The Life of Joanna: Chapter One

The war was taking a heavy toll on Wutai and all the women and children had been sent to hide in the caves above the town. The farms were a ruined mess, the fortresses had almost all fallen and there was a rumor that Shin-Ra had finished readying their enormous canon at Junon and were itching for an excuse to try it out… on this place. There was a small house in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a canyon, and it contained two people. It was the most well protected house in the entire world. It contained Wutai's most effective secret weapon, Yori Takako.
Yori was extremely magically gifted and only she and her husband, Hachihiro, knew why. The commanders of the Wutai army had been using Yori as a secret weapon for three years now and she had influenced many major world events, but that had changed recently. Two things had happened to jeopardize the situation; Shin-Ra had discovered her existence, and Yori had become pregnant. Protecting the unborn child became a major priority for the forces of Wutai, a task made more difficult by the fact that Yori's magic was becoming erratic and wild. Since the age of twelve she had been able to reliably cast any spell she could think of without using Materia, but now that she was pregnant, her spells often failed or activated randomly, particularly when she was asleep. That was why they were in this secure house, that was why the Shin-Ra forces were searching for it, and that was why Hachihiro had decided to try and make the house impenetrable by the enemy. They knew that the child they were about to have was a girl and they had decided to name her Kamiko, after one of her mothers ancestors. Hachihiro would die to protect Yori and Kamiko from the enemy, but he would much rather they all lived. He was nailing the extra wooden bars across the bullet-proof windows when the message came, he flipped open his phone handset and read the mail. He gasped and dropped his hammer on his foot, then ran through to Yori's room. She was lying peacefully asleep but was surrounded by illusionary flame. This was one of her most common magical accidents and was, thankfully, completely harmless. He shook her arm gently to wake her, she yawned and looked up into his scared expression. She went straight from sleepy to fully alert in a nanosecond and asked:
"What's wrong, Hachi?"
He silently handed her the phone, which was still displaying the message.

Hachihiro,
Genesis has landed in Wutai with massive force, SOLDIER attacks on several forts including Fort Tamblin. SOLDIER heading for your location, get out if possible, else hide wife and fight them off. Sending backup ASAP, currently fighting Shin-Ra army detachment in Wutai Town.

Godo Kisaragi.

She gasped in shock and closed her eyes for a moment, this would have confused most people but Hachihiro new what she was doing. She called it "scanning", she sent her mind out to look for a foreign presence in the area. He had heard that Shin-Ra had developed a way to do this with technology but Yori had been able to do it since birth. Oddly it was the one talent of hers that hadn't, so far at least, been affected by her pregnancy… and it didn't look likely to be as, Kamiko was due in less than a week.
"Hachi, they're coming!" She whispered, her voice laced with fear.
"Who are?"
"Genesis." She was visibly shaking now and Hachihiro began to get scared.
"Shin-Ra? Already?" He asked nervously.
"No… Not Shin-Ra, Genesis." She sounded as puzzled by this as he was, he knew not to push her. Sometimes she would be absolutely certain that something was true, she didn't always understand and she hardly ever knew why, she just knew. It had been like that nearly nine months ago when she had told him, with that edge in her voice of absolute certainty, that they were going to have a baby. She had told him the date, and that it would be a girl and that she would be… special. He had thought he knew what that meant, at least.
"You mean like you?" He had asked, though he was sure he knew the answer. He was completely thrown, therefore, when she answered:
"No, I'm not special… just different." He took a moment to recover from the shock before replying.
"You are the most amazing person I have ever met, if you're not special… who is?"
"Our Daughter." She had replied simply.
Our Daughter… the thought still scared him slightly. She hadn't known exactly what she meant when she had told him Kamiko would be special. What if his daughter had some kind of problem… His wife wasn't one to use such patronizing terms to describe people with mental difficulties, but it wasn't exactly her who had said it.
There was a loud noise outside and it brought Hachihiro out of his reverie. It sounded like a helicopter, Theirs or Ours?
Theirs, he decided. It was far too soon for Godo's reinforcements to be here. A blast shook the house, Hachihiro's protections must have worked well, there was no damage to the building. There was a rattle of gunfire and an odd, springy, noise as the bullets bounced off the windows.
Wait a minute, He thought, SOLDIER don't use guns. They're famous for it…
Hachihiro turned on one of the security monitors in the room and saw an odd sight. Genesis was stood at the rear of a block of strange creatures. They looked like Shin-Ra Infantrymen, except that they were wearing red and their equipment was slightly different. The main thing was that each of them had a small, useless, jet black wing fluttering pointlessly on his right shoulder. they were all standing vacant, waiting for orders.
Hachihiro gulped nervously and continued to watch as Genesis approached the door. The SOLDIER raised his right hand and pressed it against the wood of the door. There were several showers of sparks as the automatic defenses shorted out. Hachihiro ran for the back room, trying to work out the best way to protect his wife and unborn child. Suddenly, a blue light seemed to fill one corner of the room.
Oh balls! This is just what I need right now; Rogue bloody Magic! Hachihiro thought, turning to face his wife who was… sleeping peacefully.

