ORION Chapter 6-11 On my own/Confronting the Shin-Ra

THIS IS A SEQUEL TO FINAL FANTASY7. I DON”T OWN ANYTHING,ALL CHARACTERS BELONG TO SQUARE ENIX….EXCEPT FOR ORION AND CAITLIN. THOSE 2CHARCTERS ARE BORN OUT OF MY IMAGINATION IN A HOPE TO REDEEM SEPHIROTH. I AM THANKFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY,SQUARE ENIX.

Chapter 6. On my own

 

 

 

My mother died five years ago in tragic accident. They never caught the drunk driver who hit her. She survived only to die in my arms, leaving me completely devastated.

For the first time in my life, loneliness came upon me crushingly. The only person who ever loved me, who cared and protected me was taken away from me. I was ALONE, alone in the middle of the crowd.

The day of the burial, I came home and shut the door closely behind me. At least here I was surrounded by her things. It seemed like she was out just for an assignment… I sat on the bed and closed my eyes trying to feel her scent, any trail of her lingering presence…

Somebody knocked at the door. I was stunned. Who could it be? I stumbled on my feet and opened the door. We watched each other with equal astonishment. The man in front of me was visibly shaken.

-Sephiroth…-he murmured in a deep, low voice.

-Not. Just his son. I’m Orion. And yes, I know who you are, Mr. Valentine. Come in, please.

I recognized him easily. The elusive, secretive Vincent Valentine looked the same as ever. We both looked very close in age but there was a lot more behind those crimson eyes.

-I’m very sorry about your mother- he said.

Surprised, I turned to him questioningly. Ever since I knew mom and me, we kept a low profile. Because of my father, mom was constantly worrying that somebody might want to hurt me. She never let me  wear long hair, because  I’ve inherited Sephiroth’s every distinctive feature: green, almond shaped eyes, but no split pupils, silver hair, fair complexion and almost 6,1 foot height.

I went to private schools and I easily graduated from each of it. I was on vacation when tragedy hit, turning my life upside down.

From what he told me, Vincent had discovered our small family during Sephiroth’s latest arrival. His sharp eyes and enhanced senses detected near the ruins where Cloud fought my father a young woman sobbing wildly after Sephiroth’s demise. It was obvious that her tears were shed for him. Intrigued by that, Vincent decided to follow her. He soon discovered that she had a small son and nobody else to support her.

The memory of a woman he had loved, the memory of her child that he couldn’t protect were still haunting him. He decided to keep the discovery to himself and keep an eye on them. The following years he watched over us, keeping us out of harm’s way.

-What are you going to do now?-he asked, turning to me.

-First, I have to find myself a job.

-It won’t be easy to get a proper job in Midgar, something according to your credentials. You carry a heavy legacy and your look is a constant reminder of your father- said Vincent thoughtfully. But I’ll do my best to help you. Until then, try to find something inconspicuous.

I agreed. I wasn’t in distress because of money and I wanted to make some research about my father on my own. A sports cap and a pair of thin rimmed glasses made me an average guy so I took a job in a pub in one of the favorite spots of the city. I became a regular reader at the City Library; my main interest was in newspapers. I wanted to know more about what was the image created about Sephiroth both by Shin-Ra and the Avalanche. I didn’t want to disturb Vincent; I quickly understood that he himself was struggling with a legacy/ a memory that wasn’t an easy one.  And Vincent had never spoken personally with Sephiroth so I had to dig out somebody with personal memories about my father.

As my mom suggested, the real Sephiroth was hidden deep under the exaggerated images created by employers or enemies. But where can I find a friend of the “Enemy of the World” after 25 years? “Patience!-I said to myself. Let’s read and there has to be something worth of it”.

 

 

A cold wind rustled through the fallen leaves, brushing small pecks of dust against the man’s cheek. He shook his head impatiently and closed his grip on the bunch of white and yellow flowers in his hand. He kneeled in front of the small grave and gently laid the flowers near the headstone. He stood silent for a moment then rose to his feet with a deep, sorrowful sigh. He turned towards the old house and left the grave with hurried steps.

It has been a difficult day and it has been like this each year for more then 25 years. His mind was clear from madness, rage or vain frustration but it was filled with pain and a deep sense of loss. Year after year during this day he was confronted with the tragic demise of all his loved ones, family and friends. For a moment he felt so alone that he could scream.

As a young man he has had such high hopes and dreams of fame. When he finally reached his goals, he realized it hadn’t been worth all of the sacrifices. All that Gift of the Goddess, his redemption was nothing compared to the death of his parents and the loss of his best/ only friends. He buried his face in his hands and shut his eyes trying to recall their features. The hurt was cutting deep…

Yes, he has killed his parents in a fit of maddening rage. Yes, they had been hired by Shin-Ra to raise him but they loved him, cherished him, encouraged him and they had been proud of him just like real parents. He had loved them to…They did their best and he killed them for what Shin-Ra has done to him. It was a monstrous burden.

His best friend had decided to die before he ended up taking innocent lives. He died an honorable death, leaving his legacy of pride and honor to his beloved apprentice. This was just another death he wasn’t able to prevent.

But his biggest failure, the one that hurt most was the loss

– of their common friend, a world acclaimed hero who succumbed to madness and ended up killed…

The man jumped to his feet and he begun to pace up and down the room. The memory of this particular friend haunted him, shame and regret tearing down his heart. It has been a unique, wonderful person, incredibly intelligent, strong and gifted yet unbelievably vulnerable deep inside, trustful and almost naïve with his closest friends. His only friends…

They had been separated by the insane competition of two mad scientists, fueled by the greed and hunger for power of the Shin-Ra president and his executives. Before they could realize what was happening to them, they were competing like Hell, hurting each other and burning down the bridges of friendship…

The man pushed away a rebellious auburn strand of hair from his piercing blue eyes. He hadn’t changed much. His features matured during the last 20 years but he remained the same handsome, tall and slender guy, with a silver earring dangling from his right earlobe. He still moved around with feline grace and even his passionate, snappish temperament was basically the same.

Genesis Rhapsodos was back in Banora. The Goddess has restored him and she has also restored the White Banora Orchard. So he restarted the Apple Juice Factory, he developed new products and the whole business rocketed high. Genesis kept himself out of the public highlights. The factory was lead by a Committee and he kept in touch only with its president. Though he liked the remoteness of his homeland, Genesis used to take a trip from time to time to Midgar.

Just like the planet itself, the city has changed a lot and became a better place to live. For the first time in its history the city had a clear blue sky above and the air wasn’t choking anymore. The flowers that grew in Aerith’s Church were blossoming freely outside the sacred ground and life/greenery and animals/ were returning to this place. There were no more Mako Reactors to drain the vital energy of the planet. Thanks to scientists like Reeve Tuesti and his research team, new and healthier energy sources were used to maintain a proper comfort for everyone.

Shin-Ra and its unpleasant memory faded slowly into oblivion. World Regenesis Organisation took up the leading role in rebuilding the whole planetary society on new basis. Genesis suspected that the money funding the projects came from the late Shin-Ra, via Rufus Shinra, the sole survivor of the entire bunch. He shrugged: that money was blood-money and it was rightfully returned to the benefit of those who had long suffered because of Shin-Ra’s madness.

The day when Genesis arrived in Midgar was a pleasant one, the weather showing unexpected kindness towards the inhabitants of the big city. To avoid any chance of recognition, Genesis hid behind a pair of sunglasses and was wearing a reddish-brown jacket over his black, sleeveless turtleneck. Though he liked his SOLDIER boots, he opted for more usual ones with slightly high heels. He stopped to take a cocktail based on Banora Juice at one of his favorite pubs.

