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The Manhattan Witch Project

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A tiny, foot-tall car sputtered towards Balamb Garden, hit a dead racoon in the middle of the road, and tipped over. The car's three occupants crawled out of the smoldering vehicle and immediately grew to several times their previous height. "The car is broken!" Zorn cried, bouncing up and down.

"Walk the rest of the way, we will have to!" Thorn echoed.

"Oh, so you want to turn this into a forced march? I don't think so! Homey don't play that!" said Homey D. Clown.

Zorn hopped up and down. "Shut up! We need to get moving!"

"Little time, we have!"

The trio raced down the street to the miniature, eight foot-high Balamb Garden waiting at the end. As they approached, Thorn, Zorn, and Homey shrunk back to their previous sizes, blending right in with the diminuitive building.

The Garden gate-keeper called after them, "Hey! Where are you going?" Homey whirled and quickly beat the gate-keeper into submission with his loaded sock. He then scrambled after his comrades, who had already hopped their way into Garden.

The nefarious trio proceeded directly to the dormitories. "Wait!" Zorn shrieked, stumbling to a stop. "We forgot to synchronize our watches! We can't infiltrate a building without synchronized watches!"

"Synchronize them now, we will! Synchronized watches, we must have!" Thorn bounced up and down.

"I've got 3:53!" Zorn cried.

"3:54, I have!"

"You're a minute too fast!"

"A minute too slow, you are!"

"What do you have, Homey?" Zorn inquired.

Homey checked his watch. "Homey's got 873 beats. Homey's watch is on Swatch Internet Time."

Zorn scowled and bounced angrily. "Oh, never mind!" he cried.

"Go on anyway, we shall!"

The two jesters ran towards the door at the end of the hall, adorned with a Rage Against The Mammon Machine poster. Thorn and Zorn kicked Rinoa's door open in unison. The dark-haired anarchist was busy playing her "Wak-a-Capitalist" game in the corner, but dropped her mallet and screamed as soon as she heard the jesters. "Get out of my room, you sexist aristocrat bastards! Save me, Squall!"

Homey silenced her with the whirling might of his sock. "We got her!" he exclaimed, slinging the unconscious Rinoa over his shoulder. The three hooligans scurried out of Garden to report to their master.

TANTALUS COMPANY presents
a BOBBY CORWEN fanfic
THE MANHATTAN WITCH PROJECT

Balancing her grocery bag with one hand, Ultimecia unlocked the front door of Sephiroth and Eve's mansion with her other hand. She stepped inside the New York residence. "Eve?" she called. "I bought the things you asked for."

"Just bring them in here," Eve shouted back.

Ultimecia carried the bag into the lounge, where a pregnant Eve sat enveloped in a huge mesh of tentacles that covered most of the room. The mutant woman's multitude of arms were folded over her bloated, insectoid stomach. Stepping carefully around a few stray tentacles, Ultimecia set her bag down on a table within Eve's reach and extracted the contents one by one, saving only a box of Special K for herself. "Peanut butter... Lindblum pikkles... bottle... baby formula."

Eve hungrily took one of the pickles and munched on it. "Oh, thank you so much, Ulty," she sighed. "I was starving in here."

Ultimecia shrugged. "It's the really the least I kan do for you while your kondemned husband is off getting himself drunk again. So when's the baby due?"

"Tomorrow."

"My, that's an awful quikk gestation period." Ultimecia looked down at the bottle and frowned. "You know, you should really konsider breast feeding."

"But I don't have any nipples."

"Kurse those mitokondria!" Ultimecia swore just as the doorbell rang. "Would you like me to get that, Eve?"

"If you wouldn't mind," Eve said. "I am a bit... tied up here."

Ultimecia hurried to the front door and opened it a crack. "It's the media again!" she exclaimed upon spotting the Channel 5 news spaceship. "Should I send them away?"

Ulala tried to push past Ultimecia. "Have you decided on a name for your baby yet, Eve?" she called.

"It's Valentine," Ultimecia quickly replied, then slammed the door in the reporter's face. "Kurse all paparazzi!"

* * *

Somewhere in a secret fortress deep under the desert, a camera man crawled along a floor, panning slowly upwards to reveal a council of evil masterminds seated at a table. "Thith meeting of Androdyne is hereby called to order," Kuja proclaimed. "Firtht, I have good newth to report. Thith week'th ithue of Dictator Digetht jutht came in, and we're moving up in the charth. We're now the 73rd motht corrupt, thinithter cabal."

"I feel so good!" Qlon proclaimed.

The leader of Androdyne continued his report. "Thorn, Zorn, and Homey have also captured another witch. But, like any thilver lining, thith good newth cometh with a cloud. Our financeth hath thcattered themthelveth to the theven windth."

"You think it's time for another round of venture capital?" Flea suggested.

"That'th the problem," Kuja said. "It'th getting hard to find the cath theth dayth, ethpecially thince we don't have any actual revenue or anything. That'th why we really need an influkth of capital."

"Raid some ships?" Faris suggested hopefully.

"That'th clothe to the idea that I wath entertaining," Kuja said. "Ath you may have heard, that rich bathtard Thephiroth had a daughter born rethently. My plan is to kidnap her and hold her ranthom for..." He raised his pinky to his lips. "- one meeeeeeeellion dollarth!"

The rest of the crew -- Qlon, Flea, Popoi, and Faris -- all applauded.

* * *

Meanwhile, in another secret headquarters...

Pikachu slammed his fist on the table. "74tH pLaCe! sEeL hAs sLiPpEd 0n ThE cHaRtS aGaIn! tHiS iS UnAcCePtaBlE!"

The jungle fatigues-clad Pokémon surveyed his ragtag band of henchmen: Charles Manson, his most trusted advisor; Mint, spoiled princess of the East Heaven Kingdom; Dennis the Phantom Menace, neighborhood prankster turned Sith Lord; and Mr. Bean, who had wandered into SEEL's Manhattan warehouse by mistake but was allowed to join anyway. "wHaT dO yOU haVe to SaY foR yOUr soRrY sElvEs?"

"You're as mean as ol' Mr. Wilson!" Dennis the Phantom Menace whined.

Pikachu smirked. "FoRtUnaTeLY, i'Ve AlReAdY dEvIsEd a nEw pLaN, oNe tHaT wIlL vAuLT uS To tHe StUfF oF ViLLaInOuS lEgEnDs." He chewed on the end of his cigar as he spoke.

"Does this involve embedded MIDIs again?" Charles Manson inquired. What a fool he had been to predict a race war -- no, it would be a war between humans and Pokémon that would reshape the Earth. And when the Pokémon inevitably emerged victorious, he would be the one standing beside Pikachu as advisor, helping the Pokémon to rule the world.

"tH0sE sO-CaLlEd 'vIlLaInS' sEpHiR0tH aNd EvE nOw HaVE a DaUgHtEr. wE wILl Pr0vE oUr ViLLaiNOus sUpErIoRiTy bY cApTuRiNG hEr ANd h0LdInG HeR rAnSOm fOr..." He raised his pinky to his lips. "- oNE mEeEEeLLiOn DoLLaRs!"

"Uh, but Mistah Pikachu, I don't know anything about kidnappin' people! 'cept that one time Joey and me tied up Margaret in the basement an' the police came to our door with a search warrant an' Dad grounded me fer three months!"

"i'Ve aLReAdY tAkEn CaRe 0f tHAT, dEnNIs. i'Ve hIrEd tHe yAcHuZA, ThE cHu-ChU tRiBe mAFiA, t0 cArRy OuT tHe KiDNAppInG. alL wE hAvE tO do nOW Is SIt BACk aNd WAit. tHe GaZeL miNisTrY... oPeC... tHe RiAa... sOoN wE sHaLl sUrPasS thEm aLl, My bRoThErS!" He raised his fist. "vIVa La reVoLuCiÓN!"

* * *

Madain Sari

A scene was once again introduced by a ringing phone. Mog rolled over in his hammock and picked it up. "Moshi moshi?" he mumbled sleepily.

"Mog? Yo, this is Cait Sith. Listen, dude, I know we've kinda drifted apart, but I need your help. Okay, I need some money fast; I'm suing the city of New York to make 'em let me show my exhibit of offensive Lunar fan art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art... 'cause they sorta got a restraining order against me. And I need some dough to pay my legal bills, you know?"

"How much money are we looking at here, kupo?"

"Um, let's say... one meeeeellion dollars!"

"C.S., I don't even have one million dollars myself, let alone one million dollars to give you!" Mog started to hang up the phone.

"Wait! Wait! I'm not asking you for a loan, dude. Okay, here's my plan. We get all the Cute Animal Characters back together and record a new album. That'll make us a million, easy!"

"Make you a million, don't you mean?"

"Look, we'll worry about all the details later. Mog, I'm tellin' ya, this is our chance for a big break. Arhythmic guitar noise with people screaming like lunatics is really in right now and Neko says we have the financial prospects of an Internet startup... that's really good, right? I think all those dot-com people are getting rich down there. Anyway, this is finally our shot at stardom. You're not gonna miss this, are you?"

"Okaykupo," Mog said. "You've got me sold. I'm in!"

"Sweet! All right, me an' Neko an' Spekkio are already here in Manhattan, so, like, you come meet us and we can get started, okay? Thanks, dude, I appreciate it."

* * *

The next day...

As soon as Ultimecia stepped inside Eve's manor, she knew something was wrong. The witch quickly set down her bag of groceries and hurried to Eve's bedroom, dreading what she'd find inside. Had Eve accidentally ignited Valentine?

Eve, back in her comparatively "normal" form, was hovering beside Valentine's empty crib, crying. "Oh, Ultimecia!" she sobbed, throwing her massive arms around the witch and leaning on her shoulder. "Valentine's... Val... Valentine's gone! They-- they took her!"

"There, there," Ultimecia said, patting Eve gently on the back. "Supervillains don't kry. Why don't you have a nice glass of warm milk and then devise a nefarious skeme to pay bakk everyone who made you suffer?"

"But they might hurt Valentine!" Eve drew herself away and handed Ultimecia a crumpled ransom note. "WE HAVE KIDNAPPED KIDNAPED KIDNAPPED? YOUR DAUGHTER," it read in typewritten letters. "LEAVE 1 MILMEEEELION GIL IN THE 1ST FLORFLOOR MEN'S ROOM N METROPLOITAN MUESUMMUSEUM OF ART IF U WANT 2 C HER AGAIN. P.S. NO FUNNY BIZ."

Ultimecia frowned. "But how kould someone just walk in here and kidnap Valentine?"

Thorn and Zorn bounded through the open door. "Everyone get down!"

"Come for your daughter, we have!"

Homey stormed into the room, whirling his sock over his head. "Yo, hand over the kid and no one gets hurt!"

Eve looked up. "You already took her!" she sobbed. "What more do you want?"

Thorn and Zorn giggled and glanced at each other. "Did we take her baby, Thorn?"

"Think so, I do not!"

"You can't trick us!"

"Hiding her somewhere, we know you are!"

"Hey, guys, d'you think someone else swiped the kid already?" Homey asked.

"What?" Thorn and Zorn screeched, bouncing up and down.

Eve waved her claws. "Get out of here!" she shrieked, vying to be heard over the clowns' squbbling. "Before I burn all you humans! Begone!"

"I don't see the child anywhere in the room," Zorn said.

"Already taken her somewhere else, Sephiroth must have!"

"We were too late! This is all your fault!" Zorn yelled at Homey.

"You and your Swatch Internet Time, it's all because of!"

"I'm warning you, leave at once!"

"You guys, I really think that someone else might have already kidnapped her," Homey insisted.

"Shut up!"

"Shut up!"

Homey scowled. "You shut up, white boy! Homey don't play that!" He booted Zorn across the room and scored a direct hit on Ultimecia.

As Zorn picked himself, his jester's cap began ringing. He yanked it off and peered inside at the Geiger-counter like device within. "A sorceress!" he exclaimed, eyes bulging at the high rating. "Her miditomitononamonachlorididactorichondria are off the scale!"

"A witch!" Zorn repeated. "The one with Gilgamesh, she could be!"

"I'm going to kill you all!" Eve screamed. "Are you even listening to me?"

Ultimecia readied a Bio spell as the tall clown rushed towards her. But before she could fire it, Homey clobbered her with his sock. She fell to the floor, unconscious. "Let's get back to headquarters!" Homey said, scooping up Ultimecia and fleeing. Thorn and Zorn bounced down the hall after him.

Eve tore her alarm clock out of the socket and hurled it at them. "DIE!" she screeched. Then she slammed the door shut, sat down on her bed, and wept.

* * *

Later that day...

Rinoa pressed her ear to the wall of her cell in the Desert Empress. She listened attentively as another prisoner was forced into the cell beside her. "We'll be dealing with you later!" one high-pitched voice chirped.

"Wants your powers, Master Kuja does!" a second one concurred.

"You kan have my powers over my dead body!" a raspy female voice snapped back. Rinoa squinted in concentration. That couldn't be the person it sounded like, could it?

"Actually, that's how we were planning on taking your powers!"

"But take them later, we will have to!"

"Ta-ta!"

The door to the adjacent cell closed, and Rinoa's opened shortly thereafter, revealing the two midget jesters and Homey D. Clown. "Homey D. Clown!" Rinoa exclaimed upon recognizing her childhood idol.

"Hello, little child!"

"We're coming to take you away, ha ha!" Zorn cackled.

"Time for Master Kuja to receive your Eidolons, it is!"

Rinoa jumped to her feet and raised her fist. "Our populist social activism front will overthrow the corporatist stratification of your privileged fascist oligarchy!" she declared, her voice quivering with rage. "The Man will never silence me!"

Thorn and Zorn fell into a stunned silence. Zorn turned to Thorn and hopped angrily. "What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything! You, it was!"

Homey rubbed his head. "Hey, I thought we was out to get The Man," he said. "That's what Kuja said."

"I know The Man when I see him!" Rinoa declared. "Oppressive bourgeouise censorship can't pull the wool over my eyes! It's the rest of society that needs to wake up!"

Homey scowled. "So, you bastards were trying to trick me into working for The Man?" he thundered. "I don't think so; Homey don't play that!" He booted Zorn into the wall on the side of the room. Thorn started kicking Homey's shins until a whack from Homey's sock put him out of commission.

While Zorn and Homey sortied, Rinoa fled across the bridge that led out of the room. She stopped momentarily at an intersection, then quickly made the decision to turn left. After all, the further to the left, the better!

Rinoa jogged into the prison control room and frowned. It looked like a dead end. "Kupo?" said a Moogle perched atop the table.

"Hello, Moogle," Rinoa said. "Do you know the way out of here?"

"Uh... I forget, kupo," the Moogle said. "My job is just to sit in this little spot here. Do you want to buy some potions, kupo?"

* * *

Sephiroth was halfway through his third Mimett Mix when the white-haired stranger strode into the Seventh Heaven franchise. The androgynous being -- Sephiroth couldn't tell if it was human, let alone male or female -- took a seat at the bar beside Sephiroth. "Ekthuthe me," it lipsed. "Are you by any chance... Thephiroth?"

"Maybe I am, maybe I ain't," Sephiroth growled, staring morosely at the tiny dead Mover floating in his mug. "What's it to you?"

"Well, I've been following you halfway acroth the globe, and I every time I get thomewhere, they tell me that I jutht mithed a black-caped man. That wouldn't happen to be you, would it?"

"Look, man, lady, whatever the hell you are, I'm drinking. Make it quick or get outta here."

Kuja ran a hand through his long, silky hair. "Do you remember your Thounen Ai band?"

"Shounen Ai? Don't remind me of it," Sephiroth glowered. "The rest of the group quit and since we'd only put out two albums, I ended up one million dollars in debt to the damn Shinra. One!... meeellion!... dollars!" He slammed his fist down on the table. "And I can't even go to another label because I've still got five more albums in my contract with Awful Tripe Records. Bastards."

"I bet you'd like a job, then."

Sephiroth snorted and downed the rest of his Mimett Mix. "A job? No thanks. I'd rather just wallow in self-pity and attract attention while I wait for a miracle to occur." He waved his hand. "Bartender, another drink!" He turned to Kuja. "You want somethin'?"

"Dithwater. And put it in a dirty glath!"

"Pansy," Sephiroth muttered under his breath. He turned his attention back to his drink.

Kuja hesitated for a moment. "Thephiroth?"

"My name's got an 'S' in it, buddy."

"What if a miracle did occur?"

"Yeah, what about it, huh? What if Daikatana shipped?"

"Daikatana thipped month ago."

Sephiroth blinked and stared at Kuja. "Seriously? Damn, I've been out of the loop."

"Now, here's my propothal," Kuja said. "You've got the fanth and the contract. I've got the... lookth." He brushed back his hair again. "Tho... thall we conthider ourthelves bandmateth?"

"Wait, hold on a second here. You want me to restart my boy band? Let's get something squared away first."

"Yeth?"

"What gender are you?"

"Male."

"You're sure?"

"Pretty thure."

"Okay, that's a step in the right direction." Sephiroth stared off into space. "We'd need three other members, though," he said eventually. "Fei, Laguna, Billy, and Vincent all split."

"I've already taken care of motht of that," Kuja said. "Thydney Lothtarot and Ithlude Tingel have already agreed to join too -- Thydney will be the throng, thilent tattooed one and Ithlude will be the player. You'll be the all-American leader and I'll be the ambiguouthly gay one, of courth."

"Hmm," Sephiroth grunted, grudgingly impressed. "Okay."

"We thtill need the cute, thweet member, though," Kuja continued.

"Billy? I might be able to talk him into coming back, and he's perfect for the role."

"Thuper," Kuja smiled.

* * *

"And then these other awful clowns... they were trying to take her too... and then they ended up taking Ulty... they beat her unconscious wi... with a sock..." Eve blew her nose loudly and hung her head, sobbing.

Aya shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Don't worry," she said. "We'll track down the culprits and get Valentine back. How many places are there in New York for them to hide?"

Eve sniffled and looked up. "Um, lots of them?"

"Okay, forget I said that. Now, do you have any clues? Fingerprints? A license plate number? DNA samples? A bloody glove?"

"I have a ransom note." Eve pushed the note across Aya's desk. "They left this on her crib."

Aya took the note and read over it. She chuckled softly. "Well, at least we know one thing about them: they're not very good spellers."

"It's not funny! What if they rub off on Valentine? She could go through life thinking 'Wherefore art thou Romeo?' means 'Where are you, Romeo?' Look, I know we haven't gotten along too well in the past, but you've got to do something about these kidnappers. Please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?" Eve cursed herself inwardly. How could she be stooping to begging Aya to help her? She should be threatening to slaughter everyone in the station! Or she could just catch the kidnappers, suspend them in a cage, and slowly lower it into a lava pit...

"Eve, you have to understand that I'm supposed to be investigating a banana smuggling ring," Aya said. "But I'll talk to Chief Baker and see what I can do."

* * *

Idly spinning his sock in his hand, Homey D. Clown wandered into the prison control room. "Yo," he said. "Sorry 'bout that mix up. Those little bastards kept saying we were lookin' for The Man, but here I was working for him the whole time!"

Rinoa nodded. "That's why you can't trust anyone! The WTO's multinational patriarchal propaganda is everywhere." She realized she had not introduced herself and extended a hand to Homey. "Oh, I'm Rinoa Heartilly."

As Homey and Rinoa shook hands, Ultimecia strode into the room, her hands folded in front of her. "My, what a koincidence. We meet again, little one."

So it had been her. "Don't even think about possessing me, Ultimecia," Rinoa threatened. "We're in the same boat right now. We've got to work together to get out of this!"

"Don't be ridikulous," Ultimecia said. "I don't need your help to devise a elaborate, villainous skeme for revenge. Flesh-eating Chokobos, perhaps, or a slow painful death at the hands of Katoblepas."

"But don't you realize our culture is being oppressed? This is outright genocide! Genocide against the sorceresses!" Rinoa paced the room, babbling out her train of thought. "We'll start a grass roots movement. SOS -- Save Our Sorceresses. We can have rallies... sit-ins... if we all work together, we can overcome the crushing weight of the system!"

"Yeah! Good idea!" Homey concurred.

Ultimecia chuckled. "Silly little girl."

"What?"