***

It is at this point that we should introduce the other key players in the life of this amazing individual.
The man sat on the rock watching. He still wasn't sure where he was as he had not been able to bring any of his notes with him. A herd of strange creatures was ambling past and he watched them out of sight. He sighed. There was a small collection of rudimentary houses to his right and he hoped he would be able to work out his location from them. Ambling over, he saw some very tall, thin humanoids. Elves, possibly? He could be on Middle Earth again. No, he decided, they're too tanned to be elves. And too primitive. One of them shouted a greeting at him and the multiversal translation software in his brain whirred.
"Ho, stranger, what bringst thou here?" That was the biggest problem with the software, too much imagination.
"I'm looking for a place to spend the night. Could you tell me where I am please?" His mouth formed the unfamiliar shapes of this new language.
"Aye traveller, you're in the village of the eastern tribe. Where are you from, pray, you look not to be Cetra…"
"Eastern tribe of whom? I'm from a far distant land. You won't have heard of it."
"Cetra, of course. Who else!?"
"Cetra, right… Rings a bell, but… Ancients! You're the Ancients, right? On Gaia?"
"Ancients? Nay, we've only been here ten generations. And if you're trying to call me old, I'll have thee know I'm only three hundred years of age!"
"Yes, of course. Sorry, I didn't mean… Anyway, as I was saying, you got anywhere I can stay?"

That night, the traveller sat around a fire with the tribe, drinking small beer and talking. As the flames wore down, and the younger members left, the talk turned to politics. If the man really was on Gaia, this was what he needed to hear. This was how he could work out where to go.
"Trouble brews to the west, they say. There's a tribe settling in who say they don't plan to leave when the time comes! They've given up on the Promised Land and they just want to stay!" The translator was settling in now, giving a more honest account.
"Aye, but folk have been saying that for hundreds of generations, and we've always moved. If they really wish to stay then on their own heads be it." This more benevolent character was a greying man. Apparently, he was over four thousand years old. "So, newcomer, tell us a tale of this other world of yours. I've seen a good few in my time, lets hear if yours would be worth a visit."
"No, I don't want to interrupt your discussions, I just-"
"Bah, We can talk politics any time. But a chance to hear the stories of a fellow traveller who isn't Cetra? That is a rare thing indeed. If you tell me a tale of your world, I'll match it with one of my own."
"Hmm, ok" Said the traveller, thoughtfully. "Here's one…

***

The blank Blue Book lay before him, with the label attached.
Write something inspiring, three men in war, all fun and games, sticking it to the americans. no commie shit.
The author sighed, picked up a pen and opened the book. He began to write yet another story in which some British soldiers had a jolly good time killing yanks and didn't get hurt. Nor did they suffer any of that dreadful plot rubbish that books used to have. The government, he reflected, should all be hanged. From Tower Bridge, because that would be a laugh. Maybe they should be forced to read some of the drivel they forced him to write while they were up there… It had been five years since he'd been allowed to write anything with meaning. Five long years of hollow propaganda. Tucked under his bed was a box of short stories, he'd been forced to hide. He'd written them last year but they were illegal. They were tales of a man named Loki, and they were Fanfiction. That was what hippy types did. That was illegal.
At least he had been able to tell his wife, Agatha. She was trustworthy, the Government couldn't take her away, at least.

You know when you're reading something and the character has a thought and you immediately think "Wrong!"? When it's obvious that the narrative is about to slap the character in the face and ruin his day by making the bad thing he thought couldn't happen, happen? Well now might just be one of those times. Of course, he was wrong about how it would happen, but it did. 3 Years later…

***

Dear citizen.
You have been provided with a [mark 4] shelter. You are deemed to be [outside safety zone F] being, as you are, [10 miles from] the centre of a [low target rating] city. Please erect this shelter in your back garden and notify neighbours without shelters as to it's location.

[The mark 4 shelter is able to withstand a 20 gigaton blast at a range of 5 miles. It holds 30 people comfortably and will keep you safe from even the most determined American missiles. This rigid structure is easy to erect and should be kept up until peace is assured. It will keep you, and your family, safe.]

***

Calum Cameron stared at the small pile of dust and rubble that, until two weeks ago, had been his home. They had finally decided that the atmosphere was safe enough to allow him back in, turns out it hadn't even been a nuclear missile. The tears rolled freely down his face as he picked his way through the burnt remains. The fireman stood close by, ready to take his identifying statement if any recognisable bits could be found. Huh, he thought bitterly. None of this was ever in those stupid books they made me write. None of their incompetence, none of their mistakes. Just lies. Endless lies.
The burning hatred welled up inside him as he reached the back garden. There was the remains of the shelter. The bomb had been smaller and further away than the instructions told them was safe. Lies. Endless bloody lies.
He saw a glint of something, it made his heart skip. It was a ring. He dashed forward and gazed at it, more tears welling up. It was her wedding ring, on a blackened and twisted hand. Her hand. And it was gripping something. He heaved on the corrugated tin on top of it, slowly lifting it up. The fireman dashed over to help. Soon, it hit the ground, raising a huge cloud of dust. As his vision cleared, he finally saw what she had been holding. It was his box. His secret box, which she had saved. She had taken the time to save his box, risking her life. Or at least, thinking she was. There wasn't really any risk, that would imply a chance of survival. The fireman was reaching toward the box, to see what was inside. That couldn't be allowed, the box was dangerous. He reached down quickly and beat the fireman to it. Now he needed a way of getting it out of here without being searched. Calum had never kept any weapons in his house, but after all… the box was dangerous. He swung. The cold metal connected with the fireman's head…

END OF CHAPTER ONE

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