Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Prince of Thieves

8. Monkey Business

by Myshu 0 reviews

Monkey Business

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Characters: Freya Crescent - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2007-04-05 - Updated: 2007-11-02 - 3561 words - Complete

8. Monkey Business

Boss plowed through his wardrobe, his closet, his bed, beneath the bed--after fruitless huffing and puffing, he stood at a formidable conclusion.

"Bastards took it."

"Took what, sir?"

"My stuff!" he wailed succinctly. "It--It's... goddamnit, why take that? Of all the... argh!" In a conniption, he threw a pillow across the room, knocking over a lamp.

Luth was both impressed and alarmed; he'd never seen Boss lash out like that. "Sir, calm down. What did they take?"

He snapped his fingers and stormed out the door. "Let's go, Lu. I'm getting to the bottom of this."

"Should we call the police?" Luth offered bemusedly, barely stepping clear of his charge in time.

"Fuck the police," he snapped, already three steps from the elevator.


At the back of the regular offices and across the hall from a janitor's closet was a likewise quaint door marked "SECURITY." Boss practically punched it in, revealing a pint-sized room. One big desk sheltered a softly groaning computer box and its three small monitors. Lounging on the countertop and in the squat office chair were, to Boss's consternation, Pat and Berto. They were smoking, though the thick cloud they were camping in didn't smell of tobacco. Luth's scanty adult whiskers flared at the implications.

Boss's surprise wasn't reciprocated. Berto's chair squeaked as he turned a lazy semicircle to meet him, and Pat almost lolled off the desk, trying to wave and hold on to his stick at once. "'ey! Boss man... Locke," he hazarded, swerving a finger in Boss's vicinity.

"No," he censured them both, "What are you guys doing in here?"

Saving his breath, Pat offered a dopey grin and a smoke. Boss scowled at the stick for a minute before accepting it.

"Sir!" Luth disapproved.

Boss puffed out a smoke ring and shrugged. "What, you want a hit too?"

"No!" Luth exclaimed, indignant.

"This is weak shit, anyway." Boss passed the stick back and laid a critical eye on Berto, who sat unperturbed in security threads, badge and all.

"Berto," he barked.

The tapir blinked slowly, his eyes crossing back and forth. "Boss."

"I thought I sent you to the mail room."

"'m got promoteded back," Berto rebutted in a slick slur.

"Who did that?"

"You did, Boss."

Boss shared the tapir’s stupefied countenance for a moment before shaking it off. "O...kay."

"So how's it hangin', Boss?" Pat asked fearlessly.

Boss crossed his arms and frowned. "Not so good. I was robbed last night."

Berto grunted ambiguously. Pat slid backwards with a slow start. "Whoa, for serious? Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I wasn't even there. I'm pissed over what they nicked, though. It was all personal stuff from my room."

"That sucks, man."

"Yeah. That's really weird, though. The vault's downstairs, and the rest is in the bank. Why break into my room? Why take that stuff?"

"What exactly did they take, sir?" Luth tried again.

"I told you: personal stuff. Still, it's the principle of it. I've got to set this straight."

"Are you sure you don't want me to call the police, sir?" he also tried again.

"Hell no. I'm taking care of this myself." Boss smacked the back of the tapir’s chair. "Berto, fire up the surveillance recs. I wanna see who this bastard is that got into my room last night."

While the security chief sluggishly complied, Luth attempted to glean their plan of action from Boss. "Er, what exactly do you intend to do, sir? How are you going to track down the thief?"

"We're gonna see what he looks like first, obviously, Lu. Don't worry about the rest," Boss answered with simple patience. Luth sighed, holding his piece.

The group intently studied the monitor with a fish-eyed display of the top floor--Luth could see his door in the bubble-horizon, and only a hint of Boss's--the way into his office was the prominent focus. Berto's thick fingers stumbled over the keys, jerking the video in and out of the past.

