It had been 5 years since Sephiroth had called Meteor down on their heads and destroyed Midgar, 3 since Sephiroth had returned through Kadaj and Geostigma had been cured, and 2 since the incident with Deepground. Cloud Strife had learned one thing in all these years, he was happiest when he was fighting for his life. He'd like to blame the experiments in the lab for what he considered a suicidal complex but after his head finally cleared, and he put all the pieces of his former self together he knew better.
Cloud even at a young age had been angry and a fighter. He use to think that he was just some poor bullied kid, that was certainly the picture Tifa had painted. He was an outsider in the small village and that made him angry, but it was his anger that made him and outsider. He had always been desperate to prove himself, be noticed, be remembered.
It was why he had left home in the first place and as much as he hated to admit it, why the Shinra Military felt like home. There was always someone who was willing to fight. He always wondered why he hadn't made the original SOLIDER program, he may have had a slightly smaller build back then, but physically he was just as good, if not better than any of the other recruits. He had tested well on Mako Tolerance, despite his comatose state after the escape from the labs and dips in the lifestream, he really had better tolerance then over 99% of the cadets. The levels to cause poisoning in him would have killed anyone else several times over.
Then he remembered, he'd fail the psych eval. He had been determined to unstable, apparently anger management issues were frowned upon in super enhanced humans. He'd had a bitter laugh at that. Psychopathic tendencies were ok in Shinra Scientists just not their cadets.
In the 5 years since Meteor fall a few more things became apparent. The WRO while great at rebuilding the world, was not so good at maintaining it. They were a horrible governing body that more often got lost in paperwork than anything else. The world needed Shinra, Cloud could see it. Up until crazy scientists bent on world domination came into the picture, Shinra had been a good company to work for, and why they weren't perfect it had given a certain stability to the world. Edge was fine but many of the outlying towns were reduced to a way of life from over a hundred years ago. The dark ages all over again. In the power vacuum several gangs sprouted up and terrorized the populace.
Then there was Rufus, who really had changed. Yes he was still a cocky bastard that only told people what he thought they needed to know at the time. During the crisis 5 years ago he had been a teenager flung into a position of power he coveted but wasn't prepared for. He had done things that he believe would solidify his power, fear worked faster then gil. Now he understood that to hold true power and be a true leader meant to actually care about the people he was in charge of. He had been secretly funding the WRO, helping to rebuild a world where everyone hated him.
All of this added up to the fact, that 10 years after Cloud had left Shinra's service, he was now standing in front of one Rufus Shinra agreeing to work for him again. The world needed Shinra's guidance, Shinra needed a general, and Cloud needed a reason to live. At least now he was in a position to make a difference.
The news of Cloud's new employment came as a shock to several of his former companions. But before long Shinra had made more progress in 6 months then the WRO had made in 5 years. Shinra Electric Power Company was back in business and Cloud had a stronger sense of self then he'd ever had.
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Cloud opened his eyes and sat up from his bed in the new Shinra building. While the new base of operations wasn't nearly as massive at the old tower, it was still one of the most impressive buildings still standing at 30 some stories. The building project had been a huge success for the economy and the moral of the people. Instead of just existing and surviving like they had, now they had a purpose again. Even after the building had been constructed, many kept their employment. Some became administrators in the building, some joining the new Shinra Military and some became the taskforce needed to finish putting the world back together.
He let out a sigh of contentment, as he headed for the shower, a little bit of dried blood still clung to his hair. He'd been exhausted the night before, the caravan he had been escorting was suddenly attacked by a few Behemoths, 6 of them had managed to make it a pretty decent fight for him.
This new Shinra had been a wonderful thing in his opinion. A lot of the trade route had been shut down after Meteor, because the lack of trained Soldiers made it far too dangerous, and often deadly. Even Barrett, (Who wouldn't talk to Cloud for a month after he announced his plans) was singing Shinra's praises after additional funding allowed for the discovery and processing of several large Oil and Natural Gas pockets, for now the energy crisis was solved. Comfort levels were still below Mako energy but at least no one had to worry about freezing in winter.
