Streets Are Filled With --
picking up what people have left behind
Final Fantasy VII: Year One (Reeve, Veld, Lazard, Tseng, Rufus, Midgar, &c.) 
17th-May-2009 04:31 pm
This fic officially took my brain, injected a thousand CCs of politics into it, beat it up and left me staggering about wildly. I haven't written something like this, I think, since Empery.

The last (and crowning) jewel of the Honourable Men triple bill (they're all standalones, though, so no need to read through).

I humbly request that you give this one a try. ♥ Okay going to go expire from exhaustion now.

Year One

Fandom: Final Fantasy VII (BC through CC)
Characters: Lazard-Tseng-Rufus, Veld, Reeve, does the City of Midgar count?
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Spans through Crisis Core and Before Crisis backstory. You don't need to know BC, but it helps, and there's a tiny appendix at the bottom of the fic to help you if you'd like.
Summary: From the journals of Urban Development, filling in the lives and empty spaces in Midgar.

7575 words and Midgar being alive.



From the journals of Urban Development, over the years:

1. newly into Midgar

The tar here smells so new that moving in feels like invasion. A funny feeling, stemming from somewhere deep within the marrow of bones. This is Midgar; it's not like any other city in the world. There are roads everywhere, leading here and there. Strategic, v. strategic: one way to Mideel (widened especially - cargo out and produce in etc), another way to the West and sufficient foundation underneath everything that we won't have to rip up old pipes to lay down excess capacity in the future. No dirt here yet. But plenty of dust, from very last parts of construction work coming off S. 7; when the sun lies low at the end of the day the whole sky does magnificent orange because of it. Human pollution can too give character. We're not a farming town, or an industrial one; if it weren't for Mako, we'd probably not be environmentally sustainable at all. Midgar is a city.

But her growth is organic, slow. The computers and systems have to go in first. Department gets priority, for obvious reasons - leaves Pr. Gast & Hojo less than satisfied, but they have Nibelheim and Icicle for now, until the generators run fully stable and the Tower starts to come up. Hollander and Pr. H can fight it out in the rural areas until then. The President knows resources have to be optimised, for now. Urban Development is v. efficient, v. efficient. My earmarks are pittances. Genomes aren't my forte. Next to Science's budgeting, all we are is hammers and iron girders. Good.

Meanwhile in what V calls "the old country" they are bringing everything else up to speed. Since S1 is fully operational, they've halved it. Residential on one side and service on the other: finance mostly, things that can be channelled back and forth. Migrated practically the whole of central Kalm into new office spaces. Better connectivity and brighter lights. They get to keep their homes. Transit back over the weekend is simple and inclusive in employment packages. Midgar barters gil, for now, gil & large industry.

S2 is not optimised for warehousing/manufacturing, but that's easily ceded to the benefit of having 50 stories of vertical space in below-Plate. Filled instead with shop fronts; most likely early investors just sitting on property, waiting for the next five years. G. & Assoc. have commandeered a twenty-level automated system a few thousand feet beneath their flagship establishment, leveraging off the trains. Now that they're done providing the brick-and-mortar they're selling off the excess at a bargain price and reaping the benefits. The stuff goes out to all the neighbouring -- villages? settlements? everywhere seems a bit parochial now in comparison. Now getting a lot of truckers and waymen; it's cheap for them under-Plate, nothing much provided for except sanitation and proper insulation, but they like the crowd, gives the whole place some character. President may try to move them Platewards, keyword may. Maybe he does not want to share space with greasemonkeys and the trades. Will see. Digressing --

S3 is military. Self-defence force, the Army. The two have old barracks; now going on 4, 5 years since the early Plate stress-tests, and they've been here longer than anyone else. Guarding something - President thought perhaps sabotage, or theft of -- secrets? How do you hide a city from prying eyes? The structures are all mostly internal, and the internal areas mostly circuited to 24-7 feeds. But not out of place for him to have someone guarding something. It has a good sound "guarding"; and as Midgar became Midgar its army needed to grow. Now we have a force full flush. The ones that Heidegger will find extraneous we simply release into the newer sectors. They are all young men coming in from far places, looking for a town with more than five hundred and some space. We sympathise. The President gives them housing, and gives everyone something to do. If there are schools there will be students, if there are workplaces they will be filled.

And if they don't want to work and don't want to study there will be wars, or "attempts at expansion"; we are already so close to Wutai.


2. AResearch/Science

V back from various ventures abroad, had drinks with him. Eternally a better drunk than I am. Maybe he has a training regime for that too; would not be surprised if so. Asked if there were any new additions to his band of merry men, what w. V2 off guarding women in isolated laboratories from - himself, probably. V found that joke particularly sour. He would. Increasingly he finds nothing funny at all. Would be inclined to agree with his worldview, but then would just be a fatalist. There's no point in that.

