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CH 13: Quests

"Do any of you guys know how to drive this thing?" Aurie asked.

She was standing in the cockpit of a shinra submarine, desperately trying to figure out what to do. Shinra had distracted them by letting loose the Carry Armor robot, allowing the submarine carrying the huge materia to get away. So they decided to 'borrow' the second sub and go after it. Hopefuly, it hadn't gone too far. Though Slash wasn't any help, Vincent took the initiative. He pulled the lever marked 'Submerge' and the sub sank into depths of the sea.

"We're moving." Vincent said.

"Heh. No sweat. Maybe driving this thing isn't as hard as I thought." Aurie said, hopping into the pilot's seat.

After quickly glancing at the manual, she immediately kicked it into high gear. Slash was thrown off his feet due to sudden surge of movement, and landed flat on his face.

"Ow..." Slash grumbled.

"...Sorry. Ooh, look! I can see them!" Aurie said, pointing to a little red blip on the radar.

"Switching to sonar." Vincent announced.

The radar screen faded out and a crude 3-dimensional map took it's place. Slash got up to his feet and stood over the tactical console.

"We've got a target lock." Slash said, rubbing his head.

"Aim for their engines and fire enough torpedoes to disable 'em. We don't want to destroy that huge materia, after all." Aurie ordered.

"Got it. Firing torpedoes!" said Slash.

Four torpedoes shot out of their respective canisters and nailed the back end of the red sub. It sank fast, and hit the bottom of the sea with a muffled 'clunk'.

"All right! We did it!" Aurie said, pumping her fist into the air.

"We should check on the huge materia..." Vincent said.

"Right. I'm bringin' her around!" Aurie announced.

The blue sub submerged even deeper, until it almost scraped the ocean floor. Vincent gained control of the sub's mechanical arms and skillfully removed the huge materia.

"It appears to be in one piece." Vincent said.

"All right! Mission accomplished!" Aurie yelled.

"We should get back to the surface and contact the Highwind..." said Vincent.

"Not just yet....I want to do some exploring." Aurie said with a sneaky tone.

*******************

What would Pulse do right now?

Here I am with the huge materia in my possession, fighting off guard after guard here in the Corel reactor, and all I can think about is what my partner would do in this situation?

That's easy.

She wouldn't be in this situation in the first place, 'cause she wasn't stupid enough to go into a place like this alone.

She was the brains of that partnership, and I was the brawn. I always took that for granted, and I shouldn't have. All that time I could've learned something from her.

Whenever we were in trouble, I thought to myself, 'Pulse'll get us out of this one, she has to.' She always did, though, and that was my mistake. I always assumed Pulse would be there to save my ass.

But she's gone.

Maybe I can still learn from my mistakes, though...

Turbine shot several pipes with his arm blaster, allowing steam to fill the room. It made a perfect smoke screen, a stealthy means of escape. Or so he thought.

Though his adversaries were blinded, he was unable to see as well.

Dammit. I did it again. I should've memorized my surroundings first. Pulse would've thought of that, and we'd be out of here quick-like. I guess I'll just have to use my other senses to figure out where I should go.

Hmmm...I know the guards are surrounding the door so....

Turbine charged towards the noisy guards, determined to power his way through. He knew they wouldn't risk firing blindly, for fear of shooting each other.

He made it out stumbling over his own two feet, glad he was still alive. The guards followed him through, though, and had open fire again.

But they stopped due to an overwhelming feeling of sleepyness. Confused as to why the guards were snoozing as much as Cid, he looked around for the source.

Standing not too far away were Barret and Red XIII.

"Sleep spell. Never leave home without it." Barret chuckled.

*****************

"What was that?" Cait yelped.

The old man had just given them the huge materia when the ferocious sounds of battle erupted from outside the mountain. The shinra army was attacking, and they weren't alone. All kinds of shinra-tamed monsters were brought into the fight as well.

"Please! You have to help us protect the condors!" the old man pleaded.

"I see no reason why we shouldn't..." Proton said.

"I guess we have to. Let's see what the situation is." Airblaster said.

The fight sounded even worse when the three heroes entered the shack sitting on top of the mountain. The old man's son was there, shouting orders every now and then into his walkie-talkie. He barely noticed the trio crowding the room.

"Oh! It's you guys! Can you help us? I'm afraid we're a little outgunned here, so anything would be helpful." He said.

"Let me have a look at it." 'Blaster said, stepping up to the window.

Airblaster served Dr. Wily for years as a tacticion and was quite skilled in the art of strategy. When Wily died, he, along with every other surviving Wilybot, gained free will. He now used those same skills positively as a founding member of the Justifiers, quite possibly to atone for Wily's mistakes.

To him, the layout of the battle was too simple to be real. All they really had to do was push back the opposing forces and that would be the end of it.

