THE CRAVE GAMING CHANNEL
V'lanna
 

Cid Gainsborough

By: Alex Weitzman
sonic90127@aol.com

Characters, things, events, and places in this story are based on Squaresoft's Final Fantasy VII. Sue me.

Author's note: I have seen how other authors have taken the "after-credit" clip of FFVII (the one with Red XIII's descendants) and brand it into stories. However, those stories I have seen still use the original characters. Let's get real: Nobody lives forever. I hope that my story will show that we don't need Cloud or Nanaki to make a good FFVII sequel. And for those who would like to bring up Nanaki's aging process, he would actually only live for about 300 years. I'll explain this in the story.

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A time ago, there was a large crisis threatening the planet. A madman named Sephiroth, under the delusion of believing he was the son of an evil alien being, summoned a giant meteor to "injure" the planet for his own purposes, by use of the Black Materia. He was halted by a band of do-gooders, led by Cloud Strife, a young man who had been infused with cells of the alien being. They used the power of the White Materia to stop him, an item recovered from their fallen ally, Aeris Gainsborough.

Slightly more than 500 years later, the land had changed much from the days of Cloud and Aeris. Mako stopped being a major resource, once the world knew what Mako was made of. Nobody cared to light a lamp with the soul of a relative. Red feline beasts, now known as the Rashions, lived side by side, wisdom by wisdom with humans. An achievement the scholar Bugenhagen would have been proud of. And the once semi-proud city known as Midgar, with its power-hungry rulers, the Shinra, is now the unexplored Midgar Jungle. Unexplored, that is, until today.........

==========================

"Slow down, Tion!" Charles cried out to his Rashion friend. "If you keep taring down the vines that fast, they'll grow back again before we can reach you!"

Tion skidded. "Ha! What's the matter, Chuck? Eat too many scrambled eggs this morning?"

Charles caught up and put his hand on Tion's shoulder. "No, that was Captain Vixor's order. I think you're the one who ate too much! What do you see in that kids' cereal anyway?"

Tion grinned at him. "Where is it your place to ask? It's my sugar high - Whoa!" He lifted his paw quickly before he stepped on the poisonous back of the Toxic Frog. Charles grabbed a gun and shot it as it was rearing back its spit.

Tion smiled. "Thanks, bud. So, where is Vixor?" They continued through the vines.

"Oh, he's behind somewhere, giving hell to the slackers." As they cleared two more vines, they saw a footpath. Tion gasped. Charles muttered, "This isn't possible......" He knelt and examined the prints. "These are human tracks, alright. But they're old."

Tion replied, "How old?"

"I'd say a month old."

"But that can't be! If somebody had already explored this place, they would have announced it! There would have been a humongous media blitz, long before we planned our expedition!"

Charles nodded. "That's why it worries me so...." Then he was tapped on the back. Under reflex, he turned and aimed. At Captain Vixor.

Charles laughed pathetically and put the gun away. Vixor said, "What's going on, gentlemen?"

Tion spoke up. "Sir, there's a foot path here. About a month old."

Vixor's face turned grim. "Very well. Let's follow it." They nodded and started down the trail.

======================

Soon, they stumbled across a cave. Vixor whispered, "I suggest you boys go check it out."

Tion and Charles flashed Vixor two thumbs up, then proceeded.

The cave was dark and musty, like it had been there for a long time. It also smelled like very bad body odor, like somebody had been sweating without deodorant for awhile. It made Tion's nose cringe. He buried his nose into the dirt to avoid it.

Charles, with his shirt over his nose, shone his flashlight around the room. He found the remains of animals, which had been eaten. Checking the age of the carcasses, he found them to be a little under two weeks old.

Then, Tion looked up, with a cake of dirt covering his nostrils. His dark vision being highly advanced, he stumbled across something big. "Chuck, you gotta see this."

Charles swung the light to where Tion was. A blond, young man was laying there, in tattered clothing. He rushed to the young man, but was sidetracked when he saw was else was there.

"Oh, my lord..." Charles said. "Two scraps of fossilized paper. With the text intact!"

Tion rushed over. "What do they say?" "One has a logo on it. It says Shinra." Charles examined further. "It also says, down in the bottom corner....Cid."

Tion nudged Charles to look at the other one. "Okay, Tion. This one says......Gainsborough."

Tion shrugged and came back to the man. "So, what do we call this guy?"

=========================

"Cid Gainsborough." Charles said to Vixor. "We've named him after the fossils. The carcasses in the cave show that he hasn't eaten for about two weeks. He probably collapsed of unnourished fatigue."

"So I see....." Vixor said. "It's best we take this boy to Rocket City. We'll find a place for him."

=========================

Rocket City. Once it was known unaffectionately as Shinra No. 26, but latter years after "the great event", not to mention the launch of the rocket, caused the city's population to boom. The metropolis grew larger than Midgar would have ever dared, but the government of Rocket City learned a lesson from the former glory of the Shinra pet project. This city was bursting at the seams with nature and beauty, making it a wildly popular tourist spot. It had beaches, world-acclaimed parks, and ski resorts (man-made). When Cid barely awoke in the truck, it was the first thing he saw. He tried to make a sound of protest, but collapsed again.

=========================

Bright light. Blinding bright light. This is what Cid first saw when he opened his eyes. Squinting, he saw that color was returning.

The room was a metallic gray, but pieces of art hung from the wall, and potted plants adorned the corners of the room. Then, he saw whom to thank for waking him. As he began to make the person out, he smiled at what he saw.

First came the eyes. Big, shining, brown eyes. Then, the hair. Long, straight, and as brown as the eyes. She certainly was beautiful. Speaking, she said, "Hey there. Looks like you're in the land of the living."

A voice from behind her said, "Now, wait a second, sweetie. We're not sure if he even speaks a language."

She replied, "I know what I'm doing. Even if he doesn't talk, friendly sounds are universal. And keep your 'sweeties' to yourself."

Cid sat up and said, "But I do talk."

The woman smiled warmly. "Ah, good. What's your name?"

Cid stared blankly for a couple of seconds. "I.....don't have a name."

The man who spoke earlier grinned. "Alright!" He walked over and shook Cid's hand. "Hi, I'm Charles Kaufman. I'm one of the two guys who found you. Since you don't have a name, then the one I've given you should do. You are now known as Cid Gainsborough."

Cid, confused, scratched his head. "Cid Gainsborough?"

The woman shook his hand. "And I'm Amanda Wright. You're quite an odd case. You come in from the Midgar Jungle, and you can speak, yet you have amnesia."

Cid shook his head. "No, it's not amnesia. I just never had a name."

"Don't you have parents?" Charles asked.

"Not that I know of." Cid replied. "Where am I?"

"At Tiny Bronco University, in Rocket Town." Amanda answered. "You were found by Charles and his fellow explorers, who were on a grant from the university. Therefore, it's the school's duty to do something with you.

"

"Are you a professor who can help me?" Cid inquired.

"Oh, no! I'm a student in the field of psychology. The dean wants to talk with you, however." Amanda said as she opened the door. A stately man walked in and shook Cid's hand.

