A/N: Oh god. Remember me? Author of Sympathy for the Devil? Yeah, about that...IKILLEDITSOHERESANEWFIC-*shot*
For those of you who don't know me, I'm this chick who writes too many self-inserts, and that's about all you need to know.
Welcome to Operation: Avert Crisis! In which our lovely main character attempts to save Zack Fair (among others). In the process, she'll probably get shot at, beaten up, kidnapped, struck by lightning, drugged, and eaten by a summons. Nothing is off-limits with OC Brit!
This is a sort of unofficial sequel to New Reality, another one of my stories. You don't really need to read NR to get what's going on; this isn't a crossover or anything. Just keep in mind that the main character of this story has already been through this whole song and dance of getting sucked into a video game; this is Round Two for her. She knows how to defend herself and use a sword, but she's still only human and she still sometimes kind of fails at life.
For those of you who have read NR...yes I'm still writing it and I am most certainly NOT procrastinating right now, nope. Anyway, this story might occur after NR, but the "ending" OC Brit vaguely refers to here IN NO WAY reflects the actual ending of NR.
One last note: Before reading this, I suggest you check out The Fifth Act by Sinnatious. That story is everything a time-travel fic should be and then some, and I can only dream of matching that level of writing.
tl;dr HEY IT'S FFVII LET'S HOP ON IN
It was raining. Just like that time...
Ages ago...when it all began...
My body was numb with the cold. For a while I laid there in the slick grass, listening to the patter of droplets hitting the ground, my clothes, my face. I didn't want to rouse myself. I was still caught in a dream.
Is she all right, Professor? That scrape on her forehead...
I could hear the comforting voice in the back of my mind. The sound of it brought back memories of laughter and tears, pain and happiness and great trials. Friendship, acceptance, nights around a cozy campfire...
I think she's waking up!
Finally my eyes slipped open, and I exhaled slowly as the comfort of my warm memories left me. I was alone. Of course I was alone...they were a world away, and had been ever since I left. The rain had reminded me of that day two years ago when my life changed forever.
That day had long since passed...
...but that still didn't explain why I was lying outside in the rain.
Wincing, I finally forced myself to stop musing and sat up. I was shivering and soaking wet...and in the middle of a forest. Again.
The sky was overcast, but it wasn't raining terribly hard. If I squinted, I could see the faint disc of the sun behind the clouds. From its position in the sky, I would guess it to be late afternoon.
Not that knowing the time really helped me at all. I grimaced, reaching into my bag for my phone. The battery, thankfully hadn't died; when I pressed the button on the front of it, the screen lit up. Apparently it was Saturday, May 17th, 4:35 pm. That sounded right.
What didn't sound right was the fact that I had no service. I had woken up alone in the woods with no service and no memory of the last few hours, and things were adding up in a way that I didn't like.
My bag. That was one clue. My purse wasn't with me, just the large weatherproof pack I'd bought form Eastern Mountain Sports after discovering that my bag from Sylvarant had just about had it. If I had my bag, that meant I had been going out for training.
Kerberos was bundled up in a survival blanket and woven through some of the bag's straps and buckles, hidden as well as it could be. If I had been carrying Kerberos, that told me pretty much everything I needed to know.
I closed my eyes, thinking. That was right. I had been going to one of my secluded spots to let loose a little—going through the motions with Kerberos was what kept me sane sometimes. It had only been a couple years since I'd left, but I still had trouble letting go. That was probably why I found my life painfully lacking.
Still, though, this time had just been a quickie. Not one of my crazy weekend trips to New Hampshire, where I'd camp out in the mountains and train for hours on end, losing myself in the sheer exertion. This time I had just been aiming to let off some steam.
Yeah, that was right. Something at work this morning had pissed me off, I remembered now. And then I had gone into the usual downward spiral of the meaninglessness of it all, and what I would be doing five or ten years down the road, and if it would be truly fulfilling or if I would just be playing a part and pretending to be something I wasn't.
