[Shattered] Children 01

Prologue

“Jenova?” Tseng repeated in a quizzical tone. He shifted where he stood in front of Reeve’s desk, exchanging a glance with Elena. “What do you mean?”

The President of the World Regenesis Organization, formerly known as ShinRa, sighed as he leaned back in his chair, rubbing a finger over his forehead. “I had Sion and Archer install monitoring devices at the Northern Crater a few weeks after the war. Since then, four of them have been destroyed and not by natural means. The one remaining is picking up some strange activity in the Lifestream.”

“Great,” Elena muttered with an exasperated huff. “This is the last thing we need right now. What do you think it is?”

“Aside from another god hell bent on world destruction?” Reeve remarked humorlessly, turning towards his computer and tapping a few keys to bring up the report the science department had e-mailed to him. “Honestly, we don’t know. That’s why I want both of you to take Sion and check it out.”

Tseng’s frown deepened as he glanced at the folder in his hands, flipping it open to sift through the papers. Most were scientific findings that he didn’t understand but at least there was a map, pinpointing where the disturbance was most active. The Northern Crater… A thought occurred to him and he lifted his eyes back to Reeve.

“Have you told Sephiroth?” he asked, knowing that if there was something to do with Jenova, then either the former General already knew, or deserved to sometime in the future.

The president shifted in his seat, looking a mite uncomfortable. “No,” he admitted, and when he saw the subtle darkening of his second-in-command’s features he held up a hand. “But only because there isn’t anything to tell yet.” He pointed towards the file in Tseng’s hand. “Confirmation first.”

“Probably can’t find him anyways,” Elena mumbled, shaking her head. It was an unfortunate fact that since the end of the war, Sephiroth sightings were less and less as he divided his time between Zack, Denzel, Tseng, and whatever the hell else he did when no one knew where he was.

Tseng sighed. “Last I checked, he was near Midgar,” he responded, seemingly without thinking. He dropped a hand, brushing down a non-existent wrinkle in his pressed black slacks.

He and Elena had both returned to the traditional Turk outfit, finding it easier to be distinguished as Reeve’s confidante’s than when they were all dressed separately.

“You’ve spoken to him?” Reeve asked with a lifted brow, somewhat surprised.

As far as he knew, Sephiroth rarely, if ever, answered his phone. And that was usually only if Denzel was calling. He didn’t deny that child anything that was within his power to provide. Especially since Denzel was one of many on the planet who suffered from Geostigma.

It was the name given to the affliction invading most of the residents of Gaia. Vaguely resembling a very dark bruise, it was in fact more of a destruction of the flesh from within. At times it would seep and pulse a brackish fluid, and more often than not, it resulted in death. WRO scientists were frantically trying to discover both the cause and the cure but to no avail.

It was highly suspected, mostly by Vincent and Reeve, that the cause had something to do with Jenova and her effects on the Lifestream. They believed that it was the result of one’s body working excessively to fight off the infection brought on by Jenova’s lingering presence. Why it was mostly children to be affected, however, neither man had been able to discern.

Denzel wasn’t the only of them to be afflicted. The heroes had not been spared in the slightest. Vincent, Nanaki, Reno, and Zack all suffered from bruises of various sizes, leaving their significant others to worry incessantly.

This time, it was the Turk Commander’s turn to shift uncomfortably, a small semblance of guilt seeping into his expression. “No,” he admitted, closing the folder of information with a definite snap. “But the locater in his cell is easy to trace.”

Elena blinked in surprise, her mouth dropping. “You’re tracking him?” she queried with a hint of accusation.

The Wutaiian shook his head. “Not intentionally,” he explained. “But you know that we put locaters in the cell phones we gave he and Zack when we first met them.”

He knew far better than to intentionally follow Sephiroth. That would be a breach of trust that was already thin, not for lack of trying. Though he wasn’t adverse to taking advantage of something that had existed prior. It eased his fears, to some degree, to know if Sephiroth was at least moving.

His subordinate gaped at him a minute more before shaking her head. “Better not let Zack find out. Otherwise he’ll hound you every day to check on him.”

“In any case,” Reeve smoothly inserted, hoping to return their attention to the matter at hand. Both Turks flicked their eyes his direction and he continued, “This matter has utmost priority.”

Tseng frowned slightly, fingers tapping against the folder in his grasp. He was supposed to leave that afternoon for Wutai. He had promised Yuffie that he would help her instill some of the regulations for the new changes. But Reeve was absolutely right. This wasn’t really something that could wait. Otherwise they would risk a Jenova resurrection that their planet simply could not survive through again.

