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His Lifestream

by Del S

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Another Path
In 1997, a group of Ecoterrorists called AVALANCHE initiated a series of bombing attacks upon Shinra company facilities. AVALANCHE were traced to Sector Seven Lower of Midgar City, and a small team of Midgarian Federal Police and Shinra Internal Affairs officers attempted to scout out the area. However, the authorities were discovered, and the terrorist group brought the plate down, injuring dozens and nearly killing hundreds. However, in part due to the bravery and sacrifice of police officers and fire crews, fatalities were low. Of the estimated forty suspected terrorists, all were killed, along with three fire-fighters, five police officers, and seventeen civilians.

The police agencies were criticized for giving AVALANCHE the breathing space to attempt their last stand, but the police say they had no other choice in the matter but to attempt to scout the area out before risking any arrest teams.

However, the truth was, no arrest team was scheduled. Instead, in Sectors Eight and Six, members of SOLDIER had been on standby to assault the sector. This is what would have happened, had the original mission gone to plan rather than being replaced by a Turk operation...

'Thank you. Keep the change,' he said to the shopkeeper. The materia was of the lowest grade, and poorest quality, but it was certainly functional: and certainly available to any of the suspected terrorists who were hidden here somewhere. The informant here claimed the 7th Heaven bar to have been a staging post for a squad of AVALANCHE soldiers, with other bars and houses in the sector used to house the rest of the twenty or so terrorists and their equipment. The leadership was said to be based here, and the mercenaries they hired occasionally, never remained here, except one. A check of the records had concluded former SOLDIER 3rd class, Cloud Strife to probably be that mercenary, a member of Sephiroth unit listed MIA in the Old Nibelheim Village incident.

As he walked out of the materia shop, he saw the bar across the litter-strewn street, The Kings Arms. Outside it stood a serious-looking youth of about 18, not making the least effort to disguise the Tiger .48 automatic he carried at his right hand hip. However, the way the white box on the side of the building pretending to be a gas meter stored some heavier weapon, and the two “tramps” sitting in the alcove beside it hid another heavier weapon was interesting evidence, proof they'd at least had one person attend some training camp of someone's, either the CDS Mafia, the Free Wutai movement, or the Cosman Tribal Vengeance Committee. Other than wandering up and seeing who built the weapon hidden in the dirty white box, there was no real way of telling.

The police officer had made a few observations and confirmations of the informants data. The box and tramps checked out, as did other information. The hostile looks some people gave outsiders. The aimless men wandering in heavy coats to conceal their weapons. All in all, the defence force of the hideout was camouflaged well. They'd written an estimate of twenty, but they'd never spoken that there was closer to an entire platoon of insurgents here. The organisation had around 40 reservists, who stayed to defend the sector from any Shinra or criminal assault, with up to 10 going on missions. The mission team was led by one Barret Wallace, with a Tifa Lockheart his second-in-command. Three others and the man who in the regular army would have been a Sergeant First Class, or had he stayed in SOLDIER, probably a First Class Airborne Sergeant. To the agent, a former Rifleman, it was a shame to see every ex-SOLDIER who'd been kicked out or jumped out dropped from a decent rank to the bottom of society. But he didn't think Strife's former colleagues would see it quite that way...

Major Watkins, SOLDIER 1st Class Airborne, and the rest of his fire team were growing restless, as Counterterrorist officers on standby often do. To be on 24 hour a day standby means to not be training as often, if at all, and in this case, it didn't even allow the fire team to have inter-squad card tournaments or other competitions as they usually did. Watkins and his men were in a house on the outskirts of the sector, poised to move into the sector and attack their objective, a bar where in the cellars, a few crates of guns, ammo, an explosives were stashed. The other five men, non-commissioned officers, were either playing cards or watching the small-screened television, while Watkins sat by the radio, reading the text of Loveless, to which he'd missed the showing of that he'd managed to get tickets for to come down to this slum and just sit around waiting... and as if that wasn't bad enough, it might all be a waste of time in an hour. The order to pull out would come, or the order to go in. All because that damn Turk had thought up some foolhardy way to get the public to hate all the rebels and insurgents and fight them. Wasn't that why SOLDIER had culled it's less efficient personnel? Wasn't that why the Rifle units of the Shinra PSM were still at a fighting strength larger than any state militia? Wasn't the Military the Airborne Service were part of still around to fight the terrorists?

Damn all the pen pushers!

Shinra HQ
President Shinra had considered the plan forwarded by Commander Tseng of the Turks. It was an elegant plan in it's overall objective, but crude in its method of application.

