A Final Fantasy VII Fic
by Krista Perry
Summary: A short time after the events of Advent Children, Jenova sets events in motion that will once again draw Cloud and all of his friends and former enemies into battle - not just for survival, but for body, mind and soul.
The sun had long since set by the time Cloud finally pulled up on his motorcycle in front of Seventh Heaven, having completed his latest delivery. He paused to take in the darkened windows and the lit "Closed" sign. Sighing, he pulled into the side alley that led to the garage and back entrance.
In the silence that ensued after he shut down the engine, there was a distinct lack of voices calling to him in a welcome home greeting. Not unexpected, but still a little disappointing. He flipped open his phone as he walked up the stairs and entered the security code for the back door.
He got Tifa's voice mail - unsurprising considering how late it was. "Hey," he said, "I just got back, everything went fine. I'm gonna stick around for a while, and if no jobs turn up I'll join you and the kids at Gold Saucer in a day or two."
A tightness in his stomach reminded him that he hadn't eaten since breakfast. But shower first. He didn't dare inhale too deeply for fear he'd choke on his own stench. On his return to Edge, he had taken his usual detour through the Midgar ruins and had indulged in a little monster cleanup in Sector 3. As a result, he was covered in what Marlene had termed "Monster Goop" - probably the most polite way of describing the nastiness that resulted in cleaving large ravening creatures in half, up close and personal-like.
And as for that old Shinra manufacturing warehouse... well, it was on the verge of collapsing anyway. But the resulting debris cloud coated him in filth from head to booted steel-tipped toe. He was debating whether or not to make the effort to clean his leathers, or just get out the new ones Tifa and bought for him and start fresh, when the blissful sting of hot water hit his bare shoulders and he decided not to think about anything at all for a little while as the water and steam washed it all away.
The new leathers, he decided later, scrubbing his hair dry with a towel as he looked at the discarded pile of clothing on floor. Monster goop aside, they had definitely seen better days. Apparently Tifa thought so as well, since she had recently bought their replacements, and Cloud suddenly realized that the purchase may have been a deliberate hint that it was more than time to retire the old battle gear. Half smiling at the thought, he retrieved the silver wolf's head emblem from his battered, slimed leathers, wrapped the remains in a plastic bag, and unceremoniously tossed the bundle in the garbage.
Dinner consisted of three WRO-issued ration bars washed down with a half gallon of milk. Cloud ate the ration bars somewhat mournfully, knowing that they were still better than anything he might attempt to cook from the full pantry.
New leather was notoriously creaky until it was broken in so, after dinner, he killed some time thoroughly rubbing in a good coat of oil. By the time he was done, he was finally to the point where he could acknowledge his own weariness and could attempt to sleep in the unnatural stillness that filled his home in the absence of his family.
"Attempt" being the operative word. Cloud sat on the edge of his bed and stared at the floor, wishing he hadn't run out of busy-work to do. The thought of lying down, closing his eyes, and drifting off to wherever his subconscious chose to take him… Tension tightened the muscles in his back and shoulders just thinking about it.
He had promised Tifa and Marlene that he would stop letting the past weigh him down. And he was doing pretty well at keeping that promise – at least when he was awake.
The nightmares were getting pretty bad. Every now and then when he fell asleep, his mind inevitably took him back to some dark memory made worse by twisting it up with all his old fears and anger and anxiety. And then he would wake with a start. Sometimes he was shaking, sometimes he was drenched in cold sweat. And he would sit there, looking at his closed bedroom door, forcing himself to breathe slowly and deeply to get his racing pulse back under control, and wondering if he had cried out in his sleep and had woken Tifa and the kids.
Well, they weren't here at the moment. So maybe he should just think of this as an opportunity to get some sleep without having to worry about scaring his family. And he was tired. As altered as he was, he didn't need as much sleep as a normal person, but he couldn't just forego it altogether, nightmares or not.
And maybe, he thought, flopping backward onto his bed… maybe tonight would be one of those rare nights where he didn't dream at all.
And then woke, shaking.
