Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 702
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 40: Another Fire

December 2, 0006

And then, in the middle of the night, without any sense of warning, it happened.

Tifa woke up to the smell of smoke, which she still easily recalled from the burning of Nibelheim. As she slowly opened her eyes, she could see smoke filling the air, and fire on the walls.

Knowing that she would have only moments before the smoke caused her to pass out, effectively dooming her, she quickly took a rag and tied it around her nose and mouth. She then jumped out of her bed, realizing the door, which was close, was her only means of escape. How a fire could have gotten into her room with the door closed seemed impossible. Unless...

The hallway was full of fire and smoke. At one end of it was a door that led outside. Tifa thus ran quickly down the hallway and out the door. The clean breeze immediately greeted her. She was safe now, and quickly undid the rag.

And then, she stopped what she was doing. She scanned the area to see that she was all alone.

Everyone's still inside! she immediately realized in horror.

Quickly, she tightened her rag again.

It's time to test those carrying skills Zangan taught me, she thought.

Tifa quickly ran back into the burning cabin and passed her room. As the intense heat greeted her body again, she knew her rescue mission had begun.

The first door she had come to after her own was Cissnei's. She knew she would be sleeping like a cartoon animal, but she didn't care; it was a life or death situation. So she quickly opened the door.

"Cissnei!" called Tifa frantically.

No answer. The walls of the room were already ablaze.

"Cissnei!" she called again.

Tifa then ran over to the bed to check.

The bed was empty; Cissnei wasn't there.

Where is she?

Realizing there was nothing more she could do, Tifa ran to the bedroom next door.

Karnak's room.

Here, the door was wide open. The walls and curtains in the room were already on fire.

"Karnak!" she called.

There was no response.

She then decided to use another name.

"Cloud!"

Still no response.

Tifa quickly ran over to the bed and checked it. Karnak was gone, too.

Where is everybody? she thought.

Then she came to my room, and opened the door. My room was full of smoke and fire, just like the other ones.

Tifa then took a look at the bed.

There was me. I was unconscious from smoke inhalation.

"Tobin?" she called in a nervous voice as she shook me.

I didn't wake up.

"Tobin?!" she pleaded as she shook me even harder than before.

I still didn't respond.

She then felt for a pulse, and sighed in relief as she felt one.

And then, she realized what had to be done.

Okay, thought Tifa, here goes.

She stripped me of my covers, wrapped her arms around my legs, and lifted me up over her shoulder.

As she had been trained, she didn't find it difficult to carry me through the burning cabin. My room was closer to the main entrance, so Tifa carried me into the burning parlor.

There was Cissnei, fully clothed and on the couch, passed out. She had a black eye; there had seemingly been a struggle of some sort.

Tifa, despite her strength and training, could not possibly carry two people at once, so she rushed me outside and lay me down a safe distance from the cabin.

Tifa then ran back into the burning cabin and scooped up the unconscious Cissnei, carrying her out to safety in the same manner. After laying her down at a safe distance, she checked Cissnei for a pulse, and felt one.

Meanwhile, I had regained consciousness.

"Is she okay?" I uttered.

Tifa jumped in surprise, crawled over, and hugged me.

"Yeah, she's okay," she replied. "What happened?"

"I don't know," I replied. "I just went to bed and woke up out here."

I then spotted Cissnei's black eye.

"What happened?" I asked. "Did someone attack her?"

"I don't know," Tifa replied as she scanned the fallen Cissnei. "I just found her on the couch like that and-"

And then, she realized something.

"Shit!" she muttered. "Zangan!"

Tifa sprang to her feet, turned around, and prepared to return to the burning cabin.

And then, the house exploded loudly.

Tifa immediately broke down and began to sob. She knew there was nothing more she could do.

I ran over to her and tried to comfort her, though I knew it was of little use. Zangan was still inside, and nobody could help him now.

"Who could've done such a foolish thing?!" I demanded rhetorically.

Almost as if in response, Cissnei suddenly regained consciousness, sat up, and began to cough.

