Leigh Gilholm Fisher
Age Rating: 13 +
Birthday present for my friend Julie, co-authored by Mehrina B.!
As always, I don't own anything from Final Fantasy VII.
The day of reckoning, the day of judgment, was upon them. Only five would survive, and if there were any less than five satisfactory candidates…they would all perish, with no hope of salvation for another six months to come.
At least, their hopes of promotion to the infamous First Class would perish.
For that was the policy of SOLDIER, strictly enforced by Director Lazard.
It would have been a morning like any other if it weren’t for the fact he had to go to the far side of the SOLDIER floor instead of just his office. Although, all assembled knew he wouldn’t be in any hurry; he was probably strolling down a corridor to an elevator leisurely sipping at his coffee.
Thus, an air of impatience and hopelessness surrounded the not-so-orderly line of Second Class SOLDIERs. It was the third inspection of the year; they were held quarterly. Most seemed unhopeful of a promotion after each passed three perfect quizzes but were denied during the inspection.
If five candidates didn’t make the cut, any lower number of potential candidates that were fit enough to be given the trials to make First Class would be left behind. The grim looking group consisted mainly of teenagers or young men in their early twenties. In any Class of SOLDIER, it was difficult to find a member much over the age of thirty.
Thus, seventeen-year-old Genesis Rhapsodos was a very nervous Second Class SOLDIER.
He was the epitome of SOLDIER perfection. His uniform was clean, undamaged, and even ironed. He wore a new pair of gloves free of holes or other signs of wear, his boots were shined, his shoulder guards had been replaced, his belts were brand new, his sword was sharpened and shined, and he’d even had his rather disorderly hair trimmed. It was almost definitely overkill, but he was desperate and had long ago thrown caution to the wind. Not that such was unusual behavior for him.
He’d also purchased a new company-approved pistol and holster to wear on inspection day. He had every bit of mandatory and optional equipment accounted for; though they were uncommon amongst the venerated ranks of SOLDIER, he’d invested in the firearm as a last minute precaution.
In reality, he was actually a terrible shot and had accuracy worse than his ninety-year-old grandmother’s, but the Director of SOLDIER didn’t have to know that. Additionally, every task he’d ever been assigned since the previous failed inspection had flawless results. His efficiency at completing missions and success rate was the highest in the Second Class.
The forces under his command never suffered casualties, nor the foreign Wutaian citizens when on missions on the front lines of the Shin-Ra forces in Wutai. He was bound to be promoted! There was only one obstacle that could stop him…
…And that very large obstacle was the other twenty-nine far less careful - or more accurately put, obsessive - Second Class SOLDIERs that stood in a line with him. They hadn’t done a fraction of what he had undergone in preparation for inspection day. He refrained from heaving a sigh; even if the Director did think he was worthy of First Class, the lackluster attitude of the other SOLDIERs could bring him down.
He shuddered at the thought. Another three months in Second Class was a very unattractive prospect. Worst of all, the patience of the other SOLDIERs was dwindling and they were starting to fidget. Genesis, standing up perfectly straight and ready to salute the Director, could only pray he’d arrive soon.
It was only salt in the wound that Angeal Hewley wasn’t part of the group. Much to Genesis’ dismay and frustration, his childhood friend who had also joined SOLDIER, at the exact same time as he, had already been promoted to First Class during the last inspection. Though too mature and sensible to gloat, the black uniform and growing talk of a fan club made the slightly younger SOLDIER twitch.
I want my own fan club, dammit! There’s no way Angeal can have more fangirls than I do! And if that Director Lazard sabotages the formation of my fan club, there’s no way he’s getting out of that unscathed!
As prophesized by the Second Class SOLDIERs with unsurprising accuracy, Director Lazard of SOLDIER was sauntering down one of the many hallways of the Shin-Ra building, heading to the elevator that would take him to the SOLDIER floor. He sipped at a large, insulated to-go cup of coffee, flavored with his favorite brand of expensive liquid creamer. Though the name was peculiar and possessed no clear origin, “Irish Crčme” was by far the best and the priciest cream available in Midgar.
