Standard Issue Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII is the property of Squaresoft. All characters, locations, and concepts except for original creations belong to them.

Mako: A Final Fantasy VII Novelization

Part One: Midgar

Prologue: Silenced Night

Green, sparkling embers floated lazily in the air, billowing about in the faint breeze. She crouched in front of the conduit, reaching out and touching one of the tiny motes of light, absorbing the green energy into her hand. She frowned as the Mako flowed into her, and she caught a momentary jolt of ideas and emotions, jumbled and confused. The compression and modification had corrupted and changed the energies, ruining the inherent harmony.

She shook her head and stood up, leaving the damaged conduit and the leaking Mako behind. Most people would avoid leaking Mako because of the danger inherent with the substance, but she didn't. She wasn't afraid of the Mako, though its presence saddened her as she felt the pain and suffering inflicted by the "miracle of modern science." But . . . it was this substance that had given birth to her city.

She stepped out of the alley, a basket of flowers hanging idly from her left hand, and looked up and down the street. As always, this section of Midgar was lit by yellow lamps and blazing neon lights. People meandered along the sidewalks of the main streets, and cars drove past, moving through the streets with a whiff of noxious gasoline and Mako trailing in their wake. The apartment buildings and businesses glowed brightly in the dark of night, the city vibrating with the buzz of life.

From where she stood, she couldn't see much of the city, just the next row of apartment buildings in Sector Eight. They stretched up into the night, like brown teeth, stained with pollution from the nearby industrial factories. The city of Midgar was the home of the headquarters of Shinra Inc., the worldwide industrial conglomerate that effectively ruled the world. Only the far-off land of Wutai had ever successfully resisted Shinra's control, and that just for a scant decade, before they too had been crushed.

The corporation was the pinnacle of corruption and the worship of money, a powerful, faceless monstrosity whose nest further exemplified these sordid ideals. That was what Midgar was: the product of aggressive expansion and the rape of both the natural world and mankind, raised on the backs of the poor and oppressed and fueled by the energies of the planet itself. It was Shinra's cancerous crown, the largest city in the world, where all their power was centered and from which their power had extended to encompass the world. It was huge, awe-inspiring, and at the same time, an abomination.

But for her, Midgar was also home.

She stepped out onto the sidewalk and walked down the noisy street toward the topside Sector Two train station. The light played across her features, reflecting off her pale, almost milky-white skin, long brown hair, and vibrant green eyes as she moved through the hustle and bustle of Midgar's night. However, she paused, listening, for over the din of the city street, she thought she faintly heard the sound of conflict, of distant sirens sounding near the border between Sector One and Sector Eight.

In the shadows, he listened. Darkness wrapped around his form as he stood silently in the black lightless stretches of the Midgar night. The shadow was his home, or at least, it had been for so long that he had grown accustomed to its constant presence, wrapping around this body like a thick, endless blanket of nothing. And in this emptiness, he waited, biding his time, assembling the pieces.

Through rock, metal, earth, sky, and time, he had listened intently. Every second had been spent gathering the wisdom and the knowledge he required, slowly spreading his influence and ascertaining the locations of the pieces. Bit by bit, he had found where his scattered components lay, spread out by the workings of men.

Men. Such a vile term. A race of pompous, arrogant fools. The descendants of a decrepit race, a swarm of insects stretching across the face of this planet, an infestation that drained the power of the world for their own ends. A purposeless collection of worthless, resource consuming maggots.

Well, he mused with a smile. Not for long.

A few steps needed to be taken before the process could begin. He was strong, but not perfect. He couldn't achieve his true capabilities until all had been restored. The individuals carrying his components were mere pittances, not enough to bother seeking out on his own. They would find their way to him, with but a few exceptions. What he needed lay ahead; the greater portion of himself was ensconced in the center of this stinking human construct. It had taken him too long to find it . . . Did those fools really think that hiding it in the center of their city would stop him?

It had taken him five years to recover and seek out the pieces. It had taken ages before that for him to be rediscovered. And it had taken eons before that for him to finally arrive at a place where his power could be made manifest. He understood the concept of patience. A few days' time was all he needed. He would remain there in the darkness of the city of men, listening intently for the one moment he needed, and then he would strike. And after that . . . .