The Wutaiian rubbed a finger over his forehead, dreading the conversation with his cousin. She would most likely pout and whine, reminding him that this was the thirdtime he’d had to cancel on her for WRO related issues. Or Sephiroth issues. He had a lot of both of them.

“Sure, Reeve,” Elena said, dragging Tseng away from his thoughts. “We’ll take care of it right away.”

The President nodded, looking visibly relieved. His shoulders dropped the stark line of tension. “I only hope that I am being overly cautious and that there is nothing to be found.”

The door to his office chose that moment to open without any sort of announcement, admitting an uninvited to their discussion. All eyes turned towards the door, half-surprised to find Zack striding in quite determined.

“Hasanyone seen Sephiroth?” he demanded, seemingly not caring that he was interrupting their meeting. There was evidence of strain on his usual carefree expression, lines of stress making him appear far older than his young years.

In the months following the Chaos War, Zack had finally slipped into his new life, casting aside all that he retained from ShinRa. Dressed in simple black fatigues tucked into dark boots and a navy t-shirt, he certainly didn’t look as if he were employed as a monster hunter. Only the large blade strapped to his back, a recent gift from Elena named the First Ken, gave any clue to his occupation. It was an interesting weapon, truly formed of multiple different blades.

“Because it’s been like a month for me,” the former SOLDIER finished as he came to a halt in front of Reeve’s desk, crossing his arms and looking down at the President.

Reeve returned the gaze evenly, a frown marring his features. “He was last seen in Midgar but that’s all I know.”

Zack let out a frustrated sigh and raked a hand through his hair. “Something’s up with him,” he muttered lowly, shooting a pointed glance at Tseng before he continued. “This guilt fest he’s on has gone too far. But he won’t listen to me when I try to tell him that.” He mumbled something else, but it was too low for the others to catch.

Brown eyes darkened with concern. “Zack,” Elena murmured, moving to lay a hand on her lover’s arm. She knew how much Sephiroth pulling away from everyone was hurting him. It was a void that she couldn’t fill. Zack needed to be needed, in simplest terms, and as much as she cared for him, Elena didn’t need Zack. Not like Sephiroth did.

The former SOLDIER curled his lips, giving her his best reassuring smile before returning his attention to Reeve, rubbing a hand over his head again, a clear sign of stress, and disheveling his mane even further. “Look. You have anything for me to do? I’m goin’ out of mind.”

Reeve glanced at his desk, considering making Zack sign all of his paperwork if he was that bored. It wouldn’t be that hard to forge his signature. The President rubbed a forefinger over his temple, alarmed at himself for even thinking the thought, before he reached for a stack of documents that he knew listed strange monster sightings. They were mostly the results of over-active imaginations and paranoia but they still needed to be attended.

“The best I have-”

“Actually,” Tseng broke in smoothly before Reeve could even begin. “I would suggest that you tell him about the crater.”

Crystalline eyes widened slightly, flickering between the two men. “What about the crater?” Zack asked as the President lifted a brow in his second’s direction.

The Wutaiian gestured vaguely. “I was supposed to head to Wutai this afternoon. It would save me Yuffie’s whining if Zack could take my place on this mission.” And with Tseng being the only family the ninja had left since Godo’s death, he hated disappointing her. Not to mention he would be lying if he said he didn’t cherish every moment spent in the land of his birth.

“Fine,” Reeve agreed, sitting back in his chair. “It might be better if Zack went anyways. Just in case.”

The former SOLDIER frowned. “What do you mean?” he asked, not liking the tone their conversation had just taken.

Sighing, Reeve waved in the direction of the files Tseng still carried, a silent order for the man to hand them over. “There is a possibility that Jenova might still exist.”

Zack’s eyes widened impossibly large as he sucked in a horrified breath. “But…” he trailed off, well aware of the implications of that one sentence. The fact that Sephiroth was acting strange lately only increased his concern, especially since there were those odd instances during the Chaos War…

“I didn’t want to believe it either,” Tseng inserted with a shake of his head. “We’ve no choice but to investigate immediately.” Suddenly, he wondered if it wasn’t best if he went after all.

Reeve opened his mouth to respond but a sound cut him off. It was the demanding cry of an infant, and it was coming from the small receiver sitting on his desk. Reddening slightly, amber eyes darted towards the device before Reeve reached out and quickly switched it off, rising to his feet.

“Excuse me,” the President sighed. “I’ll return in a moment.” As his subordinates exchanged looks behind him, he slid out from his desk and turned towards one of the two doors situated on the backside of the wall, disappearing through the wooden portal.

