hawkeyesprime: (Sefikura)
Title: Untitled

Fandom: FFVII

Disclaimer: I don’t own FFVII. Never have, never will. FFVII is the sole property of all related producers and distributors. I make no money off this work of fiction.
Summary: A new SOLDIER First enters the scene and the Turks have a new Director. Hojo will never know what hit him.

~*~

Part 1: The Genetic Opera

~*~

Cloud remembers when he and Rufus first learned that they were brothers, not long after they put a stop to Geostigma. Their friendship had been blooming since the Deepground incident despite the misgivings of Clouds’ friends on the matter, but Rufus understood Cloud on an instinctive level, and their friendship had been one of the few things keeping Cloud from slipping into the sanctity of Zack’s memories and personality, forgetting himself and his losses in favor of Zack. It was the only reason why they tolerated the relationship. The discovery of their shared paternity saw Cloud drifting away from his friends (Barret, surprisingly, and Valentine, unsurprisingly, were the only ones who really seemed to support the change in their relationship while the others seemed to view it with horror, as if Cloud being half ShinRa made him different somehow) and closer to Rufus and the Turks, picking up a few Turk tricks while he was at it. But once it was proven they had a paternity in common, Rufus was determined that the skills his younger half brother had earned during the years he had spent trying to get into SOLDIER would not be wasted. His aim with a rifle was polished until he could hit a target nine times out of ten, and while Cloud would never be a sniper by trade he had the skills if he needed it.

Neither ever believed he would ever need any skills with guns since he was essentially a defunct SOLDIER, until they found themselves in what was, presumably, an alternate reality at a time before the defection of Genesis Rhapsodos. They took advantage of Cloud apparently having no paper trail and he had traveled to Nibelheim, and they made the fortuitous discovery that Vincent Valentine was there, and that he was also their Vincent Valentine, who had help Rufus hone Clouds abilities with guns. With Vincent’s help, the investigation of similarities and differences to home went much easier.

The unfortunate fact they had discovered during closer investigation, was that there had been a Cloud Strife in this new world, with much the same history, but with one major difference: rather than keeping her baby and staying in Nibelheim after her husband’s fatal accident in the Nibelheim reactor, Claudia Strauss had sold her baby to ShinRa’s science department, allowing her fetus to be injected with L-cells from Lucrecia Crescent, and further injected with active J-cells in-utero, finally surrendering the baby to Lucrecia after giving birth. Claudia Strauss had then used the money from her sale of her infant and moved back to Kalm where she remained as the current Kalm University Librarian.

Then Lucrecia had gone into labor and in the two weeks of her recovery from childbirth, Hojo had taken it upon himself to order tests done on the infant Cloud. Lucrecia had, after discovering this, taken Project Nibel and left, only for Cloud to sicken and die because of whatever Hojo had done. Lucrecia had spent the next few years in seclusion, hiding the fact that Project Nibel was a failure.

Enter the time and dimension travelling Rufus ShinRa and Cloud Strife. With help from Vincent, they convinced Lucrecia Crescent to return to Midgar with Cloud standing in for the late Project Nibel’s Specimen N, which became N-2, a genetic copy that had been used to ensure that treatments would not accidentally kill the original specimen. Cloud, to spite the version of Claudia Strauss who would sell her own infant to the non-existent mercies of Shinra’s Science Department, remade himself into Nibel Strauss. The only caveat was that Cloud would submit himself to testing so that Lucrecia could gather data for her report to the President in order to justify the money she had spent. Rufus was not pleased about this, but Cloud considered it a small price to pay for having a legitimate paper trail that did not involve the Turks. Even if Lucrecia periodically came up with reasons to justify finding out how much weight it would take to break all of the bones in Cloud’s body.

And so the plan began. They would see if they could save the Trinity of Firsts, kill Hojo and Hollander, and bring down ShinRa from the inside out. It was possible, especially since this was a completely different world.

~*~

Angeal arrived in Wutai for the peace talks trailed by his ever present puppy and protégé. The first thing he did was seek out Genesis and Sephiroth in the Command Center, carrying with him copies of the files he’d received from Tseng.

