"The Best Of Both Worlds" – Introduction by the author

"The Best Of Both Worlds" – Introduction by the author.

This story first came about whilst I was writing Final Fantasy 8 fanfiction one night, and listening to the Final Fantasy 7 soundtrack. At the time, I was also hoping to find a way to write a story about alternate-reality Final Fantasy that would entertain as well as Tamerine's "FF7 Twisted." and Kate Lorraine's "A Mist Over Winhill", and also explore the very idea of alternate reality, which has always been one of my favourite genres.

And therein lay the problem. The mere fact that these stories are already published and hailed, they are already, in my mind anyway, the definitive Final Fantasy alternate reality stories. So how was I supposed to try my hand? FF7 and FF8 had already been done. FF9 was too far away, and I've never played FF5 or FF6. And so, whilst writing about the adventures of Squall & Co., I listened to the music of the Mako Reactor Bombing, Aeris' Death, Cid's Theme and the Sephiroth Choir, an idea began to form in my head.

What if I transplanted the characters from Final Fantasy 8 into the world & story of Final Fantasy 7? Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Squall and the others squared off against The Turks? Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between Zell and Rufus? Etc etc.

It was an interesting thought, and I was hooked on it for weeks, trying to work out all the details and how things would go. Obviously, as the lead, Squall would take Cloud's place, I thought. But then I began to think more about that sort of thing. The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I became with the way people try to draw similarities between the characters. Like when FF8 was first coming out and everyone was looking at screenshots, people would blab to their friends "Well, instead of Barret there's Zell, and instead of Yuffie, there's Selphie."

Stop right there. Barret and Zell have hardly anything in common. Barret is a gigantic black man in his mid-thirties with an explosive temper and a gun on his arm. Zell is a 17-year-old white male into martial arts and hyperactivity. If you were to tell a Selphie fan about the similarity between her and Yuffie, they would look at you like you farted at a funeral. Believe me, as a Selphie fan, I know. Selphie and Yuffie are nothing alike. Yuffie is a vain, self-absorbed thief. Selphie is an honourable, friendly partygirl with a spunky personality. What will they say next? Vincent and Irvine are similar. Why, because they both carry guns? Last time I checked, Irvine didnt sleep in coffins, and Vincent was no ladies man.

It is this type of thing that made me want to write this story even more. Not to show the similarities between the characters, but to actually highlight the differences. Can you see Rinoa reacting to situations the same way Tifa did? Thought not.

However, whilst the characters are what this story is all about, the characters were also it's biggest stumbling block. Final Fantasy 7 has a cast that features nine playable characters, and a supporting cast of allies and enemies that must be at least 50. Final Fantasy only has six playable characters, not counting the Laguna scenarios. Eight if you count Seifer and Edea.

So how was I to make the cast of FF8 fit into the parts for FF7? The answer was not an easy decision, but it was a necessity for the story to work. Roles such as Vincent and Yuffie would have to be dropped. I could find no place for characters such as Laguna, Kiros and Ward either. That whole thing about Laguna being Squall's father would simply do nothing more than make the story too damn complicated.

So, I had to do a bit of editing to make this work. For the story to work effectively, places like Wutai and Nibelheim would have to lose a lot of significance, and characters like Laguna, Raine and Cid would have to be brushed out of the spotlight a little. However, on the plus side, characters like Quistis went up in significance. I actually think that sometimes in this story, Quistis, Zell, Irvine, and Selphie get to do a lot more with the story in this than they did in FF8! =) Another reason why I wanted to write this story was the desire to re-capture the sense of delightful curiosity I experienced when I read the Final Fantasy alternate reality stories for the first time. I was like, "Hang on, if this character is here, then what is this character doing? Ah, alright, so where's so-and-so if he never got to do such-and-such?" Get it now? This is something I wanna recapture in the story.

And so, without further delay, here it is. I hope you have just as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Just remember a few things.

The main theme of this story is alternate realites. In Omega it was Family. Put your trust in me that it will all come together and all the differences will be explained and justified.

This is not an attempt to draw similarity between the characters of FF7 and FF8. This is an experiment to see how the characters of FF8 react when placed into the events, situations and circumstances of FF7.

I'm sorry if you have a particular fancy for a certain character and they don't appear. I promise I will try my very best to find a way to work everybody from FF8 in, somehow.