Or maybe it is middle age catching up with us both. Youth wasted on the young, etc. We had some v. good ideas in that time. Designs! Knives in the dark! Maybe we were both too bored, living out in the country. Irony cuts quickest.


3. bastard sons

The best kept secrets are the ones you keep out in the open: that way everyone who hears them becomes a co-conspirator. Suppose I should feel some sense of pride: one knows a city has come of age when it gets itself its first whores. No doubt that in a few years time the place will become some below-Plate syndicate with a horrendous name and equally horrendous clientele. Don't know what they might call it, but at least I'll know their customer base. The President is not v. discreet. But he controls the flow of energy and weapons everywhere, so he doesn't need to care much what his subordinates think of him.

Not every day that you see a no-name entrant into Shinra's elite education system (children are trophies for rich men to put on shelves in this place) -- but rumour has it that there's a young boy newly admitted. Anonymous father, and a mother that would've been better off anonymous. Deusericus will be a name to keep track of, when there's time to look away from the log reports. Am very determinedly not looking. Ignorance etc etc. The President is not subtle but he is also not stupid. The head that sticks itself out will get cut off; in all likelihood this is one of those tests of loyalty (how much will we take, can we keep his secrets secret...) Will leave that (secrets & head cutting) to V. It's his job, not mine.

Poor child.


4. genetics, V2

Pr. G perhaps watches too much of the commercial broadcasts; derives inspiration from the adverts directed at housewives and the now truly noveau riche (em. on riche)? Graceful ageing, applied with by a factor of what, 3? 4? 5? To stem cells and alien matter? Am a simple brick-and-mortar man, but know well enough what happens if I put 5 times the load on a floor meant to bear only so much. Who knows if Sephiroth will be stable enough to be the "perfect Soldier" (sic). But this is the future; four generations ago the world still relied on the derivatives of crude (ha!) oil. In the same breath, I think I'll still hedge my bets. V's always been a better gambler than me, and he still---

Scribbling things down on paper makes everything flatten out into a simple forward progression, but life is not like that. Am a coward who records, and cowards don't make many friends. Good thing, too. V2 is gone. V won't be looking for him, but whether that's because of directives or because of his own desire to think that Valentine died an at least dignified death is anyone's guess. Personally hope that V2 is dead. No other way to wish him well, now.


5. legitimate heirs

From the grapevine. New development in the works, and this one not here at home. Competition? Doubtful - seems to be a place targeted mostly at tourists etc etc, anyone with a few hours and a few gil to waste: "The Golden Saucer", managed by a Midgar offshoot, if you'd imagine it. Dio wasn't here long, but he was here long enough to double his fortune and put it to good use. Property, property, property.

Young Rufus Shinra is born. An heir to the throne, officially recognised and cementing P Shinra's authority. Anyone foolish enough to have dreamed of succession now slinks off into the shadows and pretends loyalty and dedication when they probably had been planning assassination and financial bankruptcy. The President is far smarter than they give him credit for. The news is full of him holding the baby in his arms and smiling. R Shinra's first memories will be of very, very bright light and noise and a lot of clamour. V. appropriate for one of the first of Midgar's true bloods, I suppose.


6. recruitment and theory

Patriotism is an excellent way to cover for defection, and that is next on the Company agenda.

In spite of recent birthings, no one comes from Midgar just yet; she's a child. We raise her, not the other way around. But good politics means being fiercely territorial. Ever since the green light from the President, H&H have been at their Bunsen burners. Money and management is v. good for the graduates coming in off East, but what do you do with the boys from Corel and Gongaga? They won't open-handedly abandon their places of birth and call themselves "from Midgar", unless Midgar gives them a reason to. I'm not from here myself, neither is anyone that I know. But we're all the city has. We don't need them (new migrants, that is; not trying to be protectionist, just patriotic), I think, but the Company's not willing to wait 45 years for a generational cycle to fill in the gaps. "If we're bringing brighter futures, we bring them to everyone", i.e this is a monopoly. Monopoly over what? I'm better off with building blocks, so they don't tell all, but board meetings can't disguise everything. Heidegger's now got competition (maybe the P thinks he has grown too much in the wrong direction?) -- the word "SOLDIER" is floating in the air, and not all of it (none of it) refers to the Army.

They move to human trials next week, starting in Banora. Hear they have good apples there, whatever the quality of their men (or women). V currently there on a visit, very casual naturally, strolling through. The candidate list will come from him, not them. Can't imagine what he's feeling. Pr. Hojo seems distracted, Hollander ecstatic. Worth noting, and worth staying away from.

