No Longer A Memory! – Chapter 7: New Aquaintances.

Chapter Summary: Introductions were long overdue, plans never go as they should…

Author: Illusor Meaneld

Rated T: for Descriptive violence and injuries, No Adult Situations, No Cussing.

Disclaimer: I did not create, and do not own the characters from Final Fantasy 7. They are owned by Square-Enix, and I am simply borrowing them for my own (and hopefully your) amusements.

I DO however own, the revised conceptual designs for some clothing, demons, and monsters, and "Namir" completely belongs to me so no stealing…

The rest of the week passed uneventfully for Sephiroth as he anticipated his strange appointment on "Monday". As Sephiroth and his partner Vincent Valentine rode their twin black motorcycles through the streets of the once great city of Midgar, the silver-haired Ex-General couldn't help but reflect on how far it had fallen. The once "invincible" city lay desolate, the uninhabitable buildings slowly rotting with time. So much had been destroyed, even the city of "Edge" was sparsely inhabited. It was eerily quiet aside from the growl of their bike engines, and as the dust whipped up behind them, Sephiroth couldn't help but wonder once again why they were meeting someone here. Vincent, who was leading the way, finally slowed, parking his bike in front of what used to be a store. The windows were boarded and blackened, but the sturdy structure had survived the damage around it, and Sephiroth could discern a subtle lighting from under the door.

He followed his raven-haired companion leisurely through the entryway. The interior was dim, but well enough lit for comfort. Whatever store it had once been was impossible to tell, the inside had been gutted, and now there were desks, chairs, and computers set up around the spacious room. A few of the lights overhead were broken, which is what dimmed the room. Sephiroth's brow furrowed as he glanced around.

"What is this place?" He murmured, it was maintained, and had power, even though it was practically in the middle of Midgar.

"A WRO outpost." Vincent supplied softly, "It's not used all that frequently."

Sephiroth nodded silently, his gaze quickly flicked back to the middle of the room when he spotted movement. Slitted Green eyes widened and Sephiroth had to consciously keep his mouth closed. Gaping was not a respectable first impression. Walking between the desks towards them was a very slender young girl. No more than a child really. Sephiroth frowned, tossing a quick look at Vincent, who had just the corner of his lips quirked in a 'smirk'. Sephiroth glanced back at the girl, who had paused and was eyeing him nonchalantly.

"Sephiroth, this is Shelke." Vincent said quietly, the barest hint of amusement flickering in his red eyes, "Shelke, this is Sephiroth."

"It's a pleasure to meet you Shelke," Sephiroth bowed slightly, this child was the one they were looking for? There must be some mistake! He rose and glanced at her expectantly, confused when she did not return his greeting. For several moments the silence stretched, before she finally turned her own head and frowned at the tall silver-haired man.

"I want to hug you." The words were strangely inflectionless, as though she were stating scientific data.

Sephiroth blinked several times, slowly raising one eyebrow, he hadn't thought he was particularly cuddly looking or anything,… "Okay, that's kind of…"

"Strange? … yes." Shelke finished for him. He fell silent once more, sparing another glance at his partner. Shelke's gaze followed his, flitting to rest on Vincent before slowly moving back to Sephiroth. "What did Vincent wish to speak to me about?"

Sephiroth found himself frowning again, "I'm certain Vincent can tell you."

"Yes,… but I suspect you will explain it more efficiently."

Sephiroth couldn't help but chuckle, Vincent shuffled silently in place, Shelke seemed to know him rather well.

"Vincent?" Sephiroth turned to face the quiet gunman, gesturing to the silver-gauntlet he wore, "Would you mind if I explained?"

Vincent shook his head, and proceeded to remove the metal glove. Sephiroth stepped up next to him and when both gauntlet and the leather glove underneath had been stripped off he gently grabbed the demonic arm and stretched it forward for Shelke to see. Sephiroth first gestured to the jagged wrap-around scar.

