Blue and Green

Blue and Green

by Fritz Fraundorf


"142.... 143.... 144...." Cait Sith counted aloud as he idly played with a ball-and-paddle set. "145... 146..." Cait Sith's counting ceased when he missed the next hit. "Damn. I was going for a new record there."

Cait Sith hopped off his bed and looked around his cave in the Esper world, searching for something to do. It was always the same old routine every day. Espers were boring. As much as he hated to admit it, Cait Sith really preferred the human world. His crowning achievement was the time when, sent to spy on the humans, he assaulted Reeve's Cait Sith robot, demolished it, and then took its place, pretending to be under Reeve's control while really observing the humans' battle with Sephiroth. Nobody even noticed how quickly "Cait Sith no. 2" -- the real Esper Cait Sith -- had showed up at the Temple of the Ancients. That showed you how smart humans were.

But Cait Sith liked humans. Espers never did anything exciting, and, worst of all, they were hard to annoy. Cait Sith liked annoying people, especially Rufus. Rufus had a short fuse.

Cait Sith set his ball-and-paddle set down on the floor and strolled outside the cave. The Esper world was the same as always -- bleary green grass, dull gray cliffs, and little excitement. C.S. strolled through the rocky village towards the gate to the human worlds. Leaving the Esper world was, of course, strictly forbidden, but Cait made special (and entirely illegal) exceptions all the time. Bahamut never noticed.

As he turned a bend in the road, he passed Ramuh. "Hiya, gramps," Cait Sith greeted him. "Uh... how 'bout them Mariners?"

"You should be practicing your magic," Ramuh said gruffly. "You never know when you might get summoned. You kids are just spoiled. You take all this 3-D polygon nonsense for granted. Well, back I was a young 'un, I was a 16 x 16 2-D sprite, and I liked it! We were grateful for what we had back in those days. I would have wept with joy if I had more than 16 colors, let alone any of this lens flare and anti-aliasing rubbish!" Ramuh rambled on, unaware that Cait Sith had already walked halfway across the block.

"Hey! Come back here! Are you listening to me? Sheesh, kids these days. You give them a few camera angles and they think own the world."

Cait Sith ignored Ramuh's rants as he walked up to the barred steel double doors that sealed the pathway into the realm of the humans. He glanced furtively around first to make sure nobody was looking. Seeing the site deserted, he pried the doors apart. A rush of magical energy flew out and sucked Cait Sith through...

* * *

Rufus pushed the Up button on the Shinra Building elevator. He waited, still half-asleep this early in the morning, for the elevator to come. It eventually dinged and the doors opened. Rufus walked in and pressed the button for the 69th floor.

Just as the doors were about to close, a short cloaked figure came racing up and threw itself violently onto the elevator floor, clutching its chest. "They got me!" it gasped in a high-pitched voice. "They... got... me...!"

"Not again," Rufus said, recognizing who it was. "Won't you ever leave me alone?"

Cait Sith took off his cloak, stood up, and giggled. "No."

There was silence. Rufus watched the floor numbers tick by and prayed that Cait Sith would go away.

"Hey, you want to play Go Fish?" Cait Sith asked, producing a deck of cards from his cloak.

"No." Rufus folded his arms and stared at the floor counter, his back to Cait.

"Well, what are we gonna do?"

"Can't you sit still for five minutes?" Rufus asked sourly.

"Of course not," Cait Sith chuckled.

The elevator dinged as it reached the 69th floor. Rufus sprinted out of the elevator and headed for the stairs that led up to his office. Cait Sith hopped after him, singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Rufus paused at the foot of stairs and looked back at Cait. "Will you knock it off?"

"Having a bad hair day, huh?" Cait said. "Oh, wait. For you every day is bad hair day."

"All right, that's it. Nobody makes fun of my hair." Rufus snapped his fingers. "Security!"

Reno and Rude ran into the room. "Cait Sith again?" Reno said, spotting the cat.

"Hey, leave me alone, it's Take Your Esper to Work Day," Cait Sith protested, his hands on his hips.

Rude grabbed the struggling cat and threw him over his shoulder. He and Reno then turned and walked out of the room, Cait Sith humming funeral music.

Rufus sighed, shook his head, and tromped up the steps to his office. He crossed the stone-floored room to his wide, U-shaped desk. Behind the desk, a wide window looked out on the city of Midgar. Rufus sat down in his desk chair and examined the paperwork on his desk.

First was an angry letter from the Wutai Justice Department. Rufus tossed it directly in the garbage can. Next was Mayor Domino's daily death threat, demanding that he be recognized as the true hero of FF7 or Rufus would meet a painful demise. Domino had been sending these letters daily for over a year, and nothing had ever come as result of Rufus's inaction. He tossed that one too.

"Dooo beee dooo beee dooooo..." a voice sang softly. It was coming from behind Rufus. The Shinra president turned and looked behind his chair. Cait Sith was crouched down behind it, a smirk on his face.

"How did you get back up here?" Rufus demanded.

"I'm special," C.S. replied, still under the chair.

Rufus made a grab for Cait's tail. The cat Esper bolted out from his hiding place, ran across the room to the stairs, and hopped onto the bannister. Rufus jogged half-heartedly after him.

Cait Sith jumped in the elevator and pushed a random button. The elevator started to descend to the 32nd floor. While waiting, Cait ran around in circles as fast as he could. By the time the elevator doors opened, he was extremely dizzy. He took one step in what he thought was the direction of the door and fell down. "Whee," he said.

Cait Sith got to his feet and stumbled dizzily down the hall. On the sides of the wall were what looking like recording studios. This must be the Shinra Records floor, Cait thought. Never one to pass up the opportunity to harass someone, he poked open the door to one of the studios and peered inside.

There were two guys inside. One was banging some pots and pans together, and the other was playing a rusted trumpet. "What are you doing?" Cait shouted over the racket.

The pot-and-pan guy looked up. "We're making the FF Tactics soundtrack."

"That's your soundtrack?" Cait pointed at the pots and pans. "That's pathetic! I could do a better soundtrack than - hey! That's it! I'm going to start a band! Thanks, guys." Cait Sith ran excitedly out of the recording studio.

"Uh... you're welcome," the trumpet player said. "Yeah."

* * *

Cait Sith bounded through the back door of Cloud's villa in Costa Del Sol. Cloud and Cid were standing around the pool table, playing pool. Cloud was bending over the pool table, lining up a shot. Cid lounged against the wall, puffing on a cigarette. Cait Sith sidled up to Cid. "Hey, Cid. I'm starting a band. Want to be in it?"

"A band? Why the @*&$%*$&% would I want to be in a band? #&$%$, man, you've got to be crazy."

"Sorry I asked," Cait Sith retorted. He strode by Cid and stormed up the steps. On the way upstairs, he bumped into Yuffie. "Hey, Yuffie, want to be in - er, never mind. We'd probably get banned if we had you in our band. Hey, banned, band; that was pretty cool. Get it? Banned - band?"

"Aww, you're so mean," Yuffie pouted, ignoring Cait's feeble attempts at humor. "Besides, I already have my own band." Yuffie pushed Cait Sith aside and ran off down the stairs.

Cait Sith walked upstairs. Vincent was standing in a corner, doing absolutely nothing. "Hey, Vincent, want to be in my band?"

There was a pause. "" Vincent said.

Cait Sith waved his hand. "Forget it." He hopped into the next room, where he found Red XIII and Hanpan the wind rat seated at a table. They were attempting to play Balderdash, but neither of them could find any words the other didn't know.

"Stenopaic?" Red XIII asked hopefully.

"Having a small slit or opening," Hanpan said quickly.

Hearing Cait Sith's footsteps, the pair stopped and looked up at him expectantly. "Hey, guys, I'm starting a band," C.S. said. "You wanna be in it?"

"You?" Hanpan stared up at Cait Sith. "You're starting a band?"

"Are you insulting me?" Cait Sith demanded. "I'm pretty good at Bust a Move, you know."

"Oh, well, that's different then," Hanpan said sarcastically. "Good luck. If you get a band started, I'll be sure to come and laugh at you."

"Thanks for the support," C.S. said dryly. He turned to leave.

"No, wait!" Hanpan called. "I think Mog was going to start a band a while back, but it never got off the ground. Maybe he'd want to team up with you."

Cait Sith paused and looked back over his shoulder. "Really?" After Hanpan's previous barrage of less-than-flattering comments, he wasn't so sure that the wind rat was telling the truth.

"Yes, really," Hanpan sighed. He rolled his tiny eyes. "Oh, all right. I'll take you there. You'll probably get lost without me."

* * *

Cait Sith wandered through the mines of Narshe, with Hanpan perched on his shoulder. Cait knew that Hanpan was going to bite him any minute now, but so far the wind rat had remained relatively civil while giving directions, albeit a bit curt. "Left," Hanpan said.

Cait Sith turned left and proceeded down another rocky passageway. He shivered. It was cold in the mines, and he was only wearing his short red cape. A wooden door had been set into the wall at the end of the passage. It was old and starting to rot. Cait pushed it open and stepped through.

He knew he had stepped into the Moogle caves, because the music had changed to Mog's theme. Cait pushed his way through the hordes of Moogles that seemed to fill every available inch of the cave. Cries of "Kupo!" echoed through the cave, accompanied by a lone "Kupoppo!" and an "Uhhhhhh...." from Umaro.

Cait stepped over two Moogles playing marbles to reach the one that had said "Kupoppo". "Hey, Mog. Remember me? Cait Sith?"

"Hellokupo!" Mog greeted him.

"Hanpan said you were trying to start a band once," Cait Sith said with a nod towards the rat perched on his shoulder.

"Oh, yeah, I was," Mog said. "But that was a couple months ago. The only person I could get to join was Neko the cat, kupo. So I gave up."

"Well, I'm starting my own band," Cait Sith said. "You want in?"

Mog shrugged. "Why not, kupo?" He turned to Umaro, who was crouched on a rock beside him. "Umaro, I'm leaving to join a band. Stay here 'til I get back. Got that? Stay here."

Umaro stared blankly at his Moogle companion. "Uhhhhh.... you want fries with that?"

"Oh, you're pathetic," Mog said. "Let's go, kupo."

