One Winged Devil By Philip Bourque a.k.a. Artificer Urza

The destruction of one's world is a hard thing to survive, people often cling to something or someone to continue living. Sometimes it's the search that keeps a person going, but that search can become an obsession, which can result in self-destruction.

Cloud Strife walked through a world known as Terminus, a world that had become a hub for interplanetary travelers. How he had gotten there he did not remember, all he knew was that his world had been destroyed. He was dressed in black, had a red cloak, a golden clawed gauntlet on his left hand and his giant sword in his right, his spiky blond hair and startling blue eyes; he cut an impressive figure and when people saw his melancholy serious expression, they avoided him a bit afraid of his very presence. He approached a cloaked figure.

"You know who I'm looking for? Where they are?" Cloud asked, perfectly calm.

"Do you have the munny I want?" The informant asked.

Cloud tossed the man a bag filled with cash and the informant smiled within the depths of his hood.

"Crete. That's where you'll find 'em." The informant said.

"How can I get there?" Cloud asked.

"Don't know and don't care. My job was to get the info, how you get there is up to you." The informant figure said, leaving the area.

Cloud left that little waiting area and proceeded to the nearest pub. Interplanetary travel wasn't popular as most people were trying to get over the fact that their homes and lives had just been destroyed, so people didn't plan on going anywhere.

When Cloud entered the pub, two people immediately caught his attention: one was a man about six feet in height, he had pale skin, ash blond hair in a mullet style bound in a ponytail, he had a goatee, wore a long black trench coat, black shirt, black pants, black boots and glasses. The other was a girl who was about five foot six; she had light brown skin, short reddish brown hair she had an athletic build and her hands had visible scars on them. She wore a brown shirt with a vest, brown pants, boots and glasses. Cloud sat at a table next to them and ordered a drink. He could over hear them, basically because they weren't making an effort to be quiet.

"I'm hungry, can't we afford more than this Urza?" The girl whined to the man over her rather meagre plate of food.

The man, called Urza sighed and put his hand to his temple.

"Look, you're hungry because we can' afford much food, we can't afford food because we are strapped for cash, we're strapped for cash because people don't want us to fly them anywhere. I told you people don't want to travel to other worlds, Topaz."

"But, it's beautiful out there. It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know?" Topaz said sheepishly.

"Excuse me." Cloud interrupted moving his chair to the duo's table. "But am I correct in assuming that the two of you could pilot me to another world?"

"Well, depending where you want to go we might be able to... for a price." Urza said.

"I wish to go to Crete." Cloud said nonchalantly.

"Crete... Isn't that on the Coliseum world?" Topaz asked biting her lip.

"Yeah it is... Which means we'd have to go past Hollow Bastion and that place is not the safest, if you get my drift. We could do it for, say, 1000 munny, I guess." Urza said looking Cloud in the eye.

Topaz's eyes widened and she pulled Urza aside.

"1000 munny? Are you nuts? No one would ever agree to that!" She whispered to him.

"Like I said, Hollow Bastion is dangerous and besides, we're the only people on this rock that can get him where he needs to go and further... " Urza was saying.

"I'll pay." Cloud said.

"'Scuse me?" Urza and Topaz said in unison.

"I said I'll pay, just so long as you take me where I want to go."

"Half now, half when we get there?" Urza asked suspiciously.

Cloud tossed a bag of munny on the table. It didn't matter to him how much he had to spend as long as he achieved his goal. Topaz eyed the munny with a wide smile, until Urza stashed the bag; she pouted and stuck out her tongue at Urza.

"Well, I'm Topaz an' this is Urza. Well be in hanger twenty-three at the docks. Who're you?" Topaz asked with a sunny smile.

"I'm Cloud, Cloud Strife." Cloud said, leaving the pub.

*******

Cloud had come to hanger twenty-three, totally unsure of what to expect. The ship he saw made him raise an eyebrow; it was rather small for what might be considered a space faring vessel, it was constructed of odd looking, different coloured blocks. In his opinion, the ship didn't look like it could fly. He had heard of such vessels called gummi ships.

"Don't let appearances fool you, the Hawk can move surprisingly fast." Urza said stepping up from behind Cloud.