After that, the world of men would soon see its end, by his hands. And in their deaths, he would rise as a new power. With the death of men, he would become a god, as was his destiny.

Soon . . . .

In the dead of night, the Shinra corporate military police found themselves immersed in yet another endless night of boredom. A half-dozen men patrolled the train station directly outside the Sector Eight Military Depot, an arms and equipment storage facility located right outside the Number One Mako Reactor. The reactors were scattered around the exterior of the upper plate of Midgar, massive and mighty edifices that served as monuments of Shinra' power, and sources of that same power.

These military police had a special purpose: they inspected all trains arriving at this station, and they, along with a few additional platoons of Shinra regular infantry, were tasked with providing security both for the depot and the exterior of the Mako reactor. The reactor itself had its own internal security force, automated defenses, guard animals, and specially-shielded soldiers. These troops outside the reactor we not such men; they wore the standard blue uniforms, armor, and face and head-covering helmets of Shinra regular infantry.

A supply train carrying the next shift was expected to arrive at midnight, and the guards perked up as they heard the distant rumbling of the vehicle coming in, a few minutes early. They moved out onto the platform, watching as the older, converted Mako-driven vehicle rapidly closed in with the station, applying its brakes as it neared. A few of the men made comments about being glad their shift was over, and a pair stepped into one of the guard houses, one to retrieve his extra gear he had stowed, and another to send a message to the guards inside the depot that their relief had arrived.

The old train's wheeled screeched viciously, steadily bringing the vehicle to a halt, and the guards waited patiently for the doors on the side to open, and for the soldiers inside to step out. After a couple of seconds, no one emerged, and the military police glanced at each other, confused.

They caught a glimpse of motion on top of one of the train cars, and looked up in time to see a man, a huge bear of a warrior, leap down, using his sheer bulk and weight to crush one of the guards under his massive frame.

Between two of the train cars, another pair of figures emerged, holding sub-machineguns in hand. The two men quickly fired three-round bursts into another pair of guards as they grabbed for their slung rifles. The bullets struck at their throats and mouths, where their helmets did little to protect the soldiers, and sent them spinning to the ground, instantly killed. The fourth guard raised his rifle, but then felt his chin being pulled back, and a stabbing pain diving into the back of his neck, slicing up into his skull and brain stem. He toppled to the pavement, his rifle clattering to the ground, the assassin's knife sliding out of his neck as he did so. The killer, a young woman with brown hair, gray vest, and black slacks, her forehead covered with a red bandana, quickly moved into the shadows cast by the lights of the train station.

The other two men, clad in what looked like cast-off military gear, vests, bandanas, boots, and gloves, moved out from the train, sweeping the platform with their weapons. One was hefty and portly, who could generously be called fat, while the other was almost rail thin and athletic. They moved past the big, heavyset warrior, who watched the platform as well. The last man of the team, the rearguard, and potentially the biggest troublemaker of the bunch, dropped from a car further back. He waved a signal, indicating it was clear, and moved up.

As he stepped into the light, one could see his features. He wore a somewhat tattered dark blue uniform, pants and a loose shirt, over which was a thick belt. A metal shoulder guard covered his left shoulder, and a bandoleer cut across his chest, connecting to the heavy leather sheath on his back, which held up his massive sword. Spiked blonde hair flew wildly as he jogged across the platform, gloved right hand over his shoulder and clutching the handle of his heavy blade, his black boots pounding on the pavement. His left hand, encased in a heavy black glove and featuring a large iron bracer that ran halfway up his forearm, remained empty.

The leader of the intruders was impressed with the calm, almost bored demeanor in the young man's thin face, as if this was as simple as a trip to the grocery store. He would have been handsome, excepting his rugged features and blazing azure eyes, orbs that glowed ominously like angry blue-white coals. The expression within those eyes was far from welcoming; in fact there was a dangerous substance behind them, as if this man was a lethal weapon waiting to strike out.

The door into one of the rooms adjacent to the platform flew open, and two Shinra soldiers rushed out, rifles in hand. They spotted the blonde man first and spun on him, raising their rifles.

