Clouds of Strife

Disclaimer I don't own Final Fantasy 7, 8, or the spirits within nor anything that is featured or appears in this fic which includes Tour of Duty.

Chapter 2: The Problem with Phantoms

"Your telling me that those hundreds of people that died were the result of Shinra playing Frankenstein with a goddamn extraterrestrial parasite!" Hein shouted incensed beyond imagining. "Then starts playing with "spirit particles" and makes it worse by giving this metaphysical infection physical form!"

"As far as we can tell Jenova was originally in a type of hibernation when Dr. Sid first tested his spirit particle theorem and even though it was in one of the first known Phantom hot spots that we found no Phantoms showed up at that time," Spoke one of Galbaldia's few remaining Military scientists who was also the third best expert on Waveform theory behind and respectively. "looking over the data we've found that the second test official test in that same area which from our reports a child conceived by a Shinra employee was in that area, the child Genesis Rhapsodos was born and then given to the landlord of the village. From what we know he is now a Soldier and one of only two to rival Sephiroth in power and since we know that Sephiroth is the product of the Jenova Project the answer becomes very clear..."

"In other words if their was no infection we would have just seen the ghosts of animals and trees like the ones that appeared before those damn Phantoms.." Hein sighed with not only frustration but the realization that those damn spirit particles just made the problem "metaphysical" as some of the geeks called the Phantoms..

"Basically." The scientist stated with a sigh while everyone else attending this meeting either grumbled or looked pissed because of a loss of a loved one to the Phantoms. "If we hadn't come across this information we probably would have continued under the misconception it was the result of a meteor or some type of invasion.."

"We had a sample from the Phantoms and every other phantom we came across and it turns out that we had completed the Waveform but the reason the Phantoms are still showing up is that parasite is still here," sighed in a defeated manner. "the only way to get rid of them for good is to either end the Soldier program or find a waveform sample from one infected by Jenova.."

"And what good would that do!" Hein shouted angrily while bringing his fist down on the table.

"Ah I see," The Military scientist . "it would prevent those with Jenova cells from feeding from the Planet and when they would eventually die they wouldn't be able to poison the Planet for the Planet would be able to break them down like a disease attacked by a white blood cell.."

"Let's say we do that," Hein sneered in disgust. "would the Phantoms just stop appearing or something?"

"Theoretically yes.." The Scientist replied calmly.

"And what about the first plan?" Lt. Elliot asked curiously.

"The first plan would just be just killing those in Soldier and destroying any Jenova samples which would end up with this Jenova tainted lifeforce poisoning our Planet since the Lifestream wouldn't be able to process this foreign matter.." Dr. Ross stated with the fact she wanted to say you idiot very clear in her posture.

"And this spirit waveform of Jenova is just going to fall into our lap?" Hein stated sarcastically.

"I believe we should table this part of the discussion until later," General Caraway spoke in a long suffering tone. "right now we need to discuss upping recruitment along with expediting the completion of Bio Etheric Barriers that were abandoned a couple months ago since I have little doubt Deling will come after us and the rest of Galbaldia as soon as he can.."

"Makes sense especially since we can protect our citizens from the increasing Phantom attacks." Hein stated his opinion while thinking of his wife and child and their safety, sadly upon their return to the science outpost they found it destroyed and many of the civilians taking shelter there dead or wounded with X-ATMO92 standing guard over the survivors with a small group of remaining Galbaldian soldiers.

At finding a knife in his critically wounded wife Hein quickly realized that all the dead and wounded were killed with guns and not the work of Phantoms as he first thought, at finding a still living Shinra trooper among the wounded lying on the ground missing the knife stabbed into his wife Hein would proceed to beat the man to death with his bare hands while his men looked on without even flinching. His wife survived and his daughter was saved by the same kind of chestpiece that Aki Ross had but with the difference of using Bio Etheric energy to keep her heart beating.

2 Months Later

"So they had your little girl secretly implanted with a bomb in her head," Colonel Hein stated with a disgusted sigh at the length's Shinra is willing to go. "and that is the reason you didn't move on the remaining members of Deling's personal troops within the city.."

"When I heard what they had done to my little girl I had a sniper team set up to kill all of them, "General Caraway responded as the rest of the people in the observation room were listening in without seeming too obvious about it. "in fact it was Gray and Whitaker who were part of that team and Flemings who identified that the device was a dead man's switch and not remote like Deling claimed so I assigned people to isolate them while making sure they were never alone whether it be with my girl or even close to someplace they could evac the city. In point of fact I personally shot down multiple evac helicopters that were their to "evacuate casualties" when in reality they tried to take my little girl, this is one of the reasons I think highly of since it is his tech that allowed us to keep track of not only Rinoa but the man with the dead man's switch so that Deling could never actually get his hands on her.."