Urza walked before Cloud and opened the hatch for them to enter. Cloud made himself as comfortable as he could for it was a small cockpit. Topaz was sitting in the pilot's seat ready for take off.

"She can fly this thing?" Cloud asked incredulously.

"Sure she can. She designed the gummi ship, I built it and she flies it. But just in case, the hull is reinforced and I have recently installed a shield gummi so we'll be able to take pretty much anything if and when she crashes into something." Urza smirked from his seat in the back of the cockpit.

"Hey! I've gotten better." Topaz said blushing.

"Just take-off already. The sooner we go the sooner will be past Hollow Bastion." Urza said.

The take-off went without a hitch and Topaz proved that she did indeed have a great deal of skill being a pilot. The flight was rather dull in the beginning obstacles and enemies were sparse and easy to avoid. They used a warp gate to travel to a region closer to Hollow Bastion and it was there they saw increased activity in terms of enemies. However it was not something Topaz was extremely confident in her abilities and Urza was totally apathetic to the situation. However, once they passed through the Hollow Bastion area, they saw swarms of enemy ships; huge black clouds of heartless ships loomed in the distance.

"Well, so much for sneaking our way through." Urza said.

"Is there another way through?" Cloud asked.

"Depends if Urza's gonna be stingy with the energy ammo." Topaz smiled.

"I can sell off the extra gummi parts we get if you just blast through them, that should cover it. I'm readying the haste gummi, so get ready." Urza said turning to a gauge.

"Heh heh, time to die Red Baron." Topaz smiled evilly as she grasped the handles of the control stick.

"Red Baron?" Cloud asked.

The view of space and the heartless suddenly erupted with lasers, missiles and weapons fire of the small ship. The enemy was shredded by weapons fire as they flew forward through the small explosions of the enemy ships.

"What was all that?" Cloud asked.

"Lets see; thunder, thundara and thundaga gummis; comet, meteor and ultima gummis too." Urza replied. "Hey Topaz, keep going, we still have plenty of firepower left."

Hundreds of heartless ships, still intact after the barrage assault of the Hawk, pulled away from the diminished swarm and pursued the Hawk.

"I can't shoot 'em, they're behind us." Topaz said frantically.

"How good is your manoeuvring?" Cloud asked.

"Er... pretty good, I guess." Topaz said uncertainly.

"Then head into that asteroid field, try to shake them off." Cloud pointed out.

Topaz veered them off towards the asteroid field dodging the floating rocks as best she could. Fortunately, the shields took the brunt of the impacts of bouncing into the occasional asteroid. Because there was an over all lack of manoeuvrability in the little asteroid field, many of the heartless ships were destroyed because of collisions with the asteroids and each other.

"Aww crap, we still got a few on our tail." Topaz said.

"We're almost to the warp gate, keep going." Urza urged.

The Hawk bobbed and weaved around the asteroids, the heartless close behind. These pursuers were the best of the lot, being able to fly with more agility and skill than the others. These ships kept pace with the Hawk without getting themselves blown up.

The purple swirl that was the warp gate could be seen in the distance and two immense asteroids were about to collide in front of it. The Hawk, propelled by the haste gummi, barely makes it past the asteroids. The pursuing heartless are not so lucky as most of them are crushed by the asteroids collision; the rest are destroyed by either being unable to turn away from the asteroid in time or are destroyed by the flying chunks of rock which come off the breaking asteroids. The Hawk flew into the warp gate and vanished.

*********

Landing on the world of Crete was simple enough; traveling from the exit of the warp gate to that world was easy as most of the heartless ships posed little threat. They had landed outside a temple of Hades and there were many tents and soldiers outside. After hiding the Hawk Cloud, Urza and Topaz went to investigate.

"Hey, what's going on here?" Urza asked of one of the soldiers.

"Some monsters have overrun the temple, we're here to clear 'em out." Was the reply.

"Hmmmm... Maybe we can make some munny off of this." Urza mused. "Topaz, stay here, I'm going to have a word with the commander."

"But... "Topaz tried to protest.

"But nothing. Stay here." Urza insisted.

