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Cid wars II
    PART ONE: The Curse of Chuck E. Cheese

Cid Highwind, a.ka. Cid VII, strode out the front door of his house in Rocket Town and
across his newly-trimmed lawn to his mailbox. He swung the rusting mailbox door open,
reached inside, and pulled out the day's meager offering of mail. Cid thumbed through it.
There was a Yuffie Cave catalog ("Where the customer is no. 2!"), the new issue of
Chocobo and Rider, and a Nicoderm advertisement.

"Why do they keep sending me this @($*%$%?" Cid said, staring at the advertisment. He
crumpled it up, shoved in his pocket, and walked back inside.

Just as Cid stepped through the door, the phone rang. Cid grabbed it from where it was
sitting on the kitchen table. "Hello?" he said.

"Cid Highwind? This is Godo Kisaragi. Something's wrong with my daughter."

"It took you this long to figure that out?"

"No, no, that's not what I meant," Godo said impatiently. "She's not normal."

"We've known that for quite a while," Cid replied coolly.

"Will you listen to what I'm trying to say? She hasn't been acting the way she usually does.
There, is that better?" Godo was clearly irritated.

Cid scratched his head, a gesture entirely useless as Godo had no way of seeing it over the
phone. "Maybe it's one of those old fake king plots. 'The king hasn't been acting himself
lately.' 'The king's changed ever since that one day.' All that B.S."

"No, this is the same Yuffie," Godo said. "She still likes money and Materia, but now she,
well..." Godo coughed, embarassed. "Er... could you come over here and see?"

"You want me to fly all the way out to Wutai just because Yuffie's acting even weirder
than normal?" Cid repeated. "Dammit, Godo, I'm a pilot, not a psychiatrist!"

"Please...?"

"Oh, all right," Cid VII said. "But not right now. I've got to install a new water heater."
Cursing under his breath, Cid VII hung up and set the phone back down on the table, only
to have it ring moments later. Cid VII picked it up. "Now what?" he said.

"What?" the voice on the other end replied. It was not Godo.

"Never mind, I thought you were somebody else," Cid VII said.

"Cid VII? This is Cid IV. You know, you left Palmer back in Baron Castle after you
crashed there. He's eating us out of house and home now, and we've got to get rid of him.
I'm going to pop by and drop him off, okay?"

"Fine," Cid VII said. "Why the #!*$% should I care? Do whatever you damn want."

"Are you in a bad mood?" Cid IV asked him.

"Of course I am," Cid VII said. "I have to go out to Wutai because Yuffie's acting weirder
than normal."

"That's weird, all right," Cid IV agreed.

"Anyway, I might not be around when you show up, but Shera'll let you in, okay?"

"No problem," Cid IV said, and hung up.
                                    * * *
When Cid VII returned from Wutai in the Tiny Bronco, he found the Big Whale parked
behind his house. Cid VII's visit to Wutai had been an unusual one. Yuffie was indeed
acting even stranger than normal. Unfortunately, he had little to contribute to the situation,
and had thus promptly returned to Rocket Town.

Cid VII swung open the front door of his house. Cid IV, Palmer, and an unknown thin
man wearing a white suit were standing in the kitchen, conversing with Shera. "Dammit,
Shera, what's wrong with you?" Cid VII shouted as he walked inside. "We got guests! Get
your ass in gear and fix some $!#*$% tea!"

"And some lard!" Palmer piped in.

"I can't make tea because we don't have any hot water," Shera replied reasonably.

Cid VII stopped, embarassed. "Oh yeah," he said, grudgingly conceding defeat. "I guess
I'd better do that."

"Oh, don't worry about," Shera said. "I got tired of waiting, so I hired some plumbers to
do it."

"*!#$%," Cid said. He strode through the kitchen -- brushing by Palmer -- towards the
hallway, where Wedge and Vicks, the plumbers, were examining the new water heater
critically.

"Looks good to me," Wedge said.

Vicks looked up as Cid VII stepped into the hall. "Hey, do us a favor and turn on the
water to see if the water heater's working, okay?" he said. Obeying silently, Cid VII turned
a sharp right into the bathroom.

"There might be a little gas coming out at first," Vicks said as the faucet emitted some
sputtering sounds. "That's just hydrogen; don't worry about it. Just don't smoke around it
or anything."

"Huh?" Cid VII shouted out of the bathroom. "Speak up, dammi-". Cid VII never got to
the "t". The lighter that he had just turned on to light the cigarette in his mouth ignited the
trickle of gas. There was a deafening bang as the sink erupted in flames, and the bathroom
walls exploded outwards. "Holy #*%$%!" Cid VII yelled as he hit the ground.

When the sounds of destruction had died down, he got to his knees. The explosion had
taken out half of the house. The two Cids, Palmer, Shera, and the thin man were
unharmed, but Vicks and Wedge were tragically crushed by a falling wall.

"Hey-hey, are you okay?" Palmer asked, peering out of the remaining half of the house.

Cid VII stood up. "Yeah," he said.

There was the uncomfortable silence that usually results when somebody has just blown
up half of a house by smoking next to hydrogen gas. It lasted for several minutes until Cid
IV broke it. "So, uh, what was going on Wutai?" Cid IV asked Cid VII.

Cid VII told him. "That's weird," #4 said. "That happened to Palom and Porom too."

"It's a conspiracy!" the thin man shouted suddenly. "It's part of the aliens' scheme to
control the Earth!"

Cid IV shrugged apologetically. "He forced me to take him along."

"It was Yuffie who killed Tseng and Aerith!" the man ranted.

"What? Aerith dies?" Cid IV said. "Spoony you! Why did you have to spoil that for me?"

"You didn't know that Aerith died?" Cid VII said incredulously. "Hello! Where have you
been? And while we're at... Rudy isn't human! Golbez is Cecil's brother! Janus is Magus as
a kid! Cloud was never in SOLDIER! Lufia is really Erim!"

"The aliens abducted my best friend and gave him nose cancer! It's a conspiracy, I tell
you!" The thin man ranted.

"Wait a second," Cid VII said. "He may be onto something. When was the last time we
had a problem with somebody taking over the media and broadcasting evil stuff?"

"Evil Cid," Cid IV answered.

"Right."

"But there's absolutely no evidence at all," Shera protested.

"That doesn't matter!" the thin man shouted hoarsely. "There's only no evidence because
the government's covering it all up! It's a conspiracy, I tell you! The truth is out there..."

"Well, if it is, Palmer probably sat on it," Cid VII said, lightning another cigarette. The
explosion of ten minutes ago had not in the least bit affected his habits.

Cid IV grabbed the cell phone, which was unharmed by the blast, and dialed Cid V.
"Aren't those interplanetary phone calls expensive?" Shera asked.

"Yeah, but we do get to write it off as a business expense," Cid VII said. "You know,
being heroes and all that @*?%." He turned to his fellow Cid. "By the way, you can skip
calling that phony in a raincoat."
                                    * * *
Two and a half hours later, the Cids -- including the "phony in a raincoat" -- and Shera
were assembled on the meeting room of the Highwind. Cid VII surveyed the group to
make sure they were all there. "Hey, where's the new guy?"

"Cid VIII? I think he got delayed," Cid III said.

"Doesn't everything?" Cid II snapped. "I bet you young whippersnappers have never even
seen a game come out on time. Well, back in my day, every game was released right when
it was supposed to be! And if it wasn't, companies had a lot to face up to!"

"No, not Cid VIII," Cid VII said. "T.G. Cid, or whatever."

"Oh, him," Cid VI said. "Well, he's not really an official Cid or anything."

"Look who's talking."

"Let's get down to business," Cid V said, giving both 7 and 6 the evil eye. "There's
definitely something suspicious going on here. Mid's fallen victim just as Yuffie and Palom
and Porom have."

Cid VI raised his hand to show his inclusion. "I heard it's gotten to Relm too."

"The question is, is Evil Cid behind this?" Shera asked.

"But he's dead!" Cid VI protested. "Pikachu flashed his eyes on the huge screen and the
seizure killed him."

"When I was young 'un, villains stayed dead when we killed 'em!" Cid II said. "We didn't
have any of this sequel nonsense! Final Fantasy, my foot. Pshaw!"

"Well, whoever's behind it, we've got to stop it before it spreads," Cid III said. "My world
looks like the next target."

"So what are we gonna do?" Cid IV asked.

Cid VII quickly issued a warning. "Before any of you answer that question, I think I'd
better tell you about this weird guy we have that shows up and goes berserk whenever
anybody makes any reference to PaRappa." Cid VII was, of course, unaware of the fact
that Hart had resigned his crusade against PaRappa references... for the time being, at
least.

"We, uh, gotta disbelieve?" Cid V said, but it didn't have quite the same ring to it.

"We could go to Wutai," Cid VI suggested.

"$!@#, I was just at Wutai," Cid VII said.

"Do you have any other ideas?" Shera said.

"Oh, all right," Cid VII conceded.
                                    * * *
Gorky was the last to arrive at the Kisaragis' garage. He hurried inside, where the rest of
the Wu-Tai Clan -- Yuffie, Shake, and Chekhov -- were waiting impatiently. "You're late,"
Yuffie said. "We don't have much time."

Gorky sighed. It looked like it was going to be another one of those practices again. Ever
since Yuffie had begun her new habit, the Wu-Tai Clan was finding it harder and harder to
get in complete practices (much to the delight of the neighbors).

Yuffie checked her watch constantly as they went through their rap version of One
Winged Angel. They had barely started the second song when Yuffie's obsessive behavior
paid off -- for her, at least. "Time for Teletubbies!" Yuffie cried, tearing out of the garage.
"Time for Teletubbies!"

"And there she goes again," Chekhov sighed.

As Yuffie flew through the front door of the house, she failed to notice the Cids
approaching. "Hey, there she goes right now," Cid IV said.

Yuffie had left the door open, so the Cids invited themselves in. "Where's Yuffie's room?"
Shera asked.

Cid VII pointed at a rather-obvious looking door with a huge Wu-Tai Clan poster on it.
The Cids followed #7 over to it and almost collided with him when he stopped in front of
the door. "This could be dangerous," he said. "Any volunteers?"

"I thought we were all going in," Cid V said.

"Yeah, safety in numbers, that sort of thing," Cid VI agreed.

Cid VII knocked on the door. "Are you in there, Yuffie?" he said. "This is the Cids. We
have the place surrounded."

"No we don't," Cid IV objected.

"Sssh!" Cid V quieted him.

"Shut up!" Yuffie shouted back. "I'm trying to watch Teletubbies!"

"Come out with your hands up," Cid VII continued. "And don't try anything funny. We
have a hostage."

"Er, isn't Yuffie supposed to be the one to have a hostage?" Cid IV said. "And we don't
have a hostage anyway."

Cid VII turned. "Will you @$%(* shut up?"

"Yeah, go away," Yuffie said from within the room.

"You amatuers really don't have a clue, do you?" Cid II said. "Back in my day, this was
what we did." Cid II ran up to the door and gave it a mighty kick. The door flew off its
hinges and fell into Yuffie's room.

"That wasn't locked, you know," Yuffie said as they entered, without taking her eyes off
the TV.

"'Course, in my day, we woulda had to find the magic boots to do that, and those were in
a locked tower, and to get the key we had to go to a cave, but to get the cave we needed a
boat, and the only way to get a boat was to steal one from the pirate's headquarters, and
we needed another a key to get in there that was in another cave..." Cid II was mumbling.
"Yessiree, games had actual lifespan back there. None of this Parasite Eve
one-day-and-you're-done rubbish."

Yuffie's room was a typical square bedroom. The white walls were plastered with
alternating Wu-Tai Clan and Teletubbies posters. On the left wall, over Yuffie's bed, hung
her collection of boomerang and shuriken, and on the bed sat a boombox. Yuffie herself
sat to the left of the door on the pale-carpeted floor, glued to the TV set, which was
displaying an episode of Teletubbies.

"All right, Yuffie, I think that's enough Teletubbies for today," Cid V said. He walked
towards the TV to turn off, but Yuffie sprang up and covered the TV with her back and
arms to protect it.

"Don't you think you're a little old for this, Yuffie?" Shera asked.

"No!" Yuffie said vehemently. "Teletubbies rule!"

Cid VII grabbed the remote. "Why don't you watch a real show, like Dukes of Hazzard?"
He punched a button and changed the channel to Dukes of Hazzard.

"Noooo!" Yuffie wailed. "I wanna watch Teletubbies!" Yuffie dived at Cid and grabbed
onto the remote. Cid VII, however, refused to let go and tugged it away. Yuffie kicked at
Cid's shins while trying to free the remote from his hands.

"Let go of me, you little @*$%&!" Cid shouted, trying to shove Yuffie away.

"Hey, hey, calm down," Shera said. "Let's watch both!" She grabbed a bottle of beer and
slammed it down on top of the TV set. There was some static, and then a narrator
announced "DUKES OF TELETUBBYLAND!"

Cid VII and Yuffie instantly stopped fighting and plopped down on the floor to watch.
The Teletubbies were driving across up one of the neon-green hills of Teletubby Land in a
car. When they reached the peak of the hill, Tinky-Winky slammed the gas and the car
made a flying leap off the hill. "Again-again!" the Teletubbies chorused. They drove back
up and jumped off the hill again.

"Yeah! This is awesome!" Cid and Yuffie both exclaimed.

"Now look what you've done; you've got them both hooked," Cid V said to Shera.

"Go, Teletubbies, go!" Yuffie said excitedly.

Shera quickly grabbed the bottle off the TV set and the image dissolved into static. Cid
VII looked up at her. "You know, Shera," he said. "You're Shera. I love you, man!"

"Oh, Cid," Shera said. "You're not getting my Bud Light."

"@$#%*!"

"We've got to do something," Cid V said.

"Leave this to me," Cid IV said. He drew his hammer, took a practice swing, and then hit
the TV. Hard. The picture tube shattered into pieces, and a huge dent was knocked into
the top of the set.

"Hey!" Cid VII and Yuffie shouted.

"Yuffie, who's broadcasting Teletubbies?" Shera asked.

"Gawd, do you expect me to know that?" Yuffie said. "I dunno. Probably, like, Shinra or
somebody."

The Cids and Shera looked at each other. "Right," Cid VII said. "I think a phone call is in
order here."
                                    * * *
"Mr. Wallace, I'm sorry that your daughter is addicted to Teletubbies, but as that show is
not made by SIN, there's nothing we can do about it." Rufus reached to hang up his office
phone.

"I know it's you damn Shinra!" Barret said. "It's always you damn Shinra! Don't lie to me,
foo'!"

"Mr. Wallace, I can assure you that Shinra does not produce or broadcast
Teletubbies,"Rufus said. "We own only SIN, Chocobo Network, and the Knitting
Channel."

"Yeah, I know you Shinra be operatin' Channel 1 too, foo'," Barret said. "I kin see right
through yo' lies!"

"Channel 1?" Rufus said. "There is no Channel 1."

"Turn it on fo' yo'self, foo'!" Barret shouted.

Rufus pressed a button to turn on the TV over his desk and set it to channel 1. There was
nothing but static. "Mr. Wallace, I'm looking at Channel 1 right now, and there's nothing
but static."

"That's 'cuz it ain't Teletubbies time," Barret said. "Marlene, when is Teletubbies on?"
There was a reply that Rufus couldn't make out, and then Barret said, "Eight o' clock.
'course, you damn Shinra knew that already."

"Barret - all right, Mr. Wallace, I'll turn it on," Rufus said. He then quickly hung up before
Barret could launch into another rant.

As soon as Rufus had put the phone down, it rang again. He snatched it up. "Look,
Barret, I said I'd turn it on."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Cid's voice said. "This's Cid Highwind."

"Sorry," Rufus said. "Go ahead."

"I want to know what the #$%#$ is up with this Teletubbies #@*$%," Cid said. "What
are you up to?"

Rufus hung up the phone. It started ringing again, but Rufus ignored it and went back to
his paperwork. The ringing persisted. Seeing that it would quickly become annoying,
Rufus got up and pulled the phone line out.
                                    * * *
"That bastard," Cid VII said, still holding the receiver up to his ear. "He's unplugged his
phone. I know he's up to something now."

"We could fly down and pay him a visit," Cid IV suggested.

"Nah, I got to buy Cloud's birthday present," Cid VII said. "It's his birthday tomorrow."

"What are you getting him?" Cid VI asked.

"New pair of pliers," Cid VII muttered as he headed out of the house.

"Why would Cloud want a new pair of pliers?" Cid V asked.

"I figured if he didn't want it, I'd take it off his hands for 'im," Cid VII explained.

Cid V waited until Cid VII was gone, then turned to Cid VI. "It's nice to see someone
enjoy giving so much."
                                    * * *
Aerith strolled out of a bakery in Costa Del Sol, carrying a cake that she had just bought.
"Hiya, Aerith," a familiar voice said. Aerith turned. Tifa was walking up behind her,
struggling to carry a giant tower-like cake that soared up into the sky and vanished
somwhere above the clouds. "Tomorrow's the big day, isn't it? Do you want to see the
cake that I got for Cloud? Look!"

