Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 7 > Man in the Middle

Shadows of Tragedy

by Larathia 0 reviews

A little bit of a breather, ending on a familiar note; not Reeve's finest hour, but perhaps his most well known.

Category: Final Fantasy 7 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Drama,Horror - Characters: Reeve - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2009-04-22 - Updated: 2009-04-22 - 2969 words

It was, thankfully, quiet for a few days - at least, there were no further explosions. This meant that my workday was manageable instead of hopeless, a blessing I wasn't about to overlook given the manner of my promotion. In my off hours I dropped by the company's internal clinic on my way out the door; Reno looked kind of like a house had landed on him, but I was assured it looked much worse than it was, and within a day or two he was fine again. I didn't like it much, but Turks don't get to be Turks by talking about their assignments. I knew that, and he knew that, so we didn't discuss how he'd gotten so beat up; I just made sure to leave a bottle of cold beer by his bedside on my way out. Turks don't really go in for flowers, either. Which was a good thing, as I had no idea where I'd find any. When Reno thanked me for the beer I said as much.

"I do," he told me with a sour sort of smile. "But I'd rather have the beer anyway. Thanks."

Like a lot of things, it was a remark that made more sense to me later on - but that would be getting ahead of myself. Normality, for all apparent intents and purposes, had reasserted itself.

And I had a lot of work to do. There was rebalancing the power loads, to compensate for the destroyed reactors, and estimating damages and repair times given the current budget. And seeing to the dead...Hojo offered quite generous sums to some of the families if they were willing to donate the bodies to research. Some families took it, some didn't. Some did after they saw what the bodies looked like; it was easier to have a funeral if the coffin was, well, coffin-shaped. I didn't deal with the negotiations, thank goodness, just the paperwork - they had, after all, been in my department, though Hojo's sneer implied he was only going through the formality at all because I wasn't getting in his way. I didn't like it, but I knew well enough what the bodies of a mako reactor explosion looked like; the nightmares hadn't faded, and I could only imagine how much worse it would be to be able to put a name to some of the twisted, burned hulks the cleanup crews removed from the wreckage.

The search remained on for the members of Avalanche - but frankly, it had been going on at a corporately steady pace for years now, and even with the escalation in violence there wasn't really any more we could do that hadn't already been done. And for the little that could - well, I'd sent the forms, but that was the last I thought of it until my phone rang.

"Reeve here."

"I have your files in front of me," came the level, controlled tones of the Vice-President. "Who have you spoken to about this?"

Being surprised by calls from Rufus didn't do wonders for my nerves. He'd only recently been accorded full adult status, but he'd had his nose - and sometimes his hand - in company affairs for years. By all I'd seen, and all I'd heard, his 'education' in Junon (arranged when it became clear that proximity to his father spurred him to research assassination methods) had matured him into a man carved from ice. I had to hope Tseng knew what he was talking about, when he'd said Rufus would back this project. I put my hand over the receiver to hide the intake of breath, making sure my voice was steady when I said, "No one, sir."

"Your robots have been of very limited assistance thus far, Reeve," said Rufus, the threat not so much implied as hanging in the air over my head.

"I've added plans for combat capability this time," I offered. "Increased range and surveillance capability as well." Before I could stop it, I added, "Mr. Vice-President, they're going after the reactors. My engineers are getting flattened. I need to do something about this - Heidegger's not keeping them contained."

Under ordinary circumstances, making emotional pleas to Rufus had about as much effect as making emotional pleas to an Internal Revenue auditor. This time...I wasn't certain, over the phone, but it almost sounded like Rufus was amused. "Offering to cover the costs yourself, then?"

"If that's what it takes," I agreed. I had the funds. I was probably the only member of the Board who didn't go in for the lavish lifestyle.

"All right," he agreed mildly. "I'll sign off on it. This stays between you, me, and the Turks, and it's coming out of your funds. If the old man hears about it, you're going to be arrested for forging my signature."

I winced, but, "Deal, sir." I had to change the game, if I wanted to stop this ongoing undeclared war - and the destruction of my reactors. I couldn't just do things the way my predecessor had.

The line clicked dead - Rufus not really being one for pleasantries - and I exhaled. Okay. I was at least doing something new. I made a note in my PDA, and turned back to the stack of paperwork...and the phone rang again. It had been doing that a lot since the promotion, so I didn't waste time grumbling. I just answered it.


