The Arrival

By Pyver

"Forward guns failing!"

"Planetary cannons offline!"

"Commander! Shields at ten percent and dropping in quadrant four!"

"Focus remaining guns on the lead carriers!" The commander shouted over the explosions. "How many fighters do we have left?!"

"Two wings, but most are heavily damaged! They won't survive another run!"

The commander looked around the bridge of what had once been her proud battlestation. Now, with most of its systems destroyed, and surrounded by enemies, it was going to be a tomb. Because of my mistake, she thought bitterly. Glancing at the faces around her, she made a decision. "All of you, get out now! Head for the ship!"

"Commander…" The soldiers hesitated.

"I said GO! This is my fault, not yours!" She turned to one of the few functioning weapon consoles. "I'll buy you the time you need to escape with the main craft. The guns I have should provide adequate cover and-"

"We won't leave you to die alone!"

"I didn't give you a choice, Lieutenant!" She barked. "I gave you an order! Go, now!"

"You heard her," a voice said, strangely calm in the midst of so much destruction. "Get to the evacuation vessel. We'll both be along shortly."

"Yes, Councilman!" The soldiers immediately scattered.

The commander turned back to her console. "If I had time, I'd be offended. They obeyed a civilian faster than their commander."

"Only because their commander is being foolish and stubborn as a Cetra," the figure said, stepping towards the commander's back. "Sacrificing yourself will only give the Elorum one more casualty."

"To add to the billions they'll take today, and have already taken? Thanks to my error?" She bit out harshly. "My life isn't worth saving, Grennak. Go, now."

"On the contrary, it is very worth saving," the other replied. "We've intercepted an Elorum transmission, and we know their next target. You'll be needed to help prepare them."

"No. My place is with my soldiers."

"Your soldiers don't need you here," Grennak said firmly. "It's time to leave."

"I won't!" The commander bellowed, whirling on him. "They are dying because of me, the least I can do is die with them!"

"I don't think so." Grennak quickly jabbed a small device at her. There was a small flash, and she collapsed. "I didn't expect you to come willingly, so I carried a stunner."

~Councilman Grennak!~ The voice came urgently over the com lines. ~We have to leave, now! Do you have Commander Kittac?!~

"I've got her, and we'll be there in two minutes," Grennak said, slinging the unconscious form over his shoulder and heading quickly for the exit. "If we're not, leave without us."

~You know I won't do that.~

"Yes, Jekkla, I know. But I have to give the order anyway."

The order didn't matter. When the ship launched a minute later, everyone who was supposed to be on board was.

The commander, Kittac, sat dejectedly on the floor. "You should have let me die."

The councilman (more accurately, a diplomat), Grennak answered. "No. We need you." He faced the others, filling a cargo bay. "By now, the Elorum have destroyed our system. We are safe enough; they didn't detect our escape. But we have a hard journey ahead, and once we arrive, things aren't going to be easy. But another race needs our help, and we cannot let them suffer the same fate." He took a breath. "Now, most of us will enter the stasis tubes. Only the pilot and I will stay out and land the craft." A faint smile crossed his face. "Best of luck to all of us."

One small band of two hundred fifty aliens were all that remained of a once great empire. Now, they had to save a world endangered by the same threat that had destroyed their own planet.

And luckily, they knew who to contact to do it.

Barret stretched, enjoying the beach. "Ya know, Cloud," he called, "you're lucky."

Cloud glanced over from his burgers. "What?"

"Yeah. You've got the ex-President's villa in Costa del Sol, a great life, and nowhere to go. You've really got it easy."

The young man smiled. "Nothing to do but train, yeah. And you're the same way now that Corel's up and running again, councilman." He shook his head. "I never expected you to go into politics."

"It ain't about politics!" Barret objected. "I did it ta help rebuild Corel!"

"Sure, sure," Cloud joked. "You just wanted the power, admit it."

Barret was about to reply, but was cut off by Yuffie. "Hey, are those burgers done yet? We're starving!"

Cloud laughed and nodded. "Yeah, they're done. Go get the others, will ya?"


Cloud shook his head. "Okay. Then I guess Nanaki won't mind the extra burger."

Yuffie made a face at him, then ran off to get the rest of Avalanche.

Barret rolled off his lounge chair and walked over to Cloud. He lowered his voice. "So. Didja ask yet?"

Cloud shook his head. "No."

Barret stared at him. "Why not?! Look, you two love each other, right?"