Dedication; Dedicated to Colleen "Charly" Dempsey. My shining star, my guiding light, I love you beyond words, always and forever.

Also special thanks to Chris (Squall2) for being a true best pal. Steph (Zell's Girl) for being a good friend and for introducing me and Col. Also thanks to Leanne (Raine) for creating the title logo, and for Tim (Mystical) who sold me the FF7 soundtrack that inspired this whole saga, and for creating Fantasysquare. And also a very special thanks to all the other guys and girls of Fantasysquare.com!!!

The Best Of Both Worlds

By Darren Shier

Based on the stories and characters of Hironobu Sakaguchi & Tetsuya Nomura

"We cannot choose what we are,

and yet, what are we, but the sum

of our choices?" – Grant Naylor

"Which reality is in fact real?"

– Teal'c

"I've got seven days to live my life,Or seven ways to die."

- David Bowie, from "Seven"

"The Rape Of The World." by Tracy Chapman;

Mother of us all
Place of our birth
How can we stand aside
And watch the rape of the world?


This is the beginning of the end
This is the most heinous of crimes
This is the deadliest of sins
The greatest violation of all time

Mother of us all
Place of our birth
We all are witness
To the rape of the world


You've seen her stripped-mined
You've heard of bombs
Exploded underground
You know the sun shines
Hotter than ever before

Mother of us all
place of our birth
We all are witness
To the rape of the world


Some claim to have crowned her a Queen
With cities of concrete and steel
But there is no glory, no honor
In what results from the rape of the world

Mother of us all
Place of our birth
We all are witness
To the rape of the world


She has been clear-cut
She has been dumped on
She has been poisoned
And beaten up
And we have been witness
To the rape of the world

Mother of us all
Place of our birth
How can we stand aside
And watch the rape of the world?

If you look
You'll see it with your own eyes
If you listen
You will hear her cries

If you care

You will stand and testify
And stop the rape of the world
Stop the rape of the world....

Chapter I; "Midnight Run"

I'll be here...

Why...?

I'll be 'waiting'...here...

For what?

I'll be waiting...for you...so...

If you come here...

You'll find me.

I promise.

Now take a look up at the stars.

Aren't they pretty? A billion blinking lights, shining millennia before you were born, and will shine long after. Have you ever looked up at those lights and stared in wonder out how many countless stars, worlds and galaxies were up there. Did you ever stop and wonder if maybe, just maybe, whilst you sat there, was there someone else out there, looking up at those blinking lights the same time you were, and just as in wonder as you?

Right now, on another world, somebody is.....

The blonde girl stood in the alley, pausing to wrap her coat closer around her for that extra bit of warmth. The basket of flowers she carried swung as her arm moved, the basket hoop resting on her elbow. As she pulled back her hood, letting her golden locks fall free, she noticed a patch in the black cloudy sky. The pollution had parted a little tonight, making the stars beautiful.

She looked up at the blinking lights and smiled. They really were pretty. She had to get out of Midgar more.

She looked down, through the alley, then at the green espers that wafted gently on the ground near her feet. It was a Mako furnace, burning gently. The girl paid it nevermind and began to walk out of the alley, her footsteps eerily hollow and echoing down the alley walls.

She stepped out onto a busy street. Midgar was always busy, even at this time of night. A car rushed by her, followed by a motorcycle. She glanced idly at a poster for the Play, "Loveless.", featuring a load of actors she had never heard of. She looked up at the skyline of the great city, before moving on.

This is Midgar City. It's the largest city in the entire world. People come here to make their dreams come true, but then wake up to reality. It's the kind of place where anything can happen, and usually does. Usually twice in the same night. It's not so good that they named it twice, nor did anybody leave their heart there, but one thing the songs got right; It's one hell of a town.

***

A squeal of brakes and the hissing of steam signalled the arrival of train number; #08 into the Sector 8 station. The "extra passengers" quickly nodded to each other and went to it. The first two, two young males in their late-teens/early-twenties were the first to go, dropping down from the side of the train. The three Shin-Ra guards on duty noticed them instantly, blew their whistles and sprang forward into the attack.

"S-sir!" stuttered the shorter one of the two.

"Get behind me!" shouted his friend, the dark-haired one, drawing his fists. "Yeah, come on, do your worst Shin-Ra scummie." he jeered to the advancing guards.