The moment the door slid shut behind him, Elena smirked. “He is so whipped,” she commented teasingly. “All Revan has to do is make the slightest peep. She’s got her daddies wrapped already.”

“Which means she inherited more from Reno than we expected,” Tseng responded with a groan. He turned on his heels and thrust the papers in his hold towards Zack. “I leave this in your hands.”

The spiky-haired man took them with much reluctance, a troubled expression darkening normally cheerful features. “I’ll find out what’s going on,” he promised.

“See that you do,” Tseng threw out as he headed towards the door, hands lifting to tie his long hair out of his face. He would be piloting a helicopter and it would be troublesome otherwise. “Tell Reeve I’ll contact him later.”

“Sure, boss,” Elena called after him, Tseng responding with something noncommittal before he left the room, closing the door quietly after them. Her smile dropped once he was gone, concern replacing her fake teasing.

If it wasn’t bad enough that she had to worry about Tseng, but the melancholy of her lover was also of some concern. She had her hands full, it seemed.

The sounds of papers flapping drew her attention and she looked to Zack, finding that he was biting his lip as he scanned the documents. “I don’t understand,” he muttered, face paling with each page. “Hasn’t he suffered enough?”

“Zack…”

Reeve chose that moment re-emerge, sliding the door open with his hip as he carefully cradled his daughter in his arms. From one hand dangled a bottle and he was murmuring softly to Revan, the infant gurgling happily.

“I apologize,” the President announced, a bit shame-faced as he moved back into his seat, lowering himself carefully so as not to disturb his daughter. Aquamarine eyes, the same shade as Reno’s, stared back up at him lovingly.

Elena dropped whatever it was she was about to say to Zack, smiling softly in Reeve’s direction. “Its amazing how quickly I got used to the sight of that,” she commented wistfully as the President cradled his daughter in his arms, trying to coax her to drink from the bottle. “You’re so cute.”

He rolled his eyes. “Reno was up all night with her,” Reeve answered dryly, and a bit distractedly. “He deserves some sleep.” He conveniently left out the rest. The both of them were being run ragged in trying to care for their daughter. But he wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Smiling gently at Revan, he lifted his gaze only to find that Tseng had already left. He didn’t blame the man. Yuffie needed all the support she could muster at the moment.

“Sion is already waiting at the helicopter,” Reeve said to the other two remaining, returning his attention to Revan as he finally succeeded in persuading her to drink. She suckled contentedly, eyelids shuttering closed.

Zack nodded in understanding, dropping the documents down on Reeve’s desk. They weren’t necessary to take with him. “It shouldn’t take long. Thanks, Reeve.”

The President shook his head. “You won’t be thanking me if this turns out to valid.”

“That remains to be seen,” Elena reminded him before tapping Zack on the shoulder. “Come on soldier boy, let’s go.”

With a parting wave from the spiky-haired man, the two left his office, closing the door quietly behind them. Reeve breathed a sigh and looked down at his daughter, wishing wholeheartedly that it was nothing more than a couple of malfunctioning devices. He was fully sick of fighting for his life and worrying about those he cared for.

After the Chaos War, they had all hoped it would be over. They wanted it to be able to get on with their lives in peace. Cid and Vincent were finally reunited, spending their time traveling the world in his newly built and aptly named Valenwind. Cid was making a hefty sum out of his transport business and was even teaching some classes in Engineering, though he claimed the uppity brats annoyed him. Everyone knew he was just making airs.

Vincent, if not found aboard his lover’s airship, occasionally helped Reeve with taking out some of the more dangerous monsters that were still cropping up after Hojo’s experiments. Not to mention his attempts to further his relationship with Sephiroth. And as far as Reeve knew, the two men weren’t having any trouble.

In his arms, Revan made a discontented gurgle, momentarily distracting him. Reeve rose to his feet, shifting her weight in his arms. He moved towards the large window, which ran floor to ceiling, and stared out at the light of the afternoon sun, shining warmly through the glass. His daughter was comforted by the warmth and settled down again, suckling contentedly, allowing him to return to his ruminations.

After Cloud’s death, Aeris spent a lot of time in sorrow, missing her husband. But once her daughter – Midori – was born, she found herself too occupied to grieve. She now lived in Rocket Town along with a good many of the former heroes, also hoping to find her peace. Aeris was also caring for Denzel in Sephiroth’s absence, and had help time to time from her mother, who resided next door with Barret and Marlene. With her inability to work, Reeve had been helping her with bills until she was able to get back on her feet. He figured it was the WRO’s duty, considering it was ShinRa’s money and they were to blame for pretty much everything that was wrong with her life.

