It Runs in the Family

This short story, edited from a dream created by the brain of Calum P Cameron after excessive playing of Combat Dome’s FFVII Game, details the events which would have occurred had Loki decided to fetch Roddy himself, rather than using a messenger. Of course, somewhere in the multiverse, this is probably how events really did play out. Ask Hojo…

Professor Von “Loki” Insanity IV, ex-Shin-Ra scientist turned de facto hero, peered over the edge of the small building on which he squatted, down to the Midgar street below. The early-morning Meteor-disturbed sunlight illuminated his face, a healing scar from one of his many harsh impacts over the past week still visible beneath his shock of unruly hair, vaguely reminiscent of a dark brown dandelion clock. The narrow, oriental-style eyes inherited from his mother took in the small group of guards disappearing down a side street. He turned to his companion, who was crouched in a position from which it would be a simple manoeuvre to spring into defensive action.
“It’s clear.” Brall, former member of SOLDIER and the unlikely other half of Loki’s retrieval team, relaxed slightly, straightening the sleeve of his stolen tunic. He had been forced to steal some ill-fitting clothes from a passer-by after his own were looted, although he still looked better than his new companion, who had opted to change from his custom-made biker’s leather jacket back into his tattered, stained labcoat back in Junon. Brall couldn’t help noticing that the Shin-Ra identity badge had been ripped from the lapel, apparently with some force.
Their mission had only just started and already they had hit a major snag. They were supposed to be returning to Loki’s lab in what was left of the Shin-Ra building, taking his genetically-engineered lab rat for use as a weapon, and then returning to Fort Condor while the Shin-Ra guards were all out rendezvousing with Deepground, leaving Fort Condor’s defences in the capable hands of Loki’s guards and the hired mercenaries. What they hadn’t counted on was that some of Shin-Ra’s guards had stayed behind to police the streets, and that there were wanted posters of the two of them on virtually every wall in the city.

They quickly descended from their rooftop vantage point, ducked into a back alley and ran down it as quietly as possible. At the end, they peered around the corner in opposite directions. This next street was clear.
“Who exactly is this contact you think can get us into the Shin-Ra place?” asked Brall as he set off after Loki. Loki grimaced slightly.
“Well, not to put too fine a point on it, my father. He was an old friend of Hojo and most of the Shin-Ra guards hold him in high regard…” he hesitated. “So I’m told, anyway. By the Shin-Ra science department. He was apparently their major sponsor or something. To be honest, I don’t really remember him. I know I lived with him until I was thirteen, but I can’t remember much before I moved to a permanent apartment in Shin-Ra. Odd really.”
Brall decided to keep his comments regarding use of the word ‘odd’ in situations involving his companion to himself.
At length they arrived at Loki’s intended destination, and stopped to take in the sight from behind a rubbish skip. The Insanity Residence could not be described as a house. Nor could it technically be described as a mansion. From the outside, the post appropriate term would seem to be ‘small office block’. Eighteen floors of unblemished concrete, one-way glass and shining steel, with an imposing set of solid oak double doors, carved above which were ‘Insanity’, and underneath in smaller lettering, ‘Non est verbum non possum’.
“If it’s not a verb it’s a possum?” hazarded Brall, raising an eyebrow. Loki didn’t look at him; he seemed too engrossed in the building. He appeared to be overcome with emotion, although the emotion in question was unclear; and seemed to be unpleasant.
“There’s no such word as impossible,” Loki whispered eventually. “Although the original motto was actually ‘Omnia est possum via Aurus’. All things are possible through Gold.” He unslung the rifle and machine gun from his back, removed his various other weapons from the depths of his labcoat, stowed them behind the skip and stepped out, followed by Brall. The two armed guards on either side of the heavy doors instantly looked in their direction. Loki raised his hands and walked slowly towards them.
“It’s OK, I’m not armed. I just want to talk to Ryuu Osamu Von Insanity III,” he announced loudly. The guards both trained their weapons on him. “I’m his son,” Loki explained. “Von Insanity IV, ex-Shin-Ra scientist. Only child of Von III and Azumi Ericho.”
The guards glanced at each other, and then one of them went inside. After a while he returned and motioned for Loki and Brall to follow him. He led them through several imperial corridors, and eventually through the door of a vast entertaining room. They stood, flanked by guards, while the various dining guests almost exclusively ignored them; not deeming them important enough to warrant a look.
Ryuu Osamu Von Insanity III sat at the head of the table in front of them, flanked by his wife and some of the more prestigious guests. He was leaning nonchalantly on the arm of his throne-like chair, his face a picture of disinterest between his close-cut black hair and his trademark brown tweed jacket with leather shoulder padding and a high leather collar. Azumi Ericho Insanity sat beside him in a simple blouse, her dark medium-length hair framing her beautiful, fragile features, interrupted by a healed scar on her left cheek. She smiled at her son, who had to clutch Brall’s shoulder to steady himself as his insides seemed to go into freefall. She looked almost exactly as she had done when he had last seen her as a teenager, and the faint memory caused a single tear to well up in the corner of each eye, the eyes whose exact doubles stared back at him from his mother’s compassionate face.
Before either of them could say anything, Von III uttered an impartial, “What exactly do you want, Von?” Loki swallowed.
“We need help, please, father. We have to get into the Shin-Ra building and then leave the city. There are people trying to kill us. Lots of people.” Von III raised an immaculately-trimmed eyebrow.
“I thought the sons of Insanity were taught to stand strong without aid? It was not without reason that you left this family house as soon as you were of age. Had I presented my father with the same plea, I would have been disciplined for my weakness and sent out into the street. It is by hard work on my own part that I achieved my current position in society.”
“But father –” tried Loki but his father cut him off.
“Leave,” he intoned sternly, before turning back to his whisky decanter as if nothing had happened. Loki’s fists clenched, his wiry frame almost trembling. Without warning he lunged at his father, knocking the decanter from his grasp with a sweep of his arm. The crystal vessel soared through the air for a few seconds, the light from the bulbs in the wall refracting through it into a kaleidoscope of colour. Then it smashed against the floor, fragments skittering in all directions. Von III replaced his hand on the arm of his chair coolly.
“Seize them,” he said. At once two guards grabbed hold of Brall. Loki dodged to the side as a third attempted to grasp his arm, and ran around the table as the guard removed his weapon and took aim. Von III remained impassive. The guard caught Loki in his sights and fired before he could duck behind the table. Loki saw the shot without time to improvise, opened his mouth to scream –
And the bullet exploded in mid air as if it had hit an invisible shield. Azumi Ericho Insanity leapt from her seat, deactivating the materia she had just cast, grabbed Loki and pulled him through a door which, had he been asked before, he would have taken for a section of solid wall.