The first guard was struck from behind and decked by the third figure to leap from the train, a girl with brown hair done in a bob. "Don't try to be brave, Zone. It's out of character." she grinned, planting a judo kick on the second guard.

"She's got you there, sir." laughed Watts.

"You're one to talk." Zone hissed.

"You ALL talk too much!!!" shouted the fourth voice, springing from the train and somersaulting through the air, planting a devastating kick on the third and final guard. He dropped to the ground, still in a fighting stance. He was about 5'5" tall, with spiky blonde hair that pointed straight up in a fringe. There was also a black tattoo on the left side of his face. He wore a red, blue and black jacket, and baggy jeans.

"Now let's GO!!!" he shouted, ushering them out of the train station. He turned back to look at the fifth member of the team, the newcomer.

"Yo, c'mon." he said. "Follow me."

The fifth one sailed down effortlessly. He had long wavy-brown hair and mostly wore black, apart from the white top and fur lining of his black jacket that made him look like a biker. He wore a chain around his neck with a lion's head, and there was also a prominent scar between his eyes.

"Time to see what you can do." grinned the blonde guy. "Hope you're as good as they say."

"....Better." said the young man, looking around for something.

"Well, don't mess up." warned the blonde guy. "This job is real life or death. A moment's hesitation could get you–"

The other boy leaped forward into the darkness and drew his weapon. A flash of silver and two screams later, and the two Shin-Ra guards that had been sneaking up on them lay dead.

"–Killed." the brown-haired boy finished, putting away his weapon.

"That's a gunblade, right? Wow, man that looks so cool!!!"

"...Whatever." said the brown-haired one. "Let's go."

They hurried on toward Zone, Watts and the girl, who was named Xu. They were crouched in front of the main gate of the reactor, but they had seen the scarfaced boy in action, and boy, were they impressed.

"W-wow." stuttered Watts. "You really were g-g-g-reat, sir!"

The boy gave no reply.

"Yeah, you totally used to be a SeeD alright. What was your name again?" asked Zone.

"Squall." came the reply.

"You guys nearly done?" asked the blonde-haired boy eventually. "We haven't got all night!"

"Just give me a minute, Zell." replied Xu, moments before the doors slowly grinded apart. "Got it!"

"Let's move!" ordered Zell as Zone, Watts and Xu ran forward.

"Ex-SeeD, huh?" asked Zell, running beside Squall as they ran into the reactor. "Name's Zell. Zell Dincht. You know, I was almost a SeeD too, but I quit when I was still a cadet. Not that it was because I couldn't handle it, y'see, which I could. It's just me and Shin-Ra, well, we had our disagreements...."

Squall didn't bother to reply, just ran on, into the Mako Reactor and across the narrow T-shaped bridge. Zone and Xu ran left as Watts ran ahead, securing the escape route. Squall and Zell took the right turn, running up the gantry toward the reactor itself.

They met up in the control room, Zell standing by as Xu and Zone deciphered the code. Squall stood patiently in the corner, arms crossed across his chest.

"This your first time in a Mako Reactor?" Zell asked him innocently, completely unaware of the reaction it would cause inside Squall.

Blood spraying, fire burning bodies, children screaming in fear, men screaming as they are impaled, ripped apart or set on fire, acrid black smoke filling the night as houses are burned to the ground, blood spilling on the–

"No." said Squall, blinking away the image.

"Ummmm, ok." said Zell, then turned hearing the click as the first door opened. The four of them ran forward into the first room. Xu and Zone immediately began to decipher the code for the second door. There was a short beeping noise, and Xu began to frown.

"What's wrong?" Zell asked.

"It won't work." she said, holding up the passcard they had obtained. "My personal access code won't work."

"Let's try mine." said Squall, and drew his gunblade. He thrust it forward, jamming the blade right in the gap were the double-doors met, then pulled the trigger, sending the charge through the blade, blowing the doors wide open. Without looking back, Squall holstered his weapon and set forward.

".....He's good. Ex-SeeD alright. Not every day you get somebody like that in a resistance movement like the Midgar Owls."

"Come on, what are you waiting for, let's GO!" said Zell, pulling them through the wreckage of the doors. Within seconds, they were inside the lift, heading deep into the bowels of the reactor.

