I really can't be bothered to think of a suitable title. Kudos to all who know where the temporary title comes from.
The Blunderbuss, attrib.
Writing of Wrongs
The sun was just rising over the rooftops as the Author staggered out of the inn and stared blearily around the town square. He was not, by nature, a 'mornings person,' and if left to his own devices would quite happily have slept for another three or four hours before waking up. Still, he'd reasoned that if they were following this Sephiroth person, as Cloud and Perigee seemed quite insistent on, it was probably best to see if anyone had caught a glimpse of him, or knew where he was headed or something like that. They almost always had, in practically every situation like this the Author had been in. Readers didn't like to hear about the heroes ambling around aimlessly. They had to know where they were going, otherwise the plot tended to stagnate.
On his way out of the inn, the receptionist had informed him that he was entitled to a free, collectible 'plushy,' whatever they were. Seeing as he hadn't yet had a chance to put the thing down, and he didn't have an RPG character's inherent ability to carry ridiculous numbers of items behind his back, he was holding it in one hand. He brought it up and had a good look at it for the first time. It was sewn together quite well, actually. It seemed to be a model of an attractive enough young woman with - for some unknown reason - sky blue hair, shrouded in a dark purple robe. He held it up to the morning sunlight, and an exquisitely crafted medallion on her chest caught the light with the traditional 'ting' effect. He smiled. This really was a quality product, actually. Perhaps he'd try and get the complete set together while he was stuck in this story. It was always nice to have a hobby.
There was a small label stuck to the sole of her right foot. The text on it had worn off a bit, though. Sala...? Sara...? Something like that. It probably wasn't too important.
Unsurprisingly, there weren't that many people up at this hour. Working on the principle that you had to start somewhere, the Author picked a person at random and wandered over to him.
"Excuse me -" he began.
The man, an elderly gentleman of maybe fifty or sixty with a really remarkably rectangular moustache, rounded irritably on him.
"Eh? What what what? Oh, it's you. How've you been?"
"Um... fine?" The Author shrugged and decided he might as well play along. "How long's it been since I saw you...? Must be at least -"
"What in the blazes are you on about? I haven't seen you before in my life!"
"Oh, right. Sorry, I must be mistaking you for someone else."
"So you must, young whippersnapper. The name's Wooster. Tom Wooster. Who are you?"
"I'm... just call me Author. Anyway, I just wanted -"
"Author? What sort of daft name do you call that, then? Speak up!"
The Author could tell that he was going to lose this conversation if he wasn't careful.
"Look, it's not that important, really," he explained reasonably.
"It's not that important."
"Oh, never mind." The Author sighed. "I'm just trying to -"
"Don't whisper, dear boy! Speak up!"
"I'm trying to find out if anyone's seen a man in a black cloak around here! Would you -"
"Oh, him. Yes, yes. He came through here yesterday, don't you know. Didn't like him one bit. Wouldn't even stop to have a drink."
"Yes, that sounds like him. You didn't happen to ask him where he was going, did you?"
"Couldn't help but find out! He just wandered into this square, walked round in circles a few times, and headed off again, muttering so loudly I'd say the whole town heard! Damn inconvenient if you ask me."
"Yes, yes, indeed." The Author felt he'd better press this point. "What exactly was he muttering?"
"Inquisitive little devil, aren't you? Let's see, now..." The man dug one hand into his trouser pocket and produced a tattered piece of paper.
"You wrote it down?"
"Weeell, you never know, do you? Someone like that's got to have enemies, right? So I thought I'd be ready for when they came round. You are the enemies, aren't you?"
"Yes, no worries about that."
"Good." The gentleman cleared his throat. "He said, and I quote, 'Four pints milk, half dozen eggs, loaf of bread...' Oh, terribly sorry, wrong side. He said, 'I really can't spend too long around here, I've got to get across that damn swamp by sunset so I can make it to Junon before the weekly cargo ferry leaves.'"
"He really said that?"
"Oh, yes." The man nodded vigorously. "You don't doubt the sincerity of these ears, do you?"
The Author gave the ears in question a penetrating stare.
"How could I doubt such trustworthy ears?" he said eventually. "It just came as something of a surprise that he would have said so much. Almost as if he was expecting us to follow him."
Still, he mused, that was what happened if you delved too deep into the workings of literature. It made sense that someone would have overheard the bad guy mention where he was going to go, at least on the surface, because then the heroes knew where they were supposed to be heading. If you enquired why he'd mentioned it, well... you generally found out.
"Thanks for your time," he called over his shoulder, turning away and almost walking straight into an attractive young woman. In his still only semi-awake state, it took the Author several seconds to realise that it was Ess.
"Oh, hi," he said cheerily. "Sleep well?"
Ess gave him a half-hearted smile. "Yeah," she replied simply.
The Author nodded pleasantly. "Glad to hear it. So..." He hesitated. "You're coming with us, I assume?"
"I guess you're going to be joining the group now," the Author reiterated. "You are an agent, aren't you?"
"Oh, yes, I suppose so. But that was some time ago..."
"Five years?" The Author was incredulous. "You think five years is a long time?"
Ess glared at him. "Perhaps I should say that I don't really feel like being an agent any more, okay?"
"Oh, right. Sorry. I was being a bit tactless there."
Ess said nothing. Somehow, the Author got the impression that she was actually saying nothing, rather than merely not saying anything.
"Anyway," he continued, desperately trying to save this particular sinking ship, "I'd have thought you'd be pleased to see the team once more. From what I can ascertain, the plot seems to be really getting going now, so I'd expect the others to turn up as well."
"Yeah, I guess so. We do have a mission here, and all that." She shrugged. "I was going to tell them I'd be tagging along before I met you, anyway. Roch's just getting himself ready."
"You're bringing the boy?"
"Well, I can't just leave him here, can I?"
"I suppose not, but..." The Author did a few quick mental calculations. "How old is he? Five?"
"Four. He's matured remarkably quickly, though."
The Author nodded sagely. Weird things could happen, he guessed, if agents and Gamers or Earthians started mixing.
"Well, I won't argue either way," he said resignedly. "I've been asking around, and apparently our quarry's been heading towards a nearby swamp."
Ess nodded. "I know the one. A few hours' walk to the east."
"Really? Any monsters?"
"One in particular, yes. The swamp's inhabited by a huge serpent - they call it the Midgar Zolom. It's not really safe to walk across."
The Author smiled. Big monsters were good news - they meant lots of experience, and hopefully a skill point or two to boot. He was looking forward to trying all sorts of new abilities as the plot progressed.
"Let's go wake the others, shall we?"
