Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter Five

Glimpses Into Times Before

By Paul Nathans

Deep within the bowels of the destroyed Gongaga Reactor, unnoticed by patrolling GuardBots, their programming remaining the same, not knowing it had no purpose, as the amount of Makoro withdrawn from the nearby area didn't even reach Gongaga itself, it was also unwanted.

But Mako Energies couldn't stay trapped in one place forever. With the destruction of the Operating System for the Sister Ray in Midgar, the Makoro Energies had begun to seep back into the Planet. Then all Makoro Energies, along with WEAPON Energies, along with the Lifestream itself, had been called up to aid Holy in the destroying of Meteor.

The accident in the Makoro Reactor had been by chance, but it had started a process that had not been given room for movement, had always stayed on the verge of completion and abandonment, until now. The Planet's Confusion, once by the Supernova, then by the Jenova Illusion, had caused it to release thirteen new WEAPONS, but that was not all.

The living energy, the Makoro Energy, had solidified into Materia, the Titan Summon Materia, at the top of the Makoro Reactor. At the bottom, at the heart, where the furnace was supposed to be, more Materia was born, but it malfunctioned. Fused Robotic Creating Systems and Mako Wires accidentally formed into the type used in the Nibleheim Reactor began to give inputs to the Materia. It began to take on a life, drawing directly from the Lifestream itself, and with the emerging WEAPONS, the recent disturbances, Lifestream Eruptions, Holy, the Makoro Energies, WEAPON Energies, and Lifestream being called forth, the Planet Illusion, the process of Creating new WEAPONS, and the second Planet Illusion, then the emergence of the newly-created WEAPONS, the thing, not fully aware before, became unstable.

It became crazed, its primitive mind registering one thing only.

Destruction of all matter.

And with the combinations of energies given to it, and the circumstances under which it had been born, the accidental creation possessed incredible powers already. Its fusion and fluke-creation had given it something that had been taken from the Lifestream, the formulas for creating it gone. It had Pure Magic, and since that didn't exist anywhere else, it was even more powerful. It, in itself, was a Lifestream, expanding, fighting for a place as the True Lifestream sensed the birth of this accident. The False Lifestream could enter it, absorb its energies, absorb processes, absorb the way of the Planet.

It absorbed the Illusions.

It absorbed the Planet's Energies, being a False Lifestream, it could not absorb the Lifestream, the Mako Energies, itself, it could absorb its powers, its own, always getting them back. It became more crazed, more crazed…

…and started to give birth to itself, a crazy being with the Powers of the Planet inside it, along with others. Its mind began to comprehend, began to think. It couldn't awaken completely for a long time, but it was still there. It was confusing the Planet to a degree that had only effected three other Planets so far, one, shattering it, the other, ripping apart its Gravity Belt, shattering it, and another, destroying the Core, shattering it. The degree of Confusion had also had near-disastrous consequences…

…to a nearby star.


Once again Tifa was floating in the Surreal World of Dreams. This was the second time she had been nailed by a WEAPON, only three days after she'd suffered a coma from more exploding Lifestream Energy.

Her consciousness could form the thought ,'Why me?'

Dreams were a wreck. She saw Sephiroth, Cloud, the WEAPONS, Jenova, the Shinra, her own father, and her mother. These weren't memories of the past, but jumbled images of many past memories.

"I've been living a nonstop nightmare," she said to herself. "Maybe Red XIII and Vincent were right. Maybe its not some twist of fate that leaves me in these dangerous situations, but my inability to fight on. I don't know…if I have the strength anymore."

She was now floating in the Lifestream again, feeling completely awake, and knew she was no longer dreaming. She was still alive, though, so what…?

A shimmering form attracted her attention, and her hand rose to her mouth to stifle a gasp at what she saw.


"Who else would it be, silly?" she asked, laughing. She was clearly a spirit, more or less, but her laugh, all her features, were as clear as ever.

"What…what's going on?" was the only thing she could respond.

Aeris sighed. "If only I knew."

Tifa couldn't find any words to respond with.

Aeris sighed again. "I couldn't return to the Planet when I perished immediately, because I was as much a part of the process Holy needed to work as was anything. And when it failed, I was the one who directed the Lifestream Energies to work through vessels, to work themselves, to destroy Meteor.

"After that, I thought I'd join the rest of my race in the Promised Land, but, instead, I entered unconsciousness. Two or three days later, at least, my mind seems to think that's the time, I awoke somewhere else. Something happened, I still don't understand what it means, and…"

She sighed again. "Does it matter? I'm a wandering spirit in the Lifestream, waiting for something to happen that may never happen. I'm here just in case. Not part of the Path of Spirits, not in the Promised Land. I'm…alone."

A tear fell.

Just as Tifa was about to ask why she was here, she seemed to fade away.


"Which means he might as well be back at Junon, barely alive…" was the first thing Tifa heard as she regained consciousness. "He's never been like this before, except when he lost Aeris."

She sat up straight, before dizziness overtook her and she fell back onto the bed. "Cloud?" she gasped. She wasn't the one who had too many emotional problems. She'd only had them since the Nibleheim Disaster, Cloud had had them ever since he was young, when Zack moved, and he lost his only friend.

"At least you're awake," said Vincent quietly. "And yes, we're referring to Cloud. You've been unconscious for two whole days. We got a brief PHS from Midgar, from Cait Sith and Yuffie, then it was cut off. All we could make out is they'd been on their way to complete a stealth take-out mission…there was this Shinra Soldier Scramble at some Emergency, this part was shortly after the WEAPON disaster, by the way, and they had gotten COMPLETELY lost among the Sector 6 Plate, this part was currently, the time they called us, a day ago."

"What happened to Cloud?" asked Tifa.

"He was blaming himself for failing to save you, shortly after the PHS Call, your condition took a turn for the worst, you came incredibly close to perishing. Our Physician must've performed CPR around 28 times, every other half-hour. Cloud never left your side, until the final time, when it failed. He didn't wait for him to try the Paddles, he just rushed out of the room, crying, climbed down the ladder, and hasn't been seen since that time, since last night."

"No, please, not this," breathed Tifa. "He thought he'd overcome what was his only known remaining emotional weakness, then, seconds later. Since he was the one who made the jump with me at that time, this is worse than in Nibleheim. Because this time he could completely consider it his fault." She couldn't even prevent the tears from beginning to come down for a millisecond.

"Where…do you…think he…went?"

"I don't know," answered Nanaki. "We couldn't move the Airship once you entered your condition. And you're not the only patient. Priscilla was nailed when the ship switched modes, because of her weakened lungs, she's also in the infirmatory. Her father's there with her, has been since. Our Emergency Food Supply was never high, we never expected this much trouble on the Highwind, its down low."

"We…have…to…find…him," she got out before she sank down into unconsciousness once again.


"If you'd mind getting that blasted piece of glass outta' my way, I'd PROBABLY be able to figure out where we are!" snapped Barret. His hands were clinging to a support structure, had been ever since the very-well-put-together elevator had stopped its long and bouncing ride.