Of course there were still solutions to be found. There were few enhanced SOLDIERS or otherwise left in the world, 15 in all that were currently employed by Shinra, The regular army was fine, but an unenhanced human, even one with the Turks training and tenacity, were no match for some of the greater monsters out there. There just wasn't enough manpower to go around.
A Doctor Rayleigh, who was very knowledgeable on the process of creating a Soldier had regretfully informed both Rufus and Cloud that Mako was not the sole ingredient in creating a soldier, Mako in and of itself was a deadly poison to the human body. A substance that she now understood to Jenova cells, in small amounts, had been used as a catalyst to bind the Mako to the soldier's blood. That was an option none of them were willing to pursue.
Doctor Rayleigh, had also unwittingly gave him a piece of his past, apparently he had been assigned to protect her on a mission alongside a Turk and he had helped save her life, something she was extremely grateful for even if he couldn't remember. Knowing he hadn't been completely useless as a cadet had made him feel a bit better.
She had sworn to find a way to make the Soldier's stronger, without Jenova or human experiments. It was a monumental task, but for some reason he trusted her more than anyone else in a lab coat. Maybe it was more of his past that he couldn't remember.
As Cloud dried his hair his thoughts turned from the past to the future, more importantly what he was going to do that day. Rufus had discovered that he hadn't taken a full day off in damn near 3 months. While he appreciated the worth ethic, he rather looked down on the idea of Cloud exhausting himself. There was a small comment about his mental health as well, but he was certain it was the bigger concern. Sephiroth had worked himself into a stupor before Nibelhiem and while he would still threaten to kill anyone that likened him to Sephiroth, he really couldn't blame them.
He slipped on a pair of pants and stretched a bit, when he caught a glimpse of red out of the corner of his eye and turned toward it. His quarters were on the 29th Floor with no balcony. He narrowed his eyes and picked up his Hollow blade, it had been closest to him and moved slowly to the window. He flung it open and looked out.
What he saw startled him. Seemingly glued to the side of the wall was a man with Brown hair and a long red coat. A flash of confusion and then recognition crossed his features. "Genesis!?" he nearly shouted.
"Please refrain from such loud outbursts, I didn't use the door for a reason. May I come in? We have much to discuss." Genesis said staring Cloud in the eye.
Cloud's eyes narrowed but he was fairly confident that the man didn't want a fight, and if he did, he was fairly certain he could win. From what he remembered, he could never best Sephiroth even in his prime. He moved to the side. "This had better be good."
Genesis nodded and landed gracefully on the floor in front of Cloud. "You can put your sword away, I couldn't fight you even if I wanted too." Genesis said as he brushed a strand of hair from his face.
Cloud just stared hard at the man, grip not leaving his sword. Genesis sighed but figured he had better get on with what he had to say.
"I'm not quite sure where to begin, though I suppose the beginning is usually best. Shortly after you and Zack escaped Nibelhiem, I meet with Zack trying to find a cure for my degradation. I knew Hojo had been experimenting on him but determined that the process he had been through to become a Solider made his DNA incompatible with Sephiroth's DNA and his body was rejecting it. The amounts that were able to remain were useless to me and the only suitable source left was yourself." Genesis started, Cloud held a death grip on his sword but made no move so Genesis continued.
"Before things went any further Zack helped me see the truth, and the Goddess Minerva took me in as her Knight. It is currently her will that keeps me alive and puts me before you today. The planet is in a state of flux, and someone else has recently won their own fight with Jenova." Genesis broke his eye contact with Cloud for a moment. The next part of this was tricky to say the least.