"Freeze!" one of the two military police screamed.

It was the last word he ever spoke.

The man seemed to bolt forward, crossing the ten feet between the trio in a heartbeat, and drew his sword off his back. The two soldiers caught a glimpse of the mighty weapon, a huge, solid steel blade a foot across and five feet in length, long and straight with angular, square-like edges. Then the sword flew across impossibly fast, the razor edge chopping into the soldier on the left, the one who had spoken. The weight behind the sword and the awe-inspiring force behind the slash sent the blade clean through the armored soldier, slicing him in half, blood and guts splashing from his bisected body. The warrior pivoted slightly, hacking across a second time, and chopped down the other man with a one-handed backhand stroke, launching his broken, bisected body across the platform.

"Not bad," rumbled the big man, looking over his hired mercenary's handiwork. The huge, dark-skinned man known as Barret Wallace gestured behind him with his good arm, his right hidden in the sleeve of the heavy trenchcoat that wrapped around his massive, plug-like body. He looked like nothing short of a humanoid boulder, a solid rock of muscle and power, topped by a large head featuring a crew-cut hairstyle and a thick, closely shaved black beard and mustache.

"Others're securing the entrance to the depot," he quickly said in a thick, rough accent. "Let's move 'fore they find trouble!" Barret spun around and ran across the platform, moving with speed that belied his massive frame, and the mercenary followed him. They ducked into a stairwell that rose up above the platform, opening onto a raised paved walkway that bypassed the depot and led directly toward the Mako reactor. The pair could hear alarms sounding throughout the complex as word of the sudden attack quickly began to spread. Time was of the essence for the rebels.

The pair quickly arrived at the perimeter of the Mako reactor complex, marked by a huge twelve-foot high wall towering over them, with wide, thick metal doors protecting the entrance. The brown-haired woman, Jessie, if the mercenary remembered correctly, was elbow deep in a control panel beside the door, penlight clutched between her teeth as she dug into the wiring. Around her were the other two men, the fat one covering the platform they had arrived on with his gun, while the thin rebel watched the route from the storage depot, a passage nearby that could allow half a platoon of enemy soldiers to charge them without any trouble.

"Almos' go' 't," Jessie hissed, her words slurred by the object in her mouth.

"The hell?" Barret demanded as he stepped onto the platform. "I told ya'll to never move in a group!"

"Not much room, boss!" responded the portly man with a grin. "Jessie's almost got the door open, anyway."

"A single damn grenade coulda taken all ya'lls' asses out," Barret complained.

The thin man glanced back at the mercenary, giving him another look. He noted the bloody sword the man carried, flipped over into an overhand grip and held out behind him, letting the gore drip off it.

"Damn, never thought I'd see a member of SOLDIER and live to tell about it," he commented with a grin.

"SOLDIER?" Jessie muttered, surprised. This was news to her. "SOLDIER's wi' Shinra. They're 'r en'my!"

"Was in SOLDIER," the thin man replied. "Now he's with us, right?" Barret nodded. "Hey, never caught your name," he added, looking back at the mercenary.

"Cloud," the merc replied coolly, stepping past the thin man and looking down the passage, eyes narrowing. He tapped his sword against the corner of the wall they stood beside, knocking some of the blood off. "Cloud Strife, ex-soldier, First Class."

"Nice," the man responded with a grin, glad to have a competent ally along. "The fat guy's Wedge Lucas, and I'm George Biggs-"

"Did I ask for your name?" Cloud responded coldly, shocking both Biggs and Wedge. "I don't care who you guys are. I'm just here for the pay, don't forget that." The two rebels were still surprised, when Barrett slapped both of them on the shoulders with his left hand.

"Look alive, fools!" he muttered. The two rebels realized the coming threat an instant before the squad of Shinra soldiers charging down the passage opened fire. Cloud had already rolled around the corner, out of the line of fire, while the other rebels ducked and dove for safety, Barret grabbing Jessie and dragging her out of the line of fire.

"I'm not done with the door!" she protested.