Hanpan pointed up in the air. "Look out!" he shouted urgently. "Falling asterisk!"

* * *

Cait Sith, Hanpan, and Mog entered Neko's shop near Potos Village. A bipedal purple cat wearing green overalls ran to greet them. "Customers?" Neko purred. "Great! What can I do for you guys? Items? Weapons? Gas, food, lodging? If you don't come see me today, I can't save you any money!" Neko spoke several sentences in about the time it took for a normal person to utter a single word.

"Have you considered going into business as a used car salesman?" Cait Sith asked.

"Cars?" Neko looked at him. "I do sell used Chocobos. You in the market for a used Chocobo? I've got some real beauties. Step right this way." Neko motioned towards a door.

C.S. reached onto his head and adjusted the ice pack he was wearing as a result of being hit by an asterisk. "Or you could do Micro Machines commercials," he added thoughtfully.

"Calm down, kupo, we're not here to buy anything," Mog said.

Neko's face fell. "You're not?" he said, his speech instantly slowing down to a normal speed.

"You remember when we tried to start the band a couple months back?" Mog asked. "Cait Sith over there is starting his own band, so I joined it. You interested too?"

"I'm trying to become famous," Cait Sith explained. "If I hit the big time maybe they'll give me a cameo in Brave Fencer Mushashiden."

Neko considered the situation. "Are we going to make any money on this?"

Cait Sith turned to Hanpan, who had left Cait's shoulder and was hovering in the air. "Doesn't he remind you of Yuffie?" he asked.

"Well, he isn't nearly as ugly and he is a naturally-occuring species," Hanpan said.

Mog was continuing the discussion with Neko. "If we get popular enough, we might get big bucks," he said. "Come on, kupo."

Cait Sith adjusted his ice pack again. "You know, being hit by an asterisk really smarts," he muttered.

"I'll take it on good faith that we will make money on this," Neko said. "Count me in."

Hanpan looked at the trio. "What is this, the cute animal character band?"

Cait Sith whirled to look at him. An excited grin crossed his face. "Yeah! That's it! Let's call ourselves the Cute Animal Characters! ....are you sure you don't want to join the band?"

Hanpan held his hands out to the side of his body and spun slowly around in the air. "Do I look like I could play an instrument?"

Cait Sith looked at the foot-tall wind rat, then nodded in agreement. "Yeah, most of your body mass seems to have gone to your ego."

"For somebody who wants me to join his band, you're sure not being very polite about it."

"Sorry," Cait Sith said completely insincerely. From the smirk on his face, it was obvious what his true feelings were. "Er... you could be our manager."

Hanpan started ticking off points on his fingers and talking under his breath. He seemed to be evaluating the proposition. "Oh, what the heck," he said, throwing his hands up. "I don't have anything better to do. I'm in."

"Speaking of instruments, what kind of instruments do we have?" Mog asked.

Cait Sith cringed. "Er..." He hadn't considered instruments. That was just a minor detail.

Neko raised a paw. "I'll take care of that. Hang on." Neko put his hands on his shop counter, swung his legs and torso over, then ran up the stairs. He returned in a few seconds toting a large orange bag. Neko climbed back over the counter with the bag and set it down on the floor. He loosened a rope tying the bag shut and starting rummaging around inside.

Neko started tossing objects out the bag: a weedwhacker, a toilet, a Punxsutawney Phil trading card, a box of Oreos, some kelp, and finally two guitars and a drum set. "I knew those were in here somewhere," Neko said.

"You keep all that stuff in your bag?" Hanpan asked.

Neko shrugged as if this was no big deal. "Oh yeah." He reached into the bag and produced a small wooden monkey with a crank in its back. "Look, here's a clockwork monkey."

"What would you ever want kelp for?"

"Hey, you never know when it might come in handy," Neko said. "Be prepared, that's my motto. Actually, 'caveat emptor' is my motto, but you know what I mean."

Cait Sith stared at the selection of instruments. "Can I have a sackbutt?" he asked hopefully.

"What is a sackbutt anyway, kupo?" Mog said.

Cait Sith shrugged. "I don't have a clue; I just like the word. Sackbutt sackbutt sackbutt sackbutt."

Hanpan cleared his throat. "Sackbutt (n). A medieval wind instrument similar to a trombone."

"Oh, shut up," Cait Sith said. "Sackbutt sackbutt sackbutt."

"I got dibs on the drums," Neko cut in.

"Well, I guess we've got the guitars then," Cait Sith said to Mog. The cat Esper picked up one of the guitars and gave it a few experiments strums. "Wow, this is great. My very own garage band."

"Er... you're an Esper, right?" Hanpan said. "Since when do Espers have garages?"

"Okay, we're a cave band," Cait Sith said. "Big whoop. No, wait, I've got a better idea." He grabbed Mog's hand and ran out the door, towing Mog behind him. "Follow me!" Hanpan and Neko looked at each other, shrugged, then jogged after him.

* * *

Cloud strummed his fingers on the table and watched the streets for any sign of customers. His newly-acquired villa in Costa Del Sol had been filled with a lot of junk from its previous ownership by President Shinra, so he was holding a garage sale to get rid of it all. So far, though, he hadn't had much in the way of business.

Cloud was just about to take down the big sign reading "GARAGE SALE" when some customers arrived. Or at least he thought they were customers. Then Cait Sith came flying around the corner -- almost literally -- and skidded to a stop in the driveway. "How much are you asking?" he asked, leaning eagerly across the table.

Cloud looked at Cait and the rest of the Cute Animal Characters, not exactly trusting them. "How much am I asking for what?"

Cait Sith gestured towards the villa. "For the garage, stupid," he said.

"The garage?" Cloud repeated. His brow furrowed in confusion. "I'm not selling my garage."

Cait Sith's temper changed instantly and he become quite irate. He pointed at the sign advertising the sale. "It says right there, GARAGE... SALE. That's false advertising, that is. I'm making a citizen's arrest!"

"You can't do that!" Cloud protested.

"Oh yeah?" Cait snapped. "Why not?"

Neko reached into his bag and pulled a pair of toy handcuffs. "Here," he said, handing them to Cait Sith. Cait slapped them around Cloud's wrists and snapped them shut.

"Let go of me!" Cloud said, trying to wriggle out of the handcuffs.

"I don't think so," Cait Sith said. "You guys stay here and watch him. I'm going to go call the police." Leaving his friends behind, he ran off in search of a phone booth. He found one in front of the grocery store in downtown Costa Del Sol. Cait Sith darted into the phone booth, but then realized he had no money.

Cait Sith looked around the grocery store parking lot and spotted a vending machine for the Corel Times. He slid his small fingers up into the change slot and reached around for a coin.

There was a puff of smoke behind him. "You should be ashamed of yourself," Ramuh said. "Breaking into a newspaper box. How low are you going to get? It's Espers like you who are making the gaming industry the way it is. Back when I was a young 'un, we had RESPECT for property and something called morals. Morals, y'hear?"

Cait Sith looked around. Everybody in the parking lot was watching him. "Go away," Cait Sith hissed to Ramuh.

"We wouldn't break into a newspaper box for pocket change! In my day, we were just glad to have pockets in the first place, change or no change!" With those final words, Ramuh disappeared in another puff of smoke

Cait Sith finally managed to extract a quarter from the coin slot. He stood up and glanced nervously at the crowds clustered around him. A drop of sweat trickled down his forehead. "Heh, heh... don't mind me. Uh, I'm the newspaper box repairman. Yeah, that's it. The repairman. Heh." He nervously surveyed the faces in the crowd. His eyes stopped on a man whose badge identified him as the store manager. Another drop of sweat rolled down his face.

The manager returned C.S.'s stare. "Give me twenty pushups," he grunted.


"You heard me. Gimme twenty pushups."

Cait Sith glanced around the crowd again. Seeing no other alternative, he got down to his knees and did twenty pushups under the stare of the store manager. The manager appeared satisfied and walked away to attend to other business.

Cait Sith, got to his feet, and pushed through the crowd and hurried back to the phone booth. He popped the quarter in and dialed 911. "Hello? Cait Sith, Esquire, speaking. What do you 911 people do between calls, anyway?"

There was some angry and garbled shouting from the other end. "Sorry, I was just wondering. Get me the police."

Meanwhile, back at the villa, Neko and Mog were attempting to restrain Cloud. Hanpan hovered above Cloud's face, his hands covering Cloud's mouth. Cloud was trying to wriggle out of their grasp and remove the toy handcuffs that C.S. had slappd on him. He pushed Hanpan away from his face. "Stop this nonsense!" he shouted.

"I don't think so," Mog said sternly. "We're taking a bite out of crime."

"I'm not a criminal, you -" Cloud left the sentence hanging and turned towards the villa. "HELP!" Hanpan flew under the table and started tickling Cloud's feet.

The front door of the villa flew open and Vincent and Yuffie ran out. "What's going on here?" Vincent asked.

"Somebody get these stupid animals away from me!" Cloud shouted, trying to fend off Hanpan while also pushing Mog away.

"Hey, there's nothing in here," Yuffie said, peering into the cash box.

Vincent drew his gun from inside his cloak and pointed it threateningly at Neko. He said nothing, and consequently nobody paid him any attention.

"Officer, did you see that?" a high-pitched voice said. "He's carrying a concealed weapon!"

Mog turned towards the source of the voice. A police car pulled up with Cait Sith pointing out of the window at Vincent. C.S. dived through the window and landed on the villa driveway. Two police officers got out of the car by more conventional means.

One of the officers flashed a badge in the general direction of the chaos. "Costa Del Sol police," he said.

"I don't see any gambling going on here," the other officer said, puzzled.

"Right there, officer, he's the leader!" Cait Sith said, pointing at Cloud. Cloud ducked under the table to avoid Mog and Neko.

The officer ducked down to talk to Cloud. "Is this your house?"

"Yes! Now get these maniacs out of here!"

The officer produced a search warrant and waved it in Cloud's face. "First I'd like to investigate this alleged marijuana-growing operation in your basement."

"Just what did you tell those guys?" Hanpan asked Cait Sith. C.S. grinned in response.

"How did you find out about that?" Yuffie said indignantly.

