Author's Note: Yep! Another update, and in the same month? I'm getting better with my updates! :)
Thanks for the beta, Sephiroth Owa13.
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy VII and all its characters (damn). I just play with them every now and then! :D
Chapter 47: Those Who Fight
Genesis took a deep breath. "This is what we're doing. We're landing as close to HQ as we can, and breaking in. Once inside, Rufus, and Tseng will work on establishing some kind central command to communicate orders between all of our teams. Angeal, Vincent, Tifa, and I will find Sephiroth. Kunsel, Raeven, I want you two evacuating civilians. The Crescent Unit has advised they have undercover operatives still inside ShinRa, so if you come across them, get them to assist you."
"How are we going to get in?" Angeal looked out the window again, before turning back to Genesis. "The steel shudders are down. It'll take time to break through them, and fight off any resistance from the infantry, and SOLDIER inside."
Genesis smirked, and held up a remote. "I didn't use all of Scarlet's toys that I liberated from the warehouses. Trust me, those shutters won't be an issue. The infantry, and SOLDIER, will have their hands too full to bother with us." He looked at the others, his smirk fading. "We all have to be prepared for Sephiroth clones, Makonoids, and other creatures that Hojo may have left hanging around. Hollander is on the loose, and I wouldn't put it above him to use those experiments to create enough confusion to allow himself time to escape."
"And if we find Hollander? What should we do with him?" Raeven asked.
Genesis shrugged. "Kill him."
Angeal looked at him. "Genesis – "
"Angeal, don't give me your honor crap right now. That man fucked us up. If he lives, mark my words: our future children will pay the price." Genesis shook his head. "I'm not taking any chances with him."
Vincent nodded. "Hollander may not be Hojo, but he's not a good man. He created the clones for the sole purpose of corrupting Sephiroth's cells. He may even be worse than Hojo."
Rufus arched a brow. "That's a bold statement."
"Hojo was smart. He was meticulous in his work and clever enough to hide his mistakes." Vincent shook his head. "Hollander doesn't care. He's sloppy and careless with his research. He set off a chain of events that has brought us to where we are now, without a second thought. You tell me, what's more dangerous: an evil, but predictable man, or an evil man who is too unstable to predict his actions, and reactions?"
Genesis looked at Angeal. "See? So, if you find Hollander – kill him."
Reno grinned. "And their pathetic electro-shields go boom in three…two…one!"
Multiple explosions could be heard throughout the slums.
Elena looked at her PHS, and smiled. "All sectors are reporting the slums are ready for evacuation.
Cissnei looked at Biggs. "Okay, once we hit the surface, we need you to help get everyone out of the city. The plates are safe for now, but it's still not safe for civilians."
Biggs nodded. "You got it!"
Jessie touched Cissnei on the shoulder. "If you're going into the ShinRa building, I'm coming with you."
Cissnei shook her head. "It's not a good idea."
"Listen, a woman from ShinRa came down here, in spite of being followed by SOLDIER operatives, to get the message about the plates to me. She could have been killed, just from coming into 7th Heaven and fraternizing with the enemy. Hell, she may have been killed right after she left." Jessie shook her head. "I owe it to her to go into that building and do something – maybe even find her."
Cissnei paused for a moment. "Can you fire a gun?"
Grinning, Jessie picked up a can, tossed it, took aim, and shot it dead center, then looked back at Cissnei, winking. "You bet your ass I can."
"Impressive!" Cissnei winked back at Jessie, joking because of her own tech side. "For a tech, and spec girl." She became serious again, and said with a grateful smile: "Another gun would definitely help. God knows what we're walking into." Cissnei waved Reno, and Elena over to her. "Okay, it's time to head to HQ."
"We can enter the building through that underground entrance in the train tunnel." Reno smirked at Jessie. "Hope you're ready for the freak show that is Hojo's fucked up petting zoo, babe."