Aerith opened her mouth to speak, but found herself unable to.

"The first floor represents a good foundation between Cloud and I," Tifa explained. "A
long relation betwen a boy and a girl all depends on the foundation, you know."

"The second floor represents..." Tifa's voice speeded up and got faster and faster as she
rattled off what each floor represented. "...and the fourty-second floor represents all the
sights and sounds Cloud and I will be experiencing in our glorious future. Well, enough
for now. I shall explain everything in greater detail tomorrow. See ya!"

Tifa pushed by Aerith, knocking her down. The cake Aerith was carrying fell out of her
hands and splatted on the sidewalk. Aerith sat unmoving for a moment, then got up and
half-stumbled, half-ran, to Cloud's villa.

"Cloud!" she shouted, pounding on the door. "CLOUD!"

There was no response. The lights were on inside, however, indicating that Cloud was
home. Aerith tugged on the doorknob. "Cloud!" she shouted. "Open the door! It's me,
Aerith!"

A small furry figure strode out of the open garage. It was Cait Sith, clad in a blue beret
and a ridiculous-looking fake curly mustache. "Mademoiselle," he said in a hokey fake
French accent. "Kindly refrain from making such loud and vulgar noise. Monsieur Sith is
trying to work, no?"

"Cait Sith?" Aerith stared at him. "Why are you dressed like that?"

"Monsieur Sith wishes to be addressed by his proper title," Cait Sith said stuffily.

"Where's Cloud?" Aerith asked. "Is he home?"

"Monsieur Strife does not wish to be disturbed," Cait Sith explained. "He is watching le
tele." Leaving a puzzled Aerith on the steps, he stepped haughtily back into the garage
where his movie studio was located.

Hanpan, Neko, Mog, and Spekkio were sitting around a table in the garage, waiting for
Cait Sith to return so they could resume the discussion about their current project, When
Chocobos Attack. "This just isn't working," Spekkio was saying. "Nobody has any movies
of Chocobos attacking people."

"Fine, then we'll make some," Neko said. "One of us can get into a Chocobo suit and run
around warking and biting people."

"Cait," they all said simultaneously.

"Monsieur Sith would never stoop to such a level," Cait said. "Monsieur Sith only engages
in the pursuit of quality filmmaking."

"Cait," Hanpan said, "that Monsieur Sith routine is getting really old."

"Well, if you don't want to fake it, then we could just go attack some Chocobos and make
them go berserk," Neko said.

"Monsieur Sith" nodded approvingly and snapped his fingers. Mog whipped out that
notebook that Cait Sith was forcing him to carry and scribbled down the idea.

Sephiroth stepped into the garage, tossing and catching the Masamune. "Hey, guys," he
said.

"Monsieur," Cait Sith said. "This is not a walk-in restaurant. Do you have an appointment
to speak with Monsieur Sith?" Cait snapped his fingers again.

Mog grudgingly flipped through his notebook. "You don't seem to have an appointment,
kupo," he said.

Sephiroth narrowed his eyes. "What are you talking about? You're making movies aren't
you? I've got this great new screenplay I've written. It's called Mega Men Can't Duck. See,
Mega Man, he's playing basketball, and -"

Cait Sith snapped his fingers. "Remove him, si'l vous plait," he said. Neko and Mog
hopped up and forced Sephiroth out of the garage.

"Hey!" Sephiroth protested. "What are you doing? What's up with this Monsieur Sith
crap? Let go of me!"
                                    * * *
Cloud stared intently at the TV as the Teletubbies made Tubby Custard. Even the loud
sawing noise behind him was not enough to distract him, nor was Aerith stepping into the
room carrying a chainsaw. "Cloud?" Aerith said. "What's wrong?"

"Go away," Cloud said. "I'm trying to watch Teletubbies."

"Again-again!" all the Teletubbies cried after finishing making the custard, and started
over.

"You're watching Teletubbies?" Aerith said incredulously. "Is this some kind of joke?"

Cloud stood up silently. Aerith wondering what he was doing, until she saw the
Teletubbies dancing on the TV. "No!" she shouted. "Don't start dancing! Stop!" Heedless
of Aerith, Cloud was dancing with the Teletubbies.

It's like he's under some kind of spell or something, Aerith thought. "Esuna!" she said,
casting the spell on Cloud. There was no effect, except for Cloud shooting her an angry
glance for disturbing his viewing.

The dance ended, and Cloud sat back down. "Time for Tubby bye-bye!" the announcer's
voice said. "Time for Tubby bye-bye!"

"Awwww...." all the Teletubbies said, disappointed.

"Bye-bye, Tinky-Winky," Cloud and the announcer said simultaneously.

"Bye-bye," Tinky-Winky said.

He's actually saying good-bye to the Teletubbies, Aerith thought. This must be a bad
dream.

"Bye-bye, Dipsy," Cloud and the announcer said.

"Bye-bye," Dipsy said.

Once all the Teletubbies had said goodbye, the announcer spoke again. "Be sure to tune in
tomorrow, in which the Teletubbies work in the garden!" Aerith had glanced away from
the TV and did not notice what came afterwards, but Cloud did. Briefly, almost
imperceptibly, Pikachu appeared on the screen and flashed his red eyes.

Hypnotized, Cloud fell to his knees in front of the couch and clutched his head. "Cloud?
Cloud?" Aerith knelt down next to him. "Are you okay? I thought you'd gotten over this."

Cloud shook it off and stood back up just as a Chuck E. Cheese commercial came on on
the TV. He started it at, enraptured. "Hey, Aerith," he said. "Can we go to Chuck E.
Cheese for my birthday?"

"Chuck E. Cheese? You want to go to Chuck E. Cheese? This is some kind of a joke,
right?"

"No," Cloud said. "That places looks really cool. Can we go there? Please?"

If I don't take him, Tifa will, Aerith thought. "Okay," she said. "We'll go to Chuck E.
Cheese."
                                    * * *
"I don't believe this #$%^$," Cid VII said. All the members of AVALANCHE, plus Rufus,
Sephiroth, and Hanpan -- whom Cait had dragged along -- were seated at a table in a
Chuck E. Cheese in Costa Del Sol.

Cait Sith sniffed. "Monsieur Sith is not pleased with the accomodations," he said.

"Cait, cut the French crap," Hanpan said from atop the cat Esper's shoulder. "You're not
cool, okay?"

Cait snapped his fingers as a guy in a Chuck E. Cheese suit passed by the table.
"Excusez-moi," he said in a nasally voice. "Monsieur Sith wishes to express his disdain for
your rudimentary accomodations and cuisine."

"In other words, this joint sucks," Hanpan said.

Chuck E. Cheese gave Cait Sith and Hanpan a glare. "Why don't you and your little pet
take it easy?" he said in a tone of forced cheerfulness.

Hanpan gave Chuck E. Cheese a glare that could have set cement on fire. "One day," he
said in a near-whisper, "you're going to regret saying that."

Chuck E. Cheese ignored him and wandered off to vist a group of kids at another table.
"He's going to pay for that," Hanpan said when Chuck E. Cheese had left. "Zenogias
called me a pet and look what happened to him."

"Uh... he was killed by Mighty Mouse," Rufus said. "What does that have to do with
anything?"

Hanpan gave himself a mental slap in the forehead for nearly revealing his secret superhero
identity. "It's bad luck," he explained hastily.

"Oh."

Cloud got up from the table and wandered off to the bathroom. When he had gone, Cid
whispered, "Who's for just leaving? Everyone in favor, say 'Aye,'"

"Aye," Hanpan, Cid, Rufus, Sephiroth, Yuffie, Red XIII, Barret, and Vincent all said.
Seeing that Tifa didn't say "Aye", Aerith didn't either.

"Oui, oui," Cait Sith said.

"All right, everyone not in favor, say 'Nose,'" Cid said.

"Nose," Tifa and Aerith said.

"Fine, we'll leave you here," Rufus said. "I'm out of here." Rufus got up from the table,
walked to the doors, and tried to open them. They wouldn't budge. Rufus tugged harder.
"Hey!" he said. "What's wrong with this door?"

"Oh, we wouldn't want anybody wandering off on accident," Chuck E. Cheese said.
"MWAH HA HA HA!"

Barret glanced uneasily at Chuck E. Cheese. "This place is givin' me the creeps," he said.

Red XIII was staring intently at the doors, his legendary brainpower searching for a
solution. "Maybe we can use the cake as a battering ram," he suggested, with a nod
towards the forty-two story cake.

"Nah," Cid said. "I've got a better idea. Hope Cloud doesn't mind if I open his present."
Cid tore the wrapping paper off the present he had given Cloud and held up the pair of
pliers. When Chuck E. Cheese was looking the other way, Cid knelt down on the floor
and used the pliers to pull up some of the floorboards. "We can escape through here."

Without warning, Aerith clubbed Tifa over the head with her staff, knocking Tifa out.
Aerith nodded, satisfied. "Okay, I can come along now."

The entire troop of guests, excluding only Tifa and Cloud, climbed down through the
floorboards and into the foundations of the building. Tifa woke up shortly after they had
left, and soon saw that everyone was gone. Determined not to follow them and wait for
Cloud -- who was still in the bathroom -- she remained at the table.

Tifa quickly became impatient and got up to play one of the numerous cheesy games
scattered around the Chuck E. Cheese. She fed a quarter into a Wonder Catcher game that
contained stuffed dolls of the FF7 characters, hoping to get one of Cloud. Tifa watched
anxiously as the crane reached down into the heap of dolls and pulled out -- an Aerith doll.

Tifa threw the doll to the ground in disgust. "Why does it always have to be @$%^in'
Aerith?" she yelled. "Wait a second... maybe I could use this as a voodoo doll."
                                    * * *
"Man, there's caves down here," Rufus commented. The party guests were wandering
aimlessly through the foundations of the Chuck E. Cheese, looking for some way out from
the nightmarish building.

"Monsieur Sith is tiring of all this walking," Cait Sith complained.

"If I hear one more comment about 'Monsieur Sith', I'm going to whack you one," Rufus
said.

Suddenly, Aerith fell to the ground, clutching her throat and wheezing violently. "Oh my
God, they're killing Aerith!" Sephiroth exclaimed.

Vincent turned on Sephiroth. "You, bastard?" he said accusingly.

Sephiroth stepped away from the choking Aerith, holding his hands up to show his
innoncence. "It's not me!" he said. "I didn't even kill her the first time! It was Yuffie!"

All heads turned towards the ninja. "You can't prove a thing," Yuffie declared.

Aerith continued to choke. "Uh... shouldn't we do something?" Cid said.

"It must be Tifa," Sephiroth said. He, Rufus, Vincent, Red XIII, and Hanpan ran back to
the hole leading up into the Chuck E. Cheese, leaving Cid, Barret, Yuffie, Cait Sith, and
the choking Aerith underground.

Disinterested, Cid wandered off into the deeper regions of the caverns. The cigarette
nearly fell out of his mouth when he stumbled across a metal door set into the rock.
"Wonder what the @#$%'s in there." Cid opened the door and stepped inside.

The room was some sort of television studio, set up with a bank of monitors, numerous
shelves of tapes, and wires everywhere. Puzzled, Cid stepped across the room and
examined the materials.

"Hey, Cid, where are ya?" Barret's voice called.

"I'm in this @$%*in' room!" Cid yelled back. Shortly thereafter, Barret, Yuffie, and Aerith
walked into the room; "Monsieur" Sith was nowhere to be seen. Aerith seemed to have
recovered from her choking bout after Tifa had been disarmed.

"What is this place?" Yuffie asked. "Is there any Materia in here?"

"Looks like some kinda television studio," Cid reported.

Barret grabbed one of the tapes, popped it a monitor, and hit Play. It was a Teletubbies
tape. "Time for Teletubbies! Time for Teletubbies!" Yuffie cried, running to the monitor.

Barret and Cid looked at each other. "So this is where they be broadcastin' that crap
from," Barret said. "I pity the foo' who make that show."

"Let's trash this place," Cid suggested.

"That's what I be thinkin' too," Barret agreed.

"No!" Yuffie pleaded, to no avail. Barret cocked his gun-arm and fired upon the rows of
monitors, shattering them, while Cid hacked tapes in half with his spear. Yuffie continued
to stare at the broken monitor, as if doing so would bring the Teletubbies back.

Barret rigged up a crude bomb and set in the corner of the studio. "All right," he said.
"Let's get out of here." He, Cid, and Aerith jogged out the door, only to realize that Yuffie
was still inside.

"Get your ass in gear!" Cid shouted. "This place is gonna blow!"

"I wanna watch Teletubbies," Yuffie whined.

"YOU @*&$%$%IN' IDIOT!" Cid yelled.

"Let's jes' leave her behind," Barret suggested. He, Cid, and Aerith started to run out of
the building.

"Wait!" Yuffie tore out of the room and ran after them. "Don't leave me behind!"

The four climbed up out of the basement and back into the Chuck E. Cheese, where
Sephiroth and the others were attempting to restrain Tifa. Cloud and Cait Sith were sitting
at the table, eating cake and paying no attention to what was going on around them.

"We gotta get out here!" Cid exclaimed. "A bomb's going to go off! Hurry!" Cid grabbed
a chair and hurled it at the door, breaking it. Cloud and his guests hurried outside, while
Aerith remained behind to make sure all the little kids escaped as well.

"Let me guess," Red XIII said to Cid as they backed away from the building. "You set this
bomb."

"Damn, you're always right," Cid muttered.

"Monsieur Sith was not pleased with the service," Cait Sith was saying to himself. "He
regretfully has concluded that he will not be visiting again."

"Cait, nobody's going to be visiting this place again," Hanpan said. "It's going to be toast
any moment now."

And it was. The bomb detonated, and the entire building was blown into rubble. Cid
dusted off his hands, satisfied. "They won't be showing Teletubbies any more," he said.

The party seemed to be over, so the guests all returned to their respective vehicles. As Cid
and Yuffie boarded the Highwind, Cid looked out the window at the rubble. His jaw
dropped. Already, the building was starting to rebuild itself from the devastation. Blocks
were sliding together to form walls, and the floorboards were lining up in place.

"Holy @*&$%," Cid said. "What the hell is goin' on?"

In a few minutes, the building was completely restored. Chuck E. Cheese himself, alive
and well, emerged from the door, carrying a rocket launcher. He pointed it at the
Highwind and fired. Before Cid could take off, the rocket struck the Highwind's fuel tank
and exploded. Smoke started to pour out.

"@$%^," Cid swore. "Let's hope we can still fly." He threw the ignition. The Highwind
managed to take off, but it was trailing smoke and flying somewhat lopsided.

Yuffie had turned a pale green. "I think I'm going to be sick," she said, running out of the
room with her hands over her mouth.

Cid tried to keep the Highwind aloft as he flew across the continent to Rocket Town, but
he was losing altitude rapidly. He ran out into the hall and shouted, "We're going down!
Hold onto your drawers and don't piss in 'em!"

The Highwind spun out of control and crashed into the plains around Rocket Town. Cid
and Yuffie stumbled out of the wreckage, miraculously unhurt. "You did this on purpose,
didn't you?" Yuffie said accusingly. "You know I hate flying and you did this to me."

"Take a hike, Yuffie," Cid said. "Why don't you go hang out with your Klu Klux Klan or
whatever?"

"That's Wu-Tai Clan," Yuffie said indignantly.

"Yeah, whatever," Cid headed off back to Rocket Town, where Shera and the other Cids
were waiting at his house.

"What was that huge crash?" Shera asked, concerned.

"The Highwind," Cid said. "Take a look for yourself."

The Cids and Shera stared out the window at the damaged, smoking, Highwind. "Looks
pretty bad," Cid V observed.

"Who cares, there's plenty more where that came from," Cid III said.

"Yeah, that's 'cause you have #$$%in' six of them in your game," Cid VII said.

"No, only five," Cid III corrected.

"Oh, only five," Cid VII said in almost tangible sarcasm.

"Back in my day, we were lucky to have a sailing ship, y'hear?" Cid II ranted. "We didn't
have any of these new-fangled airships and sub-mar-eenes! We had to walk five screens
between towns, fighting monsters every two steps! And we liked it!"

"Hmmm... maybe we could fix it up with some parts from the Big Whale," Cid IV
suggested.

"How did this happen, anyway?" Shera asked.

"Chuck E. Cheese shot it down," Cid VII said. "We blew up his @!*# restaurant, but it
rebuilt itself. Cursed, or somethin'."

"You see? It's a conspiracy!" the thin man shouted. "I tried to warn y- urrrgh!" Cid IV
clubbed the man over the head with his hammer, knocking him out.

The phone rang. Cid VII pulled it off the hook. "Yeah?" he answered.

"This is Rufus Shinra. Is this Cid?"

"Which one?" Cid VII asked. "We got six of them here."

"Cid Highwind."