The journey east from Kalm was actually rather pleasant. Not a single monster attacked the party, a happy occurrence which most of them reckoned was probably due to their reluctance to attack large groups. Only Perigee knew the truth: it was simply because the game's engine couldn't handle battles with more than three characters, so it had to work round that. He should have realised earlier, although this did lead to some interesting theories as to what would happen when they reached a plot battle. Perhaps under those circumstances reality would have to sidestep the rules of the game or something, in order to keep with the storyline. Such things would give him plenty to think about after this was all over, but for the moment he was just trying not to concern himself about it too much.
"You know," Mr. Big commented as they walked, raising his sunglasses above his eyes to get a better look, "either that large murky yellow patch up ahead is some kind of weird optical illusion, or we're getting close to that swamp you mentioned earlier."
Perigee nodded knowledgably. "We're going to have to cross it to get to Junon," he replied. "You can't get across by foot, though. We should stop off and pick up some chocobos before we try."
Mr. Big raised an eyebrow.
"While we all appreciate the sentiment, maybe this isn't the best time to be buying gifts for the ladies," he observed drily. "Later, perhaps."
The Author tapped him on one ear.
"A chocobo is a bird people ride around on," he pointed out. "I don't think you've got the right idea here."
"So... not edible in any way? Not a tasty treat?"
"How'd we get one o' those chocobo things, then?" Barret asked. Perigee pointed at a small farm, perhaps four or five hundred yards away now.
"There's a... I mean, I've heard there's a farm nearby that rents out chocobos," he explained. "If necessary, we can always buy a lure and catch some ourselves. That might take an hour or so, though, so it's best if we didn't need to."
"Then what?" Tifa enquired. Since she'd come to Midgar three or four years ago, she'd never left the city, and didn't really know the surrounding countryside. "Where do we go from there?"
"Well..." Perigee began ticking points off on his fingers. "There's a cave through the mountain range, then maybe two, three hours walk west, assuming we don't run into too many enemies. Might be one or two small woodlands we'll have to pass through, but nothing too bad. Then we get to Junon."
"I'm pretty sure it's this way," said Cloud uncertainly.
"You've been saying that for the last half hour," Nanaki pointed out. "My opinion is that you're completely lost."
"I'm not lost!" Cloud objected. "I just don't know where we are, that's all."
"We should have taken a left at that last cavern," Perigee mused absent-mindedly. The frustration of being temporarily misplaced beginning to coalesce into anger, Cloud rounded on him.
"And what makes you an expert on these things?" he snapped. "Are you suddenly a geomancer or something?"
Perigee shook his head emphatically. "No, I'm a chemist. What do I look like?"
"So how do you know these caves?"
"I've been around here several times. Mythril is a very useful material to conduct experiments on. It's got twice the ionic potential of normal metals, you know."
"Oh." Cloud wilted visibly. "Okay. Everyone, back the other way."
"Shall I lead?" Perigee suggested as, with much assorted grumbling, the group about-faced. Cloud nodded.
Perhaps a minute or so later they arrived in yet another cavern. This one was different from the others, though, in that through one of the exits, daylight was clearly visible.
"Hey, what's the music?" Wedge enquired. "It's kinda catchy."
Perigee groaned. Echoing throughout the chamber was a loud yet simple drum riff, one that he recognised almost instantly. But... wasn't it supposed to be just BGM?
It didn't come as much of a surprise when a navy-suited man ambled unhurriedly into the cavern, although it wasn't who he expected. Shouldn't it be... oh, yes. They'd taken Tseng out in the motorcycle chase.
"Well, look who we have here," Reno observed flatly, barely making himself heard above the noise. "It's a good thing for..."
"Yo, speak up!" Barret shouted. "I can't understan' a damn word you're sayin'!"
Reno sighed, leaned down and messed around with a small personal stereo hidden in one corner. Gradually, the volume of the music decreased.
"Is that better?"
"Yeah, damn right it is!"
"Good." Reno cleared his throat, and tried again. "Well, look who we have here. It's a good thing for you that you're no longer our priority, otherwise I'm afraid you wouldn't be leaving this cave."
"Rather sure of yourself, aren't you?" Tifa called. "You're outnumbered quite considerably!"
Reno grinned, and produced a long black rod from within his jacket. "I've got a new weapon, you see," he explained. "It's the 'Shinra Electro-mag Rod Mk. VI.' It does all sorts of new things."
"Yeah? Like wha'?"
"Um... It can pick up AM and FM radio. And it can toast a slice of bread in under ten seconds!"
"Sounds pretty useful to me," Mr. Big remarked. "Not in battle, but useful nonetheless. Where can you get those things?"
"So what is your priority now?" Jessie asked.
"Sephiroth," Reno explained, glad that someone had picked up on his cue. "We've got to follow him and find out what he's doing. He's on his way to Junon, in case you hadn't heard."
"Should you really be telling us that?" Perigee pointed out.
"Well, no, not really. But I figured, Tseng isn't around to tell us what to do, so what the hell. It's always nice to have some company on a long journey. I'll see you there, shall I?"
"Hey! Reno!" a young female voice shouted from outside the cave. "Are you -"
"Yeah, coming, Elena!" Reno replied. He bent down to pick up his hi-fi, flashed the group a Mr. Big-esque grin, and left.
"Well," said the Author in the silence that followed, "that was a pointless little scene."
The door to the first-class medical area, on the fifty-seventh floor of the Shinra HQ, slid soundlessly open and I, Caroussis strode in. The nurse currently supervising the only patient at the moment looked up, then tried desperately to hide the expression of surprise on her face when she saw who it was. Caroussis' disdain for his colleagues - for everyone, really - was almost legendary. What on earth was he doing here?
He walked straight up to her and nodded cursorily.
"How is he?" he enquired.
"Um... well, he's got several breaks, and cuts and bruises, obviously, but..."
"Get to the point," Carousiss snapped. "Is he capable of coherent thought? How much longer will it be before he can resume his duties?"
"Er, I... I mean, he..." the nurse stammered, secretly relieved. Now that was more like the Director of Finance she'd heard of. "Yes, his mind seems fine. He was very lucky in that crash. And," she continued hastily, noticing Caroussis glance impatiently at his watch, "I'd say he'll be back on his feet in a week or so. We're doing what we can with cure spells, but some things will need time."
"Very good. You may leave us."
"I, has confidential and urgent business to conduct with Mr. Tseng. It does not concern you. You may wait in the staff lounge until I, comes to get you."
"Y-yes, of course, sir."
The unfortunate girl scurried out, and I, advanced towards Tseng. The Turk's eyes focused slowly on him, and he sat up stiffly in bed. "What are you doing here, Caroussis?"