"Gee," Cid said, "everybody's treating me like some sort of astronaut. Everybody wants to shake my hand."

The dean was taken aback by this, then whispered to Amanda, "Amazing. He's knows of things like space travel, and he looks like he never left the jungle." Then he turned back to Cid. "Young man, we have set up a cozy position for you as a farmhand on a nearby family farm. They've been needing an extra set of limbs to help around, and you're in quite good physical condition, as this printout tells me." He read off the paper. "22 years old, no major diseases, no evidence of any past physical harm. Quite a nice way to live, I'd say. I'm impressed that you didn't get hurt in the jungle. I live in the city and recently got a sprain."

Charles, leaning on a wall, muttered, "It's a jungle out there."

The dean looked at the explorer. "Yes....." Turning back to Cid, he continued, "Also, you could use some family life. It's relaxing. We would also like for you to meet with Amanda here every week. She's doing a project on how situations affect us, and she would like to hear all about your life in the jungle, and how it feels to be living in civilization."

Cid shrugged. "Sure."

==============================

"Ronald Rappaport?" Charles asked as he saw the person at the door of the house.

"Yes, that's me. What is it?" Ronald answered.

Charles smiled. "Hi, I'm just delivering your new foster farmhand, Cid."

"Ah!" Ronald peered into the truck they came in, and saw Cid, shrouded in darkness. "Come out here, boy! Let's get a look at you!" he shouted to the vehicle.

Cid got out of the truck. He was wearing a Tiny Bronco U. t-shirt and jeans, which highlighted his general slimness and good shape. He had muscles, but nothing humongous. His large blue eyes were very striking, which looked interesting with his short, blond, straight hair. Overall, he had a curious, intelligent manner about him.

"Well, looks like you'll fit right in," Ronald said. "Let's get you inside and fix you a room."

Cid started into the house, then turned to Charles. "You wanna come in and have a drink or something?"

Charles shook his head. "Naah, I'm off to plan our next expedition to Mt. Nibel. The world calls me, you see. I may not see you again, Cid, so I'll say my fond farewells." He got in the truck and started the engine. "Good luck with farm life. By the way, Amanda told me that somebody will pick you up in six days for the first interview."

Cid furrowed his brow. "How many of these interviews am I going to have?"

"Don't ask me: it's HER graduate thesis. Ain't she a looker?"

Cid sneered at him. "You like her or something?"

"Oh, no! She's too....well....college for me. You know what I mean?"

"Sure."

Charles waved as he drove off.

=========================

Six days later, at Tiny U.........

Amanda sat down in her chair at her dorm room, then invited Cid to sit. Cid took a seat in the yuppie-like chair, which was more like a hollowed-out halfsphere sitting on a cylinder.

"Nice furniture." Cid commented as he tried to get comfy.

She noticed his struggling. "You get used to it. Anyway, are you ready to answer questions?"

He nodded. She pulled out a pen and held it to the stationary. "What is your name?"

"You know my name."

"For the record."

Cid shrugged. "Cid Gainsborough."

"Is this your parent-given name?"

"Nope. I don't have parents. I don't remember ever having parents."

Amanda inquired, "You lived in the jungle for how long?"

"As long as I can remember."

"And yet, you know of things like language, parents, and furniture. Where did you learn of them?"

Cid thought. "I don't know. I just happen to know what they are and what context they are used in."

She scribbled furiously. "How is it on a farm?"

"Well, the breaks should be longer, and it's hard work harvesting wheat. All-in-all, though, it's nice to be living with others for once."

"How are your table manners?"

"Fine, thank you."

Amanda furrowed her brow at the remark, then wrote more.

========================

This cycle of events went on for several weeks. Cid, once a week, would go to Tiny U. and get grilled. Otherwise, he would simply work on the farm.

One day, while he was exiting the school, he stopped at a vending machine for a candy bar. Then he heard a voice that was quite familiar.

"Okay, students, Tion and I are gonna tell you about our amazing find in the Nibel Mtns.," came a voice from a nearby classroom. Cid went to the door. Advanced Archaeology, read the door. He peeped in, to see a full class, all stadium-seated and staring and Charles and Tion, who were at the front of the class, making large gestures. The whole ridiculousness of Charles trying to teach made Cid snicker.

Tion heard this and nudged Charles. "Hey, Chuck, someone's laughing at you..."

Charles's face turned red. "Who thinks I'm funny?!"

Cid said, "Oops..." Everybody stared at the barely open door.

Charles gestured for whoever was behind the door to step forward. His eyes widened when he saw whom it was. "HEY! Cid! C'mon down here!"

As Cid descended, Charles joked, "And this happens to be another one of our finds. Not every day you see a 22-year-old in a cave."

Tion sniffed into a bag and clamped his sterilized mouth around something, and brought it to the table.

Charles saw what Tion did. "This, class, is our latest. An odd, green orb. It gives off no radiation, yet glows on its own. It also ma~"

"I know what it is," Cid interrupted, like he was saying that the sky is blue.

Tion's jaw dropped. "Wow, you do? What is it?"

Cid patted Tion's furry head. "Calm down. It's just a Materia."

A student blurted out, "Materia?! That's mythology!"

Another said in reaction, "Hey, haven't you ever been to Wutai?! They've got Materia!"

The first said, "Naw, that stuff's just a hoax. They don't even say it's Materia."

Charles silenced the class, then turned to Cid. "You know this thing?"

Cid smiled. "I can use it, too."

Tion said, "Do it, man!"

Cid looked at the orb closely, then stated, "Not in here. That'd be dangerous."

==========================

Outside, with Charles, Tion, the dean, Rappaport, Cpt. Vixor, and Amanda watching, Cid held the Materia in his hand. He closed his eyes and concentrated hard on the effect he desired. The orb began to grow more fiercely.......fiercer.......fiercer.......

BOOM! was the sound as large orbs of red flew out and exploded, demolishing a tree. The crowd was sufficiently stunned.

Cid looked down at it. "It's old. That's why it took so long to use. It hasn't done this in awhile."

Charles walked up to Cid and shook his hand. "Man, that was INCREDIBLE! Materia can do that?!"

Cid replied, "Only when they're this strong."

Charles stared blankly. "Huh?"

"This particular Fire materia is a mastered materia. It can get no stronger."

Amanda gasped. "Mastered?! Then that means...."

Cid nodded. "This was the Fire materia of the great Cloud himself."

==========================

Amanda pouted as she sat in the transport unit that was moving the diggers through the mountain's new trees to the site of the materia. Cid sat next to her and said, "What's wrong?"

"That darn John! Why'd he even bother?!"

"Oh, John. Why the problem with him?"

Amanda sighed. "When he found out that I was coming along on this trip to continue my research with you, he flaunted his status as the nephew of the dean and demanded to come, too. He's in the other vehicle. Did you meet him?"

Cid rolled his eyes. "He introduced himself to me. He's really snooty, isn't he?"

"ALL THE TIME."

Cid grinned. "Obviously he likes you."

