Genesis tapped his feet impatiently, leaning on the rocky hillside surrounding Midgar. He was running out of time and copies, though he wasn't sure of the order. Not that it mattered, running out of time meant no more copies, and running out of copies cut into his time left by wasting hours and energy to create more, or to risk acting solely on his own. To be fair, he had Angeal to help, but the brooding depression the man was slowly slipping into wasn't doing either of them favors. To that end, Genesis needed more c, and what better stock to refill on than the sycophants of Midgar? Drain the source of income, troops, and employees from Shinra, slowly bleed them dry. While he was sure Angeal wouldn't approve of this, Angeal didn't need to know.
He couldn't risk himself of-course, so, he had sent in his last two-dozen copies to make the abductions. At one capture a copy, he'd double his numbers. He HAD to do this, he was running dry on troops, and if this failed, they'd probably have to retreat and hide themselves for awhile to lick their wounds, perhaps Modeoheim, that useless swine Hollander had been going on about that place. He'd rather not though, he didn't do cold areas.
His ears perked up at the sound of wing-beats and the sound of pleading, crying, and screaming, filling the air. He smiled slowly, pushing off the boulder he was leaning against, sighting his copies flying in with their prey. Good, it looked like a full haul. He had the brief twang of guilt nibble at what was left of his heart at the sight of so many tear stained and fearful faces, especially the ones who seemed to young, but shoved it aside. He frowned as he approached the group, feeling an odd tingling sensation run down his spine.
It was an odd pressure on his mind, a sensation of other. It wasn't unlike what he felt when in the presence of Angeal or Sephiroth, but not quite the same. He didn't feel power, just... something strange. His eyes washed over the group, pausing briefly on a young teen girl in a white-blueish dress, her brown hair, oddly similar to Sephiroth's, pent up in a ponytail behind her. Her eyes were an odd, softly glowing (GLOWING?) emerald green eyes. The glow wasn't intense enough to be SOLDIER, not that a woman could be SOLDIER since the process killed them to his knowledge. Perhaps she had a brief exposure to make, yes, that was probably it. As much as the thought made him ill, she'd probably make a better clone than the rest of the civilians.
He passed his eyes over the rest of the ground before pointing to a small section of the canyons around Midgar where they could be herded in, cattle as they were. "Place them there and then bring me one."
"Please! Let us go!"
"Don't hurt us!"
"I have children!"
"You can have all my money!"
Genesis tuned out their pleading and waited for his clone to bring him one, a young man in an electricians outfit. "Hold him still."
He placed his hand on the man's shivering torso, and began the process. The sensation, the hunger, the desire to consume and make anew in his image filled him like a buzz in his mind. The man began to writhe and scream as his features began to change.
"STOP!" came a young teen girl's cry, "By the Goddess, what are you doing to him!?"
At that, the invoking of the Goddess, he paused, his eyes flickering to see that young teen girl from earlier managing to slip by the copies guarding the herd and run towards him in a panic, fear and horror on her face. He found her bravery in the face of the situation she was in rather amusing, perhaps refreshing, but ill placed. He was however curious, and waved off the copies pursing her as such, wondering if she to was a believer in his Goddess, or did she pray to some other faith's deity?
He was about to ask as she came to a stop a few feet away, before she spoke so few a word, but no less impactful and powerful, with an odd tone of kindness, "I know you're hurting, but please, this isn't the way."
Genesis glared at her, tossing the half-transformed man down at her feet. "Hurting? What would you know of my pain, little girl?"
She knelt down next to the electrician and spoke softly, sadly, "I feel it, I hear it. It's like a continual cry, echoing within you, as the wrongness, the sickness, tries to overwhelm the life in your body, to convert it. But it can't do it, and instead its ripping you apart piece by piece. It's awful, but making other people feel your pain isn't right."
Genesis was flabbergasted, staring with utter confusion at the girl who could 'apparently' feel what was wrong with him without having to sit down in front of a microscope and go through hours of testing, already more useful than Hollander if he was asked. "Who are you?"
The girl didn't answer, she looked worriedly at the man now convulsing on the ground, and placed a hesitant hand on his chest, closing her eyes. Genesis let out a small gasp of wonder as a soft green glow emanated from her hands, threading its way over the man. Wherever the glow touched, the copying process that Genesis had begun was reversed. Within a minute, the man was as he had been, completely untouched, good as new. The girl however, was not. She pitched to the side, confusion and exhausting showing on her face. She placed one hand on the ground to keep herself somewhat upright, while she held out her other hand in front of her face, staring at it with a mixture of disbelief and awe, as if she couldn't believe she had been able to do that. She made no effort to rise from her position, breathing heavily, sweat starting to run down her forehead.
She had reversed the copying process, she had healed the man. And it sure as hell hadn't been materia she had been using to do that. She somehow did it on her own. Could she be what he had been looking for all this time? Could she do the same for him? Was she...