They'd eaten at safe stops, but parts where they couldn't risk getting out. Right now they were probably in the Sector 4 Slums. It and the Sector 1 Slums were connected to towns that bridged the outside of the wreckage of the Sector 3 Slums and the Sector 2 Slums.

Cid shoved at it again with his Venus Gospel. The thing finally came loose and went plummeting down, smashing into the street of the Slums below, part of it catching on the Sealed Sewer Entrance, meaning this was indeed the Sector 4 Slums, since the layout of the Sector 1 Slum Sewer Passages were somewhat different.

"Coming down!" shouted Barret, letting go. With Cid and Reeve still clinging to him, he braced his feet and slid down the top of the sewer passage as it ascended up to the Sector 3 Plate. A group of startled townsfolk looked up as he made the jump, landing safely in the dirt roads.

"Is this the Sector 4 Slums?" asked Cid.

"Yes, it is," answered Reeve. "I know the layout. Only the Sector 4 Slums and the Sector 1 Slums have Subway Entrances with the cars on the opposite side. The Train Crash Area in Sector 2 Slums and Sector 3 Slums was caused because of a malfunction at the subway end point on both sides. The Sector 8 Slums have subway entrances like this, with different layouts."

The citizens had noticed Barret and were now backing away, some of them looking pleadingly at Reeve for him to save them from the AVALANCHE Member.

"Behind on the times again, I see," said Reeve. "I'll talk to them, you two get some sort of food. I'm ready to eat in a normal place just for once. Then I'm entering the west Sector 3 Slum Town and the west Sector 2 Slum Town. That's where I keep my reserve models, I have to reestablish contact with Cait Sith."

"Halt! Terrorists!" came the unmistakable voices of Shinra SOLDIERS as they surrounded the area. The citizens scrambled, slamming their doors.

"You say sumthin'!" shouted Barret. "You say sumthin'!" he let loose with a barrage of bullets, gunning the group down. More approached from south.

"You have now had another penalty placed upon you for resisting imprisonment," announced one of the SOLDIERS. "Come with us."

"If there's any left of it, get your brain tested so people now the size of your I.Q.!" snapped Cid. "We just gunned down more of your members! We ain't comin'!"

Reeve began to blast around with his Mako Gun, while Barret sprayed bullets around the area. When Reeve noticed that Barret was taking more lives than he could stun, he kicked him in the arm.

"These guys are innocents just doing their job! Use Stunning Mechanisms!"

Cid was busy defending, but managed to respond. "We got none on us!"

"Oh, boy!" gasped Reeve. "Retreat north! We can do without breakfast!" He made a break in that direction, followed by Barret and Cid. They headed for the two interconnecting sections positioned to the side of the destroyed Train Plaza, with Barret shooting down roadblocks at various areas.

Reeve had split up and headed in a different direction, leaving Barret and Cid to fend for themselves once more. He hoped Yuffie and Cait Sith would find them soon, they didn't even have any PHSs, and needed one.

That's when the explosions, reverberating with the force of a thunderclap, slammed through the Sector 4 Plate, blasting through the subways and outwards with tremendous force. Reeve, on the other side, could be heard swearing something about how he should've kept online with Cait Sith to hear Yuffie's plan of attack. Up above them, where the subways entered the Sector 3 Plate, more explosions rang out.

Shards of the plate came raining down, portions of the Sector 3 Plate were jolted loose. The Sector 4 Plate Support and the Sector 5 Plate Support had taken as much damage at the important sections from Meteor's Tornadoes and Electricity than any other plates, they began to reverberate.

"MOVE!" shouted Barret, tackling a nearby Proto MachineGun as it and several others attempted to jump them. He destroyed the CPUs only, set the rockets to Blast Forward mode, and began to zoom towards the Eastern Slums in Sector 3 and Sector 2. Reeve copied the idea, and was soon completely out of sight.

"If a single Plate Support comes down, Yuffie's going to be hearing from me so long never seeing another Materia may be the LEAST of her worries!" snapped Barret, holding onto the rocket for dear life.

"Reeve's gonna' be behind us, he mentioned he had to make a stop or two!" called Cid. "We may have to smash some more GuardDrones and Shinra Flunkies!"

"No problem!" retorted Barret. "We're goin' forward!"


As for Yuffie, Cait Sith, Elena, and their Carry Armor, citizens had known to keep out of their way. They had managed to move through the railway into the Sector 5 Plate, being forced ever-farther from their goal by SOLDIERS on constant alert. Now they were on the Sector 4 Plate, having been forced to jump from the subway as it descended to the Sector 4 Slums before coming back up to the Sector 3 Plate. Hiding in shambled houses, destruction caused by Meteor, was quite easy, but they'd been lucky in their blast through to the Sector 4 Plate, they might not be so lucky attempting to reenter the Train Passage at the Sector 3 Plate.

They'd been forced to jump because Rude's, or Reno's, bomb has just conveniently gone off at that point below, as had the one on the Sector 3 Plate.

"The two other Main Railway Systems, one starting at Sector 2 Plate, the other starting at Sector 3 Slums, collapsed because of the Midgarsorm Accident, leaving only the one that started at the Sector 7 Slums available," explained Elena. "We might be able to get into one of its branches, but its the only one partially useful for transport. And since there's a whole Train-Stop Area set up just below Sector 6 Plate because of the Sector 7 Plate Collapse, where passengers are transferred to helicopters, that area will probably be VERY dangerous."

"Then let's keep moving," said Yuffie, finishing her breakfast. "With luck we'll be in Sector 3 Plate soon, and see if we can climb up destroyed railway systems to the Shinra Building, like you suggested.

"Let's get moving!"


He had collapsed near the lake the Ultimate Weapon had created when they had blasted out of the Crater so long ago, and was still sobbing.

"Everyone," he gasped. "I lose everyone close to me, just because of my inability to figure out things! Aeris, because of that! My mother, if I hadn't hidden my face in Nibleheim except when I talked to her, I might've been elsewhere, not in the mansion. I could've been in a position to save her! Zacks, because I was too weak to defend him, and now Tifa!"

He hadn't eaten since he'd left the Airship, hadn't had the strength, or the will to do so. He didn't even have the ability to go on anymore. All he could do was sob beside the Crater-Lake. He'd lost EVERYTHING!!!!!

He was all alone, now. He could barely stay awake, exhausted from moving around without sleep, without rest. He didn't care if a wandering beast, a Shinra Mutation that had managed to cross the mountains, a WEAPON, or the Shinra found him. He didn't care anymore.

Still sobbing, he sank into darkness.


"So, Zack, watcha' doin' over here today!?" he asked.

"Cloud, I've got some bad news," he said, stepping inside, closing the door behind him. "You're not going to like this one bit."

"What?" he asked. "I thought we were going to check out the abandoned garden in that Mansion in the Northeast Section of Town!"

He sighed. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about." He seemed to be choking back something that was preventing him from talking. 12-year-old Zack, 1 year older than him, his only friend ever since he'd been 2, when he started to attempt to make friends. What was going on.

