The Jenoviad

Canto the First: Reactor’s End and a Childhood Friend

Air fills with gentle music
Sky fills with twinkling stars
This is not a tale you’ll hear
In schools, bookstores, or bars

The telling may take quite some time
So sit down, grab a beer
Though our story starts quite brightly
It will grow darker from here

Our story tells of loss
Both to come and come before
At times it is quite tragic
‘Tis the story of a war

No ordinary war is this
To win’s no piece of cake
Monstrous evil looms o’er all
And the planet is at stake

But do not fear, do not despair
Cling e’er to strands of hope
Our story has a hero
Though he sometimes is a dope

At saga’s start our hero
Has arrived in a great city
Of smokestacks, towers, metal plates
It is not very pretty

And now the music fades
Gives way to noise much more profane
For like many classic stories
This one starts upon a train

Help!  Oh, help!  We’re und’r attack!”
The guards prepared to shout
And they surely would have said it
‘Cept they then all got knocked out

AVALANCHE descended quickly
For time it was a factor
They had to hurry to destroy
The Sector One Reactor

Shock and awe was this group’s game
They wanted all to know
That they would do whate’er it took
To bring down Shinra Co.

A noble cause these bombers had
Unlike some folks might say
Shinra’s Mako reactors
Sucked the planet’s life away

A tiny group was AVALANCHE
The count to five it ran:
Barret, Jessie, Wedge and Biggs
A spiky-haired young man

The blond man was a newcomer
With face not fierce or proud
He looked at them with blue-green eyes
And said his name was Cloud

Cloud was a former SOLDIER
The elite of Shinra’s horde
But the coolest thing about him
Was his giant frickin’ sword

No longer Shinra’s man was he
Cloud played the mercenary
But old allegiances die hard
And Barret was quite wary

“Stick with me,” the big man said
Steered Cloud toward elevator
“And if you try to mess this up
I’ll make you sorry later”

But Cloud did not plan to stab backs
So he ignored the taunt
“Hey, as long as I get paid
I’ll bomb anything you want”

At last they reached the bottom
Shinra soon would know the score
‘Twas but a little ways to go
To the reactor’s core

The atmosphere soon darkened
Things would now be turning grave
They knew for sure when their eyes spied
The glowing point of save

“Set the bomb!” said Barret
“AVALANCHE will soon rejoice!”
And Cloud ignored the warning
Of a mysterious voice

The sirens blared, the red lights flashed
Guards, the ex-SOLDIER thought
He ne’er would have expected
A huge scorpion robot

“The hell is that?” cried Barret
As he readied his arm gun
“The boss,” said Cloud, his eyes a-roll
“You thought that we were done?”

Rapidly, the scorpion struck
With rifle and with tail
Cloud swung sword and Barret hit
With bullets, quite a hail

Suddenly the tail went up
And Cloud told Barret “Wait
If you shoot at it right now
You’ll surely seal our fate”

But Barret still did not trust Cloud
“I been in fights befo’”
And after they got blasted
Cloud just said, “I told you so”

The two bombers rose up again
They’d e’er refuse to waver
Said Barret, “I’m the Big Shot here”
But Cloud, he proved the Braver

The scorpion shook, the men had won
They danced, they cried “Woo hoo!”
And then they saw ten minutes left
Until the whole place blew

They raced back up the ladders
While the seconds ticked away
And as they were about to leave
A plaintive voice said, “Stay”

Cloud turned around, and then he saw
‘Twas Jessie; she was stuck
He grumbled as he ran back
And he said, “Of all the luck . . .”

With Jessie free the band took off
It was down to the wire
They got out in the nick of time
Sky filled with mushroom fire

“Good job,” conceded Barret
His broad face filled with elation
“Now split up!  Don’t let none suspect
And meet back at the station”

Cloud tried in vain to stop them
All he wanted was his pay
Then he reluctantly went toward
The nearest alleyway

People running, screaming, flailing
Midgar’s streets were all a-whirl
Cloud cut through the crowds quite deftly
‘Fore he ran into a girl

“What are you doing out?” she asked
“At this most dang’rous hour?
Reactor blown, the guards in force
And would you like a flower?”

Cloud had a pollen allergy
And guards ran to and fro
But this girl was quite the looker
So he couldn’t just say no

He took the flow’r, and Cloud checked out
His beauty, toe to head
He wanted to stare longer
But the guards wanted him dead

“I’ve gotta run!” Cloud told the girl
“And you should really hide
There’s, um, leaks from that explosion
You should prob’ly stay inside”

Before the girl could say a thing
Cloud bolted at great rate
He never stopped to wonder
If the meeting had been fate

At this point, Cloud, our hero
He was feeling pretty good
But then he ran into the guards
He should have knocked on wood

He tried to run, but he was trapped
In every last direction
Cloud really wished he knew the streets
Of Midgar’s upper section

“Did you know I was in SOLDIER?”
Asked our hero, sword a-glisten
He knew it would not be his fault
If they chose not to listen

“Sure,” scoffed one guard, “You’re so great
You look just like a bum
Let’s have an old-school street fight
At you, sir, I bite my thumb!”

Afterward, the guards were strewn
Throughout the alleyways
But Shinra had a jillion more
Could keep this up for days

Now ‘twas time for Cloud to say
“Let’s blow this pops’cle stand!”
Before he jumped, no one could know
That on a train he’d land

In the car, gloom settled
Like a suffocating shroud
AVALANCHE, well, some of them,
Well, one worried ‘bout Cloud

“Maybe he got captured”
Said young Jessie, quite on edge
“Maybe he just ditched us”
Said the realistic Wedge

Then suddenly, with just a knock
Cloud from above descended
He, with a grin, said, “I’ve arrived
Your waiting now has ended”

Jessie cheered “Hurrah!  Hurrah!”
Then stopped, for fear of swooning
But there were some who thought Cloud’s show
Just overblown buffooning

“The hell was that for?” Barret yelled
“Are you effin’ insane?
Don’t you know the normal way
To get onto a train?

“Just get a seat!” he ordered
As he stormed off in a huff
“Don’t worry,” Jessie said to Cloud
“He’s really not that tough

“Come on, Cloud,” said Jessie
As she seized the group’s new star
Leaving Biggs to wonder why
They had been in the cargo car

The pack’ed train was silent
Speak up?  No one would dare it
Especially after they saw
The raging form of Barret

So all the passengers ignored
This group of terr’rist pigs
Even AVALANCHE ignored
The useless Wedge and Biggs

“Look here, Cloud,” said Jessie
When of cars they’d reached the third
Cloud saw the screen and thought, “Oh great
I saved some giant nerd”

“This map shows Midgar,” Jessie said
“The sectors, one through eight
And all the pillars that support
The giant upper plate

“This is the path the train will take
As down from plate it goes”
Cloud looked out and just said, “Man
This lower city blows”

“Shut your mouth!” big Barret yelled
“The hell you think you know?
The people only stay here cuz
They’ve got no place to go

“All o’ this is Shinra’s fault!”
The big man went off ranting
“Yeah!” cried Jessie, eyes a-spark
Cloud’s praise she started chanting

“Really!” said Cloud “It’s okay
No need to laud my feats, uhh . . .”
Toward the window, Barret said
“I hate this effin’ pizza”

Eventu’lly the train got to
The slums of Sector 7
“Guys!” said Biggs, “Let’s hit the bar!
Its name is 7th Heaven”

Cloud would not be bossed around
From orders he was free
And so he wandered ‘round the town
But found not much to see

Cloud gave up quick, rejoined the group
Went to the liquor vendor
Regretted waiting when he saw
The smokin’ hot bartender

It must have been Cloud’s lucky day
He met sylph after sylph
And then a little girl ran by
Cloud thought, “Is she a MILF?”

As it turned out, she was not
The girl with Barret went
When they left, Cloud could contemplate
This beauty, heaven-sent

Cloud could not keep his eyes off
That white t-shirt, stretch’ed tight
Somewhere above, a voice said, “Cloud
You do recall me, right?”

“Well yeah, of course,” the blond man said
And this was . . . mostly true
“Tifa, how could I forget
A girl who looks like you?”

This response was not quite right
As Tifa’s face turned dour
Thinking quick, Cloud found his bag
Produced the single flower

“Oh, this is lovely!” Tifa cried
“My favorite color, blue”
Cloud lied, and said, “When purchasing
I thought of only you”

Cloud felt that things were going well
He’d get a kiss, or more
But then the shout of “Where’s that bum?”
Came from beneath the floor

His fun ruined, Cloud went below
To join up with the others
He really wasn’t wild about
This newfound band of brothers

“There’s Cloud!  There’s Cloud!” cried Jessie
Like she might break into song
Barret only grumbled
“What took you so goddamn long?

“Now you’re here, I’ve got to know
Something I’m wond’ring ‘bout
Was anyone from SOLDIER there
When we took that place out?”

