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

Reactor One

by Larathia 0 reviews

The first explosion...

Category: Final Fantasy 7 - Rating: R - Genres: Horror - Characters: Reeve, Tseng - Warnings: [!] [V] - Published: 2006-10-31 - Updated: 2006-11-01 - 1740 words

The phone rang around midnight. I'd been working the equivalent of double shifts - eight at the job, eight on my robots - for weeks, and so the six hours of sleep I got a night (since I did need to commute) tended to be closer to blackouts than anything involving dreaming. I couldn't tell you, now, how long that phone rang before I picked it up. I couldn't tell you, now, how badly I still feel that I stared at it hatefully for a good four more rings before I gave in and picked it up.

"There's been an explosion at the Sector One reactor. Get over there right now."

Explosion. It didn't matter that I'd had all of an hour's rest. Explosion. I don't remember how I got out of bed, got dressed - only found out later that I hadn't hung up the phone. Up, dressed - not in my office suit but the engineer's jumpsuit with a fully stocked toolbelt that I wore during inspection tours - and out the door I don't know how fast. My feet were more intelligent than my brain; the next thing I clearly recall had me on a train to Sector One, calling the office for details.

"Reeve. Where the hell are you? The President's sending the Turks in, I need a full status report!"

"I'm on the train now, sir," I answered, looking out of the windows to measure my progress. "I don't have a car, sir, you know that...."

My supervisor, the head of Urban Development, was not and had never been an engineer. That was what he had me for - someone near the top to have a real idea what was going on in the city, in the reactors. I'd done most of the actual work in designing Midgar as it now stood, and the eight reactors around the city. Hojo'd done the initial developments in Mako energy, and as such had proprietary access to any Shin-Ra equipment based on its use or manufacture, but I was the one who - on a day to day basis - kept them running smoothly. I hadn't invented it all, but I knew as much or more about the practical power applications of Mako as Hojo did at that point.

My supervisor's job was, essentially, to plead for funding and to handle press releases. I'd never mastered the art of subterfuge, nor that of deception, which made me something of a joke to the executives of the highest level. This explosion was, from that standpoint, a public relations nightmare; a damaged reactor could leak half-processed and unshielded Mako energy all over nearby populations - in this case, all of Sector One and quite possibly portions of Sectors Eight and Two. I talked him down while the train rolled on, but my mind wasn't really on it. It couldn't be. Reactors were never unmonitored. Someone had probably been in that reactor when it had blown.

I showed my Shin-Ra keycard to the soldiers at the station - no one else was allowed off the train there. Soldiers were everywhere - crowd control, basically - but I was quickly joined by Tseng, who acted both as escort and bodyguard and led the way. "We're questioning some soldiers," he said, though I barely heard him. "All indications point to Avalanche."

The reactor looked like one of those 'tin plate full of popcorn' plates, where the tinfoil rises up and then bursts open as the popcorn kernels pop. Steel girders that had been straight were bowed, doors were blown open, and a smell like barbeque filled the air. My hand went to one of the pouches on my belt and handed its contents to Tseng, without looking. "Turn it on," I said, already running forward. "Get everyone back and back until that meter reads less than .05!" For myself I didn't worry; my jumpsuit had protections built into it. All I had to do was put on a hood and gloves, which I did while I ran inside.

I could tell you about the reactor - how the incindiery explosion melted steel beams, started a mutated blaze at the reactor's heart. I could tell you about the damaged reactor core's glow, the bright green firefly sparks of mako radiation permeating the air and everything around the explosion site and reactor core, even the fire. I could give you the hard numbers for the irradiation of the area, what it does to living and inanimate things when it's improperly shielded like that. But if I did, it would distance you from what was there. What had happened. A part of me did note these things; it was my job to note them, to direct personnel in containing the damage and properly shutting down the reactor core so that repairs could be safely effected, and I did my job.