"But they'd be done with ya faster if ya stayed out there!" Barret responded, bullets ripping past the exposed position outside the door. Biggs poked his head around the corner for a glimpse, and ducked back as bullets peppered his position.

"Too many," he quickly reported. "Too far away to use grenades, either."

"Arright," Barret muttered, grinning as he patted his right arm with his left. "Looks like I'll need t' show 'em my little friend!"

"No need," muttered Cloud, his voice barely audible over the gunfire. The rebels looked around, and then up, to see Cloud perched on the wall they were hiding behind, having vaulted up there when the attack had begun. "I'll flank them." He spun before anyone could say anything and dashed over the wall toward the Shinra position.

"He's crazy," Wedge commented, and Barret chuckled.

"Hope he don't die before we get inside. We may need 'im!"

Cloud moved unseen along the top of the wall, closing in on the Shinra soldiers. They had stopped charging, and were steadily advancing, firing in staggered bursts as they walked forward, conserving their ammunition. He was surprised to count only five of them, but the sheer volume of fire from the small squad had quickly won them fire superiority, forcing the rebels to take cover. That gave Shinra the initiative.

Of course, had they been members of SOLDIER they would have been covering all flanks the enemy could come from, including overhead. That tactical oversight was what sealed their fates as Cloud focused his mind for a moment. On his bracer, a green light flared, and white mist gathered around his wrist. He jabbed his hand at the lead Shinra soldier, and a stream of ice shot forth, instantly resolving itself into a series of icy shards that slammed into the lead soldier. The ice punched through his armor an impaled the man with a dozen frigid blades, which instantly shattered, unleashing lethal cold throughout the man's body, that froze his organs solid.

The soldier, already wounded from icy shards, was killed instantly by the ice within his body. The other Shinra troops whirled, bringing their weapons to bear on the direction the ice had come from, but in that instant, Cloud had already dropped into their midst, his massive, bloody sword chopping down through the shoulder and out the hip of another soldier, leaving him in two bloody chunks. Cloud whirled, his sword lashing out and biting into the gut of another man, slicing him open, and ripping through the torso of another soldier dropping into a crouch, breaking him apart. The last man backed up, amazed at the speed of this demon-possessed warrior, and Cloud whirled on him, slamming into him with his shoulder and crushing him against the wall. Cloud's head moved back, then snapped forward like a striking snake, his forehead crashing into the soldier and crushing his faceplate. Cloud then stepped back and chopped his sword at the dazed soldier's torso, the horizontal cut ripping into the man's gut and burying the blade in the wall behind the Shinra soldier. The man's bisected corpse fell to the pavement over the crimson-splattered sword.

Cloud tapped his sword against the wall, knocking some of the blood off, and ran back to his allies' position, where Jessie had resumed her work, while the others stared at him in amazement.

"That was fast," Wedge remarked, and Cloud didn't respond.

"Not bad," Barret repeated, and a moment later, the door slid open, to Jessie's squeal of victory.

"Move it, move!" Barret quickly ordered, and the group filed into the Mako reactor's perimeter immediately, Cloud taking up the rear again. They dashed into the complex, the exterior sector consisting of several storage areas and external equipment that none of them could name, all gathered together in a confusing mix of twisted passages. Jessie paused by the door to shut it, and stuck a grenade into the control panel, before popping the pin. She ducked between the doors as they closed, and a split-second after the doors shut, the grenade blew, destroying the panel and cutting off the enemy reinforcements from coming in behind them.

Meanwhile, Barret, Biggs, and Wedge rushed through the narrow, twisting confines between the equipment and small buildings, eyes open and alert. They were not caught off-guard as they rounded a corner and almost walked into a squad of enemy soldiers and their leveled rifles.

Barret, rather than duck for cover (especially with the hated Shinra military so close) stepped into their midst and smashed his right arm down hard onto one soldier's head. There was a crash of metal on ceramic helmet, and the soldier's helmet caved in. Barret bulled through the enemy, roaring in battle frenzy as he jabbed another soldier in the gut with his meaty left hand, launching the man fifteen feet away. He whirled, right arm lashing out and pulverizing another soldier's right shoulder, sending the man sprawling to the pavement. Biggs and Wedge quickly split apart, moving to opposite sides of the walkway and firing around Barrett, their shots striking and dropping armored soldiers that tried to surround their raging leader. Within moments, all of the Shinra soldiers were down or incapacitated.