The young man at the counter took his order and filled his glass with the fragrant liquid. Genesis was oblivious to everything until he heard the voice of the young bartender. It was deep and soft, almost like a purr. Genesis’ head jerked up instinctively, eyes searching for the source of the so familiar sound. The young man stood in front of him, a slight smile curving up his lips.

-Is there anything else I can offer you, Sir?- he asked politely, light green eyes watching intently from behind the thin rimmed glasses.

It took Genesis a few seconds to swallow the lump in his throat. He stared for a moment at the bartender then mumbled something like “No, thanks”, finished his drink, paid leaving a generous tip and left the pub in a hurry. He stopped outside the pub to catch his breath and to stop the shivering of his whole body. He leaned against a larger tree bordering the street and looked back to the pub. His enhanced vision allowed him to detect people’s movements even from a wider distance. He could see the young bartender moving graciously, his gestures almost flowing…It was a natural grace rarely seen at someone towering at 6,1 feet. It reminded him hurtfully of …Sephiroth. Genesis was so caught in sightseeing the young man that he almost forgot to breathe. He gasped for air, eyes filling with unexpected tears…He turned sharply on his heels and left.

 

Working at the pub wasn’t hard. I never had difficulties in socializing with others. There was also a wide range of people coming to this particular pub. It was like social study unfolding under my eyes. Of course, they brought with them the gossip of the city so I was kept up-to-date about anybody/ anything interesting.

Today I had a very peculiar client. He was a guy in his late thirties, tall and slender with a handsome face and eyes hidden behind sunglasses. He seemed to be coming from artistic ground; he had a very interesting way of speaking, almost like chanting and he had one silver earring dandling from his right ear. He ordered a Banora Sun Cocktail and was sipping it quietly. I was taking other orders when the guy broke off from his dreamy state and stared at me. I asked him about what else he might have liked but he remained frozen and speechless. A few moments later he mumbled something and left in a hurry, not before paying and leaving a generous tip. He looked deeply disturbed, just like someone seeing a ghost. It was very odd. I never met him before, I’m sure. One couldn’t easily forget such a guy, with an outstanding look and fiery hair. But I’m sure that I reminded him of somebody he thought lost. The shock radiating from his entire person was genuine. I wonder if he’ll be back…

 

Genesis slammed the door behind him and slumped into an armchair. He was still shaking from the inside. It can’t be-he repeated on and on, trying to convince himself. That velvety voice, the cat-like grace, the light-green almond-shaped eyes, the nicely curved lips and the unusual tall and slender frame-all these were the marking features of Sephiroth. But he knew for sure that Sephiroth was dead.

Even if Jenova was still lurking in the Lifestream, Sephiroth ceased to reappear for almost twenty years. So this had to be an odd coincidence, a dirty trick of life meant to turn him upside down…Genesis sighed; he was lying to himself. This wasn’t just an ordinary avatar of his long lost friend; this was a sign.

Something was boiling under the surface of that tranquil reality and he was caught in. The same reality pushed him from behind to make up his mind and leave his hiding place.

Genesis groaned; he didn’t like to be pushed around but this encounter was way out of the ordinary. He would keep a watchful eye on this young man and see what’s behind his appearance.

So during the following days, Genesis rented a room in Midgar and begun his watch over the intriguing young bartender. It seemed that he lived alone and that he was doing some kind of research at the City Library. He was spending hours at the newspaper section, reading over and over articles about events 40 years old. Now, why was he so interested in the Golden Age of SOLDIER? Has he lost somebody during those troubled, deceitful years?

Genesis kept on following him. One day, the young man woke up early. The previous day Genesis spotted him buying flowers. The gesture made him curious; was there anybody in the youngster’s life, somebody unseen until now? He followed him like a shadow; the young man walked towards the cemetery. He pushed the entrance door and took a path under the willow trees. The small grave was nested in the grass in a slightly shaded spot. The young man kneeled and replaced the flowers from the delicate glass vase.

-I’m here, mom-he whispered. Did you miss me? ‘Cause I surely miss you…I’m working on selecting information about father; I still hope that some day I’ll stumble upon one of his friends. Love you, mom! I have to go now but I’ll be back. You know I will.

He stood up and sighed. He turned towards the exit and left hurriedly. He was working in the afternoon shift. Genesis waited patiently until he was out of sight then he approached the small grave in an attempt to read the name on the headstone.

“Caitlin Saeki/ O’Brian-journalist and beloved mother”- read the inscription. The name sounded familiar but he wasn’t able to remember exactly; at least not yet. Genesis decided to make some research about her. O’Brian. O’Brian…O’Brian? Not THE O’Brian?! Genesis frantically searched through the pile of information. Yes! O’Brian was assigned to write about the SOLDIER and the Wutai War right after he has run AWOL. And that O’Brian was… a girl of barely his age. She wrote constantly, almost on a daily basis until the Niebelheim Incident. Suddenly she disappeared from the newspaper and she never surfaced again.

She died later, leaving behind a son…the living image of…Oh, Goddess!!! Genesis was overwhelmed by the sudden revelation: the young man was almost sure Sephiroth’s son! He leaned against the cold stone, trying to calm down. Sephiroth had a son. A son. But he has never known about him. Jenova grabbed him and never released him from her deadly grip. If only he, Genesis hadn’t pushed him over his human limits…

The new discovery only added to Genesis’ guilt. He turned to Caitlin’s grave:

-I promise to take care of your son. I owe it to Seph and to you!

 

I left moms grave with an odd feeling. I’m almost sure that somebody was watching me. I couldn’t spot him but there was a remote sense of radiating personality right behind me, hidden in the entwining shadows. Since the feeling wasn’t a menacing one, I decided to leave it like this. If somebody wanted to contact me, I wanted him to make it in his own terms. The pub was filled up by the usual crowd, keeping me busy for hours. It looked like an average working day until half an hour before closing time.

Most of the clients were slowly finishing their drinks and the band was playing just for another 4-5 minutes. Then the pub door opened and the guy took place at the counter, right in front of me. He wasn’t wearing his sunglasses; his azure-blue eyes were watching me intently.

-We have to talk- he said in a serious voice. I assume you were looking for me; your father was my best friend.

He took a Banora Sun Cocktail and waited, sipping patiently his drink, until I finished all my work and closed the pub. We walked side by side towards my flat. He seemed to know where we were going since he never asked about it. I/correctly/ assumed that he’s been the one watching me since our first encounter. Genesis Rhapsodos, former Crimson Commander entered my life that evening.

For the first time since my mom died I had two powerful men guarding me and helping me to stand up to the challenges of life. And Genesis was the best source of information about my father’s history as well as the back-story of the once almighty Shin-Ra. From what he has told me and what my mom gathered during her assignment at SOLDIER there emerged the image of a powerful and ruthless enterprise, ruled by strong willed, greedy people, using the best minds in order to conquer all that could be engulfed in their empire. But the worst thing they did was the use of an alien creature to create the ultimate soldiers, capable to defend them and conquer whatever they were ordered to. My father was the top soldier of this military organization, the one who received the most of that alien cell infusion. The other two were his closest friends, Angeal Hewley and Genesis Rhapsodos. From the Legendary Trio only Genesis survived, thanks to the gift of the goddess Minerva. My father lost the battle with Jenova.

Yet my mom died with the conviction that Sephiroth survived somehow in the Lifestream. She has known him intimately and she trusted the goodness constituting his inner self. So my task was to find a way to get in touch with the Lifestream and track down my father. I had no idea where to start.

