CH 9: Truth and Lies

Icicle Inn. Never had a town been so aptly named. Indeed, there were icicles hanging from every terrace; shimmering with the reflected light of the morning sunrise. The largest of them all hung from the very Inn the town was named after. As large a the building was, however, it wouldn't be able to sustain the party of travelers that had just stepped foot into the area.

"This must be it." Cloud said.

"What tipped you off?" Aurie joked.

Cloud gave her a wry smirk and turned to the rest of the group.

"We might as well take a breather here. In fact, it may be the last chance we have." He said.

"Let's take it then. Cloud, you shuld go see about getting us some rooms. The rest of us should....should...kyrgh!" Zero winced.

He collapsed onto the ground holding his head in searing pain, exactly like the previous visions.

What would he see this time? If the past instances were any indication, it would be bad news.

.....Gigantic creatures roaming the planet....Meteor hanging in the sky.....Sephiroth grinning...

Zero awoke to find himself inside the hotel room. To his left were two other beds, one of which was occupied by a snoring Cid. To his right he saw X and a few others playing a card game. Zero laughed to himself. X? Playing a card game? Heh. The only game X could play was "Go Fish". That game sucked.

"Zero! You're awake!" X said.

"How long was I out this time?" Zero asked, rubbing the side of his head.

"A good eight hours, if my chronometer is working right." X replied.

"We was beginin' to worry if ya would ever wake up. 'Specially X here. He been sittin' here since we brought you in." Barret said.

"We spent half of the time teaching him how to play Poker." Airblaster chuckled.

X? Playing Poker? Geeez. How weird can this trip through time get?

"What did you see this time?" X asked.

"It doesn't matter." He replied.

"You sure?" X said.

"Not really. But when have I ever been sure anyway?"

X nodded in agreement, though he seemed a little dissatisfied with the answer.

I'm gonna go walk around and stretch my legs. Don't beat him too badly, guys." Zero said, jumping out of bed.

"Too late fer that." Barret called out as Zero made his way out the door.

His eye cought a glimpse of fire-red fur as he decsended the stairs. That fur belonged to Nanaki, or "Red" to his friends. He was laying down close to the oversized furnace; the extreme weather must be affecting him more than anyone.

Hearing some commotion, he turned to his right and found a door leading down. There was a sign that said "Pub" nailed to the wall. It was amazing to Zero that Humankind's love of alcohol expanded the generations to his own time. In other words, things never change.

Still, he could use a drink right about now; and he had plenty of money on him as well.

As he crossed the balcony lining the perimeter of the wall, he noticed there were only two tables in the area; though the Bar was rather large.

At one table sat the mysterious duo of Proton and Vincent; and they were....conversing? Getting either of them to speak more than a single sentance was truly an accomplishment. They seemed to be oddly alike in many ways; maybe it was natural that they would talk to each other.

Surprisingly, Tifa was behind the Bar, serving drinks. Either she needed the money or was just being kind and helping out. The place did seem a little crowded. He heard that Tifa mixed the best drinks in Midgar, so maybe the barkeep just wanted a lttle talent for once. Heh.

Sitting at the other table were the unlikely trio of Blaze, Aurie, and Slash. Zero had never seen them together like that; sharing drinks and such. But it didn't look like a merry group, even with Aurie in the mix.

"There was something special about her, I tell ya. She didn't deserve that fate. Not here, not in this time." Blaze said, taking a deep breath.

"Look, man. Not everything turns out all right. You know that better than anyone else I know. She may be gone, but I'll be damned if she'll be forgotten." Slash said.

"It's just that....well....dammit. She's gone. And I'll never hear her sweet voice again. It's not like we were married, but it's still hard as hell to deal with." Blaze said.

"Look, you're not the only one who's sad to see her go. Pulse was a great person and I'm gonna miss her too. But that's one of the reasons why I'm a hunter. I don't wanna see people get hurt. And when people do get hurt, I fight back. You hear me, Blaze? Honor her memory and do what you think needs to be done." Aurie said.

"You're....you're right, katzchen. Thank you. You too, Slash 'ole buddy. I...just need some time alone. To think this through." Blaze replied.

"If that's what you think you need." Slash said, getting up from his chair.

"Just don't do anything stupid." Aurie smirked.

"Don't worry." Blaze responded.

The firey one slouched back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. He set down his shot of whiskey and began to think.

Why? Why are we here? What do we need to accomplish? If it was to save Aeris, then it was at a great cost. One life for another. But Pulse wanted to save Aeris, to protect her from harm. She wasn't supposed to die, though. Was there a reason?

Was there a reason for anything?

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

"Dr. Gast...was my father?"

Aeris had been exploring the old, empty house next to the weapon shop. She was curious by nature, and an abandoned house with the lights on intrigued her. When she got inside, she immidiately searched around. She liked messing around with the electronic doohickies, especially the skylight. Then she happened upon some videotapes and a monitor.

What the hell. Might as well watch.

She was astounded to find recorded reports of The late Dr. Gast. The first few were scientific stuff. The history of her people. Weapon. Meteor. It was interesting, but it paled in comparison to what she found in the personal files.

Sure, she had identified the woman in the tapes as her real mother, Ifalna; but she was downright shocked to find out that the great Dr. Gast was really her dad.

And she was horrified as she watched the final tape. Hojo bursted in to their home, and tried to take all of them away. Though the screen went black after the guard shot it, the audio was still intact. Apparently, her father tried to to stall them as she and her mother made a break for it. It obviously succeded. But her father was killed for it.

And he was killed in the very room in which she was standing.

It was very unnerving, to say the least. She took one last look around the home of her birth, and proceded out the door knowing the truth.

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

"Cloud! There you are!"

Elena stumbled towards Cloud as he was checking out the slope at the end of town. She seemed out of breath, as well.

"Just came here to tell you tha the President has dropped the charges against you, and no longer considers Avalanche a terrorist orginization." She said.

"Oh, really." Cloud replied, crossing his arms.

"You don't believe me?"

"Would you?"

"No...but it's the truth. The Turks are also authorized to assist you when needed."

"Great." Cloud said in his usual flat tone.

"Thank you, Elena. Really."

Aeris had said those wors, and Elena turned her head enough only to see her out of the corner of her eye.

"But let me be frank in saying we don't completely trust the Shinra." Aeris finished.

"Oh...I get it." Elena replied.

"No hard feelings then?"

"There are none with me. But I have one favor to ask you....can you please take me with you?"

"Forget it." Cloud said coldly

"Please?"

"Cloud... She's not asking for much. Just let her come." Aeris said.

Ugh. He hated making decisions like this.

"All right, fine." He finished, having regreted it already.

Little did any of them know that Rufus had planted a bug in Elena's collar. Sure, he already had a spy, but Reeve was beginning to question his motives and actions. He didn't trust anyone that questioned authority.

The Highwind was ready for departure at anytime, and Rufus couldn't wait to see the Crater for himself.

After all, it was the Promised Land.






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