“First things first,” Angeal said, “Strauss’s situation is similar to Sephiroth’s in that he was raised for most of his life as an experimental SOLDIER in a ShinRa lab. Strauss was originally intended to be the face of ShinRa’s SOLDIER Program, since he’s the President’s illegitimate son by a favorite lover, much the same way as Sephiroth, who as it turns out, is Doctor Crescent’s son by another lover. When Hojo killed Doctor Crescent’s lover in Nibelheim, she retaliated by taking copies of Hojo’s notes and her own, and left with Strauss, moving Project Nibel to an undisclosed location.”

“She took the President’s son but left her own?!” Genesis demanded, outraged.

“She would have taken Sephiroth with her had she the choice of it, according to Veld’s report on the matter,” Angeal placated, “But the problem was that she was married to Hojo at the time, and Sephiroth was already registered under Project S and according to the pre-nups they both signed, any children born from the marriage belonged to the husband.”

“Pre-nups?” Genesis felt ill, “She was married to Hojo?”

“Still is,” Angeal agreed, “as no divorce papers were ever filed. If the papers were ever filed according to Tseng, custody of Sephiroth would belong entirely to ShinRa in the event of something happening to Hojo, but as long as the marriage is still valid, Crescent can claim custody over any of Hojo’s projects and research should something happen to him. But as far as Strauss is concerned, Crescent was able to take him with her since Project Nibel was under her purview. Since then, her goal is apparently to humiliate and discredit Hojo by any means necessary. Strauss was trained for one purpose, to render Hojo and Hollander’s work with SOLDIER obsolete so that Doctor Crescent can reclaim her child. Or at least that’s what the Turks think.”

“So the science department is at war with itself and Sephiroth is the prize,” Genesis grumbled.

“Great. Just great.”

“As for Strauss’s claim of having Sephiroth’s genetics spliced into his,” Angeal continued, “According to Hollander’s notes from the time, it turns out that Hojo had ordered a series of samples to be taken and several tests to be done on Strauss while Doctor Crescent was recovering from childbirth. It’s not clear if any of Sephiroth’s genes were spliced into Strauss at the time, but the unauthorized tests are why Crescent left Nibelheim and directly impacted Hollander’s choice to move Project G to Banora,” the larger SOLDIER’s voice turned wry, “Apparently, it is considered poor form to interfere in another scientific professional’s experiments. There is a code of morals that even ShinRa’s Science Department needs to adhere to it seems. Who knew?”

“So the only way to be sure would be a genetic test,” Sephiroth deduced.

Angeal nodded, “The problem is that Strauss is under standing orders to never submit any samples to testing of any sort without Doctor Crescent’s approval.”

“Could we simply not ask?” Sephiroth wondered.

“And who would perform the tests for us?” Genesis questioned, “I wouldn’t trust the Science Department to be honest about the results or not spread it around.”

“So we’re back to square one,” Angeal agreed. “There is simply no way of determining if Strauss was being truthful or not at this time.”

“And in the meantime, Crescent and Hojo are embroiled in a custody battle over Sephiroth with the rest of us caught in the middle and Strauss as the wild card who could bring everything tumbling down,” Genesis groused, “As if SOLDIER didn’t have enough problems.”

~*~

The Wutainese had a particular fondness for rush tactics involving throwing hordes of monsters in waves at ShinRa over the course of the night, much to the frustration of the troops. Skilled snipers were a requirement if the ShinRa troops had any hope of not being overrun in the middle of the night. The sniper squads also found that Strauss’s tendency toward insomnia to be a godsend, since the SOLDIER was also a moderately skilled sniper and had no qualms laying down covering fire so the exhausted snipers could rest.

Nibel Strauss quickly became well loved among the common army. It was not the distant admiration and hero worship that the army normally felt for the Commanders and General, but the true affection and well earned respect that came from spending time together, being shot at together, and having wave after wave of Wutainese monsters rushing you night after night. It quickly became known that where most SOLDIERs were aloof and rarely mingled with the common army, SOLDIER First Nibel Strauss, though not a talkative man, would stop to help and would offer a patiently listening ear to worries.

It was expected that he would soon be promoted.

~*~

Genesis frowned out at the courtyard where the infantry was throwing a loud, raucous party. They were celebrating Nibel Strauss’s promotion to Colonel, just a step below the Commanders. A celebration of success that no SOLDIER had ever had from the common army, a sure sign that Nibel Strauss connected far more easily to the lower ranks than to his peers. Then again, perhaps not, Genesis thought as he noticed a solitary shock of blonde hair high atop a retaining wall. The Red Mage pulled his coat closer around him and made his way over.