They fled the building and ran down several streets before they established that they had lost the guards. Azumi drew her son to herself and held him, weeping softly.
“Mitsukai,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.” Mitsukai. That had been her pet-name for him when he was a child. She told him it meant ‘angel’. Well, he had named himself after a mythical god. That was close enough.
“Sorry for what?” he asked. “You saved me.” His mother let go of him and sat down on a low wall. Loki sat beside her.
“I didn’t mean today. I meant before. I let him give you to his scientist friend.”
“Hojo?” asked Loki, bewildered.
“Yes. He was a terrible man, but your father believed his work was for the greater good, and that one day he would be very influential. I did not argue, because I was scared of him. Scared of them both.” Loki was beginning to understand.
“So… he gave me to Shin-Ra as a… a gift to ensure Hojo’s alliance?” he said quietly. Azumi Ericho sobbed, and Loki embraced her again.
“Yes. He said you would have the honour of helping with Hojo’s plan. He said Hojo would instil in you the discipline he had not been able to instil himself. I did not wish to let you leave, but I said nothing. I conceded to their agreement. I am so sorry, Mitsukai.” Loki sat for a few moments, comforting his mother, before he eventually spoke.
“Mum, I forgive you. It all worked out OK. Sort of. Except the bit about Hojo trying to destroy the world, obviously.” He glanced up at the Meteor. How long now before it hit? Under a week, he estimated. And when it struck, Midgar would be destroyed first. He had calculated its trajectory earlier. His reverie was interrupted by the soft voice of Azumi.
“What about the people who wish to kill you?” she asked. Loki grimaced.
“Oh, yeah. Them. That’s another bit that didn’t work out so good.”
“How many are they?” his mother asked, fearfully. Loki swallowed gently.
“Too many. An army. More. But I have to fight them, because if I don’t, they will probably kill some other people instead. And… Hojo is one of their number, also. I doubt I will be able to kill him, but I have to try.”
Azumi nodded. She did not like what he had said, but she understood it. Loki grasped her by both hands.
“Mother. Mum. You must get an evacuation of this city organised. If even a tiny part of that Meteor makes it to the ground, this city will collapse around it like so many piles of coffee beans.” He stopped to consider this image. “Or something.” His mother nodded slowly, but looked unsure.
“How will I organise an evacuation on such a large scale? I don’t exactly have much influence without your father’s backing…” she trailed off.
“Talk to Reeve. Reeve Tsuetsi. He’s not exactly in Shin-Ra any more, but at times like these people will rally around a friendly face. The only other Shin-Ra member still alive doesn’t look friendly at all.”
“Mitsukai… Reeve is in a cell in the Shin-Ra building. Scarlet had him locked up before she died and there’s no-one left with both the authority and the keys to release him.”
Loki thought for a while, before asking, “Is there a back way into Von III’s house?” Azumi nodded.
“Do you want me to show you?”
“No,” replied Loki. “I want you to take me in the front way. Insanitys are good at thinking like the enemy.”