"You've seen each other eighteen hours of the day since she bought the bar under your villa, right?"


"You've practically been living together for the past six months, right?"

Cloud shrugged. "Well… yeah, true."

"And you wanna ask her to marry you, right?"

"Without a doubt!"

"So what the hell's holdin' ya back?!"

Cloud shrugged and flipped a burger. "It's just… I'm not sure how Aeris would react."

Barret shook his own head. "Look. You two both agreed that you were just gonna be good friends when she was revived, right?"


"Then ask Tifa to marry you like you've been planning to for the past six months! Aeris'll be happy for ya!"

Cloud looked around quickly, then back at Barret. "Hold it down!" he hissed. "They're almost here!" He waved at the eight approaching figures, a smile on his face. "Hey, guys! The burgers are ready! Come and get 'em!"

Cait Sith bounded up eagerly. "You remembered my hot dogs, right?" he asked hopefully.

Cloud nodded. "Yep. Got 'em right here." He passed the plate to the Mog part of the duo.

Just before he hopped away, Cait leaned over and whispered, "Ask her!" in a whisper. Then he jumped off.

Cloud whipped his head toward Barret and gave him a laser glance. Barret just shrugged.

They went through a similar routine with all the other members except the girls. Barret explained later he hadn't told Yuffie because she would have told half the planet. As for Tifa and Aeris… reasons were obvious.

Cloud took his own burger and sat down at the table with his friends. He was just in time to hear Yuffie say, "I can't believe you didn't change out of that thing."

Vincent looked over. "There is nothing wrong with my normal outfit."

"Except that it's really stupid for the beach."

"I am merely more at ease in this than I would be in the attire the rest of you chose," Vincent replied, referring to the motley collection of swimsuits and shorts the others had worn.

"You might be more comfortable in it," Cait put in, "but I can imagine you wearing a bathing suit."

Vincent raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

Cait nodded. "Yeah, ya know, something with little hearts or something. Dad has one like that." He looked at Reeve. "Why didn't you wear that one, anyway?"

Reeve choked on his drink, then gasped out, "Cait, that's not a bathing suit. And," he leaned closer, "Underwear selection is something we don't tell stories about!"

Cloud glanced over at Reeve and Cait Sith and grinned. "I still can't get used to seeing the two of you separated like that. How long has it been since you installed the AI unit?"

Reeve thought. "Close to a year and a half. Shortly after Sephiroth's defeat."

Cait nodded smugly. "Yup. I'm the smartest one year old you'll ever know."

"If you're so smart, why do you eat those things?" Yuffie asked, making a face at the hot dogs.

"I like 'em."

"But they don't even taste good! And aside from that, you're a robot! You don't need to eat!" She countered.

"Actually," Reeve interrupted, "He does. I set it up so his power source breaks down matter to convert it to energy, the same way our own bodies do."

They diverted the conversation away from robotics and focused on their current lives. "How's Mrs. Highwind, Cid?" Aeris asked.

"Shera's fine. I'm just glad I didn't wait to ask her to marry me," Cid said, then looked at Cloud. Very pointedly. Cloud just gave him a look and Cid looked back at his plate, a little smirk on his face.

"How are things in your classes, Aeris?" Tifa asked.

Aeris swallowed some potato salad and shrugged. "Pretty good. We've got a paper to turn in next week, but mine's mostly finished. Just a little more editing to do."

"I'm certain you'll do well," Vincent stated.

She smiled at him. "Thank you."

"You'd better do well!" Yuffie joked. "It's your gil you're using to get through that school!"

"The money was a gift," Vincent said stiffly. "I have no use for it, so I gave it to someone who did."

A sudden beeping broke the atmosphere. Cloud put a hand to his face. "Okay, who brought the PHS?"

Nananki looked slightly embarrassed. "Me. I didn't want to be unaware if anything happened to the canyon." The phone beeped again. "Excuse me." He slipped on his PHS, modified to fit him like a headset. "Yes?" He listened for a second. "What?" Another pause. "Wait, slow down. You're speaking too quick-" he broke off, his eye widening in shock. "Are you certain? It's not just a stray comet, or anything like-" his eye grew so wide Cloud thought it would pop out. "I'll be there as quickly as I can! Just keep the telescope trained on them!"

"So what was-" Yuffie started to ask, but Nanaki gave no time for questions.

He pounced on Cid. "Can you get us to the canyon in less than ten minutes?!"

Cid nodded, trying not to look uncomfortable about a lion putting its paws on his chest. "It can get ya there in four. Why?"