“I thought you would be celebrating,” Genesis said as he approached the blonde SOLDIER. “The infantry are throwing this party in your honor, after all.”

The blonde shook his head and tilted his head back to look at the rising moon. “They’re too inebriated to notice my absence.”

“You’d be surprised, Strauss.” Genesis fixed the blonde with a stern look, “Now don’t become another Sephiroth. Go be sociable.”

The blonde studied the red head briefly before he nodded and dropped off the wall, making his way back to the crowd of infantrymen where he was greeted with cheers. Genesis breathed out heavily through his nose. He remembered when Sephiroth had been so agreeable to suggestion, but that was back in his first years outside of the labs. As time passed, Sephiroth grew into himself, and today, while it was damned hard to convince Sephiroth to do something he didn’t want to, he would usually make a public appearance if Genesis and Angeal pressed enough or if it was a direct order from an executive. Nibel Strauss had an advantage over Sephiroth in that he was apparently raised with a sense of self, and despite being equally if not more unsociable than Sephiroth, Strauss had a softer appearance than Sephiroth and the fact that the man went out of his way to help the sniper squads without being asked made him appear more approachable to the regular army.

Genesis would simply do his best to ensure that Strauss socialized and didn’t become a hermit. Angeal could take over the emotional side when they got back to Midgar from Wutai.

~*~



~*~


~*~


~*~

~*~

TBC
hawkeyesprime: (Sefikura)
Title: Untitled

Fandom: FFVII

Disclaimer: I don’t own FFVII. Never have, never will. FFVII is the sole property of all related producers and distributors. I make no money off this work of fiction.
Summary: A new SOLDIER First enters the scene and the Turks have a new Director. Hojo will never know what hit him.

~*~

Prologue

~*~

“So I hear there is to be a new generation of SOLDIERS created from a new serum,” Genesis Rhapsodos said casually as he leaned against Angeal Hewley’s desk.

The other SOLDIER First gave his old friend a dirty look as he stabilized a stack of folders that had nearly been knocked off the desk. “Yes, Genesis, we all got the memo,” he responded dryly.

“It’s only the one,” Sephiroth said blandly from his seat across from Angeal. “The Science Department wants to see him in action before using the new serum.” The silver haired General’s lips quirked upward at the corners and he added in a slightly lighter tone, “Hojo was not pleased about it.”

The door slammed open. “ANGEAL!!!” SOLDIER Second Class Zachary Fair slammed into his mentor’s office, “Angeal! Did you see? Did you see?! The new First just arrived, and he has a crazy sword. It’s almost as big as the Buster Sword! How do you think he fights?”

“Puppy!” the normally patient SOLDIER barked, “Squats!”

~*~

In another room, two blondes, one wearing a bastardized SOLDIER uniform in blue and the other wearing a suit under a white over coat watched the grainy security feed from the offices of the three Holy Trinity of Firsts, as fondly dubbed by the public in general when referring to the friendship of Sephiroth, Genesis, and Angeal.

“I’d almost forgotten that he did that,” Cloud said.

“How do you almost forget?” Rufus ShinRa asked incredulously, “You thought you were him for the longest time, and you still revert to his mannerisms when stressed!”

Cloud gave the man a wry look, “When was the last time you saw me doing squats because of excess energy?”

Rufus paused to think. Honestly, other than the first year after he’d arrived in Midgar convinced he was Zack Fair after escaping Hojo, when had the other blonde showed any sign of having to work off an excess of energy? The fact was that he hadn’t. Unlike his long dead friend, Cloud’s energy went into his training and into his brooding, not unlike a certain silver general before his name became synonymous with Monster. Which reminded him…

“Are you sure you can do this? You’ll have to face Sephiroth knowing that he’ll eventually become the man that burned down Nibelheim.”

“He hasn’t become that man yet.”

Rufus gave his fellow blonde an unimpressed look. “How long did you have to fight yourself to come up with that?”

There was a knock at the door. “Come in!” Rufus barked.

Tseng strode into the office, face blank. “President ShinRa has called for a meeting with the Company Executives and the SOLDIER Firsts. Doctor Crescent is waiting to escort SOLDIER Strife to the conference room.”

