Cloud shot up in bed fully awake and drenched in sweat. He looked over at the empty spot next to him. Tifa was gone causing a wave of fear to rush over him. He knew he had to go to Nibelheim right away to get her. He dressed himself and ran to Vincent’s room to tell him about Shelke and Tifa. Vincent offered to go with him but Cloud told him it was more important that he go to Edge as soon as possible to help Shelke. Vincent called Reeve to let them know what was going on and to try to find reinforcements to send to Corel and Edge. He tried to call Barret but his phone was off. They feared Corel was already under attack.
It was still dark when Cloud left Cosmo Canyon on fenrir. He went full speed into the night towards his hometown. It was still dark when he arrived in Nibelheim. The sky to the east was turning a lighter blue signalling sunrise was near. As he walked into the town he noticed that the houses looked deserted and unkempt with some front doors wide open like the inhabitants left in a hurry. The town well that once stood in the center of the small community was damaged and lying in pieces on the ground.
Cloud paused and gazed around the town not sure where he should start looking for Tifa. He was not expecting Nibelhiem to be a ghost town and he wondered what happened to all the people. ‘Could this be Genesis’ doing?’ he thought to himself. He wondered if he should check the houses for Tifa before heading to the Mt. Nibel reactor.
Before Cloud could decide on where to start looking the door to the Inn opened. Cloud reached for his sword in response but stopped when he saw a familiar face. Stepping out into the morning darkness Cloud could see an injured Miles with bandages around his head and right hand. Being mako infused Cloud had little trouble seeing in the darkness but he could tell Miles was having difficulty making out the blond.
“Miles, it’s me Cloud,” he called over to the scientist. “Are you alright?”
“Cloud?” Miles asks peering into the darkness trying to make him out. He did not have his glasses on. Realizing it was a friend Miles began limping towards him. Apart from the bandages it was apparent he was injured; his face and arms were covered in dirt and scratches. His hair was matted and he walked with very little weight on his left foot.
“What happened to you?” Cloud asked. “We thought you were dead. Where is Tseng and Elena?”
“I don’t know,” Miles looked down ashamed. “When our helicopter was attacked by Genesis copies one of them blew through the cockpit and I fell out. Another tried to attack me in mid-air but I managed to grab on to him. I broke free closer to the ground and the fall knocked me unconscious. When I awoke it was almost nightfall and there was nobody around. I lost my phone so I wondered around until I came across this deserted town. I found some medical supplies in the Inn so I made a splint for my foot and fell asleep. I awoke when I heard your motorcycle.” Miles paused and gave Cloud a questionable look, “where are the others?”
A wave of fear rushed over Cloud’s face.
“Genesis took Tifa and he has her somewhere around here. Did you check any of the houses?” He asked the scientist.
Miles shook his head no. “Once I found the medical supplies in the Inn I didn’t bother to look anywhere else. When I arrived it was dark and I was exhausted so I checked the Inn because it was the closest building and I figured it would have a bed and supplies. But when I entered the town I thought I saw a faint light coming from a basement window in that big house over there.” Miles pointed towards the Shinra Mansion.
When Cloud looked over at the Mansion it looked dark and deserted but he figured he would check it out before travelling to the Mt. Nibel reactor. He would not be surprised if that was where Genesis took her. That mansion had always been a place of misfortune for him and he wondered why he didn’t burn it down years ago.
Knowing what Cloud was thinking, “I’ll come with you,” Miles offered.
The two made their way towards the Shina Mansion. By the time they arrived at the gates the sunlight was just starting to break to the east and even in the dim light the manor looked dingy and condemned like always. As they entered the mansion Cloud was hit with the smell of moldy air.
“Where do we start looking?” Miles asked standing close to Cloud.
“Follow me,” Cloud told Miles as he walked towards the staircase leading to the second floor. Previous experiences in this mansion have taught him that if he was going to find Tifa it would be in the basement. Miles followed Cloud to the staircase leading to the dungeon like basement below.
“What’s down there?” Miles asked looking down into the darkness below.
“A Shinra laboratory,” Cloud replied leading the way down the stairs.
Cloud was a little surprised that they haven’t come across any of the creatures that usually overrun the old building. It’s as if someone cleared out the manor of all monsters. When he reached the basement he traveled towards the laboratory slowly keeping an eye out for monsters. He could hear Miles footsteps close behind him and could tell he was nervous being in the dark dingy dungeon. Cloud could see a faint light glow from under the door of the laboratory.
Cloud was about to open to door but stopped to look back at Miles. “Be careful, Genesis or one of his copies could be inside.”
“I will,” Miles replied standing directly behind Cloud.