“Sh’yeah right,” Cloud scoffed, “You really
Let this one go to your head
If more like me had been there
You would all be freakin’ dead”

“Dead?” squealed Jess.  “Wait, what?” said Biggs
Said Wedge, “Huh, who’d’a thunk?”
It really was quite obvious
That Wedge and Biggs were drunk

“Puh-leez,” said Barret, “I don’t think
That you’re really all that
Any time you wanna go
Come here; I’ll knock you flat”

“Thanks but no thanks,” Cloud replied
“That doesn’t sound too great
And while we’re on the subject
Time to get a few things straight

“I don’t care about your cause
The planet?  Meh, whatever
Will Shinra kill the planet?  Sure
But it’ll take forever

“I’m in this for the money, friend
Mor’listically I roam
And if you just make fun of me
Screw you, I’m going home”

“Fine by me,” the big man said
“Don’t need your ugly mug
Since you love Shinra so damn much
Just go give them a hug”

As Cloud stormed out, Jess cried, “Wait!  Stop!”
Perhaps with thoughts of wooing
“Juss let’im go,” drunk Wedge advised
“Yup.  He know what he doing”

Almost to the door was Cloud
The bridge all set to burn
When Tifa’s voice rang out with: “Wait!”
And forced the man to turn

“You can’t go, Cloud!” the girl exclaimed
“We need you really bad”
But working under Barret
Just made Cloud so effin’ mad

“I’d like to help you,” Cloud explained
“But this just ain’t my fight
Go find some noble hippie guy
He’ll get the job done right”

“I guess you did forget,” she said
“That promise that we made”
Cloud was intrigued; could this old promise
Help him to get laid?

“Refresh my mem’ry,” said suave Cloud
“I’d hate to have forgot
Though one thing you should know ‘bout me
Is I forget a

“This was back when we were young
In good old Nibelheim
Probably ‘round middle school
God, such an awkward time

“We were meeting at the well
Do you remember now?”
Cloud said, “I remember
That you wouldn’t date me. Ow”

“You were scrawny.” Tifa shrugged
“And this was later on
You were leaving for SOLDIER
And you would soon be gone”

“Of course!” said Cloud. “Now I recall
That fateful day of yore”
Even though he’d been thirteen
He’d thought that he might score

“I didn’t think you’d come,” said Cloud
“Nor did I,” Tifa said
“But a party got cancelled
So I hit the well instead”

“I’d never really thought ‘bout you
Nor given your name mention
I’ve sometimes wondered if leaving
Was a cry for attention”

This, in fact, was mostly true
But Cloud did not say so
“There’s naught to do in Nibelheim
I’d no choice but to go

“I planned to be a big hero
Like Sephiroth the great”
Because Cloud knew a hero
Could most always get a date

“Yes,” said Tifa, with a smile
“About that hero bit
The promise that you made that night
Do you remember it?”

Cloud nodded. “That I’d save you
If in dire straits you fell
Hmm . . . living here with Barret
I suppose could be called Hell”

“Very funny,” Tifa said
“But listen to my plea
I’m calling in the promise
Come on, hero. Rescue me”

“I’m no hero,” Cloud informed her
He knew well the age-old rule
If a hero calls himself so
Then that hero is a fool

“Plus the setting’s not quite right
You’re no damsel in distress
Nor are you some wacko hippie
Like those nuts, Ted, Riggs, and . . . Bess?

“I guess what I’m saying is
That I don’t think I see
How blowing up reactors
Fits your hero fantasy”

“No, it doesn’t,” Tifa said
“But I’ll ask anyway
The planet needs our help
And for your service we can pay”

“Fine,” said Cloud, as if
He had not planned to all along
Help a girl as hot as Tifa?
He’d have done it for a song

Cloud wanted to celebrate
And no, not just with food
But from below came Barret
Whose face killed the party mood

“The hell are you still doing here?”
The angry man inquired
“I thought I told you your presence
Was no longer required”

“I’ll do your job tomorrow
But for twice the price this time”
Said Barret: “I may bomb buildings
But that, now, is a crime”

“We need the help,” Tifa implored
“That’s what you always say”
“But help from this guy?” Barret asked
“Ne’er thought I’d see the day”

“You need me, man,” Cloud said to him
“Just fork over the green”
Barret said, “Go take a hike!
That money’s for Marlene!”

“Enough!  Enough!” cried Tifa
“There’s no need for us to fight
Tomorrow is a big day
We should rest up for the night”

“Fine,” said Barret, as he left
Mutt’ring warnings of doom
“Night,” said Cloud, “And by the way
Which one is Tifa’s room?”

Canto the Second: Plans Gone Awry and a Sudden Goodbye

Hours passed, the planet spun
And then a new day dawned
Dawn was not a part of day
Of which Cloud was real fond

The night had left Cloud from his bed
Most disinclined to leap
Wedge’s snores had not allowed
The chance to get much sleep

He could have slept in, skipped the job
He could endure the mocking
What he could not handle was
The thund’r of Barret’s knocking

“Get up, you bum!” the big man roared
“No time to lie in bed!
If you don’t come out right now
I’ll bust open your head!”

“What’s the fuss?” the blond man said
“No need to hurry there
It’s not like that reactor
Will get up and go somewhere”

Barret mumbled, “Actu’lly
Got somethin’ to ask you
It’s ‘bout that stuff, Materia
Just what all does it do?”

“Seriously?”  Cloud groaned loud
His face had fallen flat
“Don’t tell me you did all of this
To wake me up for

“Materia’s this magic . . . stuff
Just one of our world’s quirks
It goes inside your weapons
But don’t ask me how that works

“Materia lets you cast spells
Like Fire, Comet, Toad
Sometimes new skills or better stats
Are upon you bestowed

“There you have it,” Cloud declared
“As easy as I said”
“Yeah right,” said Barret.  “All o’ that
Is way over my head”

“So give me your Materia
And live in ign’rant bliss”
Barret scoffed.  “I’m not so dumb
That I would fall for this”

As they argued, Tifa came
And said, “Good morning boys
I came because I heard the shouts
What’s up with all this noise?”

“Barret started,” Cloud complained
Leading Barret to roar
Tifa sighed.  “Do you know
Why you’re fighting anymore?

“Anyway, let’s going get
Another day for crime
Are you ready?  By the way
I’m coming too this time”

Barret started to protest
“Who’s gonna watch Marlene?
Can’t leave her alone in the slums
She’s not even a teen!”

Tifa scowled.  “You’re just trying
To keep me away
Besides, this is a bar, you know
Who’d come during the day?”

“Dude, just let her come,” said Cloud
‘Twas not hard to decide
Tifa versus Barret?
He would always pick her side

“Fine,” said Barret, standing up
“But I just got to say
If something happens to Marlene
I’ll blow you both away”

“Geez,” said Cloud, “why let him stay?
He’s really not much fun”
“Hmm,” said Tifa thoughtfully
“He does have that big gun

“Really, Barret’s a good man
Once him you get to know”
Cloud said, “Whatever,” checked his watch
“I guess we’d better go”

The three of them got on the train
To join Wedge, Biggs, and Jess
Barret tried to keep his cool
With limited success

“Damn! This ain’t no private car!
Split up! Avoid the fuzz!”
He said it was no private car
But once he yelled, it was

Except for one who stayed behind
A Shinra manager
The kind of man that most people
Sarcastically call “Sir”

The poor man muttered, “Sure, my train
Gets boarded by this thug”
Barret rose.  “Do you mean me
You worthless little bug?”

“You’re talking to me?” the man asked
He choked and shook with fear
“‘Course to you,” Barret replied
“There ain’t no one else here”

“Are you surprised?” the man shot back
“Haven’t all of you heard?
Those terrorists will bomb again
On the street that’s the word

“That is why we’re all on edge
From pres’dent down to clerk
Almost everyone I know
Decided to skip work

“So pardon me if I am rude
I’m not feeling quite well”
Said Barret: “Far as I’m concerned
You can go straight to hell

“You’re right.  We . . . I mean, AVALANCHE
Will bomb again today
For killing off the Planet
All you Shinra folks will pay”

“Calm down,” said Tifa, stepping in
“Don’t bother this poor man
How about we share with Cloud
The basics of our plan?”

“Sure,” the man said, “ignore me
Not like I’m important here
If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back
To cowering in fear”

“Guess we should,” said Barret
As the man went off running
“If we don’t he’ll probably
Blow up the wrong damn thing

“So listen up!” the big man said
“I’ll tell you ‘bout the plan
You see, to check up on the trains
They’ve got this ID scan”

“Ah.”  Cloud nodded.  “Got it now
We blow the scanner, right?”
“That little thing?” scoffed Barret
“That’s not worth my dynamite

“The target’s a reactor core
I’d thought that that was plain
All the scanner thing means is
We jump off of the train”

“W-we jump off?” Cloud stuttered
As his voice timid became
Jumping on was one thing
Jumping off was not the same

“In a bit,” said Barret
“Just before the scanner’s run
Now sit down.  Rest up while you can
This explanation’s done”

“Come here,” said Tifa, nudging Cloud
As Barret took a seat
“As long as we’ve got some free time
I’ll show you something neat”

Cloud’s face fell as monitor
Tifa reached out to touch
Why the hell did all the girls
Love that dumb screen so much?