"Why not just remove it?" Lt. Elliot asked respectively.

"Kid, that damn thing had a built in booby trap that would set it off if you tried to mess with it," Sgt. Zeke spoke up from where he was leaning against the wall. "I should know since a buddy of mine had a sister with the same damn thing placed in her head so they could blackmail him, well needless to say we got the one with the dead man's switch and took her to a hospital only for her head to blow up on the operating table the minute the surgeon tried to remove it.."

"The more I hear about Shinra the more I hate them!" Hein snarled angrily.

"You have to hate them on a one on one basis," Lt. Goldman stated with a bitter grimace. "I've known plenty of good men in a Shinra uniform but I have also known plenty of a piece of shit in that same uniform. The one thing I can tell you is that the Shinra family are vipers and the only one who is remotely redeemable is Rufus and that would take a lot of fucking work.."

"Forgot your momma was a Turk Lt.." Zeke responded with a wince.

"Really and what happens if she comes to you asking for information on what we are doing!" Hein spoke up in a belligerent tone.

"That would take Hojo to pull off since I blew her head off with a shotgun.." Lt. Goldman spoke up as he walked from the room.

"What happened?" Aki asked with a sympathetic look on her face.

"His mom was a sociopathic snake in the grass, his dad was a coldhearted military man, and his brother was a very decent man who made the mistake of joining that damn company.." Zeke explained with a sigh. "His brother came to him with information on some kind of 14th unit of Soldier called "Lost Force" that answers directly to President Shinra, apparently President Shinra deployed unit thirteen of the Soldier force to a place called Deepground beneath Midgar where all these experiments were carried out on both prisoners and wounded members of Soldier."

"But "Ragnarok" was supposedly killed in action?" Colonel Hein interrupted. "So what does this "Lost Force" have to do with them and this Deepground!"

"The way he explained it was that Deepground was experimenting on people to try and make better Soldiers and this "Lost Force" was made up of four of the resulting subjects with exceptional ability," Zeke replied. "which makes sense since the information the Lt. got from his brother makes it clear they annihilated "Ragnarok" with out a single casualty and for their "service" they were apparently placed in charge of Deepground and dubbed the "Restrictors"..."

"Anybody else freaked that their are better Soldiers being bred under Midgar?" Flemings asked in a freaked out tone. "Cause finding out 4 guys took out one of the strongest Soldier forces in existence does not fill me with good feelings!"

"Do you have any kind of hard data on this Deepground?" General Caraway asked with admirable composure in response to this news.

"Yes General we do," Zeke replied with a salute as Private Daniel Purcell handed over the folder to the General. "it also includes the information we were able to extract from his mom before we executed her.."

"You had his mom?" Hein stared at him with raised eyebrows. "How did you capture her?"

"We found her after getting an alert from the room his brother was in," Private Daniel Purcell responded to the question. "and that was the scariest I ever saw the Lt..."

Flashback

"Hello Myron.." Spoke the Female Turk using Ruiz as a human shield. "Such a pity your brother turned out so emotionally weak when he had such talent for me and your father's teachings, why he could have succeeded either as a high ranking officer like your father or a Turk like me.."

"You never could understand him Mother," Lt. Goldman stated with a disgusted look on his face towards him mom, the shotgun in his hands held towards her but at a downward angle of a man not going to shoot. "neither could dad now that I think about it, in fact both of you are the worst parents I have seen in my life.."

"Now Myron that isn't the best idea since I have one of your men at my mercy," The female Turk hissed in an annoyed tone. "what happens if my finger slips on this trigger?"

"Now lady why don't you just calm down, we can talk this out.." Zeke stated in his most placating tone.

"Nice attempt at reasoning with me Sergeant Anderson but I am neither feeble nor weak minded," Mrs. Goldman stated with a cold and cruel confidence. "to prove my seriousness I believe that I will now execute Mr. Taylor.."

With a press of a button on the remote in her other hand a crouching robot hidden in the shadows lit up and walked into the light to show Corporal Marcus Taylor from Corel held in the machines grip with two hands holding him up by his shoulders while scythe like blades were held on either side of his body ready to split him in half with a gesture. In point of fact the bladed edges were just lightly drawing blood they were so close to his skin.

"Say goodby-aaaahhh!" Mrs. Goldman screamed as her left knee was destroyed by a shotgun blast even as Ruiz lunged against her left arm forcing it wide and allowing Zeke to unload a few rounds into her shoulder forcing her to drop the remote without pressing the button, at this same time the shotgun barked two more times striking her right knee and then her right shoulder in quick succession.