He passed by his fellow employees uninterestedly, greeting them shortly only if they addressed him first. He didn’t have the time nor the intrigue in dealing with his underlings; he was an important man and he had much to do. Fortunately, one of those duties was not overseeing the plumber Shin-Ra hired to repair a damaged toilet on the SOLDIER floor. He’d heard rumors of that toilet, the most prevalent of which describing the toilet as having absorbed too much mako-infused excrement, and coming to life as a result. As farfetched as it sounded, he had observed Hojo visiting the infamous lavatory, emerging rather quickly dripping with water (?) and a foul temper to match his smell.
He was in a rare good mood today, Lazard reflected as the elevator doors closed. He’d managed to leave his house this morning before his wife, Scarlet, woke up. Although Lazard would never admit it, his wife rather frightened him, talons and all. When he’d arrived at the Shin-Ra building, his secretary had been waiting for him with a steaming cup of heaven he called coffee and a report of the latest victories over Wutai. He was wearing his favorite suit today. And to top it all off, the entire day so far had been Hojo-free; that alone avoided two or three mental breakdowns per day.
So, yes, Director Lazard was in a very good mood indeed, even whistling as the elevator shuddered to a halt. Nothing could go wrong today.
Famous last words… he thought to himself ruefully a few minutes later.
Genesis had abandoned his strict pose reluctantly, though his temper was rising. He was now lounging on the seats set up in a corner of the SOLDIER floor. The other SOLDIERs littered the hallway floor, grumbling audibly at the situation. Director Lazard was late. In fact, he was very late. One could go as far as to say he was very, very, very late, but words simply could not satisfy the rage festering within Genesis’ heart.
I got up hours before the crack of dawn to prepare for this! he thought angrily, choosing to ignore the fact that he got up at the crack of dawn every day anyway (his hair didn’t look this good without effort). And he has the nerve to be late? Why, I oughtta wring his little neck…
He was so preoccupied with his rather violent thoughts that he failed to notice the elevator doors opening at last, pouring forth two men. The shorter of the two was dressed in an obviously expensive suit, but soiled with a large and hideous brown stain that seemed to have originated from an animal’s backside. The man was in a foul temper, looking as though steam would start billowing from his ears at any moment. The second man followed the first at a respectful distance; his vivid, waist-length silver hair alerted everyone he passed as to who he was. However, the ever so slightly amused expression on his face made passerby wonder if General Sephiroth was being impersonated by a much less stoic soul.
Genesis had just begun expanding on the wonderful revenge missions he could put Lazard’s wife to work on when a hand came flying out of nowhere and slapped the back of his head. Genesis pitched forward, landing on the floor with an Ooomph! and a My HAIR!
He turned furiously to see his attacker, and immediately paled as he scrambled to his feet. He attempted a quick salute, but the Fates seemed to have destined his day to be one of humiliation; in his rush, his fingers flew towards his eyes instead of the side of his head, and he let out a small squeak as several of his ophthalmic capillaries began to inflame rapidly. He was fortunate enough, however, that Lazard and Sephiroth had swept by without a second look; otherwise, they might have misconstrued his watering eyes. Drying them as discretely and quickly as possible, Genesis rushed to join the reformed line of SOLDIERs, inwardly thinking there to not be much point anyway; one look at the Director’s face and he knew he could kiss that promotion goodbye, fond adieu, and sweet dreams.
Suffice it to say, Lazard was in an interminably foul mood. In a manner of minutes, everything he’d thought had gone right had turned traitor and bit him in the ass. In a flurry of hurried phone calls, messages, and in-person messengers, his day had fallen apart. It had started with a call from his wife.