Luckily young Cloud was saved
From map revisiting
Just then all the train’s alarms
Began to flash and ring

“Odd,” said Tifa, froze with shock
“The ID scan’s not yet
Maybe this is something else”
Said Cloud: “You wanna bet?”

“Alert! Alert!” the speaker blared
“Security Type A!
Unident’fied passengers
Are on this train, I say!

“We’ll now conduct a thorough search”
The speaker once more blared
“What do we do?” Tifa asked
Cloud lied: “I am not scared”

Jessie came back to their car
Her face pale white was hued
Redundantly she blurted out
“We’re screwed! We’re screwed! We’re screwed!”

Barret rose without a sound
And quickly took command
“Calm down!” he said. “Just means we’ll jump
Sooner than we had planned”

“Lockdown!” the speaker announced
“Beginning with Car 1!”
Barret surveyed all his troops
“Well? Run, you bastards! Run!”

They barreled down the aisle
And the door they made it through
Just in time to hear the speaker:
“Now lock down Car 2!”

On and on they ran and pushed
Their freedom to prolong
Barret started panting
“Who made . . . this damn train . . . so long?”

It would not end; they felt like they’d
Run for a thousand yards
Just when they thought it was done
They ran into the guards

“Wait!  Don’t shoot!” cried Jessie’s voice
“I know this must seem strange”
“Strange?” said Cloud.  “Just how the hell
Did you find time to change?”

“Questions later!” Barret yelled
“I don’t care ‘bout the how
We are all completely dead
If we don’t jump off

“Y-you go first,” suggested Cloud
Who did not like this trend
“I’m the leader,” Barret said
“I stay until the end

“You won’t plummet to your death
This tunnel has a floor”
Then, without another word
He pushed Cloud out the door

A minute later Cloud came to
The train was now long gone
Barret groaned. “You
still out cold?
Get up! Time to move on”

“How’re you doing?” Tifa asked
“Your head looks pretty lumped”
Cloud stood up, moaned, brushed himself
“If someone asks, I jumped”

“Reactor’s this way,” Barret claimed
He quickly took the reins
Cloud was busy looking out
For any other trains

They traveled down the dark, damp path
And many tracks they crossed
Until Barret admitted
“Uhh . . . I think we might be lost

“These bars ain’t s’posed to be here!
Now we can’t get to our goal!”
“Well,” said Cloud, “down here I see
A service access hole”

“No way!” said Barret. “I can’t fit
Into that tiny rut!”
But he could see no other way
So he sucked in his gut

Through the shaft the party squirmed
Twisted torso and limb
Cloud wished instead of Barret
He’d Tifa in front of him

Eventu’lly the three escaped
They stretched and looked around
They were in the Fifth Reactor
And already underground

“Cutting the frontal assault
Makes this more eas’ly done”
Cloud and Barret both complained
“Sure, take out all the fun!”

Yes, their job was simpler
But not quite a cakewalk
There were still a few lame guards
Whom out they had to knock

On a catwalk Cloud saw Jess
Her face was streaked with tear
“Oh,” he said, quite callously
“Uh, why are you still here?”

“This is all my fault!” Jess sobbed
“I caused all that train fuss
A change I made to Cloud’s ID’s
What set them on to us”

Cloud sighed, let Tifa console
Barret stifled a groan
All of them were thinking:
“Oh right. Jess. We should have known”

“Sorry,” Jess choked. “This mission
I did not want to blow
See, I—” but Cloud stopped her
“No thanks. I don’t want to know”

Soon they tracked down Wedge and Biggs
Said, “We’ll leave Jess to you”
Maybe not the best choice?
They had better things to do

That problem taken care of
They promptly resumed their route
But when they fin’lly reached the core
Cloud started freaking out

As Cloud fainted, Barret asked
“Man, what’s wrong with this guy?
Is he sick or something?”
Tifa said, “Wish I knew why”

Cloud was in an old reactor
Filled with an eerie green light
He looked around, thought to himself
“What did I eat last night?”

On the ground a corpse, a sword
A good sword; no, the best
Next to them knelt Tifa
She was . . . like a cowgirl dressed?

“Dad! Oh, Dad!” the young girl cried
Cloud felt an awkward tic
“Great,” he thought. “Just what I need
Another crying chick”

Suddenly she seized the sword
Roared like one’d in a brawl
“Mako! Shinra! SOLDIER!
Sephiroth! I hate them all!”

The dream abruptly ended there
‘Twas quite the cliffhanger
Tifa elbowed Barret
“Look. He’s starting now to stir”

Tifa held up hand, told Cloud
“Count the fingers you see”
Cloud, grinning, inquired
“You were worried about me?”

“Worried? Ha!” the big man scoffed
“You think that I’m your mom?
Now come on, don’t waste no more time
Just go and set the bomb”

Barret crowed, “This will make sure
That our poor planet lives”
Cloud looked at it, puzzled
“What, no timer?  Hey, what gives?”

“No time for that!” the big man cried
“Let’s quick get out of here
I don’t see any robots
So I think we’re in the clear”

Quickly now they ran back up
They had no need to stay
At the top they came to find
A shut door blocked their way

“Man, that sucks,” complain’ed Cloud
Barret began to swear
“Calm down, guys,” said Tifa
“Push those buttons over there”

“That’s it?” said Cloud.  “Security
Seems really poorly done”
“Not so fast.  They must be hit
In perfect unison”

“Still not bad,” Barret reasoned
Said Tifa, “I agree
We’ll go upon my signal
Are you ready?  One . . . two . . . three!”

BLIP BLIP BLIP. The buttons beeped
A great cacophony
The fact the door remain’ed shut
Was plain for all to see

“What was that?” yelled Tifa
“Why’d you hit your buttons
Never mind, we’ll try once more”
But they just failed again

“Cloud! Why swing your arm like that?
You doing magic tricks?”
“I can’t help it!” snarled Cloud
“This stupid button sticks!”

“God!” said Tifa. “Never thought
That this would take so long”
“Not my fault!” Barret complained
“You must be counting wrong”

“Should I add more numbers?”
“No!” said Cloud. “Just stick with three
You know that
bomb we planted?
Where’s your sense of urgency?”

“All right!” she said through gritted teeth
“We’ll give this one last try
But if you screw it up again
So help me, I might cry”

The buttons dinged, the door flew ope’
Freeing them from their cell
Of that event the three agreed
To never, ever tell

Back outside Cloud yelled with glee
“Man, that sure was a snap!”
To us, of course, it’s obvious
They walked into a trap

Moments later Shinra’s guards
The walkways all did cross
Barret groaned. “That’s what we get
For tryin’ to skip the boss”

A helicopter swooped right down
Inside it was no copper
A fat old man in a red suit
Walked slowly from the chopper

“Who are you?” the big guy asked
“I’m warning you, old man”
Raising his gun, he declared
“You won’t mess up our plan

“You don’t want to fight us
Hell, you look like someone’s dad
I killed a giant scorpion
And . . . these two ain’t that bad”

“Fight you?” the old fat man laughed
“Of that I’ve no intent
As for the introduction
Hi, I’m Shinra’s President

“I’m not much of a fighter
And I can’t ruin this suit
This is the joy of management
I just have to say, ‘Shoot’

“But I don’t mean to shoot you
Even vicariously
I’d hate for any of your blood
To get all over me

“Nor will I disarm your bomb
Of that please have no fear
The bomb will go off just as planned
But . . . you’ll all still be here”

“Wait a sec, now!” Tifa cried
“Can you be serious?
You’d let a whole reactor blow
Just to take care of us?”

The Pres’dent shrugged.  “It’s no big deal
I’ve got six more of these
I missed yesterday’s fireworks
I’m watching the reprise”

Cloud did not want to explode
And end up as debris
“I used to be in SOLDIER
Surely you remember me”

The Prez just laughed at poor Cloud’s plea
“You really must be kidding
You expect me to keep track
Of all who do my bidding?

“And now I must be leaving you
I’ve no more time to spend
A world to rule, a son to raise
A dinner to attend

“Before I go, just one last thing
In case you’d thought to run
I brought a little friend for you
You four enjoy your fun”

Cloud ran toward the chopper
Barret swore. Tifa looked glum
It wasn’t until later
That they heard the om’nous hum

A large robotic soldier
Came in from the walkway’s side
“I call it the Airbuster!”
From the chopper the Prez cried

The big robot closed in on them
The humming’s pitch grew high
“Hey, former SOLDIER!” Barret yelled
“How do we beat this guy?”

“How should I know?” Cloud replied
Attempting to stay cool
“I must have slept right through that class
Back there in SOLDIER school

“Your guess is as good as mine”
To which Barret said, “Shit
I’ll do what I always do
I’m gonna shoot at it”

“Wait,” said Tifa. “Here’s one thing
That in
my school I learned:
Your attacks will hurt much more
When its big back is turned”

Cloud got in behind it
And the Airbuster was trapped
To this formation it soon proved
Unable to adapt

Spin one way, get struck by sword
The other: fist, foot, gun
Toss in a few lightning bolts
And that robot was done

The threat removed, they prepared
To return to their abode
Sadly, they forgot one thing
Robots like to explode

The blast took out the walkway
Like an angry giant’s sledge
Cloud found himself clinging
To a crackling, creaking ledge

“Bomb’s still ticking,” Barret said
“We’ve really got to go”
“How could you?” Tifa yelled at him
“Leaving without Cloud? No!”