"No duh." She smiled a little. "In fact, that reminds me. Do you want to hear my thesis on the report about you?"

He nodded. She continued, "It's about your level of intelligence. How can you, who was raised in the jungle without any parents or teacher, be so smart while some people in civilization can be so stupid?"

Cid shrugged. "Maybe some people just don't get it." Then they heard a noise from outside. Amanda rolled down the window to see John hanging out the window.

"Yoo-hoo, sugarlips!" John called out. "Why didn't you come into this unit?"

"It's about my nonviolence stance," Amanda shot back. "If I was breathing the same air as you, I'd drop the ideal immediately."

John stared blankly for a couple of seconds, then laughed. "Oh, you tease!"

"That's one of those people who don't get it," Cid whispered. Suddenly, John wore the hat of a new Needle Kiss dropping.

Charles, standing behind the two, said, "Serves him right for sticking his head out the window. Could've been headless from a close encounter with a tree trunk." Cid couldn't help smiling a little.

=========================

The mountain had eroded somewhat since Cloud last walked its rocky paths. The reactor no longer existed there, and a small cave took its place. Captain Vixor, once more, headed the expedition in, along with the "guest expert" on the findings, Cid.

Charles and Tion, walked beside Cid, flashed their lights around the dark cave to see if anything could be found. "Nothin'." Tion muttered.

Vixor walked over to Cid and pointed at a spot on the ground in the back of the cave. "This is where the materia was found. There was nothing else in here."

Cid nodded and began to search. He looked extensively around the area, searching for something. Tion and Charles joined in the examination. After a while, Cid said to Charles, "Boost me up. I'm going to see if the ceiling holds any answers." Cid stood on Charles's shoulders and examined the area. Then, his hands, pushing against the roof of the cavern, went upwards quickly.

"Ah-ha," Cid said. "Hand me a flashlight." Tion, clamping his in his mouth, tossed it up to Cid. Cid shone it in the area where his hands went up. A hole.

Vixor grinned. "Good job. Tion, get up there and examine it."

"I'll go, too," said Cid. "I want to see this as well."

Charles looked at both Tion and Cid, then said, "Oh, no, you don't! You're not just gonna leave me here with no one to talk to while you go off exploring! I'm coming, too!"

Cid shrugged and Tion laughed at his friend. Some flunkies got a ladder and the trio climbed up into the hole. They then began to crawl into a cramped tunnel. Tion had the easiest time of it, while Cid and Charles stayed on hands and knees. Suddenly, a quiet glow up ahead got Cid moving faster.

"It's a command materia! This one is Deathblow. Also mastered," Cid said thoughtfully.

"So, what are you saying?" said Charles. "That's also one of Cloud's materias?!"

"Takes a lot to master Deathblow. I'd say that your assumption is right, Charles," Cid replied, gazing into the orb's light.

Tion nudged Charles. "Whaddya know, Chuck?! You might be a scientist!" Charles messed up Tion's mane for the remark.

Cid then said, "Ohmigod! C'mere!" The two came as fast as they could, to see another hole, but overflowing with materia.

Tion gasped. "Whoa! Look at all that!" Charles nodded. "Those materia must be Cloud's materia."

Cid grabbed at the orbs and concentrated, feeling them. "Most definitely mastered." Then, he kicked the pile down, leaving room for the three to climb down. They all descended and saw the most magnificent sight of their lives.

Charles whispered, "Incredible...."

Cid walked up to the green, blue, yellow, and purple orbs. Then, liked he remembered something, started to dig through the materia. "Odd......"

Charles was about to ask Cid what was missing, when the corner of his eye caught Tion, shaking uncontrollably and eyes widened to a humongous degree.

Cid, unaware, grabbed two red orbs. "All this and only two summons. Very odd indeed......"

Charles started to back away from his friend. "Tion...."

Tion let out an earth-shattering roar and plunged into the materia. Cid jumped away from it when he saw this. Then, two gravity shots erupted from the pile of spheres and sent Cid and Charles through the wall, destroying it and leaving them at the feet of Vixor.

Vixor picked them up quickly. "What happened to you two? Where's Tion?!"

Suddenly, a burst of light sent them all outside the cave. Tion walked out, with all the spheres behind him, and pounced on Vixor, taring him to pieces. During this, Cid ran to the transport unit and saw Amanda in an argument with John. Cid didn't have a chance to hear it, since he grabbed the two off them and hauled butt out of it. They could have protested, but then Tion cast Flare on the units, reducing them to ashes. Charles joined the three, and watched for a second as Tion began to slaughter all the workers. Then they ran.

============================

They ran for what felt like hours, until they were finally out of Nibelheim itself. They all collapsed on the beach of the small inlet that graced the town, taking drinks and dunking their heads in the water.

Amanda spoke first. "What happened there?"

Charles said, "We found all of Cloud's materia in the back of the cave. Then, Tion just started to go nuts. He smashed the cave, and started to kill everyone."

John, lying down, said, "Figures a Rash would go insane."

Charles kicked John in the side. "I'll have you know that Rashions are fine souls! True intelligence! Which is more than I can say for you! MY BEST FRIEND IS A RASHION!!" Charles sat again, dropping his head. "Or, at least, my ex-best friend."

Amanda walked to Charles and put her hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry. We'll find out what really going on."

Cid suddenly spoke up. "It's getting dark. We should find shelter."

John said, holding his rib cage, "Why don't we just go back into Nibelheim and stay at Lockheart Inn?"

Amanda frowned. "I am not going in any way, shape, or form, in the direction of that mountain."

Cid nodded. "My feelings exactly. Let's start moving."

They walked along the beach for an hour, taking in the low sun, lighting the air ablaze, and leaving behind the disaster of the mountains. Then, they came across an old shack. It was clearly timeworn; made of old wood and a small chimney. Charles said, "Maybe whoever lives here can help us for the night."

Amanda knocked on the door. It opened, but no one was behind it. The quartet walked in, wary of what might be inside. Cobwebs hung from the corners of the ceiling; dust adorned the floor. John, in the dark, stumbled over something and almost fell. Charles grabbed at what John tripped over. "A lantern," Charles said happily. He ignited a match and lit the lamp. The shack was small, and looked as if it wouldn't be able to hold four people, much less five. However, there was a table with a note on it. Charles went over to it and gasped. "Cid, this note is addressed to you."

Cid took the lantern and read the note out loud. "'Cid Gainsborough - If you're reading this, it's probably 6:12 P.M.'"

John checked his watch. "Oh, man........it is 6:12......."

Cid's eyes widened, then he continued, "'As you can see, I know much about you. You're quite an important person. And my job is to make sure that what you are going to do goes off without a hitch. Maybe you've heard of me? My name is Bugenhagen."

Amanda gasped. "The great scholar of years past!"

Cid finished it. "However, that isn't what I go by nowadays. You can call me......" After a beat, Charles motioned for Cid to continue. Cid shrugged.

"Sandra," said a voice in the dark. "You can call me Sandra." Out of the shadows stepped a particularly lovely 26-year old woman, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. She said, "And the rest of you are?"