A strange expression crossed the Guardian's face. "An amazing thing is about to happen. It might be the most important moment in this entire planet's history." He shook himself. "And I need to be at the canyon when it happens!"

"Okay, okay!" Cid yelped. "Jus take your claws out of my CHEST!!"

"Hm?" Nanaki glanced down and saw that in his excitement, he had bared his claws, and the tips were jabbing into Cid's exposed flesh. He quickly retracted them. "Oh, sorry Cid. I just get little worked up when aliens are heading our way!!"

There was a stunned silence, the nine voices saying simultaneously, "WHAT?!?"

Thirty second later, the seagulls were helping themselves to an abandoned barbecue while the Highwind raced for Cosmo Canyon.

Nanaki barreled up the stairs, taking them almost half a flight at a time. The others followed, barely slower. By the time they reached the observatory, they were a panting, sweating group of people that looked very out of place in their beachwear.

A city elder hurried over. "Thank you for returning so quickly, Nanaki!"

"When aliens are on their way, I make certain not to waste any time," the Guardian answered. "Now, do we still have a visual lock on them?"

"Yes, we managed to keep them in our sights," the elder replied. "It wasn't very hard- they seem to be on a direct course for us."

"No deviation?"

"None so far."

"Do you think you could walk a little faster?" Cait said excitedly. "I wanna see the aliens!"

"All we can see right now is their ship," the Elder cautioned, "and we haven't been able to make contact. They just keep heading our way."

"Any sign of hostility?" Vincent asked calmly as their pace quickened.

The elder shook his head. "No. We didn't even see any guns on it."

"How are you supposed to tell where they are?" Yuffie demanded. "You expect there'd be a sign pointing to it and saying 'super death ray here, look out below'?"

"Would you mind if we answered that later?" Nanaki said, entering the observatory. "I want to see this vessel myself."

Reeve cleared his throat. "Who's going up? Only three of us can fit at a time on that pedestal."

Everyone looked around. Finally, Nanaki spoke. "Who wants to go?"

No one spoke for a long moment; they all just looked at Nanaki. Finally, the lion sighed. "Fine, I'll decide." He paced for a second. "I have to go. I know Grandfather's device better than anyone else. Cloud, you come too, since you're the leader. Vincent, we could probably use your skills in reading people as well, assuming we can establish communications."

Cloud grinned nervously. "All right then. Let's go make first contact."

They stared in amazement at the reduced hologram of the solar system. It was beautiful as ever, with one new addition.

The alien spacecraft.

It wasn't too big, about the size of a small passenger jet. It didn't look anything like a jet, however. The hull itself was an octagonal shape, with several torpedo-like structures mounted on its sides. Most of its skin was silver, but there were several sections that looked burned. At the very back end, what was presumably an exhaust port glowed whitish-blue.

And it was undeniably on a course for Earth.

Cloud glanced at Nanaki. "Still no luck getting through?"

He shook his head. "Not so far. All I've been getting is space static." He flopped down on the floor. "Of course, let's not forget that they're still a long way off. It may take hours for one of our messages to reach them, and then hours more for one of theirs to reach us."

~-ead us? I repeat, Cosmo Canyon, do you read us?~ a male voice interrupted.

Nananki sprang to his feet. "Then again, I maybe wrong." He hit the radio. "This is Cosmo Canyon, we hear you!"

~Our apologies for not hailing you sooner, but our communications equipment was damaged, and we just now repaired it,~ the voice said. ~How are things down there?~

Cloud wasn't sure which was weirdest- that he was hearing an alien voice, that they knew who they were calling, that they were apologizing for not calling sooner, or that they were speaking in English.

"A little strange," Nanaki replied. "I just found aliens were coming, and now we're talking to them."

~You'll be able to do more than that soon,~ The alien answered. ~We're coming in for a landing, in your city, if you would allow it.~

Nanaki hit the mute button with his nose and looked at the others. "What do you think?"

Cloud shrugged. "I say let 'em touch down. They came who knows how far to get here, are we going to just turn them away?"

Vincent looked cool as ever, but he sounded concerned. "I can't be sure we should trust them. I can't read him well, but I get the feeling he's hiding something, I can hear it."

"Why not ask him?" Cloud asked. "Maybe he can tell us what's going on, why he came here."

The Guardian nodded thoughtfully. "Good plan. If he won't tell us, I'll deny him permission to land."

"And if they decided to land anyway?" Vincent asked.