Jessie coolly lifted an eyebrow. "I've lived in the slums for a very long time, and have seen my fair share of ShinRa's 'pets' thank you. I'll live."
Reno chuckled and nodded. "Fair enough. But if you live, I'll be impressed!"
Cissnei tightened her grip on Rekka. "Come on. Let's go."
Genesis smiled and looked at Angeal triumphantly when they saw the gaping hole in the steel shutters that were covering the main entrance. "What did I tell you?"
Angeal unsheathed his sword. "We'll discuss your utter genius another time, Genesis."
"I'll hold you to that." Genesis gently reached out, and grasped Tifa's arm. He smiled softly when she looked ready to give him a piece of her mind. "Little One, I have no intention of stopping you from participating in this mission fully, but I will protect you. I made that promise to Sephiroth a long time ago and I have no intention of failing to keep my word."
Tifa nodded. "I know you'll keep me safe, but, Gen, you have to promise me something."
"If Sephiroth needs you, help him. I can take care of myself." Tifa covered his hand with hers. "Promise me."
"Stay by me and I'll protect you both." Genesis unsheathed Rapier and followed the others into the building.
What they were met with was chaos. The only problem with the machines Genesis had stolen was that they couldn't tell the difference between who was a target and who was not. Currently, they were firing at SOLDIER's, but if their targeting sensors picked any of them up, they'd find themselves as targets.
Rufus slowed downed when he noticed a television screen. "What – ?"
"This is an unconfirmed report, but sources inside the besieged headquarters of The ShinRa Electric Power Company are saying that monsters are running rampant and clones of Sephiroth, ShinRa's former SOLDIER General, are causing mayhem throughout Midgar. More incredibly, those sources are also saying that President Shinra has been assassinated, along with the Directors of ShinRa. These reports are still unconfirmed, but residents of Midgar are advised to evacuate the city as soon as possible. We will continue to follow this breaking story."
Rufus was quiet for a moment, then turned to Genesis. "With my father dead, we'll have one less thing in our way." He hurried over to one of the elevators. "This may not be the safest way up, but it's the fastest."
Genesis was impressed. He knew Rufus had made a lot of progress over the last two years, with Tseng and Sephiroth watching over him, but he still had been harboring doubts that when the time came, Rufus would be able to turn his back on the only life he had really ever known. But it looked like he was going to prove him wrong.
The party got into the elevator and waited silently while the elevator ascended steadily. Nobody seemed to know what to say. They all shared one common goal and, if they were honest, they'd admit they didn't really know what to expect when the elevator doors opened.
Reeve fell to his knees and grunted in pain. "Listen, you two need to go. Just leave me."
Gail knelt beside him. He was a stubborn man. "Director, we're not leaving you here."
The building shook slightly with the muted rumble of an explosion.
Reeve looked up at Gail. "You're a good woman, but you have to go. I'll only slow you both down."
Avalon smiled slightly. "We're almost at the elevators, Director. Once we get in there, we're almost home free."
"We have no idea what's waiting at the main entrance." Reeve's head rested against the wall behind them. "You both heard the intruder alarms sound a few moments ago. Something broke in and you know it would have to be something powerful to breach the shutters."
Gail smiled slightly. "Or it was something breaking out."
Reeve shook his head. "You're not going to let me be a martyr, are you?"
Avalon shook her head. "No, Sir."
Gail got to her feet again and moved to his right side. "Director Tuesti, you're not dying alone in a hallway, or being mauled by some creature we haven't even seen yet."
Reeve chuckled softly and began to push himself up the wall back to his feet, with both women helping him. "Alright, you win. But you can't stop me from stumbling forward into the path of monster to save you."
Avalon put his arm around her shoulder and smiled. "If you do that, I shall be very cross with you."
Gail waited until Avalon had one of his arms around her shoulders before doing the same thing. "If you wanted to be a hero, you should have joined SOLDIER, then defected to Wutai."
"I should have done that anyway, Gail."
