Title: Return of the Departed
Series: Final Fantasy VII
Chapter Rating: PG (due to graphic violence)
AN: Cloud will be okay I promise! I'm not THAT heartless cause I luff the chocobo head!
Cloud carried Angel who had fallen asleep in the car, towards the entrance of the WRO. He saw Denzel wave to him before his adoptive son headed into the staff entrance.
Shifting the child in his arms. Cloud moved towards the entrance. It had been a long drive, but they were here, once Angel was okay Cloud would bring Freedom here to be with her brother. The young infant had reminded Cloud why he didn't want a second child. The middle of the night wake up calls and the crib bouncing.
A crash sounded behind him. Cloud stopped and looked over his shoulder.
The second Calamity landed in the middle of the road.
The long golden blonde hair whipped about him wildly and Cloud let out a curse looking to Angel in his arms.
The boy was stirring slowly waking up from his nap.
“Yield the childe to me and you shall survive the epitaph.”
Cloud shook his head. “Not happening.” He stated.
Angel's voice was quiet as he spoke tiredly. “C-cloud?”
Cloud looked down to the amber eyed child in his arms and he set Angel down. His hand ruffling up Angel's hair and smiling. “Run inside okay get them to hide you.”
Angel nodded and he took off inside through the revolving doors and vanished from sight.
Cloud stood up and he turned round looking to the alien.
“Who are you?”
“Hloskova.” The visor snapped up and Cloud saw those familiar purple eyes.
“What do you want with Jenova?” Cloud demanded.
The smile was cold, heartless. “To persevere our domination of the stars. Initiating with this one.” His hand flicked up skyward.
Cloud saw the sky begin to darken, clouds swirling around above them. Cloud's hand moved to his sword at his side and he drew the blade out.
“Find another planet.” He snapped.
Cloud saw Hloskova phase out of sight and he spun the blade behind himself, he felt the force of the blow. Cloud glanced over his shoulder seeing the taller blonde look down at him, the pupiless purple eyes flashed, before narrowing and the visor snapped down.
Cloud saw the spikes coming out from the alien's arm. The same arm that he had used to crush Cissnei's spine.
Cloud could feel his heart clench. The woman who had given Zack a reason to smile after all the torment Sephiroth and Jenova put him through. This creature took that from him.
The alien's arm blocked the blade like it was a sword itself. The hair moved on it's own accord and Cloud lept out of the way as the ends stretched out and they spiked the ground where he had just been.
Several holes and cracks remained in the concrete where he had stood mere seconds ago.
The hair moved like some weird mechanical tentacle creature. He had not fought anything like this man ever before. Even with the Weapons none of them... were like this.
Not a single emotion flashed across the alien's face as he phased out again in a puff of smoke. Cloud jumped up the ground beneath him cracking and he unclipped the second blade from his sword and blocked the several tentacle spikes flying up at him.
His blades moved about him preventing any direct hits, the sound of metal against metal reverberating in the air.
'Metal hair... If Jenova lived... would she have this kind of power?' He felt himself wonder worried.
This alien believed she was indeed out there.
'Stay hidden Angel. Please stay hidden.'
Cloud saw Hloskova vanish from sight again. He turned himself round and landed on a ledge outside the WRO and he looked behind himself and smirked. Reeve's office.
The luck of the draw.
Reeve was asleep on the couch underneath the window. Cloud pressed his back to the glass and watched as Hloskova appeared on the ledge on the building opposite the WRO.
Cloud tapped on the window.
It slid open and he saw Reeve half asleep look at him in confusion sitting up on his couch.
“Cloud... what in Gaia's name?” He sighed. “You could use the door you know.” The half asleep director commented.
“Angel is in the foyer. Get him to safety.”
Reeve blinked. “Cloud...”
Cloud just let out a breath. “This could take some time. He's not like anything we've ever faced before.”
Cloud heard the gasp of Reeve as the director stared beyond him. “That's him. Isn't it?”
“Yes, get everyone away from the windows and make sure Angel is safe.” Cloud jumped off the window ledge.
