Vincent's Story, part 1.  "Super Man with Silver Gun"
Track 8:  "Cemetery Gates" by Pantera (Demon Knight version)

In my day, we couldn’t join up with the Turks as young as you did.  I was twenty-three when I got in, fresh out of ICA.  Heh, I though I was hot shit, you know.  Tall, dark and handsome, suave, good with a gun, you get the idea.  I was a young fool, though, naïve for someone who wears a gun inside his jacket.  I didn’t have any illusions that I was helping to fight the good fight, but I wanted to at least bring some conscience back to the Turks.  I was an idiot.

I had four other teammates, all men; back then, there were no women, nor had there ever been at that point.  How many have there been up until now?  Three, you say?  Well, you’re undoubtedly in good company.  Anyway, my teammates.

Joshu was the field leader.  I remember being a bit startled the first time I met him – he had hair so white it was almost blue, vividly blue eyes and dark skin.  It was a very dramatic contrast.  Did you see him, in your dreams?  He and I got along immediately.  He was only twenty-six then, not much older than me, and certainly not the oldest of the team.  He got to be the captain, though, because he was extremely levelheaded and cool in any situation.  I really admired him, and tried hard to present that same kind of demeanor.  Turned out, though, that while he came across as cool and unconcerned, I just ended up looking sullen.

I think that Joshu was the only real friend I had on the team.  I mean, we’d all watch each other’s backs and all, but that’s not the same as friendship, as I’m sure you know.  There aren’t many bonds closer than those you make with your allies when there’s gunfire all around you, no?  Joshu and I spent a lot of time…not talking, I guess, because neither of us was much of a conversationalist, but just being ourselves and…what do they say now, “chilling.”  Heh, the others made a lot of rumors about the two of us, until…until I met Lucrecia, but that comes later.  Funny things happen when there are no women around, you know, everyone gets ultra-masculine and sensitivity is frowned upon.  A guy my age, spending his off-hours with his captain instead of wenching, well…I’m sure you can imagine what I mean.  There was a lot of talk, but there wasn’t anything like that between Joshu and I.  We just understood each other very well and appreciated each other’s company.

The team’s second-in-command at the time was Ian.  I never asked the guy, but I think he’s that fellow Reno’s father.  They both have hard, gray eyes.  Ian was blonde, but his wife was a redhead, heh.  As a matter of fact, he retired after he married her.  A man with a family’s got no business being a Turk.  I wonder if he’s still around…maybe you can ask your friend, eh?  Ian was never a bad guy to me.  He was the oldest one on the team when I joined – he was thirty-five or so, if I remember correctly – so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he retired a year later.  He was a cynic, and he could out-drink all of us, but there was no one else better if you needed a sniper.  He was patience itself as he waited for a clear shot, and he never missed.  As you can probably guess, I inherited that job when he retired, as well as the rank of second-in-command.

Ari and Kesler weren’t too happy at my promotion; I was still the “kid”, after all, and they had both served longer than I had.  Joshu’s recommendation of me for the position fueled even more rumors, but hell, you know?  I was, as I said, learning his sensibility and coolness, and those are what you need in a field leader.  I was also unquestionably the best shot on the team, and better at magic than Ari and Kesler, even though we didn’t use it nearly as much as you all do nowadays.

Ari and Kesler.  They were kind of like your friends Reno and Rude, I guess, although I don’t think they were quite that close.  They had similar likes and dislikes, I suppose.  Ari was an asshole.  He was very handsome, I have to admit – probably the most of any of us.  He had long, pale blonde hair and blue eyes, and he was rather tall.  After work, you could always find him with some girl or another; he certainly never had problems picking up women, heh.  It seemed like he decided to dislike me from the start, I’m not really sure why.  Maybe because I was a bit cocky, maybe because I got along with Joshu.  Whatever the reason, we never got along well, especially after I saved him once out in the field.  Someone like that never forgives you for seeing them in a moment of weakness.

Kesler was perhaps a little more friendly than Ari, but just a little.  He had short brown hair and green eyes, and he was the shortest guy on the team.  He was quick as hell though, and pretty strong.  I never got to know him very well, but he had the same kind of attitude towards me as Ari, for the most part.  He was a real alert fellow, like a cat – great guy to have at point on an infiltration team.  He wasn’t skittish though, not in the least.  He just had a way of noticing the slightest movements or sounds that gave us a great advantage in our work.