"A lot of us should have done that, Sir." Gail sighed. "I'm proud of my brother for doing that. I hope – no, I know – one day, I'll see him again, and tell him how proud I am of him."
Reeve nodded, an affirmation to her statement and they continued their slow trek toward the elevator. "All of them have a strength I didn't. Mind you, I don't agree with Genesis' actions after his defection. I spent a lot of time repairing the damage he caused, but I understand his and Sephiroth's desire to slip the leash ShinRa placed on all of them."
Avalon nodded. "ShinRa has a way of digging its claws into you without you even realizing it. The next thing you know, you're a number…like animals they tag, and follow around."
Gail was about to add her two cents, when she paused, halting their forward progression. "I think I hear something."
The three of them all stopped and listened.
Gail frowned. "Someone's coming this way."
It was a tense few moments that seemed to drag on until five infantrymen rounded a corner.
"Director Tuesti?" One of the men stepped forward. "You've been shot."
Avalon nodded. "Corporal, please, you have to help us get Director Tuesti out of here."
The Corporal nodded. "We'll get you out of here." He looked at the other grunts and pointed to two of them. "You two, help the Director."
Gail, and Avalon both moved out of the way when the two infantrymen took their places at Reeve's sides. With two of the infantrymen supporting Reeve's weight, they were able to move faster. For the first time, Gail allowed herself to believe they really did have a chance to get out alive.
The Corporal stopped and lifted his rifle. "Stop. We have some company."
Three Sahagins and two Evil Eyes were blocking their path.
They moved so quickly, Gail didn't even see what actually happened. One minute, the three infantrymen in front of them were attacking the monsters, the next minute they were on their backs, dead before they hit the ground.
Without a second thought, Gail ran forward and picked up one the infantrymen's rifles. She quickly took aim and fired at the Evil Eye closest to her. She kept firing until it fell to the ground. She turned, opening fire on the other Evil Eye, but one of the Sahagins had jumped into the air and landed right in front of her. The impact from its landing threw her to the ground, dazed. She pushed herself up into a seated position, but gasped when she found the remaining Evil Eye hovering over her.
Before she could move, it opened its mouth and released a steady stream of poison gas into her face.
Coughing, she fell back against the floor. Her vision became blurry, but she was vaguely aware of the two remaining infantrymen rushing forward in an attempt to kill the remaining monsters. She hoped they could; however, as the infantrymen fought the monsters she could feel the poison slowly working its way through her body.
She knew this was it. She knew she was going to die.
The elevator doors opened, the hallway was filled with smoke.
Angeal stepped into the hallway and shook his head. It was littered with the bodies of SOLDIERs, infantrymen, civilians, and monsters.
He looked over his shoulder. "Tseng stay close to Rufus."
Genesis stepped out beside Angeal and arched a brow. "It looks like we're late to Sephiroth's little party. I'm disappointed."
Tifa looked around. "Seph…"
Angeal felt for her. She'd suffered so much all at once and at such a young age. She was a strong woman, but seeing Sephiroth's mind compromised the way it had been, must have been a blow to her heart.
"Do you hear that?" Rufus frowned. "It sounds like monsters, down toward my father's office."
Genesis tightened his grip on Rapier. "You're right."
They all hurried down the hallway.
When they found the source of the noise, three Sahagins were stepping over two dead infantrymen, with their sights set on a man and woman. Another woman was on the ground, an Evil Eye hovering over her. The green tinge to her skin said she'd been poisoned and probably didn't have a lot of time left.
Tifa ran forward and attacked the Evil Eye, drawing it toward her, and away from its victim. She kept her assault constant and consistent, never giving it the opportunity to recover enough to launch an offensive attack on her.
Raeven and Kunsel immediately went for the Sahagins.
Genesis turned and looked at Angeal. "Take care of that girl."
He joined Raeven and Kunsel, attacking the Sahagins, alternating between physical assaults, and his materia of choice – Firaga.
Angeal knelt beside the woman on the ground and frowned when he recognized her. "Gail?"