Reeve watched as the blades spun around the fighter but none of them seemed to pass the barrier of spikes on the alien's arms. Hair shooting out like a million needles Cloud deflected them.
The two spinning round in battle in mid air outside the WRO.
Reeve picked up his phone and dialed down to reception.
“Pania. Is there a young boy there with you?” He waited for the receptionist to give him an affirmative answer, she sounded confused but confirmed that the boy was there hiding under her desk. “Okay please inform all workers on any and all the levels that are near the windows to stay away. I will explain later. Also let Vincent know his assistance is required as soon as possible.”
Reeve moved to the window and he watched as the hair shot out. Cloud deflected the spikes again before the alien seemed to get frustrated and his leg swung round and kicking Cloud in the side of the ribs sending the blonde back into the building across the road.
Cloud didn't have the chance to move when the hair struck him in the shoulder pinning him to the building before it lifted him up. Pain coursed through his shoulder. Cloud felt the hair break though the other side of his body before it curled round his arm and looping back through the hole in his shoulder.
They were both lowered to the ground. Well almost. Cloud left hoovering a few feet in the air. Trapped by the hair.
“You are essential to his sanity.” Hloskova commented.
Cloud glared at the golden blonde alien. “So?” He snapped.
“To remove you... from existence, will cause his deterioration.”
More hair shot out and Cloud felt his skin punctured over and over again by a thousand needles.
He gripped his sword in his right hand then brought it slicing through all the hair.
Cloud hit the ground and he saw the blood dripping from his body. He glared up at the alien.
“I'm not that easy to kill.”
Hloskova merely smirked at him. “I bid your endeavor. Jenova's childe was defeated by your hand, however I conclude times of tranquility have dulled your skills. You are not my concern.”
“I won't let you hurt Zack.” Cloud pushed himself up picking up a blade in each hand before snapping them back into place together. He could feel the blood dripping down his arms as he pulled the blade back and spun it round dropping it in front of himself as he fell into a stance.
“You can not control the inevitable. He will discover your degrading corpse and I will terminate whatever sanity he has left.” Hloskova merely commented.
“Not happening.” Cloud growled.
Hloskova just seemed to smirk at him and before Cloud knew it the alien had vanished from his line of sight again.
Cloud moved to the side and he barely avoided the fist that appeared out of nowhere the smoke forming after Hloskova's body.
Cloud jumped back a couple of feet. He glanced up seeing Reeve looking down on him. The concern on the director's face visible even from this far away.
Cloud looked to the alien again and then he noticed the alien was holding out his left hand.
Purple energy seemed to formed around Hloskova's hand. A soft sound of unseen gears moved, the noise seemed to resonate in the air.
Cloud's eye twitched as the Alien's hand began to separate, bands of data forming a circle in a straight line from his forearm to several inches down encasing something that seemed invisible.
Metal of some description began to become visible, between the bands data forming from nothing.
Cloud blinked and when he looked at the Alien again. Hloskova held a sword, it was a cross between Sephiroth's Masamune and a gunblade, gold plated like his mechanical wings.
Cloud frowned. “What are you?”
This was not something he was aware Jenova's race could do. It just wasn't possible. She was organic like a virus last he heard, not mechanical based.
Hloskova's visor flicked up and the purple eyes flickered over Cloud. The smirk that tainted the alien's lips was enough to make Cloud's skin crawl.
“Reconstructed by cataclysmal design. I am their synthetic intention.”
Cloud frowned the way this alien spoke was like he had been programmed.
Zack could hear his phone ringing as he flew along side Seph. It wasn't a willing truce, he just had to reach Cloud and Angel before Hloskova did. For some reason Sephiroth decided to follow him.
Cursing Zack pulled out his phone and answered as he flew. “Vincent what's going on?”
Zack listened to the former Turk and he saw Sephiroth watching his expression he must have seen the look.
“Obviously we need to hurry.” Sephiroth commented.
“On my way I'll meet you there, Vincent distract him, make sure Cloud and Angel are alright.” Zack snapped the phone shut, he glanced to Sephiroth who flew beside him.
“Why...” Zack looked at former General beside him.