Cloud sighed as he shifted his shoulders under First Tsurugi’s harness and strode toward the door. “I guess it’s time. The things I do for this planet.”

“More like the things you do for Zack Fair,” Rufus snarked. “This entire endeavor might have been dreamt up because the planet was dying and nothing any of us did was going to do anything but slow and prolong its death, but the only reason why you agreed to take part was because of the opportunity for you to save Zack Fair.”

Cloud paused at the door. “I owe Zack everything,” he agreed, “But you’ll also get control over ShinRa Power & Electric Company out of this. Isn’t that why we woke Lucrecia Crescent and got her to modify the Mako treatments for SOLDIER so we wouldn’t be using J-cells? So, tell me, ShinRa, who is being more selfish here?”

“You know full well there is no good answer to that question, little brother.”

“Would the President even allow his own son, illegitimate or no, undergo the type of experimentation necessary to make a new form of SOLDIER?” he wondered idly.

“If it benefited him, yes,” Rufus replied. “It’s not as if he really much cares, considering how many bastard children he has.”

“Point.”

~*~

The man who entered Lazard’s office trailing after Doctor Lucrecia Crescent was of moderate height and willowy in stature. Between his fair skin and golden hair, it gave him the illusion of fragility and innocence, and were it not for the telltale glow of Mako in his eyes, there would surely be worry from outside parties that the massive broadsword on his back would squash him flat.

Genesis felt chills run down his spine when he looked into the newcomer’s eyes. A cursory look would lead one to describe his eyes as beautiful, a blue as distant and fathomless as the sky, but a closer look would show that those same blue eyes were flat and dead. Much like Sephiroth had been when he first arrived on the fields of Wutai.

He exchanged a quick glance with Angeal, whose features had turned grim. The red SOLDIER inclined his head slightly. He’d come to the same conclusion. Strife’s upbringing was likely no better than Sephiroth’s had been, and it looked like he’d been in the labs for much longer. Planet help them. They had enough trouble getting Sephiroth to open up even now and now they had to deal with another one? Genesis didn’t get paid enough for this shit.

“This is Nibel Strauss,” Lucrecia said. “He is the subject of Project Nibel, which is the basis of the new Mako treatment for creating SOLDIERs. The new treatment is meant to remove the side effect of physical and mental degradation that tends to appear in SOLDIERs treated with the old serum after several years.” She smiled at the President, “It also lowers the cost of creating SOLDIERs as they will not require as many Mako shots to maintain their Mako levels as with the old serum. SOLDIERs treated with the new serum will require only one Mako shot a month compared to the current biweekly shots needed under the current serum. You’ll get the same levels of performance from SOLDIERs for only a fraction of the cost!”

“So you claim,” Hojo barked, “but your project is merely a pale copy of mine, no better than Hollander’s failures. My specimen is perfect! His performance is the pinnacle of Soldier abilities, the result of years of in depth research!”

“Research that is still ongoing,” Lucrecia shot back, “because you have to keep pulling him back into your labs for maintenance; a problem that Project Nibel will not have. We’ve kept him as close to the original specifications as possible, while still maintaining the top level performance expected of a SOLDIER. Project Nibel will not require the constant tuning of your precious Project S.”

Genesis felt sick as he listened to the two scientists argue about Sephiroth and Strauss as if they were mere possessions. Out the corner of his eye, he saw Angeal discretely press a shoulder against Sephiroth’s in silent support and Sephiroth’s tense shoulders relax slightly as he leaned just a little bit into Angeal. Genesis glanced over toward Strauss who stood alone and stoic; he may have been carved from stone for all the reaction that he showed. Sephiroth had friends in Angeal and Genesis, but who did Strife have?

“…At least Project Nibel never had to be brought to the labs by force!” Lucrecia screeched, “How much money has to be spent on repairs over the years because of your Project S’s lack of discipline?!”

“He is more than sufficiently disciplined!”

“You coddle him too much! All that attention has led to the flawed creature that he is today!”

“And just how have I coddled him excessively, huh?”

Lucrecia scoffed, “You pull him into your labs whenever it takes your fancy, don’t you? Aren’t you paying him too much attention? He’s gotten spoiled as a result; what will you do when he starts thinking he’s entitled to that attention? Weapons are not people and should neither need nor seek out human contact. Who knows what they would do to real people if you let them get in the habit of thinking they are people?”