I, stopped a few feet away and leaned up against the wall. "I, trusts you are well?"
"Don't bother with the small talk." Tseng smiled weakly. "I know you didn't come here to see how I am."
"A most astute observation. I, has no personal cares about your condition. He does, however, have a business proposition for you."
"Can't it wait 'til -"
"No, it cannot." Caroussis walked over to the bed and knelt down beside it so he was staring directly into Tseng's eyes. He was taking a risk here, he knew it. A calculated risk, maybe, but still a risk. The five of the Author's group had discussed their plan of action extensively before they'd entered the world, but the Turks had not featured in it. Still, Caroussis could recognise usefulness in a person when he saw it.
"I, is about to reveal certain information to you, Mr. Tseng. Highly confidential information which he does not wish this company to learn of. Therefore, before I, informs you, he is to invoke your honour as a Turk. Should you decide to turn down his offer, you will keep this information to yourself, regardless of the implications."
Tseng watched him, thoroughly confused but intrigued. If there was more to this guy than met the eye - and if anyone could completely hide their true self, he would have thought Caroussis would be the one - then he wanted to know.
"You have my word," he replied. "This shall remain between us."
"I, is sincerely grateful." I, smiled. "Listen carefully, for I, shall not repeat this."
Somewhere between the Mythril Mines and the port city of Junon, AVALANCHE and associates were making good progress, and looked as if they'd reach Junon some time in the mid-afternoon. By this stage the group had spread out considerably, although that could simply have been because Mr. Big had started singing and no one else wanted to stay near him. It wasn't that he was a bad singer - in fact, his pitch was pretty good, especially for a rabbit - it was just that he'd chosen an incredibly annoying tune, and was accompanying it with incredibly annoying lyrics.
"We're on the road to Junon city," he was singing cheerfully. "Yeah, this trip be real nice..."
"We on da road, on da road," Barret agreed, joining in without really thinking. Wedge, who was waddling along beside him, gave him a rather worried look and slowed his pace until he was a suitable distance behind. Perigee, who'd had this idea beforehand, nodded understandingly and shrugged.
"It's not so bad back here," he said. "You can't hear much."
Wedge looked apprehensively into the dark woods that flanked the path on either side. "I'd feel kind of nervous about travelling through this sort of place usually, but the monsters seem to have enough sense to keep well away," he said.
"They have better hearing than humans," commented Perigee dryly.
"We're on the road to Junon city," Mr. Big repeated, a couple of dozen yards ahead. "Got materia an' ready to fight, innit!"
The Author gave him a thoughtful look, stuck one hand into one of his pockets and began rooting around. After a couple of seconds he produced a small red and white sphere, about the size of a snooker ball. There was a thin groove all the way round it, and the letter 'P' was inscribed into it.
"Gotta get there," Barret mumbled, slightly louder than before. "On our way... Gotta get there..."
There was a slight pause, before the two of them shouted in perfect synchronisation, "JUNON CITY, YEAH!" Well, they started in perfect synchronisation. Mr. Big only got as far as, "JUNON CI-" before there was a flash of light, and he disappeared.
"Hey!" said a somewhat muffled voice from the ball the Author now held in one hand, smiling faintly. "What happened there? Where'd the light go?"
The Author rapped a fist on it. "I never throw useful things away, remember?"
"All right, you've made your point. Now let me out."
The Author took the ball in both hands and twisted sharply. With another brief flash, Mr. Big reappeared on his shoulder, looking rather ruffled. He smoothed down his fur with both ears and tried not to look too bothered.
"Yo," Barret called over, "wha' is that thing?"
The Author smiled knowingly. "It's called a Pokéball. It's a disciplinary device for small fluffy animals." He would have elaborated further, but was interrupted when a lithe girl ran out from behind a tree and jumped on top of him. She recovered much more quickly from the collision than he did, pulling a knife from behind her back and holding it at his throat.
"Now, I know we're not off to the best start, but I'd like to keep this on a friendly basis," said the girl loudly, before anyone could react negatively. Upon hearing the assailant's voice, Ess and Perigee both developed a sudden interest in, respectively, her fingernails and his shoes.
"A friendly basis?" asked Cloud, his sword already drawn. "You ambush us, hold a knife to our friend's throat, and want to keep things friendly?"
"Well, duh! You guys've got like swords and stuff, and I don't want to get beat up or anything. I'm not here to hurt you, I'm just after your money."
"So..." said Nanaki carefully. "You're mugging a group of people who are better armed than you, and hope to avoid their imminent retribution by attempting to remain amiable?"
"Yeah. Look, what's your name?"
"Nanaki," said Nanaki.
"Nice to meet ya, Nanaki. I'm Kasuto Gimlar, of Wutai."
"Greetings, Miss Gimlar. Or would you prefer Kasuto of Wutai?" asked Nanaki, who knew the importance of correct nomenclature.
"Just Kasuto is fine. See, we're getting along just fine!"
"Well then, Kasuto," said the Author reasonably. "Seeing as we're all friends here, do you have any suggestions as to how to resolve this difficult situation?"
"Umm... well, I'll let you up if you promise not to hurt me. Then we can sort out the whole mugging thing."
The others exchanged glances, and the general consensus was that the idea seemed reasonable. Kasuto nodded, and returned her knife to whatever storage place she had behind her back.
"Uh..." said Barret uncertainly as the Author climbed to his feet.
"Okay," said Kasuto, rubbing her hands together cheerfully. "Now give me all your Gil."
"Uh..." said Barret.
Cloud shrugged, and pulled a small bag out from behind his back. It had the single word 'Bag' written on the side of it. "Here you go," he said, handing it over to Kasuto.
"Uh..." said Barret.
"Just out of interest, how much is there in here?" asked Kasuto.
"Oh, a few thousand Gil," answered Cloud freely.
Mr. Big looked at the bag. "A bag that size, and there's a few thousand of something in it?"
"This from the rabbit that just fit inside a ball smaller than his own head?" asked Perigee wryly.
Kasuto's eyes gleamed. "Rabbit?" Then she spied Mr. Big perched on the Author's shoulder.
"Ohhh! You've got a bunny rabbit! He's sooooooo cute!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, dear," muttered Mr. Big, backing away. He noticed the lack of shoulder somewhat belatedly, and dropped to the ground. Kasuto rushed over and picked him up in a very undignified way. She began to stroke his ears.
"What's his name? I've always wanted a cute little bunny rabbit!"
"My name is Mr. Big. And I am not a bunny!" said Mr. Big, pointedly.
"Oh!? He can talk! Make him do it again!"
"He doesn't make me do anything. I can do whatever I want."
"Great! Can you say 'rabbit,' Mr. Rabbit?"