He immediately began to cast Curaga on her to buy him some time to administer a Remedy. He pulled the bottle from his pocket and, using his teeth, pulled the cork out. Gently, he lifted her head, put the vial to her lips, and poured the Remedy down her throat.
"Gail, honey? You've got to wake up for me."
Her head turned toward his voice and she frowned slightly before opening her eyes. "Angeal?" Her frown became a small, warm, teasing smile. "Honey? We've only been on two dates, then you disappeared, and died. You can call me "honey" when you make up for all this lost time with more dates."
Angeal chuckled softly, and hugged her. "So much for my honor, huh?"
Raeven finished off one of the Sahagins and turned when he heard Gail's name. "Sis?" He ran over to where Angeal and Gail were. When he knelt down beside her, he embraced her tightly. "Oh, my God! I didn't see it was you!"
Gail held him tightly. "I'm fine. Raeven, I'm so happy to see you."
"We're safe, thanks for asking." Genesis sheathed Rapier and arched a brow at Angeal. "Now you decide to court a woman?"
Angeal rolled his eyes. "Genesis, I'll explain it later."
"If there is a later."
Rufus frowned when he heard the man on the ground speak. "Reeve?"
He nodded. "You have to find Sephiroth."
"We have no idea where to find him." Genesis was obviously becoming impatient. "We have no way to track him.
Reeve winced, clutching his wound with one hand. "The clones are with him. You can track him by tracking the clones. They were tagged with tracking chips beneath their skin before Hollander sent them to find Sephiroth after the Junon incident. He figured if Reunion had failed to be activated, they could be followed to where Sephiroth was in Wutai. Then ShinRa would know where to focus their attack, and kill him, if necessary."
Angeal was still beside the reunited siblings, but he was also following the conversation of the others. "Can they be tracked at any terminal?"
Reeve shook his head. "No. The tracking equipment is in the labs."
Kunsel grunted, putting his hands on his hips. "Well, that's just perfect. Those things will be locked up tighter than a bank vault!"
"Hollander used the secretarial pool, so we all have access to those systems." Gail shrugged. "Apparently, monitoring the progress of the clones across Gaia was "beneath" him."
Raeven's lip curled. "Well at least it wasn't Hojo in charge. That's something."
Gail nodded. "You'll need a password, but mine, or Avalon's should work."
Angeal looked at the two women. Gail was covered in dirt and the other woman, he assumed was Avalon, looked even worse for wear. Her clothes were stained with human blood, and monster blood, and she looked shaken.
He turned and gently squeezed Gail's shoulder, before handing her his PHS. "Give me your password. You need to get to safety."
"Angeal, I'm not a shrinking violet." Gail glared at the PHS as if it had personally offended her. "I am more than capable – "
"Sis, give him your password." Raeven smiled. "I'm pulling rank as older brother. You're not staying here."
Gail narrowed her eyes, but eventually took Angeal's PHS and entered her password. She handed the phone back to Angeal. "That should give you access to the tracking systems."
Angeal smiled warmly at Gail. "Thank you."
"We'll need one of them to stay." Tseng looked at both women. "I can hack into the mainframe to transfer all command controls to Rufus' ID, but it will take longer. Do either of you have Presidential Secretarial access?"
Avalon nodded. "I do."
Gail frowned. "Ava, I can stay. You've been through so much already."
Avalon smiled slightly. "Maybe, but you've been poisoned. I can do this, Gail."
"Alright, Rufus, Tseng, and this young lady will continue to the President's office, as planned. Kunsel, and Raeven, I want you to escort Gail and Director Tuesti to safety. And keep Gail safe." Genesis smiled at Gail. "She's the only secretary – temp or otherwise – I've ever had who could put up with me. Angeal, Tifa, Vincent, and I will go on to the labs and track down the clones."
They all nodded in agreement, then separated. Angeal knew they were running out of time.