“Just go,” said Cloud, “‘fore Barret
Has himself some huge conniption
And, for the record, this right here?
Not in the job description”

Tifa cried, “You’d better live!
You I would truly miss”
Cloud was thinking: “If I do
You owe me big for this”

And then Cloud could hold on no more
He yelled this as he fell
“If this is how my story ends
I’ll see you all in Hell!”

Canto the Third: Cloud Wears a Dress, Sector Seven Feels the Press

Darkness was all that Cloud saw
And all he felt was dirt
Voices were all that he heard
And all he knew was hurt

“Now that was an impressive fall”
A mystery voice said
“You can forget about skinned knees
You really should be dead

“I mean, not even Greg Louganis
Could survive that dive”
“Wait,” said Cloud.  “You’re telling me
I’m actu’lly

“’Course you are,” the voice replied
“You are the man: Cloud Strife!
In case you hadn’t noticed
We lead a very charmed life

“And now I think—slowly, gently—
You should get on your feet
The Shinra need stopping, but first
There’s someone you should meet”

“Hang on!  Don’t go!  Who are you?  Please!”
Inside his head Cloud cried
“Don’t worry ‘bout me,” said the voice
“You’re the one who almost died”

Eyes now ope, Cloud looked around
But not too fast (he’d hurl)
He saw pews (boring), flowers (meh)
And . . . whoa, a pretty girl

“Are you alright?” the girl asked him
“You fell down from the sky
I wonder how it happened
Did you think that you could fly?

“You’re so lucky,” she explained
“The flow’r bed broke your fall”
Cloud, in pain, was not sure that
It really helped at all

“Sorry ‘bout the flowers
On them I’d not want to tread”
Then, since he could not help himself:
“So . . . seems I’m in your bed”

“Oh, they’ll grow back,” she told him
Failed to pick up on the line
This was one time that Cloud would need
A much more overt sign

“Flowers don’t grow in Midgar
At least, that’s what they say
But the sacred garden here
Makes bouquet on bouquet”

She returned to tending buds
Cloud his two choices weighed
Reunite with AVALANCHE
Or woo the fair young maid?

Cloud decided to stick ‘round
Could not resist that face
Besides, he was not sure he knew
The way to Tifa’s place

“You like flowers?” ask’ed Cloud
“Cuz I’ve got one right here . . .”
Then with a jolt he remembered
He’d made it disappear

“You bought it from me yesterday!”
The naïve girl declared
“We met when that reactor blew
I think that you were scared

“My name’s Aeris,” the girl said
“In case you don’t recall”
Cloud did not; in fact
She had not mentioned it at all

But Cloud recovered quickly
“How could I forget that name?
And I am Cloud, jack-of-all-trades!”
He nobly did proclaim

Now ‘twas time to put on moves
Some feelings to invent
Then: “Do you have Materia?”
The girl on tangent went

“Uh, sure,” said Cloud, a-wond’ring
How to turn this to a line
“There are not many men around
With Materia like mine”

“Really?” asked the wide-eyed girl
“I’d heard it’s everywhere”
“N-no,” Cloud stammered
“No, you see . . . it’s really very rare”

“I have one too.” The girl giggled
Whipped it out to compare
“I got it from my mother
It’s the
rarest of the rare!”

“What makes it so special?”
Cloud stared at the small green ball
Aeris could not stop laughing
“It does nothing at all!”

“That can’t be right,” argued Cloud
“You must have used it wrong
Listen to my tutorial
It shouldn’t take that long . . .”

Aeris shook her head. “No, no
It doesn’t work like yours
You don’t put it in your weapons
You can’t find it in stores”

“Say Cloud,” the girl said suddenly
“Of all trades you are jack
Would you be int’rested in work
To help me watch my back?”

“Sure,” said Cloud, “but tell me:
What do you need guarding for?”
Aeris shrugged.  “Just ask those guys
Approaching the church door”

Just then the girl was proven right:
In came four ugly mugs
One redhead in a sharp blue suit
Three faceless Shinra thugs

“’Kay,” said Cloud.  “I’ll take the job
But for free I don’t work”
The voice inside his head told him
The redhead was a Turk

“Hmm,” said Aeris, thoughtfully
“What do I have?  Let’s see . . .
I know!  If you take me home
You get a date with me!”

He could not ask for more than that
‘Twas better than a kiss
Cloud drew his sword, approached the men
“Right!  Who wants some o’ this?”

“Whoa, calm down!” the redhead said
“Man, don’t get so upset
Let’s just not do anything
That we’d later regret

“We just came here for the girl
We’ve got no beef with you
If you sheathe that sword, I swear
Our business will be through”

Cloud was not convinced. “Stay back
Unless you want to die
Why should I trust a word you say?
You filthy Shinra spy!”

“Hey Reno, guess he called your bluff!”
One mirthful soldier cried
Then, by ‘lectric cattle prod
He very promptly died

“We can do this the hard way, too”
Said Reno, eyes a-spark
“But it’s a shame. I oft prefer
To not be quite so dark”

Aeris shrieked. “Don’t fight in here!
The flowers will get wrecked!”
Then she dragged Cloud out the back
Before he could object

Reno followed, through the bed
“Get those two in a cell!
And if you step on one flower
You will catch holy hell”

The two in flight entered the back
Which was falling apart
“Where do we go from here?” asked Cloud
Said Aeris: “Oh. That part”

“How about that hole?” asked Cloud
Pointing up toward the sky
“Way up there?” asked Aeris
“But, remember, you can’t fly . . .”

Cloud hurried Aeris up the stairs
Approached the second “floor”
But just then Reno and his goons
Burst through the open door

“Duck!” yelled Cloud, who hit the deck
O’er his head shots did sail
Aeris, most unhappily
Put her faith in the rail

Two goons went down after her
“Quick! Catch that Ancient’s spawn!”
Cloud looked around frantically
And a lightbulb clicked on

The goons closed in on the poor girl
“I have you now,” one said
But suddenly he lost his cool;
A barrel hit his head

The men KO’ed, Aeris was free
To back to her friend climb
They jumped out, and Reno said
“There is always next time”

The pair lay there, upon the roof
Recov’ring from distress
“So, why were those guys after you?”
“Just ‘cuz I’m cute, I guess?”

“No, really,” Cloud said, sitting up
“You have misunderstood
The Turks recruit for SOLDIER”
“Well, maybe I’d be good

“Can we not talk about this now?”
She said as she stood up
“I’d really like to just get home
It’s almost time to sup”

The two dashed off, from roof to roof
‘Til Aeris cried out, “Wait!”
Cloud smirked. “You can’t be in SOLDIER
With that slow of a gait”

“How would you know?” Aeris asked
“Were you in SOLDIER? Huh?”
“Well yeah,” said Cloud. “Where do you think
This giant sword’s from? Duh.”

“Oh yeah,” she said, watching his face
“You’ve got those Mako eyes”
“How do you know about that?”
He asked in great surprise

Aeris became flustered
“Oh, uh . . . that was just a hunch
Now come on, Reno’s chasing us
We’re in a real time crunch!”

Down from rooftops, through the slums
Which stank of grime and sweat
They passed hovel after hovel
Cloud asked, “Are we there yet?”

Finally they reached a house
With garden, waterfall
“Can this be the slums?” he asked
The place did him enthrall

The girl deigned not to answer
She just went inside, quite calm
“Hello!” she said, and then: “I’m home!
How are you doing, Mom?”

“This is Cloud,” she introduced
“He’s been my bodyguard”
“WHAT?  Now, if I had my way
You’d never leave the yard”

“Oh, Mom!” she said, and then to Cloud:
“She likes to get this way
So!  What do you want to do?
I have no plans today”

Cloud could think of one good thing
But her mom was nearby
“Maybe I should see Tifa
She was worried I’d die”

Aeris looked suspicious
But then she just said, “Okay”
“It is in Sector Seven”
“Oh yeah, sure, I know the way”

But Aeris’ mom put her foot down
“No one goes anywhere!”
“But Mom . . .” “No buts, young lady!
You’ll sleep on it, or I swear . . .”

Cloud could not find sleep that night
His mind just had to rove
Met the Prez, chased by the Turks
And Aeris, one room ove’ . . .

“What’s with you?” asked the myst’ry voice
“Does this room not suffice?
I mean, not since we were a kid
Has our room been this nice”

So Cloud thought of his childhood
‘Twas much like any other
Until he heard the nagging of
His domineering mother

Cloud sat up, said, “I’ve got to go”
Like he’d seen the abyss
“Sep’rate bedrooms, met the mom
Can’t get tied down like this!”

“You’re running from a pretty girl?”
The voice asked, nonchalant
“Course,” Cloud answered, frantically
“It’s just what
she would want”

Down the stairs and out the door
Cloud tiptoed through night air
Got to Sector Six, and heard:
“Are you going somewhere?”

“Where could you be going now?”
The naïve girl inquired
“How come you got up so soon?
Are you not really tired?”

