I thought at first that he was very coarse. So rude to everyone, even his poor assistant who was far too timid to stand up to his abusiveness. That's what it was, really. It was as if he had no respect at all for the poor girl.

I remember it so clearly, the way he stormed into the kitchen and demanded why she hadn't served us tea. We were fine, really, but he thought we should have some and wasn't taking no for an answer.

"Sit your ass down in that chair and drink your goddamn TEA!"

Cloud told me afterwards that my face was a picture.

So we gingerly sat down at the table with him, with his boots up on the tabletop. He wasn't very happy.

So as his poor assistant Shera began clearing away at the sink, we sat at the table with an atmosphere like lead waiting for him to speak. We sipped our tea every now and then in case we made him angrier.

He started ranting and railing about the Shin Ra being late. Apparently they'd told him the Shinra Space Program was going to restart, and since he was the self-professed best pilot in the world, he was to pilot the world's first rocket.

Of course this was a lie on Shin Ra's part. Knowing them like I do, it was almost inevitable from the outset. The president had come to Rocket Town to take Cid's plane.

We had learned earlier when we had asked to lend the plane that it was his most cherished possession and he loved it and lavished attention on it like a favourite daughter, so the meeting between Cid and Rufus was not a friendly one once the Shin Ra's true motive had been revealed.

It was at that moment Shera popped her head around the door and beckoned us inside. She told us that as Cid had been arguing with Rufus round the front, Palmer had sneaked round the back to steal the plane.

We would put a stop to that.

As we confronted Palmer, he recognised a few of our group from an earlier encounter with AVALANCHE in Midgar, at which time I had not yet awoken from my slumber in Nibelheim. He put up a brief show of resistance but made a hasty retreat once he figured the odds were against him, to be promptly mowed down by an approaching truck.

Then the plane began to move! Apparently Palmer had been trying to work out how to start the Tiny Bronco before our interruption; the three of us present leapt onto the craft just before it took off into the air, making a wide arc over Rocket town then zooming over the heads of Rufus and Cid, still arguing. The Shin Ra soldiers began to try to shoot the plane down, and I saw Cid running for his life to catch up with us before the plane took off fully into the sky. He dived and grabbed the tail, somehow dodging torrents of bullets that were flying past us at dangerously close quarters. He hauled himself up onto the plane before we gained height, then the plane shuddered violently as a stray bullet hit.

"Shit! The tail's been hit!" Cid shouted.

We were still increasing speed as the plane gradually started to tip down nose-wards, I felt my stomach churn as there was a shift in the gravitational pull and we began to plummet. My hair streamed out as the hard winds stung my eyes.

"Emergency landing..." Said Cloud over the wind, and we were all lying flat on the wings, clinging on for dear life.

The pace picked up further still as we made a nosedive for the sea, the water rushing up to meet us at an alarming rate.

"This's gonna be a big splash! Hold onto your drawers and don't piss in em!"

The ensuing collision with the sea silenced any reaction I may have had to Cid's outburst and we found ourselves plunged with a crashing impact into the cold waters of the transcontinental sea.

It took us a while to recover from the impact, but the Tiny Bronco had not sunk as we had expected it to, but it would never fly again. We sat atop the ruined plane as it bobbed in the water.

I sat alone on the right wing of the plane, gazing out at the sea. I watched the cold water lapping at the sides of the Tiny Bronco, as if threatening still to swallow her up.

"How about it everyone?" I heard Cloud pipe up, bringing me out of a trance. By everyone, I assumed he meant me, but I had not heard the question.

"Do whatever you wish." I replied, in as general a sense as possible.

I let them keep talking, Cloud and Cid. Ever since I had risen from my coffin, I could not stop thinking about finally catching up with Hojo. For thirty years, nightmares of that man plagued me, toying with my mind; accusing me, haunting me.

'Lucrecia. How could I have let you face the horror that you faced... let you give birth to a monster...

I feel so empty now. You're gone, and thirty years have passed.

Your son, your mark on the world, is our enemy. How will I feel when I finally have to point my gun at him? Will I have so lost any feelings that I will be able to do it pitilessly, coldly, without remorse? Am I so changed into this inhuman monster?

Yet in many ways, I hope that I do feel nothing. Then there would be no pain in my heart this time when I commit my final sin against you.

But I deserve this pain, Lucrecia. It's all my fault. All my fault... If this demonic body of mine could weep, I would not have tears enough for all that has happened to you... and to that child which I must take a hand in destroying.