Mr. Big raised an eyebrow.
"I can say pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis if you want, miss," he snapped. Snapping a word of that length is quite an achievement.
"Uh..." said Barret.
"Oh, what is it, Barret?" asked Cloud. "Can't we just get this whole thing over with?"
"How come... she's taking our money and we're not stopping her?" asked Barret slowly.
"Because..." Cloud straightened up, puzzled. "I don't know, actually. Why aren't we stopping her?"
Kasuto laughed nervously. "It's 'cause we're friends, remember?"
"I'm not," muttered Mr. Big.
"That's good enough for me!" said Barret, flicking the safety catch on his arm. "C'mon, let's get her!" He fired several shots directly at Kasuto, but she somehow contorted herself so that each bullet barely missed her. Wide-eyed, Mr. Big wriggled out of her grip and shot back to his usual place on the Author's shoulder.
"You'll have to do better than that!" Kasuto jeered.
"Fine!" shouted Cloud, now fully caught up with the zeal of battle. He charged forwards, with his sword held high...
"I can't watch!" cried Tifa, her hands over her eyes.
But once again Kasuto managed to dodge her imminent death.
"How... is she doing that?" asked Aeris.
"Well, there's really only one way of checking," said Perigee with a smile. He pulled a yellow materia out of one of his many pockets, thought for a moment, then yelled "FullScan!" at the top of his voice.
Likes: Pizza, rabbits, giant mechs.
Dislikes: Not having any pizza, spiders, being ignored.
Current thoughts: "A talking rabbit! ^_^"
"Okaaaaaaay," said Perigee. "Her evade's through the roof, but she's pretty vulnerable to magic, and probably also to any special attacks like Limits that are certain to hit."
All at the same time, every member of AVALANCHE reached for their materia.
"Whoa, wait a sec!" shouted Kasuto. "This is hardly a fair fight! I mean, there's like twelve of you!"
"Hmm..." said Cloud. "She's got a point."
"Why should it be a fair fight?" asked Jessie. "She is trying to mug us, after all."
"Yes, but we're only trying to stop her," Ess pointed out, "not to reduce her to a smear of... oh, what's the word..."
"Grease," prompted the Author.
"Thank you. A smear of grease on the ground," finished Ess.
"So what'll it be?" asked Cloud. "A one-on-one duel?"
"Aw, come on. That way you don't have a chance," said Kasuto haughtily. "I think three of you versus the one of me should be about the right numbers."
I was wondering who would be the first to suggest that, thought Perigee.
"Only three of us, hmm?" asked Nanaki rhetorically. "So who'll it be?"
"Well..." said Cloud, "I guess... me, of course... Ess, and... uh... the Author. The rest of you wait over there."
"Author?" asked Aeris. "You don't have any magic materia, do you?"
He paused for a second. "No, don't think I do. Do you have a spare you could lend me?"
"Sure." She detached a green materia from her staff and threw it to him. "It's a Lightning materia, but it's not very powerful. I don't think you'll get more than a Bolt out of it."
The Author shrugged. "Well, now seems as good a time as any to test this out, doesn't it?" He calmly held the materia up in the air and said, in an only marginally excited voice, "Bolt!"
In the depths of space, light years from the World, a static storm on an ice moon was hauled away from its source by a stray comet and speared out into space...
Travelling as if it had a purpose, as if it knew exactly where it was headed, it crackled past stars, forked round asteroids, until it struck the atmosphere directly above the party.
The entire sky went white, just for a brief moment, before the clouds parted and a solid beam of lightning smashed down into the ground, completely engulfing the would-be thief. Fragments of rock went flying in all directions as the pillar of light dug deep into the ground, then winked out, as if it had never been there.
Kasuto swayed slightly, an expression of surprise on her face, but remained standing. Meanwhile, the Author was grinning as if he'd just discovered the long-lost Prozac materia.
"I think," he said happily, "that we can class my Special FX materia as a success."
"Ow..." moaned Kasuto. "So that's how it's going to be, huh? Fine!" As a blue tornado of particles funnelled into her from the air, she screamed "Pure Thunder Seal!" She sprinted over to Cloud, waved her arms in three brisk motions, then punched Cloud full in the chest, releasing the remnants of charge from the lightning strike.
"Blue special effects?" observed Perigee. He noticed Roch standing next to him, and squatted down to his level. "What was that that just happened?" he asked.
"Huh? Oh, she did a Tech. It's a normal attack that uses magic for more power. They've all got silly names, and you have to shout the name to get it to work. Grown-ups have about five Techs, but I've only got one, 'cause I'm just a kid."
Ess walked over to Kasuto and backhanded her with her frying pan while Cloud provided a distraction by pretending to use a potion.
"Hum," Perigee said thoughtfully.
"Mine's called 'Wind Divide Flare'. Told you all the names are silly."
Kasuto yelled, "Mug!" and threw a coffee cup at the Author. He brought his arms up to intercept it, but he wasn't quite fast enough and the thing bounced painfully off his nose.
Almost immediately, bright orange light burst out from him, making a loud whssshing noise. He stared down at himself in surprise, flexing his fingers and marvelling as the light seemed to coalesce in his fists. "Whoa..."
"It's a limit break," Perigee explained, hurrying up to him and whispering in his ear. "It happens when you get hit too much. You get to do a nice powerful move now."
"Oh, right. Sounds good to me." The Author handed his dictionary to Perigee, who took it without arguing. Mr. Big could see roughly what was going to happen next, and wisely hopped over to the scientist's shoulder for the time being.
Nothing much seemed to happen.
"Um, you need to say the name of the move before you can do it."
The light winked out, leaving only the Author's fists glowing as he blurred forwards at Kasuto.
"Right punch left punch power right left knee right jab left uppercut right knee right jab left jab right punch high left kick power left power right KNOCK OUT!" commentated Mr. Big, speaking so fast it was unclear where one word ended and the next began. Kasuto was lifted off the ground and sailed gracefully through the air until her flight was abruptly brought to a halt by an elderly elm. Unsteadily, she picked herself up again and hurried back to the same spot she'd been standing in before.
The Author stopped and glanced around at the others, returning their amazed stares.
"What?" he asked. "Aren't I allowed to be good at hand to hand stuff too?"
"This is taking all day," complained Kasuto. "I've had enough. Five!"
"Uh oh," said Perigee in the sudden silence that followed. "Everybody get under cover!" All the non-combatants scattered, hiding in bushes and behind trees.
"Four!" continued Kasuto.
"What's going on?" asked the Author.
"Countdown attack," said Cloud grimly. "Her defences are down, but if we don't knock her out before she reaches zero then we've had it. These things are brutal."