"Yeah," Cid VII said. "Whaddya want?"

"I just got a call from Barret," Rufus said. "He said Teletubbies is still on the air."

"Yeah, the whole #*$%$in' Chuck E. Cheese rebuilt itself 'soon as we left," Cid VII
explained. "I think the place is cursed."

"I came up with a plan," Rufus started.

"Good for you, #$@*," Cid said.

"No, I need your help," Rufus explained. "My plan is to develop a competing show that
will draw the Teletubbies audience away."

"Good idea!" Cid said. "Just show Dukes 24 hours a day! That'll get 'em for sure!"

"Uh... that wasn't what I had in mind."

The thin man recovered from his clubbing and ran up to Cid VII. "Hey, tell him to show
more PaRappa Files," he suggested. "You know... 'You gotta do what? I want to
believe!'"

"We need a kid's show, Cid," Rufus continued. "Something that kids will want to watch.
Something with a lot of cute animal characters."

"Hold on," Cid VII said. "I think I got the perfect idea."

    PART TWO: Blues and Greens Brothers

Cait Sith, Hanpan, Spekkio, Neko, and Mog sat around their card table, eating ice cream
and munching Grizzly Twizzlies. The card table had been relocated from inside Cloud's
garage to the yard, thanks to the good weather.

"It's a great day today," Neko observed. "So what do you guys wanna do?"

"Let's go down to the beach!" Mog suggested.

"Okay, sounds cool," Spekkio agreed.

"Don't we need a car to get... anywhere?" Hanpan asked.

"Yeah, and a license too," Spekkio added.

Just then, an airship flew by and stopped in Cloud's yard. It resembled the Highwind, but
had been tuned up with a new enclosed deck and a streamlined appearence. "Wohhhh!"
Neko cried. "Check that out! That's the new Super-Stretched Airship 900!"

"Yeah, the maximum speed is tuned up to 463,24..." Hanpan's voice trailed off as he got
his tiny face stuck inside his ice cream cone.

"And vinyl panther seats too!" Mog added.

Cid VII hopped out of the airship, followed by the other Cids and Shera. "Hi," Cid VII
greeted them. "How do you like my new airship, guys?"

"Man, it's phat!" Spekkio exclaimed.

"The color is awesome, too," Neko said.

"Not only that, it's a spaceship!" Cid VII said. "And it is capable of flying through large
galaxies in a single bound! Cait Sith, would you like to go to Midgar with us?"

"Do you have an appointment to speak with Monsieur Sith?" Cait asked in his phony
accent.

Wishing to avoid an argument, Mog flipped through Cait's appointment book. "Yeah, they
do," he lied.

"Hey, want some Pez?" Spekkio held up Cait Sith's jumbo size Pez dispenser, made from
some industrial tubing and Zenogias's head.

"You know about the Teletubbies, right?" Shera asked.

"Oui, oui," Cait Sith said. "Monsieur Strife is quite fond of the show, no?"

"We're trying to drive it off the air," Cid VI explained. "Rufus wants you guys to make a
competing kids' show."

"Who appointed you spokesman, you raincoat-wearing @$%^*$%?"

"Monsieur Sith only makes motion pictures," Cait replied haughtily.

"Shut up, Cait," Hanpan said. "This could be our big break. We'll do it."

"Only if all of us can go," Neko added.
                                    * * *
The Cute Animal Characters were ushered into Rufus's office for their meeting with the
president of Shinra. "Bonjour," Cait Sith greeted Rufus.

"Look, nobody thinks you're cool, so stop pretending you're French, okay?" Rufus said.

"Monsieur Sith is highly offended," Cait Sith said.

"And stop talking about yourself in the third person too!" Rufus said.

"I like your door," Spekkio interrupted. He nodded towards the ornate wooden door
Rufus had bought from Castlevania.

"Thank you," Rufus said, no longer angry. "Now, I've recruited you guys not because
you're pretending to be some French director but because you're all cute cuddly animals."

"That's me, kupo," Mog agreed.

"Before it becomes an issue, I'd just like to make it clear up front that I'm not a pet,"
Hanpan said.

"What I want you to do is make a kids' TV show to compete with Teletubbies," Rufus
explained. "Something that kids will enjoy."

"Is that what you want us to do?" Neko said. "Shoot."

"Huh?"

"Nothing," Neko said.

"Did you already start making a show?" Rufus asked.

"Yeah," Neko answered somewhat evasively.

"What's it about?" Rufus asked.

"Uh.... it's, well, The Rufus Show," Neko explained. "See, we were filming you
twenty-four hours a day."

Rufus sat bolt upright. "You were what?"

"It's been a great hit so far," Neko said.

Rufus folded his arms. "I don't believe you. You're lying," he said, but what he really
meant was that he wanted them to be lying.

"You probably won't want to look in your desk drawer, then," Hanpan said.

Rufus pulled it open. Mounted inside was a Camcorder pointed directly at him. It was
whirring silently, indicating that it was on. Enraged, Rufus tore the lens off and hurled it at
the Cute Animal Characters. "Get out of my office!" he yelled. "And don't ever try to film
me again!"

"Monsieur Sith requests that he be permitted to keep the segment in which you placed the
dead weasel on your head."

"All right, that's it," Rufus pounded his fist on his desk. "NOBODY makes fun of my hair.
I'm throwing you in jail, cat. SECURITY!" Rufus pushed a button on his desk, sounding
an alarm and bringing the Turks rushing into the room.

"Monsieur Sith is not a crook," Cait Sith insisted as Rude and Reno grabbed him and
dragged him away.

Reno glanced at his watch. "Time for Teletubbies!" he exclaimed, tearing down the stairs.
"Time for Teletubbies!" Left to complete the job alone, Rude seized Cait Sith by his tail,
hefted him over his shoulder, and carried him off to prison.

"Oh no, not Reno too," Rufus groaned.

"I'm afraid so," Elena said. "Everyone's watching that show these days, aren't they? Maybe
I should turn it on some time."

"No!" Rufus said sharply. "Rude probably needs some help; why don't you go help him?"

Elena hurried off to assist Rude in Cait's arraignment. The rest of the Cute Animal
Characters remained in the office until Rufus shooed them out. On their way out, they and
Elena bumped into Reno, who was coming back up the steps. "Do you guys have any
kudzu seeds?" he asked.

"Kudzu seeds?" Mog said. "What do you want kudzu seeds for?"

"You know what kudzu is, don't you?" Elena started babbling. "It's this type of vine, and it
grows incredibly fast and outcompetes all the other plants."

"The Teletubbies were planting kudzu!" Reno said excitedly, answering Mog's question. "I
wanna be like the Teletubbies! Eh oh!"

Neko knelt down and reached into the large bag of goods he carried. "Hold on, I think I
got some in my bag." Neko tossed out a set of 200 crayons in varying shades of green,
some fake teeth, a ball-and-paddle shaped like a mother kangaroo and its baby, some used
coffee filters, and a bowling ball with wings attached to it before finally finding a package
of kudzu seeds, which he handed to Reno.

"Thank you," Reno said. "Big hug!" He tore out of the room to plant the seeds.

"I am concerned for the future of your species," Hanpan said to Elena.
                                    * * *
One week later, Neko pulled Crash Bandicoot's borrowed white van into the parking lot
of Kalm State Penintentiary. Cait Sith was waiting for him and the other Cute Animal
Characters in the parking lot. "'Bout time you got here," he said as Mog opened the door
to let him climb in.

It was only then that they noted that Cait Sith was no longer wearing his beret and fake
mustache, and had instead donned a black hat and shades. "Hey, you quit the French
shtick," Hanpan observed.

"Yeah," Cait said, as if this was hardly worth noting. "Where are we headed?"

"Fort Condor," Hanpan said. "I did a little research. It turns out the only way we can
destroy the Chuck E. Cheese is by burning it with the Sacred Torch of La La La. I heard
it's for sale in Fort Condor."

"Why do you want to burn the Chuck E. Cheese?"

"Chuck E. Cheese called me a pet, Cait," Hanpan said. "I can't forgive that."

This was a good enough reason for Cait Sith. "Okay, hit it," he said.

Neko turned out of the parking lot and drove west towards Midgar. "Look out!" Cait Sith
yelled suddenly, looking in the rear-view mirror. A car rammed the van from behind,
causing it to spin out of control. The car parked itself in the street and its driver got out.

Angry, the Cute Animal Characters hopped out to give the driver a piece of their mind.
Cait Sith did a double take upon seeing who it was. It was Ruby, the flying, talking, red
cat-dragon from Lunar -- and also his ex-girlfriend.

"I knew I'd find you eventually," Ruby said to Cait. Much to his dismay, Cait noticed she
was carrying a flamethrower.

On the far side of the van, Spekkio tapped Neko urgently on the shoulder. "Do we know
her?" he whispered.

Neko started rifling through his bag, tossing out a Zip drive, a green pepper, some moldy
gum, a newspaper from Bolivia, before finally pulling out a huge, lifesize, plush whale.

"Hey," Spekkio said, "is that a Zip drive on the street?"

Ruby waved the flamethrower at Cait Sith and Mog, who were standing on the side of the
van closer to her. "You've left me at the altar one too many times, Cait Sith," Ruby said.
She raised her weapon. "DIE!" Just as Ruby pulled the trigger, a huge stuffed whale arced
over the car directly into the path of the flamethrower. The blast of flame enveloped the
stuffed animal, setting it ablaze. It hit Ruby, knocking her backwards and setting her fur
on fire.

Desperately patting her fur to put the fire out, Ruby flew back into her car and drove off.
"Who was that, anyway?" Spekkio asked as the Cute Animal Characters climbed back into
their van.

"Ruby," Cait Sith said darkly. "My ex-girlfriend."

Hanpan nearly choked on the Grizzly Twizzly he was eating. "You had a girlfriend?" he
spluttered.

"Yeah, Cait said. "I dumped her when I found out she was really a dragon and not a cat."

Neko turned the ignition, worried about the damage Ruby had done to the van. "I hope
this baby still runs," he said. It did. "Fort Condor, here we come!"

The van tore off down the street. Meanwhile, someone had alerted the police. By the time
they got there, there was no sign of the two vehicles save a huge flaming stuffed whale
that sat mysteriously in the middle of the road. "This job gets weirder every day," one of
the officers said, shaking her head.
                                    * * *
Aerith stepped out of her house, carrying her gardening tools. Expecting to tend her
flowers, she was rather surprised to find the flowers no longer existed. At least, they were
no longer visible under the vines that had taken over not only her flower bed but also her
entire yard. She knelt to identify the vine. "Kudzu?"
                                    * * *
"Excuse me, kupo," Mog said. "How much for that torch in the window?"

"Oh, that's the Sacred Torch of La La La," the owner of the Fort Condor antique shop
said hastily. "It's not for sale."

Neko grinned, sensing an opportunity to put his "bargaining" abilities into use. "Oh,
everything's for sale," he said with an evil grin.

"The torch isn't," the antique shop owner said. "It's priceless."

"Death has something to say to you," Spekkio said. He took out the Death-shaped bank
he had bought in Hades and popped a quarter in. "Foolish mortals! Mwah ha ha haa!"

Neko pulled out a 2000-gil bill and dropped it on the counter. "It's.. not... for.. sale," the
owner repeated sternly. "Especially not for that measely amount."

"Oh, no," Neko said. "This is just a gift if you decide to consider selling the torch."

The owner's eyebrows raised, but he repeated his same statement. "It's not for sale," he
said. "Don't you get it? Some things are priceless."

"For everything else there's MasterCard." Neko whipped his MasterCard out of his green
overalls and slapped it down on the counter. "So, make me an offer."

"Twenty thousand gil," the owner said.

"That's a deal," Neko said.

The owner eyed him speculatively. Somehow he doubted that a bunch of cats and a
Moogle had that kind of money. "Show me the money," he insisted.

"I don't have it with me," Neko said. "I can get it, though. Will you hold the torch for us?"

"I wasn't going to sell it in the first place," the owner said. "Now get out of here and don't
come back unless you've got 20,000 gil in cash."

The Cute Animal Characters left the store. "Where in Bahamut's name are we going to get
20,000 gil?" Mog asked his companions.

"No problem," Neko said. "I've already got an idea."
                                    * * *
Hurried by his busy schedule, Rufus ran out of the SIN studio, hopped into the elevator,
and pressed the button for the 62nd floor. The filming of the first episode of Peco and
Friends, starring an adorable little onion and his vegetable friends, had gone well. Now he
was off to his weekly question-and-answer session with employees, one of the changes
Shinra had implented in order to improve its image.

Rufus stepped off the elevator and into the lounge of the 62nd floor, expecting to be
greeted by a crowd of employees. Instead, the lounge was deserted and silent, except for
the humming of Palmer, who was sitting on a bench eating a lard sandwich.

Rufus ran over to him. "Hey-hey, Mr. Prez," Palmer greeted his superior.

"Where is everybody?" Rufus asked. "This is Q&RS Day."

"Hey-hey, they're all watching Teletubbies," Palmer said. "You picked a bad time."

"Then why aren't you?" Rufus said.

"My TV's on the fritz," Palmer said. "Besides, I've got the condor migrations to worry
about."

"Condor migrations?" Rufus ran a hand through his frequently-mocked hair. "What's going
on?"

"Hey-hey, it's 'cause of the kudzu," Palmer said. "It's taken over all the plants that the mice
and chipmunks eat, and they're all dying out. Fort Condor's worried that the condors won't
be able to find enough food to survive their migrations."

"How come I wasn't told about any of this?"

"I thought you hated all that EPA stuff." Palmer took another bite from his sandwich.
"Mmm... lard."

He does have a point there, Rufus thought. Bowing to pressure from AVALANCHE,
Shinra had created an enviromental protection agency, which Rufus found a nuisance and
a waste of money. "How did this kudzu epidemic get started?" Rufus asked.

"Hey-hey-hey! Teletubbies!" Palmer exclaimed. "There was this episode where they all
planted kudzu, and so everybody went out and did the same. Now it's taking over the
world. Hey-hey, follow me." Palmer finished his sandwich, stood up, and waddled to the
elevator. Rufus followed him in.

Palmer punched the button for the Shinra Aerospace floor and he and Rufus waited for the
elevator to descend. It dinged, and they got off. Palmer led Rufus to a room that
controlled Shinra's new space satellites and stood in front of a large viewscreen. He
produced another lard sandwich from his pocket and started munching on it. "Hey-hey,
this is the world," Palmer said, pushing a button. A satellite map of the world popped up
on the screen. "The black is water, and the white is land. Now I'm going to show the
kudzu, which will be red. See, it's black and white and red all over."

"Just shut up and push the button, Fatman," Rufus said.

"Hey-hey, don't say 'fat.'" Palmer pushed a button and a layer of red appeared on the map,
covering at least a third, and probably a half, of the entire land area of the world.

"That's all kudzu?" Rufus said incredulously.

"Yup," Palmer said. "We've already lost Bone Village."

"Lost it?"

"It was buried in the kudzu. We don't think there were any survivors."

"This is insane!" Rufus howled. "The planet's being overrun by kudzu!"

"See what I mean about the condors?"
                                    * * *
Cait Sith ducked into a phone booth in Junon, popped a 25-gil piece in, and dialed the
number he had looked up on the Internet. The phone rang several times before it was
answered. "Hello, Mr. Kasparov?" Cait Sith said.

"Yes?" Garry Kasparov replied.

"My name is Cait Sith, and I'm representing, uh, Mr. Nanaki, the best chess player on our
planet. Mr. Nanaki has heard about you, and he would like to challenge you for the title of
Interplanetary Chess Champion."

"On your planet?" Kasparov repeated.

"Don't worry," Cait said. "Mr. Nanaki will make all necessary travel arrangements. Are
you interested?"

"What is this Mr. Nanaki's ranking?" Kasparov asked.

Cait thought about this for a moment. "He's at level 71, I think."

"Huh?"

"Um... Supreme High Extra-Spiffy Grandmaster EX plus Alpha," Cait Sith tried again.

"Okay," Kasparov agreed.

"Great!" Cait Sith said. "How about a purse, of say, twenty thousand gil?"

Cait Sith happened to look outside the phone booth at this moment in time. It was
fortunate that he did so, because he saw Ruby pointing a rocket launcher at the phone
booth. "Um, look, I have another appointment," Cait said hastily. "I'll call you back later."

Just as Cait Sith hung up the phone, Ruby fired. Just as she did, a car drove by into her
line of fire, taking the rocket and exploding. The blast propelled the phone booth soaring
into the air, with Cait Sith still inside it. "Heeeeellllllpppppp!" Cait squeaked. Ruby stared
upwards, a satisfied smirk on her face.

With almost uncanny accuracy, the phone booth flew directly into the barrel of Junon's
Sister Ray and lodged there. Unfortunately for Cait, the booth's door hung out over the
edge of the cannon. Walking out of it would mean a long fall.