Scarlet had called to inform him that she was dumping his sorry butt for the pool boy (for, in her own words, apparently had a far better sculpted chest and six pack), and had now moved to their summer house in Costa del Sol. Disregarding the fact that he’d paid for that house, she’d also had the nerve to ask him to send her “the little red bikini”. He’d been so furious the moment she uttered the request, he’d sent the cup of coffee flying; unfortunately, the confounded foam cup had bounced off the elevator walls - mysteriously leaving Sephiroth unmarred - and spilled over him instead. Now, not only was his favorite suit ruined, he had a third-degree burn as a souvenir.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that he smelled like an alcoholic, due to the alcohol-like scent of “Irish Crčme”, or how the stain was the perfect shade of brown to look as though he had been overseeing the plumber with the mutant toilet.
As soon as he’d hung up on the harpy, his phone rang again, this time with the President informing him icily that Wutai’s spies had penetrated Midgar and even the Shin-Ra building, and demanding why he hadn’t done anything about this. After a lengthy explanation and disapproving threat of demotion, he’d finally been able to get off the phone with his superior.
The penultimate blow landed when the elevator became stuck, and refused to budge until the plumber himself happened to press the call button on the SOLDIER floor with a large bucket of writhing and glowing excrement. The fool - who looked as though he could be Hollander’s brother - had dripped the foul substance all down the hallway and into the shaft.
What had fallen on the floor started crawling, literally crawling, up the walls. That had summoned the maintenance crew, which conveniently also contained someone to check the elevator that mysteriously responded only to the beckoning of a man carrying mako-infused crap. Lazard had had to ride back to the ground floor with the plumber, but even after he was gone (apparently he wanted to bring some of the excrement, for the toilet was spitting it about the room as projectiles, for analysis) the cramped elevator stank fouler than fathomable.
After a good thirty minutes of yelling himself hoarse at the maintenance crew, he’d stormed off to the old elevator, the one that moved at a top speed rivaling that of a constipated, three-legged turtle. Somehow, the stench of mako-infused poop had been pungent enough to sink into the material of his once perfect suit, for even the slow (though functioning) elevator quickly filled with the stench.
The final blow landed when the young General Sephiroth, who’d followed him for some strange reason, reminded him that he still had to complete the inspection of the Second Class SOLDIERs for promotion.
Yes, Director Lazard was in a very bad mood indeed.
The motley group of SOLDIERs cringed as the Director angrily paced back and forth in front of them. The inspection wasn’t going too well; it had taken a noticeable dive when a brave (and stupid) soul dared to ask Lazard if he was alright. Then again, he’d been much less stupid than the fool who’d inquired which toilet Lazard had pissed off this time. Needless to say, Lazard hadn’t appreciated the humor.
Currently, he was berating one of the younger ones about his hygiene. “Is your nose not functional, or are the cells dead from repeated exposure?”
“Look who’s talking…,” the wiseass who’d challenged the Director about a toilet muttered under his breath.
“Excuse me?” the Director challenged, glare merciless enough to rob a person of their innocence.
As the poor soul stammered a reply, Genesis discretely thanked the Goddess for deciding to put on the cologne his mother had given him. He’d initially thought it smelled a bit flowery, but had decided to put his faith in his mother, who knew much more about designer colognes and whatnot than he did.
Lazard had moved down the line. The third man to Genesis’ right had now fallen victim to Lazard’s vindictive eye.
“You obviously have no concept of a civil appearance! Tuck your shirt in, and for Heaven’s sake, cut your hair! What are you, some kind of teenage druggie?” Lazard spat, ignoring the SOLDIER’s frantic gesture at Sephiroth, who wore no shirt and whose hair was longer, smoother, shinier, and (in the eyes of his fangirls and slightly disorienting number of fan boys) sexier than his sword. “And you! It’s people like you who give mankind a bad name. Keep the hair color you were born with, boy. And take off those earrings, or I’ll rip them out myself!”
Genesis’ hand automatically jumped to his own earring, a motion that caught the Director’s attention.
“Ah, and here’s the worst of the lot,” Lazard sneered, clearly in his element. “If I didn’t know females aren’t allowed in SOLDIER, I’d ask how you ever had the stupid idea to join. And stay still!” he snapped as Genesis took an involuntary step back. “Take your criticism like a man. Clearly, masculinity is not your area of expertise.”