"Remember how my parents were checking out that article on Gongaga? Jungle Town, no Reactors strong enough that they could caused planet energies to seep away, like the Makoro Reactor here is doing to the Nible Mountains. It exploded, there was an accident. The energies it takes from the land only spread as far as the valley outside of the forest around the town."

"Yeah, I do," answered Cloud. "I think it looks like a better resort town than what I've seen of Costa Del Sol, Wutai, and the Midgar Wall Market. I'd LOVE to visit."

"I'm visiting," answered Zack.

"You asked if I could come, and this time your parents said no, right?" finished Cloud, trying not to let his disappointment show.

"Well, actually, we're moving there."

"WHAT!!!!!?????" Cloud was momentarily thankful his mother was out shopping, he didn't need to be admonished for disturbing her.

Zack hung his head. "Its true," he said.

Gongaga was farther away than Cosmo Canyon, he'd never ventured farther out than Pleasure Hill, the highest peak in that mountainous area, where one could view all around, even parts of the Ancient Forest, with a telescope.

Then it hit him! Zack had no other friends, he had no other friends.

"When's the move," he asked in a whisper. Zack was obviously dealing with this better then he was. He'd been turned out of most groups, but he hadn't been attacked, attempted to be beaten up, just because he 'didn't belong.' Zack had a chance of finding some other friend…he…didn't have a chance among all the stars in the universe at all.

"It'll take a while to prepare, the Truck Lanes won't be opening for a while, so we've got at least two more months together. I'm getting special privileges, Sleep-Overs, stuff like that."

Cloud's face brightened. And maybe by that time, his parent's might've changed their minds. "Then let's go to the Mansion. I can't wait to try out your plan on the Three Mental-Doofs!" That was his joke-name for a group of two boys, one girl, who kept acting like these brave people. "My mother said I could go, I wasn't dumb enough to tell her the reason!"

"All right!" Zack and Cloud high-fived, then they opened the door and raced out.

"So there I was, in front of an actual…"

"Duck!" shouted Zack, pulling Cloud below the well as the Threesome passed by "…Zuu in the Nible Mountains. It charged at me, I ducked, kicked it in the stomach, and proceeded to tear a board off the bridge. Blistering hands, the huge monster diving right at me, I ducked next to the rope, leapt up on it, and as the beast turned to me, brought the board down on its neck, snapping it. The thing crashed on the bridge, fell through the rope, and down into the valley."

"That'll get Tifa out of the house," laughed one of the girls. "And we can give her evidence." They slapped hands and raced towards the house next to Cloud's.

"I see they're trying to lure her out of the house again," moaned Zack in mock-astonishment. Tifa was someone who had never been seen outside her house, someone who hadn't really thought friends were necessary. She had family, she'd leave sometimes, but she'd always managed to pick the times when no one child would see her. The beautiful music coming from the house indicated to Cloud she obviously liked the piano.

"She's not coming, her dad'll just send em' off!" answered Cloud.

"Maybe so, but I think I know how to try my little 'surprise' out on those brats without having to wait for the opportunity." Zack was referring to the Moserlei Snake Nest he'd found in the gardens of the Mansion. Probably the tamest animal in the world, they were so rare legends had spread about them, legends that made them the exact opposite of what they really were.

"So what's the plan?" asked Cloud.

"Just follow me," answered Zack.

He leapt out from behind the well and ran screaming across the square. The Threesome turned to him, laughing at him, as usual.

Zacks turned to them, pretending to be very angry. "Tease me again and you won't have any mouths to laugh with!"

"Oh, I'm sooooo scared," retorted one of the boys.

"You'd be scared, like I am, if you found yourself fleeing from a twenty-armed monster with forty-seven heads and fifty-six legs, one your size, but with arms that can extend! Its one of those Freak-Creations Shinra's been carrying out of the Reactor from time to time, it must've gotten loose!"

The kids rolled their eyes.

"I'm not lying! It's fingers were Moserlei Snakes, I always thought they were tame, but they really aren't, you were right about them being the opposite! I'll show you, I was wandering through the Mansion and watched it, but I slipped off a railing, alerting it. If you're holding me, we should be safe. Come on, or are you just braggarts when Cloud and I hear you spin your tales to other kids in the town!? Huh?"

The other male clenched his fists. "All right, we'll be there in a half-hour! We've got some business to attend to!" They raced off.

Zack hurried back to Cloud. "Remember all those structures I've made of Monserlei Snakes for that report way-back-when?" Cloud nodded. "We'll get the ones from the nest, my models, and my messed up paperwork, entangle you in it, add on some vines, and have a monster the type of which I describe." He whispered with excitement.

"That probably won't be very convincing," answered Cloud.

"Its not supposed to be. They'll start laughing at me and you, as soon as they do, you drop the snakes, lightly, in front of them. They'll probably scream and run, and I'll have my dad's Video Camera, he one he borrowed from his friend, rigged up. The next time they brag to the other kids, we'll show them the truth about the Three Mental-Doofs! It'll work!"

Cloud grinned. "Sounds like a plan! Where do I go!"

"The Piano Room. That way, just because of the small chance they might attack I can pull of my Take-Out-The-Trash Move on them!"

"Then let's move! Show me the place, and I'll wait while you get my costume ready!" Zack nodded, and they headed for the large mansion.


Cloud knew what was coming next, his subconscious knew, and he tried to stop the dream. He tried, he failed.


Everything was ready. Cloud was very uncomfortable in his costume, he had to hold the real Monserlei Snakes, which were wriggling, somewhat uncomfortable, and at the same time make sure all the other Snake Models looked completely real. The vines were strapped to other legs, other objects, and he was expected to pace around.

"You got her out of the house because you were her friends!" came the startled voice of one of the boys. "You've two have been lying to me all this time!"

"Sorry, we weren't sure if you'd turn up like those idiots Zack and Cloud!" answered the red-capped kid, the guy who was the leader of the Threesome.

"Watch it, kid!" snapped Zack. "I'm COMPLETELY against bringing someone to an old mansion who isn't outside much, which means she may not know what to do if there's an accident, I'm only staying because I want to see what cowards you kids really are like!"

"They're not cowards," answered a new, female, voice. "They're just jokes, they recite them, we laugh at what things or out-of-proportion stories they can make up, sometimes they chart up joke-lists to see who they can get to believe them, if most do, we keep on trying to make our stories more hilarious, they few times they come in with lists that explain most everyone laugh, we work on the joke. Its our way of fun."

"Its a dumb way of fun," answered Zack, as Cloud thought the same thing.

He heard a creak nearby, and realized that was his cue to begin moving around, not to look at anyone unless they talked loudly. He began wandering around, bashing at objects, as the group entered the room.

The leader immediately burst out laughing. "Good costume, Cloud!" Cloud ignored this, forgetting his role for the moment. He was stunned at how quickly their targets had figured this out. Then the capped boy turned to Zack.

"Nobody makes fools out of us!" he gritted, shoving him against the wall.