In the room, sitting at the table, were the present Shinra board members. Also present was Commander Tseng, Turk commander-in-chief, and Colonel Filby of the SOLDIER Airborne Service
'Ladies and Gentlemen of the board, you have all read proposed Plan S3T-67A,' he said, to the assembled executives of the corporation

'Detailed in it is a plan, that whilst containing a great risk to the safety of the public and our operatives, will most probably serve as a catalyst to excuse any actions we may take against terrorists and other criminals. However, the risks of the ploy are such that I have alerted our highest-standing agents observing the slums and the commanders of our units currently in the target area to the possibility of the plan's execution, and so, they are not only aware of the full plan, but able to act to both ensure that it comes about, and/or evacuate all non-expendable personnel from the target area. I now present the mission plan to a general vote for the present members...'

The board voted. The margin was slim, but the plan was rejected.

'Very well. Let it be noted that Plan S3T-67A has been rejected for execution. In it's stead, Operation Purgation is to be initiated...'

As the president droned on, Tseng growled in frustration, as the smug Colonel walked out of the boardroom, and towards the waiting communications officer.
'Sergeant, give the word to prepare for jump-off. I want our units to hit that place like a hurricane the second the president asks for it.'

'Sir.'

Train Graveyard, Sector Seven
Cloud , Tifa, and Aeris left the train graveyard, nearly at the station platforms themselves, when Aeris realised something was wrong.

'Cloud... if they really were going to bring the sector down, wouldn't there be something going on by now?'

'Like what?' Tifa asked.

'She's right... it's far too quiet. Wait here...'

Tifa was about to protest, when the first of the green jeeps drove into the sector, the black-clad soldiers aboard leaping out, and running up to the support strut maintenance facility gate.

'...Never mind. Looks like they're attacking now!'

'What do we do?' Aeris asked, her voice trembling with fear.

'We can't fight them. There's way too many. We'll need to get past, warn Barret and the others, and then get out of here,' Cloud said.

'Cloud, we can fight them off! We've got enough people and weapons around the entire sector, not just at the 7th heaven!'

'Can they fight against SOLDIER? Have they ever beaten members of SOLDIER?'

'Yeah, Cloud, we killed three SOLDIER officers a while back...'

'How were they equipped?'

'What?!'

'Did they have swords or guns?'

'They had swords.'

'They weren't AS then. The AS will tear this place apart.'

'Um, excuse me, but what are the AS? I remember they were involved in that thing at the hospital in Upper Midgar but...' Aeris asked.

Cloud looked at her for a few seconds, in a look angered enough to actually begin to frighten her.

'They're the elite of the elite in SOLDIER. Counter-terrorists, they take out groups like AVALANCHE... like us... like other people swat flies.'

'And you expect we can waltz right by them, Cloud?'

'We'll need to go past slowly. If we run, they'll stop us...'

***

'Be sure you idiots are careful defending this! If the enemy get to here, we might get the other plan executed rather than this one!' Reno told the troopers filing into the area. Their commander, a Captain, was observing the proceedings.

Rather than the usual blue suit the Turks wore, Reno was wearing the same black coveralls as the special forces troopers, but unlike them, wore no gas mask or helmet, instead wearing a headset for his radio receiver and mic.

'Captain, is the team that's coming with me to their HQ ready?'

'Yes sir. Squad 's 3 and 6, go with Officer Reno here. You remember your objectives,' the officer told his troops.

As the trio tried to walk past unseen, thinking they'd succeeded so far, Reno received word of their presence.

'Romeo-Six, this is Hotel Sierra Three, have eyes on Echoes. Permission to engage?' enquired a high ground sniper team who had just set up their rifles on the actual tower support gantries, and now, the sniper had the crosshairs lined up on the head of the brown-haired woman as the observer radioed for orders...

Echo was used to denote an enemy that was either unclear to engage, or status unconfirmed and by default, not clear to engage. Object or Oscar was used to denote a dead one, or one that was clear to be engaged.

'Hotel Sierra Three, this is Romeo-Actual, you do not have permission to engage at this time, describe Echoes.'

'Echoes are suspected to be Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockheart, with unknown associate. They're passing the police just now, over.'

Reno looked, and saw the three.

'Hotel Sierra 3, keep watch on the three Echoes. Engage only on my mark, over. '

'Roger, Romeo-Six. All Hotel Units on standby.'

***

Watkins and his fire team drove towards their objective in two green cars virtually identical to the ones now parked at the sector gate. The bar was a minute away.