"Cloud, what about... you know?" suggested Ess, tipping her head to one side.
Cloud snapped his fingers. "Oh yeah! I'd forgotten we had that."
"Let's finish this," said Cloud, his Mako-green eyes glowing slightly.
In unison, Cloud and Ess cried out, "Twin Brave Air!"
Several things happened so fast that they will have to be recounted in stop-action prose. Ess hopped into Cloud's outstretched hands, whereupon he launched her high into the air in a shower of blue sparks. Cloud himself then jumped up after her. The two of them turned three somersaults in unison, and brought out their respective weapons. Then gravity decided to have a say in things, and they both dropped like a wizard-in-training on his transformation into a bird. Halfway to the ground one of the nearby trees kindly decided to catch Cloud in its branches. This left only Ess available to smash her weapon against Kasuto's head with such force that the ninja was literally driven into the ground.
There was a muffled sound, much like someone trying to say, "Zero" with a mouthful of dirt.
A couple of minutes later, a rescue operation was put into action.
"Could you guys hurry up?" Cloud called down. "Only I think my sword's going to cut through this branch pretty soon."
"Can't you just drop down and we'll try to catch you?" Tifa suggested. "You're an awfully long way up, you see, and it's kinda difficult to reach you up there."
"Seems the best solution to me," the Author observed. "I say go for it."
"Yeah, why not? After all, that way you're the only one who might get hurt if we mess up."
"Oh, right. Okay."
Cloud wrenched his sword downwards, cutting through what was left of the branch with ease. For a very brief moment he seemed to hover in midair, before he plummeted.
No one tried to catch him, and so he landed heavily on Kasuto, who said something incomprehensible into the ground.
"Barret, why didn't you catch him?" Tifa exclaimed, running over to help the rather shaken Cloud up.
"I thought Wedge was!"
"It's okay, I'm not hurt too badly," Cloud interrupted.
"I thought the Author was going to catch him!" Wedge piped up.
"But I'm fine, really."
"Me?" the Author objected, then glanced around the group and selected someone at random. "I thought Perigee was."
"I thought..." Perigee began, but decided it was probably time to drop this little game of pass the parcel. "Never mind, he's down now. What're we going to do about her?"
"We could start by getting our money back," proposed the Author.
"Yeah, that sounds good to me," Barret agreed. He knelt down by Kasuto and grabbed her by the hair with his one hand. "Someone wanna help me bust her out?"
Maybe thirty seconds and a considerable amount of chaos later, the party succeeded in releasing Kasuto from the earth.
"Well?" Cloud said, holding out his hand.
Kasuto spat dirt at him.
"Fine," she muttered balefully, producing Cloud's Bag from about her person and handing it back. "You didn't have to go and use a Double Tech on me..."
Cloud beamed. "Good, wasn't it?"
"It hurt," Kasuto complained.
"That was sorta the point."
"So, anyway," Kasuto continued, deciding to let bygones be bygones and cheering up a bit, "what're you guys going to do now?"
"Oh, we're chasing a man called Sephiroth who died five years ago," explained Cloud. "He's –"
"You don't have to tell her!" the Author interrupted.
"Hey, you're going on a quest?" Kasuto asked, her eyes gleaming. "Like, saving the world and stuff?"
"Oh, wow! Wouldn't you just love to have a beautiful young thief along with you? I'll be really good, I promise! Pleeeaaase?"
"Well..." Cloud was obviously uncertain. "What do you guys think?"
"Um..." said Tifa helpfully.
Ess and Perigee exchanged glances, something which did not escape Roch's attention.
"I think she could be quite useful to have around," Perigee pointed out, speaking for both of them. "After all, you never know what rare and powerful items our enemies might be carrying."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Cloud turned to the girl. "Okay, Kasuto, you're one of us. Come on."
"So... this is that big city you keep telling us about, is it?" Mr. Big remarked to Perigee as the group entered lower Junon. "It's a bit of a mess, isn't it? And not quite as big as I was expecting, either."
"Look up," replied Ess simply. Mr. Big did so, then raised his sunglasses above his eyes and did a quick double take.
"Ah," he said. "Suddenly everything becomes clear."
"Junon used to be just a fishing town," Perigee explained to anyone who cared to listen. "Then the Shinra execs decided this location could be very useful as a naval base during the Mako Wars about ten years back, built that separate city up there, and pretty much killed this place. There's almost no fish around here any more. Follow me - you should take a look at the beach. It'll certainly make you think."
"How'd you know so much about all these places?" Barret enquired.
Perigee shrugged. "We chemists get around."
"Hey, there's a lift over here!" Cloud exclaimed, heading towards it. "We can all go up to the city above! Isn't that where the cargo ship leaves from?"
"Yes, but... the beach..." Perigee insisted, but Cloud had already hurtled off with a cry of, "Onwards!"
There were a couple of guards waiting by the lift. One looked up as Cloud approached and gave him a look that said, in no uncertain terms, "Wha'?"
"We'd like to go up, please," Tifa began.
The guard shook his head. "No one allowed up without a company pass, sorry, miss," he replied flatly.
"Shall I?" the Author suggested, producing his dictionary as the others joined them, one by one.
"It's alright," Cloud told him, then turned back to the guard. "It's okay, they're with me."
"And you are?"
"Cloud Strife, SOLDIER, first class."
"You? Don't be daft! They'd never allow a -"
"Note the eyes," said Cloud simply.
The guard stared at him. "Oh, yes, sorry, right, sir," he stammered. "I'll call the lift down right away, sir!" He glanced over as Aeris came hurrying up. "She one of you as well, sir?"
"Uh... yeah..." replied Cloud, who hadn't noticed that Aeris' eyes glowed faintly as well.
Perigee stood alone in the middle of the town. But... if they didn't head over to the beach, then didn't that mean that girl... what's her name... Priscilla, that was it... didn't that mean she'd get beaten up by the... flying...
"Aren't you supposed to be playing with the dolphin?" he snapped venomously as the girl in question walked past him. She shook her head and gave him a reproachful look.
"There haven't been any dolphins around here for years, silly!" she replied. "They all went somewhere where it's nicer for them."
Perigee sighed. This deviation was worse than he'd anticipated.
"You wouldn't care to give me that Shiva materia your mother left you, would you?" he asked, deciding that anything was worth a try.
The girl's expression switched instantly from playful innocence to distrust. "Daddy says I shouldn't talk to strange travellers," she said, backing off, then turned and ran off towards a house on the other side of the village. "Goodbye!"