"Who's the fool?" asked Zack. "Look at Cloud again, all of you."

They all did, and Cloud froze. ALL of them.

"Wait a minute!" he shouted. "Do we know-"

He froze again, as an unfamiliar, black-haired girl moved out from behind the boxes. He'd never been able to imagine…he'd never seen a kind, open look upon the face of a single person around his age before. He forgot about the snakes, and instead of doing the right thing and admitting the whole scheme, he accidentally dropped them, still riveted.

"Yaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhh!!!!!" shrieked the two boys, turning towards the stairs, in such a hurry to scamper up them they nearly crashed on the stairs. The girl, not the new one, took a second look at the Monserlei Snakes and fled, shrieking too.

"Cowards!" Zack laughed after them. Cloud laughed too, his mask falling off of his face as he did so.

The new girl, obviously Tifa, realized what was going on and began to laugh as well. "Come back, you three!" she cried, running after them. "You don't seem to understand what they were attempting!" Before long she had disappeared from sight.

"I think we may have just taken our reputations down from being First-Class Jerks to First-Class Dorks," commented Zack.

Cloud didn't answer right away. He was staring at the place Tifa had left.

"Yo, Cloud, I'm TALKING TO YOU!" shouted Zack, waving his hand in his face.

Cloud grabbed it and shoved it away, glaring at him. "Very funny."

"I said we may have-"

"I heard," answered Cloud. "Let's take these Monserlei Snakes back to their nest and do something else while we can. I have a feeling we're gonna' be in BIG trouble."


They were.

The Threesome broadcast the whole joke to the others, and Cloud became the target of most mean jokes. Zack was avoided after the first few times they tried to annoy him, and ended up getting beaten up instead. He attempted to explain the reason for their joke at another of the Bravery Announcements the Three Mental-Doofs held, and the other kids just laughed at them both.

They knew what was a lie and what wasn't. They could feign astonishment.

When Zack moved, Cloud was completely alone. He tried desperately to get the attention of others, all the time remembering Tifa's open, welcoming look. But she wasn't a good candidate, she didn't even notice him.

He was all alone, and he was too scared to enter anyone else's house for fear of getting attacked again. So he contented himself with watching Tifa and her friends, since she lived across from his house. He approached her house many times, but couldn't bring himself to enter. That went on.


"Please," he moaned silently. "Don't make me see it again."

Every single time he had this dream, it was always followed by the aftermath of what happened when he had missed Tifa on the bridge, his mad scramble down the rocks, he slipped, his scrapes got larger, he found her broken form.

His anguish.

He just couldn't take anymore of this. What happened to him to cause this.

"Your own fault!" snapped a strange, yet somehow, familiar voice.

He wasn't dreaming anymore.

He was floating in the middle of the Lifestream, facing something. Something that didn't have any place in the Planet. He sensed inner turmoil, he couldn't understand to what extent. The voice was menacing, so like Sephiroth's, but it belonged to someone else.

"You're still naïve, you still can't figure out the obvious."

"Who are you!?" screamed Cloud.

A figure emerged from the Lifestream. Cloud recoiled in shock. "This isn't…"

"Its quite possible," the figure laughed. "Your Jenova Cells gave birth to me, now that plans are finally in motion, the next step must begin. WAKE UP!!!!!"

Cloud screamed.


"Reeve to Cait Sith, Reeve to Cait Sith!" came the crackling tone.

Yuffie jumped.

"Cait Sith Module Active," droned the android.

"What happened?" asked Yuffie.

Reeve/Cait Sith looked around, making a sideways-glance at her. "Later. First thing, Elena, I wish to compliment you on the STUPIDEST PLAN I'VE *EVER* FOUND OUT ABOUT!!!!! Your boys could've taken down the Sector 4 Plate and the Sector 3 Plate, also taking the LIVES of the citizens below!"

"Explain what happened, you dumb cat!" snapped Yuffie.

"Just get ready to meet up with us at the top of the Sector 2 Plate," answered Cait Sith. "I see you've made good time into the Sector 3 Plate. Be at the Sector 2 Plate by lunchtime, we're picking you up!"

"You and who else?" asked the Wutai Ninja.

"I'll EXPLAIN ON THE WAY!!!!! Move out, there's tons of Shinra SOLDIERS and PoliceForce around! Git' movin', and I mean now!"

"Right," said Yuffie, swearing under her breath as she broke into another sprint.

Elena followed, as did the Now-Fully-Active Cait Sith and the Carry Armor.


Tifa awoke in another strange place, disoriented, and not able to move very well. She was dizzy, it seemed like someone had spun her around upside down in the upper atmosphere for a week.

"You hid, remember?" asked a strange voice. "You never purged the Jenova."

"Oh no," she breathed. "Will I ever be free of this."

"WEAPONS storm the land once more, they've done so twice in a year. Darkness falls, the Planet…without the last-remaining portion of Jenova, without Cloud…if you had told him what happened early enough, before the Lifestream, he could've broken out of the Jenova-Cells. You could've helped him in Midgar. You were in AVALANCHE…you don't get it."

She spun, but the figure flitted away, grabbed her, and spun her around, kicking her, hard. "You don't give a darn about anyone, you're just like Sephiroth, you hate everything, you just don't admit it!"

She shrieked in annoyance and spun. How could anyone accuse her of this. The figure disappeared, then reappeared behind her, whispering in her ear, strange, wispy-like fingers touching her head, gripping her chin, forcing her to look into strange orb-like eyes.

"You're just the puppet, you've lost your strings."

"What?" asked Tifa, not comprehending anything. She was obviously in a part of the Lifestream where accusations were frequent.

"Your usage is over, you can go back to being the selfish brat who hates everything now." The eyes disappeared, and the figure vanished in a bright flash, reappearing above her, wispy flames tearing into her cheeks.

"What are you?"

"Who do you think?" she spun, revealing a black-haired girl with her face, but looking like a demon. "I'm your younger self." She spun again, and was now towering inches above her, claws grasping her, razor-sharp edges holding her neck.

"Or am I!"

Both claws were pressed to the side of her head.

"Poor, simple creature," the thing cooed. "Member of AVALANCHE, you stand by your friends." Her face cracked a grin. "Liar! I'll show you what you really are, I'll show you what type of a PATHETIC *FOOL* you've degenerated into!"

She twirled again, and an orb of light had trapped her in place.

"You can't comprehend anything," the thing continued. "But don't worry, you won't have too…much…longer!"

She began to crush her hands inwards, as the electrical energies from the orbs spasmed outwards. Tifa shrieked, jerking around. Any pain she'd ever felt before was nothing compared to this. Her whole body was being torn apart, yet it wasn't, so she was forced to relive the agony thousands of times, and it was growing worse each second, finally erupting in a concussive blast.

She fainted, if she could even do so.


She reappeared in a blast of pure energy.

(What's been accomplished?)

(The basics. I've stripped the information straight from the brain of someone who saw the WEAPONS Close-Up, and was in the Lifestream as they began to move. She also possessed a Mastered Sense Materia, so I got completely clear information, getting it from the other wouldn't work, he has a Master Command Materia.)

