Time and Tide

Come here, son. Don't worry, I wont harm you - I look scary though, huh? I guess a man the size of a chocobo would be scary to most... Careful now, don't pull my beard, OUCH!

Why are you crying? There's no need to cry – here, wipe your nose on this. It's a handkerchief, you rascal, not a tablecloth! What's wrong?

Your father's been beating you, huh? Well, I can't stop him from beating you, but I can tell a mean story and tell your fortune. You would like to hear one? Get your future predicted? Alright, let me see…

Oh, my... Your future is interesting, but you have no need to know about it. Just live your life to the fullest...

Now for the story! But to understand this one, you'll need to know some basic geography first, I reckon. Here goes!

There is a great landmass, many miles west of the Mist Continent. It is a barren stretch of earth, and even the skies are devoid of Mist. To the world at large, this land is known as the Forgotten Continent, and yet many know not the reason why it has been named so. Nor do they know what is it that was forgotten.

This is an account of that which has been forgotten, and of heroes and villains, from days long gone. People whose names most have forgotten, and people whose souls are best left buried…

So sit back, son, and I shall tell you a story… It's not fully-accurate, but I can give you my damned-best guarantee that it's the closest to the truth that you'll find anywhere else on Gaia, gwahahaha!

xxx

Once upon a time, many centuries ago, the humans on Gaia were actually significantly more advanced than they are today, in terms of technology. They had learned how to build towering skyscrapers, and create awesome machines. And yet, as with all other things, there was a flip-side to their story. For all those brilliant, privileged ones, there were also numerous others that lived in squalid slums, mired in poverty beyond salvaging. Such was the ancient human society, in their large city.

Yes, I said city. The word has no need to used in the plural, because most of the humans lived in a large, shadow-casting city of obsidian. If you traveled from the base of the city to its peak, moving skywards, it would be clear that the wealth of the people, was directly-proportional to the elevation at which they lived. Some other humans lived in tiny settlements outside the city's walls, but the majority of them lived and died, in the towering city called Midgar. It was many times larger than Lindblum Grand Castle, and also many times darker.

Indeed, most of the poor people living beneath the rich ones' feet, never saw the sun for their entire lives. The very design of their black home was built to prevent this, with a large, sprawling plate extending out in all directions from the city's central construct. The living areas beneath the plate's darkness were the slums, and life conditions down there were beyond deplorable.

As with most other rich people, those living at the city's peak, growing fat in the sunlight which they had forbidden their poorer kin to receive, wanted nothing more than to multiply their fortunes. Already, most of them were involved in a self-destructing game to obtain wealth. The only question was: would they die first, or would the planet itself be destroyed, as a result of their lust for riches?

You see, they had designed and built numerous constructs of extreme sophistication, to generate 's that? Damned if I know, but it was once used as some kind of energy to provide light, heat, and power, from what my research indicates...

The sinister fact that they always kept unsaid, was that these constructs were actually draining the planet of its life-force, the very energy which kept Gaia alive. Their reactors would siphon out Mako (as they called the Lifestream) from the planet's crust, and process it to convert it into voltage. Materia – magical orbs - were also among the by-products of the Mako refining process, and some were actually summon gems. Spirits of the Eidolons would be trapped by Mako reactors, and their essence would be captured in a single Materia orb, ready to be used or misused by whoever it fell into the possession of.

Those who knew about these shady dealings were either in the employ of the power company which built the constructs, or were killed by the company's professional killers. These killers were called the Turks, and they were the ones making ShinRa's laundry as dirty as it was, by doing anything from kidnapping to butchering entire villages.

