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Chapter 1: July, 2163…A Promise Kept
How could things have gotten so out of hand…?Those were the words going through the mind of Professor Faremis Gast as he tried desperately to line up the numbers on the safe before the timer installed in it went off.
…Ten to the left…59 to the right…97 to the left…The door to the safe popped open. Gast searched the inside, finding a key, and a summoning materia. He quickly pocketed both items and hurried out of the room. He knew he didn't have much time. Eventually, someone would notice the suspicious activity coming from the recently abandoned mansion. Even though it had been cleared out months ago, there were still plenty of SOLDIERs around with the experiments that Professor Hojo was conducting in the reactors. Plus…she was still there, so there was always at least a couple of troopers in town guarding her.
The reason why all of this heartache started…if I'd only had been away that day nine years ago…we would never have found her…
But they had found her. The creature that he'd proudly named Jenova. The creature that his former colleague Professor Hojo had become obsessed with. The creature who ultimately was responsible for the death of his assistant Lucrecia seven years ago. So much had happened because of…her.
Gast hurried down the spiral staircase as fast as he could. Upon reaching the bottom, he knew which door to look for. It was the first one on his left. Hastily, he jammed the key in the lock, turned it, and shoved the door open.
If it's what I think Hojo did…
He stepped inside a dark room filled with several coffins.
The one in the center immediately caught his eye. Seeing the
heinous experiments Hojo had gotten away with conducting, Gast knew not
to put anything past that madman. He went over and tried to lift
the lid of the coffin, but it was too heavy.
Just then, the lid of the coffin flew off, nearly knocking the professor over, crashing just behind him. When the dust cleared, he saw a man emerging from the coffin.
"Who disturbs my sleep?" the man asked as he brushed a strand of jet-black hair out of his face. He wore a red headband, a black jumpsuit, and a red cloak. He opened his eyes, revealing his blood-red irises. On his left arm was what appeared to be a metal prosthesis.
"Kind of a trite line to be using, don't you think?" Professor Gast chuckled nervously.
"Professor?" the man squinted. "It's been a long time, Vincent," The man said nothing.
"I had no idea…" Gast lowered his head, "It wasn't until last week that I found out what had really happened to you. I was told that you had committed suicide after what happened to Lucrecia,"
Vincent didn't reply.
"I originally thought that if I could find any incriminating evidence against Hojo," Gast said, "that he'd be fired. But ever since President Shinra took control of his father's power company, there's been corruption everywhere- including human resources. I've heard he's already started grooming his five-year-old son Rufus to take over. I suppose if he gets to the boy while he's young…"
"President Shinra has a son?" Vincent looked at the professor,
"How much time has passed?"
"Seven years," Gast answered, "What happened, Vincent? What did Hojo do to you?"
Vincent smirked bitterly. "We had an oral disagreement over his treatment of Lucrecia. He pulled out a gun. How I didn't see it coming…I guess I'll never know. I woke up with this thing…" he held up his claw-like left arm, "attached to my arm, and discovered a few other surprises,"
Hojo…you bastard…Gast thought angrily. "Can you stand up?"
"SOLDIER could come bursting in at any minute. If I'm to get you to safety…"
"No…" Vincent shook his head, "This is where I belong…this is my atonement,"
"Vincent…if this is about Lucrecia…"
"I couldn't protect her," Vincent closed his eyes at the pain of that statement.
"Years ago, I heard you promise to look after her child should anything happen," Gast reminded him, "Lucrecia may be gone, but Sephiroth is still alive,"
Vincent's ears perked up at the name "Sephiroth".
"So he at least had the decency to give the child the name she picked for him," Vincent muttered.
"He's seven years old," Gast told him, "The last thing I did was try to save him…but with all the guards there, I had no chance,"
"Let's go," Vincent said abruptly, and then stood up and stepped out of the coffin.
"But you just said-"
"I changed my mind," Vincent walked over to the door, "I'll make sure you get out safely. Then when we're both safe, you can go wherever it is you plan on going from here,"
"My wife must be worried sick about me," Gast said absently as the two men headed out of the room and up the staircase.
"You got married?" Vincent looked mildly interested.
"A few months ago," Gast couldn't help but grin.
"Congratulations," Vincent said.
The two made their way up the stairs, out of the room, down the stairway, and toward the front door.
"Wait…" Vincent grabbed the professor's arm.
"What is it?"
Vincent nodded, and threw back his cape, revealing a holster at his left side. He quickly grabbed the pistol inside. Gast stared at the gun confusedly.