"You're real good." Zell said to Squall. "We could really use someone like you in the Midgar Owls."

"Whatever." Squall dismissed.

"See, Shin-Ra are draining all the energy outta the planet with these reactors. Then when they drain out all of it, it's kaputski for all of us. We gotta do our best to stop Shin-Ra, and that means blowing up the reactors. No more reactors means no more draining, you know?"

Brilliant plan. Squall thought. It obviously hasn't occurred to him that Shin-Ra will just build more reactors.

The door opened and they ran forward into the reactor. Scrambling across pipes and ladders, Zone and Xu stood guard as Squall and Zell climbed down and ran across the bridge toward the very heart of the reactor itself.

"You set the bomb, Squall." Zell ordered. "I'll keep a look-out."

Squall pulled the bomb out and looked at it. It was a rather crude reconstruction of a SeeD thermo-plasmic incendiary device, T-Class model. A bomb like this would normally blow something like a tank or a train to pieces, but all the energy in this place would no doubt amplify that explosion to the extreme. Smart.

Squall placed it on the floor and began to set it. Suddenly, his vision began to warp, become dimmer and redder, until the reactor around seemed like a painting that had been done entirely in human blood.

"Wretch!" Squall could hear a voice scream. "Fool! You kan never forget the past! You kan never live like it never happened! I'm koming, Squall. We're going to destroy you, and all who would interfere with my plans...."

Squall's vision returned to proper colour, the cackling voice in his head gone.

"Something wrong, Squall?" Zell asked, looking at him, concerned.

"....Nothing. It's nothing." Squall replied, setting the bomb for 10 minutes. "Ten minute countdown." said Squall, setting his watch to stay in sync with the bomb's timer. "Mark!" he called, pressing both switches at the same time.

"Head's up!" shouted Zell as the sirens wailed. "They're coming!.......Ummmm. It's coming?"

Squall turned his head and stood up. There was a thundering, stamping sound coming from the darkness the other side of the bridge. Suddenly, a mechanical roar filled the reactor, and the thundering shape of the arachnid automaton, X-ATM092 stomped forth across bridge.

It stopped there, scanning Zell and Squall, growling metallically.

"That's an X-ATM092, Squall!!" shouted Zell. "Also known as 'The Black Widow'! It doesn't ever stop until it's enemies are dead. Oh man, I don't like this one bit, Squall."

"Like it or not," said Squall, drawing his gunblade. "It's on the bridge. So the only way out, is through it."

"You're right." agreed Zell, tightening his gloves. "Let's Rock!"

Squall leapt forward, gunblade raised behind, bringing it right down on the spider's face-plate, causing a large enough dent in it's armour. Zell went to work on it's legs, pounding the forward-left one like he was possessed by the devil. He wasn't aiming wild, though. He was going for the join at it's knee, where the armour would be weakest.

Squall pulled the gunblade from the spider's face-plate, and vaulted up so the he was standing right on top of it, striking several heavy blows to some it's key systems.

The spider wailed and thrashed about, trying to throw Squall from it's back. As it turned, it hit Zell, striking him hard and sending him over the safety rail. He hung on to the bar for his life, looking down at the raw Mako glowing white far below him. Then, his grip began to slip....

Squall bounded from the top of X-ATM092 and landed gracefully, like a cat. He immediately reached over the rail and grabbed Zell, who was just about to slip. Holding him by the wrist, Squall pulled him up and over the rail to safety.

"Whew." breathed Zell. "I owe you one, man."

"Whatever." dismissed Squall, swinging his gunblade around in the air. "Get ready to run."

Before Zell could reply, Squall raised his gunblade high in the air, where it began to emit a charged stream of energy down the blade. Squall ran forward, pointing it right at X-ATM092. Squall swung the blade right at it, striking a powerful blow, then another, and another, and another! He kept swinging and pulling the trigger upon impact, charging the blade and turning the metallic spider into so much scrap metal.

X-ATM092 growled and fell silent as it's motors wound down.

"Wow, man." exclaimed Zell. "That was incredible. What do you call that?"

"...Renzokuken." replied Squall.

"Oh yeah. Mine's called Duel." said Zell. "Maybe I'll show it to you sometime."

"Whatever. This machine has self-repair technology. Let's get out of here."