It took a disoriented moment for him to realize that he wasn't the one shaking. The earth seemed to be rolling beneath him, and he could hear the glasses rattling in the bar downstairs. An earthquake?
He sat up in bed, frowning. That didn't' feel like the usual ever-unstable-and-shifting-Midgar tremors that frequently shook Edge. He couldn't put his finger on what bothered him, but it was enough that he decided to get out of bed and investigate. And if he felt a bit of relief that he had something to do other than sleep, he tried not to dwell on it.
He had just finished pulling on his work clothes, creaky new leather and all, when someone knocked at the back delivery door. He quickly went to answer, thinking it was probably one of the local kids who had been scared by the earthquake. Opening the door, he saw that it was indeed a kid, but not one he knew. Some boy, maybe 14 or 15 years old, and bearing flowers no less. The kid's shirt declared that he worked for Fiona's Floral, with the emblazoned slogan, "Say it with flowers!"
"Mr. Strife?" the kid asked, and there was a slight hint of awe in his eyes as he held out the flowers and a delivery slip attached to a small clip board.
Cloud nodded. He was still getting used to being recognized by most of the town, but he figured the best policy was to just ignore it and try not let it bother him, even if the whole concept of him being an object of hero worship bothered him more than he dared confess. Sure, I saved the planet, he thought, but it's kind of hard for me to pat myself on the back for it when I'm the one who put in danger in the first place. Okay, so yes, he had been messed up in the head. But somehow that didn't strike him as a good enough excuse for what he did at the Northern Crater, handing the Black Materia over to Sephiroth and bringing Meteor down on them all...
He closed his eyes briefly, forcibly cutting off the thought before it could lead him down the old familiar path of self-loathing. None of that, he reminded himself. The past was the past, and he had a promise to keep.
Sometimes easier said than done...
He took the flowers from the kid - some odd blue and yellow blossoms he didn't recognize. There wasn't a card, but he suspected they might be from Tifa. He sure hoped they weren't from some secret admirer. Sighing, he signed the slip and said, "You do realize it's almost three in the morning, right?"
"Yes sir," the kid answered, "but the customer paid extra to have them delivered now."
"Right now? This very moment?" Cloud asked. The kid nodded. Well, that certainly wasn't usual, and didn't sound like Tifa's style either. Cloud eyed the flowers with suspicion. "Do you know who this customer is?"
The kid shook his head. "Anonymous," he said. For a moment it looked like he was going to say more, but then he closed his mouth, accepting the clip board and as Cloud handed it back to him.
Cloud held on to the clip board instead of letting it go. "What were you about to tell me before you changed your mind?" he asked.
The kid looked torn for a moment, but then sighed. "The boss says it's unprofessional to talk about stuff like this with people we deliver flowers to."
Cloud smiled a little, let go of the clip board and said, "I won't tell if you won't. Stuff like what?"
"Well..." The kid looked uncomfortable. "I don't think whoever sent the flowers likes you very much. Do you know what those flowers mean?"
Cloud knew from Aeris that certain flowers had certain meanings. Someone was sending him a threatening message with flowers? "What do these mean?" he asked.
"Well, the blue flowers are lobelia, which stand for, uh, really strong hatred. And the yellow flowers are trefoil, which usually stand for revenge."
Cloud raised his eyebrows. "Usually?"
"Er... always," the kid conceded.
Cloud felt amused and perplexed at the same time. "You get a lot of three-a.m. trefoil revenge orders?"
The kid snorted. "No sir."
Cloud chuckled ruefully. "Great, so basically someone is out to get me, and they decided to tell me by sending me flowers in the middle of the night." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handful of gil to tip the kid. "Thanks," he said, stepping out the door and locking it behind him. As he did, the thought occurred to him that maybe whoever sent him the flowers as some kind of ominous message did so because of Aeris.
Maybe someone was trying to reignite his guilt over having let the flower girl die? Well, if that was their purpose, it backfired, because all it did was make him angry.
"What are you going to do?" the kid asked.
