Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Prince of Thieves

2. The Grand Tour

by Myshu 1 review

The Grand Tour

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Freya Crescent - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-02-07 - Updated: 2007-11-02 - 4243 words - Complete

2. The Grand Tour

Before Luth knew how and what he was acquiescing, he was being led down the hall, one guiding hand on his arm. "Walk with me, kid."

He planted his heels to brake just outside the elevator. "Whoa, wait a minute!"

Boss pressed the down button. "What, you've got somewhere else to be?"

"Well, no, but--"

"Great, we can start right away!" The lift arrived with a pleasant ding. Boss swept Luth and his wits inside. "I wanna show you around." He stirred the air with a careless hand. "Oh, and don't worry about Berto. He bounces around here like a flea. He's a good fellow." He tossed Luth a sympathetic look and tapped his temple. "Just got a case of the /slows/. I keep him on the payroll as a favor to his old man."

Luth shook his head dazedly, not on the same page at all. "No, I mean, wait, I don't want a job here!"

Boss leaned back a notch, acting surprised. "You don't? You should've said something before."

The elevator opened at the fourth floor, and their swift pace resumed. Luth practically had to trot to keep up. "I--you--are you /insane/?"

"The best kind, Lu," Boss confessed merrily. "Can I call you Lu?"

"I don't--"

"Relax, it's easy work. And good money. And experience! You get to travel all over the world. That's all your Pilgrimage is anyway, right? You'll love it; all you have to do is put up with me."

"I don't... know..." Luth trailed off as they encountered an indoor tram. It had no wheels nor rails, and sat in its clean, empty trough like a big bird nest in a pearly plastic shell.

Boss climbed into the tram's donut-shaped bench and waved his recruit inside. "Com'on, hop in."

"I really don't know about this," the Burmecian tried again, muddled over both the strange transport and the opportunity being thrust at him. He hardly had both feet inside the car when Boss flicked a switch on the dashboard and the tram jumped into life with an electro-magnetic whirr.

Luth was rolling into a sane position while Boss and the car continued at twenty miles-per-hour, "Don't think so hard! Just say yes. I've been looking for someone like you for a while."

He settled in time to watch an outdoor docking bay pan beyond the light blue windows of the tram tunnel. Beneath their feet, trucks, carts and roving ladders with big wheels and peeling yellow lights lumbered around the concrete lot, while flagmen in bright orange vests danced around taxiing airships. "You have?"

"Sure." Boss kicked back and splayed a hand over his chest with an assured smile. "You see, this is a family business--that is, it's like a family. I am the godfather, and everyone who works for me is like a son--or a daughter--you know, I'm all for chicks in the workplace. But not like incestuously. That shit ain't right." He hopped off the digression and edged forward, levelling a weighty finger at Luth. "But you, Lu--you're going to be special. I'm going to let you in on the company secrets. Not all at once, of course. But I'm gonna need a good right-hand man to help keep my head on straight. Are you up to it?"

The tram shuddered to a stop. Boss sprang to solid ground like a circus chimp, spun and offered Luth a hand.

Diffidence persevering, he accepted it. "Um, yeah, I gue--"

"Great!" He reeled Luth into a brisk, sidelong squeeze. "Love your voice of confidence, there. Let's get started. I'll show you the ropes." Boss bounced away down a flight of stairs.

Luth figured he must have jettisoned his good sense somewhere on the tram, else he never would have kept up with the capricious Genome. "Where are we going, Mister... um..."

"Mister nothing! I hate that crap. Everyone around here calls me Boss."

"Yes, Boss...?"

He paused, sealing his lips with a thoughtful digit, and then spoke again, "Nah, wait, don't call me Boss. That doesn't sound right coming from you." He studied Luth with a cocked smirk for a minute before deciding, "I guess you can call me whatever you want, until I think of something better."

"Uh, okay... sir," Luth agreed, cordially as ever.

The smirk turned sour, but then he shrugged and pressed on. "Eh, that'll work for now. Anyway, we're going to the airship docks. You know what we do, right?"

"Yes, I've heard of Ultima Express," Luth piped up, feeling like a participant in the conversation for the first time. "It's a shipping company."

"That's right. We started out as a real small-town job, right here in Lindblum. Before anyone knew it, we were shipping packages all over the world--the fastest and the best. That was forever ago."

"Your ancestor, right?" Luth interjected, getting back to the root of his visit. "He founded this company."

Boss hummed something inscrutable and swung open a thick steel door. A cavernous room caught Luth's breath, and once he finally dared a whiff, all he could smell was motor oil, jet fuel, iron and the peculiar, wet static that always preceeded storms. Stacked like bricks over their heads and across the indoor docks were dozens of airships, from sleek and fast to massive and bulky. The ruffled sheet metal walls and I-beams resonated with shouting men and crackling tools.