(So now we begin Phase 2?)

(Of course. Our Jenova-Illusion did the trick, giving the Planet the final push it needed to become confounded enough to release the WEAPONS. It was so much easier, thanks to the girl I stripped the information from. Our WEAPONS won't do Mass Destruction, they'll do planetary destruction! Our own Planetary Army!)

(For a needless cause. We didn't create Jenova, our Jenova-Revival only allied me to see something else. What if she's right? What if we didn't create her, or Meteor, we just think we did? What if we're accidents, what if our Master isn't who he claims to be, isn't real, just is a thought, even if he is, what if he's an accident? What if our Master and us are living on illusions, memories given us because we had to have some, because we may be accidents? And even if we aren't, DO we know we created Meteor, WE created Jenova? Do we know we even found enough strength to give her life in the form of an Illusion?)

(Stop babbling! You're just the weakling. I've never actually done something in my job, I liked using tools! The rush of adrenaline, torturing someone! I LOVE IT!!!!!)

Her sister turned away, and bowed her head.

(You don't understand) she whispered.

Keeping her voice, her actions, masked by a nod of acceptance, an illusionary nod, she raised her arms and screamed. (Why did you send us to this fate!!!!!?????)


She woke up with a shriek, clutching the Hospital Bed Covers.

"Tifa?" questioned Nanaki.

She just sat there, shaking. "Something…malevolent," she breathed. Strange memories began to arrive, she saw herself, this age, realizing she was something else, they found Cloud, she realized…no, no, this wasn't…she clutched her head and let out a heart-wrenching scream, before collapsing into darkness again.

"What is going on?" moaned Nanaki.

A chilled wind had begun to settle on the room, a chilled, icy, heartless wind. The end of the beginning, indeed. Two days after the cycle of More-Than-2,000-Years ended, the Planet was beginning to experience the truth behind Meteor, something that nothing had ever faced before.

Parked above the mountains north of Junon, it was not hard to hear another group of the Midgar Air Force bringing the pieces of the Emerald Weapon towards their city. More WEAPONS had emerged, Tifa seemed to be sensing something strange, Yuffie and Cait Sith were in Midgar, for whatever-the-reason, and Cloud was in another depression.

"This is one of the times where Bugenhagen's advice would be very helpful," he muttered. "I've helped save the Planet, and two days later, its in danger again."

He sighed once more.


South, near the Junon Lake, Cloud was still locked within another struggle with his past. Jenova was gone, completely, that much he knew, but this being, this thing he seemed to know, was doing something he couldn't comprehend.

"Its…not…going…to…work!" he snapped. "Jenova is gone, she perished two days ago! She was annihilated! She actually perished even earlier than that!"

The figure laughed. "What is it with you? Two days after you leave for Midgar you get there, you begin the process of trying to join SOLDIER, you fail! Two days after Zack rescues you, he's shot near Midgar, you're left alone! Two days after you're assigned the mission that led to your reunion with Tifa, it happens! Two days after the destruction of Meteor, 'Jenova,' fails at attempting to go on living! Two days later you're in this position!"

"What does that have to do with anything?" gasped Cloud. He could feel something struggling for control, he wouldn't let it gain control.

"Tifa was right about how she has a knack for falling off places whenever its convenient, she's also ended up in a coma for seven days, twice!" The thing went on. "You have a knack for ending up in the Lifestream, at the wrong times, and definitely in the wrong places! What does it matter how long ago Jenova perished!? I've been created, I've taken form!!"

A flash of understanding snapped into Cloud's mind.

"You're nothing! Jenova perished before Sephiroth did, because of the illusions she'd lived around, she survived as making illusions, she was destroyed, those illusions themselves were her two days ago, they were destroyed! They weren't her, they were her confusions! The confusions were destroyed, now my confusions are trying to take form! They can't, because I understand Jenova's illusions now!"

He took a deep breath. He'd said it to his friends, not he had to finally admit it to himself. "I am Cloud Strife, born in Nibleheim, Age 21. Zack, my friend, the one who was really Sephiroth's Protégé, moved to Gongaga! I tried to join SOLDIER when I failed to prevent Tifa from nearly perishing! I was not successful, and became a SOLDIER Escort! I became a Mercenary after the disaster in Nibleheim, my illusions began to shape a different world, but they were proven to be illusions! I aided in the destruction of Jenova, took down Sephiroth, enabling the Planet to survive! Jenova's Illusionary Ways brought forth confusion, they are gone! I am Cloud Strife, I am NOT anyone else!"

Lights flashed for a few seconds.

Then the figure vanished, and Cloud found himself beginning to awaken. "The probability of there being illusions had to have been the other figure that was shown in the Lifestream," he muttered, taking advantage of his clarity to force himself to sit up. Then he stood, realizing he had to savor the moment.

"I understand," he whispered. "It couldn't be done by the Planet, by any of my three trips to the Lifestream, or by Tifa, at least not completely. I had to do it myself."

He took in a deep breath.

Tifa was probably still alive, the Airship had four Emergency Levers, two of which had already been used, it had to have ways to keep CPR working. He began to trek towards the Airship Highwind, leaving his false memories behind for the last time he'd ever need to.


"No, please!" Tifa screamed again. Lifestreams, Planets, Galaxies, seemed to circle around her as she saw herself grabbing a spear from Cid and running Cloud through, kicking his lifeless body to the ground as he collapsed, then stalking away, ignoring her unconscious, former friends.

"I'm not this person! Its an illusion, I know it is, but why can't it release me!?"

She saw angelic beings descend, and refreshing rain wash over her, golden energies protecting her. "Aeris?" she gasped.

In response, her figure seemed to charge through the Lifestream, wielding the Princess Guard. She twirled it, then brought it down on the strange figurine that kept trying to become Tifa, also protected by her Great Gospel. Again and again, her look of determination and concentration she displayed in battle showing through here. She dodged a forming hand, snapped it with one end of her staff, and threw her opponent off balance with the front of it.

The thing shot straight up, and she snapped its other arm, forcing her staff forward like a stick being used to parry, tripping the figure, and finally disposing of it by delivering the finishing blow to the thing's midsection, piercing the spirit and causing it to scream, crackle, and dissipate in a brief flash and explosion.

Silence reigned again.

Then Tifa spoke, once again, hesitantly.

"Aeris?" she whispered.

When the Cetra's spirit turned towards her, she was smiling. "You heard before, Tifa," she said. "You heard, you know. If I'm going to have this fate in the Lifestream, I can make sure my friends aren't tormented from it."

Tifa realized it was indeed the Lifestream, as she looked around. It was beautiful this time, with soft, hazy, rainbow colors. She stood on a solid island in the middle of it, as it flowed with the Path of Spirits, and just allowed herself to embrace her friend, staying that way for a long time, quietly sobbing, allowing all the stress, all the sadness that she had endured for such a long time to come out, while Aeris just smiled, not needing to talk.