"About this?" Cloud shrugged and tossed the flowers to the ground. "Nothing, for now. If someone wants to get some kind of revenge on me, they'll have to do a little better than sending me flowers. It was kind of thoughtful of them to give me a heads-up, though."
The kid grinned, and Cloud smiled back before turning and heading for his bike parked by the garage.
"Where are you going?" the kid called after him, and just then another tremor hit, this one stronger than the first. Cloud paused as it suddenly dawned on him that the flowers and the tremors might actually be related. Maybe there was more to this revenge thing than just a few decidedly non-scary blooms.
"Just going for a ride." He slid on to the seat of his bike, starting it with the fingerprint key pad. He revved the engine and felt the comforting thrum vibrate through his muscles. "See you around." The kid waved at him as he sped out of the back alley toward the street.
Cloud made sure to run over the flowers on his way.
Reeve was not a superstitious man. He was a man of science, of logic, and of sanity.
Well, maybe not complete sanity, he mused, tearing his bleary eyes away from his glowing computer monitor, and glancing around at the gloom of the basement library. He knew of very few sane men who would willingly come to Nibelheim these days, let alone set up shop for a few months in the Shinra Mansion, the creepy monument to countless Shinra monstrosities.
Well, it was high time he did something to remedy at least a few of those monstrosities. The WRO had finally settled into an organization that didn't require his constant presence to keep everything on track. And if coming to an abandoned ghost town and living in an eerie, decrepit mansion, all so he could be near the last functioning Mako reactor on the planet while he worked on his plans to replace Mako energy with planet-friendly, and affordable solar power... so be it.
He knew Cid and Barret were helping a lot of people transition from Mako back to coal and oil as a source of energy – and while coal and oil were certainly less deadly to the planet than using processed Lifestream, he wanted to find a solution that involved moving forward with technology, rather than stepping backward.
Looking at his solar battery prototype, sitting atop a cluttered pile of books and equipment, he scowled. It still wasn't saving up enough power to run an average household's electrical needs through a single night. Not acceptable. Not acceptable at all.
That was the problem with solar power - it only worked well when the sun was out, or if you were in space. At night or on cloudy days, unless you had a powerful battery that had previously managed to store up enough solar power to keep things running through a shortage of sunlight, you were out of luck. He had to make a battery that was not only powerful enough, but also cheap enough to make so that everyone could afford one.
Easier said than done.
Groaning, Reeve ran a hand through his hair. Ugh. He needed a shower. And a shave. And food. And, quite possibly, sleep. What time was it, anyway? Come to think of it... what day was it?
Okay, maybe he wasn't quite as sane as he liked to think. Back in Shinra's glory days, he had always held a certain amount of satisfaction over being the most sane person in the Shinra Hierarchy - though, really, that wasn't saying much.
There had been a time, long ago, when he was young and idealistic, that he had been sure that Shinra would put his talents to good use. He was a master at computer systems, and building technology from the ground up. At the tender age of 17, he was recognized as the leading scientist in robotics and artificial intelligence development - not his only area of expertise, but by far his favorite.
Shinra had snatched him up right away, and he had moved up the ranks with ease by sheer force of talent, until he found himself at the head of Shinra Weapons Development. That hadn't lasted long, though. Scarlet had moved in, and proved herself far better adapted to creating killing machines than he was, and thus he found himself at the head of Urban Research and Development instead.
That had been a thoroughly frustrating job. It seemed that whenever he tried to put forth a plan for improving the general living conditions for the people, both above and below the plate, he was blocked at every turn by either Palmer, Heideggar, Scarlet, and even President Shinra himself. Hojo, thank goodness, just didn't give a damn either way, too obsessed with his own projects to cause him much trouble.
And then President Shinra went batshit insane and decided to drop the plate on the Sector 7 slums.
That had been the moment of revelation for him. The moment of waking up. The moment when he realized that it was time to stop rationalizing away the corruption he saw in Shinra on a daily basis. The corruption he participated in, and enabled with his own talent. That was the moment he knew it was time to leave.