=========================

After everyone had a cup of tea, Cid inquired, "Sandra, how is it that you are Bugenhagen? He died more than 500 years ago, and you certainly don't float like he did. You're not even a he."

Sandra smiled. "You must understand, Cid. When energies are combined to make a new lifeform, gender is not a part of the energy's rebirth. That is a physical matter, and it is determined by which pollen goes into the pistil, if you will excuse the metaphor. Cid, the reason I am here is part of a far larger story. And it starts with Hojo."

All sat back in their chairs and listened to Sandra weave the tale. She went on, "Hojo of Shinra has committed many crimes against this planet, but none so great as to tempt the strange alien creature Jenova into controlling this planet in the name of science. He implanted Jenova cells in the members of SOLDIER, a military force of Shinra; along with his son Sephiroth; Lucrecia, who bore his son; and himself. And yet, his science could not uproot the facts of the study of planet life. When anything of this planet dies, the energy is reborn, but not on its own. It is combined with other energies, making the new birth different. Also, the new birth retains no attributes or memories of the former lives. But Jenova is an alien, and is bound by different rules than our planet's. Jenova's energy will be reborn, but will retain attributes. And those with Jenova cells in them - their energies will also retain traits, but still combine slightly with other energies. And Cloud, who got cells from Hojo's efforts to make Sephiroth-clones, and Sephiroth himself both have Jenova.

"Fact is, Cid, you are the 'reincarnation', if you will, of Cloud's energy. And, in turn, Tion is Sephiroth." She looked at their faces. "You seem shocked. But, Cid, your face asks me 'Why now?'. Fact is, it takes energy 500 years to go from death to rebirth. Sephiroth's energy is back, and yours is, as well. The planet sensed that history would repeat itself, since you would both be retaining characteristics. So, the planet approached my energy before I rebirthed, which would have been right before Sephiroth, and asked me to be the one to retain my memories and watch over the events, making sure they go smoothly. I naturally was happy to help the planet, and so I spent more time in the Lifestream, where the planet taught me all the tricks of the trade in being a referee to this whole ordeal."

Charles finally spoke. "Hold it. If all you say is true, then prove it."

Sandra grinned. "There's plenty of proof. But here's one example that will help me note another part of this story. How old is Tion?"

"He's 84, I think," Charles said.

"Okay. Rashions have a 3 to 1 year ratio, like Nanaki. He was 48. Divide that by three? 16. Tion is 84. Divided by three makes this 28. The age Sephiroth was when he went mad at *Mt. Nibel*. Making sense?"

Charles nodded. Sandra continued, "You see, Cloud lived to be 103. Once his energy was coming to the point of rebirth, the planet realized that he would only be 2 when Tion would go mad. So, instead of birthing Cid to parents, the planet simply birthed him at the age of 19. Charles, you said he was 22. But that's only a guess, isn't it?"

Charles grinned sheepishly and nodded. "Cid is now 21. The age when Cloud beat Sephiroth.," Sandra stated. "Now, I suggest we get a move on."

Cid asked, "To where?"

"To Cosmo Canyon. There's some special things there that you need to see."

John yawned. "Isn't it kind of late?"

Sandra opened the window to show the sunset. "It's barely dusk. C'mon, I've got a jalopy that should hold all of us."

==========================

Upon arrival at Cosmo Canyon, the four survivors were duly impressed. It was a very small village built into a canyon peak, with a large observatory up at the top. Sandra looked upon the place like she was going to burst into song.

The guard at the entrance took a look at the group and said, "Hey, Sandra! Are these the four cousins you said would be visiting?" They all looked at Sandra, who winked to Cid.

"Yep. This is Amanda, this fellow right here is Charles, that scrawny guy is John, and THIS is Cid."

The guard smiled. "Ah, Cid. Sandra tells me you're the kind of person who will change the world someday."

Cid laughed nervously. "Uh, yeah, you could say that..."

The guard laughed. "C'mon in! Farnell and Jacky are waiting for you!" He opened the gate and let them all in. John said, "What is this place?"

Sandra grinned wide. "This is Cosmo Canyon. The home of the Study of Planet Life."

Charles nodded. "Yes, I've heard of this place. Probably one of the only places to retain the same structures as those from 500 years ago. And your home, Sandra." Sandra smiled happily and led them up many flights of stairs, to the observatory up top.

"This used to be my home. Now, some people with interesting pasts live here."

They knocked. A black man opened the door. He wore glasses, and looked very scientific. His eyes lit up behind the specs when he saw who was at the door. "Sandra! You're back! And with Cid, I see." He shook all of their hands. "I'm Farnell. I live here with my sister Jacky and my wife Vanessa. Come in, come in! Have some donuts!"

Sandra shook her head. "We really need to get a move on, if we hope to succeed in our ultimate mission. Get Jacky and let's go." Farnell nodded and began to walk away until Sandra stopped him once more. "And....um....bring the donuts, too."

======================

As they walked down the stairs once more, Jacky explained to Cid who they were. "We're the descendants of Barret Wallace, one of Cloud's greatest allies. Barret, after the 'great event', came here and became a Planet Life scientist. It's been the family trade for generations."

Cid nodded as he climbed down the ladder. "But what is it that's so important it can't wait for us to sit down?"

Farnell cut into the conversation. "You have to know this about Sandra. We've known her all of her life, and yet she always seemed odd. Then she told us her great secret, and we've been helping her plan this moment ever since. It's what her whole life is about, and she's very determined to not fail."

They reached a large, sealed metal door. Two sensors rose. Jacky and Farnell put their hands in front of the sensors at the same time, opening the door. They all descended into a green, warped, downwards tunnel.

Sandra said, "As you all can guess, the Crater at the North Cave has been heavily explored. What most people don't know is that Cosmo Canyon was the first to get there."

Farnell added, "And what we found was better than anything else in that big hole. The family's been working on restoring it for about 400 years, keeping it down here. And now, as you've shown up, we had just finished our repair."

They reached bottom and went through the opening into the cave. It had been hollowed out to make a large amount of room. And in it, the Highwind sat, fully restored and looking newer than ever. Charles looked in awe, as did the rest. Cid approached the airship and touched its side. Like hard metal. "It seems like it's been improved upon."

Farnell and Jacky weren't sure what Cid meant until Sandra whispered to them, "One of the attributes he gained wasn't Cloud's memory, but Cloud's knowledge of things. He knows what the ship's supposed to feel like." They nodded in acknowledgement. "We've made some changes from the original design, due to stronger alloys and better engines over the span of time."

Sandra pressed a button on a small remote in her pocket, allowing a ladder to drop. "Well, let's hop aboard."

Amanda looked puzzled. "What, we're getting on now?" Sandra nodded. "This is going to be our home from now on. Living quarters have been added. Enough for one room per person," the former scholar stated.

=====================

As the quiet night began, small children began to be tucked into bed. Adults went downstairs to snuggle in the warmth of their loved ones. And the people of Cosmo Canyon, fully aware of the project lurking beneath their village, stood in the courtyard, beside Cosmo Candle. They were waiting, waiting for the flight. All went quiet, and none moved as each individual stared at the sky with silent concentration.