Rufus had to hand it to the young woman who readily agreed to stay – both of them, actually. Judging by the amount of blood on the young lady beside him, she had been through so much already.
The closer they got to his father's office, the tenser she became. In a move that was decidedly very un-Shinra-like, he decided to do his best to offer her comfort.
"I know whatever is in my father's office must be grotesque." He focused on keeping his voice calm and steady. "But, you're not alone. In fact, you and I are in the best hands possible. Tseng is the head of my Turks. He certainly knows what he's doing, Miss –?"
"Riley." She looked at him from the corner of her eyes, but still kept a wary eye out for any unwanted guests. "Avalon Riley, Sir."
"Well, you mustn't worry, Miss Riley." Rufus lifted his shotgun. "I'm not the spoiled Prince of ShinRa that I was before. Tseng and I will make sure nothing happens to us."
Avalon was quiet for a few moments. "I'm not sure what scared me the most: seeing them killed, or the calm demeanor of General Sephiroth and the others while they killed them."
That made Rufus pause before answering her. Over the past two years, he had seen Sephiroth kill and order his men to kill, hundreds of times. Yet, he had gained no pleasure in the act. It had caught him off guard that a man dubbed "The Demon of Wutai" would not enjoy some pleasure from causing death.
In fact, on the rare occasion they would cross paths with Angeal, or Genesis, none of them showed any pleasure in taking the lives of the enemies. Instead, there was an air of sadness around them.
"That's not Sephiroth."
Avalon frowned. "I'm sorry?"
Rufus hadn't even realized he'd spoken aloud until he heard Avalon's question. "Sephiroth isn't himself. My father allowed Hollander to unleash a monster, but that monster isn't the real Sephiroth, Ms. Riley."
Avalon nodded slightly. "I'm sorry."
Rufus tilted his head to the side. "Sorry for what?"
"I'm sorry that you're going to have to see what you're about to see." She turned her head so she could see him. "I know you don't – didn't – see eye-to-eye with your father, certainly not for the past two years, but he's still your father."
Rufus was touched. Even after all she'd witnessed in the past few hours, she could still feel for him. "Ms. Riley – "
"Sir, Guard Hounds!"
Tseng had his gun out and was firing at the small pack of Guard Hounds.
Rufus narrowed his eyes when he saw one on the animals evade Tseng's bullets. Without really thinking, Rufus put his arm around Avalon and pulled her close to his body. He turned slightly so his body shielded hers and lifted his shotgun. After four solid hits, the creature fell to the ground with the others.
"Blimey! This is getting ridiculous!" Avalon shook her head, then looked at Rufus. "Thank you. I think you may have just saved my life."
Rufus smiled slightly. Even covered in dirt and dried blood, she was quite beautiful. He mentally shook himself out of admiration of her. "You are most welcome."
When they reached the President's office, Tseng moved in front of them, pressed his back up against the wall, held his gun up, ready for anything that could be on the other side of the door.
Rufus admired his ability to stay calm, cool, and collected, even in the most stressful situations.
Tseng looked back at Rufus. When he nodded, Tseng opened the door and entered the room, gun and eyes scanned the room from left to right. After a quick inventory, Tseng lowered his gun, looked at Rufus, and gestured from him to enter the room.
The room was empty, except for the bodies of the President and his Directors.
Rufus looked around. Seeing his father dead – he didn't know how to feel. It wasn't as if he didn't know that was how it would end. It was the last elephant in the room. From the time it had been decided that Rufus would take over the company, this silent agreement was that the existing President would have to be assassinated…and now, he had been.
"Sir – " Avalon squeezed the hand that was still holding hers.
"Tseng, when this is over, remind me to offer Sephiroth a pay increase for being proactive." Rufus lightly returned the squeeze to Avalon's hand.
Tseng, nodded. "Yes, Sir."
Rufus walked over to the desk, and released Avalon's hand when he pulled out the chair. Without further hesitation, he sat down, and gestured for her to take her seat beside him. "We have a lot of work to do. Let's get started."