Thankfully Genesis suggested that I take a week of leave out and go back with him to Banora. I’m slightly nervous and excited about this trip. Banora holds so many secrets and memories of the three friends. I could see the same excitement in Genesis’ eyes. He might hold some hopes to, hopes that he’s not ready to reveal yet. Oh well, we’ll see…

 

 

 

Chapter7. Back to Banora

 

Genesis was restless. He fought hard to keep in mind that he was dealing with Orion and not with Sephiroth. Each day the son looked more like his father, especially now that his hair has grown, touching the shoulders and his bangs were framing his face just like Seph’s. Orion got a well-balanced personality and he didn’t look so dispassionate like the former SOLDIER. In fact you could guess that there was some temper boiling not so far from the educated surface. Orion got an acute sense of justice acquired from his mother. He trusted her above all and the image she depicted about Sephiroth was strongly driving him.

Genesis secretly hoped that the young man wouldn’t be disappointed. He himself held an unspoken hope: to meet Seph again and to be forgiven by him. He agreed that if Sephiroth was to be found, it could’ve been only in the Lifestream. He was also aware that Jenova was still capable of grim surprises. Hatred and the lust for revenge fueled her indefinitely. After more than 2000 years she was as deadly as ever.

They both traveled from Midgar to Genesis’ place in Banora and planned to visit the Cave. But before that Genesis wanted to show Orion around the Banora White orchard. It was his favorite place ever; his sometimes troubled mind and storming soul regained its peace and balance under the fragrant shade of the apple trees. The milder climate of the whole region rent him less conflicted. Healed from the madness induced by the Mako treatment combined with the infusion of the Jenova cells Genesis was constantly struggling with itself. Surprisingly Orion’s presence had a soothing effect upon him. The young man’s friendship and confidence in him gave a boost to the former SOLDIER.

The morning was crisp and bright. The sky was slowly turning its hazy blue into a more definite azure as the autumn closed on the land. Thin silver threaded clouds were lining the upper atmosphere, adding a little chill to the still warm morning breeze. Genesis watched as his young companion dived into the pleasant open air, stretching like a cat, filling his lungs with the spicy scent of the ripening apples. For Orion this was the first time that he came to the countryside, where space stretched freely between fields, orchards, hills and forests, unstopped by towering, clustering buildings. He really enjoyed the site; his eyes were glowing in the sunshine, his cheeks were getting a rosy tint and his silver strands were flowing freely around, catching the early morning wind.

Genesis himself was rejuvenating as the swirling gush of air caught into his shiny copper strands and his azure- blue eyes fille4d with light and undisturbed pleasure. He brought Orion to the giant White Banora tree, picked a purple fruit and handed it to the young man. Orion took the apple, turning it curiously in his hand, took a sip of the spicy scent and cautiously took a bite. The apple was juicy and tasted like white wine.

-It’s…very good-said Orion smiling to Genesis. You have a real fortune here.

-I’m glad you like it-commented Genesis. I could never persuade your father to taste it. Being raised in Hojo’s lab ruined his appetite for fresh fruits.

-Let’s make a deal: you help me find Sephiroth and I’ll persuade him to eat one of this apples-chuckled Orion, giving him a playful look.

-Mind you- smirked Genesis. I might have the easiest task.

They both laughed, picked some more apples filling the basket brought by Genesis and they returned to the house for a short breakfast. They were preparing to descend into the Cave.

 

The first morning in Banora proved to be delicious. I’m still in a blissful state. Everything is so…natural and free here. Thanks to the Banora Orchard the air is fragrant you can almost bite it. I savored every bit and breath of it. Genesis looks livelier here. Sometimes I have the feeling that he relives the happy days of his younger life, the blissful days spent with Angeal and my father. In fact he told me not once that I ressemble more and more to the young Sephiroth.

Now, we are going to descent into the Mako Cave under Banora. Genesis told me a lot about it and I’m anxious to see it with my own eyes. I’ve never seen Mako pools and crystals in my life. Mako is forbidden stuff now. We use only the energy that’s safe for the planet. We had overused her energy a lot in the Shin-Ra guarded past.

Mako-enhanced warriors had disappeared to. They were not needed anymore. But Genesis still has his famous Rapier and has his own personal reserve of enhanced Materia.

He is training constantly, keeping himself fit.

“You never know when these skills might be needed-he says.”

I can’t help but to agree; if that alien, Jenova is so powerful, she might break out one day and try to destroy the planet. The Goddess has appointed Genesis as Guardian to the Planet so he has to keep up with the task.

 

The entrance of the Cave was well hidden after so many years. People seldom came here, fearing the monsters that once lurked in the shadows and not wanting to slip accidentally in one of the scattered Mako pools. Since his childhood, Genesis was at home in the cave. He has built up his secret kingdom and used it later to get away from the Turks and Shin-Ra.

He even built a secret lab and aided by Hollander created his own army of copies to piss off Shin-Ra. Things turned up badly when he slowly fell into madness and killed his parents and the residents of Banora. Genesis recounted everything to Orion; he considered that the hurtful confession could be the first real step to his redeeming in the eyes of this young man who was now the unexpected bridge between the long lost past and a hopeful future. So he took him and introduced him to every hidden corner of his hiding place. Orion was amazed by the place itself and touched by the sincerity of such a personal confession.

The cave deepened and the green glitter of the crystal covered walls created an eerie light. The air became colder, sending a chill down on both men spine. From time to time, translucent green sources surfaced from the cracks, bubbling, boiling then calming down again. After an endless row of steep, ragged stairs carved in the hard rock of the cave, the place opened into a huge cavern where every step echoed from the high ceiling. In the middle of the scenery there was a crumbled statue of the Goddess.

Orion approached the statue eyes wide open in sheer curiosity. He reach out tentatively and touched her stone shape. He turned to Genesis questioningly:

-Is she the one that helped you?

Genesis gave a small nod.

-Do you think she would help me to?-asked Orion, voice filled with an almost childish hope.

-I don’t know-mumbled Genesis, lowering his eyes. You never know what’s in the gods mind. But this cavern is a possible passageway to the Lifestream, so we have to try…

Orion turned again to the statue, trailing his fingers across the stone with a wishful expression on his face.

-I wonder-he whispered but he never finished the sentence.

The sudden burst of white light erupted from the statue, engulfing the young man for a few seconds. He shuddered under the powerful shower of light and shut his eyes. Before Genesis could even think to react, the light subsided and Orion collapsed to the ground.

Genesis quickly lifted him up and moved him away from the statue. He was alive and looked unharmed. After less than ten minutes Orion shifted and the light-green eyes popped open. Genesis sighed.

-Goddess, Orion I almost had a heart attack. I thought I lost you! What happened?

-She talked to me-came the hesitant answer. She showed me the Lifestream and she said that it is open for me. Do you know what that means?

Genesis shook his head.

-I’m not sure but I’m confident. She’ll show you the way when she thinks that you’re ready for it. Now, if you’re fine, we should return to the house. We could use some rest and sleep.

They took the way back and by the time the sky was lighting up with stars, Genesis and Orion were sitting side by side on the stairs, each of them cupping a mug of hot tea.

 

 

Chapter8. First encounter in the Lifestream

 

 

Exhausted by the day’s high density of events I quickly fell asleep. I must have slept for a couple of hours when I heard mom calling me:

-Orion, my darling wake up! Wake up!

-Huh?! Mom?!

-Wake up! I found him!

-Mom! But…

-Hush! Listen! We don’t have too much time; I found your father. He’s trapped inside the Lifestream.

-Mom? Where are you?

-I’m still in the Lifestream. I couldn’t leave him stranded like this and I pleaded with the Planet. She understood.

-What can I do?

-I’ll show you the place. You have to watch carefully and keep it in your mind; it’s the only way to locate him.

-Mom? Is this a dream?