"Just fast-forward through last night, Berto," Boss suggested, and in another minute the tapir had coordinated the thought.

"It doesn't look like anyone came that way," Luth was about to remark, when a blip appeared under the 3:12 AM timestamp. Boss had to lean over the computer and guide Berto through a halt and rewind. Everyone huddled a little closer to watch the evidence unfold in real time.

Luth tilted his head and blinked widely at the footage. Boss gawked flatly. Pat rolled his shoulders and fell back to the wall, lighting another stick. "It's just you, Boss."

"The hell it is," the Genome begged to differ, transfixed by the picture of himself walking down the hall and clean into his apartment. "Are you sure that's last night?"

"Uhh..." Berto responded accurately.

"The date on the recording says so," Luth confirmed.

"This is bullshit. I wasn't here."

"I know..." Luth concurred, at a loss. They were in the Good Graces at the time, a whole continent away. How was what they were watching possible?

"Then who the hell is /that/?" Boss raised an appalled voice, shaking an open fist at the screen.

"Uh... Are you sure that's not you? Because I'm seein' you. You're right there." Pat smudged his finger on the monitor, emphasizing his point.

"I'm--it's--I can see that!" Boss sputtered, muddled and angry.

"Maybe," Pat conjectured with patronizing grace, "You had a little too much to drink again last night, and don't remember--"

Boss shook his head, clearing it. "Look, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing last night, and I was definitely /not here/. Lu can back me up. This guy's an imposter!"

"He looks just like you, sir," Luth played the equivocal angle. "I mean, same size, hair, clothes, tail..."

Boss set his hands on his hips and said peremptorily, "Of course he does; he's a Genome--a smart one, from the looks of it."

"If that's it, then how the hell did he get a key to your room?" Pat smartly asked.

"I think you should reconsider locking your door at night, sir," Luth provided a chiding answer.

"Damnit..." Boss turned and sped off before Luth or his coworkers knew what to think.


Luth followed Boss back to his office like an extra wheel, struggling to input some helpful suggestion or insight while the Genome paced his rug in twain. All of Luth's thoughts were utterly useless, and Boss was ignoring him, besides. He looked like a caged wildcat, tail whipping anything in range and gaze riveted to the floor, furiously contemplating his next move.

"Damnit..." he muttered for the tenth time, his words trailing off and evaporating over Luth's head. "What are they going to do with...? How...? They couldn't..."

"'They'?" Luth pointed out, crossing his legs more comfortably on the sofa. "But there was only one person in that video, sir."

The blocked conversation was broken by some frantic scratching at the window. Luth jumped out of his seat--almost too hard--to pull back the curtain and look out.

At first, hectic glance the visitor resembled an exploding pigeon, a thrashing cloud of off-white fur and pink wings. It took both Luth and Boss a delayed moment to realize it was a moogle.

Boss stopped and stared at the apparition with blank amazement. "Holy shit, is that Arpy?"

The moogle threw itself bodily at the window, its tiny claws scrambling for purchase. "Let me in, you child-safe, plexiglass bastard!" he hoarsely wailed, his balloon-nose groaning against the glass as he steadily slipped down.

Luth passed a bewildered glance across the room--Boss shrugged, clueless--before flipping the window's latch. Arpy whirled into the office, a puffy tumbleweed in a gale of feathers and city rubbish. Luth hastily shut the window after the moogle and watched him roll to a dizzy drop at Boss's feet.

The Genome cocked an amused grin. "Nice of you to stop by, Arpy, but we have, y'know... doors."

"Geez, I'm outta shape," the moogle panted before instantly composing himself, springing to his feet and shooting beady eyes and digits at his host. "Holy shit, Ultima, you big dumb cracker. The Black Griffin's coming for you. I came to warn your skinny punk ass."

He gave a perplexed start. "Griffin? What's he want?"

"To stick a knife in your throat, that's what! Pevy hired him to roast your monkey nuts over a spit."