Zell nodded and they ran forward across the bridge, bounding over the wreckage that had already begun to fix itself. As they reached the ladder, Squall checked his watch.

00:03:38

"Shit!" exclaimed Zell. "That fight cost us bucko overtime. Let's make like shepherds and get the flock out of here!"

"Indeed." said Squall, rushing up the ladder behind him.

"We got three minutes!" Zell shouted over to Xu and Zone. "We gotta get out of here!"

They nodded and made for the lift, holding the doors open for Squall and Zell. Scrambling across the pipes and ladders, they stopped and turned when they heard a metallic roar.

"He's baaa-aaack." muttered Zell, looking at the reassembled X-ATM092 far below.

"Don't waste time! Run!" ordered Squall.

"What's the problem?" Zell asked as he ran beside Squall. "Not like it can get up......"

The cybernetic beast roared, then lowered it's front legs, raising it's back one's so that it's abdomen was pointed upwards. It shout out a high-tension cable, embedding it in the roof, and began to raise itself by it's 'webbing'.

"Let's book!" shouted Zell, charging into the lift. Squall checked his watch as the doors closed.

00:02:45

Zone slammed his fist down on the button and the lift began to elevate out of the reactor, slowly at first, but picking up. Meanwhile, X-ATM092 had completed it's ascent, and had swung up and over towards the outer doors of the lift shaft. It crushed them like tin foil and began to pull itself up the shaft after the lift, slamming it's massive legs into the shaft walls and pulling itself rapidly up that way.

"Holy crap!" shouted Zell. "Man, it can't eat nothing!"

00:01:26

The lift doors juttered open upon reaching the control room, and the foursome burst out immediately, running through the control room for safety. Xu heard the awesome crash behind her and turned to see the metal monster crushing the lift like aluminium. She turned to fast however, twisting her ankle and falling onto her back, yelling out in pain. Squall skidded to a stop and dashed back to her.

"My leg!" she gasped. "I think I twisted my ankle! You'll have to leave me behind."

Squall and Xu both looked at the shaft when they heard the cybernetic scream. X-ATM092 was tearing the lift to shreds, and now it's face-plate was visible. The evil laser-red eyes scanned them, locking on target with it's prey.

Squall didn't say any words and hoisted Xu up in his arms, holding her up on his back. His pace became slower with her weight on him, but he still ran. As he sped out of the control room, carrying Xu, he looked at his watch and tried to quicken his pace.

00:00:26

He ran out of the control room, hearing X-ATM092 pull free of the lift shaft and barging after them.

Zell was at the centre of the T-Shaped bridge, waiting and concerned. As soon as he saw Squall he shouted at him to move him and moved his arm in a swooping gesture.

00:00:09

"RUN!!!" ordered Squall. Xu looked behind them. X-ATM092 had cleared the control room and was stomping across the bridge behind them.

00:00:07

Squall saw Zone and Zell jump through the security door Watts was holding open. "Hurry Sir!" Watts screamed.

00:00:05

Squall rounded the T-section of the bridge, running like a hound bursting from hell. Xu screamed right in his ear as X-Atm092 bore down upon them.

00:00:04

Zell's world became slow motion. His hand was resting over the hydraulic seal for the security door. If it wasn't closed before the bomb went, they would all die.

00:00:03

Squall felt the world slow down too. He was running faster than he thought humanly possible, but each thud of his combat boots hitting the iron grille of the bridge felt ice-ages apart. He couldn't hear anything apart from his breath. He could not her the stomps and screams of the automaton abomination that was hunting him down. He could not hear Xu's terrified screams. He could not hear Zone and Watts shouting. All he could hear was his breathing. He had to be panting like mad, but to his own ears it was slow an steady, like the tide coming in and going out.

00:00:02

Bootstep followed Bootstep. Squall clenched his teeth, putting every last ounce of strength in, the sweat on his forehead blinding him. "Now!" he shouted to Zell. Zell drew back his fist and slammed it down on the button, the hydraulic seal whooshing into the action. Squall leapt forward, through the sealing hatch and into the arms of safety.

00:00:01

X-ATM092 screamed from the other side of the door.

00:00:00 Beep!