Meanwhile the wheel continues to turn. Urban Development finally starting to live up to its title "urban": the affluent take up all the space on the Plate, and use it all to fence up gardens that do not grow. Midgar is a a block of metal; we have no topsoil, and no good drainage, and anyway anything that is planted will probably take root and suck up all sorts of mineral content &c &c that will leave them ravaged and terrible. At the same time there is overcrowding down below Plate, especially in Sector Seven, where you can now find anything from hotpot (40 gil cheaper and just as much more tasteful than what you get in the staff canteen here, if you're willing to barter the train ride down and possibly your wallet to a pickpocket en route to get there) to what is now the Honeybee Inn. Don't know if that's more terrible or more funny than what I thought it could've been named. To be fair, think am obliged to quite like the place: their Don is a lecherous but spineless man who withers every time V even breathes in his vicinity. Sometimes being a Turk sounds like much more fun than being an engineer-cum-city-planner.

(Speaking of V, he says that Lazard Deusericus no longer a student: having zipped past his examinations years forward of his class, he's gone and graduated and come to bang on the doors of the Company, which have mysteriously slid open for him. He starts next week at an intern in one of Heidegger's offices. We'll see if he stays there long.)

Back to the topic at hand (overpopulation): I can't move all those people. Don't want to, in fact. Right now the only rent they pay is to themselves; move them Platewards and everything they own will get "redistributed" through land taxes alone, and then where will the character and service workers of Midgar be? No, better to suck dry the sons and daughters of industrialists and corporate magnates. They can afford it, and their maths is so much worse than the average "slum" kid's that they'd never notice if you twisted a few figures here and there. Not my business, again, but it's v. interesting.

(REMINDER: CHANGE REACTOR CORE IN 2/4/6/8 TO PHASE II/GRS-T2-44K (retrain team 2 to new system UI))


7. V does it again?

Impossible has at last happened: V has acknowledged his age, and is finally cranking the gears that made him such a great Director to begin with. Not everyone does well in Administrative Research (incredibly high turnover rate, reason for leaving sometimes being "death"), but Shinra took him out of a chocobo farm in Kalm (derogatory, but with Midgar being so viciously proud of herself these days there's this urge to take one for the city) and made him into a man more politically adroit than any of the other Directors combined. My lessons all came out of his book.

V's been around too long, I think. Been around almost as long as I've been alive, and that does something to people. Was afraid that he was just going to keep on going forever without a contingency plan, but obviously I underestimated him (once again). V probably knows better than I that, in Shinra, you have to plan your own succession otherwise someone will plan it for you -- he's old, not getting any younger, and he needs someone out on the field where he can't be. Be his eyes. See what's on the ground. I've my own ways, but they wouldn't work too well with the Turks.

But the cat dragged in something new this week. Something young and something, I suspect, new to the city, fresh from below-Plate in from somewhere abroad. One of a thousand migrants, probably bartered off by his parents in exchange for secrecy and the careful eradication of his last name. He's not from around here (Kalm, Mideel, etc).

V says he's from Wutai, and his name sounds it too.


8. Mako theory

Did some research, on a hunch. Interesting and pragmatic thought: multiple locations require Mako energy, and multiple locations possess Mako energy. Needing refinement, energy must first be passed through a reactor. Reactors must first be built. Factor: the number of locations requiring Mako energy now tends towards infinity, or - more realistically - a number substantially higher than the number of locations possessing Mako energy. Factor: the disequilibrium between the locations of demand/supply can be abrogated by the quantity of demand/supply. President Shinra writes directives based on a perfect market in a perfect world: so long as the Company holds sole control over a reactor in any area and links the reactor to the main continental pipelines, Mako can travel in any quantities from anywhere, to anywhere.

In other words, it's perfectly plausible and completely logical to channel excess Mako supply from one region, via pipeline, to regions that either a) do not have natural resources or b) have insufficient resources. Following that logic, one single reactor (built to scale) in one, single region can power anything between 5 - 10 regions of a similar size, should the Mako resource that it sits upon be sufficiently rich. 5 - 10 times the reach with 1/5 - 1/10 times the effort.

Fact, not factor: Wutai sits upon a resource so rich that, if they had our technology, a single reactor in their capital alone could power the entire Western continent.

One gets the impression that we shall soon be bringing them brighter futures as well.