"Cloud, this all my seem like bits of random information but think of them as puzzle pieces that will come together at the end. You know that Aerith, is able to maintain her presence in the lifestream, it's not that surprising since she is a Centra after all, but what about your friend Zack? He died almost a year before Aerith, and has no such claim, how do you think he maintains himself in the lifestream when people are meant to reunite with it? " Genesis asked
A look of confusion crossed Cloud's face. He truly hadn't thought of that before. "I take it you know why, or you wouldn't have phrased the question that way." Cloud finally spoke.
"You've seen the Gunman's love interest and Sephiroth's mother Lucrieca Crescent correct? She tried to commit suicide and couldn't do you remember why?" Genesis offered.
A look of understanding crossed Cloud's face. "Because she had such a high amount of Jenova cells in her body, but you said it yourself Zack's body rejected them."
"But they were still present. And in higher amounts then most SOLDIERS ever see. Enough to keep his body from fading and thus kept his spirit from being able to merge into the lifestream. Zack Fair has spent the last 5 years in a state between that of life and death." Genesis finished.
"How do you know all this, and if his body is still alive where is it?" Cloud said grip returning to his sword. Cloud really was a lot like Sephiroth, Genesis realized and he didn't think it was all from the doctor's experiments.
"I know because Minerva has told me, she has guided me. Zack's body is currently encased in crystallized Mako in the caves under what was once Banora. " Was Genesis's reply.
"Take me there now." Cloud said turning to gather the rest of his swords. Forgetting that he wasn't even half dressed.
"I will when we finish, but there is more." Genesis said.
Cloud's eyes came back to rest on Genesis
"I told you someone was fighting their own battle with Jenova and recently won. You know yourself how much of a parasite on the mind that thing can be. Sephiroth may have lost his mind in Nibelhiem partially because of my own goading but I only made it happen quicker. Jenova latched onto his mind the moment he set foot in town. The man who had been Angeal and my self's friend and a hero to the people and the man that destroyed your town and tried to destroy the world were not the same.
Sephiroth was merely a puppet to Jenova, and he's been trying to throw off her control, you saw yourself the mad look in his eye. I can assure you the level of control you felt was muted greatly then what Sephiroth himself did, because she had to go through him to get to you."
Cloud put the last of his fusion sword together and looked back at Genesis. "He's in the cave too isn't he? How can you trust he's not insane and wont destroy the world?"
"You of all people I figured would be the most understanding to what he's gone through the past 10 years. From what I understand he only has hazy memories of what happened but his world was destroyed at his own hands. And if you don't believe me you can ask your Centra friend. The lifestream tried to help his fight, it tried to help flush Jenova's taint from his system. That was part of the catalyst, for Geostigma and the remnants. Jenova was trying to make a Sephiroth that wouldn't fight her influence. She used your memories of the man to shape the one you fought when Kadaj took in her cells. That's why he was more intent on hurting you then doing anything else. " Genesis explained.
"If what you say is true then why hasn't Aerith contacted me herself. She hasn't had much trouble doing so before, why send you as the messenger?" Cloud asked eyes sharp. He still didn't fully trust the man before him.
"Aerith's story is much the same. The lake you put her in when she died preserved her body. Even Centra aren't suppose to be exempt from merging with the lifestream. She was stuck in the same state as Zack. But with her connection with the planet she was able to do much more than just sit and watch. I dare say if you hadn't laid her to rest in the lake, then Meteor would have destroyed this planet. And I'm sure by now you understand that she as well is in this cave. They are waiting for you. Only you can wake the three of them and you need to do so soon. Jenova isn't done, she's only really just begun. She's a stubborn bitch and won't give up this planet easily. " Genesis finished.
A look shown in Cloud's eyes. "Take me to this cave. If Jenova wants a fight, a fight she shall have."
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I've started to try and edit the chapters myself. I think I've caught a few of the mistakes, but I'm certain I didn't get all of them. I'm going to redo all the chapters before I start on the 7th. Anyway again if you want to Beta it for me let me know-DHT