Cloud and Jessie ran up behind them a moment later, and Cloud glanced over the trio's handiwork.

"Ya ain't the only one who can kick ass, y'know!" Barret commented. There was a groan beside him, and Barret looked down, seeing one of the Shinra troopers still alive, but badly wounded. Before he could do anything, Biggs shouldered in beside him and pointed his gun at the man's face.

"This is for what you assholes did to the Midgar Owls, you Shinra bastard!" he snarled, and squeezed off a trio of shots into the man's faceplate, finishing the wounded soldier off.

"That necessary?" Barret muttered, and Biggs shook his head.

"No," he replied, and looked back at Barret, a grim smile on his face. "But it felt damn good."

"That's the spirit!" Barret responded, slapping his comrade on the shoulder. "No more wasting time! Move out!" They moved quickly through the twisting corridors and alleys, and soon found their way to a wide portal that led out onto the bridge that connected the outer complex to the Mako reactor itself. The bridge was a T-junction, one path leading toward the main rector itself and the other toward a sealed emergency exit that opened into the under-plate tunnels. Biggs and Wedge ran ahead of the group, Wedge huffing and puffing as he did so, pulling a detonating charge out his backpack as he ran. They moved toward the sealed door, while Jessie and Barrett broke off and ran down the path toward the reactor itself. Cloud looked up as he ran, seeing the massive tower of the reactor rising above.

It was a solid monolith of power, a single mountain-like structure with steam pouring out of the top of the building, the Shinra logo emblazoned on the side of the building. Below, the mercenary could see the reactor extend down to ground level, to the slums and barren ground hundreds of feet beneath them. Thousands of pinpricks of light, the homes of the slum denizens, could be picked out below. A fall from this height could be lethal . . . .

Cloud looked back up at the mountain of steel and corporate sin before him, and shook his head. He had a job to do. Time to blow this paper fort. He plunged into the entrance to the reactor. Within a few moments he had passed through a couple of empty hallways, and encountered Barret, covering Jessie as she was opening another sealed doorway.

"Its gonna take a sec," Barret informed Cloud. There were a few moments of silence, and he glanced back at his hired help. "Ya been in one of these before?" Cloud nodded.

"Then ya know why we're doin' this, right?" Barret asked. Cloud's response was to not respond at all. He had not been told of the group's intentions at the briefing before the mission, just what was expected of him.

"Mako's the lifeblood of the Planet, Cloud," Barret explained. "But Shinra keeps suckin' the life out with these weird machines! You know how the land around Midgar as all lifeless and barren, right? Its 'cause of these damn reactors! The whole Planet's gonna to end up like this if we don't stop it!"

"Not my problem," Cloud responded.

Barret muttered something under his breath and spun away, at the same moment that Jessie finished bypassing the door lock. The hydraulic locks hissed open and the next room opened up before them. They moved inside, and Jessie set to work on another set of locked doors. It took her only a few moments to bypass that lock, and the doors slid open, revealing a wide chamber with elevators at the far end.

Lined up in front of that set of elevators, however, were a dozen men in blue armor, with insectile helmets and heavy silver gauntlets on their lower arms, featuring razor-sharp claws. Each of them carried a standard Shinra sub-machinegun, and flanking the group of soldiers were several dog-like beasts, bloodthirsty genetic hybrids of monsters and canines.

"Reactor guards!" Barret shouted, and immediately raised his right hand, pointing it at the enemy. However, Cloud suddenly dashed forward, rushing across the distance in a heartbeat, blood-stained sword raised up in the air. Before the Shinra soldiers could react, Cloud was upon them, cleaving down with his mighty sword, and chopping one of the armored guards in half. He spun around, sword sweeping out, and chopped another guard in two from the waist. Cold ruthlessness was in his eyes as he tore into the guards with merciless abandon, viciously slicing apart any soldier within reach of his huge blade.