It seemed a full hour had passed by the time Tifa finally brushed a lone tear from her eye, broke the embrace, stood up, and smiled herself. "Thanks, Aeris."

She just nodded, like she usually did when receiving this kind of thanks.

Tifa broke the awkward silence again. "I never got a chance to ask you what you meant before. Why is this happening to you?"

"I saved the Planet, I used the knowledge given to me by the Ancients, the knowledge I received as we left, with you carrying Cloud, after Sephiroth received the Black Materia, I used that knowledge correctly. Holy failed, so I helped the Lifestream to strengthen it, I'm a Planet-Healer now. I'm a group of beings who sacrificed their lives doing what they knew was right, we can help still. I'm no longer alive, but I never perished, either. I'm somewhere in-between, just waiting."

"Who told you this?"

"Something that seems to be a spirit, but perhaps something else. Meteor was part of an occurrence from long before Jenova, with it gone, it may cause other events to come into motion, the same ones that brought about Meteor in the first place. Perhaps just a fluke, there may be a master, a fluke, or the true master may remain unknown. I wasn't told exactly what causes a fluke, I was just told this."

"And you're waiting, you're allowed bridges to the Lifestream, and to the real world?" She suddenly gasped. "Does this mean you'll be restored to life when this is all over?" Her hope soared.

"Probably not," said Aeris, wistful about it, but at the same time, not as upset as she'd expected. "While I was in the Lifestream, maintaining Holy once it arose, once Sephiroth blocked it, preventing him from destroying its root, the Planet could communicate to me in a fashion I don't think a Cetra has ever experienced. That's how I was able to give the Lifestream a way to aid Holy to destroy Meteor. But I know everything about the Promised Land. You fought above it, then in it, Sephiroth perished at the very heart.

"I didn't get a chance to say goodbye, though, not even to Cloud." She gazed sorrowfully at the ground, letting a tear fall.

Tifa stood by, not knowing how to respond.

Aeris looked up, her face clear again. "Take care of Cloud for me, okay?"

Tifa blushed.

Aeris giggled. "Stop acting like that! You're nearly as mixed up as Cloud is!"

"Huh?" Tifa was really confused now.

She became serious again. "There's nothing to keep you in the Lifestream now, you won't be here much longer."

"Will we…at least see each other again?"

"Listen to the Planet, Tifa," answered Aeris. "If you know how, you may be able to communicate with any Cetra."

She nodded, and smiled, as she began to fade away. The shimmering of the Lifestream disappeared, and, for the first time since the Nibleheim Disaster, she lapsed into a deep, peaceful sleep.


Yuffie had been surprised to hear that Barret and Cid were here, even more surprised to hear what was really going on. Elena had almost withdrawn from the group, before Yuffie had proceeded to remind her to stick to her word.

So they had sprinted to the Sector 2 Plate, and had just finished eating. The Carry Armor hovered over them protectively, and any nearby people, at least, the citizens, avoided the area they were at. Midgar had to be the largest place she had ever been. Consisting of a Skyscraper, Eight Plate Towns, one of them destroyed, Eight Makoro Reactors, two of them destroyed, and Eight Slums, one of them destroyed, along with Plate Support Columns, Two Main Railways, Three Main Highways, and buildings the likes of which she'd never seen, now with the Sister Ray hooked up to Sector 8 as well, it could take over a year to traverse every last inch of the sprawling metropolis.

"Where are you guys?" asked Yuffie.

"Coming up shortly," answered Cait Sith. "We're done with lunch. We lost pursuit in the Sector 1 Slums, also opened a nice little gateway to the outside world in the process, one that will undoubtedly be guarded, and have reached the Sector 2 Plate. There shouldn't be many Police Members and SOLDIER Members up in the area now, they're probably guarding the Plate Supports. Barret and Cid aren't too pleased about the Turks being here. We're nearby."

"Good," answered Yuffie. "How much farther down are you?"

"Oh, just about…" he paused, chuckling "…Right behind you!"

Elena spun, placing a command into her Carry Armor. It paused in the motion of turning to face the intruders. Reeve walked up to Elena, giving her a large amount of Gil as soon as he reached her.

"Payment's done," he said. "Take your boys and scram!"

"And kick those fools out of the Turtle's Paradise Inn!" ordered Yuffie.

Elena spun sharply, walking off muttering something about Wutai Ninjas. Yuffie decided not to pry into EXACTLY what she'd said, so far the Turks had kept their end of the bargain, but she wasn't sure how long that would keep up.

"Long time no see?" asked Cid.

Yuffie nodded. "We came here to deal with Scarlet and Heidegger, but since plans changed, what do we do now?"

"Escape," answered Barret.

"How?" asked Cid. "The nearest highway is the one that leads to the Sector 4 Exit, and that's far away. Besides, we don't have the equipment to clamber down from the edge of the Highway. It'll be hard enough getting to the Sector 5 Entrance."

"Maybe not," said Reeve. "The secret Headquarters Entrance is nearby, we bust it open, storm through, and clamber down to Sector 6."

"Uh-huh," Barret nodded sarcastically, pointing to the Carry Armor, which was floating away. "The darn thing ain't gonna' be protecting us anymore."

"I doubt its safe to use PHSs," put in Reeve.

"Not necessarily," answered Yuffie. "I've got an idea."


"How'd I let you talk me into this!?" screamed Barret as the quintet barreled through the Sector 2 Slums on a group of stolen motorcycles.

"Relax," said Yuffie. "If we time this just when we begin to climb the Sister Ray, we should be able to get picked up!"

"You can't stand Airships or Boats, but you can stand Motorcycles moving like this!!??" screamed Cid.

"So?" asked Yuffie.

They blasted past a group of SOLDIERs on patrol, and Cid launched into a string of curses as he saw them mount their motorcycles, radio for help, then take off in hot pursuit.

"Maybe it'd be safer jumping from a Highway Edge!" said Barret.

"They'd expect that!" snapped Yuffie. She faced ahead, and shrieked. "Watch out!" They swerved to avoid a building, and heard the sounds of gunfire from not-too-very-far behind them.

"This is gonna' take a while!" shouted Reeve.

"Keep moving!" snapped Yuffie, slowing to hurl her Conformer back at the SOLDIERS. One was hit right off his cycle, which careened into a building and exploded, sending other cycles flying. The SOLDIER who had been hit was now in cinders, and the Conformer returned to her hand.

"Jumping highway!" She shouted. "Ready!"

They approached, the SOLDIERS drawing closer.


One by one, Yuffie, Barret, Cid, Cait Sith, and Reeve launched their motorcycles into the air. They sailed up over the highway, and she realized her mistake as they neared the other side. Maybe they should've walked here, even though that would've taken an hour longer.

She glanced down at the ground, then looked at the wall. They just might make it, they just might…

"Aim for the cable now!" she shouted. "There's no way we'll cross!"

She swerved, barely making it onto the huge cable that connected the Sector 2 Makoro Reactor to the Sister Ray. Barret swore and followed, as did Cid. Reeve and Cait Sith just managed to get their motorcycles on, and they were away again, leaving a group of confused SOLDIERS to watch as they continued onward, and upward, on probably the most dangerous cycle pathway in the world.