9. ec. theory (sometimes bore even myself)

Planetary observations: if an object is of sufficient mass, it generates its own gravitational field. Funny thing about natural history is how much it serves a metaphor for sociology (maybe everything does fall into place according to scientific laws?) - in any case Midgar now more than "showing symptoms". Besides dominating 59% of financial industry (even if we don't see your companies, we fund them, so long as you are anywhere within the continent) and 89% of energy (across the continent, not just locally), Midgar now also the main source of demand for refined industrial materials. Coal, while no longer useful as an energy source (broadly speaking), is still a key a component of a variety of important processes, esp. cooked steel. Of which the Company uses much of - when it's not the sectors it's the reactors, when it's not the reactors it's the infrastructure (and when it's not the pipeline IF it's PHS stations, standalone backup generators, desalination plants & related industries, and soon-to-come: Junon, etc etc), and when it's not one of those it's something else.

With R now providing an excuse for the creation of an empire, P Shinra looks to expand. Economic imperialism: where one region condemns a certain other area to a full and total reliance on the parent region's demand. To simplify: Midgar the parent region, Corel the dependent area. With Midgar (read: Shinra) requiring 70-80% of Corel's output of coke in any given year, Midgar (read: Shinra) plans a contract that runs something like this: a long-term agreement to buy an almost excessive base amount of coal at bulk(cheap) prices over at least 10, 15 years. Initial sum of contract is released to Corel, which experiences a temporary boom as it expands its mines, upgrades its equipment, etc etc, pouring the new liquidity straight into such overheads while paying existing employees the same amount. Any excess goes into hiring new employees (rational: you don't need a bureaucracy to mine some coal, et al).

A year or three later and the initial monetary input has dwindled, but Corel continues to do well under the auspices of Shinra-led demand. The township specialises in coal, nothing but coal, everyone is a coal miner, and everyone gets the same wages, meanwhile Shinra takes their cheap coal, puts it through processes, and produces high-end manufactured goods that sell for at least 10 times the original unit price (black gold versus new aluminium patents, patents win). Shinra's tactics remain the same: it buys it bulk for cheap, otherwise it does not buy at all, therefore Corel does not sell to very many other people in fear of losing more than half of its (now sole) industry, etc etc. Shinra resells coal that it doesn't need/use, becoming - ironically - the second largest coal distributor on Gaia.

Give or take a few years and Shinra will have stockpiled enough coal and (courtesy of R&D and H&H) found ways of cutting down the need for pure coke in manufacturing. Result: cutbacks on Corel, which automatically goes from colony once well taken care of to abandoned outpost of once earnest frontiersmen. To add insult to injury, urban drift theory soon settles in: the middle aged and younger generations will start moving towards Midgar in search of better jobs and -- the rest is history and company policy.

Shinra's brand of bastardry has always been particularly refined and elegant.

Need a shower. Gives at least the illusion of cleanliness.


10. rising star(s) of Shinra

Coffee during lunch hour always my favourite activity. Blueprints and cross-table conversation (not eavesdropping if they speak in public). Tidbits from the lounges: new VR engine installed in preparation for the new batch of SOLDIERs, and L. Deus. is rubbing shoulders with the genetic engineers. He's a hundred years too young for how high he's risen, though personally not begrudging him the notion. Intelligent to a fault, full of logic and a tremendously good speaker for being so young. Not to mention how closely he's come to know the men; V & sidekick might hunt potentials down and drag them back to the labs (willing and ready to receive not only genetic treatment but also fully-paid room/board and a salary for even new Third Classes that is at least 2, 2.5 times higher than the average "Army grunt"'s take), but it's Deusericus that talks to them and plans the tactics, training routines, etc. according to the different personality types in each contingent. SOLDIER's small enough for him to know every one of them by name. (And with names like Sephiroth/Rhapsodos/Hewley...)

He's not a Director yet, but it's imprinted on his forehead. Maybe it is the colour of his hair. Not many blonds in this Company, cynically speaking.

R Shinra followed P Shinra to work today, probably more his idea than his father's. And his hair is very blond, and his intelligence very sharp for a boy that young. Not much more than a decade old and he has thoughts and ambitions. Does it run in the family? Or, more likely is it something in the air -- R has the look of a new age, a new kind of people. Midgar -- there's an old saying, "if you do not want to create the monster, do not turn on the electricity".


11. a city complete

Reason to celebrate: final sector reactor has gone live, out of beta at last. They built Kalm in 13 years but we built this place in 10; little wonder Science's budgeting now through the roof. They must be patting themselves on the back, and now directing their attentions away from boring structural physics to their own favoured modes of research (and knowing H&H...)