"Damn fool, get out o' th' way!" Barret hissed. He wasn't able to get a clear shot with Cloud dancing around like he was, but then the guard beasts began to move around the reactor guards, providing Barret with a clear target. He grinned, but then spun as Jessie shouted a warning.

"They're flanking, right side!" she alerted him, and he turned to see a doorway leading into an adjacent room, likely a control room, and out of it poured a dozen more Shinra soldiers, blue-armored regular infantry. They started to raise their rifles, when Barret's smile grew, and his left hand pulled back the sleeve on his heavy brown coat, revealing his weapon of choice.

From the middle of his forearm down, Barret Wallace's arm was replaced by machinery. A round disk, a cybernetic mount, started where his arm ended, and upon it was mounted a rotating, six-barreled 20mm chain gun, a weapon that should have been mounted on powered armor suits or tanks. Running from the weapon, up the sleeve of the coat, and then down around Barret's waist was a belt of thousands of rounds of ammunition, custom designed for his frame and for the weapon mounted on his arm.

The Shinra soldiers looked at the powerful, unique weapon, and then down at the smaller machineguns in their hands, and then back to Barret as he set his left hand against his gun-arm, bracing it.

"Whatcha' gonna do to me wit' them toys?" he snarled, a sadistic smile on his face, and the soldiers hesitated, staring down the barrels of the man's arm.

An instant later, the entire room was filled with the deafening choom-choom-choom of the unbelievably devastating fire of his gun-arm as Barret cut loose, raining his righteous vengeance upon the awed Shinra troops.

Cloud's sword bit into the lungs of a retreating soldier, driving up out of his body like a blade through wet tissue paper. The raging mercenary whirled, slamming the sword's flat down onto a soldier directly behind him, using the sheer weight of the weapon to completely crush the man to the floor. Cloud's muscles flexed, and he seemed to effortlessly lift the sword off the corpse and spin around with it, the slash ripping into a third soldier and launching his separate halves across the room, a rain of blood flying in the blade's wake.

Nine of the twelve reactor guards were dead already, Cloud blasting through their ranks like a whirling dervish, his sword not only unstoppably powerful, but shockingly quick for such a massive weapon. None of the men could even begin to raise a defense against his assault, and those who were still alive were more concerned about retreating to a place where they could fire upon the madman in relative safety as opposed to a place within death's reach. Fortunately, the corpses piling around Cloud gave the guard beasts the openings they needed to slip amongst the survivors and launch an attack.

The fiendish, bloodthirsty, and well-trained hounds surrounded Cloud from four separate directions and attacked at virtually the same time, a pair going low at his legs while two others leapt into the air at his face and throat.

Cloud spun on one of the beasts as it leapt into the air, and his sword flew across to his left; not at the beast leaping at him, but at the one attacking his left flank, driving down into its head and back, crushing and slicing into its skull. Cloud pulled the blade free in an instant and slashed across with it, toward his right, and neatly severed the head of the second beast coming in at his right flank. The monster attacking him from in front was in mid-air as Cloud shot his blade up, the point rising into its path, and the monster impaled itself on his blade.

The fourth beast landed on Cloud's back and locked its teeth around the back of his neck, twisting and biting. Cloud grimaced as the creature thrashed on his neck, trying to break his spinal column, his blood running between its teeth. The mercenary flipped his sword into an overhand grip and swung it back over his head, slamming the butt of the handle into its upper back. The force behind the strike cracked the beast's backbone, and it squealed in pain as it released Cloud. The mercenary spun, left leg rising up into a kick that crushed the beast's ribs and launched it across the room to crash with a wet crunch against the wall.

Cloud sensed movement behind him, and spun around, his sword lashing out, and burying into the stomach of one of the surviving guards, attempting to gut him from behind with a combat knife while he was distracted. The sword sliced out through the man's backbone, sending him to the floor in a halfway-bisected heap of blood. The remaining pair of men fell back, and Cloud took a step forward, before halting and smiling darkly. The two hesitated, and in that moment, a knife drove into the back of one man's neck, digging up into his brain. An instant later, the other man raised his hands to his throat as blood poured from a slice tracing all the way across the front of his neck.