"Karnak!" she uttered through her coughs. "It was Karnak!"

And then, Tifa became significantly more quiet. I could feel her body almost begin to tremble, as if she was completely broken inside.

"Why, Cloud," she sobbed. "Why?"

December 8, 0006

Tifa stood beside Zangan's grave under one of the evergreens, wearing her black mini-skirt and white crop-tank, one of the few things to survive the fire. She continued to sob, with both myself and Cissnei on each of her sides for support.

Cissnei had something on her mind since the fire. It was something that Karnak had said that left her skeptical of his supposed identity. She didn't want to say it at first, because she was afraid of upsetting Tifa. But now, it might give her a peace of mind.

"Tifa," Cissnei began, "I'm not one hundred percent sure Karnak and Cloud are one and the same."

Tifa gave Cissnei a skeptical look.

"When Karnak mentioned he had to protect President Shinra during an invasion," Cissnei continued, "well, I was there when that happened. Cloud never protected the president in his life. Sephiroth protected him."

"Then how could Karnak remember Cloud's most intimate memories?" Tifa asked.

"That's a good question," Cissnei replied. "But I'm sure there's an explanation."

"Is there any way we could find out?" I asked.

"If I had access to the Shinra files," Cissnei informed us, "I could look the whole thing up. But I've been locked out since they furloughed me."

"So we're at a dead end," Tifa said sadly.

"Unless we find the real Cloud," Cissnei suggested. "But to do that, I need access to the files."

LATER...

Realizing that there was no sense in wallowing in our own grief, the three of us walked into the town of Xing and into a tea house. We needed something solemn and relaxing as we decided on what to do next.

"To Zangan," I said as we raised our tea glasses.

"So what do we do now?" asked Cissnei.

"That's one hell of a question," I replied. "I know I'm out of a job. Training never finished."

"Wait!" Tifa exclaimed. "Shinra cut you loose?"

I nodded.

Yeah, that was true. With Zangan gone, the Shinra pulled the plug on my internship. It was five years down the toilet. Which meant that I couldn't go back to Midgar, of course.

"They are a terrible company," Cissnei admitted.

"Listen," Tifa began. "I've been looking up this one group called AVALANCHE."

"Are they a ski club?" I asked.

"No," Tifa replied as she shook her head. "They're an anti-Shinra group."

"Be careful," warned Cissnei as she checked her phone. "I heard they're a terrorist group and..."

She suddenly paused. It was as if she had been struck by something.

"You okay?" Tifa asked.

"This is weird," Cissnei said.

"What?" I asked.

"I've suddenly got my access back," she replied. "To the Shinra files."

"How come all of a sudden?" I asked.

"I don't know," Cissnei answered. "But let me type in Karnak."

She did what she said what she would do.

It was a relief that we would now learn the truth, but something seemed off.

"Well, there we have it," Cissnei announced.

"What?" Tifa asked, somewhat anxiously. "Is Karnak Cloud?"

"Yes, and no," Cissnei replied. "Yes, in the sense that he has his DNA. But you did not grow up with him."

"So you're saying he's a clone of Cloud?" I asked her.

"Not exactly," Cissnei replied. "Hojo took both Cloud's DNA and Sephiroth's and meshed them together. Apparently Karnak has both of their memories."

"So that's it," Tifa sighed.

I couldn't tell whether she was disappointed or relieved.

"According to the files," Cissnei continued, "the real Cloud was last seen well after Karnak was created. The boy you grew up with definitely didn't burn down the cabin." She paused. "When Karnak was created, he became destructive and subsequently escaped the Shinra Building. And the Shinra have been looking for him ever since."

Tifa put her face in her hands.

"Thank God," she said. "I feel stupid for falling for Karnak's facade, but at least we know the real Cloud is out there somewhere."

"Listen," Cissnei announced, "I never did thank you for saving my life. So I'm going to help you find the real Cloud."

"Cissnei," Tifa replied, "thank you."

