Emerald, Princess of Vernea does not own Final Fantasy 7 and is not associated with it or its creators in anyway. This is a novelisation of the text (writing up these things is a hobby), and Emerald only lays claim to the written form and original dialogue that does not appear in the game. Everything else is copyrighted to Squaresoft, the creators of Final Fantasy 7.

Final Fantasy VII

Emerald Princess of Vernea

Part One: Midgar

Chapter One

A voice was calling.

The stars were crying out.

The spirits were unsettled.

A young woman of about twenty-two years was stood kneeling in the middle of a dark alley, all alone. She was looking through the old, musty window of a run-down shop, with small green sparks of energy falling from a broken pipe around her, floating for a moment in the air before fading away. The woman blinked and placed her hand under her chin as she stood up and looked down, thinking hard. Or perhaps she was listening.

Very suddenly the woman turned her head to her left and looked down the alley towards the street, suddenly awoken from her trance by a sound that had come from the street beyond. With a last fleeting glance back at the green sparks of energy she began to walk down the alley, her long brown hair swaying gently behind her, tied in a long, curled ponytail secured by a pink ribbon and a glowing white ball. Resting on her arm was a small reed basket that was filled with freshly grown flowers that were now in full bloom. As she walked along the dark alley her long pink dress flowed gently around her ankles and over her brown boots, and over the top of her dress she wore a dark pink-red jacket like a thin tunic.

She eventually emerged from the alley and back onto the street, stopping very suddenly as a very large motorbike zoomed up and past her, missing her by inches, and continued to zoom out across the street. Coming from its exhaust pike was a long trail of thick, black smoke, and the driver was completely oblivious to the fact that he had very nearly knocked the young woman down. She looked around for a moment at the other people walking across the streets, each one oblivious to the event, walking hurriedly through the streets to avoid the muggers and thieves that often roamed about at night.

The street was just as dark as the alley, for the night was set in the sky above them. Yet even in the daytime the city was dark. That was the way Midgar was. It was a cold and dark city, and yet it was always presented as the city where dreams were made. This city was the starting point for the energy of the whole world.

The city was shaped like a giant circle, and was split into eight separate sections by large walls of metal, and eight separate towers bordering the corners. The towers were actually large reactors that sucked up energy from the ground below and converted it into energy that the people in the city used for their everyday lives. Another large tower was built in the centre of the city, much taller and thinner than the reactors, and it was in that building where the city's president and his workers lived, running the city from its well secured safety.

There were two levels to the city. The upper level was on top of the eight sectors in view of the sky, and was in general much more well-run and designed. The buildings were secured and kept in an average state, although the streets were unclean and filled with pollution. The lower levels were the slums, where people unable to afford accommodation on the upper levels lived. The people who lived in the slums were often very poor, making their homes and livings out of anything they could find. The people above had no time for the poorer people, and were generally not thought of at all, even by the richest people.

However, it was very easy to see the mass pollution that surrounded the city. The plain that it was built on was a dead and dry ring of black, strangely surrounded beyond that with an area of lush grass. It was as though all the life had been sucked out of the ground around the perimeter of the city, killing off all its lush life and replacing it with a dark, lifeless wasteland that merged into the rest of the land. In the city itself, the pollution came from the number of vehicles that wound through the dark streets, spewing their fumes into the air, although the people were no so used to it they didn't notice. The same noxious gases were being ejected from the tops of the tall reactor towers and into the air, polluting it even more, and again no one seemed to notice.

At that moment the 11:30 train was just pulling into the station around one of the eight sectors of the city, pulling up close near to one of the tall reactor towers. It was quiet on the platform while the train began to slow down, with only two guards in dark red uniforms standing silently against the walls, trying to think of things to pass away the time until their shifts were over. They clearly weren't expecting anything to happen at any time soon, so they weren't expecting what happened as the train finally came to a gentle stop at the side of the station, and squeaked loudly as the rails skidded and stopped, and a loud puff as steam was released into the air. One of the soldiers glanced up, and then looked down again uninterested.

While the soldiers weren't looking, a figure suddenly stood up on the roof of the train from where he had been perched behind one of the funnels that released the gas. He was fairly tall and wore a ragged sleeveless green shirt and dark black trousers and boots. His hair was short and dark brown, and he had a single red band tied around his head. His name was Biggs.

One of the soldiers looked up as Biggs climbed up and jumped off the top of the train and landed strongly on the platform. Immediately he began to run to Biggs, knowing for sure that he wasn't a passenger on the train. As he neared him, Biggs reached out and grabbed the soldier by his shoulder, and then turned and harshly pulled on the soldier's arm, lifting him up and throwing him harshly over his shoulder. The soldier flew over quite easily and landed with a heavy thud on the concrete ground, knocked out instantly as he landed.

