Shadows of the Mind @lord22
Plans Fulfilled

Chapter Six: Plans Fulfilled

Cloud did not sleep well that night at all.

The bed, which had before been fine, had never seemed more uncomfortable. Several times he awoke from dreams, and each one was bad. He dreamed that he was walking the streets of Nibelheim in the company of Sephiroth and Aerith. There he was looking for friends and old acquaintances. But everyone he met had no face and simply performed tasks humans did like mindless animals.

He looked everywhere, searching for Mother, and Tifa and at last saw both at the edge of a cliff. But as they turned to them, he saw that they had no faces either. And sitting up, he gasped to find it morning.

"Morning," said Cloud.

"Good morning, handsome," said Lightning in a monotone.

Cloud blinked. "What are you doing?"

"I thought I should work on lines like that," said Lightning. "I am, sort of, one of your girlfriends or whatever."

"Right, okay," said Cloud.

Standing up, he moved out the door and tried to remember Mom and Tifa. And as he did, he realized his memories were very fuzzy. He remembered speaking with President Shinra and learning about him. Yet outside of the house where he'd grown up, there was little he could remember.

Every stone of Nibelheim was there, of course.

But he could not think of any people beyond Tifa, her Dad, and Mom. Nor could he think of many meetings. As shallow as he'd thought his feelings for Tifa had been. But his feeling for other people seemed even shallower, even for his Mother, who he hardly remembered.

Had his memories faded that much?

"Is it a problem?" asked Lightning, coming behind her.

"No, I mean, I've sort of got this whole promise thing going with Tifa," said Cloud, wondering if he needed therapy.

"I'm fine with a threesome," said Lightning. "I looked at the pictures."

That really didn't seem like natural behavior. Then again, Lightning had her entire identity revolving around him and Avalanche. "Oh, good."

"So, what's the plan?" asked Lightning.

They began to get dressed for their meeting into combat equipment. Lightning looked really nice in her underwear, but Cloud decided he should focus. All this could wait until after Tifa was rescued. "I'm thinking.

"Okay, there are two possible places the Turks are likely to hit us at. One is right after Corneo is killed; they could go in after us and wipe us out. The other is the train station where we're supposed to get off."

"Meaning?" asked Lightning.

"It means we're going to have to be fast," said Cloud, finishing the outfit. Then he found the dress. "Help me get this odd and hide my sword,"

Lightning shrugged. "Fine."

Cloud and Lightning rapidly started working on getting on their outfits. A violet dress of silk went over Cloud, while Lightning wore a bright yellow dress. Eventually, Lightning looked at him. "...You look good in drag."

"That isn't a compliment," said Cloud. "Come on."

And so they set out while wearing dresses with their weapons cleverly hidden. Making their way through the slums, Cloud hoped no one would pick a fight like this. But fortunately, no one did, and they soon found Aerith in her uniform as well. A red dress with long brown hair. "Oh, Lightning, and uh... Claudette, is it?"

"Just say Cloud, this is humiliating enough as it is," said Cloud. "If anyone decides to check our backgrounds, we're fried anyway."

And together, they began their trip through Wall Market. As they did, Cloud scanned through possible alterations. Was it possible Lazard could have anticipated Cloud figuring out where Tifa was? Granted, it was not likely, but it was possible. If so, Lazard might have posted someone in Hojo's area of operations.

Was there anything he could do about that?

Not at the moment, but an opportunity might come up.

Don Corneo's mansion was a luxurious place, at least by the standards of the slums. It looked almost guided, and it had armed guards at the front—quite a few more than you would have during peacetime. So Lightning's stunt had put the Don on edge.

That could be a problem.

"Excuse me, sir?" asked Aerith, moving forward.

"Yeah, what is it beautiful?" asked a man.

"My friends and I have heard a lot of stories about how great a man the Don is," said Aerith. "And we'd love nothing more than to share his bed."

"Well, you've come to the right place, beautiful. Especially this one," said the man, looking at Lightning. "Right this way." And just like that, he led them through the doors. It couldn't possibly have been this easy. But there were led into what could only be described as a sex dungeon and forced to wait here. "Now, I'll go tell the Don you ladies are interested in a special session. Just wait here."

"This was very easy, wasn't it," said Aerith.

"Too easy," said Cloud, eyeing the bondage gear and fingering his sword. "He can't possibly be this dumb." Although seeing Tifa and Lightning in some of this stuff could be nice.

But eventually, the man came back. Apparently, they had been cleared.

"Right this way," said the man. "The Don only has time for one of you. But you'll be able to entertain some of his friends if you don't get chosen."

They were led back up a flight of stairs and into the mansion. Within it, Cloud saw a long, Wutai-style room. And at the far end, in a desk, was a morbidly fat man with blonde hair and a cigar in his mouth. At either side were armed men, and all three were leering at them.

They stopped, and the fat man moved forward, admiring Lightning and Aerith, and Cloud.

"Well, well, well, would you look at the spread I have today," said Corneo. "A beautiful pinkette, a majestic brunette, and a very buxom blonde..." He eyed Cloud and came near, and Cloud noticed a gun at his side. "See something you like, beautiful?"