It was several hours before the other Cute Animal Characters managed to free him.
"Remind me never to go out with your girlfriend," Neko joked.

"She's not my girlfriend," Cait Sith corrected. "I said she was my ex-girlfriend. There's a
difference there."

"Look on the bright side; at least they didn't fire that thing," Spekkio said.

"Shut up."

"Did Kasparov agree to the game?" Hanpan asked.

"Yeah," Cait Sith said. "Hee hee... I guess he doesn't know that Red XIII never loses at
chess."
                                    * * *
The former Highwind, now the Super-Stretched Airship 900, flew back to Rocket Town
from its trip to Midgar. "Look, it's not raining inside the #*!@$% airship, so take off the
damn raincoat already!" Cid VII was saying to Cid VI.

"It's not a raincoat," Cid VI insisted.

"Oh yeah? Then what is it?"

The airship landed back at Rocket Town, and the Cids and Shera disembarked. As they
walked back to Cid's house, they noticed a peculiar vine growing all over the town,
including in Cid's yard. "Hey," Cid said. "Who the !%@^$ planted this here? And what is
it?"

Cid IV "peeped" the vine with his magnifying glass. "Kudzu," he reported. "Level 42. HP
99999 / 99999. Absorbs all elements. Weak against nothing."

"It must be one of the bosses that you have to lose to," Cid III guessed. Suddenly, one of
the vines reached up and circled around his waist. "Help! It's got me!"

"Back in my day, you had to beat every boss," Cid II said. "And they were hard, too! No
call spells, no limit breaks... you kids are just soft. In my heyday, I could have taken a guy
like this down with just the Fight command. 'Course, that's about all we had... yesiree,
back in golden days, only magic-users could use magic, not just some shmuck who looks
like a girl..."

Cid VII summoned the Knights of the Round, but they failed to appear, apparently still
peeved over the time "Thunder God Cid" Orlandu single-handedly defeated every one of
them. He then tried Chupon instead. The puffy orangish-purple being descended from the
sky and sneezed, emitting a huge blast of wind. The wind tore the remaining part of Cid's
house to shreds, but failed to budge the kudzu.

"Whoops," Cid VII said. "He huffed, and puffed, and blew our house down." He tried yet
again and summoned Bahamut ZERO. This time, he actually managed to damage the
tough vines, only to have a green "99999" appear over the kudzu as it regenerated itself.

"Help!" Cid III shouted as the kudzu entangled him.

Dirt started to rise out of the ground in a tunnel-like pattern, and then an onion with a face
leaped out of the ground. "Wheeeeeeep!" it exclaimed.

"Hey, isn't that the guy from Shinra's new show?" Shera said.

Pukyukyu?" Peco asked. He hopped into the middle of the kudzu and started speaking to
it in his peculiar language. "Pusyu pukyu pukyu waah... pusyu!"

The kudzu seemed to react to Peco's "words" and unwound itself from Cid III. "Puky
puky," Peco said. He leaped back into his tunnel and scurried off.

"Cute little guy," Cid IV commented.

As soon as Peco was gone, though, the kudzu started to grow back. The Cids backed
away from it and out into the safety of the paved road. "Now what are we going to do?"
Cid VII asked. "There's no way we can get rid of all this kudzu #$@%*."

"I know! We gotta believe!" the other Cids all said.

"Is this a puzzle?" Cid II complained. "I hate puzzles in games. Back in the good ol' days,
we just had walking and fights! None of these puzzles or mini-game nonsense. Motorcycle
chases? Pshaw! Nobody needs that rubbish in games."

"I'm callin' Palmer," Cid VII said. "This is probably all his fault."

The Cids and Shera trooped into a neighbor's house, where they found the thin man
waiting for them. "See?" he ranted. "I told you! It's all a conspiracy by the U.N. and the
black helicopters! They're using the kudzu instead of crop circles!"

"Hey, I know what we should do," Cid V said. The other Cids all turned to look at him.
"Let's write a letter to Dr. Donohue!"

"Dr. Donohue?" Cid IV repeated. "What would he know about kudzu?"

"Well, he must be really smart if he can answer all those questions people send him," Cid
V said. "He probably knows something about kudzu."

Cid VII gave him a frosty stare. "Dr. Donohue is an @#$& idiot." To prove his point, he
grabbed a newspaper off the couch and flipped it through to Dr. Donohue's column,
hoping to find some evidence of Dr. Donohue's stupidity. He did. Cid VII waved the paper
and pointed at the headline of Dr. Donohue's column. It read: EXPLODING HEAD
SYNDROME IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.

"Look at this," Cid VII said. "The guy's a complete #^$@&."

Cid V ignored him and started composing his letter aloud. "Dear Dr. Donohue, kudzu is
taking over our city. What do we do? Signed, C.P."

"If you write a letter to Dr. Donohue, your name is mud," Cid VII insisted.

"No, Mid is my grandson," Cid V said, prompting a laugh track to chime in.

Cid V grabbed a piece of paper and started to write his letter. Disgusted, Cid VII stomped
into the other room, grabbed the phone, and called Palmer to complain.
                                    * * *
Garry Kasparov was panicking. His famous Barn Door Opening had failed, and "Mr.
Nanaki" was kicking his tail around. He has won the first game, and was poised to win the
second.

"Pawn takes rook," Red XIII said, advancing his pawn to take Kasparov's piece.

"Um... ah... so's your mother!" Kasparov retorted.

"Your move, Mr. Kasparov," Red said calmly.

Kasparov stared at the board, looking for a move. And stared. And stared.

"It's your move, Mr. Kasparov," Red repeated.

"Knight takes bishop." Kasparov grabbed a random piece and shoved it into its new
position, capturing Red's bishop.

Red XIII slid his rook across the board. "Checkmate. I win."

Kasparov slapped his forehead, disgusted with himself for losing again.

"Good try, Mr. Kasparov," Red XIII said.

On another world entirely, in Cloud's garage, Cait Sith and the gang applauded excitedly.
So far Red was playing just as they had expected him to -- very well. Soon the prize of
20,000 gil would be in their hands, and with it the Sacred Torch of La La La.

"Nanaki is leading Kasparov 2 games to none," the ESPN8 announcer said. "And
remember, after the conclusion of this match, we'll be bringing you the International Frog
Polevaulting Championships, so stay tuned! We'll be back after these messages."

During the commercials, Spekkio ran into the house to grab some refreshments. He
returned a few minutes later balancing several bottles of soft drinks, a crate of Grizzly
Twizzlies, some popcorn, and several bags of chips.

"Hey, somebody should do that thing like in cartoons, where they flick the penny on top of
all that stuff, and Spekkio drops it all," Cait Sith said.

"Shut up, Cait," Hanpan said.

Spekkio set down all his goods on the floor. "I hope Cloud didn't want that stuff," he said.

The five leaped on the refreshments and scooped up helpings for themselves. Hanpan,
being the smallest, was always the last. "Hey, how come all the bags of chips are open?"
he said. "Why didn't we just go through one at a time?"

The culprit giggled. It was Cait Sith.

"Hey, was there any white bread, kupo?" Mog asked. "Just plain white bread?"

Spekkio suddenly remembered something important. "By the way, Cait, I think I saw your
girlfriend out in the yard."

"What?" Cait blurted. "Ruby? Oh no!" He ran to the garage door, grabbed onto the
window frame, and tried to pull himself up high enough to see out through the tiny
windows. He caught a glimpse of Ruby standing on Cloud's lawn with a remote-control
detonator. "Crap," Cait said. "We'd better get out of here, guys. She's got a bomb!"

"Kupo! Are you serious?" Mog said. He ran to the wall and pressed the button to open the
garage. As the door slid upwards, the detonator-armed Ruby was clearily visible.

Hearing the garage door opening, Ruby quickly triggered the bomb. The Cute Animal
Characters dived out of the garage just as the entire villa exploded into flames. Without
stopping to think, they ran to the van. Ruby ran after them, but was left coughing in the
van's exhaust.
                                    * * *
An emergency meeting of the top Shinra staff had been called to deal with the kudzu
crisis. Present were Rufus, Palmer, Reeve, the Turks, Heidegger, and Scarlet.

"Hey, aren't we supposed to be de-" Heidegger began.

"Sssh! Don't say it! If you say it, we'll probably both just disappear."

Palmer called up his map of the kudzu again. "As you can see," Rufus said, "we have  a
kudzu epidemic on our hands. It could wipe out agricultural production entirely, and
we've already lost Bone Village to the kudzu. It was completely overrun. We don't know
what could be hit next. Something must be done, and quickly. Any ideas?"

There was a brief silence, and then Rude raised his hand.

"Yes?" Rufus asked.

"I wasn't paying attention," Rude said. "Could you repeat that?"

Rufus ignored him.

"I've got an idea," Scarlet said. "You know how they use backfires to stop fires?" The
others nodded. "Well, we could plant back-kudzu to stop the kudzu."

They all stared at her, amazed by the simplicity and logic of her suggestion. "Hey, aren't
you supposed to be dead?" Reno said.

Scarlet and Heidegger vanished abruplty. Puzzled, Rufus ran a hand through his hair.
"Well," he said, "I guess that's what we'll do."

Palmer waved a hand. "Hey-hey, what about the condors? We can't leave them to die."

"Uh..."

The phone rang, granting Rufus a temporary reprieve. "Yo, is Palmer there?" Cid VII said
when Rufus picked up the receiver.

Rufus handed the phone to Palmer. "Palmer, it's for you!"

"Hey-hey, this is Palmer!" Palmer answered.

"This's is Cid Highwind. What have you $%*$in' done to my yard, Fatman?"

"Hey-hey, that wasn't me," Palmer said. "That was the Teletubbies. They planted kudzu on
their show, and everybody did in real life, and now it's taking over the world. And don't
say 'fat.'"

"$%&^%@, man, are you serious?" Cid said. "Well, what the #$%* am I supposed to do
about it?"

Palmer scratched his bald spot. "Um... you could protect the condors."

"Condors? What do condors have to do with this?"

"See, the kudzu is making it hard for them to find food," Palmer explained. "Somebody
needs to take care of them."

"And why the #@&$^ should I?" Cid snapped.

"So we can concentrate on getting rid of the kudzu."

On the other side of the world, in Rocket Town, Cid VII considered this proposal. "Hey,
Cids, you wanna go help the condors?"

"Help the condors?" Cid II ranted. "What kinda quest is that? What happened to saving
the princess? Back in my day, we had real quests, and real heroes too, not hicks with
mental disorders. Yesiree, they couldn't design a decent character nowadays to save their
grandmother. What's up with that Laguna character? Is it supposed to have a gender?"

"What else we got to do?" Cid V said.

"Okay," Cid VII said into the phone. "We'll look over the condors."
                                    * * *
The Cute Animal Characters cruised aimlessly around Costa Del Sol in their van. "You
think we should head for the border?" Neko asked, knowing Cloud would be less than
happy -- to say the least -- when he returned to what was once his house.

"What about the chess match?" Cait Sith said.

"Hey, I've got an idea," Hanpan piped up. "Let's go to K-Mart. We can watch the match
on the TVs they have for sale."

"Good idea!" Cait said.

Neko turned the van around in the middle of the street in the direction of the K-Mart.
Behind them, a car dodged out of their way and crashed into a nearby truck, beginning
what would become a 15-car pileup that included an entire log truck. Unaware of the
wreck behind them, the Cute Animal Characters cruised across town to the mall.

On the way, they drove by Dullard Park, where some black-robed Sephiroth cultists were
clustered around, mumbling. Neko stopped the car and looked at the cultists, who were
conveniently standing on top of a bridge over a small pond in the park. "I hate Sephiroth
cultists," he concluded. The cat slammed the gas down and drove directly at the panicked
cultists, who leaped off the bridge to get away from the van.

"Hee hee hee," Cait Sith grinned.

Having broken up the cultist gathering, the Cute Animal Characters continued on to
K-Mart. They parked in a handicapped parking spot, hopped out, and proceeded to the
electronics section. As usual, there were a whole wall of TVs for sale, all of which were
displaying Teletubbies. Two of the Teletubbies were playing hide-and-seek. Whenever the
one was hiding was found, she exclaimed "Again-again!", hid in exactly the same place,
and the game began again.

The Cute Animal Characters were at first taken in by the hypnotic power of the show, but
after Po had hidden in the same spot for five straight times, they grew bored and managed
to tear their eyes away. Cait Sith pressed the channel changer button a couple times until
he came to Sailor Moon, and sat down to watch.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Hanpan said. "Aren't we going to watch the chess game?"

"He's secretly in love with Sailor Moon's cat," Spekkio explained.

Cait Sith turned angrily on the "Master of War". "Hey, who told you you could go around
spouting out personal information about me?"

"I don't see you too concerned with other people's privacy," Spekkio replied.

"Two wrongs don't make a right." Cait watched the show for another minute, and then
realized he'd seen it before. "This episode sucks anyway; it doesn't have Luna in it." He
hopped up, changed the TV to ESPN8, and then sat back down. The rest of his band
joined him on the floor, and Neko handed out the popcorn he had managed to salvage
from Cloud's villa before it blew up.

Kasparov and Red XIII were still on the third game, which Red, not too surprisingly, was
winning. Kasparov suddenly pointed off to the side. "Hey, isn't that Elvis over there?"
When Red XIII turned to look, Kasparov whipped out a wood-carving knife and whittled
a bit off his king.

"I don't see him," Red XIII said.

"Never mind," Kasparov said. "He must have left the building. Your turn."

Red XIII advanced his rook towards Kasparov's side of the board. Kasparov moved his
bishop towards Red's rook. While Red was examining the board, Kasparov suddenly
pointed again. "Look over there; it's Tupac!"

Red XIII turned and failed to see Tupac, especially since he didn't even know who Tupac
was. He turned back to Kasparov. "Who is Tupac?"

Kasparov quickly hid his wood-carving knife under the table. "Never mind," he said. "It's
still your move."

"Red XIII doesn't know who Tupac is?" Cait Sith incredulously. "I thought he knew
everything."

"Knight captures bishop," Red XIII moved his piece to take Kasparov's.

They played a few more turns, until Kasparov shouted out "Quick! Behind you! It's
Princess Diana!" While Red XIII was looking away, Kasparov whipped out his knife and
made a few more adjustments to his king, slowly turning it into a queen.

"I don't see her," Red XIII said, turning back.

"Don't worry about it," Kasparov said. "It's your move, you know."

"Yes, I know," Red XIII said. He moved his queen into position. "Checkmate."

Kasparov stared at the board. Mr. Nanaki had won again. "Good try, Mr. Kasparov," Red
XIII said. "3-0, my lead."

"Ha ha, Red's killing him, kupo," Mog chuckled.

The fourth game had barely begun when Kasparov pointed off to the side and yelled
"Look over there, it's Frank Sinatra!"

"Where?" Red XIII turned.

Kasparov made a few final changes to his king. It was now a perfect replica of a queen.
"It's your turn," he said when Red turned back to the game.

Red XIII studied the board. "Where's your king?" he asked after a moment.

"It's right over there," Kasparov said, waving his hand vaguely at his pieces.

"Oh," Red XIII said. He castled his king. "Your turn."

Garry Kasparov slid his new "queen" across the board, capturing one of Red's pawns.
"Check," he said, then examined his position further. "Mate."

Red XIII nodded his head in agreement. "Good game, Mr. Kasparov," he conceded. "3-1,
my lead."

Hanpan was outraged. "Did you see that?" he demanded of his friends. "Kasparov had two
queens! He was cheating!"

Perhaps attracted by Hanpan's tirade, a store manager walked up. "Excuse me," he said.
Cait Sith looked up guiltily -- people never said "Excuse me" unless they were angry with
you. "The televisions in this store are intended for trial purposes only, and not as public
entertainment. If you're not paying customers, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave."

"Oh, I'm a paying customer," Neko said. He grabbed a random item off the shelves and
handed it to the manager with some cash. It was a Mogu the Mole: Inspired By Bach CD.

The manager rang up the purchase and handed Neko a receipt and a totally unnecessary
plastic bag. Neko took his CD and went back to watching the chess match. "I'll let you
know how the game goes," he told the others.

Cait Sith tore the CD out of Neko's hands. "Do you realize what you just bought?" he
ranted. "This is by Kazoo Boy! The traitor from our band! Why are you buying his crap?"

Mog and Spekkio had to drag the irate Cait Sith out of the store and back to the van.
Hanpan flew over head, muttering to himself. The four of them climbed into the van and
waited impatiently for Neko to return.

Spekkio took out a crossword puzzle he had been working on. "Hey, you guys know a
eight-letter word for 'useless character?' It starts with a C, sixth letter is an I."

"Um... what are some of the clues going the other way?"

"'He wants to see if you're the man with the masta plan'," Spekkio read. "Oh, that's easy.
It's Chop Chop. That gives us C _ _ _ _ I _ H."

"This better not be what I think it's going to be," Cait Sith muttered darkly, his arms
folded.