Midgar generates enough light to be seen from the other continent, I'd wager. President having field day with the speeches; the metaphors come easily when there's a beacon to be seen. Nay-sayers now silent - not that they weren't right. City's not natural. You don't come in with a design for a metropolis; designs aren't truly made for macroscopy, they're there for buildings, complexes, neighbourhoods. Puzzle pieces. Cities aren't buildings, they're amalgamations. You need human input for that: innovation, community, the endothermy of a few hundred thousand souls. Midgar, by its blueprints, is an empty shell. But they forgot this, that we were laying pipelines everywhere. Midgar goes underground over 3 continents to almost every community in over 280 major locations. Shinra sublets substantial flow from 2nd degree rural reactors out to third party developers and then they extend our network further, and all of this has to come back somewhere, doesn't it?

Midgar was a rich materia hinterland and a swamp before we came digging and laying. After a while it just becomes cheaper to come closer to the best source of energy possible. Economy attracts. Freedom attracts even harder. Shinra isn't paternal, it is materialistic - so we've got ourselves citizens of a city with no real constitution and a tyrannical capitalist corporation for a government. Everyone tremendously happy, of course. The only surprising thing is how orderly everything is. Population census - informal, naturally - comes up to maybe 0.9, 1m now. Maybe it's not surprising. Money, energy, education, job security, efficiency. No one wants to disturb those things, so everyone co-operates. Shinra doesn't have to be a nation to be a nation.

Deusericus also made Director last week. Now will call him Lazard: one Director to another. On his head be it. One of his first mail broadcasts talked about making SOLDIER a family.

Personally, I like very much living on my own, away from home.


12. fresh SOLDIERs

To give him credit, Sephiroth seems an adequately balanced -- young man. Since he is (now) a SOLDIER First Class, it is probably v. natural for him and his fellow friends to wreck total and complete destruction on the 49th's VR systems, ripping apart any piece of precision technology that their not-inconsiderable weapons can get at. Not frustrated, no, but the budgeting item will not be appearing on UD's list of necessary reconstructions.

Lazard finds this v. funny, in the way a parent or a brother might. They're all of age, of sorts. Camaraderie is a fierce thing between those with ideas like honour - concepts like that die fast in Midgar, and die ingloriously. If it were just the three of them (S, G, H) I would not be so concerned (giving room for some doubt re: Pr. H/H), but Lazard forgets things about his last name that he shouldn't forget. Deusericus? It's a cover up, but it doesn't change what he is and where he comes from. Bitterness can't be assuaged by replacement. Shinra is indelible, never mind that it's already written over most of the face of the city. Lazard is not a common man, not from a common heritage. He can try to be everything he longs to be, build the family he wishes he had, but he and his men are different people. Above the Plate and below it.

His brother certainly shares none of his desire for socialism. R Shinra (em on the Shinra) is speeding relentlessly (recklessly?) through school and sitting in on every board meeting with unnatural patience for a child. His father seems to expect it of him, though; it better buries Deusericus, and shines a better light on the family name. R fiercely interested in all things Midgar: walks into my office and Heidegger's and Scarlet's etc etc, looking young but asking questions, and because he looks young and asks questions we find ourselves obliged to answer. He asks a lot about the War, v. natural since he's grown up during it, but he doesn't just ask about facts/trivia /projected missions, he asks "what is Wutai's history" and "how many of them use Mako" etc etc, like a bloodhound.

V caught me in one of the corridors and we went out to lunch, shared news. Asked him whether R knows much about "Administrative Research", unsurprised when V said that R "watched and learned". Asked why V had his suspicions etc, V said: "He noticed Tseng." To which I said, "What, that the boy's from Wutai?" To which he gave me this look like I was stupid, and said: "No, he noticed that Tseng doesn't seem to come from Wutai, which is a lot more conspicuous."

V. good point, V. The boy thinks like you.


13. V plotting, maybe/maybe not? (ah, who isn't plotting)

Lazard & P Shinra invented the rank General yesterday; very much an Army classification, but given to SOLDIER. Heidegger probably fuming in the ranks, his thunder being stolen etc etc. He has nothing much on his side: the Army is full of young kids, most of whom want to join SOLDIER. Lazard's team v. much more "glorious", not to mention better treatment, better training, more specialisation, advanced equipment, "interesting" missions. Heidegger's Army mostly patrols the sector trains these days.

Lazard may want to take pre-emptive action, extend a peace offering of some sort. Improbably, though. Lazard's built a family in SOLDIER, and he won't break for political niceties with men like Heidegger. He doesn't need to. P Shinra now treats Sephiroth like a second son, except without the fringe benefits (i.e he does not say "please" when he calls "fetch", and unlike R Sephiroth actually listens). They have fan clubs for the generals, distributing flyers in the major shopping areas in S6, S4. The only fanmail I ever received took the form of graffiti written on walls, but I am a humble man; it suits me fine.