I do not ask you for forgiveness, wherever you are; for I do not deserve your forgiveness.'       

"Hey, the @#$%'s up with you?"

I started out of my thoughts and glared at the intruder. "I beg your pardon?" I said, my voice lined with ice.

"You're sittin' there with a face like a slapped ass, and I was askin' what the @#$%'s wrong?" He said, not intimidated in the least by my hard stare.

I gave up my glaring at him and returned my gaze to the sea. I listened to the waves for a moment.

"I was thinking. It's not a matter I'd like to discuss."

"Who put a stick up his ass?" He asked Cloud. Cloud almost choked trying not to laugh.

"Um, Cid, Vincent's... got a lot on his mind. He's not the talkative type." He managed.

I pretended to ignore them.

"You can say that again!" Cid crowed. "Well, well. Vince, is it?" He slapped me on the shoulder, hard enough to make me wince slightly.

"Vincent." I corrected him.

"Vince it is then! I'm Cid."

"I know."

"Hey, I'll crack him eventually! He'll be laughing in no time." Cid laughed to Cloud.

"I highly doubt it," I muttered and returned to my thoughts.

The journey to the mainland on the ruined plane seemed to drag. All I could hear was Cid talking to Cloud about his exploits as a pilot for hours... and still my despair gnawed at me like a gaping black hole trying to devour the very sun. As I sat detached from the others my pain felt more apparent.

I began to think that Cid's brash and offensive remarks were quite welcome in place of this solitude.

But I couldn't think that.

'I'm meant to feel the pain. I must atone, I must know punishment for my sins.'

I sighed and closed my eyes. The sounds of the sea seemed to wash over me in a tide of sorrow.

'How like the sea I am,' I thought. 'So vast, cold and desolate...'

It was an eventful journey along the coast, we came across a lone weapon seller near the beach that had informed us of the whereabouts of a keystone that was needed to gain access to the temple of the ancients.

We reached the Gold Saucer a couple of days later. The owner of the Gold Saucer had the Keystone in his museum, and would only give it up to us if Cloud tried his hand at the Battle Arena. Cloud almost won all of the matches, but was just beaten by a strong creature right at the end. I remember seeing the disappointed Cloud walk out of battle square towards us with the keystone.

"Hey Vince, lookee there! Cloud got the keystone!" Said Cid, pointing.

"He looks a little dispirited." I said. I knew the feeling well.

"Yeah... Hey Cloud!" He said as Cloud reached hearing distance. "You got the key, didn't ya? Why the mopey face? You look just like Vince here!"

I rolled my eyes.

Cloud smiled a bit. "Yeah, I got the keystone, but I didn't win the tournament."

Cid lit a cigarette and puffed out a cloud of smoke. "Christ, is that it? You'll win someday, I'm sure. Anyway, I'm bushed. Can we get some shuteye?"

"Look, we haven't got time to hang around, Cid! Sephiroth and Shinra are on their way to the Temple, and we have to get there quick." Said Cloud, a set look on his face. He didn't want to go, but he had to. I could see it in his eyes... fear. He was afraid of Sephiroth. But angry and determined also. I knew that he saw Sephiroth differently to how I saw him - To Cloud, he was once a figure of admiration, someone older to respect and aspire to, and then turned traitor. Someone who stole his hometown away. Someone who scared him.

To me, Sephiroth is a tragedy. He should never have been born, a terrible human experiment; he is the only thing left that I know of Lucrecia left in this world. And I have to kill him. 

"We have to settle up with Sephiroth." He said quietly to Cid. "We can't rest yet."

Cid sighed and nodded, looking downward. "I guess you're right, kid." He paused, nodding his head silently, hands on hips and still looking down with the smoking cigarette poking out of the side of his mouth. "But I'm still @#$%ed."

I think I smiled a little behind my collar. Then I realised that I had and stopped myself. Cid wasn't smiling; he was serious, but even his serious times could spark mirth in others. Unfortunately, even me.

Cloud laughed. We started walking towards the ropeway station and I checked myself. 'I'm not supposed to forget my pain, to be smiling. I don't deserve to smile.'

I needed to try to become more detached, from Cid in particular. His cheerfulness (or lack of it) was starting to infect even me.

We arrived at the ropeway station, but all was quiet. The engines of the tram had been shut down and a few Gold Saucer employees were scattered nearby. A girl came up to us.

"I'm sorry, but the tram is out of order and you won't be able to leave until it's fixed..."

"Oh no!" Cloud cried. He seemed even more agitated now. "But we have to go now, you don't understand!"