Genesis bristled with anger. “Hey,” he interrupted, “that was a little uncalled for-”
“Don’t you hey me, boy! And I’ll be the judge of that. Look at you,” Lazard began to circle Genesis predatorily. The other SOLDIERs had retreated a few feet back, watching the proceedings with wide, incredulous eyes. Sephiroth, who hadn’t moved from his position behind the Director, was watching with cruel amusement hidden by his cold, neutral expression.
“Look at you!” Lazard repeated furiously. “Skinnier than my wife. Don’t you eat, boy?” he swept on, ignoring Genesis’ infuriated reply. “Hair from a shampoo commercial, gloves off an opera lady, designer boots and belts,” he sneered at Genesis’ feet, “and my God, is that perfume I smell?! Do you trade beauty products with Cissnei?”
Damn it, Mother! You said it was cologne! The same kind Gillian gave Angeal! Genesis thought furiously. I know you wanted a daughter, but this is taking it too far!
“You look like a woman, and worse, you act like one!” Lazard concluded triumphantly. “Go join a fanclub or something.” And with that, he turned on his heel and strode away, much to the relief and chagrin of the humbled SOLDIERs. Lips curled in the shadow of a smirk, Sephiroth turned and left as well.
“You’re all hopeless failures,” he snapped disgustedly. “Don’t bother showing up for inspection for another year, there’s no possible way you scum will be allowed to contaminate the First Class. You’re an insult to scum!”
Genesis stood still, too shocked, humiliated, and enraged to pay attention to the softly snickering SOLDIERs behind him. The General and Director disappeared down the hallway, in the direction of the latter’s office. The other seemed to have inexplicably recovered from their own verbal lashings after witnessing Genesis’ and inwardly noticed all the things their Director had pointed out about their comrade’s rather feminine appearance to be true. A single thought dominated his infuriated mind: He’s going to pay!
Genesis cursed quietly to himself, rubbing his nose with a grimace. He was beginning to have second thoughts about the lengthy revenge plot he conspired while showering on the Turks‘ floor to rid himself of the perfume’s scent. For some reason, the bathrooms and even shower rooms on the SOLDIER floor were closed. He’d briefly seen a plumber that looked like the carbon copy of Hollander munching on an apple when on break with fingers covered in a substance no creature should eat with.
According to the latest (and probably most outrageous) rumor, the toilet had undergone further evolution since the company hired the man. According to an unlucky Third Class who had not read the “Out of Service” sign, it now spat projectile poop at whoever attempted using it or getting near it.
Didn’t Angeal once tell me that revenge is best served cold? he wondered absently. Whatever that means…
Of course, if Angeal could see his friend now, crawling through the ventilation ducts of the Shin-Ra building, he would have told Genesis that this did not qualify as revenge served cold. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even qualify as revenge. Maybe a prank. But Angeal did not know, and so could not advise his (admittedly dim) friend on a better course of action.
In any case, Genesis was now stuck in the pipes directly above the SOLDIER hallway, and there was no turning back, for the pipes were too small to turn around. Thanking his lucky stars for his thin frame (secretly courtesy of Jennus Craigus, his dietician), Genesis inched forward, taking special care not to disturb the stink bomb clutched in his fist. The stink bomb was the crux of his plan; he’d bought it from Reno, who had assured him that it was the best on the market.
It was the absolute strongest and most potent one could use without breaking the law; it was specially modified by Reno himself using the Turks’ technology and tools. Apparently, he’d upgraded it in the Weapons Department when Scarlet was out. For some reason, she’d always leave a good hour before she was supposed to clock out to visit the lifeguard station by her condo’s pool.
Lazard was going to get a very special surprise next time he sat on his chair, Genesis thought grimly.