"Doc stop her from bleeding to death so we can interrogate her," Lt. Goldman stated coldly even as he readied his shotgun to fire again. "also dose her with the antitoxin for the cyanide based poisons she likes to hide in her teeth then remove her teeth for her..."

Even as he finished speaking the Lt. went over to her and using the knife with a cauterization function to make it red hot proceeded to remover her fingers with a cold detached intensity.

"Hey Lt. isn't this a little much?" Zeke asked the Lt. out of earshot of the men.

"My older sister quit the Turks in disgust of all the dirty laundry they had to clean up and the petty power plays rampant in the upper echelons," Lt. Goldman replied in a calm tone. "she was found dead less than a day later in bed with her female lover who just so happened to be a reporter, according to forensics she poisoned herself after suffocating her lover. The same night she died mom came home with a broken wrist and a bullet hole in her jacket, when we got the news she looked devastated except for the telltale twitch of her lips that always showed up when one of her plans unfolded just like she wanted it to.."

Flashback End..

"One of the talents I never had listed in my file is that I can read lips," Zeke told the gathered men calmly with a distant look on his face. "when he went in there with his shotgun his mom told him with that same twitch that he mentioned flashing for just a second on her face that she was glad one of her children actually had the balls to face life like a Turk, cause otherwise she would have died with her reputation tarnished.."

"So your telling me that his mom trained him and his siblings to be Turks because for some demented reason she wanted one to succeed her?" Colonel Hein responded to this tale with incredulity but also this kind of look that said he believed it. "And I thought Lt. Elliot's mom was the only one of her kind.."

"With all due respect Colonel," Lt. Elliot spoke up to his superior officer. "my mom made me the soldier I am today..."

"And a damn finer soldier would be hard to find." Colonel Hein stated with a calm certainty.

"Excuse me but what about the kid in the other room?" Flemings asked a little impatiently. "You know, the one who reached his hand into her head and pulled out the bomb and placed it in the badguys head!"

"How can he be a WEAPON!" Aki Ross's shout carried into the room from the partially open door that she had exited a minute or so ago to talk with one of the nurse that had come to talk with her about the test results on the blonde haired boy in the room. "You realize that WEAPONs are usually a couple hundred feet tall and are the Planets response to threats to its existence don't you!"

"Yes I am aware of that Dr. Ross but the results of both the Bio Etheric scans and the genetic analysis makes it clear the boy is part WEAPON," Replied the ex-AVALANCHE scientist Shalua Rui who they had captured on the behest of Deling only to misplace her very soon after. "I don't know how this happened but the proof is undeniable, nonetheless will you allow me to use your equipment to find my sister?"

"Of course we will!" Aki responded without hesitation causing Hein to gain a headache just from the fact that she could promise the use of military equipment without a thought to clearance.

"Dr. Ross their are numerous waveforms that coincide with Soldier's heading right towards here," Shouted one of the assistants in a jubilant tone which stunned Hein since the man had been one of the few who lost his family to Shinra's cowardly attack. "one of the ones in the convoy is the Spirit we have been searching for!"

"Are you sure!" Aki responded in an excited tone.

"We've triple checked the results and its confirmed!" The scientist stated excitedly. "We can complete the Waveform which will severely weaken Shinra's Soldiers!"

Suddenly Colonel Hein realized the implications of the completed Waveform even as he remembered how a Soldier assigned to security on the project had seemed off kilter during a testing of the incomplete waveform and for days afterwards was sick and finally how the man complained about not being able to lift as much weight as he used to. Now while this was working its way into his mind he was also aware that Soldier he was thinking of was able to work himself back up to the weight he used to lift over the course of six or seven months which means they would have to strike hard and fast when they use it lest the Soldier's build themselves back to their old strength level.

"Excuse me sir but didn't that one Soldier attending the waveform demonstration a year or two ago have problems casting magic at his old level?" Lt. Elliot spoke up from beside him as if he could read the Colonel's thoughts which was unlikely, rather he probably guessed them from long association. "In fact according to one of my old friends the Shinra scientists were perplexed about his performance loss, according to him the things most impacted on the guy were his healing abilities which for awhile seemed to be like a constant Regen spell, his bodies toughness seemed to be a constant barrier spell infusing his skin, and in battle he seemed to devolve into a berserker rage.."

"In other words they will go from nearly impossible to beat to difficult to overcome," Colonel Hein mused as a wicked smirk made its way onto his face. "we can definitely work with that.."

Author's notes: Care to guess who the carrier of the Jenova spirit is?