Luth gaped. "What??"

Boss was reasonably vexed by the news. "The hell?! What for?"

The moogle choked on some flabbergasted invective and then began, "What're you, blind and deaf on top of dumb, now? It's all over the--"

Luth about jumped out of his anklets when the door blasted open with a heart-stopping kick, like the call of a shotgun. The three jerked in circles to face the intruder, who stood like an ogre in the shivering threshold, either reveling in his stock-still audience or sizing them up. When nothing stirred, he forced his deep, rusty voice to announce, "...Knock knock."

It was just as he appeared in The Pen, Luth recalled--massive and lithe, livid of flesh, swathed in black and stitched with silver.

"What the--hey!" Boss protested, more irked than anything. "Oh, Berto is so fired."

The hulk narrowed his coal leer on the Genome. "Ultima."

Boss crossed his arms defiantly. "Griffin."

Then on Luth. "...When'd you get a pet rat?"

Luth bristled, for one blind, crazy instant ready to tear into the offender, but Boss waved him down and the good sense to stay quiet returned--that was what Arpy was doing, at any rate.

"Nice to see you too, Griffin," Boss greeted with mock congeniality. "Here to get your teeth back?"

"I came to see if it was true. I know you're a crazy son of a bitch, but I didn't think you were that crazy."

"What are you talking about?

"Hrmph. You're kidding."

"For once, no," Boss retorted. "What the hell's going on?"

Arpy fluttered in place. "That's what I've been trying to tell you, you blonde block of wood! Don Gator got the--"

"He's dead," Griffin rolled over him like a gravestone.

Luth gagged on his tongue in shock. "...What?" he surprised himself by speaking first--the others drowned in silence.

"Killed in his bed. The wife and kids, too," Griffin blithely elaborated.

"Gator? And... Mrs. Gator...?" Luth's voice wobbled piteously.

"Whole family taken out in six shots."

Boss swallowed and questioned, "When did this happen?"

"Last night," Arpy filled in. "It's all over the goddamn TV, you clueless hacks."

Boss numbly nodded towards the picture box in the corner. "...Lu, turn it on."

A reporter flicked onto the screen, above a ticker relaying such important tid-bits as the temperature in Esto Gaza and the status of another labor strike in Alexandria. Luth suddenly couldn't feel the fur on his face. He waited for someone to point her out--maybe some playful gibe from Boss--but no one said a word.

She was still lovely, he couldn't help but note. She stood outside the gates of a willow-festooned estate, before a backdrop of police cars and huddled men in trench coats. Composure and microphone held steady, she conveniently iterated to the camera, "This is Julia Knickoff, reporting in front of the Gator residence. For those of you just joining us, we're covering the gruesome murder of Pillis Gator and his family right around midnight, Lindblum Median Time. Authorities have confirmed that the cause of death of all four family members was homicide, but will not at this time confirm or deny the involvement of the Red Angels, the gang still at large for the theft of the Falcon Claw, and now the royal jewel of Alexandria, the Silver Pendant."

"Whoa, the Silver Pendant's been swiped too?" Boss smacked his forehead. "Geez..."

Julia continued, "Gator's survivors have issued a brief statement saying they are outraged by this heinous crime, especially against such a prominent and highly respected member of the community."

Griffin snorted irreverently.

"They are resolved to find the party responsible for the death of Mr. Gator and his family at all costs."

Luth couldn't believe it. "Who would do such a thing? The Red Angels?"

"Yeah," Griffin said, his every word a beastly grumble, "That's where the press is placin' their bets. Cops don't really have a clue. I heard all about it from the underground."

"Man, the Gators and the Silver Pendant..." Boss slouched against his desk, shaking his head. "When it rains, it pours."

Griffin fleered, inordinately pleased. "I've got even better news. Everyone in Gatortown thinks you did it."

"What?!" Luth shrilled in tune with the others.