"I'm sorry..." Said the girl helplessly.

"Does this mean I can crash for a bit?" Cid asked hopefully, rubbing an eye with his gloved fist.

Suddenly, Cait Sith came hopping up on his giant moogle. "What? The tram's busted? too bad... hey, we can stay at the hotel for the night, I know them there. It'll be free. Whaddya say?"

Cloud grabbed at his hair. "We shouldn't be losing time like this... but there's no way we can leave now until the tram's fixed. I guess we have no choice..."

"Then it's settled!" Said the cat. "Come on!" He bounced off to the hotel.

I looked at the unhappy Cloud, then at Cid, who was almost asleep on his feet, then I started walking after Cait Sith.

Soon we were all gathered in the hotel lobby, discussing what to do next. It was a solemn occasion and for the first time in a long while all of us were assembled together. Cloud, Tifa, Aeris, Barret, Red, Cait Sith, Yuffie, Cid and myself.

We discussed at length our plans. We all poured forth what information we had got so far, and derived from it our course of action for the morning. Aeris was to accompany Cloud to the Temple, as she was a Cetra and it was once a place where many of her people had lived, worked and prayed to the planet.

Our talks went on into the early hours, until at last we decided to go to sleep.

As everyone got up and started up the stairs to their rooms, I noticed Cid was still sitting in the armchair. I walked over to him. "Hey Cid, let's go to our rooms."

"Zzzzzzz...." Cid had fallen asleep in the chair.

"Ah." I said quietly. I patted his shoulder. "Come on, Cid. Wake up."

"Zz -- H-huh? Who'd ya say? What?" He snorted awake. "Oh, Vince. Jus' you. What's up?"

"Everyone's gone to bed. We should, too."

"Thought I was in @#$%in' bed." He stood up and stretched. "Talk, talk, talk all night @#$%in' long. What's happenin' tomorrow then? Gimme the condensed version!"

We started to walk up the stairs. "Cloud, Aeris and one of us are going to the Temple of the Ancients in the morning."

"Christ, if Spiky expects me to go he can @#$% off. I ain't goin'."

"I think it might be interesting." I replied nonchalantly. I didn't particularly want to see Sephiroth though.

"Well, G'night Vince." He waved and went to turn into his room, but stopped. He turned back. "Uh, hey... Cloud says you used to sleep in a coffin..?"

I nodded.

"Oh, ... do you still sleep in one? This hotel could give you one of their display coffins or something!"

"No, I don't still sleep in one."

"Is a coffin comfier?"

"It's quieter."

"Oh. Right." Cid blinked. "Night." He shut the door. I stood for a moment, alone on the landing, gathering my thoughts. I sighed and went to my room.

The morning came quickly, and it seemed that no sooner had I laid my head upon the pillow it was light again. I lay there for some time, thinking.

I seemed to do a lot of that, I didn't think any less now that I was out of my coffin. If anything, I had less to think about then.

I wondered if we were any nearer to meeting Hojo.

'But what if we did? What would I say, what would I do? Would I shout at him, or am I too dead to be roused in anger again? I have felt nothing for too many years. Maybe I wouldn't even care.

He destroyed me, and I can't care. What manner of creature have I become?

Would I care if he destroyed me again, for good? Perhaps that's what I want. Perhaps that's what I deserve. Maybe it's best if I do die.

But how would he kill me again? I am beyond mortal death now. I am nearly sixty years old, and I look no older than when I was twenty seven, when he killed me and made me what I am.

Does he feel remorse for the evils he has committed against nature? Science... a barbaric invention. Men now are able to assume the power of gods, and that power is tainted by their corruption.

That foul-mouthed pilot Cid admires science, I know. Does he know what harm it can cause? Mankind was better off in the days of the Ancients, when the only powers wielded by mortals were the gifts of nature. For all the wrong Sephiroth has done, he was right when he said the ancestors of humans were cowards. While the Cetra constantly migrated and were one with the planet, humans couldn't care less about it and began to form permanent settlements, advanced in technology and thus science was born out of their idle selfishness.

I wonder if Cid knows this about this science of his? That it does far more harm than good.'

I looked at my metal arm and flexed the clawed fingers, making them glint coldly in the light. I wondered where my flesh arm had gone. I wondered if my flesh arm was actually still there underneath this metal, but I had never tried to take it off in case it wasn't.

'At least, like this, I can pretend my arm might still be there.'

At last I found the will to force myself out of bed and out of my trance, yet still filled with lethargy.