-It is but it’s for real. Your father needs our help and I won’t rest until he’s free.

-Show me! I’m ready to follow you.

Mom’s voice faded but I could clearly feel her presence. The thick, glowing green mist was twirling around us like a river of light. It wasn’t easy to move through it; sometimes the currents were very strong and the faint hum in the background turned to a choir of eerie voices. From time to time I had the distinct feeling of bumping into something/somebody. It was both disturbing and confusing, yet mom’s presence guided me safely through.

After a while, the light dimmed, the color changed from emerald-green to moss-green, strands of deep-grey entwining with the filaments of green. I felt mom stopping.

-We’re here-she whispered. Beware my dear, this is a dangerous place. The Lifestream has managed to weave a cocoon around the place where Jenova and your father are. She took hold of him and she uses him to act as her embodiment.

-How do you know?

-I can feel his presence. If you get closer, you could feel him to. But be careful: she might want to capture you as well.

I shut my eyes and tried to empty my mind. Suddenly I felt a huge pressure like something with many arms trying smoldering me. I fought back, pushing away the tentacles of black fog, then I saw a small grain of green light, pulsing timidly in the middle of the dark, choking vortex. With a sudden jerk I expanded my mind and touched the light.

-Who…who’s there?-came a faint whisper.

The voice was deep but sounded tired.

-Sephiroth?!-I asked tentatively.

-Who are you? How did you find me?-asked him incredulously.

-I’m Orion. I’m Caitlin’s son. And YOUR’s…

-Goddess…-he whispered. I never knew…

Before we could say anything else a deafening screech invaded the space in both our mind. The hysterical laughter shattered the fragile connection built up between us. I could still detect a faint, whispered warning:

-Run, run before she gets you! GO!!!…please…-his voice slowly subsided.

I jumped and opened my eyes. I was outside the dark spot, my head churning. I barely heard my mother speaking to me:

-It’s her, isn’t it? She’s tormenting him; she’s afraid that he might free himself and then she could be more easily defeated. We have to save him, for him and for the Planet. She cannot heal until Jenova is shadowing her existence. Go now, my darling. Think! I’ll watch over him.

I woke up in my bed, soaked in sweat and tangled in sheets. I was shivering. Sephiroth’s voice was ringing in my ears:

“I never knew…GO!!!…please…”

I was determined to take action.

 

Genesis jumped. There were light footsteps on the corridor in the middle of the night coming to his bedroom. Genesis was slightly blurred after the chaotic day and he needed some moments to adjust. There was a small tap at the door and he heard Orion’s voice whispering:

-Genesis! Wake up! I had a dream. I found Sephiroth in the Lifestream!

The young man stood at the door, trying to catch his breath. His eyes sparkled in the dark and he was highly excited. Genesis sobered and became alert instantly; he knew that the young man was reliable and that there was an important break-through in their search for his long lost friend. So he sat down and listened to Orion’s recount with maximized attention.

The recount was outraging and terrifying at the same time. Nobody would have expected that Jenova could have such a strong grip on her unfortunate victim and that she had been able to survive to so many defeats in a chilling good condition. Genesis was angry as Hell at the thought of the torments Sephiroth suffered such a long time. He knew Jenova was a constant threat for humanity and the planet itself but it looked like people around him were content to think that Jenova was a closed chapter. The time of SOLDIER   and other heroes has ended and people were back in track, rebuilding their lives, adapting to a world without Mako energy and Materia. As Shin-Ra collapsed, the war with Wutai became meaningless and the wutaian way of life became a reliable model for the new world.

A new generation of scientists emerged, lead by Reeve Tuesti; their goal was to unravel new, clean sources of energy to replace Mako.  The face of the planet was slowly changing into something peaceful, blooming and friendly.

I a relatively short time the skills that made SOLDIER famous became part of a mythical history and even heroes like Cloud could finally resume their duty and start to live a life of their own. To think about himself as a relic from the past was a funny if not awkward feeling for Genesis. But finding Orion has changed the whole perspective; the young man was an unexpected and pleasant addition to his life. For the first time after so many troubled years Genesis had a purpose in life, other than simply surviving to loneliness and boredom. Though the close resemblance Orion bore to his father, Sephiroth made Genesis sometimes uneasy deep inside, he did his best to separate the two images and to acknowledge that, despite his deceitful appearance, Orion was an entire different person. Most of all, he was pleasant and likeable. So Genesis couldn’t be happier at the moment.

But what was lurking in the Lifestream was truly bothering. Defeating Jenova bare handed was out of question. Even with Genesis’ skills as Crimson Commander and his load of Materia stored in the Banoran caves, it was a risqué business to approach Jenova without a proper plan. They needed a very good one and strong allies standing by.

Genesis and Orion spent days and weeks in the secret laboratories trying to find a technical solution for their problems. Some interesting ideas popped up from their work but there wasn’t a satisfactory solution. They agreed that since Jenova was hiding in that specific spot of  the Lifestream, they have to isolate her somehow and remove her from the vital flow of the planet. The other task was to separate her from Sephiroth and release him before she totally engulfed him. This really was an emergency since Seph’s willpower seemed to diminish each day under her tremendous pressure.

The third task was to get Jenova off the Lifestream and get her off the planetary system. Orion suggested that they contact Vincent and ask for his help. After all, Vincent has watched over Orion since his birth and he was also connected to Lucrecia Crescent, Sephiroth’s real mother. So they both decided to gather their results and their load of information and return to the City to look for Vincent Valentine.

They spent their last evening in Banora under the great Banora apple tree, watching the starlit skies and enjoying the low humming of Nature. Orion confidently leaned against Genesis’ shoulder, his silver bangs tickling the older guys face and neck.

-I like this place-murmured the young man. It’s so peaceful and quiet…I’d like to live here for the rest of my life.

-You’re welcome anytime-said Genesis running his fingers absentmindedly through the silver strands, over and over…

The warm silence enveloped them slowly. Genesis turned to his young companion and smiled; Orion has fallen asleep under his caressing. He was sleeping like a child, relieved under the pressure of the previous days. Genesis sighed and held him closely; the young man stirred and mumbled something. Genesis bent over him trying to understand the muffled words.

-Genesis…stay with me…please…

The soft murmur made Genesis blush; he gently squeezed Orion.

-Sssst…relax,kid…I’m here; I’m not going anywhere.

 

 

Chapter 9. Facing the Shin-Ra

 

 

I woke up in bed unable to remember how I got there last night. All I remembered were the stars lighting up the Banoran skies and the sweet, crisp scent of the apples above us. So I assumed that somehow poor Genesis dragged me home and tucked me in bed. I quickly jumped out from the comfortable place and washed.

As I expected Genesis was already in the sunny kitchen drinking his coffee. He looked at me with a mischievous light in his blazing-blue eyes and invited me to eat my breakfast.

-I shouldn’t feed you if I have to carry you back every time we go out; you’re going to break my back…he chuckled.

I felt my face catching fire and I almost choked on something…but then we both burst into laughter!

-I’m sorry, Genesis. It won’t happen again; there are no apple-trees in Midgar, not even where I live. You know it well, so don’t worry…

He smirked and there was a short sparkle in his eyes as he looked at me for a moment; I stood his stare and returned the grin. For a moment it was like an invisible connection; there was a hidden message traveling from one –another, without exchanging a word. Finally, Genesis blinked and turned away.

-Let’s go, kid-he said. We have a long journey ahead of us.

We took our bags and hopped into Genesis’ car. The road to the confrontation with Jenova has started.

We arrived late at night in the City; my flat was quiet and undisturbed. We took a shower, eat something and stood on the small balcony trying to find out where to start our future quest. Genesis suggested that due to the emergency of our task I should leave my work; he offered to provide the necessary amount of money for me to. I wasn’t at loss myself; mom left me with some cash so things were comfortable for the moment and we could concentrate on our problem.