Spekkio chewed thoughtfully on his pencil. "Hey, Hanpan, what's a habitat of the
blue-footed booby? It's nine letters."

"Galapagos," Hanpan replied immediately.

"That gives us C A _ _ _ I _ H for the useless character," Spekkio read. He looked up.
"Sorry, Cait, I think it's you."

Cait Sith grabbed the crossword puzzle away from Spekkio. "Hey, leave my crossword
puzzle alone," Spekkio said, but it was too late. Cait Sith ripped it into two halves.

"I never want to see another crossword puzzle in my life!" Cait yelled. "Especially not
ones with my name as an answer!" He hurled the two pieces of the crossword out the
window -- directly into the face of Neko.

Neko opened the van door and climbed into the driver's seat. "Well?" Hanpan asked.

"Well what?"

"What happened, you simpleton?" Hanpan shouted. "The chess match! Red XIII?
Kasparov?"

"Kasparov won," Neko said. "Thanks to those two queens of his."

"Shoot," Mog said. "Now how are we going to get the money, kupo?"

"I've got another plan," Cait Sith said. "That stupid crossword puzzle gave me an idea."
He whispered his plan to Neko. Neko snickered and nodded enthusiastically.

Spekkio looked out the van window. "Hey, what's with all those Hearses out there?"

Neko glanced in the rearview mirror. Four black funeral cars had gathered behind their
van. "That's gotta be the Sephiroth cultists... I mean, the tobacco industry," Neko said.
"We'd better get out here." Neko slammed down the gas pedal. Unfortunately, he had
forgotten to put the van in reverse, and drove directly towards the K-Mart.

"You're driving the wrong way!" Cait Sith howled.

Neko looked over at him. "Look, Cait, try not to be so negative all the time," he snapped.
"Why don't you offer some constructive criticism?"

"Okay, TURN AROUND RIGHT NOW!" Cait yelled. Neko ignored him and plowed
right through the doors of the K-Mart. Intent on their target, the Hearses chased after
them.

Customers fled screaming as the cars crashed through the entrance of the K-Mart. Neko
suddenly slammed on the brakes. The Hearses cruised right by them. They quickly
U-turned and skidded out, crashing through shelves of greeting cards and sending more
people running.

"Do you know why I stopped the car?" Neko asked.

"No," Spekkio admitted.

"I forgot to close the door." Neko slammed the driver's side door shut, then floored the
gas. The van tore straight at the Hearses, glancing off one Hearse and crushing its hood,
then drove by them and into a shelf full of candy, knocking it down. Little kids ran to pick
up the candy, but dodged away when the Hearses did another U-turn and plowed through
the candy.

The Cute Animal Characters cruised through the K-Mart, smashing over shelves of books,
office supplies, gardening hoses, and even internal combustion engines. The Hearses
chased after them, adding to the mayhem. "Where are we going?" Spekkio yelled over the
din.

"Out the back!" Neko shouted back. They crashed through a shelf in the toy section and
breezed by Barret, who until now had been shopping for Marlene.

Cait waved out the window. "Heya, Barret."

"@#$^$*% cat," Barret muttered, looking down at the wreckage. Then he looked up, saw
the Hearses bearing down on him, and dived out of the way. After the black funeral cars
had passed, he climbed to his feet and sprayed bullets from his gun-arm at the cars. One
car's wheel blew and it spun out of control, careening into another car and sending them
both smashing into the wall. "Damn Sephiroth cultists," he muttered.

Keeping the remaining two Hearses on their toes, Neko spun the car around and drove
back into the toy section. The Hearses skidded around in a wide circle, knocking several
shelves of hair care products down, and chased after them. The rear Hearse's front wheels
crunched down on a Nerf gun, pressing the trigger and expelling a Nerf ball into the
tailpipe of the front Hearse. The Hearse sputtered for a moment, and then halted. The Nerf
ball exploded out of the tailpipe just as the rear Hearse slammed into it, smashing both
vehicles.

The Cute Animal Characters took a detour through the electronics section, breezing by the
clerk who had deported them earlier and crushing half the wall of TVs before Neko turned
the van. "Hey, where are you going?" Spekkio shouted.

Letting action speak louder than words, Neko crashed through the display of Mogu the
Mole: Inspired By Bach, obliterating it. "There," he said as he cruised towards the
entrance. "Have I redeemed myself?"

"Yeah," Cait Sith said. He glanced at the video games as the van passed by them. "Hey,
CidFighter 2 is out."

The van sped towards the exit. "Well, this has certainly been a gratuitous display of
testosterone-induced carnage," Hanpan said.

"Fun though," Cait Sith said.

They raced out of the K-Mart just as a police car containing the Turks -- who happened to
be nearby when the incident began -- drove in. Rude, at the wheel, quickly spun their
vehicle around and chased after the Cute Animal Characters.

Most of the occupants of the K-Mart had fled outside to the parking lot, where the van
was now bound. Again, the terrified crowds parted as Neko hit the gas and raced across
the asphalt parking lot. The Turks' car chased after them. Neko's van plowed through a
row of shopping carts, reducing them to broken pieces of metal, and continued towards
the street with the Turks pursuing.

Just as they reached the edge of the parking lot, Neko did a sharp U-turn and drove back
the way he had come. Rude tried to imitate the move, but the Turks' car was smaller and
lighter, and it ended up spinning out into the street, where a passing car collided with it.
The Turks' car was knocked over onto its back and lay on its hood, spinning around in
circles on the edge of the parking lot.

"I'm going to get that cat if it's the last thing I do," Rude muttered.
                                    * * *
The Cids, Shera, and Peco stood atop Fort Condor, looking down to the hills below. What
used to be grass and shrublands had been taken over by a blanket of kudzu, making it
unsafe even for humans to walk across the ground, let alone mice and other condor food.
"How the hell are we going to get rid of all that?" Cid VII asked, summing up the group's
thoughts.

"Pukyu pukyu?" Peco said, looking up the Cids. The tiny walking onion had been sent
along with the Cids by Rufus. Peco bounded down the sloping west side of the fort and
started squeaking at the kudzu. It started to recede into the ground.

"Wow, is that all we have to do?" Cid III said. "We've got it made."

"Nice weather up here. Let's bring some lawn chairs up or something," Cid VI suggested.
He ran to the stairs to get them.

"Yeah, and if starts raining, you're all covered there, too," Cid VII shouted after him.

"I'll get the newspaper." Cid V ran after his successor.

Shera glanced over the edge again. Peco was wandering about the kudzu, squeaking in his
language and causing the mess of vines to unfold and dissolve away.

Cid VI and Cid V returned a moment later, Cid V waving a newspaper excitedly. "Dr.
Donohue published our letter!" he exclaimed.

"I told you not to write that @!%&$," Cid VII grumbled. "And you had to sign it 'The
Cids' too. Now we all look like idiots."

"Sorry," Cid V apologized.

The Cids set up their lawn chairs and relaxed while Peco did his thing. About half an hour
later, a Fort Condor soldier walked out onto the roof. "Taking a break?" he inquired.

"Nah, we got our friend down there doing the work," Cid VII said, puffing on a cigarette.
"He's an onion."

"Are you the head guy around here?" Cid II asked the soldier.

"Nah, I'm just Joe King," the soldier said. "The boss is Albert Harry."

"You're just Joe King?" Cid II repeated. "You're not really a soldier?"

"No, I'm a soldier," Joe King said. "I'm not the boss, though. I'm just Joe King."

"So you are the boss, then?" Cid II said.

"No! I'm just Joe King."

"Make up your mind, young man!" Cid II snapped. "Are you joking or not?"

"Yeah, I'm Joe King."

"So you are the boss, then?"

"No, I'm just Joe King."

"You're not a soldier at all," Cid II said, trying to understand what the soldier was saying.

"Look, I'm a soldier, but I'm not the boss. I'm Joe King."

"If you're joking, then what are you really?"

"I'm a soldier, and I'm Joe King."

"About what?" Cid II demanded.

"Huh?"

"Hey, II, I think he means that his name is Joe King. Joe is his first name, King is his last
name," Cid IV explained helpfully.

"Oh," Cid II said. "Well, Joe King, tell your boss that he needs to get an elevator installed
in this place. All that climbing was bad on my back.

"Um... okay," Joe King agreed. He turned and walked back down into the fort proper.

While Cid II and Joe King were arguing, Shera had been looking down at the kudzu.
"Cids, I think we have a problem here," she said.

"What's that?"

"It's an issue one has to deal with," Shera explained.

"No, I mean, what's the problem?" Cid V asked.

"Look." Shera pointed down over the side. The Cids looked down. Peco was still
squeaking to the kudzu and clearing out space, but as he moved away from an area, the
kudzu was growing back. "He's only clearing it for a little while."

"Damn," Cid VII said. "Looks we're going to have to do some work after all. I think I've
got a plan, though."
                                    * * *
The owner of Cafe Lali in Upper Junon was growing impatient. The Really Useless
Characters were fifteen minutes late for their concert, and the crowds were getting
restless. If a flaming cockatoo came crashing through the roof, who knew what could
happen?

The door flew open and in stumbled Cait Sith, Neko, Mog, and Spekkio, obviously out of
breath. "Sorry we're late," Cait Sith said to the club owner. "Our van ."

The owner looked them over. "I thought the Really Useless Characters were Malak, Jean,
and some other guys."

"Uh... no," Cait Sith lied. "This is all of us."

"Are you sure?"

"Look at me!" Cait said. "I'm a really useless character, aren't I? Look at Mog? He's a
really useless character!" Mog gave Cait Sith a dark glance, but said nothing.

"Hmmm... I guess you're right," the club owner said. "Okay, get up there. The crowd's
waiting for you?"

The Cute Animal Characters climbed up onto the stage and set up their instruments. Mog
noticed a disturbing number of Shinra MPs mixed in with the fans. "The cops are here,
kupo," he whispered to Neko.

"They're probably after us for smashing up the K-Mart," Neko said. "We're going to have
to hit the road as soon as the concert's over."

Cait Sith tuned his guiatr... or at least, he thought he was tuning his guitar. It was actually
already tuned, and he was untuning it. "What song should we play first? Ode to Luna?"

"That song sucks like a baby kangaroo," Spekkio said. "Let's go with Millenium Knife."

The band erupted into a cacophonous array of screeching guitar sounds, unrhythmic
drums, and random keyboard melodies. Over the din, the quarter began screaming out the
lyrics.

Millenium knife, oh Milli-open knife, ah Everyone's sayin' they're gonna be nice Millenium
knife, oh Don't assume they're gonna be nice Millenium knife is the airport dress code

The song's chorus was met with dubious interest by the crowd -- this wasn't any Really
Useless Characters song they'd ever heard. Undaunted, Cait Sith launched into the first
verse of the song.

When night falls on the airport, it's a dress code Everyone says they're gonna be on the line
But there's food in the parking lot It's the dictator's shoe, or that other guy

And then, for the first time ever in the Cute Animal Characters' less-than-stellar history,
the crowd began cheering, a phenomenom perhaps owing to the fact that the music and
lyrics had not been writted by them but by quite unintentionally by Rude after he had a few
too many beers.

When I went back to freelance I saw that I'd left my mark on the moon I lay in Deadwood
for ninety days Saying they're gonna be nice

By now the crowd was on their feet. Neko grabbed the microphone. "Somebody say ho!"
he shouted.

"Ho!" everyone yelled.

"Somebody say ho, ho!"

"Ho! Ho!" the crowd chanted.

"Somebody say ho, ho, ho!"

"Ho! Ho! Ho!"

"Somebody catch the money!" Neko hurled a couple of 25-gil pieces into the air, and all
hell broke loose. The crowd leaped for the money, shoving, kicking, and even biting for
the few meager gil. The MPs in the crowd attempted to restrain them, but ended up
caught in the melee and joined in themselves.

"Wow, you'd think they were soccer fans or something," Cait Sith said.

"C'mon, we've got to get out of here," Mog said. While the crowd was distracted, the four
Cute Animal Characters slipped backstage, where they ran into M.C. King Kong Mushi,
now working for Shinra Records.

"I heard you guys playing out there," the purple spider said. He was decked out as usual in
sunglasses, a rainbow-colored hat, and a white vest. "You're pretty good. Interesting
lyrics."

"Thanks," Neko said. "I think."

King Kong Mushi had picked the wrong cat to bargain with. In a few minutes Neko had
hammered out a contract that, while actually for the Really Useless Characters and not
them, gave them a nice fat signing bonus of 10,000 gil.

As Mushi turned to leave, Cait Sith asked one more question. "Say, is there another way
out of here?"

"Sure, I used to work here," Mushi said. "There's a trap door over there that leads down
into the sewers." He pointed to a small, barely visible, hatch on the floor.

Nodding their thanks to King Kong Mushi, the four Cute Animal Characters slipped
through and down into the darkness of the sewers. Taking care not to step in the sewage,
they proceeded through the tunnel towards the nearest manhole.

"Stop right there." Cait Sith turned to see Ruby standing behind them, carrying an assault
rifle which stood a high probability of being loaded.

"Uh-oh," Mog squeaked.

"You're not getting away this time," Ruby said.

"Aw, Ruby, come on," Cait Sith said. "We all make mistakes."

"You bet you did," Ruby said. "You made the mistake of leaving me waiting at the altar,
and now you're going to pay for it, you disgusting pig."

Cait Sith fell to his knees in front of Ruby. "It's not my fault!" he shouted.

"Don't think you can sweet-talk me," Ruby said. "You despicable slug."

"It wasn't my fault!" Cait said fervently. "My car broke down! I ran out of gas! My
nephew was visiting! My dog ate it! There was an earthquake! A tidal wave! Meteor hit!
IT'S NOT MY FAULT!"

Ruby was silent for a moment. "Cait," she said softly.

Cait Sith stood up, leaned closer, and they kissed... until Cait suddenly shoved Ruby down
into the sewer muck. Giggling uncontrollably, he ran to the ladder with the other Cute
Animal Characters stumbling after him. They scrambled up to the surface and looked
around for their van.

"I can't believe you did that," Mog said.

"The means justify the ends." Cait Sith pulled open the passenger's side door and leaped
inside. Hanpan was sitting on the dashboard, waiting for them.

"Did you take care of Malak?" Spekkio asked their manager.

"Yeah," Hanpan said, holding up a can of super glue. "He's going to have a bit of
trouble getting the gas pedal up."

Mog thumbed the bills that King Kong Mushi had given them. "We've got the cash, kupo,"
he said. "Now all we need is the torch."

Neko nodded. "It's 106 miles to Fort Condor, we've got a full tank of gas, half a
Hi-Potion, it's dark, and we're all wearing sunglasses," he summarized.

"Hit it." Cait Sith said.

Neko slammed the gas and the van took off through the streets of Junon. "This is a bad
place to be," Hanpan muttered. "All of Shinra's gonna be after us as soon as they find out
where we are."

"Don't worry, they won't catch us," Cait Sith said. "We're on a mission from God."

"We are?"

"Chuck E. Cheese is evil, Hanpan," Cait explained. "It's a demonic influence."

Meanwhile, an angry Really Useless Characters band stormed out of Cafe Lali, having
found their gig stolen by Cait's band. The Cute Animal Characters' van was just
disappearing down the street, so they quickly hopped into their pickup. Malak turned the
ignition and reached for the gas. "I've got a bit of a problem here," he reported.

"Oh," Jean said dreamily. "Is it bad?"

"Um.... yes," Malak said. The pickup was barreling down the street, headed for one of the
cannon bays. Malak swerved around the corner and found himself headed towards the
edge of the tier of Junon they were on. He turned away from the edge, smashing through
the front of a 7th Heaven and sending tables flying. He overcorrected, turning sharply
around the other way and driving right off the edge of the tier. The pickup hurtled
throught the air, flying over the many stories of Junon and producing many stares from
pedestrians. It eventually splashed into the bay, nearly submerging itself in the water.

Malak looked at his fellow band members, who were all completely drenched. "Don't say a
word."
                                    * * *
Aerith was sitting at her garden, trying to cut away the kudzu in her garden with a pair of
clippers, when the phone rang. Aerith knew it had to be Cloud, and she had to answer it
on the all-important first ring. She leaped to her feet and charged through the screen door.
The fact the screen door was closed did not impede her, as she tore it off its hinges and
hurtled into the living room.

Aerith was running directly to where the phone sat on a small table. With practiced form,
she hurdled the rocking chair in the way. However, her bout with the screen door had
broken her stride, and instead of clearing the chair, her foot hit the top of the chair's back.
Aerith stumbled forward, over the chair.

In an effort to regain balance, Aerith waved her hands, and in doing so snapped the
clippers shut on the cords holding up a potted plant hanging from the ceiling. The clippers
snipped right through the cords, dropping the potted plant upside-down onto Aerith's
head.

Even a having a pot over her head did not impede Aerith's drive to get to the phone, which
was still on its first ring. What it did impede was her ability to see. Still running, Aerith
reached forward and pulled what came into her hand, hoping it was the phone.