“Oh, uh, nowhere,” Cloud replied
“Just felt like a late walk”
“Since we’re both up,” Aeris said
“You wanna sit and talk?”

They went into a sad playground
Whose atmosphere was dank
Aeris sat down on the slide
“What was your SOLDIER rank?”

Cloud could not remember
How could this have come to pass?
Suddenly, his mem’ry flashed
“Of course I was First Class”

“Just like he was,” Aeris mulled
Cloud sensed some competition
‘Fore he could speak, he was stunned
By a strange apparition

A gaudy cart passed by, decked out
With tassel and with bell
Frowning in the back there was
A girl he knew quite well

“Tifa?” Cloud asked puzzledly
As cart from playground tore
“That’s Wall Market,” Aeris said
“Could your friend be a whore?”

Cloud saw lights flashing, smelled the booze
Heard invites to come in
He had entered Midgar’s
Glowing capital of sin

“Tifa went up this way”
He said, following the cart
Wondering what was the scene
In which she would play part

At road’s end, a mansion house
Decked out in Far East style
In the front, a surly guard
Whose heart was full of bile

“Dis place belongs to Corneo
So scram; he don’t like guys”
Cloud wanted to beat him up
But Aeris said, “Disguise”

“What’s the big idea?” asked Cloud
Trying rage to suppress
“Simple,” she said.  “All we need’s
To get you in a dress”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” he said with haste
“I’m Cloud: all that is man”
“I know,” said Aeris, giggling
“But what’s a better plan?”

Cloud, half-stunned, did not protest
As she dragged him about
First there was the dress shop
Said the maker: “We’re sold out

“You see, I need a challenge
Something new,” he said with sigh
Aeris grinned.  “That’s perfect!
For you see, it’s for this guy”

The old man grinned most creepily
“You . . . swing that way . . . down south?
I’ll make you something silky soft”
Cloud threw up in his mouth

“Just a dress won’t be enough
You’ll also need a wig
I have a friend who . . . swings like you
They call him Bro the Big

“He’s o’er in the gymnasium
It, uh, smells kinda gross”
She said, “We’ll be back for the dress”
Cloud was near-comatose

“What’s up?” said the gym’s manager
A great muscle-bound brute
“Hi,” said Aeris. “This is Cloud
We need to make him cute”

The big man laughed. “You want my wig?
Well, you’re just one of lots
So: thirty seconds, the wig goes
To him with the most squats”

“Is there some other way?” asked Cloud
As she pushed him toward mat
“I have . . . another wig,” said Bro
“But nobody wants . . .

Despite fatigue, Cloud gave his all
Did squats nigh to infinity
Desp’rate he was for any way
To prove his masculinity

“Take it,” said the sweaty Bro
Dropping down on the bench
“But no one’s gonna think you’re cute
‘Til you clean up your stench”

The dress-up game went on and on
Perfume, circlet, makeup
Finally, Cloud reached a point
Where he could not say, “Yup”

Aeris held a brazen thong
“But, hmm, will you fit in it?”
Cloud woke as if from a deep trance
“Now wait one goddamned minute!

“The dress and wig, I understand
For the disguise, I’ll bear
But I do not see any point
sexy underwear!

“None would even see it!
Oh, and if they did, I’d run”
“Fine,” said Aeris grumpily
“I was just having fun”

All dressed up, the two, uh, “girls”
Went off to see the Don
Cloud was having quite a time
Walking with high heels on

“Yo, nice rack,” declared the guard
“Wait here.  I’ll get da boss”
Aeris said, “It’s going great!”
For words Cloud was at loss

“We’re in!  We’re in!” Aeris proclaimed
“Am I real smart, or what?”
“Quiet!” said Cloud.  “We’ll get caught
Your mouth you now should shut

“Look for Tifa,” ordered Cloud
“She must be racked with fear”
Aeris found a staircase
“Hmm.  Maybe she’s down here”

Down the steps, a creepy room
With a . . . torture device?
Looking ‘round for clues and such
Was one girl, dressed real nice

“Are you Tifa?” Aeris asked
Without even a “Yo”
She introduced herself: “Aeris
And this is my friend . . . Jo”

“Yes, I’m Tifa,” she replied
In a suspicious tone
“But what are you two doing here?
I thought I’d be alone”

“We might ask the same of you!”
Said “Jo” in a falsetto
He brought it on with a sharp kick
From his high-heel stiletto

Tifa laughed. “Cloud, drop the act
It’s real clear who you are
Dresses, makeup, even wigs
Can only go so far”

She said, “I’m here for Corneo”
As Cloud stood there in shock
“It seems he knows of Shinra’s plans
I came to make him talk

“And Cloud, I’ve something here for you”
It was a swift elbow
“What . . . was that for?” grunted Cloud
“For making me fret so”

“Hey! What are you doing?”
Called a voice atop the stair
“Dat room’s not ‘til later
First da Don’s gotta . . . prepare”

Tifa whispered frantically
“Okay, so here’s the plan:
For tonight they’ve brought three girls
Well . . . two girls and one man

“The Don comes out and picks one
Who then shares his bed tonight
But, instead of foreplay
You interrogate him. Right?”

Aeris said, “This sounds like fun!
Oh boy, will he be tricked!”
“Sure,” said Cloud, assuming
That he’d not be the one picked

The two girls pranced up the stairs
With “Ooohs!” and “Ohmygawds!”
The guard said, “Why I gotta deal
Wit’ all o’ dese dumb broads?”

In his office, Corneo
A fat man in maroon
“I say! Look at these lovely girls!
I think that I may swoon!

“My, you’ve got a pretty face!
And this one’s so cute, too!
I’ve never had a choice this hard
But I will go with . . . you!”

Aeris could not help but grin
And Tifa looked offended
Cloud piped: “Y-you mean this other girl
Yes, that’s what you intended!”

Corneo: “And modest, too!
I’ve got a winner here!
You two, go off with the boys
Call me if you need beer

“We shall away to my boudoir!
It’s okay to say ‘Wow!’”
The room was . . . well, like you’d expect
Thought Cloud: just kill me now

“I’d like to start with role play
I’ll be Stanley, you be Blanche”
Said Cloud: “I’d rather just talk
H-have you heard of AVALANCHE?”

Corneo’s eyes narrowed
“That’s a funny thing to ask
are you the pretty face?
Or do you wear . . . a

The fat man lunged, and snagged Cloud’s dress
It came off, bit by bit
Soon the disguise had disappeared
The Don said, “Holy shit!

“Sweet Jesus!  I was joking!
You . . . you’re actually a guy?”
Cloud savored his freedom
As he rearranged his fly

Tifa charged in, saw the Don
“Corneo!  Up you’ll fess!”
Aeris followed, looking sad
“Aww, Cloud took off his dress”

“So much for my guards,” he said
“You folks don’t mess around
This is the might of AVALANCHE
The noble underground!”

“What do you know ‘bout us?”
Tifa asked.  “Don’t even twitch!
If you don’t answer, let’s just say
Your voice will rise in pitch”

“Sounds like fun,” the Don replied
But his eyes filled with fear
Aeris failed to understand
“You’re gonna hit his ear?”

The Don said, “I was simply tasked
To find the gun-armed man”
Tifa asked, “Who told you?”
“Heidegger.  It was his plan”

“The Head of Public Safety?”
In her voice, a hint of fret
The man did keep the public “safe”
By crushing ev’ry threat

“I did what he wanted
I helped him his problem fix
Pointed him to Sector Seven
Oh thank God we’re here in Six”

“What?” said Tifa, now real scared
“What are they gonna do?”
The Don grinned. “To fair Sector Sept
The Shinra bid adieu

“They can do it, too,” he laughed
“The whole plate, just like
They blow one supporting pillar
An entire sector’s flat!”

“Oh God . . . we have to stop them!”
“Hey, can I come tag along?”
“Damn those Shinra. Think they’re so bad”
“Wait. I’m not done with this song

“Do you know why I would blab so?
Why I would so eas’ly give?”
Cloud just shrugged. “We do not care
D’you lose the will to live?”

“Wrong, wrong, wrong!” Corneo cried
“Your ball missed ev’ry pin!”
Flicking a hidden switch, he said
“It’s ‘cause I know I’ll win”

The floor slid out from ‘neath them
Sending to the depths the three
As he fell, Cloud muttered
“Why’s this keep happening to me?”

The three stood up, wiped themselves off
Before the muck could harden
Cloud grumbled, “At least last time
I landed in a garden”

Tifa snarled in disgust
“God damn that bastard Don!”
Aeris said, “It could be worse”
To which Cloud moaned, “Come on!”

A hulking beast came from behind
Unleashed a wave of gunk
Aeris whined, “You wrecked my dress!
You lousy little punk!”

Tifa said, “Forget the dress
Should have prepared to soil it
But where did this thing come from?
Did it get flushed down the toilet?”