Vincent Valentine’s whereabouts were totally unknown for both of us; he was a very secretive, quiet person. All we could do was to hope that he would contact us; I knew that he was still keeping an eye on me and that he knew about my encounter with Genesis. Though they belonged to the same moment in history, they had never actually met. They looked almost the same age but that was just an illusion; Vincent had slept…for almost 30 years after my father was born and Lucrecia died. Genesis was slightly nervous about the encounter with this elusive stranger; he was more interested in getting in contact with….president Rufus Shin-Ra. Though he has long disappeared from the public eye, Genesis knew he was still holding some strings on the world. We both had a definite reason to face him sooner or later.

There was a slight tap on the door; it was midnight…We looked at each other and Genesis gave a short nod. We knew it was the one we were looking for. As I opened the door and let Vincent in, Genesis stood up and came to meet him.

-Commander Rhapsodos-said Vincent holding out his hand.

-Mister Valentine of the Turks; glad to meet you-said Genesis shaking the slim hand. Don’t smirk, young man-he said turning to me. We both made some research about the other since we knew nothing on a personal basis.

I couldn’t help but chuckle seeing them so serious and diffident towards the other; for a moment I had the feeling that they were somehow competing over me or that Genesis was slightly pissed off by a possible claim from Vincent above my…wellbeing.

We finally sat down; I opened a bottle of wine to ease the tension and we talked about the things that happened during my journey in Banora. Vincent was utterly surprised by my encounter in the Lifestream and became even more worried thinking about the threat a very much alive and furious Jenova meant to the whole planet.

-Well-he said in his deep baritone-it seems that we were over optimistic assuming that she was defeated. We had a good, peaceful life until now but you’re right; she has to be stopped for good. About Sephiroth…well, that’s an entirely different business. You must know, both of you that he’s not popular at all…

I knew it but I was determined anyway.

-I won’t stop until he’s free again and his name cleared. I’ve heard all from both of you, I have my mom’s recording about those events. I need your help; I want to meet the head scientist, Reeve Tuesti and I need a chance to talk to Rufus Shin-Ra. I’m ready to face the consequences!!!

My both friends looked at me in slight disbelief, pondering about my declaration if it should be taken as a youth’s bragging or a real commitment. I was angry and hurt. I left them and slammed the door behind me.

As I got on the street, I took the path towards the cemetery. It was well passed midnight and the streets were deserted and silent. A sick-pale full moon was shinning up in the blurry sky. I entered the small garden door and searched for mom’s grave. I sat there on the rim of the grave, trying to catch a glimpse of my mom’s presence. The night turned breezy and cold and I was shivering while I tried to swallow the tears of frustration running down my cheeks.

“Mom, they take me for a foolish child…How am I to succeed to reach Father in time? Is he still holding his ground against her? Mom? Where are you? I hate being alone like this…”

 

Genesis watched him sitting there, bracing himself against the head-stone, talking to his late mother and desperately seeking for help and support. The moment the young man fled the house he and Vincent realized how deeply committed and sensitive in fact Orion was. They quickly exchanged some basic information and agreed on meeting the next evening. Genesis left in a hurry to catch up with his young friend. Something told him that the cemetery was the only place where Orion would go; he had nobody close to his heart except his late mother.

Genesis crouched near him and put a hand on the youth’s shoulder.

-Orion…come with me. Don’t be upset; I’m sorry for hurting your feelings.

There was a moment of silence then Orion stood up and turned to him.

-Genesis-he said and his voice broke in pain. I have no one left but you; don’t abandon me! I have to go through this quest, even if it might cost my life! But I need you beside me; I rely on you! You are my FRIEND !

-Vincent is your friend to…said Genesis quietly.

-Vincent is my guardian! YOU are MY FRIEND!

Orion almost shouted these words as he confronted him. Genesis shuddered.

-I don’t know what exactly is in your mind, kid…he sighed.

-Don’t underestimate me Genesis; I am not a child though I’m younger than you. I am a man and I know exactly what I want. I think you know it to. You just don’t want to admit it. Not yet…

Orion stood there, silently watching him.

Genesis looked into those beautiful, saddened eyes and felt a pang in his heart. It looked that their fate was deeply entwined and that there was no other option for the two of them than to jump into the fire hand in hand. Vincent could provide some important support but this was a matter of his and Orion’s. He put an arm around the young man’s shoulder and they turned home, talking quietly. He even succeeded to convince him to sleep at least a few hours. The morning was almost breaking. Genesis fell asleep almost instantly; he’s had enough troubling topics for just one day. His mind was drifting away in a blurry world of indefinite dreams when he heard Orion shouting out loud. Genesis jumped from the bed and almost stumbled into the other room; Orion was sitting on the rim of the bed, clutching to his shoulders and shaking, eyes closely shut like trying to avoid a frightening view.

-What happened?…asked Genesis, his own voice trembling from the shock and lack of sleep.

-Jenova…came the muffled answer. I…I got into her in my dream; somehow I ended up in the Lifestream, near my father and suddenly she was there…all around me. Have you ever see her?-the young man asked turning to his older friend.

-No-said Genesis. Actually I had never met her or saw her. All I know about her is the way she affected my life and my friends’. She slowly turned us into monsters and she left us with no control over our mind or body.

Genesis’ face darkened as he recalled the tragic events of the Legendary Soldiers. He turned back to the deeply shaken youth.

-I saw her…not as a distinct shape but as a dark, heavy mass that tried to corner me and engulf me. She is…horrible: murderous, angry, relentless…inhuman! How…how could they use her in those experiments on humans?! On unborn babies and young people…She tried to get into my mind but she backed off as I screamed. Genesis, I have to stop her but…please, don’t get angry on me!

Orion looked straight into Genesis’ eyes.

-I need a strong hold here; I need to know that I am important for somebody. Otherwise she’ll tear me down and turn me into pieces…You are my stronghold; please, don’t run away from me…Orion’s voice faded as he buried his face into his palms. He sighed.

-Sephiroth was alone at Niebelheim; he had no reason to fight back. You and Angeal, you were lost for him and he knew that Shin-Ra would have interfered in his relationship with Caitlin. He wanted to protect her so he asked her to go away and hide; Jenova got hold on his despair, anger, loss and everything he couldn’t handle anymore. She feeds on human weakness. Loneliness kills the heart, Genesis. You know it well yourself…

They both sat in silence for a few moments; then, Orion leaned against Genesis, his head resting on his friend’s shoulder. Genesis placed his arm around the youth’s shoulder and shut his eyes for a while. His mind was trying to asses all that was said; he was still reluctant to give in to his deepest feelings but he knew he was loosing the battle with himself. This fight was his fight to; it was not only about saving the Planet or getting his best friend free but it was about getting his own life back and being redeemed. The crimes that burdened his past were slowly suffocating him; Orion was like a breath of fresh air: priceless. So he had to protect him-at any cost.

-I’m here right beside you for you! For you only! For good. Don’t worry anymore, kid…

The morning caught them sleeping in the same bed, Orion cuddled in Genesis’ arms. The older man stood up and left the younger one to sleep on. He was…beautiful. Genesis quickly turned away and left for the kitchen; he needed some time by himself to put some order in the chaos that was swirling in his mind.

He washed and fixed some breakfast for him and Orion. He took a cup of coffee and sat on the balcony watching the sun fighting his way through the morning mist.

 

I woke up after a short but comforting sleep; I soon remembered the nightmare I had and the promise Genesis made. I got angry on myself; I have acted childishly, I became vulnerable because my anger and frustration and …how would I face Genesis…now?