"Fine, go ahead and search the damn house!" Cloud said. "Now make these twits leave me alone!"

"We're making a citizen's arrest, sir," Neko explained, trying to sound reasonable.

"Leave him alone," the other police officer advised. "We're in control of the situation now." Somewhat regretfully, Neko and Mog backed away from Cloud.

The police officer who had shown the search warrant to Cloud had already gone into the house. Hanpan floated over next to Cait Sith's ear. "Now what do we do?" he whispered. "As soon as that guy gets back out, we're toast."

Cait Sith looked around and spotted the police car. The doors had been left open, and the keys were still in the ignition. "Let's get out of here!" He ran for the car and jumped through the door with Hanpan flying after him.

"Hey!" the police officer said, running to stop them. Mog kicked him in the groin, then he and Neko jumped in the back seat, while the police officer watched in astonishment.

Cait Sith slammed the door close and turned the ignition. "Hey, anybody know how to work the lights?" Hanpan pointed at a lever in response. C.S. flipped it and the lights start flashing with accompanying siren. "Wheee!" he chuckled.

As the police officer ran towards the car, Mog had the presence of mind to lock the doors. The officer started pounding on the car windows and yelling incoherently. "Now what do I do?" he asked Hanpan.

"Step on the gas," Hanpan said.

The police officer raised a crowbar. "Step on the gas," Cait Sith repeated, slamming the gas down. The car wheels screeched as the vehicle took off at 50 miles per hour, leaving the police officer in a cloud of exhaust. Unable to stop his swing, the police officer followed through on his smashing motion with the crowbar and struck the pavement. The last the Cute Animal Characters saw of him, he was vibrating violently.

Hanpan covered his eyes as the car barreled down the streets of Costa Del Sol. "Step on the brakes!" he yelled.

"Step on the brakes," Cait Sith repeated, stepping on the brakes.

The car slowed down to a more normal speed. The road ahead was relatively vacant, despite the presence of a four-way intersection. "Check and turn the signals to the right," Hanpan instructed.

"Check and turn the signals to the right," Cait Sith repeated, doing so.

"Step on the gas, now turn to the right."

"Step on the gas, now turn to the right." Cait Sith hit the gas too hard and the car speeded up greatly, causing him to miss the turn. The car turned into a lawn and knocked over a couple of garbage cans. A dog started barking violently.

Getting into the whole spirit of things, Cait Sith turned on the police radio. "Come in, Sierra Oscar! Come in, Sierra Oscar!" he said into it.

"Look out!" Hanpan cried urgently.

"Look out!" Cait Sith repeated automatically. Then he did a double-take and looked up. The car was rolling directly towards a lamppost. He slammed the steering wheel to the side, but it was too late. The police car smashed into the lamppost, caving the front of the car in. The front license plate wobbled and fell off.

The police officers jogged up to the car. The one with the crowbar still looked a little dazed, but nevertheless smashed in the driver's side window. He leaned his head through to talk to Cait Sith. "You're under arrest," he said. "Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law."

Unable to resist the opportunity, Cait Sith retorted, "You're a big fat smelly dumb-dumb head!"

Cloud sauntered up with his sword slung across his back. He appeared as casual as always as he approached the two police officers. "I think there's been a misunderstanding."

"A misunderstanding?" one of the officers said indignantly. "You call this a misunderstanding, kid?"

"There seems to be a problem involving my garage sale. I think Cait Sith -" Cloud jerked a thumb towards the cat. "- thought I meant I was selling my garage."

"And what does that have to do with this stuff about illegal gambling and marijuana growing and our car being stolen and this talking cat calling me a smelly dumb-dumb head?" The officer was growing increasingly irate, and his face was turning red.

"Hold on, buddy, don't go postal," Mog said from inside the car.

"Why don't you just go grab some donuts and I'll deal with this?" Cloud volunteered.

Cait Sith poked his head out the window to face the officers. "Don't mess with him, he's level 99," he squeaked.

The two police officers looked at each other. Although they said nothing, they were both thinking the same thing. They both did just want to get out of here and forget the whole mess, but that would be neglecting duty... technically speaking. One of the officers arrived at a mental compromise. "I'll just give you a citation, little fella'."

The officer reached into his pocket, produced a pad of paper and a pen, and scribbled something down. He tore the sheet off the pad and handed it to Cait Sith.

Cait Sith stared at the paper, then held it up closer to his face. When that failed to produce anything intelligible, he held it out at arm's length. It still looked like gibberish. "Are you training to become a doctor?" he asked the officer.

Hanpan tore the citation out of Cait Sith's hands and peered at it. The piece of paper was taller than he was. "Called officer a big fat smelly dumb-dumb head," he read. "Cited for disorderly conduct."

"I take it you want the car back?" Neko asked.

"Yes," the other officer said sternly. Regretfully, the four band members got out of the car and stood aside. The police officers climbed in and drove off.

"What was all this about?" Cloud asked when the police had left.

"We want to buy your garage," Neko explained. "For our band."

"You went to all this just to use my garage?"


"Look, you can just go ahead and use the garage! Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

* * *

Mog and Neko backed into the garage, carrying an old sofa that Mog had bought years ago at a government seizure auction. They stumbled across the floor of the garage and set it down as soon as they could.

Cait Sith was sitting on the floor of a garage, making a big poster that read "CUTE ANIMAL CHARACTERS". Cloud's garage had dark wooden walls and ceiling, and a smooth cement floor. Near the back of the garage, two wooden beams rose out of the floor and supported the ceiling. Cloud's car was parked in the garage, but there was still plenty of room for the band.

Neko picked up his bag from the corner to retrive the group's instruments. He reached inside and tossed out a salmon puppet, a pair of fuzzy dice, a protractor, a neon green bathrobe, and a balloon woodchuck before he found the guitars and drum set.

Neko placed his drum set towards the rear of the garage, between the two beams. He left the two guitars sitting on the floor in front of the drums. Neko then procured a pair of large speakers and two microphones from his bag and started wiring them.

Hanpan flew to the couch and perched on the back. "So, are you guys going to write our music or are we getting somebody else to do it?"

The three band members looked up at Hanpan. Nobody said anything. After several seconds, Mog said, "Er, I guess we'd better get somebody else."

"How about Edward?" Cait Sith suggested. "You know, the bard?"

"Edward?" Mog repeated. "Well..."

"Maybe he's a wimp, but he is a bard. Bards, music, they go together, you know?"

Somebody knocked on the door of the garage. Mog pushed a button on the wall and the door opened up. Standing in the light from outside was a bipedal mole, clad in a turban and a green tunic. It was Mogu from Breath of Fire. "Hi, I heard you guys are starting a band."

Cait Sith stood up and held up his poster for Mogu to see. "That's right; we're the Cute Animal Characters."

"I'm a cute animal character," Mogu said. "Can I join your band?"

"Can you play?" Hanpan asked guardedly.

Mogu reached into a pocket in his tunic and took out a kazoo. With a confident grin, he popped the kazoo in his mouth and proceeded to play The Ride of the Valkyries. Without warning, he hit the front part of the kazoo with his free hand, flipping it into the air. He caught the kazoo in his mouth and resumed playing right where he had left off.

"Wooowwwww, he's good, man," Neko said.

Mogu took the kazoo out of his mouth and smiled. "Well? What do you think?"

"You're in," Hanpan said.

"All right!" Mogu stepped into the garage and threw himself down on the sofa.

"Hey, do you write music?" Neko asked. The purple cat was still wiring the speakers and microphones.

"No, but I know somebody who does," Mogu said. "Jean the frog. You know him?"

Cait Sith glanced around at the other band members. Their blank faces indicated they did not. "Nope. Never heard of him."

"Breath of Fire 2. He's the prince of SimaFort. He's a bad fighter and he's a bit on the stupid side, but I know he does write songs."

"Okay, I'll go give him and Edward a call," Cait Sith said.

* * *

Jean was a chubby green frog with a rather out-of-it expression on his face that indicated his mind was usually elsewhere. He was wearing a frilly blue-and-white tunic that looked like something out of an early medieval court. Edward was, well, Edward the bard. Upon their arrival, they had immediately got to work writing the Cute Animal Characters' first songs.

While the pair was writing songs, the actual band decided to warm up. Cait Sith picked up his guitar and gave it a few strums. The guitar was totally out of tune, but Cait's lack of anything remotely resembling musical talent prevented him from recognizing this. He played some random notes in a completely unmusical fashion.

Neko walked behind his drums, cleared his throat for no real reason, and started banging on the drums totally out of sync with Cait Sith's guitar. Mog joined in on his guitar, adding to the cacophony. Mogu stood up straight, cracked his knuckles, took his kazoo out of his pocket, and began The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.

A rhythmic pounding noise started outside the garage. Neko paused in his drumming for a moment, concentrated, and then resumed, drumming in time to the pounding.

"Kick, punch, it's all in the mind," Cait Sith yelled. He continued to play his guitar randomly.

Hanpan floated over to the cat. "Er, I don't mean to be rude, but have you ever played a guitar before?"

"Air guitar," Cait Sith shrugged. He played an awful chord that sounded like nails scraping down a blackboard.

The pounding noise continued outside. "What is that sound?" Mog wondered. He dropped his guitar and waddled outside. Cid, with a cigarette clenched in his mouth, was standing on a ladder to the left side of the garage, nailing soundproof tiling to the side of the garage.

Mog realized what Cid was doing. "Oh, come on, we're not that bad, kupo," he said.

Cid looked down at him. "Yes you are," he said. "All that @*$&%*$% racket is givin' me the jitters."

"Well, we're new," Mog replied. "Give us time."

"You're a lost cause," Cid said. "Even Shera could play better than that."

"Hey, Mog, get in here!" Hanpan shouted from inside the garage. Mog shrugged and scurried back into the garage. Jean and Edward were discussing something with the rest of the band. Mog walked over to join them.

Neko shoved some paper in his face, which was at about Neko's arm level. "Here's our first song," Neko said. "It's called 'Blue and Green'."

Mog scanned the lyrics. They would not be too hard to remember. "Anybody else need these?" Mogu raised his hand, so Mog handed him the lyrics.