“Who cares?” Cloud said, whipped out his sword
“We’ll beat him anyway
I’ve some frustration to unleash
This isn’t my best day”

“Hey Cloud, where did you keep that sword
When you were in a dress?”
“Huh. I never thought ‘bout that
Things just worked out, I guess”

The toilet monster felled with ease
They trudged off through the sewer
The minutes left to Shinra stop
Were ever growing fewer

They came up through a manhole
But their path was by trains barred
Aeris looked around and said
“This feels like a graveyard”

“We’re in Sector Seven now”
Said Tifa, her voice dire
“Let’s hurry to the pillar, quick!
I think I hear gunfire!”

Tifa said, “Now, in my bar
There is a girl, Marlene . . .”
Aeris understood, for once
“I’ll get her off the scene”

The fighters reached the pillar’s base
Pushed through the gathered crowd
Made their way toward the staircase
The shots were now quite loud

First they found a dying Wedge
Who spoke in a voice hoarse
“Do you . . . remember . . . my name, Cloud?”
Cloud answered, “Bedge, of course”

The trip upstairs was solemn
They had lost Biggs, even Jess
There was no chance for last remarks
They’d no time to digress

At the top stood Barret
Like an avatar of fury
“I’ll kill ev’ry last Shinra scum!
I’m judge, ex’cuti’ner, jury!”

“You okay?” Cloud asked the man
Face streaked with bod’ly dross
Barret grunted. “Can’t let up
That chopper holds the boss”

As he spoke, a man jumped down
To the cold steel platform
His hair was red, his suit was blue
His smile strangely warm

“I knew I would see you again
Too bad that it’s for work”
Barret growled, “Who are you?”
Cloud said, “Reno. A Turk”

“The pillar’s coming down,” he said
“Whether or not you care
As punishment for your group’s bombs
It’s really only fair

“Your intervention’s meaningless
Sector Seven is through
So, really, we don’t have to fight”
Growled Cloud: “Oh yes we do!”

“Have it your way,” Reno said
As he drew out his cane
“I just want it on the books:
You chose the way of pain”

Cloud charged forward, sword on high
To world of Reno rid
Suddenly, he found himself
In golden pyramid

Reno laughed. “What will you do?
Poor Cloud’s prospects look dim”
Barret grinned. “Won’t work on me
Don’t give a damn ‘bout him”

As Barret pummeled Reno’s face
Tifa rushed to save Cloud
“Bosses with attacks like this
Just should not be allowed”

“How you like this?” Barret roared
His voice with rage did throb
Reno moaned, “I like it . . . fine
It’s all . . . part of . . . the job”

Barret’s fist came to a halt
Tifa paused her rescue
In the silence, one lone BEEP
Rang out as if on cue

At the console stood a man
He was like Reno dressed
“The plate is coming down,” he said
Not one least bit distressed

“Nice timing, Tseng,” groaned Reno
“Did you have to make me wait?”
Tseng just shrugged. “You are the one
Who asked to be the bait”

Reno limped back toward the rail
Barret was frozen stiff
“If . . . you live . . . we’ll fight again
But that’s a real big ‘if’”

They got back on the chopper
As Barret woke from his trance
Raised his gun, said, “Hold it there!
I’ll make you bastards

Tseng reached back into the hold
“You’d not want to hit this”
He placed afront him a bound girl
Tifa looked, cried, “Aeris!”

“Why’d you take her?” Tifa asked
Barret could only glare
“She’s the last Ancient,” Tseng replied
“Beyond that, I don’t care”

Aeris struggled to break free
“Tifa! That girl . . . Charlene!
She’s safe! She’s with my—ugh,” she groaned
As Reno punched her spleen

“How nice to save one little girl”
Tseng said as back he hopped
“That’s all you’ll get today, I fear
This sequence can’t be stopped”

“There you have it,” Reno said
“You cannot beat Shinra
You can blow up all you want
But we’ll always win. Duh”

As the chopper soared away
A ringing CRACK was heard
The detonations had begun
And could not be deterred

Barret bellowed at the sky:
“GOD DAMN THE SHINRA! [expletive deleted]”
Tifa slapped him, shouted, “Help!
In this thing Cloud’s still stuck!”

Barret raised his arm and roared
The bullets blasted through
Cloud muttered, “Thanks for missing me”
Barret said, “Lucky you

“Doesn’t matter,” Barret sighed
He’d used up all his ire
“There’s no way to get out of here
Hey, wait . . . is that a wire?

“We can use this to escape!”
Cloud scoffed. “That little thing?”
“You got a better idea? Nope!
Just hold on tight and SWING!”

AVALANCHE clasped to the wire
They through the air did soar
The pillar snapped, the plate collapsed
Then Seven was no more

Canto the Fourth: A Farewell to Midgar

The world was filled with awful noise
And then in silence passed
Until the air was once more rent
By a horrific blast

This was of profanity
It came from Barret’s mouth
His mood, not good at any time
Was trending sharply south

Tifa’s face filled with concern
She moved to stop his fit
Cloud, who knew of men, told her
“Just let him cuss a bit”

They’d wound up in the playground
Fallen beams dotted the sand
Mere feet away, the ruins
Were quite readily at hand

Tifa could not look; she turned
As bright tears filled her eyes
Cloud thought about Aeris
Interrupting seemed unwise

Barret’s shouts came to a head
He opened fire: POW!
Rage expended, he whipped round
“So!  What do we do now?”

“I . . . I don’t know,” choked Tifa
“I’m not sure I can go on
Wedge and Biggs, Jess, everyone
I can’t believe they’re gone

“What we did was good, I thought
We tried Shinra to halt
I never thought they’d go this far
Is all of it our fault?”

Barret laughed. “Oh yeah, I’m sure
That we’re who
Shinra blames
As for me, I’m kickin’ ass
Not both’rin’ to take names

“Our fault? Their fault? I don’t care
All that is in the past
All I know is that my gun
Needs some revenge, and fast

“The Shinra took my girl from me
And for that they will pay
So even if it takes my life
I’ll bring them judgment day”

“Barret, wait! That isn’t true!”
To stop him she did strive
“Remember that girl? She did say
That Marlene’s still alive”

“The hell? What were you waiting for?
Why didn’t you say so?
I’ve got to see her right away
Hey, Cloud . . . now where’d Cloud go?”

Cloud, in fact, had wandered off
He did not care, as such
Sector Seven being gone
Did not affect him much

Aeris, on the other hand
Weighed heav’ly on his mind
Was’t his running into her
That put her in this bind?

“Cloud! Yo, Cloud!” yelled Barret
Who still sounded quite distressed
“You’re taking us to Aeris’ place!”
It was not a request

Tifa scowled. “Don’t be rude
We’ve all been through a lot
We really have to hold on tight
To the friends we’ve still got”

“Come on, Tifa, cut the sap
Don’t make us sound so lame
I don’t care what Barret says
I’d go there just the same

“I’m gonna help Aeris
I’m sort of her bodyguard”
Thinking ‘bout his reward
Made the choice not at all hard

“Also, I’m real curious
About these . . . Ancient . . . things”
In his head, a voice: “Well, yeah
In here that a bell rings”

They worked their way back through the slums
To th’incongruous glen
Inside they found Aeris’ mom
“Oh look. It’s you again

“Sit down. Make yourselves at home
Enjoy a cup of tea
And tell me why it’s not your fault
They took my girl from me”

Cloud began the blame game
“It’s all Barret’s fault, you see”
Barret countered with, “Oh yeah?
Who brought her there? Not me!

“Ah, go ahead and blame me
I just came here for one thing”
“Your daughter is safe up there”
Barret up stairs did spring

Aeris’ mom ignored the tea
Instead pulled out a flask
“Are . . . you alright?” Cloud felt the need
To hesitate to ask

“Knew this day would come,” she said
Her voice filled with regret
“My daughter’s been fleeing them
Oh . . . ever since we met”

“Met?” said Tifa, puzzledly
“A funny thing to say”
“Aeris did not meet me ‘til
Long past her first birthday”

“This’ll be long, won’t it?”
Cloud asked, stifling a groan
He was wishing he had brought
A flask to call his own

“This was way back in the war”
The mom said with a sigh
“My husband was at the front
Some place they called Wutai

“One day I got a message
That my man was home on leave
I waited on, for days and days
Ne’er him I did perceive

“There at the train station
Was a woman, destitute
I have to say, my first thought was
She was a prostitute

“With her was a young girl
For her sake she did implore
‘Help my daughter Aeris’
Then the mother was no more”

“Oh, the war,” said Tifa
“Yes, that’s what I thought, at first
Then I heard about the lab
And came to fear the worst

“One day a man came to our house
He said he was a Turk
He had the air of someone
Who does most unsav’ry work

“He said she was an Ancient
Said she had a higher call
Aeris—oh, God bless her!
Wanted none of it at all

“But that man Tseng would not give up
Said he’d be back some day”
The mom, she took a swig, and said
“I guess that was today”

Tifa tapped Cloud discreetly
They would leave her to her grief
They snuck up to see Barret
A man filled with relief

He was playing with Marlene
“Daddy!  Your whiskers tickle!
Oh!  Hi Cloud!  D’you like that girl?”
Which left Cloud in a pickle

Barret saved him, intervened
“I guess we’d better stir
Aeris saved my little girl
Now let’s all go save her”

“I concur,” said Tifa
Drawing her gaze off of Cloud
“Any further Shinra crimes
Just cannot be allowed

“But what about Marlene?”
Barret: “Why can’t we leave her here?”
Tifa: “That mom’s in no shape
To watch a girl, I fear”

Still, they had no other choice
Told Marlene to watch out
“Now!  To Shinra HQ, quick!”
But no one knew the route

With no ideas, they wandered ‘round
Got to Wall Market, late
Maybe there they’d find a way
To reach the upper plate

A scavenger sold batteries
Cloud bought ‘em all, one go
“Batteries?  How will those help?”
“Hey now.  You never know”

Near Corneo’s mansion
(Which Cloud passed at triple speed)
They found some kids goofing around
With a great wire lead

“Yo!  Where’s this go?” Barret asked
Of one obnoxious putz
“Up,” he said, “but climbing it?
You must be hella nuts”

“Here’s our way!” the big man cried
“Using this, we can soar”
“Man, what’s with you and wires?”
“Hey, one saved our butts before

“‘Sides, this ain’t just a wire
See?  It’s golden, full of hope”
“Yeah, whatever,” grumbled Cloud
“Just head on up, you dope”

The party clasped on to the wire
It held their weight quite well
The punks cheered, jeered, told them they’d fall
Cloud shot back, “Go to Hell!”