Five of them whose names were remembered were Vincent Valentine, Tseng Oolong, Reno Collins, Rude Antoine, and Elena Trask. Vincent betrayed and left the Turks, but was detained and experimented on by Hojo, a madman who had been mistakenly entrusted with the best scientific knowledge of the era. The other four served Rufus Shinra with total loyalty until the day they perished, and they have little more significance in history than that…

But some of these people survived the Turks' attempts to silence them (the Turks usually did this with a quick and violent death), and formed small groups that rebeled against the company's dominance over everyone's lives. These groups would sabotage company operations, and damage the company's profits. Most of them were eventually killed, but one of the smallest resistance groups, AVALANCHE of Cosmo Canyon, survived, and went on to play their role in what would later turn out to be the pivotal moment when Gaia's existence was put on the line.

xxx

The power company responsible for the Mako reactors was named ShinRa Incorporated, and was also known as 'The ShinRa'. AVALANCHE was an elusive thorn in their side, and so ShinRa sought ways of removing said resistance group from the equation. However, they dragged their feet at it, since AVALANCHE was too small to pose any significant threat against their mega-corporation.

Some agree that AVALANCHE might have pushed its luck a bit too far when it launched a series of missions to bomb the energy-draining constructs that were sucking the life out of Gaia's essence.

When they actually blew-up one of the reactors, the ShinRa was not amused. Led by a son-of-Corel, Barret Wallace, an ex-SOLDIER, Cloud Strife, and a barmaid, Tifa Lockheart, bombed Mako reactor No; 1. Their actions resulted in the death of thousands, but they pacified their consciences by saying that it was all for the greater good.

In retribution for their act of 'terrorism', millions were killed, when one of the plate's segments was deliberately released from its secure position, fifty meters above the slums. ShinRa wanted to send a message – they didn't care how many they killed, as long as AVALANCHE was eliminated. Most of the residents of the Sector 7 Slums were suddenly thrown into darkness, as their electricity supply was cut-off. By the time most of them noticed the falling plate segment, it was too late.

Only in death did the slum's residents get to see the sun, the day the plate descended.

xxx

Eventually, the battle of wills between ShinRa and AVALANCHE was won by AVALANCHE, when most of the ShinRa's power-drunk masterminds were murdered by one of their own created evils, a man called Sephiroth. Those who survived were the smartest or the most twisted, but they served their own crucial roles in the struggle against doomsday, later.

Rufus Shinra, the President of ShinRa Inc. He took what was left of Jenova's remains into hiding, thus preventing anyone from resurrecting her once again. He managed to survive a direct blast from the Ultimate Weapon, and later helped to establish a human colony outside of the ruined Midgar.

Reeve Tuesti, also known to some as Cait Sith. A soft-spoken man who served as ShinRa's little spy. He would conduct scouting work for their assassins, who would later move in for the kill based on the information he had provdided for them. After all, getting your fortune read by this strange man in a trench coat wouldn't be that harmful, would it?

Scarlet and Heidegger, a bloodthirsty duo who created weapons and directed armies, respectively. Scarlet used her brilliant mind to create designs of destruction, while Heidegger had the military muscle to turn her ideas into reality, his authority bulldozing through the bureaucracy that was ShinRa Inc. They later were instrumental in the usage of the Sister Ray – the ultimate weapon within ShinRa Inc.'s arsenal.

Sephiroth was the result of a perversion of human scientific skill and magic. He had been born of a human woman, whose unborn child - fathered by Hojo - had been mutated using extracts from a mysterious, prehistoric entity named Jenova. He was therefore in possession of supernatural powers, and was an invincible swordsman when he wielded his Masamune blade.

He slew his former employers among the ShinRa's elite, which tipped the game in AVALANCHE's favour. Most of them failed to realize that the game was nearly over right there and then, as Sephiroth had more sinister intentions than just taking a side in the ShinRa-AVALANCHE conflict.

xxx

Sephiroth had accidentally discovered the secrets behind his ancestry, and the sudden shock made him deranged. He slew the entire population in the town of Nibelheim in a flaming flurry, and vanished for five years.

The rest of the story has been mostly-lost over time, though the ending of said story is still firmly etched in my memory. AVALANCHE was thrust into combat against Sephiroth over Gaia's existence, for he planned to assimilate most of Gaia's life force, by using a Meteor spell to critically-wound the planet. No one remembers much about how they tried to stop Sephiroth, but there were little scribbles in the margins of people's memories, and the story's little missing bits were hidden there. I'll have you know, it took me YEARS to track down all of those who remembered even the tiniest little scrap of what I was looking for...