The Cute Animal Characters walked over to their instruments: Cait Sith and Mog in the front with their guitars, and Neko behind them with his drums. The lanky purple cat looked out of place among the other short members of the band. Mogu stood between the guitarists and Neko, the band's first song perched on a music stand in front of him. Hanpan perched on the sofa to watch this first performance.

"Okay, on the count of three," Hanpan said. "Go!"

Cait Sith started playing, but stopped when Hanpan shoute, "I said 'go', not 3. Let's try again, okay? On the count of three. 1.... 2.... 3!"

The band launched into a raucous meledy that did not in any way resemble Edward and Jean's music -- except for Mogu, who carefully studied the music as he played. His kazoo was completely drowned out by the cacophony surrounding him. Outside, a dog started howling. After a short beginning, they got to the lyrics, and Cait Sith began to sing.

Blue, blue, blue, green!
Blue, blue, blue, red!
Blue, blue, blue, green!
Blue, blue, blue, red!

Outside, a dog started howling. The door from the garage into the villa was nudged open and Red XIII peered through. "Some of us are trying to visually assimilate information, you know."

"In public?" Mog yelled over the noise.

"Er... he means he's reading," Hanpan yelled.

Red XIII turned and padded back inside the villa. The door slammed shut. The band stopped playing and looked at each other with slightly guilty expressions. "I can tell when we're not wanted," Neko said bitterly. "Especially when some people are trying to visually assimilate information."

Cait Sith shrugged and his normal demeanor -- hyper -- returned. "Let's go over to Shinra Music and see if we can get signed."

"Already?" Mogu asked. "But we just started practicing today!"

Cait Sith threw himself down on the sofa and leaned back, a confident grin on his face. "Hey, we've got natural talent," Cait Sith said with absolutely no indication that he was at all insincere.

Hanpan considered the idea. It was completely impossible for them to get signed at this level of quality (or lack thereof), but what harm would it do to try? "Let's give it a shot," he said.

* * *

The Cute Animal Characters stepped nervously into a recording studio on the 32nd floor of the Shinra Building. This was the big moment, or at least Cait Sith thought it was.

The recording studio was a spartan affair, with dark gray walls and little decoration. Reeve, who was serving as interim director of the Shinra Records division after the previous director met an untimely death in an incident involving a duck and a bottle rocket, stood expectantly on the far side of the room.

The group took their places at their instruments. "Ready?" Cait Sith asked tensely. He looked back at the rest of the group. They all nodded their agreement.

The Cute Animal Characters launched into another jarring mix of out-of-tune guitars, unrhythmic drum beats, and a masterful kazoo that was sadly overwhelmed by the rest of the instruments.

Blue, blue, blue, green!
Blue, blue, blue, red!
Blue, blue, blue, green!
Blue, blue, blue, red!

After about a half a minute of "Blue and Green", the door to the recording studio creaked open. A Shinra employee poked her head through. "Er... is that the fire alarm?"

"Naw, it's this here alleged band," Reeve shouted back.

"We haven't gotten to the good part yet!" Cait Sith explained, then launched into the next verse.

Blue, blue, blue, green!
Blue, blue, blue, red!
Blue, blue, blue, green!
Blue, blue, blue... and YELLOW!

The Cute Animal Characters concluded their song with a screeching guitar riff that shattered windows around the floor. They looked anxiously at Reeve, who did not appear very enthusiastic. "Y'all call that a band? That ain't music. Git!"

"Well, uh, I guess we'll be leaving then," Neko said. He hurriedly backed out of the room, pulling his drum set along. He paused and turned the drums to fit them through the door, then left.

Cait Sith scratched his head. "Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. But he probably likes country music, so I guess he just doesn't have any taste."

Mogu dried off his kazoo with the sleeve of his tunic. "I don't know what we did wrong."

"It's not the end," Hanpan said. "There's other big, evil, companies out there."


"Sebec in Persona. And Umbrella."

* * *

The next day, the Cute Animal Characters stood in a recording studio in the Sebec Building in Lunarvale, ready for a second audition. This time, they were going to play a brand new song written by Jean and Edward.

"Go ahead," the recruiting agent said.

The band began playing a slightly slower song than "Blue and Green". Neko pounded the drums as hard as he could, and Cait Sith and Mog strummed their guitars out of synch with each other. Mogu blew on his kazoo until he thought his lungs would explode, but he could still not be heard over the racket the others were making.

Bonobos are pygmy chimps
Don't stuff 'em in blimps

Cait Sith and Mog had gotten as far as those two lines when the agent rose to his feet, pointed at the door, and bellowed "OUT!"

The band stopped.

"I should have you arrested for impersonating musicians!" the recruiter raged. "That... was... total... crap! Get out of here! NOW!"

The Cute Animal Characters tore out of the room. Mog forgot his guitar and ducked back in as fast as he could to retrieve it. "Things just aren't going well, are they?" Neko sighed.

"Kupo," Mog said sadly.

"Let's give Umbrella a shot," Hanpan said. "We've still got that song we haven't played yet."

* * *

A few hours later, the Cute Animal Characters were set up to play once again, this time for Umbrella. It was starting to become a routine. Hanpan would contact the company, hype their band, and line up an audition. The band would wait around in the lobby until they got a chance to play, then they went to the recording studio and were promptly thrown out of the building. They hoped to avoid that last part this time.

"Third try's the charm," Cait Sith said quietly as they waited for the signal to begin.

"Hit it."

The Cute Animal Characters began playing their third song, a fast tune (using the word "tune" loosely) that actually allowed Mogu's kazoo feats to be heard for once.

We wanted a new floor
Didn't want one that's dumb
We went to the store
And picked out marmot linoleum

"Stop!" the recruiter shouted. After a moment's hesitation, the band paused in mid-beat. "You phonies get out of here. I want to hear the kazoo guy."

Cait Sith, Neko, and Mog paused and look at each other for reassurance. They had not expected this. Seeing no point in arguing with the guy -- and not even sure exactly what was going on -- they took their instruments and left. Hanpan stayed behind.

The trio of ejected musicians sat down on side of the hall and waited silently. Inside, they could hear Mogu playing In the Hall of the Mountain King on his kazoo. After about a minute, Neko spoke up. "Hey, I have a crossword puzzle I was working on; you want to help me out?"

"Sure," Mog shrugged.

Neko started rooting around in his bag for the puzzle. He tossed out a huge ball of string, a live chicken, five Aces of Spades, an inflatable teepee, and a whoopie cushion before finally locating a folded-up newspaper. The chicken ran off squawking. In the recording studio, Mogu launched into Louie Louie.

Neko examined the puzzle. "Okay, what's a five-letter word for a 'foul smell'?"

Cait Sith sat on the whoopie cushion and giggled. "Odor?" he suggested. "No, that's four letters."

"Reeks?" Mog said.

"Nah, it has to be a noun," Neko said, studying the puzzle. "And the second letter is 'd'."

Cait Sith picked up the five Aces of Spades and dealt them out in front of Mog. "I've got five of a kind. Let's see you beat that."

Just then, the door to the recording studio opened and Mogu strode out at a jaunty pace. Hanpan was perched on his shoulder, a smug expression plastered on his face. "Well?" Mog asked. "What happened, kupo?"

Mogu grinned. "He thought I was great. I got signed."

"Yahoo!" Cait Sith exclaimed, jumping up and doing a little dance that resembled Barney with fleas. "We made it!"

"No," Mogu corrected. "I made it."

Cait Sith stopped and raised a finger to his cheek. "You mean..?"

"I'm sorry," Mogu apologized. "But I'm quitting the band."

Neko stood up abruptly. "But we need you!" he pleaded. "You're good!"

"Look, I know you guys are having a tough time, but I can't do anything to help you. I'm better off on my own."

Hanpan stood up to a full ten inches. "It's not the end of the world, you know," he said. "We can find someone else."

Cait Sith sighed as he sat down. He idly uncoiled the ball of string from Neko's bag. "Yeah. I suppose you're right."

* * *

"Boy, we really aren't doing that good, are we?" Cait Sith said. He was lying on his back on the sofa in Cloud's garage. The other band members also lounged around, suffering from a similar lack of enthusiasm. Not only had they failed three auditions, they had lost their best musician as well.

"It's gotta be the songs," Mog spoke up.

"What?" Neko said. He was standing behind his drums, resting his head in his hands and his elbows on the drums.

"It's our songs. That's what's wrong, kupo. Our songs are terrible."

Cait Sith sat up. "It's all Edward and Jean's fault!" he declared. That was all it took to re-energize Cait, and with him the rest of the band.

"Let's fire them!" Neko said, getting into the spirit of things. Then he paused.

"I'll handle this," Hanpan said.

"Kupo, don't be too hard on them," Mog cautioned the wind rat.

"I won't," Hanpan said. "I'll make it quick and painless."

Cait Sith turned to Neko. "Did you ever get that five-letter word for a foul smell?"

"No, I didn't. Hey, Hanpan!" he shouted. "You're smart. What's a five-letter word for a foul smell, second letter is 'd'?"

Hanpan paused on his way to the door into the villa and gave Neko a steely gaze. "There aren't any," he said coldly. He then flew up to the doorknob, wrapped both his arms around, and yanked it open with all his might. Hanpan leaned through the open door. "EDWARD, JEAN, GET IN HERE!" he shouted.

"While we're on the subject of words, do any of you happen to know what wassailing means?" Cait Sith asked.

"I do, but I'm not telling," Hanpan said.

Edward and Jean appeared in the doorway with slightly guilty expressions. They didn't know what was going on, but Hanpan was clearly not happy. The wind rat perched on the edge of Neko's drums, crossed his tiny arms, and gave the pair a hard stare.

"Your songs suck," he said succinctly. "You're fired."

"But before you go, do you guys know a five-letter word for a foul smell?" Neko asked.

Jean's eyes started to water. "But... but... they were such good songs," he protested. "They came right from my soul."

Cait Sith turned to Mog. "I really don't think I want to see his soul," he whispered.

"And I just came up with a new song," Jean continued. "All about Costa Del Sol. It goes 'Sand, sand, sand, this is Costa Del Sol's song.'"

"We did the best we could," Edward interrupted hastily. "I thought they were pretty good, really. They had a lot of subtle contexts.