Cloud slowly opens the door with one hand while reaching for his sword with the other. He looked around to make sure nobody was there before opening the door further. He scanned the room but nobody was inside. Seeing no danger he released his grip from his sword. The lights were on and the two glass pods in the corner were full of mako and glowed a bright green. Cloud knew those pods all too well and was surprised to see the broken pod that Zack was once kept in was now fixed. Gazing at the pods Cloud could make out dark figures floating inside the two pools of mako. The pod that was once broken now held a male with long spiky hair. The blond looked over to the pod he was once a prisoner in and could make out a female figure. Taking a step forward he recognized who it was.
“Tifa,” Cloud yelled out but before he could take another step he a felt sharp stabbing pain in the back of his neck.
He looked back to see Miles grinning and holding an empty syringe. Before he could reach for his sword Cloud felt a wave of dizziness wash over him. His legs became weak causing him to fall to the floor. Now on his hands and knees and quickly losing strength he looked up at Tifa floating lifeless in the tube of mako. He could feel the strength drain from his body causing his arms and legs to collapse from under him. He rolled onto his back and looked up at Miles standing over him smiling. Before Cloud could ask the young scientist why darkness fell over him.
When Cloud awoke his head felt like someone was squeezing it in vice grips. He was severely dehydrated and his eyes was throbbing before he even opened them. His body ached and his limbs were numb. When he attempted to open his eyes the light from the room made the pain worse. He tried to move his arms and realized his hands were chained above his head. The sound of his chains moving signalled he was awake.
“It’s about time you woke up,” Cloud could hear Miles say from the other side of the room.
Cloud forced his eyes to open ignoring the pain. Everything was blurry at first but cleared up after a few seconds. He was sitting on the floor of the laboratory with his hands chained to the brick wall between the entrance to the laboratory and a bookcase. He looked around and could see Miles half-sitting on the corner of the desk looking down at him. He could only partially see the two mako chambers behind the desk but they appeared empty and no longer glowing with mako.
“What did you do with Tifa?” Cloud snapped furiously.
He struggled trying to pull his chains out from the wall but was still too weak. His head felt like it was still swimming and his body continued to throb with pain. Even if he could get out of the chains he wasn’t even sure if he would be able to walk.
Watching Cloud trying to break free Miles smiled.
“I pumped enough tranquilizer into you to knock out three midgar zoloms,” he informed his captive. “It will be a while yet before you can even walk let alone rip those chains out of the wall.”
Realizing he was right Cloud stopped struggling and glared up at Miles.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked. “What do you want with Tifa? Where is she?”
Miles paused and smiled again at Cloud. He sat up from the desk and took a step towards Cloud folding his arms.
“I must admit she was not part of my original plan.” The scientist turned away from the captive and walked towards the empty pods. He placed one hand on the empty pod Tifa was in looking at his reflection in the glass. Cloud noticed that he no longer walked with a limp.
“I really thought being back here would jog your memory.” Miles sighed. “But then again you were severely poisoned. I was just promoted from the materia department to Hojo’s assistant at the time and my first assignment was to oversee his project in this laboratory while he was attending a meeting in Midgar.” Miles turned around to look back at Cloud. “You know it’s funny,” he laughed. “At first I thought you two were failures left over from his reunion experiment. It wasn’t until I read his notes I realized what he had big plans for you two. My task was simple; make sure you two were fed and help him with the last stage of his experiment when he returned.” Miles then frowned at Cloud taking a step towards him. “But then your friend had to go and ruin everything. He was the reason I lost the position and lost my only chance to work with the great Hojo.”
Although he couldn’t actually remember the event Cloud knew what Miles was referring to. Miles must have been the scientist Zack attacked when they escaped the mansion after being held captive for four years.
“What does this have to do with Tifa?” Cloud snapped at Miles.
Sensing Cloud’s frustration Miles smiled again.
“My original plan was to capture you and kill you.” He walked over to Cloud kneeling down in front of him so their faces were inches apart. “But once you hinted about Tifa’s condition I had a better idea. Why should I simply kill you when I can force you to watch as I use Tifa to create my very own and more powerful SOLDIER?” Miles jumped up with excitement. “Not only will it be stronger than Sephiroth unlike Sephiroth it will be completely under my control.”
Hearing him talk about Tifa and his unborn child like some science experiment enraged him. Cloud struggled with his chains trying to break free but was still too weak. He hadn’t felt this kind of rage since Sephiroth killed Aries.
Seeing Cloud’s anger made Miles laugh. He reaches into his pants pocket and pulled out his PHS.
“Sorry I lied about losing my phone.” He pressed the button on the side turning it on then flipped the device open examining the screen and smiled. “Those Turks always think they are smarter than everyone else,” he mumbled to himself and looked back at Cloud before closing his phone. “Well it looks like it’s time for me to leave.” He laid the phone down on the desk and walked towards the door. “I’ll be sure to say ‘Hi’ to Tifa for you.” He told Cloud before leaving the room.
