Chapter 18

Rufus blinked.

It was too big to be real. It had to be some kind of dream, an illusion. That was it - he was hallucinating. The damn Mako in the air had finally gotten to his brain. It was the only explanation.

He almost hoped that was it.

But the spire was real. They’d found it. And Ghaleon’d been right when he said it was gigantic. It was about as wide at the base as Midgar, maybe just big enough to fit the whole city inside. But where Midgar had two levels, the spire had... hundreds? A thousand?

Just how high was the damn thing, anyway?

No point in thinking about it. "Anybody have any ideas as to how we can get inside that thing?" he asked, frankly hoping they didn’t.

"Maybe there’s a door?" Jowy asked.

Rufus laughed, a little nervously. "Real likely. Why build something like this and then slap a door in the side?"

Ghaleon stepped toward the spire. "What is the point of a citadel if it cannot be entered? Unless this spire is simply a solid monument, there must be a way inside. Whether there is an obvious one or not, is the real question."

Rufus could hear the impatience in the Player’s voice. Great. He’d been listening to the guy whine about finding his lost gal, one of the -Heirs- they were supposed to be rescuing. Now they were here, and was he gonna make a damn fool hero of himself? "No, the real question is whether we can get in without getting caught five seconds later."

"If possible, we enter by stealth," Sephiroth said. "If not... we will have to fight our way through."

"Fight our way through!" Rufus glanced up at the spire again. Sephiroth was going crazy again, maybe not the same way, but crazy nonetheless. "There are probably millions of those things in there. The tough ones, too, like you guys fought before. Fight our way through, brilliant."

Sephiroth did not turn. "If we must."

"He is correct, ‘Leader,’" Ghaleon snapped, making Rufus’ title into an insult. "You are welcome to remain alone in the jungle if that is your preference."

Rufus sighed. Great. Just perfect.

"Before we worry about what’s inside, we have to get inside," Jowy said. "The place is warded like I’ve never seen before, so we can’t teleport. As for doors... I can’t detect any with the True Earth Rune. There are no openings at ground level."

If Ghaleon heard him, he didn’t show it. He walked up to the base of the spire and stretched out his hand.

"Ghaleon!" Jowy shouted. "There’s some kind of weird magic on the surface of it. I wouldn’t -"

Rufus’ hand went to his scoped rifle. He wasn’t sure if it would do any good, but he trusted its accuracy better than the unfamiliar Cetra guns.

Ghaleon’s spidery fingers touched the surface of the spire.

It puddled up like liquid, then opened to reveal a dark passage.

"- touch it," Jowy finished, far too late.

"Fancy that. I seem to have found a way in," Ghaleon said. "I suggest we use it." He stepped through, disappearing as the wall closed behind him.

Jowy, probably not wanting to let the other man out of his sight, followed. As it had for Ghaleon, the wall opened to admit him, and closed after he was through.

Sephiroth went next, his long stride getting him to the spire almost before the wall closed behind Jowy.

Rufus watched him disappear, then looked up at the spire. He had to be crazy.

"What the hell," he muttered, and followed the others into the spire.

The wall sealed behind him.