Boss had been watching Luth's wide-eyed wonder with a smug grin. "Like it, rookie?"

He carefully nodded. "It's impressive, sir."

"And that's not even half the whole fleet. The rest are all over the world. We run non-stop."

Luth followed Boss's careful tread across the dew-slick catwalk, surveying each ship they passed with studious interest. "I must say, I've heard a lot about you, but I didn't know you were a Genome, sir."

"Yeah, it's a pretty well-overlooked fact." They stopped over a super-tanker that was being unloaded and refueled.

"Do you think it's because of, um, the reputation?"

Boss shot him a glare, his voice hardening. "The hell are you saying, rookie? That everyone thinks Genomes are freaks?"

"Er, no!" Luth backpedaled. "I didn't mean--of course you're not a freak, sir. I'm sorry. ...Am I fired already?"

His stern mask melted into a snicker, and then Boss was cackling outright. "Ahahahaha. You're cute! Cute. I was just kidding. Of course we're freaks. And don't ever apologize around me. We all make mistakes, right?"


"Hey, Boss!" called a portly badger from the deck. He scaled the nearest ladder to reach Boss, standing a whole head over Luth before he finished climbing.

"Hey, Gribbo!" Unlike Luth, Boss was perfectly comfortable being dwarfed. "Gettin' off?"

Gribbo brushed an oily glove across the front of his overalls before rubbing the remains over his nose. "Yeah," he said with a weary grunt, "Just flew in from Daguerreo. Gonna check out for the week."

"Awesome. Say hi to your brats for me."

"Heh, will do." He tipped his snout at Luth. "Hey, who's the bumpkin?"

"You're lookin' at my new assistant. Meet Lu."

Before Luth could think of protesting, more of Gribbo's grease was on his own hand and being vigorously shaken in. "Nice ta meet'chya, pal."

The Burmecian bit back a grimace. "Y-yes, the pleasure's mine..."

"Alright!" Boss clapped the badger on the back. "See ya next week, Gribbo. Me and Lu are gonna make the rounds."

Gribbo snorted as he strolled the other way. "Take it easy on the new guy, Boss!"

"Like hell I will!"


Glimpsing the disconcerted furrow to Luth's brow, Boss nudged him affably. "Lighten up, rookie. You'll have more fun here if you do."

Luth straightened his frown. "I'll keep that in mind, sir."

They left the hangars and were suddenly walking down a sterile, florescent-lit hall. Boss's bare feet left charcoal prints over the waxed tile floor. "So, you've heard a lot about me, eh? What kinds of things are they saying behind my back these days?"

"Oh, um..." Luth's hands knotted around themselves as he fished for a polite answer, "Just people talking in taverns, little things--I'm sure half of them are pure gossip."

"Well com'on, lay 'em on me! I want to know everything you think you know. You won't get in trouble. Humor me."

"Okay... They say you inherited this company from your father, just like your father did from his. Nobody knows your family's name, though. It's not in any public records. When your father died, there wasn't even a funeral. They say your company keeps it a secret because of your family's ties to underground crime."

"The mob? Hah!" he hooted. "That's an old one. Go on, keep going."

"The best known connection to the company's founder is the King of Thieves, who was a hero back during the Mist War. Ultima Express was established several years after his death, supposedly by his grandson. Oh!" Luth caught himself. "Does that mean the King of Thieves was a Genome, too?"

"Of course he was. You know, it's amazing how people so easily forget an unpopular fact--like, say, one of the saviors of the world being a monkey-greaser. And why not forget, since every heir to the Alexandrian throne after him has been a human. But that's history. Company secret. I hate geneaology. Now, you were saying...?"

Luth couldn't get a thought in edgewise, so he recited on, "Oh, ahm, right, the King of Thieves. Nobody remembers his real name, either. Some people say that's intentional--part of the conspiracy to cover up your company's real purpose."

"Real purpose, huh?"

"Yes, to..." Luth hesitated before the ridiculous allegation spilled out of his mouth, "...traffic illegal drugs and weapons all over Gaia."

Boss shook his head. "Man, that one never makes sense. What's that got to do with names? So, nothing new on the grapevine? I'm disappointed."

Luth started a bit. "You've heard this all before?"

"Are you kidding? That's kid's stuff. You didn't get to any of the gossip about twin clones, aliens and Black Mage armies. I've heard that we keep a secret lab in the basement where we build missles and spaceships for the government."


"Yeah, I wish somebody would tell me how to get to it. I tell ya, kid, it's hilarious. I should make a book out of 'em all."