Sephiroth looked at Zack. “Because I will not let him drive you insane.”
Zack looked down at the ground beneath them. “It takes a lot to drive me insane Seph.” He stopped realizing he had reverted back to using his nick for Sephiroth's name.
Sephiroth did not seem to notice that or he ignored it. “He is my mother's life partner, I can feel that much.”
“So that would make him what your step-dad?” Zack scoffed. “Doesn't mean you have to help me.”
“I betrayed you, therefor I owe you this, perhaps more.”
Zack felt his face flush he looked away nodding. “You don't just owe me Seph. There are others out there that you hurt as well.”
Sephiroth sighed. “I hurt you the most. Mentally the damage I caused will take time to atone for.”
Zack nodded understanding. “Okay... but you don't have to start now.”
“Do you think you can fight him alone in your grief? If you recall after Angeal died.” Sephiroth stated.
Zack let out a breath. “Okay you made your point, but I'm not helping you if Cloud runs you through with a sword.”
“Fair enough.” Sephiroth replied.
Words became pointless now, all he had was the will to live to protect Angel like he had promised Zack. Another promise to keep, there was more at stake in this promise to Zack than the last one.
Cloud followed Hloskova's movements with his eyes and he blocked the sword blows, but he could feel the vibration rock through the blade pushing him back a few feet. Almost but not quite knocking him off his feet.
Drawing the second blade from his sword, the metallic hair shot out from around the alien and using the blade he sliced through the hair.
Each swing of the sword blocked more and more of the hair as it flew at him in a constant flow.
Hloskova's pointed the blade at Cloud and several bullets fired from the sword. Cloud flicked his wrist deflecting the bullets.
Hloskova flew at him and Cloud blocked the blade of the sword with his own. The fist struck the other blade the impact sending Cloud backwards several feet.
The alien phased behind him and Cloud felt it as the sword burst through his stomach.
The hair wrapping around his neck. Cloud gasped as he felt the blade twist round before. The mechanical gears began to turn and the sword was digitized to have several mini spikes on the edge of the blade each point directed back towards Cloud's stomach.
Cloud's hand gripped the blade and he growled fighting Hloskova's motion to pull the blade free and probably rip half of Cloud's stomach contents out through his back.
Lifting the taller alien up he spun round bringing the blonde alien's body slamming into a post not once but twice.
Holding one hand firmly on the blade Cloud sucked in a breath and he swung his sword down behind him and he could feel it pass through the metal.
Hloskova fell back and looked at the stump that had been his left arm.
Cloud jumped forward a few feet and he pulled the blade out through the front before tossing it at the alien's feet.
His hand moving to the hole and he looked at the blood that came gushing out of the wound.
He activated the materia on his bracelet letting the mastered Cura heal his wound.
Cloud watched as the alien picked up his blooded weapon that had once been his left arm and he held it to the stump.
Cloud watched as the digitized lights formed round the joint and the gears began clicking, the alien let go of his arm.
Just like that, his severed limb was reattached with not even a trace that it had ever been severed.
The left hand pointed at him and Cloud dropped back into a stance one sword in front the other resting by his leg. He could feel his body wasn't going to last much longer, not without proper medical attention.
'Cloud... hang on...'
He heard the soft familiar female voice on the wind.
The gentle breeze drifted around him, the light scent of flowers filled the air around him.
He smirked. “Thanks...”
'Zack's on his way...'
It was the news he needed to hear. He only had to hold this alien off until Zack arrived. He just hoped Zack wasn't too far away.
Reeve had been just watching the scene below, he had been ready to send some of his men out there to help when Cloud got impaled. But once again the blonde had proved harder to kill.
Reeve opened the drawer to his desk and he rummaged through it. He had a spare one lying around somewhere. He just had to find it.
He made a mental note to really organize his notes better before the day was out.
The door to his office opened. The red cape billowing behind his old friend.
“Vincent. Thank Gaia.” Reeve exclaimed. It was as if that was the moment the missing item decided to peek it's head out and say 'here I am'.
Reeve picked up the yellow feather. Walking up to Vincent he placed the golden feather in the gunman's hand.