There were no guards at the door this time. Azumi went to it and pressed her hand against a panel in the wall beside it. There was the sound of the door unlocking automatically, then silence.
Without warning, the door flew open, sending Azumi and Loki sprawling. Ryuu Osamu Von Insanity III stepped out, flanked by a dozen or more armed bodyguards. Two more followed, dragging the comatose form of Brall between them. Loki’s father observed him sternly, his mouth twisting into a hideous scowl of disgust.
“I can not believe it. A son of Insanity, my own seed, produced such a failure as this. Even the Professor could not hammer some sense into your feeble mind. I am ashamed to be known as your namesake.” Loki felt a surge of dark loathing flowing against the dams of his mind, threatening to break free and engulf his body.
“You are not,” he said, very quietly. Von III sneered.
“Then who is, pray?” he asked repulsion dripping from every syllable.
“Loki, Ryuu Insanity. The god of chaos and mischief. I chose to be known as that rather than face another second under the name you gave me.” Von III laughed, a harsh humour-deprived noise of mocking and cynicism.
“The same Loki who was defeated and bound up? One of mythology’s greatest failures? How fitting.” Loki fought down the black tide, and instead thrust an arm dramatically towards the Meteor.
“Look up there, Ryuu Insanity. You see that? That’s the end of the world. That’s Ragnarock. Loki’s become unbound, Ryuu Insanity. And he’s about to start a war.” At that Von III’s face dissolved into an inhuman gargoyle of rage. He motioned for the guards to back away from them, forming a ring on the steps in which stood himself, his wife and his son.
“If you choose to reject your kin then your kin has no choice but to respond in kind. And we’re better at rejection than you.” He turned to Azumi, hovering nervously at the side. “Come, Azumi. You are the sheath of my blade. In matters such as these, we must be together, lest the blade be dulled without its support.” Azumi looked initially fearful, but then seemed to find a new vigour from somewhere.
“No,” she said. “I refuse.” Von III snarled.
“Goddammit woman, you are my wife! I demand that we stand together!”
“And I decree that we shall stand separate.” Azumi was not shouting, but there was a solidness to her voice that Loki had not heard before.
Von III stepped forwards suddenly and struck his wife across the face with the back of his hand. She squealed in pain and staggered backwards, only to be caught by a second blow as she recovered. Loki stood, unable to move, staring at the scene. Images stabbed into his mind from before, from his life before Shin-Ra. He saw a small boy, no more than about eight, thrown to the floor by a towering monster in a tweed jacket. He remembered his failures and the pain associated with them. He could watch, as clear as he watched it now, a much similar scene playing out in a sitting room, as his younger self cowered beneath a table. He remembered why his mother’s face still bore a faint scar.
A final devastating blow sent the frail form of Azumi crashing into the railing, where she clung weakly in an attempt to remain upright. She managed to breathe a final defiant whisper of “Separate,” before her head tilted forward and her dark hair obscured her face. Von III drew a long, thin sword from his belt, and raised it, walking towards his wife.
And then, suddenly, his sword-arm was seized in an unyielding iron grip. He turned to see his biological son grasping his wrist, and looked into a pair of eyes, so similar to his wife’s, but with the soft light of Azumi’s replaced with twin rocks of granite, immovable and unrelenting. And then the dark flood burst through Loki’s mind and into his muscles.
Von III was thrown backwards by the force of the strike, blood fountaining into the air for a second before spattering the white steps underfoot. Somehow he managed to remain upright, and reached inside his jacket as Loki charged.
But Loki had seen the movement of his father’s hand, and his own was quicker. Two summons erupted into the space between them, Loki’s Ifrit colliding in mid-air with Von III’s Leviathan. The shockwave sent both parties flying, Von into the door behind him with a heavy thud, and Loki down the steps and into the skip behind which he had concealed his weaponry. No longer thinking, reacting purely to the commands of his adrenaline-fuelled rage, Loki’s hand fastened around the first item it found - his shockstick. As his father recovered, Loki charged, bringing the weapon up and around to meet the sword Von thrust up in his protection.
For a moment they stood, weapons and gazes locked, as the surrounding guards fingered their weapons and shot each other questioning glances. Both parties were breathing heavily as the initial adrenaline surge started to dissipate. And then Von laughed, a laugh of neither insanity nor evil, but mere aristocratic arrogance.
“Perhaps you are an Insanity after all. Our minds seem surprisingly similar once you strip away the niceties,” he chuckled. He said no more, as a sudden renewed shove of Loki’s shockstick brought his own sword abruptly into his face. He yelped as a jolt of energy flowed through the metal and into his skull, and then the force of the shove lifted him from his feet and into the wall with a crack.
Leviathon vanished and, finding its target already defeated, Ifrit instead leapt upon the guards before evaporating. The two that survived the assault released the prone form of Brall, drew their weapons and aimed, before their helmeted heads were brought together sharply and they collapsed. Brall dusted himself off and said:
“Just thought I’d wait for an opportune moment.”
Loki said nothing, tossing his shockstick aside and gently catching Azumi’s broken form as it finally dropped from the railing. With his mother’s unconscious body in his arms, Loki walked slowly but purposefully through the streets of Midgar. Maybe it was the expression on his face, or the stone in his gaze, or the decisive steps of his gait, but no-one even tried to stop him.

