|By : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits|
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Views: 1017 -:- Recommendations : 0 -:- Currently Reading : 0
|Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.|
Chapter 46: The Island Gulag
There was no time for any catching up; we needed to get Zack to McDougal Island before he died (for real) from his injuries. There were a lot of bullets inside him, and he was most certainly bleeding internally, but Cissnei insisted she knew someone who could save him.
We arrived at the McDougal Island within the hour. Cissnei landed the helicopter near a seemingly deserted house outside of the only town on the island.
"Stay put," she commanded as she undid her seat belt. "Skrug isn't that good with strangers...or even acquaintances. I'll let you know when it's safe."
She then opened the door and hopped out of the helicopter.
"When it's safe?" I asked myself aloud.
Cissnei ran up to the front door and quickly knocked.
A moment later, the door opened, and a man, bald and seemingly in his fifties, appeared with a rifle pointed at Cissnei.
"What do ye want?" he demanded. "Me finger's on the trigger!"
"The Spring," Cissnei replied calmly.
"Cissnei?" he inquired as he lowered the rifle. "Is that ye?"
"Skrug," she replied.
"Aye," he said. "It's ye. I dinnae forget when ye saved me from the bear when ye was a wee girl."
"Just a shuriken did the trick," Cissnei said. "Listen, we have a friend who could die within the hour if we don't help him."
"Aye," replied Skrug. "Let me have a look at him then."
"My best friend is here with me, too," Cissnei continued. "He's only here to help."
"Aye," repeated Skrug as he went to check the back of the helicopter. He examined Zack, and turned to Cissnei.
"It's not looking good," Skrug informed them. "He still has bullets in him, and he's bleeding inside."
"Can you save him?" Cissnei asked.
"Aye," Skrug replied. "If we hurry. Ye two carry him."
Cissnei grabbed Zack's arms and I grabbed his legs, and carried him down to Skrug's front door.
"Follow me," Skrug commanded. "Touch nothing."
Skrug led us into the kitchen and opened one of the doors. He led us down a flight of stairs to what I thought would be a basement. But when we got to the bottom of the stairs, I saw something I never expected to see: there was a pit full of green energy that had a diameter of a yard or so. Above was a set of chains that looked like they were for suspending a person above the pit. I could only describe the energy as...Lifestream.
At Skrug's instruction, Cissnei and I fastened Zack to the chains and suspended him above the pit.
Skrug then went upstairs. When he returned, he had what appeared to be a giant magnet in his hand.
"This is to get the bullets out. See that lever there?"
"As soon as I remove the bullets, I need ye to keep the path clear. I'm going to need to run so I can lower him in in time. He'll be bleeding rather badly."
Cissnei and I nodded in unison.
"Now, for the price, Skrug announced. "At'll be five hundred gil."
"You're charging us?!" Cissnei exclaimed.
"I cannae afford to do this for nothing!" Skrug insisted.
"I have a thousand gil note," I said.
"I'm not a bank!" Skrug shouted.
"It's all I have," I insisted. "Please take it."
Skrug sighed, marched up to me, and snatched the note. He then went back and picked up the magnet.
"Stand back," he commanded.
Cissnei and I stood back.
Skrug plugged the magnet in. Moments later, we both heard that magnetic sound, and saw the remaining bullets rip out of Zack. The blood began to gush and spray.
He was too weak to scream from the pain.
Skrug, wasting no time, ran to the lever and pulled it.
Zack plummeted down and disappeared into the pit.
He remained in there for a good ninety seconds before Skrug pulled him out. When he did, all of the bullet wounds were gone.
Skrug went over to Zack and checked his pulse.
"He's alive," he informed us.
Cissnei let out a sigh of relief.
"Is he out of the woods yet?" she asked.
"Aye," Skrug replied. "He'll need to rest a week or two to get his lost blood back, but he's not going to die."
"You did it," I complimented Cissnei.
"We did it," she corrected as she put her hand on my shoulder and smiled.
Cissnei and I carried Zack back upstairs, outside, and gently loaded him onto the helicopter. He was still unconscious, but he was breathing normally again.
Once he was in the helicopter, Cissnei turned to me and smiled.