After 5 minutes, the ground began to move. Suddenly, the citizenry saw as the Highwind, supported by its virtually unscratchable alloy shell and modern rocket boosters, burst from the depths of the Cave of the Gi, brightening the sky once more, gloriously soaring across the stratosphere. The people all hollered and cheered, and two black scientists sniffed, as they knew the adventure had begun....

====================

"AAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!" John screamed as he looked over the side of the airship. "Oh, god, I'm gonna puke....." He bent over and lived up to his word. Charles, taking in the moving air and the high thrill of flying, snorted in disgust at John's antics and continued to enjoy the experience.

Meanwhile, Cid and Amanda talked with Sandra in the cockpit. Sandra said, "This airship was the only joy of Cid Highwind's life until he reached outer space. It was THE airship in which Cloud flew into the North Cave. It was greatly damaged in an explosion of Spirit Energy from the crater after their final battle with Sephiroth. And now, it is ours to use."

Amanda asked, "What do we do now?" Sandra replied, "Well, to end the chain of events, Cid must face Tion one-on-one and defeat him. Even after Cloud and his friends destroyed what was called Seraph Sephiroth, Cloud was summoned back to finish Sephiroth off on his own, using the Omnislash technique. But that's not going to be what we do right now. As you can see, Cid has no weapon, let alone any Materia."

Amanda said, "But Tion took all the Materia. It was lying in Mt. Nibel." Cid got their attention. He said, "Actually, not all of the Materia was there. Only two Summon materias were there."

Amanda scratched her head in confusion, but Sandra said in excitement, "That's right! You see, Amanda, Summon materia call forth powerful beings to aid you in battle. And there's a good reason why only two were at Mt. Nibel. After the meteor, the party of eight people -- Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Cid, Nanaki, Reeve, Vincent, and Yuffie -- went their separate ways. Though Cloud and Tifa, who had become a couple that would last the rest of their lives, kept the Magic, Command, Support, and Independent materias, the

Summons were split up between them for protection of wherever they lived. Cloud and Tifa had only two summons: Shiva and Neo Bahamut. Tion has those, but not the others."

Cid nodded. "And he'll probably be coming for those other Summons." Then his eyes lit up. "Who has Knights of the Round, Sandra? Cloud probably mastered that, too!"

Sandra said, "Yeah, he did! I think Yuffie took that one, along with four others! The greedy little pig..." Then she reached in her pockets. "Oh, yeah! Farnell gave me these two Summons that Barret took!" She handed Odin and Ramuh to Cid. Cid grinned and said, "Let's rocket!!"

=========================

Landing outside of Wutai, the five walked in. John, upon seeing the place, immediately ran off to go buy Wutai merchandise. The other four were properly disgusted. Charles said to Sandra, "What's the big deal about this place?"

Sandra shook her head. "Yuffie, upon getting five Summons, created a little family business of deception. While most other places took care not to make a big deal out of the 'great event', (except for Nibelheim, which notes the fact that Cloud and Tifa spent the remainder of their years in Strife Mansion, formerly Shinra Mansion), Wutai began to say that their town was 'the place where it all happened'."

Cid snorted. "That's not true. Barely anything happened in Wutai."

Sandra smiled at Cid. "There's that Cloud knowledge of yours. Anyway, what Yuffie and her descendants failed to tell anyone was what the Materia actually was. Soon, people just forgot. In fact, I've heard the story they use for the five orbs. It's completely made up, probably because they don't know the real reason."

Amanda nodded. "Well," she said, "we ought to go and get those Materia. We'll approach the descendants of Yuffie and ask to borrow the Summons. Money's not a problem, either, since we know John brought his checkbook. Remember, he's Mr. Dean's Nephew." Cid and Amanda walked over to John, who had just bought a photo.

"Look!" he said. "It's Cloud standing in front of the Five-Storied Pagoda, waving! This is 500 years old, and I just bought it!" Cid took the framed picture and examined it. "The eyelashes are too long and the waist is too small," judged Cid. "Chances are, that's Yuffie doing a cheap imitation."

John's jaw dropped. Then he threw the frame back at the salesperson. "You jerk!" He started to pound the ground. "I paid 10,000 gil for that thing! Ow.." he said, holding his bruised knuckles.

========================

"You people must take me for a complete sap," said Bonnie Kisaragi. "Those five orbs are the biggest sell I have. Nobody knows what they are, but they make people flock."

John, standing in front of everyone else, said, "I have a LOT of money. I can pay enough to compensate for your loss while we borrow it."

Bonnie laughed at him. "No way! One of those orbs is a family heirloom! You can't possibly pay enough money! Anyway, I simply don't want to, and I enjoy being able to say that. So beat it, before I get tough with you." Charles started to reach for his gun, snarling. Bonnie caught sight of that and quickly said, "Oh no, you don't." She held up some small objects. "These little things right here will get you outta here if you don't leave now. They're Dragon Scales, and they'll flood you so fast you'll be fishing in your ears."

The group frowned, and started to leave. Before she left, Amanda turned to look at the sign that said "Bonnie Kisaragi". She snorted and quipped, "I see your family's too stupid to realize that the girl takes the name of the husband." With that, she left.

Bonnie grabbed the sign and said, "She does?!"

========================

"Fantastic," Charles muttered as he sat on a bench. "Now what are we going to do?"

John, not listening to anyone, "How could she even think I didn't have enough money..."

Amanda, answering Charles, said, "Well, if we can't get the Summons with her permission, we'll have to get them without her permission." The wind started to kick up a little as she continued. "You see, we can sneak in at night while she's asleep. She doesn't look like too much of a diligent worker."

Sandra brushed the hair out of her eyes as it blew into her face. "But wouldn't she have security measures?"

Amanda quickly turned to Sandra, since it took her face out of the wind. "Naah, she probably uses her money for expensive living, not for business. Anyway, we'll ~"

Cid cut Amanda off. "Anybody hear that?" "Hear what?" John replied.

Charles nodded. "Sounds like strong winds coming." Amanda, facing the sea, said, "Looks like it, too." She was staring at a large tornado.

As the tornado came closer, the five prepared to hide. But Cid grabbed some Wutai binoculars and looked at the top of the tornado. Tion was riding the whirlwind, eyes blazing red.

"Oh, my god..." Cid muttered. The other four, being able to see Tion now without binoculars, came out and stared. Tion looked at them, and snorted. Then, a green glow came from one of his shoulders. A materia.

John whimpered, "Why is his shoulder glowing?!" Cid replied, "He put the materia in his body. It's the only place he can put it."

Tion started to release large flaming boulders down at the city. Amanda screamed. Cid yelled out, "He's using Comet!!!! Run for it!!!!!" The five of them started to run from the carnage, as Tion lowered himself to the exhibit with the five Summons. Tion blasted the door open with a gravity shot and grabbed one summon. Then, he mounted the tornado and left the city in ruins.

Cid, seeing this, ran back. The others followed him into the museum. He grabbed at the four Summons, then stamped the ground. "He's made off with Knights of the Round!" Everybody groaned. Then Bonnie came up to them, covered in debris. "Whoa!! What was that?!"