"The Gift of the Goddess...," whispered Genesis, entranced, taking in the sight of her, burning her into his memory.
He slowly approached until he stood over her, staring down silently. She looked up, gulped, but held his gaze unflinchingly.
"Their lives matter to you," said Genesis, an idea forming, "Why?"
She frowned. "You shouldn't need a reason to care about other people's well-being."
Genesis scoffed. "Even when half of them would probably sell you out to save their own skin?"
"Even then," said the girl softly.
Genesis was briefly taken aback by such caring and generosity. What a thing she was, such a refreshing rarity in this day and age from all the cowardice and greed. He could simply take her by force, but... if she was what he thought she was, having her come willingly would be preferable.
"If I let them go, will you agree to come with me?" he asked.
The woman looked at him with a bit of hesitancy and barely withheld fear, and then, she paused and cocked her head, as if she were listening to something. She closed her eyes for a moment before giving a soft sigh and nodding. Curious... what in the world was that about?
He briefly turned his head to look at his copies. "Take them and drop them off at one of the sector gates of Midgar, let Shinra sort them out. Meet at the randevu point afterwards."
He watched them go, a few of the civilians at least having the decency to offer the girl their thanks at a distance, until they were specs in the sky. He glanced back down at the exhausted girl, she wouldn't be even attempting to heal him until she had a nights rest and good food. He could offer those at least. He held a hand down to her, offering to help her up, he did remember how to be at least somewhat of a gentleman.
She took his hand and let him haul her up, before he brought her hand to his lips. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance m'lady, I am Genesis Rhapsodos."
There was a hint of a faint blush on her cheeks, and slight increase to the fear in her eyes as she hesitatingly introduced herself. "A-aerith Gainsborough."
The name didn't ring any bells, but he supposed that was fine. "Shall we be on our way then?"
There was a nervous gulp running down her throat. "Why... exactly do you want me to come with you?"
Hmm, her fearing him wouldn't do. "You have nothing to fear from me m'lady I simply have need of your... talents."
For some reason, his words didn't put her at ease, at all, his last word especially made her tense. "You're not going to... t-touch me are you?"
Genesis blanked for a moment, appalled, he had done things he wasn't proud of, but rape? "Goddess no. What in the world would give you that idea?"
"I've seen people in the slums act like that," she said quietly, "Cold and cruel one moment, acting like a gentlemen the next as they lead you away. Most girls who fall for it or don't get away don't come back, or if they do, they're not the same."
Well that explained why she was an unknown, hidden in the slums. Still...
Genesis pursed his lips, displeased. "I have been called many things in my life m'lady, some true some not, but a rapist is not one of them. On the word of the Goddess, I swear."
Aerith's eyes searched his for a moment before nodding, a huge chunk of tension bleeding out of her shoulders. "What did you mean by 'talents'?"
He raised an eyebrow. "I'd think it would be obvious m'lady, you healed a man, without materia I might add, of being turned into a copy. I'm curious if your ability can be used in other ways."
Aerith stared at him silently for a minute before speaking softly, "I don't know if I can help you. I don't even understand how I did what I did. I'm not in the habit of making a promise I can't keep."
Genesis tilted his head in acknowledgement while his stomach took a dive at her words. "There's only one way to find out m'lady. First, I believe we should vacate the premises before Shinra shows up, and find you a place to rest and recover your strength."
"I can try," she said softly.
"That's all I ask," he answered back in equal softness, "Now, let's be on our way."
She glanced around, a little confused. "Do you have a car or a helicopter or..."
"My apologies," he offered quickly, before scooping her up, releasing his wing, and taking to the air.
Aerith let loose a shriek as they took off. "Y-you have a wing?!"
He tilted his head down towards her, eyebrow raise. "My copies did, why wouldn't I?"
Aerith glanced down at the rapidly disappearing ground, Genesis could literally hear her heartbeat skyrocketing, then she glanced back up, past him, onto the approaching clouds. "Oh...oh..."
He couldn't resist the urge to tease. "M'lady, do you have a fear of heights?"
"No," she whispered, clutching onto him as tightly as she could, "J-just the sky..."
Genesis did a double-take. "The-what?"
There was an odd seriousness to her voice as she explained, "The sky... I... I've hardly ever seen it under the plate. But when I have, it's so vast, so open, it's impossible to know whats hiding above your sight, something terrible you can't predict. My birth mother told me that something horrible once fell from it. That it killed almost everyone like her and I."
Genesis frowned in thought. It was an odd fear, and yet... there was something in what she said that left him ill at ease. It was much more than a baseless phobia, it was grounded in something in the girl's history that he was unaware of. Not to mention, signifying 'birth' mother instead of just mother, was she adopted like he was? Did that mean her birth mother was dead? He also most certainly hadn't missed the 'everyone like her and I' part. She knew she was special, and was oh ever so lonely in that existence. But he wasn't going to press yet. Still...
"Well, that just won't do," said Genesis, "How about we dispel that fear?"