Yuffie was currently in Wutai, having taken over rule since her father’s death, which had hit the sprightly ninja pretty hard. She had recently come to terms with her own guilt in the matter, but it was still a sore spot for her. Luckily, she still had Nanaki to fall back on, the demi-human having given up residing with his clan to stay with the humans… and most importantly, her. Reeve wouldn’t be surprised to see another wedding on the horizon.

As for Nanaki himself, he divided his time between helping Yuffie in Wutai and overseeing the reconstruction in Cosmo Canyon. They were building a new center of learning called the Bugenhagen Institute and it was dedicated to the study of planet and life, as well as new technologies for the betterment of mankind. The WRO was also supporting this organization.

Rude and Shera were also living in Rocket Town where the former Turk had actually been appointed mayor in Cid’s place. Like Aeris, they were also celebrating the birth of their son, ironically on the same day as the flower girl’s daughter. Both former ShinRa employees were still happily married and that didn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Which Reeve was glad to hear. It was nice to see some stability.

As for himself, he and Reno and the rest of what was left of ShinRa relocated to the upper levels of Junon where he formed the World Regenesis Organization, better known as WRO. Three months after the Chaos War, they managed to successfully artificially inseminate Reis and nine months after that, Revan was born to them. It was one of the happiest moments in their life.

Reis hadn’t returned to Costa del Sol after giving birth, instead opting to remain in Junon and establish her own practice. Whenever she wasn’t helping Reeve and Reno take care of Revan, she was doing what she did best, medicine.

Archer had also followed them to Junon, dividing himself among his shares of Cid’s transport business and helping Reeve run the WRO. The president had been hoping that the engineer and his sister would start to hit it off but alas, there seemed to be only friendship between them. Though he did suspect that Archer had met someone. The man had been exceptionally joyous lately, opposite of the almost depressed air that had been hanging over him after the war.

Zack and Sephiroth moved to Junon as well, sharing an apartment in close vicinity to the WRO headquarters though Zack spent a fair share of his time at Elena’s and Sephiroth, well, sightings of him became less and less as time went on. Tseng and Archer also had apartments nearby. All worked with Reeve doing various works within the organization, though Sephiroth was more of a free agent than the rest. And after Zack gifted his former general with a cycle, it was that much easier for Sephiroth to disappear.

Reeve wasn’t sure what was going on with Sephiroth. In fact, no one knew. Not even Tseng, despite the fact that the two of them were together and had been since the Chaos War had been won. The former General had been gradually pulling away from everyone, even Zack, dividing his time between Denzel, Tseng, Zack, and whatever he did when no one could find him. It wasn’t that Reeve was worried for the sake of the world’s safety, but for Sephiroth himself. The man was a part of their family now.

The door behind his desk opened, disturbing Reeve from his recollections. He looked over his shoulder to see his husband emerging, yawning visibly as he cracked his neck. The moment he spotted Reeve, the Turk began to saunter his direction, coming up behind the President and wrapping his arms around him. Reno set his chin on Reeve’s shoulder, pressing a light kiss to the side of his husband’s neck.

“Mornin’,” the Turk drawled, nuzzling against the tanned flesh as the familiar scent of Reve floated to his senses.

The President hummed noncommittally. “It’s afternoon.”

“Same difference,” Reno responded with a faint shrug as he looked at their daughter over his husband’s shoulder. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over seeing you with a kid. It fits, yo.”

Reeve chuckled softly. “Elena said something to the same effect. Do I look that domestic?”

“Mmm, maybe.” Reno’s tongue flicked against his neck before he moved to nibble lightly on the bottom of Reeve’s ear, pressing the length of his body against his husband’s back.

The older man sighed, tilting his head to give Reno easier access to the sensitive skin. Intimacies were getting scarcer lately, despite all the help that Reis was giving. He and Reno were Revan’s parents, not his sister and he didn’t want to impinge on her kindness. They had decided to try and do all the raising themselves.

Reeve turned his head and their lips brushed. Smiling into the intentional encounter, Reno pressed forward, deepening the kiss as he slid his tongue across his husband’s lips. His mischievous hands crept downwards, his palm ghosting over Reeve’s groin. Warmth followed in the wake of his touch as Reeve eagerly dueled tongues with his husband.

Of course, as fate would have it, that moment Revan chose to spit out the bottle and make a loud gurgle, her hunger completely sated. She fidgeted in her father’s arms, immediately drawing his attention. Reeve broke off the kiss with much reluctance, turning his gaze down to his daughter.

“I swear. It’s like she knows,” he admitted with some exasperation, lifting the bottle away from Revan. Big blue eyes blinked up at him and Reeve couldn’t really find himself getting annoyed.