Hanpan picked up one of the songs and stared at it depreciatingly. "Oh, really. Where are the subtle contexts in 'Blue, blue, blue, green!'?"

Jean squinted in concentration. His right hand came up to cover his fat chin. "Er... behind the door?" he said.

Edward turned to Jean. "We could always start our own band."

"Yes, that's it," Jean agreed happily. He nodded his head loosely, looking as if his head was not attached to his body. "We'll start our own band."

Edward started towards the garage door. "Let's go. We've got to get home... and fast!" The pair power-walked out of the garage.

Neko had been examining the crossword during the events. "Wait a second, it's four letters. My bad."

"Then it is 'odor,'" Cait Sith said smugly. "I was right."

Mog dusted off his hands in a symbolic gesture. "Well, we've got that taken care of," he squeaked. "Now what are we up to? We're still not going to get signed."

Cait Sith started pacing the garage. The wheels in his mind began to turn and thoughts raced through his little furry head. "I've got a plan. Chocobalooza is coming up next month. If we can win there, somebody's bound to sign us." Chocobalooza was an annual music contest held at the Gold Saucer. Winning at Chocobalooza would guarantee a band instant fame... but there was tough competition.

"Step one is just to get invited," Neko said. "And how could we possibly do that?"

Cait Sith stopped pacing, whirled, and pointed upwards. "I know! We gotta believe!"

"We can 'believe' all we want, but that's not going to get us an invitation," Hanpan said. "We need to attract attention to ourselves somehow."

Mog raised a hand to his round nose to think. "If we die, that usually makes headlines."

"Are you volunteering?" Neko asked.

"Er... we could draw straws. Kupo."

"How 'bout Spin the Bottle?" Cait Sith suggested.

"Don't be ridiculous," Hanpan said.

"You're just scared."

"Here's a better idea," Neko said. "Let's do something controversial."

"Controversial?" Mog repeated.

"Yeah. Write some controversial songs with like religious themes or something, and then say we're not going to release them, but then 'reverse' our decision. Just to attract attention, y'know."

The three gave him flat stares that suggested they did not think too highly of his idea. Neko surveyed their faces and saw he was fighting a losing battles. "Well, er, it worked for Xenogears..." he said hesistantly.

Hanpan's expression shifted. "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

Cait Sith gazed up at the rat, who was still sitting on the drums. "I think so, Hanpan, but why would Gilgamesh want the potato chips?"

* * *

Fei regarded the crew of animals with puzzlement. "Let me get this straight. You want me to write songs for your band?"

"You guessed 'er, Chester," Cait Sith said.

Fei spread his hands to the side. "But I'm terrible at music!"

"That's okay," Neko said. "Just write something controversial. With religious themes."

"And put in lots of swearing too," Mog suggested.

"If we wanted swearing, we could just get Cid to write that," Cait Sith disagreed.

"Just, like, it make it offensive, okay?" Neko said.

Fei sighed. "All right. I'll try."

* * *

A few days later, the band gathered once again in Cloud's garage to read the song that Fei had just sent Cait Sith. The cat Esper eagerly tore open the envelope and took out the song lyrics. He read them aloud.

"This song has religious themes
I wrote it while standing under a beam
It also has lots of swearing
But don't think I'm not caring
I don't like religion one bit
I think religion is a piece -"

Cait Sith lowered the lyrics in disgust. "These are terrible! 'I wrote it while standing under a beam'? We'd get laughed right off the stage at Chocobalooza!"

"Okay, maybe that wasn't the greatest idea," Hanpan admitted. "I do make mistakes occasionally."

"So where are we gonna get some lyrics?" Cait Sith said.

"Kupo! Why can't we just write them ourselves?" Mog replied. "I'm sure we could do better than 'Blue, blue, blue, green!'"

"Yeah, why not?" Cait Sith agreed. "How 'bout it, Hanpan?"

Hanpan shrugged. "It's your band. But what about getting a replacemnet for Mogu? We really need a fourth member."

Neko waved his hands towards the door. "Hey, if anybody comes in here, we'll sign 'em up."

"Who do we know that can sing?" Cait Sith scratched his head and tried to concentrate.

"Celes?" Mog suggested. "She was in the opera once. Granted, it was on accident but -"

"She might be cute, but she's not an animal," Cait Sith said. "We're looking for cute animal characters, remember?"

"Actually, Cait, humans are animals, despite what they might like to believe," Hanpan said loftily.

"Oh, shut up, Genius Boy," Cait Sith said.

"Just because I'm above your intelligence level doesn't mean you have to insult me. I was going to offer a suggestion, but now I'm not so sure."

"What it is?" Neko demanded.

Hanpan sighed and relented. "Why wait for people to come here? Let's hold auditions to pick somebody."

* * *

Cait Sith checked his watch. 9:50. In ten more minutes they would start the auditions to pick a fourth member of the Cute Animal Characters. Mog and Hanpan were setting something up inside the garage that involved a lot of sawing and electric wiring -- Cait Sith wasn't so sure what -- and Neko was out putting up signs directing auditioners to the villa. They'd already labeled the front of the garage with a big banner reading "CUTE ANIMAL CHARACTERS auditions".

The door into the villa opened and Cloud walked in. "What's all this about?" he asked casually.

Cait Sith barely turned his head to look at Cloud. "We're holding auditions for our band," he said as if this was nothing noteworthy. "Mogu quit."

"Oh. You know, you could have told me about this beforehand," Cloud said.

"We didn't think you'd want to be bothered," Cait Sith said, his attention focused on Mog and Hanpan's work. He was trying to figure out what they were doing. They had set up a desk at the rear of the garage and were engaged in some sort of wiring job on it, but C.S. couldn't figure out its purpose. "I know you've got a lot to do what with all those cameo appearances and whatnot. But don't worry, when I become famous, I'll take some of those appearances for you."

"You're too kind," Cloud said wryly. He turned to leave and opened the door. "I've got to check my orange juice futures prices."

"You do that," Cait Sith said, but Cloud had already closed the door behind him. C.S. checked his watch again. 9:56. "Hanpan, do they really sell orange juice futures?"

"Yup," Hanpan said. "And soy beans too."

The garage door opened and Neko hurried in. Behind him trailed Yuffie, who was yelling at him. "Yeah, well, if you think you're so good, let's see if you can beat us at Chocobalooza!" Yuffie called after Neko. "My group already got an invitation."

Mog quickly pressed the button to close the garage door.

"Hey, let's see what the magic 8-ball says about our band," Cait Sith suggested just to kill time. He reached into a pocket in his cloak and took out the magic 8-ball he had received last Christmas. "Oh, magic 8-ball, will our band be a success?" Cait Sith shook the ball and peered inside.

"You wish, buster," he read. He paused briefly to analyze this unexpected turn. "Oh well, it's not like anybody pays any attention to these things." He quickly put the 8-ball away again.

C.S. checked his watch again. It was now 10:00. "You guys ready to go?" he asked Mog and Hanpan.

Hanpan looked appraisingly at the desk he and Mog had been sitting at. "I think so. Why don't you open it up?"

Mog opened the garage door, then retreated to a chair behind his desk. The others remained standing on the sides of the desk. A large line had formed outside the garage. "Looks like we got a good turnout," Neko whispered.

The first person in line was a baby yellow mouse with a red bow in her hair. "I'm Pipsy!" she squeaked as she approached the desk.

"That's too cute," Mog said. "NEXT!" Mog pressed a big red button on his desk.

A trap door opened up under Pipsy. She looked down. "Uh-oh!" Pipsy exclaimed as she went spiraling down into a deep, dark, pit. The trap door closed again, awaiting the next potential band member.

Two woodchucks in football helmets waddled in. They had big noses, but short stubby tails and even shorter and stubbier arms -- their arms were little more than triangles pointing out of their shoulders. "I'm Jogurt," one of the woodchucks chirped.

"And I'm Golpher."

"We're the Groundhog Brothers," Jogurt said.

"There is no Groundhog Sister."

"We come from Gophonia."

"Gophonia is a city," Golpher added.

The existing band members looked at each other to confer. "Well, they're cute," Neko said.

"But they don't have any arms," Mog countered. "NEXT!" He pressed the red button again. Jogurt and Golpher disappeared into the hole with twin squeals of surprise.

Next in line was a short brown monkey accompanied by a tall man wearing a yellow hat. "This is Curious George," the man introduced the monkey. Curious George hooted.

"We're looking for video game characters here," Mog sighed. "And besides, we want people who can talk. NEXT!" Mog slammed the red button, sending both Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat spiraling into the abyss.

"You know, a Curious George game would actually be really cool," Neko said. "You could run around and eat puzzle pieces and throw pizza dough at people."

"Um... yeah," Cait Sith said.

"And then there could be a level where you go out into space, and..."

Palmer was next in line. "What do you want?" Cait Sith asked suspiciously.

"Hey-hey, I want to join your band!" Palmer exclaimed. "I can dance really well!"

Mog leaned over the desk at him. "You're not cute, you're not an animal, and, furthermore, the thought of you dancing will give me nightmares for weeks. NEXT!"

Mog pressed the red button. As the pit trap opened again, Palmer said, "I guess I need more practicccccccccccccccce..." The last syllable trailed off as Palmer hurtled down into the gloom, making him sound like a leaking ballon (which really wasn't all that inaccurate a comparison).

"Palmer dancing," Cait Sith shuddered. "I think I've suffered permanent emotional scars."

"There could be a bonus level where you have to time it right to dump some sand on the bank robbers," Neko continued.

"All right, all right, you made your point," Cait Sith said.

A large, furry, white dragon with blue wings lumbered up to the desk. The dragon was being accompanied by a short mushroom person with a crown and a long brown beard. There was a sudden crash from somewhere behind the dragon. The mushroom looked around. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry," he said. "I hope that wasn't your lamp."

"King Truffle? Flammie?" Neko said, recognizing them instantly.

"Hellooooo!" King Truffle greeted him. Flammie made a dragon noise.

"Okay, he's pretty cute, but we're looking for people who can talk," Mog said. "NEXT!" He pressed the button and Flammie and King Truffle were dropped into the void below. After a few seconds, there was a loud thud as Flammie hit the ground, followed by a high-pitched squeak from one of the Groundhog Brothers.