Charles grinned at her. "What we're fighting."

Bonnie collapsed. Then she got up and said, "Whoa, no wonder you wanted these! Take 'em! Just give that pansy a smack for me, okay?" Cid nodded, but thought, Pansy?

Sandra picked the four orbs up. "Which are these, Cid?"

Cid concentrated on them. "Ifrit, Leviathan, Kjata, and Phoenix. Not bad."

========================

After they were hovering in the air again, everybody sat and tried to make sense of what had just happened.

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!" John screamed. Amanda took no hesitation in smacking him. John looked at her liked that was a love pat, which prompted her to gag and go sit by Cid.

"We need to get Typoon and Bahamut ZERO. Those are the next strongest summons," Cid noted.

"But wouldn't Tion be going after those as well?" Amanda protested. "No," Cid replied. "If he were after ALL the summons, he would have taken the other four at Wutai. And if he were after only the powerful ones, he would have taken Phoenix along with Knights of the Round. But all he took was Knights, which means that he wants to assure that no one can use that against him. He must be powerful enough to fend off the other summons."

Charles said, "Then isn't our chase of these orbs useless if we can't stop him with them?"

Cid shook his head. "He's forgetting about me. He simply wanted to assure that he had the most powerful summon in his possession. We can get all of the other summons and use all of them at once, making an attack that even he can't withstand."

Sandra added, "But we should get them as quickly as possible, before any other city suffers." Cid nodded. "So, where are they? Who has them?"

Sandra tought, then spoke. "Reeve had Typoon, along with Titan and Choco/Mog. He lived in Costa del Sol, after buying the Cloud Villa from Cloud. Cid had Bahamut ZERO, along with Alexander."

Charles interrupted. "Oh, that's easy. We'll just go back to Rocket City and ~"

Sandra cut Charles off. "That doesn't happen to be where Cid stored them. There's a small cybercafe in Junon with a safe, and it's got a combo lock."

Cid smiled. "Okay, then me and Amanda will get dropped off at Costa del Sol and you three take the Highwind to Junon."

========================

After dropping off Cid and Amanda, the other three headed off to Junon and landed on the airstrip. Junon had changed, now that Shinra no longer existed to control it. The people who lived below the city adapted the upper part for fishing and made the waters clean again in only 200 years. Now, it was a place for artisans and fisherman, which made for a very odd relationship between the two halves of the populous.

Sandra, Charles, and John hopped off the Highwind and quickly ran to the street and hailed a cab. The cab pulled up and they got in. Then John saw that the driver was a Rashion, who used a special device to work the mechanics of the car. Charles noted John's dismay and snarled very quietly at him, "If you say one damn racist word, so help me, I'll tare your uncle dean-o a new bowl of shredded wimp."

John brushed the explorer aside. "Hmph. Don't see why I couldn't have gone with Amanda..." Sandra heard this and decided to stay out of the conversation by telling the driver where to go.

Charles slapped his forehead. "You freakin' idiot. Can't you see that she's telling you to take a hike?"

"She couldn't possibly be doing such. I'm loaded."

Charles snorted. "Yeah, like a squirt gun. She's far too much for you, anyway. She'll do even worse damage to you in five seconds than I could in five hours." Charles smiled a little. "I figured she'd be going off with Cid....it's pretty obvious what she thinks of him...."

=========================

Meanwhile, in Costa del Sol, Cid walked out of Sith Villa, brandishing three shiny red orbs. Amanda clapped as Cid blushed. He said, "You should have seen the guy who was keeping care of the place until the owners come back. He had no idea that treasure was in the basement, and now he's digging through all the crates."

Amanda grinned. "Well, is there any more treasure?"

"The largest collection of lint you've ever seen. And a rare description of the wild Moogle. You know, I didn't know that Moogles went through dance trends." Amanda laughed. "You've got to be kidding me!" Cid snickered. "Nope. Those little guys even had a disco period. According to the chart, it lasted two days." They laughed so hard they fell onto the sidewalk, then immediately got up after discovering how hot the pavement was.

Amanda looked out towards the beach. "We've got some time before the others get back: Let's have a beach party!"

Cid furrowed his brow. "Two people? Having a party?"

Amanda nodded and dragged Cid all the way to the swimsuit shop. After they got all changed, Amanda took a look at Cid's getup. It screamed 'surfer dude'. After some more laughter, they both ran down to the water and jumped in, which instantly spawned a splash fight. They enjoyed this for about twenty minutes, until someone screamed, "TORNADO!!!!"

Cid and Amanda quickly ran to the town square, where the all-too-familiar tornado started to approach. Cid whispered, "Something's wrong. There's no wind kicking up." Amanda whispered back, "Maybe destruction's not what's in mind...."

The tornado lowered Tion to six feet above the ground, and he flew right up to the duo. "Having fun?" Tion said, in an uncharacteristically deep voice. "Enjoy it now. You can't stop me anymore, CLOUD......" He began to move in the direction of Corel Desert, but he hit his head on the Costa del Sol bar sign. Growling, Tion continued until he was high above the desert. He began to glow red.

Amanda and Cid stood in the middle of the square, paying close attention to what was happening.

Suddenly, 13 great knights appeared from the sky. But, instead of the great damage they usually do, they started digging into the sand. They stopped digging after thirty seconds, and started to surface. One kinght, after appearing, produced a white claw appeared from the bowels of the dirt. The Ruby WEAPON cropped up and bowed towards the tornado.

Cid could only look in horror at the new messenger of doom. But Amanda was less enthralled. She pulled at him and he snapped out of the trance. They started to leave the town, but Cid noticed something where Tion had banged his head. A yellow materia. Cid said, "Wait..." He grabbed it, hoping beyond compare it was the mastered Enemy Skill materia or the mastered Mime materia. But it wasn't. It was the mastered Steal materia. Cid sighed. "Might as well keep it...."

Then the Highwind showed up. Charles shouted from the deck as he lowered a rope ladder, "Hey, you guys! Climb aboard!!"

Once on board, Cid and Sandra said at the same time, "Did you get the Summons?" They both nodded. Cid added, "But we've got a big problem." Sandra replied, "Yes, we saw Ruby WEAPON from here. I suppose he erected Ruby because Cloud had not beaten it or Emerald WEAPON. And Tion probably wasn't interested in a headless Emerald WEAPON."

John puked once more. Charles, ignoring him, said, "So let's defeat it! We've got a bunch of orbs; we'll just summon its butt back into the ground!" Everybody grinned at the thought of a part of Tion's plan biting the big one. Sandra grabbed the wheel and headed for the desert.

==========================

John saw the gold-plated casino first. "YEAH!!! GOLD SAUCER!!!! Man, we've gotta go there after we win!" Cid smiled. "Y'know, that may be the smartest thing you've said during this entire journey, John. Whaddya think, Amanda?"

She laughed. "Count me in! I'm always up for some fun!" Charles agreed.