Reno sighed, knocking his forehead against Reeve’s shoulder. “You’re the one who wanted kids,” he teased, moving his hands back to the safer area of his husband’s waist. A yawn escaped him before he could stop it, along with the unwanted random thought that he was getting old. Kami, help him.

The President chuckled and handed the half-full bottle over his shoulder, letting Reno take it from him. The Turk promptly set it on the desk behind him, to be taken care of at a later time. For now, he just wanted to enjoy the moment. He set his chin back on Reeve’s shoulder, looking past the older man and out the window as his husband rocked their daughter.

“You know,” Reeve began conversationally. “I talked to my parents this afternoon.” Behind him, Reno stiffened but he pressed on nonetheless. “They want to see Revan.”

The Turk stood up straight, twisting his jaw. “No.” The denial left little room for argument but Reeve wasn’t finished.

He turned to face his husband. “She’s their granddaughter. It’s only right.”

Aquamarine eyes narrowed. “I’m not taking our daughter there. You know they don’t want to see me and frankly, I don’t want to see them, yo.” He frowned, face darkening with emotion as he remembered their last encounter. “I don’t want them near her until they can accept me as well.”

It wasn’t that Reeve didn’t understand, or that he wanted to subject Reno to their treatment. Honestly, his parents had never been his favorite people either. But Reis had begged him to try and make amends and for his sister, there was little he wouldn’t do. And she had a point. Revan might be the very thing to bind them all together as a family.

The President sighed, stepping towards his taller husband. “I haven’t forgiven them either,” he said gently as Reno reached for their daughter, taking the cooing infant into his arms and rocking her. “But maybe, all it takes is for one of us to bend.”

Reno was silent a moment, watching as Revan clasped her small hand around his finger. “We’re the only ones who bend, Reeve,” he murmured softly, his eyes flickering to his husband. “And eventually, one of us will break.” In his arms, Revan gurgled.

“Maybe you’re right,” the President admitted, pulling Reno towards him. His hand cupped the back of his husband’s neck, pressing their lips together in a gentle kiss. “But don’t make up your mind just yet. Please?”

The Turk sighed. “Whatever. Let’s just not talk about it right now.” He offered Revan a small smile, joggling her lightly in his arms. “Time for someone to get back to bed.”

She blew bubbles out her lips, murmuring incoherent burbles. Even Reno had to admit that his little girl was the cutest baby he had ever seen. And he never thought he would find himself saying something like that.

“It’s the middle of the afternoon,” Reeve reminded him with some amusement, catching his husband in the middle of stifling a very large yawn. “Or maybe it’s just that you want to go to sleep, hmm? Are you getting old already?”

Reno rolled his eyes. “Says the man recently griping over his thirty-sixth birthday.” But he wasn’t really annoyed, and showed that by kissing Reeve again, wholeheartedly hoping that the squirming infant between them would show signs of returning to sleep.

And then the phone rang, reminding both men just where they were .

Reluctantly breaking off their brief show of affection, Reno exhaled softly. “Better answer that, yo. It’s probably important.”

“And this isn’t?” Reeve countered with a raised brow. But he was already stepping towards his desk, anything to end the piercing shrill that had invaded his office. By the gods, he hated telephones. They were the bane of his existence.

He quickly snatched up his phone, holding the receiver to his ear. “Tuesti, here,” he barked crisply, half of him not really caring who was on the other line.

Until Archer’s voice poured through the speaker. The President relaxed slightly as he listened to one of his closest friends speak, the engineer giving a rundown of the specs for the new power source that Shera had sent over. Sensing that it would be a long explanation, he blindly located his chair, half-noticing that Reno had shifted it towards him with a hip before plopping down into it.

Reeve shot his husband a grateful smile, then grabbed pen and paper and immediately began jotting down notes. “I see,” he responded to Archer. “And how many did she say it would take to power it annually?”

A bit disappointed, Reno shifted Revan’s weight in his arms. He moved towards Reeve, pressing a kiss to the man’s forehead and got a small smile in return. “Me and chibi are headin’ back to bed, yo,” he murmured in explanation.

Reeve covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “Sorry.”

The Turk shrugged. He was used to it by now. And at least, Reeve wasn’t as consumed by his work as he had been before. “Just don’t work too hard,” he cast out over his shoulder, already heading towards the door. But Reeve had returned his attention to the phone.


To say that everything started with ShinRa would be a slightly false claim. Certainly, the mega corporation has much blame on its head, but not everything entirely. Of course, Jenova’s awakening would have never occurred if it hadn’t been for ShinRa’s meddling, but the company couldn’t possibly have known of the sheer danger of the “calamity from the skies.” Then again, who was to say what exactly a man like Euphraim Hojo understood.

