Final Fantasy VII: A New Threat

PROLOGUE

THE FLOWER GIRL

It was a cloudless night above the city of Midgar, the darkened winter sky dotted with a thousand burning stars beyond the haze of pollution, the cold air numbing and penetrative. Gazing up, the young flower girl rose from her crouched position by the leaking Mako generator in the damp alleyway, and began towards the crowded metropolis street of Theatre Avenue. Her long pink dress, moistened by the round cobbles on which she had knelt, had become uncomfortable against her bare ankles.

She glanced cautiously about her before raising her pale green eyes once again to the heavens, pulling her red denim jacket tighter around her chest. A nearby group of men whistled at her, waving as they stumbled drunkenly through the throng of people. She swung the basket of white and yellow lilies she carried back and forth across her body – a nervous habit she had adopted since her last flower cart had broken down – and, waiting patiently for the car to pass, she crossed the street.

As she stepped onto the low kerb on the opposite path, there came a terrible sound of thunder. Everything around her shook, throwing her mercilessly to her knees. The windows of Robson's Playhouse behind her exploded, scattering shards of glass over the pedestrians below. Long, rigid cracks appeared on the thick walls of the surrounding buildings, small chunks of their façades plummeting to the pavement. The frightened screams of many women rang out, slicing through the air like wailing sirens. In the distance, above the rooftops, plumes of heavy black smoke had begun to soar into the sky, sending its starry face into an eclipse.

The flower girl picked herself up. She groaned as she brushed the grime from her hands and dress, looking out over Fountain Plaza from beneath its sandstone archway entrance as she listened to each gasp and startled cry. In a corner of the space, a short way from where she stood, there emerged a party of five from a small lane hidden by the shadows. They were clad in unusual clothing, their voices hushed and secretive. After a few moments, the group dispersed, and all but one sped off across the square.

The lone man kept his gaze fixed straight ahead, as if deep in thought, his blonde spikes of hair drooping haphazardly over his handsome face. She started towards him, drawn by an uncontrollable urge; the coincidence of his likeness was too great. The hairthe outfitthat sword. Taking quick, delicate steps, she pushed through the hordes of panic-stricken civilians to reach the man, her desire to speak with him a necessity in her mind.

"Excuse me?" she asked softly as she drew near him. The man turned, his sparkling blue eyes passing once over her. "What happened?"

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