But you couldn't just walk away from Shinra. Not with all knowledge he had of Shinra's inner workings; not with the secrets he was privy to. If he tried to walk away, he would be dead before the end of the week, of that he had no doubt. He had seen it happen before - to the previous head of Urban Research and Development, as a matter of fact. Milton had reached the breaking point long before he had, and had resigned in a spectacular display of temper. His body was found over the course of several weeks, and in several different sections of Midgar.
So when he finally had enough, and desperately wanted to walk away, Reeve, one of the most powerful men on the planet, member of the Shinra Third Tier, second only to President Shinra and his son Rufus, suddenly found himself completely trapped in a miserable prison of his own making, without hope of escape.
Then, shortly after the Sector 7 plate dropped, Cloud and his friends showed up. They stormed the Shinra building to rescue Aeris, faced and defeated Shinra security, Shinra technology, the Turks, and even Rufus himself... and suddenly Reeve had hope.
And, better yet, he had a plan.
"Good morning, Reeve," a cheerful, disembodied voice said, as Reeve entered his lab and sealed the meter-thick steel door behind him. "What do you have planned for today? More economic projections? Those are so depressing. Can we do something else instead?"
Reeve picked his way through the maze of scattered computers and equipment and slid into his well-worn leather chair in front of his massive U-shaped desk. The desk supported eight monitors, all of which were displaying variations of "Good morning, Reeve!" "Welcome back, Reeve!" and other enthusiastic greetings, except for the last monitor on the right, which was swiftly flipping through a screen saver composed entirely of pictures of kittens. Reeve smiled and shook his head. For some strange reason he had yet to comprehend, his masterpiece creation of artificial intelligence - the pinnacle of all his knowledge and hard work - had developed an almost obsessive fondness for cats ever since he brought his own cat, Klunk, into the lab several weeks ago.
"Good morning, Cait-Sith," he responded, picking at a hole in the leather on his arm rest. He briefly considered covering the hole with duct tape before it got worse, then promptly forgot about it. "No economic projections today. Today is something special. Today we're going to design you a body."
There was silence from the AI for a moment, and then, from the speakers, a whispered, "Really?"
Reeve nodded, then winced as Cait-Sith cheered at the top of his synthetic voice. "Hey, not so loud," he said. "Remember how you blew out the speakers last time?"
"Sorry," Cait-Sith said cheerfully, not sounding sorry at all.
Reeve leaned over and plucked a disc out of his briefcase. "Here," he said, sliding it into the closest drive. "I want you to look at these designs and tell me if you like any of them."
"I've already picked one," said Cait-Sith.
Reeve blinked. "That fast?" he said, then shrugged. "Which one?
The picture that suddenly displayed on all eight of his monitors made him blink again.
"Um... Cait-Sith? This isn't a design on the disk. In fact, this isn't a design at all. This is just... just something I drew on a whim."
It was actually something he had sketched in the margins of his notes while he was at the last Third Tier meeting, while Heideggar was rambling on and on about... something. Rather than die of boredom, he had drawn a rough doodle of his cat, Klunk, riding on the back of a rather large, overstuffed Moogle. He had drawn the cat wearing a red cape, and a little gold crown. It seemed appropriate at the time, because of Klunk's feline tendency to continually remind him of who was really in charge at home.
Cait-Sith must have seen the sketch somehow, before he put his notes through the shredder. The AI was, after all, a notorious snoop.
"I know it's not a design on the disc," Cait-Sith replied. "But I like it. That's what I want my body to look like."
"But... but..." Reeve stopped; he hated it when he got so flustered that he started stuttering. "Did you even look at the designs on the disk? I was up all night making those." He had always envisioned that Cait-Sith's robotic body would be something sleek and cool and, well, humanoid, at least. "Don't you think those designs look... well... less... um..."
"Less what?" the AI asked.
Reeve sighed. "Cait, that picture... it's a cat riding a moogle."
"I know," Cait-Sith said, synthetic voice practically vibrating with enthusiasm. "Isn't it great?"
Reeve stifled a groan. He knew his prize creation well enough to know that arguing with him further on this would only make the AI sad. He really didn't want to deal with a mopey Cait-Sith. The AI had perfected a sulk that would put any human child to shame.