To go back to thoughts re: political acumen, V is doing it again. Don't know what he's doing, because V is nothing if not cloak-and-dagger (or ambush-then-materia), but he's up to something. Recruitment in his department doesn't look at all dangerous until you look at the margin: from a team of 3, 4 to a team of upwards of 10? Training for them must be personal, overseen, lacking few of the gaps that SOLDIER/the Army/Weaponry/Space/etc have (I don't speak for UD, the Universities speak for UD). Plus the frequency of missions lately, with P Shinra getting lazier and sloppier but no less ambitious... Administrative Research v. frightening. Tseng already a smoother talker than he gets credit for, even if he's got a headful of sentimentality that V has curiously not beaten out of him. (Lazard rubbing off? Next thing there'll be charity/peace/love!)

Questions, questions. V won't answer any of them (he'll tell me when/what he wants me to know, if he wants/needs me to know), but have my own theories. Heidegger can't win against a genetically modified corps, but a team of men and women in suits? But if V plans to go to war with him, the Army better watch its steps. At risk of sounding cruel, must make note that Heidegger may not even be able to see where his feet are taking him by virtue of having one too many dinners with sponsors, benefactors, the buffet table...


14. ZFair

Ran into most unlikely of recruits in hall today; had hair that made me wonder if I should be buying more gel and reading a few magazines to keep current. To be fair, ZF is exuberant and full of colour. He's not from around here, unsurprisingly. L says he'll make 2nd class soon, which he and I both found both v. funny, v. terrifying and v. much full of potential. "He's got a good heart," L said, and could not help myself by asking, "So he is under Hewley and not the other two...?" Lazard gave me Look, but his has nothing much on V's, and besides - truth is on my side. If I were a SOLDIER under either G or S I think I would defect immediately in order to keep some of either my sanity (G) or my limbs (S).

L does not look me much in the eye when we speak these days. Is it paranoia or justified cynicism that makes me wonder why he is head of SOLDIER, and why Hollander champions the experiments in spite of having lost the Directorship to Pr. H? They spend too much time talking, or I spend too much time thinking. For now Lazard seems happy winning his wars and leading his men. Every once in a while he steals T from V and everyone makes a bit of noise during lunch.

(Yes, am unfortunately v. easily amused.)


15. emergency report

We (Directors) are all v. sensible men/one woman, which means that if we do not want promotion we do not try for it (myself, V, to some extent P), or that if we desire promotion we pursue it in logical increments that can be posted to the President's table in a flurry of camouflaging paperwork (Pr. H, Heidegger, S), or that if we have other plans we play our hands close to our chest (L), etc etc etc. We are deceitful - openly deceitful - but we keep things low key. If there is a power shuffle, it is done discreetly and without fuss. We know the players and that is all that matters - make too much of a disturbance and the rest of the world begins to notice, and that kind of transparency we can all do without, whatever our ethics.

Children are cruel and do not have a sense of subtlety, and they are also very good at being single-minded and viciously intent on their goals, collateral be damned: they are the most dangerous of all, and Rufus S. very much still a child. A child with the monetary and mental capital to hire mercenaries to lash out at his own Company, his own father and his own inheritance because of what? Impatience? Frustration? Calculation? AVALANCHE is a clumsy attempt: anyone who knows V knows that he's nowhere near as crass in his methods. Leaking information to mercenaries? It is speculation on my part that R is behind all of this, but the pieces fit, and I think that if V wanted to see this Company laid low he would have done it from the inside, and done it with his own men, and done it more efficiently and with less pointless destruction.

Have to go conduct a recce, see what damage needs to be repaired. Meanwhile V has been deposed as being a "traitor" for "leaking secrets" to this mercenary group, and Tseng put in charge. Everything a mess. Heidegger silently crowing, I expect. I think it's too coincidental and obvious even for Occam's Razor. The head of Administrative Research leaking company secrets? Sounds right out of a movie script.

L is unusually silent on the matter, maybe he's sitting out and observing. His plans, whatever they are, haven't come to anything yet. Watching R Shinra's attempts at megalomania may help his own, who knows. In either case we had all better keep our eyes open and our mouths shut - or, at least, I will.


16. young men

Tseng rejected P Shinra's promotion of him to Directorship of AR - my only question to him being, are you out of your mind?

No. Something this outrageous must have been part of something sane. I must remember, whatever T's appearance and attitudes, that he is V's protege through and through, and even if it seems like he is being driven by a ridiculous amount of loyalty and a superb lack of self-preservation, there may be (is) something more. L, in his usual way, is "looking into it": I'll leave the attempts at welfare to him - I don't have the same kind of immunity that the leader of SOLDIER does. He gets more generous the older he is, an odd kind of reverse-ageing. But at least there's someone going after T.