The wire twisted up and up
Through wreckage of the plate
Cloud’s batt’ries proved so useful
That it almost seemed like fate

Finally they reached the top
Cut through alley and street
‘Til o’er their heads rose Shinra Tow’r
At least eight hundred feet

“Okay, Mr. SOLDIER”
Barret said without delay
“Since you should be the expert here
I’ll let you lead the way”

Cloud tried to mask his ignorance
In truth, he’d never been
“I know this place like back of hand
Now . . . how do we get in?”

Barret grunted. “Shoulda known
You’re just a useless bum
So we’ll do it my way
Let’s just charge in, start a scrum”

“That’s your plan?” scoffed Tifa
As she firmly held her ground
“Fight your way through ev’ry floor?
Let’s find a way around

“What about those stairs?” she said
While Barret’s path she blocked
“I know it sounds impossible
But maybe they’re unlocked”

Barret: “Take the long way ‘round?
No! Go straight for the throat”
Tifa: “Cloud, it’s up to you
You’re the deciding vote”

Now, in these situations
Cloud’s choice oft was bright and clear
But this time . . . “Sorry, Tifa
Gotta go with Barret here”

The three strode in, quite purposeful
To show they business meant
Barret said, “‘Scuse me, we’re here
To see the President”

“No one sees the President!
Not no one, not no how!”
The unobservant desk clerk
Looked up, saw the gun, said, “Wow”

“Oh, we got us an appointment
Check it: ‘AVALANCHE,’ at 9”
Cloud asked, “How long did you take
To come up with
that line?”

“Shut up!” Then, to lobby whole:
“Now, everybody MOVE!
We’re here to wreck this place up good
To leave would you behoove”

Sirens blared, civilians fled
The lobby filled with guards
Barret cocked his gun. “It’s time
To send my fond regards”

AVALANCHE took some good time
To work out their aggression
There wasn’t anything like this
In the guard training session

Past hails of bullets, stray grenades
They ducked in elevator
“Which floor?” asked Cloud. “Just hit one!
We’ll worry ‘bout it later”

Doors slammed shut, the ‘vator rose
They all sighed with relief
Then suddenly it went berserk
And caused them no small grief

“What’s happ’ning? Tifa! Save us, please!”
“You’re one who eas’ly scares
We never would have been stuck here
If we’d taken the stairs”

Tifa hit a button
And the ‘vator came to rest
The door popped ope’, a man looked in
“I’ll . . . wait. That would be best”

This scene repeated many times
They scared off lawyers, traders
Floors One through Fifty knew them as
The Elevator Raiders

Finally they reached a point
From which ‘twould not ascend
Cloud was not sure his poor gut
Would ever truly mend

They were on Floor Sixty
And to top were drawing near
‘Cross the hall was a staircase
But they could four guards hear

Barret whispered, “We’ll sneak by
Avoid this one combat”
Cloud, still dizzy, dropped his sword
“Oops.  Sorry about that”

Guards dispatched, the big man groaned
“There goes our chance at stealth”
“What’s the matter?” chuckled Cloud
“You worried ‘bout your health?”

“Charging in was fun, for sure
I’d do all that for free
But even I don’t wanna fight
whole damn company!”

AVALANCHE trudged up the stairs
Not showing much aplomb
On Sixty-one they found a scene
Of most surprising calm

A man whose suit was sharp as tacks
Approached, gave them a key
“Now go and clean that bathroom
And be quick!  I’ve got to pee”

“You . . . didn’t hear a fight below?
Shots fired?  Busted doors?”
“Good lord!  I’ve no time to keep track
Of all those
lesser floors”

The Mayor they met one floor up
“What? Visitors? Oh yes!
I’m just so lonely way up here
Can you my password guess?”

But AVALANCHE excused themselves
With apol’getic looks
“We really have no time, you see”
“And plus, I just hate books”

The next floor was some sort of maze
With items to be found
But since they were not puzzle geeks
They quickly went around

Sixty-four was the gym floor
With showers, lockers, saun’
Cloud wanted to ogle babes
But Barret dragged him on

Next they found a model town
With pieces to replace
Barret wondered who the hell
Had built this crazy place

Finally, on Sixty-six
An interesting sight
All the Shinra VIP’s
Were gathered there that night

“We gotta hear that meeting!”
Barret said in a harsh hiss
“Meeting?” said Cloud.  “Boredom time
Let’s just give it a miss”

“But they might say where Aeris is!”
Tifa did quick implore
“Or mention any other
Evil plots they’ve got in store”

Just then, two guys pass’ed by
“Man, that big room does stink”
“I wonder, if ‘tween there and bath
There is some sort of link”

The three snuck to the toilet
Stepped in (“Gross!”), entered a duct
To a bright light their attention
Was immediately sucked

Round a table, bigwigs sat
The Prez was at the head
Still wearing his fav’rite coat
In out-of-fashion red

There was Palmer, the chief space guy
Reeve, head of the building biz
Then Heidegger, the Safety man
And Scarlet, weapons whiz

And one more man in a white coat
Who hung back from the show
Cloud did not know how he knew
The man’s name was Hojo

They started talking numbers
Seven would not be rebuilt
Instead, a Neo-Midgar’d rise
Its streets with Mako gilt

“But how can that be possible?”
Said Reeve, caught unaware
Said Prez: “We find the Promised Land
The girl will take us there

“How’s she doing, Hojo?”
Here the man in white did stir
“She’s a fine Ancient specimen
Though her mother I’d prefer”

“And how long ‘til the Promised Land?”
The room was now all ears
“This research will take quite some time
Oh . . . o’er a hundred years”

The Prez: “You must be joking!”
He did not the message heed
Hojo muttered, “It’s no joke
That’s why I plan to breed”

Cloud was filled with outrage
To stop Hojo he’d not wait
Aeris would with no one breed
Until he got his date

Soon the meeting did adjourn
And the three back did sneak
Landed in the john again
“I’m show’ring for a week!”

Wiping off their soggy feet
The group up one floor went
Here they found a storage room
In bad need of a vent

Hojo stood by a glass case
A-talking to a . . . cat, er . . .
As if they needed any proof
He was mad as a hatter

“Hey Cloud, get a load of this!”
They near with laughter died
Cloud, however, did not look
He was preoccupied

Cloud, in classic freak-out mode
Was writhing on the ground
He’d seen something in a case
That struck him most profound

“JE-NO-VA?  The hell is that?”
Barret the nameplate read
“What kind of specimen is this?
This thing ain’t got no head!”

Tifa knelt down next to Cloud
“Are you alright?” she asked
“It was nothing,” Cloud told her
His feelings were well masked

Barret grumbled, “Just get up”
Lifted Cloud bodily
“Did you forget about that girl
We came here to set free?”

One last elevator ride
And they had reached their goal
Aeris was trapped in a cell
But, for the moment, whole

Barret charged in, gun raised high
The scientists were shocked
Said Tifa, “This is too easy!
The doors aren’t even locked!

“Did you all fail to notice
The intrusion on Floor One?
There’s no alarm, not many guards
This rescue’s almost done!”

“Tifa, shut up for a sec”
Cloud did approach the glass
Barret said to Hojo
“Open up.  Don’t want no sass”

“Will you kill me?”  Hojo laughed
“An idea not so bright
You don’t know how to work this thing
You’ll be stuck here all night

“Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .”
In the cell he put the cat
Barret filled the glass with holes
“I . . . didn’t think of that”

A furry comet shot from cage
Clamped onto Hojo’s face
Aeris thanked Cloud and gave him
A gentler embrace

“They tried to make me mate
With some . . . . exper’ment off some . . . shelf!”
The cat paused in his flailings
“Miss, you’re no looker yourself”

Aeris stammered, “Y-you can talk?”
“It’s really not that hard
But right now you should worry more
‘Bout Hojo’s final guard”

Hojo managed to break free
His face was scratched up bad
“Ha!  This is what you all get
For driving science

Up into the empty cell
Rose a creature of dread
Barret grumbled, “Why these things
Always got no damn head?”