'Delta Three, this is Hotel Sierra Six, we have eyes on Checkpoint Bravo. Currently three visible Echoes on outside.'

'Sierra Six, on our mark, clear all objects from outside...'

The 4x4 cars turned onto the right street, approaching the bar. The two men by the hidden weapons, here in a similar arrangement to the Kings Arms, reached for their weapons...

'Hotel Sierra Six, green light!' Watkins said.

The two snipers fired off a double-tap of the trigger each, two bullets from each rifle into each Object. Both men were killed straight away, a GL-2 grenade launcher clattering to the ground from the fake gas meter.

The two cars accelerated, one slamming into the guard outside who hadn't even got his pistol out of his belt, and all six soldiers getting out of the vehicles in seconds. Stun grenades were fired in the windows via the GA-3's on the AAC-10's of two men, the mowed-down terrorist shot in the back of the head by a rifleman, and the door blasted down by the underslung shotguns of another two troopers. The six soldiers stormed into the bar, five disorientated patrons and possible terrorists groaning or screaming. One man stood holding a rifle in the doorway to the kitchens, and he was shot down by a burst of fire from one of the grenadiers rifles. Watkins, holding his own carbine in his left hand, threw another stun grenade into that room, and was followed by a shotgunner and grenadier. In there, there were three men, and they put up even less of a fight than their comrade who had guarded the door. Three rounds from each man, and the targets were down. The five patrons were then bound and left on the glass-covered floor of the bar, protesting.

The other three soldiers had went upstairs, and found two Objects in addition to some heavier weaponry than the rifles seen so far: A machinegun and an SSRL-1940. Both of them were now dead , and all six soldiers regrouped to go into the basement. Grenades were thrown, and Watkins himself was first to go into the cellar. There, one man stood, pistol dropped, groaning at the effect of the stun grenade. Watkins wasted no time in shooting him, lining the sights of his carbine up with the man's head, which disintegrated in a pink puff.

'This is Delta Three, Checkpoint Bravo is clear. Ten Objects down and five suspects apprehended, no Foxtrots lost, over.'

At the Kings Arms, twelve soldiers had attacked. Here, the guards had at least returned fire, a WCR-85 armed tramp getting a burst of fire off into a jeep's window, but getting nothing but broken glass and a return volley for his trouble. There, another 15 of AVALANCHE's reserve were killed. That left only Checkpoint Charlie, the objective Rude and twelve other troopers were near.

'Deltas One to Three in transit to Charlie-two, over.'

When they arrived, the assault would begin, and another terrorist organisation would be wiped out.

***

Five minutes later, 7th Heaven bar
The remaining members of the group had assembled here. Around a dozen people, plus Barret, Tifa, Cloud, Aeris, Biggs, Wedge and Jessie. No heavy weaponry between them except the GPMG-1 Wedge was luging in addition to the body armour he and Biggs were putting on, and no chance of repelling an assault in such a small building. Cloud and Tifa had quickly introduced Aeris to Barret and the rest of the group, but now, they were worried about what would happen when the door was burst open and the soldiers stormed in... They couldn't risk her panicking and getting gunned down for something that didn't really concern her. Cloud spoke first to convince the flower girl from sector 5 to try and walk out unharmed.

'Aeris, my advice is that you just run. They're not going to be asking you the time of day when they come in the door...'

'No,' she said simply, taking a spare Nibel9 pistol from a rebel handing out weapons to those who did not have them.

A few minutes of silence passed, the rebels readying their rifles, pistols, and submachine guns. Tifa opened the trapdoor to the basement, where Marlene was hiding, and crying in terror.

'Aeris, take Marlene and go out that door there,' Tifa said, pointing at a wooden door on the southernmost wall, 'Azker, Lambert, you two go with them,' she said to two AVALANCHE reservists. The two men nodded, going down first with their Micro-ICI SMG's. Aeris went down and spoke to Marlene for a few seconds, before all four left down the corridor.

'Okay, I think that's everyone who'll come,' Jessie said.

'...Yeah,' Barret conceded, 'Hans, you get onta the roof and look 'round with yer rifle,' he said to the reservist carrying a hunting rifle. The man nodded, and climbed up a ladder to get to the roof, 'rest of y'all, get down the damn ladder into the basement. We're getting outta here.'

Hotel Sierra Three spotted the movement on the bar, seeing that the SOLDIER troopers were still well hidden behind a wooden fence about 30 meters from the small square on which the bar was located.

'Romeo-Six, report movement on the roof of Checkpoint Charlie. See one Echo at this time. Echo is carrying an ACR5 sniper rifle.'