They passed through a block of offices--all memos and envelopes plastered over glass dividers, keyboards and coffee mugs. A dark-haired, wild-eyed, lanky man in a white-collared shirt jumped on the pair from a hidden corner. "Boss!"

While Luth was stuffing his heart back in place, Boss sauntered on. "Yo, Pat."

Pat fired quickly, "Charles. Dave."

"Nope," Boss countered.


"I'm not wearing a skirt, Pat."


"Now you're just making me hungry."

"Damn!" Pat cursed and turned extravagantly on his heel, fleeing.

"What was that?" Luth asked, wondering if Boss had a proclivity to hire people at least as crazy as himself.

"He was trying to guess my real name."


"I said I'd give him ten million gil if he gets it right."

Luth gaped. "And you're letting him guess as many times as he wants??"

"I'm not worried," Boss waved it off. "He hasn't gotten it yet in the three years he's been working here."

"Sir, if I might be so bold as to ask, what is your real name?"

Boss stopped and faced Luth, some old, clever, secret joke behind his eflin smile. He touched a finger to his nose, and then to the tip of Luth's muzzle. "Company secret," was the punchline, and Luth was too bemused to laugh.

They walked on. "By the way, you said you have Freya Crescent's diary?"

"Yes, I do."

"Have you read it?"

"Not all the way through yet," Luth admitted.

"Huh..." Boss scratched his chin. "Maybe you could do me a big favor about that."

"Sure, sir...?"

"Keep the things you read in there to yourself. I don't need to know; nobody needs to know. Privacy issues, y'know?"

He digested the odd request. "If you... say so, sir."

Boss patted his arm roughly. "That's a good sport."

They reached a grand, open lobby, where streamlined stainless steel, cool marble colors, digital banners and scrolling tickers built up the impression of a fast-paced, booming company. An array of doors up front revolved around pilots, clients and visitors coming and going, up and down the escalators and through the security terminals. The setting was utterly contrary to Boss's space on the top floor.

Boss honed in on a woman behind the front desk, looking busy with a desktop computer. He circled her office chair and perched on its back, his hands snaking over her shoulders. "Hello, Sheryl," he said saucily.

Sheryl was a lovely woman, Luth noted, slender yet shapely. She wore a starched business suit with a skirt cut close to her thighs. She tossed her rich purple hair around her shoulders, sat up primly in her seat and returned with playful frost, ignoring his affection, "Hello, Boss."

Boss retreated a step and clicked his tongue. "You're always so stiff, Sheryl. You should let me give you a proper massage one day, if you know what I mean." He passed a wink to Luth, who shook it off, innocent and lost.

"Are you sure I'm the one who's stiff right now?" she retorted, and then moved straight to business. "Do you want to know what's on your schedule tonight, or are you going to continue making awkward passes until my shift ends?"

"Go on, hit me."

"You're having dinner with the Owlsons."

He snapped his fingers, either for remembering or confirming, Luth couldn't quite tell. "So I am!"

"And speaking of massages, tomorrow morning you have a hearing down at the courthouse for Miss Carawol's sexual harassment suit."

"Damn!" he swore lightly and turned to Luth, waving both hands for emphasis. "Tell me, Lu, what kind of sick, twisted, depraved world do we live in today, where a man can't go to his place of work and grab his secretary's large, supple breasts?"

"You're a scoundrel," Sheryl cut him down, relieving the Burmecian from answering. "This your new protégé?"

"Why, yes," Boss gladly changed tack. "Sheryl, meet Luthane."

Luth shook her hand, smiling pleasantly. "Nice to meet you, miss."

She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Interesting name." Then, to Boss, "I'm impressed that you remember it."

Boss thumped his chest. "I'm sharp like a tack, Sheryl."

"I agree, you're a pain-in-the-ass little prick."

"God, I love it when you talk dirty to me. Your place tonight."

"How about no. I think you better worry more about scaring off your new pet."

"What, Lu?" He jerked a thumb towards the Burmecian. "Nah. You're not afraid of breasts, are ya rookie?"

While Luth's ears burned scarlet, Boss rolled the extra name on his forgetful tongue. "Man, Carawol, Carawol... Which one was that?"

"Linda, from human resources," Sheryl informed.

"That cunt," he sighed wistfully. "What time?"

"Bright and early, eight o'clock."

"Hell no. I'm sick."

"You certainly are."

"What's a good plague going around, Sheryl? How's that leopersy coming along?"

"Cured quite a long time ago, I'm afraid."

