A/N: A revision of this story is pending, and will be posted soon. It will be longer in length by a few chapters, and feature much more Cloud and company. Most importantly, it should have all gaping plotholes fixed. :)
Everglow: Chapter One
The alarm went off at around three in the morning.
The shrill, shrieking warnings did their job well, and within minutes, nearly every light in Midgar and Edge flickered on, violently jarring the sleeping cities to life. Civilians, despite the barely decipherable warnings over the loudspeaker to stay indoors, were migrating outside, hands clamped over their ears even as they shouted to each other over the clamor for information.
"It's been years since the alarms have been used!"
"Not since Sephiroth…"
"What in Gaia is going on?"
Above the confused chatter, a fleet helicopters scanned the area, their own noise drowned by the siren. Bright searchlights split the darkness, roving from area to area in their thorough investigation. The sky was alight with the red and blue blinking lights of the helicopters, a stark contrast to the gentle twinkling of the stars.
Rumors began to fly from panicked and confused mouths. Some said that Sephiroth had indeed returned, and the thought of another Nibelheim only made the fear worse. Despite all the half-truths and myths that ravaged the minds of the occupants of Midgar, there was one that rang true.
"The Turks are sealing off the area!"
Vincent Valentine could no longer decipher one voice from another amid the din. His pale face was drawn; he didn't enjoy the ruckus, and saying that he was out of his comfort zone amidst the thousands of people would be an understatement.
His crimson cloak was pulled up, covering more of his face than usual, and he kept his eyes down, knowing that if he were recognized as a member of Avalanche he would see no rest until the affair blew over. Even so, he was able to creep silently and fluidly through the throng, listening, observing, and trying to make sense of it all.
The prominent explanation was indeed that Sephiroth had returned, and this was also the most unlikely. Perhaps Vincent was the only one to see it, as every other civilian was blinded by panic, or maybe because he had been one of the few eyewitnesses to the tragedy of the past months.
Sephiroth was not going to return, and if he did, by some inconceivably small chance, it would not be to kill.
So what was the problem?
His search for answers led his crimson eyes to the sky. To his surprise, it was not the mark of Shinra on the planes. From this distance, he couldn't quite make it out, but it was not the ruby box and black calligraphy of the famed company. Instead, the logo was thinner, more elaborate, and seemed to be a light, sea foam green etched with white.
Which led him to ponder whether the helicopters were trying to help or were, in fact, the source of the entire problem.
He was given evidence of the later choice soon enough.
From the flying machines arced thin pillars of fire, and when the parabola hit the ground, a roar struck the earth. Mayhem reached an unbearable level at the presence of the bombs.
If that was Shinra, Vincent concluded, he was going to have a gun-oriented chat with Rufus.
Coherent speech had turned to shrieks and cries, and Vincent was able to gather no more information. Frustrated, he slipped into a back alley, welcoming the darkness.
The sound, though not entirely eliminated with the distance, had sunk to a level in which he could concentrate.
The projectiles he had seen were not explosives. Working with the Turks had given him enough experience in the area to be fairly sure of his decision. They seemed to be a closer match to the capsules used to carry chemicals. The color of the smoke ebbing away with the wind allowed him to classify that chemical as a heavy, almost illegal sedative.
So their aim was not to kill. That was somewhat consoling. But such a rare medicine used in such massive quantities was startling. The helicopters were not being stingy with their supply, dousing the city with as much of it as they dared.
Vincent carefully tracked the pattern of the helicopters, noting the formations, where they struck, and with what quantities of drugs. It was through this careful noting of signs that he was able to tell when they had spotted whatever it was they were looking for.
The helicopters, which had previously been spread across the sky, consolidated around one area, and the capsules fell more freely. The subject seemed to be on the run, as they moved in a clear northerly pattern, adjusting their course to every little turn the runaway made to his path.
Which turned out to be straight toward Vincent.
He figured that he had done all he could, and as he wasn't particularly keen about being hit with a substance that would knock him senseless for weeks, he decided to abandon the mission and get the details later.
As he was leaving, a small, weak cough rang through the alley.
Vincent turned, certain that he had imagined it all, but there it was again, and a third time, though it was clearly trying in vain to be stifled. He turned behind him. Next to a large, overflowing dumpster, a thin, worn brown blanket quivered in the cold.
"Hello," Vincent said, trying not to sound as fearsome as he must have looked. "What are you doing here, little one?"
He could tell it was a child; the form was too small to be otherwise. Wide, bright green eyes peered through a hole in the blanket before the child slunk back, shaking harder, its breathing hard and frantic.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Vincent assured the child. "Are you frightened by the noise, is that it?"
The child stepped back again, slowly, before it turned its back and ran.
Vincent didn't adore children but neither did he want this little one wandering the dark, crime-infested alleyways of Midgar. He followed, calling out to the child, who only stumbled on, walking with a horrible limp. He knew that the child couldn't run for long.
And he was right.
The child slipped over a branch that had fallen in its path, and silently, without crying out, fell to the ground. They had reached a dead end, Vincent standing before the child and ten foot walls of concrete surrounding it on the other three sides.
Vincent sunk to his knees and held a hand out to the child. "Here, I want to help you."
The tiny, quivering body shied back, still not rising to its feet.
"What is your name, little one?"
No answer. The child scooted back until pressed firmly against the concrete.
Vincent slowly advanced, managing to seize a pale, bony hand in his own. "Hey there," he said softly as he reached up to pull the blanket away from the child's face. "See? I'm only here to he—"
Vincent stopped dead, frozen, as the blanket fell away from the child's face.
Her face was pale, and delicately shaped. The rest of her body was agonizingly pale, and she looked as if she had not seen a meal in weeks.
That was not what struck him most.
Long, gently waved silver hair glimmered in the moonlight, tied in two braids with ribbon that was clearly years old. Tears were spilling from those beautiful, innocent catlike green eyes, so poisoned with fear. He had noticed an odd hump to her back, and as he slipped the blanket off, he found a pair of pure white wings.
This was the daughter of Sephiroth.
The girl shook violently, silently crying, turning her face away as she struggled in vain to free her hands. Vincent was struck not only with disbelief, but with sympathy for the frightened girl.
Was it possible that she was still alive after everyone, her parents included, believed her to be dead? Apparently it was. Here she was, her eyes, hair, and wings testifying without a doubt of her parentage.
He was hit with a wave of sorrow as he looked at her closer, seeing not only her notorious father, but so much of her gentle mother as well.
"Nadiya," Vincent whispered, enclosing her in his strong arms. She looked at him and stopped struggling, confusion replacing fear to a great degree. "Nadiya, I knew your parents. I am here to help you. I am a friend."
Still cautions, she nonetheless accepted with gratitude Vincent's crimson cloak, which he wrapped around her. He rubbed her arms, trying to warm them, reassuring her with his gentleness.
He was so absorbed in tending to the young girl that he didn't notice how the helicopters had gathered around his area, encircling them and dropping more chemicals then before.
He didn't see the silver streak until it hit him dead on, the newcomer lashing out with his fists.
"Get away from my sister or I swear I will kill you!"