"What the hell makes them think that?" the defendant quietly roared.

"The guy at Don's front gate says you were the last one there. Claims you said the password and everything."

"That's impossible," "That's bullshit," Luth and Boss exclaimed in tandem. The former shook his head insistently. "Sir and I weren't anywhere near Lindblum last night."

"Says you and your boss against Don's security guard and a video camera."

"They have me /on video/?" Boss's pitch raised a notch.

"Yeah, saw it myself. It's pretty blatant--ridiculous, really. I'm almost surprised the other bosses haven't turned the tape over to the Regs, but that's not how justice works in Gatortown." The black glint in his eye bounced between Arpy and Boss. "If you know what I mean."

"Huh." Boss sighed, ran a flustered hand through his hair and contemplated a pizza box on the floor for a minute. "So..." he eventually surmised, "I guess I'm not invited to the funeral."

Arpy scoffed. "No shit!"

"Wait," Luth spoke up, "That's really, really impossible. Sir, do you think this has anything to do with what we just saw on that recording?"

Arpy screwed up a smirk. "What're you giant freaks talking about?"

Boss explained, "The camera outside the door here shows me turning in at three in the morning last night, but like Lu was just saying, I wasn't even in Lindblum at the time."

"Huh. And the camera at Don's shows you there at ten o'clock. Interesting setup," Griffin remarked.

"Yeah, ain't it." Boss pitched Griffin a challenging glare. "You think I did it?"

Suddenly gazeless, The Black Griffin grimaced and shrugged ambivalently. "...I don't really care. That's not my concern."

"Then why are you here?"

"What's left of Gator's family is scrambling to keep control of Gatortown. Pevy and Leo are trying to put themselves in the Don's seat, and Gator's old hit-men are after your tail. Heh," he chuckled darkly, "Pevy even hired me to take you out."

Luth hadn't unpacked yet--it was a long day that wouldn't end--he still had his halberd strapped to his back, and in a blink it was aimed at Griffin's throat. He wasn't even thinking about it--it was a knee-jerk, an extension of his arm, some deep-rooted reflex he was too tired to reject or reconsider.

Arpy inflated like a spooked rooster. Griffin, too stoic for threats, merely hissed, his breath hotly ghosting over the dragon-blade. "...Your pet has teeth."

"Whoa, Lu, stand down," Boss coolly ordered. "He's not serious. If he was gonna kill me, he wouldn't waste so much time talking about it."

Luth wasn't reassured, especially when Griffin grinned and scratched his stubble. "I don't know about that. I've never disappointed a client before. Wouldn't be good for my reputation."

"You big blue..." Arpy simmered, but tightened his tongue before any more spilled out. Luth's halberd didn't retreat from Griffin's throat. Boss only crossed his arms and regarded the intruder with a lifted brow, waiting for his move.

"...But I guess I'll pass," Griffin folded, his thick fingers wrapping around Luth's weapon and carefully pushing it aside. Luth didn't press it further. "It would be too easy like this. Not any fun. I'd much rather take you down on my own time." He gave a nonchalant shrug. "Pevy's a dick, anyway."

"Gee," Boss leveled with him, "I'm flattered that you think I'm so easy, but at least we can agree on Pevy. So, really, what are you doing here?"

"I wanted to see the look on your face, mostly."

Arpy spit at him. "Show's over then, asshole. Go home and suck your mother's big, scaly, cold-blooded dick."

"Shut up, moogle," he growled, little more than irritated.

Luth stood back and tempered himself with a deep breath. "What about Don Gator's hit-men?" he wondered.

Boss clicked his tongue. "Eh, I wouldn't worry about the old man's band of slackies, Lu."

Arpy leapt onto the desk and skid over a stack of papers to pull on Boss's hair. "For the love of baked bat shit, I would! Have you gotten a good look at those guys lately? They're huge, like gorillas. They could crush your chimp head like a grape."