I nearly groaned aloud, resisting the urge to flop back down in the grass and lay there.
Ugh. This rain was starting to soak me completely. I was wearing a black tank top and dark grey pants—similar to the base layer of my old Symphonia outfit, but with new materials. These were meant to cling to my form and wick moisture, so they'd dry quickly...but first I had to get somewhere dry. Right now I was losing body heat pretty fast. I wasn't exactly dying yet, but if I was far from civilization, this could be a recipe for disaster.
I shifted, pushing myself up. My knees were a little wobbly, but after a moment some of my strength returned. I unwrapped Kerberos, then reached into my bag and withdrew my old coat and gloves, replacing them with the now-soaked survival blanket.
The extra clothing was dry and helped immensely. I buckled my gloves, stretching, and strapped the sword to my back.
There. All suited up.
I wasn't Brittany the pretend-civilian anymore. This was the real me, for better or worse—scarred mentally and physically, older than my years, with knowledge and skills that did me no good on Earth.
No, I wasn't going to follow that train of thought. Of course I was still on Earth. If I started to hope for one second that I was back in their world, it would be crushing to find out otherwise.
Then why had I put on all my gear, anyway? If someone saw me, I'd look like a lunatic, and I'd probably get arrested for carrying such a large weapon in public.
I shook my head. Regardless...there was no service here, so I was far from civilization. When I found civilization, that was when I'd worry about it.
The rain was starting to worsen. I picked a direction and began to walk, hoping for the best.
This wasn't Earth. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
I had been trying so hard to convince myself it was, and ignoring all of the little hints. Well, my first real hint wasn't exactly subtle. I was attacked by a Malboro.
Out of all the monsters I could have encountered first, it had to be a fucking Malboro. My bad luck never failed.
The fight lasted somewhere between an hour and an eternity. All I knew was that the forest was dark by the time the beast fell, and I was exhausted and covered in monster blood. I had started the battle with five panacea bottles, and finished it with half of one left. The effects of poison and various other ailments had left me feeling weak-kneed and dizzy. I was extremely lucky I'd had some medicine on me, or I would have been very dead early on.
When the Malboro fell, its body seemed to deflate; from its maw came one final belch of poisonous gas, and I had to run back and hold my breath until I felt faint.
Malboros were not something found on Earth, I was pretty sure of that.
I was somewhere in Final Fantasy. It didn't matter which one, not right now. What mattered most was the fact that this was not Earth. Not only that, it wasn't Sylvarant or Tethe'alla, either. It was someplace I most definitely didn't want to be. Somewhere unfamiliar, with new dangers and no visible way back. While I had grown to hate the monotony of my life on Earth, this wasn't what I had wanted.
Either way, I could be in some serious trouble right now. Was this Malboro habitat? If I encountered another one, I was pretty much screwed.
"What in the...Dean! Get over here!"
A new voice caused me to jump. I turned, seeing a dark haired man enter the trampled clearing. He was decked out in gear similar to mine, complete with gloves and tough looking boots. A sword was strapped to his hip.
In response to the man's call, a new figure entered the clearing, a younger redhead.
"Boss? What—" The redhead paused to gape at the scene behind me.
"There's the bastard we've been tracking," 'Boss' muttered, frowning. His hard gaze fell on me once more. "What I'm wondering is how a scrawny thing like you managed to kill it."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "Whoa. You look awful, uh...ma'am."
"Hello?" The older man waved a hand in front of my face. "You don't look paralyzed to me, girl."
Slowly, I shook my head, fighting to remember how to speak. "...No. I'm fine. Just...tired."
"I'll bet," Dean replied appreciatively.
Boss frowned. "We've been tracking that Malboro for miles. You know how much trouble it's been causing? A stray Malboro can raise hell if left to its own devices. Lots of travelers killed. You could've been one of 'em."
I was well aware of this, but I chose not to voice my agreement.