Nevertheless, the story as the world knows it, began with ShinRa. It sucked the life out of the planet day by day using such machines known as mako reactors. Once a simple weapons development company, it gradually morphed into a world government and multi-conglomeration of soldiers, electric power, and scientific experiments of the worse kind… of the human kind. More than that, ShinRa controlled the entire planet by owning everything.

It was thanks to ShinRa that the world had power and materia. The public became incredibly dependent on the conglomeration and soon, the entire planet was under their control.

ShinRa’s military was first-rate, already at the height of its power especially after the defeat of Wutai. The development of SOLDIER only further cemented that fact, and it was well-known that those of the rank FIRST class were the most powerful, and the most feared.

But ShinRa’s scientists weren’t satisfied with just that. They wanted something more, something stronger, something… perfect. The ultimate soldier. The greatest machine of destruction ever known to mankind. And they wanted it human, or relatively so, and easily under their control.

And so the experiments began.

With Dr. Gast’s research on the Cetra, the scientists dug up an ancient being, originally hoping to use her knowledge to find the Promised Land. Instead, they revived mankind’s worst nightmare. And they chose to breed it, by injecting Jenova’s cells into other humans. They found that with her DNA, men could become stronger and faster, more intelligent. They would wield magic, and heal at an advanced rate. They could become like beasts, but with the emotions of men.

ShinRa’s ultimate success was a man named Sephiroth, borne from humans but imbibed with Jenova cells and mako from the moment he was first conceived. Dr. Hojo considered Sephiroth his greatest success, despite the horrible truth that he was experimenting on his own son. And when Sephiroth finally entered the army, he far outstripped all expectations. He was The General, a god to his fellow soldiers. He was impossible to defeat.

Until the truth came out.

No one knew if it was by Hojo’s plan or if the facts had merely slipped his mind. He had to have known what Sephiroth would find in Nibelheim when he gave the recommendation for the General and a small contingent to examine the malfunctioning reactor. Perhaps it was all a large experiment to see how Sephiroth would react when he discovered the truth of his origins.

Not even Hojo could have predicted the aftermath of Sephiroth’s rage. The hurt and the questions, the confusion that swirled in Sephiroth’s mind. It culminated. He blamed Nibelheim for his pain, but most of all, he blamed ShinRa. That night, a small town in the Nibel Mountains burnt to the ground, ruining the lives of countless people. That night, a young cadet was almost killed by the man he admired most, and two best friends fought themselves to a standstill in which one did not survive. That night… the fate of the planet was irrevocably changed.

The truth of Nibelheim was buried deep within ShinRa politics. The reactor was shut down, the town rebuilt and the world continued turning with few the wiser as to what had really happened. Experiments continued in the basement of the ShinRa mansion, but no one was there to hear any screams.

Years passed, five to be exact, and a terrorist group by the name of AVALANCHE began a civil war with ShinRa and Midgar. Bombing mako reactors was only a part of their plan to save the planet from the electric company. They enlisted the help of an ex-SOLDIER by the name of Cloud Strife, childhood friend of Tifa Lockhart, one of the main activists in AVALANCHE. Led also by Barret Wallace, AVALANCHE was determined to take down ShinRa and stop them from killing their beloved planet.

No one expected Sephiroth’s resurrection.

Somehow, the former General had found his way back to the living world, to take his revenge on the company he blamed for his unnatural life. He rescued Jenova’s remnants from the ShinRa laboratory at Midgar and assassinated the President, leaving his son and vice-president, Rufus, to inherit the throne. With world destruction at the forefront of his thoughts, Sephiroth left Midgar, his destination unknown.

AVALANCHE was forced to escape from Midgar after the Sephiroth incident, and in a small inn at the sleepy town of Kalm, Cloud Strife explained everything that he knew about the former General, including what happened in Nibelheim five years prior. With this information, the once-terrorist group turned its attention towards destroying Sephiroth.

Thus they began a pursuit around the world. Cloud and his rapidly expanding group of friends, bound together by their hatred for ShinRa, followed Sephiroth across continents and oceans. Chance events led them to the discovery of the Black Materia, the ultimate destruct magic, taking them to a place known as the Temple of the Ancients. There, Aeris Gainsborough proved to be of great help, and it was revealed that perhaps there was a deeper connection between Cloud and Sephiroth than was originally explained.

Seething beneath the surface of their group, more relationships were being bent and broken, built and renewed. Reeve Tuesti, former operator of Cait Sith, made his appearance. Nanaki and Yuffie formed an unlikely friendship. Cid and Vincent oscillated on the edge of their lust, neither willing to give in first.