The wires were large enough for a one-lane drive, but had never been used, for obvious reasons. Near the highway was where they came up from below ground, they ran along streets, through blocked-off areas, into Sector 8, then up. Yuffie's plan had been to hijack motorcycles, take them over the highway, and enter through the blockaded street where the wires separated, the lower ones taking any unnecessary Makoro back to their Reactors.

"This is still crazy!" shrieked Cid.

"You've been in space, yet you're afraid of this?" laughed the Ninja.

Cid shot her a glare over his shoulder.

"Remember, we call as soon as we reach the Sister Ray," said Yuffie. "Our signals should be able to pass unnoticed from there!"

Reeve wondered why he'd answered Yuffie's question about the exact pathways of the wires from the Makoro Reactors to the Sister Ray.

A few of the SOLDIERS were still in pursuit, as well. Yuffie was still in the back, and prepared herself for another well-timed Conformer Throw. Ninjas lived for this type of action, she was no exception.

Another SOLDIER was sent flying, rolling over and slamming into another motorcycle. Out of control, the motorcycle careened off the curve…

…and smashed right into a stockpile of ammunition, causing a blast of energy that sent shockwaves through the Shinra Skyscraper.

"Great job!" snapped Barret.

"Keep moving!" retorted Yuffie, grabbing her Conformer and watching the last of their pursuers topple off the narrow wire, smashing into streets, becoming crushed and/or incinerated.


Kerem was once again in conversation with Ensa Palmer, holding a board meeting on Floor 45 with the Ex-Space Division Chief Palmer and Shreelin. Staff members sat between the four equally-divided spaces in the large, public council hall, taking notes, jotting down assignments.

"Pieces of the Emerald Weapon have been assembled at the Train Disaster Area in Sector 3 Slums and Sector 2 Slums, the Ruby Weapon pieces are being gathered up, they will be placed under the ruins of the Sector 7 Plate, their arms will be supported so they don't damage any other plate areas, since there's barely enough room for it, and the theory about the Ultimate Weapon has proved true, as well, it will be assembled at the destroyed Sector 7 Railway Area." Ensa was breathless as she finished the lengthy sentence.

"I suppose we should be thankful that WEAPONS are easier to gather than we thought," stated Palmer. "But I wonder what we can use those minerals constructed in the Junon Reactor for now."

"We'll shape those into supports for the Ruby Weapon and the Ultimate Weapon, of course," stated Kerem. He turned to Shreelin. "How soon will the sister Ray be prepped and ready for fire?"

"Three days," she answered. "The Living WEAPONS are contenting themselves to marauding around the ocean area, mostly close to our Reactors. There's two near the ones in the other five towns, but a total of three have been watching for Reactor Activity here. The Underwater Crater is still uncovered, the Lifestream Energies are still pulsating above it, as well."

"That brings us to my second topic," put in Ensa. "The White Materia has been tracked down and located, I've taken the liberty of prepping a full research team, the place its at could be filled with incredible knowledge. They'll be ready to move out by the time the Sister Ray is restored to full capacity. Our whole Airfleet has been poking around the Lifestream Orb, and they haven't found a thing."

"You deployed the whole Airfleet there!!!!!?????" gasped Shreelih.

Kerem nodded.

"Even the half that patrols Midgar!!!!!?????"

Kerem nodded again. "Our Police Force and SOLDIERS provide ample protection in both Junon and Midgar, as do our WarMech's." He paused, after which he glared at her. "You will recall," he said in a sharp, steel tone of voice ,"My displeasure at the performance of the WEAPON Mover Defense System! We've lost our only remaining model of the Proud Clod Technology, the Prototype was always, has always been hopeless."

"The construction crew is working to fix the upper levels of this building as always," stated Palmer. "The Tube Elevator Shafts have been completely removed, the Normal Elevator Shafts above Level 55 have been removed as well. Construction will begin tomorrow."

"Excellent," said Kerem. "Aside from the fact AVALANCHE has been spotted, alive, the company should probably go back to running the way it has since Midgar was created." He took a deep breath, then grinned. "Smoothly."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than his PHS rang. He flicked it on.

"Sir, AVALANCHE has hooked up with the Renegade Reeve and his Cait Sith Android, they've taken down a large group of SOLDIER Cavalry, and are taking motorcycles up the Mako Transference Wires to the Sister Ray."

Kerem frowned. "They must be returning to finish what they started when they took down Hojo. How they learned the Cannon is being repaired, I don't know."

"And the Turks have been spotted at various locations around Sector 4 Plate, Sector 3 Slums, and Sector 3 Plate, one with their only remaining Carry Armor."

"Take your squadron to the Sister Ray and destroy them," answered Kerem. "There will be no more public executions! The terrorists must be taken down, we cannot risk a proper punishment!"

"I was waiting for confirmation, sir! Farewell!" The line broke contact.

Then the shockwave hit.

Kerem was sent crashing to the floor.

"A direct assault!?" he gasped, stunned. Ensa helped him up, and he immediately began to establish contact with any Aero WarMechs in the area. The AVALANCHE was becoming bold, now, and even more dangerous.


Carefully moving around the lifeless body of the Zemzelett that had decided to have a late lunch, and had gotten skewered by an easy sidestep and stab, Cloud began to ascend more of the mountains to the airship above.

Glancing once again at the Zemzelett, he realized that he'd become rather experienced in warding off dangerous encounters, he'd just been ending up dealing with more annoying foes at the times when he perfected a new tactic, an annoying coincidence. His first encounter with a Zemzelett had proven as troublesome as his first encounter with a Dark Dragon, but both were still as dangerous.

He could see that the Lifestream Sphere still hung in the sky above the 'Underwater Crater.' Flashes of light protruded from there, meaning Shinra was being predictable as always, searching the area. He briefly wondered who was now leading the company, and hoped it was someone decent, for once. Lifting another hand over his head, grabbing onto another ledge, he was momentarily reminded of how long it had been since he had eaten.

The climb would not take much longer.

As he breached the crevice closest to the Airship, he noticed something he hadn't seen before.

A nest of Condors, off to the right. Flashes of the Makoro Reactor atop Condor Fort returned to him, the Grandhorns, Mutations, both Walking and Flying, and SOLDIERS along with Attack Squads sent up the mountain. They'd personally dealt with seven, the final one being an all-out battle. They were led by Grandhorns, a Mutation in the Gongaga Area and Gold Saucer Area, probably the only one out of the Midgar Area and the Grasslands. A large Condor had laid an egg there, and sat, silently, over it. When the egg had burst, the mother had perished. A Phoenix Materia had been born at the same time.

He doubted it had been traditional, perhaps the effect of a nest being built over a Makoro Reactor. He'd never been sure, hadn't even been there himself, he'd been told about the Condor by Tifa. And a whole nest of them was nearby. The abilities of Grandhorns to be mutated to extreme standards, and the migration of one lone Condor, just didn't seem right.