Since I didn't speak, he continued. "...But it looks like you got to it before us, in any case. Who the hell are you, anyway?"
"...Brittany," I replied quietly. "I'm...a mercenary."
"A mercenary!" the man guffawed. "Well, isn't that priceless. You attract it by wandering out here and looking helpless?"
I grimaced slightly, attempting to work with my sad backstory. Just...be like Kratos. Nobody had questioned Kratos that much, right? Don't divulge too much information, and sound sure of yourself.
"I wasn't hunting," I finally said. "It's a long story, but me running into it was an unfortunate coincidence. I wasn't really prepared."
"Well, there's a hefty bounty on its head, if you haven't heard," Dean offered.
"We're mercenaries from the Mideel area," Boss replied. "Someone in Banora was about to call in the Shinra cavalry, and if Shinra starts snooping around we'll be out of work for weeks. Not to mention their strategy for solving difficult problems is blowing them up," he added dryly.
An image of a destroyed Banora flashed through my mind, and I got a chill from the truth of his words. Shinra...well, that solved the question as to where I was, anyway.
"You guys take the bounty," I finally said, causing both of their mouths to drop open.
"...You know how much money you're passing up?" Boss asked incredulously.
I shrugged. "Gimme ten percent. That should be enough for food and lodging for a few days, right?"
"More than enough," Dean mumbled.
"Good," I said. "All I ask is that you guys get me to Banora in one piece. I'm kind of worse for wear."
The two stared at me for a few minutes, seeming to size me up. Then Boss let out a sigh.
"All right, then. First off, help me grab some proof of the kill. Then we can get out of here."
Overall, I felt like I was handling the shock pretty well.
Three days ago I had woken up alone in the woods in the rain, much like I had started out my journey in Sylvarant. But it wasn't the same now. I knew this sort of thing was unlikely but very possible, and I was dealing with it a lot more quickly than I had done so before. I had fighting experience. I had survival skills.
I could do this.
Dean and Boss (apparently his name was actually Grant) had departed only a few hours after arriving in Banora, stating that they had business back in Mideel. I just got the feeling that they weren't huge fans of the place, probably because two of Shinra's poster boys had grown up here.
Speaking of which, Banora was still standing, so that said quite a bit as to what sort of timeline I was in. With some money in my pocket, I had set out to gather more information.
And now, three days later, I had pretty much gotten all I was going to get out of the townsfolk. Genesis and Angeal were all grown up, first class SOLDIERs. Shinra was in the midst of the war with Wutai. That meant I was either just before or at the start of Crisis Core—Sephiroth was still sane, Cloud was a shy teenager, and Zack was still alive.
Zack was alive...
That last one tugged at my heartstrings. It was still hard to imagine; I knew Lloyd and the others were real people, and had discovered that they possessed so much depth to their personalities that the game barely came close to doing them justice. What were Zack and Cloud like? Sephiroth? What about Aerith? She was still alive, too...
Zack. He really stuck out in my head. Never mind anything else, but he had always been my hero, cheesy as that sounded. Out of any story ever told, be it novel, movie or video game...Zack topped them all. And he was here. Somewhere in this world...
And I could prevent—
No. Nononono. I had to get away from that train of thought. Because how many times had I tried to prevent things on my previous journey, only to make everything worse? At best, the effort would backfire and kill me.
Besides, it was none of my business. I had just arrived in this world and I wanted to leave just as promptly, because if I stayed that meant I would have to get involved.
I could save him. Maybe—maybe this time I had the strength. If I was careful—
I shook my head. No...I needed to just focus on getting home. End of story.
Days passed. I fixed myself up and bought fresh supplies, including a pair of bracers with built in materia slots, and a Restore materia that I had no idea how to use. Then I headed west to Mideel after hearing there was a small port near there.