'Can Echo see attack teams?'

'Negative Echo does not appear to have line of sight to attack teams.'

Hans looked at the square below, the citizens of the area having fled into their homes. He could see troopers milling around on the support strut, and...

...there. A sniper. He took aim...

'Romeo-Six, Hotel Sierra Three is compromised, Echo is aiming at support strut!'

Rude considered the small problem briefly.

'Engage Object, Hotel Sierra Three.'

The sniper fired a single shot, which entered into Hans' head via his right eye, and exited through a hole it made in the side of his head. His body fell straight down the trapdoor back into the bar, to a surprised cry by some male in the room. The sudden shock of this seemed to freeze the eco-terrorist fighters to the spot for a few stunned seconds...

...The two SOLDIER teams' grenadiers took aim and fired upon the building as the other eight troopers, and the Turk officer, sprinted towards the bar, clad in their distinct black coveralls and gasmasks. At the sound of the firing outside, a terrorist opened the door. The door swung open as the stun grenades smashed in the windows. That man, startled and stunned by the concussive grenades, fired his sub machinegun wildly. The combined fire of four rifles hit him.
Bullets whizzed into the bar, and disorientated AVALANCHE soldiers fired back through the walls. So far, half the people in the bar had managed to get down into the basement, having picked uop the opace slightly when what was once Hans cam e back thoruhg the roof. The remaining half were soon to be killed in the gun battle with the Shinra soldiers.

'In here!' Tifa yelled from the basement where the open door that minutes earlier Aeris had went down with the two rebels and Barret's daughter , her ears ringing from the blasts of the grenades and her vision blurred. The eco-terrorists ran down a damp, L-shaped corridor that led to an exit elsewhere in sector seven, Jessie staying behind to rig up a booby trap.

'Jessie, come on!' Barret shouted.

'I'll just be a second...' she yelled, swearing as she fumbled a wire on the trap. All she needed to do was... there. Just switch it on and...

Reno jumped down into the basement, aiming his carbine. He saw Jessie kneeling by the open doorway, and opened fire as she began to scream.

Barret halted halfway past the turn in the tunnel, hearing the scream. Wedge, carrying his machinegun, went back.

By this time, Three other soldiers had come down, and upon seeing them, and Jessie's prone form lying by her booby trap, Wedge opened fire with the machine gun, a hail of bullets streaming into the small basement room. Two of the troopers fell, but Reno and the other took cover behind the walls. The other trooper, a rifleman, lobbed a stun grenade around the corner, Wedge still firing. When the grenade went off, the trooper leapt around, aiming his carbine. However, Wedge was still firing the weapon blindly, and the shots impacted through the armour of the soldier, his return fire not penetrating the body armour of the rebel fully.

Reno drew his pistol, a Mark 6A he'd borrowed from weapons development, and fired around the corner blindly. The armour piercing bullets hit Wedge's right kneecap, and he collapsed down, screaming. Reno wasted no time in leaping around the corner and firing three more rounds into the head of the terrorist.

Biggs had been hiding around the corner, and hearing the last shots, attempted to fire around the corner. The Turk officer, however, was an expert pistol marksman, and his quick reflexes saw him gun the terrorist down before the rifle had even come up.

***

Aeris and the two AVALANCHE soldiers had made it safely to the small disused building that the tunnel led to. They and Marlene were now hiding in an alleyway opposite when the green jeeps pulled up.

'Oh no... they're setting up an ambush...' Lambert said, drawing his two pistols. Troopers went in the door, and he aimed at them as they did so, firing rapidly. Three of the black clad troopers fell, but the rest turned to where he was, a grenadier loading the first grenade to hand and firing. To his shock, the frag grenade slammed into the terrorist, and the shockwave from the blast knocked him to the ground. It killed all four of the people who had hidden in the alleyway.

***

In the tunnel, Barret heard the blast, and scrambled up the ladder to the abandoned building quickly. At the top of the ladder, the soldiers storming in saw him, and raised their rifles. His gun arm, however, was ready faster, and the burst of fire at knee height cut two down, forcing the rest into cover.

'Behind us!' someone screamed down in the tunnel, as Barret and some of the others climbed into the room and began to fight it out with the soldiers.

Cloud aimed the pistol and fired at the soldiers turning the corner of the corridor, his sword useless in such close confines. Two AVALANCHE reservists kept up suppressing fire with their rifles, and Cloud, who had scored fairly high for pistols and rifles when he had done basic training, tried to pick off any of the enemy who came around the corner.