"I have something to ask the commander, myself." Cloud said walking towards the main tent.

Several hours later, Topaz entered the temple alone. She had waited long enough and Cloud and Urza had yet to leave the commander's tent. She was bored and the temple didn't look that scary, so she decided to explore a bit. The temple looked huge from the outside, made of obsidian stone, it was very imposing in stature. The inside was well lit, but the overall design was like a maze and Topaz was soon very lost.

"Maybe I should have stayed outside the temple." She said to herself sheepishly.

Groaning and shuffling noises behind her interrupted her musings. Topaz turned to see three zombies advancing towards her. One only had one eye ball, was badly decomposed as it's jaw was hanging and it was covered in blood. The second was bald and had no legs as it dragged itself along the ground. The third had a cracked skull and you could see its brains, black puss oozed from many wounds and it was missing part of its right hand. The trio of undead were slowly advancing on Topaz.

"I should have stayed put. HELP!" She screamed.

From the darkness Urza leapt, slashing at the zombies with two katanas. He moved so fast that he almost looked like he was hitting all the zombies at the same time. He finished his series of strikes with two slashes and then turned to glare at Topaz.

"Didn't I tell you to stay put?" He asked glaring at her.

She said nothing and she suddenly jumped on him, hugging him fiercely.

"I'msosorryI'llneverdiobeyyouagainI'msogladyoucametosaveme." She rambled.

Urza gritted his teeth trying to pry her off of him, but wasn't having much luck. They both heard the sound of metal cutting through flesh and bone and they turned around. They saw Cloud standing over the crawling zombie; his sword had sliced it in two.

"Come on, we have a job to do." Cloud said turning to leave.

Topaz reluctantly let go of Urza, they both got up and followed Cloud.

"We have to clean the place out of the zombies. Cloud thinks he'll find clues about the one he's searching for in here." Urza explained as they walked. "All we have to do is take out the boss and all the zombies will drop dead."

Topaz nodded slightly and suddenly stopped; something had grabbed her leg. She turned and saw that a zombie that had partially crawled out of a trap pit had grabbed her leg and was pulling her in. She slipped and was dragged into the pit. Urza and Cloud rushed to save her, but a grating slid over the hole. Topaz landed on the bottom with a crash. Skeleton remains lined the bottom of the pit and again a zombie shuffled from the debris.

"Hit it in the head!" Urza yelled down at her. "That's their weak spot, break the head and the body falls."

Topaz closed her eyes and punched the zombie. It's head exploded, flesh, bone, and blood and juices splattered all over Topaz.

"EWWWWWWWWWWWW GROSS!" She shrieked.

A loud bang sounded as Cloud descended into the pit, his sword breaking through the bars. He landed, feet first, on a zombie, crushing it, destroying it.

"Get on." He said to Topaz, a black bat's wing sprouting from his back.

Topaz grabbed onto his neck and held on tight as they flew out of the pit. Cloud motioned them to follow. They fought their way through zombies, skeletons and other undead to get to what appeared a throne room. There was no one there, but Urza and Cloud remained ready to fight. Suddenly, the sound of clapping could be heard in the room and Hades appeared.

"Great work; you're the first to get here. You're pretty strong, maybe we could make a deal here, what do you say?" Hades said.

Cloud didn't hesitate as he jumped and slashed at Hades. Hades simply dodged the attack, still smiling.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa there spiky. There's gotta be some kind of deal we can make; y'know like me helping you find someone perhaps." Hades said slyly.

Cloud stopped his assault and looked at Hades.

"I knew that'd get your attention. Here's the deal, I'm sure you'll find who your looking for in the Olympian tournament. All you got to do is fight there and you'll find them and if not, I'll help you find 'em." Hades smile widened as he extended his hand to shake on the deal.

Cloud hesitated only for a brief moment before shaking Hades' hand and both of them vanished in a burst of flame.

"Cloud!" Topaz screamed.

She tried to run forward, but Urza held her back.

"Come on. We've done our job." He said pulling her towards the exit.

"But Cloud..." She said plaintively.

"He made his choice, nothing we can do about it." Urza said looking at the spot where Cloud and Hades vanished.