Perigee sighed, and wandered resignedly over to join the others at the lift. There went one of the summons. Shame, really. Still - he dug one hand into one of the pockets of his lab coat, just to make sure it was still there - at least he'd picked up the Choco/Mog summon at the farm. You never knew when you'd need these things.
Special Agent Warbling Croft, Shinra Intelligence Division 4, wandered down the ramp leading from the airship 'Highwind's main entrance hatch to the runway below. About halfway down he realised he'd forgotten his suitcase, and hurried back up to fetch it.
He re-emerged a few seconds later, hauling the thing after him.
"Well, thanks for bringing me here," he said to the airship's captain, a scruffily dressed pilot who - Croft assumed - was named after his ship. "I guess you'll want to be off now, won't you?"
Cid Highwind shook his head. "Nah, I've got business to attend to here. Heard the new President's flown in for a parade later today. I'm gonna try and talk to him about the Space Program."
"There's a space program?" Croft enquired as they left the airship in the more or less capable hands of its crew and headed towards Junon High Street.
"Don't you... actually, you're probably too young to remember it, aren't you?"
"Guess so," said Croft placidly. He was 27, which he'd never thought was too young.
"A while back the old guy was thinkin' about explorin' space, to see if there was anythin' out there that he could make a profit from, I guess. Then they learned about bloody Mako, and the project was shelved. I'm gonna see if his son -"
"Rufus," Croft put in helpfully.
"Yeah, him. I want to see if I can get him to start it up again." Cid shrugged. "Worth a go. So what're you here for?"
"I think I'm an undercover spy," Croft explained. "They haven't really made things that clear to me yet. I'm being posted to the Gold Saucer."
"Lucky. Spyin' on who?"
"I haven't the faintest idea. Whoever comes along, I guess. Is the Gold Saucer a good place to find terrorists?"
Cid shrugged again. "Con artists, maybe. Still, I reckon you shouldn't find it too difficult to have a good time." He gave the agent a long stare. Croft wasn't outstandingly handsome, but he wasn't ugly by any means. "I'll bet you can find yourself a decent chick in a few days, too. Enjoy yourself."
"I will, thanks." Croft gave him an amiable nod. "Good luck with your space program."
Maybe half a minute or so later, the lift from the lower city (as it was rather patronisingly named) arrived, creaking loudly and finally stopping with a deafening CLANG. The doors slid open, and out tumbled a grand total of six guys, five girls, and three animals.
"Well, that was one experience I hope we never have to repeat," the Author commented. Mr. Big, who'd spent the entire ride in very close proximity to Tifa, kept silent. "I mean, it was a nice idea and all that, pretending to be a SOLDIER to get us up here, but it did say when we got in that that lift's only meant to take three people at once, so..."
"Aw, stop whinin'!" Barret snapped at him. "It got us all up here, didn't it? C'mon, I say we go have a look around!"
He charged off, presumably following the sign to 'Junon High Street,' and closely followed by the rest of the group. Well, most of the group. The Author didn't seem to notice him leave, and simply stood still, seemingly deep in thought.
"Uh... Author?" Mr. Big pointed out. "Everyone is going without you."
"Wait a sec," the Author replied absently. "Did that descriptive bit up there just say three animals?"
"You're veering out of character again," Mr. Big muttered in his ear. "Stay in the book. No one else knows about the other side of things, remember?"
"Oh, yes, of course. But... three? That's got to be a typo. I mean, we've got you and Nanaki, but unless whoever's writing this is being a bit harsh on Barret, that's still only two. And... ah."
He reached down and grabbed Gopher by the scruff of his neck.
"And what do you think you're doing here?" he enquired.
"Haven't the foggiesht!" Gopher replied cheerfully. "Got losht a while back. I'm not meant t'be in the book, y'know."
"I figured. So why are you?"
"Would y'mind puttin' me down?" he asked. "It'sh kinda hard t'breathe up here, y'know."
The Author deposited him on the ground. "Look, just stay out of the plot, will you? Things look like they're going to get complicated enough without you."
"Whatever y'shay, shonny." Gopher nodded amiably to him. "Y'won't even know I'm here. Bye now."
He turned his back on them and waddled off into the lift. Unfortunately, it had gone back down again by this stage and so he disappeared into the shaft with a drawn-out, "Waaaaaaaahhh..."
Mr. Big and the Author exchanged worried glances.
"What's he doing here?" Mr. Big broke the silence eventually. "Wasn't he from that children's cartoon we did a while back?"
The Author nodded. "Plot holes, perhaps," he mused. "The storyline must be really under stress if we're getting characters turning up from the wrong plots. That's not promising."
"You think we should tell Perigee?"
"Hmm... no, I think not. He's got enough on his mind without knowing about this."
"Perhaps if we ignore it it'll all go away," Mr. Big suggested.
Warbling Croft had to admit he wasn't really sure where he was meant to be going. Apparently the company had arranged a private boat for him at the docks - Reno had reported that AVALANCHE would almost definitely be arriving at Junon in time to catch the cargo ship, and Croft needed to get to the Gold Saucer before they did to set himself up - but he hadn't the faintest idea exactly what the docks looked like, where they were, or how to get to them. Thus, he'd decided that the best course of action was to wander around looking lost and hope that someone took pity on him.
He couldn't help but wonder why the main street was deserted. After all, this was quite an impressively big city. There should be people around. But this silence was almost... eerie. It was... anticipatory, that was the word. As if the whole city was waiting for something to happen.
Croft turned, a smile of relief on his face, to see a smartly dressed Shinra officer - he recognised the uniform as that of a lieutenant - hurrying towards him.
"What do you think you're doing?" the man continued. "Come on! It's going to start in a minute or so, and you lot're all over the place! Hurry up! Follow me and get changed!"
He turned and rushed off. Figuring that there wasn't really much better to do right now, Croft followed, dragging his suitcase after him.
"So... what's going on?" he enquired amiably, matching the soldier's pace.
"The parade, you fool! You're all meant to be in uniform and ready to march! They'll have my head if my squad isn't ready! Hurry up!"
Croft opened his mouth to protest that he wasn't part of the man's squad, then rethought it. He had two courses of action here. He could either stand around and watch whatever this parade was, which wouldn't be particularly productive, or he could join in, have a good time and ask some of the other soldiers if they knew where the dock was.
"I'm sorry," he said. "It won't happen again."
The lieutenant barrelled down a side alley and ducked into a small room a few doors down. Croft entered demurely a few seconds later.
There were already quite a few soldiers getting ready... rather more than the room could strictly hold, in fact. Several of them were wearing uniforms that didn't fit all that well. In particular, one guy was wearing a uniform that seemed to have been designed for someone half his size, while another 'soldier' was only about four feet tall.