“Take this to Cloud outside. He will need it.”
Vincent looked at Reeve. “What is going on?”
“Take a look for yourself.” Reeve opened the window up again.
The gunman stepped up to the window looking at the spectacle below. Red eyes followed the battle raging below. The frown on the gunman's face was obvious, he knew this. Cloud did not look like he was fearing too well against the alien.
Reeve looked to him. “To take Angel I'm afraid. Cloud is doing his best. Do you think-?”
Vincent placed a golden boot onto the ledge stepping up onto it.
“You do not need to ask.” He stated. The breeze blew the cape back into the office as the gunman lept from the ledge free falling towards the ground.
Reeve ran up to the window and watched as Vincent landed on a balcony on one of the lower levels. Stepping onto the railing Death Penalty was loaded and pointed in the direction of the alien and the shots rang out.
The visor of the alien flicked down as the head tilted to look in Vincent's direction.
“Vincent be careful!” Reeve shouted out to his friend.
Cloud was glad for the distraction Vincent gave. It would ease the battle a bit on his body. He knew his energy was running on low.
The gunman landed next to him the cape flapping out behind him as he stepped in front of Cloud.
Cloud was aware of the feather thrown at him.
It landed on his shoulder and activated.
“From Reeve.” He stated.
“Thanks. I just got a boost from Aerith too.”
Vincent's red eyes narrowed at the alien. “Then she obviously knows the outcome of this battle.”
“Zack's on his way.” Cloud stated.
“Can you hold out till then?” Vincent asked.
Cloud just smirked grateful for his friend's company. “I can now.”
A purple stream of light flashed across the middle of the alien's visor, it flickered like a loading screen. Vincent quirked a dark eyebrow.
“He's completely mechanical.” Cloud stated.
“Unusual.” Vincent stated.
Cloud nodded. “I don't think bullets will work on him.”
“Then we have to just get in close.” Vincent lept off the ground and flipped over Hloskova Cloud charging the alien from the front.
The golden claw struck through the golden alloy breast plate and the claw ripped at the plate, drawing it from the alien's body. Cloud moving in stabbing Hloskova through the chest and lifting the alien up on the sword he flung him to the side and down the street.
The alien's right hand grabbed the ground, the claws on the edge of his fingers tearing long scratches down and breaking through the concrete.
The head looked up at them as the visor flipped up and purple eyes glared at them. The wires exposed in the alien's chest seemed to 'bleed' red. But the smell was like that of an oil leak.
The echo of gears turning, then the purple digitized lights appeared over the chest of the alien as he digitally repaired himself on the spot.
“His abilities would intrigue Reeve.” Vincent stated.
“Well if we can kill him, we can give him the parts to study later.” Cloud huffed, he was getting more than annoyed with this alien.
The more Cloud fought him and saw his abilities, he understood. If this golden alien had originally been of Jenova's race and they had parted ways to meet up later. It was quite possible like Jenova Hloskova's abilities came from another planet that 'tested' on him like Hojo had on Jenova.
“You look like you figured something out.” Vincent commented.
Cloud nodded. “He said something to me before you arrived. 'Reconstructed by cataclysmal design. I am their synthetic intention.' I believe he meant he was experimented on like Jenova, but not here, somewhere else.”
“That world probably doesn't exist now either.” Vincent added.
“Probably not. They could have given him an expiry button though.” Cloud looked to Vincent. “When we get out of this I need you to see if Shelke can net dive for us.”
“I will ask her.” Vincent glanced to the alien in time to see the visor snap down and the alien phased out of their sight.
Zack could see the WRO in the distance and he could hear the sound of a metal based battle and he frowned.
“Not a good sign.” Zack growled, trying to kick up the speed of his flight.
Sephiroth seemed to hang back and Zack looked back understanding. Sephiroth would not show himself to Cloud, not yet.
Zack did not mind.
Flying over the area Zack saw Hlsokova vanish from sight and he growled. He knew what was going to happen next.
“CLOUD WATCH OUT!” Zack shouted.
The blonde looked up at him, before he spun round and blocked the sword of the alien.
Zack saw the flash of digitized light.