With Miles gone Cloud continued to struggle in an attempt to free himself. He tried pulling his hands through the cuffs but they were too tight. He could feel blood dripping down his arms from all the struggling and rubbing around his wrists. He knew there was nothing he could do until his strength returned but continued to struggle anyways hoping to find a defect in his restraints. He wondered how long he was unconscious for. He knew it must have been over a day for Miles to have enough time to clear out Tifa and the other person. He couldn’t stop thinking about Tifa and what Miles was doing to her. He wondered where he could have taken her.
Cloud sat alone in the room waiting for his strength to return. He didn’t know how much time had passed but it felt like hours. He stopped struggling when he heard a faint noise. It sounded like footsteps outside slowly walking towards him. The footsteps stop short of the door and there was a pause like the person on the other side was stopping to listen for anyone inside.
Not knowing who it was Cloud didn’t make a noise as to not draw attention to himself. Cloud heard a click and looked to his right to see the doorknob turn and the door slowly open. He recognized the dark suit and red haired figure that walked into the room.
“Reno,” Cloud called out to the Turk.
Hearing his voice Reno looked down at him.
“Cloud!” He yelled surprised to see the blond chained to the wall next to him.
The Turk took out his electro-mag rod and smashed Cloud’s restrains setting him free. Stiff and sore Cloud slowly lowered his arms in front of him with his hands still shackled. Seeing him struggle Reno kneeled down next to Cloud and pulled out two lock-pics from his inside jacket pock and started to pick the locks on Cloud’s shackles. It didn’t take long for Reno to unlock them setting him free. Cloud placed his hands on the floor and tried to push himself up using the wall he was leaning on as support. His legs were wobbly and almost collapsed from under him still weak from the tranquilizers. Seeing Cloud was having trouble standing Reno stood up taking hold of Cloud’s arm.
“What happened to you man?” Reno asked. “Everyone was starting to think you were dead…”
“How long have I been gone?” Could asked.
“At least 4 days,” Reno explained. “A lot has happened since you disappeared. Tseng and Elena managed to contact us after their helicopter crashed so we picked them up and took them to Junon.”
Reno then proceeded to fill him in on everything that happened while he was imprisoned. After they rescued their fellow Turks they received a call informing them that Edge and Corel were under attack so Reeve sent fighters to go help Corel while they went to Edge to help Vincent.
By the time they arrived, Edge was damaged and there were a lot of casualties. After the attack Vincent filled them on Genesis’ plan but they discovered that the Genesis copies managed to capture Shelke and Yuffie. Nanakin took the children to safety while the two girls fought off the creatures.
The Turks took Vincent and the others as far as Junon so they could gather supplies and looked for their comrades. By that time Cloud and Tifa had been missing for a three days and Vincent told everyone about Genesis taking Tifa and Cloud going to the Mt. Nebil reactor to look for her. They went to the reactor and discovered that someone turned the power back on but nobody was there.
“We were just leaving the reactor to come here when Miles’ tracking devise was reactivated leading us to this dump.” Reno informed Cloud while holding up the phone Miles left on the desk.
“Why were you tracking Miles?” Cloud asked. “He’s the one who chained me up and he has Tifa.”
Thinking about Miles and Tifa was starting to make him angry again but right now he was using all his strength to focus on standing.
“It was Tseng’s idea to put a tracking devise in his phone,” he explained. “We have a saying in the Turks ‘never trust a Shinra Scientist.’ I guess Tseng was right. Rude owes him $10 now.”
“I think Miles knew you were coming,” Cloud explained. “He moved Tifa somewhere, I need to find her.”
“She might be with Shelke and Yuffie,” Reno suggested. “The others looked everywhere but they don’t know where the copies took them.”
“Miles needs a laboratory,” Cloud thought out loud. “Do you know any other Shinra laboratories that are still operational?”
Reno paused to think.
“Well the science department had a big budget. Almost all of Shinra’s properties had a laboratory or some kind of research facility in it. Let’s get back to the helicopter, the director might know which laboratories are still functional.”
Reno looked around the room and spotted Cloud’s sword leaning against a bookcase. He walked over to retrieve it for his injured friend but the weight of the sword stopped him in his tracks.
“Shit man, you carry this thing around with you?” he commented.
With a little extra effort he swung the sword onto his shoulder and walked back over to Cloud. The two left the basement with Reno assisting the weakened Cloud. It was daylight when they exited the manor. Reno stopped at the entrance and looked around.
“Yo Rude,” he called out.
To the left they could hear something moving in the bushes. A few seconds later Rude stepped out brushing himself off. He looked a little surprised to see Cloud with Reno.
“The choppers out back,” Reno told Cloud and all three of them walk towards the back of the mansion.