"Don't forget," she reminded me, "you owe me that hug."
And then, she threw her arms around me, and, of course, I hugged her back. Despite the situation, I was just as happy to see her again.
"I missed you so much!" she said happily.
"I missed you, too," I replied.
I looked down, and I noticed her feet were off the ground; I had lifted her without realizing it. So I quickly set her down again.
"You picked me up," she observed as she broke the hug.
"Sorry," I apologized.
"I didn't say I didn't like it," she said with a smile.
Just then, I noticed Skrug approaching me.
"Tobin, yer name is?" he asked.
"That's right," I replied.
"I cannae give ye five hundred back," he said. "But I can give ye this."
He then handed me a small device that looked like some sort of a pager. There was a large, noticeable button on it.
"If something happens to ye," Skrug explained, "press it. See that shuttle there yonder?"
I looked to see the shuttle; it was the most modern thing Skrug seemed to own. It was three times the size of the helicopter, and looked like it could go into space.
"Ye press the button," Skrug continued, "and the shuttle will come and get ye. As long as it reaches ye in time, you're safe."
"Thanks," I said.
Without responding, Skrug turned and walked off.
I stared at the pager in my hand. No doubt, I appreciated it, but I realized that it wasn't of much use. My adventures were over; I was no longer putting my ass at risk.
I still decided to keep it though.
Maybe someone I knew would need it more than I would.
Cissnei and I found a place in Cosmo Canyon. It had a common area with a lounge and kitchen, and a bedroom on each side. It was just like our old place in Midgar. We were roomies again, like nothing had ever happened.
Well, not exactly. Cissnei no longer worked for the Shinra, so she took up a job as a waitress at a local restaurant. It might seem degrading, but she liked it a lot better than being a Turk.
Zack found an apartment just down the hall. He didn't have to work; he was declared dead, and the lives of members of SOLDIER are quite well insured. It was perfect timing, too; after Lazard's death, the SOLDIER program was terminated for good. As he was seen as a traitor, to say nothing of his reported four bastard children, Zack was denied any kind of memorial at Shinra.
Of course, he largely stayed hidden; he didn't want the Shinra to find him there, as they wanted him dead for knowing where the Island Gulag was. He was over once or twice a week. I spent a while trying to figure out how to reunite him with Aerith. I figured that meant it would need to explain to him that...prom situation.
December 9, 0007
I made one effort to visit my cousin in Midgar. She had joined that group, AVALANCHE, and was hiding out in the Sector Seven slums. Of course, to the best of my knowledge, nobody else knew that, as their hideout was hidden below a bar.
So, one day, I made my way to her bar, and this little girl who couldn't be more than three or four answered the door for me.
"Are you over twenty-one?" she asked.
"You certainly aren't," I replied.
And then, Tifa, still wearing that crop-tank and mini-skirt, appeared behind her.
"Tobin!" she exclaimed as she hugged me. She then introduced me to the kid. "Marlene, this is my cousin, Tobin."
"Is he over twenty-one?" Marlene asked.
"I certainly am," I assured her.
"Come on in!" Tifa invited as she pointed to the bar.
I walked over there and took a seat.
Tifa walked behind the bar and handed me a beer.
"You're the bar tender?" I asked.
"Officially," she replied.
"But you're only twenty," I pointed out.
"Well," she laughed, "I'm not actually drinking anything!"
I took a sip of my beer.
"How's Cloud?" I asked. I was wondering how their relationship was going.
"He's good," she answered. "He's with Barret, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie right now. They're on their way to blow up the Sector One Reactor."
"Why don't you tell him how you feel?" I suggested.
Tifa shook her head.
"I dunno," she said. "I just got my best friend back after seven years. I don't want to ruin anything."
I knew exactly what Cissnei would say in this situation. So I said it to my cousin.
"Snooze, you lose."
"I suppose you're right," she conceded as she lowered her head. "You'll never know who he could meet tonight."
"Look," I began, I'm assuming you're going for Reactor Number Two tomorrow?"
"Five," she corrected. "Two would be too obvious."
"Why don't you go with them?" I suggested as I took another sip.