But then, if this was what Cait-Sith really wanted, why not? And why couldn't he make the design work to his advantage somehow?
Come to think of it, Cloud and his friends seemed the soft-hearted type. Rather than his "I'm a bad-ass android" designs, this might be just the thing...
"Well... okay," Reeve agreed, and covered his ears as Cait-Sith's yelp of joy reverberated through the speakers. "Gah," he muttered, "I'll have to remember to limit the body's voice volume control."
"So," Cait-Sith asked, once he had settled down a bit, "when I get my body, will I get to go anywhere I want?"
"Well, yes, eventually," Reeve said. "But not right away, unfortunately. First, you and I will be working on a top secret project together - something no one must know about, not even President Rufus. Especially not President Rufus."
"Ooh, a top secret project?" Cait-Sith sounded intrigued. "What is it?"
Reeve pulled out another disc - one that had profile information on a certain group of people: Cloud Strife, Aeris Gainsborough, Tifa Lockheart, Red XIII, and Barrett Wallace.
"Take a look at this," he said, sliding the disc into a drive. "You're going to be doing a bit of spy work for me..."
A cold, wet nose against Reeve's closed eyelid startled him awake, and he jerked back to see Klunk sitting on his keyboard, eyeing him balefully. "Ungh... Cait-Sith, what time is it? Did I forget to feed Klunk again?"
No answer, of course, and Reeve suddenly remembered where and when he was. Nibelheim. Shinra Mansion basement, working on that thrice-damned solar battery. And Cait-Sith was gone.
After spending all that time with Cloud, Aeris, Tifa and the others, when the adventure was over, Cait-Sith had decided to go off on his own and explore. They still kept in contact, much like they did during their stint as double agent spies against Shinra. Last Reeve had checked, just a few days ago, Cait-Sith was back at Gold Saucer, and doing well.
Klunk meowed loudly, and butted his head against Reeve's nose. "Okay, okay," Reeve said, getting to his feet, and stretching out the kink in his back. "Food, right?" He reached out to pet his cat, but Klunk hopped away, then looked back at him, meowing in a strange, chittering, anxious yowl that the cat usually reserved for when he saw a bird out the window that he couldn't chase.
"Hey, what's the matter?" Reeve asked. Klunk was acting awfully strange, Well... stranger than usual.
And then the earthquake hit.
The whole mansion shook. Reeve staggered, grabbing on to his desk, and then crawling under it as books fell from the shelves, computer equipment toppled over, and debris fell from the ceiling. "Klunk!" he yelled, over the roar of the earthquake, but the cat had already made himself scarce. Reeve desperately hoped that Klunk didn't get hurt.
More than that, though, as minutes crept by and the earth continued to shake violently, he hoped that the mountain next to the Shinra Mansion didn't fall on top of it. The basement lab wasn't actually part of the mansion - it was dug deep into the bowels of the mountain itself - but if the mountain fell, this underground lab could easily become his tomb.
Then, before his thoughts could take an even darker turn, the earthquake was over.
Reeve crawled out from under the desk, coughing in the dusty air. "Klunk!" he called, and to his relief, was answered by a meow not far away. He caught a glimpse of the spooked cat running down the hallway - dusty, but apparently none the worse for wear.
"Okay, what the hell just happened?" Reeve wondered aloud. Time to find out.
The first thing on the agenda was to go outside and assess the damage - or try to anyway. He hadn't heard the mountain fall, but apparently the shaking had been bad enough to completely destroy the rotting wooden spiral staircase that led down to the underground cavern, which led to the lab and the library. It was a good thing that, weeks earlier, he had decided to bypass the dangerous staircase altogether and install a sturdy metal ladder, or, fallen mountain or no fallen mountain, he would have been completely trapped. As it was, he had to dig through the remains of the wooden staircase to reach the ladder so that he could climb out, earning a handful of splinters in the process.