Let me tell you about the corpses. Because there had been people working in that reactor when it blew. The ones nearest the core - close enough to die by fire or shrapnel, die quickly - were the lucky ones, their blackened and bloody bodies crumpled here and there on the catwalks along with the twisted metal remains of the maintenance and security robots. The unlucky ones had been those who had survived that initial blast. They were reactor personnel, engineers for the most part. They'd known as well as I did what would happen if the damage wasn't contained, and they'd /tried/. Were still trying - the survivors were the ones I directed, because there was no one else who could do the job so well. And maybe no one else who /would/; it took a complete awareness of the consequences of inaction to push most men to risk their lives and sanity the way this work demanded.

The unlucky corpses were barely recognizable as human. Mako energy does that, you see. Too much of it, especially too much at once, and semi-processed or fully-processed as you get in the gets into your body and it warps it. In controlled doses, controlled exposure, it can enhance - such were the first-class soldiers, like Zack. But think for just a moment how finite the limits of the human body are. If you're able to put your ankles behind your head, people will call you flexible. If you're able to tie your own legs in knots, however, people will call you crippled. Mako pushed human bodies to their limits - and then pushed them past that point. And what it could do to a man's mind was much, much worse. Engineers - my engineers - knew all that very well, and while one in three dropped screaming or numb every minute, no one left his post. No one could; it was them or everyone in the sector, and I was right in there with them.

After a while they stopped dropping; all who remained were those who had the best worksuits, the ones like mine. But the loss of the others was felt; each one of us was doing the work of three or four, and I don't know how long we were there. My phone rang; I ignored it at least twice, until the final shutdown sequence was in progress and the remaining survivors could wobble their weary way through the house of corpses to the blown-out exits. The sun had risen in the meantime; my eyes hurt from the brightness that felt insulting as I came out into daylight. Rude was there; when he saw me he pulled me away from the little herd and dragged me off to one side, where a bench had been set up. And then he left - by then I was far too numb, too tired, and too filled with shock to give a damn.

Tseng came...some time later, I couldn't say how much so. "Executive," he said in that quiet, flat tone of his. "Your assessment."

Words came. They came from the part of my head that saw and processed data as equations and constants and estimates; the engineer was all that was still operating. Reeve Tuesti, human being, had shut down before the sun had even thought about rising. Damage estimates - in terms of what had been done, in terms of what it would likely cost to effect repairs. Estimates of how long it would take before the reactor was remotely operable, and how much it would cost to get that far, and how long it would take the company to replace all the skilled labor it had lost in one night. Facts and figures. Had the human side of me been awake and listening I would have thrown up at the things my own mouth said with such calm finality. But Tseng simply listened, and wrote them down, and nodded and asked his questions.

And then - some timeless time later - they stopped. "Executive," he said in the same tone, as if we had been discussing weather and not body counts, "I am to tell you that the President is hosting a formal dinner this evening and expects your attendance." He checked his watch. "You have...eight hours. I will have Reno escort you home; rest, and be ready to attend on the 61st floor at 8 p.m. tonight."

I blinked at him. I heard the words, of course - else I could hardly tell you about them - but at the time they might as well have been Tseng's native Wutaian for all the sense they made to me. It had nothing to do with engineering, and that was the only part of my mind still functioning. Everything else, every other part of me, had long since shut down.

Reno did escort me home - or, more accurately, drove me there. He kept up a cheerful babble on the way, but I don't remember any of it. Denied any more questions to answer, any more work to do, I kept seeing dead faces and misshapen bodies, smelling the ozone of mako sparks and the rank of charred meat and blood and the hot darkness of melted metal. Reno all but dragged me by the hand into my apartment, and I must've looked pretty badly because the last thing I remember was him pressing a glass into my hand.

I knocked it back; whiskey, I think, or scotch, and as I'd had an hour of sleep in the past thirty six - and nothing to eat for at least the last twelve - that was quite the last thing I remember.
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