"According to Vincent, this is where his arm was grafted." Sephiroth moved his finger up to the fresher white-grey slash higher up on the forearm. "This is the scar he received in his motorcycle accident when I met him." His hand continued higher still to the edge of the blue-grey skin and fur, "This is how far his taint has spread since that time." Sephiroth glanced back at Shelke, releasing Vincent's arm entirely, "Vincent told me you would know something of my Mo… I mean, … Lucretia's research."

"I have complete data files on the work of Doctor Lucretia Crescent." Shelke supplied, "Vincent is aware of this."

Sephiroth had to pause again, her monotonous responses took some getting used to, "So, … is there any speculation on why his taint would be spreading? … The rate seems to be increasing from what I can tell."

Instead of moving to a computer, as Sephiroth half expected her to do… The young girl's gaze dropped her eyes unfocusing as she thought, "Are there any other symptoms besides the increased quantity of demon flesh?"

"The demons Vincent … ah… houses, are becoming harder to control, they find escape more frequently." Sephiroth supplied, Vincent continued to remain silent, though he had replaced his glove and gauntlet.

Shelke hesitated again, "According to Lucretia's notes, she believed that the Proto Materia would make Vincent fully capable of controlling his demons,…"

"Speaking of demons…" Sephiroth muttered, "He has a new one, … there are five of them now."

Shelke's blue eyes flitted hastily to Sephiroth's green ones, "A new one? … does this… new demon, have a name?"

"Namir." The Ex-General watched wordlessly as the child drifted into her musings once more. Though she looked no older than 10, she certainly did not act her age, if he hadn't already known better, Sephiroth might have thought she was an android or something.

"Namir…" Shelke frowned, "Lucretia did mention a Namir in her research … but all she said was that the secrets behind the Proto Materia died with him." Now it was Sephiroth's turn to frown, had she memorized his mother's notes or something?

However, this time, Vincent spoke first, "Is it possible that the Namir Lucretia spoke of, and the one trapped within me, are the same?"

Sephiroth sighed and chuckled, "This is just so weird." He muttered, "How does she know so much?" the other two paused, giving him nearly identical silent looks. The Ex-SOLDIER simply snickered,

At first Shelke said nothing, her impassive gaze flicked to Vincent, "Can he be trusted?" She said simply, Vincent nodded. Sephiroth blinked, it was a secret? Then the girl glanced back at him, "I possess the research and memories of Doctor Lucretia Crescent, the information was uploaded to my neural network so that I would be capable of accomplishing my mission directives for Project Deep Ground."

The room fell into silence once more, Sephiroth digesting the information, and Shelke and Vincent waiting for his response. "… Research AND Memories?" Sephiroth said softly,

"Yes… It is her Memories that instill in me the desire to hug you. She always thought of you as her son, no matter what had happened." Now it was Shelke's turn to frown, her eyes darting back to the floor.

"Ah." Sephiroth looked at her for a few more moments, "Well… um… I suppose I don't mind if you hug me." The Ex-General resisted the urge to scratch at the back of his head, like Zack was fond of doing.

Shelke looked up, sighing softly, "This is awkward." She said simply, Sephiroth had to agree, finding a child who harbored mothering instincts towards him wasn't exactly what he'd envisioned for his day. "Maybe some other time." Shelke decided finally, Sephiroth stifled a sigh of relief. Awkward didn't describe the half of it.

Vincent's soft throat clearing caught their attention, and somehow managed to relieve the strain that had fallen. "Shelke, do you have any suggestions?" Vincent murmured from behind his cloak.

Shelke nodded, "Keep me updated on anything this Namir says, I will head back home and see if there's any information I missed in Lucretia's Journals."

Vincent and Sephiroth both nodded, Sephiroth paused as another thought occurred to him, "What if we need to contact you?"

"Vincent knows how to find me." Was Shelke's simple reply. "I'll be in Nibelheim if anything comes up." Then she turned and strode back through the tables, her short form quickly disappearing behind the furniture. Just like that Vincent turned and started back towards the door they had come through.

"It was a pleasure speaking to you Shelke," Sephiroth called after the young girl, rolling his eyes and smiling at the two introverts. "Thanks." Then with a chuckle he followed his partner, "you have some strange friends Valentine." He didn't miss the slight quirk of Vincent's lips, and Sephiroth was laughing when the reached their motorcycles.