The rest of the mansion seemed to be mostly intact, to his amazement, aside from cracked plaster and one hole in the roof of the atrium room. After stepping outside and catching a glimpse of much-missed daylight, and seeing that the vacant town of Nibelheim was still intact, he went back down to the lab and immediately sent several quick emails to his assistants.
A few minutes later, he received a response from Brinley, the man he had left in charge of his lab in Edge. The terse email informed him that the earthquake had been felt in Edge as well, causing minor damage. Reports were also coming in from as far away as Mideel, Wutai, and the Icicle Inn.
Reeve's bad feeling about it deepened. A world-wide earthquake? What was it this time? More Weapons from the planet? Something worse?
I'm going to wrap things up here as quick as I can, then I'm taking the helicopter back to Costa del Sol and hopping on the next boat to Junon, Reeve wrote back to Brinley. I'll email you when I get there, but if you could have a chopper ready to pick me up, to take me back to Edge, I'd appreciate it.
As he sent off the email, he looked ruefully over at his debris-covered solar battery. If there was another Sephiroth-sized disaster on the horizon - and he suspected there was if the gnawing trepidation in his gut was any indication - solar power was just going to have to wait.
She pushed herself to her feet unsteadily – then paused. This would not do. She closed her eyes, reaching back through millennia to find the memory of walking with her own flesh and blood legs. This memory from before they tricked her, trapped her, sealed her within stone. And then, having found it, she straightened without tremor, lifting her head regally, shattered crystal shards falling from her hair and singing a cacophony as they hit the floor.
She watched through eyes not her own, felt what this body felt... or rather, it was almost the other way around. And soon, there would be no "almost" about it.
This abode of flesh and blood, this body called Lucrecia which had housed her cells for so many years that it was now impossible to know where the human ended and she began... this body would be her avatar.
Tonight, it would begin.
To Reeve's dismay, wrapping things up at the Shinra Mansion took longer than expected. Being a Shinra executive for 15 years had made him more than a tad paranoid about leaving his projects out where anyone curious, brave or stupid enough to encroach on his territory could just stumble on them. Not that his solar battery research was anything top secret... but old habits died hard.
Especially since, on top of his own rather benign research, the basement was crammed to the brim with Hojo's old research projects, and books upon books of detailed notes on the Jenova Project. There were research reports going all the way back to Professor Gast's first studies on the Ancients. The most recent records, however, were all Hojo's. Detailed accounts of the horrifying, inhumane experiments performed on the surviving men, women and children of the Nibelheim Massacre - most notably, SOLDIER 1st Class Zack Fair and Cadet Cloud Strife. And all reported with cold, clinical detachment.
Reeve had known Zack by reputation only, and so had no real emotional attachment to him. But Cloud was a friend. The part of Reeve that was a scientist devoured Hojo's notes with morbid fascination. The part of him that was Cloud's friend went and puked his guts out afterwards, and then lay trembling, exhausted and red-eyed, on the cobblestone floor until Klunk came, meowed anxiously, then curled up against him in his feline way of offering comfort.
He had mastered stoicism in the face of terrible happenings, and had long practice at burying guilt. But here, he was alone. There was no one around; no need to wear the familiar mask of apathy. No need to worry about who was watching, who might see him in a moment of weakness that could then be used against him. His breakdown might have shamed him when he was younger and full of pride, but now, he embraced it as a sign of his still-existent humanity. He considered that no small thing, after 15 years of chumming side by side with some of the craziest megalomaniacs ever to walk the planet.
So, his first week at the mansion, after going through all the research notes, Reeve ended up "cleaning house." The cylinders that had held Cloud and Zack as prisoners for five years were the first things to go. Being face to face with the very instruments of torture that had nearly destroyed his young friend's soul, day in and day out... it took a harder man than him to endure such a thing. He moved the cylinders, along with the rest of Hojo's equipment, to the coffin room at the other end of the cavern, locked the door, and never went back in.
Then, during his second week at the mansion, while moving shelves around in the library to make more space for his computer equipment, he found Hojo's secret room. A room not on the Shinra mansion blueprints. It was in this room, behind the camouflaged door sealed with codes that took him at least a half hour to crack, that Reeve discovered the side of Hojo's experiments that were secret to everyone but Hojo.