"That would be a great idea," Tifa agreed. "But I've been trained in martial arts. And those Shinra troopers...well, they kind of use guns."
I nodded. I then reached into my pocket, and pulled out the pager. I handed it to her.
"Take this with you," I commanded.
"What is it?" Tifa asked me.
"If you're hurt badly and think you're mortally wounded, press the button," I explained. "A shuttle will come and take you to a place called McDougal Island. This guy there...Skrug...he's an asshole, but he'll do wonders."
Tifa shook her head.
"That's yours," she insisted.
"I don't need it," I insisted. "My adventures are over. Please take it."
She took it.
"I'll go put this somewhere safe," Tifa said.
She then went back to put the pager somewhere safe.
I heard the door behind me open, followed by footsteps approaching me. Moments later, another familiar face sat down next to me. It was Durham.
I might have said that the last chapter of Durham and I was over, but we didn't have the epilogue until that night.
"Hey, Tobin," she greeted.
"Hey, Durham," I greeted back without making eye contact.
I didn't want anything to do with her. I sipped my beer, hoping she would go away.
Just then, Tifa returned.
"Hey there!" she greeted.
"Oh," I said, "Tifa, Durham. Durham, Tifa. My cousin."
The smile faded from Tifa's face.
Tifa sighed. She knew all about that situation, and, being protective of me, was not too happy about it.
"I'll serve you," she warned, "but I'll never forgive you for breaking my cousin's heart."
"I'm not thirsty," Durham said. "I just wanted to talk to Tobin.
Tifa cracked her knuckles.
"Hurt him in any way, and you'll end up with more trouble than it's worth."
She then went to clean a few glasses.
It felt good to know she always had my back.
"You're looking well," I said sarcastically to Durham without looking at her.
"I know you must hate me," she began. "I just wanted you to know that I've become a very sad person. I've lost some people who were important to me."
"Me, too," I replied as I took another drink, still not making eye contact with her.
"I've lost Croydon," she continued. "He divorced me two years ago."
"You got married young and on short notice," I replied. "What did you think was going to happen?"
"Getting married down there was a mistake," she moped.
"We're you drunk?" I sarcastically asked.
Durham shook her head.
"No, we were having fun."
"I can have fun without eloping," I said.
"I'm so alone," Durham continued.
"Didn't you have any kids?" I asked, resisting the urge to leave at this point.
"His new wife says she wants to adopt our son," she replied. "I'll never see him again!"
"You made your bed," I replied as I finished my beer. "Sleep in it."
I got up, left the bar, and took the elevator to the upper plate. When I got a few yards away, the elevator arrived again.
Durham stepped out.
"What do you want now?" I sighed.
"To tell you how sorry I am," she replied.
"If I tell you something, will you quit bothering me?" I proposed.
"Okay," Durham replied in a broken voice.
"Call Croydon and tell him to fuck off," I commanded. "His new wife can't adopt your son against your wishes. Call him right now and tell him it's not happening. You'll feel a lot better after that."
Durham nodded as she pulled out her phone.
"See?" I said. "That wasn't so bad."
"Fuck," muttered Durham suddenly. "My phone's not working."
"Yeah, right," I dismissed before glancing at my own. "Neither is mine," I noticed aloud.
I tried to call Tifa, but it failed. I tried to call Cissnei, but their failed, too.
"Tobin," Durham began in an ominous tone of voice, "look up!"
As I looked up, I could see a distortion in the city sky.
And as we watched, a vortex seemed to form in the distortion.
And as we continued to watch, a spherical vessel emerged from the vortex. It had spikes coming out of all sides.
"What the fuck is that thing?!" Durham exclaimed in fright.
I recognized it right away.
"It's the Urchin," I replied. "It's a Shinra weapon. But...isn't it supposed to be at the bottom of the ocean near Junon?"
The Urchin hovered directly over us as the vortex disappeared and the distortion dissipated.
Moments later, an elevated platform began to descend from the Urchin until it reached our level. On it stood a young woman in her early twenties, with red-dyed hair and in a red dress.
"I am Bestla," she greeted.
It was the same name as Scarlet's daughter. And, I'll be damned, she looked like an older version of her.
"I'm Tobin," I replied. "And this is Durham."