The monsters around here weren't terribly tough (other than that damn Malboro, anyway), but it was still disconcerting to see different types I wasn't used to. It had been a long time since I played FFVII, so I couldn't exactly prepare myself for their attacks. All I knew was that I should run the fuck away if I ever saw a Tonberry.
Still, I handled myself fairly well. I picked up a few monster tusks and teeth along the way, having learned which ones might be valuable while I was in Banora.
I combined the leftover money from the Malboro bounty with the money I got from selling the raw materials, and managed to scrounge together enough for a boat ticket to Junon.
I had a hard time remembering the geography of this place, but the world map I had picked up in Banora showed that Junon was on the same continent as Midgar and Kalm. I hadn't really been sure if I wanted to go in that direction, but that was the only route the boats were traveling. Everywhere else was too far.
If I could go anywhere, I would prefer Cosmo Canyon—that was where they studied the Planet and the stars, right? That was the only place I could think of to get answers. Bugenhagen might be able to shed some light on my situation.
But going to Cosmo Canyon would involve first getting a ship from Junon to Costa Del Sol, and then getting from there all the way to the southern end of the continent, which also included going through the mountains. That could take weeks, even months...and I didn't know enough about this world yet to take on a haul like that. What if there was some kind of roadblock I didn't know about?
I didn't know what to do, and I was going to have to stop at Junon either way, so I made the week-long trip there.
And here I was. This was week two of my Final Fantasy adventure, and I was still pretty much at square one as to how I was going to get home. The tickets to Costa Del Sol were way above my current budget, so that option was out.
I considered Kalm, but then I realized that the only route I knew to the other side of the mountains was the pass through the Mythril Mines—and what was on the other side of those? That marsh with the goddamn Midgar Zolom. Unless I somehow found a Chocobo to outrun it with, I would become lunch if I tried heading that way.
So for the time being, I was stuck in Junon.
...I was not a huge fan of Junon.
Granted, the sprawling city itself was attractive enough. The streets were very clean, the buildings looked nice, and the shop fronts, restaurants and residences were all interesting to look at. It was very reminiscent of the cities I had seen back home.
But I couldn't exactly ignore the looming figure of the Sister Ray, the passing of military aircraft overhead, or the fact that this whole thing was built over a suffering fishing village.
Not to mention, the constant presence of Shinra infantry troops was kind of intimidating. The company's emblem was everywhere. I was honestly considering going down to the village below, if only to get away from it all. At least I'd be around some people that shared my hatred for the corporation.
I turned around, only to see an infantry troop coming right for me. He was wearing a red scarf around his neck, which I was pretty sure meant he was a captain. Great.
He frowned at me. "This is a secure city. Only Shinra personnel are permitted to carry weapons."
"Ah, I see," I replied hesitantly, trying not to betray my nervousness. "I just got off my ship—I'll find lodgings and put it away immediately."
"See to it that you do so," he replied, his frown growing. "...What is your business here, traveler? Your identification, please." When he held out a hand, I felt my heart lodge in my throat.
Oh, crap. He wanted papers. I didn't have any ID.
"No identification? Suspicious..." Now he was wearing an outright scowl. "I'll have to ask you to turn over your weapon and come with me."
Shiiiit! The last thing I needed was an interrogation from Shinra!
Okay, okay, just be calm, act rationally, Brittany, and—
Abandoning any intelligent train of thought, I turned tail and booked it, inviting a loud shout from the soldier.
There was the sound of pursuing footsteps—several others had given chase, too—as I ran into an alley. Luckily, Junon had a lot of intersecting alleyways, and it was these I took advantage of in my effort to escape. I just had to lose them for a little while—maybe then I could jump off the elevated upper city and into the ocean. If I could just get below, maybe I could take shelter in the village.
The place was a maze. I paused at one point to bundle my sword up so I wouldn't attract any more attention; then I ripped my coat and gloves off, shoving them in my bag so that no one could use them to identify me. I ducked in through a few shops, taking advantage of their multiple entrances to navigate the city without being out in the open.