An hour or two later, Loki stood leaning against the wall of his own lab, Roddy in a cage under his arm. Azumi Ericho was sitting in a hospital bed at one end of the room, with a few extra scars but otherwise fine. A variety of surgical implements and not-entirely-legalized healing potion containers littered the floor. Loki tossed his mother a set of keys, kissed her and announced:
“J.A.N.E.? From now on, my mother has both the authority and the keys to unlock any cell she so desires within this building? OK?”
“Absolutely, Sir,” replied his lab computer. Loki smiled.
“Thanks J.A.N.E. You’ve done a lot for me. In as far as it is possible for a human to love a computer without being mentally disturbed, I do.”
“Thank you,” said J.A.N.E. “Loki.”

When he got back, Loki found Mr F Shiny the bike freshly polished and gleaming, with his various weapons sitting snugly in the supplied weapon racks. Brall was already sitting on the back, grinning. Loki smiled, attached Roddy’s cage to the bike and got on.
“What did you do with Von III?” he asked as they rode off.
“I found somewhere to put him where he’ll be warm enough,” replied Brall. For once, Loki decided not to push the matter.

*

A day or two later, Azumi Ericho Insanity and her adopted daughter Joanna Hojo-Be-Damned Whatyoulike stood next to Reeve Tsuetsi and looked back at the empty city they had left behind. Reeve was listening to his phone, looking puzzled.
“There’s something going on at Fort Condor apparently. Sounds like a full-scale war. Best not to go that way.” Azumi smiled, and crouched beside Joanna.
“That,” she whispered, “is my Mitsukai. Your guardian angel. Truly it was not by chance that he chose to be called Loki. Strong enough to do the right thing because he is a god, but brutal enough to do it well because he isn’t a particularly polite one. We helped him cast off his chains and now he fights in the battle of Ragnarock because somebody must. Villainy runs in his blood, but heroism beats in his heart.”
Joanna nodded softly and whispered:
“I know.”

Because this was enough.

*

And not long after that, the remains of the failed Meteor came crashing down through the sky towards Midgar, and in a deserted modern building came an incessant knocking and shouting from a small cupboard. Just outside of the cupboard door, preventing it from opening, was a heavy throne-like chair and, atop that, a large slab of solid oak on which was carved: ‘Non est verbum non possum’.
“For the last time, I demand that you let me out of here! This is an outrage! How long am I to be kept a prisoner in my own home? In the name of honour and decency, release me at once!”

But unfortunately for Ryuu Osamu Von Insanity III, honour and decency had stopped listening to him a long time ago.

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