Step 32: Information
Step 32: Information
The president's office remained silent for a long time. "What's wrong?" No one dared to answer. "What is it?"
"Gast..." Rufus began to speak but stopped, Tseng looked at the president, then at me, then back at the president and nodded. Rufus continued, slowly and gently, almost as if he was apologizing, "Gast wasn't your father."
"Oh..." I realize that I was jumping to conclusions, trying to believe what I wanted to be the truth. I wanted the brilliant scientist to be my father; I wanted a father figure I could look up to, perhaps to make up for the absence for all these years. "Then who was my father?" Again there is silence. "It's okay, I don't care if he was at the very bottom of the science department, I don't care if all his experiments turned out to be failures; I just want to know who he was." How bad can this piece of information be?
Rufus sighs, "this doesn't mean anything, you're nothing like him and we all know that."
Was he a tyrant, some kind of crazy, cruel mad scientist? If that's the case, how in the world did the gentle looking woman in the picture end up with him? My nose wrinkles in disgust, "it can't be, not him..." The solemn expressions on the Turks and Rufus' faces hint that if my guess is bad, it's probably right. "Hollander?"
"Not him," Rufus shakes his head.
I let out a breath of relief; it would be most unpleasant to think any trace of Hollander's DNA resides in me. "That's just about as bad as it gets, whatever the answer is, you can be direct, it can't be that terrible." I'm getting impatient.
"It's worse..." Tseng admits.
"Who could be worse than Hollander?" Maybe he was some no name scientist who did many terrible things while remaining anonymous. If that's the case, perhaps my lack of knowledge about him will make the situation easier to deal with, though I would want to know the full story eventually, no matter how many horrors it may carry.
Rufus gives me the worse response possible, the answer that I would never guess, the name I could never imagine, because it's just too terrible, "Hojo."
"You're lying..." There's no reply, no hint of untruthfulness, no hope. "The walking mass of complexes... Out of all the men in the world, why must it be the walking mass of complexes?" I massage my temples, feeling a headache coming on.
"It doesn't matter, let's just leave it in the past," Rufus is quick to insist.
I nod, "yeah, the past..." I grip the edge of his desk for support, an action that doesn't go unnoticed.
"Are you alright?" Rufus inquires as one does out of habit, despite knowing the obvious negative answer.
"I'm fine, just a bit light headed..." I'm lying, I'm wide awake, but I want to skip out on everything today, I want to take a sick day and it's working.
"Maybe you should rest," Tseng is quick to suggest, while Elena glances at me worriedly and Rude nods in agreement. I nod weakly, feeling ridiculous, and agree to let Reno walk me to the infirmary.
xoxox xox xoxox
Blaze is chirping cheerfully as usual and Reno is grinning from ear to ear, "man you're good, you deserve an Oscar!"
"Pardon?" Did Reno see through my act? Did everyone else?
"Your sick act was first class, I should know, I used to do that all the time in school," Reno commends.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I try to feign innocence.
And fail miserably, "sure you don't..."
I stop half way to the infirmary, "can I ask for a favor?"
"Can you keep it a secret if I sneak off to the archives? I want to know who Hojo was. I knew him as nothing more than," I search for the right words, "a very lame loser." My chosen vocabulary feels odd coming from me, but I think the term fits him perfectly. "Maybe he had better days."
"You don't know, no wonder you're not throwing a fit!" Reno has a big mouth.
"You mean it gets worse?" Now my curiosity is growing even more, inquisitiveness is cruel.
"Ah... well..." I think Reno has finally realized he succeeded in inserting his foot in his mouth, metaphorically speaking of course. "Tell you what, we'll go to the archives and take a look around, alright?" Reno makes his way to a vending machine and casually buys a chocolate bar, honey bread that's more honey than bread and a can of Pepsi, neither of which he opens.
I feel like I'm walking straight into a trap but I agree none the less, "let's go."
xoxox xox xoxox
In the deep basement, the gentle hum of multiple servers can be heard. The place is decked with technology, in racks reaching to the ceiling. The air conditioner is cold to prevent the equipment from overheating, but the machines generate heat, turning the atmosphere into a thermal contradiction, an antipode of hot and cold.
"Who dares to invade my territory?" An ominous voice is heard, the woman sounds commanding and firm, resembling a being from another plane of existence judging the mortals of this world and choosing who is worthy.
"It's just us," Reno responds in a very ambiguous way.
"Who are you?" I address the figure behind the glow of a computer screen, the light reflecting off her silver glasses, making it difficult to look at her in the eyes. Her messy dark hair makes her white skin look even paler.
"Information comes at a price," for a moment, the woman's resemblance to a reaper is too close for comfort.
"I got your payment right here," Reno deposits the food and drink he bought from the vending machine into her desk.
Her tone changes, "what? No fan service?"
"If you bring her back," Reno tilts his head towards a picture frame on the desk, but the image changes constantly, so I'm not sure what picture he's referring to, "and I'm drunk enough to forget your other identity."
"Too much effort," she shakes her head with an air of superiority and Reno pouts, while I find myself missing the essence of their exchange.
The picture on the frame automatically changes again and I see many happy faces, save for one, in a familiar background. It's the Seventh Heaven, Reno is there, obviously drunk, I'm sure he would be on the floor if not for the two women standing left and right from him. He has an arm around Tifa's shoulders and the other around an unknown woman wearing black and blue to match her hair, and that's what's keeping him on his feet. Cloud approaches from behind, as if to pull Reno away.
Tseng and Elena are in the picture too, next to the unknown woman, with Tseng looking only slightly drunk, but still sober enough to walk in a straight line and Elena appearing to be very drunk, her face resting against his chest, arms tightly wrapped around his midsection, face red. Rude stands quietly to the side, next to Tifa, I'm guessing he drank the most but is the least drunk. The picture changes once more before I can make any additional observations.
The unknown woman speaks, "what information do you need seek?"
"Seph here wants to know about Hojo," Reno reveals.
"Sephiroth," she speaks in that portentous voice again, I do not think you will approve of what you find," I finally comprehend that this woman knows who I am, not just my real identity, but also my past.
Then it hits me, of course she's aware, she's the keeper of Shinra's databases, she knows more than anyone. All the locked records, she has access to them. "I want to know the truth, please unlock the database for me. I don't care how bad it is, I want to know."
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Final Fantasy VII or Pepsi. Did you catch the references to Chrono Trigger and Valkyrie Profile?