Speaking of which, Sephiroth now being ferried from one place to another at mach speed in order to contain AVALANCHE and the fallout from the Turks being suddenly ground to a stop. Lazard in such good graces with the President that it is no wonder he sat back and did nothing. R must be furious, if I am right, but he's not showing it. Instead he seems rather smug - he would, being a full Vice President on the board, no matter that Deusericus commands a more substantial post.

P Shinra does nothing. I find it hard to believe that he doesn't have any inkling of an idea re: what is going on. Less hard to believe but def. harder to swallow is the thought that he approves of the two prodigals dogfighting with the lives of men. May the fittest survive etc etc: if R pulls this off then his succession is unquestionably sound, but if Lazard has an ace up of his sleeve I would not be surprised if his real father were to suddenly come forth...

Not my battles. I left V a few messages, mostly updates in a roundabout lingo, but I'm not looking, and anyone from UD who does will be fired in order to be spared the mayhem.


17. updates

Incredibly enough Tseng's rejection of the Directorship did not lead to his automatic incarceration. Looking back it may have been done on grounds of loyalty but there's some good reasoning behind it. If he had jumped to the post, what would the President think? No small secret how close the Turks are, not to mention T to V; and if V is a traitor then it's a small leap of logic to say the same about T, who has the added benefit of looking and being an Wutain but being blooded like a true Midgar politician. A bad combination on all fronts. He made the smarter move by doing nothing. Now he gathers the other Turks together and they sit in a brood of suits and make everyone high in the leadership wonder about the opportunity cost of just leaving them alone.

Heidegger has been put in charge of AR for now, and this may either turn out disastrous or integral. Will he use the Turks as the weapons they are, or will he make a muck of them so that his Army looks better than they currently do? (Not that the latter is hard - L still coasting, V still more politically astute than either of them combined.)

R Shinra now moving in on T, while Heidegger is preoccupied. I wonder at his persistence: is it because T was often dispatched to deal with Lazard and SOLDIER-associated missions? Or because, whether or not he's taking up the Directorship now, T will undoubtedly hold the position in the future, if he doesn't get eliminated first? Or for something else - R Shinra is unpredictable and emotional and unsentimental all at once. And he is very, very young.

Was his age when I fell in love with engineering.


18. infighting is never productive but always dramatic

Heidegger did horrendously bad job with Turks. Considering that HQ is in the middle of an infiltration from an external merc. group, all he uses an AR group for is the patrolling of various sectors? The President is apparently too preoccupied to care or intervene - again, probably waiting to see what happens. Tseng does nothing. The rest of the Turks do nothing. Their loyalty is as touching as V's sudden re-entrance to the stage: with his usual flair
for irony and good timing, he advised the President to withdraw his decision and reinstate him as Director, unless P Shinra really would like company secrets leaked.

V knows far more dangerous company secrets than R Shinra, I am wagering.

V now back as the Director, and Tseng seems to me now far more competent, self-serving and amoral than I'd originally imagined. Good for him; his training has served him well. Not too worried about what is to come from here on in: it is becoming increasingly clear that this is Rufus' attempt at, hm, teenaged rebellion? It should be expected: he grew up with all the money and power in the world, I don't think that a simple brief interlude of odd music choices/bad taste in clothes would have sapped all the venom of being young and cabin feverish out of him.

Meanwhile I wonder who is left to clean up the streets of S1-8? There are parts of buildings falling everywhere; they weren't built on the assumption that we'd take a decade to construct his city only to tear it to pieces again afterwards. At least the department is being kept occupied. No rest for the wicked; we eternally push papers and draw up new blueprints, completely felonious and threatening.

Your move now, L, I am thinking.


19. R exiled, marginally (ha!)

All calm on the Eastern front, for now. P Shinra evidently very proud of his young son's attempts at patricide: R Shinra is suffering no worse than house arrest in Junon, i.e he is attending university and being instructed to act his age. His time will come. The Turks shuttle back and forth between Midgar and the Vice President, keeping tabs. V says nothing to me about it - it's his job to say nothing to me about it - but with every passing day he looks increasingly deep set and ponderous. This could mean anything, but I hope it means something good. I asked him about T, "why him? Tseng's trained for the field -- why send him to Junon to babysit the heir?"

"Because Rufus is the heir," he told me, shuffling his files around and adjusting his tie. Long days for us both; I fixing up any number of reactor problems and he dealing with personnel changes. "And because Tseng is on the field."

I must have looked at him with some scepticism and some reservation, because V cocked an eyebrow at me and asked me if I had not enough modern scruples.

"No," I said, shaking my head at him. "But I didn't know how much the Turks indulged in prostitution." V narrowed his eyes at me, I laughed. "Do they even like each other?"