The other soldier stared in surprise as he saw his colleague fall to the ground unconscious as the new arrival attacked him. He recovered quickly though and also began to run towards Biggs, ready to apprehend him for trespassing and assault. He reached out and grabbed onto a small gun that was latched onto his belt, just in case Biggs resisted.

However as he ran across the platform, another figure suddenly ran out from the side of the train and stopped in front of him, and before the soldier could stop the figure suddenly lashed out and kicked him hard in the chest, sending him flying back against the side of the train. His head collided with the hard, cold metal and he slumped to the ground, also knocked unconscious.

This new arrival was a woman, no more than twenty-five years of age, like her companion. She had long light brown hair that was tied back in a ponytail, and also had a black band tied around her head. She wore a grey top and black trousers, and even from her appearance she looked tough, but still very feminine. Her name was Jessie.

As the second soldier slumped heavily to the ground, a third figure ran out from the open door of the train. He was a man, much heavier than Biggs or Jessie. It was fair to say that he was rather plump, but he wasn't so heavy that he couldn't move around. He was fairly short, with a yellow T-shirt and black trousers, and a head of short black hair and a nervous expression from his face. His name was Wedge. After a quick look around, he ran over towards his two friends.

A fourth person then ran out of the train, running out of the last door at the far end of the platform. It was another man of about thirty-seven, and it was very clear from looks alone that he was the leader. He was very tall and burly, with large, well-trained muscles rippling under his black skin, thick like leather and firm to the touch. His face was strong and well structured, and he had a small black beard on around his mouth, and black hair on his head. He wore a torn green shirt and black trousers, but what was most amazing of all about this man was that on his right arm there was a large gun. His hand was missing completely on his right arm, and in its place there was the gun, grafted onto him so he could use it as a weapon. He was called Barret Wallace, and there was no doubt that he was the leader of the others.

As Barret ran out of the train, he turned and signalled back at the train, and a fifth and final person stood up on the roof of the train, and whilst holding onto the edge of the roof, he flipped down and landed perfectly on the ground in front of Barret. This final person was much younger than all of the other people, and looked no more than twenty-one years old. He wore a strange purple outfit like some kind of uniform, with a large black belt around his waist to keep it in place. The top half of the suit clung tightly to his body like armour, while the lower half below the belt was much more baggy and free, tucked into his black boots. There were no sleeves to this suit, but over the young man's left shoulder there was a curved plate of metal with blunt spikes sticking out of it, like shoulder armour, and tied around his left wrist was a black amulet with empty circular slots in it. Resting on his back was a monster of a sword, for the blade was extremely wide and thick to cause maximum damage, and looked very heavy as it was strapped onto his back. He had a head of spiky blond hair, and it was fair to see that he looked rather attractive, even though he had a cold and uncaring expression. The most eye-catching feature about him was his eyes. They were a stunning blue colour, and they almost seemed to glow through the darkness as he looked over at Barret expectantly.

"Come on, newcomer," Barret said curtly to the young man. "Follow me."

With that Barret turned and ran off away from the young man, following his other three colleagues who had run off across the platform and through an open door just seconds before. The young man waited for a moment before he followed, and then began to run across the platform after Barret.

Just as he past the first soldier that lay unconscious beside the train, another door at the end of the platform opened up, and two more soldiers ran out. These were different from the other soldiers, for they were wearing blue uniforms, and carried larger guns in their hands. They stopped for a second as they saw the spiky-headed young man just a few metres away from them, but then they charged forward with their guns at the ready, prepared to attack the intruders.

The young man watched as the two soldiers ran over to him, not making any moves that would cause them to shoot him before they were close enough to him. Once they were just a few feet away from him the young man reached out and grabbed one of the soldiers by his arm, and then powerfully swung him around in a large circle. The soldier was hardly able to keep his balance as he was swung around, and could only see a blur as he staggered over his feet, so he was completely caught off guard as he slammed into his partner and fell down onto the ground, toppling down onto him, and the two soldiers lay stunned while the young man ran off hurriedly across the platform and out through the other door to the alleys beyond.

Biggs, Wedge and Jessie were all waiting in the next alley, all standing nervously outside a large metal door that stood nearby. Jessie was kneeling at the foot of the door, typing furiously into a small metal box that was positioned on the floor, showing a small keypad filled with numbers and letters. The door was locked by a prefix code, and she was trying hard to crack it. Biggs and Wedge were standing behind her and watching for any soldiers that might come their way, and Barret was nowhere to be seen. As the young spiky-headed man walked over towards them, Biggs looked up.

