he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder, reaching his hand back to find the source of his discomfort. He pulled a dart from his flesh, turning back to look at the one who'd fired it. A man no older than himself stood, his gun raised and still smoking. His dark hair slicked back, bottomless black eyes looking at him with placid fear.

"Tseng." Sephiroth snarled the name and turned towards this new assailant. He lurched forward, feeling suddenly woozy and unsteady.

"Poison. Fast acting. I suggest you give up quietly general..." Tseng replied calmly.

"Fuck you."

The words came out thickly; it was only a matter of time before he succumbed. Sephiroth knew he could hold out for at least a few hours. He now had to choose, revenge or freedom. With what speed he had left, Sephiroth made his choice, running at the large window behind Shinra's desk. Holding up his arms over his face, Sephiroth crashed through it. Wincing as shards of glass tore small ragged gashes in his skin. He sailed through the open air, seemingly unafraid that the ground was hundreds of feet below him. Tseng rushed out onto the balcony, changing rounds in his gun as he went. Following the General's flight, firing after him. Four shots connected, and he saw Sephiroth's fading form spasm as they hit. Tseng didn't wait to watch him land, he ran back into the office and for the elevator.

Sephiroth landed clumsily on a pile of shattered glass, choking back a scream as his bare feet were torn to shreds. Clutching at his side, he began to run as fast as he could. He ignored the pain in his side and the bloody mess that were his feet. Masamune in hand, he ran blindly until he reached the outer wall of Midgar. Bursting through it, to freedom.

I won't be your puppet. Not anymore.

************************Author's Note!!**************************

Okay. This is definitely been planned as an Aeris/Seph. However, I only have the first two chapters planned out. Unlike Angel Wings, which is completely planned and Tranquility, which has kind of a vague plan. This one, I got nothing George. I have NO idea where I'm going with this. I think that's a good thing. Oh, and this is an AU, just incase I was somehow stupid and forgot to mention that. I've always said that in game, Aeris/Seph very rarely works. IMHO, any romance between them has to end tragically if you're gonna stick to the game's events. The only way you get a happy ending if you create an AU...which I did because I'm a sick, sick woman. Oh, and don't worry, we'll get a visit from our flower girl in the next chapter.

Take on me!

Noacat ^_~