I had no choice but to face my own stupidity; what was in my mind the night before? Not that I regretted what I said; Genesis was all I had after mom died and my feelings towards him were deepening each day. Those feelings left me confused and troubled sometimes but loneliness wasn’t a suitable alternative. Genesis was a fascinating, wonderful person and I could easily relate to him. Before we met I had a few…friends of my age but we had only a superficial connection, mainly sports or fun. My personal history was something I could not share so I couldn’t open to them. On the other hand Genesis and I we shared the same history so I could communicate with him on a very close and deep level; well, there were some difficult topics for both of us…I decided to pull myself up and stop being a burden. Love could wait for a while.

I found Genesis in the balcony with his coffee; I took a cup and poured some for myself. I took a seat next to him.

-Good morning!-I said. Sorry for being a nuisance yesterday. I hope you could catch some sleep…

Genesis smirked.

-Yep. Don’t worry, kid. I’m SOLDIER; this is not the only…very short night of my life. But your dream worries me; it looks like Jenova is getting restless. She seems to notice that we are planning something and she’s not happy about it. You’re not safe anymore so we have to get into action before she grabs you or she wipes out your father’s personality entirely.

I had to admit that the latest encounter with Jenova proved to be shocking; I knew she was powerful and my father’s warning sounded truthful enough. But the previous night proved me how dangerous that murderous monster was. It was a miracle escape…

-Vincent promised to contact and to persuade Reeve Tuesti to meet us and to listen to what we have to say. I have high hopes on him; he’s entirely different from Hojo and Hollander. But Rufus Shin-Ra is a different story; we have to be careful. He’s a deceitful, dangerous guy and from his point of view I’m a runaway SOLDIER and you’re the son of Sephiroth, The Enemy of the World.

Genesis voice lowered and turned into an angry growl. He deeply resented anything related to Shin-Ra. His face stiffened as he spoke and the azure-blue eyes glowed dangerously. I felt my blood boiling; there were so many questions that needed an answer. But I have put my trust in Genesis’ hands and I trusted Vincent to. The problem was…Jenova; she wasn’t patient at all.

We decided to spend the day in the city until the evening; Vincent was due to come around only after dark. Genesis took me around in places I have never been before; though the city has changed a lot, there were corners that still held the memory of the legendary days of SOLDIER. And…LOVELESS was still playing. The mysterious, beautiful poem and story survived all. Though Genesis wasn’t quoting it like he once did…to the despair of his friends, I knew he loved it. He had some beautiful editions in his library. I could recall some peaceful moments at Banora when his amazing blue eyes clouded and his mind drifted along the verses he recited in his pleasant, chanting voice. Those were moments of pure bliss…

We returned just in time to wait for Vincent. He arrived while the darkness was slowly enveloping the city.  He was moderately optimistic: Reeve has agreed to meet us the next day at his office, late in the afternoon when he could be alone.

-It was a bit of a shock for him what I said about your findings. People were comfortable on thinking this problem has ended for good twenty years ago. But you’re the best proof that this is just a dangerous illusion. Orion, you mustn’t have great expectation about ordinary/or even extraordinary people. They all tend to turn away from tricky things in their lives and pretend that those aren’t there. If you try too hard to open their eyes they would rather take you down than listen to you. So don’t get too emotional; use your head first.

Vincent looked at me for a moment, searching for an answer.

-I know and I’m sorry if I’ve lost control the other day-I said. I didn’t expect that Jenova would come out so powerfully on me. She turned me upside –down a bit. But this won’t happen again; I’m not going to let her win another hand. Thank you for the warnings; I assure you I’d take them seriously.

-Well then, it seems that we settled this down. Good luck, Commander. Good luck, Orion. We’ll meet tomorrow at Reeve’s; I’ll wait for you there.

Vincent left soon so Genesis and I, we ran over all the data we had for the meeting once again. We went to bed early to catch some sleep; the previous night has drained both of us.

But things never come up as expected; despite my best efforts, I was unable to fall asleep. I felt nervous and couldn’t find my place in bed. I stood up and walked out, went to the kitchen to find some cold drink in the fridge…Genesis was already there, tired and morose, holding a frosty glass. I chuckled as I saw his face; we both looked miserably unhappy and sleepless.

-Uhm…not too sleepy, aren’t you?-I asked cautiously. I didn’t want to stir up the angry dragon from inside the Crimson Commander.

He looked at me, wondering if he should answer me or kick me. He decided that I’m dumb enough so he laughed and made room for another chair next to him for me. I took my own frosty juice and sat. The night breeze cooled us pleasantly and the few visible stars were trembling in the misty skies of the big City.

-Genesis…I’m…nervous and confused…I feel like I’m opening a door to a dark and unknown space. I’m a little bit lost in your world; I mean in the world of the former SOLDIER, Turks and Shin-Ra. I can feel your mistrust over Vincent; I can feel his hidden fear that you might be still prone to insanity because of the Jenova Cells. I…trust both of you but I know nothing about that guy we’re going to meet tomorrow. It’s a total mess…The worst of it is that I’m scared that I might blow everything. What if I fail?

Suddenly, I felt exhausted; my worst fears were finally out…What would Genesis say?

 

 

Chapter 10. Reeve Tuesti

 

Genesis sat in silence, watching the young man bursting out with his anxieties and hidden fears. He had his own share of such unhappy thoughts and sensations. Of course he was mistrusting a former Turk; it was almost in their genes as SOLDIER. The Turks were Shin-Ra dogs, hired assassins and secret police. Though Valentine had been also a victim of that wretched Hojo…

Shin-Ra had turned their world upside-down for selfish reasons. Genesis thought about Reeve Tuesti…The scientist whom he didn’t know on a personal basis, should have been in his late forties-early fifties. Genesis himself was totally out of his own real time at 35 as he was at this moment. The worst of them was Vincent who was the eldest; his real age was way over sixty yet he was stuck in the same early thirties…though his life experience and tiredness told a whole different story. And above all it was this disturbingly good looking and trustful youth, who inherited all the astonishing features of his father, Sephiroth, less the Jenova cells.

What was he to become? What was he carrying unknowingly? Genesis knew that they were inexorably attracted by each other but he was scared by the fact that in long term they might get older in a very different rhythm. He didn’t want to make Orion unhappy and he couldn’t face loosing him… Genesis loathed Shin-Ra for all the mess they’ve made of people’s life; he didn’t trust any of them.

Even Rufus Shin-Ra whom he remembered as a cheeky teenager, should have been older than Genesis by now…It was madness, a real nightmare. Genesis shook his head to clear his mind from all these thoughts. For now he had to focus on their goal and he had to support Orion as much as he could. He sighed and turned towards the young man.

-Stop worrying, kid. We’ll figure it out somehow. You’re crazy enough to succeed and I am as sane as I want to be. Come, let’s go to sleep.

He stood up, took Orion by hand and took him to his room. He ordered him in bed and hopped next to him. He ruffled the silver strands and Orion soon fell asleep. Genesis watched his sleep until he also fell into the world of dreams.

Reeve Tuesti watched with great interest the two men. The young one was almost mirroring the Legendary General of the SOLDIER; yet he felt milder and much more a civilian than a trained military. The older guy, who looked younger than Reeve was a real SOLDIER and the surname of Crimson Commander was not due only to his flaming copper hair or his red leather coat. He had a powerful aura that talked about a well restrained but very consistent, dangerous, volatile temper. He was the last top SOLDIER alive and there were rumors about the fact that he was a protégé of the Goddess Minerva. He had striking azure-blue eyes and a piercing look.