Mog looked back at the rest of the band. "Somebody go out and write on the sign that we want people who can talk," he said. "I don't want any more of these animals who can't talk, kupo."

Cait Sith looked at Neko. Neko looked at Hanpan. Hanpan looked at Neko. "Oh, all right," Hanpan snapped. "I'll do it."

"I've got a pen in my bag somewhere," Neko said. He dug into the bag and tossed out some uncooked spaghetti, a pair of pliers, three pieces of coral, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster, an emerald pig figurine, and a pair of swim goggles before triumphantly raising a thick red Sharpie pen.

Hanpan took the pen -- which was longer than he was tall -- and wrapped himself around it as if he was climbing a rope. Holding the pen beneath him, he flew out of the garage. To somebody who did not know him, it looked like he was riding on the pen. Hanpan flew up above garage, positioned himself alongside the banner, and held the pen tip to the banner. Using his whole body weight to move, he jerked himself and the pen in the shape of an "T". He continued the process, spelling out "TALKING ANIMALS ONLY."

Crono, looking at the sign, shook his head sadly and walked away in disappointment.

Meanwhile, the next person had stepped up to the desk inside. It was Frog. "Thinkest thou that I canst join thy band?" Frog inquired.

He was met with blank stares. "Huh?" Cait Sith said.

"There'd have to be a level at the laundromat, too," Neko said.

"Will you shut up about Curious George already?" Cait Sith snapped.

"Er... we were looking for people who spoke English," Mog said to Frog. "And you're not that cute anyways. NEXT!" Mog slammed the red button and dropped Frog in with the others.

Hanpan flew back into the garage just in time to see the next visitor. It was Spekkio, in his furry white Kilwala form. "I'm Spekkio, the Master of War!" Spekkio declared. "Buwa ha ha ha!"

"Now this has potential," Hanpan murmured.

"Not as much as a Curious George game, though," Neko said.

"CUT THE DAMN CURIOUS GEORGE CRAP!" Cait Sith roared. "I don't want to hear about it!"

"Sorry. But you have to admit it would be really cool."

Spekkio was munching on an apple. "The better at music you are, the stronger I appear," he said. "What do I look like to you?"

"Some furry white critter," Neko said.

Spekkio looked at him apprehensively. "You're not that good a band, are you? Oh well, I like the concept. You wanna see me play the keyboard? I'm really good, if I do say so myself."

"Er... we don't have a keyboard," Neko said. "I could check my bag if you like."

"Don't bother," Spekkio said. He waved one hand casually and a keyboard appeared in the room. The Master of War waddled over to it and started playing the motorcycle chase music from FF7.

It took about five seconds for the band to reach a conclusion. "You're hired!" Cait Sith said.

* * *

Palmer reached around in the dark, searching for a way out of the pit. Around the pit, there was similar confusion. "Sir, thy monkey hast given me a wedgie," a voice said in the darkness.

King Truffle looked upwards. "Helloooo!" he shouted. "Anybody up there?" Near him, there was a startled squeak followed by a crashing sound. "Oh no, not again." Flammie's swinging tail had hit Jogurt and sent the little woodchuck flying through the wall and into the sewers. The incident prompted tales of rabid woodchucks running loose in the Costa Del Sol sewers, which soon developed into tales of giant albino rabid woodchucks running loose in the sewers. An enduring urban legend had begun.

Jogurt had been protected from the flight by his durable gray football helmet. As he tried to re-orient himself, three figures walked up. They were Edward, Jean, and Malak.

"Hello, Jogurt," Jean said. "We're starting a band, the Really Useless Characters. Would you like to join?"

* * *

Cait Sith's pen scratched across a paper, churning out lyrics for the resurgent Cute Animal Characters. He wrote the first thing that popped into his mind without any consideration for whether it was worth putting in a song. Nobody could fault his quantity, but his quality had... issues.

While C.S. wrote, the rest of the band was practicing. Spekkio was showing off his keyboard skills by playing with his eyes closed and with one hand tied behind his back. Neko and Mog tried desperately to keep up with him on their own instruments.

Hanpan was pondering how to get the group to Chocobalooza. They had to get some recognition to receive an invitation, but since nobody would sign them until they went to Chocobalooza, they couldn't get any recognition. It was a classic case of catch-22.

Cait Sith looked at his manager and seemed to read his thoughts. "You know, the ASPCA is putting on a benefit concert here next week. We'd be a perfect group to play there. Being cute animals, you know."

"That's a good idea," Hanpan sounded genuinely surprised. "Those benefit concerts will usually take anybody that comes their way. I'll give them a call." Cait Sith tried to hand them his PHS phone, but Hanpan pointed to the sofa. "Put it on the sofa."

Cait Sith set the phone down on the sofa. Hanpan flew over to it -- it was bigger than he was -- and pressed each of the buttons to dial the ASPCA. He then stood next to the speaker on the phone. "Hello, I understand you're having a benefit concert in Costa Del Sol," Hanpan said.

"Yes, we are," the ASPCA person on the other end said.

"I'm the manager for a group called the Cute Animal Characters," Hanpan said. "We are cute animal characters, you see -- we have two cats, a Moogle, and a Kilwala. And I'm a wind rat. We were wondering if you'd be interesting in having us play at your concert."

There was a pause. "Is that your band in the background?" the ASPCA person asked.

"Yes, it is."

There was another pause. "How about you come to the concert, and if we don't raise enough money, you'll start playing?"


"People will pay money not to hear you play."

"Hold on a sec." Hanpan turned away from the phone to face the band. "Hey, guys, is it okay if people pay money not to hear us play at a benefit concert?"

"Not to hear us play?" Spekkio repeated. "Er..."

Neko shrugged. "Hey, it's free publicity and it goes to a good cause. Why not?"

Hanpan turned back to the phone. "All right. It's a deal."

* * *

Neko closed the trunk. "We're all ready to go," he announced. The Cute Animal Characters climbed into Cloud's car. After the previous results of Cait Sith's driving, Cloud had wisely volunteered to drive the band to the concert (despite Cait Sith's protests that he could drive "real good" in Gran Turismo).

Cloud waited until the gang was all buckled up and Hanpan perched on the dashboard, then he started the car and headed off for the concert site, on the beach. While Cloud drove, Cait Sith reached over and turned on the radio. "And now, the Really Useless Characters' hit single 'Green and Blue'."

After a brief pause, some jarring music -- even worse than the Cute Animal Characters -- came on. It featured a nausea-(or worse)-inducing mix of bagpipes, a harp, pan pipes, and a gong that sounded about every three seconds. Over this cacophony, Edward screamed the "song"'s lyrics.

Green, green, green, blue!
Green, green, green, red!
Green, green, green, blue!
Green, green, green, red!

"Hey! They can't do that!" Cait Sith exclaimed.

"They're even worse than we are!" Spekkio said. He reconsidered this statement. "Er, not that we're bad or anything."

"Actually, Spekkio," Hanpan said, "musical talent seems to be inversely proportional to success. Just look at Hanson and the Spice Girls."

"Wow, we must really be good then, kupo," Mog said.

Cait Sith was still irate. "All they did was change 'green' and 'blue' around and now they have a hit song! Why didn't we think of that? Arrrrgh! As Cid would say, 'Damn, I'm pissed!'"

"Let's sue them for copyright infringement!" Neko exclaimed, eager for any opportunity to make money.

"But they wrote the songs in the first place," Hanpan said.

"Oh. Right."

Cloud had been ignoring the whole conversation. Not doing so might have given the appearance that he was actually interested in something, and that was the last thing Cloud wanted. "We're here," he said casually. They had arrived at the concert site on the beach.

The Cute Animal Characters got out of the car. The ASPCA benefit concert was being held on a square wooden stage on the beach, with plenty of room left for crowds. Neko and Spekkio started setting up the instruments while Cait Sith checked in with an ASPCA person.

"So we're not going to play unless you don't meet your fundraising goal?" Cait Sith verified.

"That's right. You're so bad, we figured a lot of people would pay money if you wouldn't play," the ASPCA person said tactlessly.

"Wow, that's nice to hear," C.S. said sarcastically. He went to join the rest of the band on the stage. As the point of the concert was for them not to play, there wasn't a whole lot to do. Neko and Mog were sitting on the edge of the stage,with their legs dangling off, and Hanpan was perched on Neko's shoulder. Spekkio was off chatting with a TV crew from channel WARK.

Cait Sith sat down next to Mog. "Now we just sit here for an hour," he said. "Anybody bring something to do?"

"I'm still working on that crossword puzzle," Neko suggested. "I've got it in my bag." He ran across the stage, picked up his bag, and started tossing out stuff: a box of Pop-Tarts, a chainsaw manual half-chewed up by mice, some edible soap, a map of Norway, and a huge 72-foot tall soldier figure (it was a 12/1 soldier). He eventually located the newspaper that had the crossword in it. After removing it from the bag, Neko heaved the 12/1 soldier back inside. Despite the fact that it was far bigger than the bag, the figure fit in anyway.

Neko returned to where Mog and Cait Sith were sitting. Hanpan hopped back up on the purple cat's shoulder. Neko examined the crossword. "Hmmm... okay, clue is 'Really bad musician', eight letters. Second letter is A, fifth letter is S."

"What's going the other way?" Mog asked.

"Hold on, I'll look," Neko said.

While Neko was looking, a young boy who looked to be about four years old passed by the stage, licking a lollipop. He was accompanied by his mother. "Mommy, why isn't the band playing?" the boy asked.

"They're really bad, dear," his mother explained patiently. "We're paying money so they won't play."

"Oh." The boy considered this fact, then decided to ignore it. He turned to Neko. "I like your pet rat, Mister."

"Whoops," Cait Sith said immediately. Trouble wasn't just brewing, it was boiling.

Hanpan flew over and landed on the boy's shoulder. He took a deep breath, then turned to the boy's ear and bellowed, "I'M NOT A DAMN PET!" Satisfied, he flew back to Neko.

The boy ran off in tears. "You should be ashamed of yourself," the boy's mother said sternly. "Using language like that around children." Incensed, she stormed off after her child.