Cloud gave a tight smile. "Our weapons are on the Highwind, and that baby can get us anywhere in minutes. If they touch down without our approval, we'll be all over them the second they set foot outside that ship."

"Agreed," Nanaki replied. He switched the radio back on. "Before you land, please tell me the purpose of your visit."

~To help save your world.~

The statement was so simple, yet so serious, it shocked them into several seconds of silence. Then Vincent asked the equally simple question, "What do you mean?"

~Even as we speak, there is an alien vessel on its way to destroy your planet. It belongs to the same race that destroyed our own world, and they have your system as their next target.~

Cloud took a deep breath. "How do we know you're telling the truth? For all we know, you could just be setting us up so you can invade us."

There was an inaudible sigh, more felt than anything else. ~We don't have the forces to invade, even if we had the slightest wish to do so, which we do not. We're just here to help. Now, can you allow us to land in Cosmo Canyon or not?~

"I can't," Nanaki said regretfully, "Not without proof of what you are saying."

There seemed to be a slight scuffle heard over the com lines, then a new, angry, female voice came on. ~You want proof?! Fine! Set your scope to spatial coordiantes four two five by three one three, then apply the following principles!~ The speaker, rattled off a string of number so fast Cloud was barely able to follow. Nanaki frowned, but punched in the numbers.

The view changed from their own solar system to another, this one with five planets and a blue-white sun. Nanaki's eye widened. "It's Gamma Centauri…"

"Where?" Vincent asked, peering at the holographic system.

"Gamma Centauri," he responded. "A solar system several hundred light years from here."

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Cloud said, "but isn't that a very long way away?"

"Extremly," Nanaki said. "What we're seeing now is probably this system several thousand years ago."

The speaker crackled. ~Reset your telescope by these means.~ The female gave Nanaki another set of numbers, and Nanaki input them.

Suddenly, the scene changed. Now they could see three of the five worlds were inhabited, and it was a thriving race of beings, presumably the ones in the vessel.

"What are we seeing?" Cloud asked, awe in his voice.

"Their evolution," Nanaki said, watching the planets intently. "We're so far from their world that we can see their race advance through the centuries by moving our view closer to or further from their system. If they looked at us like this, they might see our world back when the Cetra were still here."

"Over two thousand years ago?" Vincent demanded.

"Possibly more."

The scene changed one final time. All five worlds were now inhabited, and they were in celar trouble. A massive fleet of vessels pounded on the outermost planet, until its crust shattered and exploded, sending particles of continents and fragments of cities hurling away. The fleet continued their attack, until not even one planet remained. Then, they finished their work. They detonated the sun. It flared white, filling the whole observatory, then slowly fading out, leaving nothing but space debris. Nanaki numbly switched the scene back to their own system, and the alien ship heading for them.

The speaker crackled again, and the male voice came back on. ~That is what happened to our world. Completely destroyed by the invaders, the Elorum.~

Vincent tried to speak and found his throat strangely dry. "And these Elorum, they are now on their way here?"

~Yes. Not the whole fleet, though. They think one ship will be enough.~

"And this is why you're here?" Cloud said. "To help us fight them?"

~Correct again. We were fortunate enough to escape, and we all swore that we would do whatever we could to stop the Elorum.~ He paused. ~After seeing this, do you still deny us landing in Cosmo Canyon?~

Nanaki shook his head. "I don't see how I can. You have permission to land."

~Excellent. We will contact you before we begin our approach. We're going to keep it quiet for now; currently, the fewer that know about us, the better.~ The line went dead.

Cloud took a deep breath. "Son of a bitch. This is bigger than anything I ever imagined getting involved in. An interstellar war?"

Vincent nodded. "We'd better tell the others."

Suddenly, the hologram of the ship sowed an explosion on one of its engines, and the com flared back to life. ~Cosmo Canyon, come in! We have an emergency!~

Nanaki was at the radio in less than a heartbeat. "What is happening?!"

~One of our retrothrusters blew up! We're coming in too hot!~

"What does that mean?!" Cloud demanded.

"It means they could burn up if they don't change course!" Nanaki shouted.

~We can't change course!~ The alien yelled. ~If we do, we'll bounce off your atmosphere and end up in the middle of your sun!~

"So what do we do?!"

There was what seemed like a long pause, then the alien came back on. ~Our pilot says he can probably land the ship by firing our other retrothrusters, then using the atmosphere to slow us down to the point where we can land in the canyon, but we'll have to make a complete orbit before we lose enough speed to control our descent!~

Vincent shook his head. "And no person will be able to miss an alien space craft going over their heads. Everyone is going to know you're here."