Fortunately, this monster
Had bark worse than its bite
Sure, the thing looked really gross
But they beat it alright

After battle: “What’s your name?
Can’t call you ‘Cat,’” Cloud said
“My tattoo just says, ‘Thirteen’
But you may call me Red”

Barret said, “Let’s blow this joint!
With Shinra we are through”
Tifa said, “Let’s take the stairs”
“Nah.  Elevator’ll do”

Tifa muttered all the way
To the el’vator shaft
Their attention was to fore
But she kept glancing aft

Inside, Cloud said, “We’re home free!”
And Aeris added, “Yup!”
A voice said, “You’re not going down
Looks like the jig is . . .

The five of them were rounded up
And brought before the Prez
The Prez said all the normal things
That any villain says

Soon they found themselves in cells
A-pondering their fate
Cloud was wond’ring when it was
The last time that he ate

Barret tried to recruit Red
Red did not make a peep
Aeris heard the Planet speak
Cloud just went straight to sleep

Shortly after, Cloud was woke
By a terrific THUD
Found his cell door open, and . . .
“Wow.  That’s a lot of blood

“Hey, wake up!”  “Huh?  What?  We’re free?”
“Hmm . . . who would let us out?”
“Whoa, that’s strange.  JENOVA’s gone.”
“Don’t know what that’s about”

Up and up the blood trail wound
Until the very top
There they saw a grisly scene
That caused them all to stop

At his desk, the Shinra Prez
His face looked almost bored
There, protruding from his back
Was a five-foot-long sword

“This was the work of Sephiroth!”
Cloud’s shock could not be greater
“Sephiroth?” the others asked
Said Cloud, “Uh, tell ya later”

Cowering behind the desk
Was a short, porcine man
“Yep, he’s right!” Palmer declared
Before he up and ran

Just then, a chopper did touch down
And startled ev’ryone
“Must be Rufus,” Barret said
“Who’s he?”  “The Pres’dent’s son”

The quintet stepped outside
Into the city’s foul haze
A man with bright blond hair stood there
“What’s this?  Five runaways?

“Spare me the introductions
I don’t want to know your name
I don’t care about your quest
Or how this far you came

“You see, I’ve got a brand-new job
And a lot on my plate
So, unless you’re Sephiroth
I’m ‘fraid you’ll have to wait”

Barret roared, “We’re AVALANCHE!
Won’t wait ‘round to be paged!”
The mention of a “plate” made him
Particul’rly enraged

“AVALANCHE?” the young Prez asked
“You’ve tangled with the Turks
And here I was just thinking
You were all disgruntled clerks

“Sorry for the rudeness
You all know I’m new at this
I see now you’re not a group
That I can just dismiss”

Cloud, who was still half-asleep
Thought he had heard enough
Plus he saw the perfect chance
To show that he was tough

“Aeris!  Tifa!  Other two!
You all get out of here!
I’ll fight this guy alone
For reasons not completely clear!”

A hand dragged Tifa back inside
“We’re going now?  That’s it?”
“My quarrel was with his dad
I’ll let him live . . . a bit”

Rufus said, “Fight me alone?
In that there is no shame
I think it’s cute that you assume
That I would do the same”

At Rufus’ side, a black feline
“You’re fighting with your cat?”
The cat, Dark Nation, cast a shield
“What do you think of that?”

“First, it’s totally unfair
‘Cuz shields are really lame
Secondly, is ‘Dark Nation’
Something you’d a cat name?”

Now Rufus, he was a crack shot
Dark Nation slashed and roared
But neither one could stand up
To the mighty Buster Sword

The shield did break.  Cloud raised his blade
“The Shinra line ends here!”
But then the chopper swooped down low
And he cowered in fear

Rufus hopped back on his ride
“My reign ends not today
Nor will I allow you to
All my great plans delay”

Cloud declared, “We’ll get you yet!
You better say your prayers!”
“Worry for your friends instead
They should’ve took the stairs . . .”

The greater part of AVALANCHE
Was rushing to get free
Of course they skipped the long, long stairs
They’re much slower, you see

The three did not anticipate
The troubles of the ride
In fact, just one shaft over
Was the Shinra’s joy and pride

The fabled Hundred Gunner
Quickly caught up with their car
They’d no choice but to fight it
For the fall was fairly far

Barret raised his trusty gun
“You all should jus’ stay back”
Red, wanting to prove his worth
Used his Sled Fang attack

“Not bad for a cat, I guess
You sure know how to run
But sit back in your chair
And let me show you how it’s done!”

Aeris did as Barret said
‘Twas prob’ly best that way
Wild midair combat
Really wasn’t her forte

The Gunner felled, they all sat back
But their reprieve was brief
One more robot followed it
Whined Aeris, “Oh good grief!”

The follow-up was fast dispatched
Suff’ring from a Mindblow
Barret said, “Now we’re home free
Hey . . . where did Tifa go?”

“She stayed back to wait for Cloud”
Aeris promptly explained
Barret said, “The hell she did!”
And curses poured and rained

Tifa was one floor below
Where Rufus and Cloud were
She thought she’d have to fend off guards
But no one bothered her

Soon her friend limped down the steps
With bullet wounds and fleas
Cloud complained, “You could’ve helped!”
“Oh, sorry.  Allergies”

Said Cloud, “We’ll take the stairs, I guess
Back to where we began”
Said Tifa, “Nah.  Don’t wanna walk
I’ve got a better plan”

The much-beleaguered other group
Fin’lly reached the first floor
And found a whole damn army
Right outside the glass front door

Barret cried, “Today’s the day
I go in glory’s blaze!”
Red said, “Leaving the two of us
Imprisoned all our days”

“Okay, I admit it
I ain’t gave this plan much thought
But those are our two options
Outside (die) or inside (rot)”

From above a voice rang out
“And how ‘bout Option C?”
“God?  Is that you?”  “No.  Tifa
Come on.  It’s time to flee

“Escape route’s up the stairs, my friends
They’d not think of this trick
The only thing I need to know
Is if you can drive stick”

Tifa stood by an old truck
From well before the war
Its engine bad, its steering worse
And . . . “Uh, this just seats four”

Then they heard a manly roar
And Aeris squealed with joy
Cloud, mounted on motorbike
Looked proud of his new toy

Barret moaned, “I’ll drive this thing”
As he stepped on the gas
“But I don’t see why
he’s the one
Who gets to look badass”

Outside, a Shinra man on break
Was feeling none too swift
Somehow he’d once again got stuck
With the late-late-night shift

He glumly sipped his coffee
Not sure that he could go on
They say the darkest hour
Is the one just before dawn

What he needed was excitement
For he was so very bored
Too bad he didn’t see the bike
As o’er his head it soared

As soon as his bike hit the deck
It to the left did veer
Cloud thought, “If I want to live
I need to learn to steer”

There’s nothing in the world that turns
Exactly like a bike’ll
This was, of course, Cloud’s first time e’er
Riding a motorcycle

In pursuit were Shinra goons
The bikes came two by two
With one hand, Cloud drew his sword
this thing I can do”

Barret’s hands flew round the wheel
He steered just like a fiend
Dodging Cloud’s mad hail of blows
As he ‘cross street careened

His riders were no better off
Some near at mouth did foam
Tifa regretted her great plan
Red wished he was back home

Finally, there came an end
To their crazed escape route
They fell prey not to the guards
But to a sign: “BRIDGE OUT”

‘Fore they could know how to proceed
A foe surged from behind
Shinra had one final way
To keep its pets confined

Now they faced the Motor Ball
A giant robot tank
Equipped with twin flamethrowers
Programmed their butts to spank

But they had had enough of this
They would not be held down
No damn robot was stopping them
They were ditching this town

Blade Beam, Sled Fang, Somersault
A Grenade Bomb or two
Aeris tossed on Healing Winds
To have something to do

The robot blew, the road was rent
With a resounding CRACK
Cloud, who’d learned his lesson well
Took four or five steps back

They sat out on the highway ledge
And watched the fair sun rise
Eventu’lly they had to stop
It really hurt their eyes

“What should we do?” Tifa asked
When no pursuit appeared
It seemed Shinra’d run out of guys
Which felt a little weird

“I say we chase Sephiroth”
A voice declared aloud
Some were just a little shocked
To hear it come from Cloud

“But he killed old man Shinra”
Barret said.  “Ain’t he our friend?”
Cloud said, “If you think like that
Our doom will soon impend”

“Cloud is right,” said Tifa
“Sephiroth is no one’s bud
He likes to plan calamities
That rival Noah’s Flood”

Aeris said, “I’ll go with Cloud
He is my bodyguard”
“I’ll tag along for now,” said Red
“As far as my own yard”

“Ah, what the hell,” said Barret
“I signed up to save the world
Mako?  Shinra?  Sephiroth?
In my mind they’re all swirled”

They took one last look at Midgar
What did leaving portend?
Then set off on their noble quest
“Uhh . . . how do we descend?”