So, I’ve just had a whole bunch of information dumped on me about what’s going on in this story. In terms of what’s actually happened since the last entry… well, we rescued Aeris from the evil Turkish power company (break into an office building? Yeah, I’ve raided Silph Co., I know what I’m doing), picking up a talking hyena named Red XIII in the process, got captured again, were mysteriously released to find everyone in the building dead, had a brief stand-off with the tyrannical new President (the son of the more manageably evil old President), busted out of the place with Cloud on a tricked-out motorcycle and everyone else piled into a three-wheeled pickup truck (I have to admit, this game has style), blew up a tank, and then fled the scene, and now everyone’s chilling in some small town inn listening to Cloud’s war stories. In terms of what we now know…
Okay, so Elmyria is not really Aeris’ mother, or not her birth mother anyway. Aeris was orphaned at about 8 years old. Elmyria happened to be present when her mother, Ifalna, died, and figured “eh, my husband’s off fighting in some war, I don’t have any kids, and I’m not getting any younger, know what I’m sayin’?” Aeris and Ifalna were the last of a race called the Ancients, also known as the Cetra (etymology – possibly from Latin cetera, ‘other’? If so it’s probably not what they called themselves), who are prophesied to lead the way to the ‘Promised Land,’ a beautiful and ever-fertile place which, logically, would be a great spot to set up a few hundred of those fertility-burning power plants. The Turkish chief scientist, Dr. Hojo, seems to think it would take 120 years to actually use Aeris to find the way there, though, and thus wishes to ‘breed’ her (makes sense, although that doesn’t quite explain why his Plan A was to stick her in a cage with poor Red XIII…). Apparently Ifalna was subjected to some kind of experimentation as well in her time (Hojo comments that she was a much better subject) – I’m guessing she and Aeris were on the run when she died. Sephiroth, Cloud’s old boss whom everyone thought was dead, is a Cetra too, and seems to be at least partially responsible for the massacre in the power company’s headquarters. He seems to regard the Promised Land as his birthright, and isn’t keen on letting anyone else get there first.
There’s a whole story behind that, too, which is the purpose of the war story Cloud is sharing with everyone. Apparently when Cloud knew him Sephiroth was a pretty good dude (of course, apparently Cloud was a pretty good dude back then too, so what can I say, people change. ZING!). As part of their work in the evil power company’s secret private army of magic cyborg knights or whatever, Cloud and Sephiroth were both sent to Cloud and Tifa’s hometown to check out a malfunctioning reactor. Turns out the reactor was malfunctioning because Hojo for some godawful reason had been using it to broil soldiers in pure life-force, causing them to mutate into horrible monsters (and that… I guess goes some way to explaining all the wild Pokémon in this world). Sephiroth, who’d known all his life that he was somehow ‘special’ (dude is probably the greatest swordsman in the history of swords, and his aptitude for magic makes Aeris look like an idiot child), made the disconcerting connection that he may have been ‘grown’ in the same way, which would explain why he knew nothing about his parents but his mother’s name, ‘Jenova.’
‘Jenova,’ Sephiroth discovered through subsequent research, was a mostly-dead 2000-year-old Cetra found preserved underground. The Cetra, according to legend, were a nomadic race who moved from planet to planet in search of the Promised Land, but were destroyed on this world by some sort of cataclysm, while humanity survived (from the sounds of it, the Cetra sacrificed themselves to save humanity – although, given Aeris, it would seem that not all of them died). Hojo’s far more inspired predecessor, Professor Gast, had been attempting to clone Jenova, or at least use her DNA to create humans with Cetra powers. Sephiroth put two and two together. He also blamed humanity for the destruction of the Cetra, completely flipped his lid, and slaughtered everyone in the town except for Cloud and Tifa, claiming to hear his mother speaking to him telepathically and commanding him to take back the world for the Cetra (judging from Aeris’ case, telepathy does seem to be a notable trait of the Cetra – and possibly hearing the voices of one’s ancestors as well). Cloud confronted Sephiroth, but doesn’t exactly remember what happened, except that he wasn’t turned into a shishkebob and Sephiroth was never seen again. This, I’m guessing, is what led to Cloud quitting his job. Understandable, given the circumstances.
There was a tank labelled ‘Jenova specimen’ inside Hojo’s lab, while we were breaking Aeris out – after we were released from our cells later, this tank was at one end of a trail of blood leading up several floors to the President’s office, where the President was slumped over his desk with Sephiroth’s sword in his back. The tank had contained some sort of alien thing, which Barrett described as a ‘headless freak.’ When Sephiroth found the original Jenova in the power plant outside Cloud’s hometown, she was a weird blue tentacle-y humanoid with red fleshy wings and eyes in funny places. Aeris’ example (and Sephiroth’s, for that matter) would suggest that this is not exactly what Cetra look like. I’m sort of inclined to conclude that Aeris and Ifalna were actually human/Cetra hybrids – and hybridisation does seem like a fairly scenario, given that they’re still around even though their race was supposedly wiped out two thousand years ago. As for the thing in the tank… the trail of blood leading to Sephiroth’s sword seems to suggest either that it was Sephiroth, and this is just what he looks like now, or that he let it loose and helped it kill everything in the building. Either possibility is worrying. Sephiroth definitely has some kind of messiah complex thing going; people told him he was ‘special’ while he was growing up, he believed them wholeheartedly, and coming to realise that he wasn’t the kind of ‘special’ he thought was such a shock to his worldview that he immediately had to make a new destiny for himself even more glorious than the one his creators had planned for him. This guy is bad news.
And that just leaves one thing to talk about: Red XIII, the new team member. Red is a talking hyena. In fact, he’s a very well-spoken talking hyena (I can’t help but imagine him with an English accent), seems quite intelligent, and was even fairly well-acquainted with the workings of Hojo’s lab. He was one of Hojo’s experiments, but I’m not sure whether or not his intelligence is the result of this; Hojo seemed as surprised as anyone else to learn that Red could talk. He says he’ll stick with Cloud, Aeris, Tifa and Barrett until they get as far as his home, but I get the impression he has a certain intellectual curiosity about the whole Cetra business, and might well decide to stay on just to see what happens. I quite like this character, as he is possibly the only sane member of the party at this point. I hope to learn more about him as the story progresses.