Jessie kicked out the man's knees, and he dropped to the floor, kneeling before her, and she stabbed the knife viciously into the back of his skull. She tore it free, and the man fell to the floor, dead. Cloud nodded in silent approval of the quick and efficient kills, while he put a hand to the bite wounds on the back of his neck. They would have killed an ordinary human, but Cloud wasn't ordinary, and they were already clotting over. Nothing serious.

The pair looked to Barret as silence filled the room, and saw that the huge man had dealt with his foes easily enough. A mangled pile of corpses and body parts were scattered at the far end of the room where the enemy soldiers had been rushing from, large, smoking bullet holes freshly imprinted in the walls. The heavy rounds had simply ripped through the hapless Shinra soldiers as they had been bunched together in the corridor leading from the control room. A few smoking holes marked Barret's coat, but none of them seeped blood. The heavy man turned back toward Cloud, and smiled, pumping his fleshy fist in the air in victory.

"Damn straight, Shinra bastards!" he declared, and the others nodded. Barret pounded his hand against his chest, and it released an oddly solid thunk as it resounded off the body armor he wore beneath the coat. He spun toward his comrades.

"That's enough warmin' up!" he declared. "Reactor's down below! Let's blow this damn piece of junk to hell!" Jessie nodded, while Cloud stood by impassively, only pausing to tap the flat of his sword against the floor to knock some more of the blood off in that peculiar motion of his. The team's technical specialist rushed to the elevator door and, within seconds, had bypassed the security system and called the elevator up. The trio piled inside, and the elevator quickly descended.

"Hot hand with that sword," Barret remarked. Cloud nodded as Barrett started pacing around the small elevator. "We'll need it t' blow this place quick. Get down t' the pools, set the bomb, and get the hell out. That'll slow the bastards down. The reactors suck out all the life little by little. At this rate, there'll be nothin' left."

"I said I didn't care," Cloud replied, and Barret shook his head.

"The Planet's dyin', Cloud!" he snarled. "Don'tcha even give a damn?"

"All I do care about is getting out of here before SOLDIER, the Roboguards, and the entire Shinra military comes crashing down on our heads," Cloud responded. "I can't get paid if I'm dead."

"Son of a . . . ." Barret muttered, looking away, his fist trembling. Beside him, Jessie said nothing, though she'd heard all of the conversation. The differences between the two were blatantly obvious.

The elevator opened a few moments later, at ground level. The three intruders stepped out, Barret sweeping the area with his gun-arm to ensure no threats were present. The air stank of Mako, a foul smell like burnt rubber with a slight bit of rotten cheese mixed in. They were standing on a tall, concrete tower-like structure overlooking a wide construction and shipping area. A series of narrow staircases led down to the ground floor, and Cloud took the lead, knowing where to go from here.

Within moments the group was on the ground and heading through a doorway marked "Reactor Maintenance". They stepped out onto a narrow walkway overlooking a vast circular chamber, filled with thousands of pipes ranging from thin, narrow pipes the size of Jessie's fingers to huge cylinders that trucks could drive through. The Mako stench was even stronger in this room, and the intruders' ears were filled with the thrumming of machinery, the vibrations of which shook them to the bone.

"Jessie!" Barret shouted over the din as he looked around the chamber. Far below, hundreds of feet beneath them, was a vast pool of glowing light, shifting colors from blue to green and white constantly. It was raw Mako energy waiting to be processed; untreated, the energy was dangerous to be around for a long time. They couldn't stay long.

"Cover this door!" Barret ordered. "Keep it open for us!" She nodded, and stayed near the entrance, as Cloud looked over the chamber below. He took particular note of a concrete bridge that spanned the wide chamber far below, only about fifty feet above the raw Mako pool.

"How the hell we gettin' down there?" Barret asked, and Cloud didn't immediately answer.

"There are maintenance ladders," Cloud said after a moment, and gestured to a series of ladders running down among the pipes. "The work crews have to get to the pipes somehow. We use them to get down to the bridge at the bottom and the vent shaft, and set the bomb in there."

"Gotcha," Barrett replied, nodding. "Let's move!"