Boss stamped a foot and twirled on it melodramatically. "Damn modern medicine! Whatever happened to those good ol' fashioned, god-fearing diseases?" He righted himself, hands obdurately planted on his hips. "What's something else that's not cured yet?"


Boss grabbed Luth and headed out yet again, remarking, "You see why I love that woman?" Then, in parting to Sheryl, "Okay, I have the flu. But it's bad! I could die."

"Your funeral, sir," she threw at his back.

"That's the spirit."

They scurried down to the ground floor and pressed outside, hitting the blustery city air and traffic. Boss steered Luth along the sidewalk through downtown Lindblum. The Burmecian hadn't yet adjusted to the intense urban world, he was loathe to admit. The towering, packed buildings, glaring lights, billowing smog and endless waves of automobiles and people--all in a hurry, always in a hurry--waged war with each of his senses. Hanging around Boss too much already, he was starting to wonder if he simply didn't think fast enough to live in the big city.

"Are you sure it's wise to avoid that hearing, sir?" it eventually occurred to him to ask.

"Aww, you're concerned for my legal welfare already. I knew I picked a good partner."

Luth blinked. "Partner...?" he tried to beg elaboration, but his gaze was hooked by a poster displaying a topless woman for some establishment labeled, "The Lion's Den." He began to reflect on the way his parents talked about "people losing their sense of shame" and "the world going to hell in a handbasket."

"You hungry?" Boss jarred him back on track.


"I'm famished. You think it's dinner time yet? We're heading down to the Owlsons' place. Maria makes great cassoroles. The kids'll love you, too."


"Yes, you, me, going to dinner. You Burmecians still eat food, right?"

For a moment, he was too overwhelmed by the notion to be offended.

Boss shook him again. "I told you, relax! Just stick by me and you'll be cool."

"You're not wearing shoes, sir..." was the only objection Luth could make coherent.

"Screw 'em!" He threw up an assertive arm, pointing down the street, and proceeded in an exaggerated march. "Food first. Let's go!"

Luth was relieved to see Boss's antics attract a cab, and he insisted they take it before the entire street block ended up staring at them. As the taxi took off for the residential district, Luth was compelled to ask, "Don't you have a car, sir?"

"Uh, well, I did!" Boss evasively rubbed his nose. "But then I, uh... wrecked it. A few times. Lost my license."

"How did you do that, sir? Are you a bad driver?"

"Now that's some question!" the Genome said peevishly, and Luth flinched.

"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that."

"Eh!" Boss barked, catching him, "No sorry's. Anyway, the judge said I'm 'reckless'. Hah!" He rolled his eyes. "He has no idea."

"Neither do I, sir," Luth murmured, nearly to himself.

"You'll catch on," Boss decidedly heard him. "Besides, there's nothing wrong with utilizing public transportation. It is efficient and provides jobs for good, hard-working men like..." He craned one leg and bunted the name plate on the back of the driver's seat with his heel. "STAN, there."

Behind the pane of safety glass partitioning the cab, STAN grunted.


They stopped in a cluttered neighborhood at the base of the mountain city. Townhouses were stacked like toy blocks along a twisted, narrow street, where children and airing laundry played through the mess. It was quaint, poor and dirty, but oddly... wholesome, in Luth's eyes. For the first time since arriving in Lindblum, he felt close to home.

Luth should have guessed that the Owlson family was comprised of owls, but he didn't, so the surprise was there. He was greeted enthusiastically at the door and pulled into a sticky, crowded apartment that smelled of sweaty kids and fresh bread.

He let his gaze get sucked into the faded lime green wallpaper while Maria Owlson bustled about the supper table, arranging pots, bowls and silverware around her offspring and guests. Luth was seated next to Boss, across from the hostess's little son and daughter, Joel and Cindy. They stared over duck-shaped sippy-cups at their visitors with brazen curiosity and wariness at once.

Maria took her place at the head of the table with a hearty harrumph. "My husband is staying up late at the shop tonight. Poor soul's going to work himself to death, I say. But you boys are free to eat up all his portion."

Luth nodded. "Thank you, Mrs. Owlson."

"It's my pleasure." She chuckled amiably and fanned her bowl of hot soup with a wing-like mitt. "Boss, you're terrible," she chided the Genome. "You haven't told me a thing about your new friend, here."

Boss shrugged, giving Luth half a glance. "I think he can speak for himself. Go on, tell us about yourself, Lu."

"Oh, well..." He fumbled with his fork. "There's not much to say. I grew up in Burmecia. I just arrived here a week ago."

"Burmecia!" Maria chirped. "I hear it's a beautiful country. I want to visit someday."

"It's very nice, ma'am. I was training in the royal palace to become a Dragon Knight."