"But damnit, I'm not one of yo' soldiers!" one of them was saying to the lieutenant as Croft entered. "Do I look like it? Huh?"
"Oh, be quiet," replied another. "This looks like fun."
"You can't get out of it now with an excuse that feeble," the lieutenant snapped. "We're late! Come on, you, get changed!"
A few of the other soldiers looked up to see who the new arrival was. Most looked away almost immediately, not recognising him and thus unbothered, but one froze once he saw who it was.
"Cr-" he began, before realising that it wouldn't do to let on to the others that he knew this newcomer.
"I still like the sound of this meeting the President business afterwards," one of the soldiers was saying in a female voice from the other side of the room. "Do we get told what to do or are we meant to make up our own moves?"
"I think everything's choreographed beforehand," another explained. "Otherwise it'll look like a bit of a mess."
"It's gonna look like a mess anyway," said a lone helmet, resting on the table in one corner. "I say we do whatever comes naturally and -"
"No way," interrupted yet another soldier. "We've got to do this properly."
"That's the spirit!" the lieutenant exclaimed, choosing not to have heard the rest of the discussion. "We're going to..." His voice trailed off as a loud, only marginally discordant fanfare began to play from outside. "Oh, no. They're starting! Come on, everyone! Hurry!"
The drum beat began.
"Okay, everyone, you know what to do!" the lieutenant shouted at his 'men.' "March in time, and raise your rifles on the beat!"
"Aw, boring!" complained one of the small soldiers. "Can't we do anything fun?"
"No! Definitely not!" The officer shook his head vigorously. "This is no laughing matter! I want you to take this deadly serious!"
"Seriously," the Author corrected him absently.
Almost - but not quite - in time with each other, an interesting-sounding cacophony of assorted brass instruments started blaring from the head of the parade. At roughly the same time, the front few ranks of soldiers fell into step, and the column erratically moved off.
"Left, right, left, right, rifles up, down, left, right," Perigee called, doing his best to keep the others in time. He groaned as they all raised their guns at different, wrong times, and Barret managed to fire his accidentally.
"What? What was that?" enquired a helmet jumpily as it waddled along at the rear of the column, attracting quite a number of confused stares from spectators. "Did someone shoot something? Who? Where? Why can't they make these things easier to see out of?"
"Look out, coming through, 'scuse me," the Author announced, elbowing his way through the troops until he fell into step at the other side of the procession alongside Croft.
"I ask this purely out of interest, you understand," he said, trying to strike a balance between being completely drowned out by the discordant band and getting the entire parade to hear him, "but what exactly are you doing here?"
"I'm on my way to the Gold Saucer," Croft explained. "I think I'm meant to be spying on you there."
"Good." The Author nodded thoughtfully. "That'll be your opportunity to join up with us."
"Yay!" Croft looked around him to make sure he hadn't attracted too much attention with that little exclamation. "Have you found the team yet?"
"Sadly so." The Author pointed over to where Perigee was trying to stay sufficiently ahead of Roch to avoid having his heels stepped on. "You remember how Alpha team was always the best, followed by Beta and so on?"
"Um... no, but yes?"
"Well, they're Phi team."
Croft put on a confused expression, which considering the Shinra helmet completely hid his face from view was something of a waste of time. "Is that good or bad?"
"Well, we were Omega team. That puts them three places above us."
"Exactly." The Author sighed. "To make matters worse, their leader's played an intertwined game and wants to try and keep the plot as close to the version he knows as possible."
Croft shook his head sadly. "I take it that's a bad thing, then?"
"Most certainly. Fiction is about uncertainty. A book would be dire if the reader knew exactly what was going to happen." He smiled wryly. "Much better if the reader thinks he or she knows what's going to happen."
"So what're the others like?" Warbling asked. "The characters who're meant to be here."
"They've certainly got the right sort of personalities for this type of storyline," the Author replied. "They're generally rather extreme. We've got a standard hero with a vendetta with the main villain, a shy heroine with a crush on him, a violent foo' for comic relief... Nothing out of the ordinary, really."
"What about... um..." Croft thought back to FG's letter. "Aeris and Sephiroth? Have you met either of them yet?"
The Author nodded. "Aeris, yes. Very nice girl. We haven't seen Sephiroth in person yet, although I'm fairly certain we have been pretty close to him at times. We're in... um..." he skimmed hurriedly back to the start of the chapter, "chapter six, so I'd expect the first confrontation to be pretty soon."
"Oh, okay." Croft almost walked straight into the soldier in front of him as the column came to an abrupt halt. "Um... what's going on?"
The Author peered forward. "I can't see anything," he observed. "I wonder if something's happened up ahead." He glanced over to the other side of the column. "I guess I'd better head back in case something happens."
"What's up?" he asked Perigee, hastily making his way back to where he should have been the whole time. "Why've we all stopped?"
"This is where the parade ends," the scientist whispered. "On three, raise your rifle and fire, okay?"
In near perfect synchronisation, every soldier hefted their weapons above their shoulders. The crack of several hundred guns being unloaded into the air reverberated around the street for a few seconds as the band struck the final chord, and the effect was only partially spoiled by the cry of pain as Croft expertly and accurately shot himself in the foot.
"Stand to attention, troops!" came the cry from the officers, being gradually relayed down the column. "The President has announced that he will allow one squad to demonstrate to him the skills learned in the Shinra army! Remain in your places until he decides who!"
"I wonder who he's going to pick..." muttered Perigee sarcastically.
"Alright, men!" announced the lieutenant, his chest puffed out so far from pride at being picked by the president that it was a wonder he could stay upright. "We're going to do this well, and we're going to do this right! We could all be promoted if the President is impressed!"
This did not get the expected reaction.
"I ain't gonna be no Shinra captain!" Barret objected.
"I think I rank above a captain anyway," wondered Croft, now capable of speech once more after a helpful soldier had cast a few Cure spells on his foot.
"We could rise through the ranks and bring the company down from the inside," Jessie suggested.
"You could all be given a bonus!" the lieutenant tried again, and continued without waiting to hear their opinions. "Now, let me explain what to do. We have to make sure we do everything in synchronisation, so everyone do what I say, when I say, and we'll get commended, okay?"
There was a general muttering of consent, although the officer could have sworn that someone was going, "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb."
"When I shout, 'Square,' you will raise your rifles. When I shout, 'Circle,' you shoulder your rifles. When I shout, 'Triangle,' you rest the barrel of your weapon on the ground. When I shout, 'Cross,' you discharge your rifles into the air and reload. Understood?"
"What if we're resting our barrels on the ground and you tell us to fire?" put in one particularly pedantic soldier. One of the female ones giggled.