The bomb blew right in the heart of the reactor, the explosion tearing through it in the blink of an eye. The entire reactor went supernova, exploding in a deafening boom that ripped through the night. The explosion engulfed the entire reactor, along with the bridge, taking X-ATM092 with it. In the safety of the tunnel, Squall and the Midgar Owls heard the beast scream as it was consumed by the explosive flames, then fell silent...

***

"Hang on." came a voice from somewhere in the darkness. Probably Watts.

There were two bright flashes, and finally the cigarette lighter lit, illuminating the tunnel they were in, which had suffered severe shockwave damage.

"Well, that ougtha keep the planet going a little longer, eh chaps?" said Zone. Nobody replied.

"Wow." said Zell, wiping his forehead and looking at Squall. "For a moment there, I thought your goose was literally cooked."

Squall nodded and looked at Xu. She was looking at him too.

"Oh I'm fine, Zell. Thanks for asking." she deadpanned.

"What happened?" Zell asked.

"She twisted her ankle. She'll need medical attention and a few days off her feet." said Squall, not looking at anything in particular.

Zone and Watts exchanged glances.

Zone was thinking, curious as to Squall's origins. This guy has mastered Stealth, has extensive knowledge of SeeD & Shin-Ra weapons, explosives, munitions, vehicles & equipment, knows hand-to-hand combat inside out, carries a strange weapon that looks impossible to handle, has medical training (I mean, he knew Xu's leg was twisted by merely glancing at it), and look at how strong he is! He was able to carry Xu like she was rucksack and run at the same time. And how in the hell could anybody run that fast when carrying another person? Gawd, think of the training this guy must have gone through!

"Right." agreed Zell, his features not admitting that he was just as impressed as Zone and Watts were. "So let's get out of here. You two carry Xu and get her to the Sector 7 train. I'll go make a phone call to our base."

They walked out of the tunnel, ignoring the wreckage and bomb damage all around them. Zone, Watts and Xu went left, towards the train station. Zell stopped and began to think, trying to remember where the public phones were. He clicked his fingers and remembered, then walked up the cobblestone alley to his left.

"Wait." Squall said, making him stop. "I thought we agreed a price for this mission."

"Hey, no problem, Squall." said Zell, waving his hands about. "I'm trustworthy and good for it. I just gotta go make a phone call, okay? The train for Sector 7 leaves in about 10 minutes, so be sure to catch it, okay?"

"Whatever." dismissed Squall, walking away down the alley to the right.

He emerged on what had been a busy street, but now it was just busy as people scrambled around, running to and fro, and trying to get a grip on the bomb damage. Several vehicles were overturned, and there was some degree of rubble, but their only seemed to be few real injuries and no fatalities.

A trio of youths dashed past him, disrupting his balance somewhat, but he recovered and watched them run on, an annoyed look on his face. They ran further down the street, knocking over a woman carrying a basket of flowers, wearing a cape and hood. As she fell, she dropped the basket and her hood fell back, revealing a pretty face with glasses and capped off by golden blonde hair.

She sat herself back up and looked down the street, and saw the three youths being stopped by a troupe of Shin-Ra soldiers. She heard a pair of heavy boots step up next to her.

She looked and saw the young man standing next to her. He bent down and picked up the basket of flowers, then handed it to her. He couldn't have been 18 at best, around her age. He was dressed almost entirely in black, aside from his T-shirt and the fur collar of his jacket. He had light-brown wavy hair and ocean-blue eyes, with a prominent scar between them. His expression was completely emotionless.

She took the flower-basket from him, and noticed his hand was still outstretched, palm-open. She took his hand and let him help her up. When she was up, he drew his hand away instantly.

"Thank you." she said. He gave no reply. He was looking at the soldiers walking down the street.

They're after me. thought Squall. Won't let her get dragged in simply because I played good Samaritan.

Great, they're looking for me. thought the girl. Can't let this guy get mixed up in this just because he was doing a good deed for the day.

"I have to go." they both said simultaneously, and walked away in opposite directions.

Squall walked across the street toward the alley, wondering why he had helped the girl. It was something about her that felt familiar to him, somehow, but there was no way he could recall her face, no matter how hard he tried. He drew a blank, never recalling having ever known anyone with blonde hair that well......except Seifer.

Squall's face turned to a grimace at the mere thought of that bastard's name and walked on, the blonde girl already forgotten.