And done.

Cloud might have been willing to experience this level of humiliation for information. However, he did not need information. He needed only one thing from Don Corneo, and that was his cessation of existence.

"My name is Cloud Strife, and this is for you," said Cloud.

Then he ripped his blade out through his dress and stabbed it into Don's stomach. Twisting it in the wound, he pulled it up to bisect him; a Don Corneo howled in agony. Snatching up the gold pistol, he turned off the safety. He then shot the first guard in the head and the second as he fumbled for his gun.

"Lightning, cower. Aerith, run for help, now!" said Cloud. Then he prostrated himself on the floor.

Aerith let out an exaggerated scream and ran out the door. She raised her skirts as she did so, looking like the most hysterical woman in history. "Ah! What's happening! They shot Claudette!"

Cloud feigned death as a door opened, and a number of armed men saw Cloud lying prone near the Don. They scanned and saw Lightning. "What is going on here?

"All guards, get to the manor now."

Cloud then turned around and shot the man in the chest. Reposition, he fired again and killed another before Lightning's gunblade killed the rest.

"Captain, what is going on?" asked a voice. "Captain, respond. Everyone gets in there."

Cloud snatched up an assault rifle from a corpse and walked out onto the balcony with Lightning. They were scanning to see only the receptionist cowering behind. Into the room stormed a large group of armed men, straight through a chokepoint.

As they filtered in, Lightning and Cloud opened fire on them from above. Caught off guard by enemies with a height advantage were, it was no contest. They were mowed down in droves and fell dead on the ground.

Cloud leaped down from the balcony and double-tapped each one.

"You won't get away with this, you dumb bitches!" roared a man. "Don Corneo has friends in high places! When Heideggar finds out what you-"

Lightning shot him.

The receptionist stood up. "Please don't kill me! I'm only doing my job!"

"And what is your job?" asked Cloud.

"Um... managing finances and stuff said the receptionist. "But I don't take part in any of the stuff I do here! There just aren't any jobs to be found down here!

"Get all your records. Go to Scarlet in the Shinra HQ," said Cloud. "Bring them to her and tell her that it is a gift from Hojo's lab. Tell her to speak to Tifa Lockhart for more information. Don't call anyone, don't talk to anyone else. Get a personal meeting, and you might get out of this alive.

"Go."

And he ran back up the stairs, double-checking the rooms as he went. Finally, he came to the office. Quickly finding the bedroom behind Corneo's office, he stamped the floor. Eventually, he found a hollow place. Lightning then came up behind him, looking bemused.

"Place is clear. Why?" asked Lightning.

"Scarlet is not with Lazard," said Cloud. "If she were, he would not need Genesis or Angeal because he'd already rule Shinra. When she gets this information, she may decide to take a trip there to verify it."

"So," said Lightning. "Her unexpected arrival throws the place into chaos. It makes our job easier."

"And it may disrupt whatever safeguards Lazard has set up there in the event of a rescue," said Cloud. "We want to cause as much chaos as we can."

Aerith came out of the door and walked down the stairs in shock, though not as much shock as you'd expect. "Well... that was... incredibly brutal."

"Lightning, scan this area and make sure there aren't any more of them," said Cloud. "I want a clean slate. Release any prisoners; I'm going to secure our exit.

"Aerith, you'd probably better leave through the front door."

"I'd actually rather stick with you," said Aerith. "I have a feeling the Turks aren't going to let me go home after catching me here. So I'd prefer to take your route."

"You're not likely to get a chance to get away this way, either," noted Cloud.

"Maybe. But it's a chance for a chance," said Aerith.

"Right," said Cloud. "Did you find anything, Lightning?"

"A couple of drunken idiots. I shot them dead after they went for their guns," said Lightning. "This operation is really sloppy."

"Then let's go," said Cloud. "I need to find a way on her. There should be a secret trap door right there, but we need a key or switch or-"

Lightning blasted a hole in the floor with a fire materia.

"Will that do?" asked Aerith, looking into the abyss below.

"Yeah, probably," said Cloud. "Aerith, I'll go first, then Lightning, then you."

Then he put down his gun and leaped down into the pit. Sliding down the familiar passageway, he slowed his fall a bit. Looking saw Lightning and Aerith behind him and got a look up their skirt by accident. And eventually, he descended into the stinking sewers below. Landing in the filthy water, he stood up and caught Aerith in a bridal fashion as she fell. Lightning made a three-point landing.

"Well, this was a great idea," said Lightning.

"It could be worse," said Aerith, blushing as Cloud put her down.

"We've been waiting for you, Mr. Strife," said a voice.

Cloud looked up and saw someone in Turk uniform. However, she was not anyone he had seen before. Her hair was pinkish-red and tied back behind her, and she looked very nice in a suit. Curvaceous and impeccably dressed, Cloud wondered who he was addressing.

"Who are you?" asked Cloud.

And then he noticed that Lightning's eyes had widened.

"I'm Cissnei, Lazard's contact in the Turks. I'm here to escort you the rest of the way," said the woman. "Although, before I entered the Turks, Clair and I went by different names."

"Serah," said Lightning.

Wonderful, still more complexity.

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