Sandra couldn't join in on the happy conversation; she was watching the desert for the Ruby WEAPON. "I don't understand it....how does a big thing like that just disappear?"

Suddenly, everybody flew to the wall, like the vessel was moving all too quick in one direction. Cid screamed, "WE'VE BEEN HIT!!!" The next twenty seconds were a blur as they stuck to the wall like glue. Then came the crash.

Cid got up first and helped everybody else up. "Where are we?" Amanda muttered. John said, dreamily, "Is this heaven?"

Charles, the most coherent out of the bunch, walked out of the hole in the ship and said, "Maybe for you, John. We've hit the Gold Saucer."

A whole bunch of people came running up, along with the manager, Rekko. Rekko said, "What happened to you guys?"

Sandra replied, "We were hit by a large monster and we crashed in, so to speak. Think you could help us?"

Rekko laughed cheerfully. "Of course!! Monsters are a big part of the world!" The crowd around him stared at the oddball manager. He whispered to Charles, "Most people don't know, but monsters are everywhere. They just pretend to be human."

Charles knew the guy was nuts, but wasn't about to pass up the help. "Okay, then. Got any mechanics?"

Rekko laughed again. "Don't worry! My mechanics will have your ship fixed by tomorrow at maximum! And you can stay at the hotel until then!"

Cid got out and noticed that they had crashed into Rekko's museum. Many artifacts were there (like his ancestor, Dio), but the center exhibit was a large, shining sword with an almost purple glint. "The Ultima Weapon...." Cid said in amazement. Rekko caught Cid's actions and said, "Ah, you like? I'm not much for it, myself. I don't fancy myself a fighter." Cid quickly said, "Can I borrow it?!"

Rekko thought for a bit, and said, "Eh, sure. Be sure to bring it back now." Cid nodded and headed off to the hotel.

=========================

"Oh, yeah?" Simon said to his friend. "I'll bet you five Cocoa-Chunks that I can beat you in a snowball fight anyday!"

Billy snorted at the offer and tightened his small mittens. "You're on, dork-pus...."

"Weasel-whiner!"

"Torpid-teaser!"

"SHINRA LACKEY!"

"Hey," Simon's dad said, looking up from his Arctic Farming magazine. "Hurl slushballs, not insults. You two are supposed to be best buddies, remember?"

Billy laughed. "We are, Mr. Simon! We can call each other names and nobody gets mad!"

Simon's dad chuckled. "Okay, then just......HOLY~!" His eyes had glanced upward, as the looming red apparition smashed a giant claw into the weapon shop. He ran inside and screamed, "MARY! Get Janey and grab some money! We've gotta go, now!!!!"

=========================

Cid stroked the blade. It was sharp and shiny. His memories kept going back to having held the sword before, but he knew those were Cloud's memories. Then, a TV monitor in the upper corner of the room caught his attention.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this just in - A large monster has attacked the quaint village of Icicle Inn, reducing it to ashes. Thankfully, minimal lives were lost. Eyewitnesses said ~" Cid turned it off, like he needed silence to nurse a new theory. Sandra caught this and approached him. "What's wrong?"

"I figured out why all this is happening."

"I told you why already."

"But not everything.." Cid muttered, pacing. "What you didn't tell us was that the planet was orchestrating all the events to an extent." He shook the sword at her. "See this? Luck doesn't account for what we had in crashing into the right spot. And in the showdown, the planet's gonna do all it can to make me win."

Sandra smiled. "Good. Nice to have a heavyweight on our side, eh?" Cid shook his head. "But also, I know what me and Tion got from the Jenova inheritance. I got some physical features, like the eyes and the hair color. I have an innate reluctance to simply go and have fun. And I remember what Cloud experienced." Cid sat at a chair. Sandra sat beside him. He continued, "But the scary thing is Tion. If you haven't heard, he just trashed Icicle Inn by way of WEAPON. And it was pointless. Tion has inherited the madness and the violence, but not the form, the memories, or the victim status. Sephiroth had been done wrong, but Tion has no reason. He's mad without purpose, and the concept of the idea is frightening." Cid stood. "We need to take off."

Suddenly, the head mechanic ran up to Cid and said, "All done, mac. Take off whenever you like." The pudgy man walked to the transport tubes and Cid muttered, "Heavyweight..."

========================

It didn't take long for them to find Ruby WEAPON again. He was walking in shallow water, heading in the direction of the desert. But he was a long while from the desert.

Charles said, "You know, I'll bet that he couldn't stand all of the attacks at once. Didn't Cloud and his buddies use a format so that one wouldn't attack while another was?" Cid nodded, and said, "He's not in his natural habitat of sand. If we all attack, then his strength would be about nothing. Good idea, Charles."

After dropping off the other four on other sides of WEAPON, Cid put the ship in front of the beast and set it on hover. Climbing to the top, he screamed, "NOW!!!!" He let loose a combo Summon of Bahamut ZERO, Ramuh, and Alexander. Sandra and Amanda released Ifrit, Choco/Mog, Pheonix, and Typoon. Charles and John summoned Titan, Odin, Kjata, and Leviathan.

Ruby WEAPON howled in pain as all the summons hit, making a large flash of light. As everyone rubbed their eyes and let the color return to their paths of sight, they saw what was left of a shivering shell of a monster, not attacking, with a vague sense of life in its eyes.

Suddenly, Cid's head filled with an odd, gravely voice. The voice of the WEAPON.

Only you, Strife, could have beaten me, the voice echoed. In any form, you can beat me and my brethren. Proceed to my waiting master. He shall meet you at the site of your last battle.

Cid snarled. He piloted the Highwind close enough, then got out and cut off WEAPON's head, letting it fall and symbolize their victory.

==========================

As Sandra, John, and Charles opened a bottle of champagne for celebration of a small hiatus from danger, Cid sulked in the corner. Amanda came over and sat beside him. "You look like you're not having fun. What's up?"

Cid muttered. "My number."

Amanda giggled. "Oh, come on. You're not going to die that easily. Anyway, I don't think you're even angry at all. I know some stuff about Cloud, and I know that he was a real party-pooper. You're probably just taking after him." She kissed him on the cheek.

Cid smiled, since he knew she was right to an extent, and he liked the kiss. "Okay, you win." He knew that what he was really doing was emulating Cloud's utter hatred for Sephiroth. A hatred that was generally unfounded in Cid's own life. He grabbed a glass and drank it slowly, enjoying it. Then he realized that now was not a time to relax. "Guys, we had better get Tion now."

John looked up to a foot and a half to the side of Cid's head, having drank five glasses already, and partway through his sixth. "But why now? Why can't we just take a bitty nap before we go? A bitty nap would do all....one....two....nine....seven of us a bitty good...." Amanda shouted in John's ear, "YOU COULDN'T REPULSE ME ANY MORE, BUT YOU EVENTUALLY WILL."

Charles furrowed his brow not in confusion, but in comprehension. "You know something, don't you?" Cid nodded. "WEAPON spoke to me before it died. It said that Tion waiting for me where our last battle took place. And we all know here that if Tion is kept 'unbusy', more lives will be lost. We can't take that chance."