"Hojo probably hoped I would use it on myself," Vincent answered, as if he'd read the other man's thoughts, "All I know was, the man wasn't thinking straight that day…as straight as that man could ever think, anyway,"
"Will a six-shooter be enough against SOLDIER?" Gast looked worried.
"Is there anything else you have in mind?"
Gast immediately remembered the summoning materia that he'd
found in the safe just a few minutes ago. He pulled it out, and
handed it over to Vincent.
"You're probably much more skilled with this than I am,"
Vincent clumsily took the red orb in his claw, still not quite used to maneuvering the metal digits. He secured it into the single slot of the weapon, where the orb seemed to be completely absorbed by the gun.
"Stay back," Vincent ordered as he began approach the door. No sooner did he do that then the door was blown off its hinges.
"Freeze!" yelled a trooper as he and three others held up their machine guns and charged inside.
With lightning speed, Vincent raised his gun and fired away, hitting each of the men in their arms. Each trooper dropped their guns, a couple of them going off, but the bullets landing nowhere near Vincent or the professor.
In the confusion, two Turks had appeared in the doorway. One of them had taken advantage of the spectacle and fired a pistol at Vincent, and then again several times. The former test subject howled in agony as he felt searing pain in his left leg, thigh, right shoulder, and the far left side of his ribcage.
"Vincent!" Professor Gast screamed.
Must be a rookie for his terrible aim…Vincent thought weakly, before a strange haze began to consume him. So once again, this happens…Hojo…you bastard…what have you done to me!
The professor stood rooted in shock as Vincent fell to his knees. What he saw next would forever haunt his dreams.
An unnatural sounding howl escaped from Vincent's throat. An equally foreign red light began to envelop his body, completely concealing his injured form. When the light dissipated, Vincent Valentine no longer stood there. In his place, stood a large, horned creature. One half of its skin was a grayish blue, while the other half was the same color as Vincent's jumpsuit. Several spike-like objects protruded from its arms- the left one having two bangle-like objects circling both its elbow and wrist, much like the joints of Vincent's prosthesis. On its head was a wild silver mane reaching down to its waist. There, Gast could see Vincent's cloak wrapped around the creature's lower body.
By the Planet…what are you…? Gast stepped back, terrified. The Turks and troopers did the same.
The creature suddenly whirled around to face the professor, its wolf-like mouth struggling to say something. It managed only one word:
Gast needed no further explanation as he fled the scene, disappearing into another room. Feeling like a coward for leaving Vincent- or whatever that thing was- to fight alone, he listened to the horrific sounds coming from the entryway. Eventually, there was silence. Still, the professor sat looking at the floor, not noticing how many minutes had passed. It wasn't until he heard footsteps approaching the door that he finally looked up.
Vincent stumbled in the room, completely back to the way he was before.
"Are you all right?" the professor asked worriedly.
"I'm fine," Vincent stated, "This condition doesn't last long. I apologize if I scared you. This is only the second time it happened,"
"What happened to…?" Gast almost didn't want to know the answer, remembering the spikes sticking out of the creature's shoulders.
"I don't know why they sent so many rookies out here," Vincent shook his head disgustedly, "I managed to knock them all out. As for the Turks- they're more equipped to deal with people rather than monsters. They both ran,"
Gast stood up, his determination back in full force. "They'll be waking up eventually, then. We should leave now,"
"Where are you heading to?" Vincent asked as they made their way to the back door.
"My vacation house in Icicle Inn," Gast answered, "No one in Shinra knows about it. It was the only place I could rest without getting bombarded with calls from work. One would think that I didn't need any time off…"
Vincent patiently listened to the older man rambling on as he followed him out the door. Just like the old days…he nearly smiled to himself. Gast would talk and talk, and then Lucrecia would give me that "here he goes again" look…oh god…Lucrecia…
"Vincent?" the professor looked back at his companion, a look of concern on his face, "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Vincent said immediately, "How do you plan to get home?"
"I have a small plane docked at the base of the Nibel Mountains," Gast told him, "It has more than enough room for the both of us. I'm sure my wife won't mind if you hide out with us for a while,"
"Thank you for the offer, but I have other matters to attend to," Vincent replied.
Gast stared at the man. "You just escaped after being in what I'm assuming was a coma, for the past seven years! You can't just go running off by yourself!"
"You're staying at Icicle Inn, right?"
"I will meet up with you later, then. First, I have to take care of something,"
"I will escort you to your plane, and that is where we'll part ways for now," Vincent gave Gast a look that said the discussion was over.
The professor sighed. "How long do you expect your 'other matters' to keep you?"