Reeve shook hands with both of them and invited them to sit around the large table from the Scientific Council Room. Vincent was already seated. The two men debriefed Reeve about their story and the scientist listened carefully. He knew these guys were not some babbling fools; Jenova was alive and active. The whole world was in danger. For hours the discussions went over problems and solutions. Reeve was impressed by the younger man’s troubling experience about his father’s torments under Jenova’s grip. He felt the anguish of the young heart over the fate of his unknown yet deeply missed parent. It was an odd situation; Sephiroth was feared and loathed by the humans yet Orion’s wish to free him and to meet him felt equally legitimate. Reeve’s mind worked feverishly to find a way to reconcile these two opposite visions about the same person.

They all agreed that they would meet soon again to see what Reeve could do. Until then Vincent promised to find a way to bring them together with Rufus. Despite what the world knew about him, Rufus was cashing the money for the rebuilding of the crumbled civilization. He was holding the strings of power but this time he was threading carefully. People were on the edge remembering Shin-Ra. As an ex-Turk Vincent could more easily approach him; and Rufus knew about the way Vincent helped them defeat Sephiroth last time. So, in way he was indebted to him. Though Vincent was still reluctant about getting Sephiroth free, he knew that the discussion about it couldn’t be avoided. The key to the problem was how much Orion could persuade the others to help him in this particular quest. And above all, it looked like Seph and Jenova were coming in one pack.

Vincent was preoccupied by Cloud to. The former Savior of the Planet was in his early forties; he had finally settled down, successfully raised two orphans and was happily married with Tifa. Cloud still had nightmares from time to time but he was also confident that his ordeal was finally over. It wasn’t fair to drag him back in this, yet he couldn’t be avoided. And Aerith wasn’t around anymore; she and Zack were at peace in a land that was beyond hurt. The humans were on their own in this final battle. Vincent growled in frustration but he had to admit that there was a good chance to end this recurring nightmare that was Jenova and maybe Orion was the unexpected…hero that would save this world once for all.  Shin-Ra’s reign was just a page of history and nothing more. Vincent flipped a coin: well, his first visit was due to Rufus. That left at least another happy day for Cloud…

 

We left Reeve Tuesti after a very long and dense talk; he looked genuinely interested in what we had to say and in the solutions we proposed. He proved to be a pleasant and sharp minded guy, with no hidden thoughts. A real scientist, he was focused and surprisingly empathic.

It looks like there’s a good chance that the Sister Ray could be modified and used to encircle Jenova in the Lifestream. But we need a starship to capture her inside and take her out of the Planet’s life system. Probably we should carry her close enough to our Sun to send her into the star. It would be a risky business but letting her hide indefinitely in the Lifestream means a lot more trouble. Reeve said that the late Shin-Ra had a starship that was almost fully operable but only Rufus knows where that ship is and what are its capabilities.

Genesis agreed on the schedule and we turned home to have a rest and think over the possible argument with Rufus Shin-Ra. It wasn’t like Genesis to sit and keep silent but this time it was my task to confront Rufus and his allies and make them understand what I was asking for and the reason why they should help me. Meeting Rufus and winning the argument was the turning point of our quest. So both Genesis and me, we ended up nervous and restless the following days. On the top of it, the more anxious I felt, the closer I felt Jenova’s presence. It was like she could sense my weakness and tried to get a grip on me even before I could confront her. I never complained or talked about this, not even to Genesis.

He had his own inner fights; I could clearly see that he was troubled and uneasy. He needed some space and his moments of silent reflection so I kept a low profile. I used to leave him sitting in the balcony with a glass of drink at his side, eyes lost somewhere in the distance, his mind drifting into unknown. I went out to refill the fridge and to stroll aimlessly, just to clear my own mind. It wasn’t easy for me to sit aside with Genesis around; I became used to our endless conversations. I missed his insights on problems I knew only from other’s recount. All I knew was my determination to win the argument because I knew I was right.

Days passed by like this, with almost no talk at all except for a few necessary sentences. My only comfort was that we shared the same bed at night so I didn’t feel so lost and lonely and Jenova couldn’t reach me in the world of dreams anymore. Then Vincent called and said that Rufus has finally decided to meet us; he also said that Cloud Strife would be there to. I sighed as my heart sank; the final countdown has begun…

 

Genesis watched him from the corner of his eyes; Orion sighed and his face turned serious. From now on there was no return; it was only a chain of battles to be won and the outcome was still blurry.

-I’m sorry, kid for being such a morose old man these days. I’ve tried over and over again to find an easier way out from this; I’m worried about meeting with Rufus because he’s a cunning bastard and he has already called for Cloud Strife’s assistance. It won’t be an easy task to win an argument with them and I have a feeling that he’ll use some dirty tricks via the Turks. Fortunately, Vincent is no fool and he’s mainly on your side, despite all his unspoken doubts. Ask me anything you think it would be helpful…

Orion smiled.

-Maybe a little bit of silence was welcome for both of us; I think I’ll have my share of talking tomorrow. But I hoped we could revise together some of my mom’s notices about the SOLDIER and the entire Shin-Ra business. I’m sure we can find something Rufus wouldn’t like to hear…

Genesis watched him with real admiration.

-I see that you’re a fast learner…Hmph! Let’s beat the enemy with his own weapons!

Orion brought out Caitlin’s files and they both sat and talked for hours over them. The night caught them arguing excitedly about different issues. When they finally went to sleep, they fell into the Land of Nod effortlessly.

 

Chapter 11. Confronting the Shin-Ra

 

The steel-blue eyes were scrutinizing the empty square from the large window of the eleventh floor office. He was a handsome man in his early fifties, well built/ maybe a little overweight. His golden-blond hair was shortly cropped on the neck. He was wearing an expensive navy-blue suit and he looked like a real VIP.

In fact he was one; Rufus Shin-Ra was waiting for his visitors. He noticed somebody approaching the building. It was a young man with spiky blond hair and a brisk walk. He wasn’t the skinny boy anymore but he has kept his sporty allure. In a few moments Cloud Strife was entering the room where Rufus was waiting. He looked around intently and asked:

-Just the two of us?

-Yes-answered Rufus-They are about to come soon. We can see them from here.

Cloud shook his head slightly.

-I can’t believe this is actually happening. After twenty years of peace I thought we have escaped from Jenova’s malicious grip. We’re not the same anymore; I’ve lost my grip on the battle. Family life made me complacent…

Rufus grumbled.

-You’re not the only one; I hate to be pushed around by people or to be taken by surprise by such events. But before we take any decision we should listen to them. Hmph…Look, Cloud! They’re here.

Cloud approached the window and looked down at the square; the sports car halted on the spot and two men emerged from it. The driver was unmistakable; Crimson Commander Genesis Rhapsodos was a fully equipped SOLDIER One. He was wearing not only his long red leather coat but he had also the Crimson Rapier, his legendary sword. From this height it looked like Genesis has not changed a bit.

The young man accompanying him was slightly taller and he was wearing asbestos-grey suit and an open-neck white shirt. He was slender and gracious; his middle-length silver hair was tied in a pony tail. He was handsome just like his legendary father but he looked milder. Cloud felt a chill running down his spine but he knew this was not Sephiroth.

-Good looking guy, isn’t it?-smirked Rufus. Don’t worry, Cloud, I’ve made some checking on him; he bears his father’s resemblance but he is entirely human. Though you can’t be entirely sure when it comes about Sephiroth…

-I can vouch for him-came a deep voice from behind them. Orion is a straightforward guy and his friendship with Genesis has not damaged his character.

Rufus and Cloud turned to greet Vincent Valentine.

-We trust your judgment that’s why this meeting is taking place-said Rufus.

-I just hope you’re right-sighed Cloud. I won’t let anybody to mess with this world anymore!