"What's the date?" she asked.
"December the ninth," I replied.
"What year?" Bestla continued.
It was a strange question, but I felt compelled to answer it anyway.
"It's 0007," I responded.
"Is she on crack?" Durham sarcastically asked.
Now, mind you, if it can't be any more obvious, this is the same Bestla who dropped that orb on Junon and turned it to dust a few weeks later. Needless to say, it was not a smart thing to say to such a dangerous woman.
"I would be a little more respectful if I were you," Bestla warned. "I'm going to be a goddess in a few weeks."
"A goddess?!" Durham cackled. "You look more like a hooker! Why don't you go back to the Honey Bee Inn!"
In response, Bestla took out what appeared to be some kind of blaster and zapped Durham with some kind of blue energy, but, at first, it looked like it did nothing.
Bestla then turned to me.
"Behave yourself," she warned.
With that, the platform quickly elevated and disappeared into the Urchin.
"What the hell just happened?" Durham demanded.
And then, she began to feel it.
"Why am I so dry all of a sudden?"
Those turned out to be Durham's last words.
Moments later, her whole body, along with her clothes, turned a light brown. Then, she crumbled away. A pile of dust was all that remained of Durham.
I stood there for an hour, trying to take in what had just happened. Granted, she had screwed me over, but I will admit I felt a little sorry for her.
Finally, I heard an explosion.
I turned just in time to see the Sector One Reactor go up in smoke.
That was my cue to get out of Midgar.
A FEW DAYS LATER...
One evening, I just happened to peek out my window, and I saw the damndest thing: Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Aerith, this strange-looking quadruped, Yuffie, and, strangely enough, Cait Sith were sitting around Cosmo Candle.
Their voices were muffled, and I couldn't make out what they were saying, but that didn't matter. What stood out was that Aerith was sitting next to Cloud, kind of closely.
Don't tell me they're a couple, I thought.
She certainly wasn't dressing sexy for him. She was wearing a pink dress with a red jacket; I have a dead grandmother who would wear something like that. But she was sitting next to him. I needed more information.
LATER THAT NIGHT...
I'm not usually a stalker, but this was something I had to be sure of. I was really hoping Cloud and Tifa would end up together. Deep down, I kind of wanted Aerith and Zack back together, too. So I cloaked myself and peeked through the keyhole.
Cloud was sitting on the bed, shirtless and in pajama bottoms. Aerith was wearing a white tank top and black pajama pants.
They were definitely a couple. How that happened was beyond me, but it happened.
"Hey, Cloud," she began. "Were you uncomfortable today?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"When you learned about my old boyfriend," she clarified. "Be honest, it bothered you, didn't it?"
"Not really," Cloud assured her. "We all have our yesterdays.
"It was five years ago," Aerith continued. "But it put something on my mind."
"What's that?" he asked.
She gave him a sincere look and took his hand in hers.
"I don't want to drive you away," she said. "I...I think I drove him away. I wanted to get married right out of high school, and I think it scared him off."
She then gave a sad look, and lowered her head.
Cloud gently put his hand under her chin, and lifted her head up.
"You won't drive me away," he assured her.
"Really?" she asked hopefully.
"Really," he answered. "We're not teenagers anymore, are we?"
"No," she giggled as she put her hands on his face and kissed him. She then sat back and smiled.
"Cloud," Aerith continued, "I really like you."
He smiled back at her.
"And I'm starting to...more than like you."
"Me too," he said.
Smiling, Aerith hugged him tightly.
"Can I sleep in your arms tonight?" she requested. "Spooning?"
"You bet!" he replied happily.
That was the most I could take. Disappointed, I went home.
THE NEXT MORNING...
Cloaked again, I stopped by the local restaurant to see Cloud and Aerith having breakfast together.
"You think Red XIII will change his mind?" Aerith asked.
"I think he will," Cloud replied. "He's the noblest one of us all. He wouldn't give up on the Planet."
Aerith smiled, but remained silent.
"There's something else, isn't there?" Cloud asked.
"Not about Red XIII," she answered. "That said..."
"So there is something else," he inferred.
Aerith smiled at him.