Placing such thoughts aside, he walked quietly to the side of the Airship, and began to ascend its anchor. Although the thing was now lacking a back deck, replaced by a Jet Tail, which sported a fifth engine for the thing, it was still hovering above the ground. Nevertheless, it wasn't long before he'd dropped onto the deck.

The whole area was silent, although he could hear voices coming from below deck. He quickened his pace towards the stairs to the inside of the Highwind.


Tifa was slowly helped to her feet, the room wobbling, at least in her vision.

She let go of the Medic's hand and let her vision, and her ability to stand, grow steady. Having woken up a half-hour ago, she had just contented herself to eat, and was now sorting her thoughts.

She gasped as everything flooded back. "We have to locate Cloud again!" she announced. "If he's really left the ship for the reasons you explained, he may…"

She hung her head, wandering out of the room. Red XIII motioned to the others to let her go, and she wandered up onto what was left of the Upper Deck, the one that was now attached to the Jet Tail, and began to clamber down, dropping the short distance to the ground, and walking to the edge of the cliff.

She sat down, clasping her hands around her knees, hanging her head again. "I didn't…its hard to…oh, blast it, what's the difference! Things haven't even improved since Mideel! Its hopeless!"

"Care for second thoughts?" asked a familiar voice, jokingly.

She stood up and spun. Cloud was standing there, grinning at her.

Immense relief washed over her again, but it was replaced by anger almost immediately. He'd vanished again, and returned almost immediately.

"You…you…How could you do this to us!!??" She glared at him.

His face fell. "You know what happened in Nibleheim. At that moment, it happened…I wasn't able to think clearly enough…I…" He broke off, and a single tear fell at that moment.

Her face softened. "I didn't mean that, Cloud. You're still my friend." She gave him a brief embrace, and he smiled again. "I…I…"

She hung her head, unable to say it.

"Emergency!" came Vincent's voice. "We just got a call from Midgar! We're going to have to risk Priscilla, but we've got to rescue Barret, Cid, Yuffie, and Reeve, along with his Cait Sith Android!"

Cloud looked up questioningly.

"I'll explain on the way." He flashed a small smile, perhaps his first since Lucrecia had supposedly perished back in Nibleheim. "I hope you're not leaving us again. You're drifting from the group is becoming WAAY to frequent!"

Cloud grinned back in response. "I've got no plans of leaving! You can explain on the way." As an afterthought, he added ,"And because I haven't eaten since yesterday, I could use some food!"


The motorcycles zoomed up the Sister Ray. Yuffie had directed a jump from the cables to the cannon itself as soon as they were near it, and Reeve had followed up with precise timing, signaling the Highwind.

Pursuit had begun as soon as they'd mounted the Sister Ray. They were obviously too predictable, even when using drastic maneuvers. They were near the edge now, but still had a few miles left.

Another toss of the Conformer, another SOLDIER collapsed, bringing down a group of his fellows. Others swore, and began to shoot back at her, having had enough casualties. She spun, using her Conformer as a shield, keeping half her attention on the bike. With the pathway large enough for her to risk this, she managed to keep it up until they neared the edge of the turret.

A Shinra Attack Squad Member landed a shot on the engine of her cycle, and she barely had time to leap from the Motorcycle before it exploded. Up ahead, the others wheeled to a halt, jumping from their cycles as they careened into unseen objects. In a few seconds, she could see why.

Blocking their exit were twenty-four Grosspanzers, Shinra SOLDIERS and Shinra Attack Squads in formation to the sides of the things. The SOLDIERS and Attack Squads behind them wheeled to a halt, dismounted, and made room for twenty-four more Grosspanzers.

"Darn!" swore Reeve. "I should've seen this coming!" He held his hands up.

"I'm sorry, but we're under orders to terminate upon sight now," responded one of the 1st Class SOLDIERS, obviously in their lead.

"That wasn't my intention!" answered Reeve, grinning.

Cait Sith became active…


…and charged. The Android Pair rushed forward, hammering into a Grosspanzer with force the thing had never displayed before. It grabbed the pieces of the thing and snapped it down on another of the beasts. The SOLDIERS and Attack Squads dodged the explosions and opened fire.

The Android responded by gripping the spikes of a Grosspanzer as it attempted to flatten him, and using those spikes to swing it backwards. It crashed onto the Shinra, and the moogle barreled forward, tearing into the head of yet another. Behind him, Barret, Cid, and Yuffie seemed to be doing fine against their opponents. Barret but up a Wall and followed up with a Quake 3, sending the vehicles careening to the side.

The Shinra Reeve and Cait Sith faced targeted the former Corporation Member. Cait Sith threw up his arms, and as Reeve frantically pressed buttons, the Moogle Arms opened up to reveal High-Density Particle Beam Turrets.

They opened fire, revolving around the area, burning the Grosspanzers, causing small explosions, occasionally ripping others apart. The groups of lasers prevented all bullets from touching him, while Barret's accuracy made short work of those fired from behind. The Grosspanzers opened fire, and both Multiple Particle Beam Turrets were replaced by shields. They were swung up, and the Android jumped, swinging them down, using them like blades. They cut through another of the machines.

"Hurry it up!" shouted Barret. "I'm running out of Turbo Ethers!"

He'd blast at his opponents, while Cid performed an articulate series of moves, tearing through enemy ranks, and use a Quake 3 every time a Grosspanzer attempted to charge, usually flinging it off the cannon, or destroying it.

Cait Sith began to whirl, and Reeve's fingers began to tire. Energy Discuses shot out from the Shield-Choppers, ripping apart the Grosspanzers that remained and proceeding to trap the SOLDIERS and Attack Squad Members in Pyramids.

Reeve whirled again, and Cait Sith performed a back-flip, hammering into a Grosspanzer that was charging. He jumped off as the thing exploded, and its palms opened, the Moogle's fingers focusing energies on the barrels that extended. As Barret used up the group's only remaining Turbo Ether after taking down another Attack Squad with yet another Quake 3, the energies blasted outwards.

Whatever survived of the Grosspanzers was in no hope of repair. Reeve executed a final combo on his controls, dodging as a SOLDIER unleashed a shot in the direction of his device, and Cait Sith whirled again, the Moogle Hands closing, and more discuses blasting from them, trapping the remaining Shinra in Pyramids.

The Android Pair settled down, and the Moogle Body closed…


…making an end to this particular battle.

"Attention, AVALANCHE Members!" boomed a voice. A group of hovering WarMechs with one Shinra Helicopter in front of them loomed into view. "Your termination is scheduled for this moment!"

The roaring of engines could be heard in the distance.

"Dream on!" shouted Cid.

He turned towards the sound and watched the Highwind come into view.

"Let's move it!" he snapped.

The four others broke into a sprint. The Shinra WarMechs swooped down for a dive, as did the Highwind. Cid hurled himself onboard, followed by Barret, Reeve, Cait Sith, and Yuffie. The ship was still moving, and hurtled into the sky, away from Midgar, and away from the Still-Functioning Shinra Corporation.


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