"A Dragon Knight! Oh my goodness, that's so exotic."

"Do Dragon Knights really slay dragons?" Cindy piped up.

"Traditionally, yes," Luth answered academically. "An old initiation rite for a Dragon Knight was to leave Burmecia on what's called a Pilgrimage. At the end of the Pilgrimage, he would have to hunt and kill a grand dragon."

Maria's excitable commentary was the loudest thing in the room. "Sounds dangerous! If I ever saw a grand dragon, I'd about wet my britches, never mind fighting it! Ohoho!"

Boss prodded him. "You're on your Pilgrimage now, aren't you, Lu?"

"I am, actually."

"Oh good heavens." Maria put aside her soup to fan herself, now. "You're not really going to go kill a grand dragon, are you, son?"

Luth put the flustered woman at ease. "I don't think there are that many left anyway, ma'am. Grand dragons are endangered on this continent."

"A good thing!" she cawed. "We don't need dangerous monsters like that around anymore. You know, I think I saw something on the Informative Channel once about Dragon Knights. They're so noble! They say one of the eight heroes of the Mist War was a Dragon Knight."

"Yes, as a matter of fact, that was my great-great-great grandmother."

"Really!" She slapped the countertop, and the little ones jumped. "You listen up, children. We have another celebrity at the table."

Luth's cheeks bunched up with a blush. "Oh, I'm not..."

"Hahahah," Boss ribbed him, "What's wrong, Lu, embarrassed? Your ears are turnin' red."

"Sir...!" he whispered harshly, pleading for his modesty.

Maria waved a spoon at them both. "Psh, don't you let Boss sass you. He's just a big troublemaker."

"And proud of it," Boss quipped around a mouthful of potatoes.

"I'll tell you a story, though." Maria leaned over the pan of green bean cassorole to confide openly with Luth. "My husband and I were in deep trouble with some loan crocs. They were going to take our store if we didn't come up with 3,200 gil overnight! Our little potion shop is all we have." A thick primary feather was aimed at Boss. "But then that fine man right there bailed us out. If it weren't for him, oh my goodness, I don't know where we'd be. I don't care what they say about Genomes; your boss is a good man. And we're going to pay him back!"

"Aww," Boss brushed the tall praise off, "Cut it out, Maria. I told you guys it's nothing. You're going to ruin my dinner if you keep talking all that sap."

"Ohoho, /you/," she chortled. "Are the mashed potatoes all right? I was worried I didn't cook them enough."

"They're great! I'm hungry enough to lick the bowl clean." Boss didn't hesitate to demonstrate his point, and Luth couldn't conceal a grimace next to him.

Abruptly, from the peanut gallery, "I heard Genomes eat babies."

"Joel!" Maria snapped.

"Tha's not it!" Cindy corrected. "They sacrifice babies, for their falth god."

"Both of you mind your mouths right now! That's all a lot of gossip and terrible lies."

"Your mother's right," Boss agreed, adopting the first straight face Luth had seen since they met. "We don't sarcrifice babies..." Luth knew it was too good to be true when a devilish grin cut up his ruse. "They're way too small. We much prefer growing little kids...!"

"Eeee!" The children were shrieking and tumbling towards the stairs by the time Boss was out of his whicker-chair and after them. The three crashed somewhere on the second floor with a thump that shook the rickety foundation.

Luth was left abashed in his seat, not sure whether to apologize or ignore the horseplay. Maria merely shook her head as giggles trickled through the thin walls. "They are all /too much/, I swear to goodness."


"Where are you staying?"

After dinner, Luth and Boss were trekking back towards the neon-lit urban center, spindly streetlights and distant skyscrapers their only beacons. The residential district was a quiet realm after dark, eerie yet peaceful.

"Oh." Luth idly dug around his shoulderpack, reassuring himself of his meagre possessions. A man on a Pilgrimage wasn't to afford himself a lot of luggage; it was unnecessary on top of impractical. "I have a motel room in the business district."

Boss wrinkled his nose with disapproval. "Forget that. Catch."

Luth nimbly snatched the key ring that flew from Boss's pocket. "What's this?"

"My keycard. Top floor, you know, where my office is? Go down that hall and hang a right. Second door on the right. It's all yours."

"Oh, I, but..." Luth was again struck dumb by the generous offer. "Won't you need this key, sir?"

He shrugged blithely. "Nah, just hold on to it until Sheryl has your card ready." Before Luth even realized he was leaving, Boss slipped into a shadowed niche across the street. "I'll see ya tomorrow, rookie!"

"Uh, where are you going, sir?" he futilily called after him.

"Wherever!" the moonless twilight answered.

"Oh. When should I report in, sir?"

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