It was not the phone. It was a cabinet shelf behind the table with the phone. The shelf,
which was loosely attached to the cabinet, slid right out, dumping a lamp, Aerith's pet
mouse, a vase, and various other items on top of her, including the shelf instead.

Somehow, in all the wreckage, Aerith managed to come up with the phone and grabbed
the receiver. "Mmld? Mmld?" she said through the mouse lodged in her mouth. (Cloud?
Cloud?)

"Hello?" Rufus said. "Aerith? Are you there?"

Aerith grabbed her mouse and yanked it out of her mouth. "Sorry," she said. "I had a
mouse in my mouth."

"I don't want to know," Rufus said. Maybe she's like that guy from PSM, he thought. "Do
you know about the kudzu crisis?"

"Yes. It's all over my garden."

"Okay, good," Rufus said. "We tried planting some back-kudzu -- like a backfire -- but it
doesn't seem to be working."

"You planted more kudzu?" Aerith repeated incredulously. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Uh... was that a bad idea?"

"It's just going to spread even faster!" Aerith said. "You... you spoony bard!"

"Well then, Miss Plant Expert, what should we do?"

Aerith considered this while her mouse crawled around her head. "You've tried cutting it
into isolated patches?"

"Yes."

A crazy idea popped into Aerith's head... but sometimes crazy ideas were the best. "How
about detonating canisters of Round-Up underground to take out the roots?"

"Seriously? Will that actually work?"

"Let's put it this way," Aerith said. "It's about as likely to succeed as the Florida Marlins
are to have a winning season."

"Great, thanks," Rufus said. "Bye." He hung up the phone. Aerith wondered whether he
knew what she had meant and considered calling back. She didn't want to insult Rufus by
doubting his intelligence, however, so she decided against it.
                                    * * *
Cid VII approached the Fort Condor leader. "Are you Harry Albert?" he asked.

"Albert Harry," the leader corrected. "Harry's my last name."

"Yeah, whatever," Cid VII said. "Listen, I've got a plan to get rid of the kudzu. Do you
think you can help me out?"
                                    * * *
Reno walked into Rufus's office. "We've got the bombs all planted," he reported with a
casual shrug of his shoulders. "They're ready for ignition at any time."

"Good," Rufus said. "That'll be one problem out of the way. Then we can get some more
episodes of Peco made."

"How many do we have so far?"

"Only three," Rufus said. "We're showing them over and over again. But, hey, if you
haven't seen it, it's new to you."

"Don't you start that, boss," Reno said. "That's almost as pathetic as Small Soldiers... the
only movie with commercials so bad they're actually painful to watch!"

"Reno, just go ignite the bombs, okay?" Rufus said.

"Even the ones that are for other products with the Small Soldiers in it are bad," Reno
continued. "I almost had a seizure watching that Burger King one."

"I said ignite the bombs, Reno," Rufus repeated sternly. "That's an order."

"Yes, sir." Reno pulled a detonator out of his pocket and pressed a red button on it. There
was a few beeping sounds and a countdown appeared on the detonator, ticking down the
thirty minutes to detonation. "You really think this is going to work?"

"Aerith said it was as likely to succeed as the Florida Marlins were to have a winning
season," Rufus said smugly.

Reno did not reply. He was trying to figure out if Rufus was overly optimistic, a big
Marlins fan, or just plain clueless. After several minutes' deliberation, he eventually settled
on the third choice. "Mr. President?"

"Yes?"

"The Florida Marlins are really, really, bad."

"Oh."
                                    * * *
Crash Bandicoot's van, driven by Neko, screeched around the corner of a street in Junon,
tailed by at least fifteen Shinra armored cars. Neko glanced back at their pursuers. "I gotta
pull over," he said. He abruptly turned the van and drove off the edge of the tier, tearing
through the guardrail. The van dropped through an awning below, cushioning its fall, and
landed on the ground below miraculously undamaged. Neko shrugged this off and hit the
gas again.

Left with no choice but to mimic his stunt, the Shinra armored cars drove off the edge too.
None of them succeeded in any way. The first landed on its hood and fell over backwards.
The second bounced off the first, then was hit by the third as it too fell down, and soon a
huge pileup had ensued. The only car to make it through relatively undamaged was the
one containing the Turks, which sped after the white van.

Neko cruised down the many tiers of Junon towards the harbor. "Hey, Nek, what about
the kudzu?" Spekkio asked.

Neko glanced across the van, out Cait Sith's window. The ground below Junon was
blanketed with a mass of kudzu vines that in some cases were several stories tall. "Shoot,"
he said. "We'll have to take the subway."

Neko slammed on the brakes as he drove into a subway tunnel and bounced down the
steps. They raced into the tunnel just as a subway car entered the tunnel behind him. The
Turks were not so lucky. Rude did not realize where the van was bound until the last
moment. He slammed on the brakes to try to stop their car, but to no avail. They tore into
the tunnel, flying over all the steps, and crashed through the back of the subway car.

Reno sighed, disgusted, and called Rufus on his PHS phone. "Mr. President?"

"What's all that noise?" Rufus asked. "Where are you guys? What's going on?"

"Mr. President, we're in a subway," Reno said. "Let me rephrase that. We're in a subway,
in our car."

Meanwhile, the Cute Animal Characters were roaring through the subway tunnel, trying to
stay ahead of the subway car behind them. After extricating themselves from their
wrecked car, the three Turks climbed out onto the front of the subway car and started
firing at the van. There was a sudden bang and a puff of smoke rose out of the back of the
van.

"What was that?" Spekkio asked nervously.

"We blew a rod," Neko replied.

"Is that bad?"

"Yes."

"Leave this to me." Hanpan flew out the car window and underneath the rapidly-moving
subway. With nobody around to see him, he changed into Mighty Mouse, and then flew
out. "Heeeeere he is to save the day! Mighty Mouse is on his waaaaaay!"

Hanpan flew alongside the front of the subway and threw bolts of energy at the Turks.
"Quick!" Elena urged Reno. "Do the pyramid thing!"

"What pyramid thing?"

"This pyramid thing!" Hanpan yelled. He waved his hands and used his superpowers to
encase the three Turks in yellow pyramids of energy. "What evil lurks in the heart of
Shinra? Mighty Mouse knows!" With that, Hanpan flew back under the subway, returned
to his mild alter ego, and flew back to rejoin his friends as they drove out of the subway
tunnel and onto the cliffs around Fort Condor.

Another armored car was waiting for them. Neko hit the gas and crashed into it, sending it
spinning into two more cars that were arriving. Neko did a sharp turn and drove up the
winding path to the fort. As he did, two Hearses sped out of a hiding place between two
cliffs and gave chase.

"Behind us!" Spekkio shouted, starting out the window. "It's those cultist guys!"

Neko nodded to acknowledge the comment and started to drive towards a cliff. To the
shock of the van's other occupants, he continued until the van's front two wheels were
hanging off the cliff.

"I've seen this in a movie," one of the cultists said. "He's going to flip the van back this
way. Let's get back." The two Hearses backed away from the cliff, trying to put enough
distance between them and the Cute Animal Characters' van that they could not flip over
the Hearses.

Neko, however, had no plans to flip the van. Instead, he started tossing stuff out of his
bag, including a three-legged pair of jeans, some cabbage-flavorted chewing gum, a
brochure for Air Mongolia, a titanium kazoo, three cribbage boards, a Bananas in Pajamas
keychain, and a packet of catcus seeds, before finally finding the grappling hook he was
looking for. He tossed it out the van window, and it caught on a rock above.

"Hey! Stop him!" one of the cultists yelled. They slammed on the gas and raced towards
the van, but the Cute Animal Characters scrambled to safety on the rope before they
arrived. The Hearses smashed into the van and all three vehicles went spinning off the cliff.

Neko looked down. "Hope Crash didn't want his van back," he said.

The Cute Animal Characters climbed up to the rope to the front of Fort Condor. Cait Sith
grabbed the rope, then they ran inside. Behind them, Shinra MPs and SOLDIERs were
arriving at the fort in large numbers. Cait and the band quickly rolled some loose boulders
in front of the doors to block them, then shimmied up the rope into the fort proper. Mog
and Neko rolled another boulder over the shaft to block it as well. Outside, Shinra SWAT
teams were scaling the sides of the fort.

"Look, an elevator!" Spekkio said, pointing at the elevator that had been installed at Cid
II's request. "That wasn't here the last time." The Cute Animal Characters ran into the
elevator and Cait pushed the 3rd floor button. They impatiently paced the elevator as it
ascended, accompanied by annoying Kenny G elevator music.

After what seemed like an hour, the elevator dinged and opened its doors. The five Cute
Animal Characters rushed out, but then Mog ran back inside and used his pike to tear out
the elevator's control panel. After disabling the elevator, they shoved some more boulders
in front of the stairs and ran to the antique shop.

"The Torch," Neko panted as he ran into the shop. "Where's the Torch?"

"It's not for sale," the owner insisted.

"Don't give me any of that," Neko said. "You agreed to sell it to me."

"Oh, yeah, you," the owner said. "20,000 gil."

"Tell you what," Neko said desperately. "If you give me the amount of money I have here,
I'll buy the Torch." Neko pulled the 10,000 gil signing bonus out of his pocket and tossed
it on the table.

The owner considered this deal. "Sounds fair enough," he agreed, handing over another
10,000 gil. Neko took the cash, then handed it right back to the shop owner with his own
10,000. "20,000," he said. "Now can we have the Torch?"

"Hold on, let me write you a receipt," the owner said. Neko tapped his foot manically
while the owner took his merry time in writing the receipt. When he was done, he handed
the slip of paper to Neko.

"Thanks," Neko said. Cait Sith, already waiting by the Sacred Torch of La La La, grabbed
it, and then they raced out of the shop.
                                    * * *
"All right, men," Cid VII briefed the five other Cids. "We're going in." A rumble of
engines was heard as their six riding lawnmowers came to life and began to move. The six
Cids -- and Peco, who was riding on Cid VII's hood -- fanned out into the jungle of kudzu
surrounding Fort Condor. Shera looked down from her position atop the fort's roof.

The lawnmowers did their thing, tearing up the kudzu as they moved. Occasionally the
kudzu threatened to envelop one of the Cids, but it backed off when Peco sharply
remonstrated it in his tongue. With Shera shouting directions from the roof -- it was
difficult to see in the mire of kudzu -- the Cids carved roads of bare land through the
kudzu. All was well... until the explosion struck.

It came loudly, violently, and without warning, blowing a crater in the ground and
enveloping the Cids and their lawnmowers in a thick cloud of Round-Up. Cid VII spit the
cigarette out of his mouth and struggled to breath. Cid VI drew his "raincoat" over his
face to protect himself from the fumes. Cid II launched into another rant, only to break
down coughing. The worst hit, however, was little Peco. Being a plant, he was knocked
out instantly by the gas and lay motionless on the hood of Cid VII's lawnmower.

Wiping gas-induced tears out of his eyes, Cid VII looked around for the fort, but little was
visible through the haze except a lot of kudzu. He heard Shera shouting, but couldn't make
out what she was saying. "#$*$@^$%!" he swore.

"Up here!" a voice shouted. Cid VII struggled to clear his vision until he saw a rope ladder
drop down in front of him. Tucking Peco under left arm, he scrambled up the ladder and
into the safety of a Fort Condor helicopter. The other Cids followed him inside, and the
helicopter began the short flight back up to the roof.

Cid IV coughed. "What was that?" he asked.

"Smelled like Round-Up," Cid VII said with a wheeze. "But what the @#%*$%
happened?"

"There was some sort of bomb or something," Cid III said.

The helicopter touched down on the roof, and the dazed Cids got back out. "Are you all
right?" Shera asked. "What happened?"

"Some @$%* set off a bomb," Cid VII snapped.

"Take a rest," one of the two soldiers piloting the helicopter said. "There's no need to
hurry."

"Yeah, our interpreter's out cold," Cid VII said, looking down at the onion tucked under
his arm. "Go get him some help, will you? I gotta get some air."

Cid VII handed Peco to the two soldiers, who placed him on a stretcher in the back of the
helicopter. Leaving the helicopter parked on the side of the roof, they hurried to the door
leading into the fort. Just as they were about to step inside, Cait Sith, Hanpan, Neko,
Mog, and Spekkio came barreling out. Cait Sith had some sort of torch tucked under his
arm.

"Now where?" Neko said, panting.

"The helicopter!" Hanpan said.

Seeing that Cait's band intended to steal the helicopter, the two soldiers put down the
stretcher and moved to block Cait Sith's path. "Cait, what the @$%* are you doing?" Cid
VII shouted.

"Hey, wanna see something cool?" Spekkio whipped out his Death bank and popped a
quarter in. "Foolish mortals!" the bank boomed. "Mwah ha ha haa!"

While the guards were momentarily distracted, Neko clobbered one with a swing of his
bag, sending him flying off the roof. Mog whacked the other with his lance, knocking him
off the other side of the roof and into the kudzu below.

"Oh my God, they killed Vicks and Wedge!" Shera exclaimed. "You bastards!"

Cid VII reached to grab Cait Sith, but the cat Esper leaped nimbly over Cid's outstretched
hands and ran for the helicopter. The gang piled in and slammed the door shut. "How do
we run this thing?" Neko asked, panicking.

The Turks ran out of the door. Seeing the Cids clustered around the helicopter, he came
to the natural conclusion that the Cids must be helping Cait Sith in their acquistion of the
torch. "So you've betrayed us, Cids," Reno said.

"Huh?" Cid VII said. "I ain't done nothin'. It's that stupid cat who's causing all the
problems?" He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at Cait Sith, who, visible through the
window, was rifling through the helicopter's glovebox in search of the owner's manual.

"Yeah, right," Reno said. "Hand over the torch!"

Cid V ran across the roof, grabbed the unconscious Peco, and held him over the edge of
the roof. "Don't move or the onion gets it!"

Reno and Rude lunged, ready to attack. "Wait!" Elena said. "We can't take any chances!
The President will have our heads if we let Peco die! Without him, there's no more
episodes of Peco and Friends, and that means Teletubbies will take over the world, and..."

"I think we get the point, Elena," Rude said.

"I like Teletubbies," Reno said. He started to do a Teletubbies dance.

"Stop that!" Elena cried.

Meanwhile, Cait finally found the helicopter manual, and with some aid from his buddies,
managed to get the helicopter to take off and fly away.

"....now they've gotten away," Rude said.

Cid VI held up his hands. "Look, we're not involved. We just came to save the condors,
like Rufus told us to."

"A pansy in a raincoat," Cid VII muttered.

Reno shrugged. "'kay. Ain't nothing to be gained from beating the crap out of you, I
suppose. Let's hit the road, Elena." The three Turks turned and marched sullenly into the
fort, disappointed by their failure.

Cid V set Peco back down on the stretcher. "Sorry about that, little fella," he said. "I
guess we'd better get you to the doctor." He and Cid III picked up the stretcher and
carefully carried it inside.

Peco being carried off on the stretcher reminded Cid VII of Wedge and Vicks. He looked
down, expecting to see them lying dead on the ground below. To his surprise, they were
still alive, lying on top of the mass of kudzu. Slowly, the kudzu seemed to be passing them
from one vine to another, in a westward direction -- they had fallen off opposite sides of
the roof, but they were now both lying on the same side of the roof.

"Holy @$#%*," Cid VII said. "Look at that. The kudzu's carrying them!"

"I wonder where it's taking them," Shera said.

"Maybe we should toss something else in there and track it," Cid VI suggested.

"Thanks for volunteering." With a shove, Cid VII sent Cid VI flying off the roof and into
the kudzu. Like with Vicks and Wedge, the kudzu buoyed Cid VI's fall and kept him from
splattering on the ground. Then its vines reached together, and it started shuffling Cid VI
among them.

"Cid!" Shera said, horrified.

"Don't worry," Cid VII grumbled. "I'm sure his raincoat will protect him from any harm."

Cid V and Cid III returned from their brief excursion inside the fort. "He's being taken
care of," Cid III reported.

"Forget about that," Cid VII said. "That plan's toast. We've got to follow Cid VI."

"Huh?" Cid V said. He looked around for the Cid in question and failed to find him. "Hey,
where is he anyway?"

"In the kudzu," Cid IV said. "It's taking him somewhere. We don't know where..."

    PART THREE: Cid Highwind and the Temple of Doom

Cid VI was really getting sick of the kudzu. For several days now it had been slowly
hauling him westward across the world. He had passed by Costa Del Sol and Cosmo
Canyon, and now Rocket Town was disappearing on the horizon. He was also getting
quite thirsty, since the only water he'd been able to obtain was a few raindrops he'd licked
off the kudzu. Thus, he was quite relieved when he was finally tossed out of the kudzu.
The fact that he had been tossed through a hole and into an underground dungeon didn't
really bother him, not even when the Teletubbies appeared, bearing evil grins and sharp
knives.
                                    * * *
The Super-Stretched Airship 900 landed on a small island in the chain south of Wutai. The
entire island consisted of almost rolling hills that were almost neon-green, peppered with
some brighty-colored flowers, and not a cloud marred the bright blue sky. The whole
place was so bright and pleasant that it was almost eerie. The only sign of civilization was
a shiny metal dome in the middle of the island.