All I know now, after all these years, is that an Ancient woman named Aerith Gainsborough - whom Cloud loved - lost her life in trying to stop Sephiroth. In the planet's greatest moment of need, she knelt-down and prayed. Prayed to the Ancients, who were the first to bring life to Gaia. Prayed for a counter to Sephiroth's Meteor spell, the ultimate destructive magic. Prayed until Gaia revealed and made corporeal the materia for Holy, a white magic spell that would thwart Meteor.

Prayed right until the second when Sephiroth put the Masamune through her chest.

She was laid to rest in the ruined City of the Ancients, by a distraught Cloud. In the end, Holy was disrupted by Sephiroth before it could take effect, and AVALANCHE had to go in themselves to finish the job.

They had no idea where to start, but he had released the Weapons from their prison in the Northern Crater, and given his location away in the process. Once he had released the five beasts, he erected a Barrier around the Crater, to keep AVALANCHE and ShinRa out. You see, ShinRa had decided that Sephiroth was a bigger threat than AVALANCHE, and so they re-worked their priorities list a little.

Weapons? They were colossal monsters, created by Gaia to defend itself in the event of an emergency that threatened the planet. But unfortunately, humans also fell under the category of, 'To Be Destroyed During An Emergency'. They were called Sapphire, Diamond, Ultimate, Emerald, and Ruby respectively, and they were HUGE - larger than Lindblum Grand Castle, even.

The ShinRa weren't idle, however, and slew two of the Weapons – Sapphire Weapon and Diamond Weapon – using their Mako cannon, the Sister Ray. In fact, here's some fun information; the Sister Ray was preceded by three prototypes - the Father Ray, Mother Ray, and Brother Ray. No, I'm not joshing you... They took it from the coastal town called Junon, where it had killed Sapphire Weapon. It was moved to Midagr itself, where they mounted it on the plate-covered ruins of Sector 7. The six remaining Mako reactors were pushed to their limits, and every bit of energy they could muster was channeled into the Sister Ray. Midgar was plunged into darkness for several minutes, and the city itself shook, as the Sister Ray let loose with an ungodly-powerful ray of energy.

When they fired it then, the Sister Ray even blasted through Sephiroth's Barrier with a burst of pure Mako energy, and cleared the path for AVALANCHE to advance.

However, the Ultimate Weapon, in an act of revenge, killed Rufus Shinra, the leader of ShinRa Inc.

Without his restraining orders, Scarlet and Heidegger, two of ShinRa's surviving and more bloodthirsty executives, tried to stop AVALANCHE using a new weapon they had built, something named the Proud Clod. It was destroyed, and the two of them with it.

Hojo, in the meantime, was trying to fire the Sister Ray once again (without knowing that it needed to recharge for several hours), to provide Sephiroth with the overwhelming amount of energy that he needed to complete the Meteor spell. You see, all he wanted to do was to watch his greatest experiment - his son - end with success, whatever the cost. When Vincent confronted him, the good professor took a bullet to the head from Vincent's weapon, before falling-off the Sister Ray's control platform into the darkness where the Sector 7 plate once was.

AVALANCHE commandeered a ShinRa airship, and took flight to the Northern Crater with godspeed. And so, the eight of them descended into the darkness of the Northern Crater.

Cloud Strife, ex-SOLDIER. A tormented young man whose life had been turned inside-out by the sinister machinations of Hojo and ShinRa. It turned out he had been treated with Mako and Jenova extract, which pretty much made him Sephiroth's twin. He loved Aerith, but…

Tifa Lockheart, barmaid. A pretty lass who loved Cloud, and yet never received his love in return. She isrumored to have died away from Cloud, who never came back to her in the end…

Barret Wallace, AVALANCHE leader. His coal-mining hometown met its end through Scarlet's sweet-sounding lies and the construction of a Mako reactor there. His friend Dyne almost got killed when Barret's arm was shot-off by Scarlet, as he tried to pull Dyne up from a cliff's edge.

Vincent Valentine, ex-Turk. AVALANCHE awoke him from his stasis in a coffin, and after thirty years, he finally got to have his revenge on Professor Hojo.

Yuffie Kisaragi, princess of Wutai. A spoilt young thief who was heir to Wutai's throne, she tried to rob Cloud and his friends, but decided to join them on their journey instead.