"I just can't understand for the life of me why I've gotten my access back," Cissnei admitted.

"I'll tell you why," called a familiar voice. The three of us turned to see none other than Rufus Shinra standing at the enterance. "It's my pleasure, Cissnei, to inform you that you've been reactivated."

He then turned to Tifa.

"You look familiar," he pointed out. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

"Charlie's Bowling Basement," Tifa replied. "A painful encounter."

Rufus sighed.

"That's right," he recalled. "Your spikey-haired friend sure got abusive."

Tifa wanted to say something, but she knew an argument with Rufus would not likely end well.

"You need to stay away from the likes of them, Cissnei," Rufus advised. "I have the strangest feeling that this girl Tifa's going to be the death of me."

He then turned, and began to walk out of the tea house.

"See you in Midgar," he said to Cissnei on his way out.

December 10, 0006

Cissnei was given two days to collect her belongings and return to Midgar. Due to the fire, that was practically nothing.

So I'll skip to where we said our goodbyes in the Xing town square. Tifa and I were standing beside each other, facing the departing Cissnei. Behind her was a helicopter with Tseng, Reno, and Rude inside, waiting to take her away for good.

"So this is it," Cissnei began sadly. There really was no other way to word it.

"I'll miss you," Tifa said sadly as she hugged Cissnei good-bye.

"Tifa," began Cissnei, "I really hate my job because of this."

She then turned toward me.

She had the saddest look on her face that I had ever seen. After five years under the same roof, this was a change that neither of us wanted.

She was my best friend, and was going away. There was no way under the sun it would be made easier.

I put my hands on her shoulders, and looked my best friend in the eyes one more time.

"I'll never forget you," I said as a tear escaped my eye.

Cissnei gently put her hand on one of mine.

"If I could cry," she replied, "You bet I would right now."

Cissnei then wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tightly.

"I'll never forget you either," she said in a broken voice. It was the closest I would ever get to see her crying.

She then boarded the chopper, and it took off quickly.

As soon as the helicopter was out of sight, I fell to my knees and began to sob. I had lost my best friend again.

Tifa immediately knelt down and hugged me.

She was all I had left. But it was a relief to know that I still had her.

THAT NIGHT...

We couldn't stay in Xing, of course. The cabin was destroyed, except for a few pieces of clothes and other stuff. We instead hired a car and began to drive out of the the area, not quite sure where we would be ending up.

Gradually, the mountains began to subside, and soon we got to a bridge. It was a long one, and I knew it lead to the mainland of the Western Continent. Amusingly, there was a museum dedicated to the bridge on the side of it.

Once on the mainland, it was all plains, with little to see except for a few farms and ranches. It was quite peaceful.

Eventually, as the sun began to set, we realized we needed a place to stop. The solution presented itself when Tifa, who was driving, suddenly began to crack up.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"There's a big penis in the distance!" she laughed.

Despite being a nineteen-year-old virgin, Tifa did have a dirty mind, in case I never mentioned that earlier.

I knew right away what it really was; it was Shinra Number Twenty-Six, the rocket that almost went into space, but didn't.

As we got into Rocket Town, I could see Cid coming out of the rocket, dusting his hands off.

Not in the mood for him, I quickly walked into the inn without looking around.

LATER THAT NIGHT...

I woke up in my room in the middle of the night to see a familiar sight out the window. Tifa was standing in the deserted lawn, barefoot in her pajamas, gazing at the sky again.

I felt sorry for her. You would think by now that she'd know that Aunt Claire wasn't going to respond, but Tifa was quite possibly the most stubborn person I knew.

As I quietly slid the window open, I could hear my cousin speaking quietly to the stars, hoping, as always, that her mother was listening.

"Mom?" she began. "It's me again. I know I'm kind of being a bug by now, but...I just need to ask you one question." She paused, folded her hands together, and looked toward the stars. "Where's the real Cloud?"

Sure enough, there was no response.

The stars simply twinkled down on the pajama-clad nineteen-year-old.



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