And the sword passed through Cloud's sword through his chest bursting out the back the hair shot out like blades one through Cloud's leg, the other through his stomach and the last through his neck. All of it in one single motion.
“CLOUD!” Zack swooped in landing.
Hlsokova looked at him.
The sword and hair retracting from the blonde's body, Cloud falling over backwards.
Zack dashed in catching Cloud and he saw the flash of yellow and let out a breath of relief as the phoenix down brought a moan from Cloud's lips.
Blue eyes looked up at him, tired, weak.
Zack growled glaring up at the alien.
The metal clinked as the alien walked up to him.
Metal and blood glistened together along the blade of the alien and he brought it up to his lips licking the edge of the blade, tasting Cloud's blood.
“Human blood taints her essence.” He seemed to purr.
Zack saw Vincent, the gunman suddenly behind the alien, death penalty pressed against the back of Hlsokova's head.
There was a flash as the gun went off. Metal, blood, oil, brain, sparks flew as the body dropped to the ground.
Zack pulled Cloud up to him. “Hey buddy... you did good, you can hear me right?”
Cloud nodded. “Y-yeah... but...” The gloved hand moved to his own chest as he sucked in air. “Something... else is inside... me.”
Zack's eyes went wide. “Something else? What something else?” He asked worriedly.
“Don't know.” Cloud's eyes closed.
Zack pulled out his materia activating trying his best to use the cura to heal whatever it was inside his friend.
'It's the infection Zack, it's touched his soul...'
Zack could hear Angeal's voice behind him and he pulled Cloud even closer shaking his head.
“No.” Vincent stated. “The Phoenix down worked fine. But something else is preventing him from returning to consciousness.”
Zack heard the revolving doors turn and he saw Denzel stepping outside walking up to them slowly, his expression one of shock.
“C-Cloud.” The teenager spoke his voice shaking.
“DAD!” Zack saw Angel race past Denzel and up to him, clinging to his side.
A woman was close behind. “Please Angel the director said to stay indoors!”
“Is Cloud sleeping?” Angel asked hanging onto Zack's arm.
Zack nodded. “Yes.”
Angel looked up at him. “Like mommy?”
“No... luckily.” Zack was relieved at that.
Zack smiled as Angel ran his hand through the feathers in one of his wings. “You look good with wings daddy.” He smiled. “Like an angel.”
Zack rested his forehead on his son's head. He looked to the woman standing over them.
“I can take him back inside sir.” She looked to the wings blinking.
Angel shook his head. “I wanna stay with you.”
“Angel it's just for a few moments we have to get Cloud looked at okay.” Zack looked to the wings. He reached into them and pulled out a loose feather before placing it in Angel's hands. “Since I can't come inside with you just yet. Take a part of me instead. Is that okay?”
Angel looked at the feather and grinned. “Okay!”
Zack smiled at the woman. “Thank you- uh.”
“Pania. I don't expect you to remember. It's okay.” She took Angel's hand and walked back to the door with the child.
Vincent moved to Zack side and crouched down picking up Cloud and draping him over his shoulder. “I'll take him to the medic.”
Denzel moved up to Vincent, his hand moving to touch Cloud on the back of the head.
“They'll make sure he's okay right?”
“They will do their best.” Vincent stated to the youth.
“Okay... thanks Vincent.” Zack stood up and he walked past Hlsokova's body.
The sound of gears shifting and changing made Zack stop before he saw the hand of the body twitch, the gears in the back of the skull moved and Zack saw it. Hlsokova's body was reconstructing itself.
“Shit! EVERYONE MOVE!” He shouted.
The alien stood up suddenly then phased out.
“No! GET AWAY!” Zack shouted.
Pania pulled Angel away and Zack saw the blade pass through the left side of her chest. Her body falling limp on the blade. It was obvious Hlsokova had pierced her heart making her death instant. He flung her body to the side before grabbing Angel by the arm.
“NO! LET GO OF HIM!” Zack growled drawing his sword and charging at the alien.
The sword arm digitized and returned to an arm with a hand and it caught the buster sword like it was nothing. Zack pushed against the blade driving it through mixture of bone, metal and tissue.
