Echoes of the Past

Gabriel stands before a training dummy in the warriors’ combat hall. He glances over at Malkuth who’s standing in the corner busying himself checking gear. Gabriel pulls off his jacket, sweating profusely, he unbuckles the side of his body armor and sighs as the cool fresh air reaches under the armored vest. He then collapses on the one of the benches lying back, tossing his jacket to one side and swinging his foot up.
“Hey Prof, you mind if I catch a few Zs here?” Gabriel asks. Malkuth grunts in reply. “I’m taking that as a no you don’t mind…” Gabriel says with a grin and closes his eyes.

18 Romani Holiday (Antonius Remix) - Hans Zimmer - Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows Score - YouTube (Soundtrack for the battle)

Gabriel wakes with a start, snatching up an unfamiliar blade and grabbing the grip of the pistol holstered on his right hip. He looks around the trench narrowing his eyes. “What is it Gabe?” the voice comes from off to his left and Gabriel turns his attention that way. Sitting opposite his side of the trench is a muscular young man clad in grey body armor with blue hair and mako green eyes, the trademark of the SOLDIERs of ShinRa.

Gabriel shakes his head, “Zero? I don’t know man…I had this dream; I was in my 30s and attending some school…”

Zero chuckles while saying, “You sure you didn’t get gassed brother?”

Gabriel looks at the muddy floorboards running through the trench line, “Yeah…must’ve been something I ate.”

Zero nods in agreement, “Yeah these field rations probably aren’t to be trusted…”

Gabriel looks back up at his comrade, “What did I miss?”

Zero meets Gabriel’s eyes, “Well a Class 1 came by and said he’s gonna make a breach so we can slip into the enemy lines and try to capture enemy soldiers, get some intel on this supposed Cetra fighting for them.”

Gabriel frowns at this, “Only the company would drop troops into someone else’s active warzone and then charge them for the “service” while actually serving their own secret agenda.”

Zero shrugs “There’s a rumor circulating that Gariland wants to end the use of Mako reactors, they win we’re out of a job Gabe.”

Gabriel shrugs back at this, then stands and stretches. “When do we go over the wall?” He asks, Zero.

Zero pops a leather cover off the face of the krono device strapped on the inside of his wrist, “Soon probably in the next 30 minutes, I was actually just about to wake you, your timing was impeccable as usual.”
Gabriel nods and picks up a rifle propped up on the wall next to him, extending the stock and pulling back on the charging handle to check the chamber, seeing it unloaded he pulls the charging handle all the way back chambering a round.

Gabriel looks up at Zero, “And where’s Bruin?”

Zero frowns, “That Class 1 grabbed him, said something about helping with the breach.”

Gabriel sighs, “Well just the two of us then?”

Zero nods, “And what more do we need really?”

Gabriel looks annoyed, “Well maybe Reno or that moody Valentine fella for starters…they’re fighters Zero.” A whistle blows at one end of the trench, another whistle sounds closer, then a third from the opposite side, starting a chain reaction of whistle blasts down the trench line. Armored ShinRa and Mikoto soldiers begin filing out of bunkers dug into the rear walls of the trench. Zero and Gabriel exchange a serious look, Zero rechecks his gear a final time. “Hey, soldier, slot this into your weapon.” Gabriel says as he tosses Zero a purple materia, “It’s an experimental barrier, might help us get to the other side in one piece.” Zero nods and fixes the piece of materia into his massive sword. “ShinRa soldiers on me!” Gabriel shouts. THUMP THUMP THUMP, off in the distance artillery can be heard firing.

Shells wiz overhead on of the ShinRa soldiers mutters, “Outgoing.”

Gabriel turns to him, “It’s smoke.” and announces to the group assembling, “It’ll cover our advance we can’t use too many explosive shells; we need to capture as many enemy soldiers and officers as we can, gather any on site intelligence you can find.” The soldiers around Gabriel nod a low murmur begins as the soldiers talk amongst themselves, readying their weapons and gear. In the distance in front of the ShinRa occupied trench more thumps are heard followed by a high-pitched hissing.

An observer peeks over the wall with a pair of binos, “Get ready…” he says nervously. Ladders are readied along the trench wall by anxious soldiers.

There are another two long blasts of whistle all down the line, followed by officers screaming “OVER THE TOP, ADVANCE ADVANCE!”

The Zero and Gabriel race to two ladders side by side, “ON ME!” Gabriel shouts and ShinRA soldiers begin following them over the wall. Zero makes it up first with Gabriel close behind him and a bullet goes zipping between them sounding like an angry wasp.