So that was my team.  We were damned good at what we did, but I guess that’s why we were in the Turks in the first place, right?  I had joined wanting to put some heart back into the group, but after a few missions I realized how stupid I had been.  The Turks weren’t “evil”; they were just doing what they got paid to do.  If they put their consciences too far ahead of their work, nothing would get done.  The Turks did Shinra’s dirty work; there was no room for righteousness or strict morality.  I know you’ve said the same thing yourself: the Turks are basically good people paid to do bad things.  It’s Shinra that is to be put to blame for the jobs we did, although I’m not foolish enough to claim to be completely innocent.  We accepted the corruption for the prestige of being Turks.  And if I didn’t like what I did, why was I so good at it, one might ask. It was a matter of pride, a man’s pride.  It was a matter of principle to me to excel in my chosen vocation – even if that vocation was something that my principles disagreed with.  Does that make any sense?

Things were normal, if you can call it that, for the first year I was on the team.  The same year Ian retired, I took a long-term posting here in Nibelheim to support Professor Gast’s team working in the Mansion.  They had just hired a brilliant, if eccentric, scientist, fresh out of medical school – Hojo.  I’d heard his doctoral thesis was about genetic manipulation and modification; if only I’d had the sense not to antagonize him, the bastard…

Hojo was pretty different back then.  I have to admit he was a handsome fellow, and he had those overly cool manners of someone who considers himself your superior – do you know what I mean?  He wasn’t insane, not at first, but even then, he was smug in the sense of security he had in Shinra.  He was a genius.  They’d give him a lot of chances before they canned him – if they ever dared.  Between Shinra’s enthusiasm and Gast’s encouragement, Hojo had absolutely free rein.

One of the other scientists there was a graduate student named Lucrecia DeWalt.  Professor Gast was her advisor; her thesis was going to be about the Jenova life form and how its cells formed symbiotic relationships with human cells.  She was…well, she was beautiful.  I’m sure you’ve seen her in our dreams: long, wavy brown hair, brown eyes.  When she wasn’t wearing a lab coat, you could see she had a nice body, too.  But I’d seen plenty of pretty women before – they threw themselves at you if you were a Turk.  The thing about Lucrecia was that she was smart – obviously she was, but I mean, I could have an intelligent conversation with her, and I often did as I was getting to know her.

She was intriguing to me, but I was even more so to her.  She thought the Turks were killers-for-hire, but she quickly learned that I, at least, had a conscience.  She found the contradiction there fascinating.  We often spent our downtime together, first just getting to know each other, and then getting a little more…involved.  I think Professor Gast tolerated me fairly well; he thought I was a distraction for his student, but love can’t be stopped, you know?  It was Hojo who didn’t like me.  It was obvious that he was attracted to Lucrecia; they spent a lot of overtime in the lab together, and when they finally came upstairs and Hojo saw me waiting for her, his smirk was like acid.

If he was just jealous of me, I could have dealt with it.  I worked in an atmosphere like that with the other Turks, after all.  The problem was, Lucrecia was rather ambivalent towards him.  She was my lady, and I knew she wouldn’t have ever gone behind my back to do anything with him, but they were friends at the least, and there was undeniably tension between them.  It made for a classic triangle, and you can imagine the atmosphere in the place.  Gast noticed it rather quickly, and I think he gave Hojo a discreet warning not to cause a conflagration, not when they were working on something so crucial.  Things stabilized, which is to say nothing changed, but nothing got worse.

I was getting desperate to…secure her affections, I guess.  I hated the feeling that she could just walk away from me, leave me in the cold.  I finally splurged a month’s salary to buy a simple, but elegant, I like to think, diamond solitaire.  Yes, I proposed to Lucrecia…

But she said no.

I had thought I would marry Lucrecia, I really did.  I could imagine settling down with her and having a kid or two, or at least, I thought I could.  I wish, for all our sakes, she had said yes; it might have prevented a lot of… well.  Don’t take that personally, either, Mara.  That was another life for me.  Lucrecia’s gone now…

She didn’t want to have to leave me alone all the time, as she lost herself in her work.  That’s what she told me, at least, and it did make sense.  But my anger made me think, too, that maybe she enjoyed the growling between Hojo and myself, just a bit.  She had never gotten a lot of attention, and now she was discreetly basking in it.  On one hand, I hated to think that she could be so petty, but on the other…well…

But yes…she kept very busy with her work.  Have you ever known a scientist who is researching in a brand new field?  They’re frighteningly dedicated, even obsessed.  Lucrecia was no different.  She and Hojo spent twelve hours a day in the lab, studying Jenova.  They were enthralled with the power of the creature.  Lucrecia thought it was god-like, but Hojo was the one who worshipped it.  I knew that, and it caused me to make the greatest mistake of my life.

