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

Funerals, Like A String of Pearls

by Larathia 0 reviews

Avalanche's revenge and Sephiroth's return open a new opportunity.

Category: Final Fantasy 7 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters: President Shinra,Reeve,Rufus Shinra - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2011-10-31 - Updated: 2011-11-01 - 2032 words

I think that the flight from Midgar to Junon was the longest, darkest trip of my life. I don't remember packing for it. I don't remember noticing anything out of the ordinary. I remember reliving those few minutes in front of the President over, and over, and over. A hundred thousand fantastic scenarios, where I managed to do something, anything, that stopped what I knew was coming. Or mitigated the damage.

I even, in my desperation, considered contacting Avalanche itself - despite the clear evidence that Avalanche had about as much regard for human life as the President did. I thought perhaps they'd at least want to avoid the bad press, or maybe enjoy putting the blame where it really belonged...something. But as the hours wore on and the sun began to set, all the frantic energy slipped away and what I was left with was a kind of emotional devastation and a raging need for a strong drink.

By the time I caught the Junon ship to Costa del Sol, it was full night. As a member of the Board, I was treated like royalty; at the time I didn't really notice. But I remember sitting on the deck in a comfortable chair, with a double shot of aged scotch in one hand, looking up at the moon as the seconds ticked down. I imagined that I could hear the plate falling.

I fell asleep in that chair, eventually. Looking up at the moon, and thinking. And in the way these things sometimes go, when the ship docked at Costa del Sol, I awoke feeling like I'd become a different person. That something - unknown as yet - had changed, permanently.

It was probably just as well, because as I arrived at my hotel, the world had a small mountain of information waiting for me. The front desk clerk was visibly rattled as I presented my identification.

"Oh. Chairman, sir," she all but babbled, and raised a 'just one moment' hand before darting into a back office. "Messages have been arriving for two days, sir, since we received your reservation." And she seemed to mean it, too - the packet she came out carrying was several inches thick. "Would you like them taken to your room sir, with your luggage?"

I blinked, having forgotten for a moment that I'd packed any. "Um. Yes, thank you please." Whatever had happened, I wasn't going to read through that stack in under an hour. Staff bustled around me as the clerk gave me a room key; my luggage efficiently disappeared again, along with that worryingly thick sheaf of papers. Was the President going to make me responsible for cleaning up what he'd done? It would be just his style, certainly.

I didn't bother unpacking. The room had a chair and a desk and a lamp and most of all it had privacy. I took a seat at its desk, and started reading.

After a while, without much thinking about what it meant, I turned on the desk lamp.

The reports were not what I had expected. Or rather, not exactly what I had expected. Avalanche, in the first act they'd ever done that I could offer wholehearted approval of, had attempted to halt the destruction of Sector Seven. They hadn't succeeded, unfortunately, at anything but putting Reno in the hospital again; this time much more seriously. Tseng's slim report of the matter included notes on a recruit to replace Reno, at least in the short term.

And because Avalanche couldn't do anything remotely good without doing something reprehensible to make up for it, I had a fairly hefty file reporting the swath of carnage they'd inflicted trying to carve their way through the entirety of Shinra HQ. Human guards, security robots, apparently it hadn't mattered. I could, in this case, understand their rage and grief. But the people they'd killed had had nothing to do with the tragedy in Sector Seven; once again the group had proven itself uncontrolled, undisciplined, and completely ruthless.

I opened the third report packet with resignation, which was probably not the best approach to have taken. I had to read it several times before I could accept it, even though it made no sense at all. Sephiroth, who had been dead for several years, had apparently risen from the grave to join Avalanche. I wasn't particularly clear on the events that had led to his death - Heidegger and Hojo had pretty much taken care of it all and I hadn't had the clearance to learn about it. But the memos saying he had died, I did get and did remember. And now he was apparently alive again, and even angrier at Shin-Ra than Avalanche was. There were photos of the blood trail he'd left. He'd sliced his way through everything in his path, carved up half of Hojo's lab, freed Avalanche, and then rammed his very distinctive sword very emphatically through the President's body and into his desk, pinned like a rotund butterfly.

It was a peculiar thing, to think that the President's attempt to get me out of the way of his fun had apparently saved my life. If I'd been working - which under any other circumstances, I would have been - I would have been in the path of the storm of raging maniacs.

I also realized that no matter how much one might wish one's boss were dead, actually having a photograph of his skewered corpse in your hand changes your perspective. I'd wanted to stop him, not kill him. I opened the fourth packet - another report from Tseng - which indicated that Rufus, who had flown into Midgar for a late night negotiating session, had arrived just in time to be caught in that maniac storm; his first act as President of Shin-Ra had been to be hospitalized by Avalanche.

