Disclaimer: You all should just up and realize that I don't own Final Fantasy VII, already...
The Best Intentions...
There was nothing there.
The eyes, still hidden from the world behind clenched eyelids, flicked rapidly back and forth, but there was no consciousness. Just the subtle hum of machinery and the quiet rustling of papers as the scientist scribbled something messily in his notebook.
Blond locks swayed in a Mako current. A muscular body floated upright, held tightly by a pair of hand restraints secured to the side of the large tank. A weak pulse carried blood and the essence of the lifestream throughout his veins and yet, there was nothing there.
Then, there were persuasions. Quiet urges played soflty through the back of the still-dormant mind. Cells from a different body carried these messages directly to the brain, where they slowly, deliberately began to arouse a consciousness from the void. These cells mingled in amongst the cells of the host body, eventually becoming a part of the brain, but not subject to the same impulses. Their work continued until something happened.
Like the flaring of a torch in a dusty tomb, a thread of thought wound it's way through unused pathways until awareness began to overtake dormancy. Eyes stopped their rapid movement, the body twitched once, weakly, against the restraints. Incoherence gradually formed into thoughts, pictures, sounds, feelings...and a message.
"Wake, sleeper...my kin...your work has just begun..."
The scientist turned thoughtfully as a scanner mounted on the side of one of the tanks in the room began to beep irregularly. "Hmmm, interesting…" He spoke quietly to himself as he moved over to take a closer look at the occupant of the holding tank.
Mako-enhanced eyes shot open, flaring from dull to brilliance in the span of a heartbeat. Lungs that had never worked on their own struggled vainly for more air. Muscles, artificially toned, pulled at restraints with force greater than that of a regular man.
Shocked by the sudden response of his subject, the scientist staggered back a ways, but the look in his eyes was not that of fear, but of accomplishment.
Strengthened fists beat at the shatter-resistant glass containing them, the eyes of the subject burned like twin fires in the Mako-filled housing. A crack appeared, the fists struck again.
Pressure forced the glass encasement's cover outward, exploding out into the room. The flow of Mako propelled the body inside, now torn free of the restraints, to the floor.
Silence filled the room once more, but behind Mako eyes the voices only grew stronger until one phrase turned into a mesmeric chant inside his head.
"Find me…Make me whole again…Reunion…"
The Scientist chuckled darkly. The implications of what he had just done were phenomenal. Cloning, a forbidden science, and yet, finally, the end results were now crouched at his feet. "I can only imagine what's going through that manufactured thing you'd probably call your brain right now." He said with a leer. "You've got a lot of sorting things out to do, no doubt. But your end task is yet to come." His smirk grew wider as he looked around at the other bodies floating serenely in their tanks…each of them merely a husk awaiting the injections of Jenova Cells and electronic memory implants to further their imitations of the real thing.
The figure on the floor jumped from his initial position to right in front of the scientist, fingers beginning to clamp around the doctor's pale throat.
"You…you need me!" the scientist squirmed in the inhumanly strong grasp.
A voice, never having spoken before, emerged from the figure. "Find…Whole…Reunion…" he croaked out.
Dr. Hojo paused in his efforts to get free. Then a cruel smile appeared on his face. "Then Jenova IS talking to you…" He chuckled, a chilling sound in the once-sterile room. He had done it, a perfect Clone of his failed experiment, and Jenova filled it's head due to it's extended contact with the lifestream. This subject was different than the others before…bodily no, but there was coherence there…intent…and… Hojo let out a weak laugh. The other subjects could be terminated then, but he'd wait until this one fully proved it's use…by killing the one he'd modeled it after.
The subject groaned as Hojo's hidden tranquilizer gun fired twice into it's belly. "Yes, my experiment, sleep and when you wake, we will have much to accomplish…" He crooned evilly as the subject fell sleeping to the floor. "With you replacing Cloud Strife, the world will never know what hit it…and then, and only then, will my full plan come into creation." He got up from the floor beside the sleeping clone and walked off still reveling in his achievement.
Whispered words went through an unconscious mind, implanting themselves there. "Yes, kill Cloud Strife and take the world, my kin…but then you can find me and bring me back, that I will know dominion over this world, and fulfill OUR destiny…"
Mako eyes burned as they opened, wincing once as the surrounding area was taken in with a quick scan. The one he was modeled after…a technique he hadn't seen before, a crossing slash maneuver…This was alright. He was still fully mobile, only slightly damaged. Memories of his "birth" in the cold laboratory flickered across his mind. What a fool that Hojo was…to think that his lowly purposes would be my only aim. The Clone shook his head. Unfortunate he died when he did, I was looking forward to killing him myself.
Images, sounds, thoughts suddenly invaded his head. "My kin…The time has come…let loose the army…Free me!"