"I'm not sure. But I don't intend to fail. We will meet again. For now- let's find your plane before Shinra finds us. I still have unfinished business with them…"
"Faremis!" Ifalna Gast rushed over to her husband of four months, "Thank the Planet you're back!"
The professor caught her in an embrace. "Sorry I worried you,"
"You're damn right you worried me!" Ifalna stepped back and lightly punched her husband's shoulder, "You've been gone a week with no way for me to reach you! So did you find what you needed to get Hojo fired?"
"I did…" Gast sighed, "But it did me no good. The board of
directors didn't even care. They tried to make it look as if I
was working too hard. They ordered me to take a month off.
So I did. What they don't know is that I have no plans on going
back. Believe me, I was tempted to burn my bridges and
tell them where they could shove their new reactors, but it seems dangerous to make an enemy of that company now,"
"So what now?" Ifalna looked at the professor.
Gast led her downstairs to the master bedroom. "I'm not sure. At least I was able to right one wrong,"
"You remember me telling you about Vincent Valentine, right?"
"The Turk who used to date your assistant before she left him for Hojo?"
"The same. And apparently, he was another one of Hojo's victims. Right before Lucrecia died, he and Hojo got into a horrible fight. For some reason, Hojo was able to overpower Vincent. I suppose Vincent was too angry to think straight, and he let his guard down. Hojo shot Vincent, and then proceeded to conduct secret experiments on him. He was left in a coma for seven years, though the man doesn't seem to have aged a day. I found out about him, and was able to rescue him,"
"…And how is he?" Ifalna asked.
"I don't know," Gast admitted, "He left not long after. Said he had unfinished business with Shinra, and then took off. I just hope he knows what he's doing…"
"Well, I'm just glad to have you back," Ifalna put her arms around her husband's neck and kissed his cheek, "We both are,"
Ifalna smiled. "I'm pregnant,"
Gast's jaw dropped in shock.
"I'm not sure how far along I am," Ifalna continued, "But I figured you could help me find out. After all, you are a doctor as well as a scientist,"
"You're sure?" Gast gulped.
"I took five different home pregnancy tests," Ifalna admitted, "I'm as sure as I can be without seeing a real doctor,"
Gast clapped his hands in delight. "A baby…we're going to have a baby!" He pulled his wife toward him and began to dance around the room, the two of them laughing gaily.
Maybe things were going horribly right now. With Shinra overstepping several ethical boundaries, Vincent's bleak fate, Gast knew things were far from over. However, for this one moment, he allowed himself a moment of peace. He was going to be a father, and for now, that was the only thing that mattered.
Three days had passed since Ifalna had told Gast the good news. He'd run a few tests on her, and determined her to be about two months pregnant. Meanwhile, he'd strutted about the house, and around town like a proud rooster since hearing the wonderful news.
Finally, after dinner, he'd decided to do another interview with Ifalna. It was something he'd been working on- his own special research that she'd been helping him out with since before they were married. It had been quite a while since the last time he'd worked on it.
"Ifalna, can you comment on the thing called 'Weapon'?"
"Yes, prof-" Ifalna promptly broke off into giggles. This
was the first interview he'd conducted with her since they'd gotten
married. "I mean, honey,"
Gast smiled as his wife continued to speak.
"The one the everyone mistook for a Cetra...was named Jenova,"
The professor cringed slightly.
"That is the 'crisis from the sky'. The Planet knew it had to destroy the 'crisis from the sky'. You see, as long as Jenova exists, the Planet will never be able to fully heal itself,"
"Back then, Weapon was a guardian the Planet produced of its own will?" asked the professor.
Ifalna nodded. "Yes, but... There is no record of Weapon ever being used. A small number of the surviving Cetra defeated Jenova, and confined it. The Planet produced Weapon, but it was no longer necessary to use it,"
"So, WEAPON no longer exists on the Planet?"
She shook her head.
"WEAPON cannot vanish," she explained, "It remains asleep
somewhere on The Planet. Even though Jenova is confined, it could
come back to life at
some time. The Planet has not fully healed itself yet. It is still watching Jenova,"
She was about to continue when there was a knock at the door.
Gast harrumphed as he shut off the camera and went to see who had interrupted his work. He opened the door, revealing-
"I said I'd meet up with you eventually," Vincent reminded him dryly, "May we come in?"
In his arms was a small child wrapped in a blanket.
"Who is…?" Gast leaned over and removed part of the blanket from the child's face, "Vincent…you didn't…!"
"I promised to keep him safe," Vincent stated, "He's not safe in the labs,"
"Faremis? Who's at the door?" Ifalna walked into the room.