She walked away, her head under the hood once more. Who was that boy? Had she known him from somewhere before? Try as she might, she could not place his face from anywhere in her past. Maybe she had just known somebody that looked like him, or reminded her of somebody else somehow. Her head had absolutely no recollection of anyone like that in her past, but her gut told her he was familiar somehow. She walked on faster, putting as much distance between her and the Shin-Ra.

***

"Yeah, it went down with a blast, no pun intended." said Zell to the person on the other end of the phone.

"Yeah, he was unbelievable!" Zell went on. "I'm tellin' ya, you gotta meet this guy. What? Yeah, okay, yeah. Sure, why not? You know I like a party just as much as the next man. Well, heh, maybe a little more, especially if next man is Squall, heh heh. What? Yeah, I'll show him to the hideout tonight. See you soon. Wait, there he is now. Gotta go, bye!"

Zell let down the receiver and ran over to Squall, who looked royally pissed over something bad.

"Hey, Squall." said Zell, tapping him on the shoulder. Squall spun around on the spot and grabbed him by the throat, pushing him against the wall and drawing back his fist.

"Hey, Squall." Turn, blonde hair...blonde hair....Seifer!! MOTHERFUCKER!!!!

"Ack!" choked Zell. "Squall, it's me, it's Zell!! What the hell is wrong with you?!?!"

The delusion of Seifer dissolved, and Squall realised he was actually holding Zell. He let him go and stepped back without a word of apology

"What the heck was that?!?" Zell exclaimed.

"I....thought you were....someone else." replied Squall, looking away.

"Well, Jeez, I'm glad I'm not them, whoever they are. Hey, Squall. It's okay. I know you didn't mean it. No hard feelings, right?"

Squall looked at him. "Sure." he replied, humouring him.

It was then that they heard a metallic scream, followed by human shouts and heavy stomping.

"No way...." moaned Zell, turning around.

"It can't be..." said Squall, mystified.

"Son of a bitch!" shouted Zell as the burnt and blackened damaged form of X-ATM092 stomped down the street toward them.

"Run!" shouted Zell, but Squall was already dashing through the streets toward him. Zell took off, only a few feet behind him. The hulking damaged machine kept going, not ever going to stop until it's target's were destroyed. It's self-repair function was out-of-action, but it had managed to barely withstand the explosion. It had survived the T-bridge's collapse by attaching itself to the wall, and had now continued with it's mission, terminating the resistance fighters.

Squall rounded a corner and skidded to a stop. He and Zell looked in horror as the Sector 7 train began to pull out of the station, sealing their fate.

"Come on!" shouted Zell, charging down another street. "We only have one chance!"

Squall looked back at X-ATM092, rapidly gaining ground. He turned and ran after Zell, giving it all he had left.

Zell rocketed around the final corner and ran up to the bridge that spanned above the railroad tracks. He looked back and saw Squall running after him, and behind hum, the murderous machine. Zell fumbled in his pockets and found exactly what he was looking for, taking all his lucky stars at once.

It was a bomb, a spare for the one they had used to set off the massive explosion in the reactor. Without the reactor, this one only had capacity to bring down a tank or a train....or an X-ATM092.

Zell leapt from the bridge down onto the roof of the train, ripping the timer from the bomb as he did so. Upon landing on the roof, he began to run backwards, to try and stay near Squall, who was running for all he had in the world.

Just as the last car sped under the bridge, Squall jumped, his hands out in front of him. If he missed this it was all over...

Just as Squall's fingertips caught the edge of the train's roof, Zell set the bomb down like a football and pointed at X-ATM092. "This one's for the game!" he joked coldly and booted it.

It sailed through the air, over Squalls head and right towards X-ATM092, also leaping through the air toward the train. The spider and the bomb met in mid-air and exploded into pieces and flame, wreckage raining down upon the track.

"It's Good!" shouted Zell, both his arms right up in the air. He cackled and began to dance like a footballer after scoring the winning touchdown on SuperBowl Sunday.

Squall pulled himself up, squatting on the roof and stared at him.

"Hey, it's okay, Squall." said Zell, ceasing his dance but still grinning. "You can admit that you're impressed."

"....Whatever." sighed Squall and rolled his eyes.

Zell smiled, then ducked as the train entered the tunnel, and onward to Sector 7...

* * * * * * * *