After what felt like forever, I had the sense that I had lost them. I looked over my shoulder as I jogged down a particularly long alleyway, checking to see if I had any pursuers. The place looked clear.
Until I smashed right in to something, causing me to yelp out in pain and fall immediately on my ass.
A masculine grunt put me on the alert, and I tensed, my eyes snapping open. Apparently the something I had smashed into was another person, and he was currently also on his ass, sporting a pained grimace and gripping his shoulder.
Carefully styled auburn hair, long red coat, sword at the waist...
...Apparently the something I had smashed into was Genesis Rhapsodos.
...How the hell could this day get any worse?!
"You fool...!" Genesis had gotten to his knees, sending me a piercing glare. It only lasted a few seconds, though, because in the next instant he had let out a pained cry and doubled over. He was still clutching his shoulder, breathing heavily.
My heart skipped a beat. He was in pain...? The degradation...I must've hit his wound, his weak spot. This looked really bad. He was shaking all over.
"Damn...not now..." I heard him growl, but his efforts to regain his bearings were in vain.
The smart thing to do right now would be to get up and get the hell out of here while the SOLDIER was down. The last thing I needed was to get involved with someone who would eventually desert Shinra and wreak havoc all over the place.
There. Now that I had acknowledged the logical decision, it was time to do the complete opposite. I just sat there and stared at him like a deer in headlights.
Genesis. The person, not the character. A failed Shinra experiment, doomed to suffer degradation—unable to effectively generate new cells, he would retain even the smallest of injuries until eventually his body deteriorated to the point of killing him. He had been doomed to this fate from birth.
...Now that I had time to think about it, it was hard not to feel bad for him. Not that he'd want my pity.
He wasn't going anywhere. Honestly, it looked like he was on the verge of passing out, and I needed to either do something or get the hell out of here. If one of those infantrymen from earlier came upon this scene, I'd be taken in for more than just questioning.
Dammit...wasn't there something I could do? It was bad enough that I was going to ignore Zack's plight—couldn't I at least help someone, change something? Maybe that one push would be all it took to change the course of things. It would be better than just leaving and knowing I had done nothing, even though I had been given the chance.
But I didn't know anything about degradation. There was no known cure in this world...Genesis was going to drive himself just about crazy searching for it. If only Raine were here...she could have done something. If she could save people from the Exbelua transformation, she could find a way to save Genesis—
...I'm sorry. I've never been very good at farewells.
It's okay, Professor. I'm...I'm not exactly the best either. Heh, I keep telling myself I won't cry, but it always turns into some kinda weepathon. I think I made Kratos uncomfortable.
Haha...I'm sure. Well, I won't draw this out too much longer, then. There's something I'd like you to have...
Huh? Is that...?!
Yes. It seems to have lost its power...I believe we may have called upon it one too many times. As it has served its purpose, I would like you to hold on to it. Think of it as a token of the time we all spent together.
Professor...thank you. I'll treasure it.
I reached into my bag, pulling out the unicorn horn, and stared at it with amazement. Ever since I'd received it from Raine two years ago, it had been dull beige in color and smooth to the touch, looking like nothing more than an auger shell at first glance. But now it suddenly had regained its pearly luster, looking exactly the way it had the day Colette and Sheena had retrieved it at Lake Umacy.
Was there some power left to it after all?
I didn't know a damn thing about healing and all I had managed up until now were pretty pathetic Cure spells, but I was going to give it a try.
Genesis was still doubled over. I took the unicorn horn, glowing and warm to the touch, and pressed it gently to his wounded shoulder. He tensed, freezing up, and growled something that sounded like a threat. I took a deep breath and focused my energy into the healing materia and the horn.
I had no clue what I was supposed to do, what it was like to really heal someone. Instead, I just thought about I wanted to accomplish and wished really, really hard.
Help him. HELP HIM, dammit!