"Just what you'd hoped to avoid," Cloud muttered grimly.

"No other option," Nanaki said. "Do it!"

~Acknowledged.~ They watched as the ship's hologram fired its three torpedo-shaped engines, then entered the atmosphere. The battle blackened hull was scorched by re-entry heat, and the ship burned its way around the planet.

There was no one who could miss it. It entered over Cosmo Canyon with a deafening sonic boom, then raced on to pass over Wutai mere seconds later. It passage shattered half the lights of the Gold Saucer as it hurtled overhead, then shattered windows in Corel. By the time it reached Junon, the vessel had slowed enough the be recognized as alien, but it was still moving stunningly fast. By the time it touched down safely in Cosmo Canyon, there wasn't one occupant of Earth, human or otherwise, that hadn't at the very least heard it going by.

The speaker crackled. ~We're down, just outside the north entrance of the canyon.~ There was a pause. ~And I have to say, that was certainly an interesting trip.~

"Try it from this end sometime," Cloud said wryly. "We'll be there shortly. Until then, just wait for us in the ship."

~Acknowledged. We look forward to meeting you.~ The radio went dead.

Cloud took a breath, then turned to his companions. "Well, let's rally the others."

It wasn't a group of people in a ragtag collection of beachwear that met the alien ship thirty minutes later. This was Avalanche in full battle attire, armed to the teeth with their best weapons, armor, and materia. No one else had shown up yet, but only because Nanaki had locked down the canyon. No one got in, and anyone who got within eyeshot of the ship couldn't leave. They wanted to get a feel for these aliens before anything reached the public, other than the speculation that was probably already circulating among the populace.

Cloud stared at what he guessed was the ship's main hatch, hand tracing along the hilt of his blade. He had made it of the wreckage of Ultimate Weapon, and it had served him faithfully through his most serious battles, but now it brought him little comfort.

Tifa nudged him. "You look worried."

Cloud nodded. "If these aliens are telling the truth, we've got the fight of our lives ahead of us. And until they get here, all we can do is wait."

"I doubt that's all we can do," Tifa said. "They must have some idea of how to deal with them. After all, they've already fought them."

"And lost," Cloud said grimly. "I guess we just have to wait and see what they say."

Finally, the ship's door began to open, and they got a look at their first alien.

It was easily six and a half feet tall. Its skin was a sort of off blue, and it looked rather frail. But what got their attention most was the face; specifically, the eyes.

Its head was human sized, approximately. It had a long, almost muzzle type mouth. No ears or nose was visible. But they noticed all of that second. The eyes were first.

Large, black eyes, almost like a shark. But they were not dead eyes. They swirled with color and were full of life, of hope, sadness, joy, concern, the whole range of emotion. So much, locked into just two eyes.

Tifa recovered first and nudged Cloud. "Come on, leader. Say hi."

Cloud took a breath, nodded and stepped forward, offering his hand. "Welcome to Earth. My name is Cloud. And you are…?"

The alien took his hand. "I am Grennak, chief diplomat of the Creylos. I know you quite well, Cloud Strife." He looked at the rest of the group. "As I know all of you."

Yuffie looked at the alien suspiciously. "How do you know us?"

"For that matter," Vincent added, "How do you speak our language? I doubt it's your native tongue."

Grennak shrugged. "Both questions you have a right to know the answer to. Yours first, Vincent. Every race in the Galactic Confederation has a two-way universal translator attached to their vocal cords and hearing centers of the brain, or their equivalent of them. They allow us to hear our own language while speaking yours."

"Ingenious," Nanaki commented.

Grennak nodded and continued. "As to how we know of you, that's even more simple. Detecting the upsurge of energy created by Meteor would have been easy for anyone with a one digit IQ, even from our system." His expression darkened. "Every world has seen what Meteor can do if foolishly summoned. Once we detected Meteor, we began watching your adventures the same way you observed our system." He shook his head. "Believe it or not, there were races actually gambling on how much of your planet would be left when it hit."

Yuffie raised an eyebrow. "All of a sudden I understand how a bug under a microscope feels."

Nanaki did his best to shake off a similar feeling. "Whatever system you are from, it would too far away to observe with any of our instruments. We could only see your system, not your planet's surface."