...Sweet Ramuh, I think the last person I'd expected to hear from was my mother. I coughed to keep it out of my voice, and answered, "Yes, mother, how are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine. The lady at the desk said I'd have to call you. They seem very concerned about security." She didn't seem particularly happy about that. Probably more that she had to sign forms to visit me than about security as such.

"Yes, that's right," I said, already tidying up my desk. I'd helped my parents get a nice house in Sector Five a few months prior, but hadn't really had time to see them - much less so now than before, honestly, but having her turn up in the office lobby suggested she wasn't going to wait any longer. "I'm on my way down. If you'd tell the receptionist for me, please?"

"Of course," my mother answered, pleased now that she was getting what she wanted. I sighed and cleaned up my desk. At least Rufus would be happy that I kept my prototypes in my club locker on the fitness level. It was the one place in the building I could easily reach, that I was fairly sure no one else on the Board set foot in.

I took the executive elevator down to the lobby, wincing again at the view of the burned hulks of my reactors. But when I saw my parents standing in the lobby, I couldn't help but smile. They were still very new to Midgar, and thought of it as 'the big city', which was probably the only way they could have phrased it that I would be forced to agree with. (That I knew they'd think of Nibelheim as a 'big city' too was a point we didn't discuss. Midgar deserved the phrase.)

The receptionists grinned at me as I gave my parents a welcoming hug. Well, it probably was the first time a chairman had done that, I'd grant them that much, but what the coworkers would think receded quickly into the background.

"You didn't call," my mother informed me, chiding. "We saw the news."

"You did good," my father nodded, approving. "Saw you on the news. Good you'll still get your hands dirty."

"You didn't really think I wouldn't?" I asked, surprised. "And I'm sorry about not calling but it's been very busy -"

And speaking of busy, Reno - looking as if he'd never been injured - came out of the executive elevator. I sent a wave his way, but as it turned out it was me he was looking for. There was a particular set to his expression that told me the packet he held out to me was not just Official Business, it was important business.

"Never let ya sleep, huh?" drawled my father, but I barely noticed as Reno handed off the packet and walked off without so much as a hello. Important business, and bad business. Any business that takes the wind out of Reno's sense of humor is very bad business.

"Just a moment," I said, distracted, and took out the papers in the packet, looking them over.

The first page was a report from Don Corneo - to Heidegger, I noticed, which meant this was a copy - saying he'd located Avalanche's current base. A map was included, indicating a building in the Sector Seven slums.

The second page was more good news; Don Corneo had reason to believe he'd captured a high ranking Avalanche member and would send word as soon as he'd confirmed it.

The third page dropped the bottom out of my world. It was an order, directly from the President, and bearing Heidegger's signature as witness, ordering the collapse of the Sector Seven plate.

Ordering the collapse of the Sector Seven plate.

I must have paled. The poker face had to have slipped. I remember my father's hand on my arm, concern in his voice. I remember reaching up to remove that hand, heading for the receptionists and - to the sounds of my parents' surprise - putting the file down in front of them. "I'm going to make you a deal," I told the ladies there quietly. I didn't have much time, and it must have made an impression. They nodded as if hypnotized.

"You are going to take very good care of my parents," I told them, and they nodded again. I have no idea what I must have looked like, to be stared at that way. But when they nodded, I set that third page down in front of them. "Now I'm going to help you take care of yours," I said, keeping my voice quiet. "No source. You know better. Tell who you need to. I've got to try and stop this."

As if they were trained mice, they looked down. They read. I could tell they understood; they paled, eyes wide in shock. I put the paper away. As I headed for the elevator, one of them snapped out of it and approached my parents with a smile.

"The Chairman has some urgent business to attend to," I heard her tell them pleasantly. "And has asked us to provide you with a tour of the headquarters and some time in our recreation facilities..."

I wasn't really hearing it, and I wasn't really thinking about it. My feet were heading back to the elevator. First for the man who I hoped knew about this, though I don't know what I thought he could have done about it. I tracked down Mayor Domino, in his relatively little interior office, and slammed down the packet.

"Did you know about this?"

He eyed me with the sort of resigned hate a prisoner gives the local warden. "Oh yes. I've had to work on the PR releases for it all day. It's going to be Avalanche's fault."

I twitched. "You can't be serious. The keycodes are locked to executives! There's no way -"

"The people don't know that," growled Domino, getting up to snarl at me. "Avalanche is the damn boogeyman, they'll believe anything of Avalanche. Especially after the reactors. I've got to keep the people from rioting, /Chairman/, and it's not the first time I've had to lie to do it."

"They're not going to riot, they're going to /die/," I snapped back, and something must have gotten through because he calmed down a bit.