Stubbornly not admitting this to be a stupid idea, he struggled to pull out the map of the building schematics he’d stolen from Angeal’s desk (although he wondered what Angeal had been doing with it in the first place). He cringed as more dust drifted down from the ceiling of the pipe and settled into his hair. He swore he could see the grime coating the metal smirking evilly at him; luckily, he’d had the foresight to take off his precious leather coat before climbing into the pipes. Promising himself another shower after this, he squinted at the map through the dim light and was able to locate his position to be a little below and left of the Director’s office.
He doubted Angeal had any idea what he was up to, though he had angrily ranted to his friend when politely asked how inspection went, saying some less than flattering things about Mrs. Rhapsodos. It was impossible for the young swordsman to have any knowledge of what his immature friend was plotting.
He squirmed forward, passing an opening to the currently empty SOLDIER lobby, several pounds of dust, and a large, mutant, three-headed, green-eyed spider. Genesis would have refused to move onward at the sight of the creature, but thankfully, the spider seemed to be stuck permanently to an incredibly large wad of purple bubblegum. It writhed and struggled to escape, very much alive, but wasn’t able to reach out and bother him. Half-wondering how bubblegum had gotten there, the shuddering Genesis moved on.
Finally he turned left, and was greeted with another opening. He peered through the slotted metal, but could only make out the hideous beige walls of the Director‘s office. However, before he could make a mental note to call his interior decorator, Marthina Stewartina, for an emergency session, Lazard’s voice drifted up to him in a sudden shout.
“Him?! You want me to promote him?! That pretty boy?” Lazard demanded, tone disapproving on countless levels.
Genesis could just barely discern an unemotional voice responding, though he couldn’t make out the words. Is that Sephiroth? he wondered excitedly, leaning closer to the opening until he was sitting directly on top of the hatch. He wants to promote me?
Lazard continued to rant away, no doubt unleashing a new barrage of insults, though Genesis could not hear except for a few choice words, including “perfume”, “anorexic”, and “rabid”. He pressed his ear against the vent to discern what was being said.
By the time Lazard had stopped and Sephiroth gave a sharp reply, Genesis was beginning to see red. Is the moron going to promote me or not? he thought furiously.
“Sir, if nothing else, the other Second Class SOLDIERs may post your comments regarding Genesis’ appearance on the public forum. Seeing as Elena and Cissnei are such prominent members of the Turks, you may suffer demotion for sexism,” the General explained, oddly lengthy in his response.
“That’s the Turks, not SOLDIER.”
“Seeing as the Shin-Ra Building has been infiltrated by enemy spies, it’s best you do not press your luck, Director,” Sephiroth replied curtly. “You would not regret permitting Rhapsodos to join the First Class.”
This time, Genesis got his answer.
“I refuse to promote anybody skinnier than my wife,” Lazard said in a loud, grumpy voice. This was the last straw.
Genesis pounded the metal with his fist. “You forgot hotter!” he shouted, and below him, Sephiroth and Lazard swung their heads up in alarm. By the time Genesis realized his mistake, though, it was far too late to respond in anyway useful.
The ventilation duct apparently had a mind of its own (too much mako?) and heavily disliked being punched. With a screech of protest, the metal gave out, and Genesis was sent falling through the duct.
The moment in which the air swooshed around him felt like a small eternity. His eyes widened and his mouth was agape as only two thoughts penetrated his stunned mine: my promotion! and my HAIR!
In one futile hope to prevent himself from being condemned, he clutched the bomb to his chest, praying to the Goddess the impact wouldn’t detonate - or break any ribs. He landed with an almighty crack on the Director’s desk, sending stacks of paper and small electronic devices flying in all directions. The desk broke under his weight, and for a moment, all was silent; he misguidedly thought the Goddess had answered his prayer.
It turned out she hadn’t even listened to him.
Lazard opened his mouth to yell, but snapped it shut with a painful click. All three men began to cough and sputter as odorous yellow-green gas exploded from the bomb still held in Genesis’ hand. Eyes watering from the stink, Genesis tried to push himself off the floor, but a large hand swooped down from above, grabbed him by his collar, and pulled him to his feet. He found himself face to face with a glowering General Sephiroth, whose other hand was covering his nose.