The Clone nodded violently to unseen forces before shoving himself up from the crumpled ruins of an upper city Junon home's wall. He'd wanted to stay and finish off his other and make sure that the woman stayed dead as well but…the pull of Jenova was stronger and deeper. He leapt upwards, crashing through the ceiling to the top of the house and took some satisfaction at the surprised looks on Cloud's and Tifa's faces before swinging his blade at them and shouting "I told you this didn't matter…nothing you do will!"
Savoring the combination of adrenaline and Jenova-enhanced Mako that pumped heavily through his veins, he sprang from the rooftop and took off in the direction of the fort. He'd let the other's know what was happening and then…he had a flight to catch…
Tifa's footfalls pounded in time with her heart, though he worst fears of the kids being harmed had been relieved, she knew the storm was far from over.
"Tifa…." Denzel panted, out of breath. "W…wait!"
The martial artist slowed and turned to face the kids with a small smile on her face. "Sorry, Denzel…too much on my mind…"
"Tifa?" Marlene suddenly became a bit shy.
"Yes, dear?" Tifa came over to kneel by the girl.
"Who was that back there?" Marlene shot a fearful glance back, as if expecting more monsters to leap out at them. She wasn't really afraid, as strong as the monsters seemed, she knew her guardian was stronger, but the sight of two Clouds had unnerved her, even though they had acted very differently.
Tifa paused, putting her hand on the small girl's shoulder and squeezing gently. It was true the girl had seen and been through a lot with the Meteor crisis…but she'd die herself before giving Marlene any more cause to worry than she had already. She tucked an errant strand of hair away from the girl's face and then pulled Denzel close. "That was a very poor imitation of a hero…"
Denzel seemed to regain a little life at her statement and even half-heartedly boasted that he had known all along which was the real Cloud. To which Marlene hit him on the shoulder and refuted his claim.
Tifa smiled before getting back to her feet and leading them the rest of the way to the docks. There, Nanaki bounded over to greet her.
"Tifa…you found them…" The fiery warrior exclaimed.
She nodded her agreement. "Can you take them to the Highwind, Red?" She gestured back up at the city. "I've got to get back up to the fort!"
Nanaki nodded and started to lead them back and when he turned to wish good luck to Tifa, he found that she'd already taken off.
The Death penalty fired twice and two more creatures fell heavily to the ground. Vincent paused and reloaded before quickly surveying the area. His red gaze fell upon the heavily fortified entrance to the fort. After the attack on Junon by these monsters, though, the fortifications had fallen into ruin, the once heavy metal barriers bent and torn apart. They still served a purpose, however, providing cover for the doors and limiting visibility towards inside the fort itself. He was about to move forward when a resounding explosion made him whirl and train his weapon on the source of the sound.
"Relax, Vinnie…" a familiar swaggering form wandered into the small clearing. "Just having some fun…"
Vincent fought the urge to either roll his eyes, or make Reno's follow suit, but before he could act upon either, Cid's spear rapped sharply on the red head's foot.
"Ow…friggin geezer…Whaddya do that for?" Reno complained loudly, jumping back and whipping his Electromagnetic rod in front of him.
"Idiot…" Cid's glowering face matched the select curses he was prepared to fling the Turk's way. "You gave away our position…"
"They knew where we were already…" Rude's deep voice carried from a short distance away.
"Yeah…and they knew we were about to come up and kick their sorry asses back to the planet anyway…so what's the deal?" Reno added, scowling at the pilot.
"You's better shut that trap 'fore I shuts it for ya…" Barret gestured with his gun. "We was the ones who came up with the plans, we're da ones who run the show, Turk…"
"Will you quit with the bickering?!" Yuffie's voice cut through Reno's retort. "Now's not the time to talk!"
Everyone turned toward the ninja, somewhat dumbstruck…she was complaining about people talking?
"What?" Yuffie shrugged. "Talking's for later…Materia gathering's for now!"
Now Vincent did roll his eyes before softly adding. "Cloud and Tifa will be here soon. Prepare for the worst…there's something different about the way this fort feels compared to the rest of the city."
As if summoned by Vincent's words, Cloud flipped nimbly over a nearby wall. Noticing the others present, he nodded briefly before turning toward the fort. "Did anyone see him enter?"
"Him…?" Yuffie looked suspiciously around. "Him who?"
Cloud merely drew his giant blade, the short raspy ring echoing in the small opening as the glow emitting from it brightened considerably.
He'd barely moved to join the group before a creature flew from one of the joining streets. They all tensed but relaxed when they saw it'd been dead before it even hit the ground. A smirking Tifa walked out to join the invasion force. "The kids are safe…Let's bring this bastard down!"
Yuffie, Barret, and Reno shouted their assent while Rude cracked his knuckles and Cid pumped his spear in the air and Cloud and Vincent nodded and swung to face the entrance to the fort. The assembled Turks and members of AVALANCHE stepped forth, prepping weapons and wills. They'd barely walked forward though, when the doors to the fort exploded, and the fight was taken to them!
A/N: I sincerely apologize for the extremely long wait for this…Life's been more than a little bit hectic. But you don't need excuses, you need story! Hope this meets expectations and look for an update soon…