Reno took two pistols from the bodies of the terrorists, Wutaian Army Handguns. He fired round the corner blindly again, saving his 6A ammo in case there were any more armoured enemies.

One of the rifle-carrying rebels fell screaming as a bullet smashed into his shoulder, and his scrams stopped when the next round went into his throat. Cloud fired at the pistols, but his lack of recent experience with pistols betrayed him, his shots slapping into the damp brickwork of the tunnel.

Reno and now, two other troopers, hid behind the turn. At least two of the enemy were still there, the rest already up the ladder and into the trap.

'All units, this is Romeo Six, status reports, over!'

'Romeo Six, Delta One, Bar is clear. Three men down, four echoes down.'

'Romeo Six, Delta Two, outside is secure, no casualties.'

'Romeo Six, Delta Three, Four men down, engaged in firefight with approx ten Echoes at Checkpoint Charlie! Two echoes currently down'

'Romeo Six, Delta Four, one man down, engaged in same combat as Three.'

'Romeo Six, Delta Five, support Delta's Three and Four at this time, over. Three echoes and one civilian DOA outside Charlie, over.'

Reno was with Delta Six, and they were currently the ones now in the corridor.

'Romeo Six, Alphas One to Six report that support strut is secure.'

'Alpha Five, move to bar and support Deltas One and Two. Deltas Three to Five, secure Charlie. Delta Six, let's take those assholes around the corner out!'

Reno picked up his Carbine, and swung round the corner. The two terrorists had fled up the ladder.

'Shit! All units at Charlie, trapdoor is secure but may be booby trapped,' he said, moving forward to check.

Up in the abandoned building, another frag was fired in, killing two of the reservists. Barret, Tifa, Cloud, and the few remaining terrorists fought their way out to the back door. As they tried to do so, troopers came out of cover, and gunned down the reservists. The other three, however, made it out, and ran out into the alleyway...

...the waiting troopers cut Barret down , and Tifa screamed from a bullet which hit her left leg. Cloud charged at them, his sword drawn, but the disciplined soldiers simply shot him between the eyes. Tifa tried to crawl away from the soldiers, but the pain in her leg stopped that plan, and she whimpered as the black shapes approached. Her pistol was a few feet away from her.

If the soldiers had been police officers, they'd have warned her not to try it, and arrested her. However, they were not accustomed to leaving their enemies alive, and the trooper simply shot her in the chest at a range of five meters, killing her. The rest of the soldiers in the building and alleyway took aim at the possibly-dead bodies, and yelled one word:

'Finishing!'

And the last gunshots were not into living enemies, but to possibly wounded or even already dead foes, the elite troopers taking no chances, and taking no prisoners...

***

Sometimes it's best that whats seems to be the greater of two evils occurs. At face value, the massacre of Sector Seven was the lesser evil, casualties far less than the result that S3T-67A would have had. But S3T-67A let the planet live at the cost of Sector Seven. Down this path, Sector Seven lived... but a few months later, the world would die. No one would stop Sephiroth. This path ended.

The other path continued, branching off at a few other places. The survival or death of an individual leading to victory or defeat of a rebel force. The roads of fate are winding and complex.

Sometimes fate takes a wrong turn. This was an example of a wrong turn. S3T-67A had to happen, and the last to die, had to live. But the planet had to give some reminder of what may have been to someone. It couldn't warn them of the next branch in their path

'Aeris?' Tifa asked. She'd been awoken when the other woman had screamed in the next room in Kalm's inn.

'Y-yeah, Tifa?' she stammered.

'Are you okay?'

'Just a nightmare...' the Cetra woman said. Her nightmare had awoken the others though.

'What's up?' Barret asked.

'...Nothing. Aeris just had a nightmare.'

'Shit... that all... oh well, we'd better all get back to sleep. Long day ahead to figure out what the hell we're gonna do...'

Tifa nodded, and went back to her room.

'Barret?' Aeris asked.

'Yeah?'

'In the 7th heaven bar... was there a tunnel you planned to use as an escape route in the basement?'

'Yeah... why?'

'...nothing. Just wondering ...'

Weird, Barret thought, only Tifa, Marlene and me knew about that...

'Better get to sleep,' Barret told her, and she turned to lay her head on the pillow.

Just what the hell was that anyway, she wondered, before going back to sleep.

The path led onwards to the next junction, a month or so away. One route was in her death... the other, in the death of others. Both paths would play out. Only one did not result in the end of the world, and the end of the universe.

Choose the paths carefully. Even when it seems clear where they lead, it's easy to be lost.

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VII
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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