There was a puff of smoke behind the group. Cait Sith looked back. Ramuh had appeared near their instruments. "You should be ashamed of yourself!" he snapped. "Tell that rat to go wash his mouth out with soap right now! Back in the good ol' days, if we'd said something like that, we'd have gotten strung upside-down from the flagpole and beat with a baseball bat! Just because you're trying to get to this Choco-whatchahoosie concert doesn't give you an excuse to mouth off to innocent children! And the music these days -- it's all a lot of noise! In my day, we listened to real music. I bet you whippersnappers have never even heard of Nobuo Uematsu or Yasunori Mitsuda."

"Who's that?" Neko asked, pointing at Ramuh. "Do we know him?"

"It's that old psycho Ramuh," Mog said. "What's he doin' here?"

"I'm keeping you twerpy kids in line, that's what I'm doing!" Ramuh said. "If you really wanted to go to Baloozahooza or whatever it is -"

"Chocobalooza," Neko interrupted.

"- you should have talked to wise old Ramuh! Dio owes me a favor for leaving my Materia lying carelessly around like that, so I could have gotten you an invitation. But did you? Nooooooo! Speaking of Materia, it's just a load of rubbish. Materia, Magicitie, who needs it? In my day, spells were bought at stores, and we were darned please to have 'em! Only certain characters could use magic, you know. Now just everybody goes around -"

"Er... could you get us an invitation?" Cait Sith asked hopefully.

"I already said no!" Ramuh snapped.

"Please? Pretty please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?" Cait Sith pleaded, smiling angelically.

"Here, maybe this will help," Neko said. He produced a spray can of "SD Spray" from his bag, -- miraculously on the first try -- pointed the nozzle at Cait Sith, and sprayed. A white fog came out and enveloped Cait Sith. When it disappated, Cait was left with a huge head and a tiny body.

"Pl6699CCase?" SD Cait asked.

"Oh, all right," Ramuh relented, overcome by SD Cait's cuteness. "But just this one time."

"Thank you!" SD Cait squeaked as Ramuh disappeared in another puff of smoke. The super-deformed cat turned to Neko. "How long is this gonna last?"

"It should wear off in an hour or so," Neko said. "Now let's get back to my crossword. How about 'Main character's weapon in Suikoden', five letters?"

"Stick," Hanpan said.

Neko filled in the answer and examined the results. The eight-letter answer for "Really bad musician" was now _ A _ T S _ _ _.

Cait Sith peered over Neko's shoulder. "That better not be what I think it is."

Neko looked at some of the other words nearby. "Ah, 'critter with bow in Secret of Mana', that's easy. Chobin. Now we've got _ A _ T S _ _ H for the bad musician. "Sorry, Cait, but I think it's you."

"Give me that!" Cait Sith tore the newspaper away from Neko. He stared at in disgust. "Dammit, who makes these things?" C.S. ripped the newspaper in two and flung the halves out into the crowd.

"My crossword!" Neko said. "How dare you! I've been working on that for a week."

Cait Sith grumbled and folded his arms across his chest defiantly. With nothing left to do, the Cute Animal Characters were forced to just sit and wait until the hour-long period was over. Cait Sith ran to check with the ASPCA person.

"We've met our goal," he was told. "You don't have to play. You can go home now."

"But we still can?" Cait Sith asked hopefully.

"No, that would be false advertising," the ASPCA person said.

Cait Sith nodded in agreement. "False advertising is really bad. See, I was trying to buy this garage, but -"

"You can go home now," the ASPCA person repeated.

"- and so I went to the grocery store and found this pay phone and -"

"Didn't you hear me? I said YOU CAN GO HOME NOW."

Cait Sith, finally getting the message, went back to the car, where the other members of the band were waiting. "I think I got on TV!" Spekkio said excitedly. "They said the concert's going to be on the news."

As Cloud drove back to the villa, Cait Sith turned on the radio. "And we've had still more requests for the Really Useless Characters 'Green and Blue', so here it is yet again."

C.S. quickly flipped off the radio. "The irony of this is disgusting," he said.

* * *

Back at the villa, Spekkio quickly flipped on the TV to see if there was a story about their concert. It was a commercial break. The group waited patiently through endless promos about WARK's news helicopters, then the news resumed.

"Our next story concerns a up-and-coming rock foursome," the news anchor said.

"Yes! That's us!" Spekkio exulted. His enthusiasm was halted when the broadcast cut to a video of none other than the Really Useless Characters playing "Green and Blue". Edward was strumming his harp, Jean was playing a rusted set of pan pipes in a completely unmusical fashion, and Malak was puffing away on his bagpipes. Meanwhile, the football helmet-clad Jogurt was running headfirst into a gong over and over. Each time, he would bounce off, remain dazed for a moment, and then charge into it again.

Cait Sith quickly turned the TV off. "What's going on here?" he demanded. "They switch 'blue' and 'green' around and now they're the biggest thing since you didn't have to hold Reset while turning the power off to keep your saves."

"Kupo, at least we're going to Chocobalooza," Mog said. "That's our chance to beat 'em good."

* * *

At last Chocobalooza arrived. Ramuh had made good on his promise to acquire the Cute Animal Characters an invitation to Chocobalooza, and the band was now waiting backstage at the Gold Saucer's Event Square for their chance to play.

The first band was Dio's own band, which he had formed with Richter, Simon, and Trevor from the Castlevania series. Being the owner of the Gold Saucer, Dio had of course given his band an invitation. That didn't mean Dio and the Belmonts were any good, however.

"With competition like this, we could actually win," Spekkio said to Cait Sith. "Uh, Cait? Cait?"

Cait Sith was sound asleep. "Wake up, Cait!" Hanpan shouted. There was no response. "WAKE UP!" Still nothing. "He'd better get up before it's our turn," Hanpan muttered.

The Cute Animal Characters did not have to worry quite yet. Dio and the Belmonts left the stage to little applause, and were succeeded by a lone man with a bushy moustache.

"Uh, Hanpan? Kupo?" Mog said nervously backstage. "What's Saddam Hussein doing here?"

"Haven't you heard?" Hanpan said. "He's become a rap artist to improve his public image." [no, not really]

On stage, Saddam Hussein took the microphone and started singing his chart-topping song "Menace II Democracy". The Cute Animal Characters (except for C.S., who was still asleep) watched the surreal experience from backstage.

The West has done its own fair share
So why can't we pollute our air?
Yeah, life in the desert is really rough
And UNICEF don't pay enough
They say that I'm a menace to democracy
But democracy is a menace to me

Oh yes, I never dreamed it would be like this
I am the number one ruler of the Middle East
The Scuds over there will bring you good luck
The nerve gas over here comes in a truck
They sat that I'm a menace to democracy
But democracy is a menace to me

Cait Sith dozed on. After Saddam Hussein, the next musician was none other than Ronald McDonald. "I'm not Ronald McDonald," Ronald McDonald explained, prompting many puzzled expressions in the audience. "I'm really the ghost of Richard Nixon. I just took over Ronald McDonald's body."

"Cait, you really gotta see this," Neko urged, to no avail. The cat Esper was missing out on the increasingly bizarre concert. On stage, Nixon / Ronald McDonald began his song.

Do you believe in cheating?
And I hope you do
You'll always have a friend named Spiro Agnew
Anything can be done,
So expect to win!
When you believe in cheating

And I hope you do
You'll always have Nixon to kick around too
Law and order have flown the coop
I take my orders from Lippo Group
When you believe in cheating

And I hope you do
You'll always have money 'til someone sues
The Lincoln Bedroom is up for sale
As long as I don't wind up in jail
When you believe in cheating
And I hope you do

"WAKE UP, CAIT!" Hanpan shouted as Nixon / Ronald McDonald left the stage to mild applause from a confused audience.

Dio walked on briefly to announce the next group. "And next up, the Wu-Tai Clan." Dio walked off stage and was replaced by Yuffie, Gorky, Shake, and Chekhov.

"Oh no, it's Yuffie!" Neko exclaimed. Although he had only known Yuffie for a few weeks, he had quickly acquired a healthy revulsion for her.

The Wu-Tai Clan started rapping badly. Very badly. About ten seconds into their perfomance, many members of the audience appeared to be writhing in pain. Then Wedge and Vicks burst into flame.

"Oh my God, they killed Wedge and Vicks!" Mog exclaimed.

"Bastards," Hanpan muttered.

Neko shook Cait violently. "Cait! Cait! Wake up! The audience is on fire!"

Cait Sith sat up and shook his head. "Huh? What?" He looked out from backstage. Flames were raging through the audience and people were screaming. The Wu-Tai Clan kept rapping.

"You don't think this is one of those mitochondira incidents, do you?" Hanpan asked Spekkio.

"Nah," Spekkio shrugged. "Just really bad singing." He went back to eating an apple.

"Well, somebody's got to do something!" Hanpan urged.

As if on cue, the ceiling over the stage caved in and an onion wearing a karate gi dropped onto the stage. "Hey hey!" it shouted. "You're bad! Want to try super beginner's course?"

Chop-Chop was followed by P.J. Berri, Katy Kat, Sunny Funny, and finally PaRappa himself. "You rappin' awful!" PaRappa said.

Yuffie drew her boomerang. "I'll make you try the super beginner's course!" she said angrily.

"If you want to test me, I'm sure you'll find the things I'll teach ya is sure to beat ya," Chop-Chop rapped. He leapt towards Yuffie. "Kick, punch, chop!" he shouted, kicking Yuffie across the stage.

Gorky, Shake, and Chekhov rushed towards the PaRappa gang. "Block, turn, and kick it!" PaRappa said, whirling around and kicking Gorky. Next to him, P.J. Berri was throwing donuts at Shake and Chekhov.

Cait Sith was fully awake now. "Yeah! Go, PaRappa, go!" he exclaimed, jumping up and down backstage.

Yuffie sprung to her feet. "Wu-Tai forever!" she shouted.

"Crack, crack, crack the egg on your head," PaRappa said. He tossed an egg at Yuffie. It smashed on her forehead, coating her face in egg white.

"Gawd, this is, like, totally disgusting," Yuffie said, trying to wipe off the egg white.