The left arm was sliced vertically up the arm in half.
Angel looked up at him and Zack froze seeing those amber eyes looking at him.
That noise formed again and Zack heard the gears turning. He saw the two halves of the arm move independently of each other.
“Zack get away!”
Zack could hear Sephiroth's shout and then one half of the arm twirled round his body locking him in place, crushing him like a snake to prey.
The other half of the arm twirled round by his neck and Zack saw the needles forming.
Zack felt the needles pierce the side of his neck, it wasn't just one needle. It felt like at least twenty.
Hlsokova's visor flashed, the line flashed across the middle before jumping up like a pulse. Then the lines started moving faster, the pulse falling into a steady beat matching with Zack's racing heart.
“Instillation in progress.”
Zack could feel something passing through the needles into his skin and he let out a cry trying to break free.
“Stop it!” Angel screamed. “You're hurting him!”
Zack's body felt stiff, like whatever this infection was froze him to the spot, his eyes moved to look at Angel's tear stricken face.
“Due to complete system update in three minutes.” Hlsokova's needles retracted and Zack was let go. He felt his body dropped to the ground before the two halves of the alien's arm began to digitize back together.
Zack saw the metal wings activate and the alien pulled Angel to him before jumping up and shooting off into the sky.
Zack felt his body pulled up and he gasped for air.
The former general held him like how Zack had held Cloud only moments ago.
The hand touched the side of his face. “I know a doctor, let me take you and Cloud to her.” Sephiroth's voice sounded calmer than his own frantic heart jumping a million miles a minute.
“Zack...” Vincent moved up to him, glancing to Sephiroth.
“Trust him Vin...cent. If he- wanted us, dead, we- would be... already.” Zack spoke through gasping breaths.
“Zack are you sure?” Vincent asked.
“Y-yeah...” Eyes closed.
He didn't want to think what was going to happen when this 'program' had fully been 'installed' into his body.
Sephiroth looked to Cloud over Vincent's shoulder.
“This doctor is a friend of Ezekiel's, currently she is located in Mideel. You can get the address from the Turk, but they both need to be tended to.”
Vincent frowned glancing to Zack, Sephiroth was about to sling Zack over his shoulder, when Zack let out an agonized cry, pulling free from Seph, his hands going to his ears.
The raven haired fighter falling to his knees doubling over.
“It's begun.” Sephiroth looked to Vincent. “I do not trust the WRO, for they are funded by ShinRa, I do not trust ShinRa. Not with his life.” He shot Vincent a challenging look. “What do you think Cloud's first question will be when he wakes up?”
“Zack.” Vincent stated and sighed.
He did not want to do this, he did not trust Sephiroth, but what Zack said held truth. If this was the Sephiroth of old then they would all be close to death, all of them.
Vincent reluctantly handed Cloud over, the scowl never leaving his face.
“Forgive me Cloud.” Vincent whispered.
Sephiroth flung the blonde over his shoulder before walking up to Zack.
Vincent saw the flash of the blade. Sephiroth did too obviously and dodged with ease. Zack lunged at him in some weird possessed rage. The buster sword flying past Sephiroth as he dodged the next swing and the third. Each movement fluid like water, he didn't even quirk a brow at the crazed Zack.
Sephiroth frowned he dodged and phased behind Zack.
“Your movements are slow in comparison to how you normally fight.” His hand striking out to clip the raven haired fighter across the back of the neck.
Zack slumped forward instantly unconscious and Sephiroth caught him over his arm before he flung Zack over his shoulder.
He looked over his shoulder to Vincent.
“Remember Ezekiel knows the location. If you do not believe me I will get her to call Reeve when we arrive.” Sephiroth lept up into the air, his wing shooting out and using the wind to glide away from where Vincent stood.
Vincent looked up at Reeve, who had just witnessed the entire thing. He let out a breath before looking to Denzel who was looking at him.
“Go find Ezekiel. We need to have a talk with him.” Vincent stated.
Denzel nodded before running inside the WRO building.
~*~*~To Be Continued...~*~*~