Sandra looked pensive. "Last battle......you think he meant Costa del Sol? Or maybe Wutai?" Cid shook his head no. "The WEAPON also called me Strife, as in Cloud Strife. WEAPON prefers to think as me as my former life, so I assume that he meant the Crater. The North Cave."

=========================

As they all looked deep into the planet's personal unhealing wound, Cid's thoughts were crowded by the memories of Sephiroth's final moments, and the assurance of Aeris's well-being in the Lifestream. Charles saw Cloud's despair in Cid's face, and patted him on the back. "Don't worry. Sephiroth, from what I know, was a powerful and incredibly strong fighter. Tion's just got a lot of rocks." Cid nodded acknowledgement, then said, "The hole looks bigger. Think we could get the Highwind lower into it?"

Sandra grinned as they descended. The rocks were your normal shades of brown and gray. Amanda gazed at the walls with slight worry. "I wonder what awaits us in there?"

Suddenly, the rocks began to glow greenish-white with vehemence. John started puking again, but the puke went up instead of down. Charles roared, "The Lifestream's swelling! We've got a geyser!!"

=========================

Cid didn't remember the last minute, but when he woke, he was on the tip of a small hill. To either side of the hill, mountains. He could see that, past the large forest, was a volcano, but it was blue.

Sandra got up and whispered in awe, "Round Island...." John got up and instantly saw the blue volcano. Still slightly drunk, he ran up the hill and stopped at the edge. "WE'RE IN THE AIR!!!!" John cried out. Cid heard that; the situation dawned on him. "Heavyweight....."

Amanda, now up, said, "What?" Cid continued, "With the planet on my side, anything could have happened on the ground. So now we're far from where the planet can use natural disasters." Sandra agreed. "Clearly it is time for you to face him." Charles got up and groaned, looking at a part of the ship. "The fuel cap's broken! Somebody get a rock to plug this thing up!"

========================

Cid touched the wall of the blue volcano. "Materia....awfully cocky of him to think that he can make a fortress out of all of Cloud's blue Materia."

John, to the side, said, "I still don't see why Sandra stayed behind instead of me."

Charles whispered to John, "Because you've got the repairing capacity of a Cokatolis, that's why."

Amanda, going around the structure, said, "Hey! I found an opening!!" Charles and John started towards her, but Cid grabbed Charles's shoulder. "I'm going to take a separate route. I've got an idea, y'see, and you have all the Summons with you. Use them until I get there." Charles patted Cid's back once more and went off to Amanda. Cid grabbed a tree branch and began to climb.

Amanda, John, and Charles walked into the cavern. It was dark for a while, but then they could see. A skylight adorned the ceiling. It really did look like the inside of a volcano. And there, in the shadows, was a Rashion nose.

Charles snarled at his former partner. "Come out, Tion." Tion stepped out of the darkness and promptly made everyone gasp. He was a monster of many colors, with a large spike of flesh for one shoulder and off-balance feet. His tail ended in a mace, and he had three eyes. But the most striking was his mane: It was white and stretched out to one side, like Tion had one wing.

Amanda wasted no time and at once summoned Typoon. Tion's speed was amazing; he completely dodged it like a slow-motion arrow. Charles tried Bahamut ZERO, but Tion narrowly escaped. John threw the Choco/Mog orb at Tion's head, and Tion just caught it and laughed. Then he held up two other red orbs. One glowed, and Bahamut came and whipped the butt out of the three protagonists. Then the other glowed. Hades came and cast all status effects on them. Tion muttered, "You fools........didn't get Vincent's........."

All of a sudden, Cid dropped from the volcano's top opening and plunged the Ultima Weapon into Tion, then quickly jumped away. Tion howled in pain, and turned on Cid. "YOU!!! WHERE WERE YOU?!"

Cid smiled. "I've overcome my hatred of Sephiroth. You won't see me acting irrationally." They circled about each other, waiting for the other to strike. Cid struck first, but it was vocally. "So, I see you've used the Gravity materia to float the island up. Good job with a particularly strong spell. In fact, it'll probably still be floating after you're DEAD. Hey, kudos on your new look by the Transform materia. Very.......Sephiroth. Planning on getting much dates?!"

Tion, annoyed and angered, pounced for the hero. Cid moved quickly, like he was in and out of Tion in seconds, and then on the other side of the room. Tion stopped; something was wrong. Cid called out to the Rashion, "Looking for these?"

Cid put the sword to his back and held up two orbs: The Steal materia and the Knights of the Round. "Try as you may, the planet helped me in the end. Nicely placed sign in Costa del Sol, huh?"

Tion screamed as Cid raised the red sphere high. "So long, Sephiroth...." he said.

==========================

Sandra had just fixed the fuel cap when she saw the four of them running towards the ship, with the happiest looks since Cloud and Tifa got hitched.

==========================

Cid saw Sandra out in the distance. He couldn't wait to tell her the gory details of what the Knights of the Round did to Tion's body. Amanda yelled out, "Whoopee!!!!!"

As they ran, they saw Sandra run to the edge of the hill and jump off.

Their run of victory became a run of shock.

They made it to the edge, but Sandra was long gone, falling.....

And then it hit Cid. Why Sandra killed herself at the first notice she had that they had won and Tion was dead. Correction: Sephiroth was dead. And he would be born again in 500 years' time. Who was to save the world then? Sandra - no, Bugenhagen - had to be there to guide the hero. But Cid was the hero. Cid knew what he had to do to assure that the planet didn't have to make the fluke of birth it did with Cid again.....

Amanda shouted once more as she watched her hero throw himself over the edge.

Cid heard her, and that was the last human noise he would ever hear. He started to wonder about her.....Amanda.....did he love her?

Ain't she a looker?, Charles had joked. He knew that the explorer was right about that.

He tried to push the thought away, and concentrate on the fall. He passed through clouds and more clouds, falling for a long time. It was more air than he had breathed in a long time. He could see the mountains of Wutai barely in the distance. He was high up on the island, he concluded.

The island where she was.

No!, Cid tried to think to himself. Stop thinking about her! It's too late, anyway!

But he couldn't stop. The way she giggled, the way she was right about a lot of things, and the way that she made him have fun. It was all very appealing to him. Almost like she was haunting his soul. Her very essence seemed to appeal to his senses. And she wasn't even there.

Cid could see that he was falling into the Crater. He was aimed for the very center of the Crater. He would either crash on the rocks or fall into the Lifestream.

The Lifestream.........

It all began to make some sense to Cid - no, Cloud - now. Aeris.......

Amanda was almost exactly like Aeris. Smart, beautiful, sometimes giggly, and fun-loving. Same brown hair, same figure, and same drive in life. He wondered about how Jenova made him reborn with some same attributes as he passed by the Crater's rocks. Could the Ancients also be reborn with same properties? They weren't humans, and they had great links to the planet and the Lifestream. Who's to say that they couldn't reincarnate their being as well as their energy?

He muttered as he plunged into the Lifestream, "Have I just thrown myself from the arms of Aeris and not some other girl?"

Finis

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