“I- I was just,” Genesis mindlessly opened his mouth to defend himself, and immediately regretted it. The bomb shouldn’t have been this potent, he thought deliriously as he tried to expel the putrid air from his lungs. It isn’t legal for them to work this well! Suddenly, he was hit with a dreadful realization.
“Reno!” he choked out.
The Shin-Ra building was always awake and active, even in the late hours of the night. The SOLDIER floor was no exception; the SOLDIERs were constantly coming in and out to train or receive missions, or simply chatting with friends. This did not include one unfortunate Third Class who had never been promoted in the fifteen years he’d been employed; he usually hung around the lobby, staring soulfully out the window.
That night, however, the SOLDIER floor was oddly empty save for a few random employees. This was due to the fact that the whole floor smelled like a skunk experiment gone badly wrong, and few people could even bear to walk by the Director’s office. SOLDIER headquarters had been temporarily relocated to an empty level in the Shin-Ra basement, and was scheduled to remain there for two more weeks while the maintenance crew stocked up on air refresheners and struggled to fumigate the floor.
The perpetrator of the whole fiasco, Genesis Rhapsodos, had been soundly punished by the President himself, partly because he’d gotten fed up by Director Lazard’s complaints and partly because his office was right below Lazard’s and some of the stink had permeated through the ceiling. Genesis was not only on probation, he’d been publicly reprimanded and commanded to complete fifty hours of community service; unfortunately, said service included managing Sephiroth and Angeal’s fan clubs.
It also consisted of helping with repair of the SOLDIER floor; as rumor had it, it had been decided by the higher ups that with his First Class-level reflexes, he would assist the plumber in repairing the toilet in the public bathroom. Apparently it was his appointed duty to protect the Hollander-look-a-like from the projectile excrement the rebellious lavatory spat at whoever got near it.
It was not specified what sort of equipment he’d be armed with.
Angeal Hewley, although sympathetic of his friend’s plight, could not help but smirk at the thought as he walked by Lazard’s office. Angeal, always well prepared, was wearing a gas mask, and even so, he could not help but marvel at the stink bomb’s lingering effects, which he thought to be very similar to those of an atomic bomb. Everything from the mushroom cloud to the eerie, dangerous calm afterwards reminded Angeal of the strange and yet puke-inducingly hilarious similarity.
He shook off the amusing thoughts and continued down the hallway, finally stopping at the door next to the materia room. He slipped inside, relieved to find it empty save for one person, who was oddly hooded and cloaked.
“Why are you dressed like that?” Angeal asked, voice muffled through the mask, bemused.
“I thought it looked cool,” the figure replied with difficulty. “And don’t ask any questions; I’m going to puke if I open my mouth again.”
Angeal clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “You should have brought a mask. You knew how bad it was going to be.”
The other man merely grunted in reply, and held out his hand expectantly. Angeal glanced outside to make sure they were alone, then quickly reached into his pocket then slapped a small package into his companion’s hand.
“There, your five thousand gil and Cissnei’s phone number, as promised. Leave as quickly as you can! If anybody finds you here, there’ll be questions to answer. Those things are illegal, after all,” Angeal warned.
The man grumbled in reply. “Yeah, yeah. Haven’t you ever noticed all the doors and blinds on that lifeguard station are closed up tight? Scarlet’s too distracted to realized I used her tools anyway,” he whispered through the fabric of the cloak. Moonlight slid through the window, briefly illuminating scarlet hair and a crooked grin beneath the hood. “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Angeal.”
“The pleasure was all mine, Reno.”
The figure draped in black turned heel and left, swiftly making for the safety of the elevators. Only a faint snickering drifting away indicated it had ever been.
Angeal turned to face the window, a rare smirk on his face.
Well, Genesis, he thought with satisfaction, you should’ve known better than to make fun of my mother. Did you know she was the one who taught me that revenge is best served cold?
A/N: Yes. Meh wrote much of this. XD