Part One: A Wary Meeting


black = Reno's POV

navy = Rufus's POV

It had been a long time since I'd seen him last. Then he was still the President's bratling, with a shcok of red hair and a beastly temper. I was thirteen at the time, a street urchin and a budding thief. I'd gone to the Shinra building to try to impress the Turks enough for them to let me join them, and to see if there was anything worth snatching while I was there. Naturally, they kicked me out on my butt. That's when he came. He looked at me, sprawled on the floor, backside and dignity smarting, and he laughed. I glared up at him, at the cold, cruel eyes of this smug, ten year old rich boy, and I hated him. I hated his arrogance, hated his sneering laugh, hated the fact that he had everything I wanted, without ever having to try for it. I thought then that I would always hate and despise him. I was wrong.

He called me into his office, a couple of weeks after he took over as President. Although I knew he was the Presdient's heir and in some way helping him govern, I'd never seen him. But I remembered. It was eleven years ago, but I still remembered that insolent face. I wanted to loathe him on sight, and I honestly thought I would. Boy, was I in for a shock.

The short, slimy kid I remembered had grown into a tall, elegant, self-controlled young man. As I entered the room, his back was turned to me, his hands clasped behind him. His well-cut suit emphasised the lines of his trim figure, and his whole appearence was one of immaculately groomed prosperity. Slowly, deliberately, he turned to face me, and breifly looked me over. His eyes were as cold as I remembered them, but they held something different; a clear-minded, cynical view of the world which would no doubt stnad him in good stead in his new role. Carefully, he raised his eyebrow a fraction of and inch. Dammit, he knew! Somehow, he knew everything I was thinking, and it scared me like hell. I stood sharply to attention, my resolve already crumbling. How could I hate this man? How could I dare to, when his eyes gazed right through mine and into the back of my head? With one look, he had already seen past all the layers of cool nonchalance I had carefully built up over the years. What more was he capable of?

"At ease," he said softly, in a voice which bore traces of a classically educated accent. Smiling laconically, he gestured me into a chair directly in front of his desk. Once I was seated, he also made himself comfortable. His chair had its back to the window, and the light from the reactors outside was just a little too bright. I could no longer clearly see his face. An old trick maybe, but and effective one none the less. I had to hand it to him - the kid knew his stuff. He flicked a thin red file in front of him open and glanced at its contents.

"So.........your name is Reno, no last name given - only to be expected. Grew up living rough, mother died aged nineteen, and you took to begging and petty theft - quite so. Arrested twice, first time served a six month prison sentance, second time......escaped, well, that is impressive. Joined the Shinra Intelligence Squad five years ago. A place was granted to you after information you provided led to an underground terrorist group being rounded up. Since then you have worked, flattered and backstabbed your way into the elite of your profession with, I must say, an admirable single-mindedness and lack of morals. Today you are in the Turks, second-in-command to Tseng, and have managed to drag your thuggish friend Rude, whom I believe you have known since your days on the street, along with you. Until a couple of months back, you kept a mistress in the slums by the name of Mia, but she broke it off because of the danger and instability of your chosen vocation. In your free time, you enjoy heavy drinking, and gambling especially roulette, upon which you have been known to win as much as 2,000 gil, and once lost just over 10,000. A chequered career, Mr. Reno, but a most.......intriguing one, I think you'll agree. I, at least, found it very interesting reading."

By this point, my hackles were well and truly up, as you can imagine. I scholled my face to a careful blankness as my emotions flickered between shock, dismay and anger as that cool, well-mannered voice listed the past I thought was dead, the career that I was positive couldn't be marked as underhand, and parts of my private life that I was sure were under wraps.

"I'm glad to be a source of amusment, sir," I said stiffly, my back ruler straight. God, how I wished I could just reach out and strangle that smugness out of him.

"Oh no, not amusement, I can assure you," he admonished gently, far too gently to be sincere. "Merely.....interest, as I said. And a certain degree of admiration. You really have shown remarkable resourcefulness, perseverence......and ruthlessness. These are traits I should like to encourage in my more.......specialist workers."

Again he flashed me that damned smile. Arrogant, lazy, and definately double-edged. I should have hated it. But what I hated most was what it was doing to my insides. His whole demeanor wasn't just charming, it was downright seductive. Those smooth, measured movements, that soothing voice, the oh-so-clever blandishments; I was being toyed with, and I knew it. I really don't like people who play with me. I tried not to give him the satisfaction of showing what an effect he was already having on my nerves.

"You are too kind, sir," I said, staring straight ahead, refusing to meet his knowing eyes.

"Most probably. You won't find it's a fault I exhibit often, believe me. But, shall we cut out the pleasantaries? I called you in here to talk buisness."

My focus snapped back to him; I knew ths could be important. Smiling slightly at having caught my full attention again, he leaned back in his chair, fingertips pressed together.