"I'm surprised you were told at all," he said, sitting down. "President's a big lover of need-to-know. And you're not writing the press releases. Go talk him out of it if you think you can. Shiva knows I can't."

A building full of powerful people and no one could do a damn thing. I made my way out, and on up to the President's office at the top floor, in a sort of urgent daze.

President Shinra was not a man who believed in personal fitness. His god was money, and everything money could buy. The best suits, the best cigars, the best food, the best drinks. The prettiest women, the biggest diamonds, the latest gagetry - which would have been the only point of common ground with him, if he hadn't leaned solidly toward gagetry that killed people. And he sat at his broad, marble-topped desk, chair half-angled away to look out at the most unparalleled view of the city of Midgar in existence...just as if nothing was going on, nothing at all.

And I? Was running on a direct brain-to-mouth overload for the first time in years. "Mr. President, you can't be serious!" I said as I approached that desk.

President Shinra, however, didn't seem very surprised - not at my presence, not at anything. He just turned to face me, and pressed the intercom button. "Heidegger, come to my office, would you?" he said calmly, and then settled back in his chair, watching me with about the same expression a cat watches a mouse. Daring it to move.

My mouth ran dry at that point, as self preservation started making inroads on my desire to do something to stop this. Under the President's stare I had a lot of time, because Heidegger doesn't make use of the company gym, and took his own sweet time answering the summons.

"How are the preparations going?" asked the President, once Heidegger was broadly in range of normal conversation.

Heidegger /laughed/. Nails down a chalkboard would have been more pleasant; only Scarlet's laughter was worse. I couldn't believe my ears; I turned to stare at him as he said, "Smoothly, very smoothly! I assigned the Turks to this."

That was why Reno knew. That was why he wasn't laughing. Sweet Ramuh. I couldn't believe it. "President!" I all but pleaded, turning back to him. "Are we really going to do this? Simply to destroy a group with only a few members..."

I couldn't finish. Instincts that had kept me alive thus far were noticing things my sense of righteous indignation had been ignoring. Like how very calm the President and Heidegger were. How they were both eyeing me like I was polishing the rifle I was going to commit suicide with. President Shinra got to his feet and almost purred. I'd only heard that tone in his son's throat before; the sweet purr that came right before bloodshed. "What's the problem, Reeve?" he asked mildly. "You want out?"

Throat. Dry. Suddenly I was in at least as much danger as the people in Sector Seven. "...No," I managed. The President was still coming towards me. Rotund, overdressed, casual. Lethal; a tiger that had no need to run the prey down. My mouth ran on without me, an attempt to appeal to his sense of logic, or at least of profit and loss - something to put the conversation on rational lines. "But, as head of the Urban Development Department, I have been involved in the building and running of Midgar. That's why..."

Heidegger interrupted me, laughing. "Reeve, you should flush those personal problems in the morning!"

I hadn't really expected any help, but it did help to know how they were seeing my protests. As the President walked toward us, toward me, I tried the last - and weakest - shot I had. "The Mayor's against this anyway." Domino was powerless - but he was a fair barometer to the will and mood of the people, being elected to his post. He didn't like things that would cost him another term.

Heidegger only shrugged. "Mayor?" he snorted, and I knew I'd lost. "He just sits in his building all day feeding his face! You still call that a Mayor?" Throwing a salute toward the President, he added cheerfully - just as if it were all for a parade - "Now if you'll excuse me, sir!" and marched off. Well, as much as a man as broad as he is tall can march anywhere. The mocking laughter didn't help.

I almost ran him down. I almost tried talking with my fists. I almost did a lot of things. Halfway there I realized that I'd put the President right behind me, and that there were no witnesses. I stopped.

I could tell you how much I hated, just then. I could tell you how real the fear for my own life was. How burning the need to do something, anything, and the frustration at having so much wealth and so much power and so little ability to do anything real. I could tell you a lot of things, I suppose, but none of them would change the truth.

The simple truth was that when I stopped - when I stopped trying to chase Heidegger down, when I stopped trying to argue with the President's choice - I'd accepted that I could do nothing. Sector Seven was going to die. That's all there was to it.

I barely heard the President's voice. Right behind me now. "You're tired," he said, apparently satisfied that I'd accepted his authority. "Why don't you take a couple of days off and go somewhere."

Just like old Takei. The words hung in the air, unspoken but not unheard. Every vein in my body turned to ice.

I walked out of the President's office, cool as a cucumber. And dying a little, where no one could see.
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