I felt like I was drowning. Somehow, in that little bedroom as I pulled on my clothes for another long and wearying day, I felt the worst I had ever felt in my life. I don't know why. I sank into a pit of despair.

"....ahh....." I sank down onto the carpet, sliding down the wall. It was unbearable. I wanted to die, I became overwhelmingly filled with hopelessness and despairing anguish... desolation.

These spells happened to me now and again, where I would lose all will to exist, and I would sit there, slumped and defenceless as darkness swallowed me. All I could feel was darkness. Grief. Torment.

"If this is all I can feel, then let me feel absolutely nothing... Beautiful oblivion is a sanctuary I long to reach..."

I didn't notice the door open. I didn't notice anyone come in until I was being hauled to my feet.

"Vince! Vince! For @#$%'s sake, answer me! What's up?"

I looked up into the confused face of Cid. "...What?" I said, the dark spell for now broken.

"You were sittin' there, thumping yer head against the wall, bitin' yer own @#$%in' hand and whimperin' to yourself!"

I blinked and looked at my hand, a couple of the fingers were bleeding. I hadn't even realised I was doing it, or even that I was making a sound.

"I... had no idea..." I mumbled, as the blood dripped in tiny droplets onto the cream-coloured carpet. I felt shame, for letting someone see me like that. Cid probably thought I was crazy. Maybe he'd be right.

"Here, let's get this bandaged..." He went to the first aid box on the wall and got out some bandages and an antiseptic wipe from a packet. He made me sit down and he cleaned the blood from the deep, bloodied bites on my hand. Strangely, the wipes should have stung as they cleaned the cuts, but I felt no pain. Maybe that's why I hadn't noticed I was biting myself.

Calmly and without fuss, Cid finished cleaning them and started to wrap a thin bandage around the damaged area. He didn't even ask why I had done it! He didn't seem to care at all. I don't mean that he didn't care about my injuries, but that he didn't care that I might be a little disturbed. It really didn't bother him.

Nevertheless, I still felt uncomfortable that I had been seen in one of my "moments". Most of the time I could deal with these thoughts, regrets... but sometimes I just broke down. No one had ever seen this until now, and I didn't quite know what to say. I was not good at expressing myself at all.

"Okay, this should be fine now. Just... put this glove on, and... there." He tugged my glove onto my hand. "There, like nothing ever happened." He stood up and nodded briskly. "I actually came in to say Cloud picked you to go with him and Aeris. Are ya ready to leave? The rest of us guys are gonna hang around a bit and make preparations, then we'll follow later."

I nodded, standing up. "I'm.. ready."

Cid turned and started to leave.

"Cid!"

He turned. "What?"

I paused. "Why didn't you ask me ... why I did it?"

He shrugged. "Not my place, pal. Hell, we all get bad days and some deal with it differently than others. A guy's gotta lose it sometime, 'specially under this pressure we're under. Even you." He grinned. "So don't worry 'bout it. I won't tell nobody. Enjoy the Temple, I'm gonna get some @#$%in' shuteye at last. Never slept a wink last night, I was dreadin' Cloud pickin' me. Hahaha!" He walked off down the corridor, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke behind him.

I stood there for a while, looking at the doorframe. I raised my hand and looked at it. The bandages were completely concealed by the glove. I had never done... that before. The fast approaching confrontations with Hojo and Sephiroth were perhaps adding to my troubles somewhat.

But Cid didn't mind. Why? He treated it as if I'd accidentally pricked my finger on a thorn...

I slowly walked down to the lobby, where Cloud and Aeris were ready to leave. I saw Barret slip into the hotel shop. Tifa was reading a book in the armchair. I couldn't see any of the others.

"Vincent, there's something you should know," Cloud said, looking a little sad.

"What is it?"

"Cait Sith... has betrayed us. He's a Shin Ra spy, and he stole the keystone and gave it to them... We're still going, but the Shin Ra will have gotten there first, he made sure of that. What's more, he's holding Barret's daughter Marlene as a hostage, so we have to do as he says. I don't know what we'll do after the Temple, but we can be thinking of a way to get her back whilst we're there... We'd best hurry."

Aeris nodded, looking angry. "I can't believe he could do such a thing... I trusted him..."

I looked around, but neither Barret nor Cait Sith were anywhere to be seen. I sighed. "Life is full of disillusion. Many things are not what they seem..."

Cloud peered at me curiously. "Vincent, what do you..."

"Enough. As you say, we must make for the Temple." 

I holstered my shotgun, checked my materia and then we left for the Temple of the Ancients.