I opened the fifth packet, and added the schedules of the funerals to be held for Shin-Ra staff who'd fallen victim to Avalanche, as well as the state funeral for the former President, and the date set for Rufus' formal accession to the Presidency, into my PDA. It was all formal press releases - Domino probably hadn't slept in a while - covering the events. I just entered the relevant information in an information-overloaded daze.

The last packet was the smallest. I didn't note the sender until I'd opened and read it...a letter from my mother. My father, no fool when it came to matters mechanical, had heard the rumblings in the Plate. He'd understood that it was going to come down. And in a display of courage that shamed me just to read about it, he'd tried to get anyone he could out of the area of destruction. While my mother said he was credited with saving several lives, he'd been crushed by a falling beam in the process.

All I could think was, that was my job. That was what I was supposed to have done. What I was supposed to have had the power to do.

The letter concluded with a request to come to my father's cremation, and a note to the effect that my mother had found a boy orphaned by the tragedy, and was looking after him.

The next several hours were on some kind of traumatized autopilot, I think. I can say what must have happened, because I know where I was when all of that terrible information finally sank in - but I don't remember doing any of it. I put all those terrible files in my briefcase. I checked out of the hotel, returned to the port. And according to flight logs, I took a corporate helijet back to Midgar. At least, that's where I next remember being. On a helijet, on the wide circle prior to landing.

The mind reacts to stress in peculiar ways, and it may just be luck that decides which person gets which coping mechanism. I had lost two reactors, the workers therein, Sector Seven and most of the people in it, my employer and my father in such short order that emotionally it all blurred into one huge Event. Loved ones dead, acquaintances dead or hospitalized, and that which was supposed to be my care, my work, the reason I'd taken the job in the first place, was being blasted into rubble.

Something in me said enough. That was it. That was the last loss I was going to put up with. The last shame I was going to endure. I refused, somewhere during that blurred haze of funerals and reorganizations and investitures, to be a bystander to my own life. I was the Head of Urban Development of Shin-Ra, and if the title hadn't come with the power that I thought it should have, it still came with power. And it was time, past time, to stop railing about the power I didn't have and make full use of the power I did have.

As my father had done before me. As I should have done from the start.


The funeral for the now ex-President was an empty and gaudy affair, covered by every media outlet. The Turks were present, without Reno, and I saw Elena for the first time there - bright, young, eager, and clearly far too much in love with either Reno or the Turk mystique. I was too far to hear what she said to the microphones, but I knew Tseng well enough to know that as far as he was concerned she was making the statues of Da-Chao cry onto the cliffs of Wutai. Rude had apparently checked out, mentally - he was even more stoic than usual and I had a feeling his thoughts were on the hospital rather than his new employer.

As the golden - yes, golden, as in solid gold - coffin, with its idealized representation of the President's face, was rolled into the mausoleum erected on the grounds of the HQ, I got a good look at our new President.

Rufus was, by my reports, still recovering from a nearly terminal beating he'd received at the hands of Avalanche. But you couldn't tell at the funeral for his father. The makeup artists hid everything with an almost suspicious level of excellence, and Rufus' preference for long sleeves and long coats hid most of what a steady, controlled gait would not have concealed. There was no love lost, I knew, between son and father - gods, Rufus had tried to kill his father himself a few times before now. But there was no mistaking the cold rage in the young man's voice that day. Avalanche had made things very, very personal to the new President.

I studied that, those icy eyes, the frozen voice, and the self I'd become just made note of it. This new President would help me. It was personal now.

As the service - hours long, and nearly all pointless wind - concluded, I waited for a moment to speak to Rufus. His Turks were gathered around him like a pack of wolves, but I didn't mind. Not then. I just asked, "A moment of your time, sir."

"Reeve." A slow, pale-lidded blink. Rufus was keeping an iron grip on a rather infamous temper. "I trust your trip was smooth."

In what would have been vetoed by a saner self at any other time, I bared my teeth at the little President in the sort of smile often seen on the uppermost floors; the shark's smile. "Your father felt it was needed, sir. I'm sure you understand."

He did, actually, which likely saved my life; he smiled an answering smile. "And over now. You have your orders from me. I want it done as soon as possible."

Never show surprise to a predator; he'd just ordered me to do what I'd wanted to ask to do. "I'll need a leave of absence to oversee the work."

"Done." He turned away. "One month, Reeve." The group marched away, one little figure in white surrounded by his favorite shadows.

I had what I wanted. I left my former employer to his long sleep.
Sign up to rate and review this story