"What do you-whaaaaoo!" yelped Aerith as Genesis ascended rapidly.
She turned her head reflexively away from what she feared, closing her eyes and burying her face into his coat as they ascended into the clouds. "Please... take me down."
The fear rocketing up her trembling arms was enough to make him feel bad, a sensation he hadn't had in a long time, since before he left Shinra, yet, he wasn't one to back down from a challenge. "Open you eyes Aerith."
When she didn't respond, he took on a more commanding tone. "Open them and look around."
There was a hint of hesitation as she did so, eying the grayness around her. "We're... inside a cloud?"
"Indeed, though not for long unless we wish to get soaked," said Genesis, breaking out above into a crystal clear sky above the clouds, showing the lofty landscape around them.
Aerith took in the scene silently, eyes washing over it. "The air is so clear up here, though it's a little hard to breath."
Genesis shouldn't have been as caught blind by the comment as he was. She WAS from the slums after all, he'd have dreaded breathing in that garbage tainted air all day everyday. Though, the breath part reminded him she wasn't enhanced in the way he was, staying up here for long without her have adapted to the thin air or built endurance was a poor idea. Hell, he shouldn't be up here for long with degradation and all. But for a moment, he lingered, he had never bothered to soar this high and take in the vast open sky, always on the move fighting Shinra or searching for a cure. The way the set slowly set in the distance as something he might have appreciated when he was younger, not than being twenty years old was anything but young. Regardless...
"Is it as terrifying as you imagined it to be up here?" he asked.
"Here, no," she admitted, before glancing up, past the blue sky around them, into the darkness of space, "The higher sky? I still think so."
Higher what...? Oh, she lived in the slums, what kind of education did they even offer down there? She didn't seem unintelligent, perhaps simply uninformed. "It's called Space, and unfortunately, I can't dispel that fear. The vacuum of space is quite lethal."
She gave him a quizzical look. "I'll take your word for it."
With that, Genesis began descending through the clouds. He took note, and smiled softly, to see the girl reach a hesitant hand out in an attempt to 'feel' a cloud. Now... where the hell were they at the moment? He took a brief moment to glance around as they drew closer to the ground, identifying his surroundings, before heading east towards Wutai. They flew in relative silence as the sun finally set, the girl nodding off once or twice before jerking awake moments later. Finally, he reached the hideout that he and Hollander had set up in an old abandoned Wutai storage facility hidden in a cliff-side cave. By then, the girl's tiredness had outdone her body's reaction to sleeping-while-flying and she was out like a light.
The scene he came across once inside wasn't anything new. Hollander hunched over a desk glancing over papers, grumbling to himself. Angeal huddled in a corner, arms crossed, a resigned look on his face.
"Mmm, miss me dear friend?" asked Genesis, ignoring Hollander completely.
Angeal grunted, not even bothering to look up.
"Someone's in a fine mood. By the way, you get the couch, our guest needs a bed," said Genesis, strolling passed.
That got a start out of Angeal. "Guest...? Genesis, who is that?"
"The Gift of the Goddess," said Genesis gleefully.
"Is that a girl? Genesis did you kidnap a child?" asked Angeal, incredulous, his white wing fluttering as he fell into step behind him.
"Young woman would be the more polite term, and no, she agreed to come with me," said Genesis.
Angeal coughed, clearing his throat. "And why would she do that?"
Genesis shrugged. "Something about letting a bunch of people who would have left her to die to save their own skins go with their lives."
Angeal sighed. "That's still kidnapping."
Genesis paused in the hallway, slowly turning to stare at Angeal. "She undid the copy process."
Angeal stopped in front of him, eyebrows furrowing. "She did what?"
"She reversed the process of turning someone into a copy, without materia, her eyes glow faintly, not SOLDIER, but something else," said Genesis, "She may be the salvation I was looking for, since Hollander is a useless fat buffoon."
Angeal looked down at the sleeping girl, eyebrows furrowed. "And if she can't? Are you just going to kill her?"
Genesis gave an indignant squawk. "Angeal! Do you think I have no heart? I'm hurt."
"You turned your own troops into copies," said Angeal coldly.
Genesis pursed his lips. "They agreed to the process."
"They had no idea what they were getting into," countered Angeal before turning, "But I suppose that doesn't matter, it shouldn't matter to me as it apparently doesn't to you, after all..."
He walked away, muttering despairingly to himself, "We're both monsters."
Genesis stared after his troubled friend, lips pursed. Sometimes he wondered if approaching Angeal in desperation had been the right move to make. He didn't like the changes coming over his friend. The despair and depression bothered him, heavily, and would alarm him more than it did if Angeal wasn't a prideful and honorable man. He'd never take the cowards way out.
Regardless, he had a fair maiden to tuck into bed. And tomorrow...
He should know better than to hope so deeply, but, tomorrow hopefully was the beginning of the end for his degradation.
He could feel it in his aching bones.