Bob helped Aerith out of the helicopter and whistled when he saw the gaping hole in the front of the ShinRa building.
"Well…that looks familiar." He looked at Rude. "Any update from inside?"
Rude shook his head. "Nothing from inside, but Reno said they're on their way."
"Ah, perfect timing, yo!"
They all turned and saw Reno, Cissnei, and Elena running toward them. They also had a girl with them that Bob recognized immediately.
"Glad to see you made it out, Jessie."
She smiled. "Oh, you know me, Bob! A slum rat through and through!"
Reno grinned and put an arm around her shoulders. "She's my people!"
"Any word from the inside?" Cissnei looked at the hole in the shutters. "It looks like Gen worked his magic."
Bob shook his head. "No word, but we have to get Aerith in there. She can stop Sephiroth."
Reno immediately became serious. "Then let's get in there, yo!"
"A little help?"
When Bob looked up, he saw Raeven and Kunsel helping Director Tuesti out of the building, a blonde woman followed close behind them. "What happened?"
Kunsel shook his head. "It's fucking bad in there. Heidegger, Palmer, and Scarlet are dead."
Raeven nodded. "The General killed the President."
"Fuck me." Reno shook his head. "They didn't waste anytime."
Cissnei looked up from her PHS. "Genesis says they're on the way to the labs.
"Kunsel, Raeven, I want you two to get Director Tuesti to safety." Bob looked at Jessie. "I know you want to get in there, but I want you to go with them. If they come under attack, you can protect the Director. The rest of you, come with me. We have to find the others."
Tifa looked around the labs. It was in complete disarray, as though everyone had left in a hurry. Sample cages were empty, but some of the tubes lining the room still held the remains of SOLDIERs, who had been in the process of some genetic experiment, and non-viable clones of Sephiroth – even clones of Genesis, and Angeal.
"Fucking Hollander." Genesis looked at Angeal. "Still think we shouldn't kill him on sight?"
Angeal shook his head, discomforted by the fact that Genesis could be right, and sat at one the terminals. "Okay, maybe you have a point."
"This is all just so…sad." Tifa stood beside Genesis. "These men all had dreams of becoming a hero; someone who could protect their way of life for his family…or to become a part of something good. They didn't dream of becoming…this. A mutated version of himself, dead, and abandoned in a lab by a company that promised them everything, while leaving them as nothing but collateral damage."
Genesis was silent for a moment. "Being in these Mako tubes is the loneliest, most frightening feeling I've ever experienced, Little One. But believe it, or not, this fate is far less cruel than living with the fact that you are nothing but a monster."
"Genesis, you're not a monster." She turned and looked at Angeal, then Vincent. "None of you are monsters."
A barely-there smile curved Genesis' lips up ever so slightly. "That is very debatable, Little One."
"I found them."
Everyone turned and looked at Angeal.
With a quick pace, Genesis walked over to the terminal where Angeal was sitting. "Where are they?"
"Mako Reactor Zero." Frowning, Angeal looked at Genesis. "I didn't even know there was a reactor beneath the building."
Genesis looked over his shoulder. "Code name: Deepground. What the hell is "Deepground"?"
Angeal shrugged and shook his head. "There's no other reference to anything regarding Deepground in the database. Maybe it was something Hojo was working before he died that never got off the ground."
Vincent arched a brow. "Or something that was removed from the databanks during Hollander's obvious escape."
"Whatever it is – was – that's where we'll find Sephiroth." Angeal got to his feet, then rested his hand on Tifa's shoulder. "We're going to get to him before it's too late."
"Still lying to the ones who trust you, Angeal? I thought you'd have learned by now what lying does to people."
Tifa and the others turned around when they heard Zack's voice.
Zack and Cloud were standing just inside the door.
Angeal frowned. "Zack – "
Shaking his head, Zack held the Buster Sword in front of him, ready to fight. "Teaching time is over, Angeal. I'm not a student anymore and you're not going any further."