Chapter One: Renown
The gravel crunched under his boots as the mercenary strode forward confidently. His uniform was similar to that of a SOLDIER, with the black vest and pants, though the uniform was missing the well known SOLDIER insignia, normally placed at the waist. Instead of the normal shoulder armor, the young man had a scarf of sorts, similar to those seen on infantrymen in the army. He was neither SOLDIER or an infantryman, however. He was much more.
He had left his small, country town and traveled to Midgar, the destination of many young country men. Midgar was where you could become somebody; Midgar was the home of Shinra. Upon arriving, he immediately made himself known, rising quickly to the top. He had been accepted as SOLDIER, one of the elite...he was on his way to accomplishing his dream: to be a hero. But, as he trained, he realized that Shinra kept too many secrets – people would disappear mysteriously, and Shinra executives would announce them dead, with no other explanation. He felt that Shinra had darker intentions behind their noble words, and though he had little proof, he realized he couldn't work for Shinra. So he made his own mysterious disappearance, and word was passed around that he was dead – in that moment, he understood that his intuition had been right; Shinra made false claims.
The ex-SOLDIER had left and traveled the world, and upon his travels he happened upon a man who had also been claimed dead by Shinra – Angel Hewley, 1st Class SOLDIER. The man had taken him as a student, becoming a mentor of sorts – but also a good friend. Seven years passed during the time that the young man had left Shinra; seven years during which he trained his mind and body and his eyes laid claim to sights he never imagined possible. Sadly, though, his mentor passed on: died because of a process he called degradation. As the young man sat by his mentor's bedside, he learned that Shinra had been the cause of this. When Angeal died, it was decided that he would return to Midgar. He would be a mercenary, though he vowed to avenge his mentor and his friend; there was no love for Shinra, his feelings of distrust stronger than ever. He would become the plague that would plight Shinra, and soon there would be no person who didn't know the name of Zack Fair.
They always held their meetings in the basement of the bar, despite how small it was. It mattered little, though, because they had too little members to make much of a difference. They had worked in secret up until now; they had just blown up the reactor in Sector 5, with the help of another Ex-SOLDIER, a mercenary himself.
"You realize that Shinra will be after you now?" the man asked, his voice flat, uncaring.
"Damn straight, they will. AVALANCHE is a force to be reckoned with, dammit!" a large, dark skinned man roared, waving his gun arm around wildly. Cloud Strife gazed at him with cold blue eyes that glowed eerily – mako infused, the SOLDIER trademark.
"What?" Barret demanded, growling at Cloud. "God dammit, stop lookin' at me like that."
"Say something dammit!" Barret roared, letting off a few rounds from his gun.
"Barret, calm down," said a kinder voice. Cloud's eyes shifted, resting on the newcomer – long brown hair, crimson eyes, and an attractive body, something even Cloud couldn't ignore. Barret only grunted in reply to the young woman, face still contorted in an angry snarl.
"Damn...Shinra...spiky headed punk..." he muttered to himself.
"Fighting with Barret again, Cloud?" The young woman gave Cloud a reproving look, though there was a hint of a smile playing about her lips. Cloud shrugged indifferently. As long as he got paid, what did it matter?
"Yeah." he replied shortly, eyes meeting with hers. Tifa, his childhood friend from so long ago, before he had left for Shinra. Actually, perhaps they hadn't really been friends – he had only admired her from afar. It had been a shock running into her after all those years, but when she had offered him a job with good pay, he had agreed to help.
Tifa looked at him for a long time, though he couldn't quite read her expression. Finally, she broke the silence.
"Rumor has it that Shinra is after some girl...they claim she's an Ancient."
"An Ancient?" Cloud grunted, raising one brow quizzically.
"Apparently, she's the key to the Promised Land."
"The Promised Land?" Barret snorted, shaking his head disbelievingly. "That's only a myth."
"Shinra doesn't seem to believe so. Reports say they've been looking for her for a long time."
Barret contemplated this, and Cloud almost smirked, unable to resist a jibe at the man.
"Don't think too hard, Barret. Wouldn't want to hurt yourself."
"SHUDDAP!" Barret snapped, glaring at Cloud.
"DAMNIT!" Barret raised his gun arm, pointing at Cloud.
"Barret!" Tifa warned, stepping forward, trying to force the man's arm down. This seemed to calm Barret down, though only slightly.
"Anyway..." he grumbled, still glaring at Cloud. "I say we find this girl first. If Shinra wants her, we should stop them." Barret looked at Cloud expectantly. In response, he shrugged.
"I'll do it. 5000 Gil charge."
"Kidnapping is dangerous." Cloud replied monotonously.
"I'll show you something dangerous!" Barret retorted, spittle flying out of his mouth.
"I still need my pay for tonight. Don't forget." Cloud simply responded, ignoring the man's threat. He rose from his position, heading for the pinball elevator that would return him to the bar.
"Cloud!" Tifa cried, as though she were ready to try and reason with him. Cloud shook his head in a small apology, but his eyes were hard. He wouldn't work for anything else.
"That's my final offer. Otherwise, find someone else." Cloud left a cursing Barret and a dismayed looking Tifa down below.
Okay. So, I got this idea while I was in the middle of writing my other story. Don't worry, I'll be continuing with Memories and Second Chances! I just wanted to get this out of my head. Yes, Cloud is a jerk, but he's a cold hearted mercenary, much like in the beginning of FFVII.
I wanted to do something other than a survival story, so Zack never died in this story, obviously. Also just as obviously, neither Cloud or Zack have met Aerith, though I do have an interesting idea for that. Anyway, I'll get to that later. Sorry for the shortness of this chapter, but it's just an introduction. (: Please review! Let me know what you think.