Vincent tried not to smirk as he stared at the woman before him. She had to be at least ten years younger than the thirty-eight-year-old professor. Trophy wife…only without the ex. Sure can't say I ever saw that coming…
"Vincent, meet my wife Ifalna,"
"How do you do?" Vincent bowed his head politely.
"Uh, dear, this is Vincent Valentine," Gast looked uncomfortable, "And the child is…well…Sephiroth,"
"The boy who carries Jenova's cells?" Ifalna looked horrified.
"He himself is not Jenova," Gast pointed out.
"But still- that boy is dangerous! What is he doing here!"
"He is as much a victim as you would be if they knew about-" Gast began to say.
"Faremis!" Ifalna immediately tried to shush him before he could say anything else.
"We can trust Vincent," Gast assured her.
Ifalna looked at the odd pair still standing in the open doorway. Trust that man? She shook her head in bewilderment. He looked like a serial murderer!
Faremis trusts him…a voice in the back of her mind gently reminded her.
Ifalna sighed. "At least come inside, then,"
Vincent nodded as he stepped inside. Gast closed the door and motioned for everyone to step inside the living room.
"How is he?" Gast asked as Vincent set the boy down on the sofa.
"He's heavily sedated," Vincent answered, "But he'll be fine. Apparently he'd just finished with another one of Hojo's tests. It made it much easier to get him out,"
"What about SOLDIER?" Gast looked concerned, "That place is guarded beyond belief,"
"I discovered many other 'gifts' given to me by Hojo. He must have somehow not realized that they could potentially be used to his disadvantage. To make a long story short- it wasn't that hard…for me anyway,"
"How many witnesses were there?" Ifalna's voice held a hint of panic.
"There's no way they could figure out where I went," Vincent assured the woman, "And we stowed away on a merchant ship that has nothing to do with Shinra whatsoever,"
A small groan turned everyone's attention to the couch. Sephiroth was beginning to wake up.
Gast went over to the child. "Sephiroth? Are you all right?"
"…Professor Gast…?" the boy mumbled, "They told me you were taking a medical leave…"
"I quit, actually," Gast informed him.
"…You're leaving?" Sephiroth looked upset, despite still being groggy, "No…don't leave me…you're the only one here who's ever been nice to me…!"
The professor chuckled, "You've left too,"
"You're no longer in the Shinra labs," Gast told him, "My friend Vincent decided to take you out of there. Away from Hojo, and away from the tests,"
Sephiroth's eyes widened as he looked around the room. He'd never seen this place before.
"You're safe now," Gast knelt down next to the boy, "Why don't you get some sleep? You must still be tired. Don't worry- everything is going to be alright now,"
Sephiroth silently obeyed, and closed his eyes.
"You two are free to crash here for a while," Gast declared as he stood up.
"Honey…" Ifalna continued to look uneasy, "May I speak to you downstairs…?"
"Are you trying to put us in danger!" Ifalna whispered furiously as the two stood in the bedroom, "Shinra's prized experiment is sleeping on our sofa as we speak! Vincent is now a wanted fugitive for kidnapping him probably, and you know what they'll do if they find me! And what about our unborn child?"
"Believe me, sweetheart, we're much safer now that those two are here than we were yesterday," said Gast, "I told you what Vincent did when we were ambushed,"
"Oh, that's right! Vincent can magically transform into a werewolf!" Ifalna snorted, "That makes me feel so much better!"
"Don't 'darling' me!" Ifalna snapped, "This is serious! You've done some crazy things, Faremis, but this tops them all! We were safe when Shinra thought you simply quit. But if they find out it was you who let Vincent out, who in turn stole that boy from the labs, then they'll arrest you! They'll then arrest me for suspicion of assisting you. Then they will find out who I am…I could end up like Lucrecia! And our child could end up in those labs for the rest of his or her life!"
"I won't let any of that happen!" Gast argued, "Ifalna…you and this child…" he reached over and gently touched his wife's stomach, "I left my home to be with you. Do you honestly think I'd be so reckless as to put you in danger? This land is completely untouched by Shinra. As long as we're far away from Midgar and Nibelheim, we will be safe. None of the other countries would simply allow SOLDIER to storm in and harm its residents,"
"Ohhh…!" Ifalna pouted, "Why do you have to sound so convincing all the time?"
"Because you know I'm right," Gast smirked.
"All right…" Ifalna sighed, "They can stay for a few days, I suppose,"
"Was that so bad?" Gast chuckled.
Ifalna rolled her eyes.
"Let's go back upstairs," said Gast.