"They loathe each other," V said, leaning back. "Which is just as well - they'll get to know each other far better that way than if they liked each other's company."

"And Tseng doesn't resent the duty?"

"Tseng rarely resents anything," Veld said. "And Rufus rarely fails to resent at all."

"Are you playing matchmaker in your old age?"

Will refrain from copying V's comments in reply to that; they were vulgar, and made me laugh.


20. occurs to me that am part of a very old guard

As I was talking to Tseng the next day (subjects: ZFair, current SOLDIER movements, ramifications of the end of the War, have they changed the vending machine on 33?), something dawned on me that I should have seen before. Maybe I'm too used to being discreet, or too used to seeing everything in Shinra happen with a bang and a splash, because I must have been blind not to have seen it earlier. Bid T farewell, went straight back upstairs and looked for V, very certain about things now.

V in his office. "What is it?"

"How much of a Turk's personal life is personal?" I asked, before paraphrasing (V probably would find company policy to avoid answering the first question): "You know about Tseng and Lazard?"

No reaction from him, the wily old son of a bitch. He's a bastard, through and through. He said: "What's there to know, Tuesti?"

'It's not as though there isn't enough antagonism between him and Rufus,' I pointed out.

'Between whom?' he said, mildly, 'Rufus and Tseng or Rufus and Lazard, or Lazard and Tseng?'

'Quaint,' I told him, settling into a chair.

'The devil is in the details,' he replied.

'Really?' I said. 'Always thought that the devil's the man right in front of me.' He lifted one shoulder, shrugged it back down. I went on. 'Lazard always tries for personal loyalties. He looks after his men, and respects the ones who aren't his.' V made a "go on" gesture. 'You're being incredibly low,' I told him, 'by sending Tseng straight to Rufus when Lazard actually cares.'

'I'm sure the Director cares very much,' V said. 'About his position as well as his relationship with others in this company.'

'Does the bloodline matter that much that you're setting Tseng up in the other direction?' I asked, sharply.

'You like Deusericus,' V said directly, essentially accusing me of a crime.

'I'm getting soft,' I replied. 'And so are you: you like Tseng. But Rufus will twist him around his fingers like a tool; the boy's not even 18 and he's already gone and --.'

'Rufus is more likely to survive,' V cut in, full of his usual tact. 'And even if he doesn't, it's a lesson worth learning.'

I raised my eyebrows. 'How it's unwise to get between brothers?', and V replied, 'How it's unwise to get between Shinra, or any family at all.'

'You know, you're a hard task master,' I said, etc etc. At last: 'The city's old now. Midgar's coming of age.'

'Reeve,' V said agreeably, leaning forward in his seat and v. serious. 'We've done more than two decades in this Company. Nothing is personal and everything is political, or vice-versa. Where I send Tseng, or what Lazard's trying to get at with Tseng -- small factors, Tuesti,' he said, sounding tired. 'If Lazard wants to compete with Rufus - which he has been -'

'For many years now,' I agreed softly.

' - then this is just one more thing.'

'One more thing,' I repeated.

V nodded. 'You know,' he said, v. languorous now, all the tension gone out of us old men. 'Tseng stays away from the other Turks on purpose. It adds up, to some degree.'

Too tired to twist words, I waved a hand at him. 'Stop projecting, old man.'

He quirked a smile, deprecating. 'All right. I'd rather him stay away from the other Turks, the SOLDIERs, the men.'

'Because they're just men?' I asked, staring up at the ceiling. 'No pedigree?' I closed my eyes. 'Oh, no, no. You are going soft.' V2, I always forget V2, it's been years since then. V lost his home and his wife and his daughter and his partner. Family! What's the point? Shinra'll take it all from you, before and after.

'Yes,' he said, knowing I got the point.

'Well,' I admitted. 'There's a reason why I'm a bachelor.'

'Just that?'

'More than one reason,' I said, with too much of a sigh. 'We built this damn city.' Outside the panelled windows of his office, Midgar growled in the darkness. Lights everywhere. Reactors running, people seething, a world away from empty tar streets and an open night sky.

'Pass it on,' V advised. 'Let it go.'

We poured drinks, and toasted: to Shinra's men, Shinra's wars, and (ha!) bringing brighter futures.







APPENDIX:

1. V = Veld, V2 = Vincent Valentine, H&H = Hojo and Hollander
2. The AVALANCHE in this fic is the first AVALANCHE mercenary group, hired by Rufus in Before Crisis to sabotage his father's company. Rufus set it up so that it seemed like a Board member was leaking AVALANCHE information, framed Veld and got him fired when all along it was his crazy little head churning about.


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