For all his bulk, Barret kept proving his agility, easily keeping up with Cloud as they dropped down ladders and moved across pipes, before finally arriving at the lowest bridge spanning the chasm. They hurried across, Barret reaching into his coat and taking out a small bomb. It was a light explosive, intended to knock out an armored vehicle at most, but the raw, unrefined Mako would amplify the explosion. Their bomb was the spark in the powder keg of this reactor, and the key was the vent shaft at the end of the bridge. Once the bomb was dropped in, it would go straight into the Mako, and once it detonated . . . .

"Suck on this shit, Shinra bastards," Barret growled with a grin as handed the bomb to Cloud. The mercenary crouched over the vent shaft, and quickly typed in the sequence of numbers, giving them a total of ten minutes before the bomb went off. Once he was finished, Cloud synchronized his watch with the bomb's timer, opened the cover on the shaft, and moved to drop the bomb into it, when an alarm resounded over the din of machinery. Barret spun, looking around, weapon up.

"They find us?" he asked, and Cloud shook his head as he shoved the bomb into the hole and slammed the lid shut. No going back now.

"Shinra already knows we're here," Cloud replied. "The vent must have had an alarm on it."

"Alarm for what?" Barret asked.

He got his answer an instant later.

Oh shit son. Peptuck's doing it again.

Its been a long time coming. I was first considering writing this a long time ago, back when I first started writing my FFVIII novelization, The Gunblade Saga. The idea was suggested to me by someone, and I joked that I might do an FFVII novelization when I finished Gunblade. The idea was suggested to me again and again as I wrote, and now that I finished Gunblade, my mind started to churn out ideas for an FFVII novelization.

"That's crazy!" I thought, and even more so because I already had a pseudo-novelization of FFVII in the works, Bittersweet Synthesis. But the idea kept nagging me, and I wondered if I could really do it. Write an FFVII novel? Maybe. I had to get over some humps, among them the fact that I had two other fics in the works, and also the simple fact that I, in general, hated Cloud as a character. I didn't like him much in FFVII due to his relative blandness of personality; he had an amazing backstory, but aside from that, there was . . . nothing else. He was boring, even if he was cool. Back during the first few scenes, in the Mako reactor and up until he fell in Sector Five, and even after that, up until the escape from Midgar, Cloud was cool. But then he started to wuss out a bit, in my opinion. I liked badass Cloud, and I didn't like Cloud after that. I grew to hate the after-Midgar Cloud.

Thus, it is a silly irony that, as I write this, Cloud may in fact be the toughest and most hardcore character I've ever written (even moreso that Squall and Seifer in Gunblade and Chimera). I'm applying my own take on Cloud, an approach that actually makes me eager to write him. Of course, I will take my own approach to other characters as well, and will apply liberal interpretations and originality to various scenes in the game, correcting some of the silly stuff and whatnot. I think I'm uniquely suited to this kind of project, considering I've already completed one FF novelization. Here's hoping I get another done just as well! There will be some similarities to what was written in Synthesis as, hell, they are much the same thing, but with different characters, but I will branch out and write stuff uniquely suited to FFVIII in Synthesis.

Fully expect me to be a bit creative with some characters. FFVII is a lot more...kooky than FFVIII is, so I might play around a bit with a few characters.

Advent Children and Lost Souls will not have a direct bearing on this fic. AC's physics are...heh. Awesome, but not how I want to portray my fight scenes here. And I don't consider Lost Souls canon. (Sephiroth JUMPED. No. NOT COOL. That and, y'know, I haven't seen the whole thing :P) Some elements and storyline details from AC might be shown, but for the most part this fic will stand alone from later FFVII "attachments".

Story title? Mako? Yep. I had a much more pretentious title planned, but after a lot of thought and consideration, I distilled the core essence of FFVII to that simple two-syllable word. Mako. Its what started FFVII, its what ended FFVII. The entire story really revolves around that. The power and blood of the Planet.


Hold on tight, folks. Not even I'm sure about this one. Has Peptuck bitten off more than he can chew? I sure as hell hope so. Makes it all the more fun that way!

Until the first chapter!