"How kan you do all that when we're lokked away here? You don't even know where we are, do you?"

"Don't worry, Ultimecia, I'm sure Squall will find out where we are and save us in no time! Like that time I stepped in a puddle of icky muddy water... Squall was there to carry me out. He even cleaned off my shoes for me!" She stared off vacantly into space. "Oh, I don't know what I'd do without him..."

The Save Moogle chirped. "Excuse me," it said. "Would you ladies be interested in our Mognet telegram service? Only 5 gil a word direct to any place that isn't really scary, kupo!"

"5 gil a word!?" Rinoa exploded. "That's highway robbery! You corporate fat cats are just getting richer while African children are starving to death! Screw you and the IPO you rode in on! Free telegrams are our right!"

Ultimecia sighed and rummaged around in her robe pocket. She produced a pair of 15 gil pieces. "30 gil. That's siks words, Rinoa; we kan send a telegram to Balamb Garden. What do we want to say? 'Help'?"

"This is fascism, dammit!" Rinoa stomped her foot.

"HELP STOP," the Moogle read aloud as he scribbled on a piece of paper. "THIS IS FASCISM DAMMIT STOP." He looked up. "You've got one word left, kupo."

Ultimecia waved her hands. "The little one was speaking out of turn. That's not to be inkluded in the telegram."

"Too bad; I already wrote it down. Do you want to add one more word?"

Ultimecia tried to remember the name of their captor. "KUJA."

* * *

"This is booooooooring!" Eiko whined. "When are we gonna get there?"

"New York is a big city, Eikupo," Mog explained. He pointed out the window of their taxi. "We can play 'spot the car' to pass the time. Look, there's a car!"

Eiko pressed her face to the window. "Ooh! There's another car! There's one over there!"

"Car! Car! I'm ahead!" Mog pointed out each vehicle. "Car! Car - wait, no, that's a truck!"

The Chu-chu driving the taxi scowled. "Hey, would youse two knock it off back there? Or it might not be healthy fer ya, if youse know what I'm saying."

Mog and Eiko silently raced the automatic windows up and down instead.

When the taxi cab finally reached Cait's abandoned warehouse, the two stepped out as quickly as they could. "Those Chu-chus give me the creeps," Mog said. He hurried up to the door and rapped sharply on it. "It's a-me, Mog!"

Cait Sith flung open the door. "Mog! My main man! Good to see ya again!" he exclaimed. He frowned as Eiko stepped up behind Mog. "Dude, don't tell me you brought your girlfriend along."

"Hi, Mr. Kitty-Cat! I'm Eiko."

Mog gestured over his shoulder at her. "I have to protect her," he exclaimed. "She's a Summoner, kupo. I had to bring her along to keep an eye on her."

"What? We're serious musicians here, Mog. We can't waste our time babysitting these little banshee children."

"You don't want to get on Bahamut's bad side, do you? Look, she won't be any trouble, I promise."

Cait Sith leaned towards Eiko, grinned and raised his claws. "Hi, I'm Cait Sith, and I eat little human children for breakfast! Yum yum! Makes my tummy happy!" He patted his belly.

Eiko stomped her foot. "You're mean!"

Mog spread out his hands pleadingly. "Cait, please-kupo," he said. "I promised Bahamut I'd look after her."

"Okay, but you have to agree to give your share of the profits to me," Cait Sith said.

Mog sighed. "Fine." He shrugged apologetically at Eiko and followed Cait Sith into the warehouse. The other two members of the band -- drummer Neko and keyboardist Spekkio -- were already lounging around inside beside all manner of complicated audio recording equipment.

"All right, here's the plan," Cait Sith said. "We need a new name. 'Cute Animal Characters' just isn't going cut it anymore. We need a cool name; one that people will wish they'd thought of. And I've got a great one. Okay, stay with me here: Baby. Launcher."

"Yeah? What are we going to do, get a big cannon and shoot babies into the audience, kupo?"

Cait Sith's eyes lit up. "Yeah! That'd be awesome!" He gave Mog a hearty pound on the back. "You're a genius, man!"

"Dude, Cait, I don't think that's going to go over too well with Tipper Gore."

Cait frowned. "Hmm, I suppose you're right. Okay, then: The Terrible Vise of Destruction!"

"I think we should be The Momentous Jaggies."

"Shut up, Spekkio." Cait Sith thought for a moment. "Okay, how about this one: Latex Table. No wait, I gotta better one: Potato Rocket. Or Symbolic Donut! Symbolic Donut, I like that."

"Cait, are you just combining random words or what?" Neko said. "We need something more clever and marketable. How about the Hawley Smooth Tariff? It's a pun, get it?"

Cait Sith raised an eyebrow. "Hawley Smooth Tariff? What do you want us to sound like, some geriatric cowboy disco group? It's gotta be something slick and edgy so we can pick up chicks! Like Infected Syringe or something. C'mon, admit it, if you were a chick, you'd be all over that band." He adopted a falsetto voice. "'Oh, the lead singer of Infected Syringe is so dreamy!'"

"I think you should be the Bahamut Men," Eiko piped in.

"That's a stupid name," Cait Sith said. "Okay, okay, I got a good one... M.C. Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gins."

"I like Bahamut Men," Spekkio said.

"Yeah, me too, kupo," Mog said. "Bahamut Men is cool."

Cait Sith frowned. "I think you're letting those ol' feminine wiles muddle your thinking, Mog," said. "Bahamut Men is, like, the WORST BAND NAME EVER. We'd at least need to put some random numbers after the name to make it sound cooler. Like, say, Bahamut Men 84-13. How about that Mog?"

"Sorry, Cait," Mog said. "I like Bahamut Men."

"Damn, your girlfriend has you whipped," Cait Sith said. "Fine, then. We'll be the Bahamut Men. See if I care."

"She's not my girlfriend!"

* * *

"Ding-dong, Mognet calling!" A Moogle messenger squeaked as it knocked on the Kramers' office door. Edea opened the door and knelt down to greet the messenger. "Telegram for Edea Kramer," the Moogle said. It handed the telegram to Edea and turned to depart.

Edea unfolded the telegram. "HELP STOP. THIS IS FASCISM DAMMIT STOP. KUJA STOP," she read. She frowned and looked over her shoulder at Cid. "Dear, do we know anyone named Kuja?"

"I haven't heard the name," Cid VIII admitted. "Whoever he is, he sure writes a lot like Rinoa, though."

Edea snapped her fingers. "This must be from Rinoa!" she said. "She's sending for help! But what could 'Kuja' mean?"

"I don't know; wasn't that a Stephen King novel?"

Edea stuffed the telegram into her desk drawer. "We'll have to ask the SeeDs," she said. "I'm sure one of them will know what's she talking about."

* * *

Homey led Rinoa and Ultimecia into Kuja's underground hangar. "Here it is," Homey explained. "The Invincible."

"And you're sure that no one else will be okkupying it?" Ultimecia inquired.

"Yeah," Homey said. "The only people who use it are me an' Thorn an' Zorn. This baby is our ticket out of here!"

Rinoa sighed. "Sorry I messed up that telegram," she apologized. "I hope Squall can figure it out."

Ultimecia shrugged. "It kan be expected of one like you. Think nothing of it, little one."

Homey frowned. "Say... aren't you both the same person?"

Ultimecia and Rinoa blinked. "What?" they said simultaneously.

"Like... isn't Ultimecia a future version of Rinoa? I read it on gamefaqs.com; it must be true!"

Rinoa put her hand on her hips. "Homey! You didn't let yourself fall victim to the so-called facts of the mass-media propaganda again? It's all lies! Lies!"

Homey scowled. "Well, damn, I must be slipping. You really can't trust anybody these days. And here I thought all those FAQs actually were 'trademarked.'"

Rinoa rubbed her hands together. "Yeah, and I'll bet The Man is behind this whole witch-kidnapping plot," she whispered. "The United States of Greed are suppressing minorities because... because... well, just 'cause. And I bet they'll blame it all on Islam again! We've got stop them!"

"The little one speaks wisely," Ultimecia agreed. "We must make haste bakk to New York. Eve kould be in danger."

"Sounds like a plan!" Homey agreed. "Let's swipe this ride and then we'll beat Kuja, save the witches, and free Leonard Peltier!" Rinoa and Homey raced for the Invincible, whooping and cheering.

Ultimecia frowned. "What does Leonard Peltier have to do with anything?"

* * *

Edea strolled through the SeeD dorm. She stopped and knocked on each door. "Hello, Squall? Do you know anyone named Kuja?"

Squall shrugged. "I don't think so," he said. "Maybe, I guess."

"We received a telegram that may be from Rinoa. It reads 'HELP STOP. THIS IS FASCISM STOP. KUJA STOP.' Does that ring any bells, Squall?"

"...whatever."

Edea gave up and moved onto Zell's room. "Hello, Zell?" she called as she knocked on the door. A few seconds passed before Zell opened the door. He was holding a Dreamcast controller in one hand; behind him, the three members of the Garden Festival Committee -- Selphie, Yuffie, and Chu-Chu -- were all playing ChuChu Rocket.

"Hey, Matron," Zell said. "What's up?"

"Mouse Monopoly ^_____^!" Selphie exclaimed in the background. "Woo hoo ^o^;;;!"

"We think we've received a telegram from Rinoa," Edea said. "It reads 'HELP STOP. THIS IS FASCISM STOP. KUJA STOP.' Do you have any idea what that might be about?"

Zell rubbed his tattoo thoughtfully. "There was this guy named Kuja who called me the other day... he said he and Sephiroth were starting up their retarded boy band again and he was trying to get me to join. I dunno if that -"

"What?" Selphie and Chu-Chu both interrupted. Their controllers fell from their hands and Yuffie played on alone. "Sephiroth is starting Shounen Ai again? And you turned him down?"

Zell shrugged. "I didn't wanna be in some stupid boy band."

Chu-Chu put her hands on her hips. "Shounen Ai is not a stupid boy band! They're, uh, a very intelligent boy band! And really hot too! Uh hmm!"

"Ohmigod! Ohmigod!" Selphie gushed, bouncing up and down. "I can't believe that Shounen Ai is getting back together o______O;;;! Oh, I wonder if Sir Laguna is going to be in it again! He's so dreamy... ~_^"

"Cripes," said Zell. "Did you forget to take your Prozac this morning?"

Yuffie pointed at the TV. "Guys! Guys! Look, I actually, like, won a game! Gawd, are you looking?"

"Zell, do you have any more information on this Kuja character? Did he say anything about himself?"

"Well, he had a lisp. And I think I remember him saying he was in Manhattan... he didn't say much about himself."

Edea frowned, lost in thought. "That's not much of a lead," she said. "But it might be the only clue we're only to get. Zell, would you be able to recognize Kuja's voice if you met him?"

Zell shrugged. "Yeah, I think."

"Guys, I'm not kidding, look, I won!"

"Ooh! Ooh! Are you going chu Manhattan chu meet Sephy-chan? Chu-Chu wants chu come too!"

"No, Chu-Chu; you're still just a student," Edea said. She conjured up a standee of Debu Chocobo with his hand held out to the side. "See? You must be this high to go on the SeeD mission."

Chu-Chu frowned. "Okay," she said. "Yuffie, chu'll keep Chu-Chu company, won't chu?"

"Uh, like, I don't like the way you said 'keep Chu-Chu company.'"

"Can Irvine and me go along ^^;;;?" Selphie suggested. "We're tall enough XP!"

Edea nodded. "Yes, we'll need some back-up," she said. "I think I'd better come along too. I have a feeling this is going to get complicated..."

* * *

Kuja leaned back on a bench in Central Park and thumbed through Dictator Digest. "Oooh... tipth for dethigning the perfect fortreth. How abtholutely delightful!" He smirked and ran a hand through his long, pale hair.

Sephiroth sloshed up through the melting snow. "Kuja, I got in touch with Billy. He said he'd rejoin as long as we didn't start any more free plastic surgery scams."

"Ah, that'th thuper," Kuja said. "But why doeth thuch a thadow of doubt cloud your handthome featureth?"

Sephiroth hesitated. "Well... it's Eve. She wasn't even home when I stopped by, and Valentine's gone too. I guess she doesn't even want to talk me now. And here I thought I'd finally found someone who understood me." He sighed. "I hate people."

"Don't be tho hard on yourself, Thephy-chan," Kuja said. "It'th thothiety that made you into a alcoholic bum that didn't even thow up for hith daughter'th birth. It'th not your fault everyone hateth you."

Sephiroth nodded sadly. "Yeah, I know," he said. "By the way, why are you just sitting there?"

"My tholath continueth but for the arrival of my tranthportation," Kuja explained. "Take not note of my prethenth."

"Uh... okay," Sephiroth said. He turned and trudged away, then stopped and glanced over his shoulder. "Aren't you cold in that?"

"O frigid windth of dethpair! Thy cold breath doth not tread lightly upon the thandth of time!"

Sephiroth hurried away.

Kuja brushed his hair again and shook a cell phone out of one of his sleeves. He called up his compatriots in his desert lair. "Greetingth, Farith. The curtain hath rithen on Plan B. I theem to have gained Thepiroth's trutht; he was even telling me all about his marital problemth. Finding out where he hath hidden hith child thould be ath efforthleth ath lifting a pea. Pluth he'th got thome huge contract with Thinra Recordth, tho he'th going to be thuck with me for a long time." He chuckled haughtily. "By the by, why have the clownth not yet arrived... what? What do you mean, Homey thole the Invinthible? Weren't you uthing the Club? Oh thtarry heaventh, I can't believe I'm paying you people. Why don't you take out a loan and buy a clue, thupid?"

Kuja threw the phone down in disgust. "I thould bought thothe neat thwivel chairth inthead."

* * *

Cait Sith shook the contents of his magnetic poetry kit out onto the warehouse floor. "Okay, let's write some songs." He arranged some of the words randomly. "'Chocolate and brain virute / An afternoon cartoon with kindred kind taboo.' Nah, that doesn't make any sense."

Mog frowned. "Kupo, I think we ought to write songs that are about something people care about, you know, like love or something."

"What the hell is wrong with you, Mog? You've turned into a lovesick blob of lime green jello."

"Dude, I'm just saying -"

Cait Sith fished out the 'love' magnet. "Fine. We'll write a song about love. 'Love smells after three days / Beggars makes good neighbors.' There, how's that?"

Eiko strolled by and peered over Cait Sith's shoulder. "That's way too complicated," she said. "You need to write catchy lyrics so everyone can sing along!"

Cait Sith shot her a withering glare. "Art isn't 'catchy,' munchkin girl." He turned back to his magnets.

"She's got a point there, Cait. I thought we were trying to just sell lots of records to cover your legal bills."

"Let's write a song about Mogs!" Eiko suggested. "''Mogs, Mogs, Mogs. I like Mogs.' That'd make a good chorus! And I could do a flute part, if you want."

Cait Sith clenched his fist around his poetry tiles. "Look, why don't you go play a solitaire game of Russian roulette?"

Neko jumped in. "Hey, Eiko," he offered. "I think Cait Sith might appreciate it if you left him alone for a while. How about I give you a coloring book to play with? 'Horton Hears a Qu?'"

"No!" Eiko stomped her foot. "I wanna write a song!"

Mog shrugged. "You guys, I think Eikupo has a good idea for a song," he said. "Everyone like Moogles; we could write a catchy song about them."

"Oh, for cryin' out loud," Cait Sith said. "This is pathetic." He got and shoved out Eiko out the door. "You're in 'Time Out.' You can come back in once you've filled out your problem solving report."

* * *

"Okay, Chu-Chu, you're in charge of the Garden Festival Commitee while we're gone ^___^." Selphie carefully counted off her instructions on her fingers. "Don't spend any money unless it's an emergency, don't sell the committee to AOL Time Warner, don't let Yuffie steal anything, and don't club any baby seals. Oh, and please don't post any porn on the web page ^^;;;! See you once we find Rinoa ^o^!!!"

Selphie turned to climb in the Ragnarok, but Chu-Chu grabbed her leg and pulled her back. "Selphie?"

"What @[email protected]?"

"What if I have to choose between clubbing baby seals and posting porn? Then can I post porn? Like, say these alien beings come and are going to anally probe all the baby seals unless I send them porn?"

Selphie frowned and thought for a second. "Uh, yeah, I guess you could then ^___^;;!! Okay, byeeeee XP!" She waved goodbye to Chu-Chu and joined Irvine, Zell, and Edea in the vehicle.

* * *

Kuja plotted his next move as he strolled between rows of warehouses. He'd managed to gain Sephiroth's trust and assemble a band, but now he was stuck in this strange, terrifying world where no one had heard of an Eidolon and Legend of Dragoon was a best-selling game. And on top of all that, without the Invincible, how would he be able to keep hunting down witches?

His question was answered when, to his utter disbelief, a cat stepped out one of the warehouses, deposited Eiko on the sidewalk, and slammed the door shut. Kuja pinched himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. What incredible luck! The Eidolons must be smiling on him after all. He picked up a long metal pipe and approached the girl from behind. Completely oblivious to Kuja, Eiko continued beating on the door and crying. "You've flown right to me, my little canary," Kuja muttered under his breath.

Kuja smacked Eiko over the head with the pipe; she instantly fell to the ground. Kuja scooped her up under one arm and took off running.

* * *

Aya stepped into her boss' office. "Chief Baker?" she asked. "Could you transfer me to another case? The Eve baby kidnapping? No one's even investigating that."

"I thought you were still on that banana smuggling case, Aya =]," Baker said.

Aya nodded. "I am, but isn't this more important? We're talking a kidnapping here, not just a silly bunch of bananas."

Baker snorted. "Aya, I refuse to have the same damn argument with you four times ;]. You agreed to at least write your half your report on the banana case, I'd expect you to honor that."

Aya winced. Not this again. "Chief, there's no reason to file half a report on a case. It's a total waste of time! What do you want me to say? 'Well, I almost figured out who's responsible?'"

Baker turned away from in his swivel chair. "Aya, start keeping your word and you'll watch these questions disappear," he said loftily. "But in the mean time, you will be assigned no new cases until you file at least half the banana smuggling report."

"I'm keeping my word all right, dammit!" Aya stomped her foot. "I swore to protect and serve this city and the way to protect and serve is to not to waste my time chasing banana smugglers when people are being kidnapped off the streets!"

"You do not decide for this city what is a waste of time and what isn't."

"And you do?" Aya shouted back.

Baker shrugged. "Moreso, at least =]." He leaned forward and rested his chin on his palm. "Aya, we made an agreement. Are you breaking it? You're such a child."

"I said I'd finish the banana smuggling case and I will," Aya seethed. "But young children are in danger and I'm damned if I'm not going to help them. And I refuse to fritter away my time working on an irrelevant case just because you've got too much of a big head to admit we don't have a single damn clue about who's smuggling those bananas!"

"You need to grow up, Aya ;]."

"You need to get in touch with the people."

"You need to quit assuming you're in touch just because you read the newspaper, girl =]," Baker said. "Now will you at least honor your promise and file what you've written of the banana report?"

"Why?" Aya instantly retorted. "What do you want with it?"

"So I can get an idea of the format in case I want to finish it," Baker replied casually.

"It's just like any other report," Aya said.

Baker slammed his fist on his desk. "Aya, why do you make even a simple transfer of papers so difficult?"

Aya folded her arms. "Well, because, honestly, I don't trust you to carry out this investigation legally. And it's unfortunate that no one in this office is able to trust each any other more."

"That's your fault, Aya," Baker countered. "Aya, you've betrayed my trust. If you -"

"I know I'm not the only one who's felt antagonized lately," Aya interrupted.

Baker leaned forward. "What exactly have I done to lose your trust, hmmm ;]?" he demanded angrily. "As you sit there and go back on me repeatedly, what have I done to lose your trust?"

"Let's see." Aya counted on her fingers. "You've made everyone here look like asses by openly insulting the other stations, you've canceled important investigations without any warning, you've refused to reward tips, you..."

"Aya, I told you I'm not going have this argument five times," Baker said. "You agreed to finish half of the banana smuggling report. Let's see you stick to your word."

"I didn't agree to that!"

"Your memory's going now too, I see ;]," Baker said. "Regardless, that's the past, though it was your first slip into this rebellion you are currently basking in."