Boss snickered and batted him off. "So? The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I've taken down bigger punks than that."

Griffin snorted again. "There's six of them."

"That'll make it more challenging."

"They also have guns."

"I guess I'm in a bit of trouble, then," Boss lightly conceded.

Luth wrung his hands around the shaft of his halberd. "Sir, what are we going to do?"

"I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm getting the hell out of dodge." Boss punctuated the thought by getting up and heading for the door.

As he pushed past Griffin, he got a parting sneer. "You're running, eh?"

Boss paused to throw back a salty look. "No, I'll do better than that. I'm going to hunt these bastards down. Trying to kill me? Big deal; take a number. Framing me for murder? That's a new one, but I've scraped by worse. Impersonating me and stealing my shit out from under my bed? Hell no. Nobody's getting away with that."

"Wait, sir," Luth tried to reel him back, "You're saying 'those people' again. What do you think 'they' want?"

"Oh, I'm getting a fair idea of what they want. They want the Jewels, and they want me and Don out of the way while they're at it. I just don't know why, yet."

"But sir, how are you sure that the person--people--whoever after the Jewels are the same ones framing you for Don's murder? And the same ones who broke into your room? Maybe they're not related."

"I'm sure, Lu, because that was what was stolen from my room: the Memory Earring."

The name jogged Luth's textbook memory. He could practically hear his ancestor ruminating, 'It was one of the Jewels: Madain Sari's token. It was Eiko's to safeguard, and she wore it as an earring, saying it reminded her of home. If only the Desert Star evoked such fond memories in myself...'

Arpy dropped the stapler and pen he was attempting to juggle. "Whoa, you've got the Memory Earring?"

Luth was duly amazed. "I didn't know that was in your possession, sir."

"Not anymore, goddamnit!" Boss stressed, swinging his hands in frustration. "That's what I'm going to fix!"

"Interesting." Griffin planted himself in Boss's way, like a lumbering wall. "I'm coming with you."

"Hah," Boss laughed at him outright. "At what price?"

"No charge. If these guys are really that good, I want a shot at 'em. You can't hog all the fun."

"Suit yourself," Boss granted him that. "Lu, you in?"

"Where are we going, sir?" was all he needed to know.


"Burmecia?" Luth tried not to gag on the word, but it was impossible to hide the white flash of trepidation in his eyes.

Boss stepped closer, bearing a serious entreaty on him. "I want to catch these guys, Lu, and the best way to catch 'em is in the act. If they're collecting Jewels, then Burmecia's the only place they have left to go. I'm going to meet 'em there, kick their asses, get my stuff back and recover the rest of the Jewels. You're trying to be a Dragon Knight, aren't you? Isn't the Desert Star Burmecia's national treasure? Don't you want to protect it? I can go without you, but I'd really like your help for this one. Are you in or not?"

It was a bad idea, but the best one. He wasn't going to talk Boss out of it, and he definitely wasn't going to stay behind, cowardly and wrong against his fear of failure and the bitter truth. The Burmecian--for he was, and he wouldn't deny it, especially not in front of witnesses like these, who thought his people were just "some rats," useless pests--fastened his polearm to his back and stood salute-ready. "Yes, sir. I'll do it for Burmecia."

Boss clapped him on the arm. "Always a good sport, Lu. Let's--oh wait, wait." He held up his hands, arresting the room. "We can't go yet."

The others held their breaths and brows high for Boss while he rummaged through his desk drawers, at length procuring a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He flashed them triumphantly before pocketing them and marching out the door. "Okay, now we can go."

Luth promptly followed, and then Griffin in his own looming pursuit.

"You're all crazy bastards!" Arpy shouted in their wake. He stewed by his lonesome for a moment, muttering over "suicidal humans" and "stupid staplers," before abruptly picking himself up and skipping after the crackpot party. "...Hey, wait for me!"
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