With the Black Materia in Sephiroth’s hands, Aeris attempted to take him on by herself, stating that only she could summon Holy which would counter the effects of Meteor. Cloud and the others tracked her down to Bone Village in the north, arriving just in time to witness Sephiroth slaying the flower girl as she prayed for the safety of the entire world.

Her death was the catalyst for everything that followed after.

Enraged, Cloud and company tracked Sephiroth to the Northern Crater at the very top of Mount Gaea. Rufus and scientists were there as well with Tifa revealed as a traitor, but instead of confronting Sephiroth as expected, Cloud lost control of himself and aided Sephiroth in summoning Meteor before disappearing into the Lifestream.

With the planet’s weapons summoned, Holy lost, Cloud gone, and the companions in ShinRa’s hands, it seemed all hope was lost. They somehow managed to escape and found Cloud suffering from mako poisoning in Mideel. It took an attack by Ultima weapon before he was able to regain himself, claiming it was thanks to Aeris.

The search for a way to activate Holy began.

In the process, Aeris was revived, claiming that a new sacrifice was to be made. The final battle was drawing nearer and nearer, but first, there was the matter of ShinRa. Thinking that they were doing good, President Rufus had ordered that the mako cannon be moved to Midgar with the intention of aiming it at the barrier protecting Sephiroth at the Northern Crater. Unfortunately, Hojo had other plans in mind and Midgar was a small price to pay for his desires.

Cloud and his companions were left with little choice but to stop Hojo but were too late to save most of Midgar from Diamond Weapon’s attack. ShinRa was now finished, scattered to the four winds, and even one of the Turks had joined their side. Reno, revealed to be Reeve’s lover of over five years, threw his lot in with them. There was nothing left but to defeat Sephiroth, now accessible thanks to ShinRa’s meddling.

No one expected that the sacrifice would be claimed so soon. They defeated Sephiroth, but not without cost to themselves. Vincent Valentine fell in the final battle, along with the strange appearance of Diablos and Vincent’s final form, Chaos, leaving his lover devastated. But at least the world was saved.

Or so they thought.

There was another danger brewing beneath the surface, another originally begun by Hojo but furthered by a demi-god’s own madness. He wanted freedom, to escape from the chains of rule and responsibility. And Balaam didn’t care who or what was destroyed in his pursuit. He wanted the mortals to pay for his pain. He wanted the immortals to suffer for the misery they had caused him.

Gongaga was the first to be attacked, but only because they had unwittingly been harboring a very much alive Vincent Valentine, afflicted with amnesia thanks to Balaam’s influence. He fought off the demon horde, but not before his caretakers fell to their hands. Disgusted with his inability to save them, he began a search for his identity.

Meanwhile, problems were raging across the world. Tifa, having lived through Diamond Weapon’s attack on Midgar, was causing problems for Reeve, the new President of ShinRa. Cid Highwind was rapidly degenerating in his misery, still constantly searching for a lover he refused to believe died. Aeris and Shera, both pregnant, feared for the health of their children thanks to the mako flooding through their husband’s veins.

A war was beginning, with none of them the wiser.

Towns were attacked one after another. Cosmo Canyon, Midgar, Wutai, Junon, and Costa del Sol, all of them nearly wiped out by hordes of monsters and huge demons. These were later revealed to be demi-gods, the deities of the summon materia made flesh. Not only that, but some were actually bonded to the mortals, imparting on them great power. The heroes were no exception to this.

Balaam, the deity to blame for the madness, had once been the god of Chaos. Until he staged a revolt and was exiled from Elysium along with his three partners in crime. They were sealed in the grey-black of the Apocalypse materia. Then Hojo found them, forcing the materia to bond with Vincent’s body, thus giving him his fearsome limit breaks. But after his fall into the Lifestream, Balaam and his cronies were able to separate, and were quickly growing in power.

Recognizing the threat, the Planet was quick to respond. She brought back to life two warriors, one to be her voice, and one for an opportunity at redemption. Zack Loire, fallen in his attempts to protect a young Cloud, was given his second chance at life. And Sephiroth, driven insane by ShinRa and controlled by Jenova, was offered the opportunity to heal the world he had once attempted to destroy.

One by one, the friends discovered their bonds with the demi-deities as they gradually drew back together into the fighting unit they had been. Reno rescued himself, fighting free of Tifa and her three minions, just in time to help Wutai in its battle. Vincent found his way to Rocket Town, where he ran into Rude and Shera who put him in contact with Cid. Everyone gradually began to gravitate towards Midgar, and ShinRa’s new headquarters.