"You sure this is where they took him?" Cid V said. "It looks awfully nice to me."

"Too damn nice," Cid VII said. "This place is already givin' me the creeps."

Somebody chuckled, causing the Cids and Shera to jump. They looked up, from where the
chuckle had seemed to come from. Floating over their heads was the sun, but this was no
ordinary sun. Plastered over its surface was the giant face of a baby. The baby let out a cry
upon seeing the Cids.

"This is too weird," Cid III said. "Let's hit the road."

"But we gotta find Six," Cid IV countered. "Let's check out that dome."

The Cids walked over to the futuristic-looking dome, into which a brighty-colored door
led. The Cids stood apprehensively in front of it, each waiting for another to enter. "You
first," Cid V said to VII. "You're the newest; you take the lead."

"No, let's let #2 go," Cid VII countered. "He's got seniority."

"You kids are a bunch of wimps!" Cid II ranted. "Do I have to everything for you? Back
in my day, heroes were heroes, not schizophrenics! Darned if I ever saw a fighter who had
mental problems. Yeah, and we had elves and dwarves too..."

"You're the one who comes before Six," Cid IV said to V. "You're supposed to be
keeping on an eye on him. You go."

"Yeah, but you're the one who actually fought," Cid V retorted. "You go."

The Cids all looked at each other, each hoping one of the others would make a move. And
one of them did. "Ladies first," Cid VII said, and shoved Shera through the door. He
quickly slammed it shut and waited for any sound that might give an indication of what
was inside.

There were no sounds. Shera opened the door after a moment and looked out. "There's
nobody inside," she said. "I think it's safe."

The Cids stepped cautiously into the Tubbytronic Superdome, their feet coming to rest on
the tiled floor. Around them lay several tables, one of which had some toast lying on it.
The main feature of the one-roomed dome was the large central pillar, around which a
train track ran.

"Hey, some toast," Cid III said. He grabbed a piece and started munching on it. "Tastes
good. You guys hungry?"

"No thanks," Cid V said. "We don't know where it's been." Cid III ignored him and
gobbled down the rest of the piece, showering the floor with crumbs. Immediately, a
vaccuum cleaner came rolling out of the pillar on the train tracks. Like everything on the
island, it was almost surreal, having not only wheels but also eyes.

The vaccuum cleaner drove over to the crumbs on the floor and started sucking them up.
Then its bulby eyes glanced upwards, and spotted Cid III standing over it. An alarm
sounded, and the vaccuum cleaner started sucking harder. Cid III was thrown off his feet
and into the nozzle of the cleaner.

Cid VII rushed to the vaccuum cleaner and hacked at the bag with his spear, trying to free
his struggling comrade. The vaccuum cleaner just sucked him up as well, capturing yet
another Cid...
                                    * * *
A helicopter touched down outside the Chuck E. Cheese in Costa Del Sol and the Cute
Animal Characters hopped out, Neko carrying the Sacred Torch of La La La. They
approached the building and clustered around a corner. "Whaddya think we ought to do,
kupo?" Mog asked as he munched on some white bread.

"Torch the place," Neko said simply.

"We'd better get all those little kids out first," Spekkio said.

Cait Sith raised his megaphone and shouted as best he could in his squeaky voice.
"Attention K-Mart shoppers," he announced. "A bomb has been planted within this
restaurant. Please remove yourself from the premises immediately."

Worried parents quickly shepherded all the kids outside. "Don't worry, ma'am, everything
will be all right," Spekkio said to a mother passing by. "We've got the situation under
control."

Neko struck a match and lit the Sacred Torch. Blue flames leapt out of its end and glowed
steadily. "What about Chuck E. Cheese?" Hanpan said. "He had a rocket launcher last
time we were here."

"I'll take care of that," Cait Sith said. "C'mon, Hanpan." He ran into the restaurant with the
wind rat flying behind him. Outside, Neko touched the torch to the side

"Didn't you hear the announcement?" Chuck E. Cheese chuckled. "There's a bomb in here.
You have to leave right away."

"We're the bomb squad," Cait Sith said hastily. He ran to the Wonder Catcher game in the
corner and popped in a quarter. "The bomb's in here. All I have to do is grab it and we can
defuse it."

Cait hunched down over the controls and guided the crane with extreme care -- he only
had one quarter -- to a stuffed Chuck E. Cheese. He tapped the button and waited as the
crane pulled the doll out and dropped it Cait Sith's hands. "Now all we gotta do is.... this!"
Cait gave the doll a punch in the face, and the real Chuck E. Cheese went reeling.

"Clever," Hanpan said appreciatively.

Chuck E. Cheese stumbled to his feet, and Cait Sith gave the voodoo doll another whack.
Chuck E. dropped to the floor again, but this time he yanked a Cait Sith doll out of the
pocket of his striped red pants.

"Oh no, he's got one of me!" Cait Sith exclaimed.

"You were the one who told me my joint sucks," Chuck E. Cheese said evily. "I don't take
kindly to that." He tossed the Cait Sith doll into the air, sending the real Cait flying, and
kicked the doll as it fell. Cait Sith flew across the room and smashed painfully into the
wall.

By now, large sections of the building were in flames or already burnt down. Desperately,
Chuck E. Cheese jumped on his Cait Sith voodoo doll, flattening Cait on the ground.
Suddenly, Neko shouted from outside, "CAIT, LOOK OUT!"

Inside her M-1 Abrams tank, Ruby pressed a button and launched a shell at the blazing
Chuck E. Cheese. The shell tore through the flaming exterior, aimed directly at Cait Sith.
However, Cait was lying squished on the ground, and the shell flew past him, instead
striking Chuck E. Cheese and blowing the insidious rat into many pieces.

"He's dead!" Hanpan exulted. "That's what he gets for calling me a pet."

"Mmmrgh." Cait Sith stumbled to his feet, dusted himself off, and ran outside just as the
burning roof caved in. He almost collided with Rude, who was waiting outside the
building.

Rude slapped a pair of handcuffs over Cait's wrists. The cat looked up guiltily.
Surrounding the door were the rest of the Turks and Rufus. None of them appeared too
happy. "We've got you now, cat," Rufus sneered.

Cait Sith looked around. His fellow band members, plus Ruby, were already in handcuffs
behind the Turks. Ruby's tank sat a distance behind them, empty.

"But we destroyed Chuck E. Cheese!" Cait Sith protested. "Now they won't be
broadcasting Teletubbies anymore!"

"That's not the only thing you destroyed," Rufus said. "You crushed about 30 armored
cars, levelled an entire K-Mart, blew up Cloud's house, got a phone booth stuck in the
Sister Ray, stole a helicopter, and endangered numerous lives."

Cait pointed at Ruby. "It's all her fault!"

"You can tell your story to Reeve during your trial," Rufus said. He turned to the Turks.
"Take them away."

"You haven't read me my rights!" Cait Sith protested as he was shoved into the
Turkmobile.

Rufus shrugged, his arms folded. "Tough."

An evil grin appeared on Cait's face. "I guess you're just having a bad hair day, huh?"
                                    * * *
After a long and boring ride trapped inside the vaccuum cleaner, Cids III and VII were
spat out into a stone-walled dungeon cell somewhere underground. Already standing in
the cell were Cid VI and Peco. "Hey! Number Six!" Cid III exclaimed.

"The kudzu got you too?" Cid VI asked.

"Nah, the #$%@^in' vaccuum cleaner did," Cid VII said, a comment which provoked a
puzzled look from Cid VI.

"Pukyu?" Peco squeaked.

Cid VII looked at the little onion. "How did Peco get down here?"

"I dunno, the kudzu must have gotten him," Cid VI said.

"Pusiiii!"

"Hey, can he be our lovable sidekick?" Cid III asked his fellow Cids. "I always wanted to
have a sidekick."

Cid VII shrugged. "Ask him."

Cid III knelt down to speak with the onion on his levl. "Hey, Peco, you want to be our
sidekick?"

"Wheeeeeeeeep!"

"I'll take that as a yes."

A distant singing voice started to grow louder. Dipsy, the green Teletubby, sauntered into
the dungeon, singing a nonsense reggae song to himself. "But-a-tum, bup-a-tum," he sang,
walking up to the cell with the Cids and Peco in it. Dipsy unlocked the cell door and
peered in. "Eh oh," he said.

"Oh no," Cid VII said. "It's one of those #@*$% Teletubbies."

"Big hug," Dipsy said. He motioned for the Cids to follow him. Rather than obey the
Teletubby, Cid VII decked him in the face (his spear having been confiscated by the
vaccuum cleaner). Dipsy stumbled backwards, and the monitor implanted in his stomach
started to glow. He let out a delighted giggle.

The image of the Pocket Monster Pikachu appeared on the monitor. Pikachu flashed his
demonic red eyes, causing the Cids to have a minor seizure and be hypnotized into
submission. They and Peco followed Dipsy down a short corridor and exited into a huge
cavern. Around them stood the beginnings to a vast underground city, constructed
tirelessly by thousands of young children. They were standing on a ledge overlooking the
city. A blood-stained altar was affixed to the center of the ledge, and around it stood the
other Teletubbies -- the purple Tinky-Winky, the yellow Laa-Laa, and the red Po. At their
feet lay an unconscious Wedge and Vicks.

Cid VII glanced back behind him. They had just walked out of a huge stone Pikachu face
carved into the wall of the cavern, an eerie fact which completely failed to register in his
hypnotized brain.

Dipsy rejoined his companions, and he and Tinky-Winky grabbed Wedge and threw him
onto the altar. Laa-Laa and Po plunged sharp knives into his heart, killing him and further
staining the altar. "Oh my God, they killed Wedge!" Cid VI exclaimed. "You spoony
bards!"

Unfazed, Cid VII stared mindlessly at the altar. "Seven!" Cid III said, waving a hand in his
fellow Cid's face. "Snap out of it, Seven!"

"Again again!" the Teletubbies all cried, tossing Vicks onto the altar and sacrificing him.

The ledge started to rumble. A periscope-like device emerged from the ground, and a
voice spoke from it. "Good job, Teletubbies," it said. "But I need even MORE sacrifices
to be reborn! Blue pages! Bring me more BLUE pages!"

The Teletubbies threw themselves on the ground in front of the voice trumpet.
"PI-KA-CHU! PI-KA-CHU!" they chanted.

"Pukyu pusyu?" Peco squeaked, looking up at Cid III.

The Teletubbies all looked at him. Tinky-Winky grabbed Peco and tossed him onto the
altar.

"Seven! Seven!" Cid III shouted. "Do something!"

Cid VI took off his raincoat and started to put it on Cid VII. He instantly snapped out of
his hypnotized state and shoved #6 away. "Get your @$!*% raincoat off me!"

"Quick, they're going to sacrifice Peco!" Cid III yelled, pointing at the altar.

Cid VII leaped into the air, clutching his spear, and divebombed Po. Squeaking in fright,
the four Teletubbies scurried away from him, allowing Peco to hop off the altar.

"I thought they took your spear," Cid III said.

"I always carry a spare." Cid VII pushed in onto the bottom end of his spear, and it started
to retract. He folded up the weapon, blades and all, into a neat metal rod no more than six
inches long, which he stuffed into the back of his sock.

Just then, a large mine cart rolled by on a track overhead and stopped over the altar, with
the other Cids and Shera riding inside. "Up here!" Cid IV shouted, tossing a rope down.
The three Cids scrambled up, Cid III carrying the armless Peco.

"What's Peco doing here?" Shera asked.

"He's my new sidekick," Cid III explained.

Cid VII suddenly noticed that, for no apparent reason, Cid V had a Dual Shock controller
strapped to his head. "What do you think you're doing, Five?" he shouted. "You know
you're not supposed to attach the Dual Shock to your head! It said so in the manual!"

Guiltily, Cid V took the controller off his head. "Where are we going?" he asked his
companions.

"Let's get out of this @$!% place," Cid VII said. "We can get some reinforcements."

"I see you're runnin' from a fight," Cid II ranted. "Good for you. You whippersnappers
might amount to somethin' after all. Back in my day, we had to run from fights all the
time! Dungeons were a challenge, not a walkthrough! We had limited HP and MP, y'hear?
Heck, it took half your MP just to cast one heal spell. And items cost a load of money! I
can remember pawning off my old comics just to buy some cure potions for the next
dungeon..."

Cid IV released the brakes and the mine cart sped off down the rails, bound for the
surface. The Teletubbies, however, had other ideas. "Cooter!" Po exclaimed, reaching
under the altar and pulling out her scooter. She tossed it onto the rails and the Teletubbies
climbed on to pursue the Cids.
                                    * * *
"Time for Teletubbies! Time for Teletubbies!" Marlene raced into the Wallaces' living
room and switched on the TV. Instead of the usual Teletubbies theme song, Channel 1
was filled with nothing but static. "Daddy, what happened to Teletubbies?"

"It's gone?" Barret said, walking into the room. "They took that show off the air? It's
about time."

"The Teletubbies are gone!" Marlene wailed.

"Now, Marlene, there's plenty of better things you could do than watch the Teletubbies,"
Barret said patiently. "Why don't you go outside and fly a kite?"

"Okay," Marlene said. She plodded out of the room, still upset by the disappearance of the
Teletubbies. Barret waited until he was sure she was gone, then sat down on the couch
and switched on the PlayStation to play PaRappa the Rapper.

He wasn't sure what it was about the game, but for some reason, he kept coming back to
it. He knew he could win, if only that stupid onion would stop telling him to "try super
beginner's course."

And this time... he didn't. "Good job, PaRappa," Chop-Chop said. "You can go on to the
next stage now."

"Yahoo! All right!"

"YEAH!" Barret leaped into the air and pumped his fists enthusiastically. "I did it! I beat
that foo' onion!"

After he calmed himself, Barret sat back down and faced the screen, which was now on
the save game screen. He carefully pressed the X button to save his game. In response, a
message popped up on the screen. It read "Memory card full!!!"

The scream could be heard for miles.
                                    * * *
The Cids' mine cart sped through Pikachu's underground temple, chased by the
Teletubbies' scooter. "Quickly, quickly, quickly," Po said as she piloted her vehicle.

Cid VII lit a stick of dynamite on his cigarette and chucked it over his shoulder at the
Teletubbies. It missed the fast-moving scooter and disappeared into the vast cave below.

The two vehicles rattled through a brief tunnel in the rock. As they did, Cid III noticed a
sign posted overhead. "Traffic circle ahead," he read.

"Oh no, not a @!*&$% traffic circle," Cid VII muttered.

Cid IV put on the brakes for a moment to slow the cart as they approached the traffic
"circle." It was not exactly a circle. Rather, the tracks had been laid out in a star position,
with tracks leading into the five points of the star. Several mine carts were trying to
navigate their way around the confusing design. "Holy @$^*%!" Cid VII exclaimed.
"How are we going to get through there?"

The mine cart rolled towards the first hairpin curve. "Everybody lean right!" Cid IV yelled.
The Cids all did, causing the mine cart to shift to its right side. It started to round the
bend, but failed to turn completely in time and started to roll off the edge of the tracks,
forcing Cid IV to slam on the emergency brakes and bring the mine cart to a halt.

The Teletubbies' scooter rolled towards the mine cart. The four Teletubbies raised their
butchering knifes in anticipation. Then another mine cart came rolling out of the tunnel. Its
two occupants fired their Magitek guns at the Teletubbies, who wriggled around on the
scooter, trying to dodge the bolts of energy.

"Hey, it's Wedge and Vicks," Cid VI said. "Didn't they just die a moment ago?"

"We've been reincarnated again," Wedge explained.

"Zooka," Laa-Laa said. She held up a bazooka, looked over her shoulder, and fired it at
Wedge and Vicks.

"Not for long, though," Wedge added sourly as the shell hurtled towards him.

To his amazement, it missed, flying harmlessly by the hapless pair and hitting a rock a
distance behind them. Wedge and Vicks ducked down in their mine cart, bracing for the
impact as they rattled towards the scooter.

"Again again!" Laa-Laa said, firing her bazooka and missing a second time. Tinky-Winky
tried to stab Vicks, but his knife slipped out of his hand as he thrust and fell through the
tracks.

Wedge and Vicks' mine cart smashed into the Teletubbies' scooter, knocking the lighter
scooter off the track. "Eh oh!" the four Teletubbies exclaimed as they plummeted down
into the lava far below.

"I don't believe it," Wedge said. "They tried to kill us, and they didn't! This must be our
lucky day!"

"Hey, thanks for the help, guys," Cid IV said.

Vicks grinned. "No problem. I liked doing this."

"Now what do we do?" Shera asked. "We're stuck on this corner."

"Pukyu pukii," Peco chirped.