"Wow, you used to be in SOLDIER all right..." he said, his voice filled with awe. "Not every day you find one in a group like AVALANCHE."

Jessie stopped typing for a second and looked up at Biggs, a flash of horror crossing her face. "SOLDIER!?" she exclaimed. The terror showed in her voice. "Aren't they the enemy? What's he doing with us in AVALANCHE?"

"Hold it, Jessie," Biggs said hurriedly before Jessie started swinging her fists. Jessie was really quick-tempered when it came to something like this. "He WAS in SOLDIER. He quit them and now is one of us." Jessie nodded, but it was still clear from the look on her face that she was unsure. To hide her anxiety she turned back to the panel and began to type again, while Biggs turned back to the blond-haired man. "Didn't catch your name..."

The young man looked at him indifferently. "Cloud."

Biggs nodded his head slightly. "Cloud, eh? I'm..."

In response, the man called Cloud shook his head. "I don't care what your names are," he replied coldly. "Once this job's over, I'm outta here."

Slowly, Biggs nodded his head again and turned back towards Jessie, feeling a little put off by Cloud's cold response. Just then Barret ran up from one of the side alleys that wound their way around the reactor area, and came to a stop beside them. He looked from one person to another, and a wave of anger spread across his face.

"The hell you all doin'!?" he raged angrily as he glared out at the four people standing in front of him. "I thought I told you never to move in a group!"

Biggs, Wedge and Jessie all flinched as Barret shouted at them angrily. Cloud looked from one person to the other as they jumped and shuddered at the sound of Barret's angry voice, which gave him the impression that Barret shouted at them a lot. As he finished shouting he took a deep breath to calm himself, and then pointed up to the metal door that Jessie was trying to open.

"Our target's the North Mako Reactor," he informed them, keeping the stern, almost stressed stone in his voice. "We'll meet on the bridge in front of it."

At that moment there was a loud click from the door as Jessie finally managed to crack the code, and the large set of metal doors began to slide open, the metal scraping hard against the dry, paved paths of the alley. As the doors opened fully and stopped on either side of the wall the three minors got up and ran through the door before Barret could tell them to get a move on, running into the enclosed area beyond and out of sight. Barret ran forward towards the open door and watched his colleagues run on. Before he followed them however, he turned back towards Cloud. The expression that was on Barret's face said it all instantly. The elder man was looking at Cloud with a pure look of disgust and hatred, similar to the way Jessie had looked up in fear when Biggs mentioned that Cloud was an 'Ex-SOLDIER'. Cloud didn't know Barret really well at all, and Barret didn't know him, but with just one look Cloud knew that Barret didn't like him one little bit.

"Ex-SOLDIER, huh?" Barret asked Cloud. Even in his voice, the waves of hatred that he was aiming at Cloud were apparent. He eyed Cloud up and down, and curled his lip angrily. "Don't trust ya!"

With that Barret turned and ran off into the enclosure, following his teammates into the reactor area. Cloud stayed behind for a few moments as Barret ran out of sight, and then he turned his gaze up towards a tall structure looming above him.

Their train had come to a stop at the very edge of the city of Midgar, right at one of the points where two sectors joined, separated by a reactor building. The tall tower that rose up at the edge of the sectors was just one of the eight reactors that powered the city, and was just one of the sources of Midgar's power and money. It was a very restricted area, and Cloud knew the consequences of what would happen if they were caught. For a second or two Cloud looked up at the tall, cylindrical shape of the reactor, before he too ran off through the open doors and into the vicinity of the reactor.

The long alleyways that he ran through as he made his way silently through the reactor vicinity were empty, with hardly a single soul in sight. There was in fact no one around apart from him, which made it seem as though the operators of the city had very bad security, but that was because no one had ever attempted to break into the actual reactors before. Barret and his friends were the very first to attempt this, and it looked as though it was going to be an easy trip.

Cloud soon spotted the other members of AVALANCHE up ahead. In the shadows around him he could see the tiny, silhouetted figures of Biggs, Wedge and Jessie as they made their way carefully through the shadows, using them as cover to prevent from being seen by the numerous CCTV cameras that were posted everywhere. The three moved at consecutive times, moving one after another to make quick dashes across the patches of light and diving into the shadows again just as the cameras swerved down in their direction. Cloud couldn't see Barret anywhere, but he got the impression that Barret wasn't going to be as subtle with his movements as the other three were.

Eventually Cloud saw the building that they were heading towards: the building that was built just beneath the tall reactor tower. Biggs, Wedge and Jessie were heading towards this tower, slinking across the shadows and avoiding cameras until they slipped through the open door and into the building. Moments after they entered Cloud saw Barret make a strong dash across the floor and into the building as well. Cloud waited until the camera on the other side of the alley he was standing in passed by, and then he also hurried over and slipped through the door.