A few moments passed. I could hear the pounding of my suddenly racing heart.
There was a flash of light and intense heat, and suddenly I felt weak. Something gave slightly beneath my hand, the one clutching Genesis' shoulder. I pulled it back, only to discover that the unicorn horn had snapped in half. I stared at it in disbelief.
Well, there we have it. Brittany finds a way to fuck things up even more...again. How the hell did I manage to actually break it?
"Shit," I muttered under my breath, clutching the pieces of the horn until the edges dug into my palm. I gritted my teeth, staring at the ground. Maybe I should've just followed my initial instinct and booked it.
Huh? He was still capable of speech? I had been pretty sure he would've passed out by now.
Reluctantly, I glanced up...only to see that Genesis was no longer doubled over. He was staring at his hands, his eyes wide. Then he reached over to his wounded shoulder and began to claw at it, pulling off his coat and then layers of his armor until bare flesh was exposed.
...That was it. Just bare, clean, healthy flesh. Not even a scar.
For a moment, I had to stare at it in surprise as well. When I determined that I wasn't in fact hallucinating, I finally let myself relax, and I let out the breath I had been holding in a sigh of relief. I had really pulled it off? The healing magic must've exhausted the last of the horn's power.
"The degra—it's gone...so it worked after all."
This caused Genesis to look up, his eyes meeting mine. There was a moment of silence where we both stared each other down, and I realized I hadn't disguised my slip very well.
I just shrugged, getting to my feet and holding up the unicorn horn by way of explanation, though I didn't know if unicorns even existed here. "A gift from an old friend. I didn't know if it'd really do anything, to be honest." I was trying my hardest to seem casual. The truth was, I was nearly shaking from the effects of a fresh adrenaline rush, and being in this man's presence wasn't exactly helping me calm down.
The SOLDIER seemed to mull over this for a moment, fiddling distractedly with his armor and straightening his clothing out to its former glory. He seemed like he was still in shock. I wondered briefly how long he'd been living with the condition before this.
Then I realized that I was wasting time. If I lingered, Genesis would want to know more, and I had already decided that I wasn't going to involve myself further. Besides, he had caught that degradation comment, and that was pretty much going to plant the seed for a later interrogation anyway.
Time to fall back on the old Kratos strategy. What would he do in this situation? Make some cool, mysterious comment, and then vanish from Genesis' life forever. Let things unfold as they may—it wasn't my problem anymore.
I cleared my throat. "...Well, my job's done here," I said cheerily, as if I had intended this whole incident to happen from the beginning. "Take care of yourself, Genesis."
Then I began to walk away, mentally patting myself on the back. There! That wasn't so hard, was it?
"Who are you? Tell me your name."
Against my better judgment, I paused and looked over my shoulder. Genesis had gotten to his feet, now looking calm and composed and healthy as ever.
"Brittany," I told him, seeing no harm in giving out my first name.
"Well, Brittany, I am in your debt," he said, lowering his torso in a graceful sweeping bow.
I was so surprised by the gesture that I temporarily forgot about my intentions to leave; on one hand, the gesture seemed very like Genesis, while on the other, I wasn't used to seeing him do anything friendly. He had spent most of Crisis Core reciting poetry and stabbing things.
"If there is anything I might do to repay—"
"There she is!"
My head snapped up and I looked behind me, seeing shadows at the end of the alleyway. "Oh, crap."
Genesis' face clouded with confusion. I turned to him, hearing the sound of my pursuers already drawing closer.
"Uh, you don't know where I went!" I said, panicking, and bolted.
Back into the maze of the city I went, and the sound of footsteps behind me eventually faded to nothing. And that was the end of my encounter with Genesis Rhapsodos, SOLDIER first class.
A/N: More to come!
All reviewers will receive a copy of LOVELESS (and a copy of Genesis that will recite it all day long)! WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT IN LIFE
Next time: Suicide mission. Kunsel. The clandestine dark suits.