I’m kind of sailing through the game at this point (things really pick up from here on out), so I’ll be skimming over stuff a bit here.
After Cloud goes bonkers, Tifa and friends escape from the Northern Crater with the help of Rufus and the rest of Shinra, who take them captive (naturally). Tifa hits her head in the commotion following Sephiroth’s summoning Meteor and the WEAPONs being unleashed on the world to wreak havoc (fun fact: the WEAPONs are actually supposed to be protecting the planet from Sephiroth, but since he encased himself inside a magical barrier, they don’t realize that they just left the spot where their target was, so now they’re just going to rampage for funzies), so she winds up in a coma for a week.
When she awakes, Barret informs her that Meteor’s looming overhead (shouldn’t that thing be affecting the planet’s tides or something?) and Rufus plans on executing them as a scapegoat to keep the huddled masses from panicking over the end of the world.
This is probably a weak point in Final Fantasy VII‘s plot, because I think it’s highly unlikely that everyone in the world would be appeased by knowing that the people they think caused the apocalypse died a few weeks before the rest of them. I mean, when you look at the size of Meteor (it’s so massive that it looks to be about two to three times bigger than Earth’s moon) you have to realize that when it hits the planet everyone is toast. Even if people happen to be nowhere near the impact site, they’ll freeze to death with the huge dust cloud that gets kicked up and blots out the sun (also, there’s the whole magic lifestream thingy where Sephiroth’s going to basically suck the planet dry like a vampire so he can become a god, if you want a less technical explanation for why everyone’s doomed). It just seems to me that Rufus is going to a lot of trouble to maintain order for the remaining few weeks that the world’s going to be around.
Of course, I should keep in mind that Shinra’s supposed to be an evil corporation, so sometimes they don’t have to have a good reason to do what they do (also, this is a plot point I always forget about, but Shinra’s doing their best to blow Meteor up or kill Sephiroth or something, so maybe they’re working from the assumption that they’ll save the world somehow and need some good will from the populace).
Anywho, Tifa and Barret get rescued in the nick of time by Cait Sith and Yuffie of all people, who take them to the hijacked airship, the Highwind. We find out quickly that the crew defected from Shinra after they met Cid, who impressed them so much with his magnificent leadership qualities that they decided he would make a better captain than anyone from Shinra.
Following this daring escape, everyone rallies around Tifa, who’s dead set on going to find Cloud (don’t worry, this next bit actually doesn’t take long at all). In the meantime, the player’s just celebrating because we just got our airship, and the entire map is open to us now.