"Hey, it's not our fault if we don't have any talent," Chekhov admitted in the middle of the chaos.

"A rap group without talent is like a dance floor without me!" Katy Kat said angrily. "Do you understand?"

"Jump, kick, chop!" Chop-Chop said, jumping over Chekhov, then whirling and kicking Chekhov in the back.

"This is really a lot of fun," Sunny said.

"Chop, kick, block!" PaRappa chopped Shake in the head and then kicked him into the wall. "I got the funky flow!"

Yuffie wiped the egg off her face and hurled her boomerang at PaRappa. "Duck!" Chop-Chop shouted.

"Duck!" PaRappa repeated, ducking under the boomerang and its return flight.

"Hmm, yeah, I see you're getting better. Kick to the limit in order to get her now," Chop-Chop rapped. He and PaRappa advanced on Yuffie. Yuffie backed off. "C'mon, c'mon, why don't you follow my words?" Chop-Chop said to Yuffie. "We're almost done; I'll make it easy at first."

Dio ran onstage. "Hey, hey!" he shouted. "What's going on here? Stop this senseless violence at once!"

"But she set the audience on fire!" P.J. protested.

"Yeah, and if it wasn't for you meddling kids and your dog, I would have gotten away with it!" Yuffie snapped.

"Can't you resolve this peacefully?" Dio demanded.

"How about Janken?" Katy suggested.

"Fine!" Yuffie agreed. She stepped forward to face off with P.J. Berri.

Dio, as a neutral party, counted as Yuffie and P.J. pounded their fists on their palms. "Jan.... Ken.... Pon!" Yuffie chose scissors. P.J. had paper, but quickly folded up his hand into rock.

"He won," Dio said, pointing at P.J.

"But he cheated!" Yuffie protested. "That is, like, totally unfair! You'll pay for this, mortals!" Yuffie raised her boomerang and cast Knights of the Round.

A yellow light shown upwards around the stage, then its occupants were floating out in space. The Knights of the Round appeared in the distance. "Mwaha ha ha!" Yuffie laughed. She pointed up at the Knights. "Whatcha gonna do when they come?"

"I gotta believe!"

"Only one person can save us now!" Sunny exclaimed.

A caped figure soared towards the group. "Never fear, Joe Chin is here! I shall put on my magic gloves of glory and..." Joe Chin's voice got faster and faster until he became completely unintelligible.

"No, not you," Chop-Chop said, kicking Joe Chin out into space. "We need -" A sound above him caused him to look up. "- JET BABY!"

The first Knight of the Round swooped towards PaRappa's group. Jet Baby flew directly at him and rammed him, catapulting him back the way he had come. Jet Baby then soared towards Yuffie and kicked her boomerang from her hands. The Knights of the Round spell ceased abruptly and the gang was back on stage.

"You may have defeated this time, but you haven't seen the last of me!" Yuffie shouted. "Wu-Tai forever!" Yuffie and the other Wu-Tai Clan members flashed white and then vanished.

PaRappa faced the astonished -- and relieved -- audience. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, everybody," he said, bowing. "And don't forget... you gotta believe! Thank you!"

"That's it for today!" Chop-Chop said. He and the rest of the PaRappa crew left the stage to tremendous applause, having saved the audience from the Wu-Tai Clan. Wedge and Vicks, however, were dead. Again.

"Well, that was an interesting interlude," Hanpan said backstage. "Even if did have absolutely nothing to do with the main storyline."

"Jet Baby!" Cait Sith shouted triumphantly.

Spekkio consulted the Chocobalooza program. "Hey, guys. The Really Useless Characters are next up."

"Too bad PaRappa left when he did, kupo," Mog said.

The Really Useless Characters strode on stage. They knew PaRappa's surprise appearance would be a tough act to follow, but they were going to try anyway. And so they began playing "Green and Blue."

As the awful, completely unrhythmic, "music" began, Cait Sith jammed a pair of earmuffs on his head. "I don't want to listen to this!" he declared.

The rest of the band toughed it out, but the jarring music was not easy to listen to. For some inexplicable reason (perhaps owing a lot to hive mentality), the crowd was cheering wildly. Spekkio turned to Mog. "You ever heard the song 'Paralyzed'? I used to think that was the definition of bad music, but these guys make it look like Bugenhagen's Fifth Symphony."

"So I noticed," Hanpan said.

Eventually, the hellish sounds subsided. The ecstatic crowd applauded heavily and demanded an encore. Luckily, since the Really Useless Characters had only one song, there was none. Mog tapped Cait Sith. "It's over," he said.

"I know," Cait Sith said as he took off his earmuffs. "I could hear it right through these. Those guys need to be taken out and shot."

As the Cute Animal Characters were a last-minute addition to the Chocobalooza line-up, they would be the final band to play. Thus, the band had to wait through perfomances by a Moogle dance troupe; the Turks' band; some prehistoric people from Chrono Trigger; Johnny "The Man" and his robot companions; Ozzie, Slash, and Flea's heavy metal band; the Murond Holy Place boys' choir; and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince Edge.

Then at last it was the Cute Animal Characters' turn. Cait Sith strode confidently onto the stage while Neko and Spekkio pushed the drums and keyboard out. Mog trailed out after them. C.S. took the microphone. "And now, folks, it's the moment you've been all been waiting for. Unfortunately, due to increased demand for our autographs, we are no longer to make them available except when accompanied by generous cash dontations. So just relax and enjoy our much talked-about music." Cait "neglected" to mention that none of the talking about their music had been positive.

Cait looked at his fellow band members. All were ready to play the brand new song they'd been saving for this occasion. C.S. nodded once, then twice. On the third nod, they began.

I saw a dead ferret on the road
Stinkin' up the air
It smelled like a rotting toad
And it looked like Rufus's hair

* * *

Cait Sith watched the scenery pass by Cloud's car on the trip back to Costa Del Sol. "What did we do wrong?" he said eventually. "How could that spoony bard and his gang of bozos win instead of us?"

"Bribing the judges?" Neko suggested.

"Speaking of the judges, are they really allowed to give out negative scores?" Hanpan said.

"Oh, well, at least we got an honorable mention," Spekkio said.

Neko looked back at him. "Uh, actually, it was just a mention. It wasn't honorable."

Mog tried to liven things up a little. "I didn't see exactly what Dio gave you at the awards ceremony -- what was it?"

Silently, Cait Sith held up a sandwich bag filled with water. A goldfish floated on the surface of the water. Mog peered at the fish intently. "It looks dead, kupo," he said.

"It is dead," Cait Sith said. He tucked the fish and accompanying bag back into his cloak. "Maybe I can give it to Yuffie or something."

Mog shrugged. "Hey, at least we tried hard and did our best. Kupo! That's what really counts, isn't it?"

The others all turned to stare at him with a mixture of annoyance and shock. "No," they said simultaneously.

* * *

A few days later...

Cloud stepped into his garage. Cait Sith was in the process of taking down the big Cute Animal Characters poster, and Spekkio was disassembling the speaker system. Mog and Neko were just carrying the sofa out of the garage as Cloud entered.

"Quittin' the music biz?" Cloud asked.

Cait Sith turned to look at him. "Yeah," he sighed. "We figured there was no use trying to compete with Jean and the moron crew." He nodded towards a director's chair in the corner of the garage and his usual personality returned. "We've moved into the movie business now!"

"But they're already making an FF movie," Cloud protested.

Cait Sith shrugged. "So?" he said, talking excitedly. "We're not making the FF movie. Our first movie is going to be Thirty-two Short Films About Rufus's Hair. Then we're doing a documentary on the rise and fall of our band."

Cait Sith paused for breath, then continued. "We were thinking about having us win at Chocobalooza in our documentary. They say history is written by the winners. I say it's written by the media. But Hanpan and Mog were against it, so we went with a factual version instead. Besides, Malak's lawyers didn't like the scene where we stuffed a bomb in his bagpipes."

"I think you made the right choice," Cloud said. "Well, I look forward to seeing it."

"Oh, you've already seen it. In fact, you're in it right now."

As Cloud gave Cait Sith a started look and backed out of the room, the Twilight Zone music began to play.


 ***CAST OF CHARACTERS*** Cait Sith.........himself Ramuh.............Cranky Kong Rufus.............himself Reno..............himself Rude..............Mr. Clean Musician #1.......Larry the Pus-Filled Boil Musician #2.......Pukey the Singing Squirrel Cid...............himself Vincent...........Magus Yuffie............Jenova Red XIII..........Nanaki Hanpan............himself Mog...............himself Umaro.............himself Neko..............himself Cloud.............himself Store Manager.....Mr. Pudo 911 Operator......Mrs. Pudo Cop #1............Richard Kim Cop #2............Kyle Walker Mogu..............himself Edward............himself Jean..............himself Reeve.............himself Shinra Employee...Lagonga Derdaboink Sebec Director....Pat Mackey Umbrella Director.Carl Hanauer Fei...............himself Pipsy.............Velius Jogurt............himself Golpher...........himself Curious George....Sten Man in Yellow Hat.Louie Ord Palmer............Rush Limbaugh King Truffle......himself Flammie...........himself Crono.............Alundra Frog..............Cyan Garamonde Spekkio...........himself Malak.............himself ASPCA Person #1...Bub Stig Radio Announcer...Monga Chippy ASPCA Person #2...Erg Gibbon Boy...............Jeffy of the Family Circus Mother............Jeffy's mother News Anchor.......Isaac Emery Wedge.............himself Vicks.............himself Dio...............himself Richter...........Huey Simon.............Dewey Trevor............Louie Saddam Hussein....Balk Ronald McDonald...Ben McKee Shake.............himself Gorky.............himself Chekhov...........herself PaRappa...........himself Sunny.............herself P.J...............himself Katy..............herself Chop-Chop.........himself Joe Chin..........himself Knight............Pepsiman Jet Baby..........herself Goldfish..........Gobi  Produced and directed by: Cait Sith Screenplay by: Hanpan Cameraman: Neko Special effects: Spekkio Sound engineer: Mog Soundtrack by: the Cute Animal Characters Based on the fanfic by Fritz Fraundorf.  A Cute Animal Pictures film. 

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