"Cait, Proton, you guys give me a grazing fire while I..." 'Blaster began.

"Grazing fire?" Cait asked.

"Sheesh. Just stand back and hit 'em with whatever you've got while I clean house." 'Blaster said, rolling his eyes a bit.

"Uh, got it. I think." Cait replied.

"Good. Now let's get out there." 'Blaster said.

Upon exiting the shack, Airblaster immediately took to the skies. Seeing his allies already doing as he instructed, 'Blaster began to systematically and quite literaly blow away his opponents.

It wasn't long before the shinra tucked it's tail and fled. In fact, the sheer power of his wind gusts was enough to push at least ten or twenty enemies down to the bottom of the hill at a time.

It wasn't long before a cracking noise could be heard. Looking up, Airblaster peered upon yet another incredible sight. The condors' egg was hatching, and it looked a little strange.

Suddenly the Condor and it's egg were engulfed by an aura of fire. For a brief moment, a phoenix symbol emerged. It was only seen for a few moments, though, when it suddenly disappeared as quickly as it had shown itself.

The gigantic Condor fell backwards as if it had been injured. It hit the ground hard and sat there motionless. It was obviously dead. The egg, on the other hand, had hatched. A bright yellow condor chick sat in the remains of the eggshell, streching it's newborn wings.

'Blaster swung around and landed on top of the reactor, not ten feet away from the baby bird. He noticed a shiny red stone lying on the ground and picked it up.

"What have we here?" Airblaster mused.

As he said those words, the newborn condor started it's first flight. After a few seconds, it vanished from view, leaving the heroes victorious.

************************

"All right people, think!" Blaze said.

For over an hour, friends from past and future alike were constantly asking the same question over and over.

Where would Zero go?

It got frustrating enough for some to even leave the room. Only Blaze, Cloud, Aeris, Tifa, and X remained. They continued to study a map of the world laid out over the table, determined to solve the puzzle.

"Okay, let's review. We know for a fact that he isn't in Junon. And soon enough we'll know if he's in Ft. Condor or Corel. The Gold Saucer is closed, so he can't be there." Cloud said.

"What about Midgar?" Aeris asked.

"I doubt it. We'd know if he was there." X replied.

"Oh, that's right. Reeve would've contacted us by now." Aeris realized.

"My guess is that he would go to someplace secluded. He probably knows that we've become fugatives again. He'd want to stay out of trouble." Tifa said.

"You don't know Zero very well, do you?" X quipped.

"Wait a second." Blaze said.

"What is it?" Cloud asked.

"Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. Look, Zero thinks it's his fault meteor is hanging in the sky. He's gonna want to let out some frustration, and the only way to do that for him is through battle." Blaze pondered.

"That makes sense." X said.

"And what are the biggest, strongest beasts around?" Blaze asked.

"You don't think...." Tifa said.

"The weapons..." Cloud murmured.

"Right. Wherever we find a weapon, we find Zero."

************************

Mideel was usually a quiet town, reknown for it's hot springs. Everyone who lived there knew each other, and every visitor was treated like family.

Usually.

But now, the town was in a state of chaos. The lifestream was trying to punch through the ground, and the ultimate weapon was attacking all the while.

Zero stood in the center of it all, unbelievibly trying to coax the weapon into a fight.

"C'mon and fight, you cowardly beast! I've been tracking you for a week, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you tear ths place up and just leave!" Zero threatened.

The weapon seemingly understood him and decided to take up the challenge. It it flew past Zero and landed behind him, letting out another horrific scream. Zero turned to face it, sounding his own battle cry.

Zero slashed at the monster several times, all doing little or no damage. He was determined to take it down though, even at the cost of his own life. He didn't care any more. It was safe to say he had a death wish at this point.

He went over every mistake he made since coming here. First, he gave the black materia to Sigma. That allowed Sephioth to summon meteor, which threatened the entire planet.

He let Pulse die. He split up the party for no good reason and ended up sending her to her doom.

He never told X about his dark past. Instead, Sigma revealed the truth. Coming from Zero, X could've taken it well; but coming from their arch-enemy made it that much worse.

Zero channeled all his hatred, sorrow, and regret into the fight at hand. It was that very spirit that gave Zero the strength to continue.

It was only a few secconds into the fight when he noticed the Highwind setting down not too far away. X was the first to get out and started to run towards him.

"X! Get out of here!" Zero yelled.

X just kept running.

The weapon suddenly reared back his head and lifted off the ground. It then proceded to fly out of town, searching for another town to destroy.

"Zero! We found you!" X said.

Zero suddenly pointed his beam sabre at X.

"Didn't I tell you to leave? If you don't go now, I'll...."

He was interrupted by a huge tremor. The ground cracked and shuddered beneath their feet, and both were thrown into the lifestream just as they had when they first made their 'time slip'.

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