"I intend to turn this operation on its head," he stated simply. "My late, lamented father," a brief, contemptuous smile played swiftly over his lips, "while not exactly lazy, had grown somewhat complacent over the last few years. He may have been getting soft in his old any rate, things around here have been alowed to slide a little. It will stop. Now." The last with a sudden emphasis, the first sign of any real emotion he had shown since the beginning of our interview. "People will respect the name of Shinra! It will stand, not for outpourings of bribe money, but for abosolute authority. Since the end of the war, our power has diminished considerably. Little boys no longer dream of being in SOLDIER, no longer wish only to emulate the great Sephiroth......." his voice trailed off for a moment, his eyes clouded, as if remembering some distant event. Suddenly, he shook himself, and resumed where he had left off. "They dream of collecting materia, or hunting monsters, not joining Shinra's troops. Well, no longer. Shinra will be restored to its former glory. Not with handouts, or bribery. With fear, with awe. This is my vision, and I need men like you to carry it out for me. SOLDIER are my strong right arm, but the Turks will be my eyes, and my executioners. The army will provide the awe; you will provide the fear. People may be impressed by grand military displays, or they may not be. But if they are not - if they think it is shamefully militaristic and a waste of money, they will say nothing. They will not grumble in the shops, or joke about it with their neighbours. And do you know why? Because the will be afraid. Because the public will know that I have ears everywhere, and those ears will be in your heads; in the heads of the Turks."

The gleam in his eyes had grown throughout his speech, and held the intensity of a fanatic. His face was that of a man lost in his own dream. Unwilling to show how his fervour perturbed me, I said, "You don't seem to lack for ears everywhere as it is," looking pointedly down at the folder which was still lying open in front of him.

"Ah yes," he drawled, reverting to the langour of his previous mood. "Indeed. Quis custodit custodes ipse? Or rather, who spies on the spies? My father while a little........complacent, as I have said, was neither so foolish nor so naive as to let his most intelligent, most influential, and, let us be frank, most dangerous and underhand men go unwatched. Credit him with some sense, my dear Mr. Reno. It does no good to think ill of the dead. Oh, don't look so offended. It's nothing personal, I can assure you. Standard procedure since that unfortunate incident with Professor Gast. Any good leader knows better than to turn his back on clever men. And think about this....." he leaned forward ever so slightly, almost conspiritorially, "I must trust you more than most people, mustn't I? Otherwise I shouldn't have shown you it in the first place. Tseng doesn't even know his folder exists."

Damn him! Damn his self-satisfied smirk! Damn his teasing mindgames! He had me, and he knew it. Even though I knew he was lying, knew that his only reason for sharing the information was to shock and unsettle me, he sounded plausible. Too plausible. Flattering me with confidences, priviledging me above my superiors......what was he playing at? He wanted me to trust him, even to like him - this from a man who planned to rule by fear. Why was he so eager for my support? He had the whole goddammed company behind him. At the end of the day, not matter how well I may be doing, I'm still just a street-rat at heart. In the end, the only reply I could muster was a wooden, "I'm honoured, sir."

As if sensing my discomfort, he sat back again, a tiny frown marring his features. He stared at me hard-eyed for a long moment, as if trying to read my mind. I wasn't happy about that, I can tell you. He's too good at it by far. At last he seemed satisfied, and gave me a small, curt nod.

"Very well," he said. "You will be detailed with some additional orders, which I expect to be carried out efficiently and discretely. I shall observe your results with some considerable interest. Until then.....dismissed."

I rose, saluted, and left the room. Out of the cornor of my eye, I saw him close my folder and file it neatly away before turning his chair back towards the window. Closing the door behind me, I let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding. So, that was the new president, I thought, leaning against the wall. Not at all what I had expected. An infuriating bastard, no doubt, but not by any means a brat. Intelligent, self-disciplined, charismatic.........and almost flirtatious in his manner. I sighed. Life, I was sure, was going to get interesting. Whether that was a good thing or not, I didn't like to guess.

Well, well. Father picked his staff better than I gave him credit for. Or maybe he just got lucky. A most fascinating young man. Streetwise, tough, unwilling to give anything away......but intelligent. Unusual in his type. And seemingly with some remnants of sensitivity. Most distressingly unwilling to trust anyone or take anything at face value, but I suppose that's only to be expected. It will be interesting to break through his defences......I've always enjoyed a challenge. He's never really trusted anyone, not since infancy. Winning his loyalty will be time consuming; however, I'm sure the rewards will make it worthwhile.

The candle is guttering. Outside my room, I can see the lights of the city begin to die out as well. I've never liked Mako light. It hurts my eyes, makes my head ache. I must endure it by day, of course. To show any kind of weakness in this company is close on suicidal; the executives are like vultures, swooping down on the slightest fault and exploiting it as fully as possible. But at night, in my own quarters, I'd much rather use candlelight. The maid thinks me eccentric; however, she dare not say anything. That is how it should be.

I gaze out over the city, its shifting lights, its people scuttling about like so many tiny ants, their individual lives just as insignificant. It's my city now. And soon, they're going to find that out - in no uncertain terms.

Part 2   |   Fanfiction