-I see that Commander Rhapsodos comes fully equipped-commented Vincent. It looks like he doesn’t trust you, Rufus.

-I wouldn’t trust myself either-smirked Rufus Shin-Ra. He has no reason to trust me; for the former Shin-Ra he’s still a SOLDIER run AWOL!

There was a knock on the door and the two awaited men entered the room. The three others instantly turned towards them, each with a different reaction. Vincent silently nodded; Rufus eyes narrowed with hungry anticipation, trying to asses the couple but mainly the very young Sephiroth sibling. Cloud shuddered unwillingly as he faced the ever haunting features but he quickly calmed as Orion didn’t feel so overwhelming. Rufus invited them to sit around the table and the talking started. Genesis debriefed Rufus and Cloud about their findings and the results of the talking with Reeve Tuesti.

-So-said Rufus slowly, like pondering each word-you say that you need a space-ship to remove both Jenova and Sephiroth from the Lifestream, once Reeve can corner them successfully. It sounds like a risky business; I don’t know if you can succeed or even if you can be trusted with this.

Genesis face reddened and a dangerous light was building up in the piercing azure eyes.

-Goddess,Rufus!-he shouted angrily. You really think there’s anyone to fighjt Sephiroth if he’s sent back by Jenova?It’s been more than twenty years ago! Look at Cloud; he’s finally settled and he deserves a life of his own!

Cloud stirred uncomfortably in his seat.

-You might be right-said Rufus undisturbed by the sudden burst of anger. I still believe that the techniques we’ve developed since that would allow us to win against whoever might come. After all even Geostigma has been finally cured.

-But not by you! You know that Jenova would never quit the Lifestream on her own will. And all she can do is to concoct another way to use Sephiroth as a vessel to her murderous instincts.

-I’m fully aware of that but every conflict has its casualties-smirked Rufus as he secretly enjoyed Genesis’ torment.

-I see…said Genesis and laid back on his chair, taking a deep breath to calm down. You’ve never changed; from the spoiled brat you’ve once were, you turned into a Shin-Ra bastard, ready to sacrifice everything and everybody except his own money and power…

There was a moment of frozen silence; then Orion jumped from his seat and shouted:

-Enough!!! I didn’t come here to listen to this crap and I won’t let Jenova to slaughter my father on and on. I hold Shin-Ra directly and willfully responsible for what Sephiroth has become!

-Young man, you’re part of that abomination; you can’t seriously expect people to trust you and risk their safety by giving up such an important weapon as a spaceship-replied Rufus, watching Orion with growing interest.

The air in the room filled with sudden electicity; there was an unexpected flow of powerful aura coming from the young man that took everybody by surprise. The calm and collected Orion seemed taller and stronger than before. Genesis chuckled inside; the kid was really impressive…

-Don’t lecture me,Rufus. You’re not entitled to do it. Not me. I have here all the necessary documents to show and prove the world the real face of evil. All your deeds and decisions, Shin-Ra executives are written down here.

From my early childhood I remember two names for EVIL: your father’s and that of the insane Hojo. They’ve created the perfect SOLDIERS to use them to gain more and more power for Shin-Ra and to preserve it at all cost. Then, when their former human toys started to fall apart due to the horrible, uncontrollable experiments they were subjected to, these two tried to discard them.

But SOLDIER weren’t machines to be simply taken apart and crush. Even in their madness they were still humans: they’ve realized they were doomed but they wanted to take down the rotten mechanism created by Shin-Ra.

You question my reliability and my good will but what good have you done to this planet or to the children of Gaia?

For a moment Rufus opened his mouth to say something but seeing the others’ face he decided to shut up, at least for the moment. The light-green eyes looked deep into the steel-blue ones.

-Am I not to be trusted because I’m the son of Sephiroth? You call him a monster?

Shin-Ra had unearthed Jenova and used her dangerous cells to create the perfect tools to rule the world. You have kept her remains hidden for further plans and you brought upon us the Remnants and the Geostigma. Jenova is in the Lifestream, holding your and her best asset in order to use him over and over again, whenever she can. You and her are almost the same: you’ve used Sephiroth without remorse. He died miserably three times; he died three useless deaths and he’s still a prisoner. He is held captive in your mindless game with Jenova and you call HIM a MONSTER?!!!

What are YOU, then?! I am the living legacy of his humanity and his short lived sanity! And I’m not talking now only about him! What have you done to Angeal Hewley?

He was the embodiment of honor and morality. You, Shin-Ra people pushed him into insanity and he committed suicide be cause he knew what his fate would soon be. He had already witnessed his dearest friend tormented and fallen into mindless rage. Genesis was bright, sparkling and hopeful when he enlisted SOLDIER. The three of them were the Legendary Trio; he was the first to fall into madness and strike back on Shin-Ra. Loosing his only two friends he ever had, the ones he trusted with his life was the last step towards self-destruction for my father. On the last moment he sent away my mother to protect her from you. He was now totally defenseless in front of Jenova and the hurtful truth about his own birth.

DRIVEN TO MADNESS<DEMONIZED<SLAUGHTERED-these are the turning points of his life. It’s all your work, Shin-Ra’s work!!! You did it to him, you did it to us!

Orion was deeply disturbed and angered. He kept pacing up and down as the others watched him silently. He stopped in front of the window, looking down and trying to calm down. Finally Rufus decided to speak.

-I can’t deny most of your sayings but these are just words. If you can’t prove them, you can’t expect to corner us into giving in to your demands.

Rufus’ voice was mainly a sneer; Orion turned brusquely and fixed him, his cheeks flushed by emotion.

-I’m no fool, Rufus Shin-Ra! The documents proving all of this are ready to go viral the moment you try to stop us in any way.

Rufus’ handsome face darkened.

-Little bastard…-he mumbled. So be it your way!-he added anger washing over him.

-Don’t try to trick me!-warned Orion, his voice getting a chilling edge. The dangerous spark flickering in the green eyes and the seriousness of that handsome face froze Rufus. For a moment Sephiroth’s image overlapped his son’s with deadly accuracy. The former President of Shin-Ra sighed and gave up:

-You can take it. Cloud, you have nothing against?

Cloud gave a short nod and turned to Orion.

-I have my own recollection about what the enlisting to SOLDIER meant to me. I still have my recurring nightmares of loosing my mind to Jenova’s grip. I understand that you’ve met her at least twice so you know what I am talking about.

Your kinship to Sephiroth might be your strongest but also your weakest point in this fight against her. Are you ready to give up on your father and cut off all ties if things turn out wrong in order to protect this world?

Orion stopped and took a seat facing Cloud.

-Mr.Strife-he said-you have all my respect and consideration for everything you did for this planet. Despite what happened between the two of you, I’m sure that even my father would admit that you’re a real hero. You went beyond your worst fears to protect your loved ones. In my own way I’m aiming to the same goal.

I must admit that I started this quest with the strong determination to be a victor. I still believe in our chances to win against Jenova but I’ll do my best to redeem my father. Vincent and Genesis are endorsing me and I’m sure they’d watch over me and stop me before anything tragic occurs. If you have doubts about my skills, you have to trust them…

Cloud looked to Vincent for a sign.

-I’ll be aboard the ship and I vouch for him-said the former Turk.

-Rufus? Cloud turned questioningly to the Shin-Ra descendant.

-It’s agreed. Let me know what else you need. I’ll call for Reeve to come; we’re running short on time.

The talking and planning prolonged way into the night. There were numerous and complicated things to discuss and set. Genesis watched his protégé with undisguised pride; Orion’ straightforwardness, determination and sincerity won the battle.

“ You can be proud, Seph! Your son is a man for real…”

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