“SHIELDS IN FRONT!” Commands Zero. ShinRa troopers with shields strapped on their backs and submachine guns slung across their chests scurry up and over the wall taking up a position between the enemy fire and the rest of the advancing unit. Machine guns on the Gariland side begin to chatter and a fusillade of lead begins to whiz by all round the ShinRa unit.

Gabriel shouts to Zero, “Where’s this opening your buddy promised us?!”

Zero just looks back at him and shrugs, “We can’t depend on them we have to get into that trench line!” Zero tightens his grip on his sword and yells, “SHIELDS ADVANCE!” The wall of shielded troops begins steadily trudging forward with bullets hitting and ricocheting off of their wall of steel, returning fire in short bursts from their sub guns. The group makes it to the middle of the no-man’s land between the lines when they hear a loud, THUMP THUMP THUMP coming from in front of them. Everyone freezes, Zero looks back at Gabriel, “Is that incoming or just the reverb from our own smoke rounds?”

There’s a high-pitched whistle and the ground behind the ShinRa troops explodes, followed by another series of THUMP THUMP THUMP, a soldier screams, “INCOMING!”

Gabriel shouts over the cacophony, “Spread out and push to the trench!” Suddenly a shell lands in the ranks throwing people and body parts everywhere and the whole unit breaks, soldiers running in every direction, diving into shell holes for cover from the incoming fire. As the smoke clears, two of the shield bearers lie in the mud, one decapitated, the other riddled with shrapnel, missing his arm. Zero and Gabriel stand covered in dirt and debris. There’s a roaring noise overhead, a giant fireball the size of small car flies slowly through the air over the ShinRa men and into the trench line in front of them.

Gabriel’s jaw drops and Zero grins, “There’s our breach! Gabe behind me!” The explosion throws Gariland soldiers and material every which way, Gabriel gets behind Zero who now holds his sword in front of him an activates a luminescent purple half sphere, bullets hit it and zip around.

Gabriel shouts to the remaining ShinRa Soldiers, “FORM UP, STACK ON ME AND ON THE REMAINING SHIELDS, THROUGH THAT BREACH!” The soldiers begin to reform behind what’s left of the trench wall, the unit pushes on into the gap made by the fireball, the two columns of soldiers stream around Gabriel and Zero then split left and right filling the trench line.

“Gabriel…” A woman’s voice.

Gabriel looks around, “Zero did you hear that?” Zero has now disipated his barrier and is wading in the trench, Gabriel stands at the mouth of the breach looking from left to right.

Zero looks over his shoulder for a moment and motions to his friend, “Come on Gabe, there’s work to be done!” but his voice sounds tinny and distant, he walks into the combat, sword drawn and swinging. Gabriel stands in the open, "

Gaaabrieel…" the voice says playfully. Gabriel slowly turns, in front of him is a farm, a small farmhouse, a barn, a pen filled with Chocobos, and against the fence leans a familiar young woman, she smiles warmly at Gabriel.

Sleep Token - Fall For Me [Lyrics on screen] - YouTube (Soundtrack for the cherished and waking)

“What’re you doing Gabe?” Gabriel blinks and looks behind him, at the battle raging on and begins walking towards the woman on the bright green grass.

Gabriel has a look of disbelief on his face, “Aqua?” he drops his rifle, and as he steps onto the grass his appearance changes yet again, he’s now 5 years younger, his hair has gone from close cropped to longer and tied back in a short ponytail, he’s clean shaven, no longer dressed in combat gear. Gabriel is now wearing black jeans, a white t-shirt, biker boots. His handgun and sword are gone and a gunblade is holstered across his back over his left shoulder. He studies the woman, the sound of battle fades. Aqua has light almost white, blonde hair, and pale almost albino skin, striking green eyes and a heartwarming smile. Gabriel moves forward in a rush and wraps her in his arms, Aqua yelps in surprise, and then wraps her arms around his shoulders.

“What’s gotten into you?” Aqua giggles shyly.

Gabriel puts his forehead against hers. “Where have you been, I thought… I thought, I lost you…”

Aqua smiles sadly, “I’m not here Gabriel…we’re out of time…” Gabriel pulls back a little to look at Aqua clearly confused, “What? What do you mean? I have you in my arms…you’re right here…we have all the time in the world.”

Aqua shakes her head, “No…not time like that, I’m afraid…we aren’t in the right places… I’m not sure we ever will be…”

Gabriel closes his eyes and kisses her forehead “Bullshit.” He feels her warm skin under his lips along with the slight electric charge the magic infused in her body gives off, when he opens his eyes, his arms are empty. He looks around and Aqua is standing behind him.

“Gabriel, time…reality is fractured…we’ve slipped through some sort of cracks…” Aqua looks saddened telling him this, and she begins to lose her solidity as if fading into mist.