Nanaki, also known as Red XIII. He was a sentient nonhuman creature, who was captured by Hojo as a cub, and kept for experimentation. AVALANCHE freed him from the Professor's clutches.

Cid Highwind, a foul-mouthed pilot. ShinRa took away his dreams of being the first man in outer space, and he saw AVALANCHE's mission as a way to even the score. He vanished shortly after Spehiroth's defeat, never to be seen again.

Cait Sith, a stuffed cat riding on a stuffed moogle. He was an artificial creature, the ears and mouthpiece of Reeve, who was ShinRa's little mole in AVALANCHE. Yet he aided AVALANCHE's cause, betraying ShinRa in the end. Some say this is because Reeve was never a heartless man himself, unlike the other executives…

The eight of them defeated Sephiroth, though unfortunately, the finer details on how they did it have long since been forgotten. I am sure that it was an earth-shaking battle, what with the fate of our world hanging in the balance like that…

xxx

After all these events, the humans living in their ruined city decided that it was time to start over in life. With the aid of ShinRa's remaining employees as well as resources, and with great bravery, the humans slowly migrated to the Mist continent, where they founded several colonies. Most of them died during the perilous ocean journey over to their new home, and those that made it were the pioneers of human life on the Mist continent.

It is rumored in history that the last member of AVALANCHE passed away during her journey to the humans' new home, a sick woman in bed. Supposed eyewitness accounts claim that her last words were a tearful call to someone or something named 'Cloud', and that she always searched for a child named 'Marlene' after the battle with Sephiroth. From what I know, it must have been Tifa Lockheart herself...

They swore to never again touch their planet-killing technology, which they had left behind. They eventually learned how to make a living out of the earth, and to be content with life's simplicity. The two main human colonies prospered and grew, eventually becoming into the great nations of Alexandria and Lindblum as we know them today. They regressed severely from a technological point of view, but gained so much more in terms of life's meaning and happiness.

Today, centuries after the fall of Midgar, most humans have even forgotten the word Mako. It regenerated so rapidly after humans stopped sucking it up, that it now comes out of caves and crevasses on its own. ShinRa's idea of a Promised Land was land where the Mako would flow on its own, without their reactors having to do any of the extraction work. Their 'Promised Land' was right under their noses, all the while. ALl they had to do was let Mother Nature remain undisturbed.

Now, we call this liberated Mako by a new name... Mist... We still use it, but in vastly-reduced quantities compared to the amounts the Midgarians once used...

Most people nowadays have forgotten how it was, that we came to inhabit the Mist continent. But even time and tide have not been able to erase the records of our past on the Forgotten Continent. You see, the ruins of Midgar were eventually claimed by the sea, the black construct being buried in its entirety beneath the waves when the tide enters. Some explorers have named the sunken city as the 'Water Shrine', in their ignorance of the wave-wrapped building's TRUE history.

But when the the waves recede in the dead of the night, and when the moon is high in the sky, you can observe the remnants of Midgar reaching out towards the heavens. It still exists as a reminder of our past, and will remain there, always, until the end of time.

xxx

That's my story, son. I've never told anyone my story before, not a soul. So now I feel as though you've taken a great load of my shoulders, since I now know that history wont die with me…

The sun is dipping to sleep already. You'd best be going on to home, son.

By the way, what's your name? Zidane? Oh, Baku! This little rascal's one of your boys? Sharp lad you've got there. He'll be someone someday, mark my words. His eyes and palm lines say that we will see great things from this one yet.

And give me my wallet back, Zidane! I know how fast your fingers are if Baku's your 'father', mwehehehe… And the 20 Gil inside it too, if you please? Much appreciated - that's my beer money. I lift some Gil from undeserving folks now-and-then, for my lovely liquor, gwahaha! Baku, I still owe you that drink... Another day, ya?

Run along, Zidane, and don't irritate Baku so much. He's a good man, really. I've known him since we were kids, hehehe…

Come by anytime for a chat or three, will you? I get lonely sometimes.

What? Oh, my name? It's Tuesti - John Tuesti.

END