Ethan nearly gagged, trying to breath through his nose, but his panting didn't allow for it. Professor Sullivan's breath was rancid, the older man wheezed raggedly as Ethan tried to carry him through the Shinra mansion. The process was agonizingly slow, step by step as he half-dragged his cohort through the dilapidated building. The smell coming from the scientist made Ethan's eyes water, but Sullivan's sickly pale skin and sweat-covered brow kept him going.

The experiment had been a disaster! As soon as Professor Sullivan had started thrashing and screaming in his tank Ethan new it had gone all wrong. There had been nothing he could do but watch, all the research had said that ending the experiment halfway through resulted in instant death. Ethan had watched in terror as the convulsions had slowed and eventually stopped. It was the best he could do to drag Darcy from the tank, but the professor hadn't woken. His leaden weight was quickly tiring the young assistant out as he slowly made his way up the steep steps, leading up from the basement. He was shaking and exhausted by the time he reached the main room. The few monsters that still wandered the building had run and shied from the acrid scent of Mako. Or perhaps it was something else that drove them away, either way Ethan was grateful, he had neither the energy nor the free hands to drive the beasts from him at the moment. A few more sluggish dragging steps and he made it to one of the bedrooms.

It took three tries before Ethan managed to deposit his employer on the bed, then he had to pause and take gulping breaths, slowly sinking down next to the unconscious professor. Wiping sweat from his brow he gazed around, thankfully they'd cleaned out this room before, in case either of them had time to truly rest. As he watched the Labored breathing of his superior, Ethan felt his heart sink. What would he do if Professor Sullivan died here? While the older man had never been exactly kind, he had given Ethan a job, and when it was important, he listened to the younger man's ideas. Ethan choked, and wiped at his suddenly stinging eyes. Forcing his tired body to stand he scrounged up blankets and water, dutifully caring for his partner.

As the hours bled into each other, and Darcy did not wake, Ethan worried, but at least the Professor continued to breath. When the hours became a day, and then two, Ethan began to panic. He tried to keep the older scientist cool when he was feverish, warm when he was cold. But with the raspy breathing he was having a difficult time administering water, and the unconscious man was incapable of eating.

On the Third day of watching, the professor finally moved. Ethan had drifted into a slight doze at Darcy's bedside, when the shifting of sheets and blankets woke him.

"Professor?" Ethan gulped, half expecting it to be a dream.

"Ethan…" Came the raspy reply, Ethan jumped up immediately, fetching the water he'd been trying to give his 'patient' with little success. Professor Sullivan drank without comment, laying still for a few moments as his body processed the liquid. Finally his eyes opened once more. "Ethan… the experiment… What happened?"

Ethan blinked twice, "You don't remember Professor?"

"I would not ask if I did." The man weakly growled,

For a moment the young assistant was silent, and then with a heavy sigh he related the catastrophic events from three nights ago. "You went into convulsions… Clawing at yourself, pounding the sides of the tank… and you were screaming, like you were in pain. You were choking! … I thought you were going to die!" The young man ran his hands over his face as he spoke,

"How many hours have I been out?" Darcy interrupted,

"Hours sir? ... It's been days…" Ethan half-mumbled,

Finally the Professor paused, "Days?"

"Yes Professor, it has been days."

Sullivan drifted into thought, his eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling.

Ethan waited, but when it didn't seem like the older scientist was going to speak he cleared his throat softly. "Um…. Professor? … We've just about run out of food here, I was hoping to try and move you to the Nibelheim Inn, … I could get you fresh meals and a hot bath… and…"

Darcy snorted, "Do I look like I need a hot bath?"

Ethan ducked his head, but with the nearly incapacitated man he felt a bit bolder, "… Um… In my professional opinion sir, … yes."

Professor Sullivan hesitated and then chuckled darkly under his breath, "Alright, fine." With some effort he sat up, his eyes widening as he swayed. "Looks like you'll need to help me." He admitted unhappily.

Ethan repressed a sigh of relief as he jumped up to support the older man. The two of them staggered slowly from the room.