Reeve had always suspected that Hojo had his own agenda, above and beyond the interests of Shinra. The contents of the room confirmed it. Aside from mention of a secret lab located somewhere outside of Junon (something he would have to investigate in the future), he found further notes and journals on the Jenova Project.
Of most interest to him were Hojo's personal notes on Cloud - how the man had come to despise the boy, and at the same time, place him on a twisted pedestal; for Cloud was the one who had apparently killed Sephiroth, the man who was supposed to be Jenova's perfect receptacle and emissary. From what Reeve gathered from the notes, Hojo hated Cloud for that, and yet, in Hojo's eyes, only the one who was strong enough to kill Sephiroth could take his place.
And thus Hojo worked tirelessly for five years to turn Cloud's body into something worthy of being Sephiroth's replacement... and yet at the same time, Hojo used every mental torture in the book to destroy the boy's mind and sense of self, so that Cloud could offer no resistance when Jenova decided to pull the strings.
Lucky for Cloud, she never did, because, unbeknownst to Hojo, Sephiroth was still alive.
Reeve wondered how much of Hojo's personal Jenova-glorifying agenda Cloud knew of, or remembered. He wondered if Cloud knew just how much Hojo was out to get him, for killing Sephiroth. Reeve thought about sharing this discovery with him... then decided the better of it. Hojo was dead. The kid was trying to recover from his soul-shattering ordeal, and had managed a decent job of it. The last thing he needed was for Reeve to show up resurrecting ghosts best laid to rest.
So Reeve sealed the room back up, put the bookshelves back into place, and got to work on his own projects.
Now, some six months worth of work and clutter later, Reeve was finding yet another massive clean-up job on his hands before he could head back to Edge and personally investigate the quake. Most of his work consisted of securing the Shinra Mansion against anyone, or any group of people, who might decide that obtaining Shinra secrets best left buried was worth braving the Mako monsters that prowled the Nibelheim area.
And in the meantime, his assistants in Edge kept sending him bad news.
To: Reeve (reeve )
From: Alan Brinley (abrinley )
Subject: Old ShinRa Secrets?
We've pinpointed the epicenter of the quake. It originated approximately 80 miles southeast of Nibelheim at the north end of the crater lake. I tried to look up some information on the area, but, interestingly enough, I ran into several layers of black ice security around any file that seemed like it might prove enlightening. Even more interesting, that ice has the distinct feel of your handiwork about it.
Anything you feel like sharing?
WRO Science and Research Division
To: Alan Brinley (abrinley )
From: Reeve (reeve )
Subject: re: Old ShinRa Secrets?
Anything you feel like sharing?
Yes. But not now. In person, preferably, once I get back to Edge. In the meantime, prepare to deploy WRO Troops 7, 12 and 18 to the Western Continent. Mission orders to be forthcoming.
Thank you for your hard work. Please keep me updated. I'm working on securing this hell-hole and getting out of here as fast as I can, but it may be a day or two before I can make it to Costa del Sol.
Reeve stared at his computer screen for a long moment after sending off his response email. He rubbed at his eyes, feeling the weariness of the past six months settling on him like a shroud.
Then, taking a few deep breaths in an effort to pull himself together, he pulled out his PHS and, being the paranoid bastard that he was, spent a few minutes encrypting his signal before finally making the call.
He got voice mail. Not surprising, and just as well.
"Vincent," he said, his voice steady due to long practice. "This is Reeve. You are probably aware of the recent earthquake that was felt all over the planet. Apparently it originated from the northern shore of the crater lake southeast of Nibelheim. I need to investigate, but since you have... personal ties to the sole inhabitant of the crystal cave on the north shore, I thought it best that I counsel with you first before deploying WRO troops. Please contact me as soon as you can."
Ending the call, Reeve looked around at the debris-covered Shinra Mansion basement laboratory, and wondered, dismally, what new cataclysm was looming thanks to the dark deeds of the past that, in spite of all his efforts, refused to fade away.