Cid V scratched his head. "And we've still got Pikachu himself to worry about," he said.
"He's enslaved all these kids... we have to free them."

"I've got an idea," Wedge said. "How about one person pulls the cart with a rope? It'll
move slower that way."

Instantly, the Cids all started pointing at each other -- Cid VII at Shera and Cid VI, Cid VI
at Cid VII, Cid III at Cid V, Cid V at Cid IV, Cid IV at Cid VII... all except for Cid II.
"What's the matter with you kids?" Cid II snapped. "Haven't you ever heard of
volunteering? Do I need to do everything for you? That's the problem these days... nobody
wants to do any community service. Why, back when I was a young 'un, I spent an hour
every day cleaning up trash down by my old schoolhouse. And do you think I was paid?
No sirree! It's kids like you who make this country the way it is."
                                    * * *
"Hey, what happened to Teletubbies?" Mid said, staring at the static on Channel 1.

"Maybe it got cancelled," Palom suggested.

"Why would anybody want to cancel Teletubbies?" Porom said.

"Here's a better question," Mid said. "Why were we ever watching that show in the first
place?"

None of them had an answer. "Uh..." Palom stammered, trying to come up with a decent
explanation.

Mid scratched his head. "Granddad thought it was part of some conspiracy," he said. "It
might have been the work of Evil Cid. The last time, he hypnotized everybody with
Pikachu's demon eyes."

"O-kaaay," Palom said. "Whatever you say."

"I'd better go see what's up," Mid said. "If I want to complete my training to become a
Cid..." Mid stuffed a half-eaten package of Grizzly Twizzlies in his pocket, grabbed his
official "Student Cid" badge, and hurried off.

He was boarding Cid V's airship when Palom and Porom came running out of the Previas'
house. "Wait for us, four eyes!" Palom shouted. "We wanna come too!" The Mysidian
siblings scrambled up the rope ladder onto the deck.

Mid waited for them to climb on board, then threw the ignition. "We'll go through the
mu," he explained. The airship rose into the air and flew into the black hole of the mu. It
flew through the empty space for a while, then emerged in the FF7 world.

"You know, this is really a lot of fun!" Porom said. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could keep
flying and go someplace far, far, away?"

Distracted by daydreams about Porom, Mid did not notice the Wutai Mountains rising up
ahead of him until it was too late. The airship smashed into the them with a crunch. Its
nose broke off, and the body split in two. The pieces of the vehicle slid down the
mountainside, dumping Mid, Palom, and Porom in a heap among the wreckage.

"Nice flying, Yeager," Palom said sarcastically.

"Oh no," Mid said. "I can't believe it! My granddad's gonna bite me!" Mid got to his feet
and started to pace back and forth. "I'm in trouble now. How am I going to pay for this
airship? How can I do that?"
                                    * * *
Cid II stopped towing the mine cart. "That's it," he said, exhausted. "My back can't take
much more of this. One of you agile whippersnappers is going to have to take over."

Cid III, being the next Cid in line, hopped down to take over the job and the mine cart
rolled on. "Are you sure we're even going anywhere?" Shera said. "Haven't we been by
this intersection before?"

"Dammit, Two, you been leading us in circles?" Cid VII snapped.

"How am I supposed to know where Pikachu is?" Cid II retorted. "You think I have a
map? Let me tell you, sonny, back in my day, we didn't have any of this strategy guide
rubbish! No codes, no Internet, nothing. We had to get through games by ourselves! And
we liked it!"

"Hey, look at that!" Cid IV said, pointing at a stone structure jutting out of the cave wall a
distance ahead. "I haven't seen that before."

"I told you so," Cid II said to VII.

Cid III slowly lugged the cart over to the structure for a closer look. It was a sort of
porch, a flat square stone platform with four pillars holding up the pointed roof. At the
rear end of the porch, a golden door led into the rock wall itself. Cid VI tried to open it,
but none too surprisingly, it was locked.

"Hey, look at this," Cid IV said. He pointed to a small flat box on the wall. Affixed to the
back of the box were a bunch of square pieces decorated with parts of a picture. There
was one empty space that the other pieces could be moved into.

"Oh no," Cid VII groaned. "It's one of them @$#%& sliding tile puzzles. I hate those."

"Puddy?"

This set Cid II off on a fresh rant. "Arrr, back in my day, adventure games had real
puzzles! Ones that were related to the storyline, not just doing some rigamarole to open a
door! That's all Myst crap! Myst... now that's a sorry game. No story, no characters, no
point except to walk around and look at the pretty pictures. Well, let me tell you that
when I was young 'un, we were lucky to have an inventory list, let alone graphics!
Whatever happened to 'WEST OF HOUSE. You are in a field west of a white house.'?"

"I know who can solve this!" Cid V exclaimed.

"If you say Dr. Donohue, you're going to get a swift kick in the nuts," Cid VII said.

"No, not Dr. Donohue," Cid V said. "I was talking about... Encyclopedia Brown!"

"Encyclopedia Brown?" the rest of the Cids all exclaimed.
                                    * * *
Yuffie eyed Mid speculatively. "So you want to sell goods at this flea market, eh?" she
said. "You're a new boy, aren't you? I'll tell you right now, the most important thing in
selling goods here is not love... it's money! So if you want to sell goods here, come stand
next to me. Follow my rap!"

Dubiously, Mid walked to stand next to Yuffie. "This is our hit single Turtle's Paradise,"
Yuffie said. "Now let's see if you've got the funky flow."

As I walk through the valley of the fallen star I take a look at my map and realize Wutai's
not far 'Cuz I've been walking and walking so long That even my mama thinks that my
mind is gone...
                                   * * *
Encyclopedia Brown examined the sliding tile puzzle. "Hmm," he mused. "This shouldn't
be too hard to solve at all. Can I use your spear for a moment?"

Within a few minutes, Encyclopedia had the door open. How did he do it? (highlight text
for answer)

Answer: Encyclopedia Brown pried all the pieces out with Cid VII's spear. Then he used
some bat guano to glue all the pieces together in their proper configuration and placed
them back in the box. The door promptly opened.
                                    * * *
Aerith was awakened by the sound of the phone ringing. "Cloud!" she exclaimed, sitting
bolt upright. Aerith leaped out of bed and ran for the phone sitting in the opposite corner
of her bedroom. Her left foot came down on the rug next to her bed. Moving at the speed
she was, her foot knocked the rug backwards and she lost her balance. Aerith reached to
grab something to steady herself, and ended up grabbing the floor-length curtains.

One end of the curtain rod was pulled loose from the wall. Completely off balance, Aerith
went swinging across the room on the curtain rod and smashed through the door,
knocking it off its hinges. As she passed by the phone, though, she managed to grab the
receiver. The other end of the curtain rod snapped free, sending Aerith, the phone, and the
curtains all falling to the ground in one mess.

Tangled in the curtains, Aerith tried to bring the receiver up to her face. "Cloud?" she
answered.

"Um... no, this is Rufus," Rufus replied.

"Oh." Aerith sounded disappointed. "I've been trying to call him and I can't get through.
His phone's not working."

"Didn't you know?" Rufus said. "Cait Sith blew up his house."

"What?" Aerith gasped. "That's horrible! Oh, I'd better go up to Costa Del Sol right
away."

"Okay," Rufus said. "I just called to tell you that your Round-Up bomb idea is working
great... we're cleaning up the kudzu all over the place."

"Really?" Aerith laughed. "I had no idea that would work." A sudden idea struck her.
"Look, I really got to go. I'll call you back later."

"All right," Rufus agreed. "Goodbye."

"Bye." Set on a mission even more important that visiting Cloud's house, Aerith hung up
the phone, quickly got dressed, and ran to get her life savings. With the money in hand,
she hurried off to gamble it on what she knew would be a winning prospect...
                                    * * *
The Cids, Shera, Peco, Vicks, and Wedge -- Encyclopedia Brown had run off to attend to
his detective business -- clustered around the open door. "We'll go first," Wedge
volunteered, seeking another chance to use his new-found invulnerability.

Vicks and Wedge stormed through the doorway -- and as soon as they did, they were
impaled by a spear trap. Silently, Cid IV glanced at his watch. 1:00 am. It was not their
lucky day any more.

Stepping around their corpses, the small party ventured into the corridor. Lined with
gold-tinted stones, the hallway stretched for about forty feet to another door, over which
hung a sign reading "YE OLDE INNYRE SANCTUMME". "Peco, you take the lead,"
Cid III said to his sidekick.

"Pukyukyu," Peco squeaked in agreement. He hopped down the corridor towards the
second door. As he did, he stepped on a number of pressure plates that sent spears flying
over his head into the wall.

Once Peco had reached the end of the hall and disarmed all the traps, the other Cids
followed him. This door had no lock, so Cid VII just kicked it down for dramatic effect.

The Cids stepped into the square room beyond. It was devoid of furniture and featured
only one raised platform in the center upon which a stone coffin lay. The group walked
over to the coffin to examine it. Engraved on its lid was the image of Pikachu.

"Well, this is it," Cid VII said. "The question is, what the @*&$% do we do now?"

"Take this thing out of here and chuck it in the ocean?" Cid VI suggested.

Cid IV gave the coffin an experimental tug. "It's way too heavy," he reported. "We'd need
a forklift to move it."

Just then, a hypnotized Cloud entered the room, chanting "Pi... ka... chu...". "Oh no, I
thought he'd gotten over all that mind control stuff," Cid VII groaned.

"Pi... ka... chu..." Cloud walked to the coffin, bent down for added leverage, and started
prying off the heavy lid.

"Quick!" Cid V shouted. "Close your eyes! Don't look!"

"Why not?" Cid VI shouted back.

"Because he'll hypnotize us all with his flashing eyes!" Cid V shouted back, his eyes tightly
closed.

"Oh yeah, good point," Cid VI said, closing his eyes.

The Cids stood in darkness and listened. The lid hit the floor with a clunk, and then there
was a growling sound. Some fur was heard rustling. "He's coming out of the coffin..."
Shera murmured.

"I have been reborn!" Pikachu thundered. "The world is mine! MWAH HA HA HA!"

"Hadn't we do better something?" Cid III said.

"If we open our eyes, he'll hypnotize us," Cid V replied.

"Fine, then we'll fight our with our @*($% eyes closed," Cid VII said. He thrust his spear
out and failed to hit anything. Swinging his spear in the air, he ran towards the direction
Pikachu's voice had come from and collided painfully with the wall. "!#*^$."

Cid VI hurled a rotten fish and was rewarded with a plop when it hit something.
"Pukyyu?" Peco squeaked.

"Sorry, little fella'," Cid VI said. "It was an accident."

"Pi... ka... chu..." Cloud mumbled. He slashed out with his sword, catching Cid IV in his
helmet. Cid IV immediately retaliated with his hammer, but instead of hitting Cloud, hit
Cid V, who had run to restrain Cloud.

Dazed, Cid V grabbed for what he thought was the spike of Cloud's hair, but was puzzled
by the fact that it came free in his hand. He turned it around in his hands until he realized
that it was Cid III's pointed hat. "Hey, Three, here's your hat," he said, holding the hat out
into the darkness and hoping his fellow Cid would get it.

"Okay, thanks," Cid III said, reaching for the hat but instead pulling Cloud's sword out of
his hands.

"Pi... ka... chu..." Cloud mumbled.

"@$%!* Pocket Monster, DIE!" Cid VII yelled, leaping into the air and thrusting his spear
downwards. His spear clinged off the ground, but he landed on something soft.

"Hey! That's my foot!" Cid VI shouted.

"Sorry."

Meanwhile, Shera had dumped the contents of her purse out on the floor and was feeling
through them for what she needed. She finally found her mirror and held up in front of her
face. "Over here, Pikachu!" she shouted.

Pikachu turned and flashed his eyes on Shera without stopping to think. He accidentally
glanced in the mirror, hypnotized himself, and keeled over onto the ground. The Cids,
Shera, and Peco opened their eyes upon hearing the sound. Cloud shook his head. "Huh?
Where are am I?" he said, confused.

"Pikachu, return to from where you came," Shera commanded.

"Ok," the hypnotized Pikachu agreed. He shimmered, closed into a little ball, and
disappeared.

"*!#$^#%, Shera, what did you have to do that for?" Cid VII swore. "You should have
left him hypnotized. Imagine the possiblities..."

"Sorry."

Cloud scratched his pointy hair. "What's going on?" he asked.

"Never mind," Cid IV said. "We've got to get out of here. This place is starting to
collapse."

"Of course it is," Cid II said. "Did you think the bad guys would have a headquarters that
didn't collapse?"

"Good point," Cid IV said. Shera stuffed her belongings back into her purse, and they
hurried out of the inner sanctum and the antechamber. By the time they emerged back into
the mines, the roof was starting to cave in and sunlight was pouring through. Cid V's
airship streaked down through the collapsing roof and flew by the Cids.

"Hop on!" Mid shouted from the deck. The party leaped on board the airship as it passed.

"I'll take over the controls from here," Cid VII said. "Good work, Mid. How did you find
us?"

Mid nodded at the thin man, who was standing on the other side of the deck. "It was
obvious," the thin man said. "People've been seeing UFOs on this island for years! It's the
aliens' main hideout! It's not on any map because it's being concealed by the government!"
He thrust a piece of paper at the Cids. "Oh, and since we saved you, can you pass this on
to twenty of your friends? It's a warning about the 'Good Times' virus."

"Yeah, uh-huh," Cid V said sarcastically.

"No, really, it's true!" the thin man ranted. "It's real! Peter Arnett even said so! It's just
being covered up by the U.N. and the black helicopters! It's a conspiracy, I tell you..."
                                    * * *
Sephiroth walked past rows of shacks in Corel Prison until he came to the one he was
looking for. There was no door to knock on, so he just stepped inside. "I'm sorry about
what happened," he said.

"That makes two of us," Cait Sith said sourly.

"I mean, you guys were trying to stop Teletubbies and everything too," Sephiroth said.

"Oh, well, there's still the trial," Mog said. "Let's hope we get off the hook then. Kupo!"

"I'd pay your bail, but I don't have the cash," Sephiroth said. "It's all gone to finance my
next screenplay, Armadillo. It's about this giant space armadillo the size of Texas that's
hurtling towards the Planet, see, and we recruit this team of veterinarians to land on the
armadillo and give it a lethal injection."

"Sephiroth?" Hanpan said.

"Yeah?"

"Have you ever written a screenplay that wasn't about things crashing into the earth?"

"Uh...."
                                    * * *
Flying alongside each other, Cid V's airship and the Super-Stretched Airship 900 soared
back to Costa Del Sol, taking Cloud home before returning to Rocket Town. When they
arrived in town, however, they were treated for a shock. Where Cloud's villa had once
stood there was now nothing but rubble.

"Holy @*$%," Cid VII said. "This place looks like a warzone."

The airships landed for a closer look. "My house," Cloud said. "What happened to my
house?"

"If I was Barret, I'd say it was 'those damn Shinra'," Cid VII said. He scratched his head,
then added, "No, actually, I'd probably say, 'WHAT ABOUT MARLENE?'"

Aerith's car pulled up on the street -- the driveway was covered in rubble -- and Aerith
hopped out. "Oh, Cloud, I heard about your house," she said, running to him. "I'm so
sorry."

"What happened?" Cloud asked mildly. "It looks pretty bad."

"Cait happened," Aerith replied. "At least that's what Rufus said."

"Oh," Cloud said.

Aerith pulled a huge stack of bills out of her vest pocket. "Don't worry, I'll buy you a new
one," she said sweetly.

"@&!%$!" Cid exclaimed. "Where the hell did you get all that money? Did you steal it or
what?"

"Oh, no, of course not," Aerith said. "I bet on the Florida Marlins. They had a winning
season."
    CREDITS

              Planned, Produced, and Written By: Fritz Fraundorf
                Art and Graphics By: Fritz Fraundorf, The Captain
            Entire Story Salvaged From Disaster By: Wayne Steagall
      Blues and Greens Brothers Concept By: Mafia Boss Vinny Valentino
                             Special Thanks To:
                            Final Fantasy Network
                                www.lyrics.ch
                              Martha Fraundorf
                                 The Captain
                                Ken Fraundorf
                           All the fans of Cid Wars
                        A Cosmo Canyon Production

    EPILOGUE

Cid VII sat back in a recliner in his new house, provided by Aerith, who in addition to
buying Cloud and Cid new houses, had also paid Cait Sith's bail. Cid grabbed the remote
and clicked on the TV just in time to catch Dukes. The show was just beginning when the
phone rang. Annoyed, he scrambled to answer it. "Hello?"

"Cid VII? It's me, T.G. Cid."

"Where the hell you been?" Cid snapped. "The damn adventure's over already! We
could've used you!"

"I had other business," T.G. Cid said. "Look, this is urgent. I'm at Square headquarters in
Japan... they're trying to kill Cid VIII! I need your help!"
                       To be continued in...
    CID WARS III: RETURN OF THE THUNDERGOD