Sephiroth and Zack’s revival was revealed, prompting much distrust. Former enemies were now friends with a bigger foe at hand, one far more threatening than Sephiroth had ever been. Cloud appointed Sephiroth as their new leader, fully believing that he would have another purpose in the battles to come.

In an attempt to end the war early, Sephiroth conducted a full-out assault on what was believed to be Balaam’s lair. Suspicious that it might be a trap, he left a small force behind to defend Midgar. He wasn’t prepared for the extent of Balaam’s manipulation. The bulk of the fighters headed to the Lost Grounds without knowing that two armies were heading for the towns of Icicle and Midgar.

While Sephiroth and his team stepped deeper into the hands of the enemy, those left behind disregarded his orders, unable to justify leaving the fate of innocents in the hands of demons. Reeve, Yuffie and Elena headed to Icicle where they suffered a terrible loss, so severe that the ShinRa president fell into a coma that no amount of healing would cure. Not even the demi-deities could help him.

Meanwhile, Midgar was attacked by the bulk of Balaam’s forces. In a desperate attempt to save his wife, unborn child, and those friends remaining behind, Cloud Strife gave his life so that they would escape to Fort Condor. In the aftermath of defeating his opponents, Midgar was laid to waste, becoming little more than a heap of rubble.

At the Lost Grounds, Sephiroth and his team gained a victory, but not without their own share of pain. Both Zack and Cid were injured, Zack joining Reeve in an inexplicable coma. Disheartened, Sephiroth led them to Fort Condor, having learned of the attack of Midgar, but not its aftermath, or what exactly occurred

The companions were beaten and discouraged, Balaam somewhere beyond their abilities to find. Or so they thought. Remembering Tseng’s hidden talents, Sephiroth sought out the Turk for his aid in locating their enemy. Fighting his fears, Tseng was successfully able to identify the information, but not without inadvertently discovering the truth.

Balaam had finished the Apocalypto weapon. It was only a matter of time before he used it to destroy their planet. Even if they didn’t understand what exactly the machine was, its destructive capabilities could be inferred.

The stage for the final confrontation was an island northeast of Mideel, a new place where the Lifestream welled. It was there that Sephiroth and all that were capable of fighting made their last stand. Live or die, the fate of the planet was in their hands.

Demi-deity and mortal stood together on a stormy morning. The airship Highwind was the first casualty of the battle, going down in a blazing glory but not before its crew was rescued due to Sephiroth’s anima’s quick thinking. Once on land, the companions were unintentionally separated.

Balaam’s true weapon was revealed, Apocalypto nothing more than a tool to break the seal on an insane demi-goddess imprisoned thousands of years ago. Persephone took great pleasure in bringing Tseng to his knees and locking Sephiroth in memories of the past, using him against his fellow teammates. It was only thanks to Isis’ sacrifice that Balaam was defeated. She gave her life to take down both her errant son and Persephone.

The biggest shock of all was perhaps when Kami, the creator himself, appeared in front of the heroes. He berated his “children” for the war and officially removed the demi-deities from their purpose in the mortal world. It was his hope that everything would return to normal by his choice, leaving the fate of the planet in the hands of the mortals.

Sephiroth and his team were transported back to Fort Condor courtesy of Kami, ultimately victorious, but not a one of them remaining unchanged after the war. Luck was on their side however, both Zack and Reeve regaining consciousness and easing the sorrows of their loved ones.

A funeral was held for Cloud and one by one, the friends gradually dispersed, moving on with their lives. The planet hovered on the edge of peace, frantically trying to recover from the devastation. It was Reeve who answered the call of the people, turning the once hated ShinRa into the World Regenesis Organization, dedicated to the protection of the planet and its citizens.

Time moved forward, slowly but surely, letting the world heal and recover from the second war in less than a year’s time. The last of the mako reactors were abandoned, inspiring a search for new energy-creating methods. Children were born, lives were changed, love was admitted… and secrets were born. A new threat emerged that none expected, a deadly disease called Geostigma that attacked indiscriminately.

No one knew how it was spread or what caused it… or how to cure it. Death was the ultimate result of this tragic sickness, and it was sweeping throughout the world but mostly, it struck children. Seeping wounds, constant fatigue, discoloration of the skin… these symptoms were only a small part of the malady. WRO scientists worked round the clock to research the disease but were coming up empty handed.

The aforementioned peace seemed but a distant memory, but the people of Gaia still had hope. They still thought to believe that it would all be right again, that they could dream without sadness.

Little did they know fate had yet one more trial in store for them.

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