"When I shout, 'Left,' or, 'Right,'" the lieutenant went on, ignoring him, "you turn ninety degrees in the appropriate direction. Now, do I need to repeat that?"
"It might be wise," Perigee suggested.
"When I shout -"
"It's okay, we've got it," the Author cut him off, unable to face the explanation again. "Why the silly code, though?"
"Why... the... huh?"
"Don't object," Perigee muttered. "It's a game thing."
"So how much longer must we hafta wait?" Barret complained. "Let's get this outta da way!"
"The President will be along when he has finished surveying the less privileged troops," the officer said proudly.
"Well, I'm bored."
"Oh, look," the Author said flatly without looking round, a couple of seconds before Rufus appeared from a side alley, "here comes the President right now."
"How did you do that?" Perigee whispered to him as the President wandered up to them, followed closely by Heidegger. The Author shrugged modestly.
"It's a subtle way of rewriting the book," he explained. "Someone sees the President coming, so therefore he must actually be coming. If you follow my reasoning."
"Very well then, lieutenant," Rufus said, standing beside the officer and folding his arms in front of him. "Show me how good your men are."
"Right, sir!" The lieutenant took a deep breath and bellowed at the top of his voice, "SQUARE!"
About half the assembled troops successfully raised their weapons as expected. There were quite a few who circled or triangled rather than squaring, and Mr. Big was forced to hop a few times, for lack of rifle.
Most of the guns were fired into the air, with the exception of Wedge, who turned a quarter turn to his right, and Croft, who shot himself in the foot again.
Everyone got this one right.
This charade continued for maybe twenty-five, thirty motions, by the end of which everyone was standing in a completely different pose. It was unclear whether Rufus' expression was tending more towards amusement, confusion or horrified amazement.
"And... FACE FRONT, FINISHING MOVE!"
"What's a finishing move?"
"You strike a victorious pose!" the officer told them with only a very mild air of desperation. This turned out to be a grave mistake, as everyone had different ideas of what constituted a victorious pose. To give but a few examples: Cloud took his rifle in one hand and spun it above his head, Kasuto leaped happily several times into the air and made a V sign with both hands, and Croft bowed so extravagantly that his helmet fell off.
"Er..." said Rufus eventually, when Heidegger elbowed him none too gently in the side. "Yes. Very impressive, everyone." Then, with rather more certainty, he added, "I've never seen anything quite like that."
"You're meant to give them a bonus or something, sir," Heidegger muttered.
"Yes, sir. It's good for morale."
"Oh, right." Rufus looked uncertainly around him for some appropriate reward, then brightened up as an idea struck him. "I have here this one-of-a-kind, extremely valuable, collectable soft toy."
"Wonderful," muttered Perigee darkly.
"Why can't we get a special weapon or something?" Cloud complained. "Not some pointless plushy."
"It's not a Sara plushy, is it?" enquired the Author suspiciously.
"A what? Oh, you mean a Schala plushy," Rufus corrected him knowledgeably. He had been quite into these things when he was younger. "No, unfortunately not... Why, do you have a Schala?"
The Author nodded. "That's the only one I've got."
"Wow!" Rufus was obviously impressed. "Do you realise how rare that one is?
"As rare as the one you're about to give me?" the Author suggested.
"Well, um, yeah..." Rufus leaned closer and whispered conspiratorially in his ear, "There're a few really rare ones around. Apparently they only did production runs of three or four each, and I heard rumours that there are some literally unique ones. You know we got the technology to make these by studying Cetra artefacts? Well, I'm pretty certain there are more Ancient plushies out there somewhere." He straightened up and tried to look a tad more Presidential. "Not that I'm into this stuff, mind you."
"Of course not. So what's this one?"
Rufus reached behind his back, produced the plushy in question, and handed it to the Author, who inspected it closely. It appeared to be a replica of a man... sort of. He was wearing some kind of red cloak that shrouded most of him from view, but instead of the normal two arms, this man had four on each side. In every hand he held a different weapon, ranging from a tiny dagger to an immense battleaxe. The Author tested the edge of one with his finger. Those were really sharp.
"Gilgamesh," said Rufus proudly. "Took me ages to track that one down."
"Sir, such generosity!" Heidegger remarked. "You are truly magnanimous!"
"Yeah, whatever," Cloud muttered under his breath.
"Well, I can't stand around here talking to the troops, I'm afraid," Rufus announced. "The duties of Presidency are truly great. Heidegger, how long do we have before the ship leaves?"
Heidegger looked at his watch. "An hour or so, sir."
"Right." Rufus nodded to the assembled soldiers. "Keep up the good work, men. I bid you good day." He wandered off with Heidegger, pausing only to add to the Author, "Good luck with your collection."
After the two had departed, the lieutenant proudly surveyed his men.
"Well done, troops!" he said loudly. "You may have the rest of the day off. I'll see you in training tomorrow."
He scuttled off after the President.
There was a short uncomfortable silence while the others waited until he was out of earshot.
"So what do we do now?" Wedge asked. "I feel as if my life has lost all purpose now that's over."
"We go find the cargo ship, of course," Perigee informed him. "Sephiroth's headed for it, remember?"
"So where's that?"
Roch pointed in the direction in which Rufus had left. "Over there."
"How do you know that?"
"This sign here."
Perigee shrugged. Of course, those pixellated notices that were completely illegible in the game. It hadn't occurred to him that he might actually be able to read them.
"I," he began, before being cut off by Cloud hurtling past him with a cry, once more, of, "Onwards!"
"What's with him?" Mr. Big wondered out loud. "He's acting all Heroic all of a sudden."
"I suppose being on a quest is going to his head," Perigee suggested. "Well, all aboard who's going aboard, I guess."
Prologue: Writing of Wrongs
Part 1: For What We Are About to Receive
Chapter I: Editorial Changes
Chapter II: Insert Chapter Title Here
Chapter III: Biohazard
Part 2: Present Imperfect
Chapter IV: Ahead on our Way
Chapter V: On That Day, Five Years Ago...
Chapter VI: Feather in the Wind (reprise)
Part 3: World Travel
Chapter VII: Twelve Good Men on a Dead Man's Chest
Chapter VIII: Music of the Night
Chapter IX: Drawing Inexorably
Part 4: Crossroads
Chapter X: The Trousers of Time
Part 5: Calculus
Chapter XI: Differentiation & Integration
Chapter XII: The Sunrise and I
Chapter XIII: The Best Is Yet To Come
Part 6: Introduction to Destruction
Chapter XIV: Makes No Difference
Chapter XV: Second Impact
Chapter XVI: Judgment Day
Epilogue: Loose Ends
Return to index