The alien nodded. "True, but we are not limited to your devices. We have scanning devices that allowed us to observe your struggle with Shinra and Sephiroth, and hear it as well. That's how we learned who you were, the names of your cities, and even witness your battles." He shook his head. "Most impressive. The race that Jenova belonged are formidable opponents, and you handled them with relative ease."

Cid stared. "Whatever it was, it sure wasn't easy!"

Grennak shrugged. "It makes little difference now. They have all been destroyed."

The sudden shift in the alien's tone and mood was obvious. It went from conversational and friendly to concerned and- Aeris thought- somewhat frightened. She looked closely at him. "How? What happened?"

Grennak turned back. "They were killed by the same race that destroyed my world. The race that has destroyed countless lives. And will destroy your own world unless we stop them."

Vincent looked at him with interest. "The Elorum, I presume."

Grennak nodded again. "The Elorum. The same butchers that murdered Jenova's race and a hundred others are now on their way to Earth."

There was a long moment of silence. Cloud found himself thinking about how after all they had gone through to save the planet, it was about to be attacked again; this time from a totally new threat, one that no one on Earth had ever faced. They had saved the planet once. Were they strong enough to do it again?

At the same time, he had suspicions about the being standing in front of him. Aside from what the aliens here would have them believe, there was no way to know if this creature was telling the truth, or if he had the same perspective on the Elorum as humans would. For all he knew, these aliens on their way might be the real good guys.

Cloud had to talk with the others. He looked at Grennak. "Can you give us a couple minutes? This is something we need to discuss."

The alien nodded. "Of course."

Cloud turned back to his friends, signaling them to move away from the alien. "So? What do you guys think?"

Vincent eyed him carefully. "I don't trust him. Unlike most people I know, he is totally unreadable."

"Not to mention he shows little emotion about the destruction of his race," Nanaki added. "Doesn't it seem likely that most races would show some trace of anger, or at the very least sadness?"

"He did say he was a diplomat," Reeve pointed out. "I knew some that seemed like they were made of ice. And they were all pretty hard to read."

"So you're saying this guy is just another diplomat?" Yuffie hissed. "Sorry. I don't buy it."

"I think I do," Aeris said quietly. "Don't ask me why, but I get the feeling we can trust him, and whoever he's brought with him."

Cloud glanced around. "What about you three?" He asked, looking at Barret, Tifa, and Cid.

Barret shook his head. "Dunno. He seems like he's on the level, but how can ya tell with a freakin' alien?"

Cid held his hands. "Don't ask me. I'm just a pilot. I fly planes, I don't read people."

Tifa turned to Aeris. "Is there anyway the planet could help us? I mean, its been around a lot longer than us; can it tell us anything about his race?"

Aeris shook her head. "I don't know. Let me ask." She closed her eyes and focused on contacting the living world beneath them.

Grennak looked very, very closely at her when she did that.

After a few minutes, Aeris opened her eyes, looking a little tired. "This planet didn't know anything about them, but there were others that did."

Vincent looked surprised. "This planet can talk to other worlds?"

She nodded. "When it needs to. The important thing is, I found out that the Creylos are telling us the truth. The Elorum are coming, and they are definitely the enemy." She motioned to the Creylos. "These are just more of their victims, and it's amazing they escaped. No one has ever survived an Elorum attack, especially not when their entire system is destroyed the way theirs was."

"Until now," Nanaki mused. He looked at Cloud. "If she is right, we must help them. If we do, they can help us."

"If being the key word," Vincent pointed out. "We still know almost nothing about this race. What if it is all just an elaborate deception?"

"I wasn't lying!" Aeris protested fiercely.

"I didn't say you were," Vincent amended quickly. "But all we have is a character reference from other worlds. How can we rely on that?"

"I don't see we have much choice," Tifa said. "I guess we can't be completely certain about them until the Elorum arrive. But until then, I say we join forces."

Cloud nodded slowly. "It seems we don't have any other choice. All the same, keep your guard up." He turned back to the alien. "Okay. We're going to fight these guys. Will you help us?"

Grennak nodded. "Yes. That is the reason we came." He closed those amazing eyes of his and turned from them. A second later, he turned back, eyes open again. "Our own world has been destroyed by these aliens, the Elorum. We will not let yours fall."

Cloud extended his hand. "In that case, Grennak, let's get to work."

Grennak took Cloud's hand and shook it.

They all knew then nothing would ever be the same again.

Somewhere, deep in the ocean of space, a ship detached itself from a huge fleet. Its engines flared to life, and it prepared to go after its target.


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