Genesis swallowed around the bubble of fury in his throat when he saw Sephiroth shy away from Angeal as Doctor Crescent spoke. Hojo was going to be so much harder on Sephiroth now that he thought someone saw him as inadequate. Damn the twisted competition of the Science Department!

President ShinRa laughed, “Well then you’ll show us how it’s done then, won’t you, Doctor Crescent? Send your SOLDIER to Wutai. Let’s see what your SOLDIER can do.”

“Understood,” Lucrecia responded sharply, “Strauss! Prepare for departure!”

The blonde SOLDIER inclined his head. “Yes, Ma’am,” he responded and turned on his heels and brushed past the Three Firsts on his way to the door.

~*~

Once they left the conference room, in the relative security of the passages used primarily by the Turks, Cloud murmured to Lucrecia, “You realize you’ve just made Hojo very angry and he’s going to take it out on Sephiroth, right?”

Lucrecia smiled sadly, “This is what it takes to survive ShinRa’s Science Department.”

“I’d prefer it not to be at Sephiroth’s expense,” Cloud replied grimly. “No need to push him any further into Jenova’s arms. Hojo did a good enough job there.”

“Then you’d best put on a good showing, Cloud.”

~*~

A month after that meeting, they were sent to Wutai. Genesis worried a bit about the state of the new SOLDIER. Strauss slept as little as he ate, spending time on mission after mission after mission, sometimes spending long nights with sniper squads rather than sleeping. He spoke no more than necessary, and was more likely to be found seated in some obscure corner tending his equipment or staring into the distance with a placid expression during off duty hours.

“You’re working yourself into an early grave, Strauss.”

Cloud blinked slowly as he looked up at Genesis. He cocked his head slightly, the movement barely visible, the most expressive the carefully crafted persona of a man reared as a lab experiment would allow him.

“You don’t eat, you don’t sleep; you do realize that you are only mortal?”

Cloud blinked slowly at the Red Mage, a silent inquiry as to what gave him the impression he thought otherwise.

“Planet,” Genesis sighed, “Even Sephiroth knew to use his words back when Hojo first let him out of the lab. Use your words!”

“What words would you like me to use, sir?”

Genesis paused and stared at him incredulously. “Did you just make a joke?”

“I do not understand how a simple inquiry could be humorous, sir.”

“Planet help us,” Genesis muttered, “You’re just like him.”

“Understandable. Part of the Professor’s methods involved splicing the General’s genetic material with my own, sir.”

Genesis stared at Cloud, aghast.

~*~

“He said they did what?” Angeal’s voice, though tinny and distorted by the PHS, was equal parts shocked and furious.

“Spliced Sephiroth’s genes into Strauss.”

“And you believe him?”

“I don’t know what to believe, Angeal,” Genesis sighed, “but considering ShinRa’s Science Department, I wouldn’t put it past any of them. Look into it, will you?”

“I doubt that would be information that would simply be left in the open, Genesis.”

“Your Puppy is friends with a Turk, isn’t he?”

Angeal sighed. “I’ll talk to Zack. No promises Gen.”

“Thanks Angeal.”

~*~

Tseng strode into Angeal’s office; several files tucked under one arm.

“Tseng,” Angeal said warily.

“I hear you’re looking into Strauss’s medical files,” the Turk said calmly.

“Is there a problem?”

“You won’t find it on any open servers. The files are kept on paper in the keeping of the Turks.”

“And you’re not just going to give it to me.”

“That boy has suffered, Commander,” Tseng said flatly, “If you want his medical files so you can hold what Hojo did to him over his head, Commander; then I think you should be aware that Doctor Crescent is petitioning the President to take control of Project G from Hollander.”

“Is that a threat?”

“A warning,” Tseng placed the files on Angeal’s desk, “Doctor Crescent is very protective of Strauss.”

“Possessive, you mean.”

“Protective,” Tseng corrected mildly before he left.

~*~

Genesis watched as Strauss’s PHS rang, and the blonde pulled it out to glance at the message. The blonde SOLDIER’s eyes gleamed as he shut the PHS and tucked it into his inner pocket.

~*~

Documents dropped.

Operation Lazarus is Go.

-R

~*~

TBC

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