"I really liked waking up next to you the past couple of days," she replied. "Both with and without my pants on."
Great, I thought. They're having sex already.
"So I was wondering," she continued, "after all this is over, if you'd like to get an apartment together."
"I would like that," Cloud agreed. "It would be nice to come home to someone."
Cloud and Aerith finished their breakfast, paid the bill, and walked hand-in-hand out of the restaurant.
I stood there, alone and cloaked, for several minutes.
I was beyond disappointed.
Tifa deserved better.
It was at that moment that I began to lose faith in life.
SOME TIME LATER...
So, finally, comes the part I know you've been waiting for: the location of the Island Gulag.
I finally made the decision to go to the Island Gulag, and Zack decided to go with me. He knew where it was, and that's where we would go down fighting.
Why, you ask? Why would we voluntarily go to our deaths like that? Just take one look at the sky. We've all been given a few weeks or less to live. Meteor will strike; the rocket failed. What will happen is one of two things. One, there will be a fire consuming the entire planet, and we will all be burned alive. Two, we'll get a cloud of dust, again consuming the entire planet. The sun will be blocked out, and all the plants, and eventually animals, will die. And we will starve to death.
Zack and I are unwilling to live through either. We are willing to shut down one of the most disgusting places on the Planet, or, more likely, die trying.
So tomorrow, that's where we'll go.
Once Cissnei found out what we were doing, she naturally became troubled. But my mind was made up and I wouldn't let anything get in my way.
"Tobin, please," Cissnei pleaded earlier today. "This is crazy."
"It's a crazy time," I replied.
"I'm not okay with this!" she protested. "You can't go!"
"Why's that?" I asked, even though I knew the obvious answer.
"Because I don't want to lose you!" Cissnei replied. "You're my best friend, and I don't want you to get killed!"
That was the one thing about this that I do feel terrible about. This is the most upset I've ever seen Cissnei. It was worse than when we said our good-byes at Xing.
"That's not my choice," I reminded her. "Meteor's going to fall. It's going to kill everyone. At least Zack and I can go out as heroes."
"But what if something happened," Cissnei retorted, "and Meteor didn't fall?"
"Not possible," I dismissed. "If the rocket can't destroy it, nothing can."
Cissnei looked me in the eyes. Hers were wet, and it looked like she was going to cry. But, being Cissnei, she didn't.
"Listen," I continued. "I've written a journal about my life for the past seven years. If ten days go by and you don't hear from me, hide it in the abandoned reactor. The one outside Gongaga."
"Now, why would I do that?" the upset Cissnei asked. "I finally have a best friend who understands everything, and he's foolishly going to his death!"
"Because," I replied, "if anything or anyone actually does survive, or come here from another world, they'll know who we were."
Cissnei gave me a look. It looked like she was thinking of what to say next. It took her a while, as if she really had to think it through
Then she said it.
"I'll do it under one condition," Cissnei finally informed me.
"What's that?" I asked.
She looked me in the eyes.
I could never believe what she said next.
"If you come back from this alive...we have to get married!"
I was astounded when I heard that. I had a hard time telling whether she was joking or not. We never went on another "date" after her birthday at Gold Saucer; we really went back to being platonic. One thing was for certain: she was trying to get me not to go.
Yes, I figured that's why she said it. It's not something I was ready to do, and she figured it was a wild card to talk me out of it going. But my mind was made up already.
So, of course, I had to answer that. But I knew I wasn't coming back, so there was no harm in it.
"Deal," I agreed.
I have, at this point, nothing more to say. After entrusting this journal to what's left of the Gongaga reactor, Zack and I are going to take a motorboat to latitude four north, longitude seventy-one west. That's the location of the Island Gulag.
I'm not giving you these coordinates to come and look for us. We're already dead, I'm sure of it. Avoid that place at all costs, unless you want to go out with a fight. I imagine it'll be one hell of a fight, too. Zack and I are arguing over who will survive the longest.
And now, to sign off for the final time.
It's now the year 0008.
I'm twenty-two. Zack is twenty-four. Cissnei is twenty-five. Cloud is twenty-one. Tifa is twenty. Aerith is twenty-two. Gehrig would have been twenty-three.
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