It was almost as quiet inside the reactor building as it was on the outside. There were hardly any soldiers around at all, which seemed quite unusual since this was supposed to be a high security building. There were one or two soldiers around, but as Cloud entered he saw that these blue uniformed soldiers were lying on the floor unconscious, after Barret and his cronies knocked them out.

This was the first checkpoint of the mission. They were on a T-Junction bridge, with a door at the far end leading to another exit, and a door down the longer path leading towards the reactor. Wedge ran off from the group and stood at the far door, guarding their future exit, while Biggs, Jessie and Barret all ran down towards the other door. Cloud followed them.

The three were waiting for him on the other side, standing outside another locked metal door. Biggs was trying to unlock the code for this one, while Jessie looked around anxiously for any signs of Shinra soldiers. Barret had his arms crossed and was tapping his foot impatiently as Biggs typed into the small console, and as Cloud walked up calmly he scowled, a pure look of dislike.

"Yo, this your first time in a reactor?" he asked Cloud curtly, not even looking at the young man.

Cloud shook his head. "No," he replied simply, also refusing to look at Barret. "After all, I did work for Shinra y'know."

The mere mention of that fact seemed to make Barret scowl even more, and a look of concern once again spread across Jessie's face. They were in a Shinra building right then, with Shinra soldiers prowling anywhere. Jessie thought it was an extreme concern that they should have someone who once worked for Shinra working with them. Like Barret, she believed Cloud would have to prove himself a little more before she trusted him completely. Biggs and Wedge accepted him immediately, but she and Barret would need a little more convincing than that.

"The Planet's full of Mako energy," Barret said suddenly, as though he was giving Cloud a rundown of the situation. "People here use it everyday."

Cloud shrugged dismissively. He didn't really care what people used Mako energy for, and besides, he already knew. Barret glared at him angrily.

"It's the life blood of the Planet, but Shinra keeps sucking the blood out with these weird machines!" he shouted heatedly, waving his arms around madly.

Cloud sighed heavily and shook his head. "I'm not here for a lecture," he replied simply, expressing no anger. "Let's just hurry."

Barret frowned angrily and pointed furiously at Cloud. "That's it, you're coming with me from now on!" he raged.

Again Cloud shrugged. Barret's resentment towards Cloud did not bother him at all. In fact he didn't really care. Barret was a person with a lot of issues, and Shinra and SOLDIER was just a couple of them.

At that moment Biggs typed in the right code for the door, and the panel glowed green.

"Code deciphered!" he announced, and the door slid open. He and the other AVALANCHE members ran through the door into the smaller room beyond, which was just another security checkpoint, where another metal door blocked the way. Jessie ran straight to this door and punched a code into the panel.

"Code deciphered!" she called out as the panel turned green, and the door slid open. Jessie, Barret and Cloud ran through the door to the next room. Biggs stayed behind in the middle room, since this was his checkpoint. The others meanwhile had to head down into the deep bowels of the reactor, where the core was. The elevator that led down into the reactor core was at the far end of the next room. Jessie ran up to the door and pressed a button. Almost immediately the metal door of the lift slid open, and together the three walked into the small, enclosed lift.

Barret stomped over to the far end of the elevator and leaned against the wall, staring at the ground in deep thought. Jessie and Cloud walked in after him, and as the door to the lift slid shut Jessie pointed to the other end of the elevator, towards a small red button.

"Press that button over there," she said.

Cloud followed her instructions and pressed the button on the lift. There was a stomach-churning jerk as the lift began to move, heading down into the depths of the reactor building and underneath the upper plates of the city. Jessie looked up at the ceiling and sighed heavily, trying to calm herself. It was a stressful mission, and they didn't know when the enemy would show up, so they had to take every precaution that they could.

While the lift began to move down the floors, Barret turned to Cloud.

"Little by little the reactors'll drain out all the life, and that'll be that," he said to the mercenary, trying hard to make him understand.

Cloud looked at Barret and shrugged. "It's not my problem," he replied.

"The planet's dyin', Cloud!"

The blond-haired mercenary shook his head. "The only thing I care about is finishing this job before security and the Roboguards come," he said.

Angrily Barret turned away from Cloud and shook his gun-arm. For a second or two he was very tempted to turn and smack Cloud across the head, but he knew that was something he couldn't afford to do. Cloud may not have looked like the strongest person in the world, but he was an ex-member of SOLDIER, so looks may be deceiving. Cloud also had inside knowledge and experience of Shinra security systems, and although it was costing Barret an arm and a leg to employ Cloud's help, he couldn't risk Cloud walking out at such an important stage in the mission. So he swallowed his anger and refused to look at him.