Gabriel shouts now, “Aqua NO! You’re not making sense!” He reaches out for her, and his hand goes straight through her image, fading completely.

“I’m sorry Gabriel.” Aqua’s voice echoes around him. Gabriel looks around as the farm fades to blackness and he’s left standing in a black space. A corpse white hand reaches out of the blackness cackling maniacally and grips Gabriel’s left arm. Gabriel screams and rips his arm away from the cold dead hand.

A jovial voice calls out of the darkness “I’ve found you fallen! You thought I was dead and gone, but here I am!” There’s more insane laughter, then the voice drops to a low vicious tone, “And I remember what you and your shitty little friends did to me! Let me give YOU something to remember ME by!” with that Gabriel’s left arm is shot through with searing pain and he cries out and drops to his knees staring as the skin and muscle begins peeling and crumbling from his left arm leaving a skeletal arm and claw like hand, Gabriel howls in pain and blacks out.

“Hey, hey guy!” Gabriel starts and wakes on the bench in the Warriors’ hall sitting up quickly and grabbing the collar of the student leaning over him. Gabriel’s heart is pounding, he can hear it in his ears, he’s covered in cold sweat. The student looks shocked and is trying desperately to loosen the grip of Gabriel’s left hand. Gabriel catches his breath and looks at the student, he takes a deep breath has to concentrate to release his grip.

Gabriel looks apologetically at the student, "Sorry…bad dream…was I talking in my sleep?

The student looks around nervously, “Uh…more like thrashing… whatever man…” The student turns and walks briskly away.

Gabriel sighs and swings his feet back down to the floor. He runs both hands through his hair and pulls his cigarettes out of his pocket, putting one in his mouth and lighting it. Gabriel takes a deep drag and closes his eyes, exhaling the smoke through his nostrils, he then fishes his flask out of his coat and takes a long drink. Placing the flask on the bench next to him he holds the cigarette in between his right thumb and index finger and stares at his now normal looking but shaking left hand, he rotates it examining his, then flexes it to stop the shaking. Closing his eyes, he makes a fist and presses it against his forehead, “What the fuck Aqua…”

A young Gabriel stands in an alley in the Wall Market, music can be heard pulsing through the door next to him. Gabriel leans on the wall smoking a cigarette, dressed in a black jeans, a black leather vest, and a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, black fingerless biker gloves with reinforced knuckles, black biker boots, and a black tie loosened around his neck. Two figures approach Gabriel from the darkened alley, one muscular and tall the other almost a foot taller and wider than his partner. Gabriel looks up, “Hey boys, …what’s up?”

The smaller of the pair grunts in reply, the bigger man responds in a thick highland accent,
“Oi Gabbay, yanno I haet tees places.”

Gabriel smiles wryly with his cigarette in the right corner of his mouth,
“I know Bruin, but you got the brief same as me, Avalanche is working out of this club…means someone has gotta do something about it…”

Bruin, the bigger man steps into the light, both his hair and close-cropped beard a very distinct red, he is dressed in a red, green, and black flannel shirt with green work pants and black boots, The man standing next to him has blue hair and is wearing a black sleeveless shirt with grey jeans.

Gabriel looks him over,
“Zero…did you lose your sleeves or just get tired of’em and rip them off?”

Zero’s eyes catch the light giving a glint of mako green and he responds.“Got tired of’em…are we standin’ out here gawkin’ at each other all night or are we going in?”

Gabriel nods and says, “Just waiting on you two…”
The trio makes their way into the club, music pulsing and lights flashing. As they approach the bouncer Gabriel reaches into his pocket and hands one of the men a large bundle of Gil, the bouncer nods and waves all three men through.

Zero leans in towards Gabriel and says, " Well that went smoother than usual."

Gabriel turns his head towards Zero and speaks loudly into his ear to be heard over the music, “Well I’d hope so, I bribed the bouncers the time I came in here to do recon and again just now…the sum was clearly to their liking,”
Zero grunted his approval as the trio moved towards the bar and hopped up on three stools at the bar.

The bartender saunters over to their section of the bar and grins at Gabriel. “Hey Gabe, I see you came back with some friends.”

Gabriel returns her grin. “Hey Ash, good to see you again, yeah I told them the prettiest bartender in Midgar was at the Sixth Circle…”

Ash winks at Gabriel and looks at Zero and Bruin, “What can I get you boys?” She asks.

Bruin grins at Zero, “Sotch-Whiskey for meh! Zerah, whatcha wunt? Ah get’im ah crunburry n’ vahdkah!”

Zero visibly cringes, “Just a pint of the house brew for me.” (Work in progess more to come)