One day, Lucrecia came to me and broached a very delicate topic.  She wanted to have a child, she told me.  Considering that we weren’t going to be married, I found that a bit surprising.  When I prodded her for her reasons, she was reluctant to answer, but she finally admitted that she wanted to try to infuse a baby with Jenova cells, to see how the organism could shape the life of a human.

I think now that she was confusing the signals of her biological clock with her desire for knowledge – in a weird sort of way, she was trying to kill two birds with one stone.  At the time, though, I was absolutely blown away.  As soon as I recovered my equilibrium, I was disgusted.  Something as unethical as experimenting on a baby…I was sure Hojo had given her the idea, but when I said so, she became angrier than I’d ever seen her.  I can still hear her voice…

“It was my idea, Vincent Valentine, and mine alone!”

She was obsessed with the idea that the cells would make a baby into a superhuman, some incredible being.  She wanted to be the mother, she said, of the next step of the human race – the fusion of Ancient and human.  She sounded insane to me.  Jenova was a monster, as far as I was concerned.  I had seen the disgusting creatures that rats had become after Jenova exposure, no pair of them alike.  Did she want to give birth to a monster?

She scoffed at the idea that the child would be anything but human in appearance.  She tried to explain to me that Jenova had a closer affinity to human cells than to any animal.  The child would be a marvel of perfection.

I couldn’t stand it.  I remember grabbing her and shaking her, trying to stop her raving – she was honestly scaring me.  When I laid my hands on her roughly, though, she slapped me.  I think everyone in the rooms around us must have heard it; it was quite a blow.  I fell back, disbelieving, with my hand held stupidly to the mark on my face.  She glared at me and swept out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

That incident was the end of our relationship.  I begged her to forgive me, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, create a child that I knew was going to be a subject of a life-altering experiment.  I was sick with fear of losing her, because I knew who she would turn to next, and that he would have absolutely no qualms about helping her.  And I was right.

She started spending her off time with Hojo instead of me.  I think that if it had been anyone else, I could have accepted it, but Hojo had been my rival from the beginning, and on top of that, there was the whole issue of the baby…  It made me see red sometimes.

Yes, Lucrecia got her child; I doubt Hojo needed much convincing.  I wouldn’t talk to her for a long time, until she finally cornered me and asked me to bury the hatchet.  Seeing her so sad, I finally relented, but I was never really at ease around her anymore, knowing that she was carrying a strange, new life form.  I was scared for her, even though the ob/gyn said that the baby looked normal in the sonograms.  I think she was a little scared, herself, but she was determined to finish the experiment, and to have a child to raise.

I made my peace with her, but never with Hojo.  At this time, I learned that he honestly hated me.  Lingering jealousy from my long relationship with Lucrecia, and irritation with my adherence to my morality, shaped his feelings towards me.  He didn’t want Lucrecia to ever be alone with me – as if I would ever really harm her.  But he held his peace, for her sake.

I think he really loved her, you know.  He cared for her, at least.  If it hadn’t been for the baby, I could have just let it go eventually.  But I couldn’t stand it.  I couldn’t understand how Gast could let it happen, but he insisted that it was their child, and that he was fairly certain that it was safe.  “Fairly certain”!  If only he had lived to see the fate of that poor child…

I was a bit unhappy with Lucrecia’s choice of name for the baby; “Sephiroth” is a bit ominous, don’t you think?  But I think she and Hojo meant it as some symbol of the mystic powers that they hoped he would possess.  I wondered if, when presented with the breathing, crying baby, the two of them would be able to continue with their planned experiments.  Hojo probably would have, I had no doubt, but what about Lucrecia?  I never found out.

Finally, the time came when the child was born.  Hojo, Gast and the Nibelheim ob/gyn were attending Lucrecia in a curtained-off part of the lab.  She wanted me to be there, so I reluctantly stood to the side, nervously clenching my fists as she went into labor.

I had never been in a room where a woman was giving birth before.  I’d heard horror stories, yes, but the way Lucrecia screamed was chilling.  I was certain that, even in childbirth, a woman wasn’t supposed to sound like the life was being pulled from her.

“My God—“ I heard Hojo exclaim.  Gast was muttering worriedly about “the life form trying to gather as much strength as it could”.  From what I could understand, the baby really was sucking the life from Lucrecia as it left her body.  Horrified, I moved to the bedside, demanding to know what was happening to her.  Hojo was too caught up to answer me, and Gast just shook his head.  The ob/gyn didn’t know any better than I did what kind of creature this baby was, but he knew that he had to deliver it, and that’s what he was concentrating on.

Lucrecia looked delirious from the pain.  I took one of her sweating hands and she grasped my hand so hard it hurt.  Her skin felt much too hot, and I felt, with sickening certainty, that she would not survive this childbirth.  I asked, panicking, if they could do a c-section or something else, but it was too late; the baby was in the birth canal.  The ob/gyn sounded as scared as I was, muttering that it was going much too fast as he told Hojo to get a blanket and more towels.  Lucrecia was losing too much blood, and between that and the parasitic baby, she was losing strength fast.

They told her to push, but she was already exhausted.  She reached down into the last reserves of her strength and pushed.  The baby’s head appeared, and they urged her for one more good push to get his shoulders clear.  She looked at me with this very, very sad look on her face…an apology for choosing the wrong path.  She had wanted a baby, but not at the cost of her own life.  With a final, hair-raising scream, she gave one last push.  The doctors gave a little shout, and the ob/gyn wrapped the tiny form up in a blanket, holding him out to his pale, shaking mother.

She cried out “Sephiroth!” in a terribly weak voice, unable to even raise her arms and take him.

Hojo said, “He’s a perfect baby,” with as much feeling as I’ve ever heard from him.  “He’s perfect, Lucrecia, do you hear?”

I think he meant that Sephiroth had all his fingers and toes, and looked like a perfectly normal human baby.  He wasn’t crying though, which was startling.  It’s not that he seemed ill or unhealthy; he just wasn’t crying at his abrupt ejection from his home – or, as I thought darkly, his host – of nine months.

Lucrecia made the tiniest smile, and then she closed her eyes.  Her hand slipped from mine, and I knew that she was lost.  Unable to breathe for a moment, I gripped the side of the delivery table.  The sudden keening of the heart monitor rose over the sound of tense breathing.

The ob/gyn froze and stared at Lucrecia’s still form, and Gast paused in his examination of the baby.  It was Hojo, however, who finally spoke.

“Lucrecia?”  His voice was pure fear; it could have been my voice instead.  “Lucrecia?”  He looked back at the ob/gyn, who just shook his head sadly.  Gast buried his face in his hands.

My heart felt cold in my chest.  Have you ever felt that?  It sounds like an expression of speech, but you can really have that sensation...  Not knowing what else to do, I leaned down and kissed her forehead.

Hojo snarled at me.  ”Don’t…touch…her.”  I straightened and met his glare; the two of us knew whose fault this was, didn’t we?

I told him, in as cold a voice as I could muster at the time, that I was going to see that he was fired from Shinra and stripped of all credibility.  I would ruin his reputation, so help me.

Gast and the ob/gyn silently watched our deathbed confrontation, probably wondering if I would draw the silver gun that everyone knew I always carried.  Maybe Hojo was wondering that too, but he faced me down.  His exact words were, “You could try, but I can guarantee you’ll fail.  And then you’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

I didn’t know what he meant by that, but his voice was absolutely venomous.  He drew a sheet over Lucrecia’s pale form and abruptly left the room, his shoes clicking loudly in the silence.  It was then that Sephiroth began to cry, wailing plaintively for a mother he would never have.

If you can't tell, this is supposed to be Vincent speaking out loud to Mara.  I wrote this way as a challenge; it's really freakin' hard to write in the oral-first-person.  You don't say "'Blah blah blah,' so-and-so said." when you're talking out loud, and that makes quoting hard.  There were times when I REALLY wanted to quote what the characters said, but I couldn't, so I had to settle for a few selected moments of impact that Vincent would remember and be able to recite.

Joshu's character design is stolen from a game, but he's missing that character's trademark... ^_~  Ari is supposed to look like Zechs Merquise ¬.¬... But don't worry, I love Zechs -- I don't think he's an ass like Ari.

Did anyone else ever notice that all of the Turks (in the game) seem to go by their last names, except Elena?  Rude is a last name, Tseng is a last name I think, O.o and Reno could be either.  I followed that little rule for Mara, too.  But Vincent calls Joshu by his first name because they're friends and vice-versa.  That happened in Gundam Wing, too, but the other way around.  O.o all the OZ guys went by their first names, but Noin was just Noin.

*Scary moment* Noin's first name is Lucrezia. O.o;;;;

Next episode:  What darkness lurks in the heart of men?  Vincent knows...

Chapter 7

Henkei, part 2

Henkei, part 2
(in-game version)