"I'm not basking in rebellion," Aya shot back. "I'm trying to actually serve the city instead of arguing over one stupid report."

"We're discussing, not arguing ;]," Baker said. "And nitpicking over one report is what makes us effective police officers ;]."

"Actually, nitpicking over one report wastes a lot of time that we could be using to make this city a better, safer place."

"The best find time for both, ne?"

"And you find time only for the former, apparently," Aya snapped.

"I've been trying to avoid finding time for personal potshots also ;]."

Aya sighed. "All right, fine. I'll look for your precious banana smugglers. Just leave me alone."

"Thanks, Aya ;]. Feel free to take any car you want. Except my CHEVY CAMARO."

* * *

"Instruct-chu-or Chu! Instruct-chu-or Chu!" Chu-Chu bounced across the administration area.

Xu looked up from her heated game of Minesweeper. "Yes, Chu-Chu?"

Chu-Chu bounced up and down, her purse flying all over. "Mmm! Mmm! Can chu please check Selphie's mail? The new issue of Fangirl is out and it has Kuja-sama in iiiit! Pleeeeeeease?" She dropped to her knees, clenched her hands together, and fluttered her eyelashes at Xu.

Xu's lips quivered briefly into a smile. "Of course, Chu-Chu," she said warmly. "Those are nice Bambi eyes you're making there."

"Oookya! Yay!" Chu-Chu hopped to her feet and threw her hands up in the air.

Xu disappeared into the mail room. Chu-Chu continued bouncing in anticipation until her instructor returned with the latest Fangirl. "Here's the magazine."

"Thank chu, Instruct-chu-or Chu!" Chu-Chu cried in rapture. She threw her arms around Xu's leg briefly before snatching the magazine away with both hands and throwing it down on the floor to read. She gasped with delight. "A cover piece on soulbounding! Oh, and a sneak preview of the spring's hottest emoticons! Ooh, and here's the centerforld of Kuja-sama! Oh, it's so adorable; I can't even tell what gender it is! This is so wonderful!"

* * *

Cait Sith switched off the Bahamut Men's first recording in disgust. "Aw, man, this song sucks," he griped. "This is, like, bad even by our standards."

Spekkio shrugged. "Hey, man, Midgar wasn't in a built in a day. We're getting better."

"Yeah, but we're going to meet with our producer in, like, an hour." He noted the blank looks on the rest of the band. "Oh, did I not tell you guys about that? Sorry."

Mog pointed towards the door. "Can I let Eiko back in now? She's probably freezing out there."

"Yeah, sure, whatever."

"Sorry about that," Mog said as he opened the door. "I hope you -- Eiko?" Mog stepped outside and looked around. "Eikupo? Where are you, Eiko?" He turned around in a full circle but saw no sign of the little summoner. "Cait! She's gone! Kupo!"

"Woo hoo!"

"Dude, Cait, that's not funny! What if something's happened to her? She could have gotten lost... or maybe even kidnapped! Kupo, kupo!"

"Yeah, somebody probably wanted to poach her for her ivory." Noting Mog's continued terror, Cait rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, Mog, you know that relationship wasn't going anywhere."

"It wasn't a relationship!" Mog stamped his feet. "I was supposed to be watching over her and now she's disappeared. Bahamut's gonna bite me! This is all your fault, Cait!"

"Wait, wait, calm down. I've got a plan. We'll just adopt a new kid and dye her hair purple. Human children all look the same; it's no big deal."

"That's sick, dude," Spekkio cut in. Mog fervently nodded his agreement.

"I'm serious! It's a good idea!" Cait pleaded. "Some poor orphaned kid gets a new home, the little brat hopefully gets run over by a truck, we save ourselves a lot of time, and Bahamut will never know the difference."

"But what if she's supposed to summon something?" Mog paused and took a deep breath. "Kupo... we'll report her to the Missing Persons Department at the police. They'll put out a search for her."

C.S. checked his watch. "Okay, but we've got that appointment at four-o'-clock," he said. "Tell you what. You go talk to the police about your girlfriend; the rest of us will go to Awful Tripe Records."

Mog sighed. "Fine, it's a plan." He hurried out of the warehouse, chirping anxiously to himself. He stopped halfway down the block and looked over his shoulder. "And she's not my girlfriend!"

"Yeah, then, how come you're always inside her pants?" Cait Sith shouted back.

Mog stamped his foot in Cait's general direction and ran off.

Cait Sith looked smugly at Neko and Spekkio. "You'll note he didn't answer that question."

* * *

Still carrying Eiko, Kuja hurried down the halls of Shinra's Awful Tripe Records. He found the office of expert producer Lucky "Mojo" Dan and flung the door open without knocking. The other members of Shounen Ai -- Sephiroth, Billy, Sydney, and Izlude -- were already inside, speaking with Dan.

"It's about time you showed up, Kuja," Sephiroth said. "Why are you carrying that girl? Is she all right?"

"The'th my nieth," Kuja explained hastily. "Her parenth went out of town."

"She looks a little unconscious," Billy frowned. "Maybe you'd better take her to the hospital."

"The'th jutht, hmm, taking a nap," Kuja said. He brushed past Sephiroth and reached for a chair.

"Oh, don't sit there!" Lucky Dan quickly interrupted. "That chair's just not safe!"

Kuja looked down. The chair was missing a seat -- it was just a back and legs. Kuja quickly moved that chair aside and sat down in a different one. He smoothed back his hair. "Now, thall we dithcuth the matterh for which our prethenth wath requethted?"

"Was it producing? I will show you how!" Dan said. "Get it? That was an FF IV reference, hee hee."

Sephiroth shrugged. "Get to the point, Dan."

"Okay, I'm thinking this album needs to show a new side to your guys. We're going to show that you can do a more mature, harder album than Bishounen."

"Harder side?" Izlude said. "We're a boy band, for cryin' out loud -- we don't have a harder side."

Lucky Dan squinted at him. "You're new to this, aren't you? Just because we say every album will show a new side to you doesn't mean they actually have to."

"Oh."

"See, it's like Al Gore. He said he invented the Internet, but he didn't really. Get it? Al Gore? Internet?" He doubled over in laughter and pounded his desk with his fist. "Ho ho ho!"

"Um, about our album..."

"Oh, right!" Dan quickly sat up straight. "I was talking with Kuja here and we can get your single, 'What's My Sex Again,' out this week. And then we can record thirteen tracks of festive bird sounds or something to fill out the rest of the album."

"This week?" Izlude exclaimed. "But... we don't even have any songs yet."

"Don't worry, the first single is 'featuring' Faris and Flea from the Red Hot Dead Peppers. It's already been recorded."

"Wait, are we even going to appear on this album?"

"Well, there's going to be lots of promotional appearances," Dan said. "You've already been signed to all appear on the cover of Rolling Stone in purple thongs. And there's a touching story about how you guys were inspired to write 'What's My Sex Again' by a letter you received from a fan dying of cancer."

"We were?" Sydney said. "I don't remember that happening."

"Look, who's making this album, you spoony bards or me?"

"Um, us?"

"No! Me!"

"Kuja, remind me again how I got sucked into this," Sephiroth sighed.

"Because... ALL YOUR CONTRACT ARE BELONG TO ME! HA HA HA HA!" Lucky Dan fell out of his chair and rolled around on the floor, shrieking with laughter.

"Huh?"

Sydney scowled. "Let's just go," he grunted. "This idiot isn't going to help us any more. Especially if he's already finished our whole album."

Sephiroth jumped up and kicked his chair into the wall. "Why do I have to be so useless?" He stared down at his clenched fists. "I hate myself!"

"Oh, Thepiroth, of courth you're not uthleth," Kuja responded automatically. "We apprethiate your contributhonth very much. Don't lithten to thohe criticth."

Sephiroth sighed. "Yeah... I guess you're right." He took a deep breath to calm himself.

As the members of Shounen Ai trooped out of Dan's office, they passed the Bahamut Men. Kuja noticed the gray cat staring at him and quickly hid Eiko behind his back.

"Dude, did you see that?" Spekkio blurted once the boy band had turned the corner. "That g... wo... thing was carrying Eiko!"

"Dude, that was Sephiroth's boy band," Cait Sith elaborated. "What the hell is going on here? Wait, wait... what if he's kidnapping Eiko to keep our band from getting off the ground? Dammit, I'm going to kill him!" He took off after them.

Spekkio cupped his hands. "Cait Sith, stop!" he shouted. "What about our record?"

Neko frowned. "Wait, now he wants to save Eiko and we're worrying about the record? I'm lost."

Cait Sith jogged back to rejoin his friends. "What crazy talk are you blabbering about this time?" he demanded.

"Dude, don't forget to drop the record off first," Spekkio repeated.

"Oh, right." With Cait Sith releashed, the trio hurried into Lucky Dan's office. The straw voodoo doll was still flailing about on the ground, tears of laughter streaming down his straw face. "Uh... here's our first song, dude." Cait Sith tossed the recording on Lucky Dan's desk. "We gotta make like Iifa and leave."

The three band members made a quick U-turn and ran back towards the entrance. "Wait!" Neko suddenly bellowed.

The other cute animals froze and turned to their friend. "I just thought of a great invention!" he explained. "A Tower of Babel Lego set! See, the instructions for each step would be written in a different language. Like, the first step would be written in Thai, and then the next step would be in Esperanto. We could market it as a language learning tool."

"You made us stop for that?" Cait Sith said.

"Dude, I really thought it was a good idea," Neko said, hurt. "I've made a lot of money selling stupid things to even stupider people."

"That bodes well for our record, then."

"Shut the hell up, Spekkio."

Cait Sith led the charge out of the building. The Bahamut Men emerged from the office building slightly out of breath. Spekkio looked around the street corner and noted with dismay no signs of the mob of screaming teenage girls that usually followed Shounen Ai around. "Looks like we missed 'em," he said.

"You go right, we'll go left," Neko suggested. "They couldn't have gotten too far."

* * *

Aya climbed into her police car, in which Eve was already waiting. "So where are we going?" the mutant woman asked.

"Ostensibly, we're looking for banana smugglers," Aya said. "But I thought we might take a eductional trip to the MMoA instead." She buckled up for safety and pulled out of the station.

Eve glanced uncomfortably over at her former nemesis a couple of times. She eventually grew sick of the tense silence and tried to make conversation. "So, what are you doing in New York anyway, Aya? I thought you moved to L.A. and joined the FBI."

"I'm trying to forget about that, Eve." Aya scowled. "Reversed the aging process, my ass."

"Sorry."

As the car turned a corner, Mickey Mouse raced head-on towards them, waving a checkered flag and blowing a kazoo. Aya slammed on the brakes. The car skidded to a stop, and Aya hopped out to confront the oncoming interloper.

Mickey Mouse removed his head, revealing a furry white creature on stilts. "Hi!" he said. "I just wanted to made sure I got your attention, kupo."

"Do you need assistance?" Aya asked mechanically. Even things like this didn't surprise her any more.

"Yeah, Eiko is missing! I went outside... uh, I mean, Eiko is this girl, she's a Summoner, and she's gone missing. We can't find her anywhere! Uh, and my name's Mog, kupo."

"Oh no." Eve's eyes widened. "What if she's been kidnapped too, Aya? This could be a whole kidnapping ring!"

Aya nodded. "Calm down," she instructed Mog. "Do you have any more information? We're tracking down another kidnapped girl; they might be connected. Where did you last see her?"

"Er... at a warehouse," Mog said. "I forgot the address."

"Would you remember it if we drove by it?" Aya said.

"Yeah, probably," Mog said.

"All right, let's check it out. You can sit in the back." Mog disentagled himself from his Mickey Mouse costume and climbed in the police car.

Aya turned the car around and switched the radio on. "You've been listening to WARK 109.8 FM, and that was 'Adamantite' by Papa Oglop. And now, by request, we're playing it again." Aya tried another station. "That was Papa Oglop's 'Adamantite'. And now: 'Alexandrication' by the Red Hot Dead Peppers." Aya tried yet again. "That was the Red Hot Dead Peppers with 'Alexandrication' and this is KWEH 107.8 FM - the top 3 hits, recycled hour after hour. And now, just in... a brand new formulaic song that we'll be hammering into your collective cultural conscience by playing every fifteen minutes. This is the Bahamut Men with 'Who Let the Mogs Out.'"

Mog's eyes widened in happy surprise as his cacophonous song began. His excitement was soon tempered when Aya commented, "Who comes up with this crap? I swear, the people who write this kind of garbage should be banned from the radio for life."

Mog slid down in his seat and tried to make himself invisible. His repetitive chorus continued to loop on the radio, taunting him. "Who let the Mogs out? Kupo, kupo..."

* * *

"...kupo, kupo..."

"Wondrous Mambo God in Heaven!" Chu-Chu switched off her radio in disgust. "Can they possibly play that silly 'Mogs' song any more often? Shounen Ai's new single is out today and I haven't heard it once!"

Yuffie propped herself up into a semi-reclining position on her bed. "Hey, turn on WARK," she said. "I want to catch 'You Can Look You're Playing The Guitar Even Though You're Not That Good.'"

Chu-Chu obliged. "Hey rockers! Welcome to 'You Can Look You're Playing The Guitar Even Though You're Not That Good.' But first, today's music headlines: Following a night of drunken revelry, Moby has accidentally licensed one of his tracks to himself, sources report... Eminem today repeated his vow to beat up any boy band he meets in public, demanding that rising-star pop quintet Shounen Ai meet him in a dark alley in a New York so he could slit their throats. The controversial rapper also continues to be plagued by allegations that the song 'Let's Kill All Those Queer Cock-Sucking Faggots' from his latest CD, The Schtotleheim Reinbach III LP, advocates violence against homosexuals..."

"Oh dearie me!" Chu-Chu said. "How could he say such violent things?"

"Yeah, no kidding," Yuffie agreed. "Homophobia is, like, totally gay."

"No, no! I mean, what he said about Kuja-sama! Oooh, he's going chu pay for this! I hope he gets his Adam's apple sliced."

* * *

Space, the final frontier

Irvine pounded on the bathroom door. "Selphie! Selphie! It's an emergency!" He heard a cabinet being opened and bottles being shuffled around, but no response from Selphie. "Selphie? Are you coming out?"

"I can't >_<!"

"Why not?"

"I have a huge zit on my forehead!" Selphie thought for a moment. "Um... how much of an emergency is this? Are we all going to die in the next five minutes, or just the next thirty?"

"Um... somewhere between there, I'd say," Irvine said. "About fifteen minutes."

"Okay... I'll open the door and you can give me your hat. Don't peek ^^;;;!" Selphie opened the door and stood to the side. Irvine passed his cowboy hat inside and set it on. Selphie quickly grabbed the hat and pulled it down over her forehead.

"Thanks, Irvy-poo ^__^;;!" Selphie said. "So, uh... what's the emergency?"

"It's a huge weather balloon! It's sucking us in!"

Selphie and Irvine hurried to the bridge, where Zell and Edea were pushing random buttons and watching sine waves scroll around LED panels. A siren was blaring, and a huge "RED ALERT" sign blinked overhead.

Selphie looked up at the weather balloon looming on the monitor. Some sort of green beam radiated out from the balloon, drawing the Ragnarok in. "Oh... my... God..." she breathed. "What... the... hell... is... that...?"

"It's the second-largest weather balloon I've seen!" Zell explained.

"Awww, I bet it's an optical illusion ^^;;," Selphie said. "It's probably just an alien mothership."

"Well, whatever, get us out of here!" Zell pressed some more buttons.

Selphie gasped. Muttering to herself, she dashed to Zell's chair and pulled his hands away from the buttons. "What are you doing?" she said, horrified. "That's not how you pilot the Ragnarok >_<!"

Zell got out of the chair and pulled his hands free of Selphie. "I was just pushing buttons, geez."

Selphie took his place and tried to activate the Ragnarok's hyper-drive. "Oh no >_<! We happen to be stuck in a time-space anomaly!"

"What, another one?"

The weather balloon dragged the Ragnarok still closer. "I can't do anything!" Selphie said, punching buttons desperately. "Irvine!"

"Huh?"

"Quick, take the escape pod and get us help X_X!" Selphie continued vainly trying to free the spaceship. "And try to be careful where you land it -- I want a free taco, okay ^^;;?"

* * *

Cid VIII stepped to the front of the Lindblum Castle meeting room. Before him sat all his fellow Cids, as well as Doctor Tot, Mid, Cid III's sidekick Peco, and a thin man. "Thank you all for coming on such short notice."

Cid VII nudged Cid VI. "We're indoors; you can take the @#$!$ raincoat off."

Eight took off his glasses and rubbed them. "As you may know, a secretary was recently kidnapped from Balamb Garden. My wife, Edea, went to Earth to investigate the situation and we haven't heard from her since."

"Puddy?" Peco squeaked, then started humming the Twilight Zone theme.

"She's been abducted by aliens!" the thin man burst out. "They're going to impregnate her with Grey Race DNA and form human-alien hybrids that will take over the world! It's part of a FEMA conspiracy! Why won't you listen to me?"

"Because you're wrong, dammit!" Cid VII said. "Give it up already! You were wrong about there being mind-control substances in @#$* postage stamps! You were wrong about that new asphalt on the highway being 'black oil!' You're always wrong!"

"It's aliens, I tell you," the thin man muttered. "Aliens in a big weather balloon."

"Anyway, I believe Doctor Tot wishes to suggest an alternate theory," Cid IX said.

The small man stepped forward and cleared his throat. "Thank you. Cid IX told me about the kidnappings, and I noticed that they all seemed to involve witches. I believe they may be connected to a character Kuja, who is attempting to drain their summoning powers. Of course, Kuja was killed, but that never seems to matter in stories like these."

"So where can we find this Kuja guy?"

"I'm afraid that's beyond my knowledge," Tot said. "You must go to Mount Gulug and meet Professor Daravon, the Jedi master who instructed me."

"Eh, Daravon?" T.G. Cid grunted. "Not the same Daravon from Gariland Magic Academy? What's he doing on a mountain?"

"He said something about going to 'see a king named Hiking.' I really don't know what he was talking about, actually."

Cid IV shrugged. "Well, I guess it's off to Mount Gulug then."

Cid II scowled. "You kids and your volcano dungeons. Don't you have any creativity these days? Back when I was a young 'un, we had towers, caves, castles, waterfalls, you name it. These days it's all sewer 'n volcanoes. Sewers 'n volcanoes."

* * *

Atop the Statue of Liberty, the Yachuza went about their daily work. One ironed the mob's pink pinstripe suits, while another tabulated the profits from the operation's front, the Shevat item shop. A third group watched over baby Valentine.

"She still doesn't want chu eat anything, boss," an orange Chu-chu complained as it dangled a spider in Valentine's face.

The Chufather mumbled something unintelligible in reply and tugged on his beard.

"Hello, Yachuza central office, may I help chu?" a green Chu-chu answered a ringing phone. He sneezed.

"Hi, Ah-Chu! This is Chu-Chu! Uh, Chu-Chu really needs chu to send someone to swim with the fishes. There's this awful, awful man named Eminem; he said all these nasty unchrue things about Shounen Ai! Like, they couldn't sing and all their songs were written by a middle-aged producer! I hope chu give him a pair of new chument shoes!"

Ah-Chu sneezed again and grabbed a pad of paper. "Okay, let me get this down. One assassination, no breaking and entering, hold the looting."

"Right."

"Will chu needing body removal with that?"

"Uh, I don't think so," Chu-Chu said. "Aren't chu going to lock him in the trunk and drive him into a river or something?

Ah-Chu sniffed. "Well, chu can choose drowning, sniping, or drive-by chu-ting. But drowning is more expensive; it's a two-man job and we're awf-chully understaffed lately after all the lay-offs. We had a big contract with SEEL and they haven't paid us yet, chu see."

"Fine, I just want chu to get rid of him!" Chu-Chu said. "Chu-Chu'd pay..." she stopped to think. "...one meeeellion dollars. Can you believe he said Billy-kun was probably a gigolo? How awful!"

"Okay," Ah-Chu said. "We'll do our best. But ya gotta understand, chuse pays chu-our money and chuse takes chu-our chances. Good snipers just don't fall out of the sky."

* * *

Irvine screamed as he plummeted from his defective escape pod. While Valentine burst out screaming, the Yachuza tried to scramble out of the way. Irvine landed on top of two unfortunate gangsters. The soft creatures cushioned his fall, and he rolled to his feet mostly unhurt. "Whew, I'm alive," he said. "I -- whoa, it's a bunch of Chu-chus."

"Shhh! This is the sechuret Yachuza headquarters. It's a secret chu everyone," one of the Chu-chus said.

The Chufather pointed at Irvine's sniper rifle and mumbled something unintelligible.

"The Chufather wants to know if you're a sniper and could work for us," Ah-Chu explained.

Irvine shrugged. "Sure, I suppose." Maybe if he cooperated, these critters could help him rescue Selphie and the others. After all, they at least looked like Chu-Chu -- perhaps they knew her. Besides, he needed his hat back ASAP.

"Okay, here's chu-our assignment," Ah-Chu explained. "We need chu assassinate Eminem because 'he said all these nasty unchrue things about Shounen Ai.' According chu our eyes, he's in the city on tour at this very moment and he's going chu fight Sephiroth's band in an alley near Carnegie Hall. Chu need to stake out a spot on the roof of Carnegie Hall and shoot him as soon as chu see him!"

"Uh, right," Irvine said. "So, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?"

"Practice."

* * *

Charles Manson entered the SEEL meeting room, his hand over a cell phone. "Subcomandante!" he said. "The Chufather is on the phone. He want to know why he hasn't been paid for the kidnapping yet."

"wHaT tHe HeLL Do ThEy EXpEcT Me To dO, paY eVerYonE i OWe mOnEy To?" Pikachu said. "dO I loOK lIkE FrIGgIn' UnCLe pENnYBaGs tO You?"

"Er, so what should I tell them, then?" Manson asked.

Pikachu shrugged. "rApe TheM aND SpIT oN TheM FoR ALl I CaRe. iT's ThEIr OwN FaUlT."

"I blame you, Pikachu," Manson muttered to himself. He left the room grumbling and narrowly avoided colliding with Mr. Bean.

"Say, Pikachu, what're we going to do about Sephiroth?" Mint asked. "I saw on the news he and Kuja from Androdyne were together."

"tOGeThEr? YoU meAn, lIke -"

"Er, they had a band," Mint said. "But what if they start working together to find Valentine? Androdyne is still ahead of us in the ratings."

"lEt'S sEnD THeM a CEaSe AnD dEsIsT LeTTeR," Pikachu suggested. "It'Ll sEEM iNTimiDATinG iF a LaWyeR's NaMe is On iT."

"But, Mistah Pikachu, don't we have to be all secret 'n stuff?" Dennis the Phantom Menace said. "Like, we could assassinate Kuja, and then pin the crime on someone else. That would be really evil, wouldn't it?"

"We'Re cAn'T AfFoRd tO bE ReAlLy EViL, DeNnIS," Pikachu said. "wE CaN onLY GeT bY at 49.99995% eViL wITh tHe EvIL maRkET tHe WaY iT IS."

"But I thought bein' evil was what SEEL was all about!" Dennis whined.

"DeNNiS, eViL rEvEnUe iS dOWn aLl aCrOSs ThE eViL InDuStRY. THaT's wHy We'Re LoOkIng iNTO aLTeRNAtE buSIneSs ModEls, lIKe sELlInG FlOWerS aND HelPinG oLD lAdIeS CrOsS tHe StREeT."

"Wait! I know someone who might be able to help us!" Mint piped up.

"oH?"

"Yeah, her name's Mode Master; she's a shapeshifter. She could disguise herself as someone else who might want to off Kuja, take him out, and set up the scandal of the century!"

"WeLL, I HoPE sHe WorKs FoR FrEe."

"Ooh, you can just cut some of my pay for the month. I don't mind!" Mint hopped up and down and clapped excitedly. "Tee hee, this will be completely evil! Kuja is sooooo dead!"

* * *

The Cids' party interrogated the locals of the small mountainside town of Esto Gaza, looking for a guide up Mount Gulug. "You have to be crazy," one resident told them. "Every previous expedition along that route has had trouble with the porters. And why would you want to climb all the way up Mount Gulug anyway?"

"Because it's there," Cid IV explained.

The man shrugged. "Well, I suppose you could talk to that pair of dwarves," he said. "They take supplies up for that crazy old man that lives up there. I'd trust them on the other end of my rope."

"Gotcha."

"We'll have to move fast," said dwarves explained when consulted. "We've started late in the season. But if we leave behind the oxygen and most of our equipment and travel light, we can get up there and back before the winter storms."

Cid VIII scratched his head. "Isn't that dangerous? I'd hate for us to run into life-threatening danger later because of this currently innocent-seeming but foolishly overconfident decision."

"I love the @#$! smell of foreshadowing in the morning."

"Nah, we'll be fine," said Biggs, one of the dwarves. "In fact, I'm sooo confident in our ability that I'll strap all this dynamite to myself for no apparent reason."

The Cids and company began their perilous trek up the side of Mount Gulug. "You know, I'm starting to have second thoughts about this," Cid V said.

"Eh, we'll be fine," Cid VII said. "I mean, why would those two guys have strapped to dynamite to themselves if this wasn't a sure bet?"

The party abruptly halted. "Number Seven!" Cid III called from the front of the line. "The fresh snow has covered up the crevices! The dwarves say they will go no further today."

"Tell them they'll get an extra fifty gil a day, at the end, if they complete this part of the march," Cid VII said. He proceed undaunted until he stepped into a snow-covered crevice. Cid VII tumbled down the mountain slope, cursing loudly, and landed on a precarious ledge below.

Biggs and Wedge lept into action. The two dwarves affixed their climbing ropes to a sturdy rock and swung off the path. They both collided with the mountain side, triggering the dynamite and annihilating themselves in a massive explosion.

"Oh my God, Biggs and Wedge returned to the Planet!"

"Uh, you bastards?"

"Puddy!"

"Damn, what are we gonna do now?" Cid III wondered.

"Leave me here. I can't walk. My legs are broken. By yourself, you have a chance," Cid VII said. "Or you could get me the @#$* off this cliff!"

"We'll be down in a jiffy!" Cid IX called down to Seven. "And we've got to find Biggs and Wedge too! I know they're still alive."

* * *

Ducking between pedestrians' legs, Cait Sith scurried down the sidewalk. His head spun back and forth like a 1950s sci-fi robot, scanning for any signs of Sephiroth's band.

He finally found them in an alley near Carnegie Hall. The five members of Shounen Ai were simply standing around, trying to look tough. Cait Sith backed off and whistled through his megaphone. Nothing happened, so he tried again. "Dude, where's my Mog?" he wondered.

This called for another plan. Cait retrieved a large cardboard box from a nearby dumpster. He tore open one side panel and crawled inside. "Heheh, I saw them do this in Xenogears Solid. This sturdy cardboard box will protect me."

Cait Sith tried to push the box forward from inside. It didn't budge. Maybe if I kick it, Cait thought. He attempted to re-orient himself feet-first, but the box wasn't wide enough to allow him to turn around. He tried to change in stages, first rolling over onto his side, then bringing his legs up and pressing them against the side of the box. Cait flopped around, vainly attempting to roll onto his chest with his feet foward.

"Help! I'm stuck in this box!" Cait shouted. "Over here! Someone help!"

Someone lifted up the box. "Whoa, hey!" Cait cried as he slid to the other end of the box. He bounced around inside the box as it moved. The mysterious carrier eventually set the box down and leaned on it, squeezing Cait inside.

Cait Sith kicked on the sides of the box. "Hey! I'm inside the friggin' box! Get me out of here!"

The box's owner opened the end of the box and Cait tumbled out onto the roof of Carnegie Hall. "Oh no, not Cait Sith," Irvine said.

"I'll 'oh no' you," Cait Sith said. "What do the hell you think you were doing? Don't you ever check to see if people are inside cardboard boxes before you move them?"

"Shh," Irvine said. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the empty box. Irvine picked up his sniper rifle again and sighted through it.

Eminem was just entering the alley on the opposite side of Shounen Ai. "Whoa," the rapper said. "You came."

"No one calls me a vug and gets away with it." Sephiroth frowned. "What is a vug, anyway?"

"Aww, come on, man, you knew I was just playin', right?" Eminem said. "You guys are pretty cool for a bunch of talentless girlie pansies. I didn't really want to fight you."

"Dammit!" Sephiroth stomped his foot. "Everything I do goes wrong! I tried to do something right and stick up for my honor by coming here to fight you but it turns I shouldn't have had and -- DAMMIT!"

Kuja seized Sephiroth's hand to restrain him. "Thepiroth, wait! We can fight Mithter Matherth anyway."

Eminem got off the phone from his emergency consultation with Dr. Dre. "Wait, Dre just gave me new objectives. How about you fruits and me team up to kick Insane Clown Posse's ass instead?"

Up on the roof, Cait Sith tapped Irvine on the shoulder. "Um, are you going to shoot any time soon?"

"Quiet, you. I have to wait for the right moment."

"Well, if you're not going to be using that gun for a while, can I borrow it?"

"Shut up!" Irvine hissed.

Someone else approached the alley -- and, upon further inspection, it appeared to be Eminem. "Whoa," the new Eminem said. "You came."

"What the hell?" said the first Eminem. "I thought we ditched all those extras from the video."

The second Eminem waved his middle finger at the first. "Obviously not, since you're still here!"

Irvine frowned. Matron had been right -- this was getting complicated. "What do you think I oughtta do?" he whispered to Cait Sith.

Cait Sith shrugged and stood. "May I have your attention, please?" he bellowed through his megaphone. Everyone looked up. "Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?"

One of the Eminems raised his hand. "Right here!"

"You liar, you know I'm the real Slim Shady," the other Eminem countered.

Cait Sith turned to Irvine. "We're going to having a problem here," he concurred.

"Your mother is a Tecmo booth babe!"

"Your mother is a swan!"

"You know, that man up on the roof is going to shoot whichever one of you is the real Slim Shady," Billy pointed out.

"Your mother is a fish! And she collects lint, and has herpes!"

"Yeah, well, YUO = FAG0T!"

"Okay, now you're gonna get it."

Irvine sighed. "We're never going to solve this."

"Wait, wait, I bet this is one of those liar-truth teller puzzles," Cait Sith said. "You know, like, where one guy always tells the truth and the other always lies? Like, one guy is from this one tribe, and the other guy is from this other tribe, and they're both standing at this signpost and this other guy is there and all the signs have fallen off or something and -"

"Get to the point."

"Hold on, I'm trying to think of the question I'm supposed to ask," Cait Sith paced the roof, tapping his head. "Wait! I got it!" He addressed the Eminems through his megaphone. "I'm asking each of you, if I was to ask the other Eminem which of you was the real Slim Shady, what would he say?"

The second Eminem blinked. "Huh?"

The first Eminem shimmered and transformed into an orange-haired woman. "Curses! Foiled again!" Mode Master vanished in a puff of smoke.

"See? I told you I was the real one!"

Two magical miniature Irvines -- one adorned with a halo, the other with horns -- appeared on the sniper's shoulders. "Now hurry up and shoot!" the demonic Irvine said. "He might get away!"

"You can't shoot him -- he hasn't hurt anyone!" the angelic Irvine countered. "And what would Selphie think about you if you did this?"

Irvine lowered his gun, his hands shaking. "I... I can't do it," he said.

"Bahamut," Cait Sith swore. "Why is everyone in this story such a pansy? Here, give me the gun and I'll do it."

Irvine wordlessly handed over the rifle. Cait Sith hefted it with some difficult and stared down at the street. There was the fake Eminem... and the real one... and Shounen Ai. A wicked gleam shone in his eye.

Cait pulled the trigger. "Augh! I've been thot!" Kuja cried, dropping Eiko and clutching his bleeding arm. Upon her impact with the concrete, Eiko's eyes fluttered open. She took one look at Kuja, scrambled to her feet, and fled around the corner.

"I don't know what the hell is going on," Eminem declared. "I'm outta here." He turned and ran for his waiting vehicle.

Billy cast a healing spell on Kuja. "Kuja? Are you all right?" he asked urgently.

"I'm thuper; thankth for athking!" Kuja stood up straight again and brushed back his hair.

Cait Sith looked up into Irvine's condemning stare and grinned guiltily. "Uh.. my hand slipped?" As Irvine made a grab for him, Cait dropped the rifle and dived under the Galbadian's swinging arm. Cait leaped onto the fire escape slid down the side of the building.

Sydney ran after Eminem. "Wait! We still want to fight you!"

Kuja raised his hands and his silver dragon flapped down from the sky. "Everyone jump on, quick!" he shouted at his bandmates. Billy, Sephiroth, Izlude, and Sydney quickly crowded onto the dragon's back. Kuja gave Silver Dragon a warm pat on its head to get it going. "Heigh ho Thilver Dragon and awaaaay!"

Silver Dragon beat its wings and lifted off the ground -- but only barely. Kuja frowned. "We have tranthpothed too much burden upon Thilver Dragon." He pointed at a tag on the dragon's collar. "Thee, the makthimum approved capathity for thith dragon is only four perthonth. One of you mutht remove your augutht perthonage from the dragon."

"Not it," Izlude and Sydney both called.

"Uh... me neither."

Everyone turned to the white-haired boy on the back. "I guess that means you're off, Billy," Izlude said. "Don't worry, we'll be back as soon as we find Eminem!" Too shy to argue, Billy shrugged and slid off Silver Dragon's back. The dragon took off without him.

Meanwhile, Eiko had ventured back into the alley. "Cait Sith!" she exclaimed, running to the black-and-white cat. "You saved me back there!"

"Uh, it was an accident," Cait Sith said. "Don't let it get to your head."

"That was very brave of you," Eiko giggled. She threw her arms around his neck.

Cait Sith quickly pushed her away. "Don't you already have a boyfriend? I know I'm suave and handsome and all, but if you're trying to ditch him for me, I'm not interested."

Eiko stomped her foot. "Mog's not my boyfriend! Mog's a girl!"

"Oh, great," Cait Sith said. "Now this is turning to into the frickin' Crying Game."

"Hmph," Eiko folded her arms. "Are you just going to leave me sitting here on the street like this? That's no way to treat a lady."

Cait Sith sighed. "Fine, whatever," he said. "Let's call a cab and go home." As the pair turned to leave the alley, Irvine approached on the ground. They dashed between his legs and ran off. Irvine didn't bother pursuing them.

Irvine stared into the vacant alley. "Where did everyone go?" he asked Billy.

"Eminem left in his car and the rest of the band chased after him on their dragon," Billy explained. "But there wasn't enough room for me." He fell silent for a minute, then added, "What were you doing up there? Trying to shoot Eminem?"

"Yeah," Irvine admitted. "Then I thought the better of it. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of handing my gun over to that crazy cat."

"Guns don't kill people. Crazy cats kill people," Billy reminded Irvine. "Still, you should have been more careful. Kuja might have been killed!"

Irvine nodded. "Look, I'm really sorry about this whole assassination thing. It was my poor judgment and I apologize. Tell you what: How about you and I both go to the police and report this incident before they come looking for us?"

* * *

"Okay, it looks like they didn't flee into the Central Park Zoo after all," Neko said as he and Spekkio passed the Kids' Smash 'n Grab exhibit, where throngs of children had gathered to molest goats and ferrets. "It was worth a try."

Spekkio ducked a toddler's swinging fist. "Hey, watch it! I'm not part of the exhibit!"

"Neko! Neko!" A female voice called. A short, stocky woman with blue hair jogged towards Spekkio and Neko. Behind her strolled a younger woman in a short blue dress and a lanky red-haired man. Even further in the distance, an old woman in a hooded brown robe shuffled along with a broom tucked under her arm.

"Wow, it's Elinee the Witch!" Neko said. "I haven't heard anyone mention you in years! Do you need some traveling supplies?"

"I need information," Elinee explained. "I'm here with some other witches -- we're responding to an interplanetary witch emergency beacon. Witches are being kidnapped left and right and having their powers stolen, and we don't know who was responsible." She leaned closer and whispered, "Maitreya's niece was one of them. A moogle was supposed to be watching over her, but he must not have been doing a very good job."

Spekkio and Neko exchanged nervous glances. "We're dead," Spekkio said.

"What? Do you know something?" Elinee asked. By this time, the other witches had caught up with her.

"Do these little critters know something about Eiko, Elinee?" Maitreya asked.

Spekkio fidgeted. "We're, uh, Mog... the moogle's friends," he admitted. "The one that was supposed to be watching your niece." He covered his eyes.

"Yeah, we came up with a plan to find the kidnappers!" Neko quickly added. "See, Eiko agreed to let herself get kidnapped so we could track down the culprits! We gave her one of those radio tracker things. You know, where they shoot a dart up your butt?"

"Oh my, how could you do that to Eiko?" Maitreya gasped. "You'd better not let anything bad happen to her."

"There's no use in harping on them now, Maitreya," the red-haired man pointed out. "Besides, this could lead us right to the kidnappers."

Elinee nodded. "Yes, yes, we'd better all work together. Ladies, this is Neko and..."

"Spekkio, the Master of War!"

"...Spekkio. Neko and Spekkio, these are my fellow witches, Deneb Love, Maitreya, and Adel."

Adel extended a hand towards the cute animals. Neko completed the handshake. "Pleased to meet you, sir," he said.

"I'm a woman, you sexist pig."

Neko blinked. "Uh, you're kidding me."

"No," Adel said indignantly. "I'm not."

"Um, right. Sorry. Yeah. Quite a feminine air, you have. Definitely a woman."

"So what is this radio tracker of yours saying?" Maitreya interjected. "Where's Eiko?"

"Oh, it's back at our recording studio," Neko said. "I guess we can go have a look, right? Heh heh." In his mind, Neko ran through the contents of his magic bag: three Connecticut quarters, a "Limp Bizkit Sings the Hits of the 1820s" CD, a photograph of a mud-covered elephant with a pink bow on its head on roller skates flying with a jetpack, some teal-colored Panama hats, and a whole case of Soup In A Straw, among numerous other trinkets. Surely there had to be something he could pass off as some sort of tracking device. He just had to hope that Cait Sith or Mog would find Eiko in the mean time...

* * *

"...and that's our story," Irvine concluded in the time-honored tradition of off-camera exposition. "I really don't know what's going on."

Chief Baker folded his arms. "So, basically, you're an assassin who let this... cat guy shoot a random bystander."

"Uh, but he had a wallet!"

"Oh." Baker relaxed. "You should have mentioned that earlier, yenta ;]." He gave Irvine and Billy congratulatory slaps on the back. "You did good work. Thanks for keeping our streets safe."

"Now, if you have a chance, I'd like to ask for some help myself," Irvine said. "Some friends of mine were kidnapped by -"

Maeda poked his head into the office. "Um, excuse me?" he interrupted. "I was just standing outside and I couldn't help but overhear you talking about the Yachuza."

"Yes?"

"Well... Aya has a hunch they're behind the kidnappings and she was looking for information on them..."

Baker slammed his fist down on his desk. "Dammit, I thought told her to stay off that case!"

Maeda shrunk out of the room. "Sorry!"

"Tell Brea to hurry up and turn out that banana report!" Baker bellowed after him.

Irvine cleared his throat. "As I was saying, sir, some friends of mine were kidnapped by a huge weather balloon."

Baker snorted. "A huge weather balloon? Your eyes are playing on tricks on you, Irving."

"Irvine."

"Irving. It's just an alien mothership." He chuckled disdainfully. "Giant weather balloons, what a preposterous thing."

"Well, I helped your city out; I was hoping you could pay me back..." He left the thought hanging, awaiting some of reponse from Baker.

"Can't," the police chief grunted. "I'm too busy. I'm going to the waffle house and then I've got some meetings to attend."

"Well, I hope you'll keep me in mind if you decide to change your mind later," Irvine said. He turned and left the office with Billy tagging along behind him. They found Maeda still hanging around outside. "Hey, dude... did you need to know something about this Yachuza gang?" Irvine asked him.

"W-well, sort of," Maeda stammered. "Follow me!" He jogged down the hall towards the front door. Irvine followed him. After a moment's hesitation, Billy shrugged and did as well.

Aya, Eve, and Mog were waiting in the parking lot. "This is Detective Brea," Maeda said. "She's the one i-investigating the Yachuza."

Irvine bowed. "Irvine Kinneas, miss. And this is..."

"Billy Lee Black, man of action."

"So... I hear you guys are looking for information on the Yachuza," Irvine said.

Maeda nodded. "They're after me lucky charms." The others laughed. "What? Why does everyone always laugh when I say that?"

"They'd recruited me for one job when I fell onto that big statue over there," Irvine continued. He gestured across the skyline towards the Statue of Liberty. "But then... well, I realized I was wrong and came here to turn myself in."

"We've got a lead tying them to the recent kidnapping incidents," Aya said. "While you were with them, did you notice if they have any girls with them?"

"There was a little baby in a crib," Irvine said. "But it, uh... it had these huge, grotesque claws."

"Oh, that's her!" Eve exclaimed. "That's Valentine!" She threw her arms around Aya and leaned into her shoulder. "Oh, thank you so much! I don't know how I can ever repay you!"

Aya grimaced uncomfortably. "We haven't gotten her back yet."

"Oh... yes." Eve pulled away and wiped her moist eyes dry. "Silly me."

"C'mon, let's go to the press room," Aya said. "I think I might have a plan."

* * *

After many hours of climbing, the Cids finally stepped into the cave at the top of Mt. Gulug. A row of torches illuminated the circular cavern. At the back of the room, in front of a carving of Maduin, a white-bearded man hunched over a desk. Eking out some room on his desk between the stacks of books, scrolls, and a crystal ball, the man scrawled on a manuscript with a quill pen. "Professor Daravon?" Cid IV called.

The bearded man looked up. "Reception! Reception! Come please inside! He is awhile long since it had any visitor and craunch a marmoset. What I can do for you?"

"It's been a while," Cid IV said. "How are you faring?"

"The best, the best!" Daravon asserted. "Much business have I made transrate comprete work of Lord Avon in like Engrish. Its done is the The Merry Wives of Winhill and Tidus Andronicus. Now I tlansrate King Leo."

"We don't mean to interrupt your studies, Professor, but we need to locate a fellow by the name of Kuja," Cid IX said. "Your pupil Doctor Tot said you might be able to assist us."

"Off course! Hardly I will request my magical pumice ball." Daravon waved his hands over the crystal ball sitting on his desk. "The pumice ball, pumice ball, in my writing-desk, where is the one that is called Kuja?" The crystal ball shimmered and displayed an image of Kuja in Sephiroth's mansion. The image zoomed out to reveal the entire city. "It looks like that it is in New York City, helping in the operations of a well-known organization infame like Androdyne. Better its brings its The Ogre."

The Cids took a moment to process Daravon's speech. "New York City? What the @#$! is he doing there?" Cid VII said.

"I am not safe, but they contract it without a doubt many evil facts. We must accelerate to face it immediately. In addition, I am obtaining tired to around seat in this cavern all the day." Daravon whistled. Two dwarves raced into the cavern and saluted. One was wearing an extremely short dress and high heels; the other had baggy clothes and was smoking marijuana. "These are SEXY and DRUGGY, the eighth and ninth DWARVEs. Disney struck them with the foot of the film, so I adopted them."

"Rally ho!" the dwarves cried in unison.

"Puddy!"

Cid VIII looked out the cave and down the steep slope and Mount Gulug. "Don't tell me have to climb all the way back down that mountain," he said. "That climb was a killer."

Daravon hopped out of his chair. "Off course not!" he proclaimed. He pressed a hidden switch in the carving of "Madeen." A section of the cave wall rotated around to reveal a metallic ladder embedded in the rock. Daravon nodded towards the top as he started to climb. "I will fly to him to swallow to the base in my gear of Alkanshel."

* * *

Cait Sith could hear the ominous pounding of drums several blocks from the warehouse. The noise only grew as he approached, and by the time he and Eiko had arrived at the front door, he could make out looping synthesizers as well. Never one for subtlety, Cait Sith barged inside.

His jaw dropped as he took in the scene before him. The warehouse floor was packed with hundreds of ravers in various states of consciousness. At the far end of dance floor, Franz the dolphin stood behind a pair of turntables, playing his sounds. Club favorites such as "Alan Greenspan's Congressional Testimony (Astral Trance Remix)," "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land (D.J. Indecent Exposure and the Minors Ultimate 2-Hour Tundra Megamix)," and the breakout experimental noise hit "Nails on a Blackboard (Pain Threshold Mix)" pounded through Cait Sith's audio equipment, giving the cat Esper an instant headache.

"Hey!" Cait shouted through his megaphone. "Get out of here, you frickin' candy ravers! This is my warehouse, dammit!"

Vibri the rabbit turned and fixed Cait Sith in his blank stare. "Hey, chill, dude," he said. "It's all about peace, love, unity, and respect. Can't you feel the vibe? I'm as high as a hog in a house on a hill."

"No, but I bet you'll be able to feel my fist in your kneecap," C.S. threatened. Too bad he hadn't thought to hang on to Irvine's sniper rifle.

"It's a world record!" Franz exclaimed over the PA system. "This is the best show I've ever seen! What a cool guy you are!"

Eiko giggled. "Ooh, this looks like fun!" As Eiko ran into the middle of the crowd, Cait Sith made a desperate grab for her shirt to pull her back, but missed. He stumbled slightly and then looked back up at Vibri.

"Who told you all come to here?"

"The voices, man, the voices," Vibri said. He gestured vaguely in the air. "See? The nice shiny happy blue people. By the way, want some stickers?"

"No."

"Sure? They're Little Mermaid stickers, man. Got Sebastian and everything. What about a glowstick? Here, take one, c'mon." Vibri forced a glowing green stick into Cait Sith's hand.

"Everybody's waiting to see your dance!" Franz cried. "Show me your buuuurnin' soul!"

Cait Sith took a deep breath. "Get the hell out of my warehouse!" he shouted again through his megaphone.

Neko and Spekkio stepped into the warehouse, covering their ears. "I didn't you were into raves, Cait," Spekkio shouted over the din.

"I'm not!" Cait yelled back. "They just all showed up while we were gone! And they're all stoned so I don't even know how to get them out of here."

"Your dance is so great; it's like sunshine on a cloudy day!"

"Look, Cait, we've got a problem," Neko said. "I told these witches we let Eiko get kidnapped on purpose to track down the kidnappers and -"

"I found Eiko," Cait Sith said proudly. Neko and Spekkio momentarily grinned in surprise, but their expression soon reverted when Cait Sith added, "but she -"

The four witches pushed their way into the warehouse. "What's all this awful noise?" Maitreya demanded.

"Oooh, a rave!" Deneb exclaimed.

"Evaluation," Franz intoned. He waited for a few seconds, then reported, "COOL dancer! Let's groooove!"

Cait Sith and Neko crouched under eye level. Neko glanced nervously over his shoulder at Maitreya. "That's Eiko's aunt," he said. "If you can't produce her niece in the next five minutes, she's going to be peeved. Now where is she?"

"Dammit, I can't keep track of her all the time," Cait Sith said. He nodded towards the dance floor. "She's somewhere in there."

"You let her into a rave?" Neko hissed. "Cait, she's six years old and this place is filled with druggies and people who think they're trees."

"I didn't let her into nothing. She ran off; I couldn't stop her."

Neko stood. "Okay, change of plans, everyone. We're going to the police station to make an arrest in this case." He nodded towards Cait. "We'll get them to break this party up." Cait Sith nodded his understanding.

"What's going on? Where's Eiko?" Maitreya demanded.

"Your technique amazes me. You're awesome. I love your style. Show me how to do it."

* * *

When the heads of SEEL -- sans Manson, who was attending to financial matters -- convened for their daily meeting, they found Pikachu standing in front of a satin curtain that covered the back wall of the room. "alL rIgHt, GuYs, tHe aSsAsInATiOn atTemPt faIleD. KUja aNd SepHIroTh mUsT bE oNto uS. wE hAVe n0 mORe rOoM foR fAIluRe iF wE WAnt tO sTaY oN tHe ChaRtS." A drum loud loop cycled monotonously in the background. Pikachu scowled. "dAmMIt, ARe tHE nEiGhBoRS hOlDiNG One oF tHoSE dAnCE paRTiES aGaIn?"

"Ooh! I know! I know!" Dennis bounced up and down, waving his hand. "We're gonna go to Statue of Liberty ourselves an' make sure the other guys don't kidnap Valentine back, right?"

"nO, i HaVe a bEtTer PlaN," Pikachu said. He stepped to the side of the curtain and dramatically pulled it aside. The wall behind had been painted with a circle of seven Seel heads, with rainbow stripes connecting them. "SEEL" was written in the middle in a futuristic-looking font. Cloud stood in front of the wall, staring blankly ahead. "bEhOLd oUr neW lOgO!"

The rest of the council was quiet.

"dON't yOu LiKE iT? loOk, i HiRed a ConSuLtaNt tO deSigN iT; it'S ReALLy gOiNg tO BoOsT oUr pUblIc iMaGe."

Cloud nodded. "The design of the ring symbolizes SEEL's organizational synergy! And the seven Seels stand for dishonesty, greed, arrogance, corruption, tunnel vision, ruthlessness... and I forget what the other was. It couldn't have been too important."

The council remained silent. Pikachu coughed expectantly.

"I liked the old logo better," Mint finally admitted.

Manson walked into the meeting room. "Bad news, guys. We're getting evicted."

Pikachu gritted his teeth. Small waves of electricity flew out of his cheeks. "eViCTEd? hOw tHe HeLL iS tHaT HaPPeNiNG?"

Cloud shrugged. "Hey, don't get too upset," he said calmly.

"Because we can't pay our rent, you dope," Manson said. "You know as well as I do we're not making any money."

"So what are we gonna do?" Mint asked.

"Maybe my mom will let us stay in the basement!" Dennis suggested.

Pikachu frowned. "tHEre'S oNly oNe ThInG We CaN Do. wE'Ll aCqUIRe sOmE oThER cABaL, FiRe AlL ThEiR sTAfF, aNd TaKe ovEr TheIr heADqUArTeRs."

Manson scratched his head. "But, Subcomandante, how are we going to acquire another cabal when we don't have any money?"

"wOrtHlEsS STocK oPtIons!"

* * *

"Porn please. Cookpot please."

"No, I'm sorry; I told you we don't have any porn," Edea repeated. She was beginning to wish she'd let Chu-Chu come along on this mission after all. "And we don't have your cookpot, though if you let us contact Balamb Garden, we might able to retrieve it."

"Elixir please?" the little blue-headed alien said. It bowed and walked out of the humans' living quarters. Edea sighed. Ever since they'd been beamed aboard the Pupu weather balloon, they'd been pestered for porn, cookpots, and elixirs on the dot every hour. Perhaps the Pupus were trying to wear them down with the electronic music that constantly played from the speakers scattered along the walls.

Selphie shrugged. "Well, at least they're giving us good food. I like pie :)))."

This time, the Pupu returned within a matter of seconds carrying a baby seal with a club pointed to its head. "PORN PLEASE!"

"No! You mustn't!" Edea gasped. She jumped up and rushed towards the Pupu. With a frightened look on its face, the Pupu backed out fo the room. Edea and the SeeDs squeezed through the closing door and chased the Pupu down the hallway to the tune of more bad techno. "That seal has done nothing to you!"

The Pupu looked over its shoulder. "Cookpot please?" it repeated. The seal barked.

"Put the seal down!" Edea insisted.

Zell frowned at one of the speakers. "Do they just keep playing this same song all day?"

For the first time, one of the Pupus showed emotion. "No!" it squeaked indignantly. "We play every genre you can think of! Trance, house, progressive house, acid house, jungle, big beat, techno, ambient, dark ambient, drum 'n bass, ambient drum 'n bass, happy hardcore..." He stopped briefly to think, then continued. "...power noise, goa, trip hop, gabber, speed garage, tribal, breaks, funky breaks, down tempo, acid jazz..."

"Uh, right, I get the point."

The Pupu set the seal down -- it barked -- and gestured eagerly towards the door. "Come on! Let me show you our 'Plur'!" It proudly marched on down the hall, beckoning for the humans to follow.

Zell scratched his head. "Were those actual musical genres? I've never heard of any of those."

"That's because you only like all those dumb punk bands like Lavos Spawn XP," Selphie teased.

"DUDE!" Zell exploded. "Lavos Spawn is so not punk! They're MTV pop crap! And they had a song that was over two minutes long!"

"Come on, children," Edea said. "We should see what the little alien wants to show us."

The Pupu led the SeeDs to the top of the basket. A hatch in the ceiling took them out onto the weather balloon's deck, where a huge glowing drum machine was attended by another Pupu. "This is our terminal interface weapon 'Plur'," the first Pupu explained proudly. "We use it to make the bananas we feed to the people to get them to listen to our music. It's all based on nanotechnology, you see."

"You're brainwashing people into listening to the music you beam down to them?" Edea gasped. "That's horrible!"

"Hey, so does everyone else."

"Um, and why are you doing this?" Zell asked.

The two Pupus beamed in unison. "Science project!"

* * *

Aya sketched on the press room chalkboard a crude drawing of the Statue of Liberty. "Okay, here's the Statue of Liberty. According to Irvine, the Yachuza are holding Valentine at the top. We'll used a two-pronged attack. Team A will consist of myself, Mog, Irvine, and Billy. Team B will consist of Eve and some expendable helicopter pilots." Aya added some Xs and Os to the chalkboard to represent the two teams. "Team A will land on the island by ferry." She several lines indicating the motion of the ferry. "We'll attack the Yachuza from below to distract them; we'll attempt to capture their leader if possible. Meanwhile, Team B will land on top of the statue and rescue Valentine. Is that okay with you, Eve?"

Eve shrugged. "Don't look at me. I'm an opera floozy, not a general."

"In the event of a crash landing, you are screwed," Aya continued. "For your convenience, vomit bags are located inside the vehicle. And remember, contents in the missile bays may have shifted during flight. Also, there are onboard tactical nuclear weapons. Don't worry, they won't damage any of the surrounding city."

Cait Sith, Spekkio, and Neko trooped into the room with the witches in tow. "Mog!"

"Oh no, not Cait Sith again," Irvine groaned.

Mog jumped to greet them. "Did you find Eikupo?" he asked immediately.

"She -" Neko began.

"Yeah, she's back at the warehouse," Cait Sith, still carrying the glowstick, interrupted. He looked up at Neko. "What?" he whispered. "I'm not lying or anything." He turned to Aya. "Hey, are you a cop? A bunch of ravers on bananas took over my warehouse and I want them out."

Aya clenched her fists and closed her eyes. "I don't want to hear anything more about bananas!" she screamed. "Just leave me alone!"

Cait Sith cringed. "Geez. Is that just that time of the month?"

"But they're, like, dancing! To music! I mean, think of the children!" Spekkio added.

"It's okaykupo; these people are my, uh, acquitances," Mog explained to Aya. "They might be able to help us."

Aya sighed and counted to twenty-seven to calm herself. "All right," she said. "I'll look into this banana report... later. If you want to make yourselves useful in the mean time, go to the first floor bathroom of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If anyone shows up trying to collect the ransom, make a citizen's arrest. Here, I'll write you a note that you can give to Director Wong at the museum."

"Fi~ine, then," Cait Sith mocked. "We'll do aa~all your work fo~or you!" He folded his arms and sniffed. "Serve and my protect, my ass."

"I'll go too," Mog offered.

Neko peered over at the note Aya was writing. "You know, the museum probably isn't the best place for us..."

"Hmm?"

Cait Sith tore the note out from under Aya's hands as soon as it was finished. "A police order! Hee hee hee!"

"Well, there was this business concerning a restraining order..."

Cait ran out of the room, giggling. "Let's try to see them stop me now!"

* * *

Faris' pirate ship emerged from a mirror-generated dimensional rift and advanced into the Atlantic Ocean. The greenish rift twisted itself shut behind them. "Land ho!" Faris cried, staring through her spyglass at the Statue of Liberty. "D'arr, we made it to Earth!"

"Welcome to New York! I feel so good!"

"Whew, what a trip," Flea sighed. "I got so sick of those fighting those random monsters that attacked our pirate ship every three feet." Popoi and Qlon nodded their agreement.

The faint whir of a helicopter passed overhead in the direction of the Statue of Liberty. Zorn's hat buzzed. "Another sorceress, is it?" Thorn inquired.

"No, a Sith Lord!"

"Two Sith Lords! Dangerous, this could be!"

Zorn hopped up and down angrily. "I said there was only one Sith Lord!"

Thorn shook his head. "Always two there are," he corrected, "a master and an apprentice!"

Faris jumped over to the stern of the ship. "Arr, listen up, me mateys. Our first order of business is to get in touch with Kuja," Faris explained. "Then we'll figure out what to do from there. We've got to find out where Sephiroth's daughter is bein' held and then kidnap her ourselves!" She laughed. "And if we can capture any more sorceress in the process, so much the better."

* * *

Silver Dragon landed back at Sephiroth's mansion. Several hours and a few flights around Manhattan later, Shounen Ai had turned up no sign of Eminem and had eventually thrown in the towel. "Well, that sucked," Sephiroth said. "We didn't get to fight Eminem, we lost Billy, and Kuja got shot in the arm. I don't even know why I bother to try. Nothing I do ever goes right." He jumped off the dragon and stormed towards his mansion.

"Thephiroth, wait," Kuja began. "It'th not your fault! I know it'th tough but thometimeth you jutht have to hang in -" Sephiroth slammed the door in his face. Kuja sighed.

"What's happened to him?" Sydney asked. "I remember when he used to be a total badass and just stabbed anyone who disagreed with him."

Inside, Sephiroth grabbed a Budweiser from the refrigerator. "Eve?" he called. He shrugged. Eve had probably run off and he'd never see her again. Served him right for being such a useless jerk. Everyone would be better off if he would just die in his sleep or something. Too bad he was too chicken to kill himself.

The phone rang. Sephiroth grabbed the receiver and was immediately assaulted with a scream of "Whazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzup?"

"What is it?" Seph growled.

"Dude, you're supposed to say 'Havin' a Bud, watchin' the game,'" Lucky Dan chuckled.

"I'm only havin' a Bud, I'm not watchin' the game," Sephiroth explained. "Now did you have something important? I hate talking to people."

"Well, man, I got some good and some bad news for you," Lucky Dan said. "The good news is I found this auction on eBay of, like, a whole lot of games! Hundreds of them! I'll have to e-mail you the link later; it's awesome. The bad news is we only debuted your single at #3. Don't worry, man, I'm totally committed to pushing your group, but the Bahamut Men just dropped off their new single and it's this totally hilarious song. It goes like this: 'Who let the mogs out? Who, who, who, who?'"

"Dammit," Sephiroth said aloud. "Dammit daaaaammiiiit dammit!"

"Whoa, dude, are you okay?" Lucky Dan said. "Wait, I know what you will cheer up. I found this hilarious talking fish; it sings this song whenever you push a button. Here, I'll play it over the phone for -"

"Go away." Sephiroth slammed the phone down. It started ringing again a few seconds later. Sephiroth took the receiver off the hook.

Well, that did it. Even his popularity among throngs of drooling preteen fangirls, the one thing he thought he could always count on, was gone. Now he truly was worthless. At a time like this, there was only one thing to do: wallow in self-pity on IRC. Sephiroth switched on the computer in his study and hopped on his favorite chat channel.

*** ruleroftheplanet has joined channel #angst
*** ChanServ sets mode: +o ruleroftheplanet
<ruleroftheplanet> bleh
<chuchu_69> hey how old is everyone
<ruleroftheplanet> our single only made it to #3.
<xxxxxxxKORNxxxxxxx> 18
<supersaiyanpikachu> 18
<chuchu_69> lol
<ruleroftheplanet> and apparently my daughter will be a hostage if i can't get one million bucks to take to the bathroom in the art museum
<chuchu_69> me too
<chuchu_69> thas funny
<ruleroftheplanet> i might as well just kill myself now
<chuchu_69> im 17 though
<ruleroftheplanet> stop having fun
<ruleroftheplanet> i'm not happy so you're not allowed to be either
<chuchu_69> ???
<supersaiyanpikachu> http://www.somethingmoronic.com/stalehumor/ayb.swf lololololololol
<ruleroftheplanet> god, i'm such a loser
*** ruleroftheplanet was kicked from #angst by ruleroftheplanet (you suck)

Meanwhile, Kuja had admitted himself to the mansion with a crowbar and ventured up to Sephiroth's study. "What's wrong, Sephy?" he asked, peering over Sephiroth's shoulder at the screen.

Sephiroth glared up at him. "I just found out fanfiction.net has eighteen different pieces of Minesweeper fanfiction. Oh, yeah, and our single was beaten by some crap about Mogs. I hate this world."

Kuja continued to scan the screen intently. "Yeth, motht people are thuch bathtardth, but, Thepiroth, you can't forget that you've got friendth that really care - whoopth, I've got a call," he cut off as the cell phone tucked in his thong rang. He stepped out of Sephiroth's study and answered the call. "Bonjour."

"Boss! We made it to Earth," Faris said. "Have ye found out where Sephiroth's daughter is yet?"

Kuja lowered his voice. "Yeth!" he said. "I think I jutht dithcovered a lead. It theemth that Thepiroth's daughter was indeed kidnapped and not merely thpirited away to hide her!"

"D'arrr. There goes Plan B down the toilet. Do you know where's she being held?"

"No, but the kidnapperth are ekthpecting their ranthom in the bathroom of the Mutheum of Art. We can catch them there!"

"All right. I'll send Thorn and Zorn to check it out. Where can we meet you?"

"I'm at Thepiroth's manthion," Kuja said. "It'th the grandiothe edifithe with all black paint. There'th a garden out front."

"Okay. Grandiose... that means it's big, right?"

* * *

Dennis the Phantom Menace stood atop the Statue of Liberty, surrounded by the Yachuza. Using his super Sith Lord sight, he scanned the horizon. Three approaching helicopters. Was that all they were going to throw at him? "Aw, I bet even Margaret could beat these guys!"

Dennis thrust his hands forward and fired his Sith lightning at the first two helicopters, blowing them into pieces.

* * *

"Oh my God, Biggs and Wedge stopped moving!" Eve gasped. "You bastards!" She quickly pulled the trigger and fired both of her helicopter's nuclear missiles.

* * *

With his Force powers, Dennis sent the oncoming missiles spiraling into space. This was too easy.

One of the Yachuza tapped Dennis' shoulder from behind. "Exchuse me," the Chu-chu said. "I wanted chu let chu know we only have the Statue of Liberty rented out 'til 7:00 and then some other supervillain is going be chu using it."

"But I still hafta have my epic dwu-el here," Dennis whined.

"Yeah, and so does every other uncreative churiminal mastermind," Yachuza said. "Better make it snappy or they're going chu assess late fees."

Magneto ascended onto the balcony. He silently walked to the edge and stood waiting with arms crossed, watching Dennis and the Yachuza.

"Hey, mistah, what are ya doing here?" Dennis said.

"Just waiting my turn. I'm signed up for the Statue next."

"Well, poop on you!" Dennis said, blasting the villain into oblivion with his lightning.

* * *

While Homey piloted the Invincible, Rinoa and Ultimecia stood at the front of the bridge, watching the Atlantic Ocean pass slowly by beneath them. "Look!" Ulty pointed towards the land just appearing in the distance. "It's Long Island! We made it!"

The radar beeped. "Looks like we've got two tactical nuclear weapons headed our way," Homey reported. "What are we gonna do?"

"Oh no!" Rinoa shrieked. "We're going to die! Save me, Squall!"

"Wait a sekond, little one. This ship is kalled the Invincible, isn't it? Two puny missiles shouldn't put a dent in it."

"If you say so..." Rinoa took a deep breath and braced herself for the impact.

The ship exploded into pieces. Rinoa and her companions fell screaming from the explosion. They plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean and dropped like Snowball.com's stock price. Rinoa quickly struggled to the surface. "Some 'invincible' ship that was," she grumbled. "I smell a product liability suit here."

Ultimecia surfaced beside her. "Aktually, that was rather non-destruktive as nuklear eksplosions go."

"Tsch, you can't trust The Man to sell you anything that works," Homey concurred. "All his products are just designed to continue the cycle of corporate greed!"

Rinoa felt something moving beneath her and looked down. They had landed above a wide underwater net, and said net was now closing around them. "Save me, Squall!" Rinoa shrieked as the net clamped shut around the three adventurers. A wire crane lifted the net out of the water and reeled it in to a nearby pirate ship.

Homey peered through the net at the two midgets manning the crane. "Crap! It's Thorn and Zorn!"

"Well, well, what do we have here?" Thorn cackled.

"Two witches and a deserter, they are!"

Rinoa clenched her fists. "Do you know how dangerous that airship was?" she shouted. "Your propaganda machine said it was Invincible, but was it? Ha! That thing was unsafe at any speed! I bet this net isn't dolphin-friendly either, you heartless animal-killing bastards!"

"The dark-haired one appears to be angry," Zorn said.

"Difficult to sedate, she will be," Thorn said.

"What are you planning on doing with us?" Rinoa demanded.

"We want your eidolons, of course!" Zorn explained.

"Looking for the mightiest summon, we are!"

"If you obey us, we will make it painless!"

"Relatively speaking, we are, of course!"

Flea approached the two jesters. "Hey, guys," he said. "I don't mean to interrupt your little gig here, but weren't you supposed to go intercept the baby's kidnappers at the art museum?"

Zorn scowled. He'd hoped to avoid this mission. "Fine, then. We'll take these witches' Eidolons later."

"Go to the art museum, we will! But happy, we are not!"

* * *

Daravon's Alkanshel hurtled towards Earth with the Cid Crew on board. "Spaceships and witches and dwarves, what a load of rubbish," Cid II mumbled in the bridge. "Listen, sonny, all it takes to make a good game is a couple of castles and a dragon. Yessiree, back in my day, every town looked identical, and we liked them that way. And they were all one screen too; we didn't have any of that 'load time' nonsense. Waiting for the game to start again? Pshaw, what nonsense!"

The entire vehicle shook. Daravon panicked and ran circles around the bridge. "Alkanshel, the outer space probe ship caught by mysterious energy and she lose all control of herself Alkanshel under the present circumstance, Alkanshel will rush into the atmosphere too hardly enough to burn herself out. Scramble, Exetor! Save our ship. Alkanshel."

There was a long silence. Cid IV blinked. "Would you mind repeating that in something approaching coherent English?"

A Pupu appeared on the Alkanshel's main screen. "Cookpot, please?" it squeaked. "Porn, please?"

"Are you one of those @#$! Focus on the Family people? We don't have any damn porn," Cid VII said. "Go away."

"Oh dear," Cid VIII said. "I wonder if this is that alien that Squall stole the cookpot please."

"Puddy!?"

"Porn, please? Elixir, please?" the Pupu said more insistently.

"IL LOG I CAL!" Daravon exclaimed. "I will take the care from this! You individual them remain here!"

Cid VII scratched his head. "What the @#$! is going on here?"

"It's aliens!" the thin man cried. "I told you they'd been abducted by aliens!"

"Take off every 'Alkanshel'. Move 'Alkanshel'. For great justice!" Daravon grabbed the controls of the Alkanshel. The Gear swooped through space towards the Pupu weather balloon. The balloon launched baby seals -- some with anal probes still sticking out of them -- at him from its torpedo bay.

"Cap'n!" SEXY DWARVE cried as one of the seals hit. "She cannae take much more o' this!"

"Tut, such a trifle wound," Daravon retorted. "Try wear with Seal Ar, I have."

The Alkanshel dived into the Earth's atmosphere and approached the weather balloon. Edea and the SeeDs were still standing on the balloon's deck, watching the 'Plur' churn out bananas. Cid VIII ran to the window. "Edea!"

Selphie pointed up into the sky. "Look, Edea! The Gear! The Gear ^____^!"

Daravon began charging the Alkanshel's "lethal beams" as he circled the glowing drum machine. "No!" a Pupu gasped. "You mustn't touch that! That's our terminal interface weapon 'Plur'."

"Don't listen to them!" Edea shouted. "They're using that machine to brainwash Earthlings with their electronic music for a science project!"

"Music, schmusic," Cid II muttered to himself. "You people wouldn't a quality melody if it upped and bit your hiney. Let me tell you, sonny boy, it doesn't take a full orchestra to make a decent soundtrack. Why, I remember all the days I used to leave my NES on and walk around my room with the Zelda overworld theme playing..."

"A 'word god' can be erased. Word brings a Bab-il curse. Get ready for armageddon!" Daravon fired a lethal beam into the core of the 'Plur'. The massive drum machine exploded into pieces at the same time that a blinding rainbow-colored light flashed out of the machine's center and enveloped the Alkanshel. Transformed by its contact with the light, the Alkanshel obtained a garish rainbow paint job and sprouted six glowing wings.

Cid VIII waved to his wife as the out-of-control Alkanshel hurtled towards the ground. "Edea! Stop this crazy thiiiing!" he cried as he disappeared from sight.

"You... you broke it!" one of the Pupus gasped, staring at the broken 'Plur'. His eyes welled up with tears. "Now we're going to have listen to all those crappy punk bands like Majora's Pants."

"Dammit!" Zell swore. "Majora's Pants is so not punk! Now let me tell you about some real punk bands..."

* * *

"Wot do you mean, you have a bloody restraining order against me?" Cait Sith glared at the museum security guard through his monocole. "I'm on official police business from Scotland Yard, I am! I say, Watson, show this chap our letter."

Neko gave the guard an apologetic shrug and handed him the note from Aya. The guard scanned it several times, looking for a reason to reject it. "All right," he said, handing it back to Neko. "I guess you can come in this one time."

"Jolly good, jolly good." Cait Sith adjusted his bowler hat and puffed on a pipe. "Shall we be off to the W.C. then, ladies and gents? We mustn't miss our chance to catch Moriarty red-handed. The game is afoot!"

Passing up such exciting exhibits as "World's Most Exciting Napkins" and "Daffodils -- From 200 Different Perspectives!", the witches and Bahamut Men proceeded to the first floor men's bathroom. Elinee frowned. "We'll have to wait out here, I guess," she said. "I'm not going in the men's room."

"Oh, what's the harm?" Deneb giggled.

"No, you're staying out here, too," Elinee insisted.

The four cute animals -- Cait Sith, Spekkio, Mog, and Neko -- stepped inside the bathroom and found it empty. Either the kidnappers had come and gone, or they were yet to arrive.

"So what's our plan once going to do once the kidnappers show up?" Spekkio asked.

"Say, chaps," Cait Sith interrupted. "I need to pay a visit to the W.C. I'll be back quicker than you can say 'Jack Robinson.'"

Cait Sith marched up to the museum director's office, discarding his pipe and hat as he did so. He barged uninvited into the office and slammed his fist on Director Wong's desk. "I'm back and I want my exhibit!"

"I thought I got a restraining order against you," Fei said. "Get out of my office before I call the cops."

Cait Sith jumped up on his desk. "Ha!" he shouted, pointing his glowstick in the director's face. "I'm one step ahead of you, bud. I got sent here on official police business! I've got a note right, uh..." He hesitated, remembering Neko still had Aya's message.

"I don't want to have to fight you, Cait Sith," Fei said. "I don't like Gears or fighting."

"Yeah, well... I... I've got evidence you're nothing but a hack artist!" Cait Sith suddenly remembered the painting he'd pilfered from the museum and produced it from the magical infinite storage space of his cape. "What do you have to say about this painting? It's a total copy of the Mona Sophia! Not even Overworks would make something this derivative."

"Hey, that's my painting," Fei said. "Give it back."

Cait Sith turned away and stuck his out. "Not until you give me my exhibit. You wouldn't want me to go public with this, now, would you?"

"Give it back!" Fei said, springing from his chair. "That's mine. Give it back!"

The ceiling shattered and the feet of the Alpha Weltall dropped through. Grahf jumped down and folded his arms. "I am Grahf, the seeker of power. Dost thou desire the power?"

Fei clenched his fists. "I'll never deal with you, Grahf! You killed my father, I mean, my dad!"

"You misunderestimate me, Fei. Wiseman never told you what happened to your father."

"He told me enough! It was you who killed him!"

"No... I am your father!"

"No... no, that's not true!" Fei clutched his head. "That's impossible!"

Grahf laughed evilly. "Search your feelings. You know it to be true!"

Cait Sith tapped Grahf on his metallic thigh. Grahf looked down. "Hey, if he doesn't want the power," Cait Sith pointed at Fei, "can I have it?"

Red flames erupted around Grahf's right hand. "My fist is the divine breath! Blossom, o fallen seed, and draw upon thy hidden power. Grant unto thee the power of the glorious 'Mother of Destruction'!" He raised his fist. A bright light shone between Cait Sith's hands and gradually materialized into something rectangular.

Cait Sith stared at the calculus textbook. "Math is power?"

Grahf nodded. "Be cool, stay in school. And remember... winners don't do drugs." He jumped back into the Alpha Weltall and blasted off.

Fei ran to the center of the room and stared up the hole. "Wait! I'm not finished with you yet, Grahf!" He charged out the door in hot pursuit. Cait Sith shrugged and jogged after him.

* * *

Back in Cait's warehouse, Eiko was still dancing away. Now under the influence of several bananas, she was starting to lose her grip on reality. Happy Moogles and glowing Chocobos danced around her while brightly-colored lights and rainbows streaked down from the roof. She glanced at her hand and saw it glowing a bright yellow.

Eiko stumbled over to Vibri and grabbed a bag of banana-laced jellybeans. As she munched on them, her vision began to waver and she fell still deeper into her trance. She envisioned herself glowing yellow and blessed with angel wings. She tried to fly, only to fall flat on her face. A painfully bright rainbow-colored light appeared in front of her. Eiko. I am the -Rave Existence-, a voice said in her head.

"Whoa," Eiko said as she picked herself up. "Trippy..."

Listen to me, Eiko. I don't have much time. This rave is about to end. I have been freed from the Pupus' banana-creating terminal interface weapon 'Plur'. But... someone close to you needs help.

"Pretty lights!" Eiko giggled, continuing to rave.

Eiko, are you listening to me? I will grant you my power and knowledge. All the secrets of the universe will be yours.

"Hello, Mr. Rabbit! How are you?"

Farewell, Eiko. Remember to use my power only for good... never for evil.

She blinked as the light faded. She realized that the music had ended, no one was dancing, and she was the only one still in trance mode. "The rave's over," Tolone explained. "Everything just stopped."

Eiko paid her no heed. Her head pounded as she struggled to assimilate the all-encompassing knowledge that the -Rave Existence- had granted her. The names of over thirty different Smurfs... all of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points... Wilma Flinstone's maiden name... she even knew what Zidane had had for breakfast today. And she also knew what she had to do. "Up, up, and awaaaaay!" She beat her angelic wings and flew off in search of Sephiroth.

* * *

Neko checked his watch. "I hope something hasn't happened to Cait Sith... or worse, Cait Sith happened to something," he said. "He's been gone for 23 beats."

Spekkio frowned. "So how long is that in non-retard time?"

"Well, we probably could have said 'Jack Robinson' about 800 times by now."

"Kupo, wait a second," Mog said. "We're already in the bathroom."

Neko, Spekkio, and Mog exchanged nervous glances. Without exchanging a word, they all quickly arrived at the same conclusion and dashed out of the room in pursuit of C.S.

"Hey!" Elinee called as they breezed by her. "Where are you going?"

Neko halted for a second. "We're going to make sure Cait doesn't demolish another K-Mart," he explained. "Watch the bathroom for us, okay?" He hurried to catch up with Spekkio and Mog.

Elinee shrugged. "What do they expect to do us?" she said bitterly. "I'm not going in a men's bathroom!"

"I'll go," Adel suggested.

Elinee blinked. "Well... I guess you do look like a man. Er, no offense, of course. Would you mind?"

Adel shook her head. "It's fine," she said. She strode into the bathroom.

Deneb tossed her hair. "So, what are the rest of us going to do? I'm afraid I might not be able to pass for a man." She chuckled.

"Let's follow Neko and his friends," Maitreya said. "I don't trust them not to hurt Eiko."

The witches left the museum, barely missing the two midgets who scurried through the door soon after. Thorn and Zorn ducked and weaved through the crowds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the first floor men's bathroom. The two jesters jumped through the door in unison, ready to strike. Thorn's hat immediately began beeping.

"A sorceress!" Zorn cried, pointing at the person standing by the sinks. "Or sorcerer, perhaps!"

"Many miditomitononamonachlorididactorichondria, it has!" Thorn agreed, hopping up and down.

"Aha!" Adel retorted. "You fell right into our trap, kidnappers!"

Thorn and Zorn looked at each other, frowning. They reached a silent consensus and turned back to Adel. "No, you fell right into our trap, kidnapper!"

"Trapped you, we have!"

"Well, you fell right into our trap first," Adel retorted.

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"Wait a second," Zorn said.

Thorn cocked his head. "A problem, there is?"

Zorn tilted his head the opposite way. "If the sorcerer is looking for the kidnappers, and so are we, then who's the real kidnapper?"

"A problem, this is!" He bounced.

"I'm a sorcereress, you nitwits," Adel said. "And you two are the kidnappers! You're holding Valentine and Eiko hostage!"

"Yeah, we wish."

"Zorn, shut up, you will!"

The two jesters hopped up and down and danced towards each other. They raised over their arms over their heads, pressed their palms together, and began to glow white. Their bodies merged and expanded into one two-headed being.

"Aw, crap," Adel said. "I wasn't expecting one of those multi-headed bosses."

The Multigemini snapped at Adel with both its heads. Adel retaliated with a Holy spell.

A crowd had started to gather inside the bathroom. "Wow, perfomance art!" one of the observers gasped. "This is incredible!"

The crowd "ooh"ed and "aah"ed as the Multigemini cast Bio on Adel, poisoning her. Adel looked angrily at the crowd. "Well, don't just stand there; someone get me an antidote!" Adel said.

"Is this going to be over soon?" one anxious watcher wondered. "I have to use the bathroom."

"I think this is a commentary on the walls that imprison each of us from society."

"No, you fool, it represents the conflict between the real and the illusory!"

The Multi-Gemini knocked the weakened Adel unconscious with a final headbutt. Thorn and Zorn then reverted to their human forms. "Too easy, that one was!"

"But where are the kidnappers?" Zorn wondered.

"More valuable, the sorceress is! Want her at once, Master Kuja will!"

Zorn nodded. "True, true! She could have Gilgamesh!"

Like a pair of ants, the two jesters hoisted Adel over their heads and dragged her out of the museum. The crowd applauded wildly. "That was incredible!" someone shouted.

"To the ship or to Sephiroth's mansion, where do we take her?"

"Directly to Master Kuja!"

Thorn and Zorn carried Adel all the way to Sephiroth's mansion. They marched into the living room, where Kuja was trying to cheer up Sephiroth with a festive sock puppet theater, and dropped the unconscious sorceress on the floor. "Master Kuja! Another witch, we have found!"

"Her name is Sorceress Adel!"

Kuja gazed in rapture at the unconscious woman. "Oh my," he gasped. "The'th beautiful." Images of love filled his mind. He envisioned taking a romantic walk with Adel, sharing a kiss with Adel, watching the stars with Adel, making passionate love to Adel, standing beside Adel in his wedding dress...

Sephiroth hit Kuja in the back of the head. "Snap out of, dumbass," he growled. "She looks like a man!"

Kuja clasped his hands together and stared dreamily up at the ceiling. "Oh, thuch a fair, thweet bird... I could never harm her," Kuja said. He glanced down at his underlings. "We'll let thith one off the hook."

Thorn and Zorn hopped angrily. "What?" Zorn yelped. "You must drain her powers!"

"Yes, kidnapping witches, we are, not marrying them!"

Kuja brushed back his hair. "I think not," he said stuffily. "I cannot allow you to harm thuch a fair maiden ath Mithtreth Adel. Oh, what have we done? To think of all the innothent witcheth we have kidnapped, torn athunder from their loverth ath you would have me do to my beloved Adel..."

Thorn and Zorn stared at each other and shifted from side-to-side. "I think Master Kuja has abandoned us," Zorn mused.

"Yes, a traitor, he is."

The two jesters filed out of the room but stopped almost to the door. They turned and bounced as they spoke. "Your betrayal will not go unpunished, Kuja!"

"Get you, we will!"

* * *

Leaving their ferry at the shore of Liberty Island, Aya, Irvine, and Billy marched inside the museum at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. "Hi, we're here for a final battle," Aya told the receptionist

The receptionist checked the epic final battle schedule. "Yachuza versus New York Police Department?"

"Yes."

"I'll need two pieces of ID," the receptionist said matter-of-factly. "And please sign it with the log book to your left."

Once registration had been taken care of, the trio set up the spiral staircase inside the tower. Dennis the Phantom Menace descended the stairs to confront them. "Ha ha! I betcha came to rescue Valallentine. Me an' Mistah Pikachu are one step ahead of you!" He produce a light-slingshot from within his robe.

Suddenly, Grahf charged up the stairs, shoving Aya and Irvine out of his way. "Stop them, Dennis!" he ordered as he breezed by his apprentice. "They must not interfere with my plans!"

Fei raced after Grahf, taking frightened glances over his shoulder. "The British are coming! The British are coming!" he panted, pushing by Dennis.

An armor-clad Cait Sith, with his glowstick clutched like a sword in his right arm and a math book tucked under his left, raced after Fei. "I say, be a sporting chap and come back here!"

Irvine blinked. "Oh no, not Cait Sith again!"

Neko, Mog, Spekkio jogged up the steps. "Cait Sith, stop!"

The witches jogged up the steps. "Neko, stop!"

The confused Dennis finally processed Grahf's instructions and moved to block the remaining pursuers. "Mistah Grahf said not to let you by," he threatened.

Cait Sith waved his glowstick at the boy. "I am Cait, Cat Lord of the Sith! If you strike me down, I shall become more dead than you can possibly imagine!"

"Join the Dark Side, poo-poo-head! It is your destan-stin-whatever-thing!" Dennis whirled his slingshot with a radial velocity of 12 radians per second at an angle of 15 degrees over his head. He launched a rock at Cait Sith, who was standing 20 meters down the stairs, which were at an angle of 55 degrees from the horizontal.

Cait Sith, neglecting the effects of air resistance, saw the rock coming and blocked it with his glowstick. "Ha ha!" he gloated. "Math is power!"

"I hate math!"

Cait Sith divided Dennis by zero. "Nooooo!" the boy wailed as he disappeared into nothingness.

"Now the circle is complete," Cait Sith intoned. "Jedi Master, my ass. Who's next?"

"Cait, take off that silly plastic hat and leave this to the police," Spekkio said.

"Has anyone seen Eiko?"

Cait Sith lifted off the helmet. "OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BREATHE!" he gasped, and fell writhing to stairs. "Live, Luna!"

Aya rolled her eyes. "You folks stay here. This is a dangerous hostage situation. Billy, Irvine, and I will go on ahead." The three gunfighters advanced cautiously up the stairs, leaving the Bahamut Men with the witches.

"All right, Cait, there's a ferry at the base of statue; let's go," Neko said impatiently. "C'mon, we've got to find Eiko, remember?"

"I was hoping to avoid that part." Cait Sith stood up and dusted himself off. "C'mon, can't at least go watch the big shootout?"

Deneb shivered. "It's cold in here," she whined. "I wanna go now!"

Neko glanced around at his ambivalent cohorts. "Anyone else wanna come?" No one spoke up. "All right, Cait, we'll go watch the shootout." He turned to the others. "We'll back in a jiffy, I promise."

* * *

Eve climbed out of her helicopter and scrambled over to the stairs leading inside the Statue of Liberty. She lay down and peered down the stairwell to observe the action inside: the Yachuza were patrolling the stairs, protecting the baby carriage -- Valentine's! -- that lay between them and the ladder. There she was! And if Eve was stealthy enough, she'd even be able to spirit Valentine to safety before any of the Chu-chus noticed her.

Eve crawled down the staircase. Grahf suddenly charged up the stairs, vaulting over the Yachuza, Valentine, and Eve. Fei followed him in hot pursuit. Grahf turned upon reaching the top of the stairs and began charging a Guided Shot. "Did I tell you that Elly is your sister, Fei?"

Fei froze. "No! What have I done?"

"Ha ha, just kidding!" Grahf laughed. "Eat a bag of hell!" He hurled the red disc of energy down the stairs at Fei.

"Valentine!" Eve gasped. She scrambled down the steps and dived for Valentine's carriage to protect her.

With superhuman agility, Fei leapt over Eve and Valentine. "BATON FURY ARM HUG!" he retorted, heaving a purple fireball at Grahf.

Eve bumped into the side of the carriage and knocked it forward. The carriage's wheels began to spin and it slid forward. Mouth wide in mute horror, Eve made one last futile dive for Valentine as she rolled straight into the firefight that had broken out below. The carriage quickly picked up speed, rattling as it bounced down the staircase.

Meanwhile, Fei and Grahf chased each other up onto the roof, still hurling energy blasts at one other.

THE FOLLOWING GUNFIGHT IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY DR. SCHOLL'S FOOT PRODUCTS

Billy stepped forward, both his pistols blazing. Two Yachuza goons went down IN A HAIL OF GUNFIRE. A Yachuza sniper emerged from the rafters and fired at Irvine. He ducked just in the nick of time, rolled to the side, and shot back. The sniper collapsed IN A HAIL OF GUNFIRE.

Aya fired over the top of Valentine's carriage, hitting and killing a Chu-chu IN A HAIL OF GUNFIRE. The Chufather turned to flee. Billy jumped over the descending carriage and took him down IN A HAIL OF GUNFIRE.

The carriage skidded to a stop. "My baby!" Eve cried, rushing past the gunfighters to her. "Are you okay?"

Valentine squinted and looked up. "Goo?"

* * *

Faris walked out onto the pirate ship deck. "Arrr, mateys, I just got off the phone with some folks with Dictator Digest," she reported, taking a swig of rum. "They want to interview us for their next issue. We're hitting the big time now!"

"I feel so good!" Qlon declared.

The celebration did not last long. Thorn and Zorn's rowboat pulled up to the ship and the two jesters scrambled up to the deck. "A veritable emergency of terrible urgency!" Zorn reported.

"Betrayed us, Kuja has!"

Faris put down her rum. "What? How could he?"

"He has fallen in love with a witch!"

"Refuses to drain her powers, he does!"

Popoi looked up at Faris. "What're we gonna do?" he asked. "Things aren't going to according to plan any more!"

"I feel so bad!"

The helicopter that Thorn and Zorn had spotted earlier flew over the pirate ship again. It circled them several times, then descended, seemingly coming in for a landing. A rainbow ring of seven cartoon Seels adorned the vehicle's side. "Miss Faris! I think it's SEEL! Are we gonna shoot 'em down?" Popoi asked.

"Nah. Let's see what 'ey want."

The 'copter landed on the ship deck. Pikachu, Manson, Mint, Cloud, and Mr. Bean trooped out, the lattermost tripping and falling over the side of the ship. "We CoMe iN PeAcE fOr aLL pOkéKiND," Pikachu proclaimed.

Faris folded her arms. "SEEL, eh?" She snorted. "We're kicking yer scurvy butts in the ratings. What do ye want?"

Pikachu smiled deviously. "BuT yOu'Re RuNniNg a wEe BiT lOw oN fuNDs, AReN'T yOu?" he gloated. "aNd mY ToP-SeCrEt fEdErAl WireTaPPiNg STaTuE TeLLs mE tHaT YoUr cEo JuSt WaLkED. pLUs wE KidNAppEd valEnTiNe BeFoRE You... fInDeRs KeePerS, LoSerS WeEpeRs!"

"D'arrr, I don't discuss Androdyne's financial situation," Faris said. "Now get off me ship."

"Oh, plEaSE. fAcE The FaCTs, FaRIs. yOu Don'T eVeN haVe aNY rEVeNUe. sO... hOW aBOUt a BuY-OuT? sEeL wIlL aCQuIrE yOuR pATHeTiC eViL caBaL iN eXcHaNGe FOr..." Pikachu raised a finger to his lips. "...OnE mEEEeeEEeLliON sToCk OpTIoNs!"

Faris folded her arms. "And why would we want to do that, landlubber?" she demanded.

"wE'Ve Got MoNeY; yOUR pLAnS cAN sTaY AfLoAt A LiTtLe lOnGeR. tHeN We cAn WoRk TogEThER tO gEt AcQuIRed bY sOMe eVeN MoRE eVIL OrgAnIZatION. wHo KnOWs? iF wE PLaY OuR cARdS RiGhT, wE mIGht eVeNtUaLLy bEcOmE PaRT oF DiCtATor DiGESt'S nuMBer OnE tHEmSelVes, THe SaLT laKE cITy OLyMpIC coMmIttEe." He pointed at Faris' black pirate hit. "bESiDes, I aLwAyS WanTeD To BE a mIgHtY MaN oF tHe SeA LiKE yOU."

"Cap'n! It's a girl!" Mint corrected.

"This is a big opportunity, you know," Flea advised Faris. "We might not have another chance like this to revive Androdyne."

"Yeah!" Popoi agreed, its eyes shining. "Being acquired by someone bigger than better and us, being assimilated into a faceless monolithic entity -- it's what I've always dreamed of, Faris! This is it! This is what success is all about!"

Faris nodded. "All right, then," she said. "It's a done deal. Androdyne accepts."

"Welcome to SEEL! I feel so good!"

"SEEL! SEEEEEEL! SEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL!" Popoi exclaimed. "You know, that joke was a lot in funnier in Japanese."

Pikachu pointed at Faris' pirate hat. "hOOrAy. nOW gIvE mE tHe mIgHtY PiRaTe caPTaIn hAt."

"Fine." Faris took off the hat and set it down on Pikachu's furry yellow head. "There. Happy now?"

"hOhOh0!" Pikachu gloated. "i Am A mIGhTy pIrAtE CaPTaIn!" He waved a dimissing paw at Faris. "gEt Me A diEt PePs. YOu'Re mY NeW cAbIn BoY."

"Cap'n! It's a girl!"

"Can someone help me fish Mr. Bean out of the water?"

* * *

Kuja thumbed through his brand new copy of Men Are From Terra, Women Are From Gaia. "Oh, fate, how doeth you tempt with the fair maiden Adel," he gushed. He looked down at Adel, who was still lying unconscious on Sephiroth's living room floor. "Thou hatht embodied the very thoul of rapture in mortal coil."

Sephiroth looked up from his drink. "Don't waste your time, Kuja," he suggested. "Relationships suck. She'll just end up breaking your heart and abandoning you and you'll wish you'd never met her."

Kuja pursed his lips. "Don't tell me you plan to thtand between Adel and mythelf," he said. "Adel meanth everything to me. I conthider you a friend, Thepiroth, but I can't let you thpeak thuch athperthions againtht Adel! Adel is a lady of honor! Thee would never commit the deedth you thpeak of."

He paused and looked guiltily at Sephiroth's haggard features. Sephiroth gazed blankly back at him. "What?"

"Perhapth if it would be betht if I departed for a time." Kuja pranced out the front door and carefully closed it behind him.

Sephiroth sighed. "Dammit. I'm such a failure," he moaned. "Everything I say to people just makes them mad. Why do they all have to be so damn sensitive? It's not my fault that all this crap keeps happening to me." He took another large swig of beer.

A twinkling white sprite flew through the open window and hovered in front of him. "Sephiroth!"

Sephiroth blinked. "The tooth fairy? But... I haven't lost any teeth."

"I'm not the Tooth Fairy... I'm Eiko! And I think you're a bad, bad man! Not your fault? Of course it's your fault! You were off getting drunk while your wife was giving birth to your daughter! You'd better apologize to her right now!"

"Believe me, I tried," Sephiroth said. "But she wasn't home, and I had too much work to do..."

"Well, try harder! The world doesn't revolve around you! People won't just like you for no reason!"

Sephiroth looked up angrily. "What do you want me to do, dammit?" he snapped. "It wasn't my fault the old Shounen Ai broke up. People are just assholes, okay? Don't you understand all the stuff I put up with?"

"Well, of course you aren't going to get along with people if you hate them without ever never give them a chance!" Eiko folded his arms. "Look, you made a mistake; admit it. Now instead of sitting around whining about it, why don't you try to change things? C'mon, take some responsiblity for once, you... you dumb-dumb head!" She took a deep breath to calm herself. "Your wife's on top of the Statue of Liberty. Now go tell her you're sorry and I'll leave you alone."

"I don't need you telling me what to do. If I wanted bad advice from a stuck-up busybody, I would have written Dear Abby."

Eiko stuck her tongue out. "You know I'm right."

"I don't care. I don't want to."

"Yes you do."

"No I don't!"

"Well, fine then, Mr. Belvedere," Eiko taunted. "I guess you're just too scared to make your life better. So be the same ol' whiny loser you are right now. See if I care." She turned and flew off to attend to some more personal business.

Sephiroth jumped up. "Dammit! Come back here and say that to my face, so I can..." Letting the thought trail off, he grabbed the Masamune and raced out the door in pursuit of Eiko.

He almost collided with Kuja, who had been creating a custom bouquet of flowers from the mansion's garden. The purple-haired summoner looked up and cringed. "I'm thorry," he apologized. "I know you're under a lot of thress, ethpecially with everything that happened between you and Eve..."

Sephiroth shoved him aside. "Out of my way, dolt." He took a few running steps, hopped, and took flight, his black trenchcoat billowing out behind him.

"Thepiroth, wait!" Kuja said. "Perhapth you thould conthider countheling or... or... or taking a nap!"

Sephiroth looked back towards the ground. "Forget it. I've got to find Eve and settle this nonsense. I'm sick of being useless. And I'm sick of your bad advice too!" He soared away towards the Statue of Liberty.

Kuja frowned. "Oh dear," he whispered. "Oh dear."

* * *

Ultimecia lay unconscious on the altar in the bottom of Faris' pirate ship. Thorn and Zorn danced around her, chanting their bizarre spells. "Eidolons of magical deliciousness!" Zorn cried.

"Eidolons whose power we request!"

"Arise from thy eternal slumber!"

"Depart after thy... thy... dammit, come next, what does?"

Thorn thought. "Thy eternal wait."

"Depart after thy eternal wait!"

"Let there be light!"

"Let there be life!"

Ultimecia's body levitated into the air. Thorn and Zorn leaned forward and peered at her. "Let's see what she's got!"

"Oooh... a '73 Ifrit she has! And in mint condition, it is! A Pandemonium rookie, she has as well!"

Zorn checked his Eidolon Collectors' Guide. "Ooh, that Ifrit's worth 8000 gil," he reported.

"What's this?" Zorn said, continuing to probe Ulty.

"It might be..."

"It could be..."

"It is! It is! Cubs win!"

Zorn's eyes shone with the thrill of his discovery. "Gilgamesh! One bad mutha-"

"Shut your mouth!"

"Just talkin 'bout Gilgamesh, I was!"

* * *

Eve slowly pushed Valentine's carriage up to the top of the Statue of Liberty, where her helicopter was waiting. "We'll be home in just a minute now, Valentine," Eve said soothingly. "We'll be home and you'll be safe again." She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. "And have a clean diaper again, too."

"Goo."

Sephiroth descended from the sky in a blur and landed beside her. "Eve."

Eve raised her head and looked the other way. "Go the hell away, Sephiroth. I'm through with your excuses." She marched on towards the helicopter.

"Eve, I... I want to apologize. For being such an ass. For ditching you and running off to get drunk. For blaming you for all my problems."

Eve stopped. "Sephiroth?" she said softly. "Are you... the old Sephy again?"

"More or less," Sephiroth replied. "I think you might have to call me the new Sephy."

"No more self-pity?"

"Nope."

"No alcohol?"

"None.

Eve took both of Sephiroth's hands in one of her claws. She smiled. "I like the new Sephiroth better already."

"Me too."

They embraced.

"I'm sorry, Eve," Sephiroth said.

"It's okay, hon. We all make mistakes."

Sephiroth lifted the baby out of the carriage. "This must be Valentine," he said, staring into his daughter's features. "What beautiful Mako eyes... and such nice inhuman claws, too."

Valentine gurgled happily. "Papa?" she said, coughing up spider guts in his face. Eve beamed.

Neko ducked his head back inside the statue. "Holy marmots in a sleeping bag, Batman," he said. "Are you getting this all on tape?"

Cait Sith, still in his Sith Lord costume, nodded. "Damn straight," he said. "The National Enquirer is going to pay us such big money for this. We're talking..." He raised a finger to his lips. "...one... meeeeeeellion... dollars!"

"Look at us, Eve," Sephiroth said. "Two ruthless, vengeful mutant villains bent on destroying humanity. And we've been spending all this time running around crying and waiting for someone to help us." He waved his sword. "There was a girl around here who was calling me all sorts of nasty names. Let's find her and make her an example to all these inferior beings."

Eve sang. The corpses of the Yachuza began to melt into puddles of orange goo.

Neko looked down at the dissolving bodies. "Sick!" he cried. His scowl of disgust soon turned to a grin. "This gives me an awesome idea for a new product, though."

Cait Sith gingerly stepped away from the oozing piles of neon fur. "What's that?"

"You know, something to sell."

"No, I mean, what's your new product?"

"All-crust pizza!"

Cait Sith rolled his eyes. "We call that 'bread', Neko."

Neko felt something sticky touch his foot. He looked down and immediately jumped to the side. The goo was creeping across the floor to form one large blob-like mass. Neko gagged.

"Ugh, it's congealing," Cait Sith said. "Into a viscuous pus."

"Dude, shut up, you're making it worse," Neko said, backing away from the blob. He watched in revulsion as the blob, apparently of its volition, inched its way up the stairs. The two cats glanced at each other in apprehension. They reached a quick unspoken decision and fled down to the waiting ferry.

* * *

Meanwhile, in a bizarre parallel universe, the Mega Man series had concluded.

* * *

A glowing, angelic Eiko flew towards the ferry leaving Liberty Island. "Mog! Mog! I have the winning numbers for tomorrow's Chocoball! It's 29-31-4..." Her voice cut off abruptly as a purple beam of light emerged from her and surrounded her. Eiko's wings disappeared and she plummeted to the ferry's deck. She landed at Aya's feet.

"Eiko!" Mog ran to her side. "Are you okay, kupo?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Eiko stood up and dusted herself off. The others continue to stare expectantly at her. "What?"

"Er, what are the rest of the numbers?" Mog asked.

"Numbers?"

"Kupo, the Chocoball numbers you were just reciting."

"Um, I don't remember."

"What?" Mog appeared shocked. "But... you knew them just a second ago, kupo. How could you forget?"

Cait Sith nodded conspiratorially towards Neko. "Here comes the break-up," he whispered.

"Please tell me you remember, Eiko. You have to! Do you know how much the jackpot was? It was one meel..." He started to raise a finger to his lips, but instead shrugged in resignation. "...oh, never mind; that's getting old."

"Hey, don't worry, Mog," Neko said. "Cait Sith and I grabbed this tape of Sephiroth and Eve making out. We're going to sell it to the National Enquirer! We'll be rich!"

"Um, Neko," Cait Sith said, staring down at his shiny black boots. "I hate to tell you this but... I just realized I left the lens caps on."

"You what?"

Cait Sith quickly changed the topic. "Say, Mog, you are a guy, right?"

"Um, yes. Kupo, why would you say something like that?"

"Nothin'. Just makin' sure, that's all."

Mog frowned. "Are you trying to insinuate-kupo something?" he demanded.

"No, I was just -"

"You're really getting off on this lately, aren't you?"

"Geez, dude, I was just asking a question." Cait Sith turned to Eiko. "See, Mog says he's a guy. What do you have to say to that?"

Eiko pointed ahead. "That pirate ship's coming right for us!"

* * *

Gagged and bound to the ship's mast, Rinoa and Homey could only watch as Mint began her summoning. "You guys are sooo dead!" she shouted at the gang on the ferry. "Okay, let's see here... lucky pump, master plan, I call upon the power of the The Man!"

Four swords with butter on their tips fell spinning from the sky and landed point-first in the pirate ship's deck. Gilgamesh followed them and dramatically whipped his red cloak about himself. "Can you dig it?" he intoned.

"What? You're The Man?" In a rage, Rinoa tore herself free of her bonds. "I've been looking for you a long time! Free Mumiiiiiiiaaaa!" She leapt at Gilgamesh and pummelled his back with her fists. Gilgamesh turned and briskly shoved her to the ship deck. "Squall, save me!"

Homey struggled out of his bonds and ran to aid his friend. "Down with the WTO!" he cried, clubbing Gilgamesh in the head with his sock. "Homey's gonna open a six pack o' whoop ass on yo' fascist ass!"

Irvine squinted at the scene from the ferry. "It's Rinoa!" he exclaimed. "I don't know what the hell she's doing, but we'd better help her." He ran to the front of the ship, knelt, and fired at Mint. Mint deflected the attack with a magic barrier and threw a fireball back at Irvine.

As bullets and magic bolts flew between the two ships, Aya recognized one of the figures lurking about the pirate ship. "Well, I'll be a monkey's concubine! It's Charles Manson! Damn, we're gonna need some backup." She reached for her cell phone to call the station.

Eiko and the Bahamut Men leapt onto the pirate ship. "Chaaaarge!" Neko, Spekkio, and Mog roared.

"Eulaliaaaaa!" Cait Sith cried. He waved his glowstick in Faris' face. "You want some of this, punk? Huh? Huh? Come on!"

As Aya punched in the station's phone number, Billy dropped to the ground and fired his pistols between her legs. "Hello?" Aya said. "Detective Brea here." A hand grenade exploded beside her. "You're not going to believe me, but Charles Manson is out here on a frickin' pirate ship!" Mint hurled a huge ball of ice at Aya. "I'm on the ferry from the Statue of Liberty." Elinee tackled Aya and knocked her out of the way of the ice attack.

"Leave the backup to me," Deneb said. She twirled her staff in front of her. A squad of pumpkin-head zombies rose from the ground.

Mint stared at the pumpkin warriors in horror. "P-P-PUMPKIN!?" she sputtered. "Aaaaaah!" Mint fell to her knees, clutching her face. "I surrender! I surrender!"

Spekkio slapped Qlon in the face. "I feel so bad!"

Rinoa and Homey continued to assault The Man. "Prepare to face Homey's proletariat sock o' justice!" Homey whirled his sock over his head, winding up for another strike. Gilgamesh kicked Rinoa aside and drew one of his swords. He stabbed Homey through the chest.

"Oh no! Homey!"

Homey crumpled to the ship deck. "Dammit," he gasped. "Why does the brother always hafta get killed in these stories? Homey don't play that!" He jumped back to his feet and renewed his sock assault.

"How did you do that?" Gilgamesh gasped. "I just stabbed you!"

"Nanotechnology!"

* * *

Silver Dragon circled the Statue of Liberty with Kuja, Sydney, and Izlude aboard. Lucky Dan followed just behind them on his magical flying Razor scooter.

The silver-haired Terran squinted at the battle raging across the two ships. "My, my, there doeth appear to be quite the peccadillo occuring. Quickly, we mutht defend my lady Adel'th honor."

"There's no way the four of us can take on all those guys by ourselves," Sydney growled.

"Kuja!" Sephiroth projected his voice from atop the Statue of Liberty. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Kuja tapped his flimsy upper garment. "I'm thelling thethe fine leather jacketh."

"Get out of here, you retards! You're in way over your head!"

"Don't think you can try to get out of your contract, Sephiroth!" Lucky Dan cut in.

Kuja shook his head. "I cannot retht when my fair canary Adel ith in danger. Thrike, Thilver Dragon, thrike!" He raised his hands dramatically.

The dragon went into a nosedive towards the pirate ship. Izlude and Sydney clung to its feathered back for dear life. "For Glabadossakes, Kuja, you just met her an hour ago and she's been unconscious the whole time!"

Faris waved her sword at the descending boy band. "Arrr, ye scurvy traitor, I'll make ye walk the plank!" She turned back to face Cait. "Killing you would be justifiable homicide!"

"Then killing you must be justifiable fungicide!" Cait Sith swung furiously with his glowstick, forcing Faris backwards.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bean wandered aimlessly about the ship. He stumbled into the barrel of one of the ship's cannons just as Popoi lit it. Bean blasted into the sky and collided with Silver Dragon. The beast cried out in pain and plummeted towards the water, taking Lucky Dan's scooter with it.

"Wow, this is just like ValuJet!" Dan exclaimed.

Sydney glared at him. "You're not making this any easier, voodoo boy."

Kuja and his cohorts jumped off Silver Dragon onto the pirate ship. Flea immediately used his Waltz of the Wind attack on Izlude. Kuja, Sydney, and Dan scattered as Izlude flailed at them with his sword.

Kuja pranced up to Charles Manson and slapped him. "Thurrender at onth, infidelth!"

"Suck my chads!" Lucky Dan shouted, kicking Popoi in the chest.

The action stopped instantly. All across the ship, combatants froze in mid-strike and turned to stare at Dan.

"oKAy, EVeRyOnE Wh0 WaN7s To sTop tHiS fIGhT AnD KIcK lUcKy dAn'S aSs, rAiSe yOuR hANd."

Hands shot up instantly. Lucky Dan surveyed the show of opposition and frowned. "Uh... can we have a recount here? Hee hee, get it, recount? Hey, that reminds me of a joke. Okay, if Al Gore were a Xenogears character, what deathblow would he use? Heh, heh, he'd use Reyc-" Dan's body exploded into a ball of flame as Elinee cast a fire spell on him. He fell to the ground, writhing, as both he and his precious Billy Bass were both consumed in flames. "OH MY GOD, I SEEM TO BE ON FIRE! SOMEONE SET ME UP THE BOMB!"

"Thank you," Flea said. He turned and finished kicking Mog in the face.

* * *

The ooze that was once the Yachuza began to accumulate atop Lady Liberty. The expanding mass formed a bubble around Sephiroth, Eve and Valentine, then began to slide off the statue. Two gelatinous tendrils grew out of the mess and stretched down to the ground, forming legs. As the creature took its first steps away from the statue, arms and a head began to expand out of the blob as well.

"Gaa gaa!" Valentine cried.

A hatch on the side of the pirate ship opened and unfolded into a ramp, revealing Cloud and his Hardy Daytona. Cloud revved the engine and shot up the ramp, launching his motorcycle across the water to the base of the statue. He raised his Buster Sword in defiance. "SEEEEEEEPHIIIIIIIROOOOOTH!"

"CLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUD!" Sephiroth shouted back.

Cloud drove circles around the goo monster. "SEPHIROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH!"

"CLOOOOOOOUUUUUUDD!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!!"

Eve frowned. "Sephy, dear, what's going on?"

"SEEEEEEEPHIROOOOOOOOOOOOTH!" Cloud continued to circle his rival. While driving with his right hand, he reached back to the bag on the rear of his motorcycle and rustled through it. He eventually produced an orange jellybean. Cloud transferred it to his right hand and deftly switched control of the motorcycle to his left. Cloud hurled the jellybean into what would be the head of the goo monster.

The goo slid towards to the ground and collapsed into a thin, flat disc of slime. Sephiroth and Eve bounced off it and spiraled high into the air. "CLOOOOOUUUUUUD!" Sephiroth cried. The couple levitated to stop their fall and slowly descended into their protective "bubble" as the blob reformed.

"CLOOOOOOOOUUUUUD! I mean, SEPHIROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH!"

"CLOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUD!" Sephiroth turned to his wife. "I think now I'm going to have to ask you what's going on, love."

"That must have been a TANGERINE = TRAMPOLINE jellybean," Eve explained.

"I see."

The blob started forward again. It lurched into the water, setting off huge splashes with each step. "SEEEEPHIROOOOOOOTH!! NOOOOOOOOO!" Cloud continued to wail from the island.

"CLOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUD!" Sephiroth yelled back.

"DAAAAAAYTOOOOOOOOONAAAAA!" Eve sang.

* * *

Faris hopped backwards over Thorn's head, continuing to parry Cait Sith's glowstick blows. "You fight like a farmer!" Cait Sith shouted, lunging in and bringing his weapon down over his head.

"How appropriate," Faris sneered. "You fight like a chocobo!" She blocked Cait Sith's attack and retaliated with one of her own, forcing the cat backwards. "I have never seen such clumsy swordplay!"

"You would have, but you're always running away!" Cait Sith jumped in and smacked Faris's knees. Faris stumbled backwards but quickly recovered her balance.

"Uh... you're stupid?" she retorted, slashing half-heartedly. She glanced around her and saw her comrades falling left and right. Eiko, Spekkio, and Mog had beaten Thorn and Zorn unconscious, Mint and Manson had surrendered, Gilgamesh was still occupied with Homey and Rinoa, and Pikachu and Flea were nowhere to be seen.

There was only one option left. "Arr! Quickly, Mr. Bean! Junction yourself onto Gilgamesh!" Mr. Bean looked at her quizzically. "Hurry, you scurvy landlubber!"

Mr. Bean junctioned himself onto Gilgamesh. The four-armed Guardian Force began to grow. He knocked Homey and Rinoa aside with a single sweep of his fists and marched towards the other heroes.

Meanwhile, the goo monster lumbered closer to the ship. Aya looked up at the monster, scarcely believing what she saw. "Eve?"

Seeing her hated rivals approaching, Faris pointed her scimitar at the blob. "Bean! Destroy them!"

Still growing, the Ultimate Bean stepped off the pirate ship and into the water.

* * *

Ultimecia sat up on Thorn and Zorn's altar. She immediately felt she was missing something -- and it wasn't Rinoa's constant whining. "Kurse them! They have abskonded with my summons!" She stumbled weakly towards the door in search of her captors.

Flea burst into the room. "Don't move, sorceress." He produced a gun from inside his shirt and pointed it at her. "We need you as a hostage."

Ultimecia blinked. "Where did that gun kome from?"

"Transvestites have more hiding places than men." He smirked. "But power is beautiful, and I've got the power!"

Grahf marched into the room. "Your powers are merely superficial. Doth thou desire the power?"

"Die, monster! You don't belong in this world!" Fei charged in after Grahf and knocked him to the ground with a roundhouse kick to the head. Grahf's helmet flew off, revealing the face of Melbu Frahma.

"You're not Grahf!" Fei gasped.

The villain looked up from the floor. "No, but I am your father and a 10,000-year-old demon and God and the evil emperor! Beat that!"

"Enough with this nonsense!" Ultimecia cried. She unleashed a blast of energy that sent Fei, Grahf, and Flea flying out of the room. "How can kall yourselves villains?"

Ultimecia marched up on to the deck, her dress whipping dramatically about her. "Ultimecia! Are you all right?" Rinoa shouted, rushing to the witch's side.

Ultimecia shoved her briskly aside. "Away from me, little one." Ulty looked up at the creatures towering overhead. Without missing a beat, she produced a bag of jellybeans from the same place Flea had been hiding his gun. "Eve, here!" She hurled a KETCHUP = BRICK WALL jellybean at the blob. The jellybean flew out into space, circled around the Moon, and fell back to Earth.

As the Ultimate Bean lunged towards the goo monster, the KETCHUP = BRICK WALL fell into the blob's head. The blob quickly changed into a brick wall. The Ultimate Bean's barrage of sword attacks bounced harmlessly off the bricks.

"What in the world did you just do?" Rinoa demanded. "C'mon, we've got to figure out what The Man's weak point is!"

Ultimecia fixed her with a exasperated glare. "Enough with your ridikulous adventures, silly little one. We villains will take care of this on our now."

"But..."

"Huth!" Kuja lisped. "Pleathe bethow Lady Ultimethia with the thilence thee rethpecth!"

"You shut up too, Kuja." Ultimecia turned and tossed the goo monster a CINNAMON = BLOWTORCH bean. Its arm transformed into a blowtorch and unleashed a blast of fire at the Ultimate Bean. Just at the same time, however, the Bean transformed into a bubble and hovered out of reach.

"Kurses! This isn't working," Ultimecia frowned. "The Ultimate Bean possesses the power of every jellybean at once!"

"Dude! Use a BANANA = BAZOOKA jellybean!" Cait Sith bellowed through his megaphone.

Kuja looked at Ultimecia. "Do we have a BANANA = BATHOOKA jellybean?"

"No," she admitted. "I forgot to pikk that up at the start of this fanfik. I guess I have to start all over."

Eiko frowned. "I'm having a moral dilemma, Mog," she whispered.

"Kupo?"

"I have a whole bag of banana jellybeans... buuut Sephiroth was just trying to kill me, so poop on him."

The Ultimate Bean returned to his humanoid form, then transformed into a hole in the water. The endless black pit crept towards the goo monster. Ultimecia hurled a HONEY = HUMMINGBIRD jellybean into the blob. It shifted into a hummingbird and levitated to safety.

"Eikupo, you have to give it to him!" Mog pleaded. "It's what Yu Suzuki would want you to do! C'mon, you know he means well! Kupo!"

The Ultimate Bean transformed his hands into drills and stabbed at the blob. Ultimecia threw the blob another KETCHUP = BRICK WALL jellybean to guard against the attack.

Eiko held up a BANANA = BAZOOKA jellybean. "Here! I've got a BANANA = BAZOOKA one!" she exclaimed.

"Give it to me." Eiko handed Billy the jellybean. He popped the candy into one of his pistols and fired it almost straight up over his head. The jellybean arced through the night sky, striking Eve's blob in the shoulder. The blob assimilated the BANANA = BAZOOKA jellybean and changed into a large bazooka. The blob's head, with Sephiroth and Eve in it, formed a separate bullet and rolled into the bazooka.

The bazooka fired its head, blowing a massive three-foot hole in the Ultimate Bean's chest. The four-armed creature took one stagger and fell beneath the waves. The blob rocket continued flying, carrying Sephiroth and Eve out of sight.

Faris' jaw dropped. "D'arrrr!" she wailed. "You defeated the Ultimate Bean!"

Cait Sith jabbed his glowstick at her. "All right, Mrs. Doubtfire, stick 'em up!"

Faris raised her hands. "I surrender! I surrender!"

* * *

Below deck, Pikachu strapped on his emergency escape jetpack. SEEL was falling, and now it was time for him to abandon his underlings and make his hasty escape. No big deal. He could always just find some more VC and start a new cabal. After all, that Stanford MBA of his had to be worth something.

Pikachu opened one of the ship's portholes and gripped his jetpack's controls. He blasted out over the water and quickly rose. One of the humans pointed at him. "Damn, Pikachu's getting away!"

"d0n'T THiNk i'Ll fORgEt tHIs, huManS!" Pikachu shouted over his shoulder. "yOu'Ve ShOWn mE SoMe FanCY aCt1on HeRe. aLl tOld, tHE DaMaGE tO thIS sHiP aND tHE WEaPonS oN boARd WiLL cOMe To..." He halted his ascent, turned to stare down at the ship, and raised his finger to his lips. "...OnE MeeEEeeEEEelliO -"

His words cut off when he was swallowed up by a Pokéball.

The Pokéball whirled back up to its origin, a six-winged Gear hovering high in the sky. The pilot frowned in condemnation. "People will hate you, Pikachu, if you're too sting-y."

* * *

Later that night...

Rinoa and Homey stood glowering on a street corner near Central Park, watching cars pass by. "I don't get it," Rinoa said. "It's been, like, four hours since we beat The Man and they still haven't released Mumia. And why are there still all these homeless people?"

Homey snapped his fingers. "Dammit," he said. "I just figured it out! That wasn't the real The Man! That was just The Decoy Man! Now Homey's gonna have to open up a second pack o' whoop-ass."

"Hey, Rinoa!" Irvine called from the Ragnarok's landing spot in the park. "Are you coming or not?"

Rinoa shrugged. "Well, Homey, I've got to return to Balamb Garden," she said. "I'm trying to subvert their oppressive Eurocentric curriculum of lies from the inside. Catch ya later." The two exchanged a confusing underground handshake that resembled two hyenas with fleas.

Waving goodbye to Homey D. Clown, Rinoa hurried to join the SeeDs and witches on the Ragnarok. "Well, I'm glad all that's over with," Irvine said. "All's well that ends well, I suppose."

"This isn't over," Rinoa grumbled as she trooped up the boarding ramp. "The Man we killed wasn't the real Man. Now he's going to have his Thought Police ready to assassinate us at any moment. We don't have any room for error."

Irvine sighed. "That reminds me. Selphie... I've got a confession to make."

"Don't worry, Irvine; everyone already knows you're gay."

"Shut up, Zell," Irvine said. He stared down at the ground. "Selphie... after I landed here, I took a job as a sniper from the Yachuza. They wanted me to kill Eminem." Selphie's eyes widened in surprise. "But I realized what I was going to do was wrong and turned them into the police."

"Aw, mega-bummer!" Selphie exclaimed. "For a moment there I thought you'd actually gotten rid of him!"

Irvine blinked. "Uh, Selphie?"

"I hate Eminem X_X!" Selphie stomped her foot. "Did you hear what he said about Shounen Ai?"

"But he hadn't actually hurt anyone, Selphie. It was just a song. No one deserves to die just because Selphie A. Tilmitt of Trabia doesn't like his music."

"Tee-hee, it's okay, Irvy-poo ~_^," Selphie giggled. "I still like you anyway ^___^!" She threw her arms around him and hugged him.

Irvine sighed as he returned the hug. "I didn't get those tacos, either."

"Oh! Your hat!" Selphie took it off her own head and placed it on Irvine's.

Maitreya and Eiko hurried up to the boarding ramp. "Oh, hallelujah! You haven't left yet," Maitreya said. "We need a ride home too."

Eiko waved to Cait Sith's gang. "Bye guys!" she said. "I really had a fun time! Good luck with your band!"

"Bye, Eiko!" Neko, Mog, and Spekkio called.

"Uh, rot in hell!" Cait Sith shouted.

The four cute animals stayed to watch the Ragnarok ascend and blast off into space. "Mog, in the name of all that is good and right in this universe, please tell me that you are not going to try to carry on a long-distance relationship with her."

"We were never having a relationship in the first place, Cait," Mog said patiently.

Cait Sith put a comforting hand on Mog's shoulder. "Dude, Mog, it's okay, people break up all the time," he said. "You don't have to pretend that you never liked her."

Mog pushed him away. "Kupo, Cait!" he shouted. "What the hell is your problem? The whole time I've been here, it's been nothing but Eiko this and Eiko that! I'm beginning to think that you're the one with a crush on her."

"What?" Cait Sith howled. "Those are fightin' words, my friend." He raised his hand into the path of a nearby lamppost and spread his fingers, forming the image of a dragon on the side of a building. "My dragon-style shadow kung fu will defeat your unskilled swan-style!"

Mog modelled a swan with his paw and jabbed it into the light. "Your chi is weak, grasshopper!"

Cait Sith swung his hand and snapped his fingers, causing his shadow creature to bite at Mog's. "Ha! A direct hit! Another crushing victory for Cait Sith!"

"That was so not a hit!" Mog retorted. He moved his fingers into the shape of a tiger and swiped them through the light. "Grr, grr!"

"You dirty cheater!" Cait Sith shouted. "You can't change styles in the middle of a match!"

"I can too, kupo!"

"You can not!"

"Well, you suck!"

"No, you suck!"

"Do not!"

"Do too!"

* * *

Sephiroth and Eve staggered out the gooey remains of the rocket. Seph shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind. "That was quite a ride," he said. "Where the hell are we?"

Eve pointed. "Look, there's our mansion right over there."

Sephiroth nodded. "Shall we go home?"

Sephiroth and Eve clasped hands and levitated. Framed by the rising sun, the lovers soared over the slumbering city. They disappeared into the dawning horizon, every inch the image of a tranquil, blissful ending.

Until they found an unwanted guest waiting on their doorstep.

He was alive, there was no mistaking that. And what was worse, he was watching them. Sephiroth shivered. There, waiting for him like some unavoidable messenger of Hell, and bearing the wicked grin of no less than Satan himself, was Lucky Dan.

"Sephiroth!" he called. "Where have you been? You're late for your photo shoot!"

"Photo